HOW TO PREPARE FOR A DAY OF FILMING
It’s the day before filming. The alarm sounds and I rise. It’s 5:00AM...I like to stay consistent. Leaving the bed, I head to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee. I sit, sipping, settling in. Once I’m awake, it’s time to get started. It’s time to get everything ready for my first day of production.
It’s literally my second favorite day, next to my favorite, production day one. I’m at the finish line of pre-production, or is it the starting line of production? Who gives a shit, the important thing to note is we’re about to start filming!!!
All the hard work from pre-production is about to pay off, we just need to finalize a few things. We want to make sure we have everything covered so we don’t limp into that first day, we can run into it with confidence and enthusiasm. We want to dot those final I’s and it starts with finalizing logistics.
In the living room, sipping my first cup of coffee(I average 2-3 in a morning), I start by checking my email. I need to see if there are any questions from my cast and crew. After responding to anything that may need my attention, it’s time to confirm my call sheet and get it sent out.
In all honesty, I usually send the first call sheet days before production just so everyone is aware, but when we’re deep in production, filming several days in a row, the call sheets get sent out the evening before filming the next day. For anyone unaware, a call sheet contains information around who needs to be on set, when they need to be there, what we’re filming, wardrobe, hair, makeup, props, etc.
With the call sheet confirmed and sent, it’s now time to plan a menu. Yes, that’s right. On my independent productions, I act as craft services as well. When you’re starting out, you have to do what you have to do.
Historically, I would plan to make something simple like pasta. Boil some noodles, throw in a little red sauce, meat, cheese and mushrooms, then call it good. Make it that night, put it in a crock pot the next day, on low, and it can be available to the group all day. Now that I’m vegan and very health conscious, the menu will certainly be different. Let’s not forget to account for COVID.
Once the menu is planned, it’s time to go shopping and prepare each person's food for the day. Again, I wouldn’t typically prepare each person's meal individually but with COVID, it’s the safe thing to do.
With the logistics out of the way, I can now focus on actually making the movie.
GET EQUIPMENT READY
First thing to do, plug in those batteries. God forbid we show up on set with a bunch of dead batteries and electronics that won't work. As the batteries charge, get your lights, c-stands, sand bags, slate, markers, extension cords and anything else organized and ready to go. I like to think about my shoot, the equipment I’ll need and get it all set aside in one place. That way in the morning, I can just grab it and load the car.
With the equipment set aside, take a moment to review the day's shoot and ensure you have all of the props you need. Also consider any items you could bring as set dressing. Anything you can do to help build out the environment is great.
Equipment, props and set dressings ready to go, it’s time to sit down and relax. The work is over.
Yeah right! Pick that script up and give it a read.
READ THE SCRIPT
I like to read the script, all the way through, before each shoot. As I read, I keep in mind the scenes we’re shooting and focus on them when I get there. I think about tone and how fast a scene should be shot.
Reading the script is a great reminder for yourself. You get to see the vision, after not really looking into it for some time. It’s always smart to keep things fresh in your head.
After FADE OUT, I step into the shot list.
REVIEW MY SHOT LIST
SLOW DOWN here. Look at your scene, close your eyes and really see it. See the scene play out. Picture where the camera will be, the movements, lens size, lighting. Consider it all and be methodical.
As you move through the scene, make sure you have the shots listed. Think about what you will shoot first, where the camera will be and the lighting. Once that first shot is captured, think about what the second shot will be. Remember to be smart about things, shooting as efficiently as possible.
Finalize that list and get your ass to bed.
You need to film with a clear and open mind. You need to get rest so you can perform at your best. Studies show that performance increases when you get 6 hours of sleep or more. Considering you’re about to embark on a 12 hour day, you’ll need all the rest you can get. Close those peepers and sleep well. You’re ready to film.
You will have long days on set. With so many moving parts, a lot can go wrong. If you are over prepared, you really limit the amount of things that can pop up. You get yourself as close to a smooth day as possible.
Finalize logistics, answer questions, get your equipment ready, read the script, review the shot list and get some rest. Follow this formula and you’ll show up to set with the confidence needed to have a successful and stress free shoot.