Production planning – one step at the time

Red and White

I am very busy planning the 4 days film shoot in Wales in February. I have never really done serious production planning before, and this is a great opportunity for me to get experience. Planning this shoot is not very different from planning a four day film shoot for my own short film, should I ever want to do the production planning for that myself.

But what I got was a script and what I was told was: go do it. And I thought – oh shit – where do I start. The way to do it I learned is to take a small step at the time.

Here is what I learned so far:

  • I read the script and made a list of the different locations we needed. We need 5 different locations: a train station, a train carriage, a train depot where we can shoot some scenes on a track without any train traffic, a footbridge and a somewhat larger train station where they have fast trains passing through the station. All those locations have been found with the help of local helper. The cool thing is that we will get a train carriage for ourselves for filming while the train is in service. That is going to be fun.
  • I also had to talk to a DOP (Director of Photography, the camera person) and asked him how long he thought it would take us to shoot all the scenes on those locations. (4 days)
  • I needed to find 6 young actors (3 girls, 3 boys) to play the acting parts. I googled an actors agency specialized in young actors in Cardiff, a lucky google, as the one I found seems both very professional and they are also really nice people to work with. I will meet 6 potential actors on Thursday for a short chat in a cafe. I don’t have time enough to do proper auditions, but I am sure I will get a fairly good idea if they fit the Bill. No pun intended here.
  • We also need the school children I talked about earlier. I got in contact with the local authorities in Wales, and they were very nice and supportive too. Now it is up to the school to get permission from parents to allow their children be extras. We need a lot of children (30 in some scenes) as extras. The friendly people of the British Transport Police might be able to help us out controlling them, we are waiting for a confirmation. But I assume that there will be teachers and parents available too, we need people to control those children otherwise it is a no-go.
  • Then there was an issue with insurance that needed to be figured out. When you shoot a film you need to insure your cast and crew, both for public liability (for if one of the crew accidentally hits a member of the public with lets say a camera) and employee liability (if a crew/cast member trips over a cable and breaks his leg for example). Luckily the company I work for did have this insurance in place already. I never understood this whole insurance thing while I was working on my own short film, but I do now. Good to know.
  • Finally I need to arrange transport (train and car), book a hotel for us to stay, make sure we can get lunch while on location, make sure we shop for chocolate, biscuits, fruit, juice and coke before the shoot and generally make sure that everybody knows what to do and when. Phew, I have come this far.
  • It has been very challenging to arrange all this, mainly because most of it was new for me – but I think I have done most of the hard pre production work now. On Thursday I will be in Cardiff to visit the locations and meet with the actors. Then I have a week for final arrangements and the shoot will be on the 10th of February. I hope, when I am standing there ready to call action, that I haven’t forgotten anything crucial.

A mobile phone becomes unmissable when arranging things like this, and there is a continuous stream of emails I have to respond to. In order to be able to keep track of all this – I have googlefied myself.

  • I guess that started when I bought my G1 phone. And I know, I know it is not a slick as the iPhone. It’s actually rather ugly, but I love this phone because of the full qwerty keyboard. And because it integrates so well with Google mail, Google calendar (which synchronizes with Outlook in a breeze) and google maps. My Filofax is gone, everything is on my phone. Google runs my life. And oh, you can also make phone calls with this phone. I have the white G1, by the way.
  • There are far from as many apps in the Android App (500 hundred?) store as in the Apple App store (15.000?) but to be honest, I am not too bothered about applications at the moment. I am using the Twitdroid app to twitter, and that’s about it. (I am very busy at the moment, with not a lot of time to blog, but I try to at least tweet regularly.)
  • I use Google calendar to keep track of appointments.
  • I use Rememberthemilk as my todo list. The great thing of RTM is that it very integrates well with gmail. And also that I can add tasks from my mobile phone to my RTM todo list via Twitter. Brilliant.
  • I use Gmail for all my email. If I am out of the office a lot I will lead my work email into Gmail so I can check my email while I am on the go.

A very long post, possibly of little interest if you are not into film making. But I wanted to write this down, just so I remember how I did it this time around, should I ever need to do something similar again. Which I actually I hope I will.
I do admit that it feels a bit less stressful to do a planning knowing that this film shoot is financed by my company. We are certainly not overspending money on this, but there is a little bit more breathing space than I would have producing my own film (which is also a 4 days shoot, on even more locations) on about half the budget for this.

7 thoughts to “Production planning – one step at the time”

  1. Hi Matt, thanks for your offer. We are fine crew wise. Cast will hopefully be sorted tomorrow in Cardiff. We lack some extras still, but I think we’ll try to find them locally where we shoot. Thanks for stopping by!! (By the way is your website out of order?)

  2. Have had a few web problems, but it all seems to be working now, thankfully. Drop me an email if you need anything. I hope it all goes well!

  3. Even when not making a film, it is interesting to read posts like this. If only for learning how other people (in this case you) manage when faced with a big task they have never performed before.

    On top of that, you have a nice way of writing, which makes almost anything you wish to blog about a joy to read.

  4. Hi There

    Thanks for your great post, it’s very helpful. I want to make a film on a train and was wondering how you went about getting permission – and how much it cost?

    Thanks :-)

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