It goes like this: the director wants a pig. He tells the producer he wants a pig. However, in order for the producer to get the pig, she needs to find a handler, she needs to find money in the budget for the pig, and she needs to make sure the set is insured for live animals. The Producer needs to check with location forms and agreements. She needs to allow the American Humane Association to verify that no animals were harmed in the making of the project. To put it plainly; it’s not that simple. You don’t just get a pig.
As filmmakers, the daydreaming of what a project could be is the easy part. If you’re a good writer and visionary, it doesn’t take much to conjure up the ideas and concepts that make for a stellar project, because dreaming “big” is kind of our thing. But, like all good things, it doesn’t come that easy. It doesn’t just take vision and dedication; it takes contracts, release forms, budgeting, insurance policies, scheduling, and time management - to name a few of the hurdles you face when you start to consider the hows of your project.
Let’s say your film has a scene where a burglar busts open the window of a car.
How many takes are you going to need?
How many windows are you planning to break and how many cars of the exact make, model, and wear do you have access to, in order to film it more than once?
Does your insurance cover that?
Did you hire a stunt double for your burglar?
Eventually, you’ll find those questions turn into “Can my project survive sacrificing this scene?” because inevitably, the steps to create the scene are outside of your means. If your producer points this out to you, it’s not to discourage you, but to prepare you. It allows you the opportunity to ask: is this necessary? And, if it is, are we ready to combat these challenges?
Utilizing the time allotted for shooting will help eliminate any scheduling concerns. While, understandably, dolly shots, sliding shots, and creative angles are highly sought after in highlighting our artistic style and direction in a film, filmmakers often fail to consider the time and coverage it takes to make these shots come to life. When creating your production schedule, consider the time each shot takes to set up, and account for that. This is one of the easiest ways a production can run exceedingly behind schedule. It’s important to be realistic when planning for the amount of shot setups you’ve lined up for each day, and to stick to your plan.
While we’re on the subject of scheduling, do you know one of the quickest ways to sour a film set? Not scheduling appropriately, or at all.
A production schedule is one of the more crucial elements of a production; sticking to it is even more important. A schedule starts with a breakdown sheet, and a breakdown sheet starts by lining the script. You’ll go through every line and mark down every actor, prop, costume, vehicle, special effect, and extra needed, and you’ll compile that information into a list.
Now you have all the information you need. Shooting scenes at the same location, despite chronological order, or with the same actors, extras, props, etc. back-to-back will allow you to use your time appropriately. This is also a good way to reveal which scenes will inevitably need to be cut, in order to work within your means and timeframe. Yes, scenes will be cut; it’s an unfortunate reality to every production.
Location Release Forms
Your ability to get permission to film at your designated locations can literally make or break what happens to your project. Not only are you facing a potential lawsuit by not getting permission, but the location owner ca
n also choose to involve the authorities. Some will argue that without a release form, the footage shot legally belongs to the property owner if no permission was granted.
A location release form grants permission to the filmmakers, by the property owner, to film on a specific property. The form has all the details regarding the shoot that a property owner needs to know, and it must have the property owner’s signature to protect both the filmmakers and the owner. This ensures rules set by the property owner will be followed by the filmmakers, as well as clarifying any compensation exchanged for the rights to film on location.
If you understand and prepare for these inevitabilities, you are a step closer to your production operating as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. That’s the thing about filmmaking; you don’t just get a pig.