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Film sets

A final filmmaking checklist

Your first job as the filmmaker is to make sure you take care of your people.

During preproduction you been putting all the parts together. Now if everything is well planned your production will go smoothly. Any shortcuts you took during preproduction will now come back to haunt you.

You can still change your mind and delay longer until you are ready. Once production starts the money starts flowing and you'll be too exhausted to deal with new problems effectively.

  • All equipment is rented and picked up.
  • The camera is tested and the film or video stock is waiting.
  • Rented props and costumes are picked up.
  • The first set is ready.
  • All the cast and crew are aware of their call time and what part of the script will be shot.
  • Everyone knows how to get to the set.
  • The schedule is done and at least the first day's shot list is ready. Plan for a light day the first day to give people time to get in rhythm.
  • Now get a good night's sleep.

First day on the filmmaking set

Once the cast and crew are gathered and everyone has had their morning coffee and donut it's time for the welcome speeches. Typically the director welcomes everyone, thanks them for their participation and says a few words about the film production with the goal of getting everyone to feel they are part of the creative, filmmaking team.

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This is especially important on small independent films where this may be the first time many of the crew have worked on a film production. During the days of production the director may need to use every means of persuasion to keep the often tired, under-paid and bored crew members feeling some sense of excitement and involvement.

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After the director's speech the assistant director should give a little reminder speech about the schedule, behavior and procedures on the set. It is especially important to talk about safety. Filmmaking sets are generally an accident waiting to happen with cables running everywhere, red-hot lights toppling over, actors performing stunts and everyone so tired they are falling asleep on their feet.

The assistant director's speech should stress the importance of keeping the set neat, using leather gloves to handle hot lights and for everyone to keep their eyes open and try to prevent accidents.

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The director now calls everyone to get into their places, has a last minute discussion with the actors and after an on-set rehearsal does the first take of the film. Experienced directors start with a scene involving a little action and no emotions so the actors have a chance to calm down and get into the rhythm of the set.

A day on the filmmaking set

Every filmmaking production is different but a typical day might be something like the following.

5:45 a.m. Wake-up, shower and get to the set.
6:45 a.m. Your key crew shows up and reviews the days shooting schedule.
7:00 a.m. First call. Breakfast needs to be ready. No one works before coffee. Crew starts setting up and actors start getting made up and dressed.
8:00 a.m. Light for the first shot using stand-ins, usually crew members who aren't otherwise busy.
8:30 a.m. On set rehearsals for the actors. Start with individual shots of actors as they finish their makeup and dressing.
9:00 a.m. First shot of the day. Continue shooting takes of each setup until you are satisfied.
1:00 p.m. Break for lunch.
1:30 p.m. Back to work.

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7:30 p.m. Wrap for the day. If you will be continuing into the evening then provide a hot dinner and get back to work at 8:00 PM. Otherwise:
8:00 p.m. Everyone finishes their notes for the day and settles on a schedule for tomorrow.
8:30 p.m. Everything is secured and put away for the night.
9:00 p.m. Return home and review the day's video before falling into bed.
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