This is usually the job for a production manager or line producer [on bigger projects], but often there will only be one producer on a project – lets assume this is you! During pre-production, you will have set up a call sheet outlining the daily routine and running schedule. Now it is your job to make sure this runs smoothly.
Now your call sheet you prepared during pre-production [link to pre-prod call sheets] will come in handy, to keep track of everything during production.
Ideally, a few hours before your shoot, take the storyboards and shot lists from your prep- list and set up a nice clip-board folder.
If you have enough people on location, delegate someone to mark shots/ takes that work off your shot lists and storyboards – any notes from production will be invaluable during the edit, especially on larger projects. We tend to forget…
Make yourself available during set up discussions, so you can get a handle on how long it will take for your team to set up this new idea that your director came up with. Don’t interfere unless the new concept will push all else out. Find a compromise, rope some community members in to help speed things up.
In short – be prepared for all and then open up for the unforeseen. A good production manager is a flexible crisis manager, who loves to serve. No egos permitted.
As a production manager or line producer, you are on location to shield your creative team from outside interferences so that they can go about their work, without needing to worry.
Given that most teams are small and people are often covering several jobs, make sure that you have one dedicated person to run interference, deal with authorities, problems, questions from the public or on-lookers. If your creative get stressed out you risk to loose hours of shooting time to get people focused again once fear and tension have arrived on set.
And this is your set, whoever owns or controls the space on any other time, now it is yours. Own it, be friendly, professional, courteous but persistent to take control and remain in control. This is the reason you are here.
Collect permission forms and make note of who is who, so you can trace this back later in the edit. Use your phone to take quick mug shots of each and laben them with their names and date - or use polaroids. This also helps with continuity issues [like getting people to wear the same outfits if that is important for your project’s narrative].
Make sure you have safety procedures in place and have a recently stocked up medical kit on location. Know where you can find support. Always have a back-up plan.
Allow for a celebration when you are wrapped. If you want to keep working with this team, make sure there is great food available. Keep it professional but fun at all times. If you can’t cope, delegate in time before you have a meltdown. Never ever shout at people, not cool, only bullies do that in bad movies.
• Keep check of time - always
• Bring car chargers for your mobile
• Have all mobile numbers of all crew and talent in print and on your mobile
• Drive through town beforehand – familiarize yourself with the location, where are emergency services, food supplies, good cafes, public toilets etc
• Print maps and bring tablets with network access, so you can always find your way
• Bring spare release forms, location agreements
• Collect and protect your signed releases in a safe place
• Double check addresses for location beyond the local lingo, so you can actually find them on your map or device without stress
• Make sure there is no hierarchy or chain of command struggle – everyone needs to understand and comply with your final say – but be reasonable…
• What is your back-up plan?
• Bring emergency food, like nuts, chocolate, cookies, apples and lots of water – crew always gets hungry and always forgets to bring provisions
• Don’t shoot into agreed lunch breaks if you can avoid it
• Communicate any schedule changes to your crew as early as possible so that can adjust their energy accordingly
Even your director will look to you to make the call if there is time to shoot one more scene or do three more takes. You are in charge of running the team, so make sure you have realistic pack up- and travel time to arrive on within schedule at your next location.
If you can’t manage the schedule conflict, have a calm and quiet discussion on the side with the director, to see where your team should prioritise their energy. Good questions to check are:
• Can we do this tomorrow?
• Will there be continuity issues if we re-visit this location tomorrow?
• What will the weather be?
• Are talent and crew available to re-shoot at a later date?
Overall, we usually push to get as much done on the day, even though people get tired and cranky – as the costs to re-visit are immense, money-wise and emotionally.
If possible, stay the course, the team will thank you later, when they see the result and realise that they got it done today. Be prepared to stand your ground and push, but know your and your teams limits.
Find other useful web resources here:
4 easy steps to organising your film shoot.
Roy Sencio’s 4 easy steps.
eHow explains how to create a daily call sheet. Links to further film related tutorials also available.
Interview with Bec Appel of ‘Manage your Film’.