The more you are prepared the easier it is to shoot on location. Carl steps you through his process of getting things done.
Jen explains how to organize your gear with Comiclife storyboards.
To identify your limits and set realistic goals, you need to ask a few tricky questions:
What do you want to achieve with this production?
How much time do I have? Is it doable?
When are the elders available we need to interview?
What is our error margin – can we re-shoot this later or does it need to happen NOW?
What is at stake [money, funding outcomes, reporting deadlines, relationships, world peace]
Building relationships with your clients, community partners and participants is the most important thing.
In all documentary productions we had people keen to help and be part of telling the story.
It is at the heart of our programs, that we tell stories WITH people, not about them.
Often we get asked, how we pull these amazing stories out of disengaged communities – the secret is we casually talk to people a lot during all stages of production, gauge their interest, trying to read their emotions and keep them happy.
The key person we liaise with doesn’t have to appear in your film, but most likely they will have all the contacts and know who is in town and who might be keen to participate. We usually find these people [often it is just one person] a few months before the project officially starts and include their feedback and ideas into the development. A few weeks prior to the shoot, we then run our creative ideas past them. Depending on your documentary, you might want to send them a call out flyer to get participants involved or hand an info sheet at the local deli for people to know you are coming to town.
Once you are clear about the desired outcomes for the project, it is helpful to make yourself a production folder. We usually travel with a folders that has:
• a map of the area we work in
• addresses and contact details of people [locations, crew, organizers, interviewees]. It is important to have this on paper, as you may be out of mobile range or your batteries run dry – prepare for the worst and have more fun…
• travel details, if you are working out of town [booking confirmations for car rental, hotel, flights etc]
• call sheets for the project – on larger productions we also have a daily call sheet
• local tips and tricks [good food, places of interest, comments from locals]. People often underestimate how important it is – and how hard it can be to find decent food at the end of a hard shoot, when you are in a strange place.
Setting daily schedules [call sheets] helps to keep everything on track. Ideally, a few days [or hours] before your shoot, take the storyboards and shot lists from your creative development and transform them from the chronological order into a location-based shot list. This new order helps you to identify when to best shoot what and group shots around availability and access to location, instead of following the order of your story. For example, you may find that one location can be used to shoot both the interview with the local Elder AND offer the setting for another sequence.
Easy said. Check-in regularly with yourself, are you having fun? Is my team happy? Are we on track according to the call sheets / shot lists? Is this still making sense? Or is everybody tense and tired? Documentary is often a waiting game, waiting for the rain to stop, for the interviewee to arrive, for the camera person to get this creative angle on tape. Patience is key – and a connection to why you wanted to make this project happen in the first place. You will find that a lot of what we offer here seems to round trip – that is not by accident, every step of our creative process is linked with the other steps. There is a clear order – but if you for example have lost sight of your passion during a shoot [the passion of what got you involved in the first place], it is really hard to get good results on camera. Happiness is viral – it affects people and makes for more fun for all – and for better films in the end.
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’.
‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.