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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old October 21st, 2006, 03:30 PM   #1
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Keeping your production organized?

I know how to shoot, light, edit, build props and all the fun parts of movie-making, but I have never done a production from start to finish. I have been any number of the critical jobs in pre/production/post, but I want to have a better method of keeping things together than is typically done on shorts that are produced in a few weeks (not including editing). I have grandiose plans for the shoot and lots of people will likely be involved. I don't want to waste their time and effort because I am running around dazed and panicking.

These are some of the things I need to organize:

Phone numbers

Script - already shot and what comes next. This seems a particular problem. I am trying to break up shooting days as much as possible so each day is less complex.


Costumes/Props needed for the upcoming day of shooting


Location scouting information

Crew availability schedule

Anything else I have forgotten?

I think you get the idea. What has worked for you guys in the past? What should I avoid? Is a paper binder sufficient or will I save time and money by getting a portable computer of some type? I'm not usually too good with paper, but I don't want to spend $1500 on a laptop. Is a PDA a good option?

Also, how do your organize your media? I will probably have a vast amount of takes and some separate audio.

Thanks in advance!
Marcus Marchesseault is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 21st, 2006, 07:22 PM   #2
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take a look at:

Gorrila does many of the things you want. You can try it via free download.
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Old October 22nd, 2006, 05:11 AM   #3
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Marcus, we have done two features both shot in the same way which was non stop over a two week period with a cast and crew of around 40 people and i can tell you orginisation is the key to success. Over and above the things you mentioned here are a couple of things that come to mind:

Transporting all those people around

Feeding everyone (a must, and costs a lot)

Story boards are great but if they don't tie in with the location you'll find yourself winging it anyway. take a slate EVERY take.

We split the script into scene numbers that go on the slate along with the take number this is a great help in post when you have audio recorded seperately.

Orginising your media, i went through around 25 dv tapes with two cameras so make sure you have enough (asuming your doing a feature), label the tapes before they go into the camera cause you'll forget what your on if the slate guy asks (at least i did). For the audio you really need a good sound engineer you can trust to take care it. Our guys recorded all the audio seperately onto a mac laptop using an Mbox, this means there is no DAT transfers.

We also found the Edinburgh film council to be very helpfull, they gave us codes to go on our cars when parked on yellow lines and got us permission to shoot in places like the district court buildings. Your local film council are worth a phone call.

and running around dazed an panicking is part of the deal :) , you have to remember on big budget sets everyone has their own indavidual job and don't have to worry about anyone elses job, us low budget guys have to be able to do everything ourselves.

Good luck

Actor: "where would that light be coming from?"
DP: "same place as the music" -Andrew Lesnie-
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Old October 22nd, 2006, 04:13 PM   #4
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Thanks for that link, Peter. I'm looking into Gorilla, it's just hard to find another $300 in the budget. I guess it might save $300 in wasted time and effort in the long run...

Andy, I'm not even doing a feature, but I will have many different locations and one really big scene at the end that probably can't be re-shot with all the talent needed. I need to get that day right on the first try. I am starting with the easier scenes, so we should be working smoothly by the big day. I hope. I have thought about the food and transportation issues and I think I have provisions for them. I will need to get a permit on the big day so we can take what little parking there is at the park I want to use.

Much mahalos (thanks)!

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Old October 22nd, 2006, 07:53 PM   #5
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Marcus, after working on well over 20 features all I can honestly tell you is... prep, prep, prep...and then prep more until you have a solid layed out plan. Story boards are great for "key" personnal in prep but are not needed on set, as they tend to confuse people with too many thoughts in the heads. It's best to keep everything as simple as possible, I know easier said than done. And check out , there you can find how to set-up your schedule and create a proper shot list as well as a day out of days and cast list. As well, it was mentioned above, slate and/or mark every shot, it will save your butt in post. Always remember, a well run set is a happy set.
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 12:28 AM   #6
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I also recommend software like the ones already recommended...personally, I can't live without Movie Magic Scheduling. The best thing I think I learned in film school was how to break-down and schedule a script. Planning is key, and the fact that you are asking means you are on the right track. :)

I always keep a binder with me at all times that has printed paper versions of the shooting schedule, breakdown strips, prop/wardrobe/fx breakdowns, cast schedule and contact info, permits and location releases, crew contact numbers and any availabilty info, BLANK RELEASES for talent, extras, locations etc...and pretty much EVERYTHING related to the project.

Oh...and I keep a checkbook with me too. Hope the advice you get here helps...Good luck with your project. :)
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 07:49 AM   #7
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I just wrapped my latest feature film and without the budget to buy software, I definitely felt the pinch. The worst part was having to do EVERYTHING by hand. that sucked.

I also had an AD and a production coordinator, but I was my own Line Producer (something I do for a living, in addition to directing about once every two years). On my next film, which will have a bigger budget, I'll hire a line producer and, if we can afford it, a Unit Production Manager. As far as producing goes, I'll stick with just project development and maybe financing (I'd rather someone else do that).

The shoot went rather smooth, but you never know what will happen. So, to echo this thread, prep, prep, prep!

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Old October 23rd, 2006, 10:41 AM   #8
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Folks, do check out celtx, it is more than script software, it's turning itself into a preproduction management system too. And it's free, open source. At least if you don't like it, you haven't wasted your money.

If not celtx, here is one that seems interesting and has a free trial download and lists for 199. I think it uses the filemaker database formt, but I could be wrong on that one.
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 12:21 PM   #9
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In a pinch, use Excel. It won't have done the thinking about the film domain the way the dedicated software has, but there's no limit to what you can organize with it.
Jon Fairhurst
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Old October 25th, 2006, 11:29 PM   #10
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I am making a short film and keeping a blog documenting the process. Just recently i have put up a blog about all the paperwork.

Check it as it might be useful in some way.
it's ok, we are all actors
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Old October 25th, 2006, 11:32 PM   #11
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In terms of Celtx, I find it hasn't yet developed into a proper production management tool. Some of the options are great but others do not cover the most essential categories and are difficult to customise.

I agree that Excell is the way to go. It will take you a bit of time to set up initial templates, but you can re-use them in the future. The beauty of it is that you can tailor the documents to your own needs, as all projects differ.
it's ok, we are all actors
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Old October 26th, 2006, 10:16 AM   #12
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After every shoot I send my team a revised break-down, schedule, and script. I also think it is a very good idea to have an equipment checklist when you are moving from one location to another. You don't want to leave your camera in the taxi, like I did, and find out just before the shoot begins. (Yes, I got it back.)

Make a shot list or storyboard so you have a better understanding of the scene, but be prepared to discard it when the shoot begins. Like Andy said, you will find that what you had in mind may not be compatible with the actual location. In big productions they just redesign the set. In small productions, you redesign the film...
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