What is meant by event videography

In 15 steps to filming: checklist for preproduction

You have a script and the necessary resources for the shooting. It took you long enough to get to that point. So you want to start shooting right away. Nevertheless, before you depress the accelerator, you should reduce the speed for a second and think about what pre-production means.

Pre-production is your chance to make a good movie. This is the only way to get all the recordings that your film concept requires and that you will need later for the image editing.

You have to know that

  • Well planned is half the battle. This is especially true for the pre-production of videos.
  • In the case of commissioned productions, the preparation phase for a video production begins with the conclusion of the contract and ends on the first day of shooting.
  • In the case of a feature film, where a shoot lasts weeks or months, the preparations can continue after an initial start phase parallel to the shoot.
  • Pre-production is more than just preparing to shoot. It also serves to minimize risks and define the production values.

Preproduction is the key

If you ignore preproduction and just start producing video after writing the script, this will lead to errors. You will regret this bitterly later. Of course, the preparation for shooting (also called preproduction) is less attractive than the shooting. Planning a film or video is work. A lot of work.

To make this a little easier for you and you don't forget anything, you will find easy-to-understand instructions for preproduction here. With everything that goes with it. In addition to the ultimate checklist, you will of course also find one or two insider tips attached.

What is pre-production?

Pre-production is the planning process and the execution of all those tasks that have to take place before the start of production. This process requires the fine-tuning of many small parts that later have to come together as a seamless whole while filming. This precise coordination, which also includes deadlines and costs, requires a lot of individual efforts on the part of those involved and a lot of teamwork.

What is in the preproduction checklist?

Many of the items on our pre-production plan checklist overlap in practice. When choosing the locations, for example, it is important to coordinate different interests that do not always simply go together or overlap.

That is why, when in doubt, our checklist prefers to list one criterion under two categories rather than omitting it. So you can be sure that our items contain all the important processes involved in filming preparation.

Before we dive into the individual sections of preproduction and explain the individual steps and their sequence in detail, we will give you an overview of what you need to have under control before you start shooting:

Pre-production checklist

  1. Screenplay (Picture Lock)
  2. Create a film budget
  3. Find a production platform
  4. Occupy key positions in the crew
  5. Work out a script breakdown
  6. Draw a storyboard (from word to picture)
  7. Find locations (location scouting)
  8. Perform casting
  9. Art Department letters
  10. Clarify administration and legal issues
  11. Create a shooting schedule
  12. Commit the rest of the crew
  13. Create shot list (finalization of the shooting schedule)
  14. Location tour (Tech Scout)
  15. Order equipment

If you complete these 15 tasks in this order, you will then be able to start filming successfully without any problems and without nasty surprises.

So let's take a step-by-step look at the pre-production checklist:

1Screenplay (Picture Lock)

A script doesn't just live on stories. But it also leads its own life: from the first version to the rotary version, there are always adjustments and changes.

This can be a problem for preproduction. That is when you have already started preparing for the shooting, but work on the script has not yet been completed. If so, you might be planning a scene that won't be there later. Or who suddenly needs a different location or different actors.

So that you don't work in the void during preproduction, there is the so-called picture lock. This means: from this point on, no more changes will be made to the script. The content is to a certain extent "closed" (hence the English word "lock".)

Professional tip: Of course, in practice there are always adjustments to the script. In an ideal world, shooting preparation always follows the content. In reality, especially with smaller films, it can happen that you have to adapt the story to a location and rewrite it.

So that everyone involved is aware of these changes, scenes that are rewritten after the start of preproduction are printed out on paper of a different color and inserted into the script (this is another reason why a script always has brackets!). With big feature films it sometimes looks like a rainbow: red script pages indicate the first change, yellow pages later adjustments, etc.

That sounds more complicated than it is. Imagine, one of your actors internalized his role and speaking texts at an early stage and does not notice any script adjustments. Something like that causes a lot of trouble on the film set.

2 Prepare a film budget during preproduction

When you have done your homework, thanks to experience and / or a rough calculation, you will know roughly how much money you will need for the filming. After all, you can only start preproduction if you have committed a budget.

Before you can make any decisions about a film production, you need to know where to spend money on what.

Your film budget is the key to the smooth pre-production process in film.

That means, you now need a correct, reliable film calculation. It doesn't work without a film budget. That's why the script comes first, followed by the budget.

3 Find a production platform

You can write or plan your film in your kitchen, but you need a professional platform for contracts, banking relationships and insurance.

This can be a film production that you partner with. Or that you are about to set up yourself. If you want to have your own company, you have to be aware that you also need money and lawyers to start up. A great name alone is not enough.

Also keep in mind that as a founder you need a lot of energy for other things. Pre-production is always a war of forms and office work. If you not only have to build your film, but also the production company, it costs you a lot of time. Time that you usually better invest in your film.

If you team up with an established production facility for preproduction, you not only have a production office and access to all specialist knowledge for preproduction. You also benefit from experience from other films and get access to the network of this film company. This makes it easier for you to find talent for your film than if you were an unknown filmmaker and had to start from scratch.

4 Occupy key positions for the crew

You can't make films without help. Ok, maybe the computer animation is an exception to that. But if you want to create such a full-length feature film on your own without outside help, you probably need so much time that the premiere coincides with your entry into a senior citizens' residence.

In short: you need employees. First, in preproduction, you fill the most important roles. Cinematographer, director (if you are a producer), producer (if you are a director yourself), composer and production manager. You start with these key positions. The production management (the same as the production manager) is one of the most important people for the preparation of the shoot.

Because every person who works on your film costs money, you try to get along with as few employees as possible at the beginning. Gradually, the production manager, together with the cameraman and director, will determine and sign the additional crew.

To start, you simply need all the people in the team who will help you to concretise your film and move it forward.

Because good people always have work, it is advisable to ask the ideal candidates for a collaboration at an early stage. Otherwise you never know who will be available and when.

Note on the correct size of the team

Basically, of course, you adapt the team size to your project. Depending on the story and the size of the film, it is possible that you hire a production designer or the 1st assistant director for the pre-production right from the start.

For complex projects, in addition to the 1st AD, a line producer and a production coordinator are often on board from the first day of preparation.

In extreme cases, a makeup artist can also be part of your core team. Namely when your main character in the film has very special requirements here. If aliens play an important role or if your main character has to wear a full mask in the film (like Gary Oldman in the film "Darkest Hour"), you cannot avoid it.

The “who” in this phase determines your project. But the professional tip for this phase of preproduction is to get the people you need on board early, if at all possible (budget!).

5 Work out a script breakdown in preproduction

You have already read in advance what a picture lock is. Now comes the point at which you go one step further: In the fifth step of preproduction, you start with the so-called «Script Breakdown». This does not mean a breakdown, but the fragmentation of the script according to individual, logical requirements.

The plot in the script reads so nicely and smoothly. Now the script is broken down with surgical precision and broken down into its component parts. All locations are marked and appear in a list. All props mentioned in a further listing. Just like the roles, supporting roles, all extras, costume descriptions, times of the day.

Do you remember the script you locked out? Well, now is the time to resolve it. But what exactly do we mean by that?

What was once a script is now turned into a series of lists and reports. With these reports, you'll have a much clearer idea of ​​what you'll need to film. You can also use it to formulate the budget much more specifically.

Imagine your movie is a meal and your script is a recipe. Well, now it's time to make the shopping list.

With the Script Breakdown, you and your team really begin to find out what kind of film you have gotten into with production.

There is professional software available for creating a breakdown. Depending on the program, you can even automatically assign your script to the respective categories (location, actors, etc.) and export it as a list.

Excursus: film software for filming preparation

The best-known providers of professional software for film production are:

But despite software for production management, you will have to manually control a lot, discuss it with everyone involved, and adjust it. That is a lot of work. That is why it is so important that the script is not being worked on in an uncontrolled manner at the same time. Otherwise your team will do the same work several times and you will spend money on it that should flow into the shooting instead of the shooting preparation.

Once you have completed the “Script Breakdown” point, you can move your planning up to the next level of preproduction. Because you have already successfully completed the first third of the shooting preparation.

6 Draw the storyboard

Here we go! After all the lists, it's getting creative again. In the last step, you split the film script into reports. Now you are turning words into pictures. What was previously purely verbal and written is now visual. The script turns into a drawn comic.

The storyboard illustrates the vision of the film. In this preproduction step, the director and cameraman determine the implementation in the image. This creates a further, important planning basis for further preproduction.

Whether drawn with special software or by hand, whether as a rough sketch or detailed drawing: A good storyboard does not have to be beautiful, it has to clearly convey its message. It has to explain and convey things that cannot previously be conveyed with words. That is why the storyboard plays an important bridging role in preproduction between the script, the director's vision and the finished film.

7Location scouting (find locations)

Filming locations don't sit on a perch like chickens. The locations that you need for your film (and that fit into your film budget) are not available in the supermarket. Location scouting is a process. Searching for and finding the filming location can hardly be done in one step and tick off as one point. But now that you have the specifications from the storyboard, you have to start preproduction with it. Even if the search overlaps with the following tasks.

In practice there is of course a kind of feedback: you or your location scout has found a location that meets three of five requirements and two do not. Because there are no alternatives, the decision is made in favor of this location. What does not fit is adjusted in the story and in the storyboard.

Pre-production is also the art of negotiating and balancing different interests. This is especially true for the location search.

8 Carry out casting

The start of casting is again an important step forward in preproduction towards filming. If there are really big stars in your film (it is possible that you only got money for your film because a well-known actor was involved), these are of course set before the filming preparations begin. The date of the film shooting is then already coordinated with the availability of the star.

You don't just need a creative and artistic decision to find the actors. This comes from the director. But you also need a lot of other information.

How many days does an actor need on the set? Are these days one after the other or must the deployment be staggered or on individual days. You already have some of this information in the current state of preproduction from the Script Breakdown. Another part will be created later as part of the specific shooting planning.

A casting goes through different phases. First important roles are filled, then the other matching characters. Speaking roles have priority. Extras and extras are only searched for and determined later.

The casting can take place in-house or by a specialized agency. In the case of feature films, the roles are almost always filled by an external specialist. The casting director is in charge here. He or she works closely with the director on this.

9Art Department letters

The art department can be crucial for a film or it can not even «take place» in your film project.

For reasons of cost, low-budget films are often filmed at so-called original locations. A location is chosen so that everything that is required for the film is already there. The prop master adds props that are in the script, but are not more or less coincidentally already available on site.

An art department helps determine the look of the film in preproduction. From the locations, studio buildings, equipment to costumes and colors (in collaboration with the director and cameraman).

★ Administration and legal issues

The last third of the pre-production starts at this point. You have already tracked many important points for the preparation of the shooting, you are practically on the home straight to the start of shooting.

Now, despite the anticipation of the shoot and the approaching end of the preproduction, some administrative and legal matters have to be clarified again. This includes the following questions:

  • Have all contracts been signed with the key people involved?
  • Have the filming permits been given in front of the locations?
  • Do you have all the necessary insurance?

The mother of all pro tips is this piece of advice: if something bad happens on your set and you don't have insurance, your problems will go way beyond what you can imagine.

Sure, there are people who just make their film like that. You can get away with it nine times out of ten. But you don't want to be tenth! Anyone who takes risks here has seriously misunderstood the romance of independent filmmaking. Because in this way you will ruin yourself and - much worse, more unfair and irresponsible - also destroy the work of everyone else involved in your film project.

Therefore, obey all regulations. Make yourself smart and stick to the rules of the game. Otherwise your first film will not just be your last film, it will never be a film at all.

★ Create a shooting schedule

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the shooting schedules were effortlessly created from cardboard cards and colored strips of paper.

That was once. Today you can use professional software as well as free film planning programs to create your shooting schedules and stripboards as part of pre-production.

During the script breakdown, you split the script into its components. For the shooting schedule you orientate yourself one step higher: the scenes.The shooting schedule divides the scenes into a meaningful sequence.

You can shoot a film chronologically and in the order of the scenes in the script. The first scene first, then the second, until you've got it all. Of course, when the book jumps from one location to the next and back again, you're not driving from A to B and back again. That would be nonsense. You can also search for other criteria that you can use to optimize your shooting schedule.

If you only have an actor available for a certain period of time, you will want to shoot all scenes with him one after the other. Likewise, you will not want to shoot a daytime scene again one day during daylight and the next day at night and the following day. Here you form turning blocks so that the crew does not get jet lag from the constant time change and is only tired and unmotivated.

The weather can also be a good reason to shoot scenes in a different order than in the script. Normally, those scenes that require certain weather conditions are scheduled at the beginning of the shooting schedule. Quite simply because you can move them backwards on the time axis (if the weather conditions don't play along). Conversely, indoor shots are mostly reserve locations that can be used in bad weather.

Here pre-production makes a significant contribution to the risk management of a film production.

Completion of pre-production: engage the rest of the crew

With the shooting schedule, you now know the exact framework conditions for the shooting. This brings you to a point in preproduction where it's time to sign the rest of the crew.

Your key people will suggest suitable people to you. Sometimes in the form of a wish list, sometimes almost as a condition for cooperation.

Working together on film projects is always a matter of trust. Whenever possible, you should therefore follow the suggestions of your key employees. Your motivation and a good atmosphere on the set will reward you for it.

Completion of preproduction: create a shotlist and finalize the shooting schedule

The shotlist is a sub-stage of the shooting schedule. It is also created during preproduction. It does not list the scenes, but the settings that make up the scenes. You can also combine the shooting schedule and shotlist in one document.

The development of the shotlist may mean that you also have to revise the shooting schedule again. Because this step (like the entire pre-production) serves to plan the shooting as efficiently and optimally as possible, this is part of it.

Completion of preproduction: site tour (Tech Scout)

The so-called Tech Scout is a tour of the location with the «technical staff» of your film. This includes camera crew, lighting, stage, production management, possibly also the art department. The director can be absent here. He's seen all of the locations in advance and communicated his vision to the cameraman.

The inspection of the location with the technical crew helps them to advance their own planning in a targeted and concrete manner. An example: it is only possible to say on site how the spotlights are positioned (in the room, outside?) Or where the electricity (generator? High voltage connection in the kitchen?) For the light battery can be obtained.

Completion of pre-production: order equipment

According to the Tech Scout, it is clear how much equipment is required for each location. This is also summarized in lists. With these, the production management can obtain very specific offers from different providers (film equipment is always rented for the shooting time), check the budget and schedule, and then place a binding order for cameras, spotlights, dollies, etc.

Pre-production: summary

Pre-production is your chance. Here you can and should prepare and coordinate everything that you have to do during production.

But preproduction is also a critical phase. Any mistake you make here comes out during production and is magnified by the filming.

You can find information on overall planning in the reader questions section under: How do I plan an image film ?.

So take the time you need for preproduction. Work steadily, slowly, and precisely. And ask all questions, really all questions, and look for the right answers for your project. If you did that during preproduction, filming will go smoothly.