Tag: Prep days
As a director, you can always phone it in with standard coverage or rely on your DP can find you lovely backgrounds and nice shot compositions, but if you want to pull off any shots that are interesting, meaningful, or cool, you need to plan them out ahead of time with storyboards or a coverage plan. Great shots don’t just happen.
I believe that being a good director means making a plan that I can share with other people before the morning of the shoot. That’s why I typically put in a bunch of prep time creating storyboards, shooting plans, and shot lists. In this post I’ll talk about what these are and why I think they’re important.
Preparation: The Burden and Opportunity
Typically on a shoot day you barely have enough time to get all the shots you need, let alone explore them. As much as I love the romantic notion of a director figuring out his vision on the set as he and the actors try new things, the reality is, a good director figures all that out long before the shoot. And then maybe, if he’s done his prep, he gets a few more ideas in the moment. But that’s only after all the work is done.
So how do you figure out your vision before you’re actually on the set looking at everything? One of the best ways is with storyboards and shooting plans. Sketching out what you want to shoot is a great way to try new things, refine your vision, and then communicate that to all the people who will help you realize it. In many ways, the director’s real visual exploratory work is done on paper.
(* The other exploratory work a director can do—the performance exploration—is in workshopping and rehearsing with actors. I’ll talk about this in a future post.)
The other day I wrote about doing your prep for each shoot. The most important thing you’ll create from that prep is your shot list. It will reflect most of the choices you make about how to handle the production—sort of like your cheat sheet for the day’s shoot.
Each shot listed on your shot list is something you “owe.” I’m not sure who you owe it to—the production, the editor, yourself—but by the end of the day, you better have them on tape or film. (Often I’ll list shots that I’d like to have, time-permitting, but can live without if the going gets rough. Knowing the difference is another important function of prepping your shoot.)
But all of that comes out of prep done at your desk or the kitchen table before you step onto the set. When you’re there, “on the day” a lot of other ideas will occur to you—maybe an actor brings in a nice piece of business you’d like to work in, or there’s a great background for a certain moment, or perhaps you just see a new way to pull things together. It’s likely that you’re going to owe some new shots. (continue reading…)
I’m prepping for two video shoots in this week. (These days, that’s pretty noteworthy in and of itself…but that’s not what I’m writing about.) One of the shoots I’m prepping has a paid “prep day” one doesn’t. But the reality is that I’ll probably put similar amounts of prep time into each project. That’s the deal with directing a film or video production: Sometimes you get paid to prep, sometimes you don’t, but either way you have to do it. You can’t show up on set without a plan. That just ain’t gonna go well. “I didn’t have a paid prep day,” isn’t much of an excuse if everyone’s waiting around while you’re floundering on set. (continue reading…)