Even for a seasoned producer, Pre-production might seem intimidating. It necessitates a thorough understanding of many aspects of production and prevents future problems. It is not always easy, but it’s pretty straightforward if you stay organized. So, what does pre-production entail? What time does it begin, and what time does it end? This post will provide answers to those queries and a quick overview.
Committing errors throughout this phase of the production process can be a disaster in doing a project. However, when done correctly, it can assist in laying the groundwork for a successful production.
You will finalize your script, hire your actors and crew, scout locations, source equipment, and create a shooting schedule during pre-production. As a result, this crucial planning stage must be well-managed. So, let’s go through the most critical things you should know about pre-production.
What is Pre-Production?
- Pre-production is the stage in which you prepare your project for the shoot.
- Production is the phase in which all the sequences are shot.
- Postproduction is the assimilation of all the sequences shot into the final film.
As expected, the success of the second and third stages depends a lot on the work you complete in the first. We see Spielberg working on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in this footage, including pre-visualization, wardrobe choices, and Shia LaBeouf casting.
You can see how important “Pre-production” is, especially at this level of filmmaking, where costs are high, and planning is crucial. So let’s start by defining pre-production, and then we will go over the timelines and steps involved in greater depth.
Pre-production is the process of arranging and carrying out all of the tasks that have to be completed before production can begin. Once the script is finalized, the director, cinematographer, producers, first assistant director, production managers, production coordinators, and site scouts are frequently involved.
Each project is unique, based on the budget and scope of the production, but there are some general criteria to keep in mind.
Importance of Pre-Production
Before the cameras start rolling, you can organize everything you require during the pre-production phase of filmmaking. Preproduction is the process of determining what you will need to create your film and whom you will recruit to assist you. Efficient pre-production can help you save time and money for filmmaking. In addition, you will reduce the likelihood of wasting resources if you have a budget in place, which can hamper the progress of an entire project. Detailing the timeline is also integral for a seamless production process as it gives the team a picture of how much time they need to set for an efficient shot.
Steps Involved in Pre-Production
- The shooting script must be locked.
- Complete the estimation of the budget.
- Create a new business (not always applicable)
- You should hire department heads.
- Dissect the script.
- The scenes are depicted on a storyboard and shot list.
- Identify and secure potential places.
- Casting performers and assembling a crew
- Obtain the necessary permissions and insurance.
- Schedule the shooting days.
- Conduct a tech scout.
- Make arrangements for the leasing of equipment.
Story Development in Pre-Production
You will need to finish everything throughout this stage of production, whether you are working with a script, a treatment, a commercial outline, or anything else.
Analyze the Story- Whether it’s 30 seconds or 3 hours, you’ll want to think about the arc of the tale you want to convey. Check to see if there’s a pattern to it. Is everything going smoothly? Is anything in this story true? Is the screenplay going to work on set?
Once you’ve got everything in order, you can start working on your screenplay breakdown, which is a list of everything you’ll need for your production once filming begins. Your script will need to be revised multiple times. No matter how outstanding the writer(s) are, scripts are likely to go through various iterations before they are even considered for filming. Early draughts allow you to flesh out characters and eliminate anything that is not working. Here you will determine what needs to be added, updated, or removed. The more tightly the script is written before shooting, the more likely everything will go smoothly during production.
Do not Direct on a Script Level – When working with a script, avoid directing on paper by writing words like “zoom in on” or “jump cut to.” These are the director’s responsibilities, and you should leave the opportunity for improvisation later in the show. When it comes to setting up the shots, these directions will come naturally once the shooting script is complete.
Write an Outline – You have to give an in-depth tale on commercial grounds in a minimal amount of time. This means that you must pay close attention to every detail that will appear on the screen when casting a commercial. You will have to be very particular about what you need, from the specific type of actor to the unique look and feel of the commercial.
When you have decided what you want, send a complete list of roles to casting agencies or post them on casting websites. You should look for the main characters first and then minor characters, as they will have less impact on the outcome.
Trace the Journey – Of course, you might not be using a script at all. It could be a semi-improvised work or a documentary, in which case you must still plan out the route. A clear structure will make moving through the project much easier and will assist in increasing thoughts on what has to be accomplished—the better the shape of the end object, the more comprehensible the outline.
After you have finalized your script, outline, or vision, you will need to work out all the necessary components to put each scene together. Following is a breakdown of your situation. All locations, settings, characters, props, visual effects, and costumes are included. Let’s have a look at a couple of them.
Costume Design and Production Design in Pre-Production
Find the Costumes: Unless you are working on a shoestring budget, you’ll need an experienced costume designer to precisely discover your requirements. The costume designer, the production design department, the director and director of photography, and possibly the make-up and hair departments should all be consulted about the colors and textures. This will help to guarantee that the entire production has a consistent look and visual identity.
Fitting appointments should be scheduled as soon as possible so that costume designers may take some prospective outfits they’ve identified, dress the actors, and take images to share with the other creative departments stated above. This will ensure that all of the movie’s elements combine well.
Costume Copies: You will need to calculate how many different variants of a particular costume you’ll need during the shoot. Always expect an actor to drop ketchup or sweat heavily under the bright lights. Your costume designer will prepare a list of the alterations and then obtain as many copies as are required (a single costume used in many scenes will require more alternatives than a costume used in only one).
Many commercials call for actors or models to dress in the brand’s outfit, promoting their product. It will be vital to work out how to make things look as excellent as possible in this situation.
Finding the Appropriate Props: Props will make up the most of what your characters grip, touch, or interact with. Before you arrive on set, you must account for all of these factors. This, as well as the set dressings — the small things that make your set look like what it is supposed to be – must be handled by your production design team. This process must begin as soon as the breakdown is complete. Assume that you have less time than you believe you do. It will help you in staying on track.
Visual Effects: The massive explosions you have planned for the climactic fight climax are not the only visual effects you can use. These effects may be anything from small green screen touches to computer-generated dinosaurs.
As the effects will take time to build, you will need to have a clear idea of what you will need—quite a bit of time. You will have a far higher chance of getting the results you want if you know the essentials before filming.
A thorough pre-production discussion with all leading players will guarantee that filming and post-production are less time-consuming and nerve-wracking.
Collaborate with Creatives: The visual effects department must clearly understand the director’s and DOP’s visions. The simplest method to guarantee that everyone is on the same page is carefully outlining the impacts.
Turning every ‘object’ in the screenplay into something physically palpable (or computer-generated) will take time. The sooner you can begin this process, as seen in each of the cases above, the better.
Financing and Budgeting in Pre-Production
Financing in Pre-Production: Without funding, you will not be able to get very far. You will need money, and you will probably need a lot of it. This entails securing distribution partners, co-producers, and a group of investors — never put your own money into it!
To get funding, you will need to have a budget in place. So, attempt to include all you can to reach a reasonable figure. It is critical not to undervalue or overestimate costs; neither benefit you.
Working on a Commercial Project: A customer or agency will fund your project in commercial projects, so you’ll have to be careful about how you spend the money. As advertisements have such tight timelines, it is critical that casting, location scouting, and production design be well-organized and completed as quickly as possible.
As commercial projects are time-sensitive, dependable agencies and collaborators will be an essential team component. In addition, each project you work on is a chance to create relationships with individuals who can assist you in stressful situations in the future.
Budgeting in Pre-Production: The way you set up your budget will be determined by the type of project you are working on and the location where you’ll be filming. It is a good idea to look into the types of funding available in the area where you plan to shoot, as you may be able to apply for public funding in some circumstances.
Studios and cable networks may require that you adhere to a specific budget format.
Completion Bonds: Any production will require you to set aside a portion of your budget as a ‘rainy day fund.’ On larger displays, this may be required by financiers, or it may be a requirement of working with Completion Bond Insurance, which guarantees the film’s completion.
It is critical to keep in mind that you cannot account for every possible circumstance. Issues will arise, and errors will occur. Therefore, any production will require you to learn to anticipate the unexpected.
It is safe to assume that post-production and visual effects will be more expensive than expected. A mobile phone in the background of a period film can present problems you had not anticipated.
Crew Formation in Pre-Production
You cannot do everything on your own. More employees will join your team as pre-production develops. Some people will need to be involved as soon as possible, while others can join later as the manufacturing phase approaches. Let’s have a look at the leading players.
The Crew in Pre-Production: The crew will be the most critical investment. It can easily consume up to 80% of your budget. The types of crew members necessary may vary depending on the production scale, but you will need to get certain people on board right away because problems will surface anytime during pre-production. Your Line Producer, UPM, and First AD play a crucial part in helping you organize everything. Let’s look at each of these roles in detail:
Line Production in Pre-Production: To begin, your Line Producer will handle the project’s budget ‘line by line,’ as the term implies. The role, however, does not end there. The Line Producer is a film’s Chief Operations Officer, and they will oversee the production’s daily operations, including scheduling, recruiting, and interfacing with the entire crew, among other things. Throughout the process, the Line Producer will be the point of contact for any concerns that emerge.
Unit Production Manager in Pre-Production: Although your Line Producer may cover this role, most productions will require a UPM to collaborate closely with the Line Producer on cast and crew housing and transportation, budget preparation, script breakdowns, building preliminary shooting schedules, and negotiating location and personnel releases.
The Line Producer and First AD address different concerns, and UPM will likely be camped out in the production office.
First AD in Pre-Production: The First AD is in control of the set and reports directly to the director. This individual will plan out all of the critical details for the production phase. The First AD will calculate the length of production and schedule each day, ensuring that everything runs on time to avoid costly overruns. They deal with pressure in the film set and will stick to a strict schedule once filming begins.
The First AD will be in charge of preparing day out of days (a tally of each cast member’s paid days) and creating the daily call sheet (the schedule for each shooting day). They will serve as the primary point of contact on set and will be in charge of staff and shot security.
Director in Pre-Production: Bringing your director on board early in the production process will aid in getting everything ready for filming. They may enlist the help of other crucial players, such as the director of photography. Collaborating on storyboards and shot lists with your director can guarantee that everything is ready when you move from pre-production to production.
Department Heads in Pre-Production: Your team will be divided into numerous departments, each led by a department head. A costume designer, casting director, and production designer will play crucial roles in pre-production. As pre-production approaches production, you’ll be able to delegate tasks to these individuals. Regular meetings between the heads of the various departments will be required to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that plans and timetables are followed.
Department heads will also guarantee that the production has a consistent appearance and feel, critical for a successful project.
Preparing to Shoot in Pre-Production
Let’s dissect shooting into its parts. You will be photographing performers using cameras on a set to make your film. This section will look at how to prepare for everything that has to happen both in front of and behind the camera.
Casting in Pre-Production: Whatever you had in mind for the characters before casting, the actors that play them will never be precisely what you had in mind. Casting is all about finding the appropriate person for the job, and actors are known for bringing something unexpected to the table.
You can either hire a casting agency or publicize the roles yourself. When it comes to finding your cast, you have a few alternatives depending on the scale of your project. Finding out what works best for the project you’re working on is essential to a successful casting. You will have to determine whether or not you want to work with ‘gilded’ actors. Depending on the talent you are dealing with, the costs will vary dramatically.
Actors in Pre-Production: Actors in commercials and models in photoshoots are on the same boat. You must understand that you do not compensate them solely for their time on set. It is more about obtaining permission to use the property. You must consider all conceivable distribution channels for your goods and ensure that the relevant rights have been secured. This implies you will need to consider areas, timing, and exploitation rights for the media platforms you’ll require, such as online, television, and theatre. The more you require and the more money you have, the more you will pay agencies and performers.
Audition in Pre-Production: In film and commercial auditions, you’ll want to try out a variety of line readings to see how wide an actor’s range is. It is also good to have performers’ auditions together to determine whether they have chemistry. As you cut down the list of potential talents and hone in on the ones that match the character best and demonstrate the charm you want to see on screen, you may need to call back an actor for many auditions.
You should also address the tasks that the actor will be expected to complete as soon as possible. For example, if the actor is likely to appear raw, shave for the production, or act in specific conditions – such as swimming in the open sea – you must inform them well before shooting, rather than when they arrive at the set.
Finding Equipment in Pre-Production: It is fantastic if you can capture everything on your iPhone. On the other hand, gearing up usually entails renting the recording, sound, and lighting equipment (along with a variety of other items) required to execute the job. If you will be renting for a long time, it’s always worth checking to see if you can receive a discount. It is also worth checking to see if any of the crew members own equipment that they can give you a discount on or perhaps let you use for free.
If you need specialized equipment for your shoots, such as Arri Skypanels or a large Panther crane, contact your rental house as soon as possible to avoid having to make last-minute requests.
It is important to remember that equipment is not simply about the equipment. You will need to bring everything to the set, which will necessitate several cars, and you may also require highly trained and qualified staff to operate specific pieces of equipment.
Location Scouting in Pre-Production
After you have storyboarded your scenes, you will need to perform a location scout to discover the best locations for them to be shot. If you are shooting on a studio soundstage, you will want to find out about availability as soon as possible because the shoot could span weeks, if not months. You will have more time to focus on organizing sets and other critical pieces after this is under control.
Given the project’s scope, it will almost certainly be required to hire an experienced location manager to oversee everything. To examine the viability of any potential shooting location, he will need to collaborate with the director, director of photography (DOP), and production designer. Always keep the sound recordists in mind when shooting a period piece; shooting near a busy highway will cause them unnecessary hassles that will have to be rectified in post-production.
Shooting Outdoors – You will almost certainly need to shoot outside as well, which means you will need to consider factors like weather, power sources, and shooting licenses. In addition, when filming on location, you will need to consider whether you will require a production base, how accessible the area is for equipment, and whether there are enough hotels nearby to accommodate the entire crew.
Final Touches in Pre-Production
Storyboards and Shot Lists in Pre-Production: Storyboarding your scenes will help everyone on the set understand what has to be accomplished. A shot list will provide you with specific instructions on how a scene should be shot, effectively serving as a to-do list for each day of shooting.
Shot lists provide a detailed view of how the scenes will be filmed, whereas storyboards offer an overview of how the action from the script will look. Breaking down each scene into a series of shots will aid in determining the shooting timetable. Some photos will just require a stationary camera. Others may use panning, tilting, zooming, and tracking.
Shot Discussions in Pre-Production: Chat to your editor about shot lists if you have the opportunity. They can provide comments on coverage that will be very helpful in post-production (and also ensure that you avoid expensive reshoots). Again, it will save your time and help you prevent delays in production if you plan these things out logically.
The more complicated the shot, the more difficult it is to pull off. More time will need to be set aside to execute the shot. The duration of a shot is also a key component in establishing the shooting schedule. You will require more time than a single line to a static camera if you intend to design a 10-minute Steadicam shot.
The director will lay out his vision, and the Production Coordinator and First Assistant Director will endeavor to put everything together into a logical and workable shooting plan.
Scheduling the Shoot in Pre-Production: You are almost close to the finish line. You have finished your breakdown and created a shot list. To compute day-out-of-days, you’ve presumably already made a basic shooting schedule. Now is the time to plan everything out in great detail.
You and your team will need to decide on the order in which the sequences will be shot. The duration, technical needs, and emotional weight of each scene (it’s not a good idea to make an actor leap from an emotionally intense scene to a funny one straight after) will all play a role in determining the ideal shooting schedule. As you examine all of these factors, having some film scheduling suggestions to refer to can be helpful.
You are now laying the framework for the production phase of your project. But before that happens, there are a few things you can do to ensure a smooth transition out of pre-production.
Rehearsals in Pre-Production: Between pre-production and production, you will have the opportunity to fine-tune all of the elements you have placed in place. This necessitates rehearsal.
When it comes to rehearsing, the latter stages of pre-production are crucial. First, you might have a table read with all of the essential roles present to see how the script works as a whole. Then you assist the actors in getting introduced to one another.
Department Preparation in Pre-Production
Your director will plan out his shots during rehearsals and work with the cast. All the other departments will be preparing so that they will be ready to go when filming begins. This is your time to run through everything so that everything is in place when production begins: lines are memorized, shots are arranged, and everything is ready to go. It is usually beneficial if everyone on the set is aware of the guidelines.
Before shooting, rehearsing allows you to work out any kinks, identify any flaws, and tighten all the bolts. Attempt to make this time as appropriate as possible. If you are doing something on the set, practice it now so that you are not caught off guard when the cameras start rolling.
Building an Audience in Pre-Production
Once you have the script, one of the most critical pre-production steps is to figure out who your audience will be. You should start thinking about the aim of your film and why you want to tell it – though this is something you should consider when creating the script as well.
When it comes to revisions, marketing, networking, shooting, distributing, and so on, thinking about what you want to do with the film is quite helpful.
Some people may simply want to make a film for the sake of doing one, which is perfectly fine – do what you want! However, most filmmakers require some channel for their films to be noticed or picked up.
If you are making a film for a festival, make sure you understand the guidelines and rules so that you don’t waste time and/or money on things you will have to eliminate later. Also, look at some of the former winners to see what kinds of films have won in previous competitions.
Make sure you market and advertise your film as much as possible, whether you are shooting for distribution or a streaming service. Develop a social media following to enhance viewership and interest in your project. Tell your friends, family, and anybody else you know about it to get your film out there.
If you want to be heard, you must be loud.
Pre-Production in Animation
Before we conclude our look at pre-production, let’s take a look at an unusual situation:
The distinctions between post-production, production, and pre-production in animation are less evident than in live-action filmmaking due to the nature of animation. However, the fundamental principles of pre-production still apply.
In animation pre-production, budgeting, scheduling, and planning are still critical. Choosing the correct cast and crew is still crucial to the success of any animated movie. Storyboards and other pre-visualization processes are still used in animated films, and they are quite important. Pre-production in animation differs from pre-production in live-action filmmaking in that pre-production in animation overlaps with other phases of a project’s life cycle.
As previously noted, the distinctions between traditional production phases in animation are blurrier, but this also applies to the development process. While most live-action films have a clear transition from development to pre-production, parts of development are frequently required in the pre-production stage in animation.
Throughout the production of an animated film, story beats, character designs, and aesthetic styles are all subject to minor modifications.
Pre-Production in Music
Pre-production is a process in the music industry where recording artists spend time developing and refining their musical ideas. Then, the artist composes a demo recording or a rough draft of a song to show the song’s creative idea. This reduces the amount of time and money spent in high-priced studios. The end goal is to approach the crucial recording part of the project with the most basic and alluring concepts already in place.
You have received funding, completed your script, selected your crew, budgeted, and planned your production and shooting dates. You are now ready for the progression of your project from pre-production to production. It may have seemed like trying to keep a lot of plates spinning simultaneously, but the entire time and money invested up to this point will pay off.
An adequately managed pre-production period will condition you for production in the best possible way. Of course, it requires a lot of effort to arrive on set. Still, comprehending the numerous factors involved, makes doing everything right effortlessly.