"I see dead people." - The Sixth Sense (1999)
How to plan a shoot in 10 easy steps.
You have worked enough as a second A.D. and D.A. and you think you are now ready to be the first Asst Director but you are still lacking confidence on how to plan the shoot read on to find out how to plan a shoot in 10 easy steps.
So while you may consider the director to be a conductor of the orchestra, the first A.D. is like the traffic police at a junction. During the shoot the director concentrates on performances, shots and the edit as well sometimes, the first AD has to make sure that everything runs clockwork. The first A.D. has to be aware of everything that is happening on and off the set and in all departments, he has to make sure that all departments deliver on time and come up with alternative plans in case something goes wrong, a lot of thinking on the feet and man management has to happen.
So how to go about planning a shoot,
- Read all the material possible namely the script, treatment note, references, storyboard’s etc. (all material in the PPM docket if there is one.) Understand what is the key driver to the shoot. (is it action based, or drama or product driven in case of commercials)
- Get the breakdown done based on the script / storyboard of all the requirements and divided into each individual departments. Make sure all is covered.
- Meet and understand the director’s perspective. Understand his style of working and what he is looking for in that project.
- Meet the head of all departments more than once if possible, share the all the requirements from each department. Make sure that there is no overlap of responsibilities or assumption that someone will do it. Give a written list so that there is no confusion as to who is doing what. (eg. when art assumes that production is getting a prop or vice versa) Do follow up’s with all to check the progress.
- Get time lines from each department, like how long for art to prep, how long to get the artist ready from makeup hair and costume, distance and time taken between locations (especially if you are shooting 2 or more locations on the same day) etc.
- Go for a recce, not just to see locations but to plan the entire shoot, to figure out problems that may arise at the final shoot day. Go for more than one recce at times if possible, if not then a final tech recce with the main required people where all details are discussed is a must.
- Plan the shoot schedule and shoot order. (this could be done before or after a recce depending on the situation, although the A.D. should go for a recce with a plan in mind so that they can figure if the plan is possible or not) Keep in mind the director and DOP’s preferences in order of shoot. Confirm with all required that the shoot order is fine. (Done after confirming with the director)
- Prep the call sheet, here all the requirements, call time for each department and artists etc, don’t forget to include weather, tide and all other details that may apply to that project. Make sure that call times are given to all and follow up and pickups arranged with the help of production and your asst’s
- Have a final meeting with production and other departments if possible telling them the final plan, or just production and passing information to all departments making sure that all are on the same page.
- Shoot. Communicate on Shoot, make sure that your asst’s are passing on all the relevant information, make sure all departments are working to clockwork precision. Don’t forget to plan the next day’s shoot while the shoot is going on.
Lastly enjoy your shoot and try and maintain a friendly atmosphere throughout.
These 10 points just gives a quick overview into what needs to be done. In the following blogs I will put down the 1st AD’s perspective into each department.
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