Journey Into Creation: The Pre-Pre-Production Phase


KatHeadshotOkay, you’re in the writing process of your amazing project.  You’re not finished so you can’t officially enter the pre-production phase but there are things you can consider, and start feeling out, prior to having your scripts locked into a shooting draft.  I like to call it the Pre-pre-production phase.

1)    What’s your platform?

You’ve seen everyone else’s webseries up on Youtube or their own website and you’ve figured that’s your platform as well.  I mean, what else is there, right?  Maybe not.  You may have yet to realize, but now, before you go into production, or pre-production even, is the time to start thinking about other, more marketable or profitable avenues available for you to air your series.  In our case, we have a comedy webseries, so we’ll want to look at the best platforms available for that genre.  Funny or Die being the obvious one.  But there are many other sites and companies to explore.  Why do you want to start looking into these avenues now, you ask?  Because, if they are interested, you may have to adjust the script to their style of humor, drama etc, in order to create the right fit.  After it’s shot is too late.  And they may be able to offer up a little assistance to the right project.

Along the same lines, have you considered that partnering up with a production company that creates online content?  Maybe you have a killer idea and the scripts are coming along beautifully and all you’re missing is that sweet, sweet cash to give the project the tender loving care it needs.  Why not be ballsy and reach out companies who are looking for awesome web content.  Not only does this open up the opportunity for funding but also to attach some name talent to your project.  Now that’s clout.

So, here’s the thing.  For the webseries, I and my Fiance are creating, we have a leg up on most other projects getting ready to shoot.  Why?  Because we already have a bit of video that shows a bit of what the series will look like.  It shows the acting skills of those who will be starring in the series (my Fiance and myself) and the professionalism of the video demonstrates the skills necessary to complete a desirable product.  The entire three-minute piece cost us approximately $1500.  Some may cringe at the amount, but when you’re looking to raise $25,000 to shoot your dream project, $1500 is nothing and the benefits could greatly out weigh the costs.

2)    Who are the department heads?

This is the time to start creating that list of potential key personnel that will help to make this project happen.  A few that are very good to have on board now are Director, Producer, Line Producer, and 1st AD.  Assuming you are not filling any of these roles or don’t have these people yet, allow me to relay their importance.

Everyone knows the Director you choose will be key in the creation of your project.  They are the visionary, not only bringing visual life to the words on the page, but what they do will determine tone and style.  The wrong Director can turn your comedy into a character drama, or your character drama into a suspense thriller.  Remember, how you shoot is just as important as what you write.  If you start interviewing Directors early to find the right fit for your project, you will save yourself much grief come production.  And once you do find that right person, he/she can be brought on to help tailor the scripts to your vision.  A good Director knows when to come into a scene and get out of it according to the particular genre they’re skilled at, saving you the trouble of writing (or shooting) more than necessary.  And being primarily visual (and not as close to the material) they may see opportunities for more comedy, suspense, drama etc.  Making your project better and better and better.

A Line Producer will be your first stop once the scripts are solidified.  They will do a complete break down on the scripts and give you a great idea of how much it will cost to shoot.  This is important because if you’re entire budget is $20,000 and you discover that amazing chase scene will cost $15,000, you may want to consider an alternate scene.  The sooner you know your costs the sooner you will know definitively, what you can and cannot do realistically, and re-write where necessary.

Producers are life-savers in my opinion.  They can be creative, but they can also be grounded, logical, realistic and they always have their eye on the bottom line. Producers work within the budget and will tell you what you can and can’t do given the budget.  They can help organize the SAG paperwork.  They can work to find your other team members.  They should hold the same vision for the project you do, you should work well and have great communication.  Trust is imperative.

1st Ads are especially important if you are planning to Direct.  This is your right hand person, they will help organize shot and plan production.  Now is the perfect time to bring them on board.  For myself, being Director and one of the stars, it is imperative that the 1st AD be familiar with my style, my vision and the ins and outs of every shot.  I will be relying on them heavily to ensure my vision comes through.  Start interviewing now to find the right fit and someone you’ll want to spend many, many hours with.

These are just a few things we are thinking about and working on now at this stage of our project development.  Stay tuned next time when I discuss the idea of bringing on Casting Directors and Joke Writers!