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The Industry Newbie: Pre-Production Part II

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In this installment of the Industry Newbie series, I’m going to continue talking about pre-production. There are a lot of steps during this stage, so the topic requires a few posts. If you need a refresher on any of the prior steps, click here. Once you have reserved your locations and equipment rental, set your schedule, begun your SAG-AFTRA paperwork, and found your crew (whew!) there are still more steps.

Plan Your Food (Craft Services or Crafty)

Craft services, or crafty, includes two components:

  1. Meals that are served during designated mealtimes
  2. Snacks and beverages that are available throughout the shoot

Find out the food restrictions and preferences of your cast and crew and be sure to order meals and bring snacks and beverages that accommodate everyone’s needs. Everyone will be happier on set if they feel well fed! If you will be having meals catered, be sure to schedule as far ahead of time as you can to ensure the caterer is available on the days you need.

Props

These are specific items referenced in the script that the actors will physically handle during their scenes, e.g. dishes and a sponge if they will be washing dishes. If your script requires any unique props, an item from a specific time period or any item that you may not have at home, research where to find these early on so you are not scrambling for them the day before the shoot.

Wardrobe

You can bring a wardrobe person onto the project or the director can review wardrobe. On a small project, the actors will typically bring their own wardrobe options, but you will need to instruct them on what to bring and then either meet with them before the shoot day or leave time on the shoot day to review their wardrobe. If there are any specialized wardrobe needs, such as items specific to a time period, you will need to arrange for these items ahead of time, get your actors’ measurements, and arrange for a fitting time to ensure that they fit the actors.

Set Design

Your locations will almost always need to be adjusted to accommodate your story. Ideally, you will not need to make too many adjustments, but usually you will need to make some changes like removing things from shelves, filling up shelves, and moving items that reflect too much light. It is very important to take photos of the locations before you move anything to ensure that you can put everything back exactly as you found it! This will not only make your life easier, but also keep a good relationship going between you and whoever manages the location you are using.

Hair and Makeup

On a small project, you can ask the actors to arrive “camera ready.” This means that they will have their hair and makeup done on their own to fit their character. However, if you have any special hair and makeup needs, e.g. to match a time period or to convey a special effect, you should hire a Hair and Makeup person (HMU) to be on set. If hair and makeup will be done on set, remember to incorporate this preparation time for the actors when scheduling their call times.

Storyboarding

Storyboarding refers to creating a series of still images that reflect the shots you plan to capture during your shoot. This typically falls under the director’s set of responsibilities. But I include it in this list because as a producer you want to make sure that your director knows what shots they plan to get on each shoot day. The more detailed your shot list, the more efficient your shoot day will run. In addition, because setting up each shot typically takes much longer than you estimate, you want to avoid having to take time out of the day to discuss and decide which shots you need. Having the list already finalized will help you move from shot to shot quickly and seamlessly.

The final key piece of pre-production is casting – finding the right actors for each role. This is a key part of making your project a success and I will go into detail on this process in the next installment of this series.

Ayelette Robinson

About Ayelette Robinson

Ayelette Robinson is an actor, voiceover artist, and producer. Previously an attorney and multiple award-winning legal technologist, she is the founder of ActorsGuru, a career management tool for actors, as well as of Cross Carefully Productions LLC. She just premiered and launched her award-winning web series, The Couch, with an innovative Choose Your Own Adventure structure, and is in development on her first feature film, Love & Embalming Fluid. She is a passionate proponent of advancing the roles and visibility of women and people of color in front of and behind the camera, and is proud to have produced The Couch with a diverse and almost all-female cast and crew. An avid supporter of animal welfare, she is also on the Board of K9 Youth Alliance, an organization that brings together youth and shelter dogs. She shares her journey on Instagram @ayeletterobinson.