Planning ahead. . .

Steadicam Operator
Photo by Reinis Traidas

One of the things I’ve learned in two years of production is that no two shoots are ever, ever, ever the same.

Before you go into production, it helps to not only visualize the scene you’re trying to create inside your camera, but also the scene on set. Who will play what role? What “props” do you need? (A table is really helpful for snacks, a couple chairs are awesome for tired actors and directors). Does it really make sense for a sound guy to be there if the whole set-up for the day is a single actor and a boom? Can you dismiss your costumer halfway through the day, or will that mean that someone’s bowtie gets droopy?

On our shoots, everyone is expected to be “helpful.” This means that if you’re standing next to the extension cord, you can be the one to hand it to the director (whether you are sound, costumes, an AP or an actor). Nobody is anybody’s “assistant.” The Associate Producer is expected to do 99% of the administrative tasks (the three M’s: Money, Meals, Mistakes – Mapquest would make four). When I was an intern for a small production house, I made up a “shoot kit” for the AP’s. Basically, I bought a plastic tool box, and filled it with all the things you might need on a shoot:

– office supplies (envelopes, pens, scissors)
– first aid supplies
– gaffers tape
– clipboards
– a slate
– white paper (for white balance)
– extra tape stock

Most importantly, I stuck in a list of what belongs in there so that it can be restocked as needed. I would always rather be freakishly organized than lose shoot hours to a pointless pen hunt.