Scheduling

Over the next few weeks I am attending some ‘Producer Essential’ seminars, discussing the role of a producer and helping each one develop their projects. I like this format as it gives an opportunity to talk to others in the same position that I’m in, already I know there are other projects dealing with child actors and another looking for a hospital as a filming location. In a typical production there are three types of Producer:

The Creative Producer – Develops the project, finds the talent, defines the editorial line.
The Line Producer – Managing the means of production, scheduling, budgeting, logistics, contracts.
The Executive Producer – Overseeing the project, raising the finance.

A producer is essentially the team leader, they are an enabler who can bring a concept to the screen. The variety of types of producer sees a variation in skills but all come down to the core skills of leadership, organisation, time management, amongst other common themes. This weeks session focused on the theme of ‘scheduling’.

The film is typically scheduled by the 1st AD in conjunction with the producer, this will then be agreed by the director and heads of departments. The idea is to construct the schedule to film the story in the most efficient way possible, so using actors for as little days as possible, any dead time in between days would require payment so would rack the budget of the film up. For scheduling a film production we went through a step process to ensure you cover all the basis so you are ready to go out and shoot.

Step 1 – Dividing The Script

Initial stages of separating up the script and scenes.

Step 2 – Measuring The Script

The industry unit of measurement is 8th’s (for each page), you can then calculate how many 8th’s each scene of the script is.

Step 3 – Marking The Script

Also known as the ‘script breakdown’ this analyses the script in order to find the most effective schedule. The industry standard works in several sections:

Highlight Locations
Yellow – Exterior Day
White – Interior Day
Green – Exterior Night
Blue – Interior Night

Underline Elements
Red – Cast Speaking
Orange – Stunts
Yellow – Extras Featured
Green – Extras Atmosphere
Blue – Special Effects
Violet – Props
Pink – Vehicles/Animals
Brown – Sound Effects

Symbolise Departments
Circle – Wardrobe Information
Asterisk – Make-Up & Hair Information
Box – Special Equipment
Black Underline – Any Other Pertinent Information

Step 4 – Filling Out Breakdown Sheets

Transferring all the above information into ‘breakdown sheets’ acts as a blueprint for each department, creating a layer of detail that exists behind the schedule and call sheets. These are more focused at the crew in order to enable pre-production.

Step 5 – Create A Strip Schedule

Transferring the key information into another document so you have a strip of information for each scene. This breaks down every scene chronologically so you know who and what is required, and where they are needed. Below shows an example of this important document.
Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 16.45.52

Step 6 – Manipulate Strip Schedule

Now you have this version of the script you can start grouping scenes together based on key and secondary parameters.

Key Parameters:
Cast Members – Aim for fewest number of work days.
Locations – Limit unit moves by shooting all scenes in each location.
Geography Of Locations – Have locations as close together as possible where able.
Exterior/Interiors – Always good to shoot exteriors first so you aren’t ‘chasing light’.
Day/Night – 10 hour break rule between working days, try to shoot day for night where possible as less tiring on participants.

Secondary Parameters:
Shooting In Sequence – Easier for actor and script understanding.
Child Actors – Strict regulations on how many hours and a chaperone.
Changes In Time – Account for physical appearance (i.e. beard).
Time Of Year – Check and mark times on call sheet.
Weather – Work around particular weather, easier to shoot warm and dry.
Special Effects/Stunts – May need additional preparation time.
Second Unit – Can save time by sending second crew for non-cast reliant material.
Special Equipment – Account for limited time on hired equipment.
Miscellaneous – Always prepare for the unexpected.

Step 7 – Schedule Shooting Days

Time is money, simplify where possible and try to reduce the number of setups each day for quicker turnover time. The industry standard is around 3 pages or 25 setups per day. Always accommodate additional time for setup (i.e. lighting, makeup, etc) and time for the unexpected to occur.

Step 8 – Dynamic Scheduling

Keep adjusting the schedule to respond to changes, continue to fine tune for optimum arrangement. They key is to be organised, detailed and accurate.

Step 9 – The Schedule Plus…

Alongside the schedule developing other important documents should also be; shot list, storyboard, blocking diagrams, shooting plans, production design, etc. The schedule is the key document for informing the call sheet, shooting plans and progress reports.

The whole purpose of the schedule is to ensure the entire story can be shot hopefully as intended. It is there to keep a production on track and adapt to every situation the project is presented with. It is really a dynamic document and drives everyone through production keeping to the agreed budget. Without this document there would simply be no organisation, it would just be a group of people running around with cameras trying to fight for their creative visions.

Further Reading:
Film Scheduling, Ralph S.Singleton, 2nd Ed, 1991, Lone Eagle Press.
Film Budgeting, Ralph S.Singleton, 2nd Ed, 1996, Lone Eagle Press.

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