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July 7, 2011 / nicotvandenberg

Creating “Blueprints” For Your Film

Filmmaking, though an art form of its own, consists of a number of technical and collaborative aspects in order to successfully construct a movie. I wanted to shed light to a few positions on a film crew that are rarely recognized, but incredibly crucial to the success or failure of a films progress. More importantly sharing my own experiences and perspective with the goal to help your future projects. As a director a photography, I mix and mingle with pretty much ever crew role on set, and often times in the middle of the heat. I wanted to represent the pre-production work as the blueprints of a film, the heart, meat and soul that keeps a project on track and on time. Where time cost money and there is no margin for exceeding the budget. Many and most filmmakers can relate.

So the people I want to show my appreciation and give thanks to are the 1st AD’s (Assistant Directors), and Production managers. Without these two individuals doing their job, a set can be a bumpy ride and a guaranteed bad day. Each person has their own workflow and spark of creativity, and finding a way to channel the madness to a method is key. From my own experiences, pre-production is often overlooked, from the camera department. Directors wanting to be spontaneous and in the moment. Which is frustrating and demanding for the camera department. Without being close minded there is a give and take between the DP and director, leaving room for spontaneity but having a clear goal.

Coming back to the Blueprint reference, I like to imagine the shooting schedule and shot list as the blueprints of the film. Actors, wardrobe, props, crew, and camera are all the materials needed to make the film or “house.” The blueprint are in the hands of the 1st AD, or sticking to the construction analogy, “site foreman.” He or she is responsible for the assembly of the materials and meeting the appropriate deadlines. The 1st AD and production manager really add the much-needed guidance and organization to bring all the departments together.

Speaking from the camera departments perspective the way I always handle the shot list is by breaking it down into six categories. Such as, scene, shot, camera, lens, description and notes. I have added a photo of a recent shot list so you can better visualize my organization. After I have created the shot list, I work with the director and 1st AD to organize the shots into an appropriate  order that will allow us to me the most efficient during production. I found this organization has been key for the 1st AD’s I have worked with because they know immediately how many shots are required for the scene, which camera and lens should be built and staged. If possible, color coding works well to determine what shots can be captured at the same time.

This really scratches the surface when it comes to organizing your film in pre-production, but hopefully it has given you someone insight to a few methods that have been successful for me in the past.

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