18 October 2007

Grad Films: things that can go wrong

First day of shooting. It should have been our second day, but we had a major problem on Tuesday, just as we were starting to get ready to go home to get some sleep before the first day. I am currently reading Mike Figgis’s book Digital Film-Making where he says that on every shoot he makes a list of Things That Can And Will Go Wrong On A Shoot, so that he can learn from them and avoid making the same mistake.

On Tuesday afternoon we found out that our main actor for F-Stop had suddenly become unavailable. As there was no backup, Hayden and Mark called every single male actor on the list and a few that weren’t to find a replacement. Since they only succeeded in the evening, the decision was made to give the director a day to rehearse with the new actor and start shooting on Thursday, today.

So, in Honour of Mike Figgis, here is today’s List of Things That Can And Will Go Wrong On A Shoot:

• Actors drop out - specially when they are not paid and get offered a paid gig
• Pinning down locations too early: “ We will only need it on one day.” Expectations are set and the owners are reluctant when scheduling requires changes
• Putting off making decisions. Sometimes people don’t feel empowered to make them, or just hope they go away, but they will have to be dealt with eventually, and shoot day is a really bad time for them.
• Expecting the weather to be good. It won’t be.
• Leaving visual style decisions too late, requiring wholesale changes for wardrobe and art department.
• Practical events - untying someone, lying in a bathtub of ice, opening a locked suitcase - need to be tested in advance so that a good shooting sequence can be worked out and practical issues addressed early: find a rope that doesn’t tangle, arrange a way to transport fake ice, get a suitcase with a snap lock...
• Always remember to colour balance the camera, saving hours in post-production.
• Communication on set has to be clear. After a block through spend enough time with the heads of departments so that the crew is clear on what needs to be done.
• Spending too much time on setups. Get as much coverage out of a shot as possible. That means having a clear idea in your head about the shots needed, and how to achieve them from the fewest setups possible.

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