As a 1st Assistant Director, it's your responsibility on set to make sure the production doesn't fall too far behind schedule. In this article we explore best practices to help you wrap on time.
But what happens if your DP takes longer than expected to light a scene? What do you do when your director wants 15 takes of the same shot? Or special effects are pushing you behind?
The act of asking people to “hurry up” is the single most ineffective strategy to move things along. Mainly because there’s a process for everything.
Here are some tips to keep your production speeding along without panicking everyone.
1. Want to wrap your film on time? Stay a few steps ahead
For example, if you know there’s a 30-foot dolly shot coming up, you must communicate this to your grip ahead of time so they can start planning or setting it up.
Keep the line of communication open with various departments. Check-in throughout the day. Not only will this keep everyone accountable and thinking ahead, but it will also provide you a better understanding of how long things will really take.
2. Get estimates, but don’t forget to follow-up
Waiting until an estimate is blown could throw your whole production off schedule. Check in before a promised estimate to uncover any emerging delays .
For example, with cinematographers, ask how long it’ll take to light the next scene. If they say 15 minutes, check back in 10 minutes, and ask if they’re in the 5-minute zone.
3. Add some pressure (softly)
Putting a little bit of pressure on a department is a good thing, as long as you’re not being pushy.
Continuing our cinematographer example, we know many DP’s have a tendency to tweak lighting until they’re totally satisfied. If their estimates are being blown, nudge them along by saying something like:
“Looks great! Seems like you’re pretty much ready. Mind if we start bringing in the actors now?”
This is a great way to remind DP’s to be cognizant of time while also keeping everyone in the loop.
4. Make sure your crew reads the call sheet schedule
Providing the crew with a clear idea of the day’s shooting schedule can align everyone behind the goal.
Everyone is there to make sure the production is successful. That is most probable when you can stick to the schedule and wrap the day on time. Enlist everyone’s support to make that happen.
This is why we made sure that StudioBinder call sheets include detailed schedules, scene strips and company moves for the day. We made sure that the call sheet would load perfectly on smartphones too. Call sheets that are formatted for mobile devices motivate your cast and crew to quickly access the shooting schedule throughout the day to understand what’s going on, and prep for what’s next .
Pro Tip: Transparency Aligns the Team
It’s a good idea to remind your talent and crew at the top of the day that they can pull up the call sheet schedule on their smartphones. This may be an unfamiliar concept for most. Let’s face it. It’s not fun to download and zoom into a traditional PDF. Once your team knows there’s a mobile-formatted schedule within reach, it will become easier for everyone to get proactive about the schedule.
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