The Ins and Outs of Pre-Film Production

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Ascari Pena

Behind the Scenes: The ins and Outs of Pre-Film Productions

Think about your favorite film and how the visuals match the soundtrack flawlessly, how the storytelling is so gripping that you can feel the emotion behind every line; think about how the actors are playing their roles so well, you can hardly believe that they are anything but their characters. A great movie can be attributed to everything from the score to the special effects, but true cinema success starts at an even earlier stage than production. Storyboarding templates, scriptwriting, casting and creative planning are where the foundations of your favorite films are developed.

While it may not sound as exciting as production, or even post-production, pre-production is crucial in getting the ball rolling and laying out a blueprint for how the film is going to play out. From setting up the perfect storyboarding template to the logistics of the film, here are the ins and outs of pre-film production and what they entail.

Script Writing

Every film has one, and as a viewer, you can tell when a script has been meticulously tailored to tell a phenomenal story, as well as when it was thrown together to push out the film as quickly as possible. At this stage of the pre-production process, writers and directors alike need to make sure that they consider: location, characters, costumes and wardrobes, effects, props, and essentially everything else that will be heard and seen in the film. You want to make sure that you are looking over your script as you write it, and even after, to ensure that you do not miss anything important, as this can lead to you missing essential elements when you get to the production stage.

Setting Up a Budget

Productions can cost you a pretty penny, and depending on the size, may need to make monetary adjustments and compromises. Luckily, your script can serve as a pivotal tool in creating your budget, since it contains information on what your film is going to look like, and what it will take to get it to that vision. A budget can be broken down into three categories:

Dream Budget: This is where you get to do some serious dreaming. When setting up your dream budget, forget that you have a spending limit; think about who your dream cast would be, what the ideal location will look like, what kinds of props and effects you would splurge on. Once you have come up with a solid list, write down a number of the total projected costs.

The Restrained Budget: Now, take that vision and just reel it in a little. Look at your dream cast. Is there perhaps someone who could fill the role just as well while saving you on casting costs? Could you achieve the same aesthetic vision somewhere a little closer to home? Weigh your options, while keeping your vision intact, and then jot down that figure.

Home-Studio Budget: If you need to tone it down a bit more, brainstorm some of the cheapest ways to bring your film to life. Consider asking old theater friends to star in your film, make your own costumes, and investigate online storyboarding options that you could use to polish your pre-production plans.

Coming up with a Schedule

You will want pre-production to go as smoothly as possible, which is why you are going to need a production schedule. Shooting scenes is going to be a major influence on the schedule as a whole, so it's important to get a feel for how many scenes you will be able to shoot in a day. Use your script as a reference, taking note of all the scenes that take place in the same locations so that you can film them all together, avoiding unnecessary back-and-fourths and leaving ample time in your schedule to address other key tasks.

Production note: Most productions aim to shoot five pages (of a script) per day. This is equivalent to about five minutes of screen time.

Assembling a Film Crew

Once the budget and schedule are taken care of, you will want to put together a crew to begin production. The director, assistant director, and production manager are going to be high priority targets, but you will also need to look into:

· Cinematographers

· Production coordinators

· Casting directors

· Costume designers

· Editors

· Production designers

· Art directors

· Makeup artists

· Sound engineers

· Photography directors

You are going to need someone for every aspect of your film, from someone to create the storyboarding template to a wardrobe specialist.

Creative Planning

This is where the director's job begins. Creative planning encompasses everything that has to do with the overall vision of the film. Departments will meet with the director to discuss what needs to happen to achieve the main vision, and producers will probably have to adjust the budget accordingly.

This is a crucial step in the pre-production process where production managers need to identify any risks and address all the crew's questions.

Storyboard Creation

A storyboarding template is going to make it easier to plan your shots, saving you time and money by mitigating mistakes. A storyboard is a visual map of each scene and an important tool for directors and creative teams to use during pre-production.

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

Once you get further along into the production process, budget and schedule revisions are a great way to make any adjustments necessary to stay within budget, maintain consistency throughout the storytelling, and even add anything you may have left out originally if you see that you have more room to play with. This is also the best time to check in with your crew and make sure that everyone is handling the pressure of film production well, as burnout is more common than not in the film industry due to tight deadlines and long workdays.

Finalize EVERYTHING

It has been a long and arduous journey, but you are finally ready to start pre-production. All that is left now is to book everything you are going to need to bring that vision to life: equipment, props, locations, crew, costumes, it all needs to be finalized. Your department leads and line producers will be handling all the final bookings.

Rehearsals and Call Sheets

Now that the dust has settled and you have everything you need to start production, it is time to begin rehearsals. Prepping with your crew is the best way to ensure efficiency during shoots and minimize the amount of takes you will need to do. This will not only save you on time, but it will boost cast confidence and minimize the risk of burnout. Call sheets also need to go out at this time, which are essentially documents that contain all the information you need to begin shooting. This call sheet needs to be impeccable if you want to avoid missing essential information. Well, this is it; it's time to start production.

Written by:

Ascari Pena
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Ascari is an industry-trained content writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. His passion for writing combined with the opportunity to work in an advertising agency setting starting at the young age of just 19 has led him to create quality work for clients across the board.
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