The difference between a film being incredible and a film not happening at all comes down to getting the Pre-Production right, but what exactly is it?
Pre-Production makes your film happen and it's all-encompassing, it can be everything from ensuring there’s a sufficient power supply for the lights needed on set to ensuring everyone's dietary needs are met so cast and crew can stay field and hydrated. Whilst the cameras are rolling its usually the Director who’s in charge, but from my experience pre-production is the the domain of the producer!
Now, I'm no producer and I take my hat off to anyone who is (it's a hard job!) but below is a non-exhaustive list of everything I've seen that might occur during the Pre-Production stage a video production.
Scheduling - Everything boils down to scheduling, ensuring everyone is where they need to be, with the right equipment and the right information. "You go there, do that and speak to her"
Budgeting - Tracking money spent against the production budget. This will be monitored throughout but it’s sure pre-prod that budgets are divided and allocated to each departmen.
Kit Hire/Sourcing - Speaking with the DoP (Directory of Photography) to source the correct kit for the job at hand. Need a crane? Got it. Need a jib shot? It'll be there that morning!
Location Scouting - "We'd like a modern dining room that overlooks Big Ben" 😬 All part of the pre-prod section, driving from location to location trying to solve problems and create incredible scenes.
Prop Hunting - Turning those newly found locations into your medieval king's dungeon... or whatever it's supposed to be.
Storyboarding/Shot Listing - This may have been done during an earlier phase but before the camera's role it’s always good to draw up a storyboard or shot list to work through.
Transport - This seems to be a hugely stressful part of pre-production, carting cast and crew around from location to location is like herding cats who are all hungry and tired by 11 am.
Crew Sourcing - Finding sparks, gaffers, grips, and maybe even a costume designer, ensurin they’re all available at the right time and within budget.
Casting - Working with the client and Director to get that perfect face for your film.
Crew/Cast Accommodation - This is much like Transport, plus, no one ever wants to share a room so getting this right in pre-production will save a lot of grumpy people on set!
Health and Safety - No cutting corners here. H&S is taken very seriously at every level of video production and it all boils down to what is identified and sorted during pre-prod.
Forms - Forms come in many shapes and sizes but two of the most common are location forms (okaying the use of a location with the council or owner) and talent release forms. (These can change if working with minors who have extra limitations)
So, that is just some of what goes on before anyone even turns up on location or on set - it's a strong third of your production and, just because it's not always the most Instagram-worthy side to filmmaking doesn't make it any less important. In fact, in some ways, it's the most important part so it's always worth getting it right.
Pre Production boils down to one thing: By Failing to Prepare You’re Preparing to Fail.