Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Brian Connor

Pre-Production: More Vital Now Than Ever
by Brian Connor, 1 May 2006

A graduate of Penn State's Film Production program, Brian Connor has been in the business since 1981 and has worn many production hats along the way before moving into directing and heading up Real Solutions for Visual Projects (RSVP.) Brian is hell bent on bringing fresh perspectives to the creative process of production for his clients. He believes in respect for his clients, his crews and the craft. Contact him at [email protected].


There was a time, not so long ago, before there was a "deluge in the flavors" of media, when clients, agencies and producers were all well versed in the need for pre-production. They knew how important it was, how crucial for the success of the project to have a detailed plan of action, to have every member of the team be in sync. These days, with budgets getting smaller while expectations increase, it seems pre-production has fallen by the wayside, almost regarded as superfluous. What has happened in the industry to give rise to this?

The hazards on the way to production

With job duties expanding everyday, it is becoming more and more common to encounter producers whose area of expertise is in something other than producing. Whether they come from the advertising, internet or corporate world, the convergence of technologies along with a lack of understanding in the process of production contributes to problems in the planning. Unfamiliarity in subjects like digital formats, location logistics and post production work flows, compression codecs, etc... can lead to complications when building a budget. The more you know going into pre-production, the smoother the entire process will be.

The communication pipeline

Ask just about anyone if they think good communication is needed for the success of a project and they will inevitably tell you yes, but rephrase the question to "Why don't you have pre-production in your budget?" and you might get answers like, "No money", "No time" or even "I don't know - can you do my job or not?" The truth is, pre-production is more important now than ever. With the plethora of visual formats, editing platforms and deliverable specifications out there, there are many questions to ask ahead of time to ensure a smoother, more successful production. The producer needs to make sure that the client, the writer, DP, sound person, rental house, post house, dupe house, web designer and graphic designer are on the same page so that the method of acquisition will blend seamlessly with editorial and distribution channel(s).

Brian Connor | Real Solutions for Visual Projects (RSVP)

Bad pre-production will cost you in the long run

These days, we all have budget cuts to deal with. Try to "see the forest for the trees" when deciding where to make your cuts. If you're trying to save money on a budget by, say, cutting a grip from the production team, at least do your homework to see how important that grip might be to keeping you on schedule. If you have 10 interviews scheduled for one day on several different floors of an office building, the task of setting up the shot becomes much tougher without another set of hands. You might still get all of your interviews done that day, but if you keep busy executives waiting for their interview, chances are you'll hear about it. A better way to re-work the budget might be to reduce the scope of the production, perhaps by consolidating locations or eliminating specialty shots like Steadicam, dolly or jib.

You're only as good as your last job

With many budgets bordering on ridiculous, sometimes it is best to walk away from a project and save your reputation. It takes years to build a solid reputation and only one poorly executed job to damage it. Solid, well thought out pre-production will keep you, your client and vendors from getting into a no win situation. Remember, chances are you'll be asked back if things go smoothly.

Pre-Production Checklist

  1. What is your budget?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. Who is the scriptwriter?
  4. How many people must approve script/cast/final output?
  5. What format(s) are you shooting in?
  6. What format is needed for final output?
  7. Who is editing? Can they work with your formats?
  8. Are location(s) secured? Is the set dressed?
  9. Is the crew familiar with the shooting format(s)?
  10. When is final product needed?

Print Article Brought to you by: Brian Connor | Real Solutions for Visual Projects (RSVP)

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