Preparing For the Next Day - A filmmaker's quick thoughts on shoot prep.

Be Prepared.

The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared". I'm not a Boy Scout, but I did go to a few meetings as a kid. As a filmmaker, I find myself on early morning shoots more often than my body would like. It's currently 11 p.m. on Sunday and I have a commercial shoot at 8:30 a.m. Not too early, but early enough that now is the time to make sure everything is prepped.

Typically, I like to keep my work hours as traditional as possible. Work 8-5, Monday through Friday. However, this past weekend involved moving office furniture, a quick out-of-town birthday trip, and Father's Day. So here we are, Sunday night prep!

I could easily wake up early to get prepared --and I will -- but there's a few quick things I can do tonight to make tomorrow morning easier, and help me sleep better tonight.

Prep Starts During the Last Shoot.

I'm a firm believer in having solid systems in place. For example, I always pack my camera and gear cases the exact same way before and after a shoot. A quick glance of my camera case tells me that everything is in it's place and I don't have to worry about anything missing. During the last commercial shoot, my assistant kept spent batteries charged, ensured that every piece of lighting and grip gear was packed away carefully and everything was in it's place. 

Having a good system for how and wear each item is stored makes prep quick and reliable. My camera prep before a shoot involves a quick inventory of the camera case, and charging one or two batteries that were being used at the end of the last shoot. I double check my case full of memory cards to ensure that all are formatted and we are ready to go.

Since it's Father's Day for another hour, I will say that my dad was a firm believer in always putting things in their place. That way you would always know where they were when you needed them. I have adopted this with my camera case, as well as the storage of my lighting and grip gear.

Plan the shoot. Shoot the plan.

One of the things I like to do right before a shoot (whether that is the night before, or morning of) is to review my shoot plan. Beyond having a solid script or treatment prior to filming, I typically come up with a shoot schedule and plan. This may be some simple notes on a short commercial script, or something far more detailed. The goal is to arrive at the shoot with clear ideas of how the day will go.

Often I am shooting some rather simple 30 second TV ads for local businesses, but the process remains. Plan the shoot, then shoot the plan. I always leave the options open to get creative and seize an opportunity for an unplanned shot or simply capturing the moment, but as a professional I am expected to deliver a quality product and that means always having a solid foundation to work from. One of the things I do prior to a shoot is review scripts, review shot-lists and any schedules, plans, directions or other information that will need to be fresh in my mind for the next day.

Check the weather.


One of the final things I do before a shoot is a quick check of the weather. If the shoot is outside this can make or break a shoot. If it's indoors, it still matters. Sometimes we are using window light and the weather can affect that. Or, if we are recording sound and it's pouring rain we have to consider how that will impact our ability to get good audio. If it's super hot, I may simply bring a change of clothes if we have to load out gear in 100+ degree heat. Weather matters.

Water. Quiet. Sleep.

The most important thing I do the night before a shoot is to make sure I get good sleep. That means being well hydrated, having some quiet time to wind-down, and getting a good night's rest. The best thing you can do for your work is to arrive rested, alert and fully prepared to give it your all. 

I'll still be getting up early to pack for the shoot and give myself plenty of time to arrive early. But these simple, and relatively easy things have me a few steps ahead of the game.