Digital Video Production: Film Production Scheduling Tips

Digital Video Production: Film Production Scheduling Tips
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Production Scheduling Overview

Production scheduling is a large part of producers’ responsibilities. This is a daunting task, since you have to try to make everyone happy. You have to keep the production on budget, which means determining how many days you have to complete the shooting before you run out of money. How do you begin to plan the production schedule?

Read Through the Script

The first thing that you need to do is thoroughly read the film script. Figure out which actors and crew need to be together for a particular shoot. Generally, actors are not going to be available for every day of the shoot. Look at the script and compare it to the actors’ schedules to find out when actors that need to do a scene together can actually be on set and then try to film as many scenes as possible on that day. It may make for an extremely long shooting day but it will be worth it, especially if the actors do not have many corresponding days.

Components and Breakdown Sheet

Determine all of the components that you need for each day of shooting including wardrobe, lighting and props. Establish whether the scene needs to be shot during the day or at night. Give each character a number based on involvement. For example, the character with the most lines would normally get a “1.”

Transfer all of this information to a Breakdown Sheet and create a sheet for each scene of the film. It is helpful to use a software program. Microsoft Word or Excel often works well for this. Gather all of the Breakdown Sheets that you want to shoot within a single day.

Assess how long each task or scene will take. Create estimates for everything. It may be beneficial to overestimate every task by 30 minutes to one hour as tasks usually take longer than estimated, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Excel and Staff Meetings

If you use Excel, you can place the length of the time along the top and the task along the left-hand side of the page. Be sure to add the cost of the item, including how much more the task will cost if it goes over schedule and over budget. Assign each person in your crew tasks for which they are responsible.

Finally, hold a staff meeting in which everyone receives the production schedule. You must know everyone’s schedule before the filming starts. If someone is not available on a particular day of shooting, try to find a replacement for that day. If you cannot, then adjust the production schedule.

Once the film schedule is set in stone, make sure that everyone is conforming to it. If necessary, hold staff meetings throughout the filming process to update people on their upcoming assignments.


Neil Cummings,