It’s the little things that make all the difference. The tiny little screw that attaches the tripod plate to the camera. The little sign by the fuel tank that says “Diesel only.” The writing at the bottom of page five of the exam paper that reads “Please Turn Over.” The little notch on your key that makes it fit the lock on your front door. A Signature.
When it comes to film-making (and everything else for that matter), I’m a firm believer in the “Seven Ps,” or “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.” I may ignore the Ps from time to time, but I usually end up regretting it. It’s common sense, really. If you make a cake, it’s going to be more of a struggle if you haven’t cleared the kitchen worktops, still need to wash the mixing bowl, forgot to turn the oven on, and so forth. A film shoot that’s adequately prepared runs far more smoothly than trying to throw elements together haphazardly.
This is where the attention to detail comes in. The little things are crucial. You need that little screw. The memory cards should be pre-cleared. That signature needs to be on the bottom of the location release form. Any one of these can hold up the shoot, perhaps indefinitely, and not all of them can be fixed with gaffer tape. I’ve been on shoots where all of these examples have been issues. Luckily, the prior planning can certainly help – you brought your gaffer tape, you can tie up the location’s owner and threaten him until he signs that form.
Here are some things to worry about:
- No power. This stops any shoot dead. Cameras, sound recording devices, lights. All need the juice, whether it’s mains or battery power. If you’re in a location, make sure you have access to power, and make sure all the batteries are charged beforehand (disposable batteries can help, but it’s a terribly wasteful route).
- No permission. While many shoots can get along without acquiring permissions, it’s by no means preferable. If you’re filming anyone, anything or anywhere without the right permissions, it can be a tremendous headache later on, or even at the time. Furthermore, make sure it’s in writing. I’ve been on several shoots where we obtained permission, only to find that we weren’t allowed to film when we arrived. In fact, after telling us that life isn’t fair, he only relented when he asked us in future to liaise with the very person who’d given us the permission in the first place.
- No food. I’ve said it before, and it’s still as true. Without catering for your cast and crew, you’ll make many powerful enemies of your project.
- The bits and bobs. If it’s a light, does it have the right stand and cables? If it’s a tripod, does it have the plate? Do you have the props? The right gels? A 4-gang? These things are easily forgotten or misplaced. On my last shoot, we were missing a knuckle for a C-stand and the tripod plate. Luckily both of these were fixable with gaffer tape, but I wouldn’t recommend holding up a 2 grand Kino with some.
Look after the little things, and the big things won’t fall apart.