Sometimes it is obvious that a film will be helpful, and what it should contain. Often, though, the communications objective can be clear while the form and content of the film are open to a number of possible approaches or interpretations. In these circumstances it may be helpful to keep an open mind on the particular form the film should take. Suggestions from prospective producers may be illuminatingly varied, and may offer opportunities for creating memorable, effective Ad films of a type quite unlike any first thoughts on how it might be done.
The following steps broadly cover the production steps involved in a medium sized production.
01. Developing A Production Schedule.
Drawing up a tentative schedule is ideally the right way to approach the production. Generally, broadcast or distribution deadlines will dictate the production schedule (the written timetable listing the time allotted for each production step). Not planning things out carefully might cause you to miss a critical deadline, which might render the production worthless.
02. Selecting Key Production Personnel.
At about this point remaining above-the-line production personnel are brought on board. In addition to the producer and writer, the above-the-line personnel include the production manager and director; and, in general, the key creative team members. And, of course, below-the-line personnel, who are generally assigned later, include the technical staff.
03. Deciding On Locations.
Next, if the production isn’t done in the studio, deciding on key locations is the next step. In a major production a location scout or location manager should be hired to find and coordinate the use of the locations suggested by the script. Although it might be much easier to shoot in a TV studio, the authenticity of “real” locations, lends itself in the creation of dramatic productions. Cities that encourage TV and film production have film commissions that supply photos and videotapes of interesting shooting locations in their area. These commissions are located in most major cities and they will provide information on usage fees and the people who need to be contacted. It’s often necessary to make some changes in the on-location settings. Rooms may have to be repainted or redecorated, signs changed, etc.
04. Deciding On Talent, Wardrobe and Sets.
Depending upon the type of production, auditions may take place at this point as part of the casting process (selecting the people for the various roles). Once decisions are made, contracts can be negotiated and signed. Once the talent or actors are decided on, the selection of wardrobes can start. After a set designer is hired, he or she will review the script, possibly do some research, and then discuss initial ideas with the director. Once there is agreement, sketches of the sets can be made for final approval before actual construction starts. Rehearsals, from initial table readings to the final dress rehearsal, can then be scheduled. Even though sets may not be finished at this point, the talent can start reading through the script with the director to establish pace, emphasis and basic blocking (positioning of sets, furniture, cameras, actors, etc.). Once the sets are finished, final blocking and dress rehearsals can get underway.
05. Deciding on the Remaining Production Personnel.
At this point arrangements can be made on key technical personnel, equipment and facilities. This includes the rental of equipment and production facilities. Transportation, catering (food and refreshment trucks) and on-location accommodations (for overnight stays) must also be arranged. If unions are involved, their contracts will cover job descriptions and specific crew responsibilities. Working hours, including graduated pay increases for overtime hours, will also be spelled out. In addition, unions often set minimum standards for transportation, and the quality of meals and accommodations.
06. Obtaining Permits, Insurance and Clearances.
In major cities and in many foreign countries it’s not possible to just go to the location of your choice, setting up a tripod, and start taping. Necessary access permits, licenses, security bonds and insurance policies must be arranged. Spot news and short documentary segments often do not require permits. Many semipublic interior locations, such as shopping malls, also require filming permits. Depending on the nature of the production, liability insurance and security bonds may be necessary in case an accident is directly or indirectly attributed to the production. In some locations the controlling agency will limit exterior production to certain areas and to specific hours. If there’s a street scene and traffic will be affected, it will be necessary to arrange for special police. Included in this category are a wide variety of clearances. They range from permission to use prerecorded music to reserving satellite time. If clearance cannot be obtained, alternatives must be quickly explored.
07. Selecting Video Inserts, Still Photos and Graphics.
As things progress program inserts can be selected. During this phase arrangements can be made for shooting and acquiring VTR or film inserts, still photos and graphics. If possible, existing stock footage is secured (generally for a fee) from film or tape libraries located around the country. Initial decisions on music are made at this point. Copyright clearances and royalties must be worked out for music and visual inserts. (These things will be discussed in more detail later.)
08. Rehearsals and Shooting.
Depending on the type of production, rehearsal may take place either minutes or days before the actual shooting. Productions shot live-on-tape (without stopping except for major problems) should be rehearsed before taping starts. This includes early walk-through rehearsals, camera rehearsals and one or more dress rehearsals. Productions shot single-camera, film-style are taped one scene at a time. Rehearsals generally take place right before each scene is taped.
09.The Editing Phase.
After shooting is completed the producer, director, and videotape editor review the tapes and editing decisions are made. For major productions this has traditionally been done in two phases. First, there is off-line editing, using copies of the original tapes. Editing a time-coded copy of the original footage typically makes off-line editing decisions. Using this edited tape and an EDL (edit decision list) as a guide, the production then moves to on-line editing where much more sophisticated (and expensive) equipment is used to create the edited master, the final edited version of the tape. During this final editing phase all necessary sound sweetening (enhancing), color balancing, and special effects are added. As high-quality nonlinear, digital editing becomes more widely used, the need for an off-line editing phase may be eliminated, or at least made optional.
10.Post production Follow-Up.
Although most of the production crew will be finished once production wraps (finishes), there is still much in the way of follow-up work to be done. Final bills have to be paid, financial statements totaled, and the success or failure of the production determined.