The Essential Last Minute To-Do List For Your Upcoming Shoot
Here it comes again… that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is somewhere between excitement and anxiety. You are starting to know it well.
After days, weeks or months of preparation, you are finally heading into production and the day before is your last chance to stop and ensure you are ready for an amazing shoot.
It’s about this time that one question pops into my mind ‘what have I forgotten?’ I liken this to when I am about to go on a big overseas trip - with that overwhelming desire to go through my bag at least five times. Passport - tick, purse - tick and phone - tick. I figure I can survive with those three items at the very least.
Well, over the years I have put together a bit of a last minute check list for myself for the day before a shoot - check it out and don’t forget to comment at the bottom of the page with anything you find helpful on the last day of pre-production.
Check in with the ‘talent’
This could be actual talent or it could be a real person in a documentary project. Either way, the same rule applies.
By now they should have all they need and should be feeling comfortable with the plan for the next day, but a simple check in could prove to make a big difference if that isn’t the case.
I had a shoot a few months ago with a lovely Texan man who was stepping completely out of his comfort zone to be interviewed. He asked me pretty casually if i'd meet him for a drink, so he knew who I was a little more before the day.
I hesitated, only for a moment, because I knew how much work I still had to do.
When I got there he told me how nervous he was and that he was considering BACKING OUT. Ummm… ok, glad I asked!
Luckily I was able to talk to him some more about the process and what to expect and after a glass of pinot our luck had changed.
The moral of the story - just send a text or an email, or give them a call. Ensure they don’t need anything else and make sure they are feeling good about the following day. If they aren’t, it will be a hell of a lot harder to turn it around when you're on shoot.
Last minute weather and traffic check
You would have looked into this already when putting together your location briefs and call sheets, but a last check the day before (and even first thing the morning of) is imperative.
A late change in the weather forecast may mean that you need to shift around your shooting schedule and you’re far better off to know that as early as you can. Let the key creatives on your shoot know if any particular parts of the schedule could be implicated with the weather and keep them updated. And as always, have a plan b.
Similarly, you should know the best way to get to each location by now, but what if there has been a major accident that's going to hold things up?
I do a check the night before as well as a check the morning of a shoot - generally a few hours before call time. That way if we need to shift things around or need an alternative route, it’s no big deal.
A final chat
Most directors I know can be a little unpredictable at times. Surprisingly, I actually like this unpredictability as it usually leads to amazing results.
I do like to get a little ahead of the director though, if I can. So it is worth having a final chat with him/her the day before to iron out any looming questions and just get a general sense of whether you are both on the same page.
It could be an innocent question on timing that leads to a change in thinking about the location that time of the day, or something that hasn’t been thought of.
Check in with them and run through the call sheet together, one last time. It will be worth it, I promise.
An absolute must! If you are all together for the first time on the first day of production, you will need to get your heads together before you start shooting. Otherwise, and this is preferable, try and get together the night before at the very least.
It could just be for dinner or a drink, but every person in your crew should understand the intention of the shoot and have an overview of the plan in its entirety and more specifically the first day.
There’s something so much stronger when you get together in person rather than over a group call or Skype session.
One last check
You may not have to worry about the gear, so that’s a bit of a relief, but you do need to ensure you have everything you need for the following day. Check out my post outlining the essential items I take on shoot with me.. Are you covered?
Make sure you are charging all your phones, iPads, laptops.
Ensure you have all the apps you need for things like releases or production resources.
Do you have internet where you are going? You will want a wifi in every location for both you and the director as a starting point, so if you haven’t looked into that it’s not too late.
Ensure all the crew has seen their call sheets - if not follow them up.
Think about every aspect of the shoot the following day and make sure there are no loose ends.
I would love to hear about how you prepare for your upcoming shoots, hit me up if I am missing any of your day before rituals!