1. Preproduction Process

    When I was researching how to shoot a tiny HDSLR film, I was most interested in the solutions other filmmakers chose. From my perspective, I hate slaving over problems when more experienced people have already solved them. Especially when those problems are technical or process oriented and not creative. Building on the shoulders of those ahead of you is a quick way to catch up to the pros.

    Over the next week or so I’ll walk through some of the gear and processes I use, starting with Preproduction all the way through Post.

    Writing

    Even before it’s time to dive into preproduction, you gotta finish the script. The industry standard software is Final Draft. It’s a great piece of software, with iOS versions for writing and reading on the go. It’s a bit pricey at around $250.

    Highland is a brand new piece of software that utilizes the Fountain syntax that allows for scriptwriting in plain text on dozens of desktop and mobile apps. I love Fountain and recommend it highly. With Highland, converting Fountain plain text files into PDF or Final Draft files is super easy.

    So, now you’re finished with the script. Lets plan it out. There’s a lot of professional grade scheduling tools. Movie Magic Scheduler and Gorilla are two of them. Both are expensive and complicated. If you’re an indie filmmaker, these things are probably not for you.

    After looking around, I found the iOS app ShotList. This app creates simple strip boards, each containing a scene, that can be populated with prop, wardrobe, FX data, etc, and then rearranged by date to create your schedule. It syncs with Dropbox so you can save files to other devices. It doesn’t auto-sync, however, so you need to export it to other devices manually. For me, that wasn’t a big deal. I just wanted a set of strip boards I could arrange by date.

    Another option I use more consistently is an amalgam of a task manager and a calendar. Specifically, I use Things and Fantastical to schedule work and tick it off as I complete it.

    scheduling

    This workflow is the easiest to understand for most people and it can be replicated for free using free software like Apple’s Reminders and iCal apps.

    Storyboarding

    I saw that Coppola created a “prompt book” for The Godfather that was his master bible for the film. I’ve created a similar system with my script.

    storyboards

    I print out the script at 65% so that the page is lined with thick white spaced margins. I use the margins to sketch in storyboards and actor notes. This way, both the words and the imagery is available to me at a glance during shooting.

    A Few Resources

    Before filming begins, here are a few resources to check out:

    • Scriptnotes Podcast – Hollywood screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin talk screenwriting. Great stuff.
    • Save the Cat – screenwriting structure book. No matter how you feel about the mechanics of Blake Snyder’s process, there are some great insights in here.
    • Number 1 Writing Tip from the creators of South Park.