The best Pre-Production Checklist
Updated: Aug 25
Pre-Production is the planning process and execution of every task that needs to take place before a video or film production gets under way. A pre-production checklist and a keen eye to production details are needed to have a great time on a video production set.
Different producers have their own ways of doing things, but everyone in video and film production should follow these 15 steps to a successful video production.
Get an approved shooting script: You need a script to work with to consider all the variables of a video or film production. A producer or production coordinator will beed to review your production script to find all of the hidden elements that will bring the script to life on screen
Make a budget: One you have your script in hand, a producer will dive into the story and account for every scene and nuance in the pages. Sometimes budgets will be contended, changes will be made, and always always put in some costs for incidentals. This is a good place to call your gear rental shops and give them a heads up on possible shoot dates.
Organize your paperwork, set up your production admin: Get your talent release forms, production crew release forms, contracts, blank w9's, get a workspace and put your seatbelt on cause once your budget is approved, it's full steam ahead.
Hire your Production Crew: Confirm a director, cinematographer, Line Producers, Production Managers and coordinators. Get your electric department and gaffers online and ready to confirm a shoot date.
Break down the script: By going through the script scene by scene, you'll be able to extract needs for props, scenes, costumes, locations and the deeper you go into the script the more it turns into a series of lists and reports. Each breakdown will create a shopping list for every scene in your script.
Turn the words into images: Working with a creative artist makes storyboarding your script that much easier. Once your script is broken down into reports, you're ready to bring images out of the words. The storyboard starts to bring the piece to life
Location Scouting: Scouting and Securing a location for a video production is paramount to a successful shoot. Once you have the scripts broken down, making sure you have the right locations will help to build out the storyboard. Any changes to scenes, or certain challenges presented by locations will be addressed at this point in the process. This is where each step gets blurred as we approach the start of production.
Casting: This is where the tires meet the road in terms of bringing the words to life. Call agencies, post on social, reach out to the ends of the earth to find the right talent for your production. Pick the wrong talent and it will ruin the process. Always require a virtual audition, or an in person audition. And don't forget the portrait shots so the director can see what they look like at every angle.
Art Department Pre Prod: Determine what each scene will need and what has to be shown on camera to tell the story. Art Departments may need time to build out sets for scenes, some more than others. It's always good to get the Art Department director in the mix early on to know exactly what you'll need to get the right look on each scene.
Organize your files and Documents: Here we go, the last hurrah before the action. Pull your shooting permits, make sure your insurance is bought, consult with your lawyers, get your contracts to talent and get ready for movie making magic.
Make your shooting schedule: This is where the butterflies grow in your stomach, and you're so close to the set that you can smell the tungsten lights. Work with your director, art director and create your shoot schedule. When putting together the schedule, keep in mind talent, sets, locations and try to streamline any scenes that may overlap. Once your crew is set up for a scene, shoot everything that pertains to that location so you're not burning hours setting up in the same place twice.
Finish hiring your crew: Now that you have your roadmap to take 1, hire any positions on your crew where you need people in place. Your keys need support, and you can lean on them for who they like to work with. Once you're in the thick of the action on set, it's better to have all hands on deck for any challenges that will present themselves. It takes a village.
Create A Shot list: Time is the most valuable resource you have as a producer, and the more you have your ducks in a row the better for everyone. The shot list will tell you what the day is going to look like, from scene 1 through lunch. The more things you have clearly defined on set, the more time you'll be able to maximize on the production. Once you have your plan, be ready to make changes because there are always changes on set.
Pre-Production meeting checklist: Tech scout each location with your key crew and walk through each scene. Notate any changes that need to be made and consider every variable, cause once you're there with the actors and the rest of the crew the focus should be on the performance of the talent. Each location will need to have every logistic worked out; where will the grip trucks park? Where will you put hair and makeup? Where will craft services set up? Is power or an HVAC system available? What ambient sounds need to be considered?
Rent your gear, get everything to set: While it's important to get gear shops a heads up early on, this is where you start spending your budget on the equipment you'll need to accomplish each scene after your tech scout. Consult with your DP, Gaffer and Cinematographer to decide exactly the gear you'll need to accomplish the feel you're looking for on screen. Once your gear is rented, thats when the fun part starts! Lights, camera, action!