Work smart, not hard!
So, you're raising your budget, and things are ticking along. That doesn't mean you get to rest! Oh no. There are ACRES of things left to do to get ready! Researching into equipment rental, revising your budget, securing your remaining cast and crew, prepping the shoot...
All this falls into pre-production.
I cannot stress enough the importance of being careful and thorough at this stage. Especially for a film like ours. We're facing several large challenges. First, we have a tiny budget. This means that every single dollar is precious. Botched shoots, last-minute purchases, wasted time...all of these things cost money. And wasted money feels like letting blood, especially when it's so hard to raise! Wasted money could have gone to making the movie that much better.
So the old adage “measure twice, cut once” REALLY applies here.
The first thing to do is to go through the entire script with a fine-toothed comb. I did this with Kevin the DP, to take advantage of his experience and expertise when it comes to the technical aspects of shooting. We went through every scene and discussed them in-depth. This allowed us to:
Talk about tricky shots or scenes: how are we going to accomplish this effect? That effect? Do we need extra equipment for this shot?
Discuss each scene to decide roughly how long it would take to accomplish. OVER-estimate here. Bear in mind that each scene is like a mini-production. You'll need to arrive to the location, transport equipment, set it up (lighting, camera, props, set dressing), prepare your “action station” (for the director, script supervisor, sound guy, DP, etc.). You'll also need to allow time to set up a place for the actors to live, change into costume, hang between takes, etc. Plus you want to allow yourself time to rehearse the scene both with the actors AND the crew before you commit anything to film. AND you'll want to allow for multiple takes.
This is all important because one of the FIRST things you want to establish is your rough shooting schedule. This is your key for all sorts of things.
Making a shooting schedule is an art. A boring, tedious art, but an art nonetheless. You have to be smart and intuitive. Take into account as many factors as possible.
How long will the scene basically take? How long can you reasonably call your actors and crew for? This is especially important for us. First, we're paying everyone on a low budget. This means we need to be respectful, and not ask too much of our crew. Plus, most of our main actors are kids. And they can only work for so long. So even if you want to be streamlined, bear in mind that some scenes may take a whole day to shoot, or even multiple days.
Pay attention to the weather, and be smart. This again was important for us. Lost Creek is set around Halloween, and the season is very important to the film. This means that a lot of exterior shots need to be set in the fall, to take advantage of the fall colors and environment. But...
Fall is cold! If you're outside for long stretches of time, that's a factor. It could rain, and that's a factor. Allow wiggle room in case an exterior shot gets rained out. Plus, our actors are kids, and they need to go to school. That's a factor. That means during the fall, most of the shooting will need to be done on nights and weekends, which limits the hours you can shoot. Luckily the script works for that, since it's kind of written around kid's lives. That means a lot of the exteriors are late afternoon when kids are out of school, or they're at night. But still, this will stretch the shoot.
So, what can you do NOT in fall? INTERIORS! So we decided to schedule as much of the film as we could in the summer, so school was not a factor in our actor availability. The decision was made to start shooting in the late summer, to knock out all interior scenes. Plus, there's a few scenes where the kids have to get in the water. As you all know by now, we learned our lesson about putting people in the water in the fall. Since the scenes with the kids in the water happen at night, the decision was made to shoot those in the late summer too. The darkness means that the time of year will be less apparent, and the kids won't turn into icicles.
So it's taking shape. Still, lots to consider...
Be logical, and try to be respectful. If you can, cluster actor call times together. If you've got an actor that has several scenes scattered throughout the script, try to shoot them close together. That way the actor doesn't have to worry about a weird schedule, and it means they wrap more quickly (which means you can pay them accordingly. Longer calls for actors mean more money).
Think about locations. Group scenes together based on physical proximity if you can. Do you have three scenes that all take place in a school classroom? Do them together. The likelihood is, the same actors will roughly be called for those scenes. You don't want to shoot one scene in one location, then waste half an hour driving to a separate location to shoot the next scene.
And so on, like that. This is one of those places where you can save yourself time and money. Be efficient. It will also give you a really good sense of how long the film will realistically take to shoot. If you're hiring cast or crew, you can then tell them how long you'll need them for.
Cool! But what else can you do before the camera rolls?