PRODUCTION: DON’T BE LATE

Here we are – shoot day #1.  It’s going to be a busy day.  There will be overtime – though only an hour according to plan.  We are on location in a city five hours north of our base of operations.  We’ve brought a team of 100 crew, 24 trucks, and on this day we have a dozen featured actors and over 100 extras.  Like I said, it’s going to be a busy day.

The good news, we are organized.  Every set up, every lens, every dolly move – it’s all been planned.  It’s all been documented on the software tool “Shot Designer.”  I’ve worked this day in my mind dozens of times.  If we move according to plan we can get everything done, and done well.  But – wow - it’s going to be a busy day.

"The team is solid. We have an experienced gaffer with excellent lighting and grip gear, fantastic wardrobe, great hair and make-up, a killer set, a wonderful cast – but we have one problem. It’s time to shoot, and the actors aren’t here.  The first shot, the first day, and already we’re behind schedule. This will give me an ulcer."

We have three cameras, three camera teams.  Camera A is primarily the hand-held camera, Cam B is mostly zoom lenses, Cam C is gimble steadicam shots.  We’re shooting on Canon C-300MK II Cameras and Canon CN-E Lenses – primes and zooms.  Multiple camera coverage can save me time, and since budgets are tight, we can’t extend production one day longer than necessary.  Everything is planned for efficiency – but also for excellence.

The team is solid.  We have an experienced gaffer with excellent lighting and grip gear, fantastic wardrobe, great hair and make-up, a killer set, a wonderful cast – but we have one problem.  It’s time to shoot, and the actors aren’t here.  The first shot, the first day, and already we’re behind schedule.  This will give me an ulcer.  

I’m a generally positive person.  I believe in encouragement and praise whenever it’s warranted.  I also believe in the schedule.  The call sheet is the daily schedule bible, and I’ve asked that actors are always to my set at least 15 minutes prior to RTS (Roll the Shot) time.  In film school it was drilled into us, corny as it sounds, that if you’re not 15 minutes early – you’re late.  I thought it was kind of childish at the time, now I know better.  There are things you can be late for, and things you can’t.  You can be late for church.  You can’t be late for an airplane.  On set you really can’t be late.  It is very expensive to have 100 people ready to work, but standing idle because someone or some department is not on schedule.  And it is very expensive to push that whole crew into overtime when it is not necessary.

On this day we identified a significant problem.  It was not the actors’ fault, they had shown up on time for their hair and make-up.  I had a problem in my department – the director’s department.  And it was a problem that definitely needed to be fixed.  It took me a while to get to the root of the problem – and for sure part of it was my responsibility directly.  We struggled with this issue for too long.  I’m writing this to remind you, and to remind myself, that my instructor was right.  In this business, if you’re not 15 minutes early – you’re late.