Why is pre-production so important for your film?
In the broadcast world a huge amount of work happens in the pre-production stage (before any filming starts). Filming is expensive so the aim is to get the most out of filming days – and being prepared helps do that.
Information on the topic, potential contributors, locations, archive that could be used and much more is all gathered in advance – usually far more than can go into the programme. The creative team will then look at all of this and start to work out the most powerful way to tell that story with the elements they have. Usually the director will talk to potential contributors in advance, or even better meet them in person – and also go and recce potential filming locations.
The main benefits of thorough pre-production:
- It allows the producer/ director thinking time to come up with the most compelling way of telling the story
- it means filming days are efficient– and that saves money
- it means people (including contributors and crew) are far clearer of what is expected from them on filming days
- at the end of the day you get a better film for less money
Pre-production is just as important when filming branded content and corporate films – it means the client gets a better film and can often save them money.
A trend we’re seeing in 2018 and 2019 is brands wanting films that are genuine. Films that create emotional connections with their audiences - with real people telling real stories.
We work a lot with the finance, tech and cyber security sectors where there isn’t a physical product to show – so getting your own people or customers on film is a great way for brands to bring their purpose and personality to life.
But it’s moved on from simple talking heads. Short editorially strong films are on trend – mini documentaries. And brands are investing more time into contributor research finding those who have a great story to tell and telling it with passion.
One day roughly a year ago, Rich, (our Creative Director) and I were working in the office brainstorming ideas. I could tell he was annoyed but I wasn't sure why. Then he said – “Rich…” (yes, we’re both called Rich – I know it can be confusing, even for us) “… why do you call them videos? We don’t make videos, we make films”
At first I didn’t understand what he meant. The vast majority of what we do is work with big global brands making short marketing or comms ‘messages’ for them. We generally don’t make feature films you’d see at the movies. But then he explained.
“Over the last 5 to 10 years the term video has been de-valued. If you have a smart phone you can shoot a ‘video’ and the term video is now associated with lower quality”
I understood straight away. Rich and I and many of our team came from the very top end of the BBC and broadcast television. We don’t ‘do’ low quality and we certainly don’t want to. We make high quality, creative films for our clients.
It still took me a while to stop using the term video but, after being shouted at several times I’ve finally stopped. So, if you want a video then I’m happy to lend you my old i-phone – but if you want a film, please give us a call.
People often ask about what we do about the rain. Very expensive commercial shoots and movies pay for weather insurance, but, generally we don’t and that’s because it’s costly, and unless it’s really important that you only shoot in sunshine it isn’t really worth it.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that it very rarely rains hard for very long. There have been exceptions, but generally, if you leave it an hour or two, things clear up anyway.
However, the way to deal with rain is to shoot with it. A lot of things actually look visually great in the rain – cars can look spectacular in the rain for example. Cameras and equipment can be put in rain covers and the crew carry waterproofs – we can still shoot in the rain.
The only real problem is when the rain combines with wind and blows back into the lens – that can be a bit tricky. But, as I say, that only happens once in a blue moon.
So, don’t worry about the rain, we’ll work with it, or we’ll work around it.
When my first child was born roughly 19 years ago, I was a bit overweight and occasionally smoked. I decided I wanted to make sure I lived to see my daughter grow up and, hopefully, grow old – so soon after I stopped smoking for good and took up running as a hobby.
Eighteen years on and I am still a regular runner. For the last 4 years I’ve set myself the target of running 1000km in the year. It might sound a lot to some people, and it is (for me) but I tackle it by breaking it down into 20km a week (with a couple of weeks off in case I’m ill/ away or just need a break).
It’s still 3 runs a week (1 x 10km and 2 x 5km) and if I miss a run or even a whole week of runs then I have to make it up. But that yearly target motivates me for the whole year and keeps me on track and I’ve hit 1000km (sometimes with just a day to go) for the last 4 years.
I do a similar thing with the business. Set myself a target I want it to achieve for the year – and monitor it every week. It helps me keep on track to grow the business in the direction I want it to go.
It’s not quite as easy to make that final push to hit the target if we’re a little behind. With business other factors (like the economy and client needs) can come into play. But we’re never far off – and for me it’s a great way of keeping motivated throughout the whole year.
It’s an age old question. Or at least, it’s as old as Autocue. Surely if you have to deliver a piece to camera then the easiest, simplest thing is to use Autocue right? Well, sort of. It probably is the easiest way, but it isn’t the necessarily the best way.
The trouble with Autocue is that as soon as you start reading Autocue, you sound like you’re reading, because you are. You’ll get all your facts right, but you won’t necessarily sound like you know what you’re talking about, or that you are even really thinking about what you are saying.
It takes professional presenters years to be able to read autocue and sound like they are just talking to you – in fact some still can’t do it. Ant and Dec are pretty good at it, but then that’s part of what makes them worth the money they’re paid (probably).
So autocue is great if you are really good at reading without sounding like reading, but otherwise, memorise the key points of what you want to say and then freestyle straight to the lens – you’ll be a lot more believable and people will take more notice of what you have to say.
My Grandfather was a professional musician – he once explained to me that the difference between an amateur musician and a professional is that an amateur practices until they get it right, a professional practices until they can’t get it wrong. I’m sure he was right – he was a very good musician. Practice really did make perfect.
However, that isn’t always true when it comes to performing in front of a camera.
The truth is there is a big difference between professional presenters and amateurs. Professional presenters can learn a script and then deliver it as if it has just come into their heads. This is a lot harder than it looks.
If you’ve been asked to appear in a film, it’s tempting to go away and rehearse a script of exactly what you want to say. However, unless you really do have a future as a professional presenter, that might not be the best idea.
Let me explain. If I asked you about your job, over a pint, in the pub, you wouldn’t have a problem explaining what you did. You’d naturally remove all the jargon, that you know I wouldn’t understand, and you’d speak quite seamlessly, without having to stop and correct yourself. It’s because you’d be speaking ‘off the cuff’.
However, if I told you I was going to film you answering the same question, you’d be likely to go and prepare what you were going to say – and then you’d suddenly struggle to remember, you’d become stilted and unnatural. It’s what everyone does – it’s what I’d do if someone pointed a camera at me. The trick is to try and pretend you’re just talking to a mate in the pub – that way you’ll sound natural and believable. And it’s that authenticity that will make your audience listen to you.
So, don’t over rehearse. Certainly make a list of points you might want to mention, but unless you are a professional presenter – don’t bother learning a script – it’ll never be as good as you ‘talking in the pub’.
Choosing the right location for a shoot can make the difference between an ordinary film and one that really stands out. But what makes a good location?
The secret is to think with your eyes, think with your head, and think with your ears.
You need to find something that looks visually great. But it needs to be relevant too. The right kind of location adds to the story, the wrong location just confuses things.
Ideally the location tells you something about the story that you’re not hearing from the script. If it can’t do that, then at least it should be visually interesting, but neutral.
Think about light. Everyone knows the sun moves through the sky, but people forget that when planning where to shoot. A location that can look amazing in the morning, might be in deep shadow by the afternoon.
And of course, a location needs to work for sound as well as vision. A location that looks stunning visually, but has a jack hammer working just out of shot isn’t going to be much good if you’re filming an interview or pieces to camera.
Finally, think about the practicalities – that fort in the middle of the Solent might be a great location, but how are you going to get the crew and kit there – and how long is it going to take?
Remember the three Ps – power, provisions and parking. Find a location that looks great, is relevant, quiet, and has easy access for crew, kit and food, and you’re onto a winner.