It’s the night before your film shoot. Maybe it’s your first one ever, maybe it’s the fifth this week. Regardless of how prepared you are or feel, you’re probably a little stressed out, and while every project and person is different, I’m here to make things a little easier. In an effort to make your life easier, I’ve compiled a simple checklist of things to do in preparation for your film shoot tomorrow.
1. Send out a call sheet to your cast and crew
Don’t know how or why? Here’s an easy template and walkthrough.
2. Put all the equipment in one place
If you’re charging batteries, try to do them all in the same room and cluster your bags around them- your morning shouldn’t be you playing hide and go seek with your tech. None of this “oh I’ll just find the tripod bag underneath my bed in the morning.” No you won’t. And if you do, you’re gonna be late, and you’re gonna be even more stressed, so no more excuses- do it tonight.
3. Put all the props, set decoration, and wardrobe in one place
This is separate from equipment only because sometimes your lazy, procrastinating brain accepts that putting the necessary equipment for capturing your film project in one place makes sense, but the teeshirt one character is supposed to wear? Nah, you can dig that out of the drawer when you’re getting dressed tomorrow. Hey, brain? Stop that. Put the teeshirt in a bag with the fake machete and all the posters for set dressing and prop them next to the tripod bag you just fished out from beneath your bed.
4. Make all your props
For many projects, there are visuals you just can’t purchase, like a packing slip from a fictional hotel or a flyer your character hands out. No matter how simple or easy it is to whip those things up, do not, under any circumstances, trick yourself into thinking you’re going to have some downtime in between set ups where you can do arts and crafts. You won’t. Any time not spent literally filming will be spent aiming lights or shoveling fruit snacks into your gullet to keep your energy up after hour 15.
5. Confirm with teammates what they’re bringing
Especially when we’re talking about indie filmmaking, more often than not, you’re working with less experienced folks having to bring more than usual from their apartments to wherever you’re filming. If your friend is bringing a crucial prop or lighting kit, make sure to confirm those details with them personally the night before. Yes, in addition to sending them a call sheet.
6. Check the weather
Things change fast, and even if you’re pretty sure you know what to expect, there’s no harm in confirming. This is important even if you’re filming indoors, because you’ll need to let actors know about rain so they can do their hair/makeup on location instead of beforehand, and you’ll need to make sure crew has a plan for keeping expensive equipment dry en route.
7. Pack your self-care bag
Separate from equipment and props is the bag or backpack full of things for YOU, the human doing an insane but wonderful thing in the morning. What do you need to be your best self on set? I recommend: Cell phone charger (wall AND external battery, if possible), reusable water bottle, deodorant, marked up script/shot list with your personal notes, tissues, breath mints, cough drops, and maybe bandages for good measure.
8. Print extras of everything
Make sure you have enough shooting scripts, shot lists, and storyboards for 3-5 crew members, then print a few more shooting scripts for each actor. Don’t trust people will bring these themselves, even if you’ve given them a copy in the past.
9. Go over your notes
If you’re the actor, go over not only your lines as written in the script but also the notes you’ve (hopefully) written alongside them, about your motivations in each scene and moments you want to hit on for your performance. If you’re a director, make sure you know exactly what your storyboards look like and why you’ve made those choices. Preparing your brain is just as important as preparing your stuff.
10. Plan/pack your meals
Many indie filmmakers make their own craft services, because grocery shopping is cheaper than catering or ordering pizza. If you’re one of these crafty culinary folks, the night before is the perfect time to prep- slice cheese, wash fruit and veggies, cook pasta, boil eggs, whatever needs doing, do it. You might think you’ll have time the next morning or day, especially if you’re filming in your own apartment. You will not have time. Do it now.
11. Set 3 alarms
One for when you want to wake up, one for a more realistic time to wake up, and one 10 minutes before you have to leave for the shoot so you aren’t late. Don’t argue with me- it’s just science.
12. Double check your alarms
Just in case.
13. Charge your phone
Even though you should have already packed a charger in number 7, you should still show up to set with a fully charged phone.
14. Look up directions to set
It’s always best to plan your route before you’re on your way out the door, especially if you’re planning on taking public transit. If you’re shooting in your own apartment, congratulations! Use this reminder to tidy up so people don’t think you’re gross.
15. Go to sleep!!!
Plan a bedtime and stick to it. You’ll be of no use to anyone if you’re sleep deprived and short-tempered, and if you have to skip one or two things on this list for that to happen, so be it. Ultimately, your health will determine the success of your shoot more than almost anything else. That and remembering to bring the camera.