How to Survive an Overnight Shoot


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #1

This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

Filming overnight is not for the faint-hearted, but if you must do so with caution. This should NOT be your go-to time to film unless you’re a nocturnal being with a cast & crew of night owls as well. However, you may have a script that takes place outside all night (GOOD LUCK) or in our case, it’s the only time one of your locations is available.

One of our best-acquired locations is 418 Burgers, a casual restaurant in Highland Park, NJ. Luckily the owner is a friend of mine and he was flattered that I wanted to film in his burger joint. We had a few chats and after our discussion, we came to the conclusion that the best time for me to film was when they were closed. This was a good plan, but I knew it was going to require some extra preparation on my part. I put my producer cap on and got down to work.

Some of the GNG cast/crew wide awake at the start of our overnight shoot

I was afraid to tell my cast & crew the news, but to my surprise, they were cool with this unusual shooting schedule. Boy am I grateful for that! My work was still cut out for me though and I had no idea where to start. How the hell was I going to pull this off? I decided to prepare for everything as much as I could as I usually do, but I had to turn it up a notch.

I decided to have the overnight shoot be our first day of production. My thought process was to get the more difficult day/night over with and build some confidence together as a team. I had some new faces joining our cast and crew for the second season so I considered it their initiation night to our dysfunctional film family. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, here are some of my tips on how to plan your overnight production.

1.) Consult with your cast/crew - Before planning anything make sure your team’s schedules allow them to be present for the shoot and they can arrive alert. The last thing you want is a cranky cast or crew member because it will ruin everyone else’s mood on set.

2.) Preparation - Plan as much as you can before the big day. Get your shot list, camera setups and other pre-production materials in order so everyone knows what to do when they get to set. Bonus points if you can drop off any props or equipment beforehand.

3.) Designated Areas - When people arrive on set they should be able to tell where crafty is and where they can place their belongings. This may seem trivial but having these areas clear will save you loads of time on set. If people start dropping their stuff in a shooting area it will slow down your schedule and delay your setups.

If you're involved in one of my productions, expect to get at least one of these

4.) Schedule Accordingly - I like to schedule my shoot days with more elaborate scenes first. Your team will be at their peak performance earlier in the day, and the easier stuff won’t seem so challenging when your energy starts to taper off. Also be aware of your actors who are only needed in a scene or two. If possible, schedule their scenes first so they can wrap earlier.

5.) SLEEP - To stay rejuvenated all night I had to force myself to sleep during the day. It didn’t help that my excitement was making me hyper. Do what you must to fall asleep. Black out the windows, sniff some lavender and/or take a melatonin. You’ll probably have a hard time falling asleep when you’re not tired, but if you don’t do it, you’ll crash hard later.

6.) Comfort & Food - There should be an area for cast/crew to take a rest when they’re not on camera. Trust me, someone will need it. Even 5 minutes of laying down in a quiet spot will work wonders. Don’t forget to splurge a little extra on the crafty as well. Have enough snacks, water, caffeine, and energy drinks on hand so no one feels malnourished.

7.) Keep Your Wrap Time - No one is perfect, but if there’s ever a time to stay on schedule it’s now. Once that sun comes up people will start looking at their watches and it won’t be a pretty picture.

Without a doubt, your limits will be tested during an overnight shoot and it’ll be one of the most challenging set experiences of your life. Yet there’s nothing like watching the sun come up with your cast & crew knowing wrap time is around the corner. You will feel accomplished and it will be a notch in your filmmaking belt. I am so lucky my cast & crew are a bunch of troopers and it was actually fun to film with them all night! I don’t know that I would do it again, but if I have to I will! The things we do for filmmaking.

Have you ever been on an overnight shoot? Tell me, I’d love to hear about it!

(Mark Mainolfi) #2

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about overnight shoots. You’ve got a lot of good tips for making these shoots a little less miserable for everyone. Even the small things can make a big difference in the final product.

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #3

Oh yes I’m not surprised. I’ve been on one myself that was a disaster. It’s cool because you learn what not to do on sets that are bad experiences. I’m incredibly lucky ours went well because a lot could have went wrong.