Principal PhotographyFirst Day of Principal Photography

At this point preproduction is over and the actual production can begin. It is time to start filming.  This chapter will walk you step-by-step through what happens during the shooting period.  We will focus on daily and weekly tasks and address issues that inevitably arise during filming.

First Day of Principal Photography-PM Checklist

1. Visit the Set

You should be present on the set for the first day of principle photography. This is the first time everyone involved will work together on the actual film and problems are bound to rise.  If you are there and available, you can intervene when necessary.

2. Alert your Financiers that Principal Photography has begun.

It is imperative that you keep your financial backers well informed of the process.  Write your financiers a memorandum in which you notify them that principal photography has begun, so they know exactly how their money is being utilized.  This letter also sets in motion the process of obtaining the next round of funds for the project.

3. Pay Production Fees

Many development workers need to be compensated for their work at this point, as are certain members of the production staff.  For example, writers require production fees since their script is now a film.  Directors will also expect payment at the start of the production.  Discuss these fees with your employees as well as the Production Accountant and plan accordingly.  Ensure that these payments are on time and record them in the PM-Only expense report.

4. Update the Producers and other Executives

The Producers, Executive Producers, and the Corporate Executives involved are likely to attend the first day of shooting.  Take this chance to follow up with them on preproduction and production, discussing any issues or events.  If they aren’t present, take the time to call and inform them on this day.

First Week of Principal Photography

On the first week of principal photography you will be concentrating on finishing the tasks required for the last part of preproduction as well as the first steps of production.

1. Review Cash Flow

The first week is the time to make sure that actual expenses are within or below projected expenses.  Review your PM-Only expense report and compare it with the Production Accountant’s report.  Make sure both match up and that your project is financially healthy.

2. Approve Payroll

Nothing is more detrimental to a production than a strike.  Prevent it by approving the payroll in each phase: preproduction as well as production. You will have a small staff at at this time, but their number will increase rapidly as filming progresses.  To keep the employees happy and encourage hard work, set a regularly scheduled time to approve and submit payroll.

3. Approve Petty Cash

Despite being paid,,the crew will constantly require spending money. Approve the petty cash vouchers, but keep track of the crew’s expenditures in your PM-Only expense report.  You can do so by either monitoring their incoming floats or outgoing expenses.   Instruct the crewmembers on correctly filling out voucher forms and attaching receipts to make record keeping easier.

4. End of Prep  Cost Report

It is time to write up the official expense report for preproduction, which you should have arranged for during its  final week.  Review the PM-Only expense report with your Production Accountant.  Arrange to publish your final expense report and send it to your financiers in order to finalize the next set of loans.

First Week of Principal Photography-PM & PC Checklist

1. Credits

The end of film credits need multiple approvals from different companies, executives, and people .  Therefore, it is never too soon to begin working on the early drafts.  The Coordinator presents a “pre-draft” to the Producer and Production Manager.  Consult the crew deal memos, cast contracts, and any other information you have gathered in your credits file.  Double-check the correct spellings of all names.  If you have any doubt about an individual’s name, call him/her. Screen credit is a very sensitive topic.  Treat the information you have with utmost confidence.

2. Crew Gifts

If you plan to buy t-shirts, jackets, hats, and other memorabilia for your crew, consider purchasing them now since delivery can take four to six weeks.  Some productions  pay for gift items while others sell them to the crew.  Some surprise the crew; others don’t.  Determine how to handle crew gifts with the Coordinator and Producer.

3. Wrap or Outtake Reel

Ask the Producer as well as the Coordinator if they desire a wrap or outtake reel. If you choose to make one, include the Editor along with Continuity in the process to facilitate flagging and collecting interesting takes throughout production.  With this method you can avoid a lengthy search for material in the end.

During Production

The following tasks do not occur on a daily basis, thus requiring you to set aside some time for them every week.

During Production-PM Checklist

1. Weekly Cost Report

Meet with the Accountant every week and publish the week’s detailed official expense report.  Update your PM-Only expense report each time.

2. Weekly Payroll Approval

Remember to approve the payroll for the Accountant weekly.  Take this opportunity to update the PM-Only expense report with the payroll information.

3. Petty Cash Approvals

Petty cash vouchers will come in at random times.  Stay up-to-date on approving the forms; also abreast of how the different departments manage money.  Have dialogues about their spending habits.  Post the petty cash requests in the PM-Only expense report as you receive them.  .

4. Daily Production Report (DPR) Approvals.

Though this happens daily, it still is another approval you have to schedule into your workday.  Compare the DPR information to the estimated averages you made during preproduction.  Is the production on par with the budget?

5. Extra Equipment or Crew Approvals

Every so often the crew will ask for items not originally budgeted for, such as new equipment or extra hands.  If you keep current with your PM-Only expense report, you can easily decide whether to approve a new expense or not.  Inform the Producer of how much you need to draw from your contingency funds.  It is wise to try and save at least 40-50% of your contingency funds for postproduction use.

6. Overtime Approvals

Although you may have budgeted for overtime, more often than not, you will exceed your limit.  Carefully track the amount of contingency funds allocated to the overtime budget.  Since you have already calculated the hourly rate for overtime, you can exert some control on the number of extra work hours for production workers, set workers, etc. The first week will have the most overtime recorded since the production team members are getting used to working together.  But if the long hours continue, your crew will burn out.  Moreover, you will soon spend above and beyond your budget.

7. Unexpected Problem Solving

When unexpected problems arise, and they always will, be prepared to react quickly. Think of creative ways to solve them and always try to minimize the impact on the budget.

Production Coordinator-Daily Production Details

1. Call sheet and Draft Call Sheet

Send the draft copy of the call sheet you have created to the Assistant Directors  on set, in the morning.  Receive the penciled-in copy after lunchtime.  Type the call sheet as soon as possible, seek approvals, add in the location map, make script slides (?), and distribute them.

2. Daily Production Report & Backup

Purchase any special equipment requests, remembering to get approval from the Production Manager first.

3. Daily Crew Matters

Be prepared to call unions and any recommended individuals before the start of every workday to replace absent crew-members.

4. Stunt Contracts, Nurses, Ambulance

Make certain that a scheduled stunt performer’s contract is complete well in advance of his arrival.  Also check with the A.D.s if they require a nurse or an ambulance.

Toward the End of Principal Photography

1. Finishing On Time and On Budget

Have regular meetings with at least the Producer and the First A.D. to ensure you will be finishing on time and on budget.  The number of shots being carried forward on each DPR should be decreasing toward the end of principal photography.  If there are any red flags that you might not finish on time and on budget, address them immediately with the Producer and First A.D.  Should you need to shoot beyond the end date, weigh your options carefully to avoid financial penalties.

2. Cost Report Savings and Overages

As production nears its end, you will be closing out a good portion of the budget lines in the expense report.  By now you must have a much better idea of where you are over, under, or on budget.  Remember that coming out under budget could mean returning funds to the financiers.  Decide now how to spend any surplus in order to minimize this.

3. “Pink Slip” or End of Production Notices

Get ready to inform the crew about the ending of principal photography and submit their final paychecks.  Be aware of union rules, as some require advance notice. This is also the time to thank your cast and crew for their work.

4. Wrap Plans Per Department

Meet with each production department to discuss their plans for a wrap.  Find out who is being laid off and when.  Determine the actual last days of work for each department.  Use this information to update the cost projections on the PM-Only expense report.

5. Plan Wrap Sale or Set Storage

It is now time to determine the fate of the set, dressings, props, and wardrobe.  Decide if you want to store or sell them.  Determine the effects of each choice on the budget.  Schedule each department’s sale or plan for the most cost effective storage.

6. Memoranda to Financiers

Send memoranda to the financiers informing them that you have completed principal photography.  Much like the first memorandum, this communication is also the beginning of the next influx of funds.

Toward the End of Principal Photography-PC Detail

1. AD  Sessions (Looping)

Expect the postproduction team to ask for an ADR session with certain actors.  Coordinate an appropriate arrangement between the studio and the actor.  In order to compensate the actor, you must have his/her completed time sheet or contract. Also inform any required attendees.

2. Continued Work on Credits

Drafts and drafts of credits will continue to fill your files.  If people fail to send the required approvals, call them to accelerate the process.

3. Crew Gifts

Once the crew gifts arrive, plan a way to distribute or sell them, depending on the previous agreed upon arrangements.  Make your presentation creative.

4. Wrap List

Prepare an accurate list of everything you have rented, leased, or bought for the production.  Meet with the Production Accountant to discuss the items acquired during principal photography.   Check the P.O. log for accuracy, then review the list with the Production Manager.

5. Wrap Party Preparation.

If you wish to have a final celebration, allocate a budget for the event in consult with the Production Manager.  Find and book appropriate venues.

Knowing what to expect will help you plan ahead. But before we begin thinking about wrap and postproduction, there are several ongoing issues to address during production.