A movie producer is responsible for being aware of what’s happening on location at all times. If they do not have a checklist written down on paper, saved on their mobile device or have a mental note of a daily production checklist, consider them DOA on film shoot.
Knowing what areas of a shoot are under supported can help a producer catch potential problems earlier by paying closer attention those areas. Have a checklist to run through when you arrive on location.
Are required cast and crew where they need to be?
Is there petty cash on location?
Are quality still photos of cast in character being taken for future artwork?
Are there changes to the script that need to be given to cast and crew?
Do the ruffled feathers of a cast or crewmember need to be smoothed out?
Is all the film gear working properly and ready to go?
Any location problems that need to be dealt with? (barking dog, not enough power etc.)
Are props (e.g. a gun, money, guitar) on location ready for use?
Is there gas to power generators or any other special equipment needs?
Are all actor wardrobe changes accounted for and on location?
A producer’s check list can be as brief or detailed, as you need it to be depending on your own unique movie shoot. This is where a minor oversight can turn into a major production problem. I would have rather learned this from a book than the hard way.
On a larger budget film every area of production would be its own well supported department from craft services to props with a supervisor overseeing the day to day to running of it. A producer could check in daily with each supervisor to get an update or have the unit production manager do it then bring them up to speed.
That is not how a majority of smaller budget movie shoots operate. Out of financial necessity on both Consignment and In With Thieves departments that would have been stand alone departments with a supervisor were combined together under one person.
Instead of a person only having to focus on a single area of the shoot they had the responsibility of multiple departments. Often with most independent film shoots every area of production is under supported and under staffed.
This was evident on the Consignment set when it came time to film a running gun battle between multiple rival criminals. Production was well past a 12-hour workday at a gritty and uncomfortable bus yard in the middle of nowhere. All of us were starting to drag a little bit. The scene being shot took a lot of preparation and time to set up. It was a key action sequence that was going to be used as a selling point for the finished movie. This was the last major scene to shoot for the day.
Before we were ready to roll picture and sound I was told we were out of Green Gas for the Airsoft guns being used as props. Without Green Gas when an actor pulls the trigger of the gun on camera there’s no blowback action. I knew that when I got into post-production to add muzzle flashes without the blowback it wouldn’t visually look as good or the editor would have to do more work costing more money.
What we needed was more Green Gas, but at that hour no place would be open. Production came to a halt as I mulled over what to do. Cast and crew had already been pushed to their limit (even after this scene there were more) this wasn’t the time for a long delay.
I resigned myself to the fact the gun battle would have to be filmed with prop guns that weren’t functional. Out of nowhere my nephew tells me he can be back in 30 minutes with Green Gas. He has a friend who is a paintball junkie. A little over 30 minutes later we were rolling on the gun battle scene with working Airsoft guns. Luck smiled on the shoot.
At the same location for Consignment another oversight came up. I’m starting to see a pattern with this bus yard location. It was the perfect backdrop, but if I were superstitious I might read something into these production hassles. Anyway, right in the middle of shooting a scene the lighting cuts out. The portable generator being used to power the lights runs out of gas.
I know you know where this is going, but stay with me. I’m thinking no problem. There’s a large plastic yellow gas can on set to refill the generator. There is a problem. The yellow gas can is empty. It was only a matter of having someone drive to a gas station to top it off, but on smaller budget movie shoots every little delay adds up. Every loss of production time has to be made up somewhere down the line.
During the In With Thieves shoot an oversight had a real impact on the final movie. A few days before filming fake crystal diamonds had been purchased. The original fake diamonds bought early on looked too much like plastic beads. On camera they would be laughable. The new fake crystal diamonds on the other hand would look outstanding on screen.
That was good because a majority of the scenes being shot that day would feature the fake crystal diamonds. When the first shot of the day is being set up the fake crystal diamonds are nowhere to be found. The normal round of “I thought you had them” begins.
That never solves any problems. The search for them was fruitless. It was a disaster that still doesn’t sit well with me as a filmmaker. There were planned close up shots of actors handling and inspecting diamonds. I had hoped to film a nice overhead shot in a warehouse between a Cuban kingpin and African crime syndicate boss doing a deal. These beautiful fake diamonds would be laid out and the camera would move in for a close up of what all the characters were killing each other over.
It was not to be on this day. The only fake diamonds we could show on camera where the original plastic beads that would not work.
Instead of using the poor looking plastic beads I changed the scenes. All close up shots involving the diamonds were taken out. I went with different shots to cover the action between actors. One scene I hated to change was the warehouse scene with the two crime bosses. I knew exactly what I wanted to do visually with that scene. Now it had to be scrapped. That’s the decision I made.
What I hope to pass on here is the importance of paying attention to details during shooting. If you run through your checklist at the start of each day of shooting you’ll be surprised how many potential problems you can avoid that would normally impact your movie for the worst. Later, it turned out the good fake diamonds got knocked behind the washing machine at my house. Damn, I think I did it on accident packing gear. No biggie, the movie got done. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing FADE OUT:
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Categories: Indie Film Production Tags: African crime syndicate, Airsoft guns, consignment, Cuban cartel, green gas, In with Thieves, independent film shoots, Movie Producer Daily Checklist, muzzle flashes, overhead shot, paintball junkie, petty cash on location, running gun battle, Sid Kali, unit production manager