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How To Schedule a Shoot: 5 Things to Consider

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The expression “time is money” doesn’t get any truer than when the cameras start rolling. If your shoot is not carefully scheduled, your budget will start evaporating. Consider an average half-hour television show. They shoot for a hundred hours in a given week on a budget of around $1,700,000. This prescribes a ‘burn rate’, or the amount of money required to keep a professional crew operating, of nearly $20,000 an hour.

No two production schedules or budgets are alike, but they all adhere to the same basic principles. Scheduling starts with a good breakdown. The breakdown and catalog allow you to manage your assets and determine the most time and cost effective way to schedule those assets across your shoot days. Learning how to schedule a shoot means learning how to manage assets.

Before you begin scheduling, here are a few things to consider: 

1. Logistics, Logistics, Logistics: 

From big budget features to 30 second video ads, all film crews are made up of multiple departments with different responsibilities. There’s an order of precedence in prepping a shoot:

  • Camera crews need to wait on set decoration before they can get the grips to start setting up lights. 
  • Hair, makeup, and wardrobe need to wait on transport to get the talent in the chair. 
  • Craft service needs to be on set before anyone to ensure that the food and coffee is ready to go. 

These timings are essential to informing your call times . If you have crew showing up on set when they’re hours away from being able to do any work, you’re just paying them to socialize.

2. Know Your Locations: 

Where do your scenes take place? 

If you’re shooting in a studio, you’ll have to schedule prep days for your carpenters and dressers to build, paint, and decorate the sets. Your grip and electrical departments will need time to set up lighting grids and offload equipment. Your cinematographer will need to do camera tests. All of these things need to be completed before your shoot day. 

Similar rules apply for shooting on location. How many days do you have the location for? How long will it take to set up the location for shooting and move from the location when you’re done. Don’t forget to include prep and moving days on your calendar

3. Serial, Not Sequence:

Very few productions shoot their scenes in the order they appear on the page. It is important to try and get as much out of a single set or location as possible. For example, If your script has multiple scenes that take place in a diner and you’ve secured two days on location in a diner, schedule all your diner scenes for that period. The same principle applies to night shoots or weather-specific scenes. 

The director’s job is to carry the narrative. Your job is to make the process as efficient as possible, even if that means shooting the last scene first and the first scene last.

4. Pages Can Be Deceiving: 

Generally speaking, one page of your script equals about one minute of screen time. One minute of screen time is roughly an hour of shooting. However, a scene that is a couple of lines on the page can take far longer to shoot than a scene that is a couple of pages. This is especially true when it comes to action and stunt-heavy scenes or scenes involving children or animals. 

If your script calls for things like car chases, fights, or any wrangling, remember that the prep and rehearsal time required to execute these types of scenes is exponentially larger than the time required to shoot two adult characters talking.

5. Hope For The Best, Plan For The Worst: 

While putting in all your pre-production prep work helps keep cast and crew on the same page and on-time, there’s always the potential for setbacks. Part of pre-production is preparing for the any number of things that can go wrong on set for any number of reasons: equipment failures, foul weather, illness, accidents, and good old fashioned bad luck. A tight schedule is important, but you should always try to give your production a little breathing room. 

Don't try to cram as much material as possible into any given day. You'll exhaust your crew, open yourself up to logistical nightmares, and shrink the window of opportunity needed to address whatever crises may arise. For a first-hand view of how to handle those unplanned moments, be sure to check out our interview with our latest Seeds winner, Carter Fawcett.

How to Succeed in Corporate Video: An Interview with Seeds 1 Winner, Carter Fawcett

Friday, 29 January 2016

Carter Fawcett is our Seeds 1 Winner, editor and director of Fishing Trip as well as a Corporate Video Producer.

We caught up with Carter earlier this week while he was attending the Sundance Film Festival. Okay, we admit we were pretty jealous when he mentioned that he had just left a “Meet the Filmmakers” Panel put on by Utah Valley University where he’s majoring in Digital Cinema.
Celtx: Who did you meet there?
Carter: We met Jeff Feuerzeif, Clay Tweel, Anna Holmer  as well as a couple other people. 
We jokingly asked if he was the filmmaker other people wanted to meet. But it’s not that big of a stretch to imagine Carter as the guest of honour at one of these panels in the future. Anyone who’s seen his team’s entry to Seeds 1 knows he’s one to watch: 

Fishing trip was originally made for the "It's Only a Movie" short horror film fest based out of Thanksgiving Point, Utah, just up the road from where Carter lives: “Although we didn't win it was a great experience to see your film up on a theater screen, and seeing how people react to it.” 

It was the first time Carter had seen his film shown on a big screen in a legitimate theatre. But he’s no newcomer to filmmaking and video creation. Carter is a known corporate video freelancer in Salt Lake City. We asked him how he first got his start in corporate video:
That's a big, interesting story. Basically, friends knew I did video so occasionally I would get offers to do stuff (with them). Then I had one of my uncle’s offer me an internship with a business called The Ready Store. They do emergency preparedness. After working with them for a bit my sister sent a job ad for a housing company where I collaborated with another production company in the Valley. I started working for them for a bit, then decided to start marketing myself. And that was that. It's been hard, and summer is really my busiest time. I don't do a whole lot of it during school because well let's be honest school take a big chunk of my time, as does my other job. But my other job is great. I work on Campus in the University's studio and that's where I met all my co workers. ) Basically a big way of saying I had some really good luck, and, to get a bit religious, big blessings to get to where I'm at right now.
For Fishing Trip, Carter collaborated with ten cast and crew in a single-day 12 hour shoot. It helped that he already knew how to work with most of them as they all met while working in Studios and Broadcast Services at Utah Valley University (only the Dad and Son actors weren’t co-workers). But there were some surprises along the way:

Fortunately, working together in Celtx helped the team stay focused. Starting off with a collaborative, problem-solving approach by working on the script with Brendan Larkin and Austen Benley they were set to keep their team on track from breakdown to not breaking down in the middle of the lake.
Brendan was the one that really wrote the script. Brendan, Austin, and I came up with the idea and occasionally we would take a look at changes on celtx (with the share or collaborate feature it has) which was nice because we could make changes from anywhere and look at changes from anywhere. I did the breakdown myself. They didn't look at it much until it was finished, but they would occasionally be like "oh we need to add this" or "we don't need this"


Thank God someone remembered the generator! 

We’re happy to reward this team the first Seeds grant of $3000, which they’ll be putting towards a short they’re working on this summer. And we’ve got our fingers crossed that Carter will be entering Seeds 2 as well.
My senior project is based as a web series. It centers around food (don't want to give away too many details yet). I'll just have to see if our group can get everything in place and get a pilot episode cut by then.
If you’re thinking of entering Seeds, Carter has some advice for anyone looking to get into filmmaking or corporate video:
Just go out and practice. Find a group of people who are reliable and have passion. Work hard! The biggest thing that has helped me is to just be a nice person! You may have the best talent in the world, but if you're not a nice person no one will want to work for you or with you.
We’re just happy Carter was nice enough to give us his time for this interview. Thanks to him and his crew: Bendan Larkin (director/producer), Reggie Hansen (cinematographer/producer), Austin Benley ( music composer / grip), John Yelland (key grip), Kelton Davis (colorist), Marc Gingell ( vfx), Jamie Larkin (transport/ craft services), Candida Johnson (ghoul), Johnathan Slajer (kid) and Pete Day (dad).

How To: Breakdown a Script

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

You’ve completed your script. Time to start shooting, right?


Between writing and production, the pre-production phase is perhaps the most mysterious part of filmmaking for those new to the craft.

 It all starts with a breakdown. No, not a nervous one; a script breakdown.

The breakdown is THE document of pre-production. In combination with the catalog, it helps you schedule your shoot and all your assets, create a budget, and keep everything from the coffee for the makeup crew to the construction of walls for your set in order, running smoothly and on time.

But how to do it?

Celtx makes it pretty straightforward.

 Step 1: Know Your Script 

Have a script. Know the script. Read it over a few times. The first time, just read it for fun. Understand how the story flows. The second time, read it over and visualise each scene in your head. The third time, start thinking about the particulars. What colour is that vase that’s always in the background? How is the lead’s hair styled? Where does it all take place?

Step 2: Get a Sense of What You Need 

With a properly formatted script, your breakdown is already started. The characters are already tagged for you. Now you use the tagging and highlighting option to mark up the rest. Some prefer to go through the whole script, tagging each prop, then each location, then each set dressing item, etc. Others will go scene-by-scene tagging everything in that scene. Whatever workflow is best for you, use it.

Step 3: The Nitty Gritty 

Each item you tag in the breakdown will create a catalog entry. Here you can associate an image, add in details, provide a location and contact details for sourced assets and calculate a budget.

Think about each item you’ve tagged from the script. Think about the ancillary items you’ll need as a result:

  • Actors dressed in period costume? You’ve tagged wardrobe, but don’t forget hair and makeup as well as transport for the hair and makeup team to the shooting location.
  • Have you tagged a prop? Is it breakable at all? Remember, between your crew and actors it’s going to be moving through multiple hands, not to mention whatever actions take place during shooting itself. Perhaps you want to buy duplicates or even triplicates just to make sure you have the same prop available throughout your shoot. Keep the spares unopened (and receipts tracked) so they can be returned if unused. You can even take a picture of the receipt with your phone and add it as media to the catalog item to keep everything in one place.
  • Setting the location? Will you be constructing a set or filming on location? There's a lot to consider including best use of lighting, tear down walls for camera angles, expense, and transportation. Each option will have additional items required, everything from a power source (and bathrooms!) if filming on location to construction crew on hand for repairs if filming a studio set. A location scout can help with these choices.
  • Filming an effect? It might have several components to it. For example, take a helicopter crashing into a downtown street. You'll have a mechanical effect for a pre-rigged pyrotechnics, an optical effect for the camera to shake, and a special effect added in post production to add computer generated smoke and fire. In other words, although you can highlight items in the script via the breakdown, not everything you need will always be visually present in the script.

Once you’ve tagged those items and fleshed out your catalog, you’re ready for:

Step 4: Schedule Your Scenes 

More on this next here.

Read all about how our Seeds 1 winner, Carter Fawcett, used the breakdown to plan his shoot. Meanwhile, check out Seeds 2 and get your entry in!

Seeds 2: Submit a Teaser or Pilot. $5000 Award!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Our second Seeds challenge has arrived. This time, we'll be awarding one storytelling team a grant of US$5000 for their winning entry.

Your objective: submit a teaser or a pilot that captures the imagination and makes the viewer want to know more, see more, and follow your story.

What’s a Teaser?

Typically cut from early production material, teasers are designed to promote your project, often before you're ready to sell it. Think of it as a trailer for a trailer. Their purpose is to suggest style, atmosphere, tone, and scale. Some teasers feature little more than typeface and music. Some showcase glimpses of action, scenery, sets, or special effects. Most keep the arc of the project’s story

Three Pro-tips For Great Teasers
  • Keep your cards close to your chest: Don’t give away too much! Nobody likes watching a teaser and being able to intuit how the story is going to play out, or worse, how it ends. 
  • Be nimble: Keep it snappy! A good teaser is a jolt to the system. If it goes on for too long, people are going to stop caring. 
  • Embrace the elusive: Consider the definition of tease. Provoke! Coax! Tempt! If you try to hold your audience’s hand, they will not feel challenged. Let their imagination do some of the work.

What’s a Pilot?


In the realm of television, web series, and other episodic narratives, pilots are prototypes. Think of them as prequels to your first real episode. They introduce your core cast of characters and set up the world that they inhabit. They provide the framework in which the larger themes and ambitions of your story are to take root while demonstrating a unique approach to storytelling. Most of all, they are designed to hook the audience into wanting the story to continue. A successful pilot is a showcase of everything you want to accomplish.

Three Pro-tips For Amazing Pilots
  • Write your Bible: world-building is key to episodic narratives. Behind every great series is a great bible, which fleshes out all the characters, story arcs, settings, and thematic elements before the scripts themselves are even written. If you don’t know where you’re going, the audience will be able to tell. 
  • Play against expectation: series demand a considerable time investment of their audiences. If your pilot doesn’t escalate or hint at greater things to come, expect people to tune out. 
  • Engage in mind games: It might seem cheap to leave your audience hanging, but a well executed twist or cliffhanger at the end of your pilot is a surefire way to keep viewers coming back. Just make sure you live up to your end of the bargain.

How to Submit:

  • View the full rules. Submissions that don't follow the guidelines will be ruled out at the end of the contest.
  • Keep your pilot to 10 minutes or less (a teaser is typically under a minute).
  • Submit by March 23, 2015.
  • Have your friends, family, and Celtx community upvote by tweeting and sharing your link.
  • We'll choose from among the highest voted submissions and announce the winner after March 23.
Speaking of which, stay tuned this week for our announcement of the Celtx Seeds 1 Winner!

New Year; New Celtx

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

We’ve just improved Celtx with an extensive upgrade for all our users

The big news is the introduction of a new Professional tier of video planning tools offering pro-grade workflow management for production companies. 

Current Plus users will see a more powerful suite of professional-grade video planning tools including episodic scriptwriting and asset management, the addition of groups to your studio teams as well as a new client approval process with feedback built in to your online studio. 

You’ll find each project now features a new dashboard which allows you to access at-a-glance information about your project and workflows, including progress and budget reports. 

You can also now create public URLs to share a readable copy of your Celtx documents with anyone, whether they have a Celtx account or not. 

And, we’ve added security with a new 2 Step Security login feature using the Google Authenticator App. 

Our Standard users still have full access to all documents. We’ve improved budgets to include cost-reporting and you’ll now see project dashboards with access to at-a-glance info on your projects. 

Our Basic or free users still have access to unlimited scripts, but we’ve added new free tools: visualize your projects with Storyboards and plan your structure with Index Cards

Don’t forget to download the Cards and Shots apps so you can take your writing and planning wherever you go. 

Basic users can now also Create Studio Teams and add other members to your studio to collaborate on projects. 

Celtx offers workflow management that is ideal for production companies of all types and sizes: for those producing independent films and web series, and those making advertising, product demos, and other sponsored content. We’re also improving the tools our independent writers have access to. 

It’s a new year, a new Celtx and we’re eager to see what you’re going to create. 

 Stay tuned throughout the week for further updates on all our new features and don’t forget to check our help centre for more info!