Scheduling For Film – Part 1

Astronomical Clock (Astronomical Dial), Prague, Czech Republic

By Danny Santos

Making a film isn’t easy, in fact, it’s been likened to waging a war for a reason. It’s hard work and when stuff goes wrong you have to think quickly on your feet to get the production back on track because there’s a freight train barreling down on you at full speed.

I like to call that train, “the budget”.


Stuff Goes Wrong

Never forget that no matter what you do, something will go wrong, especially if you’re making your first film. Everyone has horror stories of their first few films and if you’ve never directed or produced a film before, I suggest you go the low-no budget route first to get the feel for making a film.

So if we know something is going to go wrong then we’re going to need to protect ourselves somehow. Some things are easy to spot in pre-production while others may just crop up during production. The key to minimizing risk is planning every detail in pre-production– cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s”.


Being Anal About Your Film

I believe that the filmmaking process is one of discovery from development to distribution. The film changes and morphs and, in a way, I think it’s alive. Except during preproduction; once the script is locked down, that is the movie I’m making until production starts. Every detail follows that blueprint to a tee because the budget train will try to run you over during production.

And be anal about it.

You’ll annoy people by being very detailed but it will save your bacon down the road. I even note which shots on my shot list are nice-to-haves but can cut them out in a pinch in case the scene is taking longer to shoot than anticipated. The less thinking you need to do about these decisions on set, the more you can focus on the performance and even start thinking of new ideas and changes to what you’re filming. You’re freeing up processing power in your brain to be creative instead of just figuring out how to get out of the current problem.


So What Does This Have to do With Scheduling?

Scheduling is your first line of defense against your enemy, the budget. If you don’t know what you’re shooting on any given day, you and your film are screwed. More than that, I’m a firm believer in getting stuff on time and on budget so make sure your schedule is locked tight. Far too often shoots drag on for longer than they should and cost more than they’re budgeted for; I want to really hammer that point home.

Still, scheduling can be summed up pretty easily– break down the script, determine how many days you’ll have to shoot and then make the schedule. Pretty simple stuff.

Of course, we’ll go into far more detail in the coming parts of this series. And don’t forget to leave your comments and questions below! We love to hear from you!

About Danny Santos

Freelance writer, filmmaker, actor, musician, and visual artist. Writing online professionally for 4-plus years and has produced and performed in over a dozen films and webseries. He has also been everything from a social media consultant to managing a JUNO award winning musician.


  1. Aphrodite Lee says: