Ok seriously… I can’t recommend preproduction planning enough. If you checked out my blog about the dollar trick, you may have noticed my paragraph about how much effort went into the shoot before hand. Nothing was preplanned. Sorry… from personal experience, the more planning that’s done, the smoother production goes, the easier editing goes.
Planning won’t safeguard from the random act of God that tends to happen, but will better equip you to handle a situation that comes up. It is hard to think of everything that could come up. However, there are some things you can add to your each of your productions.
Get on site. Or set, to the location of your shoot. I love taking pictures or video of the location for reference. This will help with staging or rifuring out set dressings and props. Actually seeing your location gives you a good sense of your limitations.
The next step is a pre-visualization. Technically, this is all previz… but this is where I block and start thinking about the 180 degree rule. I take a slightly more stage approach while I place my actors. I don’t think about my camera positions at all.
I like to include an over the top view of my set with the positions of my actors. I’ve made my own key, which I try to keep consistent. It also would be good to leave it fairly legible so anyone working with you can figure it out, or with little explanation to follow along.
This one is actually from the Cops and Robbers video we shot last weekend.
Storyboards generally follow. Once you know where actors will be, begin developing your shot list. I’ve talked about it here. You might make some changes to your actor’s positions or what not, but a storyboard will help figure things out for you.
And they can be elaborate with a professional artist or (my preference) stick figures that all smile. Elaborate for me generally means a small comic book sketch with the script underneath. And if I’m being fancy, a red pencil for arrows that show camera moves. Putting these on note cards is good because they can be reorganized if needed or kept on set with you. I like to hole punch them and run one of those metal rings
Rehearsal. Plan in some time before shooting to walk the scene, run through and hopefully, if your actors know their lines, you can actually have them do the scene while you sit back and do what a director is supposed to… which is direct. All this should help develop and prepare your scene for shooting. Hopefully this helps.