On Set Series: “Waist Deep” – Logistics from the Shoot

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On Set Series: “Waist Deep” – Logistics from the Shoot

Whether you are on a big production with a large crew or a small production with a modest crew, you want to make sure you are prepared for the day ahead. No matter what, this is your job as the Director of Photography and you need to provide the necessary tools for your crew. This was even more important when preparing for the action sequence that we’ve been analyzing in the last 3 parts of this series. In Waist Deep, Vondie Curtis-Hall and I spent a lot of time planning out the hijack/kidnap scene. Reason being–we only had one day to shoot the thing.

Additional Challenges on the Shoot Day

There are always going to be challenges on the shoot day

This is where my mind starts calculating to see how we can pull this off…

 

  • Do I have time to light?
  • How many crew members will I need?
  • What if it rains?
  • How many cameras will I need?
  • What type of camera systems will work best?
  • What if it becomes overcast halfway through the day?
  • How early can we get on set?

 

  • Will we have a prep day prior to the shoot day?

 

These are just SOME of the questions running through my head. Immediately, I’m asking for the Director and Assistant Director to break down the script with me to see how we can make this possible. Your Assistant Director is going to be the “key” to scheduling this out and making sure you have enough time to fit in everything.

Shoot Schedule

Scheduling our your day is essential when getting the crew on the same page

Knowing that we had only one (1) day to shoot this, I immediately threw out the idea of trying to light anything. I knew that it would take up time and there was no way to get all of our setups while having to light them. So we went completely natural for this… no lights.

Diagram

Use the sun to your advantage

Now that we’ve settled that, we needed to map out the day and figure the scope of what we were trying to accomplish. This whole sequence once broken down spanned four Los Angeles City blocks… If you’ve ever been to LA and walked a block–that’s pretty far to travel… Now this brings up new logistics to consider:

 

  • I’ll need to make sure I have access to off streets and rooftops.
  • I’ll need to make sure I have multiple operators and cameras on the day to help conserve the talent.
  • I’ll need to shoot the underage talent early in the morning to get them out of the way. Then we can loop back around to the bulk of the sequence.
  • I’ll need to make sure I have the right amount of crew to help with picking up and moving.

 

 

It’s key leading up to the shoot to always be asking questions and figuring out what you need. Vondie and I spent a lot of time discussing this sequence and figuring out the exact logistics to lock in the vision. It wasn’t a scenario where we just walked on set and winged it… If we did that, I guarantee you that we would have never gotten it all in one day. Instead, we did our homework and spent the time doing it right the first time… no re-shoots, no pickups; all in the can.

Birds eye view of location

Make sure to involve your Location Manager as soon as possible to ensure you have the access necessary

I’ll say it again… it’s extremely important to do your research the first time. It’s essential to communicate with your Director, your Assistant Director, and department heads to figure out what is necessary to pull off the job. If you wait until the day, beware that you’ve entered the realm of “no going back.” Anything that goes wrong is on you…

Have fun with it, educate yourself, and do your homework! Now go shoot something.

Peace,

Shane

 

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED:

  • Creating a proper schedule will make or break you:
    • Break down the script and understand what you’re going to be up against. It’s extremely important for you–as the director, director of photography, filmmakers–to understand the tasks ahead.
    • Gather the key crew members to discuss the day, what needs are, and how to execute. Communication is key when doing any type of action sequence or complicated setups.
    • Your Assistant Director/Director Team are going to be key to organizing and scheduling out the day. Run the process through your head and make sure that it works out.
      • You’ll want to make sure your AD understands the importance of what you need in terms of lighting and what it’s going to take for your crew to get the job done.
    • Map out what you’re planning to do so you have a visual reference of it. It’s good to see it from a perspective outside of your mind.
    • Utilize the sun to your advantage and make it work for you. Understand the sun’s path and how it will affect your shot throughout the day.
  • Always take into consideration your talent and minors on set:
    • You need to make sure your talent is in peak performance when delivering for the camera. When trying to cover any stretch of land, ensure that there is time to rest and reset before the next take. The last thing you want is an exhausted cast.
      • This is where you’ll need to prep them in advance before the day. Preparing your cast and crew is pivotal in having the right mindset for the day.
    • Using minors on set creates very unique restrictions so make sure you work within them. Consult the AD team for the best way to fit them into the tight schedule… Whether that means shifting the schedule around or using unique perspectives.
  • Managing your crew and cutting excess:
    • Make sure you have the proper crew to get the job done. If it’s an easy lighting day, cut the electrics and add grips to help move equipment and cameras.
    • Consider everything that your crew will need and what it takes to get the job done.
    • Using multiple cameras on technical shots can free up takes, time, and money.
    • Pre-rigging the night before can help slow down the process and focus on the work over two days. This frees up hands on the day of the shoot.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments
  1. Manuel r 1 week ago

    Buuum!! Intense beautiful day!!

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC 1 week ago

      Manuel r,
      Thank you so much for your support my friend

  2. Michael K 1 week ago

    Shane, I really appreciate this Break down! Coordinating crew and talent on set has been a tricky balance historically for me. I like that you are also sharing a practical approach to cutting expenses to save on the production cost as well. Best

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC 1 day ago

      HI Michael K,
      You are so welcome my friend. I find that my job as a DP is broken up into thirds. 33.3% delivering the director’s vision, 33.3% supporting my crew, inspiring and creating a safe environment to collaborate together, the final 33.3% is working with production, listening to their budget woes and doing everything possible to create a compromise that still delivers a primo project to the screen.

  3. David S 5 days ago

    Good video. Definitely having multiple camera bodies for different set-ups is a must. And it still amazes me how many producers see a camera reconfigure as the crew “struggling” or being “slow” when your going from say a crane to a Ronin 2 rebuild. It takes some time. Nobody is struggling.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC 1 day ago

      HI David S,
      HA HA, I hear you, anytime I do a little tweak, they are on me, and if I have to re calibrate a lens, hold the phone, the world is coming to an end.

      I have found that the more cameras the faster you go. Re configuring a camera was of the olden days when, DP’s took hours to light a scene and the camera team had plenty of time to do it. Now, in the olden days, this cost a lot of money, but now you can find a Arri Alexa’s, RED Weapon, Monstro’s or Dragon’s for 250 a day, maybe 400 a day to rent.
      My two cents on this.

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