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Ben Yennie: 10 things you NEED to know to SUCCESSFULLY shoot your film on the weekends
2/4/20

We here at ProductionNext are all about supporting TRULY indie filmmakers.  We’re not a platform for hobbyists, more one for those intrepid filmmakers among us that want to build a career outside the studio system.  

As such, we acknowledge that there are a lot of filmmakers who are forced to work day jobs, and pursue their passions on the weekends.  Yet, if you want to scale your career to the point that you can leave that day job in the dustbin, you’ll need to scale up and create some content that can actually sell.  Here are some things you need to keep in mind when you’re planning your shoot on the weekends.

1. CONSISTENCY IS KEY

If you want to make this film shot on the weekends something that has a chance at getting meaningful distribution and people actually watching it, you need to make sure that the film looks uniform throughout the whole 90 minute runtime.  There are several things this blog will point out, as well as one even more important tool that will help you at the bottom.  

2. LIMIT AND GROUP YOUR LOCATIONS

Getting the obvious ones out of the way first.  You’ll want to both group and limit your locations to make sure that you can keep your costs and commuting times down.  In reality, this is film scheduling 101, but it’s particularly important if you’re shooting 2 day weeks.  Ideally, you’ll want to have one primary location that you have complete control of (an interesting house or other sort of building one of the key crew owns or something similar.).

Also, same as with a regular film shoot, put any exteriors early to allow for changes due to weather. 

3. LIMIT AND GROUP YOUR CAST

If you want to do this on the cheap, you’re going to need to limit your key cast. Ideally, you’ll want a cast consisting of no larger than 3 principal roles, and up to 5 small roles.   The fewer support roles you can get away with the better. Also, if you do have those support roles, make sure they can be shot out in a day at a single location, at most two days and locations.  

It’s easier to ask people for their time if you do it this way.  The cast are less likely to be people who have regular day jobs that you can get for free, so you may need to pay them something nominal for their time, (although if you can, it’s MUCH cleaner to do the same for your whole crew from the start.)

As for your talent, unless your key actor is somehow associated with the crew, we would recommend that you rely on two or three principals to give each a little bit more time to rest on weekends.  Actors' energy levels being depleted show much more quickly than that of the crew.    Also, if they burn out and drop off, your whole movie can be completely screwed.  Make sure you take care of them.

4. LIMIT YOUR KEY CREW, AND USE PEOPLE WITH NETWORKS.

In order for the film to be consistent enough to find a place on distribution platforms, you NEED to make sure you keep the department heads throughout the shoot.  Ideally, you’ll also want to have those people bring their own equipment, but asking them to do this without any payment is a big no-no.  It’s allright if some of the people on set don’t make it every weekend, but the key crew need to.  In general, you crews should be as small as possible.

Film school teachers that you happen to be friends with might be a sweet spot here, since they’ll know a lot of recent students they can call if you get them to really buy into your project. 

5. MAKE THE SET A FUN PLACE TO BE

You’re not likely to be paying these people what they’re worth.  If you were, you’d be doing this on 5 day weeks.  As such, don’t be a despot.  Treat your crew well, and have some fun.  Make sure you get the shot, but have some fun while you do it.  

6. FEED YOUR CREW WELL

If you’re not going to pay your crew well, you need to feed them well.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you want them to stay on the project through the end, you’ll need to feed them.  I don’t mean 5 dollar footings or dollar tacos.  I mean a catered or home cooked meal.  We did a few blogs on with recipes a while back.  Check those out below.  

7. TAKE A DAY OFF EVERY FEW WEEKS

If your crew is exhausted, they won’t be able to create a film of the quality needed for profitable distribution.  Give everyone a day off at least every third week.  A weekend straight might even be better if you do it about once a month.  This will give your key crew time to rest so that they don’t burn out prior to the end of the shoot. 

8. YOU’LL NEED TO CALL IN A LOT OF FAVORS, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THEM TO CALL IN

You’re going to need help and if you’re not paying market rates (or at all) you’re going to need to call in favors. If you’re a giant donkey about it, you’re not going to have many favors to call in.  In reality, you’re going to want to be on a lot of other people’s sets before you show up and try to rule the roost. 

Also, as a general rule, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  Be nice to people, and they’ll work with you much more than they would if you’re not nice.  The only assholes who make it in any industry are those who start with a lot more leverage than you currently have.  

9. IF YOU WANT IT GOOD AND CHEAP, DON’T EXPECT IT FAST.

In general, there are three ways to make a film, fast, good, and cheap.  You can only ever have 2 at the same time.  If you’re expecting this to be good, expect it to take around a year of your free time to finish, and another one to distribute and market.  Don’t expect it faster. 

10. USE SMART TOOLS TO EASILY MANAGE LOGISTICS SO YOU CAN FOCUS ON THE CREATIVE ASPECTS.  

Now that you’ve got the basic tips, We’d like to share some tools with you that can help you make sure that your shoot remains consistent throughout your 9-10 weekends of shooting.  Those tools are our platform, ProductionNext.  We let you track what props are needed when, what crew is required when, how often you use each location, and significantly more to make it much easier for your film to be consistent and distributable.  Check it out below, we offer A LOT for free forever, and offer a 7 day free trial for the rest.  

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