Moonshine Moonshot Blog

It's time to talk about making it happen!

Jan 03, 2023

Scheduling in pre-production


Welcome back fellow filmmakers! We’ve come along way but we still have some important work to do before we enter production. So, without further ado let’s get into the nitty gritty details that are going to make your documentary happen. 


The next vital step in your journey is scheduling. Yes, your read correctly: scheduling. 


Now, if you have all the time in the world, unlimited resources and all your subjects on standby, you may not need to worry about this next step. But in the likely scenario that this is not the case, I’ve put together the perfect cheat sheet to get you into pre-production asap. 


When you’re juggling clients, crew and deadlines, it may seem a weight off to throw caution to the wind and not create a detailed schedule. But I implore you to read on with curious optimism, as a schedule may be all that stands between you and a film ending disaster. 


Being a creative, you would be forgiven for thinking this part of the process is slightly mind numbing. But stick with me! By creating the perfect schedule not only will your production be a logical and organised one, it will also construct the perfect environment for you to creatively thrive and produce the best documentary you possibly could. 


What is scheduling?


Pre-production scheduling is exactly what it looks like on the tin - It’s allocating the adequate and necessary time to the various parts of your production. Sounds relatively pain-free when I phrase it like that, right?


Assuming you have your subjects lined up, locations selected, secured funding and you’ve planned carefully - the scheduling of your production should be some fairly harmless admin. That being said, the difference between a poor and well organised schedule could have a drastic effect on the end product. 


Where do I start?


The timeline of your film can be a daunting prospect when considering how far you’ve still got to go. With that in mind, the best place to start is right at the end. Find that film festival, screening date or expecting client and plan backwards (or if none of those are applicable, throw a generous but definitive dart on a calendar!).


When it comes to pre-production scheduling, it’s important to be clear about your timeline and your targets. However, regardless of your plans, you will be at the mercy of your subject’s time. Not only them, but the availability of your cinematographer, editors, composer and animators. So, a more appropriate approach would be blocking multiple days to a certain task. 


With all these different elements, your first port of call would be to consult the necessary parties involved in your production. Without understanding their own schedule and expectations, you won’t be able to get an accurate understanding of your timeline. 


Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to develop a realistic, manageable and ideally exciting schedule. 


What should I be scheduling?


The more organised you are, the better! Everything right up to your release needs to go into your production schedule. If your blocking is detailed, it will give you the tools to be flexible and give you a precise reference for the tasks that need to be completed. 


Things that would be blocked onto your calendar are


- proposed shoot dates/ locations

Post Production
- when editing will happen
- when the graphic’s package will be developed
- animations
- music composition
- audio post
- colour grading
- final delivery


With a detailed breakdown of everything that needs to go into your production and post production, you can begin to look at blocking in a way that makes it as efficient as possible while also ensuring its creative possibilities remains intact. 


The best bit is, if your tasks are organised in this way, your team can be working at various stages of production at the same time. Remember, documentary is not a linear process. 


At Moonshine Agency for example, while filming is taking place, the team will be in direct communication with our editors who will be tirelessly working on the footage from the previous block. This means we can figure out any pickups that might be needed as this is often informed by the decisions being made in the editing suite. 


In complete conjecture to that statement, there are parts of post-production that are considerably more difficult to undertake without having first completed previous facets of production. For example, you generally wouldn’t schedule your composer to write music for your documentary until nearing completion of your final cut. 


So, it is important when creating your timeline to consider these tasks and to not squeeze them in too close to your deadline.



Scheduling Traps! 


When dealing with a budget, it can be alluring to tighten your shoot schedule to minimise costs. But beware, in doing so you potentially put the quality of your documentary at risk. Let me elaborate: Production requires a perfect union between fluidity and structure. This means developing a detailed plan while also allowing space for replanning or unexpected change.  


Documentary’s are live! And that means anything can happen. Whether this be a new subject, a sudden cancellation, rescheduling or a total film altering event. Leaving room in your schedule for these unplanned experiences are vital. 


With some breathing room, you can now review your footage and ensure that it is coming along just the way you imagined. And if it isn’t, you now have the time to implement changes, reshoots, pickups or take the film in an entirely new direction. 


What is the next step?


If you’ve gotten this far, firstly, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You’re getting so close!


With your schedule in place you now have an exact timeline and process that will lead you to your red carpet event! 


But now, the real work begins. With scheduling behind us, we will be looking at another key part of the pre-production process: graphics. 


You could wait until post-production to consider the graphics for your film. But, I would encourage you start considering graphic ideas now and how these designs will relate to the greater brand of your film. 


It’s also worth noting the significance of this factor in the scheduling of your documentary, whether it be in film graphics, posters or general brand building. 


Until then, book in your subjects and start blocking your calendar!



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