Thread: How Long to Schedule for Prep?

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  1. #1 How Long to Schedule for Prep? 
    I'm wondering how long I should schedule for prep with the DP on my first narrative feature? I am producing/directing.

    I'm also not sure of what the entire process entails, as all the books I have on filmmaking don't really cover the subject and internet searches haven't proved too helpful. I was expecting to discuss visual style, select equipment, conduct tests, visit locations and create a shotlist. Am I missing anything? An agent of a DP I approached asked how long I need for prep - I was thinking this process would take about a week, maybe two, but they are asking if I need 4-5, which seems huge. Also wondering if prep is usually at the same rate as the DP's weekly minimum rate for production?

    Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by JT Thurlow; 06-29-2019 at 12:05 AM.
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  2. #2  
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    Read this book:

    Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration
    https://www.amazon.com/Cinematograph.../dp/1932907556

    I think you'll find it helpful. The answer to me depends on budget, number of locations, complexity of the shoot, and other factors. You may want to hire somebody to storyboard the entire film (if you haven't already) so you can go over composition, lighting approaches, and also for the DP to build a "look book" to illustrate his concepts for key scenes. Sometimes this is done from stills from existing films or TV shows, sometimes from works of art, sometimes from the DP's own photographic work. There's a lot of approaches that can work.
    marc wielage, csi colorist/post consultant daVinci Resolve Certified Trainer
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member Daniel Stilling's Avatar
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    It depends on a lot of things: Subject matter, locations, schedule, style, etc.
    I have done a 10 day feature with 2 x 2 hour meetings with the director, a 4 week(ish) feature with a 3 week prep, and many more with different amounts of prep, so it can vary a lot. But as the saying goes: Plan the shoot and shoot the plan.
    I have to disagree with storyboarding the whole film, as it could be a lot of effort, time and money to something that might end up becoming pure fiction. But a breakdown of the script with the DP and a visit to the locations are fairly important and really the minimum you both should do...
    Daniel Stilling, DFF (Danish Society of Cinematographers)
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    Moderator Phil Holland's Avatar
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    Really depends on the project. I don't think I've ever worked on something without planning out the prep, pre-pro, and scout related things. I've filled in for sick DPs a few times, but typically these conversations happen once you land your DP. You can make an educated guess by how many scenes and locations you have, but prep time is dependant on lighting, camera movement, art dep, etc.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Bill Totolo's Avatar
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    If you take the time to prep, do everyone a favor and try to stick to the plan or close to it.

    Pet peeve is first time director's who lose confidence on set and revert back to the most basic, and "safe" (read boring) style of shooting.
    Sorry to be a downer, seen it too many times.
    Bill Totolo
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Daniel Stilling's Avatar
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    The most heartbreaking thing you can hear as a DP: Hey man, I like your idea, but I just wanna play it safe... That just happened to me.
    That was me subbing for another DP on the tail end of a feature. So, as Bill said, follow the plan. Trust your DP's vision (well, make sure you hire a DP with a vision to begin with).
    Daniel Stilling, DFF (Danish Society of Cinematographers)
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member Ryan Purcell's Avatar
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    What Daniel said in his first comment. Usually I scout locations for a couple of days, spend some time breaking down the script and sorting crew and attend a few production meetings. Sometimes I even get paid for this! (usually a flat rate) A lot depends on budget and I speak mostly from the lower end of the narrative spectrum.
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