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How long should you prep a film or tv show?
Because prep is where the movie is made
I love prepping a movie. Its my favorite part of the process even more than filming. You have to solve a ton of problems in a very short amount of time and you get to work with a lot of talented and creative individuals in the process.
When a film or tv show gets green-lit or is on the verge of getting green-lit the discussion of prep should come into play. When and how long should both soft and hard prep be?
The Producers with the help of the Line Producer and/or UPM need to decide as early as possible how long the remote “soft prep” stage will last and when the initial “hard prep” in the office stage begin and last for.
A good rule of thumb is one day of hard prep for every shoot day but this is just a general idea.
One example: If you had a low budget $1M movie 15 days of hard prep would most likely be sufficient with a 15 day schedule if you have minimal locations and effects.
Now the people prepping during this hard prep are still selective. You won’t have a best boy grip prepping for 15 days..maybe two or three at most. The thought behind hard prep is that you are in physical office and you are working in close proximity with department heads making lots of progress and solving a ton of problems.
Before hard prep you have a period of time known as “soft prep” that could really vary between a month to several months depending on the scenario. Sometimes soft prep is done remotely with a mixture of zooms and other times its in a physical office setting.
Because every film and tv show is different its a good idea to assess the needs of each department and try to figure out how much soft prep and hard prep they need before assuming each department can pull off the impossible in a week.
When you think about locations the prep time is often the longest because scouting various options and then negotiating deals, securing permits and basecamps can be very time consuming. Some cities require a permit to be submitted 7-10 days in advance of filming. This type of scenario forces the production to choose locations early because if the permit is denied its a mad scramble for an alternative location.
Soft Prep Considerations:
*prep time can vary depending on budget and scope of the project
*a low budget movie can have soft prep for 4-6 weeks whereas a big budget movie might have months before an office scenario begins
Hiring of Key dept heads (PD, AD, DP, POC, LM, ALM, Location Scout etc)
Decision on payroll service
Securing problematic or challenging locations
Attaching cast leads
Setting up accounting Practices
Finalizing the schedule & budget
Union paperwork applications (SAG, DGA, IATSE etc)
Tax Incentive applications
Hotel and travel plans if shooting remote
Hard Prep Considerations:
*usually 1 day of prep for each day of filming (can vary)
Hiring of crew
Location scout coordination
Tech scout coordination
Extras casting setup
Obtaining quotes for equipment and rentals
Dept meetings, scenario meetings and prod meetings