How to Schedule a Short Film

If you read our post about how to do a script breakdown, that means you’re ready to schedule your film.

There are so many elements and little details that go into scheduling a film. We’ve had one of our shorts ruined by a terrible schedule and we don’t want anyone to go through what happened to us.

Before beginning your schedule, we recommend you get notecards and write each scene header on the cards. Example: INT. RESTAURANT – DAY  (or in other words, put your  stripboard into notecard format). Then, lay all the cards out on a table.

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Once you lay them on the table you will have a visual, you can see which scenes go well together based on a few elements we will highlight in this post.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to schedule your film. What’s important is to understand the elements that can allow you to better schedule your film’s shoot. This is what we suggest you consider:

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1. Interior or Exterior

Now that you have all your scenes written out on your notecards, separate the interior scenes from the exterior ones. From here, it takes a little common sense to piece together the most convenient schedule. It wouldn’t work to shoot an interior scene, followed by an exterior scene and then move all the equipment back to another interior scene. So, the first thing you want to consider is equipment. You don’t want to be moving around equipment unless you absolutely have to. By scheduling all interior shots together and all exterior shots together, it saves time. The point is to use your time in the most efficient way possible.

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2. Location

Same concept as interior and exterior but with location. If you have more than one scene that happens in the same location, put them together. Plan to film all your same location scenes back to back so that you save yourself from moving equipment back and forth.

Sometimes if y0u don’t know where to start with your schedule, location is a great starting point.

3. Day or Night

Depending on the time of day, your lighting will vary. You wouldn’t want to schedule an exterior scene to start at 4:00pm when you know the sun will go down in two hours. This light change could compromise your footage and leave you with continuity issues in the editing room.

NOTE: Scheduling interior/exterior, location, and day/night can be hard to do in an effective way. Sometimes it might be better to shoot a bathroom scene, a kitchen scene then back to a bathroom scene simply because of time of day.  Just remember, moving the equipment as little as possible is extremely helpful when it comes to saving time.

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4. Set-Up and Breakdown

Let’s say call time is 8:00am and you want to start shooting by 9:00am. Is 1 hour realistic for your crew to arrive, set up equipment, and be ready to shoot? Thats highly unlikely. When scheduling, don’t forget about your crew. It’s important to remember that people don’t just show up and start shooting. It sometimes takes hours to set up before you even call action. If your crew isn’t given sufficient time to perfect the set, your quality gets compromised and the rushed atmosphere on set can make people not want to work with you again.

Same thing goes for when you’re done for the day. If you expect to be wrapped at 5:00pm, don’t schedule everyone to leave at 5:00pm. The set will need to be broken down and the equipment put away. Give the crew enough time to breakdown the set and keep them informed on how long they will be on set.

5. Craft Services

Feed your crew and they will be happy. Easy as that. Take into consideration how many hours you will be filming and schedule break accordingly so that everyone has a chance to eat.

Our motto is, if we have you on set for more than 5 hours, we will feed you a meal ( we don’t have sets longer than 8 hours). Regardless of how long we film, there will always be snacks.

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6. Take 5

Breaks. If they aren’t scheduled, they might not happen. Everyone needs a break and not just to eat. Sometimes actors need a moment to recompose themselves just as crew needs some time to step away from the hot lights and take a breather. Don’t wait until you see your cast and crew fading. Have breaks planned ahead of time. You literally want to write them into your schedule.

7. Actors, Wardrobe, Make-Up

Actors. Actors. Actors. Sometimes they’re late and sometimes they need extra time to get into character. On top of that, you cater to your actor and make sure they are comfortable and ready. And lets be honest, for an actor to be ready, it takes time.

Your actors also have  to go through wardrobe and make-up. Assuming that wardrobe has already  been decided, that shouldn’t take too long. However, never underestimate the amount of time a make-up artist will take on your actors. Even if it’s just a simple look, make-up is not to be rushed. You might have to schedule for make-up to start before the crew members arrive. Take all necessary scheduling steps to make sure your actors are on time.

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Our actress getting her make up done.

8. Be Realistic

Give yourself time to make the best film possible. Don’t cram two days of filming into one day. If you schedule ahead and make sure you are fully prepared on the day of shooting,having a realistic schedule will make the day easier for everyone.

We hope these tips help you when scheduling your film. It’s always important to take every detail into consideration when planning the best shooting day. Now you’re ready for the next step, a call sheet!

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