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The business of film
The business of film

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2.2 Scheduling the film

There are a number of key steps in scheduling and budgeting the film:

  1. The assistant director (AD) does a breakdown of the script, looking at each scene and analysing where and when it takes place, who is in it, and all the key logistical issues involved.
  2. The AD takes these scene summaries and orders them in what makes the most sense logistically and/or financially. In the old days, an AD would have physical strips of card for each scene which they would arrange and rearrange until the order made sense. Nowadays it is all done on-screen, of course.
  3. In ordering the scenes, the AD will bear in mind a number of logistical and cost issues, for example:
    • Crew moves are expensive and difficult, so generally it’s preferred to shoot all scenes at a given location together.
    • However, this needs to be balanced by the need to accommodate actors’ schedules and costs, so it may be necessary to shoot all/most of a particular actor’s scenes in the least time possible.
    • It may be that there is a particularly expensive piece of equipment – e.g. tank or aeroplane – that needs to be shot as quickly as possible.
    • Weather-dependent scenes (e.g. snow) obviously need to be shot at the right time of year.
    • The risk with any exterior scene is that it might rain (assuming the scene itself does not call for rain). So whenever an exterior scene is scheduled, the AD needs to have an alternative scene available, i.e. required locations, actors and props etc. all standing by. This scene is referred to as a cover set or sometimes rain cover.
    • Often scenes scheduled to be shot in a studio (sometimes referred to as a stage) are good as rain cover, if the studio is fairly close to the location. Sets on studio stages need time to be built and broken down, and that needs scheduling.
    • Night exteriors generally need to be shot at night. It is good to schedule night exteriors together, so the crew is not jumping between working during the day and the night.

When all these factors are taken on board, the AD is able to come up with an overall schedule for the shooting of the film which indicates what the production plans (and needs) to do on each day to ‘make their days’.