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Time is Money: How to Manage Your Time on a Movie Set
When it comes to film production, sometimes it can seem like meeting deadlines is a matter of luck. We'll walk you through how to manage your time on set.

Time costs money, especially when working in film production. Shoots can range from a fast-paced one hour, to sitting around twiddling your thumbs in the next. However, it does not take much effort on the part of the cast and crew to maximize time and efficiency on set. Below, we discuss how to manage your time when shooting. The guide works for both those planning and producing, and should support your production running smoothly in no time. (pun intended;)

Streamline Your Work

The golden rule when saving time on set is to make yourself more efficient. Streamline what you do, so that it is succinct and to the point. Plan a long term game, so you are not jumping from one small problem to the next.

Before shooting begins, write down all your jobs and shoots. Arrange them in an order conducive to efficiency, then print it out. Let others know your plans, so everyone can be prepared and no one is waiting about, or running around at the last minute to prepare.

Factor in Planning Time

When creating your plan, allow for time itself to explain what you want from cast and crew. Though you may think canceling a meeting can add valuable time, in the long run, it will leave people aimless and missing the goal.

On the day, make sure to hold a quick meeting for department heads in the morning. Have a whole team meeting at the start of the day and end if necessary. Walkthrough the shots with the crew and explain what you want.

Letting the crew know what you want will also save them from setting up any unnecessary equipment. Cameras and lighting could be placed for it not to be used if you do not give proper direction, wasting even more time.

Account for Natural Light

Daylight is not infinite. If you have shots that need to be done in the dawn light, or in the evening as the sun is going down, then you need to take them speedily. Missing them can mean compromise, or possibly running into an extra day of shooting.

This could also apply to shooting indoors, when you may need to vacate a location by a specified time. Try to pick your battles, knowing what you want and how you will achieve it before you enter into the shooting. Let cast and crew know your plans and what you want, to minimize costly retakes as the sun goes down.

How to Manage Your Time With Set-Ups

One way to maximize time management is to count and plan the number of setups in a day. Moving camera, lighting, and replacing lenses takes time and you can sacrifice artistic vision if you are rushing them or pressed for time. The amount you have all depends on the length of the working day and the type of movie you want to shoot.

In a 14 hour day when creating a movie, you would be pushed to make more than 20 setups. If you shoot for television, you may be looking at 25-30. Fast-paced, DIY style filming may be able to reach as many as 50.

If you are a camera or lighting professional and are tasked with moving around, make sure you know the positions and locations in advance. This can help you move swiftly from one position to the next with minimum fuss.

Repair and Replace

Everyone has times when gear goes wrong. This can either be through wear and tear or technical faults. It is part of the job, and no one can blame you for this.

Quick repairs are fine on set. If a stand gives way and you fix it with gaffer tape to get you through, so be it. What is not good is not replacing equipment by the next time you use it.

If something breaks and you do a quick fix, people will think it is inventive. But if you turn up again with the same quick fixed, broken equipment, it will look unprofessional. It is likely that it will break once more, and this time it will be costly.

Avoid this by replacing any broken or faulty gear as quickly as you can. Of course, this will cost money, but in the long term, you will be hired on more jobs and build a standing as a professional.

Realize That You Get What You Pay For

Experienced cast and crew cost money. The more experience they have increases the likelihood that they will cost. This is for a reason. 

Cast and crew members who cost money have built a reputation. They have worked efficiently, productively, and have the knowledge to solve problems and situations based on the number of jobs they have been on. Anyone who can not do this is likely to not get hired, be unable to find and work, and will by defacto cost less.

When you hire someone, they enter into your service. This means that you have ownership to direct them and assign tasks. If you are using free labor, you do not have this privilege.

You may save money by getting a friend or acquaintance to do a task on site. However, they will probably lack experience and may even just spend most of the day watching the movie get made. This will inevitably cost you time.

👉 For the article I wrote about the relationship of Money – Time – People click here: My Resource Triangle

Implementing Changes

All of these suggestions on how to manage your time are easy to implement starting now, or at the very least on your next job. Once you start, others around you should soon follow suit so that your whole production is working much more smoothly.

If you need more assistance with film production, from budgeting to hiring cast, make our website a regular stop. In addition to our handy blog articles, we can provide a helpful budgeting template so your movie is on time and on a budget!

Get a copy of our revolutionary Google Sheet Film Budget template, plus tips and other helpful tools for film & video production by leaving your email now!

About O.Z. Ozmen

I am a line producer, video production company owner, budgeting wizard, and a Google Sheet enthusiast who started Wizardy Budgets. I manifest the visions of filmmakers, YouTube creators, music video directors, and brands.
November 9, 2020

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