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The Unforeseen Possibilities in Production

Have we mentioned that things always go wrong in production? Murphy’s Law might not be true in all cases, but it definitely applies to film shoots. Some of these issues you can foresee, but others will simply come out of nowhere. Plan for everything, but don’t be shocked when the unforeseen obstacles occur – and maybe keep a few extra dollars hidden in a shoebox somewhere safe to help deal with these unpleasant surprises.

Photo: John Fowler

Script Changes

Sometimes production issues can only be fixed by changes to the script. If the writer is available to hang around during the shoot, then that becomes an added part of the job. But if not, then you’ll need someone who can quickly revise scenes and dialogue on the spot. The director and cast members should have the best understanding of the characters and story, so this is a logical place to start. However, be careful about when pulling threads. You want to be clear about what needs fixing, because if it ain’t broke, it sure will be when the second male lead suddenly has all the good lines and pivotal character moments. Whenever changes are made, keep careful track of them – color coding is a common method for most productions (and actually standardized by the WGA). And yes, it is still true that everyone needs to be on the same page (pun absolutely intended), so distribute copies of the revised scenes to everyone in the cast and crew.

Accidents

By definition, accidents are unplanned events. Cars crash every day, but we don’t prepare for this possibility in the daily drive to work. A lead performer could suffer a broken leg. The power could go out at the location of your shoot. The entire production gets food poisoning because you skimped on the meal budget. Other than maybe getting sick from cheap fast food, you can’t really plan for things like this, so it’s important to stay calm when this stuff happens. Any of your key cast or crew members could also get sick at any time. People are especially susceptible to illnesses when working long hours in stressful environments. Again, let your cast and crew take their sick days, unless you want them to be patient zero for your production’s outbreak (see: Gwyneth Paltrow in “Contagion“). Have backup plans in mind for days when a certain cast member might not be available, or shoots that might require a less extensive crew. Even then, you may still have to deal with production setbacks, but don’t take it out on everyone else.

Rain or Shine

Humanity has greatly improved its ability to predict the weather, but it’s still not an exact science. If any of your locations are subject to weather conditions, pay careful attention to the weather reports. This doesn’t always mean you should hope for sunny days. For instance, if your director wants a gray sky to create a more melancholy mood, try to figure out when these conditions might occur and plan accordingly. In general though, it might be better to leave the weather conditions in certain scenes ambiguous. However, once you set the conditions of a scene, they need to stay consistent if you’re shooting on multiple days or depending on the timeline between other scenes. Research the weather conditions and seasonal changes in your locations as best as you can. Then have a backup plan when it starts to snow in August.

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