What is a Film Production Schedule Like?

A film production schedule, sometimes referred to as the shooting schedule or production schedule, represents the intended plan for production of a video, commercial, television show or film. The schedule typically breaks down each scene into individual shots and includes details on the talent, timing, cast, and crew needs that will come into play in order to capture the intended shots for the scene. If you’re new to film production, you’re probably wondering, “What is a film production schedule like?” What happens? How is it all scheduled out so perfectly?

BBP camera crew 1-10

These are common questions that we frequently answer for clients at Beverly Boy Productions, and what we typically say is that a film production schedule is a lot like any other kind of schedule you can imagine, just there are a lot of working parts and intricate details that are included in order to ensure the entire process comes together and the shoot takes place without a hitch!

Who Creates the Film Production Schedule?

Planning the shoot schedule takes a lot of work, and is something that the 1st AD typically creates using sophisticated software. However, for smaller productions, or for filmmakers that are just starting out, the production schedule might be created by the filmmaker and instead of scheduling software, the schedule might be produced in an Excel spreadsheet or handwritten.

Even in a large production, in which the shooting schedule is produced by the first AD, the producer, production manager, the rest of the film crew, and the director all analyze the shoot schedule and work closely with it for the duration of the shoot.

How is a Film Production Schedule Planned?

Beverly Boy film crew green screen

First, a script breakdown is produced. This is the process of reading through the entire script and making notes about each of the scenes that will be required. Important notes are added into the script in regards to each scene’s needs in terms of what will be required, cast and prop needs, set design, costume and makeup needs, special effects and any stunts or special actions. Early filmmakers may just take notes on paper whereas sophisticated filmmakers that have access to software may make their lists within a computerized document. 

Script Breakdowns

Professional script breakdowns are performed in 1/8ths by page, so each script page is broken into 8 parts. This helps the production team to determine the total timing of the script as well as to easily be able to shoot out of chronological order.

Each page, and section of a page in the script can now easily be referenced in the shoot schedule and coordinating scenes or shots can be captured out of sequence to save time on set.

Creating a Production Board

When you ask, “what is a film production schedule like?” the answers can really vary based on the size, structure, and sophistication of the production. Larger productions will certainly have more involved schedules whereas smaller, shorter productions may be less complex.

After the script breakdown is produced, a production board is created. This may also be called a film stripboard.

It represents a color-coded chart that includes information on each scene of the film. Computer software does most of the heavy lifting now but stripboards were once printed and hung in the production office where they could easily be arranged, and rearranged, in order to create a dynamic shooting schedule.

Creating the Schedule

Camera Crew

The film production schedule is created with an understanding that the unpredictable will happen at some point during the shoot. Film crew members will get sick, cast members might not show, and equipment might break along the way. Even the most professionally planned and efficient shoot schedule can face challenges along the way.

Detailing a Schedule

So, what is a film production schedule like? It’s going to include details on everything from how many pages of the script are anticipated for each filming day, how many scenes or shots will be filmed, and how long in total the expected shoot will take.

The film production schedule will also include timing for lunch-breaks, or other meal breaks for long shoot days and may include information on how many shoot days are scheduled for the week (ie. a 5 day, 6 day, 7 day work week).  Additional time might be scheduled at the end of the shoot schedule to allow for reshoots or pickups for any days where production may have lagged behind schedule.

Flexibility in the Schedule Should be Avoided

A flexible schedule will certainly save a lot of headaches, but there isn’t always much room for flexibility when planning a film production schedule. Several interactions with cast and crew should take place before planning and creating the production schedule.

This way you’ll have the information necessary to coordinate the timing based on cast and crew availability. Remember, cast and crew will likely have other commitments that they have to attend to, so booking early and ensuring they are available is important!

Consider the Cast and Crew

Considering the emotional status of cast or crew sometimes comes into play when producing the film production schedule. Two complex, and emotionally draining scenes are rarely scheduled back to back. The same holds true for physically demanding scenes.

Upon organizing based on all of the above details, consideration for day and night scenes and various other factors might also come into play when creating the shoot schedule.

Late night shoots are rarely scheduled immediately after an early day shoot because cast, and crew, will be tired and out of sequence when shooting — it’s just poor scheduling. Additional considerations when scheduling your shoot include the need to confirm location availability for your desired time slots.

Scheduling Based on Location

All scenes in a single location are typically scheduled at the same time, regardless of chronological order of the scenes. This saves time and reduces the need for travel between locations. Many like to also plan the most complex scenes and shots first, allowing for the process to get easier as time goes on rather than getting more complicated.

Try to avoid location changes during a shoot day – there’s just too much equipment and stuff to move from place to place, even if the two locations are close together. You’ll waste a lot of time and time is money!

So, what is a film production schedule like? It really all depends on the cast, crew, equipment, location, and filming needs – and it varies greatly between various projects. It’s also something that changes abruptly as you go — so just be prepared, be flexible, and have fun!

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