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Pre-Production 101

What is pre-production?

Pre-production encompasses everything leading up to when you press record on the first shot of your production. Within this phase, essential components such as the filming schedule, shot list, color treatment, props, talent, location, and more are woven together, setting the stage for a seamless production day.

Why does pre-production matter?

Each of these elements plays a crucial role in bringing the predetermined vision to life once filming begins. Ensuring you have all of these components will help facilitate goal achievement, budget adherence, and the avoidance of common pitfalls. Furthermore, this process optimizes the utilization of both your team's potential and your time resources.

Got a big budget? Here’s what's key in pre-production.

If you have the budget, consider enlisting a production team to breathe life into your captivating concepts. Explore the use of storyboarding tools like Mila note to visually map out your production plans. Additionally, ensure your crew possesses expertise in lighting techniques, talent sourcing, and location scouting as these are crucial components to any shoot.

In the case of a smaller budget, where should my priorities lie?

Having a smaller budget doesn't equate to a lack of potential for exceptional videos. Pre-production allows for you to chart out all the essential tasks for your shoot while maintaining shared understanding among all involved. Remember, there's no such thing as over-communication! Equally essential is the team you bring along – consider their abilities and expertise. Curate your streamlined crew, unite around a common mission, and embark on your creative journey.

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Sean: Welcome to the Branding Blueprint podcast, where we give you the tools you need to build an unforgettable brand and walk through the chaos of building a business in real time as it happens here at Craftsman Creative. Today I'll be talking with Dylan Kae richer, who's our cinematographer here at Craftsman Creative. We're gonna talk about not just production, not just editing, but also pre-production and planning, and how that might actually be the secret sauce for a successful video. Stay tuned.

Sean: Welcome to the Branding Blueprint podcast, where we give you the tools you need to build an unforgettable brand and walk through the chaos of building a business in real time as it happens here at Craftsman Creative. Today I'll be talking with Dylan Kae richer, who's our cinematographer here at Craftsman Creative. We're gonna talk about not just production, not just editing, but also pre-production and planning, and how that might actually be the secret sauce for a successful video. Stay tuned.

Dylan, how's it going?

Dylan: Oh, it's pretty good, Sean. Thanks for having me on. I'm excited to be here.

Sean: Yeah. You know, it just was such a hard, hard choice. You know, whenever we're talking about video, it's like well, I need one person to run the mic whenever we're doing it, but, and then I need one person to talk on the mic. And so Bruce is here producing for us.

Dylan: Welcome Bruce as well.

Sean: Welcome Bruce. And here you are in the hot seat. Are you ready for this?

Dylan: I hope I am.

Sean: Well, I know that when we were thinking about, you know, what, would make sense askind of that first podcast for us to kind of start talking about video.

The topic that rose to the top for us was pre-production. And I think that for the last two yearswe've been working together extensively on building out our production department here atCraftsman, and we're moving kind of into the, the next phase of that department here, but, reallywhere I think we've done the best job in fine tuning our process has been on pre-production inparticular

And what I mean by that for anybody who's not necessarily familiar with production is planningfor all aspects of a video shoot. That includes everything from a schedule to a shot list, to whatare your objectives with the video at the end of the day what is the color treatment going to looklike? What do we need to make sure that we check off in terms of the props and what talent dowe need present? And all of these different questions a lot of times can kind of be decided lastminute, and we try to really get ahead of that so that we can make sure that whenever we geton set, we're executing on a predefined vision.

And I think that that's made us a lot more successful with our videos. Would you agree withthat?

Dylan: I absolutely agree. I think we have learned more and more that it's such a vital step intothat video project. It's the foundation for which you make a successful shoot on.

Sean: Definitely. And you did a really great job early on kind of rolling with the punches of us nothaving pre-production plans all the time, just kind of showing up and saying, well, there's a storysomewhere here. But we've kind of pivoted into defining that and asking a lot of questions of ourclients before we head into a shoot. And of course, I know that this is something that there's alot of people who prioritize this, but I have found that it's one thing that we do really wellbecause we have another side of our business where we have the brand services andoutsource marketing and more strategic and design centered services.

We've developed a process on that side of the business that's allowed for us to be reallyexcellent at pre-production on the production side of our business. So Dylan, for anybody whodoesn't know what pre-production is, can you give us a short description?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah. Essentially pre-production is the point where you are, you are locked in on aproject you know, the basics of it and you know what you're about to go into. But everythingfrom that point all the way up to the point where you're hitting record on the first shot of the firstday of production is pre-production. Everything that kind of falls into that planning and makingsure everything's gonna go smooth.

Sean: So like 75% of production is pre-production.

Dylan: I mean, essentially, yeah. Yeah. I mean there's a lot that has to do on production day andpost-production for sure. But pre-production is an insanely important part,

Sean: Usually I'm involved in the initial part of that. And then it kind of, we start to collaborate alittle bit more, but what would you say are kind of the initial steps of pre-production that we reallyneed to prioritize?

Dylan: Yeah. Well, I think one of the first like vital steps is just nailing down budget with you, withthe company and the clients. So making sure you have what you need and understanding fromthere what you can afford at that point.

I think from there it's kind of a, I don't wanna say a mix and match game, but it's kind of likechoosing what you can and can't do. So, for example, like hiring actors, if you're doing actors,like make sure you hire the right talent location scouts, hiring a crew making sure that the crewyou hired is, is definitely the people that you want to kind of stick with on that project.

For example, if you have the budget, like hire an art department cuz that's insanely important.And, and just other things like that. A lot of times I'll be going through and coming up with like astoryboard after we have location scouted and know where we're gonna shoot. I'll come up witha storyboard and kind of lighting diagrams for the gaffers and the grips so they can understandfrom that point, like what they need to be setting up for each shot.

Just going along, like planning out a schedule for the day. When you get closer to that point allof these are like, really saves you time. And I, I mean, time essentially, it saves you a lot of timewhile you're running that day because there will be plenty of things that go wrong on the day ofthe shoot.

There will, there's nothing to escape that. But you can also plan the best you can for what youhave and then go from there.

Sean: Totally true. I would say for anybody who's wondering there's probably some terminologyeven that Dylan, that Dylan was talking about that you're like so what is a grip and a gaffexactly? For any business owner out there, there are a, a number of different roles that peoplecan play on a production set. There are people who specialize just in lighting. There are peoplewho specialize just in making sure that the image that you're producing with your camera is asbeautiful as possible. There's people who just focus on giving actors and actresses direction onset.

And there's specific terminology for the dozens of different roles that, that. and, and there'sreally kind of a method to who needs to be on which set. So if you're just starting out with video,I think that probably the main thing that I would mention to you is make sure you have the rightpeople there.

And it doesn't always have to be a lot of people. Actually, a lot of the sets that we're on, youknow, it may appear to a lot of people that we're a production company, and so a lot of times webroadcast the sets that are a little bit larger just because more resources have been poured intothem. But the reality is, is that a lot of the times we're actually running two to four people crews.Usually about three on average. Just making sure that we're remaining as scrappy as possibleso that we can properly serve our target client the best, but also making sure that we have theright people represented.

Like tomorrow we have a shoot. Dylan will be there. Our in-house production assistant andphotographer, Sarah will be there. And then Ashley, our brand coordinator, will be there. Andthen we hired one talent. And that's not an abnormal shoot for us. And so even though youmight feel like it's this huge hurdle to get over to where you need to have 10 people there toproduce your video project, the truth of the matter is, is that sometimes some of the best work isproduced with smaller crews.

So, but it is still important to make sure you have the right people there if you are running asmaller crew. And that's where I feel like a partner like Craftsman, or there's honestly so manygreat partners that we work with in DFW and beyond. That's where having those people in, inthe situation can really make a difference as opposed to trying to bring on your nephew whohappened to shoot a couple of videos when he was in college.

Dylan: Just to kind of like hop on, to piggyback on that, Sean, I mean, even if it's, even if it is a small project, like let's say you're listening to this and you're just a person who's had a passionfilm project that you wanted to film forever, and you have four people, even if it is your, say nephew that you brought on set, even if it is that like nephew. Yeah, it's always a nephew or something. Even if it is that like pre-production is so insanely important and it like still a step thatyou want to go through to make sure that day goes smooth because you're, there are so many things that you're fighting the day of, like time, you're fighting lighting, you're fighting daylight,there’s terrible hours of the day that you can film like noon to however long depending on the season.

Sean: Especially in the summertime.

Dylan: Especially in the summertime. But it's, I just wanna make sure that people understandthat even if it's a small project, even if it's just you going out and filming some stuff, likepre-production is a very vital step.

Sean: Yeah, I agree with that. The the. I guess to break down, kind of like the initial, the threeinitial steps that you should think about in regards to pre-production. If you are gonna try totackle a video project, either on your own or with a smaller crew, or maybe with a little bit of likea less experienced team.

Here are the things I would consider. Make sure you have the right people in place, like wealready talked about. Make sure that you have really excellent communication from the verybeginning. I think overcommunication is kind of the name of the game when it comes topre-production. Putting things in writing.

We use a software called Milanote here at Craftsman, and that functions as our pre-productionsoftware, essentially, where we put together a, a really large, almost virtual whiteboard of sortsthat organizes all components of a production. And that's really our main communication tool.Mind you we're operating in bigger capacities a lot of times.

And so that might be a little unnecessary for you if you're just starting out. But if you are lookingto kind of take things to the next level, that communication piece is so incredibly important.

And then the third thing is I think just making really smart initial financial decisions. You know,video can cost a million dollars and it can cost $10. And there's a lot of room in between foroptimizing each particular type of project. So identify what are you trying to accomplish, andthen decide from the very beginning, what is my budget going to be based off of what I think I'mgoing to be able to generate from a revenue standpoint after I release this video.

And I think that that can really help to safeguard you against over expenditure. And also makesure that you're spending in the right places, because when you have a limited budget, you areforced to spend in specific areas. But if you kind of go into it and you're like, I'm, I really wannaprioritize this project, but I don't necessarily know exactly how much of a budget I have to workwith, that can be hard to execute against and therefore you end up making some decisions lastminute that either put you over budget or make you less effective with the end result.

So those are some things to, to kind of keep in mind as you start with pre-production. What areyou know, once we've kind of gotten through those initial phases, Dylan, which we do, youknow, often I think we have like a dozen open, you know, pre-production things ongoing, like aswe speak right now, once we get, there's, but there's different phases, right?

There's like that initial phase where you kind of define what we just talked about.

Dylan: What the project is.

Sean: Yeah, what the project is. You define what the project is, what the budget is, who are thepeople, that kind of thing. Then let's talk about, and I think you kind of hinted at this, that secondstage, which is almost kind of like defining the concept further and kind of getting a little bit moregranular about how are we actually going to make this happen? A lot of times you almost haveto make the impossible possible in certain instances. Talk to me a little bit about what that lookslike on at least our side.

Dylan: Yeah. I think this is kind of a little more where I, as the director of photography kind ofstep in. After finding out what the project is and kind of like around the area of where we'refilming or where we can film and finding out what time limits we have. I think one of the bigthings is like after you have that initial step of finding out what the actual project is, like, kind ofgoing through storyboarding, throwing down some concepts, making sure you understand whatthat, what that looks like.

Sean: It helps that you're also really good at illustration.

Dylan: Well, yeah, I can doodle with the best of them. Storyboarding is insanely important andfrom that point, once you figure out like what you want the shots to look like, going through andlocation scouting and finding out like where that is.

Sometimes you'll have a storyboard and you'll start out that way, and then you'll location scout,and then you'll re storyboard because you're like, this was the initial concept. But now that I'vefound where we're filming, it's gonna have to look a little different, just lighting and, and otherobstacles that are in the way.

A lot of times if you have the time and you have the budget, like take your gaffer and one ofyour, your key grip with you out on the location scout, because that's… they need to understandlike what the lighting looks like and what they need to have set up. But again, that's not always aluxury you can have is taking the, the gaffer grip out with you.

Sometimes like as you're going through, you'll find that a certain location needs, like filmingpermits, and you need to do that well in advance.

Sean: We’ve run into that a few times.

Dylan: Yeah, we have run into that a few times. It’s kind of of hard not to. There's nothing worsethan getting to like a week before and finding out you need to have a permit for that location.It's, it's pretty rough. I mean, from that, it's, I mean, there's a lot of things you can do inpre-production from that point. But I think just understanding like each location, what itsobstacles, hold kind of making sure you have a rough schedule for that day that you definitelyneed to stick to.

Like trying to get it as detailed of a schedule as possible is really important for that.

Sean: And I'm sure as you are hearing Dylan talk, you can probably decipher that there's a lotthat goes into each video production that what we do, and also, honestly, if you're going to takeon a video production yourself, you'll probably end up spending at least twice as much as whatyou originally thought, if not more.

I see that time and time again. Somebody will say, well, we tried to have this one employee whohappens to own a camera try it, and it just didn't necessarily turn out like the way we wanted to,or it took, you know, eight months to actually end up in the right place. And that's where I thinkhaving a really defined system in place where you are working with a team who has defined thattime and time again and they have had practice.

The way we talk about our team here is kind of like we're a professional sports team or, youknow, a professional theater where we're a team of people who practice our craft often andtherefore are really, really good at that specific thing. And video production is definitely one ofthose things for us.

And we have kind of defined what our process looks like. We actually have a 20 steppre-production plan that we follow internally. It's called our Craftsman Storyboard, is the waythat we refer to it internally, and that makes such a big difference because it gives us reallydefined touchpoints for a client.

It also gives us a clear time in the process for us to do the location scout that you're talkingabout. It does, it just gives us a framework to work within and also tells us like, we know we canget, deliver this video within this amount of time because we've done it so many times. And thatI think has been probably like the most transformational element of our pre-production you knowprocess, if you will.

Dylan: Yep.

Sean: So, okay, so now we've kind of moved to the middle part of the process where we're kindof, you know, defining the concept and getting everything done in preparation for the shoot. Butthen now the week of the shoot approaches and like I'm looking at you across the table and Iknow you have three shoots this week.

And so we are doing this all the time and we actually, I, I think just right before this literally had apre-production, final, final meeting in preparation for this, for tomorrow.

Dylan: Yes we did.

Sean: So let's talk about, you know, what are those final things to really make sure that they'redialed in, that you're communicating actively, like we talked about. What are those final, kind oftying the bow on the package, if you will?

Dylan: Yeah, so there are a few things that kind of go in that and, but basically the overarchingelement is kind of like double check all your work, double check everything. Make sure yourbatteries are charged, obviously. Reach out to crew beforehand and make sure they're still kindof locked in for that date.

Check weather, because weather is just so crazy sometimes. Like you're always battlingweather. And we had a shoot not too long ago that we were hoping to be a bright sunny day andit's overcast and we're worried about rain and we're, I mean, we just had to kind of roll with thepunches. But that's, that's such a vital thing.

Reach out to talent, reach out to locations and just make sure you can still get into thoselocations. Another example is we had a location that we were locked in for at a certain tableinside a restaurant, and we got in and that table was full, even though they said they would kindof reserve it for us.

So we had to kind of change lanes on that and go to a different table.

Sean: So have a backup plan for your backup plan

Dylan: Basically

Sean: Whenever you're dealing with, and, and I think that this is a common misconception oflike, video production as just a trade and as an industry is that I think a lot of people think of it askind of like office work a lot because of the editing component of things.

I think of video production more so as kind of like, blue collar, like boots on the ground, hardwork. Like you, you go home at night and you're sore, kind of work. And the reason I bring thatup is to say that usually if you were to go on a construction site, There's a lot of prep that's goneinto that.

There's been permitting, there's been you know, a designer involved, an architect involved, ageneral contractor involved. Video production's actually really similar to construction. You'recreating a story from nothing, and there's a lot that needs to go into that and you better believe itthat those people on a really important construction site Have double checked their work, thatthey've dotted their I’s and crossed their T's and they have looked at those plans over and overand over again. Well we take the same approach with video production. And for anybodyproducing video, you can get yourself in a whole heap of trouble if you don't, you know, look outfor those issues ahead of time and kind of make sure that you're being diligent.

Dylan: And even those that you don't necessarily think about at first, like making sure everybodyhas water on set, like that's so crazy important cuz there's a lot of sweat that goes into that.

Sean: Is now the time to talk about how you almost passed out?

Dylan: No, probably not. Just making sure that like you have food, you have water, everybody iswell hydrated, everybody is like getting along and making sure that you know everything asmuch as you can, just try to make sure everything's gonna go smooth that day.

Sean: Yeah, when it comes to a business and for any business that is trying to prioritize video, Ithink that the planning of pre-production, really what starts that process is. Having a need orhaving a business objective that you're trying to achieve and deciding that video is the rightthing to, or the right tool to use to be able to achieve that objective.

But I think what gets lost a lot of times there's kind of two pitfalls that I see happen a lot is thatthe original idea for a project or the original impetus for that project gets lost a lot of the times.Whenever you get 2, 3, 4 months down the line and you've produced it and you're in postproduction and you're editing the spot, and all of a sudden now all you're paying attention to ishow beautiful it is.

Well, I think that that original strategy needs to carry through the entire, the entire thing. Whatstarted pre-production should be the thing that actually is the final check mark, if you will, in postproduction.

And then the second thing that I see happen a lot is that people don't necessarily think aboutimplementation. Like what is the plan for using the video once you actually have it?

It's one thing to say, we have a great story as a brand that we need to tell that can connect withour target audience. That's, that's a great insight. But then just making a video is not enough.You have to make a great video, which is hard enough on its own, by the way, and then actuallycome up with a plan for implementing that video in really thoughtful ways.

For example, if you create a two or three minute brand film, how are you going to actually rollthat out on social? Well, these days you need to chop that up into 15 second clips and pointtowards the larger video on your website or drive somebody to a place where you can actuallycapture them as a customer, not just simply post it once and hope for the best. Frankly, thatwouldn't be worth your investment.

You need to actually come up with an implementation plan, and I think it's important to have aproduction partner who has that other component who's more strategic, that can actually helpyou do both of those things.

You need to actually come up with an implementation plan, and I think it's important to have aproduction partner who has that other component who's more strategic, that can actually helpyou do both of those things.

I have never created an explosion on set, just so we're clear, but–

Sean: Thank you for telling me.

Dylan: Yeah, you're welcome. I could do a bunch of crazy stuff and, and make that happen andit might look really pretty, but does an explosion, does a Michael Bay explosion help me achievethe goal that I was trying to achieve with this restaurant that we're making this film for?

No, probably not.

Sean: So glad you recognize that. So the next time you pitch an explosion to me, we'll just goahead and toss that to the side

Sean: So glad you recognize that. So the next time you pitch an explosion to me, we'll just goahead and toss that to the side

Sean: Not to disqualify any client who actually wants to do a film with an explosion, cause I'mmore than happy to hear as to why you think that that makes sense.

Sean: Not to disqualify any client who actually wants to do a film with an explosion, cause I'mmore than happy to hear as to why you think that that makes sense.

There's actually a couple of projects that I won't dive into the specifics on right now wherethere's, utilization of animals and how, how are we gonna go about that process? And there's,you know you know, specific locations that aren't necessarily your typical filming location that wehave to explore.

And those have been properly vetted against whether or not, you know, they align with theobjective that the client came to us with at the beginning. So the point being reigning

in your concept, of course, to make sure that it aligns with your original objective. And thengoing back to the implementation idea.

Make it a step in your pre-production process to define how that video is going to be used.Because that integrates into everything. For example, if you're gonna be releasing this on socialand you need it in a vertical format, you should not be just producing a horizontally oriented filmbecause cropping that vertically can be challenging for, you know, Instagram or TikTok orwhatever it might be.

And you should know in advance before you show up on set, whether or not it's going to have tobe cropped as such.

Dylan: Absolutely.

Sean:I know we've, you know, you've had a couple of conversations with me about that before.You're like, wish I would've known that.

Dylan: Let’s make video horizontal again. Okay

Sean: Don't tell Instagram. But that's the type of stuff that gets lost a lot. I mean, I see that. With75% of projects, it's more of like a “hey, I have this need.” Awesome. How are you gonna usethe video? I don't know. I need your help. Okay. That's, that's an excellent question to ask at thevery outset of a project is how is this thing going to be used?

Because at the end of the day, it should be a tool, and I'd rather make a multi-tool than make asingular pocket knife, if you will. I know you will.

Dylan: What, what, what a, what a thing to say. That was great. And, and just to jump on thatpoint, like all that, all that pre-production that you're doing in the beginning, like that carriesthrough to posts.

Like Bruce can attest to this, but we use a, we use an app called Milanote and. Like havingeverything kind of on one place, making sure like you see the PDF for the storyboards, you seethe inspiration that you've gotten and making sure the editor kind of understands all that, likethat leaks into that department.

And so Bruce can just jump onto one place sometimes too, sometimes three. It depends. Andjust kind of make sure he understands the, understands the idea and understands what aspectratio this is gonna be and understands like if this is gonna be a slow motion shot or anything likethat, just making sure that that carries through from pre-production to post-production whereBruce gets the footage and he's starting to cut that thing together.

Sean: Yeah. Well, this has been a really fun conversation. I know that there's a lot of people thatI've talked to that have said you know, we see you doing so much video and your videoproduction department is so active, you know, when are you gonna talk about that on thepodcast? And I'm really glad that we were able to kick that off today with a conversation aboutthe most, probably the most important element of production in terms of what can set it apart.

And that is pre-production and planning and making sure that you have a robust idea of. What isthis shoot going to look like and what are we trying to accomplish at the end of the day? Foranybody who gets to interact with Dylan and his team on set, you're welcome. And we're reallylooking forward to you know, seeing how our production team develops over time and what thatcan mean for businesses all across the country.

I'm really excited to see your continued impact, Dylan, and thanks for being a part of the team.

Dylan: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Sean: Well everybody thanks again for listening. We really appreciate it. And if you wanna followalong, we'd love for you to subscribe to this podcast. And also check out our work on ourwebsite,

Or follow us on Instagram craftsman dot creative. We'll talk to you guys soon