Don’t you love the abstract randomness of postmodern art? Whether it’s colors and shapes painted on a foam canvas or moldy food and fluorescent lights in a plexiglass case, the creations of anti-logic are fascinating. However, while it’s great to pontificate about abstract reasoning, abstract reasoning as it relates to the video production process is not so great. Ergo: call sheets, location scouting, and pre-production checklists are my jam. #everyday
Yes, video is an art. But no, in most cases it cannot afford a random approach. My clients aren’t interested in haphazard production. They need to know their video production budget is being used effectively in a way that achieves their goals and makes them look good in front of their clients.
In a recent project, we worked with a tight production schedule that involved three cameras, two lighting setups, and two locations. Our second location was a live event. Setup and teardown time were determined by event intermissions. Since we had hard cutoff times before and after our setup/breakdown time, every moment had to be intentional.
Even though we only had a small 3-person crew, complex logistics with tight timeframes demanded extra pre-production. Our schedule didn’t allow us to make extra decisions or mistakes during production. My DP and I were both leery of the schedule that some would deem impossible. We had one shot (pardon the pun) at getting this right.
Tools of Success: The Call Sheet
Coordinating the team was vital to making this production run smoothly. My guys needed to know where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, exactly what they would be doing, and how they were supposed to do it. While many phone calls and emails were exchanged during the planning process, the call sheet made sure everyone ended up on the same page (again, pardon the pun).
This call sheet became a key piece of equipping my team to succeed within the larger framework of intentional pre-production. To fit into our tight schedule, I made sure the crew knew the setup plan before arriving onsite. A handy room diagram, assembled in coordination with the live event location manager, made a great scribble pad for setup notes. In the end, we brought professional results to a satisfied customer.
A Word To Call Sheet Naysayers
Yes, there are small projects where a call sheet is unnecessary. But the principles of doing things right and planning appropriately carry over across all projects. As Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” From my perspective, using a call sheet is an important rule for video production. Knowing how and when to break the rule appropriately is part of the art of video. Yes, postmodern art has its place. But behind the scenes in video production, being equipped with rules allows us to approach any project like a pro. In other words, from a video standpoint, using the rules paves a way for cinematic art to shine through.