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Pre-Production – The Work of a Producer

Updated: May 2, 2022

Once you have written a compelling story and formatted it as a screenplay, you are ready to do all the work required before you start filming. It is a lot more work than you might imagine. You have to cast the actors, arrange for all the sets and locations, create a shooting schedule, organize the cast and crew so they know when and where they need to be, and assemble all the equipment, props, and costumes so you will be ready on the first day of shooting. This is the job of a producer, and it is an unthankful job. Producers don’t become producers for the glamor of the job. They become producers because they like the money. If you are shooting your own short film, you take on the role of the producer, not because you expect to make any money, but because someone has to do it.[1]

  • You also have to make sure that you are on the same page as the director, who has the vision for how your film should be made. If you are both the director and producer this is easy. All you have to do is talk to yourself. Actually, for independent filmmaking, this is common since a director can’t make a film without a producer and if you can’t find one, then you have to do it yourself. If you are lucky enough to have someone else volunteer to be the producer, then the director and the producer have their own pre-production issues and they must work together to address the practical realities of making your film. The list of things you have to deal with include:

  • Casting the film

  • Finding locations to film

  • Acquiring the right equipment for the film

  • Finding the right props and costumes

  • Agreeing on the shooting schedule

  • Organizing the cast and crew for the filming

  • Agreeing on a budget

If you are doing both jobs yourself, you risk making too many assumptions about equipment, costs, and time because you don’t have another person to act as a sounding board for all your planning. In that case, you can assemble an informal advisory committee made up of cast and crew members who can listen to and critique your pre-production planning. These meetings can be priceless for a director/producer team (either two people acting together or one person doing it all). These meetings also help solidify the film team, making it far more likely that they show up when needed and help ensure the success of your project.

Learn more - Download our free book, How to Make a Short Film.

[1]It is possible to find distribution opportunities on streaming platforms where you can actually make money,