PRODUCTION TIP: How to find time to write and shoot

Most filmmakers don't have the luxury of ONLY working on production projects 24/7.  They have families to tend to, businesses to run, bosses to please and other non-film/video things that keep them away from their passion project.  It's even harder for those who couldn't even make it to film school but have a burning desire to shoot a story of some kind.  The thing is that the only way to become that filmmaker who is working on production projects 24/7 means you HAVE to find time to make that passion project NOW so that it opens those doors for you. You can buy all the  screenwriting and filmmaking books in the world but you will only improve and make it to the top if you write and rewrite alot of screenplays and shoot lots of stuff.  

But you're busy with family, your main job and life, right?

So how do you find time to do the time-consuming tasks required for writing, developing, producing, shooting, editing and/or distributing your production?

Here are 10 tips.
  1. Have a plan. Start from where you want your production to end up (On Youtube? At a festival? To be sold as direct-to-DVD? etc) and work backwards to your story idea.  Think like a general and plan a strategy with blocks of time and tasks for every phase from development to pre-production to production to post-production to distribution and marketing.
  2. Create time blocks and concrete doable tasks and stick to them.  Break up overwhelming or complex tasks into parts.  Be flexible and check them off as you go to give you a sense of accomplishment that you're making headway on your production.
  3. Free time = Film time.  Use your free time on your way to, during and from work to handle certain production tasks like writing, scheduling, budgeting and even editing (on your laptop).
  4. Get up early.  Most productions are short term projects.  So you can set your alarm up early during this short term to do things like write, produce or edit your project. 
  5. Have a team.  Even having one other person to split tasks with will take the burden off your shoulders and increase the chances of your production being completed. BUT make sure it's someone who knows their stuff or is willing to learn with you AND is committed to the project, as well.
  6. Work in sprints.  Except for shooting which usually requires a full-day's commitment, work in sprints of 1-2 hours with breaks as opposed to trying to find that one day to cram it all in.  You will get farther with sprints spread throughout a period of time then making excuses to find that one day to do it all.  Btw, even the shooting phase can benefit from this concept; aim to have as little shooting days as possible but with enough time to shoot it right. 
  7. Manage your expectations.  If you're just writing a script, you can make it a sci-fi fantasy feature incorporating tons of special effects.  If you plan on shooting it, you better have powerball lotto money.  Otherwise, it's just not happening. Money aside, it's not a project you can do on a limited schedule (If you're going for a D-movie Ed Wood type of look, then maybe you can do it).  So, if you know you're busy and don't have the money and time to splurge on a film, then manage your expectations and do a project like a short or a music video with your limited budget, cast and crew.  It's better to have a completed project you can actually SHOW then an incomplete project you can only DESCRIBE.
  8. You can make magic with the mundane.  Think you need to have special fx and lots of crazy action to make a great production? While it would be nice to have, fx and action are very time-consuming.  But you're reading this precisely because your time is limited.  And although ALL productions require an investment of time, invest in something simpler. You can do amazing things with a little imagination and a simple story.  See this video, this, or Peluca (the Napoleon Dynamite short).  Keep the story simple, locations minimal and cast small and you can invest more time into fixing the script, rehearsing or creating great production design.
  9. Weekends are for shooting.  Most cast and crew are available on weekends, holidays and days if you give them advance notice.  You might even be able to squeeze in an all-nighter or two to actually shoot something.
  10. Go see screenings at festivals, museums and indie theaters, regularly.  Yes, you can watch great movies on netflix, hulu, mubi, amazon, youtube, and vimeo   (and you should) but going out to watch films in festivals, museums and indie theaters on a regular basis will inspire you to make your production, teach you some things and let you support a fellow filmmaker who was probably in your shoes too.


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