When preparing a project it’s important to start with the end in mind. Beginning with the end in mind is not a new concept and anyone who has studied any kind of business motivation like “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” or “Think and Grow Rich” knows that the concept is not only a great slogan it’s an important philosophy in any business or endeavor. So, in media production, what do we mean by “begin with the end in mind”? Especially when the end could mean so many different things. It could mean the end user, in other words your audience. It could mean your budgetary goals. It could mean a creative goal or objective like producing a story that’s been dancing around in your heart for a long time. It could also mean a completion date. Or, any combination of these.
I believe that when dealing with media projects it’s important to focus on the objective of the client and the project. Some projects are designed to entertain, some are designed to educate, some do both, while others are designed to get a point of view across. Whatever the project, get clear about what you want to achieve. Then create a plan for it’s achievement.
For those of you who don’t know, production planning, generally referred to as pre-production, includes writing the script, budgeting the project, meeting with key crew and cast members, location scouting, and the ever important scheduling of the project-not to mention any tests or other preliminary items that need to be in place before production begins. Once you have gone through the process a few times you start to get quick at knowing what it will take to achieve certain production goals. Some projects require more, some less, but all should have a proper amount of preparation. In fact, adding a little extra time to your schedule where applicable can give you necessary creative breathing room and save you when the unexpected happens. Don’t over-plan your shoot days-it’s amazing how difficult it is to get that first shot ‘in the can’ when you scheduled it-especially if it’s a small or new crew of people you are working with.
But depending on the production and what the end result you’re looking for is, you sometimes just have to learn to roll with the punches. If you’re doing event shooting or an interview with limited time, preparation can be your ally that will give you the foundation you need to deliver the goods to the client. If it’s a narrative, I think it’s important to go in with a clear concept of what you want to achieve but also be open to creative inspiration. If you are a director who does a shot list and sticks only to that, you may be missing some incredible opportunities to capture images and moments that could make the difference between your piece being great and being unforgettable.
The bottom line to me is to plan, implement, review, be open, let go, and play. After all, we are storytellers and creative professionals who do this because we are inspired to do it. So don’t rush the preparation, build yourself a solid foundation, know where you want to go and what you want to achieve. And endeavor to create something spectacular!