The Bugs that Bite Your Independent Production

Hi Film Folk!

Another weekend has gone by and The Film Doctor Team are ready to share with you another healthy dose of ‘Monday Prescriptions’. This Monday we move away from the script stage to production.

Putting a film together is always a strain of sorts, be it financially or emotionally. Problems vary from project to project but there are, however, a number of production hiccups that seem to occur on almost every independent film shoot yet are totally avoidable with extra planning and attention to detail. So today Film Doctor would like to remind you of what often gets overlooked and why it could be a hindrance to your filmmaking experience.

Here is Film Doctor’s list of ‘Things That Always Cause Problems when Shooting Your Independent Film‘ (and how to prevent them):

  • Parking – having a convenient (and secure!) place to park the production vehicles is as important as having those vehicles to begin with. Parking permits need to be obtained for each borough that you plan to shoot in (one permit per borough, but entitled to set number of multiple locations within it – all need to be clearly stated on the permit) and relevant on street parking options should be negotiated with the local council authorities. Where to park your production vehicles is not a matter you should ‘guerilla’-solve – you want your vans and cars to hand and within sight for accessibility and safety reasons. Another transport-related issue and often a hidden cost is congestion charge (NB. London-based shoots). Bear it in mind when planning your van runs and/or shoots featuring driving.
  • Catering – one aspect you really want taken care of is the food on set. Your cast and crew would be working intensively, for days or weeks on end, sometimes in less than favorable conditions – where will they get their energy from? Hearty hot meals and supply of teas, coffees and water is the ultimate fuel to keep the ball rolling. Quite simply, no one can do work on an empty stomach – and filmmaking is work. Because a lot of the time the independent film budget is far from bountiful, catering is where people often cut corners – pizzas and sandwiches becoming the dietary staples sometimes for as long as a month. Can you really expect great energy levels and productive crew after a month of cheap, white bread, Egg Mayo sarnies? Another catering headache is to do with the logistics of delivering and/or storing food on sets – e.g. where to have the lunch break, what to serve the meals in, how and where to provide hot & cold drinks. For all of that you need a designated ‘green room’ or some sort of storage facility. Sometimes the solution could be booking an extra room at your location (for example, you’re shooting in an office building) or negotiating access to a function room in a nearby pub/café. Resourceful filmmakers are able to utilise any options, be it even their grandmothers’ cooking. No matter how little the production budget is, do not skimp on catering.
  • Toilet Access –  this one may seem obvious but – you need easy access to toilet facilities. This is not really a problem if you’re shooting on location that already has toilets on site. However, if some of your filming takes place at “Ext. Street”, then you better have options for toilets visits (which could also sometimes serve as changing/make-up facilities for the cast). Don’t waste precious shooting time on cast/crew expeditions to find a toilet because you didn’t plan for it.
  • Inconveniently ‘humming’ electrical goods & external noises – noise interference is sometimes hard to avoid – things like passing cars or planes overhead are not something you can necessarily control on an independent film shoot. At other times, you might come across something that you thought you could control, but it in fact proves tricky. Like industrial refrigerators, if your location happens to be a cafe/restaurant kitchen/food storage space. Or ‘humming’ air cons, if you were to shoot in an office. Or drills from road works that are apparently always ‘planned’ but never taking place during your location recces. Choose your locations carefully, planning dialogue-heavy scenes away from any major noise sources. And of course consult your Sound Recordist.
  • Actors called in at the wrong time – you really don’t want your actors dragged out of bed and called on set several hours earlier than they need be, to find them hibernating between costumes and equipment cases. Neither can you afford to be in a situation where a scene is delayed because your leading man or lady were given a later call time. So do yourself a favour and communicate extensively with your Assistant Director to create the perfect schedule and call sheets.
  • Exhausted camera battery – the premature ending of your shooting day, unless you’ve got a fresh/full spare one to hand. So have a couple and a battery charger. And backups for everything else too!

Monday Prescription No.10 – Take the extra necessary time to proof production details, then find yourself a fantastic Production Manager to oversee them.


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Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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