Pre-production Checklist for Commercials
Updated: Jan 16
Abraham Lincoln is thought to have said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” An old carpenter’s axiom reminds us to “Measure twice and cut once.” There’s truth in this even when you’re dealing with video production for commercials, since the most important part of filming often takes place before we get to that relatively short expanse of time between “Action!” and “Cut!” At 24Frames, experience has taught us that careful preparation — especially when aided by a pre-production checklist — makes a world of difference to the final result.
Begin with a Script
Much of what follows will flow naturally when you know what you have to say and how you’d like to say it. The script need not be in its final form (edits and changes will follow later in the process), but it’s hard to plan for a shoot when you don’t know what you’re shooting.
Make a Budget
Notice we placed this second in the sequence. That’s because your script is both a guideline and a wishlist, but you need it in order for your numbers to be even remotely realistic. Budgetary demands and constraints may even result in your first bit of revision.
Line Up Financing
When you’re shooting a commercial for a business, this is often as simple as a budget line item and a purchase order. For nonprofits and some other entities for which we’ve worked, the process is a bit more complex, since promotions may fall outside of the organization’s usual expenses, or other concerns may come into play. In any event, you don’t want production to come to a grinding halt because money ran out.
Choose Your Team
This is an area that often requires collaboration between you and us. We take care of the technical aspects, but you may have input on talent that best helps you meet your goals. Leaving it until the last minute, in either case, often means key pieces of the puzzle not being in place when they’re needed.
Revisit Your Script
This is the point in the process where we turn the script from a story on the page to one that’s ready for the screen. That means going over it with a fine-tooth comb, identifying locations, props, lighting, costumes, makeup, and more. This is also a great time to storyboard the commercial script so we have a rough sketch of the finished product If the initial script is a menu, this is turning the individual dishes into recipes. And as with other items on the list, your input here is vital.
Here, we’re scouting for two different things: location (where we’ll be shooting your commercial) and talent (the people who’ll be on camera). Sometimes both of these things are simple; for a car dealership, the principle shooting location will often be your lot and your showroom floor, while the talent will be your sales team. But for a hospital or a nonprofit, location and talent alike can pose challenges for your daily workflow, while a commercial for an apparel commercial may call for a location that has special talent, shooting, or permit requirements (more on that below).
If sets need to be built, lights set up, or costumes designed, nobody — not us, and certainly not you — wants the day of shooting to be the first day those things are addressed. Even a thirty-second spot requires hours’ worth of footage, with any delays stretching the amount of time taken — and with it, your production budget.
This is the linchpin — that one tiny part that seems innocuous enough, but that causes everything to fall apart if it’s overlooked. Model and property releases, permits, video production insurance, and legal consultations are things most of us would rather not think about, but they can torpedo a production that’s absolutely airtight in every other respect. If there’s one thing on which you absolutely cannot afford to cut corners, this is it!
Every I is dotted, every T is crossed, and nearly every box checked. Now we get to schedule the shoot and draw up a shot list. We’ll help with wrangling the crew, sound, lights, and key gear. We’ll generally close with a pre-production meeting that recap the discussions we’ve had up to this point, the work that’s already done, and what remains to be done during the shooting and post-production phases. This will help everything stay on schedule, preventing errors, omissions, and cost overruns.
Connect With an Experienced Video Production Company
No checklist, no matter how thoughtful or thorough, can anticipate every problem. However, a bit of forethought and planning ensures that everyone is prepared and that things run smoothly all the way through to post-production. An open dialogue between you and us will ensure an end result we can all be proud of, and it starts when you contact 24Frames.