Ideally we look to approach film projects gradually, and with enough time beforehand to plan a large majority of the details involved. Note that I didn’t say all of the details involved. And it’s right there that this process gets a little tricky: what is the right amount of planning?
The Stages of Planning
Like so many of the other posts that I’ve written, I will stress again that we should alter our work based on our project. This may sound similar to the post on writing scripts, but this rule can be used for every aspect of the project in question. There are a few standard stages that we typically go through before we get to the filming stage:
- Forming the idea
- Going through the motions
- Recording a plan
- Expanding the plan with other parts
Forming the Idea
The first step is the simplest. It merely refers to the conception of the idea, that moment where something great forms in our minds. Though it may feel like a burst of inspiration at some times, it more commonly comes slowly, through hard work and without a dopamine reward. The amount of time spent forming the basic idea cannot be altered, unfortunately, as that is much more tied to our individual creative processes than what follows. Once that seed is nestled in the mind, however, it’s time for us to choose how to deal with it.
Going Through the Motions
This is the point where we begin to expand upon our original idea, and actually turn it into an artistic vision. This step still falls before any attempt to put the project to paper or video. This step is solely in our imagination. Even if we aren’t writing everything down or making some other more permanent indication that our project exists, this step is crucial to evaluate for ourselves the most important aspects. The things we think up during this stage will likely fall into one of two categories: excellent material or cutting-board material.
The importance of this step noted, this is also the point where we can begin to save time. This will not only give us more time for other projects later on, but it will also help our current project by bringing it closer to a presentable stage. We shouldn’t spend too much time in this step. While it can be tempting at times to simply daydream and wonder at the possibilities of this amazing—but undone—project, the project will remain undone as long as we do this. Once we have figured out a handful of those ‘excellent’ or ‘cutting-board’ materials we should move along to writing things down. We might not even have decided how many of those materials that we have brainstormed are ‘excellent’ or ‘cutting-board’ yet, but there is still time for that ahead.
Recording a Plan
As soon as we put our idea onto paper, we have begun to record a plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have started to write a solid script yet, but it still counts as the beginning of the next stage. This consists of those preliminary notes and the eventual work and completion of the main plan. Depending on the project’s requirements, that main plan could be a traditional script or something far more or less, or even something as different as a standalone set of storyboards. This stage ends when we have to add secondary documents.
The quality of our project’s script is quite important, and thus the notion of cutting out time from working on it seems counterproductive. Instead, we should shorten the time at the beginning of this step. Once we have begun writing things down we have entered the planning stage. We’ve figured out our basic motions in our heads, and now we should move quickly to getting a real plan together. That extra time writing before the main plan can be transferred to editing the main plan once it is fully put together. It’s better to get all of our ideas down on paper and put together than to muddle around with only fragments.
Expanding the Plan with Other Parts
Here we add any secondary materials, if necessary. This should be based off the needs of the project, as I continuously stress, but will often be required for more complicated videos. Secondary plans should be constructed once the original script or other material is satisfactory. The main plan may still need some tweaking, but it should be nearly complete. Common secondary materials include storyboards, shot lists, advanced choreography notes, and the like.
We should only make secondary materials that we need. First, evaluate if the possible addition will do any good. Sometimes these secondary plans can take a lot of time to make, even more so than the first plan. That’s especially true with more detailed storyboards. So we need to limit ourselves. Don’t take time away from work on the materials that we actually need, but don’t go throwing extra hours into processes that are unnecessary.