Keeping Production Productive

Keeping production productive, especially in the indie approach, is important for a number of reasons. Beyond keeping our limited budgets intact, productivity on set instills confidence in the cast and crew. It conveys a general sense that we know what we’re doing, and we have a plan.

But we’re just a small indie project…

Especially for small indie projects, productivity is key. If we lose momentum, it’s hard to reclaim it.  “But we’ve been so thorough in preproduction…” we should have unhindered productivity on day one of principal photography…right? Not. The reality is: problem free days on set don’t exist. How, then, do we keep production productive?

WFMF Camera Man Dusty Abernathy setting up for another take
WFMF Camera Man Dusty Abernathy setting up for another take

The key for productive production: attitude

I was able to drop in on a crew meeting that Stefan was running in the final days of preproduction for Season 1 of the web-series When Fact Met Fiction. During that portion of the meeting, Stefan was stressing the importance of “crew attitude” on set. His experience has been that the productivity of the talent is directly related to their own preparation and the atmosphere on the set established by the crew.

WFMF Director/Producer Stefan Liner
WFMF Director/Producer Stefan Liner

Peace among the crew fosters freedom among the talent.

Stress behind the cameras spills over to the performance in front of the cameras. It’s a productivity killer. Dropped lines, distracted cast drifting out of character, more retakes, lost focus, and technical errors begin to mount. It’s horrible.

Later, in speaking with Stefan about his “crew attitude” point over dinner, I probed a bit deeper into what he felt was his contribution was, as director/producer, to keeping production productive. From our conversation, and my occasional visits on set, I’ve observed that his contribution is two-fold. As a director he is both astutely:

  1. Problem-aware, and
  2. Solution-focused

Problem-aware

Despite the thoroughness of preproduction planning, once principal photography begins, a problem will arise. It must be recognized and acknowledged. Cut…take two (or three).

Stefan Liner, Director (WFMF) calls the shots to keep production moving
Stefan Liner, Director (WFMF) calls the shots to keep production moving

It’s true. Being problem-aware is a must for a director in keeping production productive. However, once a problem is evident, the focus must shift. In Stefan’s case, he becomes effectively solution-focused.

Solution-focused

For Stefan, the problem is already in the past even though it may have just occurred and is VERY much in the present for the rest of us. For him, the “now” is all about the solution. Let’s fix it…and in so-doing, his demeanor doesn’t change, no blame is assigned, the tone of his voice remains calm (typically).

Crew meeting to address WFMF lighting continuity issues
Crew meeting to address WFMF lighting continuity issues

No one is demeaned or belittled – precisely because the solution is his focus, not who’s fault it was. In short order, the necessary adjustments are made and work resumes. The precious momentum on set is preserved and production productivity is restored.

In the end, to put When Fact Met Fiction (Season 1) in the can for post production required a number of problems to be addressed over the 4-1/2 days of shooting. 105 pages for 8 episodes, 9

WFMF Lead Rebekah Babelay keeps it upbeat on set
WFMF Lead Rebekah Babelay keeps it upbeat on set

characters (5 primary, 4 supporting), and a 10 member crew gave Stefan a number of potential productvity killing problems to address. However, a professional and solution-focused approach to each one allowed him to keep the crew positive, the talent focused, and “production productive” from beginning to end. Well done.

Thanks for reading.