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Production Schedule

Lesson 16 from: The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

16. Production Schedule

Lesson Info

Production Schedule

So once you get sign off, and sign off means that you have signature on an estimate or contract from a client. Even if someone says, hey you got the job, we're gonna get sign off tomorrow, you do not have the job until you have ink on paper. That's when you have the job. There's times where we've had heartbreaking things happen and the craziest stuff or someone said hey, you got the job and then, that next morning they got fired or something and the project got put on hold, whatever it is, you need signature for that project to be happening so you got your crew on hold, do not confirm or book your crew until that signature is on the paper because until that point, you are on the hook to pay them. And then even then, you may not want to confirm people even after you get signature, maybe you want to wait until the last possible minute in case the date of the shoot changes or something. It doesn't mean your not gonna do the shoot still or work with them, but you want to make sure you're n...

ot locking yourself in until you're in a good position or at that point, keep everyone on hold until they challenge, and then at that point, you can say, okay I'm going to book you now because we do have confirmation but you wanna be careful that you're giving yourself the greatest amount of flexibility during production. Also, and we'll talk about this a little bit, if you're working with a producer, they're gonna handle a lot of that so it's not something that you necessarily have to worry about, but chances are when you're starting out, when you're moving into commercial photography, it will be something that you're doing, or at least should know about on your own. So locking the team, locking the studio, locations, model, all that kind of stuff happens after signature. And then once you have a call, once you get that signature you have what's called a kick off call. You'll go over all the creative and everything with the agency or the client about, this is what we're doing moving forward. And then whether they ask for it or not, usually a client that knows, has experience with a photoshoot, they know about a production calendar but you wanna make sure that you're creating a production calendar and basically, what a production calendar is, is kinda what we talked about with our marketing calendar, it's committing to a certain aspects, or things that are going to be happening so that everyone is on the same page, everyone knows what is happening. So for example, we got a job let's say on Friday the third. We got a job, we celebrated, we had a good weekend, and we scheduled a kick off call on the sixth, which is Monday, so like I mentioned, that kick off call, maybe it's me, if I have a producer, and my agent will be on the call, maybe it's just you, maybe you're starting out it's a smaller production, it's just you and that's fine, there's no rules. But you and whoever you need like key people, in this case it would be agent and producer, they're gonna be on the call with you, and also maybe if you're starting out, you decide to have your assistant on the call, there's no rules you can do that but you need to make sure your assistant understands it's not a traditional thing, I don't know if I've heard of anyone doing this but, again, whatever you need for support, maybe you talk to them and they're gonna be like an assistant producer or helper kind of thing, but they may be on the call. Make sure they understand what they're role is, that they're gonna be appropriate and represent you. So you have a kick off call and you discuss, this is the kind of stuff we discussed about this job, this is what I heard on our previous call about what you're looking for. This is how I see doing this, what I see with wardrobe and make up and all that stuff, and you make sure you're on the same page, and then once you get all that ironed out and you're taking notes, then it's time to hit the ground running, it's time to produce. So, you make the next thing after that kick off call, is creating this production calendar and you're gonna send it out so then, we know, on Wednesday the eighth, is location scouting. And that's gonna happen on the eighth and the ninth. Now, location scouting can go many different ways. It can be you running around town, wherever you're gonna be taking pictures of potential places to shoot, it could be hiring a location scout and they're going around somewhere taking pictures, or you could hire a location scout and they pull images from their archive that they already shot. A lot of most scouts have archives. Most professionals in any roles have archives, and eventually you'll have an archive too that you'll use to explain kind of your visuals like that. But they'll have an archive and they'll be like these are the potential places that are in our budget that match our criteria that you told me about, and then you're gonna present those locations to the client and, maybe you need to decide, oh I just don't like this one, so I'm not gonna, maybe the scout gives you ten, and I don't like these three at all, but I'll present these seven. So if there's something that you really don't like, don't present it, you know? That's a chance for you to make sure that you're putting yourself in the best possible position what it is you wanna create, as long as it's aligned with the clients goals. And then on the 10th, casting starts. So again, this could look a couple of different ways also. You could hire a producer or casting director to do casting for you, they could ask agents to send polls, they could put something up on performer call boards, people could be sending in digital pictures or videos of themselves doing an audition or something like that. You could also do a live casting, this could be on the tenth so you go into a studio and people come in all day long, and they're either being photographed, or rehearsing lines or whatever it is you need to judge whether or not they're gonna be a good fit for this particular role. So casting starts, it might go through, if it's polls maybe it goes through the weekend. If it's in a live casting, it's just gonna be that one day open, or however many days you need to schedule it. But then, one way or another, you're gonna get all the videos and pictures and things like that, that were collected and then some time over the weekend, you need to decide who your selects are, or maybe you're gonna be doing that with the client, too. It all depends on what they ask for. If it's an agency, what I find is a lot of times people really look to me for casting because it's a big part of my process, and it's really important to me. So I find that people look to me for that and respect what my thoughts are but they still want to be involved, and that's fine, so you kinda want to explain your thought process as you're going through this with them. And then on the 13th, your submitting your selects. Again, this is something that you're maybe doing on your own or maybe you're doing this with the agency. I've heard, depending on the production schedule, sometimes we've had a casting director pull stills and then on a full day that night I jump on a call with an agency and we're looking through 500 pictures and we're talking about it on a conference call together and we have to make our selects in like two hours that night so, whatever the deadline is, you gotta make sure you meet that so here, were submitting our selects on the 13th, and then on the 15th, we're finalizing talent. So this could come from again the client, could come from a combination of feedback but we have to decide on the 15th but we have to decide these are the people that we want for this. Then on the 16th we have a pre-pro call, it just means pre-production. I remember the first time someone wanted to schedule a pre-pro call, and I was like yeah sure, pre-pro call, I was like what's a pre-pro call? I have no idea, it's just pre-production so again, it's another call, it's checking in, talking about how everything has gone so far, making sure everyone is up to speed, and on the right page for moving forward, and then on the 17th we have a wardrobe prep day, and that basically means that for me, it doesn't really mean anything but that I know that my wardrobe stylist is gonna be pulling stuff together, she or he's gonna be pulling together inspiration, or I need to make sure that I have my final information for them on that day, they also need to finalize talent before their prep day because they need sizes so this gives them time to make sure they're coordinating any last minute sizes that need to be submitted, and things like that so they're pulling or making the right clothes that are going to fit everybody. I'm gonna get them my mood boards by the 17th, and then on the 18th, they're gonna start shopping. They actually got two days here so the 18th and 19th to shop. So I think when we started this production calendar we weren't sure if we were going to be building sets or not so we accounted for set build on the 19th, which may or may not have happened for this particular shoot, if that were to happen, probably would have had other steps along the way when you're talking to your art director, people like that. And then on the 20th, and 21st, we have a two day shoot. So we shoot two days, and then the 22nd is a wrap day. So basically if there was a set built, the art department is going to tear everything down the day after the shoot, return props that were rented, deconstruct things that need to be re-purposed or discarded whatever it is, and then the wardrobe stylist has a wrap on the 22nd also, so any of the clothes that were not worn can be returned. Anything that was worn has to be kept or donated or whatever you wanna do with it. And then I know, either at the end of each day, I don't usually do that because I'm exhausted, unless there's been like a couple times where I had no choice but for me, probably on the 22nd I'm making selects of everything but again, you might have to do it at the end of each day, if time doesn't allow and then on the 23rd, at noon I'm gonna be sending in selects. And here's where it starts to get, again you'll see a lot of these we have times on here. Some things need times some things don't. Once you get into post production times become really really important so I'm gonna get selects to the client on the 23rd, at noon, and it's really really important that you do not miss that deadline. If you miss that deadline, it can set off a whole chain of events that can get really really dicey. So selects to the clients, they have a few days to go through them and then on the 27th, they need to get me their finals at noon, also. If they miss the noon deadline, that's a conversation that needs to be had ideally beforehand. If you miss a deadline, this is going to be the cost, the additional cost for retouching or whatever because you've also, at least for me and my process, I've scheduled this week out with a retoucher. The retoucher knows they can't be taking on other work this week because they have to have time or bandwidth to do this project. So if a client misses a deadline or, all of a sudden they're like, hey we need six images instead of five, that stuff can be fine but it's probably gonna cost extra and it's probably gonna throw the whole calendar into a tizzy so for example, hey we actually have six instead of five, no problem not a big deal, but then my retoucher is like, I need more time, I wasn't planning on six I can't do six or whatever and then I miss my next deadline and the client might be like hey you missed the deadline kind of thing even though they gave me more to do, it doesn't matter you have to respect the chain of command and make sure that it doesn't get broken so, finals come in at noon on the 27th and post production begins. In this particular project, there were two waves, so maybe lets say it was the first day was priority, maybe they're gonna run an add with the first day shoot first, and the second day is not as high of a priority, so round one comes in at noon on the 30th, and round two comes in at noon on the 31st, Friday. Typically, you're also negotiating when you get a job how many rounds of revisions a client wants. Rarely are you just sending in R1 and that's it. Usually you need to have R1 on the 29th, and 10 in the morning, and the client has until noon to get you revision notes, and then you have to send it back to the retoucher, and round two is due 10 in the morning on the 30th, kind of thing, so those are things you got to be able to build into the schedule because it's so easy to be like, yeah we got the shoot lets do the shoot and you neglect post and then you're like, I'll get a bunch of pictures to you, it doesn't work like that. You got to have a schedule and a calendar set up so everyone knows exactly when things are gonna happen. I will say also, this is just one potential way that it can go, ultimately this is more for my process, depending on what you do, you may or may not have some of these things. You may have something completely different, you may have the baker has to make the cake on this day, and then we have to make sure we do a dress fitting on this day, whatever that is, there's all kind of things that can go on to a schedule as long as it makes sense. One thing that's not on here that we do a lot of is a fitting, you wanna make sure that not only do you have someone with the right size is pulling wardrobe, but we like to get in and do a fit day, so we can try on the wardrobe on everybody, and when the shoot day comes, we know so and so wears this at 10 o'clock, so and so wears this at noon, otherwise you can spend sometimes a hour, two hours, try that one, deliberating, if you're doing that on your shoot day, that's valuable time that you're not shooting so, we'll build in a fit day, we'll build in pre-lights, we're like setting all of our lights up the day before and testing everything again, so that we have that valuable time to just shoot and be creative, we're not messing around with lights and stuff when the time comes, that's more big picture stuff, it can be overwhelming. You probably won't do that right away when you start, and that's fine but these are things to know, depending on your process, what is it you need? And those are the kinds of things you should be thinking about, or planning for. Like hey, I can't afford a fit day right now, or my work doesn't justify it but I know the type of work I wanna do some day, that's something that I wanna try to make sure I'm accounting for. How big would that crew be? If you have a wardrobe person, is that 10 people for you? Well typically, I mean a crew for me might be like 15 to 20 people, something like that. Again it depends on the size, it also depends on the budget. Sometimes we need 15, but the budget really only allows for 10 or something, so you have to work backwards but typically, I would have a first and a second assistant, I would have a digital tech, which a digital tech is someone who's at the computer, they're ingesting all the images because I typically shoot tethered, and they're checking things like focus, they're making sure they name each file that comes in, they're keeping an organized structure and folder. They're backing up constantly, if the client needs proofs, they're batching .jpgs to give to the client, they're making sure that there's a screen connected for the client to view, there's a lot of technology stuff. When my camera crashes, they're making sure that we have extra cables, that we're managing the connection you know, kind of thing, so a digital tech is really really important, I think not just for me, but I think it's something that all commercial photographers need to put some serious thought into, so then we'll typically have a producer, and then a PA, which is a production assistant, and then sometimes a production coordinator. And then we'll usually have a wardrobe stylist, and usually the wardrobe stylist has an assistant. And then we'll have hair and make up artists, and often times we'll have two hair and make up artists because maybe they both need to be working because a bunch of people are coming through. Often times, one hair and make up artist is working in the backroom getting people prepped and the other one is on set with you, making adjustments as they go. Someone accidentally messed up their hair, or someone smeared their lipstick or whatever that is, the groomer on set so you're not constantly calling someone back and it takes five minutes for them to get out every time they need it. Often times we will have what we call art department, so an art director someone who is managing props, or they built the set, or they're bringing new pieces on to the set usually within art department, under the art director they have two or three or four people working for them, someone who's running to Home Depot getting more supplies or things like that. Or someone who's like spray painting something, because we decided we wanted the chair to be gold instead of blue or whatever the day of, all kinds of stuff. And then I think I'm forgetting somebody, but there's are kind of the key roles for me, that we usually have on set so, but again, it depends on what you're trying to do. It could be you and an assistant, and that's totally fine you're not better, or doing better work because you have more people. It's just, what is the vision, and what's required to pull it off and you know, I could pull of some of my ideas even today with a smaller crew, it'd just be different. But I know, as you get going in it, you learn more and as with anything, the better you get at something the more that is required to pull that off in a certain way, yes. It just seems so overwhelming to me, with this whole commercial shoot, and this big huge team, so what is kind of advice you have for someone like me, who's just starting off, and how hasn't even got his very first shoot of like a nice commercial shoot of maybe of a couple of assistants or something like that, is there a manual out there for me to look at, or is there a school for this stuff, or is it just like the client, your client, kind of takes you by the hand and says, this is what you need, and these are the terms, and that type of thing. Your client will not take you by the hand, that absolutely will not happen. That would be great, but I think, realistically, again, I've been doing this, I've been doing photography for 18 years, and I've been doing commercial photography for maybe a little over 10, my first shoot was probably me and an assistant. And then I had a hair and make up artist or something, and then eventually I was like whoa, we just did that shoot with 10 people and it was a little chaotic and i feel like I maybe need two make up artists next time. And then you know unfortunately it's learning those lessons the hard way, and then, you eventually you realize like, I really need a legitimate producer, and so it takes time, it doesn't happen overnight. I doubt anyone is gonna get your first call from a commercial client and this is gonna be what's required to pull it off. Again, because probably people are only gonna be coming to you for what you're showing, so in that way you direct what's expected. That being said, it's possible that your work is so amazing and it's like, you kind of shot beyond your experience, so your work visually justifies something like this, and that's what people expect but you might not know that so there's all kinds of different possibilities I think that, the one thing though I will say is, it's better to know about this kind of stuff than not because I think the biggest mistake I see is people often times under prepare for where they should be. And so often times you find yourself in a situation where you do need, maybe not this full crew but you do need a wardrobe stylist and a make up artist, and you only brought a make up artist because you just didn't know that was even a thing, or something you should be thinking about. So, it's kind of that fine balance of like making sure you're like at least aware and constantly thinking about how that last shoot go, how could it have gone better, could I have gotten a client to pay more for a wardrobe stylist had I just asked, and in most cases yeah, probably. If you say hey, we need a wardrobe stylist, and it's a commercial shoot I mean rarely is anyone gonna blink at that. If you don't bid for it, often times, they may not say anything either, and they'll assume that's how they like to work, kind of thing. So it's better to be informed than not in this case, and I guess I'm trying to say is that I don't want it to become overwhelming, it will take time and you'll have some bumps along the way and you'll experience sometimes man I, I hired this producer and maybe I spent a little too much on this one or, yeah I over prepared a little too much or, sometimes even today they'll be a job and I'll think like, I really don't want to do this job without such and such role but I know the job doesn't pay for that role so you decide, are you willing to work a little harder somehow, and make sense to do it, you have to constantly balance that, you know, but that's a great question. Hopefully that helped you out a little bit, yes. I was just wondering what kind of qualities and skill levels you were looking for in assistants? And what they bring to the table, and what you're looking to be teaching them and giving them or is that just if you have an intern or how you decide on that? That's a great question. What I'm looking for in an assistant is somebody always two or three steps ahead of me, somebody who is a hard worker, somebody who understands what it's like on set, someone who's paying attention, someone who's respectful. We frequently get emails from people and their intentions are good, they wanna learn, I get that and they want to be an assistant but usually the email goes something like, hey you know I'm a huge fan of your work, I would love to come on set sometime and see how it works or I would love to just learn from you on set and I'm not interested in teaching somebody when I'm on set, when I'm on set I have a very specific job to do and I have a big responsibility that I have to follow through on and that's not the time for me to be teaching someone or answering questions when I say, hey I need you to bring a stinger over here and raise this up two feet or whatever. If I say this is what I need, I need someone to know just what that means, I don't want someone to be like, oh what's a stinger, that's what we call extension cords really. Like, what's a junior roller, it's a small roller next to the big one like, I just need people to know that thing we don't have time to explain all those different things so, that's probably the most important thing. When you work with really incredible assistants, you quickly realize what a skilled profession that is and what it takes for someone to really be on top of it. The people I get to work with I'm constantly amazed by and impressed with and I have 100s of stories. One that comes to mind is not just this last summer, I was on a job, and it was like a five day shoot, and on the third or fourth day I had a really bad headache, and I pulled my producer aside, I didn't wanna talk about having a headache in front of the client, I want people to be happy and confident and I didn't wanna be bumming people out and I can figure this out somehow but, I told her I need some Excedrin or something I just got like this banging headache, and so she was like yeah no problem, and she went and got em a couple of Excedrin or something, and a glass of water, and I took that, and then we went on with the shoot and I was feeling better and then, all of a sudden my assistant comes up to me several hours later and he's like, hey just wanna let you know it's been five hours since you took the Excedrin, you can take two more, and a glass of water like, I didn't say anything to him, I didn't ask him to do that, he wasn't even there when we had the conversation, I mean he obviously heard, but that's what it takes thinking about making sure I'm being creative and present, and someone who is helping be a problem solver, and taking care of all the different things going on. You know, the more you work with someone, the more they know your process. They know in three hours, John's gonna need whatever, a coke, or he's gonna get cranky you know. If John is sitting on that apple box for too long, he's gonna get a sore back, so they're getting like a pad to sit on or something, whatever it is like, you just need people that are aware of what it takes to be creative and to be comfortable on set and that are willing to work really hard. And I guess to answer your question, the best thing to do if you wanna assist, is to find people you can grow with, maybe find someone who's just starting out and learn with them, that's usually the answer when it comes to crew or people in this industry, is find people you can grow with. Or you know, assist someone for free, or whatever it takes find someone that does need an assistant and they aren't in a position where they can be too picky or don't know what they need yet, and learn from them. Maybe you can even go out with an assistant for coffee or lunch and pick their brain, or something like that it just depends on how bad you want it, is really what it boils down to. Yeah, did someone have a question over here? You just answered my question. Oh okay, perfect. Would you mind maybe going over a little bit of like the difference between like a first and second assistant? I mean sure, the first assistant is for me, is the one in charge so often times, if I'm gonna delegate to my first assistant, what needs to get done, and then they're gonna delegate to the second or third or the PA's, whatever, so they're the one who's in charge? So I have one person I can talk to and the jobs gonna get done no matter how many people is required to do it, so the first assistant is someone that has more responsibility, the most experience, he's the person who knows you the best, so that they can kind of anticipate the kind of things that you'll be doing, we were, Michelle and I, were out of town with our crew for a job this last summer too, and I guess my assistant was there with us and I was walking down the street and I was in the front. I was turning around talking to everyone about something, and my assistant Ken just goes pole, and I just like turn around and he like knows that I'm a little like, I'm not always like aware of my surroundings when I'm talking or walking or something so he was just letting me know that I was about to run into a pole so, it's like, again that's the kind of mindset that is required, that is someone that is constantly aware and paying attention and aware of even things on set like maybe a client said something that i didn't hear, or just helping me do the best that I can to kind of create the tone for them, for the space, yup. Do you have a like a lighting crew as well? A lighting crew? Yeah. Well so typically your assistant is doing the lighting with you, yeah. Ideally you're dictating what that lighting looks like but they're the ones that are setting that up, kind of thing. But if you're doing video, directing, then you'll work with a gaffer, and a gaffer is someone who has a team that's doing lighting and they're that kind of point person for lighting and electrical to be specific. But when it comes to stills, typically your first assistant is also in charge of lighting, in addition to those other things I mentioned. So you know, sometimes you have first assistants that are like, really really, technically capable and advanced in lighting, generally most first assistants are but sometimes, you have assistants that know way more about lighting than you do even, but the most important thing is that you're still dictating what you want it to look like and not just telling them to do whatever they want, it needs to be coming from your vision kind of thing. Whatever it is that you explained to them, you want a great first assistant can do just about anything.

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Bonnie Aunchman

John & Creative Live - Thank you - Best. Class. Ever.! This is a GREAT class! If you are a photographer, this is definitely a MUST GET class, but even if you work with photographers as part of a creative team - you have to take this class. (I'm a Photo Stylist) John covers it ALL in this class - it really, truly is a Survival (Success) Guide. John is so detailed, honest, and generous in his knowledge/experience/wisdom in the commercial photography industry in helping you understand the business and really succeed (& stand out). When I see that John is teaching a class on Creative Live - I'm in! (I have his other valuable courses as well)

a Creativelive Student

I was lucky to be part of the studio audience for this course. John is an awesome teacher and did an outstanding job of making sense of a very difficult side of photography for a creative to understand. He shared his 18+ years of experience, including the good and bad he has gone through. The "special guests" alone are worth the cost of this class. John has an amazing team working beside him behind the scenes. Their perspective on his business was priceless!

Joseph Brewster

John gave an enormous amount of insight and practical advice in this comprehensive course. I really enjoyed a course focused more on commercial and editorial rather than wedding and family, which is more common. Great info and great work all around!

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