1. Everything takes longer than you think.
During production, you are always fighting with time. There just never seems to be enough hours in a day to get everything done. Between hair and makeup, technical difficulties, lighting changes and wardrobe malfunctions, time seems to just slip away. In saying this, always give yourself more shoot days than you think you need. It is worth the added cost.
2. Your estimated budget is truly an estimate.
Everything costs money. No matter how much you may plan, there will always be unexpected costs involved. In my own experience, our estimated budget covered most of our costs, however things like gas reimbursement, postponed shoot day rental costs, food and overall equipment rental put us over. I definitely do not believe that money is the most important thing in a production, but it definitely makes the whole process easier when it is less of a worry. Investing in your own film, crowd funding and seeking investment are all things to consider before you get started.
3. Just because you like an actor, it does not mean they are best person for the part.
The audition process is one that can feel very long and hopeless. Seeing one audition after the other, and nothing feeling right can really put a damper on your whole team. Despite this, you really have to audition a ton of people in order to find that perfect person. If they are not perfect and you have any doubts, you need to keep looking. The extra time is worth it, rather than questioning your decisions while re-watching all of your footage in postproduction.
4. You need to feed your crew… and feed them well.
Hungry people are grumpy. Grumpy people are difficult to work with. Good food makes people happy.
5. A vehicle is possibly your most needed and useful tool.
As students living in downtown Toronto relying on TTC for all of our everyday transportation, cars were rare but absolutely necessary. From transporting equipment to picking up crew and talent, a vehicle is potentially the most needed piece of equipment in the production.
6. Background talent are not actors.
On small productions, often the background actors are going to be your beloved friends and family who have donated their time to help you out. It is easy to forget that these individuals are not trained actors and do not necessarily know what they are supposed to do while in the background. Simple things like not looking in the camera can easily be forgotten and possibly ruin a beautiful shot. It is very helpful to have one person designated to dealing with background and watching them throughout to ensure the whole shot is panning out well.
7. People are very helpful. You just have to ask.
Getting anything free is absolutely amazing for any small budget production. You won't be able to find these deals unless you ask for them. There is no harm in talking to people, telling them what you are doing and seeing where that takes you. You will be surprised how many locations you can film in, discounted equipment you can get, free food you can get and donated products you can get if you just ask.
8. Plan a rain day for your rain day.
When you are filming in Canada, always plan multiple rain days. The weather can be very unpredictable, particularly in the Winter months. It is easier to have 2 days set aside and planned with your talent and crew, than trying to scramble everyone and everything together in restricted period of time.
9. Sleep is very important but very rare.
Working long hours is a given, and lack of sleep is inevitable. Actually getting some sleep though, rather than running 3 hours overtime to get a shot will likely be a better choice. You are less observant when you are tired and will mess up small things and ultimately not get the best footage and shot you could get.
10. PAs are a necessity.
There is always a shortage of hands on set. Getting PAs on set to do pretty much any odd job you need is an absolute must. We had a lack of this on our own set and ended up having to take on too many jobs each. If everyone sticks to their own assigned job, every job will be done and done well.
For those who are still working on their films before our submission period, hopefully these tips will be useful!