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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

So gutted.

Aarrgghhh! (shock/horror).  Grrr! (frustration).  Oh nooo! (disappointment).


Usually in that order.

That is what it feels like to turn up to a shoot (which you have spent ages planning and is vital to the success of your film) and then realise that you have forgotten to pack the microphone, wide angle lens adaptor, XLR cables, headphones, gaffer tape, lens wipes, lens (!), or any other bit of kit that you cannot work without.

And it happens. It happens every day. When I used to work for a news organisation, I once drove 50 miles, before realising I had forgotten the whole camera. Really.

It is so easy to do. You have a million and one things on your mind, you're in a mad rush to get to the shoot on time, and have just had a row with your boyfriend/girlfriend/boss/landlord/pet chimpanzee.

Radio mics? 
Spare batteries? 

An hour later you arrive, on time (phew), excited (this is going to look so good) and aching (omg the kit weighs a ton). You meet up with the rest of the crew, spend half an hour setting up the first shot and making sure costumes, props, hair and make up are all perfect.

Director: "Places everybody. Camera turnover. Ready and ac..."

Cameraman: "Sorry Dave the camera's not having it, hold on a sec... no it's totally not having it, I don't know what's up it won't record."

Director: "Let me have a squiz... err I think that flashing picture of a cassette means you need to put a tape in Dave!"

Cameraman: "oh right, fair play chuck one over then Deb"

Deb: *rummages around in camera bag, frowns* "They're not in here, they must be in the sound bag?".

Except they're not. And then your perfect shoot and all of the work you have put into planning and arranging it is about to come to nothing. If you're very lucky and thinking on your feet, there is a Dixons/Jessops/Boots around the corner (which is still open) and you can chip in a quid each and still save the shoot. If you are creating a homage to the opening sequence from The Shining, and have just trekked up Snowdon  (the perfect location, at the perfect time of year, in the perfect light and looking AMAZING through the viewfinder), you cannot still save the shoot.

Click on image above to go to "Art of the Title" and view this and other title sequences in high quality.

Please do not let this happen to you, like it did this week, to a brilliant group of students from one of my classes (apart from the Snowdon bit). What can you do, to stop it happening? Follow these incredibly quick and easy steps before every shoot.

1. Make a list of all of the equipment and props that you need. [Best bet is to keep a template spreadsheet or word doc with everything you can possibly imagine on it, then when planning each shoot delete the things you don't need and add any extra ones needed for the particular filming day/week]. Don't forget to put a print out of your storyboard on the list and an umbrella if you're filming outside.

2. Get someone else from the crew to double check it to see if there is anything you have forgotten.

3. Allocate who is responsible for bringing which items and make sure that each person has the full list with names next to who is bringing what and is aware and comfortable with their responsibilities.

4. When you collect the kit, check the camera and any other equipment is all working by recording 10 seconds of footage (and sound if required) and watching it back.

5. Before you leave for the shoot, (carefully) pile up everything you are taking with you just inside your front door.

6. Visibly check each item on the list you are responsible for and cross it off the list, so you know it's all there.

7. Make sure you don't leave anything by the door.

8. Ask for help if you do forget anything, a lot of problems can be solved in the field. Don't write off a shoot until you have exhausted all options to save it.

Finally, don't get too depressed if this does happen to you and your shoot is ruined. Making every media product is all about adapting to unforeseen situations, reacting to them and making things work.

Becoming great at doing any job in the media is all about learning from every project you work on - the good stuff you do on purpose, the great things that happen by accident, and also the mistakes that inevitably happen along the way.

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