1. Ensure that EVERYONE is on-board and aware – Before a single minute of footage is shot, and a page of script is thrown away, everyone should have an idea of what their role is in relation to your movie, in addition to what your film is about and what your overall vision for the film is.
2. Make sure you have enough money/battery life on your phone – On the day of a film shoot, the last thing you want to worry about is where your cast and crew members are. And in Trinidad & Tobago, it’s HIGHLY possible that someone will – whether intentionally or unintentionally – show up late. If your film shoot begins at a particular time, make sure to message or call your cast and crew members at least 3-4 hours in advance. That way, the possibility of everyone arriving in time for the shoot will be greater than starting the shoot late because someone was either stuck in traffic or experienced difficulty getting transport to go to the film set.
3. Know how to cook or know someone who can – On a film set, we may feel like robots. But at the end of the day, or after 12 p.m., we’re reminded of our humanity by the growling of our stomachs. Without the promise of food, a hungry cast and crew become more and more angry with every passing minute. If you don’t want to buy chicken-n-chips or doubles for your team, have a pot of food prepared for them to eat during lunch break. If you’re not a good cook (regardless of how much salt you put into your food), or you can’t cook at all, get your mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, neighbor or even your father (if he has time, of course) to cook for you. You’ll save time and money, both of which can be invested into your project.
4. Rehearse before the shoot – Nothing slows down a day of filming than reminding actors of their lines, subtext behind their lines, character motivations, etc. Before the actual day of shooting, or at least an hour or two before the film shoot begins, do a quick rehearsal of all the scenes to be shot with your cast. Don’t spoon-feed them, however. They should have some knowledge of what their character is supposed to do before you even yell “Action”.
5. Assemble the right cast and crew – Before you even place the camera on a tripod, find people that are skilled, resourceful, quick-thinking, passionate about their craft, and determined to work as hard as possible to make your film as good as it can be.
6. Secure your film sets – If you have to shoot an indoor scene using someone else’s home, inform the homeowner beforehand (say a week in advance) instead of contacting him/her the night before. If you’re scheduling an outdoor scene, find out from authorities or residents if it is possible to shoot in that area first before filming. The last thing you want is a crusade taking place on the night of that epic chase scene you were dying to film at that nearby savannah.
7. Push yourself – With every film you make, you learn something new about yourself, and you achieve something you didn’t know you were capable of. By building on the skills and techniques you learned during your previous film, you’ll become a better filmmaker with every project that you work on.
8. Work with what you have – Don’t write a highway car chase scene into your script just because you watched a Michael Bay movie the night before. Play to your strengths. For example, instead of a big-budget highway car chase, simply have two cars drive along a road, and then shoot footage of the drivers inside their respective vehicles. If however you don’t have access to a car, or you can’t drive, or none of your cast and crew can drive, take that scene out and do something else instead.
9. Expect the unexpected – and be prepared for it. – Rain. Heavy wind. Faulty lights. A cast or crew member getting the flu. The sick cast or crew member spreading the flu to other cast and crew members, including yourself. ANYTHING can happen in a film shoot. Prepare yourself as best as you can.
10. Stay positive, focused and optimistic – No matter how problematic things may become, no matter how hopeless things may feel, you have to stay focused on the task at hand – making the best-possible film that you can. Whether it means smiling or laughing through all the crap that comes your way or tackling every scene (whether simple or difficult) with passion, determination, and concentration, you’ll get through each shooting day, shooting a week and hopefully, shooting schedule with a level head. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get some great movies out of it.