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Recognizing Traps in Pre-Production

by on Jan.21, 2010, under Creators Blog

With the Epic Fu Tubefilter event tonight (if you’re in the LA area you should go) I thought it’d be good to get back to some of the roots of the show and how it came to be.

Cassandra's Computer Room - Compulsions

Annemarie Pazmino in the IT Room set.

One of the big phases of Pre-Production is settling your locations, and one of the first knee jerk reactions is to go with the cheapest (read: FREE) available. Looking at our Season 1, you can see an array of locales but two that really stand out as challenging finds were the Warehouse and the Computer Repair Room. Early on in our pooling of resources we found two such locations that would have cost us nothing… “Great!” we thought, but we soon realized how they were both “Traps.”

The term “Traps”, was spoken often by Producer Robert Grand in Pre-production. In his vast experience in line producing (and it is VAST) he’s come across many such experiences and warned us about falling into them. He described them as Traps because on the surface they appeared great, economical, the easy path, but in reality crossing them would result in more problems and more money in the long run.

Trap #1: The Computer Repair Room – From Day 1, Producer :Michaeltohl:  spoke about a Computer Repair shop that he was friendly with. Quickly into planning we managed to secure a deal with them to shoot at their working storefront for free but with one big restriction; we could only shoot there at night when they were closed for business.

So what’s wrong with only shooting at night? Well for one you’re doing 7pm to 7am shoot days, and those of you who have been on shoots like these know they are NOT FUN. They are draining for everyone, people move slower, and they are tough to recover from. Also specific to us, we’d have to shoot night for day, which meant not only slowing us down but also we would have to o rent more lighting gear. Thus in reality shooting at the “free” location would have in reality ballooned our budget with extra gear and extra crew time. Thus… a trap.

The Compulsions Crew onset at the Warehouse Location

Trap #2: The Warehouse – Let’s take away from the fact that this was the make or break location of our series, we were willing to put some money into this. The story here starts similar to the IT room, we found a serviceable empty commercial space right away. By commercial space I mean like a store front.  You see a space in a mini-mall open it and it’s just bare, plenty of room to stick poor Seth Caskey in a chair and mess him up right? Sure, but again there was big caveat, it’s a mini-mall store front.

Many of us go to mini-malls every day, they’re great, but are they great to film at? This particular mini-mall is busy; you have a gym upstairs and dry cleaners adjacent. Add the fact that the mall faced a major Hollywood street and you have sound issues all day and pretty much all night.  Plus with big storefront windows it meant lighting problems as well.  Thus again, blocking out all the windows with light and sound would mean more needed gear and a slower pace for our crew so again it would mean more money and again… a Trap.

As a result in both cases we ended up with other locations that we sunk some money into. Both locations were better, easier to work with, required less gear, and thus cheaper in the long run. In indie Web Production nothing is ever truly “free”, so beware of traps.

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3 comments for this entry:

3 Responses to “Recognizing Traps in Pre-Production”

  1. E Tozzi says:

    Bernie, well said! It’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re in a hurray get a location secured! This should be a regular reminder for all of us producing in the low budget/indie world to take a deep breath, not panic when we can’t find a location in ten minutes flat (and for free), find the right place and weigh out the cost/production benefits.

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