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Scheduling a Commercial

I can't remember the last job I produced where I didn't also serve as 1st AD. Even when I had the budget to hire a 1st AD, I always ended up scheduling the shoot out, redoing call sheets, properly sending the call sheets. It's incredible the number of people out there who say they can assistant direct, but when it comes to the week of, they reveal their inability to think ahead, self-start and take charge. I think this comes along with being a freelance producer. You have to get used to taking on far more responsibilities than normal. But that's what's fun about it.

So what do I think about when scheduling a commercial? First I take all the scenes. I vaguely refer to my director's shotlist to see how many times we'll likely have to move the lights and the general order of wide to medium to close. This gives me an idea of how long the overall scene might take. Then I place it in the context of the full day. When does art need a break? Does it make sense to bulk shoot all the exteriors in the beginning of the day (which also offers the advantage of a contingency plan in case it rains in the morning and clears up by afternoon)?

Even if I haven't visited the location, photos alone can give me an idea of how minimal or extensive the lighting and grip set-up will end up being. Since I am a freelance producer I might not have time to visit every location, depending on the gig and the distance of the locations; I might be working on a couple jobs simultaneously in Los Angeles, or wherever.

The most important step, and every department head will be beyond grateful to the freelance producer who does this: send a preliminary call sheet or schedule to the decision makers. Give them a chance to offer their input, which extends a feeling of inclusion, importance, and hopefully saves valuable time on the commercial shoot.

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