#pre-production

Budget (Doc)

Each student will be allocated $140 to go toward documentary production expenses. These funds can be used in the following categories:

  • Petty Cash (which includes production design, production supplies, music or stock image licenses). You can pay for these expenses out of pocket, then get reimbursed.
  • Travel (if traveling away from Tallahassee, can include fuel, airfare, lodging, car rental, and meals). With the exception of fuel and meals, the school needs to book these expenses directly for you in advance. Do not pay out of pocket for any of these if you plan to use the school funds. You can pay for fuel and meals out of pocket, then get reimbursed.
  • Services (if you need to hire someone, like a composer). The school needs to pay for services directly, and this must be initiated at least 1 week prior to services beginning.

In order for the funds to be released to you, each student will need to submit a Budget Sheet to the Head of Production showing how you intend to use those funds. Once the budget is approved, instructions will be provided on the process for using those funds depending on which category your expenses fall within.

This is a “use-it-or-lose-it” budget.

Doc Schedule Overview

Jan 6 – Feb 26Development & Pre-Production
Feb 11-12Doc Group Production Meetings
Feb 15-19Individual Meetings
Feb 23-26Doc Group Greenlight Meetings
Feb 25-26Equipment Check-Out
Feb 27 – Mar 18Documentary Production
Mar 22Equipment Check-In
Mar 19-29Paper Edits
Mar 30 – Apr 14Post Production
Apr 18Documentary Screening

Documentary Production Plan

Instructions

Having a smart plan for production in the COVID era is essential. Each show will need to create a production plan that addresses COVID-19 safety concerns. Getting approval for production will be contingent on presenting a satisfactory production plan at the show’s green light meeting.

Part 1: Documentary Subjects

For each subject who’ll be on camera, answer the following questions. If the answer is yes for any given question, explain how you’ll mitigate the increased safety risks.

  1. Are they in an elevated-risk demographic for COVID-19?
  2. Will they need to be maskless for interviews or b-roll?
  3. Will they need to be in close proximity with other subjects or crew members?
  4. Will they need to perform any actions that require shouting, coughing, singing, or physical exertion?

Part 2: Shooting Locations

You’ll need to develop a plan for mitigating safety risks at each shooting location. The most important part of this will come later, with a tech scout at each location. For now, answer the following questions for each shooting location that you’re considering.

  1. Is the shooting location interior or exterior?
  2. Is the shooting location a large, open, well-ventilated space or a cramped, closed, poorly ventilated space?
  3. Is the shooting location public or private?
  4. Do you anticipate any difficulties in doing a tech scout in advance of the shooting day?

Part 3: Travel and Accommodations

How you travel with your crew poses its own safety concerns. If the answer is yes for any given question, explain how you’ll mitigate the increased safety risks.

  1. Will any crew members be traveling outside Leon County?
  2. Will any crew members be using mass transit, such as buses or planes?
  3. Will any crew members be carpooling?
  4. Will any crew members be doing any overnight stays outside of Leon County, such as Airbnbs, hotels, or parents’ houses?

Part 4: Schedule

Using the Google Sheet that Tony Ciarlariello will provide, each group will need to make a comprehensive, day-by-day schedule that outlines all tech scouts, shooting activities, travel, and accommodation for all of the group’s shows.

ASSESS THE SAFETY CONCERNS

As you work on each section of the production plan, assess the level of COVID-19 safety concerns for each answer and then change the color of the answer according to the following criteria: 

GREEN – Standard level of COVID-19 safety concerns

YELLOW – Warning of possibly elevated COVID-19 concerns

RED – Alert of definitely elevated COVID-19 concerns

Documentary Tech Scouts

Under normal circumstances, it is not uncommon for documentary filmmakers to shoot in unfamiliar or uncontrollable locations. The COVID era is of course far from normal, however, so we must pay much stricter attention to how shooting locations are scouted, prepped, and secured. One of the most important steps in this process is performing a tech scout at the location, ideally at least a day in advance of the actual shooting, so that a safety plan can be developed for how the production day will be run.

Prior to the Tech Scout

As early in the process as possible, begin to gather information about any locations you are considering. This will enable you to anticipate more things in advance of arriving at the location for the tech scout. For example:

  • If possible, visit the location in-person to scope it out, take photos, and make some preliminary notes about how you’ll use the location.
  • If it’s not possible to scope it out yourself, ask the owner or someone with access to the location to send you photos or video walkthroughs.
  • See if you can get hold of a floor plan and measurements, so that you can start mapping out the production zones. Looking up the street view and satellite view on Google Maps can also be helpful too.

At the tech scout

The tech scout should ideally be completed at least one day in advance of shooting at the location, with all crew members present. If that is not possible, you’ll need to get approval in advance from Tony to do a tech scout on the same day as production, and you’ll need to allow for at least one hour to complete the scout.

  • Treat locations as if they are infected and use PPE accordingly. Do not touch items native to the location while scouting unless absolutely necessary.
  • Have as much conversation outdoors as possible.
  • Try to maximize space and air flow when selecting spaces to shoot. Plan to film outdoors as much as possible.
  • Create a plan for maintaining a secure perimeter at the location for a controlled work area, free from outsiders to the production.
  • Create a sanitization plan for the location:
    • What surfaces need disinfecting?
    • Who will be responsible for doing this?
    • When and how frequently will it occur?
  • Map out spaces for:
    • Parking;
    • Staging equipment;
    • Green room (if needed);
    • Shooting spaces;
    • Outdoor mask-free zone – with room for physical distancing;
    • Lunch – with room for physical distancing.
  • Assess and determine:
    • If any spaces will make physical distancing difficult;
    • Access to bathrooms and hand-washing/sanitizing stations;
    • Whether any special considerations need to be made regarding air flow and/or HVAC, especially in Zone A areas.

Documentary Equipment Approval

Production Paperwork

Instructions

This form must be completed and submitted to the Head of Production (Tony Ciarlariello) before a show’s greenlight meeting. The purpose of the form is to ensure that there’s a plan in place for all equipment use out in the field and to ensure that any personal gear is suitable for production.

Equipment Transportation Plan

This section is document where production will occur and the means of transportation for all school equipment. Note that the EVA1 camera and batteries cannot be checked if traveling by air and must be brought on the plane as carry-on luggage. Be prepared to any questions about the specifics of the transportation plan at the greenlight meeting.

Equipment Back-up Plan

Provide a plan for how you will continue with production if the EVA1 camera or any other essential equipment goes down while you are out in the field. This may include use of personal equipment to complete the project or, if local to Tallahassee, working with the ER to get equipment replaced or repaired. Note that the ER will not typically be able to mail equipment to another city if the show is outside the school’s studio zone.

Personal Equipment

In order to maintain consistency of image fidelity and to serve the learning outcomes of the project, the EVA1 camera should always be used as the primary camera for production. There are instances, however, where productions may wish to use a personal camera (e.g., as a b-camera or for shots that cannot be executed with the EVA1) or other, supplemental, personal equipment. Use this section to provide make/model/specs of any personal gear and an brief explanation of why this gear is needed for the film. Pay particular attention to personal camera specs to make sure that the captured media is compatible with the post-production workflow.

F1 Specs

Writing specs

Page count:3 pages
Quantity of locations:1 location
Quantity of characters:2 characters – written for specific actors 
Children:No
Animals:No
Weapons:No
Sexual intimacy:Nothing that would typically call for an intimacy coordinator
COVID restrictions:No actions that would require actors to be closer than six feet

Production specs

Locations per day:1 location
Distance to location:Must be within the studio zone
Shooting days:1 day
Pick-up days:No
Length of workday:12 hours, plus an hour for lunch
Earliest call time:6AM
Latest wrap time:12AM
Night shoots:No
COVID protocols:Yes

Data allocation

Final page count:3 pages
Shooting days:1 day
Pages per day:3 pages
Shooting ratio:20:1
Data rate:0.8 GB/minute
Max. data per page:16 GB
Max. data per day:48 GB
Max. dailies length:60 minutes
Max. dailies size:48 GB

Capture specs

Camera package:Panasonic AU-EVA1
Sensor mode:S35 MIX2.8K
Format:MOV
Resolution: 2048×1920 (2K)
Main codec:422All-Intra 100M
Frame rate:24p
Sampling:4:2:2 10-bit
Bitrate:100 Mbps (VBR)
Aspect ratio:1.37:1, 1.85:1, or 2.39:1

Editorial specs

Max. story content:3:30
Max. credits:1:08
Max. TRT:4:38
Pic edit software:Media Composer
Sound software:Media Composer
Coloring software:Media Composer
Pic edit days:7 days
Sound days:1 day
Coloring days:1 day
Titles and delivery:1 day
Visual effects:Only editorial effects that can be completed inside Media Composer

D1 Specs

Writing specs

Page count:2 pages
Quantity of scenes:1 scene – writing instructor may grant an exception if an additional scene does not pose safety or scope concerns
Quantity of locations:1 location – written for a specific space at Critchfield Hall
Quantity of characters:2 characters – written for specific actors from the theater school
Children:No
Animals:No
Weapons:No
Sexual intimacy:Nothing that would typically call for an intimacy coordinator
COVID restrictions:No actions that require would require actors to be closer than six feet

Production specs

Location:All shows shoot at Critchfield Hall
Shooting days:1 day
Length of workday:12 hours, plus an hour for lunch
Call times:Set by Head of Production
Night shoots:No
FIST agreement:Yes
COVID protocols:Yes

Data allocation

Final page count:2 pages
Shooting days:1 day
Pages per day:2 pages
Shooting ratio:20:1
Data rate:1.4 GB/minute
Max. data per page:28 GB
Max. data per day:56 GB
Max. dailies length:40 minutes
Max. dailies size:56 GB

Capture settings

Frame rate:24.000 fps
Record file format:Avid DNxHD/HR
Resolution:2K (2048×1080)
Video codec:Avid DNxHD/HR SQ
Baked-in settings:All image settings (Rec. 709 / SDR)
Mode:IPP2
Output color space:Rec. 709
Output tone map:Medium Contrast
Highlight roll-off:Medium
more info…

Editorial specs

Max. story content:2:30
Max. credits:1:00
Max. TRT:3:30
Pic edit software:Media Composer
Sound software:ProTools
Coloring software:Media Composer
Pic edit days:5 days
Sound days:2.5 days
Coloring days:0.5 days
Visual effects:No

Distant Location Approval Process

BFA AND MFA THESIS FILMS

BFA and MFA thesis films may request permission to shoot at a distant location outside of the studio zone. Please note however that — due to the added complexity of shooting films at distant locations, the added wear-and-tear on school equipment, and the added stress placed on the crew — shooting at a distant location is approved automatically. It’s a privilege that needs to be earned.

The Producer will need to present a thorough plan to the faculty that addresses the following:

  1. Why this location is essential to the success of the film.
  2. The schedule of travel days and drive times during the production week.
  3. A budget/plan for transporting, housing, and feeding the cast and crew for the duration of the distant shoot.
  4. A budget/plan for transporting, housing, and feeding a faculty member for the duration of the distant shoot.
  5. A plan for transporting, parking, and securing school vehicles and equipment during the distant shoot.
  6. A back-up plan if the camera or other essential equipment goes down.
  7. A schedule showing key deadlines for locking locations, securing accommodations, and any other critical plans. Permission for shooting at a distant location will be revoked if these deadlines are not hit, and the production will need to shoot locally.
  8. A local back-up plan, in case permission is not granted and/or the distant location falls through.

The request to shoot at a distant location should be made as early as possible in the development/pre-production process, and no later than two weeks before the first day of production on the show. Approval must then be received from the following people, in this order:

  1. Director’s Prep Faculty
  2. Head of Set Operations (David Wiley)
  3. Head of Production (Tony Ciarlariello)
  4. Associate Dean (Andrew Syder)

Writing Parameters

COVID-19 Protocols

To help with mitigating risk, students will be provided with specific writing parameters that are appropriate to the level of production, including in some cases a reduced page count and limits on quantities of characters and locations. Due to students on earlier projects having less on-set experience and less time for preparing each show, introductory-level films will have stricter writing parameters than advanced-level films.

F1 Parameters

  • Three pages
  • One location, written for a specific location
  • Two characters, written for specific actors
  • No actions that require actors to be closer than six feet
  • No actions that might typically require an intimacy coordinator, such as nudity or physically sexual situations
  • No children
  • No animals
  • No weapons

D1 Parameters

  • Two pages
  • One scene
  • One location, written for a specific location
  • Two characters, written for specific actors
  • No actions that require actors to be closer than six feet
  • No actions that might typically require an intimacy coordinator, such as nudity or physically sexual situations
  • No children
  • No animals
  • No weapons
  • See more D1 specs…

F3, BTH, D2, MTH Parameters

  • No additional writing parameters
  • Students, however, should be mindful of the practical limitations of production when writing: e.g., only being able to shoot at one location each production day.

Tips for Writing During a Pandemic

As we develop scripts, it’s going to be important anticipate all the things that might elevate safety concerns during production. At the very least, any element in a script that gets flagged as a potential safety concern will require additional work during pre-production and production, in order for there to be a robust plan in place for the safety of the cast and crew. It’s therefore a good idea to be: (a) thinking about how you’ll address potential safety concerns as you develop a script; and (b) imagining alternative versions of scenes with a lot of red flags, so that you have a viable Plan B in your back pocket that mitigates more of the safety concerns. Below is a guide to some of the more common factors that of which to be mindful when you’re writing a scene.

LOCATIONS

QUANTITY OF LOCATIONS

Be mindful of how many locations you are writing into your script. The more locations you need, the more time you’ll need to spend on safely scouting and prepping each location. More locations will also raise the likelihood of needing to do company moves during a production day, which will raise additional safety concerns.

INTERIOR vs. EXTERIOR

Interior locations are generally going to have more safety concerns than exterior locations. As you write, it’s worth asking yourself whether an interior scene really needs to be an interior scene, and what might it look like if it were conceived instead as an exterior scene.

CRAMPED vs. SPACIOUS

Small, tight, cramped locations where social distancing is difficult are generally going to have more safety concerns than large, open, spacious locations. As you write, it’s good to ask yourself if a scene necessitates shooting in a cramped location, or if there are ways to cheat it or change it. Bathroom scenes are a good example, which are usually too cramped for production, even under normal circumstances. Therefore, you’ll either need to: (a) have a rigorous plan for how you could shoot the scene safely in a small bathroom; (b) find a really large bathroom that you can cheat to look smaller, which will likely be hard to find; or (c) rewrite the scene so that it doesn’t take place in a small bathroom.

PUBLIC vs. PRIVATE

Public locations are generally going to have more safety concerns than private locations. If a scene needs to be shot in public location, it will likely take a lot of additional work during production to sanitize the location. It will also take a lot of additional work to control the space, so that you can have a closed set that’s not compromised by the presence outside community members. It’s also best to assume that certain kinds of public spaces are going to be a lot harder to secure, as people are going to be more hesitant about letting film crews invade their space.

DISTANT vs. LOCAL

On thesis films, we do allow shows to make requests to shoot at distant locations. There’s already an approval process for this, in which the show needs to argue why it is vital to shoot out of town and what the practical plan is. There will be an additional burden of responsibility during the pandemic to outline a robust safety plan too. And wanting to shoot in a COVID hotspot is certainly going to be less viable than, say, shooting in a remote location in the mountains.

CHARACTERS

QUANTITY OF CHARACTERS

Scenes with large quantities of characters (or extras) are generally going to have more safety concerns than scenes with small numbers of characters. As you write, it’s good to ask yourself whether you need that big party scene, or whether you can scale down the scope of it. If you do really need it, how will you shoot it safely?

AGE OF CHARACTERS

We need to be vigilant about protecting the health of all of the performers, but we also know that fatality rates for COVID-19 are higher among older demographics. Scenes involving older characters, therefore, are generally going to raise additional safety concerns. Be mindful of other COVID-19 risk-factors too as you write, especially if your choices about yours characters require actors who might fall in other groups with elevated risk (e.g., weakened immune systems, pulmonary disease, cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease, obesity, pregnancy, etc.)

PROXIMITY OF CHARACTERS

Scenes with physical intimacy between actors will need special care and preparation. If it’s essential to the story, how much can you minimize it or cheat it, in order to best protect your actors on set? Would the scene still play well if the action was staged without the need for physical proximity?

ACTIONS IN THE SCENE

Certain types of actions in a scene are going raise more safety concerns than other types of actions. If the actions require actors to shout, cough, spit, or breathe heavily (e.g., due to stunts or other acts of physical exertion), those moments will require a robust plan for how to shoot it safely.

PRODUCTION SCOPE

It’s also a good idea to be mindful of overall production scope as you write, because there will inevitably be some slow down during production in order to observe safety protocols. The more out-of-scope a production is, the more likelihood there will be of either: (a) not making your day; or (b) compromising safety by rushing too much. You’ll all be less nimble if you have to adapt to any surprises. To anticipate this, a few good questions to ask yourself as you write are:

  • Will the scene require extensive art department work?
  • Will the scene require extensive grip/gaff work?
  • Will the scene require extensive coverage/set-ups?