It happens. You think you’ve finished your film and then you find something in it that you want to change. It’s not the end of the world, but in my prior article about making changes after picture lock, you read about the domino affect it causes in post and how it will affect your budget. This is a frequent occurrence, it’s the nature of filmmaking to tweak and tweak and tweak. But, if you’re doing your homework and reading this before you go into production, here are some suggestions to help avoid this:
#1 – Have test screenings, and have them for a variety of people. I know, you’re not making a film to please everyone out there, that’s not the idea. The reason to do this is to take a pulse of things, and get perspective. Ask select audiences to fill out a survey to better understand what they are experiencing, what areas of the film are working and what is confusing. Make sure to invite other filmmakers, trusted friends, and a variety of people who can offer useful feedback.
#2 – I know this is going to sound counter-intuitive having just said #1, but don’t have too many people whispering in your ear their opinions. Be discerning! Have your go-to people – your producer, your best friend who’s also a filmmaker, people with critical taste that will be honest and helpful. Most importantly, have your own voice and vision and remember to listen to your intuition, which is why we have it.
#3 – If you can, build some time in your schedule before picture lock to take a step back from your film, even if it’s only a couple weeks. Come at it with fresh eyes so that you are absolutely sure this is the film you have wanted to make. Go surfing in Hawaii or surprise your grandmother in West Palm Beach and take your mind off things for a minute.
#4 – When you picture lock, really picture lock. This will save you many headaches down the line of having to re-edit, re-design, re-mix, re-color, re-deliver. All those things incrementally increase cost and, just when you thought you could move on to the next phase of your life, it’s groundhog day and you’re back in the editing room once again.
#5 – Have enough money and in the budget and time in your post schedule to get through post-production and make the movie you want to make. Don’t cut corners during the final, important process of finishing your movie when your putting the final creative touches on your film. You’ve come this far, now finish it the way you want to finish it.
#6 – Make sure you have a solid post-production team from the start. Research everyone (editor, colorist, sound mixer, VFX team) to make sure they are right for your film. What is their vision for the story? Do you vibe with the energy of the editor? What other films have your sound mixer and colorist worked on? Do they have experience with the genre you’re working in, and do you feel comfortable moving forward with them on board? If you have any doubts once you get into post, and you want to make a change, do so before you get too far into the process. Remember, this is your film and, and if you have to replace someone, it’s business, not personal.
#7 – Don’t plan for reshoots and pick up shots – get them during production even if you have to tack on an extra day. It’s easier to get all the shots you need when you have the team working for you in production versus trying to wrangle them back for pick-ups while in post. Some producers will push it off for budgetary reasons, but it will save you many headaches if you can get everything you need in the can during production. If you find yourself wanting them in post, ask, do you really need them? Is there another creative solution? If you absolutely need that establishing shot of the house in the Valley, then make sure to go and get it early in the post process to ensure the elements are in and are working prior to picture lock.
At the end of the day, this is your film and you want it to be the best it can be, so the key is to be prepared as early on as possible. If you find that you absolutely need to make changes to your film late in post-production, just know that it can be costly and will cause many headaches. Becoming a good filmmaker is a journey of making many films and learning from your mistakes. If making films is your path, sometimes it’s important to realize the lessons, let the baby go, and move on to the next one.
If you missed Part I of this article, you can read it here: Changing Your Film After Picture Lock: Pt. I.