Video Production 101: What Is Pre-Production?
The video production process can be seen as quite mystifying. Today we sit down with Karen Elgar, our Senior Producer and Scriptwriter, to take us through the pre-production stage.
What is pre-production all about?
Pre-production is the planning and organising stage that occurs before you create a video. It begins with creative development, where we work closely with the client to understand the scope, target audience and key messages for their video. There is a lot of brainstorming following this to determine a creative direction and script for the project.
When the script has been approved by the client, we prepare for the actual video shoot. This can involve different things depending on the scope of the project. Sometimes it is quite simple – for example, shooting an interview at the company’s location may just involve booking a date and ensuring we have the necessary elements (e.g. a high-resolution image of the company logo) to complete the video. Other projects may require activities such as location scouting, obtaining filming permits, casting actors, organising catering and security, sourcing props, and developing filming protocols to manage a large production team.
How important is the script phase of pre-production?
It is extremely important. A lot of work goes into this phase of pre-production because every single word of dialogue and action outlined in the script impacts the effectiveness of the final video. The video needs to not only be memorable but also evoke the right emotional response and reaction in the target audience. I think people would be surprised at the level of planning that goes into the script. Personally, I believe a good video script balances science and art – we use research findings and literature to determine what will engage people and then use a creative lens to tell this story in a unique and memorable way.
What advice do you have for someone looking to be involved in pre-production?
My position at Final Focus actually covers two key aspects of pre-production, producing and scriptwriting, but my advice to people looking to work in either role would be the same. The first would be to develop a good understanding of the psychology of communication. As a producer, you are responsible for managing large groups of people, often from very different roles and industries, so you need to know how to engage effectively with them and ensure there is clear communication from all contributors. As a scriptwriter, you need to know how to tell stories that emotionally engage people and compel them towards a desired action. Completing my PhD in Psychology and Communication was an invaluable experience for me to better understand how people connect with, process and recall information. Don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly not saying a PhD is required for these roles! However, I do think that any learning around this area, such as an online course, would be useful.
Another suggestion would be to network in the video and film production industries, ensuring you get as much exposure to opportunities as possible. It can be very hard for a scriptwriter to get a break in the Australian industry, so a good way to refine your craft at the beginning is to volunteer on student film productions , low-budget creative endeavours or as an intern at a video production agency. Producers also need to build up their network of professional contacts to ensure they can bring the best people in for each project they work on. While we have a fantastic core crew at Final Focus, we do have to source specialists from time to time, such as stunt coordinators, pyrotechnicians, armourers, and drone operators. Getting experience in the industry lets you develop this secondary network of experts to ensure your production runs smoothly and successfully.
My final recommendation is to get as much experience in production roles outside of your intended occupation as possible. I’ve performed in front of the camera, held boom poles, worked as a script editor, moonlighted as a First AD and as a Production Manager, spent countless hours overseeing post-production in the edit suite and much more … all of which have been invaluable experiences. The greater understanding you have of how each element adds to the production process, the more likely it is that you can use it your favour in future. If you can understand the jargon, the challenges and the contributions of each role from a genuine and practical viewpoint, you’ll end up writing better scripts and managing better teams.