Run-and-gun filmmaking is common in the fast-moving commercial and broadcast video industry. The key to pulling off these quick, small crew shoots is by nailing pre-production.

Caleb Wojcik is a pro at capturing professional videos with a small crew in a short amount of time. The San Diego-based filmmaker and educator has a ton of experience shooting different styles of content – including shooting weddings and commercials, creating videos for the NHL and MLB, and developing educational tutorials for his YouTube channel. We sat down with Caleb to ask him how he aces pre-production before every shoot. Here’s what he had to share…

Be Extremely Prepared

Plan ahead of time as much as humanly possible. Make a packing list of your gear, and prepare as much of the gear as you can. Format your memory cards, assemble your lights and mics, and make sure your camera is in the right settings. By doing this, your crew and clients won’t have to spend lots of time waiting around as you set up on site.

Build Rapport with Your Client

Never start your shoot with an interview or testimonial, especially if you’re working for a new client. Warm your on-camera personality up first by casually talking with and getting to know them. Have a member of your crew do a pre-interview as you’re shooting b-roll to discover what subjects make them light up or make them uncomfortable.

It’s also a good idea to ask an ice-breaker question before the real interview to lighten the mood and make your subject more comfortable. And never be afraid to ask your subject to repeat an answer or phrase, ensuring that you have enough footage to use.

Always Think About Safety

Nothing will slow a shoot down more than an injury or accident. Take the time before the shoot to have someone on your crew take charge of safety. Tape down cords, weigh down light stands, or reinforce overhead rigs with safety wire. Make sure gaff tape, wire, and 🔗weight bags are always on your packing list.

Seek Feedback From Your Crew

If you’re open to opinions and advice, be sure to check in with your crew when doing tasks like location scouting, adjusting camera angles, or framing. This may be difficult when working on a major production. But when you’re working with a small crew, you’ll find yourself working alongside creative individuals with a team mindset. Utilize their knowledge whenever you’re second-guessing a shot or scene. You’ll typically get better results when you put your heads together.

Scout Your Location Before Shooting (When Possible)

If you can’t stop by the location before the shoot, get as many images as possible of the space you’ll be working in. Don’t be afraid to ask the client to send phone images or videos if the shoot is at their home or business. If it’s an outdoor location, utilize search engines and Google Earth (Streetview can be a savior!) to scout the location digitally. Not only will this give you an idea of framing, but it may also give you insight on items you’ll need to pack.

Watch Caleb’s tips and tricks for catching great b-roll here.

Watch more filmmaking tips and tutorials here.

Pre-Production

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