How to run a proper production meeting I’ve experienced several different production meetings. Two seem to be the most common.
The first AD reads through the script in scene order and then through the one liner in schedule order. if this is correct? If so, should the AD just read the slug lines for each scene and then summarize the scene and elements?
OR The first AD goes through the complete shooting schedule in schedule order, reading all elements? In this case the script is only used as a reference when there is a question from a department head.
Which one of these two methods is most common or correct?
First off, the correct way is the way that gets it done.
Only slightly less facetiously, the correct way is whatever way the AD wants to do it. A lot of people can claim they are in charge, but in reality, when it comes to moment-by-moment decisions, the AD really is the top dog. The AD is probably the only person below the line that can say what the rest of the crew are thinking: “Hurry the fuck up, Mr. Director.”
Cards on the table, now– I have very little experience on big budget movies. I only worked on shitty, non-union, straight-to-VOD flicks before moving into network television. I have no idea what is or isn’t normal on real, professional film.
I imagine it’s similar to single camera television, on a longer time scale. In TV, there’s actually a few different meetings leading up to production. First, there’s the Tone Meeting, in which the writer, director, show runner, and various other creative types get together to talk about the artistic elements of the episode. What’s the point of this scene, why does that character say that, who is Jon Snow’s mother, really? That kind of thing.
Those tend to go in scene order, because they’re discussing how the show will (or should) feel from the audience’s perspective. The AD doesn’t exactly run those meetings, but she’s still the one running the shot clock.1
After that, the director often has meetings with each department about the needs of this particular episode. Every element is discussed to the finest possible detail. In TV, the episode writer tends to be a part of these meetings, as well; I don’t think that’s often the case in film.2
Then, finally, comes the Production Meeting. This involves every department head (except the DP, sadly, if there’s only one cinematographer on the series). In my experience, the AD will go through the script in shooting order. They don’t really “read” the script, the way you and I usually think about it. All of the really creative decisions (should) have already been made by the above-the-liners, in conjunction with the department heads.
The Production Meeting is about getting shit done. How do we physically fit the camera inside the trunk? Will we be able to hear the dialogue on the process trailer? Where will the trailers be parked?3
Again, it’s not that they don’t care about the characters or story. Everything will be done in the context of “What’s best for the show?” But the Production Meeting adds the extra wrinkle of “What can we do?” Like Dax says, they’ll refer to the script to make sure they’re answer the former question, but production meetings are much more about the latter.
If you’re a PA, you rarely go to these meetings. In fact, the office tends to get nice and quite for a couple (or three!) hours while all of the grown-ups are stuck in a tiny room. But if you’re ambitious, and smart, you should ask to sit in on one of these.
Don’t ask to sit in on episode one; you’ve got too much to do, getting the office up and running. But once you’ve established yourself, and assuming everything really is quiet that day, no one will object.
Bring your notepad with you; take copious notes. Pay attention, and if (when) you have any questions, write them down for later. No one expects you, as a PA, to know anything, so don’t be embarrassed to ask. It’s how you learn.
You know how else you can learn? By listening to Crew Call. But that can only happen if you support the Crew Call Season Two Kickstarter. Even a $5 contribution helps.
- That’s a sports metaphor, not an actual film term, in case you’re confused.↩
- Because what does the author of the story have to say about the final film?↩
- That’s actually probably decided on the Tech Scout, but it’ll still be discussed here.↩
- Except in this case, pretend you’re Neo, being interrogated by Agent Smith. You’ve got no mouth at all.↩