Pre Production Planning - The Complete Guide

Have you also seen productions run completely off the track and wished you could do better. Then please read our great introduction to pre production planning. Here you will master the basic concepts and the production manager's role and how to prepare the production to make it successful.

What is pre production planning?

In short, we can say that production manager is the task and responsibility for planning, budgeting and managing a wealth of resources towards a goal. Specifically, the task of leading the group towards the goal is central to production management.

Pre production is, therefore, a discipline that contains a mix of management and leadership. On larger production, it often makes sense to exempt the production manager from the many management tasks, so the focus is solely on the management of tasks. It provides a necessary of
focus when dealing with large productions.

Why do you need to be good at pre production?

The goal of pre production is to avoid errors and ad hoc solutions. A strong production ensures that everyone knows the direction, so you get the most effective goal.

If you are sharp when it comes to planning the production, your role as production manager and the individual parts of the production, you will simply have a much greater chance that your production succeeded, as you have dreamed from the start.

No productions are the same. But we can still set some frameworks for how most of the productions are going to run - or should run.

  • Pre Production - you get this from the start
  • Setting goals - Good production management starts with milestones
  • Planning and scheduling - How do you come from A - Z
  • Production start - you have to get everyone going
  • Post Production
  • Follow-ups
  • Delivery

Basically, it's all about cutting a process together from start to finish so that the effect of the individual production is ensured. If you want to be more focused on production productivity - and not just as a production manager - please read our Top 10 Tips for TV Production Productivity.

Pre Production Planning - you get this from the start

Pre Production forms the whole foundation for your production to succeed. This is where you define the very purpose of posting money in this particular production. The amount of time you invest in doing this properly pays back many times when the production starts shooting.

It certainly seems comprehensive and time-consuming with all the pre production. You are eager to just get started and start shooting. But if you drive off without a clear direction, there is a good chance that you get lost on the way. Remember, it's not a process you've started it's a production.

A good pre production helps you on many fronts. It ensures production management's support, it makes it easy to inform and involve the employees. Therefore, you must be absolutely sharp on the project's purpose.

If you a need a production schedule template you can use this on for free

Setting milestones - Good production management starts with milestones

Milestone is an important part of the pre production phase for any production. If you do not have a milestone, then the production does not have a direction. And then it will be hard to manage.

There are many tools to set milestones. One of the really effective ones is the SMART model. The SMART model poses some important questions to your milestones, which help ensure that the production’s milestones are both ambitious and realistic.

  • Specific - The more precise and well-defined the production milestones are, the easier it is to say whether if you are on track.

  • Measurable - How do you really want to measure that you are at the milestone?

  • Achievable - You must be able to motivate your crew to work hard on the production, even when the days become long, so what's attractive to all participants on the production

  • Responsible - Does the production have the necessary resources - at the right times - to reach milestones?

  • Time-related - You must have a deadline. If you do not know when the production has to be completed, you do not know when to start and when to reach the individual milestones on the production.

Production Planning and Scheduling - How do you come from A - Z

You know your starting point. You gained control in the pre production. You know your goal. Now you must describe all steps on the way from starting point A to Z.

Here you can work with milestones for the production. By dividing the production into a number of stages, the work in the individual part becomes the first clearer. But at the same time, you'll also get some points along the way, where you have to stop and critically evaluate if you're still on the right track. There is much that can change in your staff while your production is running.

Production start - you have to get everyone going

It is now that you seriously have to step in as a production manager. This is where you must have the purpose of the production tucked into your backbone so you are ready to inspire and motivate all of your crew so that you get started with a common direction for the production.

Tips for running your production

Production checklist for when you start your production

Simple call sheet template

Follow-up - before the production runs off the track

Production management is a hard discipline. You need to make sure that you are the front every day so that you reach the production’s milestones until the deadline. At the same time, be aware that you are moving in the right direction.

Here it becomes very important that you as production manager keep an eye on production progress. Because this is often the case, it really runs off the track. There are many different tools for managing and following up on a project. Here are a few:+

Production Hero

Production schedule templates

Our appeal to you is rather doing a follow up a little too often than a little too rarely. For the faster you can step in and put out the production fires, the greater are the chance that you reach the milestone within the deadline.

That sounds easy enough. However, many production managers actually face a lot of problems. In pursuit of deadlines, production milestones, and efficiency, a large number production managers fall into the operational trap. They take care of the operational tasks on production, which means that hey forget to take the time for management the crew.

Do you allocate time for the for the unexpected?

A good rule of thumb when we work with personal planning is that you must remember to keep 40% of the calendar free of unforeseen events.
It is difficult with all the unforeseen that happens when we implement our production plan in practice. Your production plan is like paradise. If no one touches the forbidden apple, it will probably be fine. But when something starts to slide this is where your production plan will be tested.

How to solve the unexpected problems as a production manager

You may have experienced it yourself. The production world is unpredictable, and all the sharp milestones, the hard planning and effective follow-ups, and the project are now running off the track. There may be little things that kick your legs away beneath you. It may be a production schedule that starts to run off.

The worst thing is that panic is now beginning to widen. Then it's hard to save something with intensive motivation management - which has otherwise kept your crew happy so far. There must be some better tools available.

Here is an effective guide with 4 steps to put out fires in a production.

  1. Get all the problems described and assessed in terms of influence on whether you reach the milestone.
  2. Get all team members and go through the list - one point at a time.
  3. Find solutions.
  4. Construct a new plan. Start from scratch and make a realistic production plan for how to get into the milestones.

It may be that the production schedule slides in this maneuver. But it's nothing compared to if you close your eyes or look the other way.

Markus Ramlau

I'm Markus Ramlau, COO and co-founder of Production Hero. I have 15 years of experience from the tv industry as a production manager.


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