5 Filmmaking Tips That Will Increase Your Productivity

Avatar Cinema Summit | June 6, 2018

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#1 - StudioBinder

If you find yourself working on a lot of projects - whether they are feature films or promo shoots - StudioBinder is one of those tools that will make your life easier.

What is StudioBinder?

It's essentially a project management and collaboration tool specific to the Film and Video production industries. It includes a vast array of features, depending on what package you get, and it is a monthly subscription web based application.

This can be a real bummer for some people. It sucks to add a monthly bill onto your ever growing list of things you are paying for. And, if you want ALL of the features that StudioBinder has to offer, you are looking at a price tag of $85 per month at the time of this posting. (Yikes!)

But, if you are a busy production company that requires these tools with this level of organization, collaboration, and detail, then $85 a month will be worth the amount of time saved and headaches avoided.

Now, if you aren't into paying the monthly fees, StudioBinder still has something for you. Their Free Forever plan allows you to manage contacts and prep an unlimited number of call sheets.

Here is an example of the call sheet creation tool in the free version of StudioBinder

I love this, because it's very easy to customize and it pops out a really clean looking call sheet. (There's nothing worse than getting a terrible Google Sheets template with the spreadsheet lines still in it)

You are hit with the large StudioBinder branding, but hey, it's free.

What else can you do inside StudioBinder's Studio Version?

In the most feature packed version of StudioBinder you get unlimited projects and collaborates, plus:

  • Shot Lists and Storyboards
  • Shooting Schedules
  • Call Sheets
  • check
    Script Breakdowns
  • check
    Message Your Contacts
  • check
    Production Calendar
  • check
    Client Approval System
  • check
    Workflow Columns

That's ultimately the appeal behind this system - the ability to have all of your documents and projects managed from one location in a clean and easy to use interface.

Plus, they are constantly improving the app as well. I spoke to them about the possibility of adding budgeting to their list of features, and they told me that it's already in their action plan. How cool would that be!

That's why I have put it at #1 on my list. 

#2 - Trello

Trello is another project and task management app. It's not industry specific and it doesn't include the rich features that Studio Binder does. 

But, it's extremely handy for organizing thoughts and managing your schedule or to-do list. Plus, the free version is pretty robust! And I have not yet found a reason to upgrade to the paid version which basically just includes more space to upload documents and more integrations with other apps (or "Power Ups" as they call them).

So, how can you use this in your filmmaking workflow?

One way we have found to use it is to organize all of our screenplay ideas, and sort them by how much progress we've made.

As you can see in the picture above, we've sorted it out into 6 lists.

  • 1
  • 2
    Beat Sheet
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
    Draft Mode
  • 6

The ideas list is pretty self explanatory. Whenever we come up with new ideas, we place them in the list with a brief description, or fleshed out logline if we have it.

The beat sheet list is for projects where we've created a rough 1-2 page outline as a jumping off point that goes over the main beats of the story and acts as an overall framework for the script.

The outline list holds projects where we've made a detailed outline. We like to use the index card method to write brief descriptions of each scene so we can stick the cards up onto the wall or a cork board and move them around as we discover the details of our story.

Rough means rough draft. So after the outline, we give ourselves permission to write a totally terrible, eye-wateringly bad rough draft. If you are like us, the hardest part of getting through the first draft of a script is all the nitpicking and trying to make it perfect. But no! We don't let ourselves work endlessly on a first draft. Instead, we write a terrible first draft and just get the story out on the page to refine at a later date.

Draft Mode is our way of saying we are in the process of making revisions. Within the Trello app we are able to denote whether it's the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or whatever draft it happens to be. That way we can keep track, add comments and feedback that we want to add into the next draft and keep it organized.

Final is the happy valley of our Trello board. Once a project is to the point where we are not making draft revisions any longer, we move it over to the Final list.

There are also color code options, stickers, calendar view that you can add to give yourself deadlines to keep on track for any step of the process. The sky is the limit!

We've also made Trello boards for organizing tasks for us to do at our studio, for our production company, and for this blog.

One AMAZING feature of Trello is the mobile app for iPhone and Android. This is especially helpful for those times you are at the gym and an idea strikes you like a dumbbell to the face. You can whip out your phone, add it to the Ideas list, and move on with your day knowing you won't deal with the terrors of forgetting the genius idea you had earlier. 

So what applications can you see yourself using this app for?

#3 - Folder Structure Templates

Ah yes, the super sexy and appealing world of folder structure. Don't leave! Please!

Okay, before you judge this one, let's think about your current system for post production.

If you've ever felt the shame of having to hand over a hard drive with your project files on it to another editor or team member, because your projects are so disorganized and disastrous, you know the benefits of creating a clear folder structure from the beginning of your process.

So, what I've done to teach myself to not be a post production slob, is to create my own custom folder structure templates. Below is an example:

These are just empty folders that I created and named.

Now, I am able to import this folder structure into my Premiere or AE projects to help myself stay organized from the get-go instead of trying to move everything around and do emergency clean up at the end.

Note: If you add a # or a * to the beginning of your file names, those files with show up at the top of your list. For example, if you want the "Sequences" folder to be at the top because it's your most important folder, naming it "#Sequences" will make it the first folder in the list.

Alternatively, if you have a specific order you want all of the folders to be in, you can number every folder to create a list like:




*And so on and so forth.

#4 - Evernote

Evernote is another one of those "remembery" tools that let you jot down notes to find at a later date.

Trevor is a big advocate for PostIt Notes and physical notebooks, which are handy for certain types of notes if you happen to be at a desk or work area where you can stick them to be reminded.

I am a bigger fan of the digital solutions because, well, I lose my notes. I won't remember what page of my notebook I put them on and I'll have to hunt through my illegible chicken scratch that I wrote in a flurry of excitement. 

Plus, I love the idea of being able to collaborate on ideas, or continue to flesh out ideas within the same note instead of starting a new note on a new sticky note or piece of paper.

The organizational aspects are also key for me. With Evernote, you are able to create "Notebooks" for various projects, companies, groups, or whatever you see fit. And, within those notebooks you are able to tag your notes so they are easily searchable in the future. So, if you happen to come up with a great joke for your comedy script, you can put it in your Scripts notebook and tag it "jokes" so you will be able to find it within the masses of notes.

Another great feature is the ability to easily create audio notes and recordings. This could be good to record meetings or dictate ideas if you are the type of person who thinks faster than you can write.

Like Trello, Evernote has it's own mobile app for iPhone and Android, which comes in handy on the go. It also has a web application and a desktop application. So you are pretty much covered for whatever you preference may be.

In addition to audio and text notes, you can create hand written notes, which is very handy if you own a Samsung Note like I do, or if you have excellent finger writing skills. But we've found it especially useful for jotting down pictures, diagrams, and rough sketches of anything and everything.

One unexpected application for the mobile app has been to hold our hashtags for social media posts so we don't have to constantly type them all out.

This is another one of those programs that has endless possibilities and uses. What can you come up with?

#5 - Accountabilibuddies

I can't take credit for this idea, or this name. Accountabilibuddies is something that Trevor and I did while we were still in college to help motivate us and keep us on track with all of our projects and tasks. The origin of the name is still unknown.

So what is Accountabilibuddies?

Essentially, the thought is that you have a friend who holds you accountable for what you say you will do.

If you set out to write a script in 5 days, that person's sole duty is to guilt trip you and motivate you into not being a lazy bum and completing your tasks.

Some people kick it up a notch by creating punishments for uncompleted tasks. These could be monetary punishments or whatever your heart desires.

Now if this seems like a really stupid idea that won't work, you may be a special kind of procrastinator that needs professional help.

But for you casual procrastinators, the thought of disappointing a friend or loved one may be just what you need to kick your butt in gear.

It's silly, it's fun. And you can spread the love by being your friend's accountabilibuddy, too.

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