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How Long to Schedule for Prep?

Hi there,

I'm wondering how long I should schedule for prep with the DP on my first narrative feature? I am producing/directing.

I'm also not sure of what the entire process entails, as all the books I have on filmmaking don't really cover the subject and internet searches haven't proved too helpful. I was expecting to discuss visual style, select equipment, conduct tests, visit locations and create a shotlist. Am I missing anything? An agent of a DP I approached asked how long I need for prep - I was thinking this process would take about a week, maybe two, but they are asking if I need 4-5, which seems huge.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.


Staff Member
On my first feature, we budgeted for a week for the director to meet with the DP; we allocated 10 days for the second as their were more locations involved. In both cases, he had a strong idea of the equipment he wanted to use.

Keep in mind that you will (in all likelihood) need to pay the DP for that time.
I’ve just wrapped on a short series for a streaming service so I can give you an idea on the prep we did for that.

The Director initially floated the idea with me over a year ago, but the very first actual production meeting was in November. We shot through April/May. Then post through June (of which I was involved shortly for the grade).

I wasn’t involved in a full time capacity through the entirety of Nov-Jun, but I was ‘on-call’ to some extent. I had other projects on, but I had a number of phone calls and meetings through the early stages, then location recces, meetings with the network, shot listing, organising equipment (finding deals with rental houses and acting as a conduit between them and our Producer), I went to some rehearsals with the cast, I did screen tests for the network, camera and lighting tests, camera/make-up/costume tests, etc.

4-5 weeks sounds pretty reasonable, there’s generally a lot to be done and a lot of the decisions that are made in pre (like locations, equipment based on camera tests etc.) are not things that can be decided a week before you start shooting. If a location is unacceptable and you need to find another one, will you be able to secure another within a couple of days?

I’m not sure what your budget is, but if it is a budget concern - were it me I would rather do a proper pre with you that took the time it needs and only get paid for whatever you can afford than scrimp on pre production.

The better and more comprehensive your pre production is, the better the actual film will be.


Staff Member
Can you come to the US and shoot my next feature? :)

As much as I love everything you said, I interviewed many dp's for both of my features, and no one would give time beyond what was paid for.
If it's possible to do that, great.

Having said that, pre-pro in total was about 6 months for each of them. I worked with other team members who were terrific but much less expensive per day than the dp. I would have loved to have each of the dp's for more time.
Can you come to the US and shoot my next feature? :)
Love to! Haha

Ultimately if I’m committing to a project and putting my name on it, I want it to be as good as it can be.

Of course, there are limitations - and if I’m caught up on other projects and physically can’t commit to extra pre- time, then it becomes harder but ultimately the job of a DP is to help realise the Director’s vision and I’m not sure how that really happens in only a couple of meetings unless you already have an established working relationship.

In my view, if the project isn’t worth committing to properly, then why are you committing to it at all?

To be fair, most narrative projects I work on I have an existing relationship with the Director in some way.


IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Each project is different and DPs work in different ways, the important part is, knowing that way! Communication and a strong relationship is key. Talk your DP up. You guys should be on conversational terms, if it feels stiff and you are afraid how to ask them something, the relationship will show in the film.