The importance of film shoot logistics

As I embarked on my first multi-person shoot with Mike McKay and FIVE2NINE, I really had no idea what to expect. In a fairly short period of time, I had gone from watching videos to being a part of their creation. Needless to say, a large majority of this production system was quite new to me. Which made it all the more fascinating to see just how much thought, logistics, camera gear, and effort went into every single shot. Just watching the final video, one does not get a real appreciation of what it took to take that shot from an idea to a realization. I’m now starting to see and be a part of that process from idea, to planning, to shooting, to editing. You have to be able to do it all.

Jondachi crane operation

There was three of us on this shoot in the Pontiac, Quebec. Mike McKay was the producer, Dylan Page was the Director of Photography, and I was assigned to be a production assistant. My job was to make sure all the gear was in the right place, and just generally help wherever help was needed. This meant that I got to be a part of or at least watch almost all the aspects of the shoot. Often having to pick my jaw up off the floor after seeing some of the shots that both Mike and Dylan were getting, I quickly realized what made all these shots possible.

Mike McKay FIVE2NINE

There are likely a handful of people able to get these same shots if given a camera in these locations. But that’s just it, that’s a very important part. When people think about behind the scenes they think of big expensive equipment shooting cool things, for the most part. What people don’t see is long hours sitting in the office making phone calls, booking locations, renting gear, scheduling, picking a location, etc. These are what are referred to as film shoot logistics and in the world of film making, logistics are what make the world go around and, ultimately, make what we do possible. Without this in mind, a potential great shoot can rapidly spiral into a logistical nightmare.

Jondachi Bridge Setup

A wise man once told me, filmmaking is like a house of cards, if you don’t have one element, the whole thing will come tumbling down. The foundation of this house of cards has three pillars; Gear, people, and, yes you guessed it, logistics. This shoot in the Pontiac went incredibly smoothly from a logistics standpoint. We managed to keep everything organized and were, therefore, able to work efficiently and get a lot of shots in a very limited amount of time. Our locations and travel schedule were also planned out well in advance, a key to a logistically successful shoot. To give you an idea, in two days, we shot three interviews, shot off-road vehicles in a trail network, went fishing, flew the drones several times, and, most importantly, had several meetings with talent and clients to make sure that they were happy. All this in two days. This would not have been possible had it not been for Mike and Dylan’s experience with logistics and with the equipment.

Dylan Page FIVE2NINE

It was not until I was sat here writing this post that I realized the sheer scale and importance of the logistical planning that went into that shoot. It is so easy to focus on the small picture, to worry about the shot that is happening right in front of you. I find myself falling into this trap very often. But what differentiates a filmmaker from a great filmmaker is their ability to always be one step ahead, have a plan, know the plan, and stick to it. There was no shortage of this on the Pontiac shoot and this logistical talent displayed by Mike and Dylan was possibly what has the most profound impact on me in my development as a filmmaker.