So, it’s time to check into our hotel to begin our week of shooting The Virgin Mattress. Rachael, at Pure, had our room ready for us with a letter welcoming us to Columbia, Missouri, along with a nice bag of snacks for our room. (Loved that Rachael, nice touch.) We knew it was going to be a long week but we were excited to see this labor of love come to life.
So what should you do to make the production of your show a success? Here are a few thoughts:
Location: Be picky about where you shoot. It just so happened that our story was about a mattress store, so going to a retail location made total sense. Our production company worked with a local guy that knew the market well and where to get the deals. As you know, these days commercial rents are about as low as you can get them, so shop hard and you can find good rates to fit your budget. Even if your show does not take place in a retail setting, it could be a cheap way to create your own sound stage. When you are writing your scripts it is really important to think about where you are going to shoot, because if you have a lot of locations where you need to film, the cost goes up and it will ultimately add days to your schedule to accommodate moves. Keep it simple if you can and you will be able to use your budget for other things to make your show great like cast, props, or launch strategy.
Extra cameras: When we filmed the first series of shows, we did it with only one camera to achieve a certain look. We shot several takes of each scene to make sure we had a few angles to pick from in post, but it still limited us to a certain degree. During the second series, we used two cameras and it made it much easier when it came time to edit things together. We had a lot more coverage and because of the time it saved us, we were able try some different things. If you have the opportunity to shoot on RED cameras, do it. Not much out there beats the quality.
Time: Allow time in your shoot schedule to give the actors an opportunity to put their own touch on the characters. We had to shoot the script verbatim to make sure we were staying true to the guidance we had received from senior management and legal team during the writing process. After we had those shots, we turned our actors loose to put their own spin on the scene. It’s a good thing we did because that is where the real magic can happen. It amazes me just how much better they can make it with an additional line, look, or a laugh. The right director can also make a big difference when it comes to this way of thinking.
Fun: Laugh on set! Tony Niknejadi did an incredible job as 1st assistant director and producer but he had his hands full keeping us in line because we were cutting up and just having a good time. If things are tense on the set and somebody is taking themselves too seriously it can really bring everyone down. Don’t tolerate that crap and enjoy the ride.
Extra footage: Capture additional content during the shoot. If you are planning to create a website to support your series, and I hope you are, make sure to get plenty of behind the scenes footage that you can use in your social media strategy; check some of ours out HERE. (Thank you Greg Hall, Justin Scott, Emily Eldridge and Amy DiFrancesco you did an awesome job!) Plan additional vignette content that could supplement the story and be fun for your audience to see. It’s a great way to add more color to some of your stronger characters. We actually had a small studio set up in the green room for video and photography with wardrobe and props ready to go. We kept everybody very busy when they were not actually filming a scene and got some great stuff to support the show as a result. Our actors were awesome and had a great time doing it as well.
I realize that some of this is real 101 level stuff but hopefully you will find something helpful if you are considering creating your own show. Oh, and one last thing; DON’T cheap out on the food! Sarah did an amazing job of keeping people fed and happy. (She is the wife of Drew Hall, our primary writer and director.) This may sound like a small thing but believe me, it isn’t. On our heavier shoot days, we had lighter meals like sandwiches, but we had some great hot meals as well. Keep plenty of fruit and snacks on hand and BRING IT when it comes to the deserts; everybody loves that part!
Get a quick peak of the trailer and see episode one later today at thevirginmattress.com!