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Creating a Production Book

Working with a group of people can be difficult. Whether its a photographer, the client, models, or crew, they all have needs. It’s the job of a producer to keep everybody organized and keep a shoot on schedule. One of the most important tools a producer always carries is a production book. In the world of fast-paced commercial projects, a production book contains everything pertinent to the job.

Every team member receives a copy of the production book, helping to keep everybody in the loop. The lead producer will always have a printed out copy of the production book, because you never know when you’ll need access to it. They’ll bring it everywhere: cars, planes, trains, boats, and more.

Sample production book from one of my video production recent jobs.

So what does a production book contain that makes it so valuable? The answer is everything. But here’s a more specific list:

Master Schedule

One of the first sections of the production book contains the master schedule. This schedule contains shoot days, travel days, times of arrival, crew call times. If you’re working with large group of people, everything should be planned out in advance, from crew call times to dinner reservations. Don’t expect a restaurant to have room for 8-10 people, or more. Give them a call and let them know you’re coming, so your crew isn’t waiting around.

Travel Documents

Flight information, boarding passes, confirmation numbers, rental car location, individual flight arrival times, airport addresses, airline contact information, etc.

Hotel Information

If you’re shoot spans multiple days and you’re booking hotel rooms, it’s best to book as a group. You’ll, get the best rate and one person (the producer) can manage the hotel rooms. This speeds up the check-in process and then room keys can be divided amongst the crew. Keep reservation information, both local and national customer service phone numbers, and room assignments in your production book.

Crew List with Contact Information

As well-connected as a producer should be, there should always be a crew list with both cell phone and email contact information. You’ll waste time trying to look through your phone’s contact list finding each number, so collect it all on one page. This will also make emailing the production book easier by having all the information together. There’s nothing worse than forgetting to include a crew member, and this list will help you keep everything organized.

Phone Numbers

Aside from crew information, the producer will need contact info for all the locations, rental companies, drivers, location scouts, catering, restaurants, travel centers or embassies if traveling internationally etc. Again, keeping all of this in one, alphabetical list will save you time throughout the day.

Shooting Locations

If you’re using multiple locations, make sure to include the address and phone number to each venue. You’re crew will need directions to get to each location and if they’re having trouble parking or finding the area, either provide a facility contact number or make sure to add a producer’s phone number who will be on-site before everyone else.

Original Proposal

Keeping a copy of the original proposal is a great Idea. Both the crew and producer can refer to this document to make sure everything is on track and deliverables are being met. Don’t get caught leaving the location without making sure you have all the shots in the bag.

Shot List

You’ll find shot lists more commonly in video production than photography, but it still can be a good document to have in your production book. Everybody’s working towards getting the shots you need and it’s really helpful to have a list in the midst of a crazy production day.

Scouting Pictures

If you’ve scouted the location separate to planning the actual production, it can be helpful to include a few scouting pictures to locations you want to make sure to visit again. The photographer might not remember the exact angle, or lighting conditions they wanted and it’s great to have a reference.

While not included in the production book, every producer should also have a copy of each crew members’ travel documents. This can be just a copy of a drivers license if local, or passport and visas if traveling internationally. We hope to never use them, but I’ve been on trips before where people have temporarily lost their wallet or misplaced their passport and can get stranded in that location. Having a copy of their identification can help in obtaining new identification documents if needed.

Before every major production I’m involved with, I like to create my production book with a 3-ring binder, with tabs for each of the topics listed above. I can easily add or remove documents as needed, keeping me organized throughout the day.

If Im working on a small job, like a recent one with just myself and another photographer, Ill just use a file folder to keep all of our documents organized.

Production books don’t need to be fancy. It’s nice to have a branded front page with your logo or the client’s logo, but the rest can just be basic word documents. I’ve got a background in graphic design, so some of my production books get more involved if I’ve got the time, but usually it’s pretty plain. Don’t worry about not having everything I’ve listed above in your book. This new tool might take some time to get used to, but you’ll be happy to have it on your next production day.

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