Give it a year. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working on a short film or workshopping a new play, give yourself a year to execute the project from Pre-Production through Post-Production or Performances. Some project take a little more time and some take less time, there is no point rushing a project it if will compromise the caliber of your work.
Have clear goals for the outcome of the project. If your aim is to get into some festivals, know the festival submission deadlines of the ones your are focused on and schedule your production/post production accordingly so you are ready by the submission dates.
If you are mounting a Live Performance or Launching a Web Show, determine your ideal launch date and target audience; is there a specific season or holiday that makes sense for your project launch?
I like to get a calendar at the beginning of each production and start jotting down important dates. Start with your submission deadlines/performance dates and work backwards from there. This calendar becomes one section of my Production Bible.
May times when we are excited and eager to shoot right away or to rush right into rehearsals. Take the time to develop the writing, do readings for friends, family and colleagues to get feedback.
If an extra month means you will have access to borrowing better equipment or working with a stronger Cinematographer or Director it is usually worth the wait. It is also cheaper to rent equipment on the weekends, it might be advantageous to split up a 4 day shoot over 2 weekends and pay half the equipment costs than shooting 4 days in a row. The last shoot I was Production Managing the camera rental was $750/day. Shooting on a weekend could have saved us $1500 of the $3000 we spent on camera rental alone.
Do one or two nights of a workshop before you do a full 6 week run of a performance. Do a Fringe stye show first before spending the money on your full product so you have a chance to see what your audience responds to. Theatre needs to be tested with an audience otherwise it’s hard to gage if the show is going in the desired direction.
If you are calling in favors estimate it will take double the time. Many times with low budget productions we get friends and colleagues to help us by donating their time or working for deferred pay. Remember, if you are not compensating someone their normal rate, your project will always be put on hold when they get proper paying work, so sometimes this drags out the post production process. This is why having clear deadlines, communicating them and giving people ample time to complete the work is important.
For my Web Series Dumpwater Divas, we called in a lot of favors. I went through 2 editors who kept putting my project on the back burner as their paying work took priority over mine. After 6 weeks of no progress we decided it was better to come up with the money and hire someone instead to waiting for favors. Because editing was behind about 2 months that messed up the timeline for the music. Instead of working with our composer when he had some free time, he had to squeeze us in between working on an HBO show, producing a world tour album and shooting a feature film. This pushed back our schedule once again.
Flexibility is always an important quality for a producer and your timeline isn’t set in stone, there will be many changes and adjustments along the way. I find it’s easier to set out on my artistic journey with a road map and my production timeline is that map.