Rewrites, Reshoots, ADR and Pickups, top ten tips to get the most from your resources

During post production on any film, there will be a point where your start to consider reshoots and pickups.

As a film is edited, problems will start to appear…

These are story problems that were not fixed in the script, issues that arise out of production problems (running out of time or light during the main shoot for instance), casting challenges (actors turning out to be different than expected, chemistry lacking etc), even the editing process introduces continuity issues… etc etc…

All of these and many more ‘snags’ will lead you to the notion that you need to shoot some more stuff.

We did this last year with the short film ‘Seeing Him’ which premieres next month (and you can get tickets here).

When I saw the edit of the film it was apparent that some reshoots, pickups and ADR was needed to clarify the central premise and theme of the film.

This is VERY common and happens on most films.

So what are picksups, reshoots and ADR specifically?

Pickup – a shot or shots needed to make a scene work better, often an establishing shot of a story location, a close up of a ‘hero’ prop that clarifies story, a shot of the newspaper headline etc. (many of these kind of shots get dropped during the main shoot for purely logistical reasons).

Reshoot – A scene just isn’t working, so it is rewritten and reshot, often reducing the length and clarifying some missing story mechanics. Or a whole new scene is created to help the story.

ADR – New dialogue is recorded to fix badly recorded dialogue or new dialogue to add story information (the later often playing off shot so you don’t see the actor speak but you do hear the words).

Prior to reshoots and pickups you will add title cards to your edit explaining what the missing shot or scene will be. This will help viewers understand the mechanics of your story, even if there are bits still missing.

Here are my top tips for making sure you get what you need from your reshoots and pickups.

  • Plan for a long weekend
    Rental rates, location access, crew availability, cast availability… All seem to be better over a weekend. So plan for a long weekend, picking up kit on a Friday and dropping off on a Monday.
  • Don’t fall out with your team
    Especially your cast. I have seen too many films and filmamkers suffer over the years because rifts developed while in the crucible of the shoot. So give up your need to be ‘right’, eat some humble pie and make up with the cast and crew with whom you may have fallen out. Better still, don’t fall out in the first place. Make friends and stay friends. You will most likely need them back.
  • Wait until the edit REALLY screams for your reshoots and pickups before organising one
    Once a problem has been found in the edit, the instinct is to fix it. And we filmmakers can be an impatient lot. Now is the time to slow down and reflect and not do what you needed to do on set – run at 100mph – and see how the edit evolves. Reshoots (rewrites really) will evolve over the duration of the edit and you don’t want to shoot it before you are ready. As ever the first draft is not the one to shoot. You also want to be sure you get everything in that one reshoot weekend so the later you do it, the more you will cover.
  • Embrace the reshoot
    Too many filmmakers fear reshoots and pickups. In my experience a well thought out and organised reshoot weekend will transform your film. And if it’s well run, it should not cost very much. You will be amazed how much ground you can cover with a smaller crew, ultra focus and a fully rested mind and body.
  • But if you need another reshoot after the last reshoot…
    Do it. On one feature film I made we had five reshoots, including reshooting the end three times. We got it right that fourth time (including the original shoot). Micro budget filmmaking can be organic and evolutionary and it’s best to embrace this as a philosophy. Get it right as you will only ever have one premiere.
  • Shoot with as small a crew as possible
    In my experience, on pickups and reshoots I have acted as a quasi art-department and costume department. Add to this a producer to fix issues, a DP who will also do the DIT and focus pulling (though there is a good arguement for one more camera team member), a sound recordist and a couple of extra eager hands and you have a crew. Lighting should be minimal. Depending on complexity, you may also need makeup and costume onboard too. The bigger the crew the slower you will move. Usually, we base ourselves out of a single location where all props and costumes (and even micro sets can be built) are stored. Shooting on the long end of the lens to blur out and compress background detail (and thus hide) the background can mean you don’t need to keep changing locations too. It’s all about getting the needed shots with the least crew relocation as possible.
  • Have the film to hand
    Get the most recent cut of your film on a laptop or iPad so you can refer to it during the reshoot. Most likely you won’t refer to it too much but when you need it, it will be invaluable.
  • Be clever with shots and locations
    One physical location can serve as many story locations, especially for reshoots and pickups. What you are looking for most is minimising moving the crew.
  • Props
    Often on a microbudget shoot, some props, especially in close up shots, will betray their budget. I have routinely reshot close ups of ‘hero props’ having taken time to get the prop looking amazing and with the appropriate detail when up close and personal (the most common now being a mobile phone screen). One crap prop will bounce an audience out of your story, so pick-up and reshoot those close ups that just don’t meet the standards.
  • Plan plan plan
    The joy of a pickup / reshoot is the ability to take your time to plan it well, without exhaustion and the out-of-control feeling a long feature film shoot often presents. So plan plan plan.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
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