Scheduling your short: working days

In the film industry, the average shoot day is 12 hours on set. Feature film shoots may be scheduled 6 days a week, but if the film runs behind, crew will shoot 7-day weeks, for weeks at a time (imagine going 21 days without a day off). Add travel time and you can see how crew experience burn-out.

BECTU is running the #eyeshalfshut campaign to stamp out long working hours on film and TV shoots.


I work with independent short form content where we shoot on weekends and holidays because we have day jobs. Where there isn’t enough money, so we push longer days to cut costs. I’m conscious of the effect on the crew.

Below is a schedule of how you can plan a 14-hour film shoot, with some explanations. Use this to help you schedule your film shoot. However please be conscious of this current debate in the industry, and how long shooting days affect the sustainability of the industry.

Scheduling a shoot

14 hours

  • 08:30 Breakfast, HOD call (production meeting)
  • 09:00 CREW CALL
  • 09:00-11:00 PACK IN
  • 09:30 CAST CALL
  • 09:45 Cast in MU
  • 11:00 Scene 1 (of the day)
  • 13:00 Scene 2
  • 14:00 LUNCH
  • 14:45 Cast in MU
  • 15:00 Scene 3
  • 17:00 Scene 4
  • 19:00 DINNER
  • 19:45 Cast in MU
  • 20:00 Scene 4 (cont)
  • 21:30 PACK OUT
  • 22:30 WRAP


  • 08:30 Breakfast, HOD call (production meeting)
  • 09:00 CREW CALL
  • 09:00-11:00 PACK IN
  • 09:30 CAST CALL
  • 09:45 Cast in MU
  • 11:00 Scene 1 (of the day)
  • 13:00 Scene 2
  • 14:00 LUNCH
  • 14:45 Cast in MU
  • 15:00 Scene 3
  • 18:00 Scene 4 (with rolling dinner snacks)
  • 20:00 PACK OUT
  • 21:00 WRAP

Definitions and Explanations

PACK IN is where you bring in the kit and set up for the first shot. I allow at least one full hour for Pack In, and one full hour for Pack Out. However, now that our shoots have more lights, and now that I need more time to teach people on the Action On The Side shoots, we now allow two hours for Pack In.

I still usually allow an hour for Pack Out though.

The Breakfast Production Meeting is for the director, producer, AD, and DP to touch base, talk through the shots, and make sure they are prepared for the day. Film crews also turn up early to the shoot, so I ensure there is food there for them when they arrive.


Beccy Whyte, MUA on AOTS’ latest short, ‘The Last Postcard‘, March 2018, applying makeup on Marina Kolokolova. Photo credit Chris Bourton.

The first CAST CALL is at least 15 mins after CREW CALL so the MUA has at least 30 mins to set up (this gives the cast 15 mins to grab a coffee before getting into make-up). In my experience, most MUAs will turn up 30 mins before their call time, because they assume the AD didn’t factor in the MUA’s set up time.



Francesca Ioppolo puts makeup on Joanna Pope for ‘The Darkness Without‘ Photo credit Chris Bourton 


Every meal break has to be 60 minutes (as per every film union).  What I do, however, is trick people (damn, here’s the secret…). You see 45 mins into the meal break is “Cast in MU”. Cast and MU can start their meal earlier so they get the full 60 mins. The last 15 mins of the break (when Cast is in MU) is so 1) the cast can have their make-up reapplied (I learnt that the hard way on my first film shoot); and 2) so the crew can faff (going to the loo, making a cup of coffee, slowly making their way back to the kit). It’s a faff buffer time.


Catering for ‘Locked In


Always when scheduling, allow buffer time. Lots and lots of buffer time. Because what can go wrong, will.

How many meals do you have to have?

It depends how long your shoot day is. For a 14-hour day, two meals (lunch, dinner). For a 10-hour day, one meal (lunch). For up to a six-hour day, people can sort themselves out for food – but make sure you have heaps of snacks so they can fill up.

If you’re shooting around 7 or 8pm, I think you should feed people dinner. Everyone gets hungry around dinnertime. The same for 1pm-3pm for lunch.


Me and Daniele catering for ‘Locked In

I always teach my students that their crew can’t go 5 hours without a meal. However, I was on a 12-hour shoot recently (9am-9pm), and there was only one meal (lunch) at 2pm. The rationale is that five hours without a break is industry standard. 9am-2pm, one hour, 3pm to 8pm, but that they could push the extra hour by providing snacks so the crew can eat in that final 6 hours. I know from experience that dinner can add extra time when people just want to go home earlier. I’ll leave it up to your judgement.


I hope this helps you to schedule your shoots.


Author: phetheringtonnz

Film Producer, Director, Lecturer. From NZ based in London.

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