The Film Director’s Prep: Episodic Television

by Peter D Marshall

I’ve had a few subscribers ask me about the order of a Director’s Prep in episodic TV. The following is a basic breakdown of what to expect when you are directing an episode of a TV show.

Every show works a little differently, but here is a guide to follow. Hopefully, you have had the script for a few days before you start prep and you have seen some completed shows.

7 Day Episodic TV Show

Day 1
– find out where the closest Starbucks is!
– meeting with producers about the script (first tone meeting)
– meeting with the First AD
– tour of standing sets (stage)
– work on your script
– meet the production designer and the location manager
– location scouts?

Day 2
– work on your script
– location scouts
– meeting with casting director

Day 3
– work on your script/shot lists
– location scouts
– casting tapes
– meetings with Stunts, Costumes, Props etc. during next few days

Day 4
– work on your script/shot lists
– location scouts
– by Day 4, you want to have your locations and casting done. (This does not always happen!)

Day 5
– work on your script/shot lists
– lock in casting and locations
– visit the set and talk to DOP and actors

Day 6
– work on your script/shot lists
– key location survey with department heads
– production meeting with key departments heads
– finalize all casting, locations and script elements

Day 7
– last day to put out fires
– cast read through at lunch
– wait for script revisions
– work on your script/shot lists
– meeting with producers on the script (final tone meeting)

Here is a detailed list what Production (AD/PM/Producers) look for in location scouts and production meetings.

1) Location Surveys/Scouts
– the location manager has a concept meeting with the producers and the director after reading the script
– the location manager finds as many choices as possible for the Director
– scouts: Director/Location Manager/1st AD/Producer/PM or UPM/Art Director/Transportation Co-ordinator or a Driver

2) Things to look for on a Scout
– location requirements (need to be wrapped out by what time?/cannot get into building until what time?)
– location accessibility for equipment (loading docks/elevators/stairs)
– noise factors (traffic/construction)
– lighting set-up time (pre-rig?/lights outside?)
– what else can be shot in this location or near by
– DFN possibilities (tenting/lots of windows could be problematic)
– unit parking
– crew parking (shuttle time to set)
– lunch facilities

3) First Scouts (lots of time)
– does it work for the Director
– does it work for the schedule

4) Last Scouts (no time left)
– does it work for the schedule
– does it work for the director

5) Department Head Meetings
The director should have the following meetings:
– concept meeting with producers/location manager/art director
– script meeting with producers and writer(if available)
– casting meeting with producers and casting director
– costume
– props
– set dec
– special FX
– stunts
– extra casting
– transportation
– other (animals,optical FX)
– visit the set and talk to – DOP/hair & make up/sound/actors
– Director and 1st AD meeting

Copyright (c) 2000-2010  Peter D. Marshall / All Rights Reserved

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Scott June 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Dear Peter,
I have been following your wonderul aritcles for the past 5 years and I myself have been directing tv episodic just recently. My question to you is could you put together a article explaining your proccess when working with actors after a rehersal….Meaning what do you do when you find an actor not playing the part like you wanted…do you talk to them privatley and go over the character’s objectives….? Do you give them small adjustments (action verbs) so not to have them get in thier head…The reason I bring this up is sometime I feel that when I come to an actor to make an adjustment on thier performance I feel sort of like “they probabaly know this already” I hope I am making myself clear…..
Thanks again for all your time and helpful tips!!!

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