Overcoming Production Crises and Problems

No one wants to lose days, so if the director reins in his or her appetite or artistic standard, that grim possibility can be avoided. What are more difficult to survive are the production delays caused by weather, equipment or camera failure, accidents or illness.

Enduring and triumphing over production crisis is the true test of a producer and his or her production mettle. No individual can accurately predict weather patterns much more than a few days in advance, no matter how many expensive forecasting services are employed; it’s an inexact science under the best of circumstances. This is one of those areas, as irrational as it may be that a film commissioner gets hammered by a producer who is livid that it is raining! While we have no control over the weather or other “Act of God” or force majeure, many films do have movie insurance that covers such events.

Definition of ACT OF GOD:

An extraordinary interruption by a natural cause (as a flood or earthquake) of the usual course of events that experience, prescience, or care cannot reasonably foresee or prevent

Definition of FORCE MAJEUR:

1. superior or irresistible force
2. an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled

Weather insurance can be purchased, but it’s both expensive and still carries a significant deductible. There is simply no way around inconvenient inclement weather. Well-thought-out planning for ‘cover’ sets, to be used in the event exterior filming has to be canceled, can mitigate the impact by simply substituting work that still has to be done. There is always more scrambling necessary to pull in cast and crew members who might not have been on call, but it is far better to get even a partial day on a cover set than no shooting accomplished at all.

A destroyed set or washed out location can be devastating to a production, as Francis Ford Coppola learned to his dismay on Apocalypse Now. Only so many substitute interior scenes can be scheduled to make up for bad weather before the supply of shoot-able sets comes up short.

Shortcuts may have to be employed to make up production time, including provisionally cutting some scenes unless the film gets back on schedule. The director, editor and other key crewmembers will undoubtedly resist this, but unless the financier is willing to advance additional funds, rain days in production are like snow days at school – they must be made up.

Despite all these trials, the producer must be resolute and upbeat, setting a positive example for the crew by not blaming them for matters beyond their control. Advance work can always be done during a rain delay, or insert shots filmed on an otherwise empty stage. The enterprising first AD and UPM can usually take advantage of such opportunities if given adequate notice — a good reason to pay for a weather subscription service with a proven reputation. This is an area that a film commissioner can potentially be of help. If you have on good advice that inclement weather may be coming, giving the producer this information can save a production. If the production does not heed your warning, at least you have tried.