Assignment Production Preparation = No surprises!

[by Steve Whittaker]

OK. You have the assignment, the client has signed off on the estimate, you have just received the check covering the 50% retainer (not a deposit), but are you truly ready for this assignment? You have already checked your equipment but what about getting access to your various assignment locations? When you created your estimate, did you consider other potential costs?

Your assignment production schedule should detail every aspect of your assignment goals, the deadline and the timing of each objective, and any associated requirements needed to complete that assignment. Lead time is just as important since these preparations may take more time than you or your client may expect. Plan that into your schedule.

We collaborate and coordinate with our clients regarding all location logistics. The final production list and schedule, including certificates of insurance, releases, permits if needed and other related logistical items, is sent out to potential site contacts for property access. This might include property management teams, school district/campus contacts, engineering, security, etc. This saves our client time and we know we can move forward and complete the assignment with confidence.

Certificates of insurance are crucial for most commercial sites and that includes the basic liability insurance ranging from $1-5 million depending on the property management’s requirements.  Auto and workers’ compensation coverage for any employees who be assisting you may also be required. Be sure to factor that into your estimates as well.

Liability risk for civic, state and federal agencies is the driving force behind film permit requirements and they are becoming more common than ever.  Always check to see if they may be required. Advance research regarding the costs, time requirements and who to contact for film permits should be part of the normal estimating phase.

Without a permit, you could have your assignment interrupted, canceled or worse, you could end up paying fines. Check the governmental agencies where you are filming to confirm if a permit is needed.

In many corporate, academic and governmental sites, background checks are crucial as is the lead-time required to get these checks performed. Recently, a California school district required a “Live Scan” background check for one of our assignments. Evidently school districts in many states around the country are now requiring background checks for site access using the Live Scan process. Each state has different requirements and lead times.  For the California project, I went to:

Weather forecasting is a key factor in targeting the best possible timing, weather conditions and safety. We have so many resources now available and I use multiple resources including: local TV station web sites, NOAA, and

Advanced logistical planning during the estimating phase can make all the difference for a successful assignment, staying on budget, your client’s view of your professionalism and gaining the best results possible for each assignment.

Steve Whittaker is an architectural photographer, based in Portland, Oregon. An ASMP member since 1983, he is currently serving his second term as an ASMP Director. This post provides a taste of one area discussed in Steve’s seminar, The Business of Architectural Photography, which covers these topics and many more.