Production Breakdown A Guest Post By: Karol Escobar


Karol Escobar will be joining the Wide Open Camera team for NAB 2012. Please welcome her to the WOC family! We have great expectations for her and are excited to get Karol out in the field!  I asked her to write a quick post to break down a simple commercial shoot. Here it is. Please comment on this post! Thanks

The Life of a Commercial Shoot

By: Karol Escobar

You’ve jumped every hoop! Put out every fire! Packed your survival gear! With your blind fold on, you are now standing at the edge of the cliff, ready to jump. It’s Show Time. But how did you get here?

Pre-production stages are crucial to every shoot. Good Pre-Production will save you tons of time and money, no matter how big or small your shoot is.

This is where you establish : The who, what & where?

Who is your Audience/Client? What are you selling?

What/Who needs to be show cased on the spot? What type of camera & special gear do you need?

and my favorite part, where will you be shooting it? Controlled studio environment? Exotic Island?

Now that you’ve figured all of this out, it is also important to note where your spot will be airing, what market and what times. This will have a huge effect when it comes time to letting the creative juices flow, as some networks have different requirements. Unless of course, you are doing a web based only campaign.

If on-camera talent is needed for your shoot, find a reputable casting agency, this will allow you to tap into a pool of talent with your specific needs and will at times have someone on staff, that you can hire as a Talent Coordinator. Trust me! You really want to have one on set, specially if dealing with a big cast and extras.

WARNING If using explosives, you may want to have insurance and have them on speed dial.Three general must haves in a commercial


1. Since today’s audience have the attention span of a fruit fly and you are competing against the cat, the dog, boobies, twitter, facebook, etc to catch their attention, the first 5-8 seconds of your commercial needs to blow their mind (insert bigger boobies/car explosions/shootings/more boobies here) This is your time to say Hey!! Look at Me!! Whatever it is I’m selling is awesome!

2. Now that you hopefully have their eyeballs glue to the screen, you have 15-20 seconds to show case your product! (This bra will give you even bigger boobies because…) you get my point.

3. If your audience is still watching you have the last 6-3 seconds to tell them where they can get this incredible bra! or the model that comes with it! (kidding-sor of)

Are We There Yet!?


It’s time to make your bid, this is where you create a list of costs and budget for your shoot :

– Above the line : The Creative Types such as the director, producer & DOP – Below the line : The Working Bees & Everything else : ADs, CamOps, Gaffers, PAs,

Grips, ACs… Crafty, gear you’ve rented & so on.

for a more in depth look at the National Bidding Guidelines check out: http:// (which by the way hasn’t been updated since 2007 – however, it still contains relevant information and useful guidelines. Time to freshen up AICP! Just sayin’)

We Are Here! Production Time



By now you should have all t’s crossed and dotted every i’s!

– Crew Call & convoy directions have been sent out. – Your Army is set and ready for battle. – Locations & talent have been booked/confirmed & they know where they need to be. – Product is ready to go: 2 of each x 10 – Equipment Has been shipped or picked up.

Most shoots start before sunrise, some are shot in a day, others in a week and if shooting multiple spots can take up to a month. Your Army of PA’s, AC’s Set Designers, VTR, make up, wardrobe, Grip truck, production designer, prop master, catering, have been busy preparing each department for the day’s shoot, from building the PO, walkie station, crafty, parking talent trailers, setting up PottyQueens, unloading equipment, building Sets (if needed) & more.

Hereʼs an example of a day breakdown:

  • 7:30A CALL TIME: Crew A,B,C, Tech, Audio, Lighting Mini Vans x4
  • 8:30A VS Location 1 CALL TIME
  • 8:30A-12:00P VS Location 1/Fantasy 1
  • 12:00P-12:30P VS Location 1/Fantasy 1 ESU
  • 12:15P VS Location CALL TIME: Talent, Mic’d by Audio Audio Mic’s Cast : Talent Releases Signed
  • 12:15P-1:15P VS Location 2/Fantasy 2 VTR: B-Roll, Pickup Shots A Fire Eaters
  • 12:15P-1:15P VS Location Fantasy 3 VTR: Special Equipment Loaded In C
  • 12:30P-1:30P EXT VS Secret location 2 VTR: OTF’S B Acrobats/runway
  • All Product/Angels for Prep on Display
  • 1:15P-1:30P VS Experts, Model 1
  • 2-3 1:30P-3:45P VS Angels VTR: Fantasy 1-2
  • Shows Off New product, walks in from distance/showcase cape blk026
  • 2:15P-4:00P VS Location Car/CU VTR: Fantasy 3 / Heli fly by
  • 4:00P-5:30P VS Location Pool Hall/Bar VTR: Angel on table/Angels on bar
  • 4:00P-5:30P EXT VS Location 1VTR: Perfume & Angel Beauty Shots A
  • 5:30P-6:00P PRODUCTION LUNCH: Crew & Talent
  • 6:15P-7:15P VS location 3 VTR: Jon preps Angels for explosion
  • 7:30P-9:00P VS VTR: Final Pick Ups
  • 9:15P-10:30P VS Angels Wraps
  • 9:15P-11:30P Crew Wraps Gear
  • 11:30P-12:00A TRAVEL Crew Travels to Hotel
  • 12:00A Hotel WRAP: CREW


This is obviously a cliffs notes version in the day of the life of a shoot, I could write a book of all the do’s and don’ts and no matter how prepare you are, surprises always pop up. As a wise friend once said, Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Most importantly, treat your crew/talent with respect, have fun & keep everyone fed.

Now what are you waiting for!? Go showcase some boobs and blow something up! Who knows, you might be the next Michael Bay in the making.

Happy Hunting!

Karol Escobar Freelance Producer


Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • Summers27

    Well said Karol!