Why you should decide your delivery date BEFORE you start a project

One of the very first things I do with creatives is set a deadline for the delivery of the film and that deadline is always in line with a submission deadline to a major festival.

Setting an exact date for delivery is important for two reasons:

1. It gives you and your team motivation. By stating that your film is on a timeline to premiere at Cannes you are beginning to form a vision for the project. Setting high goals is important for pushing the team to achieve the best it can and it sets the tone for the project.

2. It allows you to reverse engineer the entire process, set meaningful milestones and hold yourself accountable. This is an area that, in my experience, most filmmakers struggle with.

Without deadlines and someone to be accountable to, projects inevitably linger in development for months with no real progress. We’ve all heard the saying “development hell” which can be interpreted as another way of saying “I don’t have a plan for moving this project forward.”

A typical independent film production process looks like this:

Development: 3 months

Financing: 3-4 months

Pre-production: 2-3 months

Production: 4-6 weeks

Editing: 12-14 weeks

Post-production: 3 months

Delivery: 2 weeks

Total: 16 1/2 months.

So if it’s 17 July 2018 and we’re at the idea stage, then the earliest we will have a film ready to deliver is around the end of November 2019. The submission deadline for Sundance is in September so we could set our festival target premiere for Sundance in January 2020 and submit a picture locked version of the film. Once we’ve decided on the delivery date, we can create realistic deadlines for each stage of production that can then be broken down into smaller tasks.

If you don’t go through this process, how will you know what needs to be done on the project today, tomorrow, next week? How will you know when to deliver the screenplay, or lock in your finance? You won’t, and you risk waking up 6 months down the track wondering why the film hasn’t moved forward.

Once you have laid out the timeline for the project, it’s a simple process of getting up each morning and executing on the tasks you set for that day. Each task gets you closer to your ultimate goal: premiering at a major festival.

Take some time to work out the timeline for your project, and once you have, it’s time to get to work.