When is the best time to schedule your production?

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons has been used in the soundtracks of countless movies, travel documentaries, and video programs — perhaps for good reason. Production is a year-round effort, and the timing of many shoots is dictated by the lighting and weather requirements. Deadlines, trade shows, and even your corporate culture will determine much of your schedule. If you are creating a show open for your annual conference, you can bet that you’ll be very busy in the months prior to the gathering, so start early. If you have a new product or service launch, last-minute positioning and branding considerations may dictate that you produce at the last possible moment. But often, with a little forethought, you can choose when to begin gathering the assets you’ll need. And you might even find that a little flexibility can save you a bunch of cash.

Every month of the year has its advantages and disadvantages for scheduling your production, so let’s look at the pros and cons of starting your production by season.

Business is starting to pick up after the slower months of summer, and new initiatives begin to coalesce. Remember, many companies structure their fiscal years differently than the true calendar year, so, like students headed back for a new school year, they tend to think of  fall as the beginning of the business season. Days are shorter and, while the weather can still be very good in many parts of the country, your window for exterior shots is much narrower. This can be a positive if you’re looking for twilight or night shots as you won’t have to keep a crew working into the late evening hours.

While it seems counterintuitive, winter is often a big production season, preparing for Q1 launches and the upcoming show season in spring. Pitfalls to avoid include holiday decorations that can interfere with your production design, and vacation schedules that make it difficult to schedule corporate talent. Travel can also be difficult during the holiday rush and you’ll need to keep close tabs on weather delays and cancellations.

March through May is high season for trade shows, conventions, and conferences. That means you’ll need to get started identifying your vendor(s), scripting, and gathering assets as early as January. Typically, Spring is a busy time at production and post-production houses, because that’s when they’re finalizing programs and getting deliverables to the proper places.

While summer is typically the slowest season for corporate production, this time of year offers a lot of advantages. Production companies are usually much less busy, and there are deals to be made. They still have to pay their rent and salaries, so if business is slow, you may be able to negotiate lower daily rates. The days are long and light and the weather is good — and these are potentially huge issues for exterior shots when you have an ambitious shoot to schedule. Imagine booking large crew and equipment package and getting rained out! You may have to battle summer vacations and sabbaticals though, so it’s best to schedule well in advance to lock in availability.

In many cases, your production schedule will be determined by internal pressures, deadlines, milestones, launches and events. In these cases, your best bet is to plan as far ahead as is feasible and work around the pros and cons of the season you’re stuck with. Choose interior locations that won’t be affected by the shorter days of fall and winter, and where seasonal decorations won’t interfere with your set. Get on your crew and talent’s schedule before they’ve made vacation plans or been booked for that month-long trade show project. But if you have the flexibility to choose the time of year for your next production, hopefully you’re now armed with a bit of information that might just improve your chances of success.