Why Don’t Films Shoot Scenes in Sequence?

Cost. Pure and simple. When  shooting a police drama TV show or feature (for example), you might revisit some locations more than a few times in Script Sequence (from scenes 1 to 100 let’s say).  Remember that this is the Hollywood mentality.  Many countries have a less structured approach.  Equally valid if the movies gets finished!

Scene Heading – Description – Scenes

Police Station – detective pool, booking room, evidence room, interrogation room. Scenes 3,7,27, 44,45, 90, 92

•Suspects Home – Scenes 5, 34, 60, 61, 87

•Scene of the Crime – Scenes 1, 2,6, 29

Using the above example, we can see – if we shot in sequence – how many times we would have to revisit the respective Locations. While I am just making up the “Script” and the “Scenes” for a Hollywood example, we would have 7 (1 initial location; 6 returns) to the police station, 5 for the Suspects Home and 4 to the Scene of the Crime.

Location Costs – Hollywood Style

Each time that the Shooting Company goes to a location, you have a lot of procedures and costs for going to that location which can be coded as Prep-Shoot-Wrap/Strike. This is the Hollywood method of efficient film production. These include:

•Location costs

•Location Supervisor (usually the location’s representative) – to make sure that policies and restrictions are adhered to e.g., an expensive home, art gallery, prison, security areas

•Security

•Police & Fire – depending on the specific location, crowds, municipal ordinances, etc.,

•Gratuities – paying off neighbors for the inconvenience

Transportation – a world unto itself. Every time you move into a location, you have transpo parking, shuttles, crew parking, catering, police, etc., On “Taken 3” we shut down the 710 freeway for 2 miles at the top and took over the Cal State Parking lot for stunts, rigging and more.

Trailerland on "Taken 3" in Hollywood

Trailerland on “Taken 3” in Hollywood

This is just a broad cost basis, not including the specifics of the location, the specific camera, grip or lighting requirements (e.g., if the location is at night, then Night Lights). When this is translated into a sequential flow, we would shoot the Police Station above – 7 times. So that would translate into Prep-Shoot-Wrap for all the equipment, location costs, transportation and more. Yes, some costs are there week in and week out.   Renting out Night Lights 7 different times doesn’t not make sense.  Again, we are thinking like Hollywood streamlined production.

 

 

Trailerland of “Taken 3”  included cast, grip, electric, camera, honeywagon, lunch boxes, etc., and more.  At one point, the crew size was 378.

Talent Cost

The Talent Cost is another Principal (pun intended) reason. If a Principal or supporting actor appears in the Police station scenes only, then one can ‘shoot them out’.  The least amount of time should equal less cost. Their agents may negotiate their rate on a Week basis, i.e., $200k for one week, etc.,

In the case of the police station, a whole list of smaller rentals i.e., police uniforms, badges, set dressing (computers, tables, chairs, maybe?) is required every shoot day.   Suspects (union extras), etc., would also have to be brought back to this location 7 times. While you get a break on rentals at times, hiring extras for 7 days adds up fast.

Some Extras Math

A SAG Theatrical (full feature) Background performer makes $162.00/8 hours. So let’s say 30 extras (suspects, police, etc.,) x $162 (8 hours) = $4,860 (plus 21% for fringe payments) = $5,904.90.

The math can get more complicated. What if 10 hours? 12 hours? Mileage? Meal penalties? etc.,

Bu if you can shoot out the police station in 8 hours in one day then your extras would be $5,904.90 more or less. If you have to come back 7 times, then it’s $41,334.30 One can see that the costs would go up considerably. Now there are a lot of factors in this equation that I’m not listing. If you shoot one scene at the police station in sequence, then where do you go next? Across town to the gas station, then back to the police station that very day and then back to the police station? That’s a ton of people, equipment and talent moving back and forth chewing up time in traffic and travel.

Summary

At this point, we can conclude the Hollywood films shoot out of sequence for cost and efficiency.   Hollywood took its production model cues from Henry Ford – specialized workers i.e., grips, gaffers, cameraman, etc., with a Structure to production that made the Golden Age of Hollywood a virtual production machine.

One key today in actually getting a film made is to reduce cost. If you can get more Actor screen time i.e., shoot out of sequence for Less Cost, then you have a more valuable property in the market place. And it’s more likely to get made when a distributor or sales agent sees that the Potential Sales (based upon Talent, Premise, Genre, Territory Receptivity, etc., )

My Original Answer on Quora.