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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Anne Martin

Filmmaking 101: Corporate vs. Narrative

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to script supervise two different projects. My last Filmmaking 101 post talked about that role, and this week's post looks at shooting on these two very different sets: a corporate set vs. a narrative set.

The corporate set was a 5-day shoot for a car company. To start with, I should say that corporate (and also commercial) shoots are always very short term, in fact, 5 days is a long corporate shoot compared to the usual 1-2 days. Since these shoots are short and usually backed by large companies, their budgets allow for a higher wage in addition to a few more comforts on set.

For this shoot, we were interviewing employees working on a new vehicle, so my job as the script supervisor was to transcribe the interviews and notate the comments the clients liked the best. We shot mostly inside well ventilated, air-conditioned locations, where there was a dedicated space for me and my gear alongside the video assist technician, and I had access to enough monitors for the number of cameras we were shooting on, which in this case was two. It took quite a bit of time setting up the lighting for each interview, so a lot of my time was spent waiting until cameras were ready to roll. Overall, this shoot (and most corporate/commercial shoots) was fairly low-key and paid really well.

The narrative set was a 4-day "proof of concept" (POC) short film. A POC is basically a long trailer for a feature or TV series that the directors want to produce that they show to potential buyers. What made this shoot a narrative was the fact that it had a script -- now commercials can also have scripts, but they are still not quite as complex as a short film, which this essentially was. Though a short, its sophisticated 21-page script made it a bit more challenging as it included a complex concept and a good amount of effects. As a result, the lean budget had to stretch to cover stunts on top of everything else, so the comforts (including more shoot days) and higher pay of a corporate shoot just aren't there.

Where corporate sets offer some comforts and a fairly low-key dynamic, indie films offer very little of either. This shoot was very much an "indie" shoot -- few crew members, insufficient gear and space for me to do my job, a constantly changing gameplay, and like most narrative shoots in Detroit, we were filming in an old 1920s abandoned building, so the working conditions were less than optimal. On top of that, as the script supervisor on a narrative, my job is far more complex, making this shoot more demanding with not as much pay and few of the comforts one can get used to on corporate sets.

I thought I'd lay out these two experiences to show the different sides of "Hollywood". It can be fun, but it can also be boring, or super stressful and frustrating -- in other words, it's a job. A cool job, but a job nonetheless. There are a ton of different things to film, though, and each project presents new challenges, new people, and new learning opportunities, which is what I both love and hate about the job -- it's unpredictable and never the same thing twice.

Lee Plaza, Detroit, MI

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Susan Frank
Aug 12, 2020

So interesting! I can see how this can be exciting and challenging! I also watched the video to get a better idea of a script writer's job. You best always come to work with a clear head! Looks like you have to be on our toes at all times! You are so right for this job! Proud of you Jen!

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