Film and Video Production: How Wes Craven Does It (And So Do We)

Film and video production requires careful, detailed planning and management. The right tools are essential. So today, I’m going to share a few trade secrets of Wes Craven… and of ours here at SmartDraw.

Producers, directors, writers and crew members can all benefit from using diagrams such as project plans, floor plans, mind maps and org charts. While they may not sound like film and video production planning tools at first glance, using them will make everyone’s job easier and promote more effective communication with the rest of the production team.

Project charts can help plan out the entire production from pre-production to shooting to post-production. Floor plans are helpful for planning out a scene for set designers, actors and crew or map out an electrical plan for the gaffer and the lighting crew. With an org chart, you can clearly map out a complicated cast of characters or display the hierarchy of the crew. Finally, use a presentation template to import illustrations and plan out every shot.

SmartDraw has been used by independent filmmakers, corporate film and video production companies and blockbuster movie directors, like horror film legend Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream).

Not only does it include all of the diagram types mentioned above, but also dozens of handy forms like timesheets for the cast and crew, travel forms, and invoices to name just a few. Plus, you can link all of them together with hyperlinks so it’s easy to navigate between diagrams. Doing this makes it function like a mini website.

“I use SmartDraw for many things, and keep finding new uses,” said Craven. “For example, I use it for organizational charts to lay out characters and their relationships when I start to break scripts down for production. This results in a comprehensive blueprint of characters, which is extremely handy and powerful. I can bring these blueprints to staff meetings where they are used for pitches, or when I go to a studio to speak about a script.”

In addition, Craven uses SmartDraw for project planning, for making calendars laying out production schedules and travel itineraries. He even used the program’s floor planning capabilities for a major remodel of his home. Craven added, “I’m sure I’ll continue to find new uses for it, and I always recommend it to friends.”

Project Planning

SmartDraw project charts are an intuitive way to plan out every element of your film and video production. In the mind map view, you can visually lay out the tasks that need to be accomplished and figure out how they relate to each other.

Production Plan-Mind Map view

In the assignment view, you can figure out who among the production team is responsible for which tasks and monitor its progress. Assign responsibilities visually during production meetings and leave all crew members with a clear understanding of what needs to be done.

Production Plan-Assignment view

In the project view, you can set the start and end dates of assignments, edit the duration of tasks and add dependencies. For example, principal photography cannot begin for this shoot until the crew has been assembled.

Production Plan-Project view

View the entire life of the production in a timeline to give a clear scope of what has been accomplished and what lies ahead.

Production Plan-Timeline view

All tasks are managed properly and schedules and assignments are clearly communicated, using project charts.

Floor Plans

With SmartDraw floor plans you can map out a studio and coordinate the layout of your scene. By searching through the symbol libraries in the SmartPanel, you can find symbols representing cameras, lights, monitors and people to represent your actors.

All areas, walls and shooting spaces are measured so you can best plan out your shot. Camera operators, lighting crew, actors and everyone involved can know exactly what to prepare for, before the day of the shoot.


The gaffer, an electrician responsible for the lighting plan of a production, may want an electrical plan of the space in which you are going to shoot to prepare for all electrical needs and restrictions. You can create one of those with SmartDraw as well.


Org Charts

SmartDraw organizational charts can benefit your production in a number of ways. For instance, producers or directors can build an org chart of the crew so that everybody knows who’s who.

Org Chart-Film Crew

Writers and directors can get together and create an org chart of all of the characters in a film, to better understand their relationships and communicate with the actors that play them.

Org Chart-Cast



The SmartDraw presentation tool can help you develop a storyboard from the screenplay. Storyboards are visual representations of the action to be shot in a film or video. They can be helpful to the cinematographer or camera operators as they line up shots during production. It’s easy to import illustrations for each scene, lay them out in the sequence that you want and label them according to scene and shot number, location and characters involved.



There are a number of forms included with SmartDraw that could come in handy during the production cycle. Timesheets for talent and crew, invoices for rental equipment and materials purchased, checklists for each day’s schedule of shots, order forms, shipping receipts, daily expense sheets, and many more templates are available.

Timesheet     Invoice     Shotlist


SmartDraw makes it easy to gather all of these helpful visuals together, in an easy-to-manage system, using hyperlinks. For instance, just right-click on the director in the org chart, select Add Hyperlink, and navigate to the project chart where you can find the director’s assignments.

hyperlink1       hyperlink2

You can navigate from the Production Designer to the floor plan, or from the storyboard to the screenwriter, and back and forth between all of these diagrams. The result is a set of simple-to-use production tools that everyone on your team can easily access.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Wes. Or Freddy. Or Jason. If you dare.

Film and reels image used under Flickr creative commons license. Click here for source file.