How a Director Preps a Commercial: Century 21

INCLUDED IN THIS LESSON:  11:45 Minutes of Instructional Video, In-Depth Written Breakdown and Storyboards    –Supplied w/English Subtitles

IN THIS LESSON YOU WILL LEARN:  The commercial industry is quick, precise, and not for the faint of heart. A lot of people make their start as a commercial director/DP and it can help open doors, but it’s not easy to maintain. Jobs come and go like the wind and it’s a process to be prepared with a constant fluctuation of schedules.

In this Lesson, Shane Hurlbut, ASC discusses his time working with director Greg Popp on their Century 21 commercial and how they prepare with limited time. Since in commercials you don’t have the weeks of pre-production like the feature world, you need to maximize your efforts in all departments. Shane breaks down working with director Greg Popp in pre-production and on the day to get this commercial in the can, allowing you to be best prepared for any commercial shoot.

  • What steps to take to fully prep for a commercial shoot.
  • Working with different directors on different projects.
  • How to communicate the vision to the team.
  • Understanding the nuances of communication between departments.
  • Treating your project like a highway and creating the same direction.
  • How to use your boards as pre-visualization.
  • The importance of a director’s location scout.
  • How to prep with limited time on a commercial set.
  • Utilizing tools to recreate the commercial during the scout.
  • How a location scout can help dial in shots and lens choice.
  • Tips for working with your director.


<<<Thaddeus>>>I really appreciate your insight here. There are a lot of great points made here that I can consider immediately.
<<<Kurt>>>Great stuff!
<<<Troy>>>This is so cool and makes so much sense.
<<<Drazen>>>Great production quality of the video.
<<<Melody>>>Love this!
<<<Scott>>>Outstanding video, best of all because it’s spectacularly practical. You could do this on a million-dollar shoot or a $10,000 shoot.
<<<Jeff>>>Always great stuff!
<<<Adam>>>This is great information Shane!! Prep is so often pushed to the side as an after thought. What a great way to visualize the story.
We are directing all comments and questions to our New Forum, please find the related course in the forum’s categories to submit.

Sean Christian 5 days ago

Shane, this is fantastic! Really appreciate how you walk us through step by step for this highly organized pre-planning for shooting a commercial. Amazing!

John Fike 12 days ago

Thanks for this valuable information, Shane. This is a great process. Any tips for how to implement it when you can’t get unfettered access to a location prior to the shooting day? I work with a lot of small businesses that don’t have the budget to get that extra day of shut-down on a location. Obviously this would be for a shoot that did took place somewhere other than their own facility, like the Century 21 example. Thanks!

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    10 days ago

      @John Fike HI John, I have found many times weekends work to get into spaces that are not available during working operation hours. This process is to get everything as close as possible to eliminate the dialogue of Back & Forth on set, so if you cannot get access it kind of defeats this process.

Chris 24 days ago

sorry for the prior posting error. GREAT VIDEO!!!! BTW EOS 7D is an APS-C sensor that matches nicely with Super 35. 3:2 ratio3:2 aspect ratio.

Chris 24 days ago


David Verwey 14 days ago

Hi Shane, there so much to learn here thank you for sharing this. Here in South Africa, the commercial world is like this guarded secret and you have to “play the game” and knw the right people to get in and figure out how it all works! Thank you for this gem. I know sometimes for commercials you are both the director and the DP. it which situation would the agency choose two people over one guy? Starting out trying to attract work, would you say one should first market yourself only as the DP or also offer both services?

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    14 days ago

      @David Verwey Hi David, This is what I found, I love being a DP, I dabbled in Directing and what I found is that it took away all the jobs I wanted. Because director's saw me as competition and I lost so much work because of this. Pick what you love and put all your passion into it and succeed. Do no dable, you will only fail. You have to be ALL IN.

Mohammed Sattar 29 days ago

Well explained

Luke Fletcher 3 days ago

Phenomenal video, I shoot a lot of commercials and will definitely implement this from now on. One question though, why have somebody draw a storyboard if you’ve already taken the pictures? Why not just use the actual pictures? I’m guessing it just looks more professional?

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    3 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher Hi Luke, The client and agency will go down the rabbit hole of, those are not the flower colors we talked about, that is not the jacket think he or she should be in. Doing the boards like the picture is PERFECT!!! It answers so many questions but does not let them go down the Rabbit Hole that will sink you on the day. Thank you so much for those kind words.

    • Luke Fletcher    3 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher That makes so much sense, thanks!!

    • Ron    17 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher Ha! Yes, indeed. To much information can kill you on a commercial shoot. If the clients are suddenly huddled behind a monitor with furrowed brows, you know you're in trouble! Really enjoyed this. I do a variation on shooting the actual scenes, but I rarely have the budget to pull a bunch of extras in. Thanks!

aleck 16 days ago

Great guide to preparing storyboards which can be shot. Certainly simplifies agency-client relationship when the commercial accurately matches the boards.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    15 days ago

      @aleck Hi Aleck, Absolutely, it seems so simple but so many directors never prepare. It seems to be the age of winging it and never doing their jobs.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    15 days ago

      @aleck This director prepares so well and I wanted to share his process