One thing to keep in mind with pre-production is that it is proportional to the scale of the production. For example a short sketch with some friends will have drastically shorter pre-pro than say a feature film. You may not get time to do all of the things on this list but try to at least get to the most important things.
1) The first thing should ever do is read the script. In fact you should probably read the script before you accept the job. Having an idea about the story should influence all of your other decisions. (eg. Camera Angles, Lighting)
2) Have a meeting with the director. The first you want to talk about should be the story, not what camera your going to use. Talk about genre. This should help you decide things like how dark your going to light the background, ect. Also another important thing to discuss is the emotions he wants to present in the story. I think there are four base emotions; Laughing, Crying, Fear and The-Badass-Action-Feeling. Also you should have looked at some of the directors past work and if you sense they have a specific style you should talk to them about that.
3) Shotlist Different directors handle shot lists differently. Some let you pick all of the shots, and others will just give you a shot list without any wiggle room for different shots. This is very important that you do this. You could also do storyboards but they are always necessary. And I'd only ever do Animatics for complicated CGI or Action scenes.
4) See the location(s) Having a location/tech scout will help drastically during production. It will help you know what equipment to bring. For example an exterior with no outlets will need a generator if you plan to use lights. If you had to find that out on set, you would have to waste several hours for some one to go get a generator. It also helps you visualize what kind of lighting and camera angles will work for the space.
5) Talk to the Production Designer This is a very important step many skip over. Now not every production have a production designer. If they don't have one, treat the Director as the production designer. Ask about things like practical lights? Ask about actors' wardrobe? (wall-character seperation) Also let the Production Designer know about any gels that you plan to use as that will affect the color of all of the props. It's always good to have good communication with the production designer.
6) Lighting Plots Lighting Plots are just an educated guess of what you need to light the area. You may need to tweak it a little so be sure to bring enough equipment to swap out some of the lights or add some extra light in some areas. Also make equipment lists.
7) Camera Equipment figure out what your going to shoot on. Your camera? Rental? Also figure out the workflow.
8) Get Rental Equipment, Charge Batteries, Format Cards, ect. Day before shoot preparation.
9) Be prepared for everything to change on set and just go with it.
Zachary Will is an Award-Winning Filmmaker creating short films and content for the Internet as the owner of Riverside Studios. He has a Bachelor's in Film from Full Sail University. He has worked on productions for companies like Webmd, Sears, Home Depot, Six Flags and more!
"the trick is to never give up... I think the secret of success is not how little you get knocked down but how often you get back up." - Gareth Edwards