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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old February 27th, 2006, 10:34 AM   #31
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[QUOTE]
project/screenplay is way too important to me. My vision for this film is way too defined and specific for me to let myself ruin it. [\QUOTE]


That is why directors hire DOP's... the vision is too importanty for them to ruin. Scorsesse, Coppola, Spielberg, Kurosawa, Ozu, The Dardenne's, Hanike...

They all hire DOP's. I am director and I love to shoot my own stuff, but I try and keep a DOP around because I need someone else to do lighting and occasionally shoot. It is hard to direct actors from behind the lens...

I know this is a technical help forum, but as a film maker, and a fairly succsessful one, I am just offering some advice from one Director to another.

If you really are passionate about this film (which I can tell you are!) then you might reconsider your strategy.

Also, $15,000 is a lot to pay for a film at this level. Last year I made a 15 minute short on colour SUPER 16 with an Arriflex SR3 and fantastic lighting, with a cast of 20 for only $5000. That includes film and processing (you need to be good at getting deals). Throwing money at a problem doesn't always solve it, sometimes creativity does.

I give you my blessing on an XL2, as it is my favourite camera out there. The 20X and 3X lenses are great, and it seems like you'll be getting great equipment. I wish you luck on your project and you can take my advice or leave it. Trust me, even if you buy the stuff, hiring a DOP for a shoot that is only a few days long shouldn't cost you more than a few grand (I usually do $300-500 a day with equipment), and you don't want a short production going longer than that.

Anyway, just my two cents. I mean no disrespect and am just trying to be helpful.

Good luck.

Matt
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Old February 27th, 2006, 06:08 PM   #32
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Matt, I appreciate your recommendation.

I disagree with you, though... Almost all of those directors you mentioned funded their own projects in order to work their way towards getting the projects that you're describing.

Honestly, the thing I know more about than anything other than writing and directing technique is filmmakers' careers... Film school has little affect and most of the time you have to suck in your dignity and do whatever you can to get a decent budget for a film. Unfortunately, my town has no interest in funding a film, so it's up to me completely.

I know what I can and can't do in my situation, and this is the best option for me. All I need is assistance in these technical decisions, which I've been getting an amazing amount of.

Last edited by Andrew Peterson Padilla; February 27th, 2006 at 06:40 PM.
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Old February 27th, 2006, 07:11 PM   #33
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I was not suggesting you do not fund a project, merely use some funding to hire a DOP.

:)
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Old February 28th, 2006, 06:05 AM   #34
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And I was just saying that most of the directors you mentioned started off as their own DPs, shooting their own work, before they were able to hire anyone to do it for them. The others either knew DPs or got funding from the get-go.

I don't have the extra money or the patience to hire anybody. Learning it for myself will be more beneficial financially and more beneficial in my knoledge of photography and my relationships with DPs in the future.

My film is a roughly 1 hr 30 min/1 hr 45 min hour picture... So multiply your 5k for a 15 minute short by 7 and we'll have a better idea of what that method would cost me.

Shooting and editing digitally allows me the freedom and the spontanaity I need.

And like I said, I don't shoot for another 5 or 6 months, and by then it's possible that I might have changed my mind and gone to hire a DP. You never know.

I appreciate your suggestions, though.
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Old February 28th, 2006, 01:31 PM   #35
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I have helped a lot of people with their XL2 looks and settings and would gladly assist you but let me say in advance that they XL2 is the hardest camera to use in its class. Judging by the way you talk about your film and how you want it to look, I doubt you will be able to master it in the time you have allowed, at least to the level you are thinking.

Also, you say your script is actor driven and I can tell you from 1st hand experience there is almost no way for ANY director, much less a 1st time director, to properly direct the actors AND operate the camera properly. If you want doc style, Full Frontal, maybe... but cinematic? Forget it. Either the performance or the cinematography will suffer.

Spend and extra $5k and hire a DP for a couple weeks, it will be money well spent.



ash =o)
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Old February 28th, 2006, 01:50 PM   #36
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My sentiments exactly Ash.

They only guy who directs and shoots (as far as I know) is Stevem Soderbergh, and he picks actors who are autonomous and need little direction. When I am using the XL2, it is a handful to operate. If you DO NOT want to compromise your vision, just get someone to operate for you, even if you buy an xl2. You will thank yourself later.

As for technical help, that's what this board is all about! :)
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Old February 28th, 2006, 09:38 PM   #37
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I will have a crew, and I will not be shooting everything. For some of the long tracking shots, though, I will be manning the camera.

As for mastering the art of cinematography by August/Early September... I don't expect to. I hope to achieve an above average level of understanding, but I don't intend on mastering anything in 5 or 6 months.

Since when does film have rules or any level of definity? To say I can't do something is assuming you know me well enough to make that assumption and is also assuming that cinema is an artform based on certainty. And if you believe that... well, then we're bound to disagree.

I think you should brush up on your film history, guys. An extremely vast amount of directors shoot their own scenes. Some of the greatest directors in history at that. It's a matter of trust to be able to have someone else incorporate your vision onto the screen, but sometimes, with some people, the matter transcends trust and they're just more comfortable doing their own shooting.

I intend on keeping you guys up-to-date on what I end up doing. As I've said, everything could change drastically come shootdate. But no matter what I decide, this movie's getting made and will be in the can and on the move by Christmas. I appreciate all the help.

Peace,
Andrew

Last edited by Andrew Peterson Padilla; March 1st, 2006 at 04:35 AM.
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Old February 28th, 2006, 10:17 PM   #38
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nobody ever said anything about definity or rules in filmmaking andrew. they're just giving you some common sense. having someone else around with some experience for a second opinion during your shoot is probably a wise idea. All anyone here is telling you, and im sure they are speaking from experience is some tips.. and thats what you asked for.. no need to go on the defence. no one here is attacking that filmmaking genius that you know you have inside. thats for you to prove.. they say hire a DOP. if you feel that having DOP around will negatively impact your shoot (which it probably wouldnt) then dont hire one.

And i dont think anyone is attempting to challenge your film history knowledge :)
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Old March 1st, 2006, 05:02 AM   #39
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Hahaha.. That comment may have come off sounding more defensive than I meant it too. Text on the internet is hard to interpret.

Trust me, I wouldn't get mad about someone testing my film knowledge... I was just commenting on something Ash posed as fact that has been proven many times to be incorrect. Saying that something can't be done one way or another is assuming there's a great deal of certainty in film, which I highly disagree with.

The reason I love film and music and art in general is that anything is possible for anybody. There are no limitations, especially in an age where consumer technology approaches professional technology.

But as I said, I consider absolutely everything I hear (which might be my downfall). I'm just still not thinking that a DP will be good for this shoot under the conditions that I've concieved. Buuut you never know.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 06:15 AM   #40
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[QUOTE=Matthew Nayman]
Quote:

Also, $15,000 is a lot to pay for a film at this level. Last year I made a 15 minute short on colour SUPER 16 with an Arriflex SR3 and fantastic lighting, with a cast of 20 for only $5000. That includes film and processing (you need to be good at getting deals). Throwing money at a problem doesn't always solve it, sometimes creativity does.
Matt
Just out of interest Matt, did you pay your actors and crew within this budget?

Regards

Stephen
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Old March 1st, 2006, 06:31 AM   #41
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Hi. I want to chime in here with a healthy dose of reality.

Andrew, I was you about four or five years ago. I joined this forum, spent a sh**load of money on a camera and a bunch of gear (most of which I've kept and learned to use, SLOWLY, some of which I sold) and said all sorts of silly things I can't believe I said, at this point.

So here's the thing. . .you plan to shoot a stylish feature length project for no money (except what you spend on gear), no knowledge of cinematography, and no real knowledge of even the basics of camera equipment.

If you buy these lights you've talked about, do you know how to use them? I don't mean plugging them in, I mean how to shape the light? Do you know that where soft light is concerned, it takes a hell of a lot more work to control it than hard light does? Do you have grip gear (c stands, flags, etc)? Do you have access? Do you know how to use it?

Ditto the camera. I don't know anything much about the 20x lens's range/focal lengths, but the 16x and 14x are the same in those regards, except the 16x can zoom 2x more than the 14x. Also, the 14x has a real iris on the lens (like a real broadcast/film lens), where as the 16x doesn't but it does have a zoom/servo motor. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend manual lenses for filmmaking. They have marked focus rings that you can use to do racks and whatnot. With the wide angle (3x) lens, do you understand that everything in entire shot will be in focus when you use this? There is no shallow depth of field with this lens. If you want shallow depth of field, stay away from the 3x. Also, in addition to being a wide, a wide lens will give you an exaggerated sense of depth. Things closer to the lens will seem much closer than things only a little further back. Do you want that effect?

As for in camera effects/vs post. . .here's my take: Get your lighting/framing right in camera. Maybe warm/cool your image a little bit. I don't know about doing the "Underworld" look or the "Black Hawk Down" look or the "Domino" look in camera (I know you're not trying to do any of these looks--they're simply examples). That's not to say you COULDN'T, because you could probably get something close, but the thing is, when you're on set, to tweak those settings could take a long long time, and it will probably change a little with each different shot. So it's a huge on set time-waster. If you hurry it, instead, then you might find out later, in post, that you have something that's too severe, and you can't undo it. I would save detailed color correction and the like for post.

As for the crew. . .
You say you have it all "taken care of". Do they know this? Do these professionals in the field know they're going to be working for free with a first timer with no set schedule? Do you realize that a lot of these guys are insanely busy, and have to fight and scrape to keep making a living (not 'cause they suck or anything, just 'cause that's the way it is)? This will translate to a very difficult shoot for you.

You will have very long, difficult days. Imagine, for instance, a sweet dolly shot that you've planned, that ends up taking 3 hours to set up, and extrapolate that to realize how little you will actually get done each day, in terms of the overall script/movie.

Now, realize that you have this amazing, fantastic vision in your head of how this movie will be, and PLEASE believe me when I tell you that if you do things the way you say you will, you will be lucky if you get even 50% of that vision when it's all said and done. This stuff is not at all easy, and should not be done haphazardly. Everything about the way you're doing this sounds haphazard to me.

So. . .is it worth it to do it wrong and get a mere shadow of the movie you envisioned? Or would you rather start slow and do it right? Start with some shorts (and make GOOD ones. . .pretend they're your feature), and work from there. 5-6 months doesn't seem like enough time to really master any of the areas you lack knowledge in.

And if you have more money, and you can spend it, then do so (I'm not saying go ahead and blow your money, but if you're gonna blow, blow big and do the production right--hire people who know what they're doing, have a real schedule, all that good stuff. I think the idea of marketing your movie on it's production budget is ridiculous. The people who will want your movie will want it regardless of how much it cost IF IT'S GOOD.

I know 'cause I've been there.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 06:50 AM   #42
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I repeat...

I'm not making this movie until I feel comfortable and satisfied with the methods.

The cast and crew are all going to be friends. I just happen to be lucky in that all of my friends are all devoted to creativity, many professionally. I know them and I know what they think about it.

Josh, the look I'm going for is more along the lines of Blood Simple, if I had to put it in context. Subtle, but sometimes bright. It doesn't have to look like a Tony Scott movie, nor would I want that if it was available to me.

When it comes to learning about the equipment over the next long while, not long after I get everything, I'll be going into business with them. Medical videos, event photography, music videos... But when I'm not using them for those purposes, I'll be experimenting like a sonofabitch. Short films, mid-films... just generally shutting in and learning everything about the camera's uses in every environment. August/September might be wishful thinking, but goals are necessary, even if they seem crazy.

As I said, I wrote the whole film around the means available to me. If I change my mind, I'll rewrite the film once more.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 07:42 AM   #43
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STEPHEN:

You think a student (even 4th year) can pay his cast and crew? :P
Just have hot coffee and food waiting for them and they'll bend over backwards for you :)

I have worked on too many shoots where I have been given food in leu of money (might explain my expanding gut!).


ANDREW:


Once again, I am not attacking you. Sometimes the best film makers in the world are the ones who think out of the box, but very few people get it right, by themselves, the first time out. My first film was a complete disaster (we won't get into it), and they have been slightly less of a disaster since. My most recent one, I would rank as "not entirely terrible" and I have been making films almost 6 years now... professionally!

I admire your perseverance, and have no doubt the film will turn out well. We are just trying to help you avoid the pitfalls we ALL made that first time out (first time making a big film). There is an old saying, "Fail, Fail again, Fail Better!". We are just trying to help you get to that "Fail Better!" stage without all that "failing" first :)

Also, on a technical standpoint, I really would go with the 16X (Manual\black) over the 20X (auto\white). If you are planning on having any rack-focuses, or narrow DOF shots, it's a better lens for you. The 20X is a ENG lens, while the 16X is a FILM MAKING lens. I think the image looks sharper to!

Matt
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Old March 1st, 2006, 08:00 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Nayman
STEPHEN:

You think a student (even 4th year) can pay his cast and crew? :P
Just have hot coffee and food waiting for them and they'll bend over backwards for you :)

Matt
I'm not getting at you Matt, but I've never understood this attitude. People happily pay out $$$ for equipment et al, but balk at paying 'creatives' anything as they'll usually work for nothing. I can understand it on 'no budget' films; but if there's some money I'd want to pay something?

I've never met anyone who went to see a film because it said 'Shot using Panavison' equipment above the actor's names on the billboard.

As I said, I'm not hitting at you personally as it's a widespread thing and has probably been debated to death.

And it's off topic!

Regards

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Old March 1st, 2006, 02:23 PM   #45
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All I'm sayin' is this. . .

What makes you think these friends are devoted to your cause? I live/work in Houston, and know many of the pros out here (I'd consider them friends, though not close ones), but if I were to approach these guys and say "Hey, I'm gonna do a no budget feature, with no set schedule, and I'm gonna be my own DP. You guys wanna help out?", what I'd probably get from all of them is "Well, Josh, congrats, hope it goes well, but I'm swamped here at the office/workin' on another feature for the next couple months/just got a new house, have to work even harder to find gigs to pay for it/just plain don't have time. Maybe if it was just a one or two day short film shoot, but I can't devote myself to an entire feature. Why don't you try posting on craigslist/mandy for people?" And there you'll be.

I did a short last year for a festival, that a real live pro gaffer (also basically acted as DP) helped me out with. It was hell getting scheduled at all, because several times he had gigs come up that he couldn't turn down 'cause of recent personal issues that were financially draining, and I had to put everything off. You see what I'm talking about? This stuff WILL happen. There's simply no way an entire group of people coulde be devoted to a cause like that. You should really put this question to them in a point blank way, ask 'em if they're really gonna devote themselves to you on a feature length project the way you say. Paying gigs are always gonna come first, and even if they start out on your side, I could see crew dropping off one by one as the movie, because of constant rescheduling, drags on for one year, two years, more.

As for learning them camera through gigs like weddings and whatnot, getting hired to do that stuff is not as easy as you think. And when you do get hired, since I'm almost sure you intend to do it for free (to learn the gear), you will probably get sick of it very quickly.

Chances are, even when you think you're comfortable with everything, you still have a long way to go. Why not force yourself to produce a number of quality shorts (up to the standards of the feature in technical quality) first? Forget about the feature for now. Seriously. You could ruin your baby by jumping in too fast.

As I read you posts, you have a long to go, in terms of knowledge, before you're "there". When you talk of building your directorial vision up in your head for 8 years, it makes it seem as though you haven't actualy translated that to tape/film yet. Have you? You should. How do you know actors are gonna "get" you when you direct them? How do you know the shots you think of will flow? How do you know the storytelling in your head will translate to real life? You gotta work all these issues out before tackling a feature, or you will regret it.

Here's a good simple motto for this kind of stuff, that applies to pretty much everything "Everything is much harder than you think."

Sorry if I sound like I'm being a dick, but this reminds me so much of me a few years ago. I've made short films (no features yet, still not there, maybe never--maybe I gotta find a way to "make it" in the short format world), and with many, I had to keep compromising my vision because of things I didn't think of popping up on the shoot day, or not knowing how to light, etc. I've finally gotten to where I can foresee much of this, and prevent it, and my ideas my head finally start to translate (we'll say, with 80% accuracy) to the screen.
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