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Old September 18th, 2008, 09:00 AM   #1
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Life on Set of a Feature Film

I will preface these posting by saying that this is my first time working on a feature film. I do not yet have permission to disclose the film, post screen grabs, or discuss details but this will be the ramblings of life on set of a soon to be major motion picture.

Thanks - Jim
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Old September 18th, 2008, 09:02 AM   #2
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8/29/2008

First two days. Day one walked the prison with brief synopsis of different scenes. Shot two pick ups working out the flow of the crew and the look of the film. Surprising how much I do know, and how much I really don't know.

Day two - Generator, truck problems. Shot 3 pick up shots and Gaffer wants to meet with those assisting in grip to get everyone on the same page with setups. Much needed. Footage from Red looks great and the look of the film is impressive. It was a small surprise how much down time there is during actual takes. Hopefully the setups and number of takes will take less time.

It was a great idea to have "rehearsals" for the crew to be able to develop into a cohesive team. It is going to be necessary to get the equipment and lack thereof in good working order.
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Old September 18th, 2008, 09:34 AM   #3
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Jim, if this series of posts is what it seems like, it'll be absolutely fascinating. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your experiences.

I'm very interested in the scheduling side of things. How much time between takes is an average, would you figure? How long are your days? When in the day is the prep work done and you start actually shooting?

Josh
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Old September 18th, 2008, 10:58 AM   #4
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Joshua -

Our routine is set camera framing and position. Once that is locked, the DP steps in and does a rough placement of lighting using stand ins, 30 minutes or so, while the director and actors go off and find the "moment". Once lighting is locked the actors return and will do two or three rehearsals to tweak performance and lights.

When "this is a take" is called the entire crew gives the actor the space needed to stay in character, minimum talking, noise. Takes can happen one right after the other or the director may come in a give a note and then continue. This is the critical part, the actor goes into a head space that you do not want to interrupt. It is an enormous effort on the actors part to go from his normal persona into the characters emotional place.

During some of the highly charged, emotional scenes we have spent 3 hours getting the critical 10 seconds of on the screen footage followed by another half hour getting the additional coverage needed to have a smooth edit. Fortunately the editor is on set doing a rough cut as we go. Tapeless work flow is the only way to go.

Right now my days are averaging about 12 hours, but that is my choice. It is my nature to be first to arrive and the last to leave. I like to gather my thoughts for the day early and be sure that all is prepped for the following day before I leave. Call time is officially 7 am and we are dismissed at 5:30
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Old September 18th, 2008, 02:54 PM   #5
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Great thread Jim,

please keep it alive, and I think many people here will be glad to follow it.
Best regards,
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Old September 18th, 2008, 03:51 PM   #6
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Interesting thread Jim - look forward to more.
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Old September 18th, 2008, 04:26 PM   #7
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The wonders of tapeless workflow

I think that is really cool that the editor can gradually make a rough cut day by day during production. Digital cinema sure seems as though it is headed in a pretty awesome direction!
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Old September 18th, 2008, 04:55 PM   #8
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Thanks so much, Jim! This is really interesting. 7 - 5:30 sounds like a great day. Long enough to get things done, but short enough so people don't get burned out. I've worked on some indy sets where the days can stretch to 16 hours, and I think people get tired and start cutting corners.

What time do you guys start actually shooting? I've been on sets where there's 4-7 hours of preparation, and it's seemed excessive to me, but I've also heard that that's normal.

Are you guys using old-school tungsten lights, or fluorescents and cool HMI tungstens like the CoolLights fresnel (http://www.coollights.biz/clmf0150-c...el-p-63.html)? Or all of the above?

Sorry if I'm asking too many questions. Don't feel obligated to answer them all. Thanks again for the posts.

Josh
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Old September 18th, 2008, 05:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joshua Csehak View Post
I've been on sets where there's 4-7 hours of preparation, and it's seemed excessive to me, but I've also heard that that's normal.
Depending on load-in and lighting requirements, a "functional" production should be able to get the first shot off anywhere between 1 hr and 4 hrs after call (the former for day exteriors or picking up work from the previous day on the same set, and the latter for a big lighting setup and/or special circumstances like stunts or special effects rigging etc). Most of the time 2 hrs into the day would be considered "normal".
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Old September 18th, 2008, 06:24 PM   #10
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Jim, great string here and one to follow thanks; especially the tapeless workflow and the editor on set. That's going to change a lot of movie prod big time, I think.

Is the idea to let the actors and crew see progressive work?

Cheers.
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Old September 18th, 2008, 06:51 PM   #11
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...This is the critical part, the actor goes into a head space that you do not want to interrupt. It is an enormous effort on the actors part to go from his normal persona into the characters emotional place.
Nice to see us actors being appreciated:-)

great thread - can you let us know things like crew size, number of locations, aprox budget, are they working off a shooting script (with each shot listed), are they using storyboards - that'll do for now:-))

Ohh - and what is your role?
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Last edited by Paul Mailath; September 18th, 2008 at 06:51 PM. Reason: thought of another question!
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Old September 18th, 2008, 07:05 PM   #12
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I hate soap operas, but this one has me reeled in. Jim, can you give us an idea of the budget for this movie? Is it a small indy movie, or big time Hollywood, etc?

Oops, Paul M beat me to it. Thanks.
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Old September 19th, 2008, 10:52 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Joshua Csehak View Post
Are you guys using old-school tungsten lights, or fluorescents and cool HMI tungstens like the CoolLights fresnel (http://www.coollights.biz/clmf0150-c...el-p-63.html)? Or all of the above?
Josh
We have 2 5K's, 4 2K's, 4 1K's and assorted Arris
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Old September 19th, 2008, 11:02 AM   #14
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I was brought in to do special effects, gunshot impacts, people getting shot, chairs breaking and to assist the grip dept. We are shooting in one location; sort of, its 800,000 sq ft. It entirely possible to walk 6 miles a day.

There is a core group of 10 people or so, some days we have a few more PAs which really helps.

I have no idea what the budget is but it is an Independent film that looks like a million bucks. Each shot has been storyboarded.
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Old September 19th, 2008, 11:05 AM   #15
 
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I'm wrapping up participation in 5 x 15 minute shorts, one of which was shot in super 16 and digitized for editting. My, personal, participation was as editor, sound and video, as well as color timer for two of the films. Total production and post time was 7 months.

Given that these were small indies, a crew of 5-10, same crew for each film except for DP, director and producer, the experience was pretty consistent across all films. Dare I say that budgets were insufficient, at $10-20k per film, even with crew and talent working for free. Producers consistently under-budgeted post production costs, both for sound mastering and film processing.

As anyone familiar with the production of shorts, ego and ego-driven management was rampant, causing more problems than I care to describe, here. Ironically, talent was easy to work with, it was the director that caused most of the problems.....LOL.

Great learning experience, for me. If not a little tongue in cheek, I would recommend seeing "Day for Night", a 1974 French film directed by François Truffaut.
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