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Old November 3rd, 2004, 04:17 PM   #16
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If your talking about a feature then indeed script is king. Get a good dp and he'll take care of the look and coverage.

Then get good actors and preproduction, preproduction and preproduction will cover your butt on lots of things.
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 12:27 AM   #17
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[edit] Oops, sorry for the forum necromancy, I didn't look at the date of the last post in this thread before replying. I'm not sure about ettiquette on resurrecting dead threads here, but if this need a lock, please go ahead and lock it.. [/edit]

I'm currently in post-production for a 12-minute video project I shot as part of an introductory film/video production class at university. I'm not sure how much of my experience will be applicable to anyone here, but I'll try to share what might be helpful.

First of all, planning is key. I knew I'd have exactly one month (November 1st to December 1st) to shoot and edit the piece. I started writing my script in September, and went through about 8 versions, getting feedback from various friends, professors, and so forth. Because I knew I'd have to make do with locations available in and around the university, and work with actors who were as busy with other coursework as I, I went intentionally minimalist -- two interiors, two actors, twelve minutes. I think Rob and Jaime are completely right about treating first films as learning experiences, by the way. I realize my first attempt at a script isn't going to be that great, and experience has since verified that my first film isn't going to be that great, but I've learned a lot from the mistakes I made.

I started casting in the second week of October, by pinning up notices around my campus and submitting notices to various theatrical listservs. The listservs didn't get the message out until a week later, though -- I presume they were moderated by busy professors or students who didn't have time to approve my submission -- so I had already begged a friend of a friend to fill one of the roles, thinking that my listserv submission had been rejected and my posters were ignored, and I actually had to turn down several actors who responded later. Thankfully, I did find one actress, but I only nailed details down with her about a week before my first scheduled shoot. The lesson here: Cast early, cast often. I can't speak to the commercial acting scene, since I was working with student actors who I paid in pizza and wings, but even there this probably applies -- allow more time than you think you'll need due to snafus that may crop up. Also, if you're a student filmmaker working with student actors, realize that your actors won't be perfect. I was lucky enough to get some very talented people working with me, but even so I had to make compromises in my original vision in order to cover for scenes that were just too ambitiously written (long takes with lots of subtle emotion required, etc).

One detail that caused a major snag for me was finding locations -- as I said, I was shooting in and around a college town, so I knew lots of people with apartments that would work, but convincing me to move in with actors and tons of film equipment for 7 hour days for two weekends in a row did not go over well. I eventually used my own apartment, with judicious set dressings, as one set, and found another friend who was willing to let me use her apartment as she crammed for an exam in the library. Of course, one of my actors had a scheduling conflict that day, so I wound up begging another friend to let me use her apartment down the hall for the other location, which was a less than optimal solution -- you can tell both apartments are in the same house, unfortunately, when they're supposed to be in different buildings.

I started my first shoot with a fairly firm notion of what was shooting, when. Not a shot list, but a good idea. Things went reasonably well, but in the excitement of my first day's real shooting, I missed one or two critical shots. Plan all that in advance, and stick to it. Lesson learned: Have a firm shot list, and stick to it.

In terms of equipment, I was lucky enough not to have any major problems, but make sure to have spare batteries for everything. Multiples if possible. Have spare bulbs for your lights, and entire spare lights if possible. Tape down all your cables with gaff tape, because actors WILL trip over them and send the $1000+ light you probably don't own slamming into the wall/floor, which is not good. Didn't happen to me, but I've heard stories and they aren't pretty.

I thought I'd wrapped shooting after the second weekend (total time: about 12 hours for the whole piece, which works out to about a minute of footage for an hour of work, which I believe is pretty damn good) but after a test screening of a very rough cut later that week, I realized I'd have to make some substantial changes and redub parts of the audio, which lead to this past weekend being very busy with me trying to schedule time in the audio suite with my actors' schedules, and then also pick up some missed shots. Lesson learned: Plan to fix problems in post. Better yet, learn from the problems you fix in post so the next time you're shooting, you'll accomodate for them ahead of time, because when working with 'real' actors, getting everybody back on site for another two days may not be economical in the least.

In terms of music, I strongly suggest you abandon all hope of liscensing "big name" music unless you have some personal connection to someone in a studio. Big names demand big cash (we're talking multi thousands of dollars for the right to play a recording of one song at -one- theatrical showing) and thus aren't economical for student films. However, if you know of local bands, they can be a great resource. I'm personally avoiding music in my piece, as a stylistic decision, but I know of some students in the advanced class who are working with music composition students and friends in bands to score their films.

And that's where I am so far. I hope some of this is useful. It may not be if you're coming from a professional perspective, but.. this is my experience, hope somebody can profit from it.
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 08:14 AM   #18
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Thank you for your elaborate response Ryan, much appreciated!
It is fine to resurrect "older" threads, that's actually preferred so
you get longer threads with much information inside instead of
the information scattered around lots of threads.

Your points are excellent and I couldn't agree more!!

Rob Lohman, visuar@iname.com
DV Info Wrangler & RED Code Chef

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