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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old December 5th, 2008, 10:47 AM   #1
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I most always post here. So I would like to ask this question, where does the time go?

If we are no longer hampered by technology, and we can produce images and audio that rival and compete, where is the quality. If we can edit with extremely powerful OTC editing solutions and light, shoot our scenes with DIY, Homebuilt kits with increasingly good results, where is the quality? I think the issue is time, but if we never take it, the luxury we can't afford, then how will we ever know what we can really do.

I read about guys who shoot this and that quickly and don't need to take time to do anything, how does that help our cause? I am a musician also, and I have a friend that was complaining about how little amatuer musicians charge. When I confronted him about it, he said that they were setting the bar too low for others who have practiced and worked and taken the time to produce something of value, worth more than a few dollars. That made sense...

So what do you do with your time, if you take it, and how do we optimize it on set, in front of actors, so we get exactly what we want, not what we can get, but what we envisioned?
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Old December 6th, 2008, 01:53 AM   #2
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If you want your time spent well, spend it planning. Some people will spend less time in preproduction and more time on set, and it's a matter of preference, but I don't agree with it. If you spend all your time on set trying to get everyone else to 'get' your vision, you can end up wasting a lot of time and annoying your cast and crew.

Do it like the big boys do it. Get your cast together before you shoot and go through your script. Get your vision across then. If you have trouble explaining exactly what you want, have a session with a writer friend before you meet with the cast. Select key words and phrases to help get your point across to others, and put 'em on notecards.

Also, know your personal strengths and weaknesses. If you're still concerned about not being able to clearly communicate certain aspects of your vision where necessary on set, then recognize you're not a director- you're a producer. In that case, get someone else to direct.

Planning+delegating=quality.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 08:39 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Glavan View Post

Also, know your personal strengths and weaknesses. If you're still concerned about not being able to clearly communicate certain aspects of your vision where necessary on set, then recognize you're not a director- you're a producer. In that case, get someone else to direct.

Planning+delegating=quality.
So are there alot of directors in the indie world that should be cameramen, cinematographers, or producers? It seems to me that the "glamor of directing" puts alot of people in places that they are not prepared to be, and that kinda hurts the credibility of the community in alot of cases. The fact that there is a unpolished look to independent films, so much so that mainstream directors can be quoted as trying to achieve an "independent film" look when interviewed, isn't really a badge of honor to me especially when so many of us are trying to achieve a polished, professional look, like mainstream, but at our price point.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 08:48 AM   #4
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I think there are a lot of overlapping issues in your post. If the theme of your question is "Why aren't more quality indie's getting made?" - there are many answers. Story probably being the biggest reason. Most of the stories suck. Content is King. And yes, to riff on your sidebar - time is part of the reason the stories suck. No one takes the time to get the story polished.

But time on set seems to be your major concern. Here is where I think the indy/video workflow has fostered a false sense of superiority over the film workflow. BECAUSE video is cheap, it's easy to squander time on numerous takes. BECAUSE no one is getting paid close to scale (or in some cases, AT ALL) it's easy not to place a value on their TIME.

When shooting film, and paying union scale (or close to it) the cheapest thing to do, is spend the time in PRE PRODUCTION. Plan the shoot, shoot the plan. Because the new technologies allow for 'shoot from the hip' flexibility, most indy directors don't do their due dilligence in planning and pre-production.

I used to teach film to kids with Super 8 cameras. "Here's your ONE roll of film. You get three minutes of footage. WRITE the story, rehearse it, practice the camera moves. When it feels right -shoot it." Film discipline requires pre-production discipline -and that makes for far more effecient use of everyone's time on set.

Just my thoughts.

EDIT: As a side note, I think the new technology has been the biggest boon to documentary filmmaking, and goes a long way to explain its recent rebirth, and yes -even spawning the ugly step-child 'reality programming'.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 09:07 AM   #5
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I understand... but isn't shooting from the hip part of the allure. Isn't a lackluster plan part of the renegade, Fudge Hollywood spirit?

On the flip side,
Many will say, "I do plan, but I still like the freedom of being able to shoot what I want," but doesn't that kinda translate into an attitude of I'm gonna kinda be prepared but am relying on lucky accidents. I don't know.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 09:25 AM   #6
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I don't know about you, but a lackluster plan is part of a disaster in waiting. Got nothing to do with 'screw hollywood'.

Certainly, as I mentioned, shooting from the hip is a VERY big part of documentary filmmaking. Speaking as someone who started in Television news and studio work back in the seventies, during the transition from film to 'portable' video... (The birth pangs of ENG) ... I can definitely appreciate having the freedom to roll tape for hours at a time, capturing sound in synch. As I said, I think the new technology has really freed up documentary filmmakers and has allowed for a renaissance of growth.

But NARRATIVE filmmaking has always benefitted from a cooperative structure. Sure, John Cassavetes notwithstanding - there's always room for improvisational elements - ESPECIALLY if you have pre-planned having very experience improvisational actors on the set.

Here's the deal. The ONE thing that most indy producer/directors have going for them is PRE PRODUCTION TIME. Usually, no one is on the clock. It's just the director and the producer (sometimes one in the same) sitting around or running around doing all the leg work. It's not costing more than gas/phone and utilities (which cost you anyway) to PLAN the shoot. Work on the script. Secure the locations. Audition the actors. Nail down the wardrobe. PLAN. PLAN. PLAN. So that all these people who believe in your vision enough to INVEST THEIR MONEY (Time IS money) won't see it pissed down the drain while you try and figure out where to plug in the damn lights.

Great Jazz musicians are known for their improvisational skills. They got that good by practicing the scales... over and over and over. They STILL practice the scales. They KNOW the structure of the piece they are playing in, and are comfortable enough with their fellow musicians to 'know' the give and take of the set. It only looks like they are making it up as they go along. Behind it all, is a ton of planning and rehearsal.

Why in the world would anyone think they could create GREAT co-operative art without, well hell - CO OPERATING with everyone else on the set? And co-operation requires planning. Leadership is about planing, dictatorship is about demanding. Guess which one is going to succeed?
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