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Old March 8th, 2009, 04:50 AM   #1
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How do you build a fantasy world?

I have written a beautiful script with both lovable and very hated characters. I am very excited about this script but there isn't any real locations for it. Anyways I am open to any ideas you may have. A friend told me I may want to consider building a miniature model and then green screen everything. I don't know how viable this is but thanks to everyone with any info they can provide.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 01:05 PM   #2
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There was a film shot in LA a few years ago called "The Dream of Alvareen". Most of the story takes place in a dream world with dream world locations. Alex dealt with this by finding dream-like locations here in LA. And he took his time shooting it. He financed this thing out of his own pocket.

You can find a fair amount of pictures online but they do have a website:
The Dream of Alvareen

As an independent filmmaker, you have to adjust your vision to what you can afford. And that doesn't mean that it needs to be any less magical. It just needs to be more inventively told - and that is the test of how serious a storyteller you are. Alex employed tremendous inventiveness in putting his story together and it doesn't look like anything I've ever seen. He literally has a cast of hundreds, more nude, beautiful women who can act that any film I've ever seen and absolutely magical locations. So you don't have to compromise your story. You just have to work harder, network more (because you aren't going to able to pay full rates for locations or build many of them) and really work out what is the least you need for any scene. Learn as much about eccentric buildings and interesting outdoor environments in your state as you possibly can.

Successful indie filmmaking is all about preparation, and thinking your way through every aspect of your script. Do your breakdowns and start climbing through what you need for each location and going out and looking for it. Start assembling the props you need, or finding people who can and will build the stuff that must be built for a price you can afford. Actors - you have to find good actors who will work with you on this. Don't do any casting until you are ready to shoot, and then you have to find extremely experienced actors who will give you the time you're going to need. Are you going to do your own lighting? If not, how will that get handled? You have to have a sufficiently well put together package that an experienced DP will work with you or your dream world won't pop. And then there is post - a real editor will spend as much time, and perhaps more, on the project than you do. They will be able to fix technical problems from the shoot and will repair performances when you have hired the wrong actor, someone doesn't know their lines or you didn't actually nail the beats in the scene. You can get great deals on editing, but you want someone who has cut several feature films so you do need to think about how you're going to afford that.


Good luck.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 02:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tailean Saylor View Post
I have written a beautiful script with both lovable and very hated characters. I am very excited about this script but there isn't any real locations for it. Anyways I am open to any ideas you may have. A friend told me I may want to consider building a miniature model and then green screen everything. I don't know how viable this is but thanks to everyone with any info they can provide.
It's a common misconception that greenscreening is a "cheaper" alternative. When done well (i.e., it doesn't 't look like amateur hour), it can often be more expensive than shooting on location because of the technical hurdles. For one thing, you need a very good camera with as little compression as possible (4:4:4 ideally) to get the best keying results. For another, you can't just use any stock background because they're either copyrighted or they're not what you need, so that means having someone rendering backgrounds. And you need to very closely monitor lighting so your actors are lit the same way as your virtual sets. As someone else mentioned, the work in post can take a lot longer than the shoot itself, and get much more expensive.

I avoid greenscreening as much as possible because the editing bay is the worst place to realize that what you've shot isn't working out.

On the other hand, a screenwriting magazine here in Canada published an article about a writer who had a sci-fi spec script he decided to produce himself and put on the web as short episodes, until it was picked up by the Sci-fi channel ("Sanctuary"). It's done entirely with greenscreen and composited backgrounds, but his pilot cost $3 millions to make.


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Old March 8th, 2009, 03:59 PM   #4
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Well..

Thanks for your replies.. I am not worried to much about the editing as I have my masters degree in Media Arts/Editing and can do all that work myself. This isn't my first script as I have done some Indy films before. This is my first time however doing a fantasy with no locations. See many of the shots require a castle (outside and inside shots) ..and well I cannot afford to build one so I have got to figure out another way. A model may be the way I need to go but I have never done anything like this.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 05:49 PM   #5
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Contact your state film commission. Find out if they have any castles in their files. There are certainly castles in New York, Chicago area, Michigan (somewhere) and Portland. While I'm thinking about it, a lot of older churches have fantastic interiors for replicating castles.

When professional filmmakers shoot a film set in a castle, they make use of establishing shots and large, cavern like rooms that they dress with tapestries, minimal furniture and define with light, smoke and fabric panels. I'm thinking about Branagh's Henry V, The Lion in Winter and Zefferelli's Hamlet as well. The Ruling Class had a few exteriors shot at a castle (owned by the University of Indiana as I recall) and everything else was shot on grounds around London and on a set. So find a castle that works visually, and shoot the interiors locally. You can always hire an indie filmmaker to get your establishing shots if the castle is inaccessable.

It seems to me that the place to start is to watch several films that are shot in castles and bone up on how the professionals handle it. You still have a lot of homework to do.

However you go, best of luck. Start at the beginning though. Not at the end.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 06:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
It's a common misconception that greenscreening is a "cheaper" alternative. When done well (i.e., it doesn't 't look like amateur hour), it can often be more expensive than shooting on location because of the technical hurdles. For one thing, you need a very good camera with as little compression as possible (4:4:4 ideally) to get the best keying results. For another, you can't just use any stock background because they're either copyrighted or they're not what you need, so that means having someone rendering backgrounds. And you need to very closely monitor lighting so your actors are lit the same way as your virtual sets. As someone else mentioned, the work in post can take a lot longer than the shoot itself, and get much more expensive.

I avoid greenscreening as much as possible because the editing bay is the worst place to realize that what you've shot isn't working out.



J.
I just read Jacques' post to my husband who is a professional director (he's directed five feature films) and who edits motion pictures professionally as well (over 20). He said you should absaf**kinlutely listen to everything Jacques is saying. Jacques is right about almost everything and the only thing he would change is the statement that post "can" take longer to "will take one helluva lot longer".
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Old March 8th, 2009, 09:52 PM   #7
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Once agian thanks for all your posts

Thanks for taking out the time to help me with some of these issues. I am afraid that any old castle will not work for my needs. The castle I need is a drawling with waterfalls that I must re-create. Nothing exists in real life for this. So for this part my question is would it be better do everything in 3D modeling program or building a miniature model of it for those scenes? PS: thanks for the idea of churches I hadn't thought about that :)
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Old March 8th, 2009, 10:23 PM   #8
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Now, we're getting somewhere. The Magic Castle in Hollywood has a waterfall. You should check it out.
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Old March 9th, 2009, 12:54 AM   #9
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HeH

Not the right kind of castle..heh. I do believe I will have to make a realastic miniature model of the whole land :(. I think I will shoot the locations then shoot all the actors on a green screen.
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Old March 9th, 2009, 11:28 AM   #10
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Not the right kind of castle..heh. I do believe I will have to make a realastic miniature model of the whole land :(. I think I will shoot the locations then shoot all the actors on a green screen.
Well, this is certainly one option - albeit not a valid one. Realistic-looking models are very expensive to make, take a lot of time to build and require a lot of storage space (two to three times their actual surface area to make room for crew and equipment).

A period script is not a good idea for a low- (or no-) budget project. In fact, it's very unrealistic. If you have the budget then I say go for it. But if you've never done greenscreen extensively and you expect to edit this one (as you've mentioned in another post) you may very well be setting yourself up for a nasty surprise - the kind that comes after you've already invested a lot of time and some money. Motion tracking alone can be a bitch (and if you don't know what I mean then you DEFINITELY need to hire someone for this.)

I'd strongly recommend you do a test with a greenscreened actor and a toy car. See how that looks.

Alternately, maybe you could rethink your story? Ever seen Luhrmann's "Romeo & Juliet"? It's a modern retelling of the classic set in modern days. So's "Westside Story", for that matter. Castles don't need to be stone and mortar, dragons don't need to breathe fire.

"Story!" is the mantra of independent filmmaking, because we can't afford to shoot "Titanic" on $8,000. So instead of meeting on a sinking ocean liner, Jack and Rose meet at an investment firm - he's in the mailroom, she's a junior executive - and the boat (which is only a metaphor, anyway) becomes the crashing economy.

Story.

It's back to the golden rule of low budget cinema: shoot what you can afford. Landfills are full of overambitious projects that never got out of the editing room (or out of the camera, even).


J.
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Old March 9th, 2009, 06:35 PM   #11
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Thanks for taking out the time to reaspond..

Jacques E. Bouchard thanks for your help... as well as Lori. Funding is the one thing I do NOT have issues with but I am just wanting to learn as much as I can. I have a passion for telling stories that go back to my DMing D&D/AD&D days. You are right If I continue with this project I have a ton of headaches ahead of me. I do believe I may be hiring heh!
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Old March 9th, 2009, 07:04 PM   #12
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I've worked on a few (too many) low/no/beer budget 'period pieces' in my day. Jacques is dead-on about the time and difficulties of greenscreening. Yeah, if you have some really fantastical setting that aboslutely positively is story indicated, then sure - you'll have to have a go at green screen and Maya.

BUT

As others have said, much of the production quality can be indicated by choice location scouting, good costuming, excellent lighting and a few 'production value' moments. (This is usually where I came in - supplying real armor, horses and combat on those few days they needed it.)

Go over your script with a fine toothed comb. You might could get away with a few 'establishing shots' of your magical castle with waterfalls - if you can locate a good waterfall, waterwall location nearby to shoot the 'inserts' at. Find whats at hand, start with that - THEN go looking at what might need a greenscreen, Maya artist.

Good luck.
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Old March 9th, 2009, 07:34 PM   #13
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Another idea is to NOT create the world--let the viewers do it for themselves.

Back in the, well, earlier days of television, I remember bare-bones teleplays--The Pueblo Affair for one. More like a stage play than a movie, it relied more on the script and acting than scenery. It won Hal Holbrook a couple of Emmys.

We've come to expect grandiosity from our entertainment but perhaps you can use low tech to your advantage.
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Old March 10th, 2009, 11:02 AM   #14
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We've come to expect grandiosity from our entertainment but perhaps you can use low tech to your advantage.
I can't tell this one from the original. ;-)

YouTube - Lego Star Wars Episode 1: Republic Attack


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Old March 18th, 2009, 10:08 AM   #15
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I made a 20 minute green screen movie in school that was actually really successful with award $ and festivals. It took a year to complete, and was obviously a total pain. I started a couple of green screen projects since then that pretty much failed and fizzled out, since it's a full time job to make every single shot a major special effect undertaking. There's more to it than keying out green and slapping a background behind it.
But really the best way to do it is to only green screen some wide shots here and there. If you have your actors in front of some wall or set, any other real backdrop -even out of focus or obscured, you can cut that together with some wide shots that are painted, manipulated, sculpted, etc... It's when you get into keying every single little shot that your are dooming yourself to an unreasonable work load. In my opinion even hollywood movies don't look so great during the green screen shots: The bridge in the first Narnia movie. When Samuel L. Jackson was thrown out the window in Star Wars. When cyclops opens his eyes in the X-Men movie.
But it can look really great too, as it has a certain animated quality to it.
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