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


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Old March 16th, 2005, 06:28 AM   #16
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Hey Heath, 2 questions...

What newsletter? Also, where you getting $55,000! lol
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Old March 16th, 2005, 08:32 AM   #17
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I would advise against paying yourself, even if it's your own money. Set the budget to be lower ($42,000) and THEN set aside the other $6000 to survive on for about 3-4 months. I've seen bad things happen when filmmakers pay themselves, though not nearly as bad when it's someone else's money...

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Old March 30th, 2005, 04:16 PM   #18
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I always say that if I had an extra $40K lying around I'd hire me one semi-name actor. For $40K that's the best bang for your buck in the production value department.

...or take a long vacation!

otherwise get yourself a mini35, some old non-ai nikkors and an xl1 (or 2 if you're lucky XL2 that is not that 2 cameras don't strike me as a good idea) and get cracking... don't forget the tripod.

Goooooood LUCK!
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Old March 30th, 2005, 04:33 PM   #19
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<<<-- Originally posted by Christopher C. Murphy : Hey Heath, 2 questions...

What newsletter? Also, where you getting $55,000! lol -->>>

Money--investors. Newsletter--the MPS Digital Studios newsletter.

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Old March 30th, 2005, 11:22 PM   #20
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I would not pay myself and I would not buy ANYTHING I didn't absolutely have to. And I would not make a miniDV movie.

I own a bunch of equipment that I recently bought including an XL2. I did this as a hobby and to learn the craft of cinematography. If that's your goal - great. Do what I and many others are doing. But if your goal is to make a movie and get ANY kind of distribution, even a direct to rental, you are severely reducing your already slim chances of success. I say this not as a know-it-all hobbiest/filmmaker, but as someone who works in the investment business and has been involved on the business side of more than one independent feature.

$50,000 is nothing - nothing. Can it be done? Of course, but you need every penny - every single one - to wind up on the screen. You have to be able to separate the business side of things from the creative side of things. Look at it this way, you are making one large investment - the production of a product, in this case a film. To do so, your budget will be a blueprint for all of your expenditures, each an investment in its own right, so you have to make smart decisions. Purchasing a camera that produces an inferior image (for a big screen) and ties up capital that could otherwise be spent on improving the product is a bad business decision. Listen to what these folks have told you regarding cameras/operators - they're right.

Also, don't post about what cheap ass shotgun you can get away with and can you record to camera. Bad sound will ruin your film faster than a bad image. Hire a professional recordist (who again will have his own equipment) and be sure to budget for post. In fact, don't just budget for it, bring these folks in from the beginning - they will probably recommend a recordist to you. Don't buy lights - hire a gaffer who has his own kit.

Basically your choice is to purchase equipment and try and do everything yourself - or get someone equally unskilled to do it for you. Or, you can get top shelf equipment along with talented personnel with the skill set required to pull this off.

You are taking a gamble no matter what. But since you probably don't have ANOTHER $50,000 laying around to do it again if you screw up (after all if you did, your budget for this one would be $100,000) you need to mitigate your risk as much as possible. The best way to do this is to hire the right people.

And yes if you can get a name actor (even small name) do it. That's what I mean about putting $$$ on the screen.

Ok, I'm done.

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Old April 2nd, 2005, 03:49 AM   #21
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We're shooting a feature for under 15 grand, so i guess the answer you're looking for is yes.

All it really takes is a crew you is somewhat skilled and motivated to make this happen. It's also a huge help if someone you know, or a friend of a friend has access to cheap or free equipment.

I think i've been blessed so far: I buddy of mine works at a stor where the happen to sell the XL2, so I was able to buy a brand new model from a licenced Canon dealer with a thousand dollar discount, including a 4 year waranty. It also happens that his uncle runs a lighting business, so we have access to lights as well.

Also, my crew which consists of about 15 or 16 artists (from various fields) are all very very excited and motivated to make this film.

When it comes down to it, all you need is a smart DP, who may or may not have expirience. Other than that you can hire a crew for free, who are just people who want to be part of your project. (they don't need film expirience) Really get picky when it comes to actors - they will make or break your film.

My actors happen to be some very talented acting students from the local university. My sound guy is a musician with an ear of gold, and a knowledge for sound equipment that surpasses anyone in my state. (with him is a kid who goes to college for sound engineering. My boom operator is just a tall guy. My script suprivisor is this organized girl who's day job is something that has to do with filling or secretarial work. My Gaffer is an electrician by day, and so on..

And me?

I'm just a guy with a passion for silmmaking.

I don't want to start an argument with you, or get into a heated battle of opinions, but my main focus is art and aesthetics.

We're not making this movie to become rich and famous, we're making it for ourselves; for our self-expression. To us this is art, not a business investment.

Good equipment is very important, but if you absolutely cannot get your hands on it, you don't need it. So what if your sound ends up ruining your film? You made a movie, and no one will ever take that away from you. You learned from it, and no one will ever take that from you.

For me, this project will be my film schooling. I learn from doing rather than from listening. And if i wanted to make a feature on a Hi8 or VHSC camera, I would.

You could go on and on about how very important it is to have the best of overything and a large sized pocket book, but if you really want to make a film, my best advice to you would be take off your suit and tie, grab a camera and go shoot it.
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Old April 2nd, 2005, 09:11 AM   #22
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Good luck!!!!

I once made a film for $2000, but I spent $15,000 on the gear, which of course is used for multiple projects, etc.

My only complaint? We shot usually for 6 hours a day, 3 days a week, then 2 full days. This made shooting hard, and lasted from mid-June to late August 1999. More money would've given us five to six 12-hour days in two to three weeks, keeping momentum up, etc. That's how features should be made, in my opinion.

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Old April 2nd, 2005, 09:47 AM   #23
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Once you break down your budget.

I always tell people to keep their post money in a different account and upon penalty of death don't use it for production.

That's where so many films also end up with bad sound, because they spent the money for the mix.

My advice if you bought equipment. Is to buy a computer and editing software.

Because you'll spend more time in post than you will in production.

My choice is Mac and FCP. I hear Vegas has some good sound mixing things. But I've never used it.

On somewhat named actors you have to think aboug SAG.

Look into the no budget agreement. But of course you repay the actors their full scale pay back before your investors get any money.

But then that might help you sell it. So that's something to tell your investors.

All of the above advice from others has been good also.
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Old April 2nd, 2005, 12:43 PM   #24
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<<<-- Originally posted by Gary McClurg : Once you break down your budget.

I always tell people to keep their post money in a different account and upon penalty of death don't use it for production. That's where so many films also end up with bad sound, because they spent the money for the mix.
>>

I would say yes, unless you own a system.

<<I hear Vegas has some good sound mixing things. But I've never used it.>>

I used Vegas--nice for audio, not too good interface for video and the captured footage loses some quality, at least by my eye.

<<On somewhat named actors you have to think aboug SAG. Look into the no budget agreement. But of course you repay the actors their full scale pay back before your investors get any money. But then that might help you sell it. So that's something to tell your investors.>>

SAG are nice people, they helped me ensure I work with an actor friend of mine, who rocks, but is in the union.

But they don't guarantee you'll get an actor (that's the actor and his/her agent/manager's choice), and then if the movie's sold, you pay the actor LOTS more money than you would have before. Keep that in mind if the name actor you want isn't a lead character. If he/she is a lead, giving profits might not be a bad thing. Also, make sure the lead is a recognizable person that investors will get excited to drop money on it. For more on SAG's indie stuff, look at www.sagindie.com, particularly their page on contracts. Lots of good stuff in there!

Good stuff, Gary!

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Old April 5th, 2005, 02:33 PM   #25
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Great advice.
Lon, I hear ya man, but he said he wants to make a scifi film which is going to require more cash for props and even post, CG work.

If you want to do your own CG work and you can't afford 6K for Maya, I can recommend Hashs' Animation Master. 299 (199 for students) it even has built in support for film type output
. For 699 you can get the unlimited network render version.

It's a great character animator and does quite well for modelling and making space ships and explosions and all that cool stuff. Has a great anime style toon shader too. Has good camera/rack focus tools and great rotoscoping features.

If on a truly meager budget, you can download Blender for free, from blender3d.org, great modelling, passionate user group. Plus links to all sorts of open source and/or free CG programs, including photorealistic rendering systems just like the pros use. (really exciting whats out there).

But beware, no matter what you get, there will be a steep learning curve. Or hire someone to do it for you.

Can't afford Photoshop, and prefer to remain legal? Try Gimp, a free open source paint program available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

If you have a Mac or Linux, check out Cinepaint which started out from Gimp but is going in a different (film/video based) direction. It's free too and has been used on several A-List projects. (I think it's still cinepaint.org)

Can't afford AE production bundle?
A newly revamped program called Mirage (formerly Newteks' Aura) offers video/hd/film oriented painting, animation and effects for 695.00 list (maybe less at some online store). You can download a 30 day fully functional trial (hint, hint) for free. Check it out at

http://www.bauhaussoftware.com

Since so many have given excellent advice, and since you want to do scifi...I chose to give you info about some tools that are inexpensive yet able to do a lot of things.

They are right though, you will spend more time in post than in production. I just hope you aren't making a Star Trek fan film. hehehe.
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Old April 5th, 2005, 03:04 PM   #26
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Primer cost $7000, shot on 16mm film, and was sci-fi. Brainy sci-fi, though...

I think Maya is under $4000 now.

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Old April 5th, 2005, 03:50 PM   #27
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Excellent find Heath,I think I'll buy it... just figured since he wanted battle scenes and explosions, maybe CG would be better than real life pyrotechnics. They did it for years on Xena and those other fantasy series. (making 6 men look like an army, particles going off....).
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Old April 5th, 2005, 04:25 PM   #28
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According to Alias' US Store, the productivity pack is $2100 and the Unlimited version is $6999.

And learn it for less than $30.

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Old April 5th, 2005, 06:02 PM   #29
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Great advice peeps!
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