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Old August 31st, 2005, 01:50 PM   #1
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Pre-production for a first time director

I have a series of questions on pre-production. I am a first time
director looking to make a short on high-end consumer equipment.
I'll be using a Panasonic GS400 3CCD cam, Rode VideoMic as a boom mic
and my little Bogen tripod. We will use Home Depot work lights or
available lighting. I'll edit in Final Cut Express and create the
music in Soundtrack.

My script is finished. The script is a comedy and comes in at 29
pages. My first question is does the "one page=one minute" rule
always apply? I've always viewed my idea as a 15 minute short but
once I got in there it grew a bit.

I have not protected the script at all. So far only friends have
seen it. Do I have to protect it before I show it to strangers
(actors, crew, etc)? I'm not worried about someone stealing it and
making a million dollars but I just want to make sure I do everything
the right way. If I'm making a no budget movie on my own, do I have
to protect my script?

I've posted for actors on the web and I'm getting some replies.
My next question is, where should I do readings for actors? I don't
want to invite strangers to my house, so where can I do readings?
Also, should I tape the readings?

And finally, when do I let interested actors see the script?
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:13 PM   #2
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Hello Brian, I can't give you all the answers, but I can give you some:

Have you ever directed a movie before? It seems a no (looking at the title of your thread) and in that case a 29 page script is very long for someone who hasn't directed anything before. It can work out, I'm not attacking you, but I think other people will agree with me too, that IF you are a first time director, that's a lot to keep up with.

Second, does the 1 page-1 minute rule always apply? No.
I made a movie, the script had 13 pages, the movie was 28 minutes long. I think it's very depending on what's in the script. Some scenes take one sentence to write, but take 2 minutes in the final movie. Sometimes the opposite is true too. Dialogue is mostly real time, so it's very dependant on how much dialogue there is in your movie, and if it's primarly dialogue or visuel -based.
Once Upon A Time in the West from Sergio Leone (and I know that's an extreme example) has 5 pages of dialogue. The movie is 2.5 hours long. So... no, it certainly doesn't always apply.

I think you shouldn't protect your script. You could always do that, but if it's such a small film, why would your actors or something steal it?

How old are you? Are you at a school-university-academy?
Else you could hold a reading there, maybe?

Best regards,
many many luck with the movie!

PS: another piece of great advice... KEEP READING THESE BOARDS! There is soooo much information here that you'll probably need!
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:47 PM   #3
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Brian,

Mathieu's advice is pretty good. That's a big script for a first film. You might feel overwhelmed while shooting it.

My advice, to get your feet wet, is to shoot a really small film. One or two minutes, as a 'dry run' to get you started. Could be just a small joke scene, could be a single scene out of your script that might stand alone as a humourus moment.

A page a minute is the rule, IF you are writing the correct format. No way to know if you have adhered to that, but that's what it breaks down to in a long form (feature). Shorts can be a little rougher, as the dialogue and actions sequences have less chance of balancing each other out.

Look into your local film community for resources. They might have rehearsal/audition rooms to borrow/rent. Community centers are also a good place. Local colleges with drama departments.... you get the idea.

Your actors audtioning for you should have their 'sides' at least for a few minutes before they actually perform them. Some people will email them to the actors the night before. Some hand them out while they are waiting to come in and audition.

By all means, if you can tape the auditions, do so. I like to bring them in at different sides of the frame and splice them together later. For instance, "John" stands frame right, looking left, and he delivers all his lines as someone stands off left reading for Mary. Then "Mary" stands left, looking right as someone stands off reading for John. Then, after ALL the auditions are over, I can CUT different Johns and Marys together, to get a feel for how they look. Sometimes, I can see how two actors MIGHT spark a good chemistry together. Then I call back the ones I like, and have them run the scenes together. John1 will read with Mary 2, and 3. Mary 1 will read with John 2, etc.


Your script is already copyrighted, once it is fixed in tangible form. That's the law. You simply haven't registerd it yet. You can do that for thirty dollars. No harm in doing it, and it's easy to do.

Bottom line... a thirty page script is a HUGE undertaking, that's going to require a LOT of pre-production. If you really are a novice filmmaker and director, my advice is to start small.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 04:51 PM   #4
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Yes, I forgot, as Richard said: TAPE the auditions!
If you do the casting later, you can look back at them, you can see how someones face 'works on the screen' (I know this sounds stupid, but I hope you know what I mean - some people have a great 'screen presence', others don't)
And try maybe different combinations in the actors, so you can see what the chemistry is.
If you just look at the actors, and for example, you are busy watching the 30st person (I know maybe you won't have that many people showing up - hell I would be glad when that would happen to me! - but it's just an example) I think you'll have a hard time to compare it in your mind with the 3rd person you saw. So sure, tape the auditions and/or readings!
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Old September 1st, 2005, 07:12 AM   #5
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Brian, just want to back up what Richard and Mathieu said here, all good advice. You're right not to want strangers in your house, after all, you really don't know who you'll get, and some people get pissed off when they fail the audition.

Anyway, neutral ground is always good. Don't do the auditions on your own, get two people to help you. When people arrive, (actors keen for a role tend to be early) they have somewhere to sit outside the audition room, they can look at the sides (ie pages from you script that they'll try out). It's good if someone is there to chat to them, get them to fill out a questionnaire while they wait (basic contact info, last film/theatre role etc.) give them coffee, and so on. Inside there should be you and someone else to help, someone else can feed lines or operate the camera.

Don't show interested actors the whole script. Just give them a page or two of sides to act out in the audition and maybe talk generally about the style and approach of the film. Only when you've cast them do you need to show them the whole script. It's not really an issue of protecting the script, but if an actor gets the whole script, it generally feels to him like you're offering a role. The other problem is, if he see a whole script before the audition, he'll generally want to cherry pick the best part for himself, and may see another character has more lines or screentime, or better scenes or a more interesting story arc.

However I too will add my voice to the "do something shorter first" campaign. Seriously, try making something in the 2-4 minute range, maybe without dialogue, just one scene, two actors, a single location, a small crew of just you and a couple of people helping out, maybe do your own sound or camera operating (but not both). Then step up to 7-10 minutes, get others preferably with some experience, to take on camera, lighting and sound duties before embarking on a 29 minute film.
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Last edited by Dylan Pank; September 1st, 2005 at 08:22 AM.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 08:21 AM   #6
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Thanks so much for all the great info and tips. I really apprieciate it.

I understand that my 29 minute 'epic' is going to be a challenge. I'll probably take another look at the script and see if I can get it down. Again, I always pictured this as a 15 minute piece but I just couldn't tell the story that fast. I'll work on it...

I have created a few shorts already--typically about 5 to 7 minutes in length and with just myself and family members, not real actors. I'm still a beginner but I have learned from my past shoots and I think I'm going to go for it. I've been reading a bunch and taking a few of the computer-based film schools. But as most of us know you learn the most by doing.

I know that is is going to be much more difficult than even my worst fears but I think I can do it, with a little help.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 08:31 AM   #7
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Ah, well that puts things in a different perspective. Your thread title implied you were completely new to this, so forgive ius if we came across as patronising. Plus on the net you get plenty of people who've never made anything before suddenly deciding they'd like to make a feature.

I don't think it will be more difficult that your worst fears, but as long as you get as much prepared in pre-production as you can it'll be OK. The main problem with such a large project is creative stamina, keeping the enthusiasm up, staying committed to the idea and getting everything as good as you can and not just settling for getting it done.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 09:29 AM   #8
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Hi Brian, welcome to the boards. There are a lot of people here, and many answers, all of them good.

You seem to be worrying about the length of the project. The " one minute= one page", is only a reference. Depending on the type of film, and the type of scene, it may go faster or slower. The pace of the scene when shooting, is controlled by the Director, and finalized by the editor.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 02:28 PM   #9
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Hello Brian, you didn't say you already directed some shorts. As Dylan said, then my advice changes ofcourse, for a part.

I have still one very good advice for you, that I learned after I made a 28 minute short, with which I was happy: be a perfectionist!
I was much more of a perfectionist at that shoot, then at my projects before, and in the editing I could clearly notice this, because I had a much easier time editing!
You can always improvise, but if you're not happy, don't be lazy. Because I did that a couple of times, and then you'll hate the editing process ;-)

Good luck with the project!
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Old September 5th, 2005, 10:01 AM   #10
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I can only say: spend as much time on preproduction as possible! Rehearsals are a great time to talk to the actors about what you are trying to achieve, so you only have to make minor adjustments on the set. On small productions where you have to multitask, there is no time to think once shooting starts. If your crew is working for little or no pay, you owe it to them to have done your homework (storyboard, shotlist, contingency plans). Feed them well, show them your gratitude, and do not forget to take breaks.
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Old September 6th, 2005, 09:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathieu Ghekiere
I have still one very good advice for you, that I learned after I made a 28 minute short, with which I was happy: be a perfectionist!
Good luck with the project!
Mathieu,

How many days did it take you to shoot your 28 minute short? Do you know how many script pages you got through in an average day?

Thanks,
Brian.
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Old September 7th, 2005, 01:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathieu Ghekiere
I have still one very good advice for you, that I learned after I made a 28 minute short, with which I was happy: be a perfectionist!
Sorry, that advice isn't applicable once you have to start working within a budget. If you only have the money for a two day shoot, you can't spend twenty takes getting a shot just right. I forget who said "directing is all about comprimise," but it is true.
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Old September 7th, 2005, 06:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
"directing is all about comprimise,"
You said it right there, remember?

:)
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Old September 8th, 2005, 10:53 AM   #14
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This is awesome info guys, keep it up.

We're shooting a feature next summer and we're going to need all the help we can get...
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Old September 8th, 2005, 11:46 AM   #15
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My advice would be to start small, shoot a 5 page/5 minute script and work your way up. Your first film shouldn't be a dream project, nor should it be too difficult.

Example: my group in film school did an easy film, because I passed on making a project close to my heart at that point. I did that as my 4th student film.

Another example: I made Skye Falling as my first feature because I didn't feel ready to direct 9:04 AM, which shoots late next spring.

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