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The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old December 29th, 2005, 10:46 PM   #1
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Movie Makers Club, Advice? Equipment?

Greetings

Iím a collage Technical theatre student but I have a passion for movie making as well. At my collage there is no film program so I am starting one my self. Running it as professional as I can with a club producer and the directors ďcastĒ for each script. Then have cast sessions for each script. Hopeful I will have about 50 members to work with.
Do you guys have any specific advice for the group? Iíve read a lot of the posts already and they are very helpful.

On another not for a group such as this what all equipment do you suggest I have? I know the values of having what, but a quick list would be appreciated.

Here is what I have so far

Cannon GL2
Tripod
Self built dolly
Audio technical shotgun mic
Boom poll with shock mount
Dry erase Clapperboard.
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Old December 29th, 2005, 11:40 PM   #2
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I'd add some lighting equipment and post production software. You might also think about a prop/costume/makeup department and boning up on acting/directing for the camera vs. the stage.
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Old December 30th, 2005, 02:19 AM   #3
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Oh i forgot to mention that i have Adobe Primer 6.5. I have two people who want to do costumes/make up for the group spicificly but thanks for the idea. I have more experience acting/dircting with a camera then on stage. You thoughts are great though!

What about lighting? Whats the most bang for my buck? I'll search to other threads for it too.

THANKS!
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Old December 30th, 2005, 08:22 AM   #4
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Hey Tyler,

Welcome to the boards.

As things turn out I live a block from a University and have done quite a bit of work with their film club. I could probably offer a bit of advice, though some of it won't sound nice. Maybe I'm just a bitter, old curmudgeon though...

I really salute your attempt to get something going. It take a lot of work and a special type of person to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

The first thing I'll tell you is that you really don't have 50 people wanting to help out. You have 50 people who say they want to direct, and then see something shiny and divert their attention elsewhere. If you can weed your way down to 5-6 reliable people that you'll be golden.

The key word is reliable. The biggest problem I've run in working with college aged people is the lack of reliability. Expect half of your "strong commitments" to not show up and half of those who do to bail halfway through.

Most people don't realize how much work and TIME it takes to even produce a 5 minute short.

The very fact that you are on this board and asking the type of questions that you're asking shows that you are concerned about the quality of the finished piece. Most who want to "help" won't be. What they want to do is to do "cool" stuff with the camera. They want to shoot everything sideways or strap the camera to dog and have him run through the woods.

The two previous semesters I spoke before the film club and tried to impress upon them the importance of taking things seriously as this stage. And how the best approach is a lot of preparation towards delivering a well told story in a traditional three act structure.

Nobody at that age wants to hear that. They want someone to jump up, camera in hand, and say "hey, let's make our own pulp fiction". What I tell them is that learning the rules first allows you to bend them later. Trying being a great golfer without learning proper grip and swing techniques.
What I tell them is that art films will always have their place and can be very important, but if they want to work in showbiz over 95% of what is done is commercially based in the "hollywood tradition". And an aweful lot of it is great.

I think your first step is find out from the school what kind of money is available for clubs. In some schools they have buckets of money which can only be spent for clubs and the like.

I would say start small with one short project and finish it all the way through. NOTHING will do more for your reputation than actually finishing what you start.

Also, try to devise a system where a student doesn't get to direct until he's crewed on two productions or something like that. That will weed a lot of people out really quickly and it will show you those who want to learn "the process" and not just run around with a camera.

Look into local rental houses and see if they will cut you guys a deal. Also check local thrift stores, they've been known to "rent" out props to films students.

Get the local community involved as much as possible. Ask local businesses about using their locations and treat these places like gold.

I strongly recommend looking into the SAG/Indie agreement where you can use seasoned professional talent for FREE. Yes, there are headaches involved but it puts you in touch with a pro talent pool and it's a great experience for your actors to work with someone who can teach them a thing or two.

I've got buckets more stuff on the subject. Feel free to email me if you'd like or just post questions here.

Hope it helps and keep plugging away!
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 09:35 AM   #5
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I'm helping a college get their "satellite campus" branch hooked up with a film club. The main campus is in Boca Raton, FL and the other is 30 miles away in Davie, FL. They literally have nothing, but we're talking to administrators about getting cameras, lights, support, etc., but the school only went DV 2.5 years ago, so they're a bit behind. Their Ft. Lauderdale campus at least has more modern NLEs...

Make sure that the school's insurance will cover ALL shoots, off-campus and on-campus. And though I believe in freedom of expression, using the film club's/school's equipment to make highly questionable films (we know what I'm talking about) isn't a good idea.

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Old January 23rd, 2006, 12:48 PM   #6
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Reid, I'm afraid you really show your age by using the golfing analogy!

Despite my teasing, I think all of Reids observations and suggestions are very good, I'd add some things myself.

Divide crew roles: directing, camera, sound, lighting, editing, continuity, so on. Reid's idea of letting people be apprentices is excellent. None of this "It's my film, I'll write, direct, produce, shoot, light and edit - you hold the boom, you make coffee". These characters often think they're control freaks, doing everything to get it right. There are such people, but as likely they're the opposite: sloppy, afraid of responsibility, particularly in terms of directing and writing, trying to disguise it by spreading themselves too thinly across many jobs.

Spend time on the scripts: let others have some input in the development stage, even if there is a nominated writer, even if just for feedback.

Keep scripts short: A five minute script in one location could take all day (morning to midnight) to shoot, and that's if you don't have too many problems. Give yourself time to work out how to do things. The pros can rattle through a shooting schedule , dozens of sets a day, because they've done it before. You'll need time to figure out what you're doing.

DO NOT try and cram stories worthy of features into a short script. Even if the ideas are modest and character based, they should still be simple vignettes, a thin slice of life, not the whole damn wedding cake.

Start easy: start with 2 minute films with no dialogue, building up to 5 minutes films after a few weeks.

Watch other short films but not just ones downloaded of the internet, there's not much in the way of quality control at iFilm, atoms films, trigger street etc. There are loads of DVDs out there of short films. Look for the ones that have won awards. maybe watch at least one short film at every meeting and discuss what worked what didn't work, what you think you could achieve.

Maybe try and get a professional videographer/filmmaker to come and talk to you and look at your work. Expect criticism and don't take it personally. Doesn't have to be someone working in TV or features. You can learn a hell of a lot from someone who shoots weddings, events, or corporate videos for living. Good looking video that communicates well with the audience is bread and butter to such people.

As for the lighting, it's serious stuff, really hard to get right without guidance and training (actually it's pretty hard WITH guidance and training) plus there's safety issues. If anything, get a small kit (at most a 3x600w kit) and gels. (Blue daylight correction gels and some diffusion should be enough) but unless someone's willing to get into lighting, I'm not sure how much you'll get out of it. I think a basic reflector might be more suitable at this level.

The one piece of kit you list is missing is a pair of HEADPHONES! you've got a good mic there, and the boom pole is invaluable, but unless someone is listening to that sound for every shot (and not just the cameraman), forget it.

Unlike Reid I would encourage experimentation, my problem with student filmmakers is more often that they slavishly try and imitate what they see on TV and from Hollywood, and without those resources it seems rather embarrassing. Think how to use your limited resources, and work on original ideas and intersting unexpected ways of presenting them. When combined with solid craftsmanship in terms of storytelling and production, that will make your work stand out.
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Old January 24th, 2006, 08:25 AM   #7
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Ouch! Did you have to make a jab about my age on the week I turn...40! :-)

Great points, especially about the scripts. They need input and review. And they need to be written for resources available. We'd all love to blow up a car or two, but seriously...

Great idea about keeping it super short as well.

Now I'm trying to devise a way to do some really small projects that those students who have worked with me before can have a bigger hand in. The trick is for me to spend little to no money, but of course, that's not going to happen.

I'm thinking about a couple of little vignettes shot across a couple of different weekends or something...
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Old January 24th, 2006, 09:15 AM   #8
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reid, your post cracked me up....i used to teach film studies at the university level, and you pretty much nailed the student mentality about film. funny....

i have to say, though, that these young kids are way more steeped in moving images than we curmudgeons were when we were growing up, and some of them already have a pretty developed ability to squeeze amazing images from a camera. in my experience, they can make great images, but their stories and what they have to say are immature and lack depth. they tend to be derivative because they have not developed enough life experience. so you get this combination of great looks with nothing much to say....

but as a forty-something, i have to say, in the kids' defense, their ability to make images and innovate with a camera is baked-in, and you should harness this, rather than fighting it with a bunch of structure and rules.

so i always had to coach my students to dig deeper, to think of film/video as a sacred medium, to think about other art forms and what made them meaningful (what makes art, music, literature sacred?) because they're used to thinking of film as fleeting, momentary, obsolete, trite. they're good at that! i found that better products could be produced by helping them think about what they're doing in a whole new way, a mature way, an adult way. they're quite capable of it, it just hasn't occurred to them to do it! and why should it, most adults don't approach film that way, either. but i think transforming the way they think about what they're doing makes them better at what they're doing. otherwise, they tend to parrot the usual rubbish...which isn't necessarily bad, it's just that they can make such great pictures, why not use that talent in service to saying something a little bit more profound?

if you're good at herding cats, you'll be great at working with the film club!
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Old January 25th, 2006, 01:24 PM   #9
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Meryem,

Great advice about taking a different perspective on the situation.

In your experience how do steer them towards actually putting things in motion, especially in the story related field.
Specifically, how do you talk about the importance of the medium without having them jump off the deep end of symbolism, "Cinema Nouveau" and having everyone declare they are the David Lynch.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 09:48 PM   #10
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reid, i'm a film historian by training so it is pretty easy to show them a few things to put it all into context. i have this early film sound bite where i show them stuff from the early days of film (1890s-1905) and put it in the context of what they're doing...it kind of puts them in a lineage, and they like it because they're are suddenly one-up knowledge-wise on their peers. sometimes i'll follow it up with something like "breathless" or "the third man" or "the manchurian candidate" or "battleship potemkin" some other oldie.

but i don't recommend this for others--that's my career training and how i approached it. the main thing is to let them know that this has a meaning and a scope beyond themselves and their narrow vision of the world at the same time that their vision is absolutely required, in fact that they have to mine it for all its worth. get them to respect the medium, to think of it as means of transforming the world, to think large where they're tempted to think small....
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Old January 26th, 2006, 08:04 AM   #11
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I just wanted to chime in and let you guys know this is great info, and I wish I would have had access to something like this (a film club) when I was a kid.

I definately agree that small projects are the way to go. Nothing motivates me like actually finishing something, even if the results are less than stellar. On the other hand, starting an ambitious project only to leave it in a half-finished state seems to be the best way to motivate people to give up.

The other thing I would mention is to involve the local media, even if it's just a small newspaper. You'd be surprised how many people read stuff like that and having a little name recognition in the community makes securing locations, etc. alot easier (and cheaper).
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Old January 26th, 2006, 08:46 AM   #12
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Ried, if only it was David Lynch my students aspired to copying, far too often their only point of reference is Guy Ritchie or Rob Zombie.

I think the best way though it is get the students to make a presentation of their ideas, pitch them to the rest of the group. Often when forced to stand up and explain their ideas a lot of the "Cinema Nouveau" (do you mean Nouvelle Vague?) types will wither under the scrutiny. You'll get a lot of "well, I can't really explain my idea, you'll just have to try and imagine it". However those with a strong story and a clear idea of how to shoot it will shine.
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Old January 30th, 2006, 02:58 PM   #13
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Hey Dylan,

"Cinema Nouveau" is from "Bowfinger". When he was trying to explain things without letting the fact be known that he was making a fake movie, he called it cinema nouveau...

Again, thanks everyone for the input
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Old January 31st, 2006, 01:46 PM   #14
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I'm a fan of the dogma 95 approach for aspiring movie makers, but without the requirement to transfer to film. No props, no makeup, only things found at the scene. No additional costumes, only personal clothing owned by the talent. No additional lighting (either natural or what ever the house/building comes with). No genre films, no period films......

Then they can conentrate on story, acting and compostion. And camera is not important, single chip small hand held consumer can work just fine, or a new 3 chip hdv. For audio, either on camera os a portable boom mike linked into the cam.
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Old January 31st, 2006, 05:49 PM   #15
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Joe,

You'd like some of my early films:

www.skyefalling.com (a "fake site") and the trailer can be found under films at www.mpsdigital.com (Skye Falling)

www.pushpullmovie.com (http://homepage.mac.com/hmcknight/iMovieTheater11.html -- compression is kinda bad in the beginning but gets better)

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