First Feature Advice at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

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


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old May 18th, 2006, 12:28 PM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
First Feature Advice

A friend of mine is filming a feature this summer and I'll be working with him as DP. I'm really more of a technical person and so I'm focusing more on that end of the production. Ben, the director, has put out casting calls to several local film groups requesting actors for the film. This will be a fan film (I can hear the groans already) so no one will be paid and no money will be made from the project. Even with the lack of money we are getting quite a few interested people.

My question is now this. As this is a no-budget film how much respect should we expect to receive from a cast of semi-pro/pro actors. Many of the people interested have been in independent films and a lot of them are stage actors. Having never shot a feature with an actual pro cast this certainly makes me nervous. While we do have quality equipment, it's not going to be anything like a real film set. Will actors respond well to this? I'm just trying to get a feel for this so we can head off any problems that may arise. My main focus of videography is weddings and other events. I've done a few shorts, but never with "real" actors. I'd appreciate any thoughts on this. Even if it's just links directing me to other posts, that would be great. Thank you in advance.
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 18th, 2006, 01:12 PM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Posts: 48
Honestly, you should expect as much respect from the actors as they recieve from you. Most actors are decent people, and the fact that you've let them know that it's a fan film and unpaid (You have told them that, right?) means that they should have a decent idea what it's going to be like.

You need to let the experienced actors know that this is your first feature, and that you'll be learning as you go. If you're honest with them, they'll have a lot more respect for you than if you act like you know everything, and then start fumbling during the production.

And your director needs to be aware that experienced actors are not the miracle cure for an inexperienced crew. Don't expect the actors to just "know what to do". Most actors need direction, and bad directing will cause a poor performance.
Ben Brainerd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 18th, 2006, 01:36 PM   #3
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
Thanks Ben. Excellent answer. I intend to treat them with respect, as usual. I deal with a lot of different clients, but I've found that treating them with respect and treating them as actual people goes a long ways in forming good relationships.

In answer to your question, yes they have been told that it is a fan film and it is unpaid. Like I said, my friend is the director and he's handling casting, but I checked with him several times after I started seeing the headshots and resumes we were getting. I couldn't believe that we were getting people of this caliber for just a fan film.

"Bad directing will cause a poor performance." That's what I'm afraid of. Nothing against my friend. He's a great guy and all. But he is inexperienced in directing. Not that I'm any better, but I'm a bit worried about it. Guess I'll prepare myself as much as possible and make appropriate suggestions.
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 09:00 AM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: NEW JERSEY
Posts: 216
I done a couple of unpaid shorts with actors recruited from Mandy, etc. and have just finished casting a new one.

If you have not yet auditioned and cast actors I would offer one other key word of advice. Tell them honestly about the nature of the project again before auditions. Then tell them again at the audition, and again when you offer them the part.

They may be applying to several projects a day and not really paying attention. You have to keep putting it in front of them to make sure they are getting the message and you screen out the ones who have mistaken notions about what you are up to.

I had one accept an audition appointment to an ad that explicitly said he had to drive to the audition. Then on the day he wanted to know how to get there by train (not possible). I sent a copy of the script to another and when she got here she asked very tentatively if she could please see the script. I dont mean this to criticize them but it's just an example of how hard you have to work to get the point across--and the earlier the better.

If you havent done this before, dont get too optomistic or intimidated based on what you get in the mail from actors.

I live in New Jersey and advertised (for two parts) on Mandy New York and the Philadelphia film office. After less than 24 hours I had over 70 submissions for these unpaid roles and cut off the ads. I knew most of these actors would not actually show up at an audition. I invited 12 to audition, 8 showed up, and I ended up casting two local actors after all (that didnt come from ad responses).

Yes the respect stuff is very important. Also send out prompt and nice, thankful rejection notes. One guy I passed up last time is the perfect lead for this project and I am happy I didnt just blow him off then.
Bill Ball is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 09:26 AM   #5
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
Thanks Bill. More great advice. The concept that these people would work for free (on a fan film nonetheless!) just blew me away. I kept asking my friend "you're sure they know it's a fan film?" But I will make sure he keeps reminding them of that. We'll be meeting a few of them soon to make decisions. I don't know if Ben is planning on full auditions or not (I doubt it). Thanks for the advice guys. I appreciate it and I'd love to hear more if anyone else wants to chime in.
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 09:57 AM   #6
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: NEW JERSEY
Posts: 216
Dont make the mistake of not auditioning. Bad or incorrect acting will ruin your picture faster than bad video or audio. Invest at least as much time in auditioning and casting as you are in other parts of pre-production. I think this goes double for a feature.
Bill Ball is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 02:03 PM   #7
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
Thanks for the insight Bill. We've actually gotten even more entries for the roles we need filled so we are going to hold auditions. I am thinking that it would be a good idea to tape each of them, for several reasons. First, so that we can review their performance if needed. Second, so that we can judge their comfort level with a camera. From what most are saying they've been in TV, stage and or film work before. But I'd like to make sure they don't act weird around the camera.

Another thing I have read about auditions (might have been here) is to have the director, or another trusted person, sit outside and sign in each person. This way the director (or other trusted person) will be able to gauge how the actor/actress interacts with others. Do they audition well but treat others rudely? Allows you to make judgment calls on how they will interact with the rest of the cast and crew. Does that seem like a good idea? I think Ben would probably be in handling the auditions while I stayed outside and signed people in and got a feel for them as 'real' people. Granted, it is a very short amount of time to observe someone. Just something I thought might help.

As this is a fan film with no one being paid and a rather low budget I think it is important for us to get a cast and crew that works well together. I think it's the best way to accomplish our goals with this project.
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 04:47 PM   #8
Trustee
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Saint Cloud, Florida
Posts: 1,043
One word of advice from this amatuer, get them signed and committed. I have been working on a project for close to two years now. It was supposed to be complete in late 2004 early 2005! The only reason, actors keep falling off or stop being committed. That costs a LOT of time. Granted most were friends and crew, BUT there's nothing that can ruin a production quicker than having to constantly recast....

Find or make a good binding contract -have them sign. Of course give them an out, but it has to be a good out. Not the "I'm just not into it anymore" excuses either. I've had to recast two major roles twice now due to fall-offs. If I would've had a contract I would have been more pressed to hold them too it. I'm not a nazi and understand life happens, BUT when I put heart and soul into getting a project done, nothing ticks me off worse than having to push back release dates and hold off production for weeks at a time as the other actors' hair grows or gets cut -screwing up already shot scenes, LOL....

BE SURE THEY COMMIT!
__________________
www.facebook.com/projectspecto
Marco Wagner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 05:38 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Louisville, CO
Posts: 204
Hey Mike, best of luck with your fan film. I've done 3 (gasp) fan films myself. One is complete, the second will be premiered on June 10th, and the third is shot, just not posted. We started the first film in 2003, and the cast and crew were mostly students (at the time) and have all remained close and excited about the projects despite the long amounts of time free projects like this can go on.

My biggest advice is to make sure you have FUN on the set. As nobody gets any monetary compensation, there is "other" types of compensation that comes from making these kinds of films: Meeting people you might want to work with in the future, getting experience, showcasing talents, and most importantly as I mentioned.. fun.
__________________
Webb Pickersgill
Bassline Digital, LLC
Webb Pickersgill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 05:46 PM   #10
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
Marco, since this is a fan film do you think people will really go for a contract? I don't think Ben was planning on it, and I'm not sure if people will really go for it. I understand your sentiments though. I'm sure it is most frustrating. We're hoping to have this shot over the course of 7 weekends. I'm not sure if this seems short or long for a fan film. Many of the shots involve the two main characters, so that helps.

Webb, thanks for the well wishes. You've done three? That's awesome! What have they been based on? I think I mentioned ours is Star Wars. Although this will not be the standard Jedi vs Sith sort of fan film. This will be something totally different (as if you hadn't heard THAT before). Any links for the finished one? I agree that this needs to be fun. I don't see the cast and crew sticking through it all if it isn't fun. I'm glad to hear that things have worked so well through your projects and that you've got a core group together for future work. That's what I'm hoping will come from this. We've already met a guy with a dolly and 25 feet of track (which will add immensely to the production value) as well as others with equipment/skills/talents. It's been great so far and I hope it continues like this.
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 06:36 PM   #11
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Louisville, CO
Posts: 204
Yeah, all three films were Star Wars. http://www.spiritsoftheforce.com Fool's Errand will be out next month so stay tuned.
__________________
Webb Pickersgill
Bassline Digital, LLC
Webb Pickersgill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 07:10 PM   #12
Trustee
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Saint Cloud, Florida
Posts: 1,043
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Oveson
Marco, since this is a fan film do you think people will really go for a contract? I don't think Ben was planning on it, and I'm not sure if people will really go for it. I understand your sentiments though. I'm sure it is most frustrating.
Welll you at LEAST need actors' releases!!!! You could combine the two, be lenient on the contract portion. Just think of it this way, as this is a real life example -Say you don't get a release, you get into an agrument with an actor and suddenly he/she is now NOT wanting continue to be in the film NOR give you permission to use his/her likeness. NOW you have to re-cast AND reshoot or face possible legal action....regardless of it being a fan film intended to make zero profit people still have rights to renege.

A release and/or contract will show them that you mean business and that you are taking steps to ensure the integrity of the production. Heck, they may even take more pride in and have a more serious attitude toward the project. They shouldn't have a problem with it IF they are serious about being in it. None of my new people have issues with it even on the smallest of skits and projects.

Absolutely be sure to have loads of fun though!!!!!!!!!!!
__________________
www.facebook.com/projectspecto
Marco Wagner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 19th, 2006, 09:10 PM   #13
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ogden, UT
Posts: 349
Quote:
Originally Posted by Webb Pickersgill
Yeah, all three films were Star Wars. http://www.spiritsoftheforce.com Fool's Errand will be out next month so stay tuned.
Wow! You shot that one? I've seen that before, saw it just a few months ago if I remember correctly. Can't wait to see the other two. I'm going to have to rewatch it. I remember Kyle Katarn. I can't believe you got Stackpole to come see it! That is awesome. Ok, so I'm a nerd, but I would love to have someone like him attend my film. Incredible.

Marco, very good point. There will definitely be releases. And maybe Ben will want contracts. I'm not too sure. Like I said, I'm just the DP but I'm trying to be as prepared as possible. Thanks for the excellent tips you've shared so far. If you have any more I'm definitely open to them. =)
Mike Oveson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 20th, 2006, 05:40 PM   #14
Hawaiian Shirt Mogul
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: northern cailfornia
Posts: 1,261
maybe i'm missing something ??
you are the DP ..
actors perfromance/casting is DIRECTING ...
if the director ask for your opinion on the acting/casting you give it ..
other wise you have other worries/areas on a no budget ...

actors are actors = they may not be acting when you see them in a cafe or waiting to be called in = they read page or 2 from the script ..if you like them you have them come back and read with other persons you liked .. that is when you see how they inter-act with script and other actors ...

video tape the actors ... to see how they LOOK on the screen ..
you might see something on TAPE you missed live ...
Don Donatello is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 20th, 2006, 11:09 PM   #15
Trustee
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Saint Cloud, Florida
Posts: 1,043
Another good point, def. do screen tests. I know some people that don't really look all that great, but get them on camera (still or motion) and it seems as though they are a totally different person!!! Photogenic.
__________________
www.facebook.com/projectspecto
Marco Wagner is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:37 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network