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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old April 8th, 2007, 05:02 AM   #16
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A lot depends on how visually complex a production is, how many locations and camera set ups your film has. Our local short film scheme - part funded by the UK Film Council and shot on video - this year mostly on HDCAM - allow a schedule of 2 x 12 hour shooting days for 5 to 6 minute films. These films can be fairly complex for their resources, but for a short film that's going to stand much of a chance around the film festivals I think you should be considering around that sort of schedule.

Also, and just as important, they spend weeks on serious script development with feed back from script editors as part of the scheme. So don't ask your friends for comments, you need some one who's going to be brutal with the poor material.

BTW The success rate of these films is pretty high, I believe a quarter of last year's shorts in the scheme won awards.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 05:49 PM   #17
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My rule of thumb would be 3 to 5 minutes of edited film per 12-hour day, meaning 3 to 5 pages of formatted screenplay. I have a shooting ratio of ca. 8:1 with HD in fiction, but easily 15:1 in documentary. I do complete pre-production work, all scenes are storyboarded and laid out. I rehearse extensively with the actors and with key crew, for complex scenes especially. I walk through the locations with the DP well beforehand.

Brian's comment just above is to the point - good development and extensive pre-production are very helpful for a satisfactory shoot in a reasonable time budget, for feature or short, fiction or documentary. Keeping shooting ratio as low as possible also takes a lot of strain off cast and crew.

Alexander Sokourov shot the admirable "Russian Ark" in a single 96 minutes HD take with a steadycam. So that's 96 minutes in a single day - but I understand the rehearsals took months...
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 10:13 AM   #18
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We did a feature I directed called 9:04 AM in either 12.5 or 13.5 days, and at least two of those days we finished at least 3 hours early. Not enough time to try and do something else, but it was nice.

We never went over 12 hours, and we had a large van full of gear (check out the photo of most of our G & E here).

What helped us was a talented, fast and experienced crew, tons of rehearsals and blocking with the actors and because it's a dialogue-driven film like Clerks and Diner, we didn't need a ton of coverage (only one scene went over our average of 3-4 angles/set-ups per scene, and with that one it was around 15).

The least amount of pages we did in one day was probably at the park all day and we did around 6-7 pages. The most we shot was 15 pages in one day at an office. That was primarily dialogue stuff inside, so it was much easier than fighting weather (we only dealt with heat and the occasional sun-behind-the-clouds).

The hardest day was actually shooting at a coffee shop, harder than our mini-sci fi convention at a comic book shop, because we had to fight the sun setting. Because Florida is flat, once the sun drops below even a one story building, that's it. Here's a clip from that scene.

Also that day, we did a poetry slam at the same place, and it took a longer time to light because it was at night and we had to hang tons of lights (see this pic and a pic of me stressing and cursing that we're running out of time, lol). We couldn't shoot one scene, so we added it near the end of production and set it outside vs. the coffee shop. We couldn't get the coffee shop again because polo season was starting.

We also used a lot of Kinos, and that seemed to keep things moving fast, too.

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Old July 14th, 2007, 12:56 PM   #19
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I do 30 second spots.

I normally have 20 minutes of footage and it take me 2-3 hours to shoot that footage.
I'm a FTE fanatic (Film To Edit) so I try to get at least 5 angles for each shot and sometimes up to 15.
For a 30 second spot with 17 shots we average 10 different angles/versions for each one of those shots.

I think having a 40 to 1 ratio makes for a lot better product and an awesome amount of choices when it comes to editing.
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Old July 16th, 2007, 04:15 AM   #20
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I've found this to be incredibly variable. Changing location steals hours from your day. Also you will improve your effectiveness by having the cast fully rehersed and blocked, and the crew briefed. For indie film making I've found the question is 'how much time do you have?', then cut your cloth to fit. More a case of get it done, than get it right.
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Old July 18th, 2007, 09:36 AM   #21
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63 pages/day

In a very unusual situation, we did 63 pages of script in a 1 day shoot! That, edited in with pre-shot monolog made the entire feature length "One Last Kill" I was DP and couldn't believe it myself.

See: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=42737 for a discussion
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 11:43 AM   #22
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Thanks for all the information... Needless to say I guess I dropped out of the project due to the lack a solid schedule and no end in site. I keep in touch with them and anyone who notes when I first posted the question and that we/they started filming in Feb. I droped out of it in April, and they just finished in September. Four weekends turned into 8 months! I got into the project thinking I would learn something, but unfortunately I had the most experience there, and couldn't continue giving my time to that project while my own would be put aside.

Last edited by Travis Binkle; October 2nd, 2007 at 11:44 AM. Reason: Correct Dates
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 02:05 AM   #23
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This is simple

Hi,

So this is simple. it depends on many facts, such as, is the film slow, meaning in our world, long takes. also the coverage, like wide shots, close-ups and so on. Now with all of that in mind, the amount of pages is also a key thing, are you covering one page or half or even 3 pages, per day. but as i see it, you key thing is simple, you do the DP and lighting and leave the rest to the director, producers, upm and AD's, they have to do things, that ensure that they have a film, complete, at the end of the entire shoot.

PS, I've worked on many films, about 15 shorts and 21 features and on some days, we have gotten up to 5 pages done, other just half a page. so just do your best and dp the film.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 02:27 AM   #24
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Yes Christopher, you're very correct, but I need to mention again that I was DPing for free with the understanding that the production would not run longer than 4 weekends 6 at most. 8 months is a far cry from 1-1.5 months, especially if you're asking people to work for free.

I don't do this as hobby like they were. I film and edit for a living. I got into this project because I had never shot a short narrative before, (only documentaries, corporate vids and commercials) and wanted to learn/ gain some experience. Which I did. But it was more of 'what not to do' and not enough 'what to do' that was gained.

Given that the project had no budget and that time wasted during the day didn't cost anyone anything I feel the director & producer(if you can even call him that), didn't have the proper motivation to make a deadlines and stick to them.

Not that 'money' has to be the end all motivator, but it certainly keeps most of us on task during our jobs.

On a side note: I don't want this to seem like a total bash against them. It is not. I give the director/crew great credit for sticking through it and finishing their film. I just couldn't give nearly 32 weekends away for free.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 02:51 AM   #25
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Travis,

On ultra-low budget features, the effective way to handle things is figure out how many days you can afford to shoot, and adjust your schedule from there. If your cast and crew costs $2000 a day, and you have $30k to make your movie, you're looking at a ten day shoot. Max.

On a well run indie set, you should be filming 5 - 10 pages a day. If it's primarily a dialogue scene, you can do more than 10 pages comfortably. Even if you have a fair amount of action, you should able to get through 5 pages minimum, and make it up on more dialogue heavy days. The trick to doing that is having a script (very important) and rehearsing the actors before you get to the set. If I were shooting on weekends, I'd rehearse them during the week nights. Also, your actors must know their lines.

When we shot Shakespeare's Merchant - an adaptation of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice - we had a 45 page court room scene to get through in 3 days. Not only did we do it comfortably, with plenty of coverage, we actually left early on the third day. You can see a clip of that scene here:
http://www.bradmays.com/sm7.mov

Try to keep your shooting ratio 7-1. Go light on the number of takes on the master shot, if necessary. One of the things we see indie directors do all the time is get take after take of the master shot hoping to get a perfect one. They actually run out of time then when they go to get coverage, which means the imperfect masters become an even bigger part of the edited scene. In terms of how much footage you will have actually shot - at a 7 to 1 shooting ratio, you should be putting a little more than hour of footage down a day.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 03:15 AM   #26
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It's not too bad to record a whole scene, no matter the length. How long can it take to get actors to say a few lines? Even 5 minutes of dialog.... not too bad.

However, the issue comes with multiple setups. Lighting, moving the set around, crew setting up various things, blocking/directing on the go, etc., can really add up. You may end up spending nearly as long on a single shot of someone walking across a street as you would on a 5 minute dialog shot.
Also to consider are things like FX. If there's a lot going on in a scene, it'll take longer as well.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 03:23 AM   #27
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Thanks Lori, I've learned more from this thread on shooting indie shorts that actually working on that one.

I think the biggest problem they had was the fact that there was no budget in place. $0.00 No one got paid, not the crew or actors. Nothing was rented as all the equipment was mine (cameras/lights etc.) We knew that going in, but I could see how having an actual budget would help keep things in check. If the crew would have been paid by the hour or day, you can be sure the director/producers wouldn't have left the actors wait till the day of filming to run lines. And there would be far less general wasted time and that would constantly be costing them money.


Daniel: Mostly the entire film took place in an apartment. I was always set up and ready before the actors and director were ready to film. I spend most of the days sitting and waiting for one reason or another.

Last edited by Travis Binkle; October 3rd, 2007 at 03:26 AM. Reason: Response to Daniel
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 03:46 AM   #28
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Sounds fine, Travis. I wasn't commenting about you specifically.
What you had, then, was a pretty easy shoot [in terms of setup/time]. One place, same general scenes (I'm inferring this), and a ready environment. Sounds like good shooting to me.
Then, of course, it's the whole getting the actors to act and actually filming them part. :)
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 04:03 AM   #29
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Yeah, that was one of the parts that could have been tuned in a little more.

It was a relaxed easy shoot. I guess it was just to relaxed for me since it felt like wasted time. Either way it's behind me now and I'm on to other video things that actually pay the bills, which is great.

I'm not sure where I heard the phrase: "Find something you love doing and then figure out how to get paid doing it" but I certainly feel fortunate to be able to "play" with video cameras and computers all day and have people pay me for it.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 08:53 AM   #30
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My feature took around 14 days to shoot last October, and we probably could've shot it in 12, had I brought in my Assistant Director earlier to schedule it better.

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