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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old May 4th, 2006, 01:33 PM   #16
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Small is Beautiful

I only did one of these a couple of years ago, and it was fun. The only change I'd make is I'd have fewer people.

We had a cast/crew that varied between 20 and 30, which made for great fun but a miserable production. On the other hand, there was always a party going on at HQ, so maybe I'll let someone else handle production next time and I'll just have fun.

But seriously, too many people get in the way. And make sure you've got skilled people, it's no fun teaching under pressure.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 06:33 PM   #17
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I've been running a 24-hour contest here in LA for about 3 years now, and have participated each time as well as a couple other times. So I guess I've done these 24 hour things 6 or 7 times now.

A lot of good advice has been given, but I can tell you a couple things that are no good at all. The team I work with is a bunch of brilliant, talented guys, and we have a lot of fun together, but we make terrible, terrible movies. We don't really care, because we have fun doing it, but here's some things that we've learned:

- Yeah, keep it simple. Really, really, simple.
- A small core team is critical. More than 2-3 writers, for instance, and you're dead where you stand.
- Try to write with who you can cast in mind, but don't get locked in too early.
- There's always time to change course... ONCE. That's all you get. Our best movie, which won the first contest, was actually made in less than 10 hours.
- Don't write everything down. For whatever reason, we tend to write full scripts, but most of the efficient and successful crews just write outlines and then flesh it out as they shoot. Of course it helps to have really skilled improvisors.
- Start shooting as soon as possible. If you can get just one scene done that seems promising early in the day, you're in much better shape and your morale will hold up much better.
- You will always run out of time.

I've never done any of the 48-hour things (I don't see the point, really), and some of this advice wouldn't apply to those. If I had 48 hours I would definitely want to work with a slightly more structured crew and have a full written script.

Anyway, our contest (Mayday) is coming up in about two weeks, so check it out if you're interested.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 09:07 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Doug Spice
've never done any of the 48-hour things (I don't see the point, really)
The best I could suggest about this is it is more than possible to make a great film with solid production values in 48 hours, whereas one has to be exceptionally on the ball to pull that off in 24 (and clever enough to design a film that cuts major corners without obvious sacrifice). We've had a few Instant Films go on to compete in regular film festivals, and some have won...!

Doug, you'd be welcome as my guest to this weekend's Instant Films"screening at LA Center Studios; our 21st festival and a lot of great talent involved in this one. Let me know if that's of interest.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 01:03 AM   #19
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Sure... I'd be interested to check that out, time permitting. Thanks for the invite!

I have seen a handful of these 48 hour films before, and they have been uniformly bad. So my opinion has been, if you're going to make a movie that's probably bad but maybe at least really entertaining, why not go all-out and tackle it in 24 hours, rather than taking up 48? But I guess I've never seen the gems. I'd be especially interested if there are any non-comedies that are truly good coming out of that.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 01:48 AM   #20
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Design pattern for doing a 48 Hour Film Project

I recently worked on a 48 Hour Film Project film here in Boston. I've been skeptical of the process, primarily because I think people go in with unrealistic expectations and fail to pace themselves. For a while I did not see the point. Then I found a team that I thought was doing it right with the right attitude, doing it for the fun and challenge. So based on my positive experience doing a 48 Hour Film Project here's a design pattern of what we did. I thought our project worked out very well. We had plenty of time to sleep and have fun along the way.

1. Identify a writing team. More than one writer is critical when writing on a tight deadline. There's a reason hit television shows have writing teams. Other writers can more easily spot other writer's problems. Two or three people is perfect. People who have worked together before is safer. Writers on a project like this need to put their ego aside and work for the project towards a common goal.

2. Assemble the crew well in advance. It amazes me to see crew calls for 48 Hour Film Project films a couple of days before the start on Craig's list. Pick people who will be fun to work with and know their stuff. It's critical you have a good SOUND RECORDIST who knows their stuff. Bad audio is like a plague among 48 Hour Film Projects. Your film should have good sound, it's not rocket science! Line up an EDITOR and a CINEMATOGRAPHER who have experience working fast, lean, and mean. We did many set-ups with 1, 2, at most three lighting instruments, working with existing light as a starting point. Remember, the key to working fast is to delegate tasks to people you trust and let people do their thing, as long as everyone is on the same page in terms of the story and vision. Do not try to produce and direct at the same time during the actual shooting. Let someone worry about all the production problems and issues other than the creative team.

3. Cast actors who are versatile. Get to know them, this will help in the writing phase, as you will be writing for them. If they can do improv it will help you a lot. If you cast well in advance and take your time with the process, you'll get better actors.

4. Identify and secure locations in advance. It's important for both reasons of production logistics and it's easier to write when you're familiar with the environment.

5. Stagger the crew assignments so everyone gets to sleep during the weekend, this is one reason why it's good to have your EDITOR be someone who is not involved in the actual shooting. It's also good because they will bring a fresh eye to the project.

6. When the team gets their "assignment", the writers stay up late Friday night writing. The rest of the crew should get a solid, good night's sleep. Plan to have the script done before sunrise. Don't obsess on making every line of dialog perfect, you actors, if they are good, will help you with that when you rehearse the scene on the set. Don't feel you have to start shooting right away, preparation and planning is very important, I believe it's true that "All mistakes are made in preproduction."

7. Schedule the shoot to run no longer than 8am to 7pm on Saturday. Think of Saturday as production time, and Saturday night and all day Sunday for your editing and sound work. Keep things simple so this is possible. Try to shoot in no more than two locations. Spend your time shooting rather than doing a company move. Shoot with two cameras so you get coverage without a time penalty, especially if the actors do some improvisation. Think carefully how things will cut. Make sure the crew and actors are having fun and everyone is fed well and there is plenty of water to drink. Having a 1st A.D. run the set is critical, it's just like a real shoot, so don't cut corners where it counts. If you're new to filmmaking, do you homework in terms of production craft.

8. At 7pm on Saturday night the editor should put together a rough assembly. This should take no more than two, three hours at the most. Capturing on the set as you shoot so the editor can have a rough assembly by the end of the day is cool too, it depends on how and where you're shooting.

9. Everyone should get a good night's sleep. Yes, really, sleep is good. Just cause you have 48 hours to make the film does not mean you should stay up for a whole 48 hours. Give a copy to whoever is helping with post sound so they can look at it and sleep on it. Having the editor and sound designer sleep on the project will do wonders to their editing on Sunday.

10. First thing sunday morning get cracking on the editing of the rough cut and work towards having the fine cut shortly after lunch time on Sunday. Make sure to allow time for a quick sound mix. Fix major problems as you go, but don't let it slow down the picture edit. Make sure the dialog is crisp and clear. Spend the time on the editing of the film rather than fancy titles and other distractions.

11. Late on Sunday afternoon, author and burn the DVD. Make sure to allow enough time to recover from compression or burning problems.

12. Get your entry in early.

This is what we did, and I had a good time working on the project. It was a delight working with Lois (the director/producer) because she was a calm director in terms of running the project, but in the end, the calmness of the pace and thinking through a schedule is what made the project successful in so many dimensions. I would not say it was an "award winning" film, but everyone working on it had fun and learned a lot, and the words "The Journey is the reward" comes to mind.
David Tames { blog: twitter: @cinemakinoeye }
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Old May 5th, 2006, 03:10 AM   #21
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Doug: you can get a ticket and futher instructions on

The LA center studios are pretty easy to find in downtown LA.

I've had the pleasure of going to one last year and it was a great experience. It's
hard to believe those movies are made in "just" 48 hours. Really professional stuff!

p.s. a lot of folk who participate in instantfilms are from the industry

Rob Lohman,
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Old May 5th, 2006, 10:18 AM   #22
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As Rob said,; look under "watch" then "featured films"; of those, try:

Crazy Love
Open for Submissions
Dirty Diamonds
Henry and Veronica
The Swidge

Most Instant Films tend to be comedies, but Crazy Love transcends the genre for sure. It's one of the films that has had a significant life beyond the weekend it was made.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 02:26 PM   #23
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Unfortunately I can't view the films right now... I'm on a MacBook and the WMV components for quicktime won't run on it yet. But I'll remember to check back in... and I will try to make it out to the screening!
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