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Filmmaking Tips/Advice

post #1 of 463
Thread Starter 

Last summer, I was in the middle of my second-to-last semester of a Screenwriting MFA program when I was laid off from my job. Fortunately I found a new position in less than a month, but my workload at my new position was so heavy, I had to drop out of grad school at the end of the semester.

 

I came to L.A. to be a writer. It's been over a dozen years now, and nothing's really panned out. I had a few false starts in the early days, but once I settled into a (relatively) stable career in marketing, I felt less and less motivated to crank out another script that nobody'd read. Going back to school was supposed to light a fire under me to get back to chasing my dream. And it did, just not how I'd anticipated.

 

During that semester last summer, I took a production class and realized what I should be doing: making my own projects. So I wrote a low-budget horror script. It's high-concept, commercial and most importantly franchise-able. If I can get it made, I can get it sold.

 

Now I don't have the capital to independently finance a 90-page script. For the past six months, I've spent my free time in pre-production on the first scene which I plan to shoot as a short film; it's a self-contained scene that sets up the world and the antagonist. I'll use the short to get investors and sell myself as the writer-producer-director of the project.

 

I know some of you are filmmakers, or aspiring filmmakers, or people who just think they know everything. What I'd like this thread to be is a resource for people like us to discuss the nuts and bolts of the independent filmmaking. Most of what I know is from the stacks of books on producing and directing that I've read over the past few months or the limited experience I've had as a P.A. years ago.

 

I'm going to ask a lot of dumb, eye-rolling questions because I'd rather look stupid in here than on set. That being said, let me start off by asking, What type of lighting gear should I rent for a night shoot? I'm shooting a campfire scene with three characters. I don't want the only light source to be the campfire. I'd like to approximate the sort of "moonlight" you see in horror movies.

post #2 of 463

You might want some detail on your backgrounds, so that your film won't look too cheap. Moonlight is reflected sunlight, you could try some K 5600 equipment, like daylight HMI lampheads. Campfire probably doesn't cast enough light on your actors, so you might need some additional light on their faces. I recall someone using LPG burners to light campfire scenes. They do create a moody and realistic light, but can cause severe burns on your actors if you're not careful. Though you are making a horror film, so that would significantly decrease your make-up budget.

post #3 of 463
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Virtanen. I'll add those to my list of things I have a list of!

post #4 of 463

Gave it some thought, and found out that entirely dark background doesn't look too bad. At least when shot by Dean Cundey.

 

 

And overdoing the background with HMI lights might make your horror film look like SURVIVOR or TEMPTATION ISLAND, I assume that's not what you're looking for? Does the scene have movement or action, or is it mostly people sitting and talking?

 

...or instead of playing 21 questions, could you PM your script to me? If it's less than 300 pages, I can try to think more suggestions.

post #5 of 463
Thread Starter 
The script for the short is six pages. There's some spooky storytelling then carnage. Oh, and farting. It's what I go to the movies for.
post #6 of 463
Thread Starter 

I'm still working away at this leviathan -- a short film project that's had a longer pre-production phase than 17 feature films put together.

 

But I've gotten a lot done. I've re-learned how to draw, which took like six friggin' months, so I've storyboarded the whole short. I've also knocked out a bunch of concept art, since the characters all have visually arresting attire.

 

Right now, I'm setting up an IndieGoGo campaign for crowd-sourcing the obscene amount of money I'll need to raise to shoot five minutes of grueling horror. Have any of you guys crowd-funded a creative project before? I'm drafting my pitch using my copywriting skills, but I don't want to come across as too sales-y. Any pro-tips?

post #7 of 463

I've never crowd-funded anything for something I've spearheaded myself, but I am actually in the process of editing a kickstarter video for a video game.  But in this case, the company is one with name recognition as well as a good track record of delivering on their projects.  But even with those advantages, they take their messaging very seriously.

 

Since I assume you won't have that kind of recognition, at the very LEAST you'd need to put together a robust pitch video that really whets prospective donors' appetites to see your film come to life.  THe video should be slick enough but not SO slick as to make someone wonder why you put so much effort and resources into making a crowdfunding video instead of just making your damned movie.

 

I would assume you've got the copywriting part of it down.  You already know that you should be clear and realistic about your goals.  Crowdfunding campaigns have been around long enough that people are now pretty cynical about these things ever coming to fruition, so probably best to not promise too much.

 

Other than being Bradito, does your short film have any other hook to really draw social media attention?

post #8 of 463
Thread Starter 
It's a horror film, so I'm going to try drumming up interest within the horror community on social media. They seem pretty supportive of similar projects.
post #9 of 463

Bradito, I shot a feature last October that had a campfire sort of scenario.  I had one 1k light to work with, lots of lighter fluid, a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and one of my favorite lenses - Voigtlander 17mm .95 

 

It opened wide enough, and then I changed the aperture to 360 degrees to give it another boost. Gives the footage a bit more blur, but it's totally useable footage.  

 

Here's some screen caps. 

 

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

 

 

I was also going for Dean Cundey "Halloween" lighting. We were lucky to have a porch above we could place the light high enough to to where it could very much look like moon-light over people's heads. 

post #10 of 463
Thread Starter 
Carnotaur, you're a wonderful human being!
post #11 of 463
You could probably find some random nerd with too much audio gear willing to do a soundtrack for shits and giggles and practice, if you're not too picky about style.
post #12 of 463
Thread Starter 
I want synth! All of the synth!
post #13 of 463

Spandex.  All spandex!

 

post #14 of 463
Thread Starter 
Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

There will be spandex in the feature-length version.
post #15 of 463
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

I want synth! All of the synth!
Aw yeah, gonna John Carpenter it all up in this bitch!

...that is how the kids on "the street" say it, right?
post #16 of 463
Thread Starter 
So when are all of you guys coming over to help me make this thing?
post #17 of 463

HOW MUCH YOU GOT, BOY?!

post #18 of 463

I can play the cool, smart, handsome character via Skype from Rhode Island.

post #19 of 463
Oh man, how long before Skype is the new trend with indier-than-thou freshman filmmakers? Like, whole short films where it's just people on webcams trying to act like they're interacting with any of the other characters on webcams?
post #20 of 463
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnotaur3 View Post

HOW MUCH YOU GOT, BOY?!

Well, so far I've raised $0 of my $15,000 goal. So how about some back-end points?
post #21 of 463
Is that what the kids are calling it these days?
post #22 of 463

Bradito, as somebody who's been involved in a couple Kickstarters (one that succeeded and one that failed miserably), here's a few suggestions:

 

- Have a great promo video with good picture quality and gets the point across of what you hope to accomplish with the project

 

- Bios for each of the filmmakers and actors

 

- Some behind the scenes photos, sketches, pictures of the actors, creepy locations (this is a horror film, right?)

 

- Keep updating it every couple weeks with new videos. It's a good way to interact with those who are donating. 

 

- Hold fundraisers at some local filmmaking studios or colleges. Even some really good flyers can create attention

 

- Talk to your doctors and dentists about donations. I know it sounds weird, but just try it!  

post #23 of 463
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Ravi! I'm currently pulling together everything I'll need to launch my crowd-funding page, so your list is a big help. I've been knocking out tons of concept art. I'm not exactly Neil Blomkamp, but my mom seems to like most of my drawings. She said I made the cans on one of the female characters disproportionate to her frame. But what does my mom know about crowd-funding?

post #24 of 463

You should have one of the female characters have monster DNA, so that it'll add more dramatic conflict when her, the male hero and the bisexual nerdy girl have a threesome! 

 

Anyway man, I forgot one other big thing to do when crowdfunding, but go all out on social media. I don't mean crazily spamming numerous FB film groups, but spend at least 30 min to an hour each day posting links to your Kickstarter and get your friends to share it too. It will get some good amount of buzz. 


Edited by Ravi - 9/17/15 at 9:50pm
post #25 of 463
Thread Starter 

Bleeding Christ, I'm polishing up my pitch text for my Indiegogo campaign (3rd draft's looking pretty good), and I wrote: "The Perks of Being a Crowd-Funder." I'll probably never forgive myself.

post #26 of 463

boooooooOOOOOooooooo

post #27 of 463
Thread Starter 

I'm nothing...! Nothing!

post #28 of 463
Thread Starter 
So anyway, I think I'm ready to shoot my crowdfunding pitch video. I've been looking into putting together a DIY lighting package, so it won't look like some of the awkwardly-composed, naturally-lit videos I've seen of some schmendrick in front of a bookcase.

Does anyone have any good recommendations for what kind of camera I should rent? I'd like it to look good, so preferably something with 24p functionality. I want to be handsome.
post #29 of 463

Everything does 24p at this point. I'm biased, I love my Blackmagic Camera. But if you really want to spread that ISO latitude, the new Sony a7s is fucking ridiculous. 

 

 

post #30 of 463

I've worked on countless shorts and commercials and if I can add one bit of advice (this is general advice, since I'm sure your production class already covered this) it's to make sure you don't skimp out on the sound. Shitty sound and dialogue recording is almost always the easiest way to identify a student project. Well that and when all the actors and background extras look like buddies of the director.

post #31 of 463
Thread Starter 
Oh, absolutely. I've made a couple short films with shitty audio, and it's so incredibly deflating.

My short's a horror fillum, so the sound design is going to be critical to its being good. I mean, there's gunfire, screaming, farting -- the true hallmarks of terror.
post #32 of 463

Bradito is making the world's first horror fillum!

post #33 of 463
Thread Starter 
In 2D!
post #34 of 463

Up here in the Bay Area, we have a filmmaking collective that supports and develops short projects. The talent pool is formidable, particularly behind the camera:

 

http://www.scarycow.com/

 

Anything like that in your neck of the woods?

 

ETA: According to their website, they do in fact have a presence in L.A. Check 'em out.

post #35 of 463
Thread Starter 

I'm prepping for my crowd funding campaign pitch video. I've got my script worked out. I'm cobbling together some equipment. I'll see if I can't get someone from grad school to help me film the thing.

 

As far as crowd-funding goes, what kind of rewards should I be reasonably expected to provide my backers? I'm making a short film that's already budgeted at an astronomical amount of money. I've been looking into t-shirts and posters and that sort of ephemera, but damn, they aren't cheap. Baking them into the cost of the budget just makes the budget go up.

 

I'm already pretty nervous about this campaign not hitting its goal. But I also want to do right by my donors. What do I do?!?

post #36 of 463
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post
 

I'm prepping for my crowd funding campaign pitch video. I've got my script worked out. I'm cobbling together some equipment. I'll see if I can't get someone from grad school to help me film the thing.

 

As far as crowd-funding goes, what kind of rewards should I be reasonably expected to provide my backers? I'm making a short film that's already budgeted at an astronomical amount of money. I've been looking into t-shirts and posters and that sort of ephemera, but damn, they aren't cheap. Baking them into the cost of the budget just makes the budget go up.

 

I'm already pretty nervous about this campaign not hitting its goal. But I also want to do right by my donors. What do I do?!?


Take this from a guy who has yet to do a kickstarter or indigogo, but I've seen plenty of campaigns also offer Executive Producer credits for those who put in a lot of dough. Also "Thanks To" credits as well.

post #37 of 463
Thread Starter 
That I can afford!
post #38 of 463

Yeah, I've heard tales about the swag stuff really fucking with crowdfunding campaigns due to underestimation of how much that stuff adds up.

 

Unless you've got a pre-existing relationship with that kind of manufacturing concern, I would advise against it.

 

 

Speaking as someone who has never crowdfunded anything!

post #39 of 463
Thread Starter 
Every donation gets you one free nooj! While supplies last. Act now!
post #40 of 463

no wait...

post #41 of 463

You'll have to do a Jesus thing, take one Nooj to feed hundreds of starving artists. 

post #42 of 463
Thread Starter 
I bought a cheapo camcorder on eBay. I took it out of the box and realized, uh, there's no way to record sound.

So I'm selling a cheapo camcorder on eBay...
post #43 of 463
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

I bought a cheapo camcorder on eBay. I took it out of the box and realized, uh, there's no way to record sound.

So I'm selling a cheapo camcorder on eBay...

Do you have an option to rent a videocamera?
I imagine that LA offers plenty of videocamera/equipment rental shops.
Maybe you could ask around if they got a decent camera with a good built in microphone.
post #44 of 463
Thread Starter 
I was looking at camera rental, but they're not cheap. Hell, I found a 16mm camera that was cheaper than most digital cameras. I thought buying a camera for less than renting one was a clever idea.

Little did I know...!
post #45 of 463

You want actual film equipment, Bradito. 

 

Check this place out: http://www.lensrentals.com

 

Get camera: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/cameras/blackmagic/blackmagic-design-cinema-camera-micro-4-3-mount 

$128 for 4 days

or

http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/cameras/blackmagic/blackmagic-pocket-cinema-camera

$48 for 4 days


Get SSD for cinema camera: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/accessories/memory/ssd/sandisk-extreme-480gb-solid-state-drive-ssd

$26 for 4 days

or 

Get SD cards for Pocket Camera

 

Get lens: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/lenses/micro-4-3/voigtlander-17.5mm-f0.95-nokton-for-micro-4-3

$59 for 4 days

 

http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/lenses/micro-4-3/slr-magic-50mm-f-.95-hyperprime-for-micro-4-3

$53 for 4 days

 

Get tripod: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/support/tripods-monopods/kits/fluid-head-kits/manfrotto-504hd-head-w-546b-2-stage-aluminum-tripod-system

$78 for 4 days

 

Get light: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/lighting/continuous-lights/arri-t1-1000w-fresnel-tungsten

$66 for 4 days


Get stand: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/lighting/stands/10.7-foot-giottos-lc325-lightstand

$23 for 4 days

 

Get audio recorder: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/audio/field-recorders/zoom-h4n

$29 for 4 days


Get boom pole: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/audio/k-tek-ke-79-boom-pole

$26 for 4 days

 

Get mic: http://www.lensrentals.com/rent/audio/microphones/rode-ntg-2-shotgun

$29 for 4 days

 

Now your potential budget is max $500 +

 

That's not a whole lot of money and you're getting full production tools to work with for 4 days of shoots. 

post #46 of 463
Thread Starter 
Carnotaur wins the thread!

I'm happy to shoot on digital if it's cheaper. That's why I was kind of shocked to find a 16mm camera was cheaper to rent than a digital camera; but I guess the expense of film is in the development and telecine and all that jazz.
post #47 of 463
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

Carnotaur wins the thread!

I'm happy to shoot on digital if it's cheaper. That's why I was kind of shocked to find a 16mm camera was cheaper to rent than a digital camera; but I guess the expense of film is in the development and telecine and all that jazz.


Film is gonna be fucked for a while. Live in the digi-world where it's economically friendly. Maybe someday we'll all become Christopher Nolens or Tarentinos. Then we can have our pick.

post #48 of 463
Thread Starter 
When I read the chapter on editing film in "Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices," I was astonished by how laborious the process is.
post #49 of 463

I made a 16mm film in 2008 for my Production 3 class. I spent $1000 on telecine alone. And it was only a Standard Definition transfer.

post #50 of 463
Thread Starter 
Woof.
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