Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't Draw Your Storyboards

If you are not a good sketcher and do not have the money to hire a good sketcher do not draw your storyboards. I didn't say do not storyboard. I said do not DRAW your storyboard.

Most likely you are not doing complicated green screen shoots or a lot of mattes so there really is not a point in wasting your time, effort, and more time on stick figure drawings that only make sense to you.

Storyboards are a way to get everyone on the same page. From the camera crew to the actors to the grips one simple picture can get your vision.

Storyboard with a digital camera. If you don't have one you know someone who has a camera you can borrow or buy a cheap one. I know someone that just picked up a camera for 20 bucks.

Most likely you have access to your locations. Go there with a couple stand-ins and shoot your shots. The camera allows you to be more dynamic and true to form of the look of the project. Dedicate a flash card for all your shots and between each scene shoot a title card (Just something hand written) to put a visual brake between each sequence.

These can also be e-mailed to different people in the production so when they get on set they know exactly what is going to happen. This will also ensure a smooth day of shooting that will result in everyone loving you.

The best way to get people to work for you is to have your act together. and prepping for your pre-production will help.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What To Do When Your Pen Won't Go

Your idea has potential but you don't have an way to get your characters from point A to point B. This is what most writers call being blocked. I hate the term "Writers Block" but if it works for you fine.

The problem your facing is not that you don't have any options, it's that you have too many. What? Am I crazy? No, other wise your would have stopped reading. You have an endless world of possibilities. So many directions that you are forced to stay still.

What you need to do is write yourself in a corner. There is nothing like a complete lack of options to force you to get creative. Once you have nowhere to go then the unexpected happens.

If you your have characters reach there arch too soon, IE: the guy gets the girl, have the girl have a shady past as a call girl. Or have have her inherit a million dollars. Something needs to toss the viewer for a loop.

Why do they care about your story? What are you trying to say? Don't be flexible with the theme but be flexible with the story. You will surprise your self and once you get really into your own story and characters. That's when your there. When you want to know what is going to happen to your own characters that is when other will be hooked as well. But, this will never happen if you don't go anywhere. Force your character in impossible situations they will surprise you as you surprise yourself.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Financial Responsibility And Your Film

I Know that some of you care about the story and artistic merit of your upcoming film project and that is great. You should think about that but you are also running a small business for a few months.

Many people think that making a film is something that they can only do only after they win the lottery. Money isn't something that you acquire, it's more liquid. You can't hold on to it. By it's nature it changes hands. It comes and goes. The best you can do is direct its flow to your project.

It's hard to save money. That's why people offer payment plans. It's easier to pay $100 dollars a month then $400 every four months. Why? You get paid by your employer and you direct that pay to your financial obligations. People hold on to a small amount from what they actually get from their job.

I know, you know all this. It's hard to save money. So, how are you going to make your film? Financial responsibility! Exciting huh? The least appealing part of film making but probably the most important. If the dollars add up that's when "Big Mama's House" gets made.

Most of you don't want to make b or c-movies but they are always being made. Why? Financially they make sense. They work at the most basic level. They make money.

Most people don't get into films for the money but that doesn't mean you have to starve either. Evey production is different but there is a few things you can do to help your success.

Make a budget and stick to it- this is the most important part. This budget is what you will have to pay or payback. Don't lose your car for your film. You need that car to get to your job (that pays).

Find a Credit Card - get a new credit card at 0%. This most likely will last a year. You will not have to pay an interest and this will spread out your payments. Remember it's easier then paying it all up front.

Get people to believe in your project - It's hard to get people to believe in your project but it will be worth it. Not only will theses people donate (time, money, food, etc.) they will be a small marketing team.

Remember if you make the film for $2,500. You only need 250 people to see your film and spend $10 to break even. Sound like a lot, but it's not. If you get 25 people involved in your film and they get 10 people each, your set. (It's all about the numbers).

Oh yeah, Stick to your budget. Good Luck.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dark Knight and Imax

What is the deal with showing features on Imax? The last movie I saw on Imax was "I Am Legend." It was a disappointment on many levels but most notably the size. There was no change in aspect or, as I could see, in print quality from a 35mm print.

Why get conned by a marketing ploy. I know people are not going to the movies as much as they have in the past. Many people would rather wait and experience the latest blockbuster in their own home theater with blu-ray, HDTV, and 7.1 surround sound. We do love our entertainment.

This brings me to my point. The best part of the "I Am Legend" Imax experience wasn't the movie, it was the trailer or the 7 minute clip from "The Dark Knight." All the action sequences were shot with Imax cameras. If you saw it you know where I'm going. See this movie in Imax.

That's right, see this movie in Imax. I think 16x9 is the best aspect for all visual media, sorry Mr. Kubrick. But, from what I saw, this film will be best received at the very largest of scale. I am not looking forward to the change of aspect but this will be a cultural touchstone to be sure.

So leave your cozy dwelling ad head to your local Imax, wait in line, feel the buzz, and enjoy. You can skip the $12 popcorn and soda "deal."

The Dark Knight 1966 Style

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hey you are an All-Star

It is a day before the all-star break. (In baseball, if you don't follow that stuff.) The time at which we honor the best in the sport. (Not to mention commercialism and bloated paychecks.)

It is also a time to look at the impact of baseball on film.

I give you the top 5 baseball movies.

5. Major League

4. The Natural

3. Fever Pitch

2. see

1. see

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

There have been great debates over time. Chicken or Egg? Kirk or Picard? DH or no DH? Consolidated loans or Debt Management? 401k or Roth IRA? (I'm drifting)

But there are few things that Geeks worked up more then Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
Both fantasy, Both monumental achievements in film. Both trilogies. Both ways to get in a physical altercation. (Well almost, we are dealing with film geeks. They don't fight.)

I'm sure you fall one way or the other on this one, though both Frodo and Luke both whine a lot. So, make a stand and state your reasons why one is better then the other.

Warning funny adult content below. no matter what side you are on this is spot on. (Click only of you are over 18 and want to laugh)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Give Me A Gimmick

Like Jaws 3D before, a new round of spectacle driven movies are to be released.

3D movies are anything but new. In fact, going back to the stereoscope, the process pre-dates the moving picture. Movies started being released in the 1920's and they they have been around ever since.

Most people think of the big green and red galsses 3D films in the 1950's and 1960's. Good for the effect of 3D band for color, lighting, oh and the headaches.

Now we still have the spectacle of things flying at our face. Some impressive, some not so much. But, why?

Are we that starved for reality that we need to go to a movie just to see things in 3D as if our 2D life was that boring. And why reserve this tech that is as old as cinema itself to action and animated films?

If 3D is good enough for big movies, it should be better for small movies. "Juno 3D" see that swollen belly fly over your head or "Superbad 3D" it worth it for the cartoon pictures, that will make you duck. (The Michael Cera connection is by accident.)

They are even thinking about going back and making 2D movies 3D with a technology called In-Three (Lead by Lucas, go figure). I cant wait to see "The Third Man" in 3D and "Vertigo" would be better.

While I wait for "The General" and "Birth of a Nation" to be digitally enhanced at my local megaplex. We can look forward to a dozen films in the next year to include this story enhancing technology including the Oscar front runner "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and Camerons "Avatar."

Who needs substance when you can have flash.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Make A Short, Make A Feature for $2,500

Why make a short film? If your answer is cost you are actually spending more money. What? Yes.

First the day of shorts is gone to showcase your talent. With the advent of digital tech you can make a feature for no-budget. $2,500 is all you need. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Lets get back to why NOT to make a short.

There are some reasons to make a short but these should be limited to story alone. If you have a small idea, a one trick pony, make a digital short (Like SNL). Other then that, make a feature. Unlike shorts, you can sell a feature. People buy features. Studios want to see that you can tell a story. The best reason to make a feature, you can make your money back.

Making a short you are throwing your money away. So, unlike a feature you are waisting money, costing you more. Even if you don't sell your film or a studio can't see how wonderful and creative your are, you still have a product to sell.

I know, I'm a downer. It took me a long time to realize that no money is made in making a film. That is right. NO MONEY IN MAKING FILMS. The money comes from marketing a film.

Movies themselves are a huge money suck. Cast, crew, props, sets, craft services, location agreements, lights, cameras, film (video) stock, etc., etc. With no guarantee a profit will be turned.

So, what do you do? Give yourself a budget. Lets say $2500 and forget about making the sweeping drama about a towns Mesothelioma lawsuit. Cancer from asbestos may play well come Oscar time but for now aim small.

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Small cast, 3 locations, and a simple story. Think, teens lost in the woods or dinner party. The subject will limit itself. Then hold yourself to that budget. Most likely you will not be paying your actors or crew, so feed them well. Spend a little extra cash to keep them well fed, pizza gets old after three days. Also, ask some local restaurants to donate food for a credit. Once we gave a guy a walk on for some beef sandwiches.

Next, pre-produce then pre-produce some more. The more you have your act together the more the cast and crew will respect you and be willing to go long into the night. Do not have the cast sitting around, you will not get the best performances. Schedule them so that have as little time on set as possible. Also, have the crew do the next set up while your shooting, this will move things along.

Keep your shoot to 12 days. That is 3 days a week for one month. Do nights an interiors on Friday after work and days and exteriors Saturday and Sunday. Budget about $100 a shooting day for food. That is $1200, just for food! That leaves you with $1,300.

Don't worry about about HD or any of the new wiz bang tech. If you don't already have one get a solid 3 chip camera by begging or borrowing, don't steal. If you want someone else to shoot your film get a student, most likely they have one are are eager to use it.

Spend most your time with the story and script, people can overlook bad lighting, no one can overlook a bad story.

Buy your MiniDV tapes online You can get 10 60-min tapes for about $25. Get 20 and shoot like you are on film. Buy a shotgun mic with a boom. Of course you can spend a lot here but I have got good results from $200 mics. Toss in another $50 for the boom pole.

So assuming you have a computer you can buy editing software and cut your film yourself. I suggest, if you don't already have a program, and older version of Adobe Premiere (Possibly 6.5). Buying older versions will save you cash. You can pick up this perfectly fine program for $150.

After that, you are left with $850. I know a lot of you are going to criticize me for not including lights or dolly or a half dozen other things but this is no budget film making. (If David Lynch doesn't need them, you don't need them.) There is no sense maxing out your credit cards, taking out loans, using other peoples money and most likely straining your relationships with friends and family. If the film story is good the film will be good.

The the remaining $850 on miscellaneous production cost, DVD's, film fest submissions, and small viral marketing for your film. After you went the fest route, you can publish the film yourself (see From there you can possibly get it on Netflix.

So, get out there and start doing. Good Luck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Why Your Film Will Fail

You will fail a hundred times, hopefully not thousands. But, you will fail. This is not a bad thing. I have never really learned anything from getting it right the first time. In fact I find myself looking back at what I did right more often then what I did wrong. I'm sure you have done the same. The best we can do is learn from others and their mistakes.

But, your film will not fail because a lack of creativity of production value. (A note to all the film schoolers, a film will not succeed because of a kick ass long take). The foundation of a good film is a solid story. Period. Lets say you have an awesome script. The story boards are all set. You have ties to a cast a crew. Guess what? You need money.

Most of us are strapped Federal student loans, or other financial loans. Some people get so behind that they need to consolidate their loans. We are a nation of living beyond our means getting in credit card debt and financing that new LCD television or even refinancing our mortgage for that stereo. We are not good with money.

Money is the reason your film will fail. You can have a great idea but without cash that is all it will be, an idea. The hard fact is you, as an independent filmmaker, need to be business savvy and budget conscience.

You need to do sales. Raise the income. Look at all the crap movies out there. They did not get made by hopes and dreams. Someone said I'm going to make this movie and they did. That's it. The film community is great. We are some of the most supportive, collaborative, good natured and most taken advantage of group. Can you see someone say "Hey, I'm gonna build a house. Who wants to help?" and they actually get a crew to work for free on Sundays? No way.

We can make great works but at the core we need at least some cash. (Hell, even people working for free need to eat). Get creative, after all you are, right? Get some cash. There is a joke in "Bowfinger" saying that any film can be made for $2,000. Nowadays that isn't so ridiculous, you just need a good script with limitations for the budget minded filmmaker. I can show you how. Stay tuned.

Another Media Blog

Wow. Another blog on media. Well, hopefully not just the run of the mill blog. By now we are use to the bitch fest surrounding the creative mulit-media arena and why not? It is fun and easy to say whats wrong with everything we see, read, hear, and otherwise mind digest.

We are a worldwide society of critics. We want nothing but the best for our mental pleasure. As we like to be filled by a good meal we yearn the same for our intellect. Let us start with the basic cornerstone of philosophy, why?

I can posture the ease of information and multitude of outlets for creative works literally at our finger tips but I will not. I instead will retort with an equally academic answer, why not?

Like any other physical attributes we all have opinions. Good, bad, or otherwise we all have the right to be wrong. You are wrong with all your opinions. Everything you like is wrong. That is if you read enough blogs. You will be told you don't know what you like and everyone else is smarter than you. I know I'm correct with saying this because I'm not you.

So, hold on and get ready. I expect soon that a vast majority will disagree with my views and a few actually will agree with my assertions. I hope to hear from both sides. See you soon in a world of anonymity and savageness. Too much, too soon? Who cares?