Fan Filmmaker's Primer

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. DCR

    DCR Commander Red Shirt

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    I would argue that the top tier fan films are of at least semi-professional quality, but I wouldn't call any of them professional regardless of the production values. There's just so much more to it than the quality of the product or even the people involved.
     
  2. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A fan film will always be a fan film unless it is produced and distributed via official channels. The fact that professional actors and directors are attached to it doesn't mean anything to the label "fan film". Even if they threw 150 million at the wall, it would still be a "fan film".

    The labels here have to be distinguished:

    fan film - official film - independent/original film
    no budget - low budget - high budget

    Of Gods and Men is a fan film. Star Trek Into Darkness is an official film. Polaris is neither, it's independent or original.
    The budget question is totally independent from "fan" or "official" films. Official films can be no budget, and fan films can be high budget.

    "professional production" is a strange term. When is a production professional? Give James Cameron a camcorder. Will he be doing something professional with it? Give a bunch of students the most expensive equipment. Will that make their attempt professional? If professional actors, writers and directors come together to make a film in their garage as a hobby, is it a professional production?
     
  3. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    A fanfilm is a fanfilm. Makes no diference if the fans making it are professionals, or just Billy and his iphone. It simply means they have better resources to play with.

    It's all just unlicensed fanfic anyway. Why argue over semantics?
     
  4. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Agreed. Just curious as to other folks' thoughts on the matter, especially when Tim Russ would not agree with JarodRussell's definition.
     
  5. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Randy, I want to comment here. There are those who claim that CBS/Paramount has abandon their claims to productions that mimic the original series and its style. I have no idea if that is true, but the law of franchise copyright itself is pretty murky. The gold standard is usually set by DC Comics, whose lawsuits through the years show how franchise copyright claims weaken with time. The case that established it, against Captain Marvel, took down a creation that would easily pass muster today as NOT infringing. Recently DC has lost cases with much stronger claims. This has left me wondering what, if anything, remains of their 'franchise copyright.' Unlike regular, common-law and statutory law intellectual property rights, the court-created 'franchise copyright' doesn't seem to die, it just fades away.

    Unless and until a 'fan film' spends millions on a lawsuit to overturn the claim of the franchise copyright holder (and there are many franchises, not just geekdom ones; the first fan film was based on the 'Little Rascals' films) we won't know.

    For now, I'd venture to guess that the distinction is not one of the quality of the filmmakers but purely one of the right of the filmmaker or other writer to profit from their creative work.

    While the writing has been attacked as terrible, (and I have no interest in these books) the hit series "Shades of Grey" was a re-write of a fan novel series based on one of the vampire franchises. By eliminating the 'vampire' element, the writer seized full control over the copyright of the work and was able to make money on it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "[p]ointing out that many fan films" were not of a particular scale is not what you wrote prior; you were dismissing that scale of production as not being in a fanfilm category.

    ...which is demonstrably false as Exeter had as many if not more people that I was discussing, and I suspect Phase II often does as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  7. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    It's amazing how you manage to read my mind and intent so perfectly. I bow to your absolute authority in everything.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, as if that's ever going to happen. Disagreements are part and parcel of creative work. :)

    Anyway, this thread isn't supposed to be acrimonious, misunderstandings aside.
     
  9. scienceguy

    scienceguy Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Forgive me if the following subject has already been discussed on this thread …

    I'd like to offer some friendly advice for producers, directors and behind-the-scenes folks involved in fan film production. When making casting decisions, I believe it is a mistake to cast yourselves in key roles or include your family and friends in the cast.

    I realize fan films are produced "for fun", but with all the extraordinary care and attention to detail devoted to building sets, developing props, selecting wardrobe and designing visual effects, I'm a bit surprised by some of the questionable casting decisions.

    It's relatively easy to recruit experienced, talented and attractive actors for a serious production. Some will work for free if they believe in the project.

    I understand it may be a "dream-come-true" for behind-the-scenes folks to appear on camera along with family and friends. But your production will be more entertaining, appeal to wider audience, and be less stressful to produce if you recruit experienced actors.

    Just some friendly advice.
     
  10. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Emphasis on relatively and if.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'd agree with that. Most of the actors I've used in my film work all have previous experience, training, or degrees in drama. Many actors are hungry to have roles which are substantial and/or give them something to add to their reels, even if your budget and compensation are effectively zero.
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Time to cover a "back to basics" lesson...

    CINEMATOGRAPHY 101: BFLATS

    As I've said in the past, I'm a big believer in checklists on set. They start off helping make sure that you don't forget anything, and eventually the steps become second nature, and they also force you to take a moment and consider each step and make sure it's done right before moving on to the next one. Under the pressure and distractions of a shoot this can be a lifesaver.

    A while back my friend Gil Poznanski told me about a cameraman's mnemonic he learned at the School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) at UCLA, which they called BFLATS. [EDIT] This list was really intended for film shooting, which does not include the white balance and color temperature settings common in digital video.

    B - Battery
    F - Focus
    L - Level
    A - Aperture
    T - Tachometer
    S - Shutter Angle/Speed

    BFLATS - Before you shoot
    Now, a lot of beginners are shooting on "auto" on their cameras, so BFLATS may not seem practical, but if you want the best looking film it's worth seeing how much manual control you have and learn how to use the available features on your camera.

    I'll drill down a bit into each item on this.
    Battery
    Basically, is there enough charge so you won't run out? [EDIT] And do you have other batteries charged/charging?

    Focus
    Not just is the shot in focus, but if you need to manually rack the focus during a shot (not possible with many consumer grade cameras), have you worked out the focus and marked the points so that you can deftly change the focus when needed.

    Level
    Most good tripod heads have levels built into them. Unless you're dutching (tilting) the shot deliberately you'll probably want to have the camera level. It's important for the tripod to be "on the bubble" all the way around, especially when panning (this does not affect "tilt").

    Aperture
    Your camera may or may not allow you to set this, but it's the size of the opening through which light passes. Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’. The larger the aperture the shallower the depth of field, and the smaller the aperture the greater depth of field (meaning how much of the image can be in focus at once). Counter-intuitively, the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture, so an f-stop of f/4 is much much larger than f/22.

    Tachometer (aka ISO)
    Refers to film speed (sensitivity to light), but in digital ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. So, just as 100 speed film is good for general purposes but not so good in low light, where 400 speed film is much better in darker situations. If your camera allows you to control this, it may save your bacon in low light situations (combined with the Shutter Speed setting).

    Shutter Angle/Speed
    This relates to how long the shutter is open and exposing a frame. The bigger the number, the longer the exposure. Longer exposures mean more blur on moving objects, and shorter exposures mean a more staccato look.​

    The ATS items have to be considered together. To get more depth of field (smaller Aperture) will require more light to get the same exposure level, meaning you'll want to consider the ISO and Shutter Speed with each adjustment.

    There are some additional items I might add to such a checklist, but I'll end this post here for now and see what comments/questions come up.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  13. captainkirk

    captainkirk Commander Red Shirt

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    Eek. When I first got a camera that could shoot HD I made sure it was one that had completely manual options.

    I'd also add: Are there enough spare batteries?

    Something not mentioned on the checklist is white balance which needs to be set correctly or else you'll have a hard time trying to fix it in post.
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe I wasn't clear (I'll edit it) but the source for BFLATS was for film (hence Shutter Angle), and film doesn't require white balancing or color temperature. Maybe BFLATS for digital video should include a second T (BFLATTS?) for Temperature/White Balance.

    A few years ago I made a mistake and forgot to switch the camera from a temperature correct for shooting under tungsten lights when shooting outdoors and the resulting shots were weirdly blue. That's an error I won't make again!
     
  15. captainkirk

    captainkirk Commander Red Shirt

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  16. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I also edited to add your note about batteries. :)
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    P.S. Is your avatar Wallace Beery?
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Another topic:

    EDITING: Structural Editing vs. Relational Editing

    Editing is really where the rubber meets the road in filmmaking. Good editorial can make a good film great or a mediocre film good. The converse is also true, as poor editing can diminish a film. Good editors make actors look better, and bad editors can make a good performance look terrible.

    Editing is a HUGE topic, from both a technical standpoint to an artistic one, but in keeping with this topic being a "primer" I thought I'd simply introduce the topic of structural editing as opposed to relational editing to those who may be unaware of it. These are concepts put forth by Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Soviet film director and theorist little known outside film school circles but highly influential on many directors.

    Structural editing is merely chaining shots together to make a sequence, which is by and large what fan films do. That is, they simply cut shots together in the most straightforward manner to tell the story. In a way, this analogous to a multi-camera live shoot like a sitcom, where different cameras are switched to as needed, so like an episode of The Golden Girls, where Camera 1 is a wide shot encompassing the entire table at which the girls are having cheesecake, Cameras 2 and 3 are set to do closeups, so the editor switches to 1 when they all sit down, to 2 to cover Dorothy talking, etc. The sequence is proscribed by the script, and the coverage specifically works through the sequence of the scene.

    So, while sequential editing is the most straightforward way to tell a story on film, it's often frequently the least interesting. It's akin to watching a play and using your opera glasses to zoom in on specifics. The scene plays out in a very linear fashion in real time you can zoom in and out and that's all.

    Relational editing is where film really flexes its muscles and differentiates itself from other art forms with its ability to abruptly change POV, intercut between simultaneous actions in different places, compare and contrast events over time, create visual metaphors, etc.
    [​IMG]
    The above is a link to a nice, concise 11:45 video which illustrates the basics of Pudovkin's five examples of relational editing, It's worth watching even if you're not an editor

    Pudovkin's books, Film Technique (1933) and Film Acting (1935), are available as a free download on the Internet Archive here (link).
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  19. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    I'd guess Orson Welles..
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nah, it's not Welles. it looks like a color tinted silent film.