Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Great idea! You might check out your local discount stores (if you have them in Scotland ;)) for bedding sets. Even the cheap ones these days seem to include fluffy comforters. I'm sure you could spend a lot more on acoustic tiling, but blankets or comforters will work almost as well for a lot less money.
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or a thrift store. They don't have to be new or pretty. They just need to be thick enough to be useful.
     
  3. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Good suggestions, thanks guys. :)

    This may not be the easiest location for us to implement the blanket solution, because of the layout of the place, but I'll look into it.
     
  4. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe hang them on large ladders or easels behind the cameras. They don't have to necessarily be hung from the ceiling or walls.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. Fixing it on the page is the cheapest and best solution, provided you know what to look for.

    A good thing to do with a script is read it for what I call "filmability". For instance, with words it's easy to say, "but Maria is lost in thought about Jake's father", but how does the audience know what a character is thinking. If Maria is looking at a photo of Jake's father, then we can infer what she's thinking about. As I often write in script notes, "Just cause the script says it doesn't mean it can be filmed."

    Another "exactly. When we shot greenscreen in Indian Head for Polaris there were no storyboards for the shoot, I found myself drawing storyboards there on set just so we'd know what we were shooting. Not optimal at all.

    Which is a good setup for...

    HOW TO WORK FAST ON SET
    If you can be on set long before the actors, block all your potential camera positions. Move the camera to that position, mark the floor where your sticks will rest, measure the height of the tripod, get your focus and then write down the lens, the zoom, the and other settings that will get you the shot you want.

    Use standins to block out the action. Mark where chairs and actors need to go.

    Check the setup for potential problems re reflections, etc., that you might miss in the rush when everyone arrives.

    In short, do this as much as you can so that when the actors are on set you can speedily move from setup to setup. Don't do it when the cast is on set. It's a waste of everyone's time.

    On the music video I mentioned above we only effectively had 75 minutes of time available with the singers in costume before the cameras for our first location. We got numerous takes in three setups (and a forth punch-in on some setup) in that time only because we'd done the above: prelit and marked all the setups so we could jump from one to the other in minutes.
     
  6. chardman

    chardman Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Speaking of having to dub entire sequences: IIRC, virtually all of the bridge scenes from ST:TMP needed to be dubbed, because all the bridge displays used back projection, and the roar of all those projectors was simply too loud to filter out.

    The point being this: There's a reason that the phrase "We'll fix it in post (production)" is considered a Hollywood cliche. Even pros run into problems that sometimes require the same kind of seemingly inelegant solutions that we sometimes utilize. (Like having to loop dialogue and sound for an entire set of sequences.)

    Having to use some trickery to avoid a reshoot, and to save an otherwise unusable scene should not make you feel unduly amateurish, as even veteran pros do that all the time. This kind of "faking it" is the magic of Hollywood.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^But neither should it be an excuse for doing it in post when you can try to do it right on set.
     
  8. chardman

    chardman Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Sure. It's just that I've seen fan film groups disintegrate over accusations of one another "making amateurish mistakes" that aren't remotely amateurish at all. Planing is hugely important, but it will never eliminate all error... not even all the foreseeable ones. Rest assured, no matter how meticulously thought out in advance your plans are, problems will still occur, and most will be stupid little things that should have been obvious to, well, someone. And in every case, those involved are best served by seeking solutions, rather than someone to blame. Every set should have that sentiment on a sign someplace... "Seek Solutions not Scapegoats".
     
  9. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    One of the very interesting things about film and theater productions is that they must be collaborative. I had tried to write a number of novels, but they had numerous problems for the reader... too long, too pedantic. Then I tried to write a play. The feedback at the cold readings told me a lot, including, sadly, that people were making one of my 'heroes' into a bad gal (she was a she) because of stereotyping. Questions to my audience showed they didn't care a whit what she said or did, or that she was consistently helpful. She stood up to some people, and there were traits she had that labeled her a 'bad guy.' That was not even sci fi, let alone Trek, but it was an education.

    I wonder if any of you have done cold readings of your film scripts in front of an audience to test them?
     
  10. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    My actors do a take and then say "can we please change this?" and I say "yeah, let's please."
     
  11. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I have! And it was very educational. I peppered the audience with both friends and family as well as people that were coming into it really cold. This way, it helped to see how people that were unfamiliar with my stuff would react to it.

    The result? I extensively rewrote the entire thing and added about 20 more pages to it. That was a little daunting, but as I've worked on it in the last few months, I've been able to whittle away about 8 of those, so I think the film is manageable again.

    One other thing that has helped greatly is having someone else direct. His input has exposed a lot of story flaws that I never saw and has helped the script immensely.
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm lucky inasmuch as my regular writing partner is a trained actor, so each time we sit down to work he typically reads back to me what we wrote last time, and right away I can hear if something sounds awkward. He's also good at pointing out when things are grammatically correct but tough on the ear or difficult to say.

    I also love table reads. Last year I had a bunch of actors go through a script several times, but we'd switch who was reading what role each time, so I got to hear a bunch of different takes on the same characters. One actor improvised something for a character that was so funny that it changed the way we write that character now.
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No one's posted here for a bit so I think I'll add a new topic.

    THE DIRECTOR AND THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

    I think people commonly assume the Assistant Director (or A.D. or 1st A.D.) is an assistant to the Director, which isn't at all the case. Here're what the roles break down to:

    DIRECTOR
    The creative brains behind the production. On the set, the big D works primarily with the talent (actors) and the camera crew (DP, etc.) to get the takes.

    ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    Technically, the A.D. (who reports to the producer, not the director) runs the set. This is a vitally important role, as it leaves the director free to focus on the shots. The A.D. checks with departments to make sure everything is ready, calls all the technical stuff related to starting and stopping takes, and generally watches the shooting schedule to make sure the scheduled work is being accomplished.

    (There are also 2nd and 3rd A.D.s, but it's exceedingly unlikely that any fan production would be big enough to require them.)
    I originally made this A.D. Checklist document (PDF) for Polaris in the event I could not be on the set for any reason or if someone else had to temporarily take over the A.D. job. Feel free to have a look or use it if you think it might be useful.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  14. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Looking over the suggestions it looks to me like an obvious time saver is to have a guidebook for as many positions as possible, such as lighting director, grip, best boy, etc. It would seem pretty basic for the executive director to have all those positions filled as far in advance as possible and to have however many conferences it takes separately or in advance to make sure everyone has at least some idea of how a shooting set operates and what their role will be. Right down to who yells "action" and/or "cut"!
     
  15. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If somebody decides to create on online guide of the sort Mike H just suggested, I'd want to link to it!
     
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm a big fan of checklists, because they really help drill into your head the steps and make sure you don't miss any.
     
  17. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Back to the writing:

    Having read a number of fan film scripts (and pro scripts do it to, often) my beef would be with overwriting. Often you get something like:

    EXT. SPACE

    The Enterprise cruises slowly THROUGH THE FRAME, from right to left, at an angle bisecting the geometric balance of the galaxial plane. We MOVE IN SLOWLY until CAMERA is square on the mighty vessel which PASSES DIRECTLY UNDER CAMERA. CAMERA SWIVELS and ROTATES and REGAINS image of ship as it now MOVES AWAY from our perspective, and grows smaller moment by moment.

    Or something much like that. For Chrissake, just say:

    EXT. SPACE

    The Enterprise cruises by.

    or even simpler:

    EXT. SPACE

    Enterprise flyby.

    The same goes for all scenes. There is often excessive description of every bridge establishing shot. What every single character at every station is doing is described (and what they're thinking, too, believe it or not). Instead of all that, just list the characters present and say something like "all intent at their stations."

    "Don't direct on paper," is a maxim I have often heard. Which doesn't mean that you can't write with flavor and verve!

    Sir Rhosis
     
  18. Andymator

    Andymator Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Do you mind if I ask why exactly you have a beef with this?

    As a television director I really enjoy alot of texture and description from writers in their scripts. It allows me to really feel the tone and visualize the story as I'm going through it, like reading a good book. Obviously the first example you gave above is a bit rediculous, but that's just bad structure and lack of literal focus.

    I find the best thing about getting a whole lot of material to work with is that I don't have to use it if I don't want to. It's only there to help me understand what the writer is visualizing when crafting the story. The better I understand the concept, the better I am at the execution. I suppose the downside is that it takes a little longer to read them, heheheh.
     
  19. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Note my last line. Flavor and verve are good. I think we pretty much agree. Sometimes it is necessary to describe exactly what you see, others it is a waste. The first example, taken from memory, admittedly, does come from an actual script I read online. There is simply no need in a Trek fan film to overdescribe what is just a transitional shot. A flyby to indicate a passage of time/transition to another scene. YMMV.

    Sir Rhosis
     
  20. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Long passages describing opticals or action in more detail than necessary makes it difficult to estimate shooting and running time, IMAO.
     

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