Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    For questions about costuming, I think this thread would benefit by a link to James Cawley's forum on that subject. Even if he had never played the part of Captain Kirk, he worked on costumes for the real TNG. He's a bona fide expert on the subject.
    http://forums.startreknewvoyages.com/index.php?board=283.0
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's fine to give flavor, but to describe a shot in excessive detail is pointless as anyone who's ever been on set can tell you. There are all kinds of practical concerns about matched looks and eyelines and visual composition that must be decided by the director and DP and which the writer generally has no knowledge of. Describing what side of the room something is on is silly since the writer has no say in the blocking, etc.

    Here's some examples of how I handle stuff like this, from the aborted "Atlantis Invaders" script:

    EXT. SPACE

    The STARSHIP EXETER creeps up on a blue PLANET. Sneaky. Purposeful.


    EXT. SPACE -- EXETER IN ORBIT

    The mighty U.S.S. EXETER has the drop on an OLDER CARGO STARSHIP. It's of Federation design but antiquated; a WWII Liberty Ship next to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The cargo ship tows two large tanker-truck like PODS.
    In these I'm conveying what the shots should feel like rather than the specifics of the composition. That's texture without being overly specific.

    INT. EXETER BRIDGE

    ON B'FUSELEK working his console as Itzhak Perlman plays a violin. His fingers dance over the controls as his eyes follow the information flashing on the screens before him. We see why he's got this job! When one particular piece of data flashes onto a screen, he stabs a button and freezes it.
    Here it's about what the performance is like without telling the actor how to do it.

    EXT. COLONY -- RAILING -- SUNSET

    Garrovick stands at the rail, looking across the sea at the setting sun. After a few moments, Callahan appears.


    INT. COLONY -- CONFERENCE ROOM -- MORNING

    This time the subject in the hot seat is BRAD JENKINS, the miner who earlier protested fixing Intake Four. He's older, worn down, a little scared and a lot hung over.


     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  3. Hudson_uk

    Hudson_uk Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Not viewed any of these yet and they may be for real beginners. However, Vimeo have launched "Vimeo Video School".

    http://vimeo.com/videoschool
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    New topic...

    STORYBOARDS

    Some people don't like to use them. Some directors don't need to. Personally I find them very useful because they make me consider how I'm going to shoot and what coverage I'll need to get, something that's easy to miss if you're just making a textual shot list.

    Some people skip storyboarding because they can't draw, but storyboards needn't necessarily be pretty. Stick figures will often do, as mostly what you're trying to do is illustrate how the shot is composed, and not necessarily all the details of said shot.

    Below is a stick-figure storyboard I found online. It's not pretty, but it's perfectly serviceable, and something almost anyone could draw:

    The following storyboard is something I drew for the music video I mentioned in the first post on this thread. It essentially illustrates a single shot, but breaks that shot down into each distinct action required for the choreography. You can see that it establishes that there are only two setups required for the shot: a medium shot and a punch-in for a closeup. The way you shoot this is to film the entire sequence from both setups allowing you to intercut as needed.

    (In case you're wondering what the lines across each panel are, they're to break them down into thirds horizontally and vertically, so as to consistently remind me to be mindful of the shot composition and the Rule of Thirds.)

    The following storyboard from "The Atlantis Invaders" is of a different ilk, as it's basically a shot by shot breakdown of an entire sequence. Some shots are again broken down into steps based on action, whilst others are single panels.


    (There're actually an error in this 2004 storyboard that I'd never make today. The redshirts are mostly facing and firing towards screen left, and relating to Cutty also screen left, but in panel 4 they're facing right, which "crosses the line" and is a no-no.)

    Both examples are rough storyboards and drawn quite small, with each panel being maybe 2-3 inches wide.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  5. BolianAuthor

    BolianAuthor Writer, Battlestar Urantia Rear Admiral

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    One thing I would like to ask of the fanfilm producers who have done this before, is how do I go about setting up a website that can be capable of accepting PayPal donations towards our production and the like? I know how to start a regular free webforum, but both Alex and myself would really like to get a donation feature set up for "Battlestar Urantia", and I just don't know how to set that up myself. Anyone have any guidance on this issue?
     
  6. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Here's a pretty good article about storyboarding:

    http://www.videomaker.com/article/2313/

    Storyboarding is important when making any movie, but it's especially important when making any movie involving a lot of visual effects.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Funny, but the article talks about templates and figures, but I'm not seeing either.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    New Topic:

    HOW TO WORK WITH THE TALENT

    Obviously there's no set way to work with anyone, but here are some tips I've learned based on my time working on sets and with actors.

    1. Food & Drink.
    This goes for the entire crew. No matter how low/no your budget, make sure there's plenty of water to drink, and make sure there's at least some snack food, and, fer Pete's sake, buy them lunch!

    Oh, and have straws and food that can be eaten with a fork, in the event an actor doesn't want to ruin their makeup.
    2. It's not the time it takes to take the takes that takes the time, it's the time it takes to talk between the takes that takes the time. (Attributed to Doug Trumbull.)
    I give crews this speech on every shoot, reminding them that what we're there for is to get the shots, and that the time the camera is rolling is smaller than the time it's not rolling. In other words, do everything as fast and efficiently as you can between takes, but don't rush the actors when they're in front of the camera, because that's what you're there to get.
    3. The Director should run the script with the cast.
    While some film actors don't like to rehearse a lot because they want to be fresh for the camera, you can save a lot of time when the cameras are ready and the lights are on if the Director and cast have run through the scene beforehand. When I'm directing, what I like to do on set each morning is this:
    a. Address cast and crew and tell them what we're doing today.
    b. While the cast is getting through makeup and/or wardrobe, I work with the DP to get the first shots of the day planned out so they can get moving.
    c. As soon as we can, I plop the cast down and we run through script to discuss the day's work. We usually do a few read-throughs of the script so I can hear what they're doing and listen for problems. At this point actors often have questions or suggestions, and I prefer to discuss them at this point rather than when the cameras are rolling.
    d. If you can start working on blocking before you get to the set, do it. For instance, place chairs where they'd be arranged on set and let the actors work on how they turn to each other, get in and out, etc. Sometimes you can spot problems long before you get onto the actual set.
    [​IMG]
    On the set of Stagecoach In the Sky,
    I run the script with the cast while the
    DP and crew are setting up for the first shot.

    4. Only the Director directs the talent.
    Other members of the crew should not make suggestions to the actors or chime in with ideas. The Director's job is to get the performances from the cast, ergo if anyone else has a suggestion, it should be given to the Director, who can do with it what she sees fit. This also goes for feedback to the actors about their performance. The producer or gaffer might think the actor's delivery is great, but, again, it's up to the Director to decide if it's right. On the other hand...
    5. Actors can give each other feedback.
    They need to be able to discuss how their characters are interacting, give each other suggestions, etc.
    6. Give Actors space to rehearse.
    On a small set there's often no place to retreat to, so the crew should be cognizant that socializing with the cast between takes can rob them of time to run their lines or mentally prepare themselves for takes. On Polaris, as the A.D., I had to occasionally shoo set visitors away from the cast for exactly this reason.
    [​IMG]
    Give actors a space to work off set.

    7. Don't overdirect the cast.
    It's usually bad form to tell an actor how to say a line, although some will ask you to if they're not understanding.
    8. Direct via suggestion, not specifics.
    Most actors I've worked with respond best when I give them something they can work with that isn't overly specific. For instance, in one scene I noticed that two actresses playing bad girls got really close together at one point and threw back their drinks at almost the same time, so I told them to stay shoulder to shoulder, and to synchronize their drinking, but added "play it like you're a two-headed hydra". They got it. Likewise, in another scene a planned bit of business to stop the hero wasn't going to work, so I told the actor playing a bad guy "be the door", and he played the scene so that when he stepped in he basically became a physical barrier. Sometimes I'd just toss them a note about tone, like, "The upper deck of the plane is the mountaintop where the wise Yogi lives, and down here on the lower deck is Hell " which has nothing to do with the plot but gives them a metaphorical idea about how to play the scenes.

    On the other hand, some actors might just want to hear exactly what you think you want, and will ask you, "So, show me what you want," at which point you should do so.
    9. Don't feel the need to CUT if you just want another go at a few lines.
    If the energy is good, it's often better to just say, "Gimme another," or add, "One more, but angrier," or whatnot. But...
    10. Don't do "rolling direction".
    While it's often faster to "give me another" rather than to cut, it's not a good idea to get into direction of any complexity while the camera is rolling. If the direction for the next one takes more than 10 seconds to describe, cut, discuss, and start a new take.
    11. Have the A.D. announce when each actor has wrapped their scenes for the shoot.
    "Attention please. Joe Blow has wrapped his work on ____." It's the moment where they get to be the center of attention before they exit the production.
    12. MAKEUP!
    Some fan productions skip this. Don't. Cameras are unforgiving, and no one wants to look bad, so make sure you have a makeup person who can buff n puff the cast so they all look good.
    13. Be open to suggestion but cautious about changing the script.
    Actors will often suggest changing a line so it sounds more natural or makes it easier to say. On the other hand, changing a line without understanding if it has a broader context in the script is dangerous.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
  9. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A better reference for moviemaking than my link to that non-illustrated article is Lloyd Kaufman's Make Your Own Damn Movie. I've actually read this book multiple times, whereas I only skimmed that bum article.

    Whatever you think of Troma films, either individually or on the whole, you'll find a lot of good stuff in this book.
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Just curious, but would any of you fan filmmakers be willing to let me use screen grabs from and of your productions as examples? Sometimes I see a shot or shots that I think demonstrate a particular good approach or sometimes illustrate an error. I wouldn't want anyone to feel like I was picking on them, however, so I wouldn't do it without your consent.
     
  11. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Feel free to use clips from my ASTRONUTS movie, although it's not tied to any sci-fi franchise.
     
  12. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    When my film gets going, feel free to use it -- though I'm not sure how applicable my little puppet film will be to others' productions. ;)
     
  13. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Grab whatever errors from my stuff you like. Never hurts to get constructive commentary. :)
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks, guys!

    Nick: I'll be gentle. ;)
     
  15. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    That's not what I hear. ;)
     
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, you did see what a hard-ass I am on the Polaris set! Or was it the hike?
     
  17. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    He's still disappointed because Dennis made him feel so cheap in the other thread. Rumor has it, he didn't even buy the poor guy dinner.
     
  18. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    OTOH, the fact that I don't call afterward is considered a plus by most actors.

    Turning this digression back to the subject of fan films, though - feed the cast and crew. If you're not paying them and particularly if you're asking them to schlep a distance to participate, you need to do that much. IMAO. And there's a selfish aspect to it - bringing meals in keeps the production running on something resembling a "schedule" (hah!).
     
  19. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^^ It doesn't hurt that it also leads to socializing and strengthens the bond between the team members. After all, a film production IS a team effort.
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Let's get on to some cinematography basics, starting with...

    THE LINE (aka "The 180° Rule)

    Within the first 20 or so years of the 20th century the "language" of cinematography was pretty well developed and has changed surprisingly little since then. You don't realize you know it, but thousands of hours of exposure to TV and film have trained you to subconsciously "read" film.

    One of the most common mistakes for beginning filmmakers relates to "The Line" and eyelines. Heck even pros occasionally make that mistake, too, and have to fix it in post (if they can).

    In short The Line is an imaginary line you draw between two players in a scene, and which extends through them. For instance, imagine if you drew a line between Kirk and Sevrin in this shot from "The Way to Eden":

    [​IMG]

    The basic rule of The Line is that once you establish it, you cannot cross it. This is because The Line establishes direction of looks, movement and relative positions in relationship to the camera. It makes it possible to maintain a sense of screen direction and where things are even when you change setups and angles.

    Let's say you shot the above scene. You've established that Kirk is to screen left of Sevrin, and must look to screen right to face him. If Sevrin faces Kirk, he must face screen left. Now, if you wanted a closeup of Kirk without Sevrin in the frame, you'd have to stay on the same side of The Line, so that Kirk's eyeline still goes to the right side of the frame.

    [​IMG]

    In all the camera positions to this side of the line, Kirk's screen facing is always to the right, even if we looked over his shoulder or over Sevrin's shoulder

    Why is this important? Because if you cross the line you break up the sense of which character is where and what they're looking at. For instance, if we "Crossed The Line" in the Way to Eden scene to get a closeup of Kirk, he ends up looking to frame left, like this...

    [​IMG]
    ...with the result that he appears to be looking away from Sevrin, which makes the looks mismatch.
    [LEFT]
    This is why you don't cross The Line.


    HOW IMPORTANT IS THE LINE, REALLY?

    Let's look at this same scene as it appears in the episode.

    Sevrin starts here...
    [​IMG]

    ...then runs off to screen right ending up here...
    [​IMG]

    ...after which the editor chose to show Kirk looking at him, but (apparently) he didn't have a shot of Kirk facing the correct direction, so he did this...[/LEFT]
    [​IMG]

    [LEFT]Yes, he flopped the shot horizontally to make sure Kirk's eyeline remains consistent. In short, maintaining the eyeline trumps making sure the badge is on the correct side of the uniform. It's that important to the scene making sense.

    Lots of beginning filmmakers have this idea that rules are made to be broken, and rules like The Line don't really matter. Well, they're wrong. If you want the action and relationships on the screen to be immediately comprehensible, you stick to the language everyone knows, and which makes intuitive sense.

    The Line in scenes with more than two characters can get trickier, but we'll talk about that later.

    REDRAWING THE LINE

    The Line isn't a permanent thing. You can establish a new Line if the actors move around in the scene, or if the camera moves (say dollies) to a new position, but you need to see the move and establish this new Line.

    Hope that all makes sense![/LEFT]​
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016

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