Fan Filmmaker's Primer

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

  1. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Not only that, but the theme of the "Phase II" iteration of "Blood and Fire" was about the Peter-Alex relationship, i.e. "Space isn't the final frontier. The final frontier is the human heart; space is where we'll meet the challenge."

    Now I don't have a problem with that. In fact, the best stories are about how the characters are affected by what's going on around them. Or how it's often stated in mystery fiction: "It isn't how the character works the mystery, but how the mystery works the character."

    My disappointment with "Blood and Fire" is that the execution wasn't what it could've been, and that it TOLD more than it SHOWED, especially since Kirk blatantly tells us the theme of the entire story at the very end.
     
  2. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I felt like I was being beaten over the head with the Peter/Alex subplot. I mean, I consider myself enlightened about human relationships, but it got to the point where I felt like "enough already". As I said before I think Enemy: Starfleet did a good job of explaining Peter's terrible loss without grabbing me by the hair and shoving my face in it. It just was too much for me. I don't think anyone set out to lecture the audience, but I sure felt I was being told how I should feel toward these characters and I also felt that there was an agenda at work. (The fact that I agree with the agenda is irrelevant).
     
  3. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    True, but fortunately the bloodworm story is more timely today than it was in 1986. :lol:

    EDIT: Please ignore the post above. I misread Dennis' post, and my comment was in no way intended to offend anyone. If it did, then I apologize.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2011
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Okay, I think we've said enough about that one particular episode. It's not fair to dwell too much on Phase II's occasional missteps as these things are common to fanfilms in general.

    WHAT THIS THREAD NEEDS...

    Is more input from fan filmmakers. I really didn't create this as a platform from which to lecture. I was really hoping to get some thoughts from others making fan films. What are the problems you've seen in your or other productions and how do you address or plan to address them?

    How about this: anyone here want to pose a question about film production? (Not writing, let's put that in its own topic, or VFX, which is another topic as well.) Say, something about the production process either on set or before you get on set?
     
  5. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Is it? That's the one that I thought was less obviously pertinent.
     
  6. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oops. I completely misread your previous post. My apologies. I can't find the "Totally Undo" button. :(

    Back on topic...

    Legalese - Whether you pay them or not, should cast and crew be required to sign release forms? Breaking even, much less making a profit on a super-low-budget film is not a likelihood. Still, selling a DVD or access to a digital copy can help to recoup expenses.
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Ah, good topic. May I expand this to include a discussion of any kind of legal agreement that should exist between parties participating in an independent film production?
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    RELEASES
    You want talent releases from everyone who appears on camera. If you don't, your ability to show the production publicly can hinge on the whim of someone who may, at some point, decide they don't want to be seen in the film after all. It doesn't matter that you may or may not make money.

    Frankly, contracts are always a good idea, even between friends, because they spell out clearly to both parties what is going on, and eliminate a lot of the "but you said" types of incidents that can occur otherwise.

    Here's some language I use:
    Since such things are legal documents, do NOT use a company or production company name unless you have an actual company, because a legally non-existent entity can't really have rights signed to it. It's generally safer for the filmmaker to have the rights signed over to herself, especially if they are the copyright holder of the production.

    It's actually good to have a liability waiver, too. It's also good to have Production Insurance. I think Dennis can address that.
     
  9. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    We use both.
     
  10. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We found that we simply couldn't rent equipment in the price range we needed nor rent stage space of the kind required without production insurance. The insurance generally offered for this is called "inland marine insurance."

    In order to do our location shooting it's also been necessary to purchase liability insurance. This probably would have been a good idea all along, but it was required by the property owners in this case. We are a legally incorporated entity, United Worlds Entertainment, LLC.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't want to stop the topic of releases and contracts and insurance, as they're all important, but let's talk about some practical matters regarding how to shoot.

    ON-SET TIPS 1: How to minimize eyeline problems

    One thing I've noted repeatedly in fan productions is a tendency to break "The Line" so that characters who should be looking at each other do not appear to be doing so from the camera's perspective.

    I suspect there are two main reasons this happens:

    1. The filmmakers don't think in terms of The Line (aka the 180° Rule)
    2. The realities of many fan productions means parts of the same scene are shot days or weeks apart, and it's easy to forget how the shots were set up in order to match them
    We had a bit of scenario 2 on the Polaris film, when, in order to get back on schedule, I pushed to get all of the dialog for the background players shot in one day, even though the main characters they'd be talking to hadn't been shot yet.

    Naturally, doing so can be recipe for disaster re eyelines and matched looks, since we didn't know where the main characters would be in the shots that would be cut in.

    The solution: each time an actor delivered a line or lines they would switch from one eyeline to another.

    First to camera left...

    [​IMG]

    Next to camera right...

    [​IMG]

    Which meant we have every line in both screen directions, so we could match up with wherever the character being addressed ended up. Once you're rolling, it adds very little time to the schedule.

    It's a simple trick, but it will save a lot of problems in editing.​
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
  12. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Great tip, and beautiful images. I'm very impressed.
     
  13. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    I really recommend the three good takes approach as well. Getting one good take is not enough. We get three. That way if there's a glitch in the playback of one take, or some sort of audio drop out in another, our editors generally have three takes to choose from. Even when we shot on location recently, I recorded the audio once while sitting down outside and reading from the script and once while the actors were sitting in the car with the windows down after we'd shot the episode. The more takes the editor has to choose from, the better the end result will be.
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^I agree, ONE good take isn't enough, because while it might look good on the monitor, in post you sometimes realize there's something that doesn't work, so having a "safety" take or two helps.
     
  15. offtrackv

    offtrackv Ensign Red Shirt

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    Ok, not much said here in a few days, so let me ask...

    What would you say is the minimum crew needed for a production? Over the life of this thread I've seen grips, best boys, ADs, prop masters, script editors, etc. etc. This is great, but what if you can't round up all those people (or feed them, or even get them all into the set space)? What roles can be combined? What roles can be dropped altogether if need be?

    I'm gearing up for production of the 1st episode of New Gods in a few days. Right now I have 4 people in front of the camera and 5 people behind:

    4 Actors
    2 (me and a colleague) handling directing, sound, lights, props, script editing, etc... pretty much everything
    1 makeup artist (actors are doing their own hair, and costumes come from eBay)
    2 others who are mostly spectators, but may also do some production photos and behind the scenes video

    What am I missing? Thanks for the advice!
     
  16. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I cannot directly answer your question, but it sounds like what you are asking would fall under the responsibility of a "production supervisor" or whatever title you would like to give someone who would determine ahead of time your personnel needs. It seems like this would require someone with at least some experience in video production. One thing that would probably help is to make up story boards for your production. These drawings need not be elaborate or great works of art...even stick figures will help you match what's on the script to the space with which you are working. It will also help you with potential camera placement and with maintaining the "eyelines" that are so important to proper editing. Have fun and good luck!
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think this thread has really touched on roles other the Director, the A.D., and Actors. Certainly no one's brought up Best Boys. :)

    That's a fair question.

    On a small production you can often lose wardrobe people if there is little costuming. Sometimes you can leave out makeup but only if someone else on the crew can tend to it (many stage actors are used to doing their own). You probably don't need a property master. You WILL want a D.P. who is not doubling any other role, except maybe being the camera operator and focus puller/Assistant Camera. For newbies, the Director should probably be doing that only, and not be the camera operator, because the Director needs to focus on the actors and watch the takes, and that's hard to do if you're also running the camera.

    You can dispense with a boom operator if you can plant mics and the actors don't move a lot, but if you're recording second sound the sound gal can often double as boom operator.

    I prefer to have both an A.D. and a Script Supervisor. The former runs the set and tracks the schedule. The latter tracks what you've shot and monitors continuity (to the script, between takes and setups) and tracks what's been covered from which angles. I've tried to cover for a missing Script Supe as the A.D., which is possible but not ideal.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Time for more hints and tips. Let's revising lighting with
    LIGHTING TRICKS 1: LED FLASHLIGHTS/MAGLIGHTS

    As I've said before, you don't have to have studio type lights to get workable results. I've previously discussed China Balls (paper lanterns) for ambient light, but there are interesting options for dramatic lighting as well.

    Years ago a friend who worked at MTV told me how for one show they lit the central area of a set by hanging something like 100 maglight flashlights on cables in an array overhead, and if some inevitably conked out, the sheer number of them meant you always had a lot of light. It sounds impractical (and who'd want to have to switch them all on and off all the time), but as the lights hung into the shots it gave an interesting design element in addition to providing practical illumination.

    On a smaller scale, you can use cheap LED flashlights to dramatically light single subjects. I did this for the first video I did for The Kinsey Sicks, titled BP is Creepy (click to view on YouTube).

    The song was designed to have a spooky sound, so the video needed a spooky look. My idea was to just have the performers disembodied heads floating in black (representing oil and being dark/spooky). I needed something I could shoot fast, too, as we piggybacked this on the tail end of another music video shoot, and basically had to shoot it within an hour. I decided to buy four LED flashlights and use them to light the faces from below, horror-movie fashion.
    [​IMG]
    Original photography was of each performer in this framing.
    The frame above illustrates how each of the performers were photographed. The setup was each singer in front of black foamcore board with black tablecloths draped over their bodies. Three LED flashlights provided all the illumination, with one pointing up at the face, and one to each side and behind the performer to rim light the hair.

    Originally, I tried photographing all four performers together with one light on each, but with such low lighting levels and resulting poor depth of field it was difficult to maintain focus on all four. I opted to shoot each singer separately so that I could get more light on each (three lights instead of one each), knowing I could easily composite them together in post (after all, what's easier than matting against black?).

    [​IMG]
    Separately photographed heads could be mixed and matched and duplicated and scaled.
    As you can see here, the results are pretty dramatic considering how little light we were actually using.
    [​IMG]
    Simple scaling and rotating tricks were used to create choreography like this Busby Berkeley shot.
    Naturally, a big part of making this work is to get the exposure right. I you get the exposure wrong, or your camera's no-good in low light, this might not work. BUT, you can increase the number of flashlights for more light. You can even tape them onto C-stands or other stands to keep them in place.

    Obviously this technique was its limitations, but there's a lot you can do with it.

     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  19. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Time for more hints and tips. Let's revising lighting with
    LIGHTING TRICKS 2: JOGGER LIGHTS

    Related to the previous post about LED flashlights, pretty much any kind of light can be used in a shot, provided you have enough of them or a camera that can shoot in the light provided.

    On Starship Polaris we had to shoot a closeup of an actor to appear in a very small craft. I suggested that we repurpose some small lighted jogger wands that had been set dressing on a Command Deck console and put them near the actor's face to simulate colored lights coming from instruments inside the craft. Our DP took that one step further and used the three small lights as major lighting elements for the shot.

    [​IMG]
    The three lights around actor Garrett D. Melich's face.
    No, it's not Dentistry..of the FUTURE!

    The specific lights we used are Life+Gear LED Glowsticks, which cost about $6 each. Our DP taped these to some C-Stand arms and arranged then in a triangle around Garrett's face. The red one was set to steady ON and the other two were set to flash in an alternating pattern. One conventional stage lamp was used to give sufficient illumination for proper exposure, but the flashing LED lights did interesting things on the actor's face and made a shot that would otherwise have been pretty staid actually rather striking.
    [​IMG]
    Frame from one of the takes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  20. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Improvisation is a great way to make up for a lack of money and/or technological resources. TOS is a great example: they originally planned to send away teams to planets by shuttle craft, but the expense was prohibitive and they came up with the transporter. The result was not just a cost saving, but it allowed the script to go directly from the ship to the action without having to fill any space between. The result was tighter writing and faster pacing.

    Another example: a friend of mine was working on a college video project and she didn't have any way to create opening titles. So she came up with the idea of mocking up newspaper front pages and having them thrown into the shot. The result was an eye catching way of getting her point across. It was much more effective than regular graphics would have been.
     

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