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Old 05-17-2019, 04:23 PM   #11
Bono
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

Back to real advice.

I was saying filmmaking is hard. If you don't want to be a director as well as a writer, then I'm not seeing a huge benefit. But if you want to direct like most writers do, then I see it. And I mean even if you don't think you want to direct, shooting a short is a good learning experience, or as I called it "fun."

I think I learned over the years that I hate production and like the idea of writing and directing my own stuff better than doing it, because well ****, I haven't done it yet. And I've been thinking about it for over 20 years. That's just sad. I told myself it's because I'm a writer, maybe I'm just scared and lazy.

See I would suggest using the location around you -- dallas -- and find something unique. I don't know Dallas well, but I dont' think it looks like London. We all know what LA nyc Toronto atlanta look like, but what about Dallas? To me you start with what you can get and work backwards. Maybe write something new, that is your style, but maybe you shoot it at the Alamo. Is that a real place or just a joke in Pee Wee? (just a joke, but I honestly know nothing about it). What's a cool location in Dallas that you can write a scene with 1 or 2 people... you know?

Filmmaking is crazy hard. It's perfect on the page and it never comes out the same. Rare times it does or even better, is a miracle. That's why we have movies that are great and most are terrible. It's hard to make a good film, let alone a great one.

DP can be free to whatever they want to charge. Last DP we hired was a friend and he still charged us 400 bucks for the short film which is fair because renting the camera would 150-200 bucks and he provided all the equipment plus knows how to use it. I'd say 500-1500 a day for DP with a camera and that may not include lights or not. Thats' what I recall from NYC days, but it's been a long time. I suspect Dallas would be cheaper and maybe more people eager to get involved as less going on, you know?

Why wouldn't you want a DP to put this movie on their reel? Yes if you aren't paying them, that's their reward. If you are, I guess you can decide, but what's the harm?

Again as someone who spent years, years, years looking at camera, maybe even buying some, it was a mistake. It's outdated in 3 weeks and I still don't want to be the DP myself. I'm not good at it. It takes mad skills. So why worry about it, hire the DP with the camera. It's so much easier.

Yes, sound and editing is huge. Huge. I thought I wanted to be an editor. I still love it. But it turns out I'm better at doing what a director would do which is tell the editor what to try... actually sitting there and using Final Cut Pro I just couldn't take it. I know so much about it, but worrying about all the technically stuff, drove me mad. It's the exact opposite feeling of writing.

We can forgive bad picture quality, but bad sound is the worst. A sound person on set is needed most of the time to get it right.

You may not like that Duplass mumblecore short from Sundance, but find some other shorts, find ones that did it well so you know what you're goal is.

Overall, I don't see how making a short film of 1 page of your script is going to help you much, even if it's amazing.

It's just hard to get noticed... I"m not saying you can't do it... but I'm just saying, it's another thing you have to market in a way and it's going to take time away from writing.

I was trying to say, I disagree that a short film is good next step for advancing ones career. It's a very specific thing and you have to know why you're doing it.

My buddies are making shorts and shot a TV pilot because they are trying to get considered to be directors of their feature film scripts -- they had a big comedy last year -- so they hope next script they may get to direct it.

Of course there are plenty of stories of writers who got to direct their own work and it's the first thing they ever did. Usually it's after they sold 1-2 projects and they go "this one is one I will only sell to you if you let me direct" sort of thing...

I wish you and anyone who wants to make stuff, good luck.

Myself, I'm always thinking of web series that I can make. To me that's a good mix of short films and the current 2019 landscape.
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Old 05-17-2019, 05:27 PM   #12
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great stuff, Bono.

i'm not limited to Dallas alone. my daughter and close friend live in CT which is 2+ hours outside NYC. another close friend in the Bronx that would let me use her place. beautiful scenery up north. there's a women's film industry here, but i'm not telling female specific stories necessarily.

i'm new to North Dallas but it seems really flat here. and it's going to be really hot outside in a couple weeks. but the Alamo is a real place and a good suggestion. New Orleans is a short flight away, but flights are always expensive to go there for some reason.

i do travel a lot so if i had a camera, i could do some landscape establishing shots that might help. or exteriors that i might be able to use. i have a high shot from the Duomo of Florence. i might be able to find a home in CT that i could match up. i'm going to be traveling with an entirely new eye now. time to check out some iphone apps.

i'm going back to paris in a couple of weeks, can't make cannes, but i might have an opportunity to shoot some footage of cafes, hotels, the yellow vests, haha. cuz you never know what you might be able to use, right. maybe good practice. i'll be hitting Finland, Sweden, Norway for a little more than a day each. or at least that's the plan. i just wish i had something other than my iphone Xs, you know?

i need to take all this in. it's kind of exciting to ponder, you know. at least i know i can write a short now. haha.

thanks so much for the advice.
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Old 05-17-2019, 06:55 PM   #13
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This is an interesting topic for me as I have been going down this path for the last few years of directing my own work. I apologize in advance if any of this comes across as discouraging or condescending. And also for the meandering, rambling nature of it. I just want to share my experience in the hope that it might prove useful to you in some way.

I directed my first two short films, based on my own writing, about six years ago. At the time I had delusions of how talented I was and how I was going to make this short that would blow everyone away and everyone and their uncle would be lining up to pay me to write and direct my first feature.

While my skills as a writer were decent-ish at the time I had no experience of directing, nor had I put in serious time into property studying the craft. And make no mistake about it, directing is just as much a craft as writing and requires a lot of work, study and practice to develop your skill in it to a decent level.

In my opinion, there are three main areas of directing. Storytelling, cinematography and working with actors. As a skilled writer you have one of these down already which gives you an advantage over a lot of other people trying to direct their first piece. (Decent scripts are hard to find). However, you need to get really good in at least one other key skill if you want to succeed as a director and by that I mean make a short film that is halfway decent.

So back to my first short. I found a cinematographer with a decent camera and lenses who was keen to shoot some material for his reel. I offered to pay him €500 as well as free room and board at my grandparents house in India for two months to help me shoot my two short films.

Both of these had a pretty decent script. I also lucked out in finding some very talented actors for the piece. The cinematography was competent and in places genuinely beautiful. However, both pieces contained some basic errors of directing. This was because I simply did not possess the requisite knowledge and I was relying on the cinematographer who had his own ideas that were sadly also not informed by a solid grounding in filmmaking. We made basic errors in blocking as well as not knowing how to properly shoot an action piece to the extent that we had to edit these out in the final versions.

So I ended up with two short pieces that looked quite beautiful in places, had some really nice moments but at the same time it would be obvious to anyone watching the whole film that I was not yet ready to direct a feature of any budget level. However, it proved to be a valuable learning experience. I did manage to get them into some local festivals as well.

My next opportunity to direct came when I was selected as one of five filmmakers for a funding scheme by the Irish film Board to make a short promo for a low budget feature concept. This was in collaboration with an acting school and so I had a lot of support in the project. This was about three years or so after I had made my two initial shorts and I had put in considerable time into studying directing and filmmaking during the interval.

The producers found me an excellent crew and a brilliant cinematographer. I had developed my craft to the point where I was starting to gain an understanding of visual storytelling and had some original ideas for shots that actually ended up looking quite beautiful in the final piece. My two previous shorts had enough in them that convinced the producers to give me a chance on this scheme. They also loved the concept that I had pitched as my project.

Despite producer support and €5000 funding from the film board for my project, I really had to bust my ass over three months getting various elements of the piece together before we could shoot. I was also very lucky in that I had a pool of talented upcoming actors to choose from from this acting school and was given my first choice of actors who happened to be among the best in the group.

At the end of the process, I ended up with a promo that meets a professional standard and was a strong showcase of my craft as a director. However, I had chosen quite controversial subject matter and soon realized that I could not really show it to everyone out there. While the promo was considered strong, I ultimately failed to secure funding for the feature script that I wrote again because of the subject matter, primarily, but also, I think it fair to say in hindsight, in my own skill as a writer still not quite as strong as it needed to be to really become undeniable.

Some more years passed. I spent two years writing a play that started out as a feature script. This got me a lot of attention and was probably the first truly undeniable piece that I wrote. But it was also experimental and different and not exactly commercial. It won an award at a literature Festival and was subsequently commissioned by a director I met at the award ceremony.

This play had its first run in November of last year. I had the privilege of being able to attend in the lead up and watch rehearsals and follow the director around for a little while. Here too, I had harbored notions of directing the play myself at some point and indeed had scuppered an opportunity to have it produced elsewhere by sticking to this ambition. But watching the director at work, I quickly learned just how much I lacked in terms of my knowledge of stagecraft. Maybe if this had been a play with three or four characters and minimal set and aesthetic design I might have been able to pull it off. But I was in no way prepared to be able to do justice to the epic that I had written and this became painfully apparent to me when I saw the director at work.

Last year, I decided to film a short as a promo for another feature-length project that I have been working on. I felt that now I had the experience and skill to be able to do justice to the intentioned piece. And perhaps this is the part of my journey that is most relevant to what you are trying to do.

A friend of mine, with a background in finance, who is married to an Emmy award-winning documentary director agreed to come on board as a producer. Initially, I had intended to shoot a five minute promo. I ended up with a 26 page script which was then finally cut down to 16 pages.

We started with a budget of Canadian $5000 and ended up spending almost $15,000, $3000 of which was the insurance deductible for a large transport van that was damaged by one of the production assistance who had been working for free on the project.

We shot this piece over three days. I found an incredibly talented cinematographer and some superb actors. While most of the crew agreed to work for free with only transport and food paid for the actors were all paid. It really made a huge difference in the quality of the actors that we were able to secure.

It was a roller coaster ride and we had to bust our asses for many months to get the shoot done. We are now finally putting the finishing touches on the short film and hope to have it ready for submission to festivals soon. I think this is actually a very strong piece that is going to open a lot of doors for me but it has taken a lot of work, study and failure for me to get to this stage. And how the story will unfold is yet to be seen.

Bottom line, directing a short film, at least one that is of any quality, is neither straightforward nor easy. We have all heard stories of people who direct their first piece and find immediate fame and fortune. We have no way of knowing how much work they had put in into understanding the craft before they got to that stage.

There is also the story of the writer of 'The Usual Suspects' who got funding to direct his first feature, made a rookie mistakes because of a lack of experience and almost ended up losing his entire career to the point where he considered quitting the business before finding success with another screenplay after almost a decade in the wilderness.
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Old 05-17-2019, 09:01 PM   #14
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

Thanks for posting your great story (and lessons learned)!
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Old 05-17-2019, 10:22 PM   #15
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

I haven't read through everything, but I did read FA4's first response to Bono, and while I've never shot anything, I have worked production and my wife used to be an AD (she has also shot a few shorts and commercials). So I think I have something to offer in terms of advice.

If you've never shot anything before, it might be worth considering shooting a few short scenes like that Duplass one Bono posted to get your feet wet. Really simple films with one location, 1-2 actors, etc. There are so many things you have to consider on a shoot outside of the obvious -- blocking, continuity, lighting, coverage, etc., and really the only way to learn is by doing it. I think it's a good idea to find a scene from one of your scripts, cast a couple of actors, and shoot it on an Iphone. You can do it in a day. Do that a few times to get used to the process, and when you're ready, dive into the one you really want to do. To me, shooting a period piece with child actors and a crew as your very first experience with production will be, at best, a major headache. And to be blunt, at worst it could be an absolute cluster****. Just something to think about.

Edit: Klazart's post is incredibly insightful.
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Old 05-18-2019, 01:30 PM   #16
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

Klazart:
thanks so much for sharing our experiences. what an amazing journey. if you're into sharing, i'd love to see the finished short. i understand if you don't want to. or if you ever need people to show their support, let me know i'd like to help.

your journey is actually very inspiring and encouraging. this is very informative and helps put things into perspective and allows me to better manage my expectations.

thank you, docgonzo for your insights as well. i will take this opportunity to practice shooting some scenes on my ipnone this summer to gain experience. i've found some editing apps that i've downloaded. yes, i can see how developing a process to plan and shoot would be valuable lessons to get down in order to plan something more ambitious.

researching apps now.

i've taken a couple of Masterclasses and they're really good. Ron Howard literally takes one of his scenes from Frost/Nixon and shoots it like he did the original. it's hours upon hours of set ups with two cameras. he goes through the gambit-- close ups, med shots, wide shots, from multiple angles, character reaction shots, reverse shots, shots with varying number of characters in frame single, twos, threes. he goes through blocking the characters and rehearsal. tracking with the characters. using the lighting from a window. it was all very fascinating. it's really incredible.

Jodi Foster's Masterclass was also on directing as well. i found the story boarding process especially interesting and can see immediately the value and necessity of story boarding and creating your shot list in a notebook. it really felt a style i could easily adapt. this is all very exciting, so it looks like the best way to go is start practicing.

since taking the MasterClasses i look a movies in a totally new light.

my next MasterClass is the Hans Zimmer one on scoring films.

i also have a book called cinematic storytelling: the 100 most powerful film conventions every filmmaker must know. it looks pretty insightful.

thank you, everyone, for offering your guidance and sharing your experiences. really great stuff.

FA4
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Old 05-18-2019, 06:51 PM   #17
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Thanks finalact4. I'll be happy to share the short once it's completed. It's been a struggle and probably will continue to be for a while longer at least. But I am learning a lot along the way.

It's great that you are doing the masterclasses. They definitely cover the basics and will help you to avoid silly mistakes. But ultimately if you want to be a director long-term then you have to treat it the same way you studied screenwriting. Practice, study the craft and hone your skills.

Wish you the best of luck in your endeavor!
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Old 05-21-2019, 10:56 PM   #18
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

Hi FinalAct4-

Here is my humble advice:

Make the short, but do not expect ANYTHING out of it, besides having the time of your life.

Short films don't mean much anymore, since technology is so cheap, anybody and their next door neighbor make features. And even those go nowhere.

So, if you want to make a short, take it as a pure personal exercise. Besides, it's amazingly exhilarating. It will be your greatest high.

I've been a sound and picture editor for the past 20 years, I've worked in dozens and dozen studio features, so, no, I just didn't fall off the turnip truck, you can trust I've direct experience of what's going on here in Hollywood.

I finally directed (and wrote and cut) my first feature, and yet, even though I have 2 Oscar winners in my crew, I still haven't been able to show it to any manager or agent or producer.

Assistants delete emails when they don't recognize a name. (Ahhshut up. This is what I choose to tell myself. I know, I'm delusional. Haha. Very likely it's because it sucks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTSqNVGGdTQ)

Haven't sent it to any reputable festivals because it's a waste of money and screening at the Podunk film festival means nothing here in Hollywood. It's actually detrimental.

And that's all.

So, go ahead. Make your day.

Good luck.

(let me know if I can help you)
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Old 05-22-2019, 10:43 AM   #19
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Klazart:
thank you for the well wishes and absolutely, i would love to see your short when it's done.

i'm reading this amazing book called Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Conventions Every Filmmaker must know by Jennifer Van Sijll, and it's really opening my eyes to the possibilities of film making in a visual way without dialogue. it will change the way i write. i do already write with a style toward direction, but this will easily take me to the next level.

it's written for the screenwriter. it shows the non-verbal shots, the technique, the script page, the dramatic value, film examples and other films. what's amazing it that it is already on the page.

for anyone interested in elevating their writing, i highly recommend this book.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vstm10 View Post
Hi FinalAct4-

Here is my humble advice:

Make the short, but do not expect ANYTHING out of it, besides having the time of your life.

Short films don't mean much anymore, since technology is so cheap, anybody and their next door neighbor make features. And even those go nowhere.

So, if you want to make a short, take it as a pure personal exercise. Besides, it's amazingly exhilarating. It will be your greatest high.

I've been a sound and picture editor for the past 20 years, I've worked in dozens and dozen studio features, so, no, I just didn't fall off the turnip truck, you can trust I've direct experience of what's going on here in Hollywood.

I finally directed (and wrote and cut) my first feature, and yet, even though I have 2 Oscar winners in my crew, I still haven't been able to show it to any manager or agent or producer.

Assistants delete emails when they don't recognize a name. (Ahhshut up. This is what I choose to tell myself. I know, I'm delusional. Haha. Very likely it's because it sucks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTSqNVGGdTQ)

Haven't sent it to any reputable festivals because it's a waste of money and screening at the Podunk film festival means nothing here in Hollywood. It's actually detrimental.

And that's all.

So, go ahead. Make your day.

Good luck.

(let me know if I can help you)
is this the trailer for your feature? it's gorgeous. i would so pay to see this. oh, actually it's on Amazon Prime-- i will watch it tonight. i love the contrast of the lighting and the wide night shot of the burning body on the pier with the lights running into on the z-axis. it's beautiful. your lighting choices are provocative and i love the silhouette of the body on the slab. all throughout you use light well.

why not Cannes? i mean, i do know how outrageously expensive that place that is, but this looks amazing. you should definitely put it in a festival. of course, you know more about it than i, i'm like Jon Snow, i know nothing. your cast looks amazing, too.

are you LDF? if so, i just sent you an email.

thank you for the offer to answer questions. i will definitely reach out.

i'm actually going to be in Scandinavia in a couple of weeks, and though i don't have a camera, i do have my iphone and i'll be in Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. i'd like to practice location (city and landscape) shots, so do you have any advice on how to approach that or techniques that i could work on. i haven't yet found an app that works on "filming" but did download several for editing, which i will have to learn, again, i am Jon Snow. haha.

you're very talented and i wish you huge success. if there's anything i can do to support your work please let me know. do you have a twitter handle?

thank you for the advice. i will certainly take it to heart.

FA4

PS: i do know a producer, if you'd like me to ask if he'll take a look at your trailer? i know he's done film and has a pilot he produced that he's trying to get set up. but i don't know if he can help or not. . you never know. he managed me for a bit.
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Last edited by finalact4 : 05-22-2019 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:12 AM   #20
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Default Re: Producing a Short - Advice Needed

I haven't read all these posts, but here's my 2 cents.
It's really hard to make movies, despite when you read in Rebel Without a Crew.
This is why that other poster posted This is John.
This is John is a simple, one-actor movie basically thought up in one frustrated afternoon and yes, it was made for $3 and it got into Sundance and kicked off the Duplass Brothers' career.

I totally get what you're saying. You want to film your big, epic movie.

But starting on a big, epic movie needs money and funding and people who believe in you. And because making a film is so hard and so much more work than you realize (but also fun and rewarding) it's best to start with something small.

If you have zero film experience, you need tons of money to pay people to do this for you. A good DP can cost thousands of dollars. All your post will cost even more, unless you're as seasoned an editor as you are a screenwriter you'll likely have to pay someone. I was once quoted $8000 to edit an 8 minute short. I obviously didn't go with that guy. This is why it's important to work with your friends.

This is why people always advise that if you want to do it, DO IT. But start small. Like Rodriguez says: Start with the resources you have. Actors you know. Sets you have. Crew you know.

This is John was shot AFTER the Duplass brothers borrowed like $20-30,000 from relatives and businesses to make a feature that flopped. All that money ended up a gigantic learning experience. And that's why they made This is John.

Rodriguez started out with little films.
Kat Candler started out with shorts, went to features, returned to shorts and that's when she got into Sundance and that's when her short, Hellion, transformed into a feature starring Juliette Lewis and Aaron Paul.

Yes, it does seem that Ava Duvernay just jumped in and next thing you know she was making Selma. These stories are rare. You have to be a powerhouse that people believe in enough to give up their free time, weekends, vacations, etc. because they so believe in YOU and they so believe in the story and they KNOW you will get it finished.

Filmmaking requires a lot more passion than you realize. When it's 106 degrees or 25 and you lose your set and the important prop breaks and your DP is sick and your lead actress has a fever... You gotta have the drive to get it done. And you gotta be the kind of person who can convince all those people to share that drive. Because if they do it for free, they're literally giving up their time and money for you. And if you pay them minimum, they are still sacrificing. You can do it, but you HAVE to be insanely passionate, insanely hard-working and want this more than you want anything else in your life.

**
Edited: I had more time and read other posts. Definitely agree with Bono and others.
And hey, Lisa, if you wanna do it, do it.
But it's just like that first day you set out to fill 90 pages on Final Draft. You'll stumble a while and practice makes perfect.
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