I woke up the day after my shoot and it felt like I had ran a mini-marathon the day before. Not that I know what it feels like to run a mini-marathon, but I imagined that's what it would feel like. I was on my feet all day long, running from point a to point b or sometimes just running around lost... I did a lot of pre-production work and midday we realized we were running so short on time, due to my actress having to leave earlier than expected, we ended up throwing out most of my pre-production material . The shot list was the first to go, then we took the camera off the tri-pod and went hand held, then I starting removing scenes from the script on the fly. Hopefully this will add to the overall urgency of the film. Hopefully...
What was crazy about this weekend was that I began assembling my set at 1 o'clock on Thursday (furniture from home, carpets from the prop room down the street, etc.) and once that was completed we built a restaurant scene (see above) for Tyler's Friday shoot. We had to build walls (flats) and everything from the ground up. It actually ended up looking very believable. We did this on stage A which also contains the green screen. After a late night of building we shot Tyler's short on Friday. We started off the day with a skeleton crew due to everyone's works schedules so at one point I was setting up camera, lights, and audio. Tyler got a lot of coverage in his shoot and we even got to play with the jib arm. (see the above pic with the camera/crane). The jib makes camera movement look seamless.
That brings us to Saturday. My intense all day long shoot followed by a nice celebratory dinner at Serpentine with my lovely wife. Many Whiskey Smashes were consumed. Waking up early on Sunday was not fun. Why did I have to wake up early? I was DP for Adi's shoot. Another 12 hour day at school. Adi shot in black & white and was going for a Hitchcock-esque feel. The DP or Director of Photography works the camera as you can tell from the above pic of me and the camera. It was a cool shoot and we once again battled time.
I would love to say the we get a break after filming our shorts, but no, we start editing and learning Final Cut Pro tomorrow...
For better or worse.... my first day of directing was upon me. After a night of restless sleep I started off the day by swinging by Noah's for bagels and coffee for my cast and crew. Remember, craft services is required on your shoot. Speaking of cast & crew here is the breakdown:
Jo (character) = Heather
Intruder (character) = Ed
DP = Adi
AD = Tyler
Lighting = Nitin
Sound = Ephantus
Instructor = James
Craft Services = Jenny
Jenny would be Jenny my wife, she completely kicked ass and catered by shoot. Hawaiian Bar-B-Que, cookies, and beers! Awesome woman.
Back to the filming. As with all of the other shoots, it took forever to hit record. Lighting is incredibly critical and incredibly hard to get just right. At least for beginners such as us. Combine that with the fact that my first shot was a dolly shot. In a dolly shot the camera moves towards the subject. This requires laying dolly track and then setting up the camera on the dolly with the camera operator. You also need a cord wrangler and someone to push the dolly. So incredibly smart for me to make my first shot of all time a dolly shot, no??
Time management is a big part of your time and you are constantly racing the clock. Today was no exception. We started to run very short on time so we just pushed the tri-pod aside and hand-held the camera the entire rest of the day. Hopefully this will add to the overall effect of the film.
Everyone gave a 100 percent on the film and I couldn't be more grateful to them as it is a long day of hard work . I was stressed a big chunk of the day and none of my stress was from an exterior source which I guess is something to be incredibly happy about. Hah! Even though I was stressed all day the second it was over I missed it and I am already looking forward to my next shoot.
Some notes on the pictures. Pictures 1 & 3 three are both of studio B where I held my shoot. Before and after pics if you will.
Picture 2 is me at the monitor. You spend a big portion of your day at the monitor communicating to your crew on the set what needs to be done to make it look how you envision it and watching each take to make sure you captured what you needed/wanted.
Picture 4 is some props/costume from the shoot Death Rattle!!!! So dramatic...
Blocking is the movement of your characters and camera. The goal is to make the movement look natural and then place the camera in the best location to cover the action. This is what we were doing in the above pictures. Everyone meet Heather and Ed. Heather and Ed... everyone.
We got together to rehearse the short which entailed a script read through or three, blocking, and discussion of the short and characters. This was the first time we all met each other which was also another goal of us getting together.
Both Heather and Ed were consummate professionals all night. The scene we were rehearsing was pretty physical and they attacked it! They were all over the studio. On the ground, the bed, out the door. Good stuff. This night helped a ton and also it caused more re-writes for the script. My 9th re-write to be specific.
Adi, a classmate and the DP on my short, was able to pop in for the latter half of rehearsals. It was nice to have another set of eyes and to convey to him what I want to try and accomplish. Successful night all around.
What it do? What it do? I finally got to do what I came out here to do. Make a movie. In between prepping for my shoot, I crewed on three of my classmates films. Anne, Ephantus, & Nitin. I did sound for two and was DP for another. DP is Director of Photography. Sound is okay but kind of boring after a while. Basically with sound you stand off to the side of the actors and hold a pole with a microphone attached to it. Always wearing headphones you let the director know if you captured sound or any other unwanted noises during a take. It's super easy to zone out so I kept reminding myself to stay in the present. DP is another story altogether. You are the camera man all day and it is incredibly collaborative with the Director. You are always communicating his needs/wants and your response. It's your job then to let the actors know when they are in frame and what you need from lighting on the set. I had a blast being the DP and it was a great learning experience. I definitely need to train my eye for capturing a shot. Where's the best place to set the camera, should you move the camera during a shoot, what angle should you use, etcetera, etcetera??? I had a blast running sound as well. Hell, it was just cool to be around a movie being made.
The days were definitely long. On average, close to eleven hours for three days in a row. By wrap on day three I was tired as all hell.
When I wasn't shooting wasn't crewing or working or sleeping, I was at work on my upcoming shoot. Picking crew members, planning props and room layout, talking to my actors, choosing food, emailing my instructor constantly with questions (which I am sure they adore), rewriting my script... Etc. Lots to do in little amounts of time. It will be here in just a few days.
*the two pics of above were from Nitin & Ephantus' shoots respectively.
Can you guess what we continued with in this weeks of class? Getting in to Film Festivals! Nah, it was pre-production which meant working with actors, team logistics, storyboarding, labs both writing and pre-production (which is now officially the word of the day), and intro to sound.
Intro to sound was a great day. We worked with the day class and essentially had a dry run for our shoots. The class entailed us dragging out the equipment, setting up a set with lights and audio writing and filming a scene. From start to finish in the span of a few hours. I worked with Jimmy and Chris who are two funny dudes from the day class and we made a short about an asshole (me) who wouldn't get off the phone in the computer lab. Milena ran class to day and she is another one of instructors who does a lot of focus on editing. She is a great and easy going presence in the studio.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a lecture entitled Working With Actors which James ran point on. Another great lesson. One director and two actors. The director hands the actors a script that they've never seen before and the work it over... and over... and over. From one dry line read to almost where it is filmable. This is where the director really lets the actors know what he or she wants out of a scene and this is where the actors bring their ideas about their characters to the big dance. Give and take and communication . Creating trust and an avenue of communication that will continue up until filming.
In regards to my film... Death Rattle!! (ominous ain't it?) I spent time this week rewriting and casting. Both the actors I sent my script to and that I asked to be in my film accepted!! Heather Parsons and Edward McCloud will play Josephine and the Intruder respectively. I couldn't be happier to have these two in this project with me.
A few weeks into school we were informed that Fog City Pictures, the film production company associated with SFSDF, was having their world premiere of their latest film at the Mill Valley Film Festival and the students were invited to the screening, Q&A, and after-party. The movie is called Around June and was written and directed by James Savoca who is one of my instructors out at school. The movie stars Samaire Armstrong, Oscar Guerrero, Jon Gries, and Brad William Henke. There is a (really poor quality) picture above of the Q&A, from L to R: Brad William Henke, Jon Gries, Jeremiah Bimbaum (producer & co-founder of SFSDF), James Savoca, & a staff member from MVFF. It was both cool and surreal to be at a premiere and see and speak with the cast and crew of the film. The premiere was sold out and seemed to be a success for Fog City! It was mos def. sweet to meet the guy who played both Lazlo (thanks for the movie trivia answer Pat!) in Real Genius and Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite...
According to The Filmmaker's Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide For The Digital Age "a storyboard is made for a scene, each shot is drawn as one or more still images, noting camera and actor movements." Being that my drawing sucks donkey ass I elected to take pictures for my storyboards. Obviously I needed some help with that so I recruited some friends*, filled their bellies full of food and alcohol, threw an axe in the mix, and the rest is history. Some of the above pics I am using for storyboards (pics 1 & 4) the others I threw in cuz' they make me smile. To get a feel for the piece we did a screenplay read-through, which helped immensely to hear a male and female read the parts, and then we cast my film by watching the audition tapes and discussing my shortlist of actors. Surprisingly enough, my shortlist vibed with everyone else. I plan on doing this from here on out with an ever expanding and revolving group of friends.
Not everything at filmschool is right brained. Is right brained the creative side? If not, then not everything at filmschool is left brained. The beginning of our third week began with a lecture on Pre-Produciton. Essentially making a movie is broken down into three parts. Pre-Production, Production/Filming, Post-Production. As I mentioned, pre-production was our focus. Before we shoot our first film we have to generate a pre-produciton package for our film. A bible or a battle plan. By the time it is complete it will contain the following: -Lined Out Script. -Shot List. -Breakdown Sheets. -Storyboards. -Call Sheet. -Overhead Diagrams of Camera Blocking & Lighting. -Shooting Schedule. -Crew Rotation List. -Log Sheet (to be filled out on day of shoot)
We spent a big chunk of our week generating our production packages and reading through and revising our scripts. Writing is re-writing! We did a lot of work-shopping on our scripts and I love this process. Sit around in a big group and spitball ideas about yours and others projects. As long as you stay on track I find that this is incredibly productive.
Next up was a lecture on Directing 101! Shots, reasoning/psychology of shots, shooting dialogue, storytelling, working with actors, blocking, etc. The meat and potatoes (a term I hear a lot at school) of being a director on a film shoot. This was another jam-packed lecture.
The big deal this week was AUDITIONS!! On Thursday night we all met out at school and 62 actors came out and auditioned for us. Sixty-Two! How the process worked was that the actor would walk in, place his/her headshot on a table, say their name and then give a line-reading of their choice. It was a long and surreal night. Just after three weeks of filmschool and now we are supposed to know enough to cast actors for our current and future films. If we saw someone we liked but couldn't use for this project we were encouraged to write a project for that actor for the future. The actors ran the gamut from just starting out to having their SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Card and years of theatre (note: snobby spelling) experience. I left school with a general idea of who I wanted for my short but needed some more input...
To wrap up the week we worked on a coverage exercise. We took a scene of two actors playing chess and having a conversation and we filmed it from all angles in order to capture everything we needed which is coverage. We set up the set from nothing on the stage to everything including camera, monitors, audio, lighting, props, etc. It really felt like a culmination of our knowledge thus far. Once we got the stage ready it took us 90 minutes to capture all the angles on a 45 second scene. It really is amazing how long it takes to film anything. No wonder feature films take a month to film (on average). Milena, our instructor, took our footage and edited the scene three different ways and played them back for us. This was to show us how much editing can affect the tone of a scene and also what to do and not to do.
In three weeks I will be doing this same thing on my first short... It will be here too quick.