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Jordan_E
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Years back, I attempted to shoot one of my scripts, a purposely no-budget horror screenplay, but one of the local actors I picked completely ruined the experience by trying to take over the "directing" reins, so I pulled the plug on the project. Now, years later, I just finished a new no-budget (well, it would cost the price of blank video tapes and DVD-Rs) screenplay and am toying with the idea of shooting this one, as I envisioned it shot within a mile of my house (it takes place outdoors) and I may be able to pull some strings to use local indian reservation land. But memories of that last 'production' haunts me. Anyone here attempt such a task before? Any pointers would be appreciated. I know a Florida filmmaker who said he would sell any DVDs I make of this alongside his own at various horror conventions he attends during the year, and I am known on a certain horror website and could get the word out if/when I finish. It's more wanting to accomplish something that I let get out of hand and ended all those years ago, and at least it isn't a dang zombie movie! Thoughts?

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Well my experience is having worked on film and planning/budgeting from that perspective, so I’m not sure how much I can offer as far as the technicalities of shooting DV are concerned but I’ll try and offer some tips where I can here. By “cheap video” I assume you do mean DV or at best HDV.

 

Do you mind going over just what went wrong the last time? I find that hands on experience, good or bad, counts for everything and if you work in a creative field the bad experiences tend to come back at a later date and reveal themselves to be of unique benefit … that is of course if one has the self discipline to learn to better themselves and their technique.

 

In addition I’d ask how you envision the production in terms of the size of your cast and crew, who’d be doing what jobs, and what other jobs (if any) you’d take on outside of writing and directing the piece.

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Let's see...

 

What went wrong last time. I let the guy start "suggesting" too much, as far as my words were concerned. He then started talking about me behind my back to others (who liked me more than him and let me know), as in "maybe we should take over this show," and that's when I decided to pull the plug. Did piece together a cool little trailer from that one though.

 

The cast would be 9 speaking parts, although I'm toying with the idea of melding certain characters and making it 7 speaking parts. As far as the crew, I would have to throw this out to a Seattle filmmaking site and see who bites, but I would probably handle the camera myself, except for a few handheld POV shots written into the story. Also, I would cut this myself. If I go down this road, I would be storyboarding the hell out of it, because I want to "see" it as much ahead of time before getting out there, because I know how things can change on the fly.

 

Overall, I see this as something I would probably just watch myself, in true Howard-Hughes-gone-insane-watching-Ice Station Zebra-mode, in my HT. But it's also an itch that's been there since that last aborted attempt years back.

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I would be storyboarding the hell out of it, because I want to "see" it as much ahead of time before getting out there, because I know how things can change on the fly.

 

That?s interesting coming from someone who?d be shooting on DV. I?ve noticed that with many when shooting on video there is a great temptation to just shoot endlessly without thinking so its good you?re not falling into that trap - though I find written notes and mental planning to be more rewarding than stoyboarding, but that may be a personal thing (I?ll make set up choices on the day after I know what a performer is thinking of trying).

 

If you feel you must storyboard (I?m surprised for a dialogue driven film) then I?d at least recommend you be flexible in straying from your storyboards and not look to sticking to them religiously. Something I drew from having done some stage work is that a theatrical like rehearsal period can be good for a film if you find yourself in a rare position where such a thing is possible (and there?s rarely a more likely time than when making low budget indie movies). It?s a great experience to get everyone together every day for a week or so to just talk about the piece, exchange ideas and get to know one another and it can help in easing stress on the day of shooting.

 

 

Overall, I see this as something I would probably just watch myself, in true Howard-Hughes-gone-insane-watching-Ice Station Zebra-mode, in my HT. But it's also an itch that's been there since that last aborted attempt years back.

 

So is it not necessarily something you?re making with a view of using it as a calling card to try and get more (paid) work in future?

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I have some particular camera angles I'd want to utilize, thus the needing to storyboard to see if they would actually end up working (and some actual testing with a camera), but I would not have it as set-in-stone, just a jumping off point. Been playing around with a do-it-yourself SteadiCam system I found online, but the majority of the script concerns video POV anyway. The story centers around a Ghost Hunters-type group who fall into the old "be careful what you wish for" trap. Just because it may be dialog-heavy doesn't mean it can't look interesting as well. Not going for over-the-top, swooping, flying camera shots, but wouldn't want it a static, sitting from center row, type of movie either.

 

At my age, I see this as more of a way to expose my writing ability rather than movie making ability; calling card, possibly, but Spielberg (or even Uwe) need not sweat my little project.

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I kind of have the same question in reverse. How does one go about finding scripts to read to potentially produce one they like?

 

There are plenty of screenwriting sites with loglines and more than a few willing writers who would write on spec for the chance to have their words put to film/video. moviebytes.com for one.

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Sorry to say, no. Heard good things about FinalCut Pro.

 

Would it be practical to consider investing in becoming one for the purposes of your film? I think in the US Final Cut pro is around $1300 which is really nothing considering what you?re getting, and for many of its applications it can run well on a MacBook Pro. For under $5000 you can have a portable high-end post-production house where you import, edit, effects, grade, do a multi-channel and then burn to DVD.

 

If you find you do make this film and do it on your PC and still have some sense of a will to live after the experience and a desire to making more, then an investment in a Mac/Final Cut rig is one you really shouldn?t hesitate in making (I can understand that this time round it may be too costly an option). For equivalent software that'll run on PC you'd be looking at Avid Media Composer which received a recent price reduction (it is $2500 now in the US I believe). I need to re-evaluate Media Composer at some point actually as it also runs on Tiger. I'm sure of course there are cheaper options for editing, mixing and burning your work on PC. I'm really not familiar with what's out there beyond the pro tools but I've no doubt there's some good software out there.

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I shot a no-budget 3-4 min. comedy as a submission for a commercial contest and had alot of fun doing it. Shot on Sony HD DV camera and edited in Final Cut Express HD on a MacBook. I had a blast with shooting and editing in FC but, in my case I had the worst time with the actors and the "sets". I'm just not good at that stuff - I know what I wanted it to look like but, couldn't get that from the people doing the sets for me and the actors I was working with (To be fair though we were just doing this in our spare time so very little to no budget- I'd just buy them all lunch and such :) ). I didn't win the contest or anything or even hear back from them on my submission but, given my experience I'd say the editing and/or camera work was a whole hell of alot of fun to do and I'd do it again in a heartbeat :) But, not so much with the directing or production parts...

 

With regards to the recommendations already posted here - I'd second them and say definitely get Final Cut (the best version you can afford) and a Mac to do the editing and sound processing on.

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Maybe, if this one turned out half-way decent, I would invest in a Mac and editing tools, but right now that would defeat the purpose of writing a no-budget script. I almost see this as an experiment. How cheaply can someone make a movie? The only "sets" are a campsite location with a pair of tents and various wooded areas; for the interior tents scenes, I simply see setting up the tent in the garage, turning out the lights, and shooting to control the situation a bit more than shooting it on location. Thanks for all the answers! Now, to think this all the way through before deciding one way or the other...

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Maybe, if this one turned out half-way decent, I would invest in a Mac and editing tools, but right now that would defeat the purpose of writing a no-budget script. I almost see this as an experiment. How cheaply can someone make a movie?

 

You can make a film for nothing if you have the tenacity to blag everything for free which isn?t impossible. If you are expecting at best half way decent results I would stress that you should take time to invest enough time and/or money into your production value or, especially if shooting on DV, you?re liable to end up with something that feels like a tacky home movie and any dolt with a camcorder can do that.

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If I can find the disc, I should post up a link to the trailer I put together for that earlier, aborted attempt. While not as good as I could do now (I only used the with-the-comp cheap editing tools) it doesn't look half bad and gives a hint at what I may attempt with this story.

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