Set Design is the craft of creating a background or setting thru the use of matte paintings, props, set pieces, etc. that accurately represents the tone, style and characters of a specific story or scene.
Good set design can produce a realistic environment for actors to work in, and can immerse an audience into the world of the film; producing a more enjoyable and believable experience.
Too often, low-budget films neglect to properly set dress locations, or simply don’t have the funds to create an interesting or accurate back drop for a scene; thus, making the films look cheap and flat.
Below are 11 simple ways to improve your set design- allowing you to produce a bigger, more realistic look for your film, cheaply and effectively. [Read More…]
Achieving cinematic quality lighting is not hard. In fact, with the right tool(s) it can be downright easy.
Lighting a scene, no matter how complicated, is for the most part derived from a simple three light set-up. Intended to create an interesting image and convey depth, movies and television studios spend thousands of dollars on this process.
But spectacular lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and the right tool, you can light a scene that will look just as interesting as the studios’ and achieve the same sense of depth but for pennies on the dollar.
In this post, I’m going to demonstrate how with $50 dollars, you can produce similar cinematic lighting for many of your indie productions. [Read More…]
It was a drizzly Thursday morning, my cohort and I sat in the back of one of our favorite local greasy spoons, digging into a hearty breakfast of pancakes and black coffee. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time and I was enjoying our reunion.
We discussed a wide-array of topics, continuing right where we left off from our last meeting, when my friend said, the one phrase all filmmakers should avoid like the black plague, “I’m not going to make a movie until I can make it my way, 100% uncompromised.” [Read More…]
I have a background both as a movie maker and as someone who has helped fund movies. The two biggest problems I encounter with many of my fellow filmmakers are 1) a complete lack of knowledge of the business side of movie-making, and 2) a narrow social circle that is populated by other broke filmmakers.
As crazy as it sounds, many of the indie filmmakers I encounter seem to pride themselves on their lack of business knowledge and have a very condescending attitude towards people who do posses such knowledge, especially in the areas of sales and marketing. They have the attitude that they are artists and are above it all. [Read More…]
With the staggering amount of online and video-on-demand (VOD) markets that exist today, one would certainly think that indie filmmakers could flourish by taking advantage of these alternative outlets of distribution. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
As the online and VOD distribution operations are maturing to coincide with the public’s viewing standards, it is becoming increasingly problematic for indie films to acquire a fair contract guarantying a slot onto one of the major retail outlets (I-tunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Direct TV) without getting shafted, financially.
However, there is one company that proposes a shimmering light of hope for the independents- Distribber. [Read More…]
Digital Cameras have come a long way in the past 5-6 years in terms of improving image quality, workflow, meeting the demands of independent filmmakers, and affordability. However, there is a new digital camera aiming to take progress even one step further- The Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera.
Manufactured by the Australian based company Blackmagic Design, this latest digital camera delivers a score of impressive features, including: [Read More…]
Digital, or Visual, FX is the process of incorporating computer generated images (CGI) with live-action footage to create photo-realistic environments or effects that would otherwise be too dangerous, costly, or simply impossible to catch on camera.
While time consuming and often exceedingly tedious, digital FX can be the independents best friend in helping concoct a bigger and better movie when on a budget, you just have to know how to employ the programs and plug-ins that are available.
Below is a list of 5 great resources for learning digital FX- all of which cover the basics as well as more advanced or specific techniques that will aid you in creating spectacular effects simply and cost effectively for your next production. [Read More…]
Color Correction is the process of altering and enhancing the color of a film. There are many layers involved in the process and can take some time to perfect. With the proper knowledge and tools it can help improve the look and quality of your low-budget film immensely.
Below is a video tutorial on color correction narrated and demonstrated by one of the masters of low-budget visual FX Stu Maschwitz- former co-owner of The Orphanage and visual FX supervisor on such films as: Iron Man, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and Sin City. [Read More…]
Inspiration can come from many avenues, not just people. Yesterday a friend shared a clip with me that has been making its way across the web for a couple of days now from the movie Hugo 3D. The clip is at the end of the film. It shows a behind-the-scenes look at one of the coolest shots in the movie- a one long take steadicam shot that moves through two rooms and shows all the characters.
This inspired me because it allowed me to see the inner-workings of a shot like this from lighting, boom operating, actors hitting their cues and marks, set building, and moveable walls.
Sometimes seeing how a big budget movie films something can allow you to get ideas of how you could do something, or maybe it will give you an even better idea! Who knows, maybe you could even figure out how to do the same thing but cheaper or more efficient. [Read More…]
WHERE TO FIND is a new section we’ll be adding to indiemoviemaking.com, in order to help you find those cool, and sometimes hard to find props for your feature. Next time you’re watching a movie and you ask, “Where did they get that cool, retro car?” or “Where did they find those awesome weapons?” you’ll know exactly where to go.
One of the oldest, and still most fun, stunts in cinema is breaking a bottle over someone’s head. We’ve seen it time and time again, but do you know where to find these breakaway glass bottles for your own production? [Read More…]
The relationship between a Director and the Director of Photography (DP) is extremely important. You need to be able to communicate your ideas precisely and with as much detail as you can to your DP and vice versa. If the communication is not there, then the film won’t be either.
This post focuses on how to better communicate your ideas with a DP to make sure you are both on the same page and get the images you need to make your film. [Read More…]
For years Pyrotechnic and Special FX Expert Steve Wolf has graced the big screen with a number of awesome explosions, car crashes, bullet hits and more. You can see some of his work in movies such as: Colombiana, The Last Boy Scout, and Cast Away.
With a huge list of credits to his name Steve Wolf knows how to safely stage a stunt, explosion, or gunfight. Below is a video that describes the best way to properly handle a gun when on a film set to make sure no accidents occur and your set remains SAFE. [Read More…]
Planning a chase scene can be extremely stressful and difficult, especially when you have to communicate your ideas precisely and coherently to others. Fortunately I ran across a video by Silent City (www.silentcityseries.com) that describes in detail a great way to pre-visualize your chase scene.
The video below is a tutorial on Directing and Planning A Chase Scene that will help you to get a clearer vision of your chase sequence and will also help communicate your ideas to the cast and crew. [Read More…]
For a while now CorridorDigital’s dynamic duo of Sam and Niko have awed YouTube audiences with their amazing action-packed videos featuring badass stunts and spectacular digital effects. If you haven’t seen their videos already then you definitely need to check them out: http://www.youtube.com/CorridorDigital/videos
Having filmed almost 50 kick ass videos this moviemaking team knows a little something about how to shoot a good action scene. They recently shared some of this knowledge in a great Behind-The-Scenes video that details how to stage and film a gun fight! [Read More…]
Negotiating back and forth with a name actor’s agent can be a struggle. From the agent’s perspective, often the risks are too high and the pay, or rewards, too low when casting one of their actors in a low budget indie film. Despite the size of your budget, there are ways to get around the overprotective agent.
This post is designed to give you different ideas and methods for winning over that overprotective agent and hopefully allowing you to cast the name actor you’ve been dreaming of in your indie movie. [Read More…]
Last Wednesday I attended a presentation by director Robert Rodriguez where he discussed some exciting details about his new El Rey television network. We normally shy away from writing posts about high-profile filmmakers, but Rodriguez shared some very inspiring thoughts that would benefit filmmakers at every level.
Briefly chronicling his career, Rodriguez explained how each opportunity he has embraced and how every film he has created had some bearing on his success as a filmmaker. Ultimately he reduced his career and life-experience to 5 points: [Read More…]
Often on this site we tend to place more attention on the production side of things but today I thought it would be nice to put the spotlight on the actors for a change.
Booking an audition is probably the hardest and most stressful thing an actor or actress has to do. It’s a 3-5 minute meeting that can move your career forward or send you home with your head down. But fortunately there are things you can do to improve you odds of landing your next audition. [Read More…]
Finding a producer for your screenplay can be tough. They are constantly working on a number of projects and some are submitted hundreds of scripts on a daily basis. Essentially, their time is very valuable and in high demand. So it is your job to make sure your script is not only good but that it stands out from the rest.
This post focuses on 3 different things you can include with you script when sending it out to potential producers that will help your chances of being picked from the rest of the stack. NOTE: The points listed below are not guaranteed to land you a producer but will help persuade and possibly convince them to jump on board. [Read More…]
Surfing the web the other day I ran across a fun web app called VIRTUAL LIGHTING STUDIO. Created and posted by a blog - ZVORK Visual Programing (http://zvork.fr/blog/) this free online lighting tutorial will help anyone interested in photography receive a basic education on lighting a subject.
Offering 5 different lights (including: Bare Strobe, Strobe with Snoot, Ring Light, and 2 Soft Boxes) and the ability to move your lights up, down, forward, or backwards Virtual Lighting Studio is a great way to practice various lighting set-ups. The program even allows you to rotate the lights around you subject, control the brightness of the lights, and add up to 6 lights at a time!
Creating Lists is one of the best and easiest ways to get organized and get a clear vision of what you need in order to make your movie. By taking the time to do this you’ll not only have a better idea of the scope of your film but it will break it down into bite size pieces for you.
Typically, when you create lists for your movie you’ll want to write down the different categories for which you want to make lists for. Here are the categories I use when breaking down my scripts: CHARACTERS (and the number of times they reoccur), LOCATIONS, PROPS, SPECIFIC COSTUMES, ANIMALS, VEHICLES, STUNTS, and SPECIAL FX (practical and digital). [Read More…]
INSPIRED is a new section that we’ll be adding to indiemoviemaking. Let’s face it, sometimes making movies can become frustrating and discouraging, and a boost of inspiration to remind you why you love doing what you do is just what you need to get the fire in your belly burning again.
Recently, I was inspired by a film production group named WONG FU PRODUCTIONS when they came and spoke at the University of Texas two weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of these guys then you’re definitely missing out on some of the best videos that are being put up on the web today and I highly recommend checking them out — www.wongfuproductions.com
Making videos and putting them online since 2003, this filmmaking trio (Wesley Chan, Ted Fu, and Philip Wang) has made over 286 videos and gained an audience of over a million subscribers! This alone is amazing! But what truly makes these guys inspiring are 5 Unique Aspects–[Read More…]
This is an article I tweeted about a few weeks ago, but find TOO COOL to not post on here. Below are a couple of videos demonstrating the incredible OMCOPTER – an 8-rotor flying machine introduced by the Berlin based OMSTUDIOS (www.omstudios.de).
The impressive, fully remote-controlled octocopter is shown flying the new RED Epic and weighs a total of 22 pounds with camera attached! The drone can reach a top speed of 22 mph, and fly to heights of 500 ft. away from the operator.
Be sure and check out both videos as the second one has NINJAS! [Read More…]
Whether you’re wanting to sell your script to a major studio or produce the film yourself, the next step you need to complete after typing in those satisfying final words FADE OUT… is register your script with the WGA (or Writers Guild of America).
Registering your screenplay with the WGA is a very easy, short, but important process. The short WGA registration number will not only protect you from theft but most or all major studios, agents, producers, actors and actresses won’t even look at your script if it doesn’t bare a WGA registration code.
Why won’t they read my script without a WGA registration number?[Read More…]
So over the past few weeks we’ve filmed a series of fight/action videos which we’ll continue to do as we get ready/practice for our next feature film. These first few videos were our first attempt at staging and filming fight scenes/shoot-outs and while we’re proud of the short flicks they still have their flaws.
By filming these fight scenes we quickly found out it’s a totally different approach to filmmaking than shooting a dialogue driven scene, and requires much more planning – even for something as simple as what we shot. So in hopes to help you out with your own fight scenes and to avoid our mistakes, below is a list of 6 things that we learned about shooting and choreographing a fight scene. [Read More…]
Since completing our last feature, one of the most common questions we are asked is “How can I get a recognized name to act in my move?” The short answer is, you pay them. Of course there are a few details that we can address, such as how to establish contact with the actor or their representatives. What actor should you contact? How much should you expect to pay? But first, we should probably address why you would even want a name actor to perform in your movie.
Hiring a name actor will do two things for you. First, it will legitimize your project as a “real move” in the eyes of potential investors and your cast and crew members. Secondly, it will make it easier for you to secure distribution. If you are a first time film maker, one of the biggest obstacles you will run into, is [Read More…]
Our first effort at choreographing and shooting a fight scene. We learned when shooting action B that we need to let the actor go through action A and action C in order for the movement to appear completely fluid. Despite not doing that for this shoot, sound design goes a long way to cover up the flaws. A big thanks to our actors, Jenny Zhang, Johnny Meyer, and Tony Vespe.
In order to prepare for our next feature, we are going to be shooting a lot of short fighting and action scenes. We will post these clips along with comments about what we learned from doing them. In doing research for shooting fight scenes we ran across the video below which is a real gem. If you are looking for information about shooting a fight scene, this video is a great place to start.
As always, leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
I come into contact with a lot of young filmmakers and one thing I see them do over and over is start a production without having production insurance. I can only assume that they don’t know what production insurance is or if they do, they don’t understand why they should have it. So if you fall into either of those two categories, this article will provide the answer to both what production insurance is, and why you should have it. I am also including the absolute best place I have ever found to purchase production insurance.
So, what is production insurance? In short, production insurance is a form of insurance that protects you if your production damages a location or property during your shoot. [Read More…]
Starting a new writing project is always SO exciting whether you’re just writing a script to sell or your next low-budget classic. There is so much enthusiasm flowing through you as ideas race through your mind – Great One-liners, Awesome Action Sequences, and Groovy Set Pieces. You think to yourself that this script is going to practically write it’s self you have so many ideas until… SCREECH! You suddenly find yourself staring at a BLANK PAGE with nowhere to go; you’ve just hit the Writer’s Wall!
This article is designed to give you some helpful tips and writing preparations that will hopefully allow you to figure out all of your problems before you start writing so you can avoid the pesky Writer’s Block and all the problems it can cause to your mental health and script. [Read More…]
With a slew of both TV and Film writing credits, including the hit show RENO 911! and box office successes such as The Pacifier and Night At The Museum, Robert Garant and Thomas Lennon have made the studio system over $1,500,000,000 and divulge some incredibly candid and useful information in this fantastic screenwriting book.
What makes this book SO great and worthwhile isn’t just the SOLID though SOMETIMES DISCOURAGING FACTS revealed about the industry, but the fact that the information is delivered with the authors’ witty sense of humor. It’s extremely rare that you find a book like this one that cuts through the bullshit and really tells you the unpolished, brass facts about how things work. So be warned, if you’re looking for a detailed explanation about how screenwriting is an art and detailed breakdowns on how to write a good script then this is NOT the book for you, sorry. [Read More…]
This video is so hot you’ll need shades to watch it!
This represents our first effort at combining CG elements with action footage. We will be cranking out a stream of test videos like this as we prepare for our next feature. We will also have a couple of tutorials from this video up later in the week. Our lead actress is Jenny Zhang. As always, comments are welcome.
When you’re shooting a scene that will use CGI or 3D Animation interacting with live action there are many precautions you as a filmmaker must take to ensure that you get what you need to make the shot work. Simply saying, “Oh we’ll fix it in post” will not work here, but with just a few easy steps you can be sure you’re getting what you need and saving yourself from many post-production migraines.
Below are 7 tips that I’ve picked up along the way and that I hope will help you out when you’re filming a scene that incorporates CG and 3D Animation so that you can get what you need to make sure your scene looks great!
1. Pre-Plan Everything!
The more pre-production and consulting you do with your 3D Animator the better! Remember only you know what you want and it’s your job as the filmmaker to effectively and thoroughly communicate to your Animator/CG Designer what it that you want [Read More…]
Shooting a crowd scene on a budget can be both a difficult and frustrating task, especially when you have NO EXTRAS! It’s a problem that has plagued indie filmmakers for years, and it’s one that reveals to the audience that they are watching a “Low-Budget Movie”, until NOW…
This post is designed to share with you a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up along the way to help make sure that your small group of people look like the BIG party that you’ve always imagined and avoid looking like a “Low-Budget” cliché.
1. START WIDE THEN MOVE IN CLOSE
Start Wide?! I know it sounds crazy but if you don’t show at least a brief establishing shot of your party, high school dance, bar, etc. then the audience will become suspicious, not to mention they’ll have no reference of the space and surroundings. [Read More…]
One question that many aspiring filmmakers always ask is, “Should I go to film school?” This is a difficult question to answer as both paths have their advantages and disadvantages. Not to mention that everyone is different in terms of how they like to learn and work.
This post is designed to lay out both the Pros and Cons of attending Film School so that you can weigh the options and decide which path is right for you. Note: In this post, we are referring to Film School as going to a traditional 4 year college and not a 2 year film specific college. [Read More…]
Storyboards serve multiple purposes and are an extremely valuable tool when making a low-budget movie. This post will tell you why they are more than just a pre-visualization test, and why you may want to use STORYBOARDS on your next production.
1. ALLOWS YOU TO WATCH YOUR WHOLE MOVIE BEFORE PRODUCTION
Storyboards give you the opportunity to see your whole movie, shot for shot, before you ever step foot onto set, allowing you to see what works and more importantly what doesn’t work. Being able to make needed changes prior to production can result in thousands of dollars, and hours of time saved. [Read More…]
Many writers often overlook the importance of a logline; they get an idea and become so jazzed up about it that they skip the first step of screenwriting and start typing Fade In. Others simply SCREECH in fear of having to sum up their big set pieces, epic battles, and romantic love story into two simple sentences, but the truth is all successful movies have a logline and before you start writing you need to be able to tell people what your movie is ABOUT in a short, concise sentence.
This post is designed to give you the basic structure of a logline so that you can make sure your story is solid and can be told in two simple sentences allowing the audience to immediately identify what your movie is about. Who knows this might even help you pitch your movie to the pros when you’re coincidently standing in the elevator with them or at that first big pitch meeting! [Read More…]
Nothing sells like sex! So if you want to boost your movie’s chances of getting picked up by a distributor or turbo-charge its sales, you’re going to want to include some sex, or at the very least some skin. What follows is our advice for casting and shooting nude and topless scenes.
Probably the biggest mistake filmmakers make when casting a nude or topless scene is that they cast an actor or actress who has never done nude or topless work.They then have to spend every waking minute prior to the scene convincing the actor that the nudity is OK – only to have the actor back out at the last minute. The result is a lot of lost time and lost money, not to mention hard feelings. [Read More…]
Through out the years I’ve read scores of books on movie making and other related subjects, and from those I’ve made a list of what I feel to be the 10 most effective, informative, and easy-to-follow books on filmmaking.
Each book below covers a different aspect of the moviemaking process from script to screen and is written by experienced professionals in the industry. Making a movie is no easy task, so don’t go running into the battle blind, arm yourself with these necessary tools and I promise you that once you read these books you will gain both the knowledge and confidence needed to make your film. [Read More…]
Having a Great Title can make or break your film. I repeat, having a Great Title can make or break your film. More important than the story of your film, how “good” your movie looks, or who is starring in your film, having a killer title for your movie is probably the most important decision you’ll make, especially when it comes to the selling of your movie.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of a few helpful tips that will allow you to make a better title that not only reaches out to your specific audience but will also help you increase your sales.
TIP #1: CREATE A GREAT MENTAL IMAGE
Having a Title that Creates A Great Mental Image means that based on your title ALONE anyone and everyone who picks up your movie can answer the question – What Your Movie Is About. Remember the title is the first thing people are going to have to go by when judging whether or not your movie is for them. So don’t try and make your title artsy [Read More…]
When you’re shooting a scene for a low-budget movie you must be very smart in how you organize your TIME, SHOTS, and RESOURCES. Often your initial grandiose concepts, beautiful crane shots, or your cinematic one long-take that you spent weeks planning must be re-thought and changed to meet your tight shooting schedule.
This post is designed to give you the building blocks for shooting a low-budget scene to ensure that you GET THE SHOTS YOU NEED so that you can piece your scene together in post-production and stay on schedule and budget. [Read More…]