Dream up a vision/ a general picture in your mind...Listen to different types of music and let your imagination create scenes for you.Do this often. Repetition is necessary to allow scenes to develop and "evolve" in your mind.Replay the same scenes, letting variations occur. Surprise yourself.Using music is perfect because you are, in fact, simulating the soundtrack experience of a film.Create images that work well with the sounds, but avoid the obvious "cliche" gimmicks.(Try unusual juxtapositions) Let your imagination operate a mental camera, unconcerned about how the scene would be physically captured in the real world. Remember that anything can be created on film. Don't worry about the technical aspects while dreaming. That's a problem-solving issue you deal with later.
Once your head is filling up with visions, you need to pen them. If you like to write, start writing immediately. The scenes that have been replaying in your mind will pour out naturally onto the page. Keep writing and don't stop until you lose all interest. You do the best work when you are interested in what you are doing. Working without genuine interest is a waste of time. A half-finished project can be returned to; that's perfectly acceptable. Your writing may take the form of an actual screenplay. There is no mystique about the screenplay "format". It's a very simple, straightforward and natural way to express filmic ideas. The trick is to remember that you are not trying to write a great piece of literature; you are writing the basic structure for a great movie. The script must read well, but don't concentrate on elaborate prose; use the words to convey film direction explicitly. Using actual camera terminolgy (i.e. low angle, etc) is normally regarded as unprofessional (that's what storyboards and film directors are for)In many cases, a screenplay can be read dialogue-only. This means that a reader skims through the material, reading only the spoken words, not the description. This may seem blunt, but in actuality, it merely emphasizes an important point: Long description can slow a script down. Dialogue is fast and can keep a story moving. Of course, many stories are more action-dependent and have very little dialogue. Also, dialogue may simply be functional, and not particularly eloquent.Functional dialogue is in fact, more condusive to filmmaking in general. Eloquent prose may look great on paper, but is, in fact, digressing from the overall concept of the finished product: a basic, well-integrated structure that a film is built on. Also, cute "one-liners" are overused and can ruin good writing. If you feel comfortable sketching or doodling, don't hesitate to draw the ideas from your mind. Drawing is another direct way to further shape your ideas on paper. If it is done repetitively, good designs for characters, props, sets, etc. can emerge. Similar to a comic strip, sequences can be drawn to illustrate your conception of a film's scene. I would never recommend drawing an entire storyboard at this early stage, since a storyboard is more of a finished product, prepared as a step before actual filming.
|3. REFINE YOUR VISION|
Now that your ideas exist on paper, return to the imagination exercises and draw upon your writings/drawings to fuel the images this time. Select music that you feel works well with the images. Allow your imagination to expand upon the initial scene stucture and designs. "Play" with the story, the characters and the action. You will be amazed by the explosion of new ideas that sprout off of the original ones. As before, do this meditation often. Through repetition, you will notice that certain scenes replay themselves in your mind and almost become addictive. They work perfectly with music and impossible to forget. Go back to your writings and drawings and incorporate the new changes as you see fit. Also, you should have a good feeling for the order of events between scenes, and that leads us to...
|4. SCENE STRUCTURE |
Break your story into sections, using location as the dividing element. The locations used in a film form the fundamental structure upon which every other detail is laid upon. Make a list of the primary scenes of the film as you imagine them, and denote them by the location in which they would be filmed.
My personal way of working may sound ridiculously basic: For a 30 minute film, I devise a story that utilizes 10 locations, or "set-pieces" (average 3 minutes apiece). To me, this is the perfect number. There are enough locations to keep the film moving, yet few enough to be filmed within a low budget. The concept of "set-pieces" is a sly one; each piece is an individul unit, almost an independent entity, and therefore can be quite memorable (i.e., I really liked the "avalanche scene" or the "swamp planet" scene). When there are too many locations, and they are too intercut, the film can become more of an amalgous haze. Set-pieces also allow for easier logistics when it comes to planning the shooting schedule.
|5. EARLY LOCATION SCOUTING|
Go over your location list, and make the following basic notations "Ext" for exterior locations"Int" for interior locations (note that interiors are more difficult and time-consuming to shoot)
Do some basic legwork and find good locations to match your scenes. The right location is paramout to everything else. Find the best ones you can and prepare alternatives in case the "best" don't work out. If you know you're definitely going to make this film, it's a good idea at this point to talk to the right people about securing permission to shoot there. This can be talk of a preliminary nature; give them vague shooting dates (the month, etc) Be aware that many locations will be expensive or impossible to shoot in.
Once you decide on locations, the rest of the filmmaking process will fall into place.
For certain locations on your list, you may decide to build a set: this can be expensive, and is only recommended if no real-world options exist, you want a very specific look that cannot be captured in any other way, or you demand such a high-level of control that Mother Nature would be more of a nuisance than anything.
Some scenes may also require "studio" shooting (i.e., miniature effects) These may not be full-blown sets, but smaller areas that can be used to generate special effects and other "wierd" scenes.
To recap, there are actually four categories of location type:
• Ext • Int • Set • Studio
|6. FLESHING OUT SCENES|
When you have picked a location, it becomes easy to take your initial scene and rewrite it in detail to match the location. In fact, the specific location itself may suggest new ideas that embellish or even alter your original idea. Write the action of the scene (or scenes, if more than one will be shot at that location) and create a first draft version for anyone else to read. If you really hate writing, you can do an early storyboard. This is a comic-strip-like series of panels that simulate key frames in a scene. Also fine-tune your design ideas for costumes, props and all visual elements. Understand that all of these things will probably change somewhat before the film is finished, but that is the fluid nature of film production.
|7. SCENE BREAKDOWN AND PRODUCTION REQUIREMENTS|
Once you have a location and solid scenes written out, you need to figure out how many days/nights it will take shoot in each location. Remember that synch-dialogue (as opposed to dubbed) takes much longer to shoot than MOS (no synch-sound). Also, scenes with a lot of stunts and fighting, vehicles, pyrotechnics or other special effects require longer "set-up" time and will definitely take longer.
Also make a comprehensive list of production requirements for each location. Go over the story and make lists for the following elements, including but not limited to:
A sample list may look like this:
Continue to update these lists. You will constantly find new items to add.
|8. START TALKING|
If you haven't already, start telling everyone you know that you're going to shoot this film. Give them rough ideas about when the production will start, how they can be involved, and what the basic story is. As you get closer and closer to actual shooting, you will need as many people interested in your project as possible!
Production Manager?If you know the right person, and that person is as committed to your project as you are (rare person), then ask that person to be your Production Manager. The "PM" works side-by-side with you to help assemble all of the production requirements, the shooting schedule (see below) and everything else for that matter. The PM will be present during the shoots themselves.
|9. SHOOTING SCHEDULE|
Determine the order in which you will shoot each location. This order may or may not parallel the story's actual order of locations. Factors that may influence the order of shooting: Availability of certain locations, "best time vs. worst time" to shoot at certain locations, cast or crew availability, time of year, etc. I find it healthy to at least try and shoot a film's locations in the order in which they belong, but it is not always feasible.
If possible, try and schedule locations with workload in mind. Avoid consecutive days of long shoots. Try to intersperse the hard days with easier ones. Intersperse set and studio shoots whenver possible, since they can be less physically demanding.
|10. FINALIZE LOCATIONS|
If you need to, go back to the locations you scouted earlier and make official arrangements to shoot there. Lock in dates. Have rain-dates! Be realistic about how long it will take to shoot; don't underestimate!
|11. WORK ON THAT REQUIREMENTS LIST|
This is the big part!!
Methodically go through the list of each location requirements, and take the steps necessary to handle each item. Pull every resource you have to get what you need. Remember that you have actual shooting dates now, so you can give deadlines. Try to cut financial corners every step of the way. If you spend it now, you won't have it later and you'll need it later!
For items that need to be bought or rented, call around and try and get them for free. For things that need to be built, do the same for the materials. Find the best people you know to help with the building. If you know people with unique talents, find a way to let them use their talents in the production. It's good cross-promotion for all concerned. Start building props, sets, special effects equipment, etc. way ahead of time!
Keep working on that list and check things off as they are being taken care of. Remember your shooting schedule and prioritize from there.
|12. THE CREW|
Find a cameraman. It's going to be hard to shoot it yourself, but if you have to...hey, go for it. Assemble a crew from friends and associates. Hopefully, some of them know something about filmmaking. If a scene requires synch-sound, you need a Sound Mixer and Boom Operator. These are easy skills for anyone to learn. Really, your number one concern is the cameraman. Also, two camera assistants are necessary. At least one of them should have good experience. If you have a good cameraman and he/she has good assistants, half of the burden during a shoot is now off your shoulders.
If you want a complete storyboard, or your cameraman wants it, make one. This is the time to do it.
For you maniacs who insist on being IN your own films, forget about trying to direct the film at the same time. You need an Assistant Director to take over that responsibility when you're on camera.
Remember to always schedule a few PA's (Production Assistants). These are general purpose crew members and are essential. They are, in fact, the glue that holds the entire day's shooting together.
|13. ORGANIZE THE SHOOTS|
You have a date, you're assembling the requirements, now arrange transportation, food and all ancillary details of the shoot. Do it cheap, fast and early! Most shoots take all day and go into the night. Assume coffee and donuts, a good lunch, and something to make it through the night if necessary. The biggest meal should be lunch; big dinners slow everyone down and encourage sleep. Assume to pay for outstanding transportation costs. If a number of vehicles are involved, take care of all the logistics regarding who drives who. Print a calender to show everyone what will be shooting when.
Have exhaustive yet exhilirating fun. Be flexible and pace yourself. You can get angry at something, but never at someone. Morale is the topmost priority. Let no one go hungry. It's a little like being the host of a party; let no one stand around for too long without a drink (in this case, film-related duty) If it comes down to a question of money or people, let people come first everytime. In the world of low-budget filmmaking, people are worth a lot more than money, anyhow. Remember, if the shoot is a positive experience, people will be very willing to help out again.
|15. KEEP SHOOTING UNTIL|
This is where the guide stops. After all, once you've started shooting, you're there. Keep the party rolling until it's all in the can. Send the film to the lab as fast as possible, and let crew and cast see the results as soon as possible. Once they see returned product, there will be energy and enthusiasm to continue. Note: The most important thing is to start shooting and get the film in the can. We'll cover the Lab and all aspects of Post-Production later...
It goes without saying that you should throw some kind of party after ALL of the film is in the can, but I prefer a bigger event once the film is completely finished (edited, soundtrack, etc) It takes a lot longer to wait for this, perhaps another 6 months, but it is well worth it. Everyone will be thrilled to attend the premiere.