Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do It Anyway Filmmaking

I don't consider myself an expert on movie making, but I have gotten far enough in that I feel like I should share a bit of what I've learned so far. The first - and biggest - thing I would like to emphasize is that if you don't have what you want, do it anyway. I'll run through each of the things that you'll think you need, and what you can get anyway.

You really can create a movie with the camera on your phone. It may not be perfect, but it's a camera. Do it anyway. Seriously.

An option just above that would be the Flip Mino HD cameras, available in either a 60 minute or 120 minute version. These have almost no controls. They are literally point and shoot cameras. But they work pretty well in almost any light.

The camera we use is a Canon VIXIA HG21 (Somehow the price on that never stays the same - I've seen it as low as $600). It's what's considered a prosumer camera.

There are of course fancier, more expensive cameras out there, but if you're looking for one of those, you wouldn't be reading my blog.

When it comes to editing, there are a bunch of options. The Flip Mino cameras come with software. It ain't perfect, but it works. Most versions of Windows come with Windows Movie Maker. Most Macs come with iMovie. Any of these will do the job.

For under $100 you can get either Adobe Premiere Elements (which won't do HD, sadly UPDATE: 1080p!) or Sony Vegas Movie Studio. Both of those have high end versions that work really well, but you pay for the extras.

What are we at now for our budget? Oh, yeah. Nothing. Well, okay. You could have spent some money by now, but you didn't have to.

Now that you know you can actually film it, you can start on your script. I use Adobe Story. It's totally free and web based, and it formats your script for you. Celtx is also a very popular option. It's open source and pretty user friendly.

I also recommend that you follow the Hero's Journey story structure. I'd be willing to bet that most if not all of your favorite movies followed it. And if it ain't broke... Yeah. Once you master that, then feel free to play with it. Know the rules inside and out before you break them.

I generally get a good feel for what my resources are before I write the script. For example, on this latest project I had a make up artist come forward, so I decided to do some wounds and such in the film that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I also had someone volunteer some lab coats, so I set it in a hospital.

For lights, I actually use shop lights. They do the job. If you want to make sure they're the right color and such, you can find professional bulbs for them at Filmtools.com. The video above gives a good description on how to use them.

But, let me emphasize this again. You don't have to have fancy lights. If you don't have them (say it with me now) do it anyway. We actually skipped the lighting setup on our filming last weekend, because if we didn't we would have run out of time before we ran out of script. (Let's just hope it doesn't look too horrible when it's done.)

When it comes time to film, there is one rule that is usually ignored, but it will confuse your audience if you don't follow it. 180 Degree Rule: Treat your scene like it's on a stage, and keep the camera where the audience would be.

There are a couple different shot types fairly common in movies. They work, so use them. You can change them up if you want. It's your movie after all. But try to have an idea of what shots you want before you start filming, or your actors will get annoyed.

Long Shot
Mid or Medium shot
Two shot
Point of view shot

For finding actors, use what you've got. Family and friends are usually pretty willing to help. If you need more, try Craigslist or other classifieds. And if you're making a fan film, find some fan sites and forums. And if you can't pay them, at least feed them.

For more information, I highly recommend Indy Mogul's Backyard FX, Videomaker, and FilmmakerIQ.com, or even Wikipedia.

I still don't think we've spent any money here. Movie making doesn't have to be expensive. If that's your passion, then go for it. To play with an old phrase, if you wait for your ship to come in, you're going to spend your whole life sitting on the docks. Build your ship out of leaves and twigs if you have to, and set sail.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

If You Haven't Been Watching The Facebook Feed

We're filming in a couple hours. The details are on Facebook.