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directing first feature


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#1 kelly tippett

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 01:25 AM

I will be directing my first feature sometime next year. I've done some shorts on video and super 8. I'm doing the feature in 16mm. I have a bell and howell filmo hr with 400 foot magazine and electric motor. Being a very independant film maker with a very low budget is there any input someone else who has went from shorts to fetaures might have to give. Anything about time and talent management?
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#2 Michael Collier

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 04:10 AM

Its a lot like doing 4 shorts in a row with the same people. Bonds are usually closer by the end than on a short, not to say that a crew can't click in 2 or 3 days.

For time and talent management, just set a schedule that minimizes company moves and extraneous set up. Find the most effecient order to shoot the scenes. Then plan a realistic schedule and stick too it as best as possible. Always (and esp. on smaller films where little money or no money is offered) all kinds of things can affect the schedule, but if you know what is going on, its easy to adjust on the fly.

Then just make sure you prep the film well enough to know the point, so if you need to make a quick change, it isn't random desisions, but ones that can be weighed against the plan. Plan, but be sure to be able to adjust to the logistics and variables.

Load your mags before you show up on set. saves 10 minutes a day.
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#3 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:04 AM

Do you have a DP yet?

If not, don't say anything yet about what the feature will be shot in. That's a big mistake, seeing as a DP can bring almost anything to a shoot, and can.

Make sure you appreciate your crew, and thank them daily, especially if it's your first show.

My experience this past summer with a 1st time director was pretty piss poor. If he would have thanked me at the end of every day, and stayed open minded, I wouldn't have gave a poop about pulling 3 jobs for 18 hours, for $100 deferred.
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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:34 AM

Are you financing this yourself?
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#5 David Sweetman

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:47 AM

Do you have a DP yet?

If not, don't say anything yet about what the feature will be shot in. That's a big mistake, seeing as a DP can bring almost anything to a shoot, and can. [will.]

Really? huh...but if x number of dollars is already alotted for the stock and post, would the availability of a 35mm camera really make a difference? It sounds like she's already got the camera department pretty much settled, and if she isn't planning on shooting it herself she at least knows who will, since she's already gotten a camera which hasn't been used on one of her projects before and which is one step up from the previous projects.

(sorry, I'm assuming you're female -- if not, I apologize, I do know a man named Kelly...)
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#6 kelly tippett

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 08:37 AM

(sorry, I'm assuming you're female -- if not, I apologize, I do know a man named Kelly...)
[/quote]


I'm a dude.

Edited by kelly tippett, 25 October 2006 - 08:37 AM.

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#7 kelly tippett

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 08:48 AM

I'm financing it myself. A friend/actor offered 2,500 but I'm going to get as far as i can without it. I've done some shorts and i'm a photographer so I'll be directing and doing camera.

I worked at a television station where i learned editing and I have adobe premiere. I've edited the shorts we've done too. So I'll save some money on a photographer and editor.

Immediate production costs will come with the film, food, and a trip to san antonio, TX- at some point.
And insurance.

Edited by kelly tippett, 25 October 2006 - 08:51 AM.

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#8 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:59 PM

I'm financing it myself. A friend/actor offered 2,500 but I'm going to get as far as i can without it. I've done some shorts and i'm a photographer so I'll be directing and doing camera.


Think that over carefully. If you are going to be directing AND DPing, realize you will have A LOT of tasks to cover. Too many people think that doing the one-man-band thing will cut costs and give them creative control, but often times it is far more beneficial to the financeer to hire a cinematographer to visually carry out the director's vision, while he/she directs. If you hire someone, they will also be there to bounce a few of your ideas off of.

You say you've done some shorts. As a DP or director? Video or film?

If you stay the course and decide to direct AND DP, you will most likely find yourself running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Especially if this is your first feature. And there is always a better chance of the quality of your final product suffering as a result. I don't recommend it and I'm sure you can find PLENTY of people on this board willing to lens your film for a fee that wouldn't put you into the red.

Edited by Bill DiPietra, 25 October 2006 - 03:02 PM.

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:15 PM

Hi,

If you do end up directing and lighting, it's worth getting the cast together and workshopping it extensively beforehand - with any luck, you won't have to mess about with much more than blocking on the day. It's worked for me, and I'm as mediocre a director as I am a lighting cameraman.

Phil
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:31 PM

I'm as mediocre a director as I am a lighting cameraman.

Now that would be a good line for your business card, don't you think Phil? ;)
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#11 kelly tippett

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:32 PM

If you stay the course and decide to direct AND DP, you will most likely find yourself running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Especially if this is your first feature. And there is always a better chance of the quality of your final product suffering as a result. I don't recommend it and I'm sure you can find PLENTY of people on this board willing to lens your film for a fee that wouldn't put you into the red.


I see your point, but i don't have the money for a dp. And I've been still photographing for over ten years. film and digital 35mm.

I've done video and super 8 shorts and I believe you can direct through the viewfinder. I really wouldn't be taking on this task if i thought i couldn't do it.
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#12 sibte hassan

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:42 PM

Kelly,
Goodluck with your project. My 2 cents would be to stick to your shooting schedule and get a good AD. Someone who can keep you on track. DPing and Directing on shorts is fine but it will take toll on your skills when you are shooting everyday. I know you dont have money but it wont hurt to ask or to post if someone is interested in shooting for you. If you were in NYC area I would have given you atleast 3 people who would love to shoot film. Think about it. One last thing, besides a good warm thankyou at the end of the day you can really get your crew's determination/dedication with good craft services. I was shooting a short last month and we didnt get lunch ontime, it really gave off a bad vibe, which should always be avoided.
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#13 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 05:15 PM

some general tips that might be useful for a director/dp combo on a no-budget feature...

- rehearse extensively with the actors, as much as you can. the blocking may be TBA, but try to start rehearsing all the scenes months in advance. try to get the characterizations/interactions down pat before production, because a director/dp will be very distracted and busy on set. this will save a tremendous amount of time on set if the actors already have a thorough and solid understanding of what you want from them... and time is going to be your greatest enemy everyday on a no-budget feature.

- get an experienced gaffer, even if you can't afford to rent much/expensive gear.

- get an AD, and try to get them two PAs. you should try to pay the AD if they're experienced, because their job is going to be a mild nightmare. in your situation, the AD will probably make or break your movie.

- when it comes to audio, you generally get what you pay for.

- try to ask everyone what kinds of food/drink they like and try to cater to their tastes. i have found that this can make a huge difference in diminishing grumpiness.

also, there's a book called "the practical director" by i think mike crisp(?) that has a lot of useful tidbits that are particularly applicable to shoestring budgets.

hope this helps.

Edited by Jaan Shenberger, 25 October 2006 - 05:17 PM.

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#14 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 03:39 AM

I have a bell and howell filmo hr with 400 foot magazine and electric motor.


I don't mean to be negative here, but surely filming with a MOS camera of that age is going to be a majoir challenge, and if you're already producing, directing and shooting it all your self - you don't want to put extra strife on yourself.

There has been a lot of debate about whether its worth shooting no-budget features on MOS cameras like El Mariachi was, but even if it does make a production possilbe - it still has to be practicle. El Mariachi was shot on the Arri S which is an ergonomic dream, its also reflex - one of the basic requirments of decent framing.

Is your script no-dialouge, more avant guarde?

Would it not be better if you purchased (or even rented) a low cost sync camera (Eclair NPR, CP16R...) for immediate sale after use?
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#15 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 05:06 AM

If you're DPing and Directing I strongly recommend you pick up a great self-sufficient gaffer. If the lighting isn't working and the actors are needing attention, you don't want to be in a position where you have to choose which turns out well.

I somewhat accidentally ended up DPing my last short, and it was a nightmare. Without the help of my gaffer who really stepped up and took on a lot of a DP's roles, I would have been sunk.

I'm sure you already know all this, but it doesn't help to remind one's self from time to time that you can't be in two places at once. ;) I would plan on contingencies ahead of a time. It sounds like you have a really supportive and well functioning crew so you're probably fine.

Best of luck on your feature.
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#16 Matthew Buick

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 05:49 AM

I'll be your DP, if you can tolerate disgusting footage. :D
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#17 Bob Hayes

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 12:01 PM

Bob Hayes? Director?s Cheat Sheet
Don?t miss the Beats. Shoot to emphasize the beats. Why was the scene written?
Prioritize. Some scenes must die so others may live.
Don?t leave the set
be in charge of your own clock
Watch the crew for fu**ing up.
Have your check list of what you need. especially wardrobe and props.
Be nice about recommendations.
Don?t do your most important stuff last
Don?t do your most important stuff first shot first day or last shot last day.
Plan to finish fast and sloppy, start fast and sloppy. Keeps crew on their toes
Start fast like your life depends on it.
Don?t count on the AD?s to keep your time, pace or quality.
Don?t let the DP paint a scene at your expense
Be careful of being talked out of what you need by the DP or AD. They do not know the story.
Be aware of the group directing. The Actors, DP, Script, and AD should all have input but it quickly gets out of hand. You have to shut it down.
Don?t forget transitions. How are you getting into and out of acts and scenes.
Be aware of the first time you meet your characters.
Where are the characters coming from the scene before.
Get your rehearsals in.
What are the fewest shots you can tell this story well. Try to aim for three. Hi Low Dancing fingers dosido.
Can I combine two shots.
Can I put actors back in to the same coverage spot.
Can I block a scene so it ends where the next scene begins. Use the same lighting set up.
Tie ins cost time. Single, two shots, overs, overs with action. When you tie things together it gets tougher.
Do the larger shot first. Look for the shot that establishes the most geography and action.
Try not to do large proscenium masters. Hard to light and get you no closer to other setups.
Stage in perspective.
Find the best background.
Backlight, backlight, backlight
No long important scenes at sunset.
Never start interior.
Don?t be mediocre. Push the edges. Don?t be safe. Make your film visually dynamic.
Create Rules for your film. Whether it is dark or light. Just don?t be arbitrary.
Use Examples to help communicate, pictures, paintings, books. It helps everyone.
Shoot for the trailer of the film. Great dialog and visuals that reflect what your movie is.
Get one good scene for your reel.
Don?t rush or screw up the end of your film.
Don?t rush or screw up the first 10 minutes of your film
Get everyone on board with your thoughts. You have lived with this film they haven?t.
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#18 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 02:24 PM

Hi,
I DP'd and directed a short on HD, it was my first time EVER directing, a few things that worked for me:

-Having A VERY GOOD 1st AD!!!!!!

-Having a good gaffer who knows you, and what you are likely to need, even before you tell him (although you dont want someone who thinks he's going to decide the lighting, a maverick gaffer is hard to control if you are Directing as well as DPing).

-Having a very precise idea of what shots you want (Shotlist/storyboards) I made a shotlist that had photos of exactly how I wanted each shot, this helped me, my 1st AD and my gaffer a lot, I didnt need to explain myslef repeatedly, I just handed people the photo of what the frame would be and they could get on with it (make multiple copies of it so each department head can have one).

-REAHEARSE like a madman, as DP and director you will not have the time to solve major blocking/performance issues on set, so try and get them sorted beforehand (as much as humanly possible).

-DO NOT OPERATE, if you DP, Direct and Operate you will really be pushing it, if you are rehearsing camera moves and focus etc.. instead of tending to your actors they may feel abandoned, whereas if you are there looking them in the eyes they will feel more supported.

-Very important is also to relax and enjoy the experience, if you are relaxed the crew/actors will be too, and dont forget to thank everyone, not only at the begining and end of each day, but whenever anyone gets you something or does something good, a smile and pat on the back does wondeers for crew morale and doesnt take any time to do.

-If you have female actresses you need to make the crew/set female friendly, that means try and have at least one other female working and make sure there are no stupid sordid comments being made by your guy crewmembers....one "dude check out her ass" could ruin your entire film.

Good luck man.
Cheers.
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#19 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 07:26 PM

I thought of one more thing that can really speed things up since you're directing and dping.

Storyboards are useful and great. But what'll really get people excited is a top down view.

Do a rough sketch of your set or location. And then draw out every single one of the camera setups in a top down view corresponding to each of your storyboards. The AD will love you for it, the Gaffer will love you for it, the actors probably won't care but they should love you for it because it means more time with them.

Someone's advice of taking photos of each setup sounds like a really good idea too.

I've had a lot of problems with storyboards in the past especially with less experienced storyboard artists because they'll (or I'll) draw a storyboard that looks great but is physically impossible, or impractical because of the limitations your set will put you under.

Top down aren't time consuming to make either. You can probably translate all of your storyboards for a day of shoting to a top down view in about an hour and a half.

Edited by Gavin Greenwalt, 29 October 2006 - 07:27 PM.

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#20 Bob Hayes

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 11:53 PM

I thought of one more thing that can really speed things up since you're directing and dping.

Storyboards are useful and great. But what'll really get people excited is a top down view.

Do a rough sketch of your set or location. And then draw out every single one of the camera setups in a top down view corresponding to each of your storyboards. The AD will love you for it, the Gaffer will love you for it, the actors probably won't care but they should love you for it because it means more time with them.

Someone's advice of taking photos of each setup sounds like a really good idea too.

I've had a lot of problems with storyboards in the past especially with less experienced storyboard artists because they'll (or I'll) draw a storyboard that looks great but is physically impossible, or impractical because of the limitations your set will put you under.

Top down aren't time consuming to make either. You can probably translate all of your storyboards for a day of shoting to a top down view in about an hour and a half.



Absolutely the most important skill a director can develop!
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