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#1 Terry Hsieh

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 05:42 PM

So...
I just realized that there's alot of stuff I had to do in order to get my film together and I thought i'd ask you peoples. So first off....i've got my grubby hands on a DVX100a.....i have a lighting specialist etc. but I'm not sure organization-wise what I should be doing. How should I run the set? How does one go about organizing a shooting session with 30-40 people at a time and what should I be doing if i'm also a part of the cast? What kind of pre-shooting work should I be doing before we get together and what should I get the rest of my crew and cast to be doing as well to make things run smoothly?

Terry
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 06:15 PM

Big shoots are expansions of small ones, so it would be best to start out small with a few actors in a simple scene to get an idea of the way a shoot is organized, so you will know where and how you'll need to expand it.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 06:47 PM

Are you directing or producing? (sounds like maybe both?) If you're directing, I'm not sure if it sounds like you're in the place to also be acting, since as you're already sensing, there's going to be a lot going on. You may find that this group of 30 to 40 people can be broken up into smaller groups, which each can be managed by the #1 person of each group or by a P.A. In pre-production, you need to make sure all of those leaders know exactly what their tasks are. That way you can deal only with the department heads as much as possible on-set, and spend more time on the performance.

Or like David says, just start with something smaller.
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#4 Jim Keller

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 06:57 PM

So...
I just realized that there's alot of stuff I had to do in order to get my film together and I thought i'd ask you peoples. So first off....i've got my grubby hands on a DVX100a.....i have a lighting specialist etc. but I'm not sure organization-wise what I should be doing. How should I run the set? How does one go about organizing a shooting session with 30-40 people at a time and what should I be doing if i'm also a part of the cast? What kind of pre-shooting work should I be doing before we get together and what should I get the rest of my crew and cast to be doing as well to make things run smoothly?

Terry


Many of the world's greatest films were made by people who didn't know what they were doing. Don't let it stop you. There's really no right way to do anything (though if you're working with the unions, they may disagree). Heck, if I did everything the Hollywood-approved way, none of my projects would ever have gotten past the storyboards.

There are, literally, hundreds of books on the subject. Most are decent, though I will admit I'm not familiar with the crop that's currently in print. I personally learned a great deal from Michael Wiese's books, though they're a bit hard to read. It won't hurt to pick up a few books, read them, and see what the commonalities and differences are. Take from them what you think will work for you and your situation. Leave behind the rest. It's very true that every set is different, and IMHO that's a good thing.

The one thing that will make all the difference in the world, though, is this: Be up-front and honest with everyone you're working for. Tell them that this is your first production and you're still trying to sort out a workflow that works for you. Listen to their opinions and respect them (though remember, you're the one in charge and the final decision is always yours). If you keep the experience positive, fun, and experimental you'll learn far more by doing than you ever could by reading, trolling forums, etc. That's why the best film schools are the ones that have you produce. You've gotta do it to learn it.

Break a leg!
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 07:58 PM

Sort of boils down to two basic experiences learning to make movies, and both have some validity: "sink or swim" and "take baby steps".

I tended to favor the second approach in my own learning so I could learn each element carefully and clearly before moving on to the next thing to learn... but it's also hard to avoid the first type of lesson where you just have to do your best.

Trouble is that when a first project is too big, there are too many lessons to be learned, so the primary lesson ultimately learned is... to not tackle something so big early on!
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#6 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 12:47 AM

I think there are a couple of organizational things you can do to help yourself. And these are just some things that help ME, so maybe you will appreciate them, maybe not.

1: Assistant Director - You get someone who is going to stay on top of you about time. You should be responsible for getting the good "takes" while your A.D. should be responsible for you getting a good and productive "Day". What that means is that your A.D. will be paying attention to how much you've blocked out for yourself and then reminding you that you probably don't need a 15th take of your hero opening the door. He /She should also be aware of the opposite and advise you that "we're ahead of schedule if you need a couple more takes." Your A.D. should be responsible for heading upstairs and telling the neighbors to please turn their music off for another hour.

Basically you should look at you, your DP and your AD as the three horsemen of the appocalypse. The three of you always in constant communication.

2: Shot List - This has always been my biggest help. Make a list IN THE ORDER YOU NEED TO SHOOT IT and take it with you on the day. You, the DP and the AD should all have a copy. As you go through the shot list, cross the shots out. It's a very energizing feeling to watch the list getting shorter.

3: Pre-Production is Your Friend - Don't let this crucial time slip away. Plan plan plan plan plan. Plan your shots, plan your call times, plan your lunches, plan your props. Even if your plans go out the window on the day of the shoot. Plan the day. Plan every day. Take MORE time in Pre-Production than you think you'll need. I try to approach it with the idea that when you're done with Pre-Production, you've basically already made the movie on paper and production (in the best case) will be a little boring. Because as a director, it's best if all you're worrying about is performance and how the scenes are working, not "dear god we didn't get a permit to film and there's a cop sitting over there."

I'm still pretty fresh in the filmmaking world, but these are things that I've picked up and have helped me greatly.
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#7 David Sweetman

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 02:23 AM

2: Shot List - This has always been my biggest help. Make a list IN THE ORDER YOU NEED TO SHOOT IT and take it with you on the day. You, the DP and the AD should all have a copy. As you go through the shot list, cross the shots out. It's a very energizing feeling to watch the list getting shorter.

Right, I'm currently co-DPing a 45-min short without any manner of shot list. Luckily I don't think we've missed anyting, but there have been plenty of close calls where we're just about to break down a setup, and someone pipes in, "oh, the insert of yadda yadda," or "gee whiz, the close-up of so-and-so." There are extensive storyboards though, but we rarely reference them on the set.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 03:39 AM

3: Pre-Production is Your Friend


Precisely. Have enough meetings with your key crew members to assure that they know how production will go, what the proper channels of communication are, and how delegation is distributed. It's A LOT easier for a Director or DP if he/she has LESS people coming to them with questions.
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#9 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 12:29 PM

Right, I'm currently co-DPing a 45-min short without any manner of shot list. Luckily I don't think we've missed anyting, but there have been plenty of close calls where we're just about to break down a setup, and someone pipes in, "oh, the insert of yadda yadda," or "gee whiz, the close-up of so-and-so." There are extensive storyboards though, but we rarely reference them on the set.


I'm in the same boat right now. EXACTLY the same boat except we don't have boards. We just have the movie in our director's head. So things go SLOW and you can easily miss things.
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#10 Terry Hsieh

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Posted 13 January 2007 - 11:03 PM

I'm in the same boat right now. EXACTLY the same boat except we don't have boards. We just have the movie in our director's head. So things go SLOW and you can easily miss things.


right. And the more i think about, the more ideas i get to keep adding. I feel like at some point, it's going to look reallllly slap-on at some point with so many writes and rewrites. I feel like i'm making it better everytime i do a rewrite but at some point, i'm going to lose the original idea and end up making it a useless bunch of twists and turns. Meh...also what do you do about organization? I mean...how do you guys run a set that has more people that i'm used to dealing with. Do you crack the whip or do you just let each guy do his own thing and hope it works out? I'm thinking about letting the creative juices flow. for example...and this is going to be really awkward when this has to come down to it, and might even be awkward for you to explain but like...say you have a kiss on camera. And you just don't feel like they're doing it right....i have this notion that stage kissing and real kissing are totally different...do you say HEY THAT WAS A BAD KISS LETS DO IT AGAIN or do you let it slide....? I dunno some weird sides to the directors seat that i never really thought about until i got myscript together and thought it over.....

Terry
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#11 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 12:11 AM

right. And the more i think about, the more ideas i get to keep adding. I feel like at some point, it's going to look reallllly slap-on at some point with so many writes and rewrites. I feel like i'm making it better everytime i do a rewrite but at some point, i'm going to lose the original idea and end up making it a useless bunch of twists and turns. Meh...also what do you do about organization? I mean...how do you guys run a set that has more people that i'm used to dealing with. Do you crack the whip or do you just let each guy do his own thing and hope it works out? I'm thinking about letting the creative juices flow. for example...and this is going to be really awkward when this has to come down to it, and might even be awkward for you to explain but like...say you have a kiss on camera. And you just don't feel like they're doing it right....i have this notion that stage kissing and real kissing are totally different...do you say HEY THAT WAS A BAD KISS LETS DO IT AGAIN or do you let it slide....? I dunno some weird sides to the directors seat that i never really thought about until i got myscript together and thought it over.....

Terry


Well, first and foremost, everyone should have THEIR OWN JOB TO DO. That way you don't have five grips, the DP and AD all crowded around monitor talking about a shot.

I can't tell you how to direct. I can tell you that "HEY THAT WAS A BAD KISS LETS DO IT AGAIN" is probably not a good plan, if it was a bad kiss... you want to do something DIFFERENT!. So the note should be "That was ok guys, let's do it again but this time I want you to take more time before the kiss". But keep in mind that, the characters should not be "kissing". The scene is not about characters kissing. The scene is about two people having a revelation and the physical action of that revelation is a kiss (or hug, or hi-five... it doesn't really matter). If you just tell your actors "NOW KISS", then chances are, the kiss will look very stiff and "staged". Lead your actors through the scene, beat by beat. This is one of the reasons I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of rehearsals. It's time to talk through each scene and find out what the actors can bring you as part of their craft. If you tell your actor "This is a scene about kissing" then you're sunk. If you tell your actor "This is a scene about discovery" then you have moments you can build up to and find physical actions for. Maybe it's written into the script that they kiss, but in rehearsal you find that kissing isn't necessary. Maybe it's just a look from one actor to the other.

Cracking the Whip... this is touchy. It's a powerful feeling to be a director. It's a powerful feeling to be able to yell "CUT!". But don't let that power turn you into a tyrant. You'll never be as impressed as to how HORRIBLE things can go once your crew has decided they don't like you. I feel like Directing is like being a manager. A good manager typically doesn't "crack the whip" unless they have a really smart way of doing it so everyone feels like they're an important part of the team. I guess the thing I'd say to be careful of is becoming a bully.

I ran my set on my last piece as such. If I needed to adress the entire crew, I did so. Once we started shooting though, I would typically leave that to my AD because I needed to be working closesly with my Actors and DP.
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#12 Terry Hsieh

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:26 PM

Hey all, I'll post the script up. I put it on the Critique My Work area on this forum but i'll post it here also. Give me some feedback, i know it's not in perfect format but i'm working to get a bunch of rewrites in and this is one of my first for-real scripts.

Thanks,
Terry
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#13 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 03:23 AM

I believe in baptism by fire, too...just don't let the flames get out of control.
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#14 Hal Smith

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:44 AM

My favorite read on film-making is Sidney Lumet's "Making Movies". I've probably read it six times cover to cover. His book is the best out there in describing the working relationships between a film's Director, actors, and crew. It's got quite a bit of practical detail, even getting down to things like call sheets.

I believe in baptism by fire, too...just don't let the flames get out of control.

Hopefully not like the time I, a volunteer department's Chief Engineer, was crosstraining as a nozzleman on a practice burning and hit a burning magnesium wheel hidden under shed with a 2-1/2". Boom! Flash! Sparks! Scared Sh*tless! Great special effect though. :)
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#15 Hans Engstrom

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 03:11 AM

If you´re going to have a big shoot you will not regret getting an experienced FAD. He/she will make sure that everyone is able to do there work and will save the production a lot of time.
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