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#1 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 09:39 AM

Hello good board.

I would like to have a 16mm "festival-ready" short completed by next summer, completed for $1500. I have a 15 page script and a small fundraising angle dwfilm.tumblr.com. What I need is some advice on crew and budget scope.

Does this outlay look feasible? Overlooking anything crucial?

CAST
7 actors - Volunteer

CREW
AD - Volunteer
DP - $50/diem honorarium (4 day shoot)
Sound recordist - Volunteer
2 grips - Volunteer

GEAR
(all rented)
Eclair NPR - $80
Tripod - $30
Light Meter & Gel kit - $25
Arri light kit - $60
Sound kit (DAT, boom, mic, & sock) - $80
Dolly kit - $45

FILM
(1.5:1 shooting ratio)
1200' Kodak Color Reversal - $510
Process to MiniDV - $360

POST (finish to DVD)
FCP Edit (rented time - 10 hrs) - $70


Thanks for any tips.
dw
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#2 stephen defilippi

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 10:27 AM

Hello good board.

I would like to have a 16mm "festival-ready" short completed by next summer, completed for $1500. I have a 15 page script and a small fundraising angle dwfilm.tumblr.com. What I need is some advice on crew and budget scope.

Does this outlay look feasible? Overlooking anything crucial?

CAST
7 actors - Volunteer

CREW
AD - Volunteer
DP - $50/diem honorarium (4 day shoot)
Sound recordist - Volunteer
2 grips - Volunteer

GEAR
(all rented)
Eclair NPR - $80
Tripod - $30
Light Meter & Gel kit - $25
Arri light kit - $60
Sound kit (DAT, boom, mic, & sock) - $80
Dolly kit - $45

FILM
(1.5:1 shooting ratio)
1200' Kodak Color Reversal - $510
Process to MiniDV - $360

POST (finish to DVD)
FCP Edit (rented time - 10 hrs) - $70
Thanks for any tips.
dw



Hi Douglas, im also in Ottawa and might be able to help out if you need.

Sounds like your at IFCO. Ditto

Stephen DeFilippi
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 10:35 AM

I've seen this before: you list a load of stuff and make it appear feasible by stating a shooting ratio which is obviously impossible.

Phil
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 11:11 AM

5:1 would be minimal and 10:1 would be realistic, if this is a typical narrative film.
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#5 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 11:38 AM

Thanks for the responses.
Hi Stephen, thanks for the offer of help. Hopefully I'll have this off the ground soon.
David and Phil, if I had the money for 12,000 feet of film, I probably wouldn't be seeking help on how to bring something meaningful to life, on film, in a First Time Filmmaker's forum. I meant it as a tactical question: Could it be done this way, with these resources.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 12:53 PM

Thanks for the responses.
Hi Stephen, thanks for the offer of help. Hopefully I'll have this off the ground soon.
David and Phil, if I had the money for 12,000 feet of film, I probably wouldn't be seeking help on how to bring something meaningful to life, on film, in a First Time Filmmaker's forum. I meant it as a tactical question: Could it be done this way, with these resources.


To be blunt, no, a 1.5 : 1 ratio is unrealistic -- that's basically not even covering a scene but shooting only one take of only the section that you will be using in the final edit (for example, if covering two actors talking, you'd normally film one actor talking and then in another angle, the other actor talking, thus minimally, that's twice as much footage as would be in the final edit, 2:1, and that's one take each, and not considering slates, roll-outs, and other footage waste, and certainly not a second take for a mistake like the boom dropping into the shot.)

So a 1.5:1 ratio would be cutting in camera, exactly matching the final edit pattern, with no mistakes. No coverage at all, no overlaps of dialogue in different angles, etc. Or it would mean a scene shot as a single shot, once, no second chances, and no editing of the scene in post since it would be one angle, basically 1:1 with the .5 being reserved for heads and tails of shots and wastage at the end of rolls.

Like I said, 5:1 would be the minimal ratio you should be considering.

I'm not going to lie to you just to make you happy. You asked for our opinion afterall. If that's the amount of film stock you can afford, I'd cut your 15-minute script down to a 5-minute script for starters. For a fifteen-minute 16mm sound movie, I wouldn't even consider it unless I had at least $10,000.
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#7 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 01:04 PM

Like I said, 5:1 would be the minimal ratio you should be considering.

I'm not going to lie to you just to make you happy. You asked for our opinion afterall. If that's the amount of film stock you can afford, I'd cut your 15-minute script down to a 5-minute script for starters. For a fifteen-minute 16mm sound movie, I wouldn't even consider it unless I had at least $10,000.



Thanks David. I do appreciate the elaboration. I'm a novice (ie: I hadn't considered opposing angles of same dialogue) and this sort of detailed explanation is helpful, particularly from a pro. Perhaps I ought to delay the project and save some more cash, shoot for 5:1.
Thanks again.
Doug
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 01:36 PM

Are you budgeting for new stock or re-cans and short ends?

Re-cans and short ends will be a lot cheaper than new stock and get you closer to the shooting ratio David advises, and I agree with David of course.

Call Peter at Certified Film in Toronto he can fix you up with a deal on re-cans and short ends to stretch out your budget 416.537.9775.

Just to give you an idea on ratios, next month you'll be seeing four spots I made for Primo/Unico foods on TV in Canada. I had a ratio of 80:1 on those spots and I was shooting 35mm.

R,
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#9 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 01:45 PM

Are you budgeting for new stock or re-cans and short ends?

Re-cans and short ends will be a lot cheaper than new stock and get you closer to the shooting ratio David advises, and I agree with David of course.

Call Peter at Certified Film in Toronto he can fix you up with a deal on re-cans and short ends to stretch out your budget 416.537.9775.

Just to give you an idea on ratios, next month you'll be seeing four spots I made for Primo/Unico foods on TV in Canada. I had a ratio of 80:1 on those spots and I was shooting 35mm.

R,


Thanks Richard, particularly for the contact name and number. 80:1 to unimaginable, 10:1 is no doubt appropriate, but still not in range. I'll have to be modest, inventive and patient (and lucky). Tall order, I know. I realize these are condition under which a lot of people on this board wouldn't work. I'm trying to get a foothold in the medium, so I have to cut these significant corners. And still have fun.
Thanks again.
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#10 stephen defilippi

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 02:30 PM

Thanks Richard, particularly for the contact name and number. 80:1 to unimaginable, 10:1 is no doubt appropriate, but still not in range. I'll have to be modest, inventive and patient (and lucky). Tall order, I know. I realize these are condition under which a lot of people on this board wouldn't work. I'm trying to get a foothold in the medium, so I have to cut these significant corners. And still have fun.
Thanks again.



Hi Douglas,

It's possible that you've already read this in these forums, but the ratios will depend on what you shoot. Dialogue which is very well rehearsed, with scenes blocked out might be possible 5:1 assuming few screw-ups (which always happen anyway) also bear in mind that too much rehearsal can make it all go stagnant.

You could rehearse in front a video camera to help the actors see what you want and to help with blocking, and then shoot with the NPR.

I wonder also about your choice of film stock. Reversal might seem cheaper but you dont have much latitude. Why not shoot negative stock and telecine it, (Negative film lets you mix stocks, which might be handy if you're looking for discount film).

With a digital copy you then edit on final cut and print with the optical printer at IFCO. You can also use the Oxberry for titles & credits.

anyway thats my two cents

good luck & cheers
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#11 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 04:42 PM

Hi Douglas,

It's possible that you've already read this in these forums, but the ratios will depend on what you shoot. Dialogue which is very well rehearsed, with scenes blocked out might be possible 5:1 assuming few screw-ups (which always happen anyway) also bear in mind that too much rehearsal can make it all go stagnant.

You could rehearse in front a video camera to help the actors see what you want and to help with blocking, and then shoot with the NPR.

I wonder also about your choice of film stock. Reversal might seem cheaper but you dont have much latitude. Why not shoot negative stock and telecine it, (Negative film lets you mix stocks, which might be handy if you're looking for discount film).

With a digital copy you then edit on final cut and print with the optical printer at IFCO. You can also use the Oxberry for titles & credits.

anyway thats my two cents

good luck & cheers


Thanks Stephen.
I was planning on some run throughs with my little MiniDV camera prior to shooting film.
The optical printer and Oxberry are on my workshop list.
I didn't know that about mixing stocks, thanks for the tip.
Is it possible to find alternatives to shooting coverage (ie: filming actor A throughout dialogue, with one cut to actor B for the closing line; odd-angle two-shots) without appearing contrived or boring?
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 04:51 PM

There are lots of ways to cover dialogue, including shooting no coverage at all, just play it in one shot. There are no rules; it's just a balancing act between pre-visualizing the editing but also allowing some adjustments to be possible in editing, plus weighing how much you actually need to shoot versus how much room & time the actors need to get up to speed during the scene. You may tell the actor that you only need half a sentence from them on film, but they will probably want to say the whole paragraph just to get it to come out right.

Sure, you can cover one actor throughout and just pick-up the reverse angle's moment of the other actor saying one line, no reaction shots, though you basically need to commit to how the scene will be edited, and if you're inexperienced, you'd want some wiggle room.

It's sometimes hard on actors to get them to only play part of a scene out of context, depending on the emotional level of the scene. And a big-name actor (not that you'll be dealing with that) can resent being told that they won't be covered in the scene ("oh, we're not going to shoot a close-up of you, just the other actor...") -- I know that sounds petty, but some actors can have delicate egos so you have to explain what you're up to carefully if that's your plan.
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#13 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 05:55 PM

I know of some very low shooting ratio films - 2 to 1 or 3 to 1, but they were basically shot with a Bolex with short, single lines of dialogue dubbed in during post.

However, given how important acting performances are for getting into film festivals, if you're going for a dialogue heavy film I'd increase shooting ratio, either by shortening the film as suggested (which will increase its chances of actually getting into a festival) or by getting more funds.

At 1.5 to 1 you won't even want to use a clapper board for sync.
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#14 Patrick McGowan

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 08:27 PM

The last student film I shot was 15 minutes and we spent $2,000 on film and processing, but that was also because it was color neg.

You're budget looks appropriate, but much like every other post before me, I will echo that you will need more film and a bigger budget for stock.
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#15 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 09:00 PM

The last student film I shot was 15 minutes and we spent $2,000 on film and processing, but that was also because it was color neg.

You're budget looks appropriate, but much like every other post before me, I will echo that you will need more film and a bigger budget for stock.


Thanks Patrick.
Nothing persuades like unanimity. Sounds like I need more film and less script.
I'll try to swing 2000' (5 x 400' reels = 55 min, correct?) for an 8-10 min project. That's roughly 7:1, I think.
Thanks again everyone.
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#16 Jon Petro

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 07:04 PM

For a fifteen-minute 16mm sound movie, I wouldn't even consider it unless I had at least $10,000.


Right, and with that mentality Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Joe Carnahan, Richard Linklater, etc. would not exist. Please do not listen to this kind of advice. You don't need a lot of money to make a movie, especially not a 16mm movie. I have shot 16mm shorts at 1.5:1 or 2:1 for a few hundred dollars. The script is important, I would not recommend a lot of dialogue. Careful planning of your shots is key too. If you know what you have going into the film obviously prepare to rehearse a lot and cover things in simpler ways than Close ups, medium shots, masters, etc of every scene. Find THE shot.

For "$10,000" you could buy a super 16mm eclair NPR and enough film to shoot a feature. Frugality is an art that should be studied and mastered, it is the path to larger budgets.

Good luck,

Jon
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 08:03 PM

Right, and with that mentality Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Joe Carnahan, Richard Linklater, etc. would not exist. Please do not listen to this kind of advice. You don't need a lot of money to make a movie, especially not a 16mm movie. I have shot 16mm shorts at 1.5:1 or 2:1 for a few hundred dollars. The script is important, I would not recommend a lot of dialogue. Careful planning of your shots is key too. If you know what you have going into the film obviously prepare to rehearse a lot and cover things in simpler ways than Close ups, medium shots, masters, etc of every scene. Find THE shot.

For "$10,000" you could buy a super 16mm eclair NPR and enough film to shoot a feature. Frugality is an art that should be studied and mastered, it is the path to larger budgets.

Good luck,

Jon


30 features and 20 short films (mostly in 16mm) is not enough shooting experience to give advice?

Exceptions don't prove the rule, and I'm more comfortable in discussing what is probable and practical than extremely rare scenarios. But if you can show a budget breakdown for making a feature in 16mm for $10,000 that includes the cost of the camera, stock, processing, etc. it would be helpful to everyone to show it, rather than just make claims.

And on what planet is $10,000 a LOT of money to make a FEATURE in 16mm??? It would take a lot of frugality and ingenuity to make a feature in 16mm for TWICE that amount.

Over the past two decades, I've seen WAY too much heartbreak from people who attempted to make features with unrealistic budgets combined with a lack of experience, just because they read about Robert Rodriguez making a feature for $7000. So I see it as an act of personal responsibility to give people realistic figures to work from. It's far too easy to just people to "go for it!" and not be there when they collapse financially with an unfinished project because it was not made with realistic expectations.

And over the years, I've talked to many filmmakers about shooting ratios and compared them to my own experience, which is why 5:1 has tends to be the lowest figure I've run across for shooting standard narrative films with dialogue (which is the most common screenplay you run across). My own lowest figure was 7:1. Sure, a certain type of shooting style could allow a 2:1 shoot. I've done a nearly 1:1 short film myself, cutting in-camera.

I don't see why arming oneself with honest facts and figures in order to make educated decisions is a bad thing. I'm not telling this guy to not make his movie, I'm telling him he should make a shorter movie to match his budget. Biggest mistake I see over and over and over again are people making short films that are too long. There are so many arguments for making a short film shorter, financial and creative.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 08:36 PM

Now I regret letting myself be drawn into a pissing contest...

But making a post saying that my advice should be ignored is provocative, to say the least.

Look, I'm not against dreaming big or else I would have never attempted to get into this industry. I've just had a lot of experience over the years either working on films or knowing people working on films, so I have a fairly accurate picture of the difficulties involved, and even now, I've always been a realist when it comes to planning out a movie. Best-case scenarios rarely are a good basis for a plan of attack.

Way back in film school at CalArts (1988-1991), most of the students shooting in 16mm came to the conclusion that the final product was costing them, on average, $500 to $700 for every final screen minute. There were exceptions of course, in either budget direction, but consider that these students had a free camera and lighting package for starters.

You can pull up a half dozen success stories but by no way does this represent a typical case scenario. But being honest and realistic does not mean you give up, you don't try, it just means that you have to be smarter with your money, usually by scaling and tailoring your script to match your budget.

Remember the original post had the subheader: "Does this appear realistic?" Not "is this possible?" There's a difference between what's probable and what's possible.
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#19 Jon Petro

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 08:51 PM

30 features and 20 short films (mostly in 16mm) is not enough shooting experience to give advice?

Exceptions don't prove the rule, and I'm more comfortable in discussing what is probable and practical than extremely rare scenarios. But if you can show a budget breakdown for making a feature in 16mm for $10,000 that includes the cost of the camera, stock, processing, etc. it would be helpful to everyone to show it, rather than just make claims.

And on what planet is $10,000 a LOT of money to make a FEATURE in 16mm??? It would take a lot of frugality and ingenuity to make a feature in 16mm for TWICE that amount.

Over the past two decades, I've seen WAY too much heartbreak from people who attempted to make features with unrealistic budgets combined with a lack of experience, just because they read about Robert Rodriguez making a feature for $7000. So I see it as an act of personal responsibility to give people realistic figures to work from. It's far too easy to just people to "go for it!" and not be there when they collapse financially with an unfinished project because it was not made with realistic expectations.

And over the years, I've talked to many filmmakers about shooting ratios and compared them to my own experience, which is why 5:1 has tends to be the lowest figure I've run across for shooting standard narrative films with dialogue (which is the most common screenplay you run across). My own lowest figure was 7:1. Sure, a certain type of shooting style could allow a 2:1 shoot. I've done a nearly 1:1 short film myself, cutting in-camera.

I don't see why arming oneself with honest facts and figures in order to make educated decisions is a bad thing. I'm not telling this guy to not make his movie, I'm telling him he should make a shorter movie to match his budget. Biggest mistake I see over and over and over again are people making short films that are too long. There are so many arguments for making a short film shorter, financial and creative.


$10,000 is a LOT to make a 16mm short, and you said that is the lowest you would even consider going into a 15 minute 16mm short film. I was not referring to a feature at that point.

Do you honestly consider $10,000 to be a requirement when shooting a 15 minute 16mm short film? You want to see my feature budget? I would like to see your 15 minute short budget break down. I can't wait to see how you need to spend 10 grand on a short.

I am sure if you want you could spend a million $ on a 15 minute 16mm short, but I don't consider $10,000 to be the minimum by any means, and I don't believe in telling people that either. It is a discouraging thing to say to a person who doesn't have 10 grand lying around, and it is certainly not factual enough to be considered the harsh reality (and with your heavily respected opinion on these boards, Mr. Wilkinson might not consider any alternative). I have made a 10 minute sync sound 16mm film for $500 and it came out great. So I might not have made 30 features David, but based upon my experiences your perspective seems ridiculous.

I completely agree that tons of films and filmmakers fail at the ultra low budget level. However I would rather fail with $1,000 on the line then $10,000. So how much "HEARTBREAK" is there when someone makes a shitty film for two million dollars? With there jibs and their HMIs and their Ultra Primes. Money doesn't solve creative problems. I would become a better filmmaker before spending $10,000 on a short.

I would encourage Mr. Wilkinson to be creative as possible and make his movie with what he has instead of waiting, saving up, only amassing money rather than artistic strength. People financing their own stuff are in a great position since they know what kind of money they have going into it. For instance, I have $2,000 and I want to make a 10 minute film, well then make a movie you can make for $2,000.

I agree with a lot of what you are saying Mr. Mullen, however I don't believe in "Honest Facts" when it comes to making movies. There is no one way to go about it, especially when it comes to spending money. I respect your opinion and all the information you share on these boards, but I just disagree with this one. And this is based on my own filmmaking experiences.

There are a lot of ways to shave a cat.

Thanks,

Jon
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#20 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 09:10 PM

David, A few years back I also remember coming up with the 5:1 ratio as the absolute lowest that one can realistically expect on a dialogue film, and I considered that unreasonably low.

The amount of film that gets lost in between takes, when camera is gathering speed and the slate is being verbally announced, the five second settling rule, sometimes rolling an extra second or too at the end of the take is a must as well. Many times the very beginning and very end of the film roll is just too dusty and scratchy to use. Exits and entrances add time, the pacing will usually quicken in the edit, meaning a master scene shot in 1 minute and 30 seconds could end up being 1 minute after final edit.

Plus, the people on the set can do things to accidentally sabotage the shoot. Opening the door in the middle of a take because somebody was not being careful, cell phone goes off, a light blows out, a chair makes a horrible squeaky sound, actor forgets a line or misprounces a word. The actor delivers a performance that inspires the director because they now see how much better their scene could be if they let their actor have more say, (this can be huge as it allows the actor to feel like they are contributing to the production).

The only way to do a 2-1 film ratio is if location dialogue is very, very sparse, even non-existent, then maybe something that dumb can be tried.

While Super-8 may be out of the question for various reasons, it would actually allow you to shoot more film for your budget, and you can use the same negative stocks that are available in 16mm. You can use your first film project to actually get a film done and learn about how your film stocks look in different lighting situations. However, if you shoot too much super-8 film you will dilute the savings when you transfer the extra film to video on a rank cintel system.
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