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My short film production is over.


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#1 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 03:27 AM

I finished my short film shoot today. It was shot on Super 8 Kodak Ektachrome 64t stock.

The script was 7 full pages long and we were going to do it all in one day. We had 4 person cast, and an AD, PA, 3 Grips, Sound Op, AC, and myself as I also had to DP since my previously lined up DP canceled out about 10 days prior to the shoot and I didn't have enough time to find another in the midst of auditions and prep. I didn't really get to create a nice list of shot selections that I wanted to do as a DP. I sortof had to wing it based on the feel of the actors and the space (limited) that we were working in.

The crew arrived at 9:00am and we had a crew meeting and started setting up for the exteriors. Cast arrived at 10:00am and immediately were put to rehearsal. The Cast were getting their flow quickly in the day with their auditions and that was a high point. Unfortunately, the crew was having a difficult time coordinating together and some on the crew were inexperienced, so this was understandable. I was running a double slate with was confusing the PA. The grips were having a hard time setting up the exterior audio gear and everyone was having difficulty getting the flow of the shoot down. I think this was in part due to the double slate which made an awkward beginning because then "cut" didn't really mean cut. I had to actual adjust by closing with "slate" and then "cut." I also had a little bit of a problem with the audio playbacks because the crew was a little antsy in the beginning and was talking too loud for the sound op to be able to review the clips properly to ensure acceptable audio quality. This caused minor tension for a time until people were politely reminded to respect the importance of quiet audio review time.

One thing I fortunately did right was waiting to shoot film well beyond the point were the actors had mastered the material. The reason why this was a good move is because the crew was not technically ready to shoot the film long after the actors were ready. By noon, I was about 70 minutes behind schedule. This was okay though because I knew that once we clicked, good things would happen. At about 1:15 pm, we breaked for lunch. We had completed one scene at that point. At 2:00 pm, we got back to shooting. It seemed unlikely that after 4 hours to do one scene that we would be able to finish the 4 remaining scenes in 8 hours. I was wrong however. For one, the interiors proved to be much easier to coordinate than the exteriors previously done. For another, people were finding there flow. For yet another, I was having more trust in actually rolling the film camera wihtout 10 million rehearsal takes. All in all, we officially wrapped at 9:56 pm, just 4 minutes short of my projected wrap time.

The most amazing part of the whole day was that I was worried about shooting only 9 rolls of film for a total ratio of 4.5:1. By wrap time, I had 10 feet left to shoot an extra cut away out of 5 rolls of film. At 12.5 minutes, that makes for a ratio of 2.5:1. I really didn't expect the keep the ratio that low but I will admit that this shoot made a believer out of me in terms of strict committment to rehearsal, even when you feel your cast and crew are getting bored of it. If you are on a budget and shoot film, you absolutely HAVE to rehearse a lot to make for the least waste. It seriously can be done. Although I was surprised that I actually kept the ratio that low, I do understand how it happened. I did many rehearsals of each take and then I simulated the full shoot several times with everything in place except rolling the film camera. The AC would still practice his pans during the test and we'd still record the sound. I think this dedicated real-life simulationg helped everyone get used to the "crunch time" feeling so that when we actually rolled film, no one was scared of the camera even though we all knew the dire film situation.

All in all, I am pooped after today's shoot and I'm glad this part is behind me for now. The next time I shoot a short, I will allow myself two days to do it in. Then again, that was what I said after my last short. :lol:

I will post some production stills tomorrow. I'm also sending off the film tomorrow for processing.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 09:05 AM

Glad it all came together for you Mat. I'm looking forward to seeing some on set stills!

How were you running audio outside any way?

Edited by Adrian Sierkowski, 27 July 2008 - 09:06 AM.

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#3 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:37 AM

Glad it all came together for you Mat. I'm looking forward to seeing some on set stills!

How were you running audio outside any way?


Well, I actually ran about 100' of XLR cable out the door and around the front of the place. Inside, my sound op was seriously at a desktop pc recording and my crew would do an "assembly line" of commands upward and downward. That is one of the reasons the exteriors took so long. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to not have an airplace fly overhead. The sound really turned out well.

BTW- Adrian, I gave you a credit as a "Cinematography Consultant."
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:53 AM

Matt, I'm quite honored by the Credit. thank you.

I had done some sound recording similar to that, before, where the sound recordist was oping off of a macbook pro going directly into pro tools. It came out pretty well also, though honestly I'm still not happy with that film (i messed it up, I think, though it was also a function of the low budget).

Now, when you get all big and famous on IMDB don't forget us little guys ;)

Throughly looking forward to seeing the finished product. Now get some sleep!
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#5 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 12:38 PM

Now, when you get all big and famous on IMDB don't forget us little guys ;)


Yeah, I seriously doubt that one...more like "when Sundance regrets to inform you that your film was denied, try not to cry." :lol:


Throughly looking forward to seeing the finished product. Now get some sleep!


I only slept like 6 hours last night and now I'm all wound up and can't sleep. It doesn't make sense but I might as well stay up! The one hard part about film is the waiting to get it back. Oh well, I'm sure I will be much more pleased than had I shot digitally.
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#6 Jim Exton

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 06:26 PM

The most amazing part of the whole day was that I was worried about shooting only 9 rolls of film for a total ratio of 4.5:1. By wrap time, I had 10 feet left to shoot an extra cut away out of 5 rolls of film. At 12.5 minutes, that makes for a ratio of 2.5:1. I really didn't expect the keep the ratio that low but I will admit that this shoot made a believer out of me in terms of strict committment to rehearsal, even when you feel your cast and crew are getting bored of it. If you are on a budget and shoot film, you absolutely HAVE to rehearse a lot to make for the least waste. It seriously can be done. Although I was surprised that I actually kept the ratio that low, I do understand how it happened. I did many rehearsals of each take and then I simulated the full shoot several times with everything in place except rolling the film camera. The AC would still practice his pans during the test and we'd still record the sound. I think this dedicated real-life simulationg helped everyone get used to the "crunch time" feeling so that when we actually rolled film, no one was scared of the camera even though we all knew the dire film situation.


I just got done blogging about this. It is so true. I am shooting a short on 35mm and only bought enough film for a 3:1 ratio. I shot a feature film on super 8mm and 16mm in the mid 90's so I am used to working this way.

But I still get people telling me it can't be done.

I am not saying it is the best way of course, but it can be done. And if the script, acting and sound are very good, the film will be as well.

Congrats on your short, looking forward to some pictures.
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:52 PM

Here are some production stills for anyone who is interested.

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Cast, Crew, and me raising my hand in the air for some unknown reason.

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More Cast and crew.

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Nicholas Van Rij, the sound man.

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Steven Resendes, the PA and clapper.

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DeVario Lopez, the Assistant Camera...and the Elmo 1012s-xl.

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Bryan Bachar as Bruce and Jordan DeCourcey...Jordan was a grip and an extra.

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Actually photographed during filming. Adam James and Robin Breault.

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Behind the scenes...front grip is George Simpson.

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More behind the scenes.

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AC DeVario Lopez at my right and George Simpson at my left. Me in the center of course.

I have many more stills but didn't want to flood the thread out. I may post more later.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:57 PM

Seeing that beautiful sunlight outside finally makes me understand why Cali is so beautiful. . .it's been a week of thunderstorms and haze here on the east coast.

It's interesting to see you using the umbrellas like that; I normally rig them the opposite, but that's just me (and I don't normally like umbrellas! lol).

The evil red eyes are, of course, the way you're controlling the actors minds to nail the lines, right? ;)

Congrats though on the short. Sad so few non film people will really enjoy a production still :/
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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 11:22 PM

It's interesting to see you using the umbrellas like that; I normally rig them the opposite, but that's just me (and I don't normally like umbrellas! lol).


I do them both ways...just like the straight through approach sometimes. I try not to be too "textbook" about stuff. Using them this way tends to look more ambient.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 11:37 PM

The grips were having a hard time setting up the exterior audio gear...


Could it be because the grips were running sound? ;)
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#11 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 11:48 PM

Could it be because the grips were running sound? ;)


They weren't really "running sound." This was not a sophisticated setup. Basically a monster boom pole on a solid base, 100' of XLR cable running inside into a PC. The mic was not connected into an external preamp or mixer...just straight into the sound blaster hardware. Pretty basic. There was a sound op running the PC stuff.

I didn't think it was weird for me to have them move the boom setup around. For the exteriors, they really didn't have anything else to do honestly. I think it's sortof humorous how caught up people sometimes get in the title of their position and what that means. On an ultra low budget set, you are a warm body. If you are a grip but you feel that something is not your job, the question is "even if it's not your job, are you capable of doing it?" If the answer is yes, why complain...just do it. I was the Director but I had to DP too since my DP backed out and no one else was going to do it. I suppose you have to overlap duties sometimes to get things done.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:42 AM

I'm just messing with you. I know titles don't mean much on low budget sets.
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#13 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:50 AM

I'm just messing with you. I know titles don't mean much on low budget sets.

Thanks Chris for clarifying...I was starting to think that you're too good for us mere low-budget mortals. ;)
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#14 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 07:21 AM

Thanks Chris for clarifying...I was starting to think that you're too good for us mere low-budget mortals. ;)


Matt, what was your planned shooting ratio and did it end up holding?
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#15 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 07:31 AM

Edit: Saw the ratio in the first post now. I must have completely read over it.
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#16 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:10 AM

Personally to myself Mat, when I want ambient in a room like that, I'd just bounce off of the ceiling, which should preserve more light than punching through the umbrella. But we all have those "things," we do, I suppose.
I once was chatting with a fellow DP who made it a point never to let any lights on set blow out. I asked why, and he said "because when I look at a light it doesn't do that." I disagreed and of course we had a long discussion; but I guess that makes my "thing," not worrying too much about x or y desk lamp blowing (when it has reason to).

I wonder, what other DP's pet peeves/habits on set are. . .Though I should make another thread for that.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:34 AM

Personally to myself Mat, when I want ambient in a room like that, I'd just bounce off of the ceiling, which should preserve more light than punching through the umbrella. But we all have those "things," we do, I suppose.
I once was chatting with a fellow DP who made it a point never to let any lights on set blow out. I asked why, and he said "because when I look at a light it doesn't do that." I disagreed and of course we had a long discussion; but I guess that makes my "thing," not worrying too much about x or y desk lamp blowing (when it has reason to).

I wonder, what other DP's pet peeves/habits on set are. . .Though I should make another thread for that.


Actually Adrian, a main reason I did that was because in that small room, I was able to generate enough light to shoot at 5.6. For me personally, 5.6 has gotten the results I like the most for intereriors. Therefore, I hit that number and was pleased. If I had did as you say, I would probably have reached F8. That's not particularly bad but 5.6 is one of my "things." Hard to describe really, but F5.6 for interiors on S8 just looks like the right balance to me between fine grain, sharpness, and reasonable DOF.
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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:57 AM

I know exactly what you mean. Normally I like to be in the T4 T2.8 range on my camera, scene depending. I normally don't like opening up past T5.6 either. IIRC, most lenses perform "best," around their mid-range F stops. Or so I have been told
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#19 Paul Bruening

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:59 PM

OMG Matthew! You stoled my crew. You stoled them!

I'm busting a gut looking at your prodpics. It looks exactly like every free labor crew I've ever used. These are the guys that have the interest, time on their hands and associated skills from the music or computer worlds. They're always so willing to trade time for fresh experience in a cross-over craft like movie making. Somewhere, there's a factory stamping these guys out and distributing them to suburbs across the nation.

God bless them. I swear, we'd be totally f****d without them.
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#20 Chris Burke

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 06:17 PM

If you are on a budget and shoot film, you absolutely HAVE to rehearse a lot to make for the least waste.



Having come from an acting background, I always rehearse with cast at least once a few days before the shoot date and then on set similar to your approach. Many indie film sets don't rehearse that much or try to do it in the moment, which has it's own benefits, but chews up time/money. Your actors probably liked the extra run thru as well. Bravo! How are you posting it? Old school analogue way or the 1 and 0 path? Can't wait to see some footage, I am newly in love with the 64T. Good luck.
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