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Had a terrible day at a shoot; need opinions.


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#1 Hrishikesh Jha

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 12:53 AM

I am taking a 3 month intensive direction course and I think its the best decision I've ever made. Its completely hands on and I've made 4 shorts, all of which were very well recieved.
 
Now the course is coming to an end and two films remain- One diploma 15 minute film where we will be getting a set to film. Its completely proffesional. Currently we are shooting a telefilm wherein all five of us directors are shooting a 5 minute segment each of Shakespheare's The Merchant of Venice.
 My turn was the day before and I completely screwed up.
 
I need some opinion on how to do what. I turned up on the set with my shot angles and that is it. I took one master shot then asked the camera to be placed on the opposite side to shoot the other scene. As in I was going scene by scene, I did not even rehearse with the actors.
 
This pissed my teacher off. He went off on me in the middle of the set, telling me to TAKE ALL ANGLES FROM ONE SIDE FIRST and then move the camera to take the other side angles because this disrupts the lighting which needs to be setup and takes time and patience. The cinematographer told me(in front of everyone) that I haven't done my homework. He told the teacher across the room "Do you want to tell him or should I"? 
Then I was told to take many angles for each scene-Mid shot, OS, different angles....as this helps in the editing. But I have always hated CUTS. I like tracking and long takes. My first film(which won the first prize) was just 3 takes. It simply confuses me if I have to deal with continuity of action and dialogue.  I don't want my film going to editing. I want everything taken on set, and minimal interference on a computer.
Another scene I was scolded was this: I shot a scene where one dialogue comes from an actor who is standing behind the camera(offscreen). I wanted it that way as my focus was on a different actor.  My teacher told me I have to show the character who speaks, or atleast OS a character when he/she says something....that's the law.
 
This was the first professional shoot and I think I simply blanked out. Everyone looking at me under floodlights. On top of that the DOP was calling the shots half the time. When I said this is what I want he'd go "No, its not looking good, take it from here."
Can someone take the time to educate me on these issues. I will really appreciate it.  Does the lighting hassle mean I must shoot all one side scenes first(even if it means I shoot the 1st scene and then the 5th scene and then the 2nd)?
 
 Another student whose shoot was much lauded did this: He shot the entire 10 minute scene from a long shot. Then he filmed it again from another angle(we are learning on single camera setup for now). Then he took the close ups and angles at one go and finished the shoot on time.
Where did I screw up? Thank you for your time and patience.

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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 02:34 AM

It sounds like the objective of the exercise was for the students to learn and follow the industry standard way of shooting coverage, rather than to interpret the scene in an original way according to your own taste. That seems reasonable since it is a classroom environment, though you would think the teacher would make this clear to everyone beforehand so there would be no confusion on the day...

Basically, the way your fellow student shot his scene was the industry standard way of shooting coverage - first rehearse the scene alone with the actors and figure out the blocking and camera angles with your DP and AD so that cast and crew know what is going to happen during the scene and can plan accordingly.

Then set up your master shot, light, rehearse with the camera, and shoot. Then move the camera to the next closer angle, tweak lighting, and shoot. Get all your angles from the same side of the 180 degree line so that you only have to relight once. Finish with close ups and inserts so that you can start wrapping actors, equipment, parts of the set, and crew that are no longer required. Wrap and go home.

Notice that all of these procedures don't necessarily change the content of your shots. It's all done for efficiency reasons, to avoid making extra work for everyone and to finish the scheduled work in a timely manner. When you are making your own films, you can do whatever you want. But this is a good lesson in how to maximize your time, budget, and effort of your cast and crew that will make your own film sets run much smoother when you are working in the real world.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 02:46 AM

On a commerical productions they (producers etc) like coverage, so they can change the pacing etc during the edit. They have final control and commonly on TV productions you have to fit into a template, so in order to build a career you have to know when to play ball. Rehearsal time is like gold dust, it allows an exchange with the actors and probably becomes more important if you're shooting with low coverage because the performance become more important because you can't change timings in the edit. This is why they like the coverage, because not all actors have a good sense of timing. 

 

Relighting costs time, so it's more efficient to shoot in one direction then the other. The master shot or wide allows you to see where everything goes and is often a good chance to pin down the performances a bit more, so that the actors are at their peak in the closer shots..  


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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 03:50 AM

You want to cover the master shot and then the rest of the set-ups on whatever side you are working to maximize your time & resources - namely, the talent. They may be there for one day and not the next. Sure, you can always go back to a previous set-up, but why backtrack? Regardless of whether or not it's the industry standard, you especially want to be economical with your time & set-ups when it's your own film and you are financing it. On my last short, I story-boarded and planned out each and every shot we were going to do for the day. So everyone was on the same page and - since I had a good crew & cast - it was a low-stress shoot.

You also want to do blocking rehearsals. In addition to rehearsing the scenes, this is where you, the DP and the talent go over the actual movement of the actors through the space that they will be performing in. The DP gets a feel for how he/she will have to light the area and the talent gets to know their respective marks. Some people's blocking rehearsals are more involved than others but that's the general idea.

For a classroom exercise, it sounds like your teacher was a bit harsh. It's an educator's job to educate and be open to their students' different ways of working, especially in filmmaking. And if you're doing something wrong, they need to explain why it's wrong. Otherwise, what are you learning?

And remember...it's the DP who follows the director's vision. Not the other way around. Remember that for when you are out of school and on a real set.
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#5 aapo lettinen

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 06:41 AM

I am taking a 3 month intensive direction course and I think its the best decision I've ever made. Its completely hands on and I've made 4 shorts, all of which were very well recieved.
 
Now the course is coming to an end and two films remain- One diploma 15 minute film where we will be getting a set to film. Its completely proffesional. Currently we are shooting a telefilm wherein all five of us directors are shooting a 5 minute segment each of Shakespheare's The Merchant of Venice.
 My turn was the day before and I completely screwed up.
 
I need some opinion on how to do what. I turned up on the set with my shot angles and that is it. I took one master shot then asked the camera to be placed on the opposite side to shoot the other scene. As in I was going scene by scene, I did not even rehearse with the actors.
 
This pissed my teacher off. He went off on me in the middle of the set, telling me to TAKE ALL ANGLES FROM ONE SIDE FIRST and then move the camera to take the other side angles because this disrupts the lighting which needs to be setup and takes time and patience. The cinematographer told me(in front of everyone) that I haven't done my homework. He told the teacher across the room "Do you want to tell him or should I"? 
Then I was told to take many angles for each scene-Mid shot, OS, different angles....as this helps in the editing. But I have always hated CUTS. I like tracking and long takes. My first film(which won the first prize) was just 3 takes. It simply confuses me if I have to deal with continuity of action and dialogue.  I don't want my film going to editing. I want everything taken on set, and minimal interference on a computer.
Another scene I was scolded was this: I shot a scene where one dialogue comes from an actor who is standing behind the camera(offscreen). I wanted it that way as my focus was on a different actor.  My teacher told me I have to show the character who speaks, or atleast OS a character when he/she says something....that's the law.
 
This was the first professional shoot and I think I simply blanked out. Everyone looking at me under floodlights. On top of that the DOP was calling the shots half the time. When I said this is what I want he'd go "No, its not looking good, take it from here."
Can someone take the time to educate me on these issues. I will really appreciate it.  Does the lighting hassle mean I must shoot all one side scenes first(even if it means I shoot the 1st scene and then the 5th scene and then the 2nd)?

Sounds completely unprofessional. You never yell to people about these things in front of the whole crew and actors! If there is a serious problem with the setup you will discuss about it with the HODs and 1st ad on the side as calmly as possible to keep good atmosphere on set.
If they have not given you possibility to pre plan the shoot with the hods and actors then it is completely their fault, especially the dop:s who should have pre planned the shots with you beforehand when you would have had time to discuss if the plans are working or not
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 08:36 AM

 

IBut I have always hated CUTS. I like tracking and long takes. My first film(which won the first prize) was just 3 takes. It simply confuses me if I have to deal with continuity of action and dialogue.  I don't want my film going to editing. I want everything taken on set, and minimal interference on a computer.

 

The unique thing about film & television (since it grew from the cinema) is editing. It's something that a director should understand, even if they decide to use tracks and camera moves, otherwise you'll be extremely limited in the productions you can work on. However, if you decide on single shot scenes, you have to bring the DP and everyone else along with you otherwise it won't work. These shots do need to be blocked out extremely carefully.

 

I don't know why the teacher was so strong in expressing their feelings, but it could be that they sense that you haven't taken everything on board if you don't understand "continuity of action and dialogue". Long form is very different to short films and you do need a means of varying the pace. Even observational documentaries have cuts that need to make sense and progress the narrative. I'm not sure there is a law about how you cover a scene, although John Ford style shooting is currently out of favour.

 

Courses tend to different to making your own films. They usually have goals or knowledge that you're expected to master, so that they can tick boxes at the end. These will have been planned out as part of the course plan. What you do after you've finished is up to you, but teachers like having their objectives ticked off.


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#7 Bruce Greene

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 11:02 AM

I see only one mistake here. As a DP I would ask you to show me a rehearsal with the actors. I need to see this so I know where to light them. Pointing at thin air and saying where the actors will be is not a rehearsal. I need to see how the actors respond to each other . Which ways their heads will turn. Where are the most important moments and reactions.

But, I back you all the way with working by scene. It can be a disservice to the actors and director to jump from one scene to another just to save moving the lights. Had you done a proper rehearsal the DP could have planned to preset lights for each direction, turning them off and on as needed for each scene, but allowing you and the actors to work on one idea at a time.

I always try to avoid breaking up scenes unless it's essential to making the days schedule.

But, you are in school. Although unpleasant, you've had a great experience working with your producer/teacher and a DP who is thinking about directing the producers next project :)

As a director though, when you show weakness in this kind of situation you're going to find yourself circling the drain. Act confident, shoot extra angles, (you don't need to use them!), and rehearse and explain to your DP what you'll need, and consider his council. But you are free to say no. You are the filmmaker.

Never give up, never surrender!
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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 11:20 AM

You should stay in the same scene, whenever possible, changing the camera set ups for that scene. That may involve a relight for part of it, but usually you cover the shots facing one direction and then switch to the other side to minimise the time lost.

 

From your description it seems like you were planning to shoot one scene from one direction, then an entirely different scene from the other as complete scenes in single shots. However, I'm not sure if you really mean that.


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 11:25 AM

As a real director you should be free to shoot and cover the scene according to your tastes.  However, as a student, you need to learn how to edit a movie and it's hard to do that if you don't shoot coverage to edit.

 

It would be like a cinematography student who never shoots close-ups because he doesn't like them -- then when is he ever going to learn to light a close-up?

 

As for "block" shooting where you shoot out angles for multiple scenes, I tend to avoid it unless it is completely harmless stuff, easy to do -- it's very hard on the actors to jump back and forth between multiple scenes with intensive acting, and it's very hard to keep track of continuity unless you have a really good script supervisor.  Plus it tends to force the cinematographer to light multiple scenes the same way.  But sometimes it's necessary just to stay on schedule and it makes sense if your master angle took a huge amount of time and rigging to accomplish and you'd have to break it all down to do a reverse angle, and then put it all up again for another scene.  It's also less bad to shoot multiple scenes in the same lighting if they are separated in time in the final edit so that the audience doesn't remember the way it looked by the time they see it again.

 

There is no "rule" that an actor who is speaking has to be seen on camera unless the studio / producer / network makes it a rule, but again, in a classroom situation, I can understand why a teacher would want you to learn to get the lines on camera.

 

Now if you do some amazing dolly move / steadicam shot that covers all of the dialogue in a medium master, with choreographed actors ending up closer or farther at the perfect moment for dramatic effect, ala Spielberg, that would be something useful to learn, but you aren't learning a whole lot just by shooting a wide shot of the actors talking and then moving on to a new scene.

 

On the other hand, there is no reason for a student to be yelled at by a teacher, but maybe the teacher felt you weren't listening to him and was frustrated.

 

Anyway, you learn by making mistakes so the point of film school is to get through the mistakes, not to avoid the mistakes.


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#10 Carl Looper

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 02:31 AM

Lots of good points made by everyone. It's about learning particular practices that have evolved over time.

 

The take-away lesson here (given your preferred way of shooting) is probably to treat such as an exercise in how to be aware of these practices, rather than a lesson in acquiring such methods. But why become aware of them? Well, if nothing else you can realise from such that your preferred way of shooting might require some additional discussion with your cast and crew. "Listen up people - we're going to do this a bit differently". While a dictatorial approach also works (the shutup and operate method) it's almost always better to have your team on side rather than bitching amongst themselves over the catering table. Or indeed you might find an aspect of such practice that you don't mind after all.

 

C


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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 12:03 PM

I think the very base is not clear, the content.

 

Master shot and subsequent angles belongs, as some kind of procedure taught in such an environment, to industrial movies or, let me say it point-blank, television production.

 

The whole thing looks different when someone like you feels that long takes fit best. Narrative structures of strict building have more to do with programs (out of fears) and less with the force of life. It seems to me you go heartedly, not deliberately. What an insult to teachers! They’re all head. Whew! Hollywood or bust

 

Stay calm, express what you have to say, say it with as few words as you can, and wait. Let your opinion act. Say that you integrate editing especially because it’s for 15 minutes this time or something like that. State what you want to come out, once. Stay silent then and stern.

 

If you’re unsure, listen to what they bring. If you know exactly what youre up to, do your thing. To disbelievers give a warm smile.


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#12 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 08:41 PM

When you start working in actual locations and you're on a budget, you'll be doing "all the angles facing windows" first.  This is to maximize your available light before it runs out.  The "time of day" in the script, you're own shooting schedule and the specifics of the location will often dictate your shooting order in that way.  It becomes less about your preference and more about the logistics of the situation.  At least until you can afford a truck full of HMI's that will let you shoot whatever you want whenever you want.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 21 June 2015 - 08:43 PM.

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#13 Carl Looper

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 09:23 PM

When on a budget it's even more efficient if you don't just shoot blind coverage, but shoot only that which is going to be in the final film. Blind coverage wastes time and resources, most of the material being unavoidably junk for the cutting room floor, and the remainder of which might be mediocre at best.

 

C


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#14 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 05:19 AM

As a TV director once said, shooting is like getting your favourite possessions out of a burning house.


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#15 Sam Javor

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 09:46 AM

My thought would be that the purpose of taking classes is not to do things how you would do it, but to learn the teachers method.  Then after the class you can decide if the method is useful to you. 

As far as dealing with DP's calling shots you have to develop the habit of being able to defend your art.  You need to be able to articulate why you want something a certain way and that you have consitered the opposing viewpoints and can articulate why you think they are inferior.  Sometimes their ideas are better, but sometimes you're trying to do something radically different and it scares them because they don't understand what you're trying to accomplish.

 


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#16 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 04:22 PM

As a TV director once said, shooting is like getting your favourite possessions out of a burning house.


Hah! That's a good one, I'm gonna have to steal that :)
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