my short film – i’m done shooting!

first of all, the indiegogo campaign for my short film, you will meet a sexy stranger, was a success! i raised $2610, surpassing my original $2500 budget, to supplement my own $1500. i’m extremely grateful to all the people who donated. without their help, i would not have been able to make my movie in the way that i wanted to, and wouldn’t have had certain resources that i really needed.

2 years ago i took part in the duke city shootout, and shot my 10 page short, camera obscura, in 4 days. there were multiple locations, night shots, driving scenes, and visual effects. it was really fun but it was grueling, and it was only possible because as part of the contest, i had a wonderful producer and a whole crew to take care of pre-production. i just showed up to new mexico and everything was pretty much ready to go. for this short, you will meet a sexy stranger, i didn’t have those people helping me,  and so i wanted to do something simple.

it was a 6 page script, 1 location, 3 actors. i wanted to shoot it all in 1 day. i think most features shoot around 2 pages a day, where low budget features and shorts might shoot around 4 pages a day. i figured i could shoot 6 pages because it was 1 location, and mostly dialogue, and i knew my actors were great so they’d deliver consistent performances for each take.

i was prepared with floorplans, storyboards, and a shotlist. i knew which shots were essential to tell the story, and i had several more shots that were optional if we had more time. of course, we did not have more time, but i got all the shots i needed. my DP was excellent, the crew was great to work with, and the actors were absolutely wonderful. i thought i’d be exhausted after shooting and after all the time spent in pre-production, but i actually feel more energized, and i’m already thinking of what to shoot next.

a few things i learned for next time:

  • insurance is expensive. it cost me $450 to cover my 1 day shoot.
  • have back up crew members ready. our sound guy cancelled the day before the shoot, but luckily my co-producer was able to find someone at the last minute. this probably applies to cast as well, but luckily all of my actors were able to work on the project.
  • i had an amazing production designer, my good friend angie. you can’t skimp on production design! if i didn’t hire her and tried to do it myself, the shed would’ve just looked like a shed, and not a lush psychic shop.
  • next time, i want to hire a PA to pick up and return gear.
  • double check call times with everyone. i might need to do phone calls in the morning to make sure everyone is up and ready.
  • make sure there is enough shade. my poor sound mixer had to sit in the sun for a couple hours.
  • i didn’t hire a script supervisor, but i will next time. as a director, there are so many things to focus on – framing, focus, lighting, performances, sound. it can only help to have another person there to check continuity and take notes of each take.
  • matt asked for a day of camera setup with the 1st AC and 2nd AC, and it was worth it. the RED epic has to be assembled, the looks have to be dialed in, the workflow has to be tested out. you don’t want people rushing through this the morning of the shoot.
  • i did a lot of research during pre-production, and collected a lot of images of lighting, wardrobe, and set dressing for the DP and for the production designer. i’ll definitely continue to do this in the future.
  • i hired a co-producer to help me during pre-production. it’s possible to produce and direct a short yourself, but all the time you spend producing is time that you’re not spending preparing as a director.

before i start my next project, i have to edit this one, do a sound mix, color correct, and get it to the composer. i have to consult my visual effects friends for a couple “fix it in post” sort of problems. when everything is ready, i can send it off to festivals!

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  1. Congratulations. Lessons learned are always better than the ones ignored. We did the same thing thinking we could squeeze more pages into one day by eliminating the locations. It was helpful, but everyone was really tired by the end of the day…and when you are dealing with a volunteer work force…it can be difficult.

    1. how many pages did you shoot? how long was your day? my 6 page short took 13 hours, plus another hour for the crew to wrap and load gear. trying to do everything in one day was kinda risky. if there were any technical issues with the footage, i don’t know what i would’ve done.

      1. We shot 15 pages (three 5 minute episodes) in about 14 hours… three actors, one set. Just different locations in the same building. Multiple table reads, experienced actors and a crew that had worked together previously helped. It was very streamlined, but I don’t think anyone is interested in doing that number of pages again. The next filming is cutting down on the pages, but when you deal with volunteers, you take advantage of what you can get and as long as you can get it.

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