Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Four scenes down.

We shot Friday and Monday. Two scenes per day. I've viewed the footage. So far I'm liking it. I'm only worried about one outdoor scene that's at night. I'm not too fond of the lighting. Hopefully it'll look alright, if not I'm just going to re-shoot it as a daytime scene.

Here's a day two set up. Walking Trail scene.


Ryan on the left and I'm on the right. Writer and the director right there.

Day one. The first scene. Shot at the magic hour.

First scene again.

First day; basketball scene. That's Aidan on boom. He's also the A.D.

First day, again. I'm also D.P.ing this bad boy. That's the cast on the court. Great chemistry between the three.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tomorrow's the big day!!

So tomorrow's the big day... First production day on Buddy. We're doing two scenes tomorrow, six pages. I'm not sure how long that's going to take, but I have until the sunsets.

I have my notes written all over the front and back of the script pages with my shots and blocking lined up... It's loosely set for tomorrow, chances are I'll be doing a lot more different set ups. Plus seeing the actors in character will change my perspective of what works and what doesn't work.

I love this feeling... It's bittersweet. It's that nervous-excitement. I don't know how to describe it, but part of me wants to throw up a little bit. It's like when you take a girl out on a date for the first time. You know what I mean?

I know it's gonna be a fun shoot, so that's what matters... As well as a good product.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Framing Your Shots One Step At A Time: The Basics

Here's a quick lesson in framing the shot. I've set up an example that's labeled for you to understand more.

This will be very helpful to you when you're trying to explain to your cinematographer what you have in your mind for the next shot.


Master Shot: This shot sets up your entire scene. It's usually the widest shot as well, all the action can be seen in this set up when you cut to it. this allows maximum coverage of the entire scene. Keep this in mind to start and possibly close your scenes. It's a good idea to shoot this set up first then get in closer.

Full Shot: This is still a wide shot but not as wide as the master. This is a full body shot. Multiple actors can be in the same frame. I would be mindful of making sure the frame isn't too cluttered.

Medium Full: This is also a medium full shot. It tends to cut off the frame around the point of the actor's knees. This works if you feel you want to get closer in but not too close.

Medium Shot / Close-Up: The medium shot is usually around the hip and the medium close up is within the mid-chest region of the actor. I personally like medium close-ups a lot. They look nice when framed correctly. This can make conversation more personal within a scene because the viewer begins to feel like they're apart of the action.

Close-Up: This would be like a full shot of the actor's face. It works for tense moments to really heighten the drama.

Extreme Close-Up: This would be like a close up that just included the actor's eyes, for example. Or if you cut to a shot of their watch.


These are the basics of framing. It's good to know so the communication process with your cinematographer is more clear with what you want.

What you'll usually need in almost any scene is your master shot, medium shots and close-ups / medium close-ups.

This is one of the many fun parts about making films. Be clever with how you frame your shot, experiment a little bit. Get what you need then start to think outside the box a little bit.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Buddy is on it's way...

Shooting starts on Friday. I'm starting to get very excited. All the actors and crew are going to be out of school by then so this will be a lot easier of a process.

So for right now what I'm going to be doing as we get closer to the date; I'm going to be figuring out a rough idea of what shots I'm going to be using... I usually have a layout in my head of how the movie is going to play out but once I show up to the set more and more ideas start to fly through my head.

I already have my usual two shots and necessary close-ups and establishing shots that I'm going to be using. But I'm still going to compile a shot list.

So this post is going to lead into my next one about framing...

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Briefly updating your curious minds...

Ryan and I had a table reading for Buddy. Great stuff. We're really looking forward to shooting this. The two we read with had great chemistry. It's like they were best friends. The banter and everything was awesome.

We start next week.

Also... I started my long term project. The script is being written as we speak. This is going to be a lot of fun. I'm casting two of the actors from Buddy in it.

I'll keep you updated with further information when that time comes.

So it's finals week... Sorry for the lack of postings.

I will be posting a newer new one very soon...

Till next time...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Don't be lazy: cast your movie.

Casting...

Talk about important.

At this time you're deciding who will portray your characters on screen. Do you want some stale actor just reciting lines?

The answer is no... You don't.

Casting a bad actor can kill your entire film. Trust me. I've had to cut and cut and then re-cut my movies because of poor casting decisions.

I've cut entire scenes from films because of performances.

That's okay though because I've learned from it... Do yourself a favor and take my advice on this one.

First off I'm just going to say...
Whatever you do: DO NOT cast your friends! Chances are they probably suck. Have them audition if you really care that much.

Cast your films people!! Hold auditions!! I usually hold mine at school, but you can have them anywhere. Set it up in your garage. Set up appointments with actors and meet one on one at a coffee shop some place. Do what it takes.

Put in the effort!

You can find actors easy... I usually post audition notices on nowcasting.com and lacasting.com. The sites are easy to use and free for casting directors. The site will send out notices to actors telling them about your project. You'll be able to pick who you'd like to go audition for you... Invite a lot of people. Chances are most likely that all of them won't show up.

Don't just limit yourself to one day for auditions. Hold a couple of them. This will bring out multiple crowds.

Make some sides for the actors to read. Take a page from your script. Don't make it long though. One page will more than suffice.

Have some friends help you during auditions. Have one person outside sitting with a sign in sheet,
they can also escort the actors in too. (have the actors write down their name, phone number, e-mail address and the time they arrived). Have someone inside with you too to operate the camera. I usually have three people in the room (counting myself) during auditions.

Make sure you record the auditions so you can view them again later. Have people watch them with you. You'll be able to pull in many more opinions this way and gauge different reactions.

You'll be able to pinpoint exactly who you want in your film now.

Your film is going to be 100 times better now too.

Now you're one step closer to getting a good product.

Until next time guys...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Location scouting on "Buddy."

Today was very productive. Ryan and I went all over town and scouted locations.

We got some good spots. We know where we're shooting the whole thing now except one scene. We have the spot but we just need to clarify it with the homeowners. I only worry about the weather conditions because we start mid-December. I don't want the wind messing up the sound.

Ryan wrote the script with some spots in mind that would be easily accessible.

We discussed our next set of projects too. So we're gonna be working a lot for the next nine months on projects back to back.

Here's just a brief update for now...

More to come.

Watching movies everyday.

Get Netflix.

As a filmmaker you should always be watching movies.

Some of the best filmmakers are cinephiles.

It's a good way to study. It'll make you more well rounded as a filmmaker. Figure out what you liked or hated about the movie you watched.

After I see a movie with my friends we always talk after wards. There's always the one person who just says: "I liked it. It was good."

What was good about it? Why did you like it?

How did the movie make you feel?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pre-Production updates for 'Buddy'

So we're making head way on Buddy. Ryan and I are doing some location scouting for the film tomorrow afternoon.

The last script meeting went great. He added a couple of scenes from the second draft. We're looking at about twelve pages now... He looked over the script I've been writing too and gave me some good feedback to make it better... That won't start shooting until the beginning of 2010.

I'm wanting a table read with the potential cast within the next week-week and a half. I know who I want, and I know they're all great... But the key is to now have them read together to see what dialogue works and what doesn't and how can we make their performances seem completely natural.

Ryan and I discussed we're to have all the pre-production work taken care of so we start shooting after our week of finals... So we'll begin production around the week of December 9th.

I'm excited to direct this. I haven't directed something in a while, this absence is starting to take it's toll.

Alright kids, until next time...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pre-production and the tasks that come with it.

Lets go over pre-production and what's involved with it... I'm keeping this simple for now. [I'll probably expand some of the steps into their own post later on.]

By this point you should be getting your script finished... I'm sure you'll make minor changes even up to right before you begin shooting.

What you're going to want to do now is break down your script to individual scenes and number them... This can help you budget your time and money. You can make schedule call sheets that include the locations, props, wardrobe, cast in the scene. This is what the producer should being helping take care of.

Break down you're whole script like that... You're pretty much just making a check list scene-by-scene.

Casting is a very essential part of the pre-production process. Hold auditions to find your actors.

after you've found your actors, have a table reading. This is a good way to see what works and what doesn't work. If the actor is fumbling over their lines then talk to them so you guys can figure out how to make a more natural flow.

Finding locations is something you'll want to take care of now too. When you're scouting bring a still camera. You're going to want to make sure this is what you're wanting for your vision of you're latest opus.

Find the people you need behind the camera. Find your Director of Photography. Find someone to do sound and operate boom. Audio is just as important as video. bad sound can ruin your film. It can take the audience out of the moment.

Set a start date and begin...

I know it seems like a mess but this is all it takes for pre-production.


Until next time...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Top five student film clichés!! [opinions included]

Student films... What can I say about them? Like all movies there's the good and the bad. Plus it's all subjective.

You might want to retool your script if you have these.

Top five student film clichés...


1. Drugs... Why is it that so many student films involve drugs? Chances are you have probably only smoked weed in your life... That doesn't mean you should create a cocaine subplot in your film. You can make a great film that doesn't involve a junkie in it.

2. Movies about making movies... I think I've seen this more often than coke binge films. Write what you know, yes, but don't you have other life experiences outside of making movies? I'm obsessed with film making and movies, but I try not to write about making movies.

3. Mob/Mafia/Gangsters... We're all guilty of this. Who hasn't watched Goodfellas or Casino and wanted to make a gangster film? I've done it; it's never been seen by anybody though. Right now it's not practical.

4. Wannabe Hollywood action... This kind of falls in line with #4 but it's safe to say action adventure is hard to make on a student film budget of zero dollars. Making Hollywood style films is something most of us long for when making films. Right now make something that reflects you.

5. Suicide endings... Honestly, I don't really get it. I guess it's a "really dramatic" ending for a movie. I know you want a huge impact, but it's kinda cheesy. Save it. Use your clever, creative mind to make something more with it. Not to say suicide isn't dramatic, it's a very sensitive subject.

Bonus opinion!!... Voice overs. I'll leave this one at that.

These aren't rules to live by, they're just opinions. That's okay to disagree... I'm just saying.

Until next time kids...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Updating for the sake of updating.

So read the new draft of the script today... So far so good. I think we're really close to start shooting. Next Friday we're going over one more draft then Saturday we're trying to get together with the potential leads of the film.

I made some changes with dialogue. Certain phrasing of the sentences to meet what I feel is the characters.

It's going to be a good film. Lots of fun to shoot... Ryan knows what he's doing... Or he's at least convincing enough.

So I'm going to be updating the entire process after it really begins to kick off... Right now we're getting ready to launch this beast. Nothing but pre-production for right now. We've got to get a strategy lined up before we go.

On top of this next film I've been developing a long run project. More information is coming on that as well.

I'm excited for that nervous feeling before shoots.

Until next time guys...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tonight's news is tomorrow's blog.

So this evening I'm meeting up with Jameson to go over the second draft... I'm excited to see what he did with my notes.

We talked about losing some scenes and throwing in more. I wanted to show more of the girlfriend in the script as well.

The project is called Buddy. I don't want to give away the plot, but I'll say it deals with people's cute little quirks.

So we're meeting up again. I think we'll be getting closer to a shooting draft very soon.

I think I already know who I'm casting as the two leads of the film. I've got a confirmation from one and I'm going to read with the other.

I think I'm ready for another film.

Until next time...

Friday, October 30, 2009

A sixty-four word post.

Ryan and I met up with the first draft. It's looking good. I think now it's being completely fine tuned. It's a great concept dealing with a people's need to be surrounded by one another.

I gave Ryan my notes. The second draft will be done soon... I hope.

Super brief update... Sorry to all none of you who read this.

Until next time...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Script Writing... And The Women Who Love Them.

Lets go over the simplest way to write a script. This will be a quick lesson; in case if anybody is confused on formatting.

We're dealing with short films. So I'm not going to go deep into plot points and act breaks.

After you've made some sort of outline and came up with your concept it's time for the script to be written.

I suggest getting some sort of script writing software... I prefer Final Draft, but if you don't want to spend any money you can download Celtx. Celtx is free and easy to use.

Scripts are written in a size 12 Courier font... I'd say keep it that way. There's no reason to go against this norm.

One page in your script is about one minute of screen time... This will help you estimate your duration time.

I'll use this as an example... This was from my film shot last spring.

Lets start from the top.


The slug line:
"EXT. RESTAURANT PATIO - NIGHT"

The slug line shows location and time of day change from scene to scene. Keep this at the top of each scene.

It'll always be in all capital letters.

EXT and INT are for if the scene is exterior or interior.

Then you list the location followed by the time of day.



The actions:

The action paragraphs follow after the slug line to describe the location and what the characters are doing in the scene.

When you're introducing new characters into a script keep their name in capital letters followed by their age... After that you don't need to keep them capitalized.

Keep all action in the present as if it's happening at that moment. Never use past tense when writing actions.

You also want to stay away from writing how the character is feeling in the actions. How can we see their emotions? Describe, briefly, what they're doing to show their emotions. On top of that, their dialogue will help configure their feelings.

Show me, don't tell me.


The dialogue:

So now you want your character to speak.

Dialogue is always in the center of the page.

Keep the character name in capital letters.

Underneath the name is where the character's lines are.

I try to keep dialogue less wordy... I tend to keep in mind that actors are going to be performing this. I don't want them fumbling over words. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I try not to put a lot of unnecessary actions between my character's dialogue... It's distracting to the actors.


So this is the basics of what you need to know about scriptwriting. There are other little technical things that I may go over in posts later to come but if you're not looking to be a screenplay writer and you just need to write something real quick to start shooting, then this is all you really need to know for now.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New blog! [includes opinions]

I don't like voice overs.

To me they're a cheap way to tell a story. They're a cheap way to let you know how the character is feeling.

I'm not saying voice overs can't work... I'm just saying I think most of the time (97.54% of the time) they just don't cut it.

There are different ways to allow the audience to know what the character is feeling. Different cuts, different looks on their face, different reactions... Lets give the audience just a little bit of credit here.
Don't let the character flat out tell me he's sad, pissed off, or lonely... Let me see him feel this!

Show me, don't tell me.

I'm not going to lie to you; I've put voice overs in scripts. It never went beyond the first draft though. Imagine your movie with the voice overs, it's almost as bad as breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.

It may seem really cool and you feel like a genius writer, but in most cases it won't work and it's cliche'.

Will this scene be more powerful with the character telling you everything from his soul?

Probably not, no.

Would Luke Skywalker's approach to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru's dead charbroiled bodies be more impacted to you with his voice over telling you: "I can't believe this. They're dead. My vast amount of loneliness drives through my body like a pod racer at the Boonta Eve. As now, my last remaining family, is gone. I need to go with Obi-Wan to become a Jedi Knight."

Yeah, see, that wouldn't really work.

Be careful with voice overs. They can kill a good script.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm keeping you up to date with these convienient updates

I'm done with the first act. I'm looking at getting this all done within the next 14 days... Or less. Hopefully less. After the first draft I'll make my changes, cut some things then proceed to having the shooting script ready.

I want this to go into production immediately following Ryan Jameson's script. So pre-production will happen while shooting that. Both projects are seemingly dark... I'll fill you in on the details once it all falls into place.

Also... I started demoing out some songs. I've got about 31 tracks on cassette right now. I'm finding 10-15 that are solid so I can record a full album... I'm planning on recording it all on my 8-track. I think it'll give it a cool sound. I'm not really sure how to explain the genre. I'll just say punk/rock/indie/alternative/music/songs as the genre at hand.

Lyrics are going to be the hardest part I think. I have a good amount, now I have to get them arranged to fit with the right songs.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brief Updates for the ADHD Generation.

So the script is finally coming along... I'm working on the first draft. I'm hoping this draft will be near completion by next week. I'd like to start shooting this by November or early December. I have the lead role cast but there's a female role that I'm going to be holding auditions for in weeks to come.

My buddy is writing a script that I'm going to direct. It's written by Ryan Jameson. We're getting together this weekend to go over the first draft. I'll fill all three of you guys who read this about the storyline.

I've never directed a film I haven't written before, so I'm looking forward to this.

Until next time kids.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Screenplay Writing For The Student Filmmaker: The Home Edition

So my outline is looking good. It all fell into place randomly last night. I'm starting the first draft currently. I'm a little worried about the ending but I'm figuring that once I'm there the story may have taken new turns I haven't thought about before.

As I go on writing scripts I find myself changing my own personal styles a lot. Ten years ago I was adding camera angles to my scripts. Now I wouldn't think twice about it.

My theories have changed tremendously through experiences and suggestions from professors.

I'm not talking about stories or ideas on this. I'm talking about a formula for writing scripts itself.

First off: keeping it simple.

Here's an example from one of my scripts...
You're not going to want to over write your action paragraphs. Mine may not seem like a lot, but I could have made them simpler. Looking back, I don't mind the brief description of the location. But I should have stopped at "Adam is sitting on a grassy knoll." Then proceeded to say that the girl is walking up. There's no reason to bring up his wardrobe or the surroundings at that point. If he was playing Game Boy then I'd say "Adam is sitting on a grassy knoll playing Game Boy."

I have a buddy who wrote half a page purely on a guy pulling a cigarette out of his bag and lighting it... It's unnecessary!! You want to get straight to the point. Each page is a minute of screen time; are you really going to waste thirty seconds on this guy taking out a cigarette?

You're writing a script, not a novel!

Putting the character's emotion in the actions, in my eyes, isn't okay either. The action paragraphs are just for what you see on the screen. How do you see he's struck with disappointment? That's internal of Adam. That's for the director and actor to talk about.

The next place I went wrong on this is the parenthetical. I don't know what I was thinking... But I did it. You shouldn't put direction there. This is internal. You gotta give some room for the actors and directors to breathe.

Another thing that I've begun to stop doing... Adding action between lines of dialogue. Unless it's incredibly important and further moves the story line, then I won't do it.

If between two lines in the script it says for the character to sit down and take a drink then the actor is going to be focusing on sitting and drinking rather than deliver the lines naturally.

These are just my suggestions to you. I felt what I was doing was alright because I was directing the film. Now I keep everything toned down and I make all my notes handwritten all over the pages.

Simplicity is your friend.

See you next time guys.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Post #2: The Revenge

This is the first semester in a few years I haven't directed a short. I don't like this break.

I'm trying to develop a long-term project along side my next short so I can keep shooting while I'm writing my big shorts... Even though it's 'quality over quantity;' I'm happiest behind the camera. So with that in mind I'm figuring out how to get the best of both worlds.

My next one is character based versus a lot of my previous ones were primarily situational based. Even though it's looking like I'm keeping the story structure that of my usual situational but I'm creating a different layer for myself in which is this character.

Right now I'm at the point where plot points are flying at me at different times... This is the longest part of making a movie for me: writing the script. My last script came as random vague scene concepts. It got to the point where the story was completely mapped out in detail and all I needed to do was write dialogue.

It's about getting the character from point A to point B without it seeming boring and giving substance to the character. I want the audience to have an emotion for the character whether they love them or hate them.

It becomes a balancing act, so to speak. You've got to create a diverse ensemble that makes it seem like they all belong together, as well as giving them their own entitlement on screen so they all don't run together.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My first blog post in ten easy steps.

I'm Michael. I've never blogged on a blog before. How do the first posts usually go? Just an introduction of myself?

I'm twenty-one, I'm a film major. I go to CSUN in Southern California.

So I guess what I'm going to be 'blogging' about on here is my movies. I'm going to start documenting all the steps involved. I'll fill you, the viewer, in on the status of each step... This will be a nice place to vent. I'll probably talk about other things as well... But I'll cut the boring parts of my life out out.

For this first post I'm just going to tell you about what happened to me last night... So my favorite band, Dillinger Four, finally has a show in Southern California. I'm there with my girlfriend Katie and my buddy Carlo. We show up and Erik (guitarist/vocals of Dillinger Four) is out front smoking. He was totally cool. We went inside to watch The Arrivals. When that ended we went back outside. Erik was there again, so, I started talking to him about random things and told him that D4 was my favorite band. I asked him what he thought about Green Day blatantly ripping off their song 'doublewhiskeycokenoice' which Green Day made it a chart topping, Grammy winning success known as 'American Idiot.' I got some answers to things I've been wondering about for a while now...

So Carlo and I went back in... Long story short we got kicked out of the venue before D4 even performed. The bassist/vocalist of the band was outside at this point. I made sure to approach him even though I was nervous (I don't know what it is but I get nervous in fanboy-mode). Paddy was so fucking cool. I ended up hanging out with him for a bit before Carlo and Katie came up. Paddy from D4 gave me relationship advice and introduced me to Suzy from the Soviettes and his other buddies who came around. He said he could have gotten me back in but not all three of us. That didn't stop him from trying though. We ended up just hanging out with him and talking and goofing around... I asked for a picture with him and he said "only if we can go up this escalator with my pants down." So we're riding up the escalator and he's pulling down his pants revealing his butt... I guess a security guard saw him.

I accidentally got Paddy kicked out of his own show.

I ended up getting back in. I just took my glasses off and put on a different shirt. Paddy had to do the same.

So that was my Thursday night.

See you next time guys!!