Blog Archives

Dealing with Change At All Phases of Production

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Guest Blogger:
Gini Graham Scott, author of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film

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The nature of filming is that it involves frequent changes at all stages of the production, and you  and others in various roles need to be ready to respond accordingly to successfully make your film. Normally, making these necessary changes is successful, because those making films in whatever capacity know to be flexible and responsive to changes in a project, or they won’t perform effectively or be invited to continue to participate in such shoots.

For example, in writing the script, I will typically ask for feedback at script readings and make changes if this seems warranted.  In doing auditions with the actors, I may make changes in the script to incorporate their lines, and if it is not possible to cast an actor for a particular role, I may make changes in the script to eliminate that role or rewrite it for another actor.  In looking for crew members, I will make changes in what people will do depending on who is available; and if someone is ill or can’t come on the day of a shoot, I will make changes that day in who does what and I may take on the role of missing crew members.

There may be other changes when it is difficult to get a particular item for a prop; for example the script may be changed or one prop may be substituted for another.  Then, too, there can be changes when there are problems during the shoot, such as the sun moving so the lighting changes; a battery running down, so the number of scenes and takes has to be reduced; or a microphone placed in the wrong direction, so not all the sound is well-recorded, resulting in making changes in the editing process to use only the good footage that was actually shot.

In short, everyone has to adapt quickly when changes are necessary during pre-production and on the day of the shoot to have a successful shoot. And normally these changes are successful, and the finished film reflect the changes that have been made during all phases of pre-production, production, and post-production.

The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
 is a comprehensive step-by-step overview of how to complete and promote a low-budget short film. It begins with how to write a short script, keeping in mind the goal of shooting it in one or at most two days.

It discusses how to finalize your script by getting feedback and then preparing it for production through doing a scene breakdown and possibly a storyboard. It describes how to direct the film yourself or work with a director, audition the actors and cast the short, plan for and participate in the shoot, and work with an editor to finish your film. Finally, it discusses how to get your film shown, including entering it in festivals, and concludes with an extensive list of resources and references, including books, articles, script and storyboard software, conferences, expos, festivals, and more. Available for purchase from Limelight Editions or booksellers nationwide.

Making a Personal Commitment to Your Film

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Guest Blogger: Gini Graham Scott, author of Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low Budget Short Film.

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Just about any short film takes at least several weeks of commitment if not longer to put all the pieces together, except for those very short more spontaneous shoots which some people put together in one day.  But more usually, you can figure on one to three weeks for pre-production, including casting and organizing props and locations, a day for the shoot, and two to four weeks for editing.

So it’s important to keep up that spirit of personal commitment for yourself and convey that to others to keep excitement high about making and completing – and later on promoting – the film.  This kind of commitment will also help to keep you enthusiastic and motivated despite the problems and challenges you may encounter along the way, from rewrites of the script to breakdowns in equipment to cast and crew members not showing up to problems in transferring film to the editor, because it happens to come from an old camera, so you have to take it to a specialty house to get it turned into a format the editor’s computer will recognize.  You need that commitment to keep going and see the film completed in spite of such glitches that seem to be in the nature of making almost any film.

I can also help you keep that spirit of commitment and follow-through by reminding yourself from time to time why you are doing this.  Is it just for fun, or do you hope that these short films will lead to a professional career in the film industry?

For example, I am personally involved in the success of all the shoots I set up, which result in an organization that comes into its brief existence, once people agree to participate as cast or crew.  Then, it continues for the day of the shoot and through e-mail and phone calls until the film is completed and posted on YouTube and other sites.  I am very committed, since I am producing scripts I have written and know that it is unlikely that any of these scripts would be turned into films unless I took the lead in getting them produced myself, rather than trying to find a producer or director to be equally inspired to produce the script – especially since there is normally no money in creating shorts, aside from creating trailers that might be used to get funding to produce a full-length feature.  Then, I am involved through the editing process or in offering suggestions to the DP/Director/Editor to see that my vision is realized.  Another key reason I am so personally involved is that I want to produce a professional-looking product which will eventually result in clients hiring me to write and produce films for them and in my determining what actors and crew members I might like to work with in the future on these paid shoots.

Similarly, think of your own reasons for doing this, which will help guide you in deciding what you want to write, produce, or direct in light of your goals for your role in the industry.

Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low Budget Short Film
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
 is a comprehensive step-by-step overview of how to complete and promote a low-budget short film. It begins with how to write a short script, keeping in mind the goal of shooting it in one or at most two days.

It discusses how to finalize your script by getting feedback and then preparing it for production through doing a scene breakdown and possibly a storyboard. It describes how to direct the film yourself or work with a director, audition the actors and cast the short, plan for and participate in the shoot, and work with an editor to finish your film. Finally, it discusses how to get your film shown, including entering it in festivals, and concludes with an extensive list of resources and references, including books, articles, script and storyboard software, conferences, expos, festivals, and more. Available for purchase here.

Creating a Mission Statement to Guide Your Filming

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Guest Blogger: Gini Graham Scott, author of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film (Limelight Editions)

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Just as corporations create mission statements to guide their organizations to success and individuals create their own personal mission statements to guide them in making career and other choices in their life, so you might create a mission statement to guide you as you write, produce, or direct your own low-budget short-films.

To this end, ask yourself what types of films you want to make and why.  For example, when I went through this exercise, I determined that my mission in making low-budget short films through Changemakers Productions is to complete a high-quality film through a one-day shoot with a low-budget (typically about $100-300).  Accordingly, everything I do and everything done by the cast and crew I recruit is directed towards completing this mission.

For example, all the work I do to prepare for the shoot is designed to result in a successfully completed short film — which is the mission of the organization, and the actors and crew members I recruit to participate are similarly committed and willing to work as volunteers, because they can use these films for their own portfolios to get other work; and they also enjoy participating in these one-day shoots.

So what is your own mission statement.  Keep it short and to the point – typically it should be only about 5-10 words, expressing the essence of what you hope to do as a filmmaker.  Some key questions to ask in formulating your statement include these:

–       What types of films are you making?
–       Why are you making such films? What is your goal or your purpose?
–       Who is the main audience for your work?
–       What else is important to you about what you are doing?
–       What are the main benefits of your films to others?

Then, weave your answers into this single statement of your mission.  As necessary, cut down your statement, so it is no longer than 15-20 words, and preferably 7-10 words – something you might put into a short tag line of up to 72 characters.

Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
 is a comprehensive step-by-step overview of how to complete and promote a low-budget short film. It begins with how to write a short script, keeping in mind the goal of shooting it in one or at most two days.

It discusses how to finalize your script by getting feedback and then preparing it for production through doing a scene breakdown and possibly a storyboard. It describes how to direct the film yourself or work with a director, audition the actors and cast the short, plan for and participate in the shoot, and work with an editor to finish your film. Finally, it discusses how to get your film shown, including entering it in festivals, and concludes with an extensive list of resources and references, including books, articles, script and storyboard software, conferences, expos, festivals, and more. Available for purchase here.

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Developing a Hands-On Detail-Oriented Leadership Style for a Successful Shoot

By Gini Graham Scott

Different producers and directors have different leadership styles in organizing a film shoot.  It is helpful to look at your own style and notice what works or doesn’t for you.  Generally, if you want to have a smooth-running, well-organized and well-cast shoot which results in a high-quality short film it is better to develop a more hands-on detailed leadership style.  When you have a more leave-it-to chance, let’s just go out and shoot type of approach you have more of a risk of things going wrong, such as people not showing up or showing up late, not having the equipment you ideally want for your film on hand, and having actors who don’t know what they are doing.

 I have found a hands-on detail-oriented style works well based on about three dozen one-day low-budget short film shoots which I organized and produced to film short scripts which I have written.  To this end, the production involved several phases, including:

– preparing the script for production by determining the number of shooting locations, scenes, and approximate times for the different scenes;
– recruiting, auditioning, and casting actors;
– recruiting and coordinating the crew;
– making sure that everyone shows up for the shoot;
– obtaining the necessary equipment and props;
– working with the director/director of photography on the day of the shoot to make sure things go smoothly.

Then, on the day of the shoot, the producer might take on these roles as well:
–       making everyone feel comfortable,
–       advising actors about their scenes,
–       getting release forms,
–       making arrangements to slate the scenes and takes by a P.A. or doing it yourself,
–       providing everyone with lunch,
–       taking still photos on the set
–       working with the editor to edit the film

In short, there are many different tasks to be performed for a successful shoot, so it is helpful to be very organized to keep the various elements of the production together from the pre-production phase, which involves doing everything before the actual shoot and during the production.  Then, unless the director/DP is going to edit the film and wants to be left alone to do this, with you only providing some suggestions and feedback, it is good to continue this hands-on, detail oriented style in working with the editor, and if you do your own editing, being very detailed editor comes with the territory.

Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low Budget Short Film
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film is a comprehensive step-by-step overview of how to complete and promote a low-budget short film. It begins with how to write a short script, keeping in mind the goal of shooting it in one or at most two days.

It discusses how to finalize your script by getting feedback and then preparing it for production through doing a scene breakdown and possibly a storyboard. It describes how to direct the film yourself or work with a director, audition the actors and cast the short, plan for and participate in the shoot, and work with an editor to finish your film. Finally, it discusses how to get your film shown, including entering it in festivals, and concludes with an extensive list of resources and references, including books, articles, script and storyboard software, conferences, expos, festivals, and more. Available for purchase here.