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Recording at Home

Incident in New Baghdad has been nominated for an Oscar this year in the Best Documentary Short Feature category. The film was scored by Emile D. Menasche, author of The Desktop Studio, Your Sound Onstageand Home Studio Clinic. He recorded the soundtrack to Incident in New Baghdad in his home studio using his MacBook Pro.

Menasche says, “I worked closely with producer/director James Spione on the soundtrack. It was a real collaboration. We recorded the soundtrack in my home studio using a combination of Ableton Live and Logic Pro. Because the story involves an American soldier in Iraq, the music reflected both cultures. We didn’t have indigenous instruments, so I had to adapt classical flute and guitar to sound more Middle Eastern. Returning worked well with the guitar, a technique I discovered working on a previous documentary, God’s Open Hand, which covered the Afghan elections a few years ago.

“We also used some electronic sounds to underscore some of the battle scenes. The trick was not to get the music to sound too dramatic. The director didn’t want it to sound either heroic or like it was out of a horror/suspense film.
“A lot of the final cues came from improvised flute phrases, played by my daughter Rebecca. I had her play both melodic parts and beds, then used Live to change their pitch and texture to create a blend between natural and digital sounds.”
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To view the trailer for the film, visit: http://incidentinnewbaghdad.com
To listen to an interview with Emile about the film and his books, listen to On Screen & Beyond.
 The L Magazine says “If James Spione’s phenomenal Incident in New Baghdad doesn’t win, something is very wrong.”
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For more information about Emile’s books, visit HalLeonardBooks.com

The Importance of Good Communication and Guidelines in Conducting a Successful Shoot

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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)

A key aspect of the hands-on detailed planning essential for a successful shoot is engaging in extensive communication.  Commonly, such communication is by e-mail with everyone once they become part of the team, as well as initial phone calls to invite actors and crew members to join the team.  Then, make occasional follow-up calls to make sure people are still on board.

I use the emails to let people know about the script, scene breakdowns, cast and crew credits, provide directions to the location, and let them know what time to show up, among other details of the production that come up in the week or two before the shoot.  Then, by choice, since I am not the director and don’t handle the equipment, apart from providing a boom mike and boom when needed, I turn the day of the shoot over to the director, who is normally the DP, who operates the camera.  This turnover of leadership empowers the director/DP to take charge, and normally the director guides the actors, though I am on the set to make suggestions about writing, locations, and the way the actors are performing in the film.

After the filming is completed, I again take on this hands-on, detailed-oriented approach in working with the editor.  After I give the editor general guidelines on what to do, including providing the editor with the shooting script (since scenes are commonly shot out of order) and the script in sequence , I review the rough cut, make suggestions, see another cut, and if necessary make further suggestions until the film is completed.

This approach has worked very well, as indicated by the fact that many directors/DPs, as well as other crew members and actors want to work with me again, making it easier to put together future shoots.  Also, this approach has resulted in getting good actors and crew members to work with as volunteers, and it has also meant that everyone who agrees to participate shows up.

While many producers and directors may still prefer a more laid-back, let it happen, spontaneous style and that approach may work for many, I recommend this more hands-on detailed approach to produce a more consistent, high quality production – and commonly, cast and crew members will appreciate you for this, since you will bring more certainly and sureness to all phases of the production.

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.