Category Archives: Filmmaking Tips

Making A Film Starring Children: Overcoming The Difficulties

There’s that old saying: ‘Never work with children’. In some ways it’s completely true. Working with children and animals adds an extra set of rules, pressures and restraints. It adds extra stress, extra responsibility and extra worry but can also be rewarding in many ways.

I used to work in a school and made lots of films with the children so understand the problems working with kids. We’ve also had child actors in a number of our films such as ‘Yesterday‘, ‘The Field‘ and more recently ‘Wonderful’. We also run filmmaking workshops with primary school children around Hull so I’ve worked with lots of kids and hopefully my experience may help others working on a film project with them!

Of course, all children are different, but more often than not all kids will respond to the following:

FILL ‘EM WITH TREATS

Sweets

Kids love sweets and chocolate and junk food. Mum and dad may not approve but, if you want to keep a kid happy, fill them full of sugar and junk! It makes them like you, knowing that you want to give them stuff to eat, and is also great as a bribing tool. “Let’s do one more take then you can have some sweets!” Just beware of the sugar rush and the inevitable comedown!

The Field, Berry Productions, Hull, Indie Film

When we filmed ‘The Field’, we shot a scene in an actual sweet shop. This was the best location possible as I basically bribed the kids – I told them I’d buy them all a bunch of sweets at the end of the shoot, if they knuckled down and got the job done!

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO

Chance Monahan, Wonderful, Berry Productions, Hull
Working on a film set can be long and somewhat boring if you’re an actor. Lots of waiting around with nothing to do until it’s time for a take. Kids get bored easily and will soon get distracted, wander off or start messing around. The easiest thing to do to relieve them of boredom is take some books/comics for them to read and games for them to play. Ipads and kindles, even games on phones, will keep kids distracted for hours. Again can be used as bribing tools as well! We also take along an extra camera so they can film stuff for themselves. Sometimes the footage they shoot is great for the extra features!

The Field, Berry Productions, Indie Film, Hull

When making ‘The Field’ we had a still photographer with us who took the kids away whilst we were setting up and did some great, fun photoshoots with them!

LONG HOURS = TEARS

Keeping a shoot as short as possible is a must. We all get tired after a long days shoot, but adults (at least most adults) have the ability to plough through their tiredness and move on. Kids can find it hard and, especially with younger children, long hours can get to them. We’ve experienced tears and tantrums towards the end of the day so do try and keep your shoots as short as possible.

KIDS LIKE TO TALK

Lots. When we were making ‘The Field’ it was virtually impossibly to get a moments silence. It makes it extremely stressful for the crew to get on with their job and keep focussed on their task in hand when someone is jibber-jabbering constantly in your ear. The trick is not to lose patience with them. It might be a good idea to have someone on set that’s sole role is to keep the kids entertained. Someone they can talk to and not disturb.

KEEP IT FUN

The Field, Berry Productions, Jenko, Hull

Kids like to have fun. They like to enjoy themselves. Don’t we all? Making a film is essentially work – and hard work at that. Keeping it fun is vitally important, especially when children are involved. If the kids think of it as working, with bossy adults telling them what to do, they’ll stop wanting to get involved making it harder for everyone. If its fun, everyone’s enjoying themselves and having a good time, then the children will give you a good performance and keep being excited to come back and film the rest of the scenes.

There are many brilliant child actors out there and, if you’re willing to put in the extra effort it takes to work with them, can be a great asset to your film. Children are the main stars of our film ‘The Field’ and it is their innocence, unique take on the world and sense of adventure that make the film work really well!

If you’re working with kids then good luck, keep calm and work with them to make something great! I look forward to seeing what you make!

Advertisements

My Filmmaking Laws…

Wonderful, Berry Productions

For the last eleven years we, at Berry Productions, have been making films of various subjects, lengths and success. Starting out with short, slapstick, silent comedies starring just ourselves, to our most recent film ‘Wonderful’, which has professional actors, lighting, sound, costume, make-up and all the fancy bells and whistles that come it. 

Although our films and our skills have progressed, some things always remain the same. I like to think of it as my own Filmmaking Laws. Like the laws of physics, they cannot be changed. Some things are just meant to be.

So here they are. My Filmmaking Laws (as they currently stand – for new laws are added all of the time!)

If it can go wrong, it will go wrong!

broken-cameraPrepare for the worst… but hope for the best! No matter how much planning you do beforehand, no matter how many people with the highest possible skills you have on-board, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. These are things that are usually beyond your control.

Someone is sick so can’t make it. A vital piece of equipment will suddenly stop working. That location that you had until midnight, is suddenly closing at eight. It pisses it down with rain.

You cannot change any of these things. If they happen, they happen. You need to find a way to work around it and do the best you can. Problems occur. It’s how you deal with them that make you a genius!

There’s no I in Team.

Wonderful, cast and crew, Berry ProductionsAs a film director, ultimately it is my job to visualise the film and make it work. However, without the talented bastards around me, my films would never be as good as they are.

It’s a group effort.

Everyone has great ideas to bring to the table. Be it the sound person having ideas for interesting shots, or an actor expressing thoughts about how their character should move or react. You might not agree with them, and it might not work for what you want in the film, but you still have to take their ideas into consideration, be happy that they had the idea, and let them know nicely why it wouldn’t work. On the other hand their idea might blow your mind and you snap it up in an instant.

And remember that no one on set is better than anyone else. This should be the same in all lines of work. Equality and respect. Peace and love guys. Peace and love.

That Damned First Shot!

One thing we’ve noticed on every film set – the first shot of the day takes the longest to set up! Of course it does. Your actors are warming up, you’re trying to get the right camera angles and light the location. Be prepared for this. It eats up time that you may not have, but you can’t rush it. Once you have that perfect first shot, the rest start to come a little easier. But not too easy… that would be far too… well… easy!

Food + Drink = Happiness.

shatnereatingMOS_468x379Film shoots are long and can often be quite boring as there can be a lot of waiting around. There’s nothing that can be done to speed up those long days, but there are ways to make them a bit more bearable. Food and drink are perfect distractions!

Tea, coffee, biscuits, crisps, fizzy pop… anything that isn’t really that good for you will be your best friends on a film set. Breaks are needed, people need to refuel, everyone works better on a full stomach. Don’t forget dinner and lunches as well. Even if it’s just a few sandwiches, people will appreciate it and therefore go the extra mile to help you out.

People are very interested in what you’re doing.

I’m not talking friends. Usually friends couldn’t give two blue monkeys that you’re making another film and shouting about it on Facebook. It’s strangers who will be intrigued.

Most people never come across a film being made, so be ready to answer people’s curiosities when they stumble upon you in the middle of the woods with a group of actors wearing robot costumes.

Your edit will always go over your desired film time.

Wonderful, editing, berry productionsMaking a ten minute short? Your first edit will be a twenty minute masterpiece. We always go by the general rule of one page of script = one minute of film. However, when you start adding action into the scenes, this always changes.

The big question is, do you allow your film to be as long as it tells you it is, or do you tell it how long it has to be. It is very tricky to cut things out of your film, sacrificing that brilliant shot, or that section of oscar-worthy dialogue. But sometimes it is necessary. Look back at your scenes. Anything that isn’t 100% vital to the story you are telling? Maybe it’s time to get rid.

We had this problem when we allowed our 25 minute horror film ‘The Field’ run over to 45 mins. As great as it turned out, we had trouble with many film festivals as it was too long for their scheduling.

rejection-copyBe prepared for rejection.

You’ve made your film. It is the best thing you have ever seen. Your mum loves it. Yet no bugger is accepting it in any festivals. “Why?” you scream at the heavens, “whyyyy?!?”

Unless you have made something so brilliant that people cannot possible turn it away, or you have jedi mind control, your film will get rejected by someone. It might be that the film doesn’t fit into the festivals criteria that year, or that there is a lot of competition. Or it might just be shit.

No matter what the reason, try not to let it get to you. Shrug it off and move on. Try the next festival and the one after that. If no one wants it, go and make another film and make it even better than the last. Just don’t let it put you off altogether. At least your mum loves it.

Someone will make the ‘porno’ joke.

tumblr_mwxa9iPat71sa6l1eo6_500Most filmmakers have been here.

What is it you do?”

Oh I make films.”

Cue predictable blue movie joke. Grin, maybe even chuckle, move on.

I have an auntie who makes the joke every single time she sees me. Admittedly, she’s a bit weird, but she isn’t the only person to ever say that to me. These days I just respond with, “Yes… and I’m looking for actors. Fancy it?”

Needless to say, my auntie probably finds me a bit weird too…

.

So there you are, just some of my filmmaking laws! Of course there are many more. Any you can think of, pop them in the comments and they too could become part of my law!


Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions

@josephmonahan

Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.

So You Want To Be A Writer?

One great thing about the internet is that it’s a great place to look to for information, for advice and tips on how to do things. I’m a writer and I’d like to share my thoughts on that book we are all desperate to write. I’m no expert and I still only class myself as a beginner so feel free to ignore everything I say! I have my first book, Intergalactic Terrorist, published with Amazon to download. It’s not the first book I’ve written, but the first I’ve published. I’m currently writing a new book – at least I am when I can find the time! I also write screenplays that I develop through Berry Productions, my indie film company so a lot of what I’m about to say will work for writing for film/tv/theatre as well! I’ve had highs and lows. I’ve had confidence boosters and knock-backs. So if you’re thinking about writing a novel – here’s what I believe you must break through in order for it to be a success.

Is your story actually any good?

Books2They say everyone believes they have one good book in them that they are just dying to get out – one great story that needs to be told. This could be true. It may be true also that that one great story actually isn’t as great as you think it is. Now I’m not trying to tell anyone that their story they need to tell is going to be terrible. I am saying that people are very judgemental and in today’s society we only demand the best. A lot of people’s stories will fall short of being the best and end up judged by the masses.

I have story ideas all of the time. Nearly every day I come up with a new adventure that I want to create either in novel form or as a film. Most of these I choose never to pursue because I know, as much as I enjoy coming up with the ideas and creating the characters and settings, that the story is just not good enough to be unleashed on an audience and I know it never will be. Yes, I’m one of these judgemental people. I, like we all do, judge other people’s work all of the time but the person’s work I judge the most is my own. I feel I have the self critique to tell if an idea, with a little tweaking (not twerking – that’s whole different ballgame), could work, or if it would fall flat and should never be heard of again.

So step one in telling that brilliant story you have in you, is judging yourself. Is it is honestly a good enough story that anyone will want to read?

Do you know how to write a book?

Books1Excellent! You’ve made it past initial doubts. You have decided that your story is the best story ever told and that everyone needs and will want to read what you have to write. The next hurdle we face is actually writing the bloody thing. So everyone has at least one great book in them? But can everyone actually write a novel? Writing takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Yes, all you’re doing is sitting by your computer all day tapping on your keys – but that in itself is tiring. First, how do you have the time to write? I don’t. I work as a video producer, have family and friend commitments, and I’m also an independent filmmaker. I don’t have the time to write! But I find the time. I’ll develop super powers and fly around the earth backwards so fast that I turn back time if I have to in order to write. What I’m trying to say is that it’s time consuming.

When was the last time you wrote a story? Are you always writing ideas down or was it at school? Do you remember how to structure plot and character and how to build a storyline up to those ever important, edge of your seat moments? Did you ever know how to? It’s hard, especially if you’re not used to doing it. Luckily in this age of communication there are hundreds of websites and blogs for tips and advice. Pop it into Google and let someone help you with ways to do it. Of course, other people’s ideas won’t work for everyone. But you need to find a way of writing that suits you best, a way that creativity can flow whilst hitting all of those important grammatical and structural niches that those judgementalists will demand!

What do you do with it when it’s complete?

Books3Months have gone by. Years maybe. Your story was so great you couldn’t let it die. You’ve neglected your job, family and friends and you’ve written the damn thing and you’ve followed all the advice and it is a brilliant piece of art! Now what? Everyone’s different of course but the obvious thing to do would be to read it. Go back to the beginning and read the full thing (I know you were reading it as you went along but you need to read it as a whole entity). I guarantee there will be parts you want to change. Chapter 12 that you wrote at 3am that was your best bit of writing is probably a bit of mess because you were so tired you’re fingers hit the keys on autopilot.

So you’ve re-read and it rocks! Now close the computer and go and live your life. A week, maybe two later, reopen your book and read it again. That’s right, fully. With that little break to clear your head you will find a whole load more things you need to change. It could be anything from stilted dialogue to confusing sentences. And spelling mistakes. There will be many! Then after you’ve read it, get someone else to read it. Someone that is a reader and knows what makes a good story – but someone who can be totally honest with you and tell you, if it’s shit, that it’s shit. Then someone else needs to read it. Someone who is good at proof reading. Maybe someone who is good at proof reading that you know won’t like your tale of robots and alien sex slaves because all they read are period dramas. These people are good because they’re not judging the story – they already know it’s not for them. They’ll concentrate on the grammar and spellings.

When it’s been read and re-read and read again by yourself and multiple people (maybe even pay for a professional to read it – always helps!)  you want the world to read it right? Your options are traditional publishing – sending it to agents and publishers, expect rejection after rejection, wait years and years and hopefully someone will actually read it and think it can make them some money and hey presto – or self-publish it on a site such as Amazon – where you can publish your book for people to download within a couple of hours, but at the risk that your book, even after all the re-reading you did, is still shit and everyone that downloads it will tell you. I’m not going to tell you which you should do – that’s for you to decide. Neither is right, neither is wrong.

Taadaa! You’ve done it! Well done! Now, I know I sound quite pessimistic, and I’m not I promise, but it isn’t easy to write a book and a lot of people think it might be.  There are far too many self-published authors at the moment who’s books are simply not good enough. I’m not saying mine are any better, that’s for all your judgers out there! But if you’ve got the commitment to get that story written and get that book published then go for it. And most importantly, keep writing. Each book you write should be better than the last – you never know, you might have the next best seller in you!

Good luck and I look forward to reading your book!

——————————————-

Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions

@josephmonahan

Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.

 

Writing the dreaded Film Treatment…

FilmmakersWe’ve just written our first full application package for funding from iFeatures, who are in conjunction with Creative England, BFI, BBC Films and National Lottery. They have a great scheme where they take a filmmaking group (writer, director and producer) who are ready to make their first feature film and help them with training and ultimately a £350,000 budget.
Only three teams will get that money though so the competition will be really stiff! To filter out the wannabies from the big boys, they have made an application process that is pretty damn hard. They are looking for:
– A ten page treatment for your proposed film
– 500 word statements from each team member and a group statement
– Examples of previous work
– Biographies for each team member

So there’s a lot to do. We only had a month to do it as well, so the pressure was on. We’ve finally completed and submitted with much relief. So I thought I’d tell you about our writing process and what we did to make our application the best it can be. After all, if you are planning on applying for funding, these are the types of things that will be required and be great skills to have. We’re no experts though, so feel free to ignore everything I’m about to say!

TREATMENT
Writing HelpA treatment is the full story of your film from the very beginning to the very end. The reader must know every major plot point and all of the character development throughout the film. No cliffhanger endings to make the reader want to know what happens at the end. They want to know you can deliver a full story from start to finish.

Not only does the reader need to know what happens in the film, but they also need to be able to visualise the film when they read it. So you need to describe the settings, and the situations in the scenes. If something stands out about specific characters you need to tell it.

Also the way it is written needs to fit with the genre of film you hope to make. If you’re planning a horror then your treatment needs to be tense, unnerving and scary. If it’s a comedy then you want to try and make people laugh.
It’s a difficult task as you’ll only have so many words/pages to use, as specified by whoever you’ll be sending your treatment to. Therefore every sentence has to be planned carefully. Don’t rush through it, but don’t drag it out too much either. Once you’ve got the pacing needed to tell the story, it needs to flow naturally and be easy for the reader to follow.

One of the things that is easy to slip into is the ‘He did this’ and ‘She did that’ scenario. No one wants to read a list of what Bob did or said as this will quickly bore a reader to death. The key is to find clever ways of telling your reader what Bob did. And of course beware of too many spelling or grammatical mistakes. One or two will be passed unnoticed but too many will make you seem amateurish.

Ultimately, what will sell your treatment more than anything else is a great story. If you still feel like your story could be better then you are not ready to send it anywhere!

If you can master your treatment then you should be unstoppable. Of course even the perfect treatment doesn’t guarantee success. Be sure you have researched into who you are sending it to first. Check that they are interested in the type of film you are sending them or don’t already have anything too similar in their back catalogue. Also a lot of luck is involved. Luck that it gets to the right person at the right time. Give it your best shot though – the worst that can happen is they say no!

STATEMENTS
You will usually have to submit statement’s from at least the writer, director and producer of your film (if you have them on-board). This will require you to write a piece (you’ll be advised how many words) about yourself, what you can bring to the project and how you will work alongside your team members.

WriterIf you’re the writer then obviously your written statement has to be well written. Really well written. This is your chance to prove how clever you can be with words and sentence structure and grammar. Mistakes here will cost you. You also need to find a way to prove to the readers how you are connected with the story. What made you think of it? Why do you need to tell it? What were your inspirations? Also a bit on how you work as a writer would be helpful. They need to have confidence that, not only are you good at what you do, but you can also get the job done and not abandon it halfway through. Show that you’re a team player too and that the input, advice and critique of others is important to your writing.

DirectorFor the director, you need to show why you want to take this film on board. Ultimately this is going to be your vision so how are you going to make that happen. How can you use your skills and your life knowledge to bring this to the screen? Why do you feel compelled to? An understanding of the story, the characters and the themes and messages you are trying to tell is a must. You need to show how passionate you are about this film and that you will sell your own Grandmother to get it made! They also need to know that you are good at what you do. Links to previous work is a good idea.

Producers have to be just as committed to this project as the writer and director. It is becoming encouraged more and more for the producers to understand the way films are made and to have some creative input, so show what you know about film. What will your background bring to the project? You also need to convince the reader that you are the perfect person to sort out the budget, organise locations, actors, equipment that might be needed. You are the man/woman to go to when stuff needs to get done. Prove it.

Now I’d never say to lie on these things, but exaggerating or embellishing on the truth slightly is something that all of your competitors are going to be doing so you need to do it too. As long as, if asked, you can back it up. Don’t tell them you’ve written a best-selling novel if it’s obviously a lie.

Most importantly, have fun with it. At the end of the day, most people watch a film for entertainment. This is your baby, your story, your film. If you cannot be entertained by it then how will anyone else?

Good luck with submitting your ideas to the world! I look forward to watching your film!
———————————-
Written by Joseph Monahan – Writer/director at Berry Productions – @josephmonahan

A-Z of Filmmaking (part 2)

This post was written by Joseph Monahan at http://josephmonahan.wordpress.com

So you’ve checked out part 1 of my A-Z of filmmaking – here’s part two! Hopefully this blog and the links I’ve provided will help you in your filmmaking futures!

A-Z

N

Night Conversion! Better known as day to night conversion, using this effect can save you dragging everyone out in the dead of night to get those dark night time shots. The idea seems simple, shoot your fotage during the day then use an effects programme, such as After Effects, to transform it into night. Of course it’s not as simple as it sounds.

We’ve used the day to night technique in our latest short film ‘The Field’ and it’s currently looking pretty cool. Always remember that you need to have it all planned before shooting. For best results you need to capture a washed-out look. An overcast day is perfect. Better still, film it all in shaded areas. Keep away from direct sunlight if possible!

My co-director Callum Smith is better at these types of things than me so go ask him about it. Find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CallumSmith87

Or let Andrew Kramer show you how it’s done in this great tutorial: http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorial/day_to_night_conversion/

O

Oscars! Everyone loves the Oscars don’t they? Don’t they? The most important award ceremony in any filmmaker or actors career, the Academy Awards are that grand event that seem so alien to anyone not involved. I personally love the Oscars. I love that it is a celebration of film. Fair enough it is also a celebration of who is wearing the best dress but you can’t have everything!

But the Oscars are a tradition that has been going since 1929 and will continue a lot longer. Check out Total Films best moments from the awards – http://www.totalfilm.com/features/50-greatest-oscar-moments/shaken-and-stirred

P

Practice! This is a must for your actors and your camera operators. Rehearsals can be put on the back burner. It means another day out of your already busy schedule. But trust me, it is very important. There is nothing worse than getting on set and having to practise everything that could take up a large portion of your time.

The best results for rehearsing with actors is to try and get them in the mind frame of the character. Get them to understand who they are, what they’ve done and then get them to become that character in various situations that are nothing to do with the films story. Get them to improvise a scene set somewhere different, say doing their weekly shop or delivering a large parcel. Then, once they have their character, begin to rehearse the scenes from the film.

As for the camera operators, if you can rehearse on the actual set, get the camera operators to check for shots, distances and movements. Anything that can save you time on the day of the shoot.

Q

Quiet on Set! If you’re a director you need to be in control of everything going on around you, from the actors to the camera operators to the guy at the back of the room picking his nose and texting his wife. But don’t become one of those ‘nightmare’ directors you always hear about. There is a fine line between giving instructions and being bossy. On the same hand you don’t want to be a pushover and let others make the decisions for you.

Raindance have some great tips for directors – http://www.raindance.org/resources/

R

Raindance! If there is one company that has helped me throughout my filmmaking career it is Raindance. Raindance is essentially a film festival. So get your films submitted to them! They also provide film courses so if you’ve got the spare cash get yourself booked into one and see what you can learn.

The main thing for me from Raindance are their online tips and advice. Take a look at their website: http://www.raindance.org/

S

Script/Screenplay! There is nothing more important for any film, no matter what the length, than the script/screenplay. It’s the foundations for your film. Without it, it cannot be made. So how do you write  a great screenplay? This isn’t an easy question to answer. The truth is that some buggers are born with a great ability to write. You’ll hear many times that to be able to write a good script you need to read lots and lots of scripts. Yes, this is great advice for people who aren’t born with this unnatural ability. And if you are one of these people then get on google and find scripts to read – there are plenty out there. If you are one of the lucky ones then get writing!

Remember that when you’re writing you need to create engaging characters. Even if the situation they’re in is ridiculous, like mutant chickens attacking the streets of Bridlington, the characters involved need to be real and feel real.

I’m not a great one for giving writing advice because I write in a very unconventional way. But check out these great writing tips from Raindance who have got it pretty spot on! http://www.raindance.org/category/indie-tips/screenwriting-tips/

T

Television! Most of us have one. It’s that rectangular object that is the focus point of every living room. We arrange our chairs to face it. We position our lamp so it doesn’t shine on it. We complain if there is nothing on it to watch yet still flick through the channels ‘just in case’.

Recently there has been a surge of great television – Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, 24, Lost and Touch to name but a few. Television studios are finally getting the budgets to allow them to improve their content. Which is great news for viewers. It is also a great time for television actors who are being allowed to try something new. It also means it’s a great time for writers and filmmakers as their are more opportunities… if of course you’re one of the lucky ones to get that opportunity!

Check out the scripts to the pilot episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men here!

U

Us! One of the most important things in filmmaking is the ability to work together as a team. Remember there’s no I in team! If you can’t work together with other people then maybe you should get a job that doesn’t involve… well… people. I’m not going to bang on about it. In most jobs you have to work in a team to succeed. Filmmaking is no different.

V

Volume! Get your sound mixing right or go home! There is no excuse for badly mixed sound. And whilst we’re on the subject of sound, capture the best sound you possibly can on location. Get yourself some good recording equipment – or find someone who already has it and get them on board. Plus you need someone good at using it too! And any sound that doesn’t sound great, has wind interference, background traffic etc, needs to be corrected in ADR. Overdubbing your actors voices may seem like a chore, and you’d be right, but it could save your sound!

There is nothing worse than watching a film with bad sound. Too many times have I watched a short film that has recorded sound via the onboard mic. It makes you seem amateur and no one will want your film!

Here’s some tips on how to record sound on location: http://www.lavideofilmmaker.com/location-sound-recording/location-sound-recording-shotgun-microphone-placement.html

W

Webseries! The invention of the internet and the creation of sites such as Vimeo or YouTube has it’s downsides (see Y below). It is also however a great place for ideas and what better idea than a webseries? A place for you to make a series that, unlike television, every episode can be any length you want and whatever content you like. Plus we don’t have to get our series actually onto the television in order for people to see it.

I’m not going to put a link to any as everyone has different tastes. All I can say is get searching for some and you’ll find some little gems. You’ll also find some rotters, just like the rot you go through before you find your one true love. But then that’s life!

X

Xylophone. Only joking – Xtras! I know, I know, extras begins with an ‘e’, but what are you going to do about it? Now at some point in your film you are likely to need extras. We all know what they are – people in the background of your film to convince us that your location is real. Be it nightclub, train station or street. All those friends of yours, and your mum and dad, brothers, sisters, cousins and grannies, at last they come in handy for something! Get them in your film as your extras. Make sure they know however, that a film shoot is a long process and there is a lot of waiting around.

Also make sure they are the right people for the scene. There’s no point have your elderly grandmother sliding down the pole in the nightclub! Another thing to make sure is that they are not wooden on screen. Many people freeze in front of a camera or appear uncomfortable. It is a directors job, or if you’ve a bigger crew, your assistant director’s job to get them acting as naturally as possible.

Y

YouTube! The website that has changed the way we watch video content forever! Love it or hate it, YouTube is hear to stay. Now, the problem with YouTube is that for every brilliant short film you can find on there, you have to sift through a bunch of people falling over, a number of dancing girls in bikinis and a shed load of cats. So how do you stand above the crowd? How do you get your video to those heights of a million views and 50,000 likes? Truth is I have no idea. But the truth also is that if you only want to make content to get hits on YouTube then you need to be taking videos of people falling over, girls in bikinis and cats.

YouTube has created a generation of people who have short concentration spans. It is proved that on average people will only watch a video for a couple of minutes. Then, if the video hasn’t finished, people get bored and move to the next video. It has come to a point where people think they don’t really have the time to watch your half-hour film on YouTube, but will then sit and watch an hours worth of dancing cats.

Stand out, don’t be a sheep – demand great content! Here are some brilliant little short films from YouTube – http://listverse.com/2008/09/06/15-great-short-films/

Z

Zombies! Ok, here’s a major gripe of mine – bad indie zombie films! Yes it’s cheap to make a barrel of fake blood and get your friends dressed up as the undead. The problem with that is, more often that not, they look cheap and that you’ve just got your friends dressed up as the undead – which is fine if you’re just having a bit of fun!

There are plenty of other monsters out there to chose from – or why not even create a brand new monster! If you’re a writer, a storyteller, then you should be able to come up with some sort of new monster idea.

And if you have to do zombies then please try something different! The same with music, make it stand out from the crowd. How can you make your zombie film different to the million other zombie films out there?

The End… unless there are any letters I have missed out?!

If you liked this post, check out Berry Productions on Twitter – https://twitter.com/BerryProduction

A-Z of Filmmaking (part 1)

This post was written by Joseph Monahan at http://josephmonahan.wordpress.com

Someone recently asked me if I could name 26 different things to do with myself, but each thing had to begin with a different letter of the alphabet. ‘Easy,’ I thought. Until I reached X and Z. Xylophones and Zebras don’t really have anything to do with me but I managed to blag them into my life somehow!

This got me thinking of making an A-Z list of things to do with filmmaking. So here is my list, filled with happy links to relevant sites and blogs for you to become a goose and gander at!

Let us begin…

A-Z

A

A-Z ActorsActors! Vital, of course, for every film, but even more so for indie filmmakers with little or no budget. There’s nothing worse than watching a film with bad acting! The truth is, that friend of yours that looks like he could be the Android Pig Farmer from Mars who has come to Earth to enslave the Human race, although potentially could look like an Android Pig Farmer from Mars, probably can’t act like one!

Find local actors, there are plenty of groups out there, many of whom are starting out like yourself and are willing to work for cookies and something to go on their showreel. Please also cast the correct aged person for your roles as well! Too many times, and especially with younger filmmakers, do I see young people cast as characters that in the real world would be a lot older. Bumfluff Mike who you go to college with won’t be right for Colonel Frank Frisk, who is head of the armed forces about to take down that bloody pig farmer!

Check out the actors in our new short film ‘The Field’!

B

Good 8aBerry Productions! What else! Berry Productions is my little indie film company consisting of a talented group of writers, directors, camera and sound operators, actors, editors, musicians and a whole bunch of other clever little skills that people need to make films!

In our little city of Hull in the North of England there really are not the same opportunities to filmmakers to make a name for themselves. Which is why we’ve had to learn that the only way we’re going to make it is to keep on going – keep making films, keep writing scripts. Sure, we’re skint (aren’t we all) and sure we have to battle through the day jobs till the weekend when we can continue our dreams (don’t we all!). But if that’s what you’ve got to do then that’s what you’ve got to do! Christopher Nolan made his first feature film at weekends whilst working full time during the week. It possible, but it’s bloody hard work!

Check out some of our older films here!

C

Camera! Ok, an obvious one this. You can’t make a film without a camera right? Right! And you can’t make a film without the best camera with the most expensive lenses that the world has ever seen right? Wrong! The truth is that you can make a film on ANY type of camera be it your family camcorder, mobile phone camera, webcam… or of course the best camera with the most expensive lenses the world has ever seen!

The trick is to have a good story to tell and then be creative with your shots. Let’s face it – every film starts off with a story and that story, plus your brilliant actors, are the key points to making your film a success. What you shoot it on really depends on what it required for the film. Could you film your action-packed sci-fi epic with exploding buildings and car chases through LA on your iPhone? Probably not. But do you need the best camera in the world to film your heart-felt, realistic view of a woman’s struggle to find the TV remote down the back of the couch? Again, probably not. It’s all about how you use the camera and the interesting shots you can capture from it that will make your film stand out from the crowd.

Find the best cameras to suit your film and your budget. Here’s some good reviews of affordable cameras – http://indieguystudios.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/top-5-cheapest-and-most-affordable-cameras-for-indie-filmmakers/

D

DirectorDirecting! If you’re a director then it’s you vision of the script that is going to bring this film to life and make it great. This also of course means that it’s also your vision that could make this film flop and end up at the bottom of YouTube’s search pile. What is different about you that is going to make your directing style stand out about the crowd? What is different about your style that is going to make your film be a hit? How are you going to get your cast and crew working together to make the magic happen? How are you going to translate that script into the best film that was ever made?

The best advice I can give is to try and not do it alone. The best directors in the world have a lot of people around them, going over and over the story, helping them to create a style for the film and make it work. Of course on the other hand as the saying goes, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. You have to know how to ask for help and who to ask it from depending on what you need.

The way I direct is quite simple – everything, and I mean everything, is planned out beforehand with with my crew so when we get on set the only thing I have to really worry about is directing the actors. And above all else I try to keep it fun and make sure everyone enjoys themselves!

Anyway don’t listen to me, listen to the experts – http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/12-filmmaking-tips-from-sundance-directors.php

E

Edit 2Editing! The anti-social side of filmmaking (aside from screenwriting of course!) The best thing an editor can do is grab the people shooting the film and scream at them ‘DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME!’ Yup, there’s nothing worse than getting the rushes back to edit only to discover that editing them together is going to be like you’re getting dragged through hell by your hair!

Life for an editor is a tough one. Hours staring at a computer screen – but hey, at least in this modern world we all have computers and can get access to great editing software at reasonable prices. We do all of our editing on Adobe Preimier Pro and Adobe After Effects – I suggest you check them out!

The best advise I can give to maximise your time, is to make sure you go through all of the rushes first – I know, it an be boring as hell, but log the best takes and save you scrawling through the clips at another point. And label everything so you don’t get lost! Better still… get someone else to do all that for you!

And when you’ve got a rough edit together, leave it for a day or two and come back to it. There is always something you’ll want to change!

Here are some great tips on editing – http://www.raindance.org/6-tips-for-a-better-edit/

F

200429986-001Film Festivals! I love film festivals, mainly because I love films so much! There is so much talent in the world that it deserves to be seen. Most cities and even a lot of towns now have film communities that hold regular or annual film screenings or festivals. As film lovers (which, let’s face it, if you want to make films then you must be) you should get to see as many as possible – not just the ones your film is showing in!

So why should you enter your film for a festival? They’re usually expensive to enter, you’re not guaranteed to be accepted and even if you are then you might not win or end up with that multi-million film deal right? True. But if you’ve taken the weeks, months, years to make your film then you surely want people to see it? When you’re planning your budget for your film, think in advance and try and save some pennies for the festivals. Yes they can be expensive to enter but really worth it! Just getting to see your film on the big screen is an amazing experience. Plus, many festivals are a great place to network, meet other filmmakers and actors who may wish to work with you in the future.

And you never know… that film deal, or at least distribution deal, could happen. But it won’t if you don’t enter!

Withoutabox is a great website that lets you enter your films details and screener, search for thousands of relevant festivals and submit to them. Check it out, it’s free – https://www.withoutabox.com/

G

NeilGreen Screen! I love green screen – when used correctly! With my film company Berry Productions, we go around primary schools providing filmmaking workshops for the children. The best way to make films films with the children is have them acting in front of a green screen allowing us to put them in whatever location is needed. Sin City style – but not Sin City content… that would probably get us fired!

Green Screen is used in more films than you probably even realise. Unfortunately it is often used very poorly – especially in indie films, and surprisingly in many major Hollywood blockbuster. We’ve all seen it. There is no excuse for a bad use of green!

H

HelicamHeli-Cam! We can’t afford helicopters to shoot aerial footage unless we’re Richard Branson. However there is a new spate of capturing aerial footage using remote control helicopters or Heli-Cams. Using small HD 1080p cameras, such as the GoPro camera, attached with stabilised rigs, some of the footage that has been appearing online is amazing! Great aerial footage at a reasonable price? Sound good to me!

This is the best footage I have seen. Imagine having a shot like this in your film – would really increase your production value! http://nofilmschool.com/2013/03/robert-mcintosh-aerial-gopro-footage/

I

Indie Film! So what is Indie Filmmaking? This is one of those questions that everyone seems to have a different answer to. We all know that making a film with  a zero budget, shooting it on your mums dentists camera and bribing all of your mates with jellybeans to get involved, technically makes you an indie filmmaker. But then ‘The King’s Speech’ istechnically an indie film too and I’m pretty sure Colin Firth didn’t get paid with jellybeans.

Officially an indie film is a film that has been made outside of, and not with the backing of, a major film studio. It’s also about style and content. Look, don’t ask me, I’m as confused as the next person about it all. Check out what Wikipedia – it seems to make sense: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_film

Keep supporting indie film. We all complain about the quality of ‘Hollywood’ films – indie is the future!

J

Job! As in ‘don’t quit your dayjob’. And the saying is correct. You’re not going to become a sensation overnight. Your dreams of fame and fortune, although could possibly happen, aren’t going to happen any time soon. Stick to what you know, work hard to earn money then work hard spending that money on making your film!

I am a strong believer that if you work hard at your dreams then they will eventually come true in at least some form! Keep your day job for now because eventually you’re day job could be doing what you love!

K

tron_1Kramer. Andrew Kramer. Where would we all be without Andrew Kramer and his video copilot tutorials. With today’s computers its so easy to make digital effects for your film. This of course makes it easy to add some very bad digital effects. Don’t fill your film with fancy effects just because you can. Subtlety is the key when it comes to effects.

Check out Andrew Kramer on Video Copilot. He’s got some brilliant tutorials for After Effects on there to help you on your way: http://www.videocopilot.net/

L

Arri-lightsLighting! As indie filmmakers we can’t afford many things. Food being one. Rent often another! One thing we need to spend our cash on though is lighting. Lights are something that is often overlooked but will really make a huge difference to the production of your film. A perfectly lit scene will make its value boom. However that word ‘perfect’ is a tricky thing to get right. Too much light will blow out your image, not enough will make it too dark. Light in the wrong positions will add the wrong feel to your film, or make it look as though random light is pouring in from an unknown source.

Get it right however and greatly positioned lights can make your scene scary, tense, mysterious or funny. Three point lighting is the norm – two lights from the sides, one for backlighting. I’m not a lighting expert. These guys are though – http://www.izzyvideo.com/video-lighting-techniques/

M

filmmusic1Music! One of the things that lets down indie film is bad music. Or not necessarily let’s it down but doesn’t make it stand out from the crowd – usually because they’ve used royalty-free music they’ve found on the web. Generic ‘movie’ music that could possibly have been used in someone else movie already. You need to get some personality in your film. You’ve spent so long planning, shooting and editing the damn thing you need to take the time on the music as well.

However, remember if you’re going to use any other music you need to get your copy-write clearance. One of the major reasons good films are rejected from festivals is a lack of clearances. If you managed to sell your film distribution and not cleared copy-write then you are going to be in big trouble!

My advice – find someone who can make it for you. If you’re not blessed with musical skills yourself, or don’t know anyone who would be interested to do it for you, then hire someone who can. But get the right people – the wrong music for your film will ruin its chances!

To be continued…

Hope this helps you in your filmmaking – check out part 2!

%d bloggers like this: