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The Director's Chair Issue #49 – Dec. 26, 2004 (Don't Let Budget Choose Your Format(Pt.2)

Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors

December 26, 2004          Scene 5 – Take 9

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
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1.  Introduction
2.  Action-Cut-Print!
3.  Filmmaking Tips Forum
4.  Feature Article – Don’t Let Budget Choose Your Format(Part 2)
5.  33 Ways to Break Into Hollywood
6.  Back Issues of The Director’s Chair
7.  Share This Ezine
8.  Suggestions & Comments
9.  Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information
10. Copyright Information


Welcome to Issue #49 of The Director’s Chair (December 26, 2004)

1) This month’s Feature Article is the second of a 3-part series
exploring the tips A.J. Wedding put into practice in order to
make his 35mm short for the same cost as DV. This month’s article
is on production.

2) VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – If you would like to contribute articles,
tips, links of interest, industry news, interviews, special event
dates or other resources to The Director’s Chair please email:



Peter D. Marshall

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Take a moment now to visit http://www.actioncutprint.com where
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3. FILMMAKING TIPS FORUM – http://filmmakingtips.blogspot.com

Share Your Production Experience!
Ask Filmmaking Questions!

I have personally worked in the film and TV industry for over
30 years, and I know that there are many industry professionals
out there who have a lot of production experience and are just
aching to share this knowledge with others!

Well here’s your chance!

I have created the Filmmaking Tips Forum at
http://filmmakingtips.blogspot.com This Forum needs volunteers
like you who can contribute filmmaking tips and also help
answer filmmaking questions.

So how about it?

=> What little tricks and tips have you learned over the years
that you can share with other filmmakers from around the world?

=> What special production knowledge do you have that the rest
of us would like to know?

This is what the Filmmaking Tips Forum is all about: the
sharing of Film and Television production knowledge. And with
the rise of the New Media (HDTV, Web Broadcasting, Digital
Video) there is just too much for one person to experience and

Check out this Forum now, and ask a question…or answer a
question. The Filmmaking Tips Forum is for you.

4. FEATURE ARTICLE – DV or Film? Don’t let cost be a deciding factor.

“DV or Film? Don’t let cost be a deciding factor.”
By A.J. Wedding

Part Two: Production

This section is devoted to the production phase of your film,
now that it looks good on paper for you!  Some of these items
are still related to pre-production, but they are steps that
many people overlook in their excitement to start shooting. One
matter that budget becomes an important factor in, is your
locations.  The more set-ups you have, the longer it takes to
film.  You can’t expect to make a short film in 2 days with 8
locations.  The best thing you could do is to have a story that
takes place in 1 or 2 locations.  “Causality”, the short film I
just completed, has two locations, and was shot in 24 total

As kids, our imaginations are amazing.  A living room could
become hot lava, a backyard could become a battlefield.  Tap
into your childhood when you are scouting locations, and be
creative.  A police station doesn’t always have to be a police
station.  Something that I am fond of doing is writing stories
that can take place in locations I already have access to, or
rewriting them to work in those locations.

As a director, I find it supremely important to take as much
time as you need in pre-production to get your DP on the same
page with you.  Plan your shots down to the F-stop, and you
will flow through production at a much faster rate.  There will
never be a point at which you and the DP disagree, because you
have already worked out all of the kinks.  Work the same way
with your actors.  Get their blocking down, in the actual
location if possible, and make sure they are on the same page
as to how your story unfolds.  Less takes = less film.  Simple
math.  This is where theatre-trained actors are so helpful.
They are used to playing out entire characters from start to
finish, and tend to have the discipline to memorize all of
their lines and character thru-lines.  Doing all of these
things will help you focus on the most important thing during
shooting…getting the performances from the actors, and making
sure the pieces of your story are coming together as you

Efficiency.  No artist wants to talk about it, but it is one of
the most important parts of production.  If you are not funded
by Universal, you don’t have time for a great deal of tinkering
during the production phase.  Do that during pre-production.
Being efficient requires a great assistant director who can
watch the clock and keep everyone on track.  If you are able
to, it is great to have an AD that is also a director, as they
can keep whispering options in your ear.  Even though your
vision is clear in your head, it’s always good to have another
voice looking at things from a different point of view.  Your
AD can also suggest time-saving alternatives to some of your
shots.  Here’s an important note: Every time you move the
camera, the lighting has to be readjusted.  Very often you can
get the same feel you want by changing a lense instead of
moving the camera.  Sometimes it is an improvement on your
original shot idea, and a creative alternative that saves you
time.  Time = Money!

The joy of the moving master.  In every scene you do, find an
interesting way to shoot all of the action in the scene, with
the camera in motion.  Steven Speilberg’s films are synonymous
with this.  It will save you time, create an interesting shot
you can use 90 percent of, and will cut down on the amount of
extra shots or coverage you will need.  I found in my film that
a good moving master can reveal plot elements in the order with
which you want them to unfold, without editing. Hitchcock’s
“Rope” is a great example.  The entire film is a moving master,
and today could be shot on 35mm film for less than $5000.
Staggering, but true.

Often times in low-budget productions, many crew positions are
not filled.  One position you absolutely need to fill is that
of the script supervisor.  Make sure that someone other than
you is in charge of making sure that every shot is made, and
every line is correct.  If you are lucky, this person will also
be looking out for continuity between takes and fluidity of
motion.  Without this person, you could forget a shot and have
to have the dreaded re-shoot.

One place you cannot skimp is on sound.  A movie without
picture is radio, but what is a movie without good sound?
Amateur.  There is no way around it, bad sound sticks out like
a sore thumb.  Do not use the microphones that come with
digital cameras, and make sure the person you hire knows what
they are doing.  Listen to other projects they have done.  I
have made the mistake of skimping on sound and it has now
become my biggest warning to others!

Make sure you shoot close-ups on prominent props, the view out
the window, the dog, anything that finds it’s way into frame.
This will give you several options for cut-aways during editing
which you will need.  You may see your movie in your head
exactly as planned and think you don’t need these shots….get
them anyway, even if you have to do it while the rest of the
crew is eating lunch.

Now, I am young and a bit naive, but I refuse to listen to
those people who say, “you just can’t do that.”  If you truly
believe in what you’re doing, you will find a way.  And
hopefully these discoveries that I have made in my journey will
serve as a roadmap for you.  Post-production is a whole other
animal that we will discuss in the final part of this series
next month!

A.J. Wedding is a writer/director who recently completed his
first 35mm short film that hopes to premiere at the Sundance
Film Festival. His past writing and directing work includes a
back-door TV pilot called “OB-1” and a mock-umentary digital
feature titled “Pop-Fiction”, which won an honorable mention at
the Canadian International Film Festival.


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Peter D. Marshall
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