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Shooting a Feature Film in 65 Hours!

“Shooting a Feature Film in 65 Hours!” by Mike Cecotka.


January 29, 2001 – Toronto, Ontario – Producer/Director Mike Slawomir Cecotka’s perfect formula for first time filmmakers with an ultra low budget has proven successful. It took 5 months of pre-production and almost six days to shoot the Hollywood Sunrise Studio feature “Schizophrenia”.

The concept “From script to screen in 60 days” was born in August 2000, when he started the adaptation to screenplay. His objective: to finish entire feature in 60 days. “That’s (both) the shooting and editing with custom sound FX and original music score,” says Cecotka.

“I have 7 more projects, which I want to direct, and I don’t want to spend next 14 years doing that,” he illustrates. Instead of 4 weekends as planned in August, he was able to finish the feature in 2 and a half, averaging 12-13 pages of script per 12-hour day.

He attests his success thus far to following his “10 easy steps to shoot your film in 65 hours!”:

A Simple Script & Sticking to Schedule
1. Your script has to be simple – up to 5 speaking parts,
2 locations max. Shoot your movie in sequence.

2. Stick to your schedule for pre-production, shooting and editing. In August I made a decision to start principal photography on Jan 5, 2001 and I did. This also builds great credibility for your future project with investors. The only time you break this rule is when somebody gets sick.

3. The “Two Take Only” Rule. You must have good actors to pull next rule – “Two takes only”. This will apply for long scenes, so you will start with Over the Shoulder and Close Up and Reverse on the next actor. Remember, typically the best takes are the first and last ones anyway.

4. The Blue Screen & Making Use of All Technologies. If you have any special FX like blue screen footage, shoot it on first day, so animators can start work right away.

5. Save live footage directly from your set to your hard drive. This will give you the security of having a master on your hard drive plus a back up on the DV tape. Also use 100 feet firewire cable…yes, I know that every web site about firewire cables tell you the maximum length you should use is 15-20 feet,and that you have to use replicators. I’ve done it with 100 feet – single cable no problems. Have an assistant capture scenes with page numbers and characters, as this will speed up your editing later. It took 12 Mini DV tapes for raw footage.

6. Use clamp-on lights from Home Depot. I became big fan of this lights during my last short movie. They stick to almost anything, they are cheap, and with professional black aluminum foil you can create the most flexible barndoors in the world. Use the 100 watts bulbs (also from Home Depot) called “Director”. After the manual white balance, I didn’t see any problems with skin color.

7. The Trailer, the Web Site, & Cinematography. Shoot trailer and design web site for your movie (with title as domain name). It’s a great test for equipment and actors who will meet for the first time. Things will go much smoother during real shoot. With the website you can attract more actors and crew or even sponsors.

8. The director has to be his or her own cinematographer. You know already what you want on the screen.

9. Organization, Strategy, & Good Relations On Set. Organization and strategy is a key to successful shooting and finishing in time, however remember it’s not worth it to end up with heart attack, go easy: 12 hours per day with breaks.

10. The last rule applies to the relationships between you and the actors and crew. Quite simply – don’t be a jerk.

Cecotka fully anticipates postproduction on “Schizophrenia” to be completed on March 6, 2001 – on schedule; 60 days from the January 5 start date.

Copyright 2001, Hollywood Sunrise Studio, Mike Slawomir Cecotka, Producer/Director http://www.schizophreniamovie.com

Copyright (c) 2000-2009 Peter D. Marshall / All Rights Reserved