10 Lessons Filmmakers Learn Shooting On Film

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 “Why every Filmmaker should shoot a project on film at least once… while stocks last!

Film vs. Digital… the old debate (argument) continues, but today we’re putting all that aside to discuss something more constructive than pixels and noise vs. emulsion and grain.

I want to share with you 10 Lessons Every Filmmaker Learns When Shooting On Film… and therefore why every Filmmaker should shoot a project on film at least once… while stocks last! (excuse the pun)

"Good ol' Arri"

“Good ol’ Arri”

You Learn…

  1. It’s Not That Hard
  2. It’s Not That Expensive
  3. Discipline
  4. Efficiency
  5. Patience
  6. To Trust
  7. Film Is Flattering
  8. Film Has That Filmic Look
  9. Film Separates You From The Crowd
  10. Film Is Fun

The first thing anyone who’s worked with film will tell you, is that “it’s a totally different experience”. Some of that is bravado (this industry is full of posers and you should aspire to not be one of them), but some of that is the truth.

So let’s look in more detail at these lessons and what makes film so “totally different” (more…)

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Creating A Great Teaser Trailer… (Accidentally)

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COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 5:
TEASER TRAILER


Previously we’ve covered how the concept for COSMOS was born, and our scriptwriting process. Today I want to talk to you about this here Teaser Trailer… and why, quite frankly, it exists.

 

Believe it or not this Teaser Trailer was created before we’d even begun writing the script!

Why?’ I hear you cry – well there’s a very good explanation…

So gather round children, it’s story time!

While brainstorming ideas for scenes, we developed a sequence where one of our characters phones a friend who works at a Radio Astronomy Observatory. We really loved this idea for the change in location it could offer the film, and how it would allow our three main characters to interact with another scientist on the other end of the phone; it could even offer some comic relief as this disembodied voice is caught snoozing during his night shift, instead of monitoring the radio dish array.

However we knew that if we used this scene, we’d somehow have to visually establish this ‘friends’ location and with his place of work being a Radio Astronomy Observatory, this meant inserting a shot into the edit of a suitably impressive dish pointing up to the night sky.

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12 Valuable Lessons You Learn When Scriptwriting

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COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 4:
SCRIPTWRITING


“To make a great movie you need three things: a great script, a great script and a great script!” – Alfred Hitchcock

A film script is measured less by its language and more by its architecture; it’s a blueprint that informs the ‘construction’ crew ‘building’ the film. And if this blueprint is flawed then the integrity of the film is at risk. Therefore, a well-crafted script is essential to guide cast and crew through production.

"The Bible"

“The Bible”

Anyone who’s written a script will know that it’s no easy task; Scriptwriting is a craft, an art form. Attempting to write a screenplay immediately fills you with respect for those who successfully carve a career writing for the stage and screen.

There’s nothing more daunting than the blank page… that cursor blinking at you… taunting you!

In the last post, we talked about how the story for COSMOS actually came about, in this post we want to just share a bit of info about our script and the writing process. (more…)

The Mysterious Disappearance of M.M.Bayliss – 16mm Short Film

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The Mysterious Disappearance of M.M.Bayliss is an homage to classic Victorian ghost stories and the weird tales of the Twilight Zone serials.


A young man is woken one night by a set of haunted keys that float before him. Guided through his empty house by the possessed keys, he discovers a dark room hiding an even darker secret. 


This short film was shot on only 800ft of 16mm FujiFilm (Eterna 500T) to achieve the distinct and unique aesthetic audiences associate with the classic ghost films of the past.

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So What’s COSMOS About Then?

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COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 3:
STORY


TELL A LIE, TO TELL THE TRUTH.

So what’s it about then?

Well, here’s where your access-all-areas pass comes in. We weren’t lying when we said we were going to show and tell all.

Here’s the elevator pitch

COSMOS is a 90-minute contemporary Science-Fiction independent feature film telling the story of the three men who make first contact with extra-terrestrial life.


“The film, follows three amateur astronomers who kit out their car with telescopes, radio equipment and antennae, and in their spare time head out into the night to star gaze, listen to the sounds of space and enjoy the wonder of the universe above.

But on the night that we join them they intercept a faint signal from outer space; and come to the realisation that they hold in their hands one of mankind’s greatest discoveries – proof of alien life. But such a faint signal is hard to keep track of and before long they face the challenge of documenting the discovery and sharing it with the world, before the signal is lost forever.”


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5 Things You Should Know About Filming On Location

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As the old saying goes: “When you ASSUME, it makes an ASS of U and ME.”

Visasandpermits_thumbThe very first lesson I was taught on Day 1 as a Camera Assistant was to never assume anything! EVER! And when it comes to Filming Permits the same rule applies.

As Brits we say “It’s better to be safe than sorry” (with a cynically patronising smile) – You American’s have a more coloUrful and memorable approach with “COVER YOUR ASS!”… but the sentiment is the same.

Filming Permits not only protect onscreen talent/contributors and property owners but the Film Production as well, and without the correct Release Forms a project will not secure distribution.

Verbal contracts are NOT enough. You need it in black and white on the page in an irrevocable Release Form, signed and dated by the individual releasing their image or granting the right to film on their property. Release Forms specify key facts about the production such as:

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“Boilerplate” General Release

  • WHO WHAT is being filmed.
  • That the individual KNOWS they are being filmed.
  • WHERE they are being filmed.
  • WHEN they are being filmed.
  • WHY they are being filmed.
  • What PAYMENT they received for being filmed.
  • HOW you intend to use the footage.
  • What RIGHTS you have to the footage.
  • HOW LONG you have these footage rights.
  • In what MEDIA the footage will be used.
  • And is SIGNED and DATED by the individual being filmed or property/material owner agreeing all of the above.

If you’re filming material for commercial use, then you must have the correct documentation; once signed make copies! DO NOT lose or destroy your releases –  keep them forever!

So let’s take a look at the TOP 5 FILMING PERMITS you need to know about:  (more…)

5 Ways to Care for Your Camera Like a Pro

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REPEAT AFTER ME!

“This is my camera! There are many like it, but this one is mine! My camera is my best friend! It is my life! I must master it as I master my life! Without me, my camera is useless! Without my camera, I am useless!”

You can immediately spot a true Professional from a wannabe by the way they treat gear; whether it’s their own or hired, it makes NO difference. A true Professional relies upon their gear; without it they can’t do their job – their gear is their livelihood.

DIRT, DUST and WATER are a camera’s Kryptonite, and a true Professional will always put their camera’s welfare before their own.

DirtandDust_thumbI’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve stood drenched in the pouring rain, having given my coat to the camera – I can still work soaking wet, BUT THE CAMERA CANNOT!

I’ve also suffered heat stroke and sunburn after donating my trusty baseball cap to ‘the cause’.

My camera's favourite cap!

My camera’s favourite cap!

Of course, a water cover and umbrella are preferable, but sometimes the rain and heat can be so intense you just have to take one for the team.

We recently posted about the TOP 10 MUST-HAVES for any Camera Assistant Support Bag, and the importance of maintaining your gear.

Today we’re going to specifically focus on keeping your camera clean… and while we were filming in the heat of Africa for the LUCIA Documentary, dirt and dust were Enemy No.1!

So here are my TOP 5 TIPS for Pro Camera Care to make sure you don’t get left in the dust!

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How to Film in Available Light Like a Pro

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And God said… “Let there be light” and there was light. And the Director saw the light, and it was good (enough!)

Availablelight_thumbEver since the Big Man up there sparked that huge HMI in the sky, the Sun has been working for (and against!) filmmakers across the world. Shooting outside can be the most rewarding and most challenging part of your job; the imperfections of nature are what make it so perfect to photograph, but those same imperfections can and often do conspire against you.

Any filmmaker brave enough to venture from the safety of a controlled film set soon learns that the world is constantly changing; Hot, cold. Wet, dry. Day, night. Noisy, quiet. Windy, still.

Days of Heaven, Dir. Terrence Malick. 1978

Days of Heaven, Dir. Terrence Malick. 1978

To a filmmaker, light is everything. Inside a studio you can control that light, but outside, the light controls you. When shooting exterior scenes, interviews or landscapes you must be flexible and ever observant to the levels of light changing around you.

Shooting with available light (i.e. not supplementary artificial filming light) is primarily a documentary technique, however some feature films; particularly those of Terrence Malick, favour the dramatic aesthetic of this available light.

This beautifully produced tribute video from Joel Walden demonstrates the magic and majesty of Malick’s work and how, with the right eye, nature itself is the most amazing movie effect of them all.

So after that inspiration, here are the 2 GOLDEN RULES for taking advantage of Mother Natures spotlight – the Sun.

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10 Things Every Camera Assistant Should Have

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My history teacher used to say “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, and every Camera Assistant knows that not a truer word was spoken.

CameraBag_thumbThe Camera Assistant has one of the hardest jobs on the crew, with considerable responsibility for both their human and mechanical counterparts. They need to be not just one, but several steps ahead of the game, able to predict the needs of the camera team and be ready and waiting with the necessary solutions.

"Be Prepared!"

“Be Prepared!”

So one sure fire way of being the Eagle Scout of Camera Assistants is to follow the Boy Scout motto; “Always Prepared”. Your biggest ally on this quest will be your Camera Support Bag; usually a Porta Brace or Billingham. Within this Aladdins cave hides a horde of technical trinkets; a maintenance kit that helps you to keep your camera and crew in running order. The kit will generally change for each job, varying greatly on drama and documentary, but some core essentials are a must…

So here are my TOP 10 MUST-HAVES for any Camera Kit Bag that’s worth it’s (considerable!) weight:

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5 Tips for Steady Shots Without a Tripod

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Picture this: you’re ‘runnin-and-gunnin’ and traveling light. You’ve left that bulky tripod behind and are going handheld. You’re thinking on your feet, acting on instinct, one eye welded to the viewfinder, the other open surveying the action around you – A one man crew on a mission – you versus the world!

Notripod_thumbHand Held shooting is a skill that can take a lifetime to master. Sometimes you need fast-paced dynamic shots, other times you need steady-as-a-rock footage. But whatever the stylistic requirements of the job, you need to be equipped to handle any situation that could (and often is) thrown your way!

Documentary filming is the breeding ground of cutting edge camera ops; countless Hollywood Cinematographers having been forged in the fierce fires of this filmmaking furnace. If your footage can (literally!) make the cut in the fly-on-the-wall arena then you’ll quickly become a highly valued member of any crew – trusted by Directors and Producers to get the shots no matter what.

So here are my TOP 5 TIPS for getting rock-steady shots without that pesky tripod:

(more…)

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