The HND on IG

As we’re gearing up for year three of the Raindance Higher National Diploma, we’ve just created an Instagram page for the programme. There’s talk of running a Snapchat as well.

I’m now running three Instagrams: Action On The Side and my personal IG.

As part of the HND, we’ll be running rolling short social media marketing internships for our students. This will help them to gain experience in marketing that will help them in the independent film industry.

Follow the Raindance HND page for pictures from our students.

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Raindance HND Feature Film

The inaugural Raindance HND £5k Student Feature Film is being announced today

The Raindance Higher National Diploma (HND) on which I teach has created a competition for our students: across the two years of the diploma, we will find the best writer, best director, best producer, best DP, best editor, etc., and those students will be given a £5000 budget to produce a microbudget feature film.

This is an amazing opportunity for students to learn by doing, and to get their first feature film credit right out of school. The thought process is that many filmmakers got their start with microbudget narrative features: Robert Rodriguez, Peter Jackson, and Raindance’s own Kate Shenton to name but a few.

There are three Executive Producers for the project, who will provide mentoring for the students and supervise the project. Myself, Zulf Choudhry (Director of the HND), and Elliot Grove (head of Raindance).

This is the first time we have run this, so it’s a learning curve for all of us.

The students submitted their ideas with a logline and title. These were shortlisted. The selected students were given advice from their lecturers and support to further flesh out their story.

Two weeks ago the students pitched their ideas to our panel. The panel included the Executive Producers, lecturers, and industry filmmakers. Nine ideas were pitched, each with their own merits. The students could pitch as scriptwriters or as producers. They had three minutes to pitch their idea and seven minutes for questions. The pitches were filmed and made available (privately) to the rest of the student body.

Each member of the panel voted privately on their top 4 films. The student body has one vote collectively. The Executive Producers will then confirm which film has been selected. The successful screenwriter, producer, or team, will then work on developing the script until the start of year 2 (October 2018), and producing the film ready for shooting at the end of year 2 (July 2019).

The student voting process ends today at midday, and I’m really looking forward to announcing the film.

On a related note, check out the promotional video one of my students made.

It has been picked up by Raindance to promote the HND. More of my students have uploaded their promotional videos. I’m looking forward to watching them all.

Creating an animatic

A step-by-step guide for creating an animatic

An Animatic is a moving storyboard with music and sound. They are created in soft preproduction (for fundraising purposes) or during preproduction, and are used extensively in animation and VFX. It is a valuable tool for directors to test the pacing of a scene before they’ve shot it.

Creating A Simple Animatic

The stages are: visual, audio, and export

VISUAL

  • Draw storyboards video-storyboard-example
  • Take photos of your storyboards OR create digital storyboards (e.g. Photoshop)
    • you will need .png or .jpg files of each storyboard
  • import your storyboards into a video editing software (e.g. Adobe Premiere)
  • lay the storyboards on the timeline in the correct order
  • change the duration of the storyboards; add transitions: basically cut together the storyboards to how it will look
  • if you have any footage, edit that in

AUDIO

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  • record your voice as the voice-over (this can be rough)
  • lay the voice-over onto the audio section of the timeline
  • cut it to the correct timing
  • add any music you intend to use (or music that is similar to what you want to use)

You have just created a SCRATCH TRACK

EXPORT

  • with your edited storyboards and scratch track, set your OUT POINT, and export the video (as a .MOV or .MP4)

You now have an animatic

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Not mine: Thesis animatic
by  2015 (link)

Scheduling your short: working days

In the film industry, the average shoot day is 12 hours on set. Feature film shoots may be scheduled 6 days a week, but if the film runs behind, crew will shoot 7-day weeks, for weeks at a time (imagine going 21 days without a day off). Add travel time and you can see how crew experience burn-out.

BECTU is running the #eyeshalfshut campaign to stamp out long working hours on film and TV shoots.

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I work with independent short form content where we shoot on weekends and holidays because we have day jobs. Where there isn’t enough money, so we push longer days to cut costs. I’m conscious of the effect on the crew.

Below is a schedule of how you can plan a 14-hour film shoot, with some explanations. Use this to help you schedule your film shoot. However please be conscious of this current debate in the industry, and how long shooting days affect the sustainability of the industry.


Scheduling a shoot

14 hours

  • 08:30 Breakfast, HOD call (production meeting)
  • 09:00 CREW CALL
  • 09:00-11:00 PACK IN
  • 09:30 CAST CALL
  • 09:45 Cast in MU
  • 11:00 Scene 1 (of the day)
  • 13:00 Scene 2
  • 14:00 LUNCH
  • 14:45 Cast in MU
  • 15:00 Scene 3
  • 17:00 Scene 4
  • 19:00 DINNER
  • 19:45 Cast in MU
  • 20:00 Scene 4 (cont)
  • 21:30 PACK OUT
  • 22:30 WRAP

12-hours

  • 08:30 Breakfast, HOD call (production meeting)
  • 09:00 CREW CALL
  • 09:00-11:00 PACK IN
  • 09:30 CAST CALL
  • 09:45 Cast in MU
  • 11:00 Scene 1 (of the day)
  • 13:00 Scene 2
  • 14:00 LUNCH
  • 14:45 Cast in MU
  • 15:00 Scene 3
  • 18:00 Scene 4 (with rolling dinner snacks)
  • 20:00 PACK OUT
  • 21:00 WRAP

Definitions and Explanations

PACK IN is where you bring in the kit and set up for the first shot. I allow at least one full hour for Pack In, and one full hour for Pack Out. However, now that our shoots have more lights, and now that I need more time to teach people on the Action On The Side shoots, we now allow two hours for Pack In.

I still usually allow an hour for Pack Out though.

The Breakfast Production Meeting is for the director, producer, AD, and DP to touch base, talk through the shots, and make sure they are prepared for the day. Film crews also turn up early to the shoot, so I ensure there is food there for them when they arrive.

 

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Beccy Whyte, MUA on AOTS’ latest short, ‘The Last Postcard‘, March 2018, applying makeup on Marina Kolokolova. Photo credit Chris Bourton.

The first CAST CALL is at least 15 mins after CREW CALL so the MUA has at least 30 mins to set up (this gives the cast 15 mins to grab a coffee before getting into make-up). In my experience, most MUAs will turn up 30 mins before their call time, because they assume the AD didn’t factor in the MUA’s set up time.

 

 

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Francesca Ioppolo puts makeup on Joanna Pope for ‘The Darkness Without‘ Photo credit Chris Bourton 

 

Every meal break has to be 60 minutes (as per every film union).  What I do, however, is trick people (damn, here’s the secret…). You see 45 mins into the meal break is “Cast in MU”. Cast and MU can start their meal earlier so they get the full 60 mins. The last 15 mins of the break (when Cast is in MU) is so 1) the cast can have their make-up reapplied (I learnt that the hard way on my first film shoot); and 2) so the crew can faff (going to the loo, making a cup of coffee, slowly making their way back to the kit). It’s a faff buffer time.

 

IMG_7666
Catering for ‘Locked In

 

Always when scheduling, allow buffer time. Lots and lots of buffer time. Because what can go wrong, will.


How many meals do you have to have?

It depends how long your shoot day is. For a 14-hour day, two meals (lunch, dinner). For a 10-hour day, one meal (lunch). For up to a six-hour day, people can sort themselves out for food – but make sure you have heaps of snacks so they can fill up.

If you’re shooting around 7 or 8pm, I think you should feed people dinner. Everyone gets hungry around dinnertime. The same for 1pm-3pm for lunch.

 

IMG_7725
Me and Daniele catering for ‘Locked In

I always teach my students that their crew can’t go 5 hours without a meal. However, I was on a 12-hour shoot recently (9am-9pm), and there was only one meal (lunch) at 2pm. The rationale is that five hours without a break is industry standard. 9am-2pm, one hour, 3pm to 8pm, but that they could push the extra hour by providing snacks so the crew can eat in that final 6 hours. I know from experience that dinner can add extra time when people just want to go home earlier. I’ll leave it up to your judgement.

 


I hope this helps you to schedule your shoots.

Budgeting your film: low- medium- high-

An outline of the three budgets for your film

When you’re producing a film, you’ve got to create three budgets.

Low- budget

pablo40The low- budget is the absolute minimum you can make your film for.

  • You’re shooting with whichever equipment you can borrow or already own (the cheapest you can get);
  • you’ve got the bare minimum crew;
    • which could be you with your camera phone;
  • you’re using whichever locations you can get for free (like your house);
  • no-one is getting paid.

The thing to remember is that no-one should incur costs from working on your film. If you aren’t paying them, then you have to cover their transport costs and feed them. In your low- budget, your highest costs are catering, transport, and insurance (you could try to avoid insurance, but that could cost you way more in the long run).

High- budget

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The next to calculate is the high- budget. It’s the “pie-in-the-sky”, “if you had all the money in the world”, ideal scenario. There is no upper limit. In the high-budget:

  • you have the absolute best top quality equipment;
  • you have all of the crew you could possibly need;
  • you’re paying full rate for the best locations;
  • everyone is getting paid their union rate (see BECTU for crew rates).

Your highest cost is going to be crew fees. Then it trickles down to catering, transport, insurance, equipment, and locations.

Medium- budget

The medium- budget is likely what your budget will end up like. In it:

  • you mix what equipment you can borrow with what you will need to hire;
  • you work out who you will need on set for the most efficient amount of time;
    • e.g. if you have to have a stunt co-ordinator, you get all the stunts in one day; you have a full camera department when there are complicated scenes, but minimal crew other days.
  • you are likely looking for free locations, but have some funds set aside for hiring if needed;
  • you work out who you need to pay and how much.
    • some people may get NMW (national minimum wage); some inexperienced crew roles you may ask to work for free (e.g. runners);

Your highest costs for this budget will be, as above, crew rates; catering; transport; insurance; equipment; and locations.

Before anyone gets upset: I’m not going to get into the “not paying people”, “asking people to work for free” debate now, but will in a different post. 

To give you an idea of how this works, let’s look at cameras:

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  • Low- budget: iPhone; DSLR
  • Medium- budget: Canon C100; Blackmagic 2.5k; Arri Amirah
  • High- budget: digital: Arri Alexa; RED Dragon; film: 16mm; 35mm

 

Or your camera department:

  • Low- budget: DP
  • Medium- budget: DP, 1st AC, 2nd AC
  • High- budget: DP, Camera Operator, 1st AC, 2nd AC, 3rd AC

Once you have your three budgets, you have your range: the minimum your film can be made for; the maximum; and the safe middle-ground.

But why can’t I just make one budget?

Producing is all about troubleshooting and problem-solving. When being thorough with your budgets, you are working through all possible scenarios. This will help you to understand your film’s needs at a deeper level because you have done the figures. An HOD asks for more crew? You have done the figures and know whether it is possible or not. The location costs more than expected? You can work out where to minimise costs in other areas.

You can also use the budgets to your advantage:

  • when funding, which budget are you trying to raise?
  • when a location asks for your budget, which do you send?

equip

Budgets are vitally important to a successful film’s production. It takes practice. Remember that this is only one stage of budgeting; the budget will be revisited throughout the film’s production.

Best of luck with your films.

 

Scheduling your short film shoot: set-ups

A set-up is a shot. The set-up changes every time the camera changes position.

The rule of thumb for every set-up is:

  • 30 minutes for an average shot
  • 45 minutes for complicated shots (e.g. dolly, steadicam)
    • If there are added complications, such as traffic, lots of extras, or weather, I would allow 60 minutes
  • 20 minutes for an easy handheld ECU

Beginner filmmakers may be a bit confused. “How,” (they may ask), “can me and my friends with a DSLR take more than 10 minutes per set-up?”

If it is just you with your camera with no lights and no separate sounds, sure, 30 minutes is a lot.

However, on a professional shoot, with lights and sound and actors, this is what happens in a set-up:

  1. The 1st AD calls “moving on”, and directs the crew for the next setup;
  2. The Director may have the actors do a quick block through, while the HODs watch;
  3. The Director and actors move away;
  4. The camera department move the camera; change the lens; change the height of the tripod or put it on a dolly or whichever;
  5. The Gaffer and the Sparks may need to change the lighting set-up;
  6. The DP and Gaffer and their teams make sure the lighting and camera are right (which can take a lot of faffing time);
  7. The sound recordist checks where they can be to not cause boom shadow, and where the top of frame is;
  8. The AD calls the director and actors back in;
  9. The actors do a technical block through;
  10. The AD checks if the director is happy;
  11. The AC puts markers down for the actors and checks focus;
  12. The AD calls last checks;
  13. The MUA and wardrobe check make-up, hair, and costume;
  14. Once they exit frame, the AD calls quiet on set;
  15. The Clapper Loader (2nd AC) holds the slate in front of camera;
  16. The AD calls turnover;
  17. Sound and Camera roll; their operators call “Speed”
  18. The Clapper Loader slates;
  19. They exit frame; as soon as they stop moving…
  20. The AD calls “action”
  21. The action
  22. The Director calls “Cut”
  23. The Director gives notes to the actors; the script supervisor gets feedback for their notes.
  24. You go at least once again (steps 15-23) for safety (assuming you got it right the first time)
  25. Print: moving on

And that is what takes 30 minutes.

How to create an IMDb page

I created a resource for my students recently, that shows the steps for creating an IMDb page. I share this here with you…

 

Down Below poster

and here is the page

Review

  • Check with your cast and crew whether they have an IMDb page first.
  • A spreadsheet will help you. So will having your film open in a tab with the credits.
  • You have to have an official website for your film.
  • You should already have your film online.
  • Anyone can submit to IMDb, but having IMDbPro and Contributor Status helps get your films approved quicker and easier.

Another few points (that I don’t think I made in the video)

  •  don’t create an IMDb page until you have shot your film. Even though you can create an ‘in development’ page, it is really hard to remove a credit from IMDb if someone drops off the project last minute. If you wait until your film is finished, the credits will be correct.
  • Have a portrait poster image.
    • Adding a thumbnail poster to your IMDb page makes the film look 100%* better for everyone involved.
    • IMDb thumbails are portrait (rather than landscape), so make sure your film title works portrait.
    • Because it’s a thumbnail, it is going to be very small. So you don’t need the credit block or lots of writing on your poster.

With AOTS, we have started creating poster thumbnails specifically for IMDb. Below we have two versions of the poster from our June 2017 Action On The Side project, ‘Exposure

Now, check the IMDb page for Exposure here. Click the pages for some of the Cast and Crew: doesn’t it look better on their page? The thumbnail really adds to their pages.

Recently I even went back and created thumbnails for some of my earlier films, using Canva.com.

Creating a poster is vital for your films. (I’ll write another blog post on this soon.)

Good luck creating IMDb pages for your film!


*or 150% or 200% or 1000% — I hate hyperbole when it comes to percentages. Also, that’s a made up number. Just — it makes your film look more professional and way better.

Teaching

In the Winter 2014 term, I taught my first offering of BUS 340 Practical Film Producing at Hult International Business School.

The eleven-week course not only was a learning opportunity for the students, but for me as well. Of any aspect of Film Production, producing is the most relevant to business. We looked at filmmaking in terms of project management; human resource management; team management; sales, selling, distribution, marketing; whilst also covering some film theory. I introduced shot types and mise-en-scène; camera and lighting techniques; sound recording; the basics of post-production; working with actors: all things that filmmakers should know, and effective producers should know the basics of. The largest assessment was a group preproduction assignment, which included a script breakdown, schedule and call sheets, risk assessment, budget, marketing and distribution plan (including logline and synopses), for a short film script. As part of the course, I produced and directed a web series, so the students could get an on-set experience.

Continue reading “Teaching”

Skip School

Today is the last day of filming “Skip School“, a web series about Alex, who struggles with the time jumps of his new school. I have been producing for the students in my course, so they can experience being on set.

Here is a photo of me directing our Alex, played by Ben Grady. The photo was taken by one of the students (lovely shot composition, innit?).Image

‘Practical Film Producing’

The first lecture of my course is tomorrow.

This post was written in January 2014, and stayed in my drafts folder for a long long time. I’m posting it retrospectively.

Tomorrow is the first lecture for my BUS 340 Practical Film Producing course at Hult International Business School.

I have a really amazing bunch of students. I unfortunately missed the first week of class – as I had to be in Dubai for our Global Powwow –  so the first week of the course has been online. Students have introduced themselves online and have completed a little quiz (just a multiple choice asking them why they’re doing the course). I had set three films to watch before we meet tomorrow: ‘Lost In La Mancha’, ‘The Kid Stays In The Picture’, and ‘Side By Side’. They have been commenting on them on a discussion forum, and I think I only scared off a couple of them 😀

And, finally, I asked the students to share two short films that they enjoy, to share what they like about it. Some of these students never watch short films. It’s brilliant – they’re getting an opportunity to watch a load of films. They’re seeing different genres and stories. I’m watching every one – which may have been stupid, because I have hours of shorts to watch. But it’s brilliant, because I have hours of films to watch!! I’m loving it. And also, they’re sharing films from their country – it’s an International school, so the students are from all over. I’ve watched an amazing film from Kenya about Somali pirates, a Greek short about a father and son, and I’m about to watch a Dominican short.

I’m looking forward to the class tomorrow.

You can follow the hashtag #practicalproducing on twitter during the course for tips.