Friday, November 18, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Game Time

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 17. Game Time

Finally, after months of planning and strategizing, it’s time to move from pre-production to the production phase. In the next three to four weeks, everything you are trying to accomplish as a filmmaker and producer will be on the line. So it’s no time to relax. In pre-production, when problems arise you had the luxury of time to find solutions. That’s not the case during production. When you have a problem, it must be resolved quickly; otherwise, it could derail your entire film. As a producer, your main role in production is to be a problem solver. You can expect problems anytime you put 20 to 30 people together for several weeks with tight schedules, long hours, and with a difficult working environment, Again, that’s no different than shooting a mainstream or Christian movie.

People are people, and human nature will rear its ugly head. People will have different opinions, personal conflicts, jealousy, misunderstandings, and other issues. You might be able to overcome equipment, budges and location issues; however, the human issue is the most challenging of all. No matter how much care you have taken in putting your cast and crew together, there will be someone who’s main task seems to be to single handedly destroy your movie. Deal with it straight on. Sometimes, you might have to tell someone it’s time to leave. It’s not if these issues will happen. It’s only a matter of when they will happen.

Think of production as the big game. You’ve spent months developing your game plan. Now it’s time for the big kickoff. But just like with any game plan, you have to be flexible and adapt to the game situation. Let’s take a look at the game plan. It’s pretty simple as a low-budget filmmaker. You are the coach, and your job is to make sure everybody executes their job. The DP (Director of Photography) has to move in a fast and efficient manner to set up the camera and lights. There’s no time for complicated and time consuming shots and lighting schemes. Your production manger has to stay on budget and on time. That means he or she must have the ability to say no. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, your department heads and other crew members will be asking for more resources and money. The production manager must remain firm to remind everyone what was agreed upon in pre-production. Remember the golden rule—the money you have is the money you have.

And what about the director, who is essentially the commander and chief during the production phase? Your director’s prime responsibility is to get two good takes and move on. If that doesn’t happen, you will run out of time and not finish your movie. Considering you are producing your movie, I hope you haven’t decided to direct it as well. But if you have, here’s my advice on what you should do as a first-time director. The director’s primary job falls into three categories. First, where do I put the camera and why, second, getting all of the coverage shots you need, and third, working with the actors to achieve a performance that will make the movie work.

I suggest you delegate the tasks of where to put the camera and coverage shots to your DP. You have your hands full. Concentrate working with your actors. The most important thing you can do as a director is set the tone and the atmosphere on set. How you act and react will affect both your crew and the cast. Barking commands is never a way to get what you want. Remember, filmmaking is a collaborative event. The secret to making a good movie is getting everybody involved in the process. Keep your directing at a simplistic level so your actors can relate to it.

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