Thursday, January 12, 2012

Production Values

Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in film, TV, and video production is the definition of production values. What exactly is a production value, and why is it important? Some people will tell you that production values are essentially the quality of the image that is captured by the camera. That may be true, but it really doesn’t explain the importance of production values. Or, perhaps, I should state it this way. Production values are important to what group?

For the big-budget Hollywood producer, the concept of production values is a mute point. Production values are practically a given. When you have budgets approaching $100 million, you can put whatever image you want to on the screen. Production values really apply to the world of low-budget filmmakers. They are essential for their success. Everybody wants production quality, but the key for the guerrilla and the low-budget filmmaker is to obtain it through value.

You have to convince or, in some cases, trick your audience to believe your story is real. Otherwise, they will not see you as a legitimate filmmaker or take you seriously. Finding production values is the only way that you can attain this. It starts with finding the right locations, props, wardrobe, and talent. I would also throw in lighting, jibs, and dollies.

Have you seen the recent J. J. Abram’s film, Super 8? It’s a great illustration of production values. In fact, the term is used several times throughout the movie. In one key scene, Charles Kaznyk assembles his friends to help him make his Super 8 movie that he is planning to enter into the Cleveland International Student Film Super 8 Festival. Charles has little or no money to make his movie. So he’s looking to play every angle and make his movie look bigger than it actually is. He finds a great location at a remote train station. He has his actors dress in the proper wardrobe. He also convinces Alice to be the protagonist’s wife to add an emotional impact and to give the audience someone to care about.

He uses one of his crew members as a prop by directing him to make a phone call in the background as the scene plays out. But the real break comes when by chance a train is approaching the station. Charles sees his chance and screams “production value”. It’s a gift. It wasn’t planned or designed. But by shooting the scene with the passing train, it adds a level of energy, excitement and action. And that’s production values in a nutshell. Sometimes they just fall into your lap.

The train did not cost Charles a dime. It was just there free for the taking. As a low-budget filmmaker, you have to see the opportunity and seize it. The best production values are the ones that you didn’t plan and that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. However, they helped you to create a believable and authentic image.

No comments:

Post a Comment