Sunday, February 28, 2016

How I Made a Movie (Part 2 of ?): Wait, does directing mean I can make storyboards?


Previously on Part 1....
I had written a script for another short film. (watch it here)
Our director dropped out
We had no options
So I had to direct.

I had no idea what directing a film meant. But once I committed to it in my head, I wasn't going to back out. Not knowing something had never stopped me before and it wouldn't stop me again. There was a right way to do this. Hopefully. I made a list in my head of the things I needed.

Casting confirmations
Shot List
Shooting Schedules
Storyboards (!!!)

I was pretty excited about the last one and it was one of the major reasons why I decided to direct the short. After we finalized the script, which was done before I was ever marked as director, I started creating storyboards. This was the fun part.

Basically, I read the script and thought about what I would want the film to look like in my head. It sounds simple enough and it kind of is, but then you realize that movies and shorts have a lot of different frames per script page. Our script was 13 pages and I had about 40 storyboards total, which was not a number I thought I would end up with.

Things I had to keep in mind while making the storyboard was practicality. Nick had a friend who was a camera operator who committed to helping us and he also had a friend who might have been able to have helped with his camera. I also had to keep in mind that this was a comedic script and timing was very important. While it make for more cuts between scenes and lines than I would've liked to have drawn, it was important to make sure I had that in mind while shooting the film.

Quick aside: This made me watch 30 Rock and the show Wilfred semi-nonstop as an excuse to pay attention to how the comedies were directed. Did I learn anything from doing that? Maybe. Did I laugh a whole bunch? Hell yes.

I broke down the script into three acts and created the storyboards. However there was a slight hangup. Here is one of my attempts.

Can you tell what's going on?

Yeah, I could barely tell either.

While that's not an issue - I did a little bit of research on storyboarding and the consensus was 'everyone does it differently. Some are legible, some are beautiful, and some are literally scribbles only the director a can decipher', I realized two things.

1) This is way too small. Even for me.
2) If I were to try to explain my thinking (difficult given my lack of complete knowledge) to my camera operator(s), having a near-illegible storyboard wouldn't help anyone.
Also -

Did I mention I took a storyboarding class in college? I didn't? Oh. Well. I don't know if I had some knowledge applied to what I eventually did, but I'm sure whether it was conscious or not, it helped.
Anyway. The little research I did helped in making some technical markings on my storyboard frames to denote camera movement. Here is where I ended up.



You can see these are not only larger, but also cleaner in terms of being darker, so they were easy to see and I started to mark movement and other specifics with my red pen, which made it much easier to follow.

Having a storyboard was hugely helpful. Seeing the layout of the movie all at once allowed me to understand what felt repetitive, how I could vary frames, and how the camera should be placed. By this point, we had our cast, we had some shooting days, and we had people involved. Whether I was ready (mentally or otherwise) or not, this thing had to happen. The storyboards gave me some relief but I knew that there was SO much I didn't know.

Day 1 of shooting began....
(Part 3 coming soon)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How I Made a Movie (Part 1 of ?): It Started With A Script

(fun fact - I made the above image on a Surface Pro Tablet! Blog post on that coming shortly....)
  On February 5th, 2016 I released this short film.

Some time ago in March 3rd 2013, I wrote the script for Mugging with the expectation of getting it produced and created.

What the hell took so long?

Well, it turns out making a movie is quite the undertaking, whether or not the movie is short, long, serious, or silly. There is so much I learned - about the process, about filmmaking, about directing, and about myself. Here's where it all started.

In the beginning...

Some time ago, my good friend Nick (long-haired Barry in Mugging) asked if I wanted to make a short together. To me, the answer was a no-brainer ("yes" of course) and we collaborated on a script on the kinds of people who try to 'sell' you music on the street. It was named 'Artists' and you can see it here.

The making of this film was much easier compared to Mugging. The script was smaller, which (you'll see later) makes quite a bit of difference. The cast was about 1/5th as large and the entire shoot took one day. Mugging was a more ambitious undertaking to say the leas.

The initial process and scoping of Mugging wasn't much different from our first film. I wrote a few drafts, going through about 5 different variations after going over the script with Nick and our initial director. After the last draft, we were ready to shoot. We had our director lined up, Nick and I scoped out locations, and we had actors, the majority of which were our friends (with the exception of a later scene).

An Unexpected Turn of Events

As we were trying to schedule the first couple of shoots, knowing the entire shoot would take more than one day due to needing multiple locations and many more people, our director dropped out. He disappeared and we never heard from him again. I'm still not sure what exactly happened (he is alive, so that's good) but we were without a director and thus, without a way to make the film.

This resulted in a HUGE delay in our film development. Nick and I thought about various different options. Having him direct, having myself direct, look for other friends who would be interested and have equipment, check Craigslist, hire someone. It was a pretty big blow to our momentum and we were both disappointed. We would get together every now and then, have a few drinks, and brainstorm ideas but we never really found a solution we liked.

We Saw The Light

There was one other idea we thought was unlikely, but we didn't have much of an option. We reached out to another friend of ours; a real director with a feature film under his belt. We knew his expertise would take our film to a different level given his experience. We had him give us notes on the script and he said he would look and see if had time to direct. Our morale was growing, this would've been a better alternative than we initially planned.

Unfortunately, timing grew to be a problem and our friend wasn't able to join the project. We were back to step one and more time was passing before we moved any further with our film.

I then realized what was the only option left. 

I had to direct the short. 

Nick had mentioned this as an option various times and I, honestly, dismissed it because I was scared and because I thought it would ruin the project. But between the options of 'don't do the project' and 'have me direct the short', I couldn't hold off from saying no any longer.

So I said I would direct as long as we had someone to help us with the camera, given I had absolutely zero experience directing and even less experience with camera equipment (yes that's possible).

We were back on schedule, but man was I scared.....

(part 2 published here! I promise something art related will happen.)