Archive for January, 2012


Actors and Directing

Jan 14, 2012 in Film School, Learn To Film

On my last project, I decided not to use friends or family in my production. Lets face it, as a low budget  production house, I have relied on casting friends and family for just about everything I have done.And for several reasons.

Let’s go over these and I will tell you why I have come to the conclusion that, in general, it is not a good idea.

1. They are cheap talent.

Yes, you can get your friends to do some acting for you for free…but there are plenty of actors and aspiring actors in your area that are willing to work for free to hone their craft.  Local talent abounds! Colleges, local art house theaters, local models that also act. They all need the practice, and they all need to put their name in the credits of something…anything!

2. You want your friends to be involved, get excited about your projects.

Been there! You have this crazy idea that you are going to make movies! You need the moral support of your friends….you also don’t want them to think you are insane. So you wrangle them into acting, so they can see how cool this can be. See #1. Real actors with experience get excited too. They know the score and are already pumped to get to work. And there are plenty of things you friends can help you with behind the camera, which is just as exciting as acting. Having them behind the scenes also helps you delegate some tasks that you might otherwise be unwilling to let go of.

3. I can boss my friends and family around, I don’t know if I can be assertive with actors.

Actors with experience already come with the idea that there will be a director in charge….that’s what directors do by definition. Whether from the stage, experience in front of the camera, or someone that has done photo shoots, these guys have all had a director….directing them. And if you come across an actor that cannot take direction, you don’t want them anyways, kick em to the curb!

4.  I don’t know what I am doing, I don’t want to look foolish!

That was probably my biggest hang up to getting virtual strangers to be in my productions. It is easy to think that. But it is also the easiest to overcome. First of all, this is your production, you know exactly what you want. The first step in looking, and being treated, like a professional that knows what he/she is doing is to BE PREPARED! Plan out everything down to the last detail. Have a shot list and stick to it. Refer to your notes often. In no way shape or form does it make you look foolish or unprofessional to refer to your shot list. That is what it is for and that is what professionals do! Second, is to never let em see you sweat! You hired these folks and they are excited to be working. Whenever  you come across an issue, work it calmly and you’ll earn the respect of your crew. If you don’t act like a professional that knows what is going on, you’ll never ever be treated and seen as one. Third and last, treat your actors with respect. If you need something more from them, let them know. They expect you to tell them what you need. That’s your job.

5.  And lastly..Its just easier to ask my friends.

Ok….yeah it IS easier. And it can be lots of fun to direct your friends. But turning your script into a film is not about being easy. It is about getting the best product you can on screen.Period. If you want easy, this ain’t it. It takes a bit of work to send out casting calls, but the rewards, the contacts, the feeling of getting your production to the next level is very worth it.

I do not mean in any way to imply that your friends or family cannot do a good job in front of the camera. Every single person that I have used has given me their all. And have done a great job. And I will use them again.

But I needed to push my self, preparing for the next level.  And I will continue to do so.

In full disclosure, two of my actors in my last production were “friends” .  But they were also working actors and models. Josh Smith is studying acting in college and has several stage productions under his belt. Mychal Fox works regularly on a professional level. The other two guys, Nathan Hall and Travis Clyburn, I saw in a local improv troupe, called Angry Bacon. They were funny. They are stand up comics, but they were acting pretty well in their improv bits. I had never met them before the days shoot.

Which brings me to a lead in to my next blog entry. How do you direct them once you got em?

I’m dsto and I’m out!


Shutter Speed Madness!

Jan 12, 2012 in Learn To Film

Shutter Speed is basically the amount of time the shutter stays open. In still photography the concept is a easier to grasp.  The shutter opens, stays open for a set period of time exposing a single frame of your film or sensor to light and then closes. Although with digital cameras it is not a physical shutter, it is merely the set speed at which your sensor captures your scene.

In video, it isn’t that simple. And yet it is. You see, pro and prosumer camera have variable frame rates, which is not the same as shutter speed (electronic shutter or physical shutter) Frame rate is the number of distric frames per second that are recorded and displayed. So wrapping your head around these two distinct variables that DO work in tandem can be a little confusing.

24fps (frames per second) is the  accepted standard at which to shoot to get your digital video to look the most filmic. But what is going when you have a shutter speed that is differnet than your FPS?

If I am shooting 24fps at 1/60 ( shutter is open for 1/60 of a second) , each of those 24 frames in 1 second are exposed for 1/60th of a second. Simple right?

But be aware that having your shutter open for such short periods of time dramatically affects the amount light coming into your camera. Meaning, the higher the shutter speed, the darker your image will be, and the more light you will need to properly light your scene.

Now couple a fast shutter with a fast frame rate and you can have some dramatic footage.

I bring all of this up to show you a few examples of different shutter speeds and how they can improve shots in certain situations

Check this out *Warning! Graphic War Footage!*

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Very effective for this type of film and scene. According to my sources this was shot at 1/800.(although there are other factors involved here!)

Another example, although not as drastic.

*watch the scene of the snacks being hit and knocked around

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I shot this at 24fps with a shutter speed of only 1/60. I think it worked pretty well capturing the fast movement.

One more with some different shutter speed demonstrated.

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The problem with the “Saving Private Ryan Effect” is that it has been overused. And not used properly. I have seen some things that are down right nauseating. Add that dramatic staccato effect with some jerky hand held camera and you’ve got a recipe for a barf fest.

I guess what I am saying is, don’t  speed up that shutter just because you can. Use it sparingly, and only to move your story along, or to give a dramatic punch. And please….stop with the meth addict hand held camera work.

I’m dsto, and I’m out!

**I know this is a very brief and over simplified explanation. If you have other thoughts or corrections, pleasae feel free to discus them in the comments section.

Stop Filming Your Light! Light Your Film!

Jan 09, 2012 in Film School, Learn To Film


My New Years Resolution.

It takes money,time,and effort. But this year, it I will do it. And so should you.

As low budget filmakers, we too often take what little lighting we have and then try and make it work. We open up that camera, we change ISO’s and we change FPS. We fudge and manipulate and are disappointed when it looks like crap.  We should be lighting correctly in the first place.

Check it out.


 I took my time and lit this. And it looks pretty good.

Key light coming from the left. Bit of bounce from the right for fill. And the back light/shoulder light from the rear. Nice.


But see what I did wrong here?


Not my best work.

A blast of light right up front is not very flattering. Not to your talent. And not for your film. The harsh shadows behind my actors is down right ugly.  Flat and ugly. I rushed it.


I filmed my light. I did not light for my film.

Google 3 point and 5 point lighting set ups. You’ll find a lot of good info to get you started. And if you haven’t already watched these.


You should watch these!

Light it right. Shoot it right.

I’m dsto and I’m out!



Script Writing And Locations

Jan 06, 2012 in Film School, Learn To Film, Writing

I am getting very,very close to finishing up the 1st draft of my 1st feature length script “Sifter”.

I  ran into a bit of writers block, self induced I might add, due to some location problems. As I am a low budget, self produced filmmaker , my projects have all been about what I have on hand, whether it be a prop, or a location. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and write what I would want to shoot if budget would not be much of a concern. Hence New York City being the backdrop  for “Sifter”.

In the process of writing, I came across a few issues where real world locations would pose problems with moving my story along at the pace it should. I am actually in the middle of one such issue.

So I possed the question to my wife, “Does it really matter if the locations are not totally accurate?”

As a film viewer, she said it was not a big deal. I tend to agree. But as a writer, I was, and am, having a hard time not trying to be as accurate as I can be.

For instance, I am writing the final chase sequence now, going from one true and accurate location to another real world place. According to every resource I can find, there is no way to get from one place to another in a car as quickly as I would like.  It requires a pretty major detour/turn around. Now I can write that into the script..and it may actually be pretty cool, or i can fudge things a bit to make it fit my ideas, which would probably work and no one be the wiser.

But it still begs the question. Should I take artistic license in that manner? Is that a common thing to “fake” ?

And when writers /filmmakers do that, is a big deal to the audience that catches those moments?

Thoughts anyone? I would love to hear from writers, filmmakers, and viewers alike.


5Things Reboot

Jan 04, 2012 in 5Things

We have not done a 5Things in a long, long time.  So let’s get the ball rolling.

Submit your idea right here in the comment section for a brand spanking new 5Things!

5Things you SHOULD do! 5Things you should NOT do! Things to avoid. Things you shouldn’t say to your waitress. Thepossibilities are endless. So let us have it! Challenge us and we will give you all the credit!

As Armold would say, “Do it! Do it now!”

I’m dsto and I’m out!