Monday, March 29, 2010

Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned doing no budget films-Part 5

So the continuing saga. How to make the concept of no budget work for you. First off, one of the big things I battle with when there isn't a budget, are the constraints of time. You just can't stretch it out over too many days. I have determined that I can get a good crew and cast for no more then 3 days. 3 days isn't a lot of time but you make due.

Today we talk the location hunt. In low or no budget filmmaking the locations becoming doubly important...not only do you need the right set, but you also need it to be conveniently located. I did a film a couple of years ago that was a multi location shoot. We found a house that was enormous and shot if as follows:

Living Room, Location #1
Family Room, Location #2
Kitchen dining room, Location #3
Kitchen, Location #4
Counter table-Kitchen, Location #5
Dining Room, Location #6
Basement rumpus room, Location #6

So we spent 2 of the 3 days there but it served as 6 separate locations...this was a gold mine time wise. I know these are small things, but they add up and contribute to the overall film. Time is money or in this case time is a couple extra takes needed to get the right performance, to make your film look as be as good as it can.

Here is a good tip, if someone let you shoot in their home and you need another house location in your film, ask them how well they know their neighbours and if they think they would have a location that could be used.

My last film, "Honest you won't get hooked" required 3 separate house locations...we found them all on the same block. Nothing kills your shoot faster then having to relocate.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bad things happen in threes...baloney, it's not true

So I was talking earlier about having a pissy day...and I was worried that bad luck happens in 3s...well not true. I decide to have a positive attitude, and things worked out. The city came out, discovered my plumbing problems were actually theirs and it didn't cost me anything.

It actually is cheaper to call the city then a plumber when your sewer backs up...if it is your problem you will be billed $200.00, if it is a city issue the problem is fixed for nothing. The catch is you will be hard pressed to get a regular plumber out to fix anything for less then $200.00. Its a no lose situation. You got sewer problems, the city is always the first call.

There you go...Ben's homeowner tip #1. If you know me, giving home owner tips is the ultimate in irony. Anyway I am off for the night..."I love the smell of sewer in the evening" didn't that come from a movie?

I'm having a pissy day!

Ever have one of those days where you think, why did I get out of bed? My keys are locked inside my garage, so I ended up missing a couple of appointments, because one of the keys that is locked inside the garage is the key that opens the door to the garage.

Next up a plumber is coming over. My laundry room flooded. This happens every 6 months (friggine tree roots0 and the plumbing guy has to come out and clean this up...well, he did 3 weeks ago and now its plugged again. The plumber guarantees their work but have informed me that they cleaned out the main line and the plug is now just in the drain in my laundry room so that qualifies as a new problem outside of my guarantee which happened three weeks ago. Okay its probably my worry, but this coupled with the locked garage... you now know why the pissy mood.

The thing that worries me the most is the thought that bad things happen in threes...ummm, maybe I will go back to bed. Or, maybe I stand up to superstition and say no to the nasty threes and stay up. Am a bit sleepy though.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned doing no budget films-Part 4

So you're doing a film. You have a script, shoot dates, a crew and all roles have been cast. What do you do in pre-production. Well right off, since you don't have a budget you know rehearsal is going to be difficult. I start with a table read. This is an extremely important time for me. The actors have had time to look at their character and then bring something to the table. I am big on helping the actor find their voice. I always design back story for all the larger roles. I think it's important that the person know what I was thinking when I wrote it. I always tell them that I am open to their interpretation, but at least they now have a starting point. The round table is a little bit about actors, but more for me. It is the first time I hear the whole film from start to finish. I find it a good place to find problems with pacing, dialogue and scenes that just don't work. Which means rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I am always changing things right up to the day of the shoot, and would probably still be writing during the shoot if I didn't have other things to do.

I also give my actor plenty of flexibility. I am usually not in love with the words so I always tell the actors that they should feel free to change it up and use things that are more comfortable for them. As long as story isn't compromised I have always gotten stronger performances when the actor is able to make the part their own.

I wasn't always like this. When I first started doing films I found I was fiercely protective of every word and wouldn't let anything change. It was an insecurity and a need to own everything. It almost always fucks up the film and it ensures that your movie will not be the best that it can be.

So again the round table is a crucial part of my post production. From here I decide what scenes need work and try to schedule rehearsals. I also try and not book rehearsals to close to the shoot dates. Actors seem to do better after a little bit of time between rehearsal and shoot and I think it's because they need the time to internalize the role and in a sense put their game face on.

So there it is part 4. These again are based on experiences I have had and have found that I am starting to get better at the whole filmmaking thang when I practise what I have learned. I would love some of you to share your ideas on filmmaking as well. An open forum is a good way to learn and share ideas.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Independent film on the web

So, I am very excited about my next project. It is going to be the first of what I hope will be a series of web based documentaries. It will only be available for download. The series is called "For the Record". It will follow singer/songwriters as they prepare to record a new album, or I guess technically it would be a CD. The first edition will be about Bill Bourne as he prepares to record his new album "See". I think it should be an interesting doc. Principal Photography begins April 5 with a release date for the show sometime in July. The album will be coming out in the fall.

So now the project is to figure out where to make the documentary available for download. At only 1.99 per download it will be extremely affordable. If anybody has any info on good sites for this (if I understand correctly you need a distributor to get onto Itunes) please let me know. Or if you have had experiences good or bad on the process I would also like to know about it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned doing no budget films-Part 3

The real part 3. So your doing a low budget or no budget film. Doesn't matter if its a short or a feature the same rules apply. When you have a budget it takes for ever to get something going...there is a very long planning period. When you don't have a budget or a small one the length of planning (before pre-production) is even longer. You need to give cast and crew as much time as possible to plan for shoot dates and the post production cycle. Even if your not paying there still needs to be something in in for the person participating. Respecting their contribution by giving them plenty of notice is one of the first things you do to establish that respect.

Its a short tip today...I will next discuss what I do in pre-production.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"My Mind is Just a Twitter"

I have been overwhelmed lately by this whole concept of Social Media. The marketing of the future is now...So lets start, you all of a sudden, have something that needs to be know, a product that has to be seen, information that must be shared...Post it on your blog, add photos and video...and a link to Facebook, which in turn links to YouTube, with a way to connect to your website, which sends you e-mails on every hit. But how will people know you do all this? Simple, you tweet them. They in turn will hopefully retweet your stuff to their list of friends who will hopefully then re-re tweet and so on and so on...Its truly amazing, its mind numbing, it is original and wait, hmmm isn't it just word of mouth?

Could Social Media be just that simple, or am I missing something? "I am slowly twittering away the hours"...the new adage for 2010.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned doing no budget films-Part 3

Okay so it won't be part 3, because I am in a totally bitchy mood. Ever get there? You know, where you really don't want to be part of the human race. I have lost the desire to communicate in anyway with any other living creature. But yet they keep calling, and they keep e-mailing, and they say hi on the streets, my text alarm doesn't seem to stop...My friends, I do love them...but today I don't want to communicate with any of them. This happens to me once every few years...I need to stop, shut down, and recharge. I guess a lot people might say this is what they do on their vacation. I don't really do vacations, so I must be due. Can't afford to go anywhere so I will imagine by holiday.

I am in Spain. I don't speak any Spanish but it's been really good, most people will make an effort to figure things out. We have a flat 1/2 a block from the beach. If you climb to the top floor, get on the roof, you see this beautiful sea ahead of you...turn around and it is the city scape known as Barcelona. Which way to the topless beaches?

Okay I have never been there, but it's my vacation so it will damn well be what I want it to be...There it is again, that bitchy alter ego (I know a lot of you who know me are thinking-alter, what is so alter about Ben being bitchy) I must keep it in check.

Enough talk, I need to go ly down. I will be back another day with either more Guerrilla Film making Tips, or some slides from my trip to Spain.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned making no budget films Part 2"

So my last blog listed the three most important key roles on my crew. Well I must have been drunk because there really is four. The fourth person, just as important, is the sound guy. You can have shitty pictures and still make a movie, but if you sound is're FUCKED!

So next you need to find the best cast you can. Auditioning can be a very difficult process for me. You have no budget and sometimes it is hard to get around that. I have done 10 short films and in those films I was able to access ACTRA talent twice and that was only because the actors in question really wanted to do the role. But with that said I am fortunate that I live in a place that has an incredible theatre community and really good actors are everywhere you just need to look for them. I have an actor friend Andy Northrup who is really well connected. He has been in all my when I have a role and I am not seeing anyone I like, I call Andy and he usually has a suggestion. As well by mentioning Andy's name I can more easily convince the person to do the role for no money.

I don't want this to sound sleezy, I think I make good films and a lot people seem to like them. So yeah, I haven't had budgets but at least most people who become involved with one of my projects realize that their is a big chance that what they do will be good for their demo reel.It is important that you create an environment where there is something for everyone. Maybe a 1st Assistant wants to work with a certain DP who is shooting the film, then the shoot becomes very valuable to them. An actor has never done film just theatre, here is an opportunity for them.

Every film I have done I have almost always made at least one casting error. Just remember no role is to small to worry about. I always get nailed with the stragglers, roles that are always the hardest to cast and there aren't a lot of options. They are in large part small roles, that add color and texture to the story so are important. Something to watch for...I have been snowed by enthusiasm. An actor is so excited about the project, which in turn gets me excited about them and I have confused their enthusiasm with ability. This is really easy to do when you can't seem to find someone for a role, the shoot date is around the corner and you need to start the rehearsal process. You don't have a budget so the casting call can't go on that long, and your options can be limited. But you live and learn. The problem with no budget is that you can very rarely afford to re-shoot with someone new. But one of the things I love about film acting is editing. Not that I mean to diss the talents of film actors but if someone does a crap job and if the role is small enough their is a strong possibility that the problems can be fixed in editing...the cliche "We'll fix it in post" is alive an well in Guerrilla Filmmaking. But to wrap this segment when you are looking for actors, look everywhere. Ask friends, write down names when you see really good plays or look at every day people that seem to have that knack. Your cast is important...and one thing I never accept when I do a film is someone with the attitude you get what you pay for. When I work with someone on one of my films they know the parameters, they know what they are getting from the job...if they commit I expect 110%...there is no money to throw at this so everyone better be there.

Finally, I am writing this blog because I feel I have some info that could help others...but at the same time everyone reading this should also feel comfortable in adding to it...lets turn this into a learning tool for everyone.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Gurella Filmmaking-Things I learned making no budget films"

I just recently finished my 10th short film. What is important to know about this is that I have done all 10 films with absolutely no budget. Okay, not nothing...this last film I did buy pizza for the cast and crew while shooting. It isn't easy doing this type of thing with no budget. It isn't easy getting the right crew, cast and making sure your film looks alright. Over the next few blogs I will share with you the things I learned. I made plenty of mistakes and I made a few right decisions.

The very first thing I want to talk about is crew. It is important that you find the best people you can for the job. It isn't easy, so you need at the very least to concentrate on getting experience in the key areas. For me, there are three crucial positions. You get the right people here and you can get it done.
1) DOP
2) Editor
3) Music Composer

The first two are obvious, but you will notice on low budget or no budget films one of the weak links always seems to be music. Yet music sets the whole tone of your film. To me it is an extremely important element. I have been lucky with the music composers I have worked with. You can see the improvement in soundtracks as my filmography grows. You can't help getting better the more you do.

Anyway these are tips I think important, others may not. Remember the most important thing to know about filmmaking is that you just need to go out and do it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vanity-Friend or Foe?

So I did something weird today. I started a fan page on Facebook. I have been working with Elaine Elrod, from Often Seen New Media and she has beenn Social Marketing for the Filmmaker put on by the NFB and NSI. Its a bold new world where the entire globe is at your fingertips. Is it the future, our destiny, or our ruin...who knows, questions for another day.

So this fan page was very difficult because it feels very vain. I am really not a vain person. Off coure I am creatively brilliant, but I don't like telling people that they need to discover my greatness on their own. All kidding aside it feels weird tooting your own horn. I suspect many artists out there (yeah I consider myself an artist) have problems with this aspect of their career. When does self promotion become to indulgent and obnoxious. Umm a question I suspect I may discover the answer to if I continue down the path I have started.

So lets add it up a Facebook fan page, this blog, I am on twitter and I have a website and lets not forget I recently took up a bit of acting. Well there you go, I am becoming a marketing machine. Let's see what becomes of it.

Oh yeah, don't forget to join the Hired Gun Productions fan page.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The screening is over...

And it appeared to go well. Everyone either liked it or lied to me. Either way I am good. Glad it is over and now I hope those who have seen it and those who haven't will go to my website and watch it again for free. Believe it or not the quality is way better then at the screening.