Monday, February 18, 2013

Digital Film Making, The Content Gap

Digital Film Making, The Content Gap

I have not posted for the last months because I have been debating whether or not to continue to be encouraging at all cost.

Digital filmmaking has reached a turning point. Understand that I look at five
to ten short films a day. I love content. I love to be surprised by a good new film maker that I have been introduced to for the first time. This use to happen once a week, now I am lucky if it happens once a month. The availability of low cost equipment such as the dslr cameras has allowed anyone and everyone with a motion picture dream to produce content. The problem is that so much of this content is not worth the time that it takes to watch it and I am one of those people who has to finish everything even when I know that it is not going to be worth the trip.

There is tons of new content out there. Most of this new content is just taking up online space. Too many people, some of you, have rushed out to make a short film or even a feature without thinking it through. Many without even bothering to write a script. I assume that they are hoping that by accident or because of their overwhelming natural talent they will produce a masterpiece. It doesn’t happen that way. Never has and probably never will.

Content and quality are different things. Everyone with a video camera can produce content. The quality of which is the problem. Please go back to the basics before you yell action. This low budget digital film is going to have your name on it forever. I repeat forever.

This is going to be a basic overview of what is need to produce quality content for all of us out here in the viewing world to enjoy.

First, Write a good script. Write one that is visual. If you are going to shoot a film where everyone is a talking head why not just pick up a play by Shakespeare and shoot that. Otherwise try to keep in mind that movies are visual. What we see is more important than what we hear. In the last Batman movie there was a villain that many complained about. We can not understand what he is saying many said. The characters diction and pronunciation was spot on. The problem was that we as an audience could not see his mouth move behind that mask and there was a split second from when he started speaking and we detected it so we lost the first word or two of his speech.


Show do not tell is the key to making your film more visual. Work on using action and movement to tell the story rather than dialogue.

Next, Lights are important. I realize that The Godfather is a dark film visually. Sometimes the DP used two lights instead of three to achieve a mood. He was a master of the rules before he decided when and where to break them. Light is your friend. Three point lighting is going to be your best friend. If a shot is to brightly lit you can reduce it in post editing. If it is too dark there is nothing that you can do to solve this problem, but go back an shoot it again. There are too many movies been shoot with little or no understanding of lighting. Here is my lighting advice. Go set up your lighting kit, what every it is. Clamp lights or work lights or what every you have. Then go and get a bi plain white party balloon, draw a face on it and practice lighting it from different angles. Study how the lights form different shadows at different angles and absorb this. Learn how each and every possible lighting set up will affect each shot.


 Next, acting is important. Hiring your friends and family to star in your epic is not a good option. If they are all you got then rehearse them to death. Acting on film boils down to four basic steps. Go over these steps like a basic dance. They are ;

1. Learn what to say.

2. Learn where to Stand.

3. Stand there.

4. Say those lines and mean them. Or do that action and mean it.

Over and over and over again like a dog learning to do a rolling over trick so that they can do it every single time they are told as if on auto pilot. Sounds harsh? Sounds brutal? You are a director and being harsh is part of the job that you have signed up for. Good actors or great actors do not require being drilled or rehearsed, they know how to do the job and they will be a joy to work with, but what are family and friends for if not to be brutalized in the name of completing your micro budget film.

Making a movie is like winning a prize fight you are going to have to get mean and nasty and brutal sometimes to get the job done well.

Last note. Look at great films. Watch them and study them scene by scene. That is after all how movies are constructed one scene upon another. Scenes form sequences and sequences form acts and acts form films. Watch how on some level the scenes in great movies connect. They build a rhythm like a song. That is how good content is produced. Work on the little things and the big thing that is a finish quality piece of content that we can all watch and enjoy will happen.  Here is a scene from one of my favorite and perhaps the most underrated western ever made. The final showdown at the end of the film Keoma.


Good luck with your digital films. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend.
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