Friday, June 28, 2013

Filmmaking Notes 1, Found Footage

  Film making Notes, Found Footage 

Sorry that the blog has not been updated more often, right now I am in the
middle of writing an ebook and it is taking more time and attention that I first thought.
The book is going to be about making found footage films and to write the book I feel the need to watch a great many of them.
A few words on found footage films. Most of them are really bad. It is a new genre that is not going anywhere, but has been handicapped by what many believe are the rules that have to be followed. Let me say that if you are gonna become a great film maker you are going to have to learn that breaking the rules is part of what you are suppose to do. The found footage rules are basic. Everyone must die and then the footage is found later. Just because this happened in Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch project does not mean that it always must happen that way.
If you are planning on making a found footage movie I am asking you to please watch the movie End of Watch before you finish your script. I believe that how they combine footage taken by the people of screen with footage taken by filmmaker is nearly perfect and after the first ten minutes of the movie you have to think about it to notice that there can be no one there at times in the on screen universe shooting the footage. It is a blueprint for what can be done with found footage.
I would also argue that the rules kill all suspense. After all you not only go into a film knowing everyone is gonna die, but you also see the film maker straining at times to make this happen. Making characters who do things that have the sole purpose of getting them killed.
How about an example of two movies that may have followed the rules, but still managed to be pretty well done.
The first one is a film that I really admire. It is the Frankenstein Theory. This film is very well done and it follows a single rules that I believe that all horror movies must follow. The rule is that the audience will believe any one thing. They will give you a single pass on anything. Do not test their patiences with a second reach. They will believe that Frankenstein is based upon a true story. The fact that the monster is still roming the earth is not a second thing because if you believe the original story the monster was designed to never die. It is a better movie that it has a right to be and I would love to see another found footage film from the makers of it.

The greatest of all modern found footage horror films is the amazing movie
Rec 2.

Last note on this subject could we get some more found footage comedies or thrillers or even straight drama. Turning a camera on a family in crisis would make for a compelling found footage film. Digital filmmaking gives us the chance to experiment. The low cost involves allows for the opportunity to take chances. If you are not willing to break a few rules then why did you become a film maker. Just let Hollywood make all the same cookie cutter movies. They are the best in the world at that.

Next up I would like to show a follow up video. It is the first trailer from the Joker Rising. The footage looks great.

Please take a moment to bookmark this page and to share this post. Thank you for visiting and if you know about a really well done found footage movie please let me know by leaving a comment or by joining me on Google plus. 1 FREE Audiobook Credit RISK-FREE from

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Stray, Interview Part 2

Okay we are going to pick up where we left off. Please keep in mind that they have about five days left in their Indiegogo Campaign. So when you are done reading take a moment to visit their Indiegogo page.


It is emotive and draws people in. It instantly invests people in your project or, if it's bad, it will send them running. Give it due diligence. My music is part of what is being composed for the film but it is also customized and unique to each trailer. Killing two birds with one stone again. You can find artists who want to work with you if they believe in your project. A stepping stone for them and again, it all relies on a good story. But pay them something anyhow. It will go a long way. Also, work out a deal for them to produce a soundtrack from the film to market with all proceeds (after costs) for the sale of the soundtrack going to the musicians and artists that create music/songs for the film. This invests them in your project and you will get great results.


You will never get distribution for any finished product if you don't dot your I's and cross your t's when getting signed releases for every person involved, every performance, every song. Don't create a legal nightmare that will exclude you ever getting distribution.Prepare.

You will LOVE the results of good preparation and the problems you avoid will make your production more enjoyable for everyone. When artists are enjoying themselves and having fun with what they are doing, they perform better. So will you. You will have fun and look professional because you will be professional. You are what you do.

I guess I shouldn't assume indie film-makers already know this, but,? when you don't have enough money, it inspires ingenuity. At least it should. And if you have the time, putting in time is like putting in gold. YouTube is full of DIY movie-making gadgets. I built an 8 foot long camera slider using an 8ft. Section of an extension aluminum ladder (very lightweight) that I bought off Craig's List for $30. Another $85 to get some great skateboardr-blade wheels, angle iron and mount it all to a wooden platform with the wheels riding the rails of the ladder section. Whatever length of ladder section you have, that's how long a slider you now have. They are standard widths.

We used a drone to get the aerial shots. They are not cheap, yet, but they are getting better and less costly every day just as the cameras they can carry are. Amazon has a drone that can carry a GoPro for under $800 right now. With a few modifications for another $5-600 you can add real time wi-fi monitoring and see what you are shooting as you shoot it. You can learn how on YouTube, here's one but there are more:   

Or, you can rent a rig and crew to operate it. This can easily cost $1800 for the shot but it gives you a great production value that you can parlay into more money. Consider that.

I built an impromptu camera crane out of a boom pole for lights with my DSLR simply taped to the end of the pole. Where there is a will, there is a Way.

Over the weekend we did just shoot a scene at a local Barber Shop called Barbercide. I was DP, Director, Set Design, another actor/producer (who wasn't in this scene) held the mic boom and so, he was sound department, One of the actresses did make-up and wardrobe and the whole thing, including 5 extras and the barber and the location, cost us $120. to shoot. Why, because I wasn't afraid to ask.

Don't be afraid to ask. HD shows everything so make-up, especially FX make-up is more important than ever. I am not telling people to cut corners here but, if you have more time than money you CAN make very authentic looking FX yourself. Torn bits of toilet paper and white glue make wonderful torn and peeling skin FX. You can mold and peel and color with food coloring, acrylic paint or make-up, very effective and cost-efficient. Just remember to take photos so you can re-create with some continuity for subsequent shots. Cory syrup with red and just a drop or two of blue makes great looking blood; you don't have to be bled dry to make a great film.

Was a horror movie a choice or was it just the first script that worked for you?

-Horror was my choice. I like it. I've have another script ready to produce after we finish "The Stray" I like it when a movie excites and scares me.-

Will you specialize in one genre of film making?

-I don't think I will specialize in any genre. I need to constantly try new things and challenge myself or I lose interest.- Your posters have a release date listed. What type of release are you considering, many low budget film maker are bypassing theatrical release and going straight to video on demand?

-That release Date of "Halloween" is a best-case scenario that it doesn't look like we will be able to make. I'm not ruling it out, in fact, nothing concrete is making it impossible at the moment. It's a money thing. I can shoot in a full weekly schedule if I have enough money to pay people appropriately. If not, if I can only give them a bare minimum, then I feel compelled to work around their schedules so they don't have to take off a day of work that might earn the $300 to work on my set and make $100.

I can't be that guy. In that case, it's going to take until spring to finish shooting and we will have an early summer release. I don't want to compromise the story or the production to meed a deadline that I made up myself. It is flexible. Remember, the story is what counts.

I will work hard for the best distribution deal I can get. And frankly, I have no idea what that will be. I am keeping the necessary paperwork in order so I won't "shoot myself in the foot" with regard to the deals I could make but still, there are so many options, at this point, I just can't say.

When ready, I will rent a theater and have a private release for invited guests only; the cast and crew and their families and friends. Of course, distributors will be at these viewings and this will run as long as it needs to this way. I am fortunate to be in Hollywood and there are a lot of vital concerns right here in town that can come and view the finished product. This will actually cost less than trying to get it in every festival possible. Festivals today are not what they used to be and it is very expensive to enter and attend and meet the people there that will move your project into distribution. I will choose very carefully the festivals we enter.

And yes, there are many alternatives today, Red Box, iTunes, even the ScyFi Channel, overseas markets, there are more "places to go" for the indie film maker than ever before. First things first though, I need to get back to work and finish this project they way it deserves to be finished, with my full attention and effort.- Thank you Tom for giving me the opportunity to ask you a few question. Good luck with your project and all of us look forward to seeing the finished product.

Okay guys remember to share this post. The more that a project is shared the greater chance that it has of being successful. By going on Facebook or Twitter with a crowdfunding campaign you help the film maker to reach your friends and their friends and so on down the line. Just a little time and effort can pay off for another film maker. The immediate future of low to micro budget film making is going to be tied to crowdfunding. It will always be easy for the big names and failed tv shows to go out and raise money for a vanity project, but for the new and the original it continues to be a difficult process. We want to see something special, something new and unique, but we want someone else to get involved in getting it done.

If any of you have a project that you believe would make for an interesting interview and or need to be highlighted then contact me by leaving a comment or through google plus and I promise to get back to you.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Stray, Interview Part 1


Film maker Tom Ford (not that Tom Ford) has responded to my interview request. Keep in mind that this project is nearing the end of a crowdfunding campaign so if you can please take a moment to visit their indiegogo page and donate what you can. Remember at Indiegogo your film get what ever is donated toward the goal. While at Kickstarter it is usually an all or you get nothing proposition.

First, Tom Ford on the writing of the film.
I'll start with the obvious (you've heard it 100 times) "it's all
about the story"... because it's true.

Start there. If you're past that point already and have a so - so story,
go back to step 1. Story. 50,000 features made each year, most of those
don't have a great story. If you start with a great story that people will
want to watch, you move to the head of that pack and your chances for
success get a lot better. And THAT'S the way to begin.

You also have a very good chance of gathering a better team, better actors
and crew, that will actually show-up when you need them, because they believe
in the project too. Did I just refer to a great story again, I think I did.
I wrote The Stray. I like horror films but always felt they needed
to be more. I believe The Stray is. It is more appropriately a psychological
Horror and it has a real love story woven within the complicated layers.
Great characters that we follow through generations in the reincarnate
drams, with great suspense and action. Only thing missing is Zombies
and I want to make it clear, I have nothing against the dead walking
around and making movies it is simply that I wanted something different
and they are already in every other movie!

On Making the Movie.

We are making The Stray for less than most features spend on Craft Services, and it is challenging but that is where Crowd-Funding and Indie become so powerful together. Indie Film Making has always been a crowd funded model because it is customary for everyone to put so much of themselves and their own resources into the project. It's because they really believe in what they are doing, love the work (endless hours) and they keep their eyes focused on the potential of the finished product. They certainly are not in it for the money.

On paying the Cast and Crew:

Those who will work for free…

Pay them something. Be open and honest about what you have and then pay them at least a token, even if it hurts, especially if it hurts. Pay out with the right attitude and I believe it will all come back to you. Karma, pay it forward, whatever. Believe and others will believe. And make it very clear that you know it's not even close to what they deserve, but at least pay for their gas.

This will go along way.

It's about respect. Respect yourself, the project and the team and it will be appreciated in ways that you can actually see. They want this too, it's a stepping stone for everyone involved. Keep that in mind, remind your cast and crew of this and treat your project like you believe it. Do a good
job. Every scene either increases in value from the previous scene or is
compromised by it. Every scene counts. Scenes that don't count don't
belong in (you've got it) a great story.

On Preparation:


Lack of money requires more preparation on your part for everything you
do. Ducks in a row cost a lot less than mayhem. Don't count on good luck
but rather, prepare for Murphy's law. Preparation. Think through and
prepare for as much as possible and then, be flexible enough to go where
the situations you encounter take you. It's digital media. If everything
goes wrong shoot that too. You may get something extraordinary.
Don't lose sight of the story and maybe you have to write-off a "bad day" but at
least you don't have to pay for film and processing. Se what you got, use
what you can, be true to the story, yourself and the team and move on.

You are what you do.

The day is made by what you do. Nothing is realized by what you say or
could have done. Bad days are the perfect blue-print for what not to do the
next day. That's suddenly a very valuable tool.

Good effort inspires good people.

You are the inspiration for the team. They will, in turn, rise to the occasion and become your inspiration. So, keep your eyes and mind open to them. None of us can be great all the time. But the beauty of making a great film is that it takes more than you. It takes a team. If you've got a good team and you stay alert and open to their flashes of genius, welcome that into the production. If you shut everyone else out of "your vision" then all your moments of "less than genius" have nothing to cover them. Combine all the great, creative, cooperative efforts of the team and everyone suddenly looks better and the production will benefit substantially.

Valuable Tools:

I did interviews with cast and crew members once they became familiar with the story. Then I edited these and they became a valuable tool for attracting Investors (fund-raising) and they also strengthen the confidence of your cast and crew. But most of all, they really helped me. I learned from "their" take on everything. I learned a lot. You can watch my cast and crew interviews on the Indiegogo page for The Stray (near the bottom) here:

Trailers and teasers, today, are a cart before the horse scenario. We make
them first, before we film the actual movie because we need them to help
attract financing. THEY are a valuable tool, treat them like it as you create
them. They are also a story, make it a good one. I don't like to give
away the feature's story in a trailer but I want to convey the feel of the
story. I write my trailers to say the same or similar thing in a different
way. Write out your trailer stories and make certain they are what you
want. Trailers that "just happen" look like it.

I kill two birds with one stone sometimes. When I think I have the right
actor for any role, I like to shoot a screen test. The proof, after all,
is in the doing. So I choose a scene that I will want for a trailer. I
prepare and ask and expect my actors to prepare and learn their parts
(Their preparation speaks volumes about how they will work for you in the production.)
Then I shoot it as best I can, understanding the limitations. I find out who can actually
do the part and, if I've done a good job, I have a scene for my trailer.

No money for sets, make-up or crew? Think it through. Extract the best
parts of what you want to shoot. Move in, because a closer shot requires
less set design. Cull the best parts and concentrate on those. Trailers
are commonly clips of very short duration in rapid succession and you can
use that to your advantage.

Edit, edit, edit. Cut the trailer well. It is going to speak for you on and make that "First Impression" you don't get a second chance on. And they need to address every level to people who know nothing about you. The story your Trailer tells about your ability to bring a production together is an unforgiving one. Never underestimate the trailer. Make it great on its own because that is the way it will be seen and considered.

Okay that I it for part one of this two part interview. Part Two will be posted tomorrow. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend and to stumble us on Stumbleupon.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Crowdfunding And The Stray

Crowdfunding and The Stray

Normally I would put this content up on my crowdfunding page, but the campaign only has six days left as I am writing this and since the cast and crew did a great thirty minute interview about the project I felt it was too good to pass up. First take a look at the trailer for The Stray.   I hope to do a Q&A with the filmmaker because this is a blog dedicated to digital film making. Most of the readers here want to know the how and why and with what part of the film making process. I could guess the cameras being used, but why guess when I will get the answers sooner or later. We do get a behind the scenes look at the camera rig (around minute 15). Okay here is the cast and crew interviews. You can visit their Indiegogo campaign page at this link. That will be it for today. Please take a moment to check out their crowd funding page at indiegogo, it is pretty impressive. Just remember that if you can not afford to contribute to a campaign then use social media to spread the world about it. We are low or micro budget film makers and we need to help each other out.