View Full Version : Doing it Alone?

12-26-2004, 08:37 PM
This forum rocks.

So I'm in pre-production right now on my first feature, which will be shot next June with the DVX100 that I recently acquired. In addition to writing and directing the movie, I also plan to play the main character. Nothing fancy, all scenes shot on location in my hometown with about 40 percent of scenes shot in and around my apartment. Having a crew would be nice, but no one's getting paid, and I can't see anyone asking off work for 16 days to help me shoot this thing.

So here's my question: Is it out of the question for me to shoot this thing alone? I have no crazy dolly/crane shots planned. I plan every shot to be static on a tripod, i.e. 'Napoleon Dynamite.' I think there was one pan in that whole movie. And that's kind of the style I'm going for anyway. I'm going to get a decent shotgun (probably the AT-897). With most of the scenes taking place indoors in close proximity, is it out of the question to keep the mic on cam at all times or am I seriously sacrificing something without having a boom operator?

Call me stupid and talk me out of this please, I just don't see why it can't work.

--- Scott

12-26-2004, 09:56 PM
This topic of such has already been disscused here before. If you can't anyone to help you with your movie then go ahead. We are not all Robert Rodreg, It's rare to hear such a film all done by one person to be good. I'm not trying to say that your film will not be. I'm sure you have friends that will help you. Thats what freinds are for right? Get your grandma or something. Get a crew..

12-26-2004, 10:38 PM
Shoot it on 8 consecutive weekends and try to feed them.

12-27-2004, 12:52 AM
Shoot a two-page short of it first, and see if you find it practical and find the quality acceptable. Keeping the mic on-camera is a good way to guarantee horrible sound quality... if you really intend to shoot it by yourself I'd probably recommend using either planted mic's or even a lavaliere. A mic on the camera is going to do a horrible job, even if you use a $1000 mic.

Seriously, do a trial run first. It may be possible to shoot it yourself, but there's almost no way that one person can handle the jobs of 10 people, and do as good as those 10 people. So you will be sacrificing something; doing a test run might be a good way to find out if you can live with the sacrifices.

12-27-2004, 01:13 AM
If you can't get someone to work a boom, at least go out to a music store and buy a boom stand. It will take some setup to get it close to the action without going into the frame, but it will sound better than having the mic across the room.

My thought, anyway.


Jim Brennan
12-27-2004, 03:24 PM
I've done what you are planning, with poor results. I would really recommend having AT LEAST one person to help you out. Having a decent boom operator is unbelievably helpful. Even if you find someone who doesn't know what to do, but is willing to help, parctice with them until they get a handle on it. I won't even go into how much it helps to have a good lighting person. Even if you know how to light a shot, you should have somebody to do what you tell them, so that you can do what the director does (set up the shot, talk to the actors)

It also helps to have someone to run errands. You will run out of stuff, or have a problem that someone else can handle. I know spider mentioned RR, but he had help. He got actors to double as crew when they weren't on camera. He also had a partner who helped with locations, gear and casting (and starred in the film)

Look at it this way: Your time is very valuable when you are on a set. You will most likely have a tremendous amount of time constraints, either due to your locations, or your actors. You need to be able to put your time where it can do the most good. Chances are that's not running to the store for more tapes, or toilet paper. If you are putting in the massive amount of effort it takes to produce a feature length film of any quality, put in a little more effort to find a few key people who can make the journey more rewarding, and the results a lot better.

12-28-2004, 04:37 AM
I'm going to be in a similar situation in a couple months, though maybe not as dire as you. I definitely want a DP, and although I have almost no money, that's one position where I'll try to come up with something just to keep the DP on the movie. Since I'm cash poor, maybe I'll offer to buy a piece of equipment for the DP since I can use a credit card for that. Some people shoot their own movie, but for me, even though I enjoy photography, I want to be able to concentrate on working with the actors. Robert Rodriguez did almost everything on "El Mariachi" but it was an action flick and didn't require as much concentration on the acting as a lot of movies. And if I remember correctly, he didn't record any sound on location.

Dan's suggestion about setting up a boom stand is also a good one. Especially if you’re going with mostly static shots.

As for other crew, I live near a few colleges, so if I can get my act together in time, I'd like to start during spring break and see if I can get some students to help during at least the first week.

I considered the option sojrn suggested, shooting on weekends, and I think that might be best for an ensemble piece. But my script has a protagonist who's in every scene, and I think for the sake of the acting, I think it would be best to keep him focused intensely for a shorter duration of time. I figured spreading it out over eight weekends was a lot to ask of my lead.

I understand the difficulty of finding people to commit to a no/deferred pay film for three weeks, but try to find as much help as you can. For general help – moving lights, booms, etc., I’m going to try to rotate people throughout the schedule since those people will likely get bored and quite possibly bail. I believe that’s what Richard Linklater did with “Slacker”.

Let us know how it goes with the recruiting. Best of luck.


12-28-2004, 07:01 AM
Thanks for all the advice. I've debated whether or not to shoot it all in one chunk of time, or on weekends. Weekends would make more sense because most of the cast is going to be friends and locals, but the movie takes place in a 24-hour time period and I fear continuity problems, especially with hair length. I have the advantage of being the script writer AND lead character, so I know the script back and forth. I'm sure I can find at least one other person to help me on crew before next June.

12-28-2004, 07:17 AM
If you do shoot it over a period of months, take a lot of photos and label them for continuity so you can match your shots.

Jim Brennan
12-28-2004, 08:50 AM
So, you wrote it, star in it, and plan to direct it? That's very ambitious, and I applaud your enthusiasm. But get help. Finding it doesn't have to be tough. The last shoot I did was over 2 weekends and some pick-ups in between for a few days. I put up an ad on a local actor/filmmaker website and I got more volunteers than I needed.

Being both behind and in front of the camera is difficult under the best of circumstances (a full, experienced crew). To do it with no help is next to impossible. For starters, how will you know if you are in focus, or in frame if no one is monitoring the shot? I'm not trying to piss in your porridge, I just want you to be aware of how daunting a task this will be.

12-28-2004, 12:04 PM
You can build a house by yourself with a single 16 oz claw hammer and a cross cut saw.

I don't know why anyone would want to do it, but it can be done.

Jim Brennan
12-28-2004, 12:42 PM
As usual J_Barnes distills it down to the bare essence.

12-29-2004, 02:17 PM
I am just finishing feature this weekend...anyway, I would say get at least one guy to boom the scenes (you need decent dialog sound). This person may be helpful also on the set before you guys start shooting.

I hope you got the cinematographer, if not first find a frame yourself and if you dont pan or till and are plannning to lock the dvx on the tripod ... just press record, come to the front of the camera - show the scene number and tape number, check if the boom guy is not sleeping, and then act.

Cut about 3 seconds after you finish your lines so you have a space to cut the material in the editing.

Turn off the fridge and close the window. Do some tests before. If you have decent quality (sound) and you are happy with frames ... keep shooting.

I would not reccomend shooting on weekends cos it takes longer than you plan. Of course if you dont have a acting crew bigger than two people who WILL BE THERE FOR YOU on EVERY WEEKEND you can do it on weekends. If you ask strangers to work for free you may bet you will be shooting for a long time. ANd you may not finish. Someone may get payed gig or etc....

Anyway, just shoot it. Watch it. Learn. Shoot another one.
ANd get release forms before the shooting (just before you will say: you got the part) cos than you dont want an actor ask you to sign someting you can live with.

Go for it.

12-29-2004, 06:48 PM
Believe it or not, I shot about 3 Music Videos where I Shot, Directed, Edited and STARRED in! LOL! They were mainly videos that I gave to my then girlfriend at the time. I set up the camera on a tripod and shot a variety of shots at locations all over the place. It does look kinda strange but who cares I did it! She liked it and that is all that matters! LOL!

I usually had a shot sheet with all my shots all written down in advance. I have my own stock footage collection so I edited in some really cool sunsets and other stuff I have. I did some cool lighting setups too. Now the thing is time. I would spend maybe 30 minutes setting up lights then doing test shots before I actually tape the real thing. So yes it can be done but do you want to deal with the hassle? You should try to get yourself a small crew. Now there are some things that you can shoot yourself with no problem but if the scene calls for some complex type shooting then your going to be up the creek if you have no help.

01-04-2005, 08:30 AM
i've done the solo thing and don't recommend it. Your movie, especially it being your first, will suffer. If nothing else, have a person for sound. it's not that you physically can't do things, it's just that you can't do them all well. If you are worried about a noisy street you might miss giving an actor the right direction, if you worry about an actor conflict you might miss some great lighting.

i did a shoot this weekend with five cameras. never directed a scene like that before. i kept calling cut at the wrong times because my shot wasn't working. however the other four cameras were getting amazingly beautiful things i never saw. all i needed to do was shut up. you can go alone, but you won't get as much. watch the credits to napolean dynamite - how many people worked on that? more than one i am sure.

Good luck man. Small crews rock, but spread the workload out so you can make the best movie you can. As someone told me, "With film it's not enough to just do it. Do it well"

01-06-2005, 05:08 PM
I love shooting alone, or with just a couple of actors, but its tough. I only do it on very short simple projects for fun and education.

If you really want to do it, then plan plan plan, then plan some more. Know your shots ahead of time, diagram your lighting, the more you have taken care of before hand the fewer problems you will have when you shoot (wich will still be alot by the way).