View Full Version : Inspiration

Zach Lien
11-02-2004, 10:00 AM
Hey guys. I've been reading a lot of the posts in this section and others, just thought I'd share something on my mind. This kind of goes with the "hardest part of making a film" post.

I would never consider myself a pro when it comes to film making- I started just writing scripts; thats my strong point. I bought the dvx because I finally wanted to put my scripts into action. But Barry's right; you cant just rush into a film. It takes time. And what I've realized, is there are two basic types of people, and both types reside in this forum.

1. The person that say's they're going to make something awesome...
-This person can have great, great ideas. They may even have written a script, or several. Only thing is, this kind of person is the type that will overhype up what they are doing, tell EVERYONE before they really even have a plan, and never take it anywhere. Thats one thing that i HATE, and i myself have done this. You come up with some great idea, you dont stick with it, then its gone. My advice for this: Read Sid Field's book on script writing. I didn't agree with a lot of what he said, BUT he was right about one thing. You cant just pick up a camera, write a script in a week, and think you're going to push out some amazing film. (not to say that its impossible.) In his book, Field writes that you must have a plan. Start with maybe a basic story, then build up. But you need to make sure of one thing; ALWAYS know what the ending is going to be before you write. I made this mistake the first script i made years ago. I wrote and wrote, thought i had a great story, but it was going NO WHERE. I ended up t rashing the script because there were too many loose ends. Brings us to the second type of person.

2. The person that does what they say they're going to do.

Ah, this would be the new and improved mr. 1. Instead of just rushing into things, study as much as you can. I havent gone to college for film, but I took all the english classes I could in highschool and bought all the books I could on lighting, scriptwriting, storytelling, etc. I had to push myself- because every book I read, halfway through I'd want to just go out and start filming. It takes patience to actually study these books thouroughly, but trust me, once you finish one and learn a great deal, you'll be completely satisfied.

I have been working as hard as I can to be the second type. I started working on my first full length film a little over a year ago and guess what? I'm still writing it. I've surrounded myself with an awesome film crew- people that wont just forget about the project, or let it die off. We make sure to meet at LEAST once a week to discuss and improve our story. Each person involved has been studying and working on what their part will be; may it be lighting, sound, or music, etc. A year ago when I decided to try to actually finish something, if you told me I'd still be working on it to this date, I'd be amazed. But once this project is said and done, I think I will be extremely happy that I took the time to work on it rather then just quick throw up a short film or quick write a meaningless script. We still have a looong way to go. But another cool thing: I've met dozens and dozens of people who have now become good friends to me through all this. I've been talking to several bands and several film locations to get permits, etc. Most people who know you are into an idea, and know you have a passion for it, will do everything they can to help you.

Okay, I'm finished. Sorry so long. Please dont think i'm trying to sound like some teacher or something. Its just a few thoughts- I am nowhere near as capable as a lot of the film-makers in this forum. Thanks


11-02-2004, 10:27 AM
That's a good division of people. I think we've all been both of them at different points in our lives.

I disagree with always knowing your ending. I think that's up to the individual writer. I'd say that I know the ending of what I'm writing maybe 10% of the time. The other 90% I discover the ending during the course of writing, or during rewriting. I'm not suggestion that my method is best either, but I think that using absolutes when talking about something creative is never a good idea. Just because you don't know how the story is going to end doesn't mean that you put off writing until the ending comes to you.

My two cents.


Jim Brennan
11-02-2004, 10:54 AM
I think that we all agree that people who shoot their mouths off and then do nothing can get a bit tiresome.

I think there is however, a different view from those that you stated. There is the person who does what he can, when he can. I come from a writing background as well, and what befuddles me the most has been the technical aspects of filmmaking. For me it has made sense to go out and shoot some shorts to get a handle on those things. I have read extensively on it, but there has been no better education than trial and error. I like to think I don't throw together a meaningless script, but I do try and write something between 10 and 30 minutes that makes sense, has interesting characters and tells a bit of a story. I have been able to do that as quickly as a couple of days, shooting within a few weeks. Other shoots have taken longer both for script and shoot, but that was because I was seriously expanding my comfort zone. Each story and shoot takes on new and specific challenges. The one I'm working on now will primarily focus on dramatic lighting and composition techniques, so I wrote a story that I thought would be good to express that. Anyway, my point is that a year or so of prep work for your first film can be a good thing, as can learning from books and other people. However, there is something to be said for coming up with a simple story with a few characters and just shooting it. It can be a great investment of time if you use it as an exercise and not expect it to be a great (or even good) film. I look at it as building a solid foundation of my own experiences.

But it was a very insightful post, and I agree with Chris that most of us have been in both spots before. And yes, sometimes the true joy of the experience comes from the people you get to work with. Good Luck.

11-02-2004, 11:15 AM
Zach, you are right.
One year ago me and my friend decided to start making a movies.
Today I am almost done with my first feature (some of you know why "almost" ;D)-i got my own equipment to shoot another movie (and debts in my credit cards) and IT FEELS GREAT. Shooting my first feature I learned SO MUCH. EVEN MORE.
Durning the same year my friend was just planning, talking, networking etc etc etc. He read thousands of book. Today - he is just tired and wans to be a ... he is not sure anymore.

So, my experience tells me: you want to make a movie, make one. Just write a story, grab a camera and shoot it.

Of course read some books in the meanwhile and talk to some more experience guys if you can.


11-03-2004, 04:35 PM
I think it's a matter of different strokes for different folks! I think a very very great man said that ;D ;D ;D

If there is any kind of person that does bother me, it would be someone who has nothing but negative things to say about another person's work, and yet doesn't have the courage to either (a) post their own work, or (b) let their work be judged by the same harsh words.

just my (and Arnold's) 2 cent's...


As for me, I hereby state that I will have a 1 minute short shot and edited within 2 weeks of owning my dvx. I'm NOT saying that it will be any good however ;D

Zach Lien
11-03-2004, 05:44 PM
i agree, BUT- i think there's way to many people that are too nice and arent honest enough.

11-03-2004, 09:55 PM
i agree, BUT- i think there's way to *many people that are too nice and arent honest enough.

I definitely agree with that one. I guess the trick is to find the people who *will* be honest. Dishonesty gets nobody anywhere.

Jim Brennan
11-04-2004, 06:32 AM
Being honest and being mean aren't the same thing though. If you are going to take the time to criticize someone, I think it's a good idea to do it in a positive way. I see a lot of that here. It's easy to get discouraged, and it's nice to see that even when people have a criticism, they approach it in an encouraging way. We all want honest opinions, because it's the only way we get better. BUt when you put something out there, especially when you're new, it's kind of like the first time you stand naked in front of a new girlfriend.

11-04-2004, 07:56 PM
I know what you mean.

Saying "that sucks" doesn't cut it. Say why you thought it didn't work, and what could be done to improve it either this, or next time.

11-16-2004, 07:55 PM
when you criticize someone make sure its in private and not in front of everyone

Zach Lien
11-17-2004, 03:11 PM
disagree. if its constructive criticism i think it should be in front of everyone- then everyone can learn something or put their 2 cents in.

11-17-2004, 10:26 PM
Make sure you don't make the person feel like an idiot though. Because then he'll have a bad taste in his mouth towards you, and as the director thats the LAST thing you want with the talent...

Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 08:58 AM
If you really feel it's a lesson that everyone can benefit from, do it in a general way, without directing it at the person. Although I'd have to say that kind of situation would be pretty rare on a set, since everybody's job is different. Unless of course you are talking about safety, or not to pee in the bushes behind the camera dolly.

11-18-2004, 08:38 PM
yea you can really harm some guy's ego if you criticize him in front of everyone - if its not something immediately stupid like the guy is waving flammable curtains in front of a hot light - and its more of a criticism aimed towards his character or he was late or something - make sure you do it behind the scenes - you will earn his respect instead of losing it

11-20-2004, 04:36 PM
BUt when you put something out there, especially when you're new, it's kind of like the first time you stand naked in front of a new girlfriend.

(LOL) That's a great analogy, Jim.
It is rare that someone improves through destructive criticism. We (human beings) are always learning new things and kind, constructive critiques helps in confidence building as well as the desire to improve. A good rule to follow is if you feel the need to yell at or destructively criticize someone on your crew, DO IT IN PRIVATE! Even then you'll still have to deal with the interpersonal fallout. I don’t recommend it.
A good book on managerial techniques to pick up is “Managing from the Heart” by Bracy, Rosenbloom, Sanford and Trueblood. It gives effective techniques to deal with people on a humane level.

Jaime Valles
11-23-2004, 12:48 PM
Several things:

1) When writing a first draft of a screenplay, you MUST know the ending. Otherwise you're getting in a car and going nowhere.

2) When writing a SECOND draft of the screenplay, re-examine the end, to see if the journey was worth it. If not, then change as needed.

3) Always write at least 4 drafts of the screenplay. If you don't, the screenplay is simply not good. No exeptions.

4) In the story, always start every scene as late as possible, and finish it as early as possible. Always. Cut the fat.

5) Watch every movie you can in whatever genre you're working on and study them. The language, the camera moves, the pacing, the length, the music. There's a reason they're all similar... they work. Don't copy them, but do use them as inspiration.

6) Plan, plan, plan. Plan the entire schedule months before the shoot. Have a plan for every hour of every shooting day.

7) Storyboard every single shot. Don't worry about "restricting your creative freedom on the set by pre-determining what every shot will look like". When you get to the set, you can improvise as much as you want, but do it AFTER you've shot everything in the storyboards.

8) Feed the crew. Really.

8 1/2) Thank each member of your crew EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is possibly the most important thing to do during the shoot.

9) Don't shoot 18 hours in one day. Better to split it up into two 9 hour days, and everyone will be in good working spirits.

10) When directing your actors, never tell them they did something "wrong" or "bad". Instead, say something like "It might be a stronger scene if you..."

11) If the actors or crew have strong opinions on something, and would rather do it their way instead of yours, don't argue about it. MiniDV tape is cheap. Do it their way, and also do it your way. Then everybody's happy.

12) NEVER yell at your actors or your crew. Never. Remember they're giving you their time for free. If you have issues with someone, talk to them in private during a break. And whatever is discussed should remain private.

13) Always shoot a closeup of any props the actors are using. A plastic cup, or a cigarette, or a set of keys, or a coffe pot. Whatever. Shoot first, ask questions later. You will always need cutaway footage when editing.

14) When shooting a conversation, shoot the closeups without having the actors overlap their lines. This will make editing the audio MUCH easier.

14 1/2) When shooting a conversation, shoot the wide shots with the actors intentionally overlapping their lines. Otherwise, it won't feel natural.

15) ALWAYS finish the film. Always. It doesn't matter if you're tired of it, or can't wait to move on to the next one. Finish your movie all the way. You will learn more about screenwriting and directing while editing the movie than by reading any book.

That's all for now.

Jim Brennan
11-23-2004, 01:28 PM
I agree with just about all of that, but not the first point. Coming at this from a writer's standpoint, I agree that it can help to know the end in advance, especially with certain types of films. But it is NOT necessary. Sometimes the writer is the first one to take that trip he sends everyone else on...wondering what happens next.
As a writer, there is really only one rule: Write. A first draft is nothing more than a collection of ideas. Often it's not even a framework, or at least not the one you wind up with. I write much better when I just let it all come out, then fix and edit in my subsequent drafts. Don't stifle your writing by worrying about not knowing how it will end. But ultimately, you should do what ever works best for you.

11-24-2004, 07:51 PM
those were some good couple of posts. thank you for sharing.

And as far as covering all possible shots just because mini-dv is cheap, Anyone else care to have a say in that?
*I realized that I do that alot and always end up using the last take of every take. Always end up using the last take of every close-up, every pick-up.
*...except for the minor details like close-ups or pick-ups and other types of coverage, I'm trying to practice shooting with extensive rehearsals instead of wasting 'film' and having to deal with all those shot lists at the end.

Jim Brennan
11-24-2004, 10:38 PM
That is a trade off. *With DV, it is easier to have the attitude of "when in doubt, shoot it again" because tape is cheap. *This might be beneficial if you are inexperienced. *There are few worse feelings as a filmmaker than to be in the editing room, looking for a shot you don't have. *So that extra insurance can help. *

But there is a trade off and only you can decide which part of the deal costs more.

Tape may be cheap, but your time isn't. *Going through miles of footage looking for a shot that may or may not be incrementally better can be an inefficient use of your time. *Plan out your shots well, and you will be less concerned about it, and have less trouble editing. *I do stick figure storyboards myself to make sure I'll be getting what I need. *Now there will be times when you see an opportunity for a better shot. *Take it, because tape IS cheap. *But you will know that you are doing it because it's a unique opportunity, not because you are afraid you don't have enough coverage. *I believe in being flexible, but if you don't really have a clear vision for just about every shot, you might want to get that done before you roll. *And the reason that I'm saying that is only in part about efficiency. *The other part is, if you don't have that clear vision, you don't understand your film yet. *Every angle, every shot, every lighting set-up tells the story in a different way. *Sometimes those differences are more subtle than others, but they are there. *If you know the story well, and understand the relationship between the characters you should figure out the best way to interpret that visually before the camera rolls. (Again, allowing for those "happy accidents")*Plus you get the added bonus of less time editing, because your movie is shot before you pick up the camera.

11-25-2004, 12:14 AM
Tony Scott averages 1 million feet of film.
Walter Hill averages 250 thousand feet of film.
It pays to know what you want before you start shooting. :)

11-25-2004, 09:44 PM
[quote author=jrv3034 link=board=Directing;num=1099418457;start=15#15 date=11/23/04 at 12:48:08]Several things:
8) Feed the crew. *Really.

True, true, true, true, true!!! I worked on a project where one time half the crew was ready to walk off the set right in the middle of the day! We were doing several fight scenes and were right at the change of stunt crew when meal break came. The DP, Gaffer, Grip, 2nd AD, 3 actors, and I (doing script super/continuity) were finishing up some pickups when the food arrived. By the time we finished the pickups and went to get our food - THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT! The new crew of stunt guys had decided to help themselves to the food along with everyone else. When we complained about it, the director and producer sort of said "tough luck" (it was a VERY low budget film). So, we looked at them and said "tough luck" right back! And since the DP also owned the camera equipment and grip truck, guess who won! We got better food than the others had! So, FEED THE CREW! REALLY!