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Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Day in the Life of an Independent Moviemaker

Or how to shoot a movie one day.


5am - Up to read the script I’m shooting today for the first time. See, I just got off of two other movies that shot back to back and haven’t had a chance to really read this one yet.

7am – come up with a super quick shooting plan for this flick. It’s a one-day feature. Yes, I’m actually shooting a movie in one day. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. See there’s a market out there in DTV land for movies base on and shot basically as plays.
These flicks usually take place in a single location. Maybe a few different rooms of a single house or maybe even 2 houses. They are usually shot on stages and although the distributors want movie-esque coverage, they are not upset about sets that look like, well sets. So you build up your set, grab three cameras, block the scenes, and shoot them 2 to 3 times apiece varying your coverage and presto! 12 hours later you got 80plus pages shot. Add a couple of exterior establishing shots and you got a movie.

9am – arrive at set. Call time is 10, but I like to get a jump on things. The production designer is already there prepping the set to be ready for noon when the cast is ready in make-up to shoot.

11am. Cast starts to arrive. Now I’m meeting many of these folks for the first time. Auditions took place while I was shooting another movie. Lucky for me we had an ace-casting director and the producers are very reliable when it comes to picking good cast. And with this particular type of flick, casting is crucial. It’s not enough to be a good actor; you have to be a pliable actor. Someone that can roll with the punches and deliver a decent performance with little prep and little time for blocking. Improv skills also help.
I give my standard, this what it’s like to shoot a one day flick as they’re getting into make-up... Listen to each other, engage, stay in the moment, if you get lost just call for a line, go back and do it again. No stops. Let me know when you need a moment to get to any special emotional beats, ect.. ect… When you have down time, run your lines! These flicks require super focus.

1130am. While the cast gets into wardrobe and final make-up, I check the sets.

12pm – get off the first shot, well shots. Three cams. We start with a 17-page scene. 7 characters and lots of movement. We start out with a wide-all action. A tighter 2 to 3 shot focusing stage left and a tighter 2 to 3 focusing stage right. We run through the entire scene, stopping only once for card changes on the cameras.
1pm. Each camera picks a character and floats through coverage. We do the scene again. Having seen the entire thing blocked out the operators now know the major beats and are assigned characters to follow. Because there are 8 characters and only three cams, it’s important to catch the “important” beats and then get whatever else you can.
2pm. Move to the next scene and repeat the above. The rest of the scenes in the movie average between 3 and 8 pages, so things move a little faster.
4pm. Break for lunch.
445. Back from lunch. Rinse and repeat till our 10pm wrap. And yeah, we made it.

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