fbpx

Next start date: Jan 14th 2020.

Apply Now

Tag Archives: indie film

http://www.scriptmag.com/features/notes-margins-elements-great-short-films

5 Things to Consider When Making a Short Film

 

There’s never been a better time to make short films. Not only do most film festivals have short film categories, but platforms like YouTube have made it possible to actually monetize shorts.

Particularly if you’re just beginning your film career, there’s no better way to start than making a short film. This film can become your calling card, helping you get into festivals, make connections, and find meaningful work in the film industry.

So what do you need to keep in mind when making a short film?

 

https://gladlydo.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/5-places-you-need-to-re-organize-in-your-home/messy-basement/
There’s gotta be something in your parents’ creepy basement you can use.

 

1. What do you have?

First, take a look at what you have. It’s extremely hard to get funding (other than what you’re putting up) for a short. This is ten times as true if it’s your first. As a result, you’re going to want to look at what you already have at your disposal. Unless some kind of cool set is available for free, set your story someplace easily accessible. Unless you have a friend who’s a special effects or make-up whiz and willing to work cheap, don’t plan for a lot of special effects. Look at what you have and be creative with how you use it. After you make it big, then you can make a film that has everything you want!

 

 http://www.empoweredspouse.com/killer-blogging-tricks/
‘Nuff said.

 

2. Tight script

What makes a short film shoot last for days and days while the budget goes through the roof? Tons of locations and tons of characters. More locations and characters mean more traveling, more set-ups, and more coverage that you need to get. If, instead, your script has one or two locations and one or two characters (and comes in under ten pages), you can get it shot in one or two days.

 

http://www.stayup.com/artwork.html
Six different shots in what will be about two seconds of film. Would you be able to figure that out on-the-spot?

 

3. Storyboards and shot lists

Don’t think you can arrive on set and just wing it. Filmmaking is a complicated medium, and one that requires a lot of collaboration. To that end, everything will go more smoothly if everyone has the same, clear set of guidelines to follow – and if all the shots have been thought through in advance. Create storyboards to go along with the script so that everyone can visualize what you need, and top it off with a shot list listing the shots you need to get. You can check them off as you get each one and be sure not to leave the set minus what you came for.

 

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-cya-23/
Advice in filmmaking… and life.

 

4. Get the coverage!

It’s every filmmaker’s nightmare. You’ve spent time and money to shoot your film only to realize in the editing room that you didn’t get enough coverage. Coverage refers to getting enough shots to be able to edit the film together in a way that appears seamless. If you haven’t gotten enough coverage, you might find there’s no good way to edit together two shots without it jarring the audience. Shoot wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, and inserts of various objects – along with whatever other clever shots you come up with! That way, you’ll have lots to choose from.

 

bad editing

 

5. Put it all together

Editing can be a brutal process, so make sure your footage is clearly organized so you can find what you’re looking for. This will save you from wasting lots of time.  Each minute of finished film will take hours to edit, so be mentally prepared for that fact. And if you do make it to this point only to realize you didn’t get what you needed to put together a decent short film, chalk it up to a learning experience, get back out there, and shoot, shoot again!

Can’t wait to see what you come up with in your short films. If you have any other tips/suggestions, leave them in the comments!

Happy filming!

 

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

Share this article on social media:

Student Spotlight: Joseph Perez

 

 

When Joseph Perez was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2011, following a five-year stint in Japan as a mechanical engineer, he wasn’t sure what would come next. It was pure luck that he had a friend working as a Production Manager at Chloe Productions who, when he heard of Perez’s return, offered him a two-week gig chauffeuring producers around town.

Quickly, due to Perez’s winning attitude and work ethic, that two-week gig blossomed into much more. He was soon given the responsibility of picking up celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, John Travolta, and the entire cast of Welcome Back, Kotter as part of their TVLand Awards appearance. The first time Perez got the chance to step onto a set and see all the equipment, he was hooked.

http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Back-Kotter-Season-3/dp/B00T73AQ7I

 

“With my background as a mechanical engineer, it was all the equipment that really got me excited,” Perez says. Determined to learn what he could about the technical aspects of filmmaking, his early education consisted of learning from apps like the Grip App.

His job driving celebrities and producers led to on-set opportunities, and Perez soon found himself working on such notable shows as Love & Hip Hop Atlanta and New York for VH1, the MTV Awards, and MTV’s World Stage with the Black Eyed Peas. He was racking up experience in reality television, but found himself yearning for something more cinematic.

When asked about working in reality TV, Perez laughs. “It’s not scripted, but it is staged. Most people don’t recognize the difference,” he explains. “Something may have happened earlier in the day, and then the stars will sit down and be told to re-enact it.”

http://more-picture-online.com/love-and-hip-hop-atlanta-cast.html

Wanting to work in a film medium was part of what drove Perez to consider film school. Additionally, he wanted to learn the lingo of filmmaking and gain a better understanding of the art-form. “I didn’t know what blocking was until I came to the DFA,” he remarks. When he learned his GI Bill would pay for film school, he was sold.

When Perez found the Digital Film Academy, he was eager to take part in such a personal program, where students receive one-on-one guidance from teachers who are also industry professionals.  He initially signed on for the One Year Digital Filmmaking Conservatory, and has currently gone into One Year Advanced Digital Filmmaking.

In addition to completing a short film that will be released at the end of the month, Perez has spent the past year amassing countless hours of footage for his Cure of Violence documentary, a passion project that grew out of his interest in two of his friends’ work as “violence interrupters” in the Cure Violence Project.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cure_Violence

“If they see young kids getting into trouble, they intervene,” Perez says, explaining how the “violence interrupting” concept works. This unique approach to addressing street violence and teaching kids better ways to resolve their issues has been credited with having saved thousands of lives and having restored faith in public health strategies.

When asked about his long-term goals, Perez notes that he wants to start his own production company and become a member of the Director’s Guild of America. He also wants to do more screenwriting. Perhaps harkening back to his days in the military, Perez has developed a clear strategy for reaching his goals.

From his time in the Navy, to working in reality television, to film school, Perez has come a long way and lived a fascinating life. We can’t wait to see what he does next!

IMG_3479

 

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

 

 

 

Share this article on social media:

Three Tips for Writing Great Characters

 

 

A great character makes or breaks a film. It’s also what will get a major star to agree to sign on to a project.

Having written a great character is money in the bank, so here are three helpful tips to help make yours the best they can be!

 

http://comicvine.gamespot.com/captain-jack-sparrow/4005-52182/
Too real can be too boring, mate.

 

  1. Don’t make them too much like real people.

People tend to think super-realistic writing equals good writing, but there’s a difference between a film that “feels” real because it hits you emotionally and a film that feels real because it could be a home movie of two people having a boring talk.

One thing about real people and real life: they use a lot of filler. What percentage of your life actually has something HAPPENING? Are your friends riveted if you tell them you: Got in your car, turned it on, went down the street, made a left, went to the grocery store, and got eggs? No? Ok… then why should a screenplay give this much detail?

Additionally, “real” people tend not to talk in a super-exciting way. They make a lot of chit-chat and often dance around their real point. In a cinematic world, you want people who are clear about their wants and put it out there. This drives the drama.

To that end:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu2pFaKCGug
Based just on his lines, what are Austin’s core traits?

 

  1. Limit their traits – and make every line stem from a trait.

In real life, people have tons and tons of traits. You could sit down and list your traits – and easily fill a page. The more traits someone has, the more complicated they are.

While you do want your characters to be complicated, too many traits will dilute them to the point that they come across as vague. Yes, this might make them more ‘realistic’ – but it will also make them boring or confusing… or both.

Good characters should have no more than four core traits, and every action they take and word that comes out of their mouths should reflect on one or more of these traits. This delivers characters who are clear and memorable. Four core traits – and one clear thing that they want. That’s it.

http://killbill.wikia.com/wiki/Beatrix_Kiddo
Think the most important thing to describe about her is that she’s blonde?

 

  1. Make your descriptions count.

When a character’s first introduced, the introduction should be short and to the point, so as not to slow down the reading. However, just because it’s short doesn’t mean it shouldn’t pack a punch. Make those descriptive words count!

Also – avoid describing anything physical that doesn’t give a trait. A huge complaint in the industry is that female characters tend to just be described as “beautiful,” or described in an overly specific way, like “LENA, 20s, short black hair and big green eyes.” This tells nothing about the character and limits the number of actresses who fit the description. Also, unless it’s important that the character be ugly for some reason, don’t worry – a beautiful woman will likely be cast anyway!

Instead, use physical traits that DO tell you something about the person. For example: “PENELOPE, 18, hair out of place and too much in her backpack, stumbles down the hall.” What do you know right away about Penelope? She’s awkward, a bookworm, doesn’t care too much about her looks… You get a lot more than you would from “PENELOPE, 18, brown hair and blue eyes. Beautiful.”

Those are the top three tips for writing great characters. Let us know if you have any others in the comments!

 

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

Share this article on social media:

Opening this Weekend: Boyhood

Rarely is an indie movie’s premiere considered an ‘event’; at least, not compared to premieres of major studio blockbusters released amidst massive marketing campaigns and publicity. But Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, opening this weekend, is an exception to this rule.

The film has received rave reviews since showing at Sundance this year and is currently 100% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after 94 reviews. If those facts alone aren’t enough to peak your interest, though, perhaps the concept is.

boyhood fam
Patricia Arquette with Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater in Boyhood.

Boyhood is a film that chronicles one young man’s journey from ages 6 to 18. That’s not too unique, but the approach to filming the story was: the movie was shot over the course of 12 years, filming 3 or 4 days each year.

The result has been astounding critics and audiences: the viewer gets to actually watch this family of four age and repeat the same cycles at different stages of their lives. Nothing quite like it has ever been done before, the closest attempt being Michael Apted’s 7 Up documentary series that re-visited the same subjects every seven years starting in 1964, documenting their progression from hopeful children to somewhat dreary adults. Boyhood, however, is no documentary; it’s pure cinema.

Ellar Coltrane, the film's star: ages 6 and 18.
Ellar Coltrane, the film’s star: ages 6 and 18.

The effect of seeing time pass in this way can be as unsettling as it is epic. After watching Boyhood, some reviewers remarked upon how it feels to see someone age before your very eyes – reminding everyone that we’re “here today, gone tomorrow.” The film is a surprising 165 minutes long – however, in keeping with the theme of time slipping away, viewers seem to unanimously agree that those 2 hours and 45 minutes fly by.

All this interest surrounding Boyhood suggests it will do quite well at the box office. Only opening in 5 theaters this weekend (Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center, and BAM in NYC and Arclight and Landmark in LA), the film is expected to sell out at every showing, averaging a $50,000 intake for each theater. This is well above the $35,000 ceiling most indie films hit when it comes to theatrical releases. That’s great news for the film’s distributor, Jonathan Sehring of IFC Films, who has amazingly bankrolled the project from its start in 2002.

Left to right: Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, and Richard Linklater.
Left to right: Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, and Richard Linklater.

The film stars Ellar Coltrane as the central character, Mason, and Lorelei Linklater, the director’s own daughter, as his slightly older sister, Samantha. Ethan Hawke, who has notably worked with Linklater on the highly acclaimed Before trilogy, stars as Mason’s unreliable father, and Patricia Arquette rounds out the central cast playing Mason’s mother.

What do you think? Will Boyhood’s realism catapult it to further greatness this year? Or will it fail to live up to all the hype?

 

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

Return to blog homepage.

Share this article on social media:

Digital vs. Celluloid: Tarantino, Nolan, Abrams, and DiRenna Weigh In!

If you’re a fan of indie filmmaking, you’ve probably heard about the digital vs. celluloid debate.

Digital cameras have made filmmaking accessible to everyone; now anyone who wants to can be a filmmaker.

However, purists – and most notably great directors from the previous generation – still believe the only true way to make a great, atmospheric film is by using 35mm.

There’s something to this. The natural grain of 35mm film creates what many still consider to be the look of a true “film.” However, as digital cameras advance, their image quality is also constantly improving.

Can you tell which photo was taken on film or digital? Click the image to go the photographer's blog and find out!
Can you tell which photo was taken on film vs. digital? Click the image to go the photographer’s blog and find out!

A recent article on phys.org highlights both sides of the debate, with insights from Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and the Digital Film Academy’s own Patrick DiRenna.

DiRenna observes that “The only thing that’s lacking (with digital) at this point is a slight level of picture quality, but that will change and in exchange we have a democratisation with artists who are now really able to do their work.” This democratization owes itself to the fact that studios and artists can complete films on digital for a mere fraction of the cost of working with celluloid.

In the same article, Alain Rolleau, whose family runs the famed Studio 28 theater in Paris, seconds this opinion. The first time they screened a film shot on digital, he says he felt like crying, the images were so “icy.” Since then, though, he’s seen steady improvement with the images coming out of digital filmmaking – and it’s now rare that he screens a 35mm film.

Studio 28 - Paris' oldest theater, in business since 1948.
Studio 28 – Paris’ oldest theater, in business since 1948.

Rolleau also points out how 35mm film can face problems after being screened a few times, while digital film maintains the same perfect image over time.

However, Nolan, Abrams, and Tarantino come down on the side of 35mm. Tarantino is the most vocal on this point, saying that “digital filmmaking is the death of cinema as I know it.” During his recent appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Pulp Fiction’s Palm D’Or win, he compared digital filmmaking to “television in public.”

Tarantino discussing digital at a press conference in Cannes.
Tarantino discussing digital at a press conference in Cannes.

“Great artists like Quentin Tarantino are generally uncomfortable when they come across something new,” says Patrick DiRenna. “Charlie Chaplin’s discomfort with talkies is a perfect example — but when he finally made the adjustment, he turned around and made the ‘The Great Dictator’ and his mastery showed through again.”

What do you think? Is digital filmmaking the best thing to happen since sliced bread? Or does it mean that cinema as we know it is lost?

[polldaddy poll=8132614]

 

Read the full article here!

 

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

Return to blog homepage.

 

Share this article on social media:

3 Ways for Indie Filmmakers to Learn from the Numbers at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival, one of the top festivals in the world, took place in January. Now the numbers (how many films were submitted, which got distribution, and which turned a profit) are in, and there’s a lot for independent filmmakers to learn.

The main lesson is for indie filmmakers (and investors) to be more selective and frugal with their projects. In this day and age when anyone can make a film, anyone will – but that doesn’t mean the films they make should cost around $1 million, which most of them do. My opinion?

Cutting your budget - literally.
Cutting your budget – literally.

1. LEARN HOW TO DO MORE WITH LESS.

This mantra should already be tattooed on the brains of indie filmmakers, but given the numbers, I’m not so sure. The budget for the independent film industry, as a whole, comes to about $3 BILLION a year. This means all of indie film combined spends about as much as major studios – but these films do not get major studio marketing to help recoup that money.

The killer: of that $3 billion, only about 2% is ever earned back. Abysmal. Indie filmmakers need to reduce their budgets drastically.

I know – most people will feel cutting budget means cutting quality – and, after all, the budget for an indie movie is already so much less than for a studio feature. But smart filmmaking, at a fraction of that budget, with a polished story and thought-out marketing and distribution plan, greatly reduce the risk of loss and put you on the road to greater professional success.

Speaking of which…

Proceed with care...
Proceed with care…

2. BE REALISTIC ABOUT WHERE YOUR EARLY FILMS BELONG.

All indie filmmakers want to get into Sundance, not to mention the other big festivals. But with a total of about 12,000 films submitted each year, with only 200 getting in, be honest with yourself – is submitting to Sundance the best use of your time and money when you’re just getting started?

Yes, some folks at Sundance are ‘first-time filmmakers’… but in reality, this probably means they’ve worked on films for years in different capacities. ‘First-time filmmaker’ does not necessarily mean that their Sundance film was the first time they ever picked up a camera.

Chances are, the first few shorts you EVER make aren’t going to be able to get in – and that doesn’t mean they aren’t great films! A better strategy is to submit those great films to a variety of smaller festivals where you have a high chance of getting in and scoring prizes. This leads to more recognition, more experience, more connections – and a better chance of being able to put together something Sundance might be interested in once you reach the top of your game. (Not while you’re still learning.)

Finally, even if you are one of the talented and lucky people to make it into a festival like Sundance:

All your eggs. One Basket. Disaster.
All your eggs. One Basket. Disaster.

3. DON’T LET YOUR ENTIRE DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY HINGE ON FINDING DISTRIBUTION AT A FESTIVAL.

About half of the films at Sundance got distribution… but for a lot of them, their distribution deals equalled NO upfront money, since online digital distributors were the only ones biting. If you spend $1 million dollars (or even $10, for that matter) with absolutely no plan of how to get the film to the public – chances are you’ll never make your money back.

Again, it’s important to keep your costs low. Figure out how to make your film on a small budget and monetize it afterwards with different forms of non-exclusive distribution (worked out ahead of time if possible.) Work your magic with various press outlets to get the word out and drive people to your screenings or online store. Also consider organizations like Tugg.com, who can help put on limited showings of your film in major theaters for a fraction of the cost of a large release. Then, when you also get into a big festival and score major distribution, it’ll just be icing on the cake.

Don’t agree? Take a look at the below infographics , courtesy of www.culturalweekly.com – and let me know what you think in the comments below!

sundance infographic

 

 

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

Return to blog homepage.

Share this article on social media:

img1

Why DFA?

Looking into attending film school? Find out why DFA is right for you! Click to compare film schools in NYC.

Read more
img1

Apply Now

95% of the media produced in the industry today is digital! Join the Evolution ® and learn 21st century film making today at DFA!

Read more
img1

Free Equipment Access After Graduation

DFA graduates are granted a membership - full access to our facilities, equipment and resources all for FREE!

Read more
img1

Plan a Visit!

Meet with our Director, tour our facilities and find out if DFA is the right place for you to pursue your career goals.

Read more