How would one go about making his own movie?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Chris_House, Apr 4, 2002.

  1. Chris_House

    Chris_House Agent

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    I am a poor highschool student, and lately I have been having the urge to do something creative. With viewing hours of behind the scenes footage and commentaries on my DVDs, I am inspired to use my creativity to make an amatuer movie. My drawback, however, is that I have absolutely no clue about making movies, or the epuipment involved. I mean, I am as beginner as they come. I have never taken any type of film making class, so I couldn't begin to explain anything about cameras, editing, shooting etc, but I hope you guys can help me out.

    What I really need at this point is a link to a site that will explain to me the basics of camera eqpuipment, and I mean the BASICS. One main thing I want to understand, but at this point in time have zero understanding of, is the different types of movie cameras, and what type can produce what type of movie. I hear things like "35mm", "super 8" and the like thrown around all the time. Are those terms anything I should be looking into? What type of cameras and editing equipment do (poor) first-timers like myself use to make the jump from video of my cat on my dad's camcorder, to legitimate movies?

    That is where I am at right now, and I hope you guys can inform me. If not from your own knowledge, then perhaps with a link to the information I am looking for.

    Thanks for any and all info you can provide me.
     
  2. paul o'donnell

    paul o'donnell Second Unit

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    Hi, welcome to the forum Chris [​IMG]
    If you're a high school student with no money you can forget "film" straight away; by which I mean, 35mm, 16mm, most likely Super8 and other 8mm formats.
    On you're budget I would think you are stuck with a camcorder honestly.
    If you are totally clueless, I would recommend downloading something like the demo of adobe premiere, grab yourself a lot of clips from movies, tv, whatever online and try to edit them into some class of a montage and add music, dialogue etc.
    If you're looking for critical approach, something like "Film Art: An Introduction", "How to Read a Film" or "The Cinema Book" will give you a pretty good idea of the basic concepts of film making and analysis. Camera angles, depth or field, yadda yadda yadda.
    Basically the advice is:
    • Grab an editing program for your PC (other people may have easier to use ones than premiere).
    • If that fails, do you have two VCRS and a scart socket? [​IMG]
    • Pick up an introductory text on how to analyse film and perhaps one on low budget production.
    • Experiment! practice makes perfect I believe is the phrase.
    Sorry, I've not got any good websites for you, I'm sure someone will though.
    Good luck there. [​IMG]
     
  3. JasenP

    JasenP Screenwriter

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    Chris if your town has a cable access station this could prove to be a very good resource for you. Generally they offer classes to anyone for a nominal fee. They will teach you how to run the cameras, edit, and you'll have the opportunity to meet people with similar interests as yourself. This will also give you a chance to use high-end equipment that you may not be able to purchase on your own.

    You might also consider getting a few books out from the library on film interpretation, screenwriting, cinematography and of course, film history.

    Good Luck!
     
  4. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    I'm not entirely sure if your morals or ethics play against this, But making an ..ahem, Adult film is probably the easiest way to get some behind-the-camera experience.
    Generally you have few cast members to work with, interior's are a good place to learn about lighting and sound, You can use a camcorder to achieve results as good as the pro's, and somebody somewhere in cyberville is going to pay you $$$ for your art.
    Assuming your a highschool student under the age of 18, then you have your work cut out for you. First you need to pester every relative you have for money. Then buy a suitably used camera on Ebay (I saw some nice 16mm awhile back, heck, even a 35mm for under $500). Then pester them for more money to buy film stock and the like.
    Now that you have the supplies, it's time to practice with the buttons, levers, and switches on the camera. Take a cue from MTV's Jackass and start filming your obnoxious (everbody has a few) friends doing retarded things. And when you have a camera, they'll do even stupider things.
    Also: Commentary tracks on "zero budget" film DVD's provide a wealth of useful info for struggling-artist types. I like Chris Nolan's Following, and Jorg Buttgereit's Nekromantik. Just my $.02
     
  5. Philip Klein

    Philip Klein Stunt Coordinator

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    DO NOT make an adult film. This is the absolute sure fire way to never get into real filmmaking. If you want to work in film, be advised that production cost will be a killer for your budgets. Get some books about independent filmmaking, there are plenty. As a highschool student stick with video. Write, write, write. A film begins on paper. When time for college, choose a school with a good film and video program. This will be the place to work with film stock. School will also expose you to styles and theory of filmmaking that otherwise you might miss. Last bit of advice, read about films and filmmakers, and watch a lot of films, even if you aren't interested in them.

    And make horror films....they are the easiest to make and the hardest to make entertaining

    Good luck, I personally love being a filmmaker, even if no one ever sees anything I ever do.
     
  6. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    I have to agree with the above posters. This is what I learned from making my own film after college about 10 years ago:

    1) Film is way too expensive and our present (2002) video technology is so good that film is unnecessary (you can get your video transferred to film if you need to submit it to a festival). In 1991 I made a 15 minute, 16mm color dramatic film with live sync-sound (later I had to do some Foley). I had a crew of 4, 3 main actors, a couple extras, 4 or 5 locations. After the cost of equipment, film, audio tape, time at an editing suite, time at a sound studio, the cost of work prints, the cost of having my negative cut, and feeding my cast/crew (and a bunch of other stuff) I wound up spending about $40,000 (I was living off an inheritance). Today with a digital camera and a PC and a few other pieces I could make the same film (with better quality) for less than $2,000 (probably less).

    3) In film something is always going to go wrong (two examples: a days worth of work was wasted because a motor in our camera burned out; another one of our locations must have been cursed because every time we tried to shoot a scene, a hair or something wound up on the lens, something we didn't realize until we saw the work print, after 3 tries we gave up and used the take with the smallest hair).

    3) Do not pay friends to work for you. No matter how good a friend they are and how much you pay them, they will still work on "friend time," meaning they'll show up when they want to. If you have to pay someone, hire professionals, or people who want to be professionals but need experience. Friends should work for free (or at least for beer/weed when the project is finished).

    4) Try to spend someone else's money. I am presently working in a job I hate because I spent my inheritance on my film (I also lost $50,000 in the stock market...fucking Orion Pictures!). But anyway, check out grants. There are all kinds of organizations that want to give away money.

    5) If possible, go to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington USA. They are the only school I know of that will let Freshman use equipment (provided they have a legitimate reason.

    One final tip:

    Avoid period pieces. My story took place in 1972. On video you don’t notice it, but on the big screen, after watching my movie several times, I noticed that the 1971 Camaro I borrowed from a friend had a Dukakis bumper sticker on it.
     
  7. Ross Williams

    Ross Williams Supporting Actor

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    I'm actually begining the process of making my first film. I'm shooting on Super8, cause I want the film look, not video. Keeping it silent, so I don't have to mess around with the sound on my first try. I have reliable friends who are talented, and interested in working on my film.
    It's all going to be shot in my apartment with 2 actors, and 3 or 4 crew. A friend of mine is going to do the score. One friend has a camera, another has the lights, I have a Mac G4 with Film Edit Pro. If all goes well it should turn out pretty good for around $500.
    I'm going to try to get it into the 2003 Seattle Film Festival short program. And if not there, than it will at least be shown on ifilm.com.
    My advice is to shoot on video cause it's the cheapest. Try to come up with the simplest idea possible, with the least amount of actors and locations, that will still be entertaining. And read Rebel Without a Crew.
     
  8. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I've made only one film so far (on camcorder) and it was so horrible I will never let it see the light of day again. I am preparing for my first independent "pro" feature now. Here is what I recommend:
    1) Find a camera. This is vitally important... it will determine everything thing else you do. Camcorder is the most economical solution, but it has the problem of having that "used car dealer commercial" look. Camcorders are getting better and better quality, and Digital8 cameras are selling for less than $500 now. Film, while having a better look, is more expensive all around, and is much more difficult to deal with.
    2) Practice editting. Find a good editting program (I reccommend Adobe Premiere if you're on a PC, Film Edit Pro if you're on a Mac) Edit together montages of other film clips, design credits sequences, commercials, etc. Assuming you chose a camera with reusable or inexpensive recording medium (such a CVHS), do some basic shooting with whoever, and practice editting together scenes. You'll get an idea of what works and what doesn't. When you get to shooting, you should always have the editting room in mind.
    3) Assuming you're doing the test shots, experiment with lighting. Lighting can make the biggest difference between looking classy and looking amateur.
    4) Assemble a crew. You're not going to be able to manage all aspects of filming and keep things going. If you have friends interested in film too, see if you can get them to work for free. Try trading favors or goods... if all else fails, offer them a co-producer credit[​IMG].
    5) Assemble a cast. This is your biggest problem. Talent doesn't come cheap, and while you can train people to do an adequete job on most things off camera, you can't train people to act. If you use friends, you're probably going to end up with that "School Play" style acting, highly undesireable.
    6) Plan, Plan, Plan. Before shooting, always go in with everything planned out. Leave a lot of time in there for problems... I can garentee you'll get behind schedule, but the more things you account for before hand, the smoother your shoot will go. I made sloppy planning choices on my first film, and it led to a pissed off cast, a pissed off crew, and a frusterated me who was pulling my hair out. Poor planning is the death of many a film.
     
  9. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Funny, I was about to start a similar thread. It occured to me 2 days ago that I never attempted to make a film, though I love movies AND I have owned a digital camcorder (Sony TRV-310) for nearly three years! I have always wanted to write a screenplay, but never really thought of directing... until now.
    What I have decided is to do shorts. 10 min max. Or perhaps a documentary, about anything. Just to practice being behind the camera (camcorder) in a film-like way. I have some experience with home video editing (ADS Pyro Capture Card + Ulead Media Studio).
    I regret not taking film classes in college, but really, I had other problems. I was BROKE, the priority was to graduate ASAP so I couldn't afford to take classes I did not need.
    Anyway, just letting you know my train of thoughts on the subject [​IMG]
    [EDIT] It was never in my plans to make anything commercial, so perhaps we have different goals. I just want to have fun composing shots, filming, editing, showing my friends etc... and perhaps writing.
    Good Luck!
    --
    Holadem
     
  10. Randall Dorr

    Randall Dorr Second Unit

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    You may want to start out with documentaries, like Hoaldem. Find an interesting person and ask if you can follow them around, get an interview, etc.
    It's much easier to make a film if you're not cringing every five seconds at your wretched dialogue, the amateur performances, the fact that is looks like some local commercial, etc.
    When you move into fiction, do your research in the theatre. It's just the writer and the actors. There's no need to worry about editing, sound, elaborate lighting, special make-up or costumes, and the budget stays small. When you're ready, bring a camera in and film the stage performance. You can edit that if you like (althought there may be no need), do close-ups, a few panning or tracking shots, and the audience will see it's a stge performance and won't be upset that it doesn't have that "gloss" like most Hollywood movies.
    And before/after you read Rebel Without a Crew, listen to Rodriguez's commentary on the El Mariachi DVD.
     
  11. Chris_House

    Chris_House Agent

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    Thanks for all the helpful replies! If I simply use my camcorder, what do I need to be able to edit this footage on my PC? I really am not that knowledgable about this type of thing, so what piece of equipment allows me to transfer my camcorder footage onto my computer? (I downloaded Adobe Premiere) Also, what do I do about the sound? My Sony camcorder does not have the greatest sound (I've had it for about 5 or 6 years). Is there a way to record the sound seperately from the video, and edit it together with the PC program?
    BTW, there is no way I would ever make a porn film. I'm an 18 year old living with my parents (one of which is a Methodist minister). So I dont think making porn would go over very well. [​IMG]
     
  12. John Spencer

    John Spencer Supporting Actor

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    You should also read "The Unkindest Cut". Very eye-opening about the things you can run into making a "simple" low-budget film.
     
  13. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Holadem, If you want to make a short documentary, I hear theres something or another worth documenting in some woods near Burkitsville Maryland[​IMG]
     
  14. paul o'donnell

    paul o'donnell Second Unit

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  15. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

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    If you're wanting to find your feet, certainly start out messing with shoointg stuff on camcorders. It's cheap, it's easy, and is by far the best way to shoot a load of stuff and in the hope of finding your specific style in telling stories.
    In messing around shooting video, you'll soon figure out the benefits and drawbacks. Certainly go DV if you can, the quality is cleaner, and it's the best way to go if you are editing on a PC or a MAC.
    Never, and I stress this, NEVER try to make video look like film, it's just not worth it. I see way too many people do this and it bugs the hell of out me because they are wishing they were shooting with something they're not and fail to exploit the video medium for the benefits it offers. If you want a film look, shoot film, but there are some drawbacks with this route (especially when young and budgetless) as some have mentioned.
    I shot my first 16mm short when I was 17, this was after an intensive training course in independent film production and 16mm filmmaking I took in Oxford a few years back. I don't recommend you start out with film without any prior first hand training, at least very basic training in the format (how the camera works, loading the camera, lenses and so on)...
    Previous posts seems to indicate the format (film) is out of your reach, this may not be entirely true. In wanting to go the film route it's a lot down to who you know, because if you know the right people, film stock is not actually as expensive as you might think it is, certainly not 16mm anyway. With the internet, finding the right people who can help you isn't far out of reach.
    There's a good book called 'Digital Moviemaking' by Scott Billups, this is a very comprehensive read about how to prep for the serious "video" movie shoot, PC/MAC editing, and even video to film transfers (which is VERY expensive I should add). There are also great books liked 'Rebel without a Crew' (by Robert Rodriguez) and What they don't teach you in Filmschool' (by Camille Landau & Tiare White) which I consider required reading when you're ready to take the leap into doing your first serious independent feature.
    There's only so much books can tell you of course. The best way is to train, and there's little difference whether you train yourself by making movies on video, watching and learning from supplements on LDs & DVDs or get training in going the film school route.
    Right now I am in pre-production on my first 16mm feature which I am shooting this year. There's been some delays due to issues in my personal life, but I am forging ahead, surrounding myself with people who believe in me and support me. This is the best thing you can ever do if you're ever in the position to question whether you can truly make your film or not. Surround yourself with good people and you'll go far.
    You'll find too, that progression gives you a real buzz. Recently major progress has been made on the post production and music side of my film, to have the honour of two great guys wanting to help me on this is again, an incredible push in the right direction.
    So, the best things in starting off:
    1) Surround yourself and work with those who believe in you and support you in your desire to make films.
    2) Whilst there is only so much you can learn from third party sources, keep reading about making films, and keep learning from the many supplements out there on fantastic DVD and Laserdisc releases in your desire to better your knowledge of film history and filmmaking.
    3) Start of shooting video, it's cheap and you can endlessly mess around with the format. Take scenes from existings movies and direct them yourself with friends, make short films on video, maybe even the odd feature or documentary on video.
    4)....where you go from here is up to you. Film school is an option, making your first feature in the hope to kick off a career is another. Many choices to be made when ti comes to the want of making movies.
    Good luck, Chris!
    Dan
     
  16. Chris_House

    Chris_House Agent

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    Thanks Dan and the rest of you for all the GREAT replies. There is so much good info in this thread that I know I will keep coming back to it in the future.
     
  17. Richard_D_Ramirez

    Richard_D_Ramirez Second Unit

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  18. Ushabye

    Ushabye Projectionist

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    Write a decent script, otherwise you'd be wasting your time.
     
  19. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Script for an indy feature IS your most important thing! Even if your movie is cheap, if you have a good script people WILL watch
    DO mess around a lot first. Try stuff, experiment. Go to Home Depot and get yourself 4-5 clamp lights and some white posterboard. Using those you can usually manage some competant lighting
    Another great book is "The Filmmaker's Handbook"
    Also, STORYBOARDS ARE YOUR FRIEND! You can be much more efficiant and pre-plan much better that way. Even if you just take still shots of action figures, it's better than nothing
    Go to Dv.com and Videomaker.com and sign up for their free subscriptions for indy filmmakers
    Don't buy a cheap capture card, you'll regret it later
    Hit Fanfilms.com, they have a bunch of advice for SFX films, but please, don't make another lightsaber duel fanfilm [​IMG]
     
  20. John Miles

    John Miles Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't overemphasize my agreement with a couple of previous posts... Robert Rodriguez is The Man. Listen to his commentaries and read his book. He knows what he's talking about.
    Perhaps his most important point is that as a beginner with a limited budget, you shouldn't even be thinking about film until you've learned the ropes with video. Trust me, it is way too soon for you to be worrying about the relative sensibilities of video versus film. Make friends at your local cable TV access channel to gain access to their editing equipment. Master the basics of optics, lighting, and presentation on video first, then move to film if you're so inclined.
     

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