Painting Project:

This assignment consists of a student receiving an approved painting from their professor, then recreating that exact image inside their school.

The students are asked to recreate the mood and look of the painting using advanced lighting techniques as well as props, costumes and sets. Their goal is to recreate the exact position of it’s subjects – paying close attention to lighting, objects, spatial blocking and shadows.

This project is designed to make the student experience what it is like using a storyboard when creating a film. On an actual film set, instead of a piece of random artwork (most storyboard artwork could easily sell at any art auction) the filmmakers must use a series of drawings (known as storyboards) created beforehand to help them plan out exactly what they need to shoot in order to tell their story.

Filmmaking is an expensive process. If you can work out what you need visually on paper, you’ll save precious time and money. You’ll also be able to show your peers the movie before it is shot. If a certain part doesn’t seem to present your idea correctly, you can figure out a way to adjust the scene by adding, subtracting or altering a shot or two. Also, by having a storyboard on hand, you can easily show your cast and crew what you want to visually achieve in your head. It will help you plan out where the actors will stand and move around (referred to as blocking), where the camera will be, and what demands you will require from your location.

It may seem like a lot of work, but on the day that you are shooting your project, you will be glad that you have something to reference while you are running around trying to guide a group of people through a difficult process while trying to not destroy anything or anger anyone in the surrounding area. Also, most filmmakers make the mistake of staying up crazy hours before the shoot begins in a last minute attempt to finish up any work, forcing them to start their project tired and against the ropes. Those drawings made before hand will fill in any blanks that you may not recall on the day.

I’d say this is a great project. The LA Film School certainly has a good head on it’s shoulders. The only thing I’m not sure about is how the project is marked. If the student’s must make an exact replica, thats alright. If they loose marks for changing the image in any way, that’s where the process gets difficult. The majority of storyboards on professional sets often vary when compared to what is actually shot on film. There is a large difference between the set in one’s imagination and the physical set they must use for the movie.

If you’re up for it – try this out on your own time. Since there are no professors here, choose your own artwork and try to recreate that. When you’re all done, post it HERE for everyone to see.

Happy shooting!

It’s been a while!  Almost five months actually.

I haven’t been updating this website because I’ve been off learning how to direct.
Now, I’ve directed some short comedy skits in the past (you can check out my YouTUBE page with all those embarrassing videos, and the ones that made it onto the Comedy Network), but this was my first time raising funds for a project, setting up a crew, getting a location and trying to direct something a little more serious.

And so far – I’ve made a tonne of mistakes!  It’s been a fantastic learning experience.  After shooting the film and not being happy with it whatsoever, I decided to learn from this experience instead of getting grumpy and giving up.

The project was an exercise to see if I could put together all the knowledge that I’ve acquired while working on sets and attending college. I wanted to start from scratch, writing a short script, getting funding and all the rest. While the project we shot may not ever see the light of day, I’ve discovered a personal style that I enjoy and learned what not to do in many situations. I haven’t given up. I am currently in the process of changing things up and preparing to re-shoot the majority of the footage. It can become difficult when scheduling your cast & crew, as everyone has their own activities and it’s hard to get all the times to match.

I’ll be posting more about the progress of the short as time goes by.  One benefit of the project is that I now have lots of behind-the-scenes material and stories that I can share. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and not make them yourself.

I’ll also continue to post about informative books, great online tutorials and general tips, maybe even incorporate a section that documents our short film progress. I’ve been stockpiling a bunch of lessons and notes from the books I’ve been reading as well as more school projects.. There may even be a post regarding crowd funding websites and my experience with them, as I’ve just finished two campaigns.

So check back every once in a while!  I’ll try to develop a schedule for my posts.

It’s time to put our camera’s where are mouths are… or something like that.

Over the past two months we have been in pre-production for a little short movie called “Within the Woods”.
If that name seems a bit familiar to you, it probably is.

Within the Woods is a short story about four kids that travel to a cabin and accidentally disturb supernatural forces that protect an ancient indian burial ground.

Originally created by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert, it was a half-an-hour short film used to raise funds for the first Evil Dead movie. It was shot over a three-day weekend on a family farm.

Our short will be shot in the same spirit as the original. Production will take place over one three day period at a cabin, using what we have available to try and make a short that we can use on a demo reel to fund our first feature film. It will be shot using our own equipment by a crew that has over four years experience working in film. We have also consulted a psychology graduate to assist with the frightening imagery that will be used throughout the short.

Thanks for your time.

Wish us luck!

Let's take a look at the first assignment "Lost & Found". This one comes from the LA Film School. 

Located in Hollywood California, it was founded by a group of Hollywood professionals in 1999. It is a 
state-of-the-art facility that is recognized by the majority of big names in the industry. Most 
importantly it’s building was used by John Williams to record the score for Return of the Jedi!

This facility is a heavy-hitter among all film schools.  Their projects are quite useful to any 
aspiring director. Each week students are presented with projects that will both challenge their 
passion for creating movies and prepare them for any situation that may arise when they work in the 
field.

The students all give off the impression that some projects are assigned without any warning. For 
example, the school takes its students on a trip and presents them with a quick shooting project that 
requires use of an unknown location. 

First assignment: 

“Lost and Found”
Students are given one week with a crew of 3-4 people to shoot one single continuous scene 
(30 seconds – 1 minute). No editing allowed. You can only use available lighting and minimal dialogue.
The central character must lose something and then find it. 

This project is designed to get the student to think about telling a story in a visual manner. 
The student must learn to use basic camera movements as well as structure a story with little dialogue.

Grab a camera, get out there and try this out. Follow the rules and see what you can learn from making
your own version of this project. When you are all done, post it online so others can help you figure 
out where you succeeded and where you need to work out some ideas. Also, post it HERE! We have an 
audience that will watch your work and give you feedback.  

Enjoy!
One of the best ways to enhance the impact of your video images is through the creative use of
lighting. Lighting can have a tremendous impact on how the viewer perceives your video. Through
creative lighting you can establish a mood or the time of day, enhance the illusion of three
dimensionality, reveal or obscure visual information, and create an artificial reality.

Have you ever noticed that your movies sometimes appear to have image issues? The dark areas of your
shot look like there are digital blocks? This is called "artifacting". This can be caused by a variety
of things including compression of your movie file or a lighting ratio that your camera cannot process.
Do not think that your shot is lit correctly because everything looks fine with your eyes.
Always try to view what the camera is processing. You can do this by looking through the viewfinder or
hooking up a field monitor and watching a live feed of your shot. Alright then, let's figure out how to
light your shot correctly using whatever you can find. 

Seeing lighting: A valuable skill that is important to develop-the ability to SEE how light and shadows
fall on objects and people around us, and in the scenes that we shoot. You have to make a concerted
effort to look past everything else and concentrate on the subtleties of color, shadow, and highlights,
which are created through lighting.
You can also make an impact by "lighting with shadows". Lighting is not necessarily the art of adding
light to a scene. As Tom LeTourneau so aptly put it in his book, Lighting Techniques For Video  
Production, lighting is "the art of Casting Shadows".

There are four basic elements to lighting: direction, quality, lighting ratio, and control. 
 Direction-
The direction of light is specifically related to the height and angle of the lighting source.
Height refers to where the light source is placed above ground level. Is it above, below, or even with
the subject? Angle refers to the slope of the light's beam. Together, height and angle determine where
the highlights and shadows fall on your subject.

 Quality-
The quality of light relates to the hardness or softness of the light striking the subject.

 Lighting Ratio-
Lighting ratio refers to the difference in brightness from the lightest area of a subject to the
darkest. This brightness difference is described by a numerical ratio that defines how many times
brighter the brightest area is compared to the darkest area. For example, a 2:1 lighting ratio means
that the brightest area of lighting on the subject is twice as bright as the darkest. Depending on the
sensitivity of the camera, video can accommodate up to about an 8:1 lighting ratio before the shadow
areas loose all detail. The more commonly used lighting ratios for video are 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1.
 Control-
Control refers to the methods we use to shape and color the light emitted from our light sources.
Part of the beam of a light could be blocked in order to create a shadow in a specific area of the
subject. Frequent use of shadow placement can heighten the drama. Another method of controlling light
is to place translucent material in front of the light, which alters the light's beam or color.

*A little bonus -  
Make your own effective "light ring" for $10: HERE
Over the past three years we have come across many videos guiding new film makers with step-by-step
lessons that allow them to create functional products on a tight budget. We’ve also noticed that
because of these tutorials, every filmmaker that follows them may look like a crazed plumber. 

The following is a list of video links and descriptions that we have found helpful. Hopefully you
can step up your productions to the next level using these products and techniques.

A $20 camera slider from Indy Mogul: HERE

A $42 Steadicam from Rgsauve: HERE *This is how you hold the Steadicam by Rgsauve.

A $9 Steadicam for Iphones from Cgrusden: HERE

This is just the beginning. We will seek out other great tutorials that have footage to show that the
products are worth your time. Currently there are thousands of videos out there. Sadly, it’s hard to
find easy products that have great video footage to back them up. 

Simply making a product like these will not allow you to make better movies. You must train with them.
Use them often and for different tasks. Learn what each product can benefit. Just because you have a
Steadicam doesn’t mean your whole project should be shot using it. Each product has it’s own strength,
find out what that is and add it to your movie. 

If you decide to make these products on your own, please BE CAREFUL.

-Happy filmmaking!
Lloyd Kaufman's "Produce Your Own Damn Movie!"
Lloyd Kaufman created Troma Entertainment, Inc. with Michael Herz 35 years ago. They have been
producing their own low-budget films and distributing them on their own without the help of larger
production companies. Troma has created such films as "The Toxic Avenger" and "Poultrygiest, Night of
the Chicken Dead". Trey Stone, Matt Parker, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Costner and Samuel
L. Jackson have all been involved with Troma Entertainment in the early stages of their careers. 
Produce Your Own Damn Movie! gives new filmmakers practical advice and tips from multiple producers and
directors. 

“PRODUCING LESSON #127: Don’t be afraid to talk to everybody and anybody who will listen about your
idea for the awesome movie you want to make. You never know who’s going to cough up some cash for
your production.”

“Be more honest with yourself. If you want to make a film and you are not currently making a film,
money isn’t the thing holding you back. You say you went to film school. This leads me to believe
that there is money floating around somewhere in your life. One of the following may be true:
1. You don’t really want to make a film, but you don’t want to get a real job either.
2. You do want to make a film, but you haven’t invested the time in coming up with an idea and
   actually writing a script. A script may be your best gateway into producing.
3. You have some good ideas, but you are afraid to begin because you are afraid of failing.
If any of those happen to be true, you need to examine whether filmmaking is truly what you have a
passion for, or whether it was the only major where you didn’t have to take Calculus at 7:00 a.m.
The budget isn’t important. Beg for, or borrow whatever you may need. If you need to work for someone
else for 20 years, do that and make movies in your free time.”

This book is riddled with invaluable information that every independent producer should obtain. If
you can, get ahold of this book and take some notes. You'll come out prepared with knowledge and be
motivated to start or finish your project.  

Pick up your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Produce-Your-Damn-Movie-School/dp/0240810457

Happy reading!