Archive | Filmmaking Basics

10 Guiding Principles for Aspiring Film Makers

cinema ticketI have always been obsessed with creating excellence in everything I do. In my quest for excellence as a film maker, I have traveled the world learning the tools and techniques as a result of being on the ‘front line’, filming in countless different environments in almost every continent (I never got to Antarctica!). However, no matter where and what I was filming, the approach in each and every case was fundamentally the same.

There are some guiding principles that drive what I do. I thought I would share 10 of the main ones here with you today. Then, in future posts, we’ll move onto the specifics of increasing your film making confidence and knowledge as rapidly as possible.

So here are my 10 guiding principles for success as a film maker. I’ll be coming back to each of these in detail in the weeks and months ahead:

1) Most aspiring film makers are not confident enough to go out and shoot for money. It’s only the lack of knowledge that prevents their confidence from brimming. I remember my first ever shoot for the BBC, I was petrified I’d mess it up, sweating nervously. Just simply because of a lack of experience and knowledge (at that time). There’s no short cut here, but I can accelerate this for you.

2) If you’re not out shooting projects, you’ll never get over the confidence hurdle. Experience comes from making lots of mistakes, but learning fast! I have got literally dozens of stories of screwing up on location, yet I was always working. The secret is knowing how to fix a problem, always have a Plan B.

3) What defines a film maker anyway? And who has the right to say you can’t be one? You don’t need to spend huge sums on all the gadgets or the very latest kit AND it DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT prevent you from creating great work. But knowing how to do it on a budget, there’s the magic formula! Buying ‘stuff’ is really easy…. making stuff takes some effort.

4) You have 8 seconds to make an impact on a new visitor to your website. If you don’t get them in the first 8 seconds, they’ll move on to the next site, so if you want them to watch your film, better make the opening shot count! Try this next time your ‘browsing the web’, ask yourself “what’s interesting for me?”, “what am I looking for?

5) Execution is the greatest tool available for film making success. Becoming great at realising your vision and ‘making it happen’ will make you a confident and great film maker. There’s only so much theory you can consume before you have to apply yourself.

6) If you shoot for money, your prices are almost certainly too low. But if you don’t have the confidence to charge more, perhaps this is holding you back. There’s a commonality amongst creatives and it’s about money, have you ever felt that it’s almost ‘frowned upon’ to charge ‘too much?’. Let me tell you something, those people who frown only do so because they’re envious. Be proud of your prices. If you truly believe that you give your clients exceptional service and value and that they benefit, then you are providing huge value, just make sure you reflect this in your pricing. Think about it, when do you ever buy anything that’s so important and look for the ‘cheapest’?

7) Being a Film maker can be tough, but just being a spectator is much, much worse. You’ve made the right decision (or maybe you’re about to make the right decision). Film making is one of the most rewarding vocations ever and there has never before been so many platforms on which to showcase your work. But more exciting are the number of businesses you can approach to create compelling films that will not only be creative wonders but also help the client promote their product, service or widget. Make films and get paid? Imagine!

Everyone can learn to be a great film maker, it’s a choice. Nobody will tell you this but becoming a confident and successful film maker is actually fairly straightforward. Study and duplicate success. It’s (almost) as simple as that.

9) The most important factor in creating film making success is your mindset and thinking. That’s why a significant proportion of my work is focused on building your confidence and teaching you how to follow a process when shooting. Once you master this, you will be amazed at how easy it is to replicate in ANY situation.

10) Nothing I tell you will ever be theory. I can now go into any situation, light it, shoot it and know with absolute certainty that it will edit together well and look fantastic but getting there was not always easy. All my skills and experience were developed in ‘the trenches’. If I can save you from some of the hurdles I had to jump over, I will have done a good job.

About this Author: Den Lennie is an award winning veteran of a 17 year career in television production with credits as Lighting Cameraman, DOP, Producer and Director. He’s worked with broadcasters, production companies and top film-makers from all over the world, filming in nearly 50 countries. The list of people Den has personally lit and filmed reads like a Who’s Who of celebrities from the world of cinema and music: Ewan McGregor, U2, Bon Jovi, Liam Neeson, Kylie Minogue, Mel Gibson, Noel Gallagher, Robbie Williams, Christina Aguilera, Tom Cruise and Naomi Campbell are just a few of the names Den has captured on film or video. He’s worked at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo, the MTV and Mobo awards ceremonies and at London Fashion Week. Den’s career has also taken him into the field of news and documentaries, of property and travel programmes – winning Royal 2 x Television Society awards in the UK.

He now dedicates all of his time when not filming to an alternative film making education resource offering Online Film Making Courses, Practical Training, Mentoring and Hands on Workshops for Aspiring Film Makers Who Don’t have the time or desire to go to film school.

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Is Being a Film Director Right for You?


To many cinephiles, nothing is more thrilling than the idea of directing a film. From choosing a team for a project, to developing a vision for the movie, to working with actors to realize that vision – it’s simply tops when it comes to excitement. If this sounds like you, then maybe you’ve considered becoming a director… but how can you know if it’s the right choice for you? Here are 5 steps to help you with the decision.

Step 1 – Think about who you are.

Film director schools prepare students for the world of cinema. It’s an exhilarating world to be sure, but also a tough one which demands perseverance. So take a moment to think about your personality. Are you truly passionate about film? Are you the type of person who is discouraged easily? Try and be as honest as you can in your self-assessment.

Step 2 – Read up about the career of less famous film directors.

It’s easy to read about the Steven Spielbergs and the Roman Polanskis of the world, but the truth is most film directors don’t command eight-figure salaries. Do some research online about the “less famous” directors working today. What is their lifestyle like? How did they find success early in their careers? Which film schools did they go to? By researching the answers to these questions, you’ll develop a greater understanding of the reality of typical film director’s career.

Step 3 – Visit a film director school.

Many film schools in Canada offer open houses, where prospective students can visit the campus and talk with teachers. Find some schools in your area, visit them, and take a moment to talk with the instructors who work there. Many film schools employ working directors in their programs. Chat with these director/teachers to get first-hand knowledge of the position, and the industry.

Step 4 – Shadow a film director.

Call your local film director school and ask to talk with an instructor who is a director. Ask that director if they’d mind if you shadow them the next time they’re directing a movie. “Shadowing” means you literally watch the director work, and in that way, develop a greater understanding of the person’s role.

Step 5 – Enrol in a film director school.

If you’ve done steps 1 to 4, and you’re convinced that being a director is right for you, then the last thing to do is to take a look at some film schools in Canada, and enrol. As a student, you’ll spend all day learning about the field, and this total immersion in film director school is the last step to help you decide if being a director is the career you’d like to pursue.

About this Author: Contact the Trebas Institute for more information on their film director school.

Percey Evans is a freelance writer who works for Higher Education Marketing, a leading Web marketing firm specializing in Google Analytics, Education Lead Generation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Mobile SMS Alerts, Social Media Marketing and Pay Per Click Marketing, among other Web marketing services and tools.

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So You Want To Be A Filmmaker?

filmmakerFilm can be a very powerful medium, it combines both audio and visual, to tell a story. Watching movies can provide escape as well as excitement, while making a film yourself can be challenging, exciting and magical.Films have the power to affect emotions, they can make you see things from a different perspective, and discover new ideas, or simply create escape or fantasy. Film can make you laugh or cry and each film should have a purpose, whether it is to entertain or inform.

The important thing to remember about making a successful film is simple, it should tell a story.The best way to tell a story is with pictures. Film-making when broken into the components, is visual storytelling, in the shots that make up the scenes, and the scenes put together, make up the complete film.

There are so many different types of film and each serves it purpose.

Studio films are backed by film studios and usually have a hefty budget, averaging $70 million and as high as $300 million. Usually a major star will be featured. On the other end of the spectrum, are the independent films, which are often low-budget, because the money is raised by the filmmaker, without studio financing. Somewhere in between, there are independent divisions of the studio which is really a boutique, operating on smaller budgets but with backing of the studio.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types. As an independent filmmaker, you have total control, and your film can be created exactly as you envision it, however you have no operating budget. A studio picture, with larger financial backing, and highly paid actors is determined by the studio for the best commercial success and creativity normally takes a back seat.

Your movie can be shot in many different formats. Filmmakers appreciate that the medium on which the story is set can elicit different audience reactions.Multiple choices include analog or digital video or high definition. The choice of film camera can go from super-8 which is an affordable format for beginners to 16mm which produces picture quality that may be adequate for television, or with studio production of 35mm motion picture quality, which is used for most television and feature films.

High definition usher in a new experience, with much sharper pictures, and in some instances it may seem closer to being live.

Great films are seldom made without a good story, and choosing the right material can be more important than anything else.Good ideas for films can come from almost anywhere, once allowed to germinate and blossom, a once nascent idea can develop into a full blown screenplay.

About this Author: Short film making is a good way to get beginners started in the area of film making because they are easier to produce. You can learn more about the business by visiting

Learn film making to show your creative side using a very powerful medium by visiting

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Difference Between Regular 8mm Film and Super 8mm Film

8mm filmThe Regular 8mm and Super 8mm Film are the most used film format of all time. The Super 8mm is regarded as an easy but high quality alternative to the Regular 8mm. Frequently, Super 8 and 8mm are terms used interchangeably. However, there are key points that differentiate one from the other.

Eastman Kodak introduced the Regular 8mm in 1932 to the market as a cheaper alternative to the 16mm. Not long after, it became a popular format for home movies and low-cost film productions. More than three decades later, Kodak released the Super 8mm, which, as the name suggests is a hybrid of the Regular 8mm. It was able to record sound and provided improvements both for image quality and ease of use and thus, became the preferred low-cost format. In the 1980’s, with the advent of VHS and VCR tapes, both Super and Regular 8mm suffered significant reductions in terms of consumer preference.

Super 8mm have sprocket holes that only cover fifty percent of the width required by Regular 8mm films. Consequently, this allows Super 8mm film area to be larger than the Regular 8mm. This enables Super 8mm to capture more details. Physically, Regular 8 mm can be differentiated from Super 8mm films through the size of its sprocket holes. The sprocket holes of Regular 8mm are larger and run the top and bottom of each frame while Super 8mm have smaller sprocket holes that are aligned at center of each frame.

In terms of usage, Regular 8mm films are shot on 16mm films and run through the camera twice. It involves running the film through the camera once and exposing half of it, and then, the film is flipped and run through the camera again to expose the second half. Upon processing, the film is split at the center and attached at the ends which make a single roll of 8mm film that’s twice the length of the original 16mm roll. Using Super 8mm films is less tedious as they load easily into a camera and are sold in ready-to-use cartridges instead of reels which require threading. Super 8mm films only run through the camera once since it is originally an 8 millimeter film.

Transferring Regular or Super 8mm to DVD requires that you inspect them for scratches and lines as well as other defects. Some of these are repairable but others are not. Films stored in humid environments are more likely to have mold, mildew or fungus on them. Usually starting at the edges, it gradually works its way to the emulsion, damaging the film in the process. The damage can be stopped with chemicals especially if is contained in the outer edges. Damage in the emulsion can also be removed but it usually ruins the film irreversibly.

Another problem that arises with decades of time is shirnkage. You can manually test for it by comparing 100 strips of the film you want to test and 100 frames of a new film or a new white leader. A Shrinkage Gauge can be loaned from the Association of Moving Image Archivists but you need to be a member. Shrinkage of over 0.8% may damage the film if loaded on a projector. 2% shrinkage means that the film cannot be salvaged even by the most skilled professionals.

Most people transfer their Regular and Super 88mm films to DVD for better and more convenient viewing. If you are still hanging on to these decades-old media, don’t wait any longer. Memories are precious so it’s best to ensure that these once-in-a lifetime events are saved on a digital format that enables you to enjoy them to the fullest and will not degrade.

About this Author: Play it Again Video, an on-site film transfer lab located in Newton, MA has been transferring 8mm film to DVD since 1986.

Not sure what’s on your old 8mm, Super8 or 16mm film reels? Bring them in here and watch your film on our film viewer. There is no charge, no obligation, but you do need to call (617) 332-3300 to reserve the film viewer.

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8 Reasons Aspiring Film Makers Fail to Ever Make Any Money!

filmmaking tipsEver since I began teaching this stuff, I have had the opportunity to observe many careers. Interestingly, those who had the most “talent” were not necessarily the ones who became the most successful. A career that looked promising could crash and burn before it even got started. In taking a closer look at this occurrence, I noticed that there were factors that surfaced again and again. They are:

1. Lack of training
2. Attempting to do everything yourself
3. Poor website
4. Poor attitude
5. Unrealistic expectations
6. Poor organisational skills
7. Giving up too soon
8. Lack of professionalism

Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

1. Lack of training

Successful athletes, singers and actors all have coaches, even (and especially) when they’re at the peak of their career. It’s no different for you, though sometimes a beginner with a certain degree of natural talent might believe they can go it alone. It is very difficult to see yourself as others see you, and it’s very hard to film and direct and edit and light and do sound and do graphics yourself, all at the same time. A good coach will help you turn your raw talent into bankable skills, they will teach you how to move beyond simply having the right kit and help you realise your own niche. To succeed in film making and video production, you need much more than raw talent and desire, you need good training, a reliable film making approach, marketing skills and the self-discipline to stop beating yourself up when the going gets tough. A good coach can shorten the learning curve by years and give you the support you need to pursue your professional video/film making career.

2. Focus on one aspect of production

Traditionally, there are well defined roles in film or video production. Producer, Director, Cinematographer or DoP, Camera Operator, Make Up, Sound, and so on. And that is so that productions run efficiently with clear lines of command. However, modern production is changing and increasingly you will find yourself adopting many, if not all of these roles, in order to bring the production in on budget. But the biggest mistake you can make is believing that you can do each role simultaneously and with equal skill. You wouldn’t believe the amount of film makers that do this and it really annoys clients. It’s one of their biggest complaints.

You cannot make films/video alone with any real commercial viability. It’s a collaborative process. Sure, you can have a small crew. Find a good team of professionals to help. Find a good editor. If you are not confident in hiring an unknown, speak to others, ask for references and have a look at their previous work, then try them out on a small project. Remember, any crew you hire are an extension of you and your brand. Finding a good support team will allow you to focus solely on shooting.

3.Poor website

A website is an important marketing tool for a film maker, and it must be good. Having a bad website is worse than having no website. Have a website with short clips of your work, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sadly, this is the one place where many beginners cut corners and fail. Your website should contain good quality footage filmed by you and edited well (see above re: the importance of finding a good editor). But a word of warning, make sure that you’re ready to take this step. A website that is homemade, badly designed or lacking quality content that is relevant to your target market will get clicked off within seconds and you won’t get another chance. You can set up a WordPress blog within 15 minutes, but that’s what everyone is doing. To get a decent designed website can be expensive – anywhere from $1000 to $5000 – so don’t do it until you’re ready and have trained properly, otherwise you’ll be wasting your money.

4. Poor attitude

In the Film & TV business, or any business today, good social competence – the ability to work well with others – is a must. There is no place for prima-donnas or film makers with attitudes. You have to be able to take direction graciously, put up with fickle clients and directors and take rejection. I have been to too many shoots where the film maker is sat at lunch moaning about the business and they’re only doing this ‘gig’ for the money because they’re only a stepping stone away from making their ‘feature film’. Such negativity has a way of catching up with you and is the fastest way to undermine a career.

5. Unrealistic expectations

People often ask me how long it will take before they’ll start to make money in digital film making. That depends on many factors: the quality of your work, your talent and training, the amount of time you spend on marketing yourself and your persistence. You must be willing to market yourself and that means finding clients, agencies and Directors that are willing to look at your work and showreel, and consider you for future jobs. This can take months or even a year or more to do. But it can be done. I did it and you can too.

6. Poor organisational skills

This is the part where the artistic side of being a film maker dovetails with the business side. Film makers tend to be, and indeed must be, creative and artistic individuals. This means that thinking and running themselves as a business can be tricky. However, it’s a must if you want to work professionally. Think of yourself as a product that has to be marketed. You will need a computer, a printer and a database of businesses and agencies who you will need to form relationships with. You will also need a system to constantly keep you in contact with the people who can give you work. Film making is a people business, and people buy people.

7. Giving up too soon

There have been occasions in my career – when I was working as DoP – where I have called the same Director or production company every month for years! Some may be resistant to that, others won’t, but one thing is for certain – they will know who you are. Many people give up too soon or don’t like doing this. However, if you really want it, you must make yourself do it and thankfully it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t sabotage your career before it gets started.

8. Lack of professionalism

You name it!

Turning up late for meetings and shoots. Arguing with the Director. Not being prepared. Turning up drunk or under the influence. Letting a bad mood show. Spreading gossip. Bad mouthing other film makers at every opportunity. Not caring for personal hygiene. Not following up on opportunities and leads.

Need I say more?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my report and I look forward to providing you with more important film making information in the future.

About this Author: Den Lennie is an award winning veteran of a 17 year career in television production with credits as Lighting Cameraman, DOP, Producer and Director. He’s worked with broadcasters, production companies and top film-makers from all over the world, filming in nearly 50 countries.The list of people Den has personally lit and filmed reads like a Who’s Who of celebrities from the world of cinema and music:Ewan McGregor, U2, Bon Jovi, Liam Neeson, Kylie Minogue, Mel Gibson, Noel Gallagher, Robbie Williams, Christina Aguilera, Tom Cruise and Naomi Campbell are just a few of the names Den has captured on film or video.He’s worked at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo, the MTV and Mobo awards ceremonies and at London Fashion Week. Den’s career has also taken him into the field of news and documentaries, of property and travel programmes – winning Royal 2 x Television Society awards in the UK.

He now dedicates all of his time when not filming to an alternative film making education resource offering Online Film Making Courses, Practical Training, Mentoring and Hands on Workshops for Aspiring Film Makers Who Don’t have the time or desire to go to film school.

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Guide to Film Set Etiquette

directors chairEtiquette is very important on set and having bad etiquette can go as far as getting you fired or put on someone’s blacklist. Bad etiquette is something even the most experienced person is guilty of from time to time, but it is most common with people new to film sets. The problem is that most new, less experienced people especially ones fresh out of film school or kids that have taken online film courses have an uncontrollable desire to show you just how much they know or how good they can be at every job. What they don’t understand is that making those comments and suggestions or doing someone elses job is hurting their careers more than doing them good. Soon they will be known for having bad etiquette or being a know it all.

General Etiquette:

Drug and alcohol use is frowned upon on set.

Keep you mouth shut and your ears open.

Respect the chain of command.

Be polite, say please and thank you.

Learn people’s names. This is a big one, camera dept gets to cheat and tape the actors grid that’s on the call sheet to the camera, others aren’t so lucky.

Be watchful and respectful of your co-workers. Just because farting is okay on the grip truck doesn’t mean its okay in front of the talent.

Try to show up a little early. Do some networking, learn where the equipment is, read the call sheet, have a coffee. Do whatever it takes to prepare yourself for the day.

Arrive ready with the tools you need to do your job.

At top of day report to your department head, introduce yourself and be respectful.

When given instructions in person or over the walkie be sure to acknowledge by saying “copy” or “copy that”. Do not copy if you do not fully understand the instructions. Feel free to repeat back, ask questions or do whatever it takes to fully understand what you are being instructed to do.

When in need of a washroom break be sure to tell your boss! In film school we were told to ALWAYS tell the Assistant Director as well, that is great in theory, but on larger sets the AD has so much to deal with that they really don’t need to know which tech is pooping. You are fine as long as your boss knows and someone is around to cover you. Now, that goes for lower level crew mainly, as a Cinematographer or any higher up position the AD must be told.

Watch your boss and be aware of what is going on in your department and around you.

Work hard, but don’t over do it. ‘Work smart, not hard’ is a good motto to follow, but that doesn’t mean be lazy. Pace yourself, the days are long and there will be plenty of work.

Allow others to do their jobs, don’t be a hero. Don’t chirp in about things that have nothing to do with you or your department.

If you want to help another department ask them if they need it first. A simple “may I?” before moving a camera case or stand can save you a lot of grief later. The bigger the set the less likely you will be allowed to touch anything that doesn’t belong to your department.

Take a call sheet at the top of the day or print one the night before. In most cases many of your questions can be answered by looking at the call sheet

If on a longer job don’t be afraid to ask for a one liner, It can help you to be ready for future days.

Communication. When turning on a light, flying in track, dolly or anything in general call it out. Don’t just walk on to set with a 10 foot chunk of metal, that’s how people get hurt.

Do not just plug items into any available outlet. Never unplug anything. ALWAYS ask an Electric.

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3 Ways to Make Your Producer Smile – On a Lower Budget

starsBeing restricted to a lower budget doesn’t mean you can’t get amazing results when lighting a scene. I’ve seen many instances where a Director of Photography, with limited resources, shows up to a set for the first time and is expected to light it fast and beautifully. In most circumstances when this occurs, he probably has a small lighting package he must deal with to get the job done. Don’t let this happen to you! Here are three things that will up your game every time.

1) Do your homework! Don’t show up unprepared on the shooting day. Do a thorough location scout and see what you have to deal with. Spend a decent amount of time and analyze any and all factors that could make your life difficult. For example, if you were to shoot on a neighborhood street in front of a house, it’s very important to know where the sun will be at any given time of the day. What if you lose two hours of sunlight because the sun is going to be behind the house two hours before sunset? The more time you can spend on location, the better. That being said, sometimes a location scout isn’t possible. In that case, find out as much as you can about your location, such as size, indoor/outdoor, and even the color. Based on that information, prepare the best you can. Remember, any preparation, even a little, is better than no preparation.

2) Pay attention to all the possible available light you can get. This could include window light, practical light fixtures, white wall or ceilings to bounce light off of, fireplaces, etc. Anything you can do to make life easier. You should discover these during your location scout. Pay attention to things that could negatively affect you, like bland wall colors or ugly, fluorescent light fixtures.

3) Turn negative lighting into a positive. I know it sounds super cool, but I’m being totally serious. Reduce the amount of lights you use by throwing in some negative fill. It will save you time, look really nice, and cost less than a light. A black flag can often be used instead of a fill light. Place your key light slightly more frontal than you would normally. It would normally create a flattering lighting style, but when you place that negative fill as close to the subject as possible, it takes away that flatness, and becomes awesome. The effectiveness of this technique depends on a couple of variables: how tight your frame is, and, based on that, how big your flag is. If you are very close up, a smaller flag will work. The looser the frame, the larger the black flag needs to be.

Incorporating these three tips into your lighting design and your work will make a great improvement in no time. Remember: thinking ahead is key. Do the right thing.

About this Author: If you would like to read more about Lighting and Cinematography, visit my blog- Lighting From Within

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7 Easy Steps to Shooting Great Videos

filmMany people are so intimidated by their video camera that they rarely use it! With just a few steps, you too can be a great shooter of your family films.

1. Know Your Camera
While you don’t need to know every last feature of your camera, you should know the basics of how to use it. Some cameras now offer an “Easy Button” where everything is automatic. This can be wonderful for many filming situations. For times when you don’t want your camera’s focus to constantly change during an interview, for example, do a few test runs before using the manual focus button.

2. Know Why You’re Filming
Before you turn your camera on, think about what you’re about to film. What is it that you want people to take away from your shots? What do you want them to remember? Is it the actions in the shot? Or what someone is thinking or feeling at the time? If it’s a long action shot (say a school play), consider investing in a tripod for a steady long shot (and a thankful right arm!) If it’s a personal interview, consider investing in a better microphone.

3. Establish Yourself
Once you’ve figured out your main objective of the shoot, you want to take a hint from the pro’s and make sure you get an establishing shot, ideally at the start of filming. An establishing shot simply establishes where the filming is taking place or identifies without words what you are filming. This could mean a wide shot including as much or all of the action in the shot as possible. For the school play example, it could be a shot of the entire stage. Or perhaps a quick shot of the front of the school or a sign naming the play. Once you’ve established for your audience “where” you are, you can then vary your shots with closer-in shots (called medium and close-up shots.)

4. Let The Action Tell The Story
Too often, people think they have to do more with their camera to make their home movies interesting. This often means that pesky zoom button is in constant use! Not only does this lower your production value, it leaves your audience feeling a bit seasick. Instead, try to use your zoom button only to change shots (from say establishing to close-up) and then let what’s happening in the shot play out. Your audience will definitely thank you!

5. It’s All About the Lighting
Have you ever noticed how your home movies shot outdoors look beautiful and the ones inside look noisy or grainy? This is because natural light (sunlight) is much stronger than tungsten (indoor light) and most consumer video cameras require a great deal of light to make a beautiful picture. Therefore, when indoors, these cameras will do something called auto gain which creates additional “artificial” light but also adds grain to your picture. So remember–when shooting indoors, use as much available light as possible, and make sure that available sunlight is in the right place–to the front or side of your subject to light up their face–not behind them where they will be in silhouette.

6. Sound Is A Beautiful Thing
Hearing someone’s voice is equally as important, and sometimes more so, than seeing their face. So know your camera and its microphone capabilities. If you are sitting in the back row of the school play and are just using an internal microphone on your camera, don’t expect to hear your daughter’s lines clearly. Do some tests ahead of time to evaluate if your filming situation requires a different or additional kind of microphone.

7. Be Prepared
The most important thing you can do is make sure you have lots of blank tape (or drive space) and several charged batteries! Without them, all of the above is meaningless. So take the time to be prepared for your shoot.

About this Author: DMB Pictures is a boutique video production company specializing in producing broadcast-quality personal stories for families, non-profits and small businesses. The company opened its doors in January 2006 led by Debbie Mintz Brodsky, a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with more than 20 years of experience.

Visit us at

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Making Movies and Film Investors

sundanceThere are extremely talented potential filmmakers out there that never make a movie because they just can’t bring themselves to take the leap of faith. Saying yes to making a movie starts with an attitude that regardless if your movie is entertaining or terrible at least you give it an honest go to see if you got the fire in you to make movies.

In the world of making of movies, especially at the indie film level, there are zero guarantees that every aspiring filmmaker that sets out to go from screenplay to distributed movie will make it to the end. Making movies is risky creatively and financially. Sometimes a movie falls apart during pre-production, filming or in post-production for lots of different reasons.

Making a movie to me is like gambling. You try your best as a filmmaker to tilt the odds in your favor as much as possible so you can win. Professional gamblers make educated bets and so should filmmakers. The one thing that successful gamblers and filmmakers need is the attitude that they are going to go all in on their movie making risk.

Saying yes to making a movie is really putting your ass out there creatively and financially. Many indie films are funded through family, friends, online movie crowd funding or your own cash. I’m still on the fence if it’s harder to say yes to making a movie with money from family and friends and your own pocket or to deal with film investors.
Honestly, using online movie crowd funding to me is risk free filmmaking. The people that donate aren’t giving you money expecting to ever see anything back or get a return on investment. It’s like gambling with a bankroll that’s free. When I donate money to the people that set up shop outside of stores I don’t expect anything back when I put money in the box or bucket.

It’s like lending money to that one relative or friend that you know will never be able to pay it back, but you like them and still want to help them out without holding it over their head.

When you use money from family, friends, your own money or film investors cash there is a much stronger sense to get the movie done in my opinion. No filmmaker wants to face family, friends or film investors and say they couldn’t finish the movie. Friends and family are always forgiving in the end, but you’ll still feel an emotional letdown if you can’t deliver a finished movie like you told them you would.

Film investors are not forgiving and will cut you off from future film funds. They can write off the loss, but your reputation will take a hit and you’ll lose out on them investing in your movies in the future. Finding money to make movies is harder than making the movie. Without film financing you only have a screenplay and a movie making dream keeping you company.

I always like to try to put out the brutal honesty first before getting to the feel good part of things. The great thing about saying yes to making a movie is you’re moving from being one of the people that only talks about making movies and never does it.

When you’re not even in the game you can’t win or lose. You sit on the creative sidelines as a spectator thinking “woulda, coulda, shoulda” about your movie making passion. When you mentally commit to taking the creative leap of faith you’ll feel a rush of genuine excitement. That’s living!

You’re movie making fire is now lit and you’re ready to roll. You’re no longer going to be a talented potential filmmaker. You will be a filmmaker doer. Each movie project is different, but here are few thoughts that might help sharpen you’re movie production. This isn’t for aspiring filmmakers that want to write a screenplay that needs a million dollar budget.

Thoughts on Making Movies

First, think of your marketing and distribution plan before writing the screenplay. This gives you the chance to think of movie product placement and other marketing avenues you can write into the screenplay to boost earning potential.

Second, before writing a screenplay think about the film budget you will need and where you plan on getting that money. Indie filmmakers are masters at writing screenplays based on what their resources are.

I know it sounds like the craft of screenwriting should come first, but for a first time indie filmmaker it’s important to understand making movies is a business. You need to be able to exploit, yes exploit, as many marketing and product placement opportunities as possible.

Family and friends will invest in you because of your relationship, but still respect their hard earned money like you would if they were film investors you didn’t know. Avoid being sloppy with paperwork. Give them the same kind of investor package you would if you were pitching to a film investor that wanted a return on investment.

Make sure the locked screenplay is tight as possible before spending one dollar of film investor money. A screenplay that is overwritten and packed with fluff will burn through production money fast.

During filming don’t take the approach studio budget movies do. You’re not going to be able to have 20 takes of scene to get it right. There’s not enough money in an indie film budget to shoot it with a Hollywood filmmaker mentality.

You’re really have to get in there on set and kickass on scenes. Not every take you’re going to love or even like, but it’s a time issue when shooting indie films. You have to be able to accept you’re not going to have the luxury of doing take after take.

When a scene is covered move on and don’t look back even if it didn’t turn out how you envisioned. Being take happy during filming will lead to you running out of money and having an unfinished film that will need finishing funds to complete.

Tackle post-production with the same attitude you did on set to get the movie done.

Film investors will ride your ass unlike family or friends when it comes to when the movie will be done, sold and their money paid. Don’t get shaken or take it personally. The business world is not warm and fuzzy full of hugs and kisses.

At the end when you finish your movie you will have a feeling like none you’ve ever had before. It’s a creative climax saying yes to making a movie.

It beats the hell out of only talking about making movies. Good luck with your future film and cheers.

About this Author: Get the inside scoop on writing, producing, directing, and movie distribution at Slice Of Americana Films. Check out the life and times of filmmaker Sid Kali.

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How to Make a Low Budget Movie – Bring Your Screenplay to Life

hollywood signFeature length movies can be made for ten thousand dollars. However, they are more likely to be turn out better and be a success if you pay about five to ten times as much. There are exceptions of course, and some movies costing only 10 to 20 thousand dollars to make have made millions of dollars. If you want to make a movie on a low budget there are many things to consider besides just getting it made cheaply if you want to be a success. This article explains different ways that movies can be made at low cost, and the pros and cons to the different methods. It is primarily for someone with a screenplay or a movie idea who wants to see their idea come to life.

If you have a movie script or movie idea that you want made into a movie, it can be done, with difficulty, or with relative ease. And it can be completed under budget, or over budget.

To illustrate what I mean, imagine you have a house and you want to add two rooms to it and you have no building experience, but you know what you want. If you have enough money, you can explain what you want to an experienced builder, and have them do it all. If you want to save money, you may think about doing some of the work yourself. You might think, well I have a table saw and I can measure and I can pound nails, so I’ll do the framing, and hire someone to finish it. When the finishing crew comes to finish it, they may find the rooms are a bit off square, and not quite level, and for them to finish it it will take lots of extra work because the basics were not done right. The total cost can then be more than if you had hired experts right from the start.

The same applies to making a movie. You have your screenplay, and maybe a camera and some of the equipment, and you know some people who will volunteer, and you have taken some workshops on operating the camera and practiced a bit. You shoot your movie, and then hand it to an editor to finish it. Like with the addition to the house, if the basics were not done right, the editor will have a lot more work to make it presentable, and may in fact not be able to make it totally professional looking because of errors that were made during shooting. It would have been cheaper to get expert help right at the start, and to only concentrate on directing and telling your story.

You might think well, what else can I do? I don’t have the money to hire a big professional crew to make it. The answer is to find a very small professional crew, who are expert at shooting low-budget movies to do it. The cost will likely be less than if you tried to “save money” by doing jobs you were not expert at. You can still do a lot of the work yourself, but restrict yourself for the most part to doing the simple no brainer jobs, and let the experts do their thing. You can find filmmakers who have the experience and know how to bring your story to life, and all you have to do is find them. After all, what you really want is a nicely finished, professional looking movie that tells your story. Search, and you will find the people that you need, and be much happier in the long run.

About this Author: I am expert at making low-budget movies with very small crews. I live in Vancouver, which is sometimes called Hollywood North, and many movies are made here. Movie making tricks are used to make movies shot here look like they were made in New York, Texas, LA, the midwest or many other parts of the world. These tricks are very inexpensive and Vancouver has a lot of low cost talent. I offer complete packages, or partial packages, from $14,000 up, and they are explained on my website:
I offer free consultations with no obligation, by phone or email.

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