Month: May 2019

So You Wanna Be A Director?

Hands up if you want to be a film director?

Ok, that’s quite a lot of you. Now, my next question is: why?

The truth is directing is a really tough career, there are actually more professional footballers working in the UK than there are directors, though strangely people laugh more if I say I want to be a footballer. Where is the logic?

In the so called real world (or at least according to the HMRC) your career is apparently supposed to go like this: born, school, maybe college/university, find a job and start working and hopefully earn a little more each year, until eventually you retire and live off the pension until they roll the credits.

In the film world as a director your income will fluctuate wildly throughout your career, there will be periods of time where it feels that nothing is moving forward at all and periods of time where a deadline is hurtling towards you like a freight train with no breaks.  I once worked every single day for four months, often to 2am to hit a deadline. This is a bummer if you have booked a holiday.

You’ll be asked to work for no money. Sometimes people will promise to pay you and then just not. It’s too expensive and stressful to sue them, so you let it go. Some people will steal your ideas and some people will write hurtful and terrible reviews of your films and work. Sometimes you’ll find yourself standing in the pouring rain in a muddy field at 5:30 am, and it’s three hours from your first coffee. You’ll be rejected for jobs for no good reason, and be offered jobs to direct that you know are not right for you, but you need the money. There is no ‘proven route to success’ (unless your Mum or Dad are famous, but even that’ll only get you so far). There is no sick pay, no holiday pay and little loyalty. I didn’t go on holiday for seven years and didn’t even know what the word ‘benefits’ meant until a couple of years ago, apparently in some careers they pay you a yearly bonus! Who knew?

BFI stats tell you that 84% of directors who make a first feature film will never go on to make a second film. Then, if they do make a second film, the chances of making a third are again tiny. However if you make three or more you’re in the game and more than likely here to stay.

The reasons directors seldom make a second movie is simply that it is just so darned hard, and the final film is often not like what you originally imagined in your head many month before. All that work and all those favours you pulled into make the film and it didn’t turn out how you planned and as it was your first film, maybe you just didn’t have the skills to do it well?

First time film makers often say to me “we’ll get a good DOP (Director of Photography) in to help” and I always think this is a terrible idea, as the film will become the DOP’s film, and they will be shooting their showreel rather than your movie. The film industry is built on long-term professional relationships and it’s much better to find a DOP at a similar place in their career as you and learn and move forward together as a team.

Being a director can be physically hard, long days on set, working weekends and holidays, I am always the first on set, I like to sit there and think and walk through the action without the actors and work out where I am putting the camera (if I haven’t already with storyboards, shot lists and camera plans) what lenses and what grip kit is required, whilst everyone is getting ready and so as soon as the actors arrive on set I know what I want to do with them and how I am going to block the scene (and where the tea is).

Most (not all) of directors say that the best bit of directing, the bit they love the most, is ‘being on set’ but only spend a fraction of their working lives there. An average feature film in the UK shoots for five-six weeks (25-30 actual shooting days on set), and if they are lucky they get to do a feature film every other year. There are approximately 250 working days in a year so that’s a very small percentage of your working life doing the actual thing you have spent your life working to achieve. Andrea Arnold, for example is considered a ‘prolific director’ by the media and has directed 4 films in 10 years.

Either way the casualty rate is high. It’s an endlessly frustrating career with so many ‘Nos’ and negative responses it’s a wonder we ever make anything. You really do have to get used to rejection, even world famous feature film directors like Terry Gilliam can have difficulty getting movies off the ground and can be stuck in ‘development hell’ for years.

Another negative of directing is facing the inevitable post shoot blues, when you know you’ll crash and burn the day after a long shoot finishes and all these wonderful people who have become like family and friends will disappear like ghosts into your past and on to their next movie whilst you are left to face a post production mountain almost alone.

Making Black Flowers

On May the 16th I will have the UK premiere of my fourth feature film: the female led post apocalyptic sci-fi Black Flowers which I filmed in California and Montana last year.

After three low budget indy films in the UK, Death, The Search for Simon and The Gatehouse, I wanted to do something different so I went to the USA all on my own to find a crew and a cast and make a movie. It was a fascinating adventure, and I wanted to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and do a brand new movie in fantastic locations with a positive crew – as with a positive and enthusiastic crew you can achieve almost anything. I travelled to Mount Shasta where I had worked 25 years previously for the US Forest Service and visited some incredible locations. I teamed up with Actor/Producer Krista DeMille from New York, who I met at Sundance film festival but had never actually worked with before. And we made a plan…

Cut to: a few months later we were on set shooting in North California and Montana, with help form the Montana Film Board. It was amazing how helpful the Montana Film Board were, as I had never had any support form a professional body in my entire career! The shoot was a dream, with wonderful actors, amazing locations, fantastic weather and it felt like the film gods were on our side. The film was mostly set outside and everyday we were under the sun all day long.

Filming was going well, until our Production Manager called me to say the company credit card was not working, flights for actors flying in from LA had been cancelled, and everything was going wrong. It was 7am on a shooting day, so I called the bank in the UK from Bozeman, Montana and asked what was going on. They said they had detected fraudulent activity on my account, and had cancelled all my cards. “Where did this fraudulent activity occur,” I asked becoming suspicious, “Montana,” they said. “That’s me, I’m in Montana filming a film.” I felt the fear crawl into my stomach and die like a stone slug. “Don’t worry Mr Gooch,” they said, “we are sending you a new card.” “Where to?” “Your office.” “Ah,” I said, “that’s in London and I’m in Montana. Do you see how this is a problem?” I said. They didn’t.

It was a disaster and we lost most of the days filming (which cost huge amount, as we had to pick up the day later in the schedule, and was damaging to the on-set morale), Luckily I have two business accounts and we eventually managed to transfer the money and access it that way. It’s a strange feeling watching your shoot collapse around you.

As an indie director you will have your fingers in many pies, you might be involved with the finance of the film, actively seeking finance and have to deal with investors directly, who can be nice but also very nasty if the film doesn’t make a profit in good time. You might be involved with many other departments to help cut costs and save money for the screen. You might even end up pushing a huge petrol driven generator across a muddy icy field at night like something out of the Somme.

But once you get to a level of directing where you can just direct, and someone else raises the money, and there are people who do all the muddy pushing for you, and you can concentrate on pure directing there is often a trade off: That the script is set in stone and cannot be changed (for better or for worse) and you will have a cast iron schedule that if you don’t hit, people will ask why. I’ve worked on many productions where getting the scenes shot was more important than shooting good quality stuff. But then if you take the King’s shilling…

So why do we do it? Because when it’s good it’s absolutely brilliant: the sense of satisfaction that days or months or even years of planning have come together to make something unique that has never been captured on film (or pixel) before, to work with people who take huge pride in their work and the opportunity to work with experts in their field to create something new, and exciting and (hopefully) have fun doing it.

To have been able to direct an actor to a great performance or achieve something visually arresting and engaging and tell a tale well, is a wonderful feeling and my drug of choice.  To bring a team of people together and create the best environment for them to do their best work is a wonderful feeling.

Happy faces on set from people who feel they have done a good days work is awesome.

After 26 years in the industry and over 1000 days on set I still love it but I thought I’d ask some of my fellow directors on why they stick at directing through thick and thin. What is special about it? What makes a director tick?

I asked some fellow directors “Why do we go on?”

Lavinia Simina

“It’s painful, viscerally discomforting, it makes you sick physically and mentally. And yet we return to the set, like it’s the last place on earth we’d want to be. The first thing that came to mind, when I’ve asked myself “why another film” was the last scene from Nickelodeon of Peter Bogdanovici. An exhausted cast and crew are driving away from their last premiere, which took all they had to make it happen. From the car window they see a film set in the distance, and the car stops as they can’t take their eyes away. Finally, they intentionally miss their turn and go in the opposite direction, where the new film set develops.
I believe the desire for filmmaking is primal. One cannot choose to do it, but she’s rather possessed by it, and there’s no other choice for doing anything else. It is the choice of a language, which uses the image as alphabet and which without we cannot fully express ourselves. It’s dependency, obsession and violent passion which most of the time makes up for no personal life. And to which we always come back, grateful to be there again. Like I said, we never had a choice.”

Phil Trail

“I keep doing it because I love it. Every project is different, and each project teaches me new things. And also, something which I’m appreciating more and more – I really like the people in the industry. I genuinely respect almost all of the cast, crew, producers and execs I’ve ever worked with, which makes me really happy. We’re all consistently trying our hardest to work together to create the very best stuff we can – what could be better than that?!”

Martyn Pick

Recently I was told at a screening that there is a consistent “line of enquiry” through my work. Interesting to hear but very difficult to say what this in a nutshell, especially when it is your own films. Whatever that impulse is, I think it  is the push to experiment and evolve with different ways of telling stories which has kept me moving forward. Currently I am in post on my third feature. I work in painterly hand drawn animation, 3d computer animation, pure live action drama and mixed permutations of all three. An advantage is that evolving technique and storytelling in CGI will add a new light on my approach to live action. Changing your tools will keep your work fresh: switching gears in different ways to tell stories. Moving from short form to features is a lot to do with getting used to the bigger canvas. And it’s very much about planning the production so you balance the necessity of delegating some creative choices with maintaining overall control. Being a director is about being continually present from pre-production through to post. How that works is a matter of personal style. One way can be about setting up “happy accidents” and allowing things to happen. Another can be working to a very controlled blueprint that is tightly storyboarded with low shooting ratios. I find it helps to continue experimenting and developing with short form and artwork. This creates fresh inspiration for features, outside of the immediate pressures of dealing with a much bigger project. Basically it’s good to not get locked into one production method and “keep gigging”.

Sign off

Before I went off to Montana to shoot Black Flowers, my amazing clever girlfriend Alex said, “you don’t have to do this, you know.” But in a way I don’t feel I have a choice.

Mountaineers when asked why they climb a mountain will say: “because it’s there.” With film making it is because the mountain isn’t there. And there will be at last half a dozen invisible mountains in a row all of which have to be scaled before the film is complete.

But when you’ve finished the movie you’ll look back and see a row of scaled mountains behind you and feel good.

Next time when someone asks me why I make movies, I’ll say because they aren’t there, and reach for my climbing gear.

Tickets on sale for the UK premiere of Black Flowers on 16th May from The Prince Charles Website are on sale now.

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career

Why Are There Fewer and Fewer Young Cinema Goers?

Attracting young audiences to the cinema has been an ongoing issue over the last decade. According to the BFI, 15-24 year olds regularly made up over 40% of the audience in the1990s. In 2017, however, they represented just 28%. Though this age group still continues to dominate the majority of cinema-goers, it is important to prevent this number from dropping further. Why has this number changed so drastically? In this article, I’m going to look at some of the reason for this change in audiences, and at what Raindance is doing to address it.

Streaming Services

According to the European Commission Media, 56% of film viewers said they streamed films from free websites while 68% said they downloaded free files to store on personal drives. There are many reasons for this diversion to streaming networks, but a key motive for young cinema-goers is the rising ticket prices. Some cinemas charge the same amount for one film that streaming sites charge for an entire month, simultaneously providing users with an array of options rather than just a single viewing. At the same time, 37% of young audiences feel that some films are interesting, but ‘not worth paying for the cinema experience.’

Home Availability

This is another issue 15-24 year-olds face when making viewing choices. According to askattest.com, 46% of teenage viewers would go to the cinema less while 24% would probably stop going entirely in favour of watching the latest releases from their home. This is most likely due to the proximity of a cinema to their residence or other social gatherings. Younger audiences choose a cinema near shopping malls, popular restaurants and leisure centers as it allows them to have a complete evening out in one location — but if none of these are nearby options, the outing can often be seen as not worth it. Lack of company can also play a part according to Independent Cinema Office, with viewers preferring to visit cinemas with their family (55%), their partner (41%) and their friends (24%).

Cinema Location

The importance of a cinema’s location also plays into the issue of public transport, according to the Independent Cinema Office. Later screenings provide for a more difficult commute home, as certain routes may halt operations after a certain time.

Issues mentioned above, though impending, are not all that interfere with the attendance of young audiences to the cinema. Lack of appeal to foreign films with subtitles, preference of multiplex cinema vs. independent ones due to deals or events, and several more contribute to this ongoing issue.

Film clubs and training programmes are in existence, according to askattest.com, and they’ve even proven effective. A majority of those who have experienced them recognise their benefits, agreeing that it ‘raised their curiosity for other types of cinema’ and led them to watch more diverse films (40% ‘strongly’ agree). 37% agreed that it ’raised their interest in cinema’ and led them to watch more films, and 43% ‘improved their film culture’ and strengthened their film knowledge.

What We’re Doing To Help: Crowdfunding Campaign

That being said, Raindance is getting involved in the effort to increase independent film consumption in 12-25 year-olds. We believe that independent cinema should be accessible to anyone, which is why we’ve decided to launch the Emerging Filmmakers’ Strand in 2018.

At the 27th Raindance Film Festival, Raindance will invite young audiences and schools from across London to this unique cinematic experience on the West End. This experience will include a series of special filmmaking masterclasses, followed by film screenings with Q&As. With your pledge, we can create more events for young audiences to be exposed to independent cinema.

Your contribution will help expose teens and young adults to what could be their first ever independent film experience. Contributions range from a $5 thank-you Tweet to a limited-edition tote bag, not to mention exclusive access to invite-only events. A donation not only benefits the students, but yourself as well! You will also get the opportunity to vote on which independent films should be screened based on your favourites.

Do you remember how you felt after seeing your first independent film? The feeling is difficult to forget. Donate now and help us share that feeling with young audience members!

Filed under: Promotion, Marketing and Distribution, Raindance Film Festival, UncategorizedTagged with: , , , ,

Independent Film Matters More Than Ever

We need your support to expose under-25’s to independent film

We live in very troubled times. I don’t know, but I hate watching the news. Knife crime. Troubles in the East. Ecological disaster. Brexit brohaha. Politcal firestorms in America and Europe. There’s so much hatred!

Here’s where cinema comes in: Is not the world’s hatred caused by basic misunderstanding? What better way to break down the barriers of hatred than through the power of film?

Did you know that less than 5% of under 25’s have seen an independent film? Raindance is going to do something about it.
And we need your help!

We’ve launched the Emerging Filmmakers Day – to bring under-25’s to the cinema – for free. So they can see the types of films that are NOT sanitised by Hollywood. So they can experience films that can change lives. So they can learn how to make movies themselves. So they can leave crime and drugs behind. so they can contribute positively to our world.

Independent films matter more than ever. The stories and the pictures they paint matter more than ever before. Creativity matters more than ever. Culture matters more than ever. And that’s why Raindance matters: today, and for our future.

Make no mistake about it: Raindance is in fighting mode. Independent film can change these horrible times for the good. Please donate to our crowdfunding campaign.

Why is independent film so important?

Independent films are the dances of protest; their poems are the poems of insurrection; their buildings edify dissent. Independent film celebrates those who challenge society, the musicians who sing for freedom, and the artists who revolt against the forces that validate oppression.

Independent films stand up for the vulnerable, the marginalised, the outsiders, the rebels, the dreamers, the poets, the imaginative.Independent film exposes the evils of the world and offers solutions. Independent film changes people’s lives. Forever.

Raindance is a platform for those who love and question and include. We are used to being called maverick and outsider. We’ve been truly independent for a quarter century. We believe the films we screen will change people’s lives. and we want to expand our reach to the Under-25s who we know are dazzled by the bright lights of Hollywood movies.

If you feel the same way, you can’t be passive or silent. Neither can we. Raindance needs to step it up in 2019, and so do you. Be bigger, bolder, louder, stronger, more open, more productive, more engaged, more organised, more public, more creative.

Support our Emerging Filmmmakers Days

Raindance is non-profit. We’ve never had a penny of public funding since we started in 1992 – and that’s a good thing too – we can respond instantly to issues . Like we are doing here: to bring Under-25’s to independent film – in a cinema! Our Emerging Filmmaker Days needs your support. We need your support to make this happen.

With your support, we step it up together. We go on together. We get stronger. You can help us change people’s lives.

There are many other ways you can support our work at Raindance.
Call me on 0207 930 3412 to discuss your options further. Or email me here.

Support our work at Raindance. Help us bring Under-25’s to Raindance.

Thank you.

Now, Let’s Make Movies. The power of film.

Elliot Grove

Elliot Grove, Founder, Raindance | British Independent Film Awards

Filed under: Acting, Directing, Documentary, Festivals, Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, News, Producing, Promotion, Marketing and Distribution, Raindance Film Festival, ScreenwritingTagged with: , ,

10 Berlin Filmmakers to Keep an Eye on

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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]Berlin: a European hub for some of the world’s most creative individuals. For the past decade or so, Berlin established itself as a magnet for filmmakers of all genres and mediums; From VR to Documentaries, to Narrative fiction and video art. They all come to this multicultural haven. The city’s charm is in the quality and quantity of filmmakers who make Berlin their home. Here’s a humble list of 10 Berlin Filmmakers to keep an eye on. All very diverse (just like the city itself) in their type of work and style. All are very interesting creative filmmakers who won major awards in recent years and seem to be on the rise among the thousands of filmmakers creating in this vibrant city.

Astrid Menzel

Astrid has worked as an Assistant Director in both Berlin and Lisbon. Since 2016, she has mainly realised her own artistic ventures with several short films she has created. On April 2019, she won the highly lucrative National Competition in the Dresden film festival with her short film UNLIKE TODAY. Currently she’s working on the production of her documentary feature Flausen im Kopf and on her first narrative feature script.

Marcus Tell

After leading a mutiny at Tel Aviv University, and directing two internationally successful short films (Medea and An ambush in the limbo), Marcus moved to Berlin where he’s filming his first German language film called Nothing of her own and developing a feature length script by the same name.

Divina Kuan

Divina is a strong voice in Berlin’s queer cinema. She received her Master’s degree from The New School University in New York, and was the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Now, she lives in Berlin where she directs commercials for big brands such as Nike and independent short films. In the past she also taught filmmaking in the Philippines. Currently, she’s working on her feature film debut.

Ines Moldavsky

After Winning the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 2018 Berlinale with her short The Men Behind the Wall, Ines moved to Berlin, where she continues to create experimental short films that deal with anxiety, sexuality and politics in her own a unique way. Her previous short films include Here I was Dumped (2012), Thirty Plus (2013) Midnight (2015) and Cold Facts (2016). Currently she’s in post-production on her new mid-length film.

Philipp Eichholtz

A representative of the young German mumblecore filmmaking movement. Unlike most on the list, Philipp already dipped his head into feature filmmaking and has directed 4 independent low-budget features. He’s still growing strong and the popularity of his films is on the rise, with his film Everything always all the time opening the 15th achtung berlin – new berlin film award.

Eliza Petkova

Eliza is a Bulgarian born filmmaker living in Berlin. Her graduation short film, from the German Film and Television Academy, ABWESEND (ABSENT) was nominated for a Cinéfondation Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, and her first feature film, ZHALEIKA (2016), premiered at the Berlinale Generation 14Plus. Currently, her new short film The Others is touring the film festival circuit.

Rainer Kohlberger

Rainer’s work is primarily based on algorithmically generated graphics that are exposed in live performances, experimental films and installations. His short film Not even nothing can be free of ghosts (2016) was selected for a Tiger Award for Short Films at IFFR 2016, and later Rainer’s films went on to be nominated two times at the Berlinale Shorts: Keep that dream burning (2017) and It has to be lived once and dreamed twice (2019).

Filip Antoni Malinowski

Soleil Film, Filip Malinowski
Foto: Clemens Fabry

Filip is an Award winning documentary filmmaker, which lives between Berlin and Vienna. His feature documentary Guardians of the Earth (2017) was a festival favourite around the world. As well as directing, Filip runs his own production company Soleil Film, and has produced multiple feature documentaries in the last decade, among them films like Troublemaker, and Gwendolyn. Now, he is working on his next project here in Berlin.

Maxim Kuphal-Potapenko

Maxim’s graduation film Lass mal los was screened at Slamedance and at Achtung Berlin among others. He mixes narrative fiction, documentary and still photography in his works. When he was on the Script Station at the Berlin Film Festival, he developed his future feature film. Currently, he’s in post-production of Events of Cosmic Proportions, a short film that tells the tale of the day the Earth stopped spinning.

Magda Chmielewska

© Bartek Warzecha

Magda Studied in the Film academy in Vienna where she studied under Michael Haneke. After her graduation, she moved to Berlin and won the prestigious First Steps Award in Berlin for best newcomer with her graduation short Heaven’s meadow, that’s still being screened in festivals all over the globe. She’s currently working on multiple new and exciting narrative projects.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
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Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, In Our OpinionTagged with: , ,

Painting With (limited) Light

Whether you’re new to filmmaking or a seasoned veteran you’ve found yourself on a poorly budgeted set. Sometimes this is a matter of circumstance. A client doesn’t have enough money to shoot what they have in mind, but you’ve taken the gig regardless. Sometimes a poorly budgeted set happens by accident. Inexperienced producers exist and we must forgive them for learning! Regardless, the job of a director of photography is not to wish. It is our job – as the late John Alton A.S.C. has put it – to “[capture] bits of light at rest on things of beauty”, no matter how mangled and mutilated the budget may be.

Take the set of Honest Work (2019) for example. In lieu of the Dakota Film Dash, midwest directors of photography Joe Greening and I teamed up to do two things:

1. Get some hands on experience with the RED Camera operating system.

2. Make a great looking film.

With a RED Raven rental gobbling up a whopping 80% of our budget, Joe and I decided to spend half of the remaining $400 on combo stands to give us some versatility. Our studio has four LEDs on hand, but making them work was going to be a stretch. C-stands would allow us to reach across the set and get those low-power lights as close to our actors as possible. Director Steven Warkel wrote a script that called for a dingy office belonging to a stoner private detective as well as a concert venue filled with “twenty or more people.” Having some versatility with our lights would be key. The remaining $200 went to the costume department.

From day one, we knew it was going to be a “just make-it-work” filmset. Planning accordingly from the start helped us hit the ground running.

We stacked our shoot to get the hardest scenes out of the way early in production With a nine day deadline for screenings, we gave ourselves three days of principal photography. By front-loading our shoot, we would be able to see whether the most difficult shots would work, and if not, leave writer/director Steven Warkel some time for rewrites.

Our Kit:

Two (2) Aputure Amaran Bi-Color LEDs of 600 watt tungsten equivalence

Two (2) Neewer Bi-Color LEDs of approximately 350 watt tungsten equivalence

Four (4) Light stands

Two (2) Combo stands

The Big Show

Our first day on set ended with the most difficult challenge: lighting a lounge to look like a concert venue. It was important for our setup to account for twenty-five members of the crowd as well as the band, but most importantly, give some emphasis to our supporting and lead actors.

The venue lended itself to a DIY concert feel, which we played to our advantage. There was no need for elaborate concert lights, strobe lights, or color changing lights. We just needed for the majority of the crowd to be lit well enough that we wouldn’t have to push our camera into dangerous levels of ISO.

It’s important to note that we are lighting for the edit, not for the camera. While the scene may look great through the camera’s LCD, we will not be doing the editor any favors by dimly lighting a scene. Instead, we wanted to create ratios of dark to light with all indexes partially exposed throughout. The ratio depends on the scene, in this case a concert. A very low-key lighting setup was in order which was great, because we would only have to reach minimal exposure levels in our shadows. 

Using our two strongest lights as key lights, we backlit the band. This cast quite a bit of light onto our crowd. Due to the lights proximity, the movement of the band in front of the lights gave a great texture of moving light on the crowd. Big-time happy accident, and something we loved. Four small practicals (concert lights the venue supplied) gave enough fill on the band to bring their levels up to a “good-enough” place.  

While the key lights were doing a great job of reaching most members of the crowd, the back couple rows of people were falling into some pretty muddy shadows. We bounced the remaining lights off the low-ceiling. This brought the rear of our crowd of twenty-five to pretty great levels. We knew Steven would be placing his supporting characters on the near side of the crowd (in relation to the camera) which meant any fall off on the far side would create a pleasantly dark backdrop for our well lit antagonist. 

For our lead character’s entrance into the venue we placed a lamp near a ticket vendor which served as our key (we’ll call this our practical). Since we were doing a reverse-dolly with our lead as he marches towards the crowd, we wouldn’t have to show the concert. This freed up a couple of lights. Our Aputure was put to use as a key light for the first half of the shot, motivated by and color-matched to the practical. We then placed a 600w Aputure with a soft box right behind our final camera mark which would become our new key as our lead found his final mark. This was motivated the light behind the band. A flag, wielded by a grip was waved in front of the 600w to simulate the crowd moving in front of the light.   

As we moved into coverage of the confrontation that ensues between our protagonist and antagonist, things became easier. Motivated by the concert lighting, the Aputures were used to short-light the actors, while the Neewers were bounced off the ceiling for a soft fill light. Again, our main concern was to bring overall levels up so that we wouldn’t have to push our camera beyond 2000 ISO.

Mastering the Master Shot

Networking in the film world is incredibly important. In the case of Honest Work, it landed us our strongest location. Our protagonist – the cheapest private detective in town – spends his working hours in his office/garage/possibly his home (it’s not canon, but it’s probably canon). Luckily, Al Schirado – leading actor – rents a shop with some of his friends. They had already turned the space into a Wayne’s World-esque hangout spot. It was a perfect location for a broke, stoner detective to call home.

We knew we wanted to create something that had the essence of our favorite detective films of the 1950s/60s. Deep shadows, and heavily motivated, dim lighting. We began by lighting for the master shot because our lack of equipment made lighting for a wide-shot the most difficult. This would afford us the luxury of knowing in advance the limits of our lights and allow us to  set a bar for lighting ratios. That is, we’d know the contrast between highlight and shadow on our scene. With this baseline, we were able to match our lighting from a closer proximity once we moved into coverage.

For our motivator, we  placed a 60w practical lamp in the center of our shot. This would effectively short-light both our lead and supporting actor throughout the master and coverage. This light was supported by a 600w Aputure on a combo stand with a soft-box placed beyond the supporting actor.

At this point, the scene was looking like something out of the Godfather. Which may have been great, but Honest Work falls more in the category of comedy than heavy, gangster film.

In support of the motivating practical, another 600w Aputure was boosted on a light stand with a flag on a combo stand to shape it. This casted a nice glow off the back wall. The bounced light did a surprisingly great job softening our shadows.

From there, we took a look at our ISO. Remember, lighting is designed to look great in the edit, not necessarily the camera. While our overall levels were looking good on the deep end of our  scene, we didn’t have much detail showing in our foreground shadows. Our 300w Neewers were set to either side of the camera and directed across the scene to softly light the oppositely-seated actor. This brought our actors’ camera-side levels to nearly our desired lighting ratio. Since we knew we weren’t going to live on the master-shot, the lighting would be solid enough to establish the scene.

But What’s the Point?

The point is go out and do it! And more importantly, to do it well! There are no excuses for poor lighting designs or uninteresting compositions. The equipment you own will not define the film you make. As a director of photography, it is especially easy to fall victim to the “if only I had better equipment” mentality.

Fortunately, for all of us aspiring cinematographers, there is no piece of equipment that will tell a story for us. If there was, I imagine most of us would be out of jobs. It is up to you to master the equipment at hand and push it to its very limits. Every set, in some way or another is a “make-it-work” set. It’s about getting creative and solving problems with what is available. If you can’t do that then you probably won’t be able to create a masterpiece with a massive budget. As a director of photography, the goal is always to paint the best possible image any way you can.

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, Technical CraftTagged with:

Marketing Skills for Freelance Filmmakers

Why are marketing skills important?

To earn a good living as a freelance filmmaker you need to be highly effective in marketing your skills and services. Effective marketing will help you to gain many new and diverse opportunities and will also help new customers select you when carrying out internet searches.

8 tips to help you market your filmmaking skills

In this article, I’m going to share some of my marketing tips that will help you to find new opportunities. If you are new to marketing, it will take you time to understand what skills you can promote, what skills are in demand, what you need to do to market yourself and what is effective for you and your location. Consider marketing as a long-term business project that you can improve as your filmmaking career develops.

1)  Social media marketing

Having a profile on all the main social media sites helps you to express your identity and to communicate your specific skills and interests. Social media marketing is the quickest way to start generating connections by including keywords, hashtags and users’ names in your posts. Social media users search feeds for keywords and hashtags so the more relevant and interesting content you post the more people will like your posts and follow you.  By gaining more followers, your future posts will be more widely viewed helping you to communicate to a larger audience. As well as having a profile on all the main sites, social media profiles also enable you to:

   Follow and like your peers’ work and find creative inspiration

   Post content to create interest and engagement

   Comment on current trends, perspectives and fashions

   Reach out to your audience locally, nationally and internationally

2)  Marketing with your website

Creating your own website enables you to have the freedom to create your own unique brand identity that suits your technical skills, interests and personality. A well-optimised website with engaging content that appears in search engines can bring in a great deal of work for you. When you start to build your own website, don’t fixate on getting it just right the first time as it will change and evolve as you develop. It is important to create a website with a content management system that allows you to change and update it easily.

3)   Search engine optimisation

The holy grail for any business or freelancer is to be able to appear on page one of any search engine in response to a keyword or search.  There are two main ways of appearing high up in any search. One way is to pay for advertising so that you may appear at the top of a search page one for your chosen keywords. This can be an effective solution to quickly drum up new business and generate income.

The second way is to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which constantly requires a great deal of consistent input over a longer term. Implementing a good SEO strategy however is a highly-effective, long-term approach to getting your website with your chosen keywords onto the first page of search engines. SEO is a hugely competitive worldwide industry that is ever-changing and developing so you will need to research and read up-to-date best practice blogs to learn more. Google has a great SEO Starter Guide that covers best practice.

4)   Writing a blog

Writing your own blog can help you to share your filmmaking stories, knowledge and expertise to a wider audience. Search engines love original well-written text so interesting blog articles, featuring keywords that are relevant to your filmmaking, will help like-minded people to find your site via the blog articles you are posting. These same keywords will also help towards any SEO strategy that you have implemented.

5)    Professional online groups

Film Industry related websites exist that can be an interesting source of detailed information and future trends. By contributing and engaging with these sites you can share your own professional knowledge and interests and so build up a network of connections that may present new opportunities for you. Posting your own tutorials and advice helps people to find your specific filmmaking skills. Freelancers may sometimes encounter last-minute technical problems and quickly need help or practical assistance to find a solution. On-line sites, such as Facebook groups, can be a great way to find new work opportunities.

6)   Email marketing

Over time, because of many written enquiries and commissions, you will build up an extensive list of email addresses. An effective way of staying in touch with all your previous contacts is to send out an annual mail drop using an emailing marketing service such as Mailchimp. An interesting and brief maildrop allows you to highlight some of your most recent projects and remind people of the availability of your skills and services.

7)   Marketing in person

Attending a wide range of business and industry events is a great way to meet people and increase your network of connections. Handing out your own business cards or printed flyers, detailing your filmmaking services with a link to your portfolio and contact details, can also help increase engagement. Consider the direct targeting of people, companies and brands that you would be interested in creating films for.  

8)  Writing a CV

A professionally written CV documents your employment history and highlights key transferable skills. As a freelancer, having a great CV will always be helpful if you wish to apply for a short-term contract or if one is requested by a commissioning client.  You can also post it on your website and offer it as a downloadable file.

Do you have any useful tips or advice that can help with freelancers’ marketing? It would be great to hear what has worked well for you too.

Filed under: Filmmaking, Promotion, Marketing and DistributionTagged with: , ,