Maybe I’m just a shop-a-holic and haven’t quite come to accept and admit it. But I think that – besides the advances in camera gear and the potential for internet distribution and marketing – e-commerce and e-shopping are disruptive elements in microbudget indie filmmaking.
I've shot two microbudget feature films plus a few no budget short films as well. Based on this experience I’ve decided that the one constant you can count on when shooting a microbudget film is endless surprises and endless improvisation. Let’s list some of them from the first week of shooting Fucking My Way Back Home (FMWBH) in 2015.
Sometimes I like to tell myself that the only difference between a microbudget film like FMWBH and something bigger - say a $1 million shoot - is the cost of the effects and the size of the salaries (ie. we don’t have any). Other times I realize that I’m full of it.
After we had just hired our production manager/1st AD for our second feature shoot I couldn’t help but think about the role of social media in filmmaking. And to wonder what we did before social media existed. We take it for granted but it wasn’t so long ago that there wasn’t Facebook, Craigslist & Kijiji, Google, Twitter, Indiegogo and even Stage32.com.
Once you’ve gone through the hard work of going from a beat sheet to a treatment and then up to a full-blown script, you’ll want to seriously consider having a table read with some actors.
Not everything that I write will be about this but the revolution in film production capabilities – as a result not only of high quality and cheap digital video recording, (in particular HDSLRs but also everything from the RED camera to smartphones) but also cheap peripheral and support gear, available directly online from China and India, things like shoulder rigs, follow focus units, lighting kits, video monitors, etc etc – is so profound to filmmaking in general and to us in particular, that it occupies a lot of my brain space.
Having a full crew meeting on a microbudget film is absolutely key as the place to get the plan out to everyone, allow people to meet all together for the first time (they're about to embark on a really intense couple of weeks together - better to meet first in a moment of calm). It's also important as the place to clear up any questions or confusion. It's also an important learning experience for the filmmakers. Here's what we learned from our crew meeting days prior to our first feature.
What I’m definitely not going to do is go on and on and about the Battle Royale that everyone was talking about when we shot our first film: the Nikon D800 vs the Canon 5D MkIII. Canon’s moiré filtering vs Nikon’s HDMI out. Canon’s high ISO abilities vs Nikon’s bigger sensor. There’s plenty of that discussion out there already. Both have strengths. Both have weaknesses. In the end its about the story and about the camera team’s ability to convey that story in images.
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