Filmmaking For Dummies

Filmmaking For Dummies

by Bryan Michael Stoller

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Now updated--the step-by-step secrets to capturing great moments on film

With all the recent advancements in filmmaking technology, more people than ever are trying their hand at filmmaking. Keeping up with the newest information in this booming field, this updated edition of Filmmaking For Dummies features up-to-the-minute coverage of the latest and

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Now updated--the step-by-step secrets to capturing great moments on film

With all the recent advancements in filmmaking technology, more people than ever are trying their hand at filmmaking. Keeping up with the newest information in this booming field, this updated edition of Filmmaking For Dummies features up-to-the-minute coverage of the latest and greatest hardware, software, accessories, and trends--including high-definition technology and new outlets for films such as YouTube and MySpace. It demystifies the nuts-and-bolts of filmmaking, from developing a project and securing financing to hiring a cast and crew, editing, and getting distribution. This new edition also provides new movie examples and updated contacts and resources. Whether people want to become professional filmmakers or simply shoot quality home movies, this practical guide has all the advice and tips needed to succeed.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I found Filmmaking For Dummies a thorough and informative read: a complete A to Z that demystifies not only production, but pre- and post- production as well. Stoller paints a picture of filmmaking so basic that you'd have to be not just a dummy but completely braindead if you're unable to make your own movie after closing the book." (Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 2003)

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Filmmaking For Dummies

By Bryan Michael Stoller

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Bryan Michael Stoller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7645-2476-3

Chapter One

So You Want to Be a Filmmaker

In This Chapter

* Recognizing how independent films differ from studio pictures

* Getting an overview of the filmmaking process

Film is a powerful medium. With the right script under your arm and a
staff of eager team players, you're about to begin an exciting ride. The
single most important thing that goes into making a successful filmmaker is
the passion to tell a story. And the best way to tell your stories is with pictures.
Filmmaking is visual storytelling in the form of shots that make up
scenes and scenes that eventually make up a complete film.

You have the power to affect people's emotions, make them see things
differently, help them discover new ideas, or just create an escape for them.
In a darkened theater, you have an audience's undivided attention. They're
yours - entertain them, move them, make them laugh, make them cry. You
can't find a more powerful medium to express yourself.

As a filmmaker, you have to decide what you enjoy doing most. Do you like
putting things together and making them happen? Then you'd probably make
a great producer. Do you like things just a certain way, can you envisionthings
as they should be, and do you love working with people? Then your calling
may be directing. Or do you love telling stories, and are you always jotting
down great ideas that come to you? If so, then writing screenplays may be for
you. You can be referred to as a "triple-threat" in filmmaking if you write, produce,
and direct. Having some understanding of what the other people on your
crew do - like the cinematographer, the producer, the editor, the dolly grip,
and the prop or wardrobe person - is important. Understanding what each
person on your team does will improve your working relationship with them
and, in the end, make a better film.

Independents Day versus
the Hollywood Way

An independent film is often a low-budget film (costing anywhere from
$5,000 to $1 million) because the filmmaker has to raise money to make
the film on his or her own and not be dependent on a studio for the financing.
Many films circulating the film-festival circuit are independent films, produced
independently of the studios. These films are little gems that didn't
have a string of studio executives sending script notes to the filmmaker and
ruining the film before anyone even set foot on the set. If a major film studio
puts up the money for a film, the studio - not the filmmaker - ultimately
ends up calling the shots.

You can find both advantages and disadvantages to making a studio picture
or an independent film. On an independent production, your film ends up on
the screen the way you envisioned it, but you don't have much of a budget. A
studio picture has larger financial backing and can afford to pay the astronomical
salaries that actors demand, as well as pay for seamless special effects and
longer shooting schedules (the studio has more money to spend, allowing
you to spend more days filming to get the best footage), but the film ends up
the way the studio envisions it - and in the most commercial way. The studio
looks at dollars first and creativity second. They look at the market statistically.
What are the demographics for this type of film? Who's starring in it?
Will it make a good profit? Many independent filmmakers discover that,
although having and making money is nice, being independent allows
them to tell a story in the most creative way.

However, an independent film doesn't always have to be a low-budget or no-budget
film. George Lucas is the ultimate independent filmmaker. He's independent
of the studios and makes his own decisions on his films without the
politics or red tape of a studio looking over his shoulder. Star Wars may not
seem like an independent film, but that's exactly what it is - even though
you may have difficulty seeing yourself as one of Lucas's peers.

Developing Your Sense of Story

Without a great story, you can't possibly end up with a great film. Finding the
right story makes all the difference, which means that choosing the right
material is more important than anything else. Great film careers have been
built on making the right decisions about a story more than having the right
talent and skills.

So where do you find the good ideas to turn into films? An idea starts in your
head like a tiny seed, and then it sprouts and begins to grow, eventually blossoming
into an original screenplay. Don't have that tiny seed of an idea just
yet? Turn to Chapter 3, where you develop strategies for finding ideas or taking
a story or book and turning it into a screenplay. In that chapter, I show you
how to option (have temporary ownership of) existing material, whether it's
someone's personal story or a novel that's already been published.

You have a story in you. If something is a curiosity, is constantly on your
mind, or is troubling you, write about it. See Chapter 3 for tips on turning
your idea into a feature-length script (at least 90 pages). You'll find yourself
answering many of your own questions - you may even solve your problem.
Best of all, you could very well end up with a screenplay.

Financing Your Film:
Where 's the Money?

After you've turned your idea into a completed screenplay, you can't get it
made (produced into a film) unless you have the financing. In Chapter 5, I
give you some great tips on how to find investors and how to put together a
prospectus to attract them to fund your film. You also find out about other
money-saving ideas like bartering and product placement.

In Chapter 5, I even show you how to set up your own Web site to help raise
awareness for your film, attract investors, and eventually serve as a promotional
site for your completed film. Raising money isn't as difficult as it sounds
if you have a great story and an organized business plan. You can find investors
who are looking to put their money into a film for the excitement of being
involved with a film and/or the possibility of making a profit. Even friends
and family are potential investors for your film - especially if your budget is
in the low-numbers range.

On a Budget: Scheduling Your Shoot

Budgeting your film is a delicate process. Oftentimes, you budget your film
first (this is usually the case with independent low-budget films) by breaking
down elements into categories - such as crew, props, equipment, and so
on - the total amount you have to spend. Your costs will be determined by
how long you'll need to shoot your film (scheduling will determine how many
shoot days you'll have), because the length of your shoot will tell you how
long you need to have people on salary, how long you'll need to rent equipment
and locations, and so on.

When you know you can only afford to pay salaries for a three-week shoot,
you then have to schedule your film so that it can be shot in three weeks.
You schedule your film's shoot by breaking down the script into separate
elements (see Chapter 4) and deciding how many scenes and shots you can
shoot each day, so that everything is completed in the three weeks you have
to work with. An independent filmmaker doesn't usually have the luxury of
scheduling the film first (breaking it down into how many days it will take to
shoot) and then seeing how much it will cost. You also should have a budget
and even a possible schedule as ammunition to show a potential investor.

Planning Your Shoot, Shooting Your Plan

Planning your film includes envisioning your shots through storyboarding,
by sketching out rough diagrams of what your shots and angles will look like
(see Chapter 9). You can storyboard your films even if you don't consider
yourself an artist. Draw stick characters or use storyboard software, like
Storyboard Quick or the 3-D Storyboard Lite, which gives you a cast of
characters along with a library of props and locations.

You also need to plan where you'll shoot your film. You research where
you're going to film much like planning a trip - then make all the appropriate
arrangements like figuring out how you're going to get there and the type of
accommodations if it's out of town. Regardless of where you're shooting, you'll
need to sign an agreement with the location owner to make sure you have it
reserved for your shoot dates. Also, you'll have to choose whether to film at
a real location, on a sound stage, or in a virtual location that you conjure up
inside your computer.

Hiring Your Cast and Crewing Up

Your film crew becomes your extended family (although maybe a dysfunctional
one). You spend many days and nights together - through good and
bad times - so hiring people who are passionate about your project and willing
to put their all into it is important. You may have to defer salary to your
crew if you're working on a tight budget. (Find out how to do that and more
in Chapter 7.)

Acting is not as difficult as you may think. People are born natural actors and
play many parts on the stage of life. Everyone is constantly in front of an
audience - or performing monologues when alone. In Chapter 8, I lead you
step by step through the process of finding a great cast to bring your screenplay
to life. I also fill you in on acting secrets so that you can direct your
actors and get the best performances.

Filming in the Right Direction

Making a film requires special equipment, like cranes (tall apparatuses on
which you place the camera for high shots), dollies (which are like giant skateboards
that you put the camera on for movement), camera systems, and so
on. Without the proper lighting, you'll leave your actors in the dark - literally.
Lighting can set a mood and enhance the entire look of your film.

In addition to seeing your actors, you need to be able to hear them as well.
This is where the art of sound comes in. Microphones need to be placed
close enough to the actor to get a good sound recording, but not too close
as to have the microphone creep into the shot. The skill of recording great
sound comes from the production sound mixer.

If you're taking on the task of directing, you'll become a figurehead to your
actors and crew. You'll need to know how to give your actors direction and
what it takes to bring the best performance out of them.

In terms of telling your story visually, you'll need to understand a little
about the camera. Much like driving a car, you don't need to understand how
it works, but you need to know how to drive it (your cinematographer should
be the expert with the camera and its internal operations). The camera is a
magical box that will capture images so that you can effectively and visually
tell your story to the world.

Seeing the light

The eye of the camera needs adequate light to "see" a proper image - whether
it be appropriate exposure for a film camera, or enough light to get
a proper light reading for a video camera. Chapter 11 gives you the lowdown
on lighting. Lighting can be very powerful and can affect the mood and tone
of every scene in your film. A great cinematographer combined with an efficient
gaffer (see Chapter 7) will ensure that your film has a great look.

Being heard and scene

Production sound is extremely important because your actors must be heard
correctly. Your sound mixer, who's in charge of primarily recording your
actors' dialogue on set, needs to know the right microphones and sound-mixing
equipment to use, as you see in Chapter 12.

Actors taking your direction

The director's job is to help the actors create believable performances in
front of the camera that lure the audience into your story and make them
care about your characters. Directing also involves guiding your actors to
move effectively within the confines of the camera frame. Chapter 13 guides
you in the right direction with some great secrets on how to warm up your
actors and prepare them to give their best on the set.

Shooting through the camera

Directing the camera requires some technical knowledge of how the
camera works and what each lens and filter does, which I explain in Chapter 10.
Chapter 14 addresses how to frame your shots and when to move the camera.
In that chapter, you also discover the skills that make up a successful director
and how to run a smooth, organized set.

Cut It Out!:Editing Your Film

Editing your film gives you a chance to step back and look at the sequence of
events and all the available shot angles in order to shape and mold them into
the most effective production. You can even repair a bad film (or at least make
it better) during the editing process. Editing is the time when you'll really see
your film coming together. It's a fascinating phase of filmmaking and can be
very rewarding as you watch your baby come together piece by piece.

Nonlinear editing software is now available for virtually any computer (starting
at $50), and it allows you to edit anything from a home movie to a professional
theatrical-length piece (90 to 120 minutes). The technology of
nonlinear editing allows you to cut your shots together in virtually any order.
You can easily see different variations of cutting different shots together,
rearrange them, and move or delete in between scenes in a concise and easy-to-understand
manner. Chapter 15 tells you what the new digital technology
makes available to you for editing your film on your desktop.

Listening to your film

At the editing stage, you add and create the audio, dialogue, sound effects,
and music as you see and "hear" in Chapter 16. Titles and credits are important,
too, and I discuss them in Chapter 18.

Simulating film with software

If you can't afford to shoot your movie on film, you can use a technology by
FilmLook ( ). FilmLook runs your video footage through
special processors, electronic settings, and so on, and creates the effect that
your image was shot on film.

Software programs can also make your video footage look more like film.
These programs emulate grain, softness, subtle flutter, and so on. Bullet software
available at can convert your harsh video
footage to look like it was shot on film. The video-to-film process converts 30-frame
video to a 24-frame pulldown, adding elements to create the illusion
that your images were photographed on film as opposed to shot on video.

Using software that makes your video footage look like film takes time for the
computer to process. Depending on what software you use, the processing
time could take hours or days just to turn video footage into something that
looks more like film. With a 24-frame progressive video camera, you get the
film image immediately as you shoot. (See Chapter 10 for more information
on 24-frame progressive video.)


Excerpted from Filmmaking For Dummies
by Bryan Michael Stoller
Copyright © 2003 by Bryan Michael Stoller.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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