Audio Newb Here - Where Should I Start?

Hey! I've been making tiny-budget films for many years. I've recently realized that I've been unfairly ignoring the importance of audio in my productions. I'd like to make the visuals and audio work together better.

One of the main problems I face is that I have very little money to work with. Are there any particular lessons you can point me towards, for a newb to sound? And are there any particular ways I can lessen the impact of the low production values that are generally inherent with tiny-budget productions?
 
Are there any particular lessons you can point me towards, for a newb to sound?

Yes.

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And are there any particular ways I can lessen the impact of the low production values that are generally inherent with tiny-budget productions?

Work your ass off at getting great sound, and make it your NUMBER ONE priority in pre, production & post.
 
[1] I'd like to make the visuals and audio work together better. Are there any particular lessons you can point me towards, for a newb to sound? [2] And are there any particular ways I can lessen the impact of the low production values that are generally inherent with tiny-budget productions?

1. Unfortunately, not really. There are books which deal with specific aspects of film sound (Alcove has listed the best ones) but none which deal specifically with sound design, with the interaction of visuals and audio. Having said this, the John Purcell book is much broader than the title suggests and IMHO is absolutely required reading for anyone seriously calling themselves a Director. Most of the great sound designers are relatively guarded about the precise nature of their role, their writings/interviews tend to deal with sound effects design rather than sound design and therefore concentrate on the sexy/obvious aspects of sound. The same is true of most audio sections of BTS/Extras. An exception is Randy Thom, a very successful Hollywood sound designer who has shared more comprehensively and is worth searching for (www.filmsound.org is a good place to start). As good a place as any to learn about sound design is simply to take great films and study their sound in great detail, although you'll only be doing so in stereo unfortunately.

2. Although I completely understand why he's saying it, I personally don't agree with Alcove's assertion that sound should be the number one priority. It should certainly be a priority and a much higher priority than it usually is, because much (and sometimes almost all) of Alcove's work, mine and others who work with nano/micro/low budget films revolves around trying to make the dialogue presentable and not detract from the film, rather than working on the more positive side of filmmaking.

Here's a few general things to think about when developing and pre-producing a film, things which just by being aware and thinking about them will make a positive difference: A good rule of thumb for the newb is to start where sound design itself starts, with the script. Does the script present sound design opportunities? Do the characters respond to the world around them or only to visual stimuli and the dialogue? When creating the shot list, how much are you thinking about sound? How are you framing, how are you lighting, what movement is there within the frame and implied outside of it, when and how does this movement occur and how does all of this aid the sound design rather than hinder it? When should the sound design be leading the storytelling, when should it be doing little apart from accompanying the visuals, how and when should this balance change to make sure your film has interest and pace?

G
 
You're all wrong.

There was actually a real T-Rex that was filmed in Jurassic Park, and they recorded it's dialogue just like the rest of every Hollywood film ever made: with the camera mic.

Gosh. You people and your conspiracy theories about audio for film.
 
2. Although I completely understand why he's saying it, I personally don't agree with Alcove's assertion that sound should be the number one priority.

Although I was being snarky, I also think that newbies should approach one project like a sound guy, where audio is their highest (technical) priority. Call it training or whatever, the newb will get a glimpse of what the production sound team and the audio post team deals with on every project. It will drive home the lesson of how difficult production sound and audio post can be, and why having someone knowledgeable & experienced handling production sound and audio post can be the difference between a (technically) successful film and just another sonically horrid amateur effort.
 
Although I was being snarky, I also think that newbies should approach one project like a sound guy, where audio is their highest (technical) priority. Call it training or whatever, the newb will get a glimpse of what the production sound team and the audio post team deals with on every project. It will drive home the lesson of how difficult production sound and audio post can be, and why having someone knowledgeable & experienced handling production sound and audio post can be the difference between a (technically) successful film and just another sonically horrid amateur effort.

So, in the greater scheme of things, I believe all of it, everything needs to be top priority. But on my next feature, audio is a, if not the, top priority, simply because that's a particularly important area that I'm currently not particularly good at. I'm a firm believer in capitalizing on your strengths, but that doesn't mean it isn't also really smart to do your best to minimalize the impact of your weaknesses.
 
Alcove, I just ordered The Location Sound Bible, cuz that's my most immediate need. Logistics of budget will likely force me to hire "up-and-comers", maybe recent college grads looking for first gig. And so I need to be able to discuss things with them and know that they're making good decisions.

APE, I'll definitely get the book you recommended, before preproductions starts.

directorik, I like your advice for having the sound mixer being out of sight of what's going on. Thanks!

Does the script present sound design opportunities? Do the characters respond to the world around them or only to visual stimuli and the dialogue? When creating the shot list, how much are you thinking about sound? How are you framing, how are you lighting, what movement is there within the frame and implied outside of it, when and how does this movement occur and how does all of this aid the sound design rather than hinder it? When should the sound design be leading the storytelling, when should it be doing little apart from accompanying the visuals, how and when should this balance change to make sure your film has interest and pace?

That's some good food for thought, and well-timed, as I'm writing the screenplay. Thanks!
 
So, in the greater scheme of things, I believe all of it, everything needs to be top priority.

Actually, you could look at the issue the other way around, that in the greater scheme of things, nothing should be a top priority. Or rather, as I mentioned in the Apple Sauce thread, the "shape" is the priority and everything else is just subservient to that. Why is this important and not just semantics? Because, with a limited budget and resources you simply cannot afford to make everything a top priority all the time and do it all well. Making a watchable film with a small budget is tough and the smaller the budget the tougher it is, it's not necessarily impossible though. IMHO, there are two ways of approaching this near impossibility, just do what most amateurs/hobbyists do, prioritise what interests you the most and trust to luck or, the other way is to play it smart, really, really smart in the case of a very small budget! One way to play it really smart is to go through your film in fine detail during the early stages of pre-prod. What is the shape? How do you achieve that shape? Therefore, where is production sound a priority, where is it less of a priority? Where is the cinematography a priority, the lighting, the Foley, the music, the prod design, make-up, etc., and where are they less of a priority? With this information you can now make a list of all the various points of greater and lesser priority throughout your film and target your resources and arrange your shooting days intelligently, professionally!

Sometime ago I saw an interview with Nolan (or maybe it was Fincher?) talking about their first theatrical short. They had about 4 shooting days but only enough budget for a pro PSM for one day. Most would simply spread that budget thinner and go for a much cheaper option, say a student or recent grad. What Nolan (or maybe it was Fincher) did was get an unpaid volunteer and hire a pro for a single day and, arrange his shoot so that the opening scenes were shot the day the pro PSM was there. The result: 1. It was easier to get a decent unpaid volunteer because they got to observe/work and get a credit with an experienced pro. 2. The opening minute or so of the short has impressively good production sound, helping to hide the fact that the rest of it is fairly typical amateur/student prod sound. 3. Many might have succumbed to this trick and weren't so aware of the weakness, experienced industry pros, investors, etc., might have been less gullible but even more impressed! More impressed because they recognised what Nolan had done and that he had an understanding of pro filmmaking; the importance of a film's opening, the importance of production values (even though he didn't have the budget to fully execute them) and how to use what budget he did have intelligently, to it's maximum effect.

Hobbyists don't do this, they don't do it not because they are incapable but because they don't want to. Going through and planning a film in that kind of detail is a time consuming, draining and laborious task which simply isn't any fun for most and therefore doesn't comply with the definition of "Hobby". When a hobbyist filmmaker states they did as well as they could with what they had, they are generally lying (to themselves as much as anyone else). What they usually mean is that they did as well as they could, with the resources they had AND within the constraints of how far they were willing to go. The really good filmmakers I've worked with are unusual people, they're unusual because they enjoy those aspects of filmmaking which most others try to avoid, or maybe they don't enjoy them, maybe they just have an unusually good understanding of what makes a good film and an unusual amount of determination to make one, an amount of determination which completely supersedes any lack of enjoyment?

Logistics of budget will likely force me to hire "up-and-comers", maybe recent college grads looking for first gig. And so I need to be able to discuss things with them and know that they're making good decisions.

Not wishing to be a "Negative Nancy" but that's not going to be at all easy. Almost all of the sound engineering courses are biased towards music recording, production or re-enforcement and have just a handful of lectures throughout the 3 years on film sound, or none at all. Most courses are so woefully lacking in even the most basic film sound knowledge that the grads don't even know that there are very significant differences with music production, let alone what they are or what to do about them. So for example, few sound engineering grads will ever have even seen a shotgun mic, let alone developed the practical skills of using one! Unless you're lucky enough to live near one of the very few establishments which have a real focus on film sound, the chances are that any grads you find will have far less idea of what they're doing than you do and will be largely incapable of "making good decisions". Those occasions when I've taken on interns, I've generally found enthusiastic newbs to be preferable to sound engineering grads. An enthusiastic newb is an empty cup waiting to be filled, most grads are half-filled cups, half filled with inapplicable music production knowledge which needs emptying before the filling can start! I'm not saying a complete newb is necessarily the better choice in your situation.

G
 
One way to play it really smart is to go through your film in fine detail during the early stages of pre-prod. What is the shape? How do you achieve that shape? Therefore, where is production sound a priority, where is it less of a priority? Where is the cinematography a priority, the lighting, the Foley, the music, the prod design, make-up, etc., and where are they less of a priority? With this information you can now make a list of all the various points of greater and lesser priority throughout your film and target your resources and arrange your shooting days intelligently, professionally!

Yep, you nailed it. The pre on this movie is going to be ridiculous. Production-wise, I literally can't make everything a priority all the time, cuz there just ain't the time/money for that.

Hobbyists don't do this, they don't do it not because they are incapable but because they don't want to. Going through and planning a film in that kind of detail is a time consuming, draining and laborious task which simply isn't any fun for most and therefore doesn't comply with the definition of "Hobby". When a hobbyist filmmaker states they did as well as they could with what they had, they are generally lying (to themselves as much as anyone else). What they usually mean is that they did as well as they could, with the resources they had AND within the constraints of how far they were willing to go. The really good filmmakers I've worked with are unusual people, they're unusual because they enjoy those aspects of filmmaking which most others try to avoid, or maybe they don't enjoy them, maybe they just have an unusually good understanding of what makes a good film and an unusual amount of determination to make one, an amount of determination which completely supersedes any lack of enjoyment?

Heh. And now I finally understand what kept us apart for all these years. I am that "hobbyist" that you just described. My perspective is of course a tad different, cuz you know - life.

I'm so glad that you and I have found a way to affectively communicate with each other. I'm thankful for the audio advice you've offered over the last couple days and I look forward to more!
 
Yep, you nailed it. The pre on this movie is going to be ridiculous. Production-wise, I literally can't make everything a priority all the time, cuz there just ain't the time/money for that.

If there's one phase of filmmaking which is consistently weak with amateur filmmaker, pre-prod would be at the top of the list. For most, it's a chore which needs to be completed to get to the most fun bit, the filming. For those really serious about filmmaking (rather than just film shooting) it's arguably the most important phase, because it's where the film is designed.

Planning all the fine details in pre, which aren't going to come together until post, is a bit of a two edged sword. On the one hand, it provides artistic design goals and a way of identifying and targeting the required resources for every part of your film. On the other hand, the more you've got precisely planned, the more there is to go wrong and also, the more skill and experience you need. By this I mean that it's more time consuming but not terribly hard to work out the shape of your scenes and the film as a whole but it's much harder to work out in pre-prod HOW you're going to achieve that shape; which individual craft or combination of crafts is going to have the storytelling priority at every point in your film, because you're not going to know for sure how that "vision" is going to pan out until you get to post-prod. There's no real short-cut here, it just takes a lot of experience of creating visions/plans and seeing how they turn out, the more you do/practise it, the more often your detailed "visions" will pan out in post. That's why most feature directors don't reach their peaks until at least their 40's, if not their 50's or later.

There are a few tricks you can employ which can help though. Let's say you design a scene to be carried mainly by the cinematography, movement/blocking and the dialogue but not any significant sound design beyond the obvious Foley. In this case, it might be a good idea to hedge your bets and create a sound design "opportunity". At say the beginning of an INT scene, maybe we could have a master shot which includes a window, where we can just about make out a very brief view in the middle distance of say a construction site (or train line, or airport, highway, worshop/factory, etc.). You've now created a sound design "opportunity". Come time for the picture edit phase and maybe the acting performances, movement or cinematography doesn't create enough shape (drama, tension, whatever) as envisioned during pre-prod? Not to worry, in audio-post we can take advantage of that sound design "opportunity", you created: We can make the audience aware of that brief passing background view of say a construction site, using the same focus of visual attention trick as previously mentioned with Foley. Once we've visually established that construction site, we've now got a rich palette of construction site background sound FX we can use to heighten the tension, pace or drama, etc, throughout the entire scene. If, on the other hand, the scene does work as envisioned, then we can just completely ignore this sound design opportunity, on the logical basis that the construction site is quite a way away, the windows are closed and we might not hear it and if we don't highlight the brief passing view with any sound FX, it's unlikely anyone in the audience will consciously even register the existence of the construction site in the first place! Instead of including it in a master shot, you could have an insert instead for example, which you could drop if it's not needed, in pic edit.

And now I finally understand what kept us apart for all these years. I am that "hobbyist" that you just described.

Sort of, I've got nothing at all against hobbyist filmmakers though, so that's not what kept us apart. What I find disturbing is filmmakers who want to be something more than a hobbyist filmmaker, who think they are something more than a hobbyist but who don't want to do anything more than make films like a hobbyist (and dream of being more). Many of your responses indicated you were one of those types of filmmakers. Maybe you were responding that way just to provoke a response and you're actually serious about being more and willing to do more. I'm not completely certain yet but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and anyway, the questions and phrasing you're now using presents an opportunity for me to write replies containing info/insights which might be useful to others.

G
 
If there's one phase of filmmaking which is consistently weak with amateur filmmaker, pre-prod would be at the top of the list.

Guilty. In fact, that's one of my few regrets with Antihero. We basically made a feature-length 48HFP movie. Thankfully, I've made a good number of 48HFP films, so I'm accustomed to the madness. But that is the wrong way to make a film.

For Rage of the Fire, there's definitely a limit to how much can be planned vs how much needs to be figured out on set, during production. I don't want to hold any rehearsals until just before shooting. To me, this helps make the cast's performances fresh. A big part of rehearsals, of course, is blocking. So that means that, at least for the vast majority of my production, blocking can't be scripted. On my films, blocking is figured out mere moments before shooting. And that of course means that lighting and sound recording also can't be figured out until mere moments before shooting.

So on the next one, the happy medium I hope to find between over-planning and under-planning is that I'll plan a ridiculous amount of possible scenarios. I plan to spend a heck of a lot of time location scouting, looking and listening for possible shots that I may want to get. During production, I'll have a flip-book of cool images and sound design opportunities that I may or may not choose to employ.

I like that tip, by the way. Sound design opportunities. That's smart. I'm totally gonna use that.

Thanks! :)
 
I don't want to hold any rehearsals until just before shooting. To me, this helps make the cast's performances fresh. A big part of rehearsals, of course, is blocking. So that means that, at least for the vast majority of my production, blocking can't be scripted. On my films, blocking is figured out mere moments before shooting. And that of course means that lighting and sound recording also can't be figured out until mere moments before shooting.

It also means much of the Foley can't be planned and is also likely to mean that alt takes are likely to be significantly different from each other and that a safety take can't be achieved, due to the lack of consistency. Both of these factors will negatively impact the dialogue editing phase. If you are going to work out all the blocking/Foley, lighting, prod sound just before shooting that places a very high demand on the director, who has to consider these factors in context of the shape of the scene and of the film in which the scene fits, places a high demand on the cast, who have to remember/perfect all this new information in addition to the delivery of their lines and of course more demanding of the crew, who have to try and achieve decent quality pretty much on the spur of the moment, with whatever equipment they happen to have available.

Reading your paragraph therefore implies several things:

1. In effect, you are prioritising your method of achieving a fresh performance above the other film crafts. I read this as a typically amateur approach because: A. Typically it's too much for the director to work out on the spur of the moment and invariably means that shape is either completely ignored or is at least subservient to the imminent practicalities of acquiring the shot and, B. The priority is set by default, unwittingly, rather than intelligently targeted. Working this out in pre-prod provides the luxury of time to consider all the artistic implications/consequences of the blocking/Foley on the shape.

2. Does your approach really result in a fresh performance, and by "result" I mean in the finished film? With a lot of new info (blocking/Foley) to think about, maybe you're going to get a more anxious or stilted performance from your actors and even if you do get a fresher performance on set, what's the point unless that freshness on set translates to freshness in the final film? For example, I commonly get spontaneous/fresh performances with poor prod sound because the director achieved the spontaneity by actually running the set spontaneously (rather than faking it) and thereby at the cost of the prod sound. The result, even if a fresher performance is achieved on set, is a performance the audience can't really appreciate if they're distracted by poor prod sound or if the freshness has been seriously compromised by ADR. Presumably similar compromises can be incurred by this approach with the lighting and cinematography.

3. It seems to me that this approach is completely the opposite of the indie mantra of making the most of what you've got. IE. Money, equipment and personnel. Again just from the sound side: To cope with any eventuality of lighting, angles and blocking/movement and get good prod sound would require a full compliment of equipment; plant mics, lavs and multi-channel recorder in addition to the boom/mic. It would be prohibitively expensive with a tiny budget to hire and operate all this equipment all of the time. Coming up with an on the spot plan to get good prod sound is likely to compromise even an experienced pro but a tiny budget generally means asking this of relatively inexperienced audio personnel and to do so with probably inadequate equipment! Hiring a respected pro PSM is not really the solution either, because they got to be respected not just by occasionally performing on the spot miracles but mainly by experienced planning/preparation to avoid in the first place those pitfalls/mistakes made by lesser PSMs. Working it out in pre has numerous advantages, the (conscientious) audio personnel can figure out an intelligent plan to work with the blocking/lighting and if scenes require more equipment, they can either be changed or scheduled so that the equipment is only hired when it's actually needed and of course all this can be done with a few people around a table in relative leisure rather than under the pressure of having the full cast and crew and the time limitations of the shooting schedule and location to worry about.

It seems to me that hobbyists and most amateurs are NOT trying to make the best of what they've got, they're just making do with what they've got. A very different approach/philosophy with a typically very different result!

G
 
It also means much of the Foley can't be planned and is also likely to mean that alt takes are likely to be significantly different from each other and that a safety take can't be achieved, due to the lack of consistency. Both of these factors will negatively impact the dialogue editing phase. If you are going to work out all the blocking/Foley, lighting, prod sound just before shooting that places a very high demand on the director, who has to consider these factors in context of the shape of the scene and of the film in which the scene fits, places a high demand on the cast, who have to remember/perfect all this new information in addition to the delivery of their lines and of course more demanding of the crew, who have to try and achieve decent quality pretty much on the spur of the moment, with whatever equipment they happen to have available.

Reading your paragraph therefore implies several things:

1. In effect, you are prioritising your method of achieving a fresh performance above the other film crafts. I read this as a typically amateur approach because: A. Typically it's too much for the director to work out on the spur of the moment and invariably means that shape is either completely ignored or is at least subservient to the imminent practicalities of acquiring the shot and, B. The priority is set by default, unwittingly, rather than intelligently targeted. Working this out in pre-prod provides the luxury of time to consider all the artistic implications/consequences of the blocking/Foley on the shape.

2. Does your approach really result in a fresh performance, and by "result" I mean in the finished film? With a lot of new info (blocking/Foley) to think about, maybe you're going to get a more anxious or stilted performance from your actors and even if you do get a fresher performance on set, what's the point unless that freshness on set translates to freshness in the final film? For example, I commonly get spontaneous/fresh performances with poor prod sound because the director achieved the spontaneity by actually running the set spontaneously (rather than faking it) and thereby at the cost of the prod sound. The result, even if a fresher performance is achieved on set, is a performance the audience can't really appreciate if they're distracted by poor prod sound or if the freshness has been seriously compromised by ADR. Presumably similar compromises can be incurred by this approach with the lighting and cinematography.

3. It seems to me that this approach is completely the opposite of the indie mantra of making the most of what you've got. IE. Money, equipment and personnel. Again just from the sound side: To cope with any eventuality of lighting, angles and blocking/movement and get good prod sound would require a full compliment of equipment; plant mics, lavs and multi-channel recorder in addition to the boom/mic. It would be prohibitively expensive with a tiny budget to hire and operate all this equipment all of the time. Coming up with an on the spot plan to get good prod sound is likely to compromise even an experienced pro but a tiny budget generally means asking this of relatively inexperienced audio personnel and to do so with probably inadequate equipment! Hiring a respected pro PSM is not really the solution either, because they got to be respected not just by occasionally performing on the spot miracles but mainly by experienced planning/preparation to avoid in the first place those pitfalls/mistakes made by lesser PSMs. Working it out in pre has numerous advantages, the (conscientious) audio personnel can figure out an intelligent plan to work with the blocking/lighting and if scenes require more equipment, they can either be changed or scheduled so that the equipment is only hired when it's actually needed and of course all this can be done with a few people around a table in relative leisure rather than under the pressure of having the full cast and crew and the time limitations of the shooting schedule and location to worry about.

It seems to me that hobbyists and most amateurs are NOT trying to make the best of what they've got, they're just making do with what they've got. A very different approach/philosophy with a typically very different result!

G

Those are some very good points you make. The performance of the cast is on the short-list of the most important things in my films. The cast is who the audience connects to, they have to feel real. But of course I don't want that to mean that other departments are set up for failure. Damn, I got some stuff to think about. There's gotta be a happy-middle, maybe I select some scenes to be rehearsed and blocked well in-advance, based on production needs, while the ones that are easier to shoot can be rehearsed just before shooting.
 
The performance of the cast is on the short-list of the most important things in my films. The cast is who the audience connects to, they have to feel real.

Agreed. Great lighting, cinematography and sound are all meaningless if the audience is pulled out of the scene/film by lousy acting and poor acting is probably the most easily identifiable way of loosing the audience. That's why film reviewers and even the public virtually always mention the acting but much less commonly the sound or lighting. As filmmakers though, we need a deeper understanding, we need to look beyond just the most obvious and understand that the less obvious does not mean less important. We can all make comments/judgements about the architecture of buildings but not so much about the field of structural engineering because the architecture is obvious and the structural engineering much less so. We take for granted that the structural engineering is competent and only mention it on those rare occasions when it's deliberately been made particularly obvious or when it's not competent. Of course, just because we expect and take structural engineering competency for granted doesn't mean that it's easy to achieve, of less importance and taken for granted by those who actually make buildings! In other words, good architectural design requires good structural engineering to translate that design into a good building, without good structural engineering it doesn't matter how great the architecture, it will never be a good building.

So it is with filmmaking. It doesn't matter how good a performance is achieved on set unless it can be translated into a good film. This, IMHO, is the biggest difference between hobbyists/amateurs and professionals: For most hobbyists/amateurs, production is the most famous and enjoyable part of filmmaking and pre-production exists simply to put all the logistics/organisation in place so that production can occur with as few problems/distractions as possible. For the professional, the point/target of pre-production is not production but post-production! Although of course, production is a vitally important step along the way and still needs to occur with as few problems as possible. This difference is huge because once the hobbyist/amateur has wrapped, they've now got a hard drive full of footage which they've somehow got to edit together to create an intriguing, involving "shape" while constrained by both the need to make the story coherent and the pace/shape of the footage they've captured. While luck may lend a hand in some places, in others it won't. The result is second guessing, indecision and re-cuts, in the hope of finding that perfect editing solution (which probably doesn't even exist), finally ending when the filmmaker eventually runs out of resources (time, money and/or the will to live!), and that's if the filmmaker is even aware of severe structural weaknesses in the first place! The professional filmmaker on the other hand has reduced this near impossible task to merely a difficult task because the "footage they've captured" has been specifically designed with the right pace/shape (or the opportunities to create it) as the primary goal from the outset!

Damn, I got some stuff to think about.

Yep, if you want to do something which doesn't require a lot of "stuff to think about", the role of film director would be near the bottom of that list! Rather than think about it that way though, think about it the other way around. If you don't think about it in pre, you're going to have to think about it in post or ignore it and just live with the consequences. At least thinking about it in pre presents the opportunity of doing something about it, of making changes to any prior decisions/choices to solve or at least minimise any issues. Come post there maybe less to think about but only because you're largely stuck with the decisions/choices you've already made!

There's gotta be a happy-middle ...

Often yes but not always. Sometimes there's no choice but to sacrifice something during production. Working this out in pre, before you get to it, is still preferable though. For example, take a scene/shot where it's just not practical or realistically possible to get usable prod sound. Figuring this out in pre means you can mitigate it better and still maximise your resources. If you know you're going to need ADR in pre, arrange your shooting schedule so you don't need to pay the PSM that day, put that money into the audio post budget to get decent ADR instead! Also, pare the dialogue for that shot/scene down to it's bare minimum while still prioritising shape (take a day or two to think about how, you've no cast and crew hanging around for your on the spot solution!) and make sure your actor enunciates clearly so lip sync in post will be easy or, design the shot/lighting/angle so that precise lip sync isn't even going to be necessary!

...maybe I select some scenes to be rehearsed and blocked well in-advance, based on production needs, while the ones that are easier to shoot can be rehearsed just before shooting.

Now you're thinking smart, rather than just "easy"! Most hobbyists/amateurs are thinking in terms of "easy", what gets them to the production phase most easily, what makes it easiest to get to the end. For this reason, they usually think in large, generalised terms, with the fewest number of rules which they apply in a blanket fashion. For example, on set acting performance or cinematography (or whatever) being a priority and therefore always being a priority, for every shot, for every scene, regardless of how that will affect the audiences' perception of the film when all those shots/scenes are edited together. There is no one right or wrong way, there are a lot of different ways each of which are right or wrong depending on the needs of each shot/scene and more importantly still; the needs of how those scene are all going to be perceived by an audience when strung together! Yes, it's a lot more work in pre to figure out which "way" is best for each scene and then budgeting/organising all those "ways". It's certainly a hell of a lot easier to just pick a "way" and apply it to every scene! With little/no budget, completing a feature length film is very difficult, so it's entirely logical to make that very difficult task as simple and easy as possible. However, you've already achieved that, you're now looking at an even bigger leap in difficulty, not just completing a film, not even completing a film which is watchable but one which is so watchable people will pay to watch it! Doing the same as you did before, even doing the same but better is not going to get you where you want. Your competition is no longer other hobbyists trying to achieve a very difficult task, your competition is now the very best aspiring amateurs and the professionals and even making an excellent hobbyist film is not going to cut it! You've got to do it differently, play by different rules, rules which are dominated by the structure, quality and therefore audience perception of the end result, rather than making the process as simple/easy as practical. I'm not being negative here but the opposite; yes, you've got to be both much smarter and work much harder but the only thing which can stop you being both is you (!) and the pay-off is that those virtually impossible odds of success become way less impossible!

The only wording in the quote above I would change is; "based on production needs" which should be changed to "based on post-production needs"!

G
 
Is anyone else amazed by the fact that me and APE finally see eye-to-eye? Thanks, G! I particularly like your comments about using pre to better set-up post. That's a good way of thinking about it.

No, I definitely don't want to do things the same as the first feature. I didn't know it when I made it, but the biggest benefit of making that movie was to learn some really important lessons. One of the very biggest lessons learned was of the importance of preproduction. And that is precisely why I have no deadline on this film. :)
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I didn't know it when I made it, but the biggest benefit of making that movie was to learn some really important lessons.
The overall issue I have with both APE and Sweetie is the above:
their heart is in the right place but they both seem to want to
protect new filmmakers from making mistakes. I learned far more
from making my own mistakes than I would have by NOT trying
because pros told me what I was doing wrong. Every, single
mistake I made with my short films and my first features was a
terrific learning experience. And every one of them could have
been avoided if I had listened to the pros. But I'm a better filmmaker
today because I made those mistakes.
 
'Rik, you're one of the few who actually learns from their mistakes. I run into it all the time, regular clients on their third, even fifth or sixth project who haven't learned their lessons, and not just sound.

"The difference between an amateur/hobbyist and a professional is the amateur/hobbyist learns from their mistakes;
the professional learns from the mistakes of others.
"
 
The overall issue I have with both APE and Sweetie is the above:
their heart is in the right place but they both seem to want to
protect new filmmakers from making mistakes. I learned far more
from making my own mistakes than I would have by NOT trying
because pros told me what I was doing wrong. Every, single
mistake I made with my short films and my first features was a
terrific learning experience. And every one of them could have
been avoided if I had listened to the pros. But I'm a better filmmaker
today because I made those mistakes.

Right. I'm in full agreement with you on this matter. In fact, I've changed one stance that I used to be in disagreement with you over. I recall I used to advocate making a bunch of shorts before even thinking about making a feature. I'm paraphrasing, but I believe your response was something along the lines of encouraging even a first-time filmmaker to make a feature, simply because it'll be a huge education in how to, and how not to make films.

I've since changed my mind. I think each person needs to find the path that fits them best. If making a bunch of shorts fits your life, then do that. If you think diving right into the deep end by making a feature fits your life, then do that. Either path will lead to a whole bunch of lessons learned. Lessons that can only be learned by doing.

'Rik, you're one of the few who actually learns from their mistakes. I run into it all the time, regular clients on their third, even fifth or sixth project who haven't learned their lessons, and not just sound.

"The difference between an amateur/hobbyist and a professional is the amateur/hobbyist learns from their mistakes;
the professional learns from the mistakes of others.
"

I'm sorry, but I can't agree with you on that. This logic does not fit what I see in the world around me. I think it's possible that you and I see this particular issue differently only because we are looking at it from such differing perspective.

I've never had to deal with the schmuck clients that you reference, who never learn from their mistakes. And you've never seen it from the perspective of a budding filmmaker who has spent a great deal of time trying to learn from his mistakes.

directorik is not alone in this respect. I honestly feel like I am my own biggest critic. When I complete a film, even one that I'm very proud of, it is rare for me to hear a criticism of it that I already didn't think of myself. I have a lot of aspiring filmmaker friends who are the same way.

It's somewhat difficult to find the first films of big-name Hollywood directors. I think that's by design. Cuz they sucked major ass. Here's a fun list.
 
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