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Just Finished a Short, Here's How it Went:

Hey folks, apologies for the long-awaited write-up that you guys were fishing to see (man, it really took me a month to get back on the forum!?). Finally, the film has been shot and a crazy weekend adventure came to an end. Firstly, I want to say thanks to Zensteve, Directorick, and the Admin for helping me out with some last minute advice. Now I can tell you how it went.

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So this was my first film outside of school. I wrote a sex-comedy with a buddy back in December to pitch to my 35mm final project class, but this wasn't exactly what they were looking for. So we decided to shoot it on our own. Because of crazy scheduling at Full Sail, nobody really has the time to get out and do shorts; they mostly do music videos to fill up the narrow margin of time between classes and in-school projects. But since I had a lot of pre-pro already done before my pitch to the administration, it was best to DO it rather than wonder what it would have been like. We hired a crew of students and handled the production in a professional manner. Ran by a UPM with a full crew to get a lot of things off my shoulders, I co-directed with my buddy who helped me write. I really took advantage of some networking capabilities; an instructor at school just got off a Vitamin Water commercial so I was able to score some free cases for the set, I hassled the sound guys on campus for a 744T and VTR equipment, and some magical crafty that fell into place last minute.

We had three locations, and as I posted in a thread about a month ago, I was to take 115 shots to these three days. I figured by running two cams, we could get the job done twice as fast. I think it was Directorick who mentioned lighting could be crucially affected in this scenario, but since comedy is mostly low contrast, it really wasn't an issue. What we DID have an issue with was the set. Before I get into that, let me break down our locations and call times:

Day 1: Bar set, used on campus soundstage. 9pm-9am

Day 2: Party set, shot in a mansion. 8pm-6am

Day 3: Various evening exteriors 7pm-12am

We didn't have a chance to pre-light the bar because we didn't have access to it until an hour before call time. It wasn't as big as we thought it was so we had to work with shallow depth of field, and since HD cams don't get the field that film does, it was difficult to get the shots we wanted to achieve. We ended up switching some angles from the storyboard, some worked out for the better, some didn't. Then we had an issue with the casting director. When we showed up to set, there were no extras. How was I supposed to fill a bar with customers without extras? I was told by my UPM that this guy is great and was action-packed with motivation, but with him not able to confirm some of my actors for my table read, I knew I was gonna have to pull something out of my back pocket. I was able to round up about 15 students wandering around the school to stand in for some shots. Stress started building when it was apparent most didn't want to be there and we had to get them out as soon as possible. My scripty also came to me and asked, "Why is your bar packed with underage teenagers?". Thanks, Leandra.

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Thanks to a great 1st AD, we wrapped 3 hours early and I got enough rest to prepare for the second day, which was the most hectic. My art director had the idea of making the mansion we were shooting in island-themed, which was a nice touch to the project. The crew showed up wearing swimwear and the set smelled like coconuts - it was quite festive. It was interesting co-directing with another person because you'll always have a second opinion. We worked a system where we picked which shots we wanted to direct, and the other person would help the director-at-the-moment achieve his vision. It worked out well in our instance considering our casting director failed us again. What's this? Time to shoot and no party-goers? Wonderful. It turned out, two of my friends who vowed they'd come be stand-ins decided to go to a REAL party instead. I took a friend with another car and we went to that party, told a handful of kids were were shooting a "party movie", and they hopped in the cars and I had extras. In some empty space, we either cheated the shot or used the crew.

What's great about shooting comedy is that it's not difficult to keep the cast and crew's spirits high. Everyone is cheerful and laughing, which gets people in the zone.

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For me, this was something I did for the purpose of simply doing it. Ideally, you should be overwhelmingly passionate about a script that you'd want to direct, but since so many things changed down the line, beginning from half a year ago, I wanted to have the experience under my belt. Sadly, this wasn't me being Arnofsky pushing to get The Fountain made, though I wish like heck it was. It was one of those things where you get pushed down so many times that you think it may not be worth it, but we came out barely surfacing on top in the edit, which is good. The script was fun and I definitely learned a lesson in communication.

This was surely not the last film I'll write, direct, produce, and cameo in - I'm just getting started.
 
Very cool stories. Don't you just love filmmaking? :)

Well...at least you learned a few things I'm sure. Definitely fell into some of the classic issues many films are plagued by.

Your next one will be that much more prepared. You can never have enough pre-production.
 
"Why is your bar packed with underage teenagers?".

Hah, that's awesome.
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Yah, sometimes ya gotta take what ya get. I've been background as a high-school student several times, and there's no way in heck I'd ever pass for one.

What percentage of shots did you end up with? I recall it being really ambitious.

Wouldn't mind seeing the flick when it's done, or at least a trailer for it. :cool:
 
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