Friday, May 14, 2010

Lo to no budget

As the digital fever grows, all Indie film makers over here are considering to shoot in Digital. Because its economical.
But in fact, theoretically, Digital medium is suppose to cut cost only 30 percent compared to shooting in 35mm film.
Then what is the point? Why to shoot in Digital. You might as well spend the extra 30 percent and make your film look like any other mainstream film!
Actually Digital medium is just one of the factors to be taken into account to cut the costs for low or no budget films. Rest is your creativity and planning.
One of the biggest drawbacks with digital media is that you need not consider wastage. So you might want to retake again and again till you got it perfect, which is remote possibility.
You might want to shoot safety shots in different angles, though the script may not require that many, which on the whole consumes time and there by number of shooting days. Another drawback which everyone talking about is the quality, which I need not mention here as that is another topic all together and there are plenty of websites to refer and seminars to attend to.

But major advantage of Digital medium, for me, is that you are bypassing the pain going through all the processing film stuff, Big Labs with big bills, and long hours of wait before you get to see it pretty decent. Not to mention, all the processing it goes through after edit. But in digital, you just shoot it and the footage is edit ready. If you are patient enough and got few extra bucks to spare, its better go with the film instead of Digital. At least you are sure of the output quality and need not worry about what camera, what codec, what out put format, resolution to shoot etc etc....

Then what should I do if I want to make a low budget film......?
Apart from deciding to shoot in 35mm or digital, you need to consider the following :

Concept :
Trash all your previous concepts. Because they might have been developed without budget in mind and may be some known artist oriented. Look for a new concept which you think very interesting and next you think would be as interesting to audience as you thought it would be to you and can pull if off with or without too much money and, screen-able at your local theaters.

Script :
You might want to write a script keeping constantly in mind, what is available with you, and where to get whatever is required in the script, cheapest without compromising on your concept. Try to visualize your script at the writing stage itself and use minimum locations which you know you could get permission easily within your budget.

Characters and Casting :
Build up the characters with who soever is known and available with you or you may be able to reach with no or minimum amount of money. So Cast them before hand and check out what they can and can not do, and write your script accordingly.

Technicians :
In this section, first person you must give utmost importance is Camera person.
He should be -
1. the one who trust you and believe in what you do.
2. the one who is highly creative.
3. the one who understands technical details of the camera you are going to shoot.
4. the one who can give you decent output at any light conditions.
5. the one who is fast enough to get along with your schedule.
6. the one who fits into your budget.
7. the GOD....!

If you could manage to get a DOP meeting atleast two to three conditions. Then you are lucky and you can be confident that you are going to rock.
Delete the seventh point, as God is too expensive to hire and he does not have any timing sense or maintain schedule.

Planning :
After completing the script, revisions after revisions and when you are satisfied, next is Planning.
You have to jot down what ever short comings ahead of time and how to get away with it first. Break down the script and schedule it properly per locations, and include alternative plans if the schedule got mixed up.
Call the cast and read the script to them and make them understand how it goes.

Rehearsals :
When your Characters are thorough with the script, do rehearsals, on each and every scene till they get it right to your satisfaction. NEVER ever get to think 'we will see in the shoot'. Will never work out. As most of the characters are going to be new and their performance in front of the camera is going to be only half of what they perform at rehearsals.

Locations :
You must have by now known the location thoroughly, but discuss with your DOP and tell him how you want your shots and what angles you are gonna shoot. You need not make a pucca story board as sketch artists are pretty expensive, but make a decent drawing your self and tell him how you want the shots to be.

Shoot :
If everything is ready, then fix a date and start the shoot.
Never ever deviate from what ever is planned and scheduled.
Never ever conceive any improvisational shots on the shoot unless you think you might get your head chopped off.
Never ever wait till editor says get this shot. You can NOT afford for Patch works. If he says then you might as well consider your film is a thrash.
Keep a pocket book and note down all the shots to be taken and strike off one by one. This may seem basic, but it has to be done. Get up early in the morning ahead of others and read the script and check for any short comings and note down in your pocket book. Strike out one by one on pending shots after taken.
At the night, before going to sleep, check all the footages you have taken and try to connect them in your mind and check for any extra shots you might need and note it down. Consult with your DOP next day, and keep a note of it and take the shot when time permits without breaking the original schedule.

Post :
Chances are that you might not have any professional editor to edit your movie. Does not matter. Since you have already visualized your movie thoroughly by now. Get hold of a machine with avid, fcp or adobe and try get an apprentice work for you, as you just have to sequence your shots. This is for a rough cut only. Then watch the movie, get suggestions from your friends, (danger, you gotta be careful, as each one will have a script writer inside them and might change the entire concept), if possible call up your friends dad's friend's friend editor, listen to what they have to say and if useful change it here and there and get the sound part done.

I am always worried about on shoot process than the post shoot as the major expenses are for on shoot only. After the shoot, post work can be done more leisurely as does not affect your pocket as much as on shoot.

One of my friends argues, what is the use of a lo budget film and what is the purpose of such a strain, when you can not market or release it. And there are hundreds of films in the box like that waiting for the release.

But I would argue back that its a passion and belief (more of an addiction) that makes you do the film. Not just for money.

Money is important because if you can not return what ever you have borrowed or spent from your pocket, then you are stuck.

You can not make your next film...!

So money is important factor for which your film has to release in the theaters or in the film festivals or at least on some tv channels, but not as important as your urge to make the film work, the belief, passion for it.

If you believe in it, and enough passion to drive you, then you would make the film either digital or 35mm or super 16, and then worry about other factors later.

No big directors, came true with a first project which was sold before shoot and made on table profit. or did they consider making a film with profit in mind. They just wanted their concept come alive on screen and managed it, with or without money.

So what counts is the passion.

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