Updated: Feb 29, 2020
The first film is out and although I'm cringing (because, of course, I'm my own worst critic), I'm so happy it's complete! I had an amazing experience with everyone involved, I learned so much, and I got damn got it done! Can I get an AMEN!!!
Now lemme give you the rundown, from how I came up with the concept, to the mistakes I made, to what worked.
So for those of you that registered for the #BAFFC last November, you'll notice that I took all of the guidelines, including the dialogue, and used it for this film. I had the concept for it when I was administering the challenge, but I thought it'd be better to concentrate on facilitating, so I sat on it.
When I decided to do the #BC12for12 challenge, I immediately thought the #BAFFC guidelines would be a perfect starting point. I mean, the script was half way written, I had clear parameters, and quite honestly, had already thought my version of the story through.
With all that in place, I was able to knock the first draft out on the 1st of January. From there, I sent it to a few people I trust, and banged out 3-4 more versions over the course of another 2 days or so.
Simultaneously, I posted a casting call for the 5th of January. Now what made this a little less stressful, was that I casted a friend of mine (@BellaBAHHS), for one of the roles already. SB: because I decided to cast Bella as my female lead, I was able to work out her availability before I posted the call looking for my male lead (basically, she's the reason we had to shoot on the 12th instead of the 19th...so what I'm saying is...it's Bella's fault! LOL!) Now all I needed to do was find my guy.
Which brings me to the blessing that is social media (and the courage to ask for help). I needed a female reader for auditions because my usual go-tos were otherwise predisposed, so I reached out to someone (@nikkie_nhik) I knew was into acting (tip: if you're looking for opportunities to do more of something you like, post that sh** on social media!!!). Nicolette not only gave her time last minute on a Sunday, she called a friend (@_leotheleo) to audition. And let me be honest, things were looking grim before he showed up. Nevertheless, auditions were a success!
So I got my cast. Check! But what about crew and location? AHA!!! You know who handled that? MY PRODUCER!!! (@author_jrivers) I've known her since working on my thesis and she hasn't been able to get rid of me since! And she NEVER will!!! And the reason is because she understands and believes in the vision. So she, along with my Assistant Producer, Maalik (@iammaalikfalsetto), handled a lot of the logistics, ie, contracts, call sheet (cuz I didn't have a 1st AD), etc.
Now onto production day...sh** went wrong, because, that's what happens on film sets...SH** GOES WRONG! Not necessarily because we weren't prepared, but because we didn't double check everything. Biggest flub? Set dressing! Again, we prepared, but did not double check, so when it was time to make the bed, we had one itty bitty, lil' raggedy sheet. (insert hand over face emoji). Luckily, Ross was open at 9am, so my producer, Jordan and my DP, Lauren (@black_blackunicorndp) picked up some bed linen and few other trinkets to make the set feel a bit more homey. Unfortunately, that damn store run set us back an hour, but I was able to make good use of the time by rehearsing with my actors.
Somehow, even with starting behind schedule, we were able to finish shooting within 6 hours (I think we may have done it in around 5 frfr.) As you can imagine, I was happy af!
But it doesn't stop there...because there's still post. Ahhh yes. The editing process...where you see (and hear) everything you did wrong and can't do sh** to fix it. I definitely wished I had different shots to use, I wish the audio was better, I wish I really knew how to do sound design...blah blah blah. Other than toiling over mistakes, the post process wasn't too bad. I was able to get to a cut I could bear relatively easily once I accepted what I could not control.
Now, with all that being said, I'd like to share my takeaways. Here we go!
Have your got damn shot list printed out and on set! (I already knew this, but didn't do it!)
Gather props a few days ahead of the shoot and double check your list! If other people are contributing, have them verify what they're bringing with a photo or a quick FT call.
Have/purchase crafty the day before your shoot! I ended up not having enough and Jordan had to make a run for more. Not the biggest deal, but it's better to have more than you need and have it before you need it. And if you aren't paying cast and/or crew, you want to make sure not to skimp on food and beverage. ($30-$50 should be enough to feed <10 ppl for a 6 hour shoot, with food left over)
Do a proper animatic (a video version of a storyboard) before you shoot. Although Lauren and I visited the set and did our best to map out the space, we would've been much more successful had we used people to stand in and go through the motions so that we could know what shots worked and didn't work. Not only would it have saved us time, but would've given us an opportunity to think about other shots to use.
Sync audio BEFORE your assembly cut. Although it wasn't difficult to sync audio after I did my initial cut, it was time consuming, and we ain't got time to waste, okay!
Things to Keep Doing:
Use a Clapper! I'm telling you, if you're doing narrative films, utilizing a slate will save you so much time in post.
Be in frequent communication with your crew. Especially when working with small crews, you may have to pull double or triple duty, so letting people know what you need will help take the load off of you.
Give your actors character homework! This gets your actors in the mindset of the characters, which minimizes how much directing you have to do, which saves time on set!
Find ways to include your talented friends and associates. Know a painter? Borrow their art (shouts out to @legomyedo for his pieces). Know a music artist? Ask if you can use their song.
Set the right vibe for your set. Have fun, tell people thank you, ask people how they're feeling. You're the captain of the ship, The head of the dragon (is that a proper analogy?). The tone of the shoot starts with you.
That's all I have for now (I actually have more, but...) Hopefully this helps you in your filmmaking journey. Please let me know what you think of the film and the blog post. If you have questions, feel free to reach out! And be sure to subscribe to my site and follow the Don on IG @brianaclearly
Till then, I'm off to work on film number 2 (and 3, and 4, and 9...lbs!)