You are on page 1of 99

Make a movie

-nikunj gangani
Finding Ideas
Ideas are all around. . Movie idea brainstorming can be done by the filmmaker alone but try it with one or two creative friends. Most television shows are written by teams of writers. Most screenplay development today includes brainstorming sessions between the writers, director and producers. The Movie's Hook The first thing you are looking for is a really good "hook" idea. That memorable one-liner that everyone will tell their friends the next day after seeing your movie. Get paper and a pencil. Here are some ways to find hooks.

Keep a journal. Most writers keep journals of their thoughts and ideas. Over time you will develope a rich storehouse of ideas that you can go back to again and again. Practice. You may not have exercised your "idea muscle" for years. The more you try to come up with ideas the more ideas you will come up with. Write down the first thing that comes into your mind. Do it right now. Then keep writing. Give it at least five minutes, and write something. Most people give up much too quickly ... or never get started. The daily newspaper. There are at least five good ideas in every single daily issue of any big city newspaper. Read obituaries. Newspapers try to include the occasional obituary of people who weren't famous but lived amazing or at least interesting lives. Look at cartoons. I think the New Yorker is especially good. Their cartoons often have a delicious blend of irony, naivety and sophistication that can spark new ideas.

Listen to your family. Those funny and embarrassing old family stories might start you on your way to a funny family comedy. Listen to your friends. One person's problems, issues, solutions and triumphs are interesting to all people. Go for a walk. You might see something funny or ironic, along the way and just the act of getting out of the house may open your eyes to new things. Take a shower. Relaxing in the shower or a bath is a great way to open the channels to your subconscious. Turn off your inner critic. Your goal is to come up with lots of ideas and most of them won't be very good but if you start trying to sort out the good from the bad at this point you'll block all new ideas. Find a time and place. If you set aside a time and place for writing your subconscious will start to automatically go into creative mode. You have the power to control some part of your time. Take the phone off the hook. Get up earlier. Stay up later. Explain to your children and spouse that you need some time to yourself. Stop doing something that isn't really important. Turn off the television. You do not need to see the latest installment of whatever is your favorite TV show at the moment. Most people have been brainwashed into being compulsive consumers of entertainment. Time to shift gears into being a creator of entertainment. Write words. Any words. The next word that pops into your head ... write it down. Keep doing it for a while then stop and look for patterns and themes. Read the classics. Project Gutenberg has 17,000 literary works that are generally out of copyright and free to use. How many time has Romeo and Juliet been rewritten into a new book or movie? If you can't come up with an original idea, copy an old idea. It's done all the time. Watch an old movie. You may not be able to get permission to remake the entire film, but ideas aren't protected. You can incorporate a few plot devices, concepts, character types and many other things from other works into yours. Just do it in an original way. List the ten most important events in your life. What changed you? What made you the person you are? Pick the most interesting one. Remember someone you hurt. Maybe you did it on purpose or maybe it was accidental. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you have done. Think about someone you hate. This should be the most despicable human being you have ever run against. Make up a story of how they got to be that way.

Write what you know. Your world may seem pretty dull to you but it may seem very exotic to the rest of the world, especially if you can find offbeat characters and situations.

Story research Write what you know is good advice but you may find you need to add to your knowledge from time to time. The internet is often a good source of bits of knowledge that can spark new ideas and can add a touch of reality to your stories. The Google search engine should become your writing partner. Once you've got a good collection of clever and original hooks it's time to move on to your movie's premise. The Movie's Premise Jack Warner is credited as having said "If you want to send a message, call Western Union". People primarily go to movies for entertainment and escape from their boring lives, but in the process they learn useful truths about life from a good film. The fact is that every movie should be about something as well as being entertaining. All great stories, regardless of the media, speak to some basic truths of the human condition. I'm not talking about creating a major moral for your story. People don't like movies that preach to them, but they do like to see how in life situations that are believable people's choices lead to predictable results. A good story lets you live someone else's life and learn from their mistakes. Shakespeare's Macbeth is about the destructive power of ambition. Paul Hagis' Crash show's the many facets of prejudice. Romeo and Juliet shows how the blind power of passion can defy destruction and death in a forbidden love. Brokeback Mountain shows what happens when two partners try to deny an equally powerful and forbidden romance and how it destroys their spirit and happiness in the process. The human condition is very complex and often times complete opposites are true. For example "absence make the heart grow fonder" is just as true as "out of site, out of mind". Generally, the more aspects of a premise you can illustrate, the better your story. In The Hours three stories of three different women are told all centered on the destructive nature of trying to live an unfulfilled life of obeying other's expectations. The more subtly but profoundly you illustrate your premise, the better. Spend time working on ideas for your movie's premise.

What are lessons you've learned about how to live life and how did you learn them?

What are moral issues you've always felt strongly about. What foolish things do you see other people do that really bugs you? What foolish things do you do over and over that really bugs you? Think of a person you really admire. What is it about how they lived their life that you like? What do you wish you had understood when you were much younger. What mistakes do you see young people making over and over. How have people's expectations and behavior changed since you were young.

Good screenplay writers are extremely honest about their own feelings and shortcomings. One of the hardest things for many beginning writers is to start coming clean about what really goes on inside their own minds. Trust that you aren't the only person who is battling these demons. Your experience, told as an interesting story, will be of great help to others who find themselves in a similar situation. Live an interesting and daring life of your own. Young writers usually don't write very interesting stories because they simply haven't had enough life experiences to have anything interesting to write about. Travel, meet people, try new things just because they're new, fall in love, get your heart broken. It will all become material for your stories. Good writers can't be cowards. Got a general idea for a premise? Don't worry if you don't have it fully thought out at this point. It will change as you write your story, anyway. Sometime the best premise for a story doesn't come out until far into the development process. Some screenplay writers don't even bother to try to find a premise until the story has been outlined or partially written. Eventually the right premise will show its face.

Screenwriting
Learn screenplay writing from the best Once you've learned the basics of screenplay writing the best way for a filmmaker to polish his/her craft is by writing as often as possible, and by reading the best of other writers. Try to read one a screenplay a week. Some movies have become popular teaching examples in film schools because their screenplays are such perfect examples of how a screenplay should be written, and the execution of the screenplay into the film was outstanding.

On this page I list some of the greatest films ever made in various genres along with a link to the original screenplay for downloading (where available). At the bottom of this page are links to sites where you can download lots of other original screenplays. These movies are all highly entertaining (assuming you like the genres) and are worth owning because they are good on so many levels. You will learn a lot about filmmaking by studying any of these films. A good way to study a film is as follows: 1. Read the screenplay. 1. Watch the film for emotional impact on the first viewing. Just watch it and observe how and and what points it effects you emotionally. 2. Watch the film again observing the structure. How/when is the world of the film is introduced? How/when are the characters introduced? Who is the hero/villain? What is the conflict and how and when does it play out? 3. Watch the film for the character arc (how do the characters change during the film). Do they all change? 4. Watch again trying to pick out any themes (repeated elements). 5. Watch again paying close attention to dialog. Does it sound real. How much talking is there compared to the amount of action. Could you understand the story if you turned off the sound? 6. Watch again paying close attention to the lighting. Pause the film from time to time and try to figure out how they got the effect. What elements of the story are being emphasized by the lighting in each scene? 7. Watch again paying close attention to the visual composition. Pause the film on each shot and see how the elements in the frame are placed. Where are the characters in the frame. What direction is the action going. Could you do it better? 8. Watch again paying close attention to the pacing. How fast does the story move? Does it drag at some points? Does every scene serve a purpose? Is every scene just as long as it needs to be? 9. Watch again paying close attention to the sound effects and music. Do they add or annoy? 10. Watch again paying close attention to the makeup, costumes, sets and locations. By the time you've watched a great film ten times you will have learned a tremendous amount about filmmaking. This exercise is worth more toward being a great filmmaker than a year at film school. I suggest you start with just one of these, first reading the screenplay, then watching the movie, to see how the screenplay was brought to life. Pick one of your favorites, or a movie you've always wanted to see, and really get to know it.

What is the Filmmaking GOAL? I mentioned before that the biggest mistake for beginning filmmakers is biting off too much to start with. Don't fall into this trap. The first step is to ask yourself the simple question: Why am I doing this?

To To To To To

have some weekend fun? express myself artistically as an independent filmmaker? make a living as a filmmaking professional? live a rich and glamorous life? change the world by making films with a message?

Look into your heart and think about the things you really care about. There is no wrong answer and your goal may change over time but it is important to try to come up with an answer to this simple question. Then post it somewhere that you will see it often. Becoming a filmmaker involves a lot of time and dedication and you aren't going to do it unless the goal is something you really want. You might want to write it out as a "mission statement" as some filmmakers recommend. What is Your Filmmaking PLAN? Now that you know where you want to go with filmmaking you can start to plan how to get there. On FreeFilmSchool.Org I assume that you want to learn how to be a successful independent filmmaker making films that are both artistically satisfying and financially successful. I am about to describe the simple plan that has been used in some variation by most of the successful independent filmmakers in the business. You can use it as a starting point to develop your own plan. The Awful Truth About Filmmaking I would be dishonest if I didn't first clearly warn you that your odds of succeeding in becoming a famous and wealthy independent filmmaker are extremely small. There are a lot of other people wanting to do it and only a few are going to succeed. You will have to be tireless in pursuit of your filmmaking goals, make the most of your talents, keep going despite setbacks and find more than a little bit of luck along the way.

The Not-So-Secret Plan to Success as an Independent Filmmaker Step 1 is to create a series of very short films while you study, take classes, read books, meet other filmmakers and generally do everything you can to get smart and find filmmaking collaborators. Your films will be three to ten minute short films that you can film in a day or two on a weekend, starting with just your friends and the bribe of free food and drink at the end of the day. Making movies involves many skills and many people working together. That's why you need to be looking for collaborators, other smart and talented people who share your filmmaking dreams and compliment your skills. The first step is all about learning the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. Step 2 is to create better and better short films until you have one good enough to get you film festival exposure. This will begin to get you noticed, give you more opportunities to network with fellow filmmakers gaining more collaborators, and get a sense of audience reaction to your films. You'll observe that acquisition agents follow the festival circuit to buy the best indie films from the most talented filmmakers. This second step is about expanding your artistic filmmaking horizons and learning how indie films get marketed. Step 3 is to keep developing better and better story ideas until everyone you know is convinced you have a Great Idea. The Great Idea has to be a story that can be filmed inexpensively. You write it into a compelling feature length screenplay. You will also create a brilliant short version drawn from the feature screenplay that can be made for what you can pay out of your own pocket. You will show this short version at festivals and to anyone who might consider financing the feature length version. This short film is a calling-card, a teaser and marketing tool to convince investors of how wonderful you are so they will pay you to turn your Great Idea into the Great Movie. Step 4 is to make the movie, show it at festivals to great aclaim, sell it to distributors, and watch it become a huge success. At the same time you will need to be developing additional ideas so you always have an answer to the question, "What's the next project?" After step 4 you will be on the map and you will get phone calls from people who wouldn't have given you the time of day last week but now they want to talk about financing your next project.

A variation on this plan is to skip making the short film version by coming up with a brilliantly clever feature film that can be shot so inexpensively that you don't need big financing. Does This Plan Work? If you look in the Internet Movie Database you will see that George Lucas began by making five very short films that almost nobody has seen. Then while in film school he made a 15 minute science fiction short called Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB. The film won first prize in the National Student Film Festival. That helped him win a scholarship to work with Francis Ford Coppola at Warner Brothers. They became friends, formed a company together and the first film they made was the feature length version of THX 1138. The small success of this film helped him get financing to make American Graffiti. The larger success of American Graffiti got him financing to make Star Wars. Now George Lucas is the most financially successful independent filmmaker in the world. Here are some other examples of filmmakers who used the same plan for success:

Steven Soderbergh created his short film Winston to gain financing for his first hit film Sex, Lies and Videotape. Wes Anderson create his short film Bottle Rocket to gain financing for the feature length version of Bottle Rocket. Jared & Jerusha's short film Peluca got them $500,000 in financing to expand it into Napoleon Dynamite. Christopher Nolan figured out how to make the feature film Following on a tiny budget which only had limited distribution but got him financing for his hit film Memento. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez made the feature film Blair Witch Project on a miniscule budget, but didn't have a follow-up plan to take advantage of their first enourmous hit.

In a nutshell The Plan involves learning how to be an independent filmmaker on a very small budget until the quality of your work convinces others to invest in you so you can make the bigger movies that bring bigger success. Screenplay Structure, there's a pattern behind the madness First, Some Important Background You can buy Final Draft and get right on with writing your screenplay -- OR you can save a lot of time by reading what follows.

Filmmaking is a unique art form. It's not a novel or a short story any more than it is a water color painting or a ballet performance. Films are, in fact, one of the most narrowly defined forms of art. Films are one subset of the artistic activities called "storytelling" but movies have their own broadly recognized and somewhat rigid set of characteristics known as screenplay "structure". Writing with an understanding of the recognized structure of films is important if you want your audience to feel that they are really watching a film. Over the years many filmmakers have tried to stretch the boundaries of what is a movie (e.g. Andy Warhol's Sleep which shows a man sleeping for 6 1/2 hours) but none of these have been financial successes and few have been considered artistic filmmaking successes. The fact that stories have a structure was first formalized by Aristotle in approximately 350 BC in his essay entitled Poetics. Despite the title the work has nothing to do with poetry as we recognize it today. You may be wondering why I am talking about something written more than 2000 years ago. The reason is that the structure described in the Poetics is considered to be the basis of modern screenplay writing and anyone in a Hollywood story meeting today would be assumed to have at least a passing understanding of what Aristotle had to say. Aristotle pointed out the now somewhat obvious fact that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning introduces the characters and situation of the story. The middle follows the characters through a conflict until it gets resolved in the end. He pointed out the pleasure an audience feels while observing the comedy and tragedy of the characters. He also describes some variations from the basic story such as the "epic". The work is a bit antiquated and dry and Aristotle references popular plays of his day that have long since been lost. Some of what Aristotle said is disputed. He asserted that a story is driven from the outside by the plot. This reflects the belief of his time that the Gods controlled all human destiny. Today it is felt that stories are driven from the inside by the characters. Although "the Gods" can cause unexpected things to happen, it is the actions of the characters in response to those things that make a story interesting. The next book that is considered basic to the understanding of modern screenplay writing is The Art of Dramatic Wr!t!ng by Lajos Egri, first published in 1947. Although the intended audience was writers of stage plays, the book is just as relevant to screenplay writers. He covers four areas of importance to all filmmakers as follows.

1. Every story needs at least one premise, a statement of some fact about human existence that the audience can relate to and learn from. 2. A story is created out of the different personalities of the story's characters. 3. A constant rising conflict is necessary to maintain the interest of the audience. 4. He also lists a selection of about a dozen of the most important smaller points that need to be understood by tellers of dramatic stories. The writing style is a little dated but the content isn't. Another book that is absolutely essential to filmmaking and the understanding of screenplay structure is Syd Field's Screenplay - The Foundations of Screenwriting, first published in 1979 and recently updated. Mr. Field outlines the entire process of building a correctly formatted and structured screenplay. Most of the present day understanding of screenplay structure and terminology derives from Mr. Field's book. Aristotle's three story parts, beginning middle and end, became the three acts. The junction between them are the plot points, and so on. The final book that is considered seminal to modern screenwriting is Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Mr. Campbell, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th Century, spent most of his life analyzing and distilling the myths and stories of all the world's cultures and recognized a structure quite different from that of Aristotle and Field's three acts. Campell saw stories as the telling of a journey of personal experience. Although his vision is very different from the classic three act structure it is completely complementary and will only add to your understanding of how to tell interesting and important stories. Campbell's contribution is more recent to screenwriting and was first thoroughly used by George Lucas to provide the structure for his Star Wars saga. The soundness of Campbell's storytelling theories has been widely recognized in Hollywood ever since. Money is very convincing.

Screenplay Gurus
An entire sub-industry in filmmaking has grown up around the teaching of screenplay structure. A dozen gurus declare that they are the only teacher of the true way to screenwriting success. Most of these teachers have never actually sold a screenplay or made a significant amount of money doing anything in Hollywood except teaching.

In all fairness, the best of these teachers are inspiring and have a lot of knowledge to offer, but once you learn the basics, the best teacher is experience. To get better: write, write, write. Probably the best know of the screenplay gurus is Robert McKee whose character was featured in the movie Adaptation. His three-day weekend seminar is pricey but his graduates have racked up an impressive list of Academy and Emmy Award wins. It seems that just about everybody in Hollywood takes his seminar eventually. Screenplay rewriting It's often said in the screenplay writing game that "writing is rewriting". You occasionally hear about a successful movie based on a screenplay that was written in just two weeks. A more typical case is the wonderful Tom Hanks movie Cast Away which took 5 years and 250 rewrites from the first draft until it was reshaped and polished into an award winning film. Filmmakers need to accept that the more they rewrite a screenplay the better it gets -- if they do it right. If you try to perfect your script as you first write it you'll never finish it. Once you've created your characters and outlined your plot then just write the darned thing. It should take two to four weeks. If you find you're struggling then you haven't outlined your plot well enough. Back up a step before proceeding. I assume you now have a first draft of your screenplay in front of you. Congratulations filmmaker! Take a couple of weeks off. Seriously! You need the time to clear your head and be able to look at your work with fresh eyes before you start the first screenplay rewrite. Unless you have a writing buddy you really trust I strongly suggest you don't show this first draft to anyone else. There are too many typos and little problems that will turn people off who don't understand the creative process. You want to save their opinions for later when you've rewritten your script as well as you can on your own. You shouldn't consider showing your work to the world until you've finished the steps below, and then only to people who understand it's a work in process. Then be sure to tell them it's just the first draft. That's what the pros do. They go through numerous rewrites before they declare they have arrived at the first draft. Movie screenplay rewriting Movie screenplay rewriting is almost an art of its own. Rewriting requires a special mind-set and set of skills every writer needs to develop. It is a very important part of the filmmaking process.

Most beginning writers assume screenplay rewriting consists of going through the script line by line and fixing any typos or grammatical errors. After a couple of such passes they're bored and the screenplay is still weak. Your screenplay rewrite will take time but there is a way to make it go as fast as possible and, more importantly, make significant improvements in your script in the process. To be most efficient while making your script better requires being organized and starting with the big picture. Work on the elements that might require the most extensive restructuring first and gradually work down to the small stuff that only effects a few words at a time. Take a break for a few days at any point if necessary to get fresh perspective. Then do your screenplay rewrite the way the pros do. Make a series of passes through your screenplay, each time concentrating on one or two elements. For each numbered item in the following list go through the entire screenplay. I suggest you only make notes until you get to step 7. You need time to think and consider your first changes. 1. Is the hero really a hero and the villain really a villain? Is it clear which is which? Are they both really alive, clever and fascinating and a worthy opponent in their own way? In the end is it the hero's remarkable actions that save the day? Your audience isn't interested in bland and boring. Rewrite the hero and villain until they're great. 2. Is there a powerful and credible conflict between the hero and villain? I'm talking life or death stuff, not just a little misunderstanding. They both want something, need something, but they can't both have it. Rewrite until the conflict grabs you emotionally. 3. Are the characters great, real, alive, right and consistent? Final Draft lets you create a character report that lists only the dialog for one character at a time. Does each character's dialog sound true and consistent with who they are when you read it out loud all by itself? Does it sound different from all the other characters? Is it real enough that a reader could tell the sex, education level, social status, where they grew up and approximate age of the character just by reading the dialog without knowing who they are? Rewrite the dialog until each character sounds unique. 4. Are the minor characters as true and unique in some ways as the hero and villain? Never write generic characters. No POLICEMAN #1 but rather SAM POTTS, 50 year-old, overweight policeman with two children to get through college and a secret, teenage

mistress. None of this may ever come out in the story but having this much richness behind even the minor characters will make your script's dialog and actions true and the whole story richer. 5. What is the best and most memorable scene in your script? Now what is the weakest scene? Cut it. If the scene is weak then fix it or kill it and move what you need to another scene. One weak scene slows down and weakens your entire script. Remove the weakest link from the chain and the chain gets stronger. When that scene is fixed, cut or rewrite the next weakest scene and repeat the process until your story is so tight you can't possibly remove anything else. 6. What are the major motivations of the various lead characters? There should be at least three in total, probably more. Are they powerful, strong, life or death level issues? Are they believably introduced? Are they in complete conflict with each other? 7. Now go through and make your first screenplay rewrite based on the notes and margin notations you've made up until now. Movie screenplays are blueprints for building a movie. Don't be afraid to substantially change your story at this stage of the rewriting process. Save your original version so you can go back if necessary.

8. Is your story an emotional roller-coaster ride from start to finish? Just when it looks like things might calm down something else should happen to start up the tension again. Rewrite and move scenes so there are no long dead patches in the story. 9. Are your sentences of different lengths and matching the pacing of the story? Sentences should be short and choppy during the fastest action, longer and more descriptive during the slow passages. 10. Remove all adjectives, adverbs, sentences and paragraphs you don't absolutely need. Your audience won't be able to see the word pictures you are painting in your text so get your idea over as compactly as possible. 11. Are the characters under stress and wanting something in every scene? Even if they only want a glass of water your actors need motivation in every scene so give them some action and something to be striving for. This jacks up the tension and keeps the audience involved. Keep rewriting. 12. Read the first sentence on page one. Is it interesting enough to make you want to go on to the next sentence? Keep rewriting until it does. Read the first page. Is it interesting enough to make you want to turn to page two? Keep rewriting until it does. If you hadn't written this would you think it was really interesting? Compare your script to your favorite screenplays or novels. Do you really need this slow introduction or could you skip to the first big exciting scene and slip this introductory information in later? Did you start your story and every scene as late as you possibly can and still make sense? Does every scene end the moment it has served it's primary purpose? 13. Try changing the order of words in your sentences to see if they sound better and more natural. Read them out loud. Final Draft has a function to read your script to you out loud. The voice is very flat and mechanical but that's what you want. A good speaker

could make crap sound great. If your screenplay is exciting and the dialog sounds good when a computer reads it, just think how it will sound when great actors speak the lines! 14. Kill your babies! Those favorite scenes or images that you love so much need to go. Often the first images that came to you as you were developing your idea have very little to do with what your story is about now. Parents always love and protect their children no matter how ugly and troublesome they are. Don't get into that trap. If the scene isn't absolutely necessary it has to go. All the pros know that the beloved babies have to be killed. 15. Are there any places where nothing visual happens for two pages? Rewrite to make something happen. Movies are all about movement. Talking heads are boring after two minutes to your audience no matter how interesting the words are. Picture a 14 yearold boy with attention deficit disorder. If you can keep him interested while your characters prattle on then you're doing well. Put a ticking bomb under the table while your hero is having his "dinner with Andre" and your audience will be on the edge of their seats. 16. If any single character's dialog is more than about three sentences long break it up. In real life no one lets us talk for that long without interrupting or doing something themselves. Rewrite to put in an interruption or action paragraph every few sentences. 17. Is the beginning really the most exciting beginning to a movie ever? Does it pass the "popcorn" test by being so involving that your audience forgets they were going to run out and buy popcorn during the credits? 18. Does the ending tie up the story. It doesn't have to be a happy ending but it should be clear and precise. Even if there isn't a winner, rewrite until there is no doubt where the characters stand and what actions and choices are left to them. How is the audience supposed to feel when the movie is over? You are the storyteller. You should be in control of your audience. 19. Are you using the correct words, proper grammar, the right spelling? This stuff is much less important than having a strong story so I waited until late in the process to get to this one but now is time. If there are any weak phrases, imprecise words or awkward constructions, fix them now. Later you'll want your anal-retentive friend, who knows every grammar rule by heart, to double check you, of course! 20. Make the changes for any additional notes you have, then put your screenplay aside for a couple of weeks. When it is out of your mind come back and read it again. Start at step 1 and go throgh all the questions and suggestions again. Rewrite to fix anything that breaks the audience's total immersion in the story. Congratulations Filmmaker! You have completed your screenplay rewrite but you're not done. You now have a "first draft" ready to start showing to your most avid reader friends to give you feedback. Ask them one at a time so you can think them over, incorporate any good suggestions and reprint it before you give it to the next person. Do not argue with any suggestions people give you. Saying: "You just didn't get it. What I was trying to show was..." serves no purpose at this point. If

they didn't get it then the problem is a lack of clarity in what you wrote, not in the reader. Don't give excuses. Don't apologize. Just listen and take notes for the next screenplay rewrite. If they really want you to explain something wait until you have all their feedback before you start talking. You don't want to do anything that might stop the flow of their suggestions or change their first reaction. Be polite, write down what they say, encourage them to say more and be more honest with you, then go away and think about what they said after you've had time to absorb it and gotten over any feelings of personal failure because they didn't love every word of what you wrote. Generally speaking it is a good sign if readers strongly love it or hate it at this point. If their reaction is bland then you haven't delivered emotion and that's the biggest failure. The basic rule of filmmaking is that your story must be exciting or no amount of screenplay rewriting is going to fix it. Find a better idea. This film script is done If you've followed all these steps, gotten feedback from all your friends, then your script is done. Seriously! It's done. Give it up. If you're getting great reactions to the screenplay then move on to the next steps of trying to make it into a movie, or trying to sell it to someone else to make into a movie. If you're not getting great reactions then put it in a drawer and move on to the next story idea. A lot of writers get bogged down thinking that a little more work on their marginal screenplay idea will somehow make it great. Don't get into that trap. Move on to a new project. You've got better ideas just waiting to be born. Give them a chance at life, too. Practice Makes Perfect Some scripts just never seem to work no matter how much effort you put into the screenplay rewrite. Dove Simens loves to say that "Your first screenplay is crap! Everyone's first screenplay is crap!" He's right. We all love our firstborn and have no ability to be objective. Get over it. When you finish your first screenplay do what Dove suggests and burn it. Eventually you'll realize how bad it was when you've written a few more screenplays and have some experience under your belt. Being a good filmmaker requires being objective about yourself. Writers don't begin to develop a voice of their own until at least the 5th or 6th screenplay. Rewriting makes a script better, but only original writing

makes you a better writer. If the script you've just finished isn't acclaimed as great by everyone who reads it then let it go. If you don't believe me, send your precious script to a professional reader in Hollywood for evaluation. You can find them listed in the screenplay magazines. It'll cost you a few hundred dollars but you will get objective feedback from someone who has read thousands of screenplays and knows "great" when s/he sees it. Beware you don't send it to someone who tries to sign you on for a long and expensive consultation program. He'll tell you your script is wonderful except for a few minor problems only s/he can help you fix. Years, dozens of minor screenplay revisions and thousands of dollars later you will still be trying to fix the last little problem. You will have spent years in denial instead of doing the only thing that will genuinely improve your writing. Doing more writing. Practice makes perfect. Most screenplay writers don't begin to hit their stride and develop a "voice" of their own until they have written six to eight feature length screenplays, or the equivalent amount of novel or short story writing. If you still don't believe me then just send me a couple of thousand dollars and I will tell you your screenplay is wonderful right now ... except for a couple of minor problems only I can help you fix. There's a pattern behind the madness What is Three Act Structure? Different authors and teachers use different terminology, and even disagree on whether there are three acts, or actually four acts, or even more. I have tried to steer a mid-course to give you the basics you need to understand and sound knowledgeable in a conversation with a screenplay writer or to properly structure your own screenplays. The First Act of a screenplay consists of the first 25% of the story and is sometimes called the Setup. In a 100 page screenplay it would be the first 25 pages. Toward the end of the first act there occurs a Plot Point, an event that turns the story in another direction. The Second Act, also called the Confrontation, continues for the next 50% of the story until a second Plot Point occurs. There is almost always a Turning Point in the middle of the Second Act. The second plot point takes us into the Third Act, or Resolution, for the final 25% of the story.

If you like visual aids here is a graph of what it looks like.

Act 1 introduces the characters and the world of the story. If the world of the story is the present world and a place much like where we all live then the job is easy. Everyone will assume what they know of their own world. If the world is a foreign land, an historical time or a sciencefiction or fantasy time and place then extra effort must be devoted to explaining this to the audience. There are always at least two characters: a hero or protagonist and a villain or antagonist. In simple terms the hero is the character we most closely associate with in our minds and want to root for because they represent what we believe to be good, the antagonist is the bad guy. The hero and villain aren't always human. For example the hero could be an animal and the villain could be a force of nature. A story usually contains more than two people, but in any case, they should all be introduced in the first act, if only by a reference or innuendo. We need to learn enough things about the characters so that their later actions will make sense.

An important point, and a frequent amateur mistake, is that once the world and characters are established you can't change them without disconcerting your audience. You can't present your hero as a wimp then have him beat the villain to a pulp in the last minute. In the movie Titanic the story begins by introducing all the characters including the three most important: Rose is the protagonist and Cal, her fiance, is the antagonist. Jack is also introduced. He will be the important catalyst for the Plot and Turning Points. Jack is a poor but happy steerage passenger. Rose is an unhappy daughter of wealth who is engaged to the crass and bullying Cal. The world of Titanic is also introduced by showing both the splendors of the ship as well as the behavior and attitudes of the time. The First Plot Point is something that shakes up the protagonist by presenting them with an opportunity to act on something. It could be anything that alters his or her day-to-day existence and presents a challenge. The hero often resists the urge to act but they will eventually be forced to take a stand. The hero begins to change. In Titanic the First Plot Point occurs when a depressed Rose panics and decides to commit suicide by jumping from the back of the ship but is talked out of it by Jack. He shows her a possibility of a different life. The conflict of the story is introduced at this time in the form of Cal's jealousy vs. Rose's growing interest in Jack. Typically Rose resists at first but gradually her relationship with Jack grows more and more irresistible. The Second Act presents escalating conflict from the antagonist and the protagonist is pressured to act. The Second Act of Titanic continues to build the conflict as Rose spends more and more time with Jack and Cal goes into fits of jealous rage. The Turning Point is something dramatic that finally forces the hero's total commitment to try solve the conflict. The Turning Point of Titanic happens in the middle of the second act when Rose brings Jack to her stateroom to sketch her in the nude. This soon leads to them making love. Rose is fully committed to her relationship with Jack. The rest of the Second Act is now an all out battle between the hero and villain with each fully committed and prepared to fight to the finish. The hero is being forced to become a different person than they were when we first met them. The rest of the Second Act of Titanic continues the build-up of conflict with Cal trying to separate Rose and Jack by having him falsely arrested for stealing a precious jewel. Rose is fully committed to leaving Cal and must

use everything she has to outwit him. Jack is chained to a pipe and is certain to die when the Titanic hits an iceberg. Cal tries to force Rose to escape in a lifeboat. The Second Plot Point starts the final confrontation between hero and villain. Only one of them will get his/her way. The Second Plot Point of Titanic is when Rose manages to elude Cal by playing on his jealousy and goes to rescue Jack. The Third Act is the hero's final struggle to win. It is usually followed by a brief denouement where we can glimpse how the characters' world has been changed. The hero and his/her world has been somehow transformed. The Third Act of Titanic includes a final confrontation between Cal and Rose which she wins, and a confrontation with the freezing ocean where she loses Jack. But in the end she has escaped from Cal's influence. We find out that she will go on to lead a brilliant and happy life. THE END Nearly any feature length film you might name, and all the of the major successful films, fit rather neatly into the three act structure. Even a film told in reverse such as Momento fits very neatly into the classic three act structure on close analysis. Even the timing of the acts and turning points of films is remarkably consistent. Watch almost any movie with your eye on your watch. If you know the total time of the film and divide it by four you will know when to watch for each "point" and will rarely be more than a couple of minutes off. Once you know how to spot the acts and turning points they will become so obvious you won't be able to see films the same way again. A good method to begin writing a screenplay is by starting with a document containing the elements of the three act structure and gradually fit in the pieces of your story around them as short paragraphs describing the action of each scene. When you are done you will have a properly structured treatment to start formatting your screenplay. An important note about short films is that although they also follow a structure of three acts it is often better to think of them like telling a joke where you have a Setup to prepare the audience for the Payoff or Punch Line. Short films don't usually allow time for full character development and escalating conflict before a final resolution.

What is the Hero's Journey? The visual model for the Hero's Journey looks like a circle rather than a straight line.

It begins at the top of the circle with the Ordinary World, moves counterclockwise through a series of stages and eventually returns where it started at the Ordinary World. The Hero's Journey is different from the Three Act structure in that all emphasis is on the hero and there doesn't have to be a clear villain. There will be other characters that at times may be helpful or at times may hinder but the emphasis is always on the hero's point of view. In fact characters in the Hero's Journey structure can shift to different roles at various times in the story. Ordinary World is like the beginning setup of Act 1 of the Three Act structure. This is where the audience meets the hero and learns of his/her life, personality and surroundings. In Titanic this is where the audience first learns of Rose, Cal and Jack and the ordinary world of being rich and poor in the first years of the 20th century.

Call to Adventure is where the hero is presented with a challenge or opportunity to undertake a quest or solve a problem. To take up the quest the hero must leave the familiarity of his or her Ordinary World. Rose is being forced onto a literal journey and what will soon be a spiritual journey as she sets sail on the Titanic and on the first step toward becoming Cal's wife. Refusal of the Call is the typical reaction to want to avoid risking the adventure and the changes that will result. Rose rebels against her mother and Cal. She doesn't want to accept the changes being forced on her. When she can stand it no more she decides to commit suicide. Meeting with the Mentor usually occurs now in the form of someone passing on some knowledge to the hero. The mentor isn't necessarily a good guy or a bad guy but receiving the knowledge is necessary for the hero to take the first step. A mentor appears in the form of Jack who tells her that there are other worlds and possibilities for her if she just has the courage to try to find them. Crossing the First Threshold is equivalent to the start of Act 2 in the Three Act structure. This is the first step on the journey. She invites Jack to dine with her wealthy peers and he invites her to learn about his world. She likes what she sees and begins her journey. Tests, Allies, Enemies is the hero's next step. The hero has entered a new and strange special world. They will learn, change and be tested. As she goes farther into Jack's life she is challenged by Cal and her mother to return to her old world. Approach to the Inmost Cave is like the second act turning point of the Three Act structure. The hero must now face the greatest test and must be fully committed to meeting the challenge they were given in the Call to Adventure. Rose asks Jack to draw her in the nude and they end up making love. She is confident of the rightness of her choice and is fully ready to enter the final battle. Ordeal is the central crisis of the story in which the hero faces his/her greatest fear and risks death. In a sense the hero is now reforged in the heat of the battle and is forever changed. Rose struggles with Cal for control of the new life she has chosen for herself. Reward is the moment when the hero has achieved the break through and can now begin the journey back to their ordinary world. The journey is not

over and many other perils may be faced but the hero is now armed to face the final challenges. Rose breaks free of Cal's control and is committed to acting independently. The Road Back starts what would be the 3rd act in the Three Act structure as the hero uses his/her newfound strength and knowledge to complete the adventure and begin the return to his/her Ordinary World. Rose eludes Cal to rescue Jack but she still has an additional challenge to survive the sinking of the ship. Resurrection is the final proof and accomplishment of the mission in the Call to Adventure. The hero is now master of his/her world. Rose loses Jack but she survives and continues to elude Cal and her mother. She is now the master of her future. Return With the Elixir is the denouement where we learn how the hero has returned from the tests of the journey and how the hero has been transformed, what they have gained and how it will benefit them, their friends, family, community and the world. Rose goes on to lead a full, rich life of her choosing. The story, and the hero, have come full circle. THE END A great way to learn about and compare the two popular story structuresis by viewing a 3 DVD set The Hero's 2 Journeys with two top screenwriting gurus presenting a seminar describing and comparing the two views. They use the great film Erin Brockovitch for examples. The Three Act and the Hero's Journey structures are time tested patterns for stories. You may find them a good starting point for your own stories. Use them as you would any other tool. If they work for you then use them. If they don't work then use the approach you feel most comfortable with. You are the filmmaker. You are the artist. Learn from these, then do it your way. Whatever the case you need to be able to deliver emotion and entertainment in your stories. We'll work on those in the next section.

The Art of Storytelling Storytelling is about presenting a series of events as words, images and sounds that are of such interest and novelty to an audience that they become fully engaged in the presentation. Stories teach and entertain. Every filmmaker must learn storytelling because the entire basis of filmmaking, of the entire multi-billion dollar filmmaking industry, is built on the insatiable human desire to experience stories. There isn't a single set of rules that you can learn to become a good storytelling filmmaker but there are many guidelines and tricks that have been used and refined over the centuries that you can learn and call upon as you weave your storytelling magic. Any rules you try to make up will always have exceptions and sometimes the opposite is just as true. In the hands of great storytellers the breaking of the rules can make the story even more engaging. In Hitchcock's Psycho the hero appears to be Marian Crane, but she gets killed 1/3 of the way into the story. The antagonist seems to be Norman Bate's mother, but she's dead. The classic storytelling guidelines are broken right and left but the result is a totally engaging and highly emotional story. Storytelling for filmmakers - The story's world The world of the story needs to be described to the audience. For most stories this may be just the everyday world they are familiar with but many stories are about a different time or place, real or imagined, and the audience needs to know the important rules of how this world operates. The storyteller in turn needs to construct the world such that s/he doesn't have to break any of the rules of the world in telling the story. Audience's do not like it when their expectations of what is possible in the world of the story are suddenly changed by the storyteller. The character's world Just like a story needs a consistent world to take place in, each character needs his/her own consistent world of experiences and beliefs that will determine how they behave. In fact a story is driven by the personalities of the main characters as they behave in the way they must due to their own private view of the world. The basic behavior of the characters should not change during the story until something the characters learn during the story changes their beliefs. This basic change in the beliefs of the hero is ultimately the point of all good stories. The audience, who is emphasizing with the hero, gets to share in the emotions and enlightenment of learning what the hero learns. Screenplay conflict

The most important element of any engaging story is conflict. Stories must have at least one clear, central conflict. The conflict must be one your audience can relate to because it might be similar to a conflict they have or could experience. In experiencing the story they get to experience the emotions and lessons of the protagonist as s/he deals with trying to solve the conflict. The basis of conflict is that two people both want the same thing, they want it very badly, but they can't both have it. At all times the two main characters should be trying to get what they want and prevent the other from getting it. The conflict should not just be about a minor misunderstanding but a real do-or-die, I can't go on living if I can't have this, kind of conflict. Achieving the thing should be very, very difficult but not quite impossible. The story should always focus on the main conflict. The story shouldn't wander off into side-stories unless they directly relate to the theme of the central conflict. This is especially true for movies where you have about two hours at the most to tell your story. The conflict that is central to the story should be the most important event in the characters lives, and maybe the most important event in the history of the world. Eventually the hero will have to deal with the conflict in a final crisis. Screenplay characters The story needs good characters that are believable, interesting and that can be emphasized with. The characters should also be 3-dimensional. They should have interesting backgrounds and talents and not be all good or all bad. Characters should surprise us. There has to be a protagonist, the hero, who has a clear goal or problem. There also needs to be a clear antagonist who is a worthy opponent to the hero. Both of these characters should generally be introduced as early as possible in the story. In some cases the hero is an animal or something complex such as a group of people. The villain could be an inanimate object or force of nature. Remember that your audience needs to emphasise with the hero so it's much better to have a single person they can relate to. The same holds true for the villain. If the "villain" is the ocean then every attempt must be made to personify it so Storytelling Secret An audience favorite is to have heros and villains that are confident rogues, charmers or tricksters. Characters that have a clever way with words are always fun. Audiences like heros that are the most glorious and amazing of their kind that has ever lived. Audiences like villains that are the most dastardly, evil and corrupt of all time. Classic examples are Robin Hood, Zorro and James Bond. They are not super heroes with super powers. They are mortal people, but very clever, tricky and

charming mortals. There should be just the right number of characters, just enough to tell the story. The biggest mistake is having too many generic characters that are hard to keep track of and distract from the central characters and their conflict. Making the characters interesting has the side benefit that actors like to play interesting characters so casting gets easier. Ways to do this include having great entrances, great dialog and interesting, quirky personalities for the actors to explore. What the characters say has to seem real, full of stumbles, overlaps, short incomplete statements, true to how each character talks. Get rid of the tongue twisters and big technical words unless that is how the character would really talk. Speak the lines out loud to see if they really flow smoothly. Storytelling Secret How do you make the audience care about a character? Everyone tells you the audience needs to be able to empathize with the hero but how do you do it? The process is quite simple and it's done in what are called "pat the dog" scenes. Because most people like dogs and consider them to be "good" animals, anyone who likes dogs is probably also good. Anyone who doesn't like dogs is probably bad. Therefore the hero must at some point (figuratively) pat a dog, and the villain should (figuratively) kick a dog. You may not literally have a dog in your screenplay but there are a lot of other ways to show that the hero is an admirable person despite his faults, and that the villain is despicable despite his charm and intelligence.

Heros are kind to any "good" animal such as dogs, horses, kittens, small birds, etc. (Bad animals are grown cats, snakes, insects, etc.) Heros are courteous, protective and kind to women, especially mothers. They care for children, nice old people and anyone who is defenseless. They suffer misfortune they don't deserve without complaining. They have a handicap so they have to work harder than everyone else. They are captured and beaten, or at least threatened, by the villain. The hero has to survive against overwhelming and unfair odds. Embarrass the hero. No one likes to be embarrassed and we feel sorry for others when they are embarrassed. Subtle clues indicate the hero suffered great misfortune in his/her youth. They generally exhibit innate goodness despite what they have suffered.

Even the most sullen, and unpleasant anti-hero will still be likeable if you follow these guidelines. Just try not to be too obvious. A little goes a long way.

The story introduction The first scene of the screenplay should be a "grabber". To hold an audience's attention you must first capture it. Right from the first word on page one your goal is to get the audience's attention. Watch the opening minutes of these movies for examples of how to do it right:

Jaws The Matrix For Your Eyes Only (James Bond) X2: X-Men Unlimited The Terminator Star Wars IV (the first Star Wars released) Raiders of the Lost Ark

The story should be linear. The events of the story should be told in the order they happen, or at least in the order that makes for the most interesting experience, so the audience feels they are on a journey of discovery. Proper sequencing also makes for suspense and surprise. Screenplay plot The story needs to always be going somewhere so the audience can anticipate. Favorite stories generally have a strong emotional core, a clear and admirable sense of rightness. There are are a very small number of original story ideas. Most can be boiled down to one of the following conflicts: 1. Get the prize (money, love interest, respect, etc.) 2. Save one's self from destruction 3. Save the world (or some part of it: country, city, tribe, family members) As much as audiences love seeing the same basic plots over and over they still want each story's approach to be unique and fresh. At the same time audiences are used to the conventions of various genres and will be disappointed and confused if you stray too far from their expectations. Foreshadowing One of the biggest storytelling mistakes is to write yourself into a corner where there is no way the hero can escape and then just solve it through some previous unmentioned device. It's called "deux ex machina" which very roughly translates as "the gods decided to fix everything". Your audience will hate you for leading them on. The solution is called

foreshadowing. If your hero is trapped with the monster closing in when he suddenly finds a bow and arrow and makes one perfect shot to kill the monster -- your audience will hate you. Instead have a shot of his childhood room complete with a bow and arrows and trophies for marksmanship, then later when he he enters the trap show a bow and arrow on the floor beside the skeleton of the last victim of the monster. Now your audience will think you are a clever writer when you have the hero pick up the bow and shoot it perfectly. A group of teenage couples go to stay in an isolated cabin in the woods for the weekend in your slasher screenplay. One of them comments on the huge bear trap hanging on the wall. The audience will think it very clever when the hero remembers the trap and uses it later to save himself. Subplots Subplots comment on the hero's story Our teenage couples are getting drunk in the cabin. The hero's best friend argues with his girlfriend and storms out of the cabin into the dark woods. As the teenager stumbles through the underbrush a big man wearing a hockey mask and carry a chainsaw steps out from behind a tree and starts following the teen. The point of the subplot has been made that we are safer when we stick together. Suspense Set a deadline. The bomb is going to go off in one hour and harm the characters we care about. As the time counts down the suspense builds. The closer to zero the more the suspense. There hero needs to complete something by a certain time or suffer a loss. That makes for suspense. Show the audience something the characters don't know. The bad guy is hiding to attack the hero. The hero doesn't know it, but the audience does. The audience is rooting for the hero but can't let him know he's in danger so they feel tremendous suspense. Hide information from the audience that a character knows. The hero enters a place the audience thinks is dangerous but the hero knows a secret. This creates suspense, but when the audience realizes they've been fooled they feel some resentment for being tricked. This technique is less desirable than the previous one of having the audience know more than the hero. Cut from the action at the climatic point to a subplot to heighten the suspense. Another good use of subplots is to enhance suspense. Our hero's friend has gone out into the woods alone at night to sulk. The crazy

slasher steps from behind a tree. The audience knows something the character doesn't know. That creates suspense. Now have your story cut away from the lone teen in the woods back to the other teenagers drinking in the cabin. The audience will go wild with heightened suspense wanting to know what is going to happen to the lone teen in the woods. Secrets and gossip, laughter and tears Everyone loves learning secrets and hearing gossip. Reveal important secrets from time to time. Include occasional bits of shocking gossip about one of the characters. Even the most serious drama must have lighter moments. Humor in a story is not about telling jokes. It's about observing our fellow humans in novel, silly and embarrassing situations that we have experienced ourselves. Everyone loves to cry for some strange reason. Even men love to cry although not necessarily over the same things as women. Tears of joy when the hero finally gets his/her reward after much suffering are the best kind of tears. Audience appeal The story must be of interest to a large enough segment of the population that you will get an audience. Although most human conflict is of interest to nearly everyone, if your subject matter is so offbeat and specialized that only a few people care you will not be able to find an audience. The audience must care about the characters. You must remember the sensibilities of your audience so you don't turn them off by presenting inappropriately offensive material. What is inappropriate varies widely depending on your audience. If you are trying to appeal to a broad audience then you need to have elements that appeal to all ages and sexes. This might include offbeat humor for adults and physical slapstick for kids, action and adventure for the guys and romance and drama for the women. Creating a story that is equally appealing to everyone is very difficult. Entertainment values in storytelling Audiences want the emotional experience of observing the conflict of the story and at the same time they want to be entertained. Certain story elements will give the audience the entertainment aspect they want. Look at your story idea and see if you can incorporate some of these.

Does the story transport the audience to an unfamiliar world? Does the story have luxury? Does the story have things you can't have, or that don't happen in their lives? Does the story have fantasy?

Does the story have elements of another interesting time period? Does the story have war or other extreme violence? Does the story have large crowds/armies? Does the story have exotic foreign locations? Does the story have sex/romance? Does the story have booze/drugs? Does the story have guns? Does the story have murder? Does the story have other crime? Does the story have juicy gossip/scandal? Does the story have toe tapping, involving music and rhythm? Does the story have dance? Does the story have fun, involving skits? Does the story have humor? Does the story move fast?

Do it right Using accepted screenplay format when your write your scripts is important even if you are writing a screenplay which you are going to direct.

People who might finance your film often know what a proper screenplay should look like. Experience crew members know what accepted screenplay format is. Actors know exactly what a screenplay should look like. A properly formatted screenplay will be helpful when it comes time to make a schedule.

Having correct screenplay format gives you more credibility and makes your life easier. Fortunately software will handle most of the effort of getting the screenplay format right but you still need to understand what are the elements of a screenplay and a few rules concerning how to format them. Screenplay format - General guidelines A screenplay consists of a front and back cover of heavy beige index stock. The pages of the screenplay are printed on white 8 1/2" x 11" bond paper. They are only printed on the front side. The script is three-hole punched on the left and bound together with Acco No. 5 round-head brass fasteners. These are the ones with two flat legs coming out of the head, 1 1/4" long, that you bend out to fasten the script together. Some people use the longer No. 6 or No. 7 fasteners. Only use two fasteners in the first and third of the three-hole punches.

Producers, financiers and agents like to be able to copy scripts and pass them around. Using this type of binding makes it easy. You want to be so lucky as to have agents copying your screenplay and passing it around to their associates. Here are some specific screenplay format guidelines to be sure your script looks professional.

Don't include any artwork, illustrations or designs. Don't number the scenes until you get to the preproduction step. Only use 12-point Courier font. Never justify the right margin. Never use bold or italics. Print using a laser printer or quality ink-jet for legibility. Don't put any dates on your script or designations such as "First Draft" if you are sending this to professionals. Don't include a character list, scene list, synopsis or budget.

If you follow all the guidelines of accepted screenplay format each page of your screenplay will become one minute of film time, on average. It's not always true but it's close enough and has become a rule of the film industry. A movie should be 90 to 120 minutes in length. Shorter than 90 minutes and people don't feel they got their money's worth. Longer than 120 minutes and people have to go to the bathroom. (If you want to make a three hour epic wait until you're Peter Jackson.) By the rule of one page equals one minute of screen time you should end up with a script that is 90 to 120 page in length. Comedies tend to be toward the short end of the range, people can only laugh for so long, and dramas tend to be longer. Professionals who have read thousands of scripts tend to instantly reject any script that isn't in the standard screenplay format without even reading it. They assume that if the author doesn't even know how to format a screenplay they probably don't know how to write interesting stories either. My experience confirms that belief. It's not hard to learn and follow the rules, so just do it and don't look like an amateur. The title page There should be one screenplay title page just after the index stock cover sheet. The only things on the title page are the title, author(s) and contact information.

The title of your screenplay should be centered on the first page about 1/3 of the way down from the top. It can optionally be in all upper-case and/or in quotes and/or underlined. The word "by" is centered under the title then your name is centered under that. It should look like this: "The Great Script" by Sam Filmmaker If there is more than one author working together put the ampersand "&" character between the names: "The Great Script" by Sam Filmmaker & Susie Filmmaker If more than one writers have worked on the script, not working together or at the same time, then the names are separated by the work "and": "The Great Script" by Sam Filmmaker and Susie Filmmaker

Do it right The script pages Margins Commerical screenwriting software understands the correct margins and as long as your screenplay elements are tagged with the right styles they will be formatted correctly. Just for completeness here are the accepted margin specifications. The blank margin on the pages should be 1" all around except on the left where the three-hole punching requires a 1 1/2" margin. Therefore the left margin of the typing will be 1 1/2" from the left side of the paper. Since 12point Courier font gives you exactly 10 characters per inch measuring horizontally, the typing will start 15 spaces from the left side of the paper. Most elements of the script start at the left margin and are left justified (ragged right). The main exceptions are: Character's names are 37 spaces (3.7 inches) from the left margin.

Actor's instructions are 31 spaces (3.2 inches) from the left margin and should not exceed 20 characters per line before wrapping to the next line. Dialog starts 25 spaces (2.5 inches) from the left margin and should not exceed 35 characters per line before wrapping to the next line. Page numbers should appear in the upper right just inside the blank margins and there should be a double space before the script continues, except the first page should not have a page number. If you later decide to insert some material after the script has been distributed you should insert pages numbered 55A, 55B, and so on so all the pages don't have to be recopied and confuse everyone. Many members of your crew and the actors in particular will fill their script with personal notes about what has to happen at certain points or how to play a scene. By not renumbering and reprinting all the pages they don't need to throw away or manually renumber the pages with all their notes. Screenplay elements The first page begins with a transition "FADE IN:". The only transitions you should use are FADE IN: at the beginning and FADE OUT: at the end. Other transitions are recognized such as CUT TO:, FADE TO: JUMP CUT TO:. Once upon a time it was common for writers to specify choices that are decided by the director, cinematographer or editor in an attempt to show the story more visually. No one does it anymore and it's considered bad form. Leave out anything that indicates camera movement or film editing directions. The start of your screenplay FADE IN: You many next choose to have an establishing shot as the first thing to prepare the audience for where the story will take place. A harsh beam of light cuts across the big city on a cold, grey morning. A lone female jogger runs along the waterfront. OR EXT. NEW YORK CITY - DAY - ESTABLISHING A harsh beam of light cuts across the big city on a cold, grey

morning. A lone female jogger runs along the waterfront. Generally you don't want to indicate the opening credits because they will be worked out in the final edit. If you have a particularly wonderful idea that will tie the credits into the beginning of the story then you can indicate where credits start and end like this. ROLL CREDITS. A harsh beam of light cuts across the big city on a cold, grey morning. A lone female jogger runs along the waterfront. END CREDITS Screenplay scene headings The master scene headings describe the place and time of each scene that is part of your story. The first word, "EXT." or "INT.", indicates if the scene is exterior (outdoors) or interior (inside a structure). Next is the name of the location followed by a hyphen and an indication of the time when this scene occurs. The most common times are "DAY" or "NIGHT". Note that scene headings are always uppercase. EXT. THE OPEN PASTURE - DAY Indicating if the scene is indoors or outdoors helps the cinematographer decide how much of what kinds of film to buy. As more and more films are shot digitally this become less important to know. By giving the scene a location title it is easier to group scenes that will be shot at the same place together while making the schedule. Movies are almost never shot in the order they appear in the screenplay. It is much more efficient to group all scenes that occur in the same location together and film them at them same time. This pattern is only broken when an important actor's schedule requires them to shoot all their scenes within a certain timeframe. Indicating the time of day also helps in scheduling when scenes will be shot. Daylight scenes can be shot together while night scenes are saved for filming at night or using special techniques to simulate nighttime. You can also use CONTINOUS or SAME to indicate that one scene follows right after a previous one in the same location. Sometimes LATER is used to indicate the location is the same but there has been a passage of time. Avoid using MORNING, NOON, TWILIGHT, LATE EVENING or other precise indicators as they are usually unnecessary and make the job of scheduling more difficult.

It is preferred to add a fourth element to the scene heading if greater precision is absolutely necessary for a reader to understand the scene. INT. HOTEL LOBBY - NIGHT - SAM'S DREAM Screenplay secondary headings Master scenes that are broken into sub units or have sequences that occur in different places within a basic location may require secondary headings. So, for examlpe, this scene heading: INT. SAM'S LIVING ROOM - NIGHT could be followed by this "slug line" subheading: BEHIND THE SOFA If the scene remains the same but there is a laps of time then indicate it with this scene heading: INT. SAM'S LIVING ROOM - LATER Or simply include a "slug line" subheading: LATER If you need to move the emphasis to one of the characters you should write: SAM removes a knife from his pocket. BRAD drops to his knees and begins to cry. You can use a similar technique if the action is moving from one area of a location to another. INT. PARKING STRUCTURE - NIGHT Sam lunges with his knife but Brad deflects the blade and makes a mad dash for the parking structure exit. He bolts through the door into a PARK with Sam in close pursuit.

Screenplay action description Screenplays generally consist of Headings, Action (or Description) and Dialog. Action paragraphs (or narrative description) is always left aligned. Double space between the paragraphs. Action is written in the present tense because films always take place in the present as they are viewed. Only describe what absolutely needs to be described with an absolute minimum of adjectives. In action paragraphs less is always better. If the description is of an old farm house then just call it an old farm house. Do not preceed it with a long string of detailed adjectives. The director and set designer's jobs are to put together the set that will fit with the story. Sam stops his truck in front of the old farm house. A dog runs out to greet him, wagging it's tail. Each action paragraphs should describe one "beat" of the story or one image. NEVER write something that can't be represented on the screen. Something like the following is not acceptable Sam's calm expression hides the seething anger that will soon explode. He silently cocks the gun hidden in his pocket. A film can only show what can be seen. If Sam's expression is calm then the audience can't know that he is angry. If he is about to explode then that needs to be described when it actually happens, never in a statement about the future. Finally, if the gun is hidden in his pocket how can the film show him cocking it? Everything described must be something that is visible and happening now. The first time a character appears their name should be capitalized and accompanied by a minimal description of the character. SAM, a weathered cowboy, steps into the bar. Screenplay Dialog Dialog consists of three elements: the Character Name, optional Actor's Direction, and the Characters speech. SAM (gasping for air)

Help! Screenplay inserts An INSERT is used to bring some element of the scene into full frame. Some examples would be a clock face, a letter or newpaper article, a book or a sign. Violetta lifts the letter in her trembling hand INSERT - THE LETTER "My Dearest Violetta, I have left Vienna and count the minutes until we will be reunited." BACK TO SCENE She drops the letter on the floor. Screenplay flashbacks, dreams The use of dreams and flashbacks are universally considered bad writing today. However, if you must, here is how to do it. FLASHBACK - SAM AS A YOUNG BOY A 10-year old Sam sits fishing by a river bank. Sally sits down beside him and tries to kiss him. Sam screams in terror, drops his fishing pole into the river, and runs away. BACK TO PRESENT DAY Screenplay montages A montage is a sequence of related shots at different locations or times all expressing a similar idea or a passage of time. Use one of the following formats: MONTAGE - THE LOVERS GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER -- They have a cup of coffee at a trendy coffee shop -- They walk down the street holding hands -- They drive together in a convertible through the countryside

-- They hold hands, then kiss, while walking on a moonlit beach OR SERIES OF SHOTS A) They have a cup of coffee at a trendy coffee shop B) They walk down the street holding hands C) They drive together in a convertible through the countryside D) They hold hands, then kiss, while walking on a moonlit beach Screenplay ending On the last page of your screenplay you can do either one of the following. Triple space down the page and center "THE END". THE END Or place "FADE OUT." at the right margin. You think you've got brilliant screenplay ideas ... I'm sorry ... you probably don't! At this point in your screenplay development you may be thinking, "I've already got a Great Idea. Let's get on with it." Many wanabe filmmakers think they have a great story idea. They can picture it perfectly in their head. Often they're reluctant to talk about it because it's such a Great Story Idea that someone would steal it. Nine times out of ten I find that their Great Story Idea has major flaws. At the very least, their idea just isn't very interesting, isn't fully developed and nowhere near ready to film. In this section, we're going to work on how to find screenplay story ideas and how to test them for greatness. It really isn't very hard. Testing the Great Movie Idea The first step is to read the following two movie ideas: A doctor is sentenced to be executed after being wrongly accused of murdering his wife. On the way to prison, he escapes and begins a desperate race to find the real murderer before a relentless police detective can capture him and return him to be executed.

An aspiring model named BJ Smith is trying to make it in Hollywood like so many other young hopefuls in Los Angeles. She works part time in a beauty shop to keep the bills paid because she is not at the point in her career to be a full-time model/actress. BJ is in pursuit of the attention of NP, so that she can possibly get signed to his popular model promotion company, NP GIRLS. She meets a guy named Uptown Joey who claims to know NP and offers a helping hand. However, this proves to be somewhat of a difficult task, as NP has ambitions and issues of his own to deal with. NP has been trying for years to befriend and work with MR ENTERTAINMENT, the industry feared television mogul who is infamous for his barbaric and gangster ways. NP becomes the center link of the story as he struggles in his relationship with his wife Lisa due to his lifestyle and the obvious fact that he manages beautiful models as an occupation. Not only does NP have his personal issues to deal with, but he also has to call on his friends Bruce and Billy to help him with an even bigger professional opportunity, threat, and responsibility. The first one is, of course, The Fugitive and was a very exciting and successful movie. The other was a feature length comedy from a film festival I recently attended. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Which one of these sounds like a movie you would pay money to see? The first one sounds like an exciting roller-coaster ride. The second sounds like a confused mess. A word about Secrecy Many beginning filmmakers are convinced everyone is trying to steal their great idea. Get over it. Ideas are stolen but you don't need to worry about it if you do things right. Ideas are cheap, anyway. Everyone who's taken a shower has had a great idea. Your idea isn't anything until it is fully developed and written into a dynamite screenplay. Different people often come up with the similar ideas at the same time for the simple reason that we're all humans experiencing similar lives at the same time in human history. We reads the same newspapers, watch the same shows on television and have friends going through the same crises.

Ideas can't be copyrighted until they are turned into a screenplay, or at least a full story outline. The way to protect your idea is to to develop it into a killer screenplay which you can copyright. No one in Hollywood wants to find himself or herself in a copyright lawsuit. They know it's hard work to write a good screenplay and they don't want to do it themselves or pay someone else to write your idea into a screenplay if you've already done it and they can just pay you. It takes a lot of people to make a movie. The sooner you start getting people involved the better. You want to pitch your idea to other people to see if you get a good reaction. Get over worrying about someone stealing your screenplay story idea. First, let's find out if it really is Great, then let's turn it into a Great screenplay you can copyright so it can't be stolen. Test your Great Story Idea Write out your screenplay story idea on a sheet of paper in the format in the box. It should sound original, interesting and most of all it needs to evoke emotion. Try to get it down to two sentences at the most. I've provided some examples. (This exercise is about building your "pitch". You'll need it later when you're trying to get people involved in your movie so don't skip this exercise.) (Your story name) is a (genre) about a (description of your hero) who, after (something big happens to them), wants to (what is the solution the hero seeks?) by (what is the hero's plan?). This become increasingly difficult because (what obstacles and complications happen?). Examples: The Fugitive is a drama about an innocent doctor who after being wrongly sentenced to be executed for killing his wife manages to escape and needs to clear himself by finding the real murderer. This becomes increasingly difficult because a determined police detective is hot on his trail. Some Like it Hot is a comedy about two carefree, single musicians who, after witnessing a gang murder want to save themselves by dressing up as women and joining an all-girl band. This becomes increasingly difficult because they find themselves becoming romantically involved in awkward ways but don't dare reveal who they really are or risk death. Rear Window is a thriller about a photographer who is convalescing in a wheelchair after a serious accident who, after thinking he has witnessed a murder, wants to learn the truth by investigating the suspected neighbor.

This becomes increasingly difficult when the neighbor learns what he is up to and decides to silence the helpless photographer. Now write out your idea just like these examples. Do it in your word processor and keep redoing it until it sounds as exciting as you can make it. Test 1 Read your idea and ask yourself honestly if this really sounds as exciting as my examples. Copy my examples and paste them, along with your idea, into your word processor. Print them out on a single sheet of paper and read them all. If my examples are different genres than your idea then pick your favorite movies from your genre and write at least two of them out in the same format. (This is good practice. Just do it.) Does your idea really sound as simple, original and emotionally exciting as the others? If so then go to the next step. Test 2 Now show it to a couple of good friends who like the same movies you like. Don't tell them it's your idea. Tell them it's a new movie you heard is coming out soon. Do they want to know more about it? You should be able to see them get visibly excited. When you have passed Test 2 by your friends getting excited about your idea move on to Test 3. Test 3 Now find some people who are not relatives or close buddies but see a lot of movies or, better yet, read a lot of novels. Show them your idea printed out on the a sheet of paper along with the other examples. Ask them to read these descriptions and rank them by which one sounds the most interesting down to the one that sounds the least interesting. Listen honestly to their opinions and reasons. If your idea doesn't rank well then you still haven't developed it enough, don't know how to write it out in a compelling way or it's just not a good idea. Not everyone likes every movie idea, and some people never like a new idea no matter how good it is. You'll never get everyone excited about your idea but you should find that MOST people really like it. If at any point you detect your test subject's eyes are glazing over then your idea is boring them. No one wants to see boring movies including you. The Entertainment Business

You're trying to get into the Entertainment Business. If you can't deliver Entertainment then you're not in the Business. When you pitch your story to someone it's bad if any of these happen:

They don't seem to get it Their eyes glaze over You have to explain it more than once They think of problems with your logic They mention another movie or book that sounds just like it

It's good if these happen:


They become visibly excited They start offering additional ideas They can imagine which big stars should play the roles They ask to be kept informed of progress They offer to help or finance it (a REALLY good sign!)

You may decide you don't care whether anyone else gets your idea. YOU know it's a great idea and when the film is done people will understand. Anyway, you're doing ART. There are several problems with this kind of thinking.

It takes a lot of people to make a film. If you can't give an exciting pitch for your film you aren't going to be able to get a crew or actors who are excited and do a good job. It's expensive to make a film. You aren't going to get financing if the film doesn't sound exciting. If you can't even write a two-sentence description of your idea that sounds interesting do you honestly believe you can make a two hour feature that people will want to see. Even art needs an audience.

It takes a lot of time, energy and money to shoot a film. Spend lots of free time up front perfecting your Great Idea so when you start filming your time, energy and money are well spent. The intended audience This is as good a time as any to talk a bit about your intended audience. It is conventional wisdom at the studios to divide the audience into four

"quadrants": males older then 25, females older than 25, males younger than 25 and females younger than 25. A film that can appeal to all audiences is know as a four-quadrant movie and is the "holy grail" of studio filmmaking. This kind of thinking has lead to much of the bland moviemaking that happens today but the concept is useful. Think about what is the age, sex and general interest patterns of people you are trying to talk to and really concentrate on a message that will be interesting to that audience. MPAA film ratings Another way to think about your audience is by using the MPAA film ratings. If you make a feature film that sell it will need to be rated and a particular rating will draw a certain audience. Therefore it is useful to know what constitutes the various ratings. G:"General Audiences-All Ages Admitted." - This MPAA film rating is for a film which contains nothing in theme, language, nudity and sex, violence, etc. which would, in the view of the Rating Board, be offensive to parents whose younger children view the film. The G rating is not a "certificate of approval," nor does it signify a children's film. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated films. The violence is at a minimum. Nudity and sex scenes are not present; nor is there any drug use content. PG:"Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children." - This MPAA film rating is for a is a film that clearly needs to be examined or inquired into by parents before they let their children attend. The label PG plainly states that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but the parent must make the decision. Parents are warned against sending their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated movies. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film. The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is

difficult to draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments without incurring some disagreement. So long as parents know they must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a meaningful guide and as a warning PG-13:"Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13." - PG-13 is a sterner warning to parents to determine for themselves the attendance in particular of their younger children as they might consider some material not suited for them. Parents, by the rating, are alerted to be very careful about the attendance of their underteenage children. A PG-13 film is one which, in the view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category. Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. In effect, the PG-13 cautions parents with more stringency than usual to give special attention to this film before they allow their 12-year-olds and younger to attend. If nudity is sexually oriented, the film will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If violence is too rough or persistent, the film goes into the R (restricted) rating. A film's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating Board to issue a film an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents. PG-13 places larger responsibilities on parents for their children's moviegoing. The voluntary rating system is not a surrogate parent, nor should it be. It cannot, and should not, insert itself in family decisions that only parents can, and should, make. Its purpose is to give prescreening advance informational warnings, so that parents can form their own judgments. PG-13 is designed to make these parental decisions easier for films between PG and R. R:"Restricted, Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian." - In the opinion of the Rating Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they allow their children to accompany them. An R-rated film may include hard language, tough violence, nudity within sensual scenes, drug abuse or other elements or a combination of some of the above, so that parents are counseled,

in advance, to take this advisory rating very seriously. Parents must find out more about an Rrated movie before they allow their teenagers to view it. NC-17:"No One 17 And Under Admitted." - This rating declares that the Rating Board believes that this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not necessarily mean "obscene or pornographic" in the oft-accepted or legal meaning of those words. The Board does not and cannot mark films with those words. These are legal terms and for courts to decide. The reasons for the application of an NC-17 rating can be violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children. Time to move on If your first idea didn't test out well don't be discouraged. Screenplay development takes time. Ideas are all around and I'm going to help you find more of them in the next section on finding ideas. If almost everybody LOVES your idea as much as you do and you're ready to move on then skip to the section on story development. The importance of scheduling Scheduling is very important. There are so many people involved in the making of a film that without a schedule your project will eventually deteriate into chaos. If you decide to skip the schedule then you must spend the time watching American Movie. First I will describe a variation of the classic right way to make a schedule. Pretty much the way the big studios do it but less complicated. Then I'll show you another option. The classic right way There are two important questions concerning the schedule: 1. How many days is it going to take. 2. In what order should we shoot things. Product Reviews Disclosure: I am an affiliate for some products I recommend and may receive some compensation if you buy them through my links. Regardless, I only recommend products I have

personally reviewed and/or own and believe them to be worthy of your consideration. American Movie is an often hilariously funny documentary about an inept, clueless filmmaker who does everything wrong. It perfectly illustrates what happens when you try to make a movie without a plan or basic skills.American Movie is an often hilariously funny documentary about an inept, clueless filmmaker who does everything wrong. It perfectly illustrates what happens when you try to make a movie without a plan or basic skills. The Filmmaker's Basic Library has all the top-rated filmmaking resources. How many days will it take Use the following information to decide how many days your film will take. Do this very carefully and realistically. Once you start shooting you have to make every effort possible to stay on schedule because 1. Actors and crew are expecting do do certain scenes on certain days and if you fall behind even one day you will waste even more time getting everyone rescheduled. 2. Your budget will grow as you have to feed people whether you are staying on schedule or falling behind. 3. It's very unprofessional to fall behind. Your financiers will NOT be impressed. 4. Financing of future films will be effected on how well you stayed "on schedule and on budget" with your previous films. Your experience with doing short films will help you get real when you try a feature length film, but you will probably find you don't do any better doing a feature film. Your crew and actors will get faster as they get into the groove of the daily grind, but everyone gets tired after a couple of days. As a good rule of thumb for all films at all budget levels is that you can shoot up to 6 pages a day if you work really, really hard, or 3 - 4 pages of a screenplay in a day at a reasonable pace if: 1. Your actors know their lines pretty well and have rehearsed until they have a good idea how to play each scene. 2. You are doing about three angles of each scene and three to six takes from each angle to get the best performance. 3. You only move locations every couple of days. 4. You are putting a reasonable effort into lighting the set and recording decent sound with a boom mike.

The pages per day rate will get worse if: 1. Your actors and crew don't know what they're doing. 2. You don't know what you're doing. 3. You are in many locations. 4. You are outdoors and weather becomes a problem. 5. You have crowd scenes. 6. You have animals or children in scenes. 7. You are trying to achieve special effects. 8. You have scenes involving fights, gunfire, explosions, car chases, etc. 9. You have limited access to your locations. 10. You are a perfectionist. You could potentially shoot as many as 30 to 40 pages of screenplay a day if: 1. Your cast has spent weeks perfecting their performances to where they never blow a line or are really good at improvisation. 2. You do one take of each scene from one angle. 3. All the scenes are in one location and you rarely need to adjust the lights. (What lights?) 4. You aim a shotgun mike at the scene and don't worry about how bad the sound will be. 5. You work as fast as you can for 12 to 14 hours or more each day Roger Corman's original feature length Little Shop of Horrors was shot in two days. It can be done but it won't be pretty. The fact is that any no-budget film needs to be filming at least 6 pages a day because you want to finish filming in about 15 days because you can afford to feed people for any longer than that, to say nothing of equipment rentals and the big problem of people not being able to take off more than 2 weeks from work to help with your film. In what order do you shoot the scenes? Now that you know the estimated number of days you are ready to create your schedule board. A spreadsheet program such as Excel really helps with this. There are scheduling programs made specifically to help with this but Excel will just fine to start with. The following exercise will take most of a day for a feature length film and much shorter for a short film, at least on the first pass. I assume you have some skill with Excel or can find a friend who does.

Work very carefully and keep double checking as you go. If you miss anything your entire schedule will be messed up and you will have to redo a lot of the work. Have a colaborator double checking you as you go. First write out (you can do this by hand on a piece of paper) a list of all the locations you will be filming and number them starting with "1". Anytime you have to move the lights, even to a different room it becomes a new location. Go through the script carefully scene by scene so you don't miss any locations. Next make a list of every actor. If there is a crowd scene then consider the crowd to be an actor. If there is a specialized crew person that will only be needed for a few scenes and has limited availability then they should get a column also. Next create a spreadsheet in Excel and label the first column "Date". The next column should be labeled "days". The next column should be labeled "Scene". The next column should be labeled "Time", the next "location" and the rest of the columns should be labeled with the names of all the actors who are in your movie. In the "scene" column list the scene numbers and a couple of words of description going down the column for every scene in the screenplay from first to last. Then put in how many days it will take to film the scene in the "days" column. If the scene is 3 pages long and you believe you will film 6 pages a day then the scene is .5 days of filming. You will enter a lot of little fractions of number in this column. In the next column put a "N" or "D" if the scene is Night or Day, then put in the location number from your handwritten list in the location column. Now in the columns for the actors put a "X" for each scene depending on whether the actor is needed in that scene. Triple check your work and save the file. Now use Excel to sort the entire spreadsheet by the "location" column, followed by the "time" column. You are tying to get to where you have a schedule that lumps the locations and actors together such that you waste the minimum amount of everyone's time. Save the file under different file names so you can go back easily to different versions of the schedule. You may decide to try sorting different ways until you have the most logical schedule you can come up with. If you have an actor that can only film on one day then you need to sort on that actor's column so they're scenes get grouped together. Next step is the start at the first row and count up the fractions of days for each scene until you have a full day and put a real starting date in the "date" column. Start counting again until you have another full day and put in the next filming date. Eventually you will have a date next to each group of

scenes. This is your first draft schedule. Save the file under a different name than all the other versions. Now you will need to contact every person involved in the film to find out about their availability. This is where you start to really appreciate having a small cast and crew. Everyone will have conflicts with some date. Getting everyone together in one room at some point will often speed things up a lot. You need to be developing the ability to convince people that this film is the most important thing in their lives. Your male lead must believe it is fine to skip the birth of his first child if it falls on the same day as one he is needed on the set. Eventually you will have a schedule. You will also understand why it is so important to stay on schedule. Slipping even one day will mess up everyone's personal schedule and require a recalculation of the entire effort. Another option for making your film What I've just explained seems like a lot of work and you're wondering why you just can't take you friends out this weekend and get started. If your film is short and simple enough, you can do exactly that. If your project is more complicated you seriously risk going way over your budget, way over your projected time, risk losing your actors and crew as other things interfere and risk never finishing your film after spending a lot of money. A schedule represents disipline and being a successful filmmaker requires discipline. The now well known director, Christopher Nolan (Momento, Insomnia, Batman Begins) took a different approach when he did his first feature film: Following. He had only three actor friends do the speaking roles (plus his father plays a police detective in a final scene). Of course he had a truly Great Script to start with. He only filmed on days when the actors were not working, usually weekend days. He did his own filming with a crew of one or two others who did sound and minimal lighting. Depending on which actors were available he would do whatever scenes they were all in and use whatever friends apartments or businesses were available. When one actor had to get a short haircut for a play he was in, Chris rewrote some lines to make that make sense. It took months to finally get

everything shot but the result is a minor masterpiece. While it's not a perfect film it was good enough to get financing for Momento. After that brilliant piece of filmmaking he has been in high demand. He still had to work a schedule but he stayed on top of it and kept revising it as he went along, never losing sight of the final goal. He didn't know how long it would take and he must have had very generous friends who took no pay and fed themselves, or a rich aunt. You are the filmmaker. You are the artist. Use one of these techniques or create your own, but use a schedule. Preproduction - Filmmaking on Location Every Hollywood movie has scenes shot on public streets, in office buildings and in exotic mansions. Why shouldn't your movie? Depending on your budget there are some very good reasons. Besides, many of those scenes in Hollywood movies are actually shot on sound stages. Even Alfred Hitchcock had to create his own mini Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest. Here are some of the issues you will need to deal with. Where does everyone fit when you're on location? When you go on location there are always a lot of vehicles to park. Is there a place near that busy downtown street corner for everyone's cars and trucks? Is there a comfortable place out of the weather where people can rest, change costumes, put on makeup and eat? Will you be able to fit all your lights, cameras, dollys and actors into the location to be able to shoot them with good angles? Are you going to have to drive so far from your home base that you'll lose half the day just in getting there and back? What about catering? What about light and weather? What if it rains? Is the lighting good? Even a slight breeze can make location sound impossible. Is there only one time during the day when the weather is right? If you shoot on a sunny day and then need to do retakes but the forcast is for overcast skys you will have a serious continuity problem. Insurance All but the smallest micro-budget productions should have a $1,000,000 commercial liability insurance policy. Getting location permits will often require the filmmaker have proof of insurance. When you're on location there is a much greater risk of something getting stolen or damaged depending on the neighborhood. Assign some people to just be security guards and keep an eye on your things.

Do you really have permission? Just because someone said they don't mind you filming somewhere doesn't mean you can really do it. Most people have no idea of how disruptive a film crew will be to their lives. They need to know how many people, how much equipment and vehicles and for how long the filmmaking will last. The novelty of being involved in a film production wears off very quickly. Make sure they understand what the story is about so don't suddenly have a moral or political objection to your movie. Also get them to sign a property release form. Make sure the person you ask really has the authority to give you permission. Your friend at the coffee shop can tell you it's ok, but what about when his boss shows up unexpectedly? Neighbors can be the biggest problem. They get easily upset when all the parking places are full of your vehicles and they see lights and crew wandering around. In some neighborhoods you will suddenly find all the neighbors turning their ghetto-blasters up to full volume. Hopefully bribes of $20 to$100 will stop the racket. Every filmmaker needs to keep lots of cash in his/her wallet for these emergencies. Even with the owners and neighbors permission you may still need a permit from the municipality. Ask at a local film office, city clerk or police department. When you film in a residential neighborhood you are actually running a business. That's against local codes in most places. Nothing is worse than getting shut down in the middle of your production because you didn't get everything cleared ahead of time. Film commissions Sometimes local film offices or commissions can be very helpful. Their job is to encourage people to shoot films in their locality. Often they have lists of interesting houses and locations people will rent out to film companies. Many places will only give you permission if you have gone through the local film office. They can often direct you to local crew, also. But beware that what they are really looking for are big Hollywood productions that will drop a lot of money into the local economy. They will make sure you get all the proper permits (which may be free) and that you have plenty of insurance (not free). If you are on a micor-budget project and they start to ask you questions about what your budget is and how much insurance you have just politely excuse yourself, and run. Filmmaking in public places Most public places are technicallyoff limits for the low-budget filmmaker. If you ask for permission you will have to show proof of liability insurance, have to hire one or more local cops at an outrageous fee to "control traffic",

buy an expensive permit OR worse yet just be told you can't film there ... against local ordinances. In these times of terrorist threats it's gotten harder than ever to get permits for filmmaking. The fact is that most of the time if you aren't actually filming in the street or on a sidewalk the police will just ignore you. Guerilla filmmaking Low-budget, independent filmmaking is guerrilla filmmaking. That means you don't ask questions about whether you can shoot on a public street. You get organized, move fast, and get out before anyone calls the cops. It's easier to apologize than ask for permission. If you get caught claim you were doing a class assignment and didn't realize you were doing anything wrong . Keep it simple If you're a low-budget independent (and who isn't?), always be thinking in terms of how few locations you can get by with. Everytime you move your set you lose a day. Even moving to another room will cost you at least a couple of hours. Think you can't make a Great Film in one location? Most slasher flicks are shot in one location and all of the following were shot in mostly one location. Some were literally shot in one room. preproduction - Rehearsing the actors Why bother with rehearsals? In the expensive, high-pressure world of filmmaking it frequently happens that rehearsal time is the last thing to get scheduled and often doesn't happen. Actors are booked, directors are going crazy with preproduction and the trend has been to spend less and less time on rehearsals, trusting that the actors will have learned their lines and there will be time while lights are being set to run through the scene. The previous generations of film directors were mostly from the stage world where two months or more of rehearsals is the norm. More and more of the newest generation of directors in Hollywood come from doing music videos and commercials where rehearsing actors is not an issue. Frankly, they probably don't even know how to rehearse actors. So everyone goes onto the set the first day with no shared understanding of the director's vision and every setup becomes a 15+ take marathon with an exhausted director trying to explain the objectives of the characters to increasingly frustrated actors.

Eventually they give up and just do their 15 takes with the actors doing a slightly different slant on how they play the scene each take, and everyone hopes the editor can piece something that makes sense when they are done. Many of the youngest actors are buying into the belief that rehearsing destroys spontaneity. Indeed, some of the finest actors, such as Sir Ben Kingsley, have added to the idea by avoiding rehearsals. The fact is that actors of this caliber have already done such extensive preparation for understanding the story and their character that they find the typical film rehearsal period to be to little, to late and to amateur for their tastes. The fact is that rehearsals do not prevent getting a fresh performance and spontaneity from actors. Frustration and exhaustion are the cause of lackluster acting in otherwise good actors. Some of the finest and most spontaneous acting performances have come in films where the actors had already put in hundreds of performances of the work as a stage play. Streetcar Named Desire comes to mind. Turns out that when an actor has spend a lot of time "living in the shoes" of their character they are much more able to be spontaneous and still stay in character than when they are still trying to fit into the shoes. And who says you always want a fresh and spontaneous performance from your actors. If the scene calls for the character to be exhausted then why not shoot the scene at the end of a long, hard day? If they should be angry then help them by getting them pissed off. The best directors frequently manipulate and take advantage of the actor's moods and emotions to get the best performances. Good actors expect and appreciate it. Additionally, as a low-budget independent filmmaker, you can't afford to do 15 takes of every setup. Your time is much too precious. Your actors have to be able to "hit it" on the first or second try, every setup. If the actors have properly prepared by learning their lines and doing necessary research then two to four days of rehearsal for a short film and two weeks of rehearsal for a feature film should be sufficient. You will still have time to refine the performances during production.

The rehearsal schedule If you allow for a two week rehearsal then schedule two weeks of Monday through Friday for about four hours a day. More than four hours of intense rehearsals (and all rehearsals should be intense) is just too exhausting and the actors need time to absorb what they have learned. Before the first rehearsal go back to your screenplay notes (you did create a set of notes, didn't you?) and review the following:

What is the story about? For each scene ask yourself: what is this scene about, why is it in the screenplay and what do I need to achieve to maximize the emotional impact of the scene. What are the objectives of each character, the obstacles, actions, means, etc? What do I need to be sure the actors do to clarify and maximize the impact of each scene? What is the best, most effective and appropriate way to visually present the scene?

Your goals during the rehearsals are:


Bring the cast and crew into a collaborative unity. Give everyone your vision for the telling of this story including the style, rhythm and pacing. Develop the relationship between you and the actors, between the actors and their characters, and between each of the actors for each other. Fix any problem scenes by working with the actors or perhaps even rewriting the scene. Make sure the most important scenes, the turning points of the story, work extremely well.

Monday - Day 1 - First rehearsal Bring the entire cast and crew together. I like to rehearse in my home so everyone feels they are part of a family. Provide bottled water, snacks and soft drinks. Also provide pencils and yellow felt-tipped markers along with copies of the screenplay so the actors can take notes and highlight their lines. Allow a little time for everyone to socialize and start to get to know each other. You want a feeling of friends working together. When everyone is there, get them together in one large circle, preferably standing, and do introductions. A good way to do this is by playing a game of tossing a toy ball from person to person where the thrower has to give the first name of the person they are throwing to as well as the character they are playing or the crew position they are working. At first few people will know anyone else so the receiver has to introduce them self and give their character or job.

After 20 minutes everyone will be on a first name basis and feeling a sense of excitement, commitment and belonging to the group. The filmmaker's job is to keep the excitement and commitment going. Everyone can sit down now but try to have the actors mix with the rest of the crew and not sit in a group to encourage the sense of family. The filmmaker should now talk for 20 minutes or so about his/her vision for the story, what excites him/her about it, why s/he believes this will be an important artistic effort, then ask everyone for their commitment to the project. Look everyone in the eyes as you make this request. Take a short break so people can get something to eat/drink and go to the bathroom When everyone is comfortably seated again do a first cold reading. Assure the actors that this is just a reading and you are not expecting polished performances. Pick an actor who doesn't have many lines to read the action paragraphs. Watch everyone's reactions to see if the story is working. Take notes of any dead spots where people start to fidget or get distracted. They will need work. After the reading tell the actors what a great job they did and how excited you are. Tell everyone about how you emotionally connect to the story and this reading in particular. Get responses from the actors as to how they feel about their characters. Everyone is probably pretty tired by now, you especially, so let everyone go home after establishing the time for the actors to assemble the next day. The crew is no longer invited to the rehearsals unless you personally ask them. You want to be building your own special relationship with the actors from now on. Second rehearsal Today you are going to work on scenes in depth. Go through each scene, one at a time, with the actors reading the lines then stop to explain and discuss what is going on. The meaning behind the words, the backstory and subtext, whatever is important about the story needs to be discussed and understood. Additional rehearsals After one or two rehearsals the actors responsible for the minor roles should be ready to perform. It is now up to the director to establish what additional rehearsals are required for the principle actors on a case by case and actor by actor basis. The best plan is usually to work with the actors in small groups and working on individual difficult scenes. Two to four hours is generally the longest you

should ever rehearse any individual actor or small group of actors. The intensity of emotion and mental effort become so taxing on the actors (and the director) after a couple or hours that very little will be accomplished by continuing without a good night's rest. Continue examining the scenes until you are confident the actors understand your intent and have worked to come up with motivations and objectives that work. Unless you have a need for your actors being able to give perfect performances on the first take don't over rehearse your actors. You want to leave some time for experimentation and improvisation on the set. Actors get bored and their performance can get flat after too many rehearsals. It has to be fun for the actors, too. How much time you spend in rehearsals is entirely up to you. You are the filmmaker. Film financing What will it cost? How do you pay for it? Making movies is the most expensive art form there is. If you've got a rich aunt that loves to spoil you skip to the next section. If you're like everyone else then prepare to grovel and scrounge. It may take years and a loss of pride but if you truly believe in your idea you'll do whatever it takes to make your movie. You are now the producer of your new film. This is one of many roles a filmmaker plays during the life of a film. The producer's first job is to find the money. While we are on the subject of producing you may be wondering what all those different "producers" are that you see listed at the beginning of a movie. The fact is the titles are not officially defined and are often given out as inducements to get financing or other aid in getting the movie made. Generally speaking the titles mean approximately the following: Producer is the person who first had the idea for the film and/or found the original novel or screenplay or treatment and/or found the director and actors who would agree to do the film and/or headed up the effort to sell the idea to financiers and distributors and generally herded the movie through to completion. When a movie wins the Academy Award for best picture the Producer get the statue. Executive Producer is a money guy/gal. S/he took out the wallet that paid for the film or talked the money from the other people who together came up with the money.

Associate Producer is often a somewhat honorary title given to someone who was vital to getting the film made in a smaller capacity, such as helping uncover a source of financing, but had no other involvement with the film. Coproducer is sometimes the nephew of the person who actually financed the film, although sometimes it is someone who really was involved in some part of making the film happen but in a much smaller capacity than the true Producers. Line Producer is the guy/gal in the office or on the front lines, following each step of the film getting made, writing checks, reporting to the Producers and Executive Producers and possibly the Director. Making sure that the money is well spent. The Line Producer is sometimes the same as, or in charge of, the Unit Production Manager (the UDM). The UDM is also responsible for following the day to day activities on the set and making sure the money is used most efficiently. If you are a big Hollywood studio, accountable to shareholders, then you want all these people to make sure the $100 million being spent on this little fluff romantic comedy isn't being wasted. If you are an independent filmmaker you probably double as all these people except for the Executive Producers, who are the people you talked into paying for your film. Get started Ask yourself what kind of movie you're going to make. Is this one of your short learning films? Or do you think you are ready for a serious attempt at creating a feature film you hope to sell? Your budget and what you do during preproduction are very different depending on what you are trying to create. If this is your first short film you don't need to worry about finding money to finance it because you won't find any. Unless you have a rich aunt who loves to spoil you no one is going to give you money to make a film until you've proven yourself. When you've made a short film for a few hundred dollars out of your own pocket that gets into a festival and people really enjoy watching, then you'll find people are open to helping out, letting you borrow equipment and providing other non-cash, or small cash support. When you've shown you can make short films that win festival awards and now you've got a Great Script for a feature, then you will find a few people are willing to risk a couple of thousand dollars in exchange for seeing their names on the screen and a piece of the action, if it sells.

Make a successful $10,000 film that returns a profit and people will be willing to spot you $100,000. Make a successful $100,000 that returns a profit and the phone will start to ring with big time financiers wanting to get in. Business Plan Your tool for making your dream come true is your business plan. Your business plan should contain the following.

Your business cards The screenplay with a one or two page synopsis The film's budget with as much detail as possible Resumes or biographies of all the talent--Director, writer, producer, cinematographer, crew with notable credits and your cast If you have a name star in your cast be sure to feature them in a big way Reels (best scenes shot by the cinematographer, director and cast members on VHS tapes or DVDs) Your marketing plan Anything else that might be helpful o Articles on film financing o Glossy photos of your actors o Photos of previous productions you crew have worked on o Production artwork o Costume designs o Storyboards o Mockups of posters o Anything else that might possibly seem impressive o Comparisons to any other similar indie movies that were successful

You want to assure any potential investors that you have thought of everything and that there are reasonable odds that your project can make money. You need to be honest about the risks of investing in a motion picture but you can also emphasis the possible upside. Include the statement: This is not a prospectus but is purely informational in nature. This gives you greater freedom to approach potential investors without getting in trouble. And talk to a lawyer! Make it look as professional as possible in a glossy binder so the potential investors know they are buying into a classy production.

The Budget Always make up a budget. I know it sounds really boring and uncreative but it's good discipline and will be a necessary skill you will be glad you learned now. Typical Hollywood studio budgets run around $50 million. Most of that goes to one or two big stars and possibly the director. You will probably never have a budget like that available to you so lets get real and go through the kinds of budgets you might be able to touch. The No-Budget Budget For the first time filmmaker doing a weekend short you want to work backwards from what you can afford to what you will spend it on. How much can you run up on your credit card and not hate yourself for the next six-months if your first film attempt is less successful than you had hoped? A one weekend short with a small crew of friends and actors working for free should cost you under $1000 unless you have to buy equipment as part of the expense. The major expense will probably be feeding everyone. It will probably cost more than you would first guess but don't scrimp on food. One of the oldest truisms of filmmaking is that if your crew and cast are well fed they will follow you almost anywhere. If you don't have equipment--camera, lights, microphone, etc.--then you could be looking at a lot more money. To keep equipment expenses down try the following, in this order: 1. Find, or make, a friend who just bought a fancy new camera and would love to have a reason to use it. (Remember that filmmaking is a collaborative art and you will need filmmaking friends to succeed.) 2. Find, or make, a friend who just bought a fancy new camera and will rent you the use of it for very little money. 3. Find a rental house that can rent you a basic video package for the weekend for a very cheap rate. Be warned that professional rental houses that rent pro gear to professionals will probably want proof that you have special film production insurance which might cost more than the cost of the equipment. 4. If you're really cheap and desperate do what the Blair Witch folks did. Buy a camera from a shop with a liberal return policy. Shoot the film, then return the camera for a refund the next Monday. 5. Buy the camera of your dreams. Maybe you can rent it to some other filmmakers to help cover the cost.

Camera technology is advancing so fast that owning is often the worst option. By the time you make the next film your new fancy state-of-the-art camera will be old news. Get used to renting or borrowing cameras. Even the big-time filmmakers usually rent. Getting a camera is usually the easy part. Good sound and lighting are at least am important as using a decent camera, often more so. A good microphone, mixer and boom plus a few good basic lights can set you back more than the cost of a decent camera. What's even worse is that unless you live in a major filmmaking center like Los Angeles you will find it a lot harder to make a friend who actually has this kind of equipment. Back to the rental store. I'll talk more about getting equipment in the section on filmmaking equipment. Actor's expenses Above the Line Expenses Equipment rental Food Production Expenses Editor Editing equipment Postproduction Expenses Total Budget 300 300 500 200 700 0 0 0 1,000

The Typical $100,000 Filmmaking Budget For the filmmaker who is ready to do a first feature the budget gets a little more complicated. This will probably be a shoestring or no-budget film unless that rich aunt is still feeling generous. It will still cost you quite a bit of money. Writer/director/producer Cast Profit points 15,000

Above the Line Expenses Assistant director Production/art designer Script supervisor Cinematographer Assistant camera operators (2) Gaffer/electrician Grips (3) Sound mixer & boom operator Makeup & hair Photographer & production assistants Craft services & food Props & sets Wardrobe & makeup Camera rental Lighting rental Dolly Tape stock Sound equipment rental Trucks & gas Location fees

15,000 1,500 2,000 1,200 5,000 3,000 2,000 3,000 3,000 1,000 0 10,000 1,500 500 5,000 5,000 2,000 200 1,500 1,000 1,500

Insurance Office supplies Total Production Costs Editor Editing equipment Composer ADR Sound edit Total Postproduction Expenses Contingency Total Budget

3,000 500 51,400 5,000 10,000 1,000 1,000 2,000 19,000 0 87,400

The Million Dollar, Big Indie Filmmaking Budget Writer Director Producers Cast Taxes, health Above the Line Expenses Casting director Extras Unit production manager $20,000 30,000 30,000 180,000 25,000 285,000 16,000 4,000 16,000

Location manager Assistant directors (3) Production/art designers Props supervisor Script supervisor Cinematographer Assistant camera operators (3) Gaffer Electricians (2) Grips (3), dolly grip Sound mixer & boom operator Costume designer, assistant Makeup/hair artists (3) Still photographer Production assistant's expenses (5-8) Payroll taxes Craft services and food Props Set construction Wardrobe and makeup Expendables

6,000 14,000 10,000 2,500 5,500 12,000 14,000 6,000 8,000 16,000 10,000 7,000 11,000 4,000 1,000 10,000 22,000 3,000 14,000 3,000 2,000

Camera package rentals Lighting/grip package Dolly Film stock Audio stock Sound equipment rental Trucks/drivers Electrical generator Location expenses Insurance Permits Police Legal Lab fee for develop/telecine Total Production Expenses Editors Editing systems Composer/musicians/recording Music rights ADR Sound editor, mixing

24,000 14,000 7,000 30,000 4,000 6,000 4,000 6,000 14,000 30,000 6,000 4,000 10,000 50,000 426,000 16,000 8,000 20,000 50,000 6,000 20,000

Negative cutter Opticals and titles Telecine Answer print Total Postproduction Expenses 10% contingency Total Budget Financing

5,000 14,000 16,000 12,000 167,000 87,800 965,000

There is one great secret to getting film financing: Succeed at small productions and you will get financing for slightly larger productions. However even some of the most well-known independent directors have to devote a lot of their time and efforts to getting financing, on reasonable terms, for future projects. Everyone in film is always looking for financing and filmmakers typically have several projects on the back burner at any given time in case someone with money comes along who likes the sound of one of them. Most people know how risky movies are but that fact is partly offset by the sex appeal value of being able to say you are the Executive Producer of a movie. People willing to invest in your dream are out there. The farther you are from Hollywood the easier it is to find them. Become a salesperson, dress up, have a great pitch and be prepared to hear "no" a hundred times. If you are just getting started then your credit card is your only possible Executive Producer. Learn to use your money very wisely. Plan how you will spend every penny. Get clever as all hell about how to make the money stretch. When you have successful projects to show people then you have a sales tool. Here are some guidelines for finding money that have worked for someone at some time somewhere. Finding film money Exactly how much money do you need? You have to have an answer to that question before you start asking people for money. Do that budget right now.

Don't Try to avoid getting financially involved with family and close friends. If you must, then make sure everyone understands that making movies is a very risky business. The vast majority of films lose money. Don't let anyone invest in your film if they can't afford to lose the money. Don't try to sell stock unless you hire a lawyer to set everything up and teach you everything you need to know. You can get in a lot of trouble if you don't do it right. Don't try spamming, pyramid schemes, chain letters or any other fraudulent Internet tricks. You'll be lucky to stay out of jail. Don't pay some guy who claims he can find you investors. Agree on a commission to pay after he delivers. It's almost always a bad idea to use your own money on a feature film but many projects have been done that way. The real issue is that if you can't sell your project well enough to convince investors will you be able to convince talent, crew and ultimately an audience to believe in your film? Be REALLY careful about using credit cards to finance your movie. You'll max them before you finish unless you are an amazingly good money manager. You'll still need more money to do festivals and handle other marketing expenses. Even if your film is a masterpiece the distributors will smell blood and know you are desperate for any money. You'll still be in debt after you sell the film. Maybe you believe in your film so much you won't care. If you've got a great script, the talent and knowledge nothing should stop you from making your film. Money is actually one of the easiest components to find. Much easier than finding the great screenplay. Think small. Making a truly great short could just get you a festival prize, which could lead to getting noticed, which could get you a million downloads of your film on the Internet, which could get you really noticed, which could make you famous. If you're famous is much, much easier to raise money. What is an angle you could use to appeal to a special interest group. Churches, ethnic groups, professional organizations can sometimes be convinced to finance a film if the story has something that appeals to a leader in the group. Go after small amounts of money. If you need $5 million its much better to get 50 people to put up $100,000 than one person to put up the whole amount. A single investor with that much money into the deal is going to watch your every move and hire people to second guess your every move. Creating your dream is hard enough without that kind of pressure.

Get ready for the money.


Form a production company. Choose a name. Open a business checking account. Get a business license. Open a PayPal account so you can take credit cards. Create business cards, letterhead, a press kit and that website. You need a phone, fax, e-mail but you don't need to rent an office.

When you get money from investors sign a promissory note. Write in the terms for what interest you will pay and that all payments will be from profits on the film. Product Reviews Disclosure: I am an affiliate for some products I recommend and may receive some compensation if you buy them through my links. Regardless, I only recommend products I have personally reviewed and/or own and believe them to be worthy of your consideration. It's not hard to set up a simple partnership or just be honest and ask your investors to donate money, time, supplies or equipment. The usual route is to work on deferral. This means they will get paid some amount, either a fixed sum or percentage, IF the movie makes money. As soon as you get some money hire a lawyer to set up a some legal form for your company. You can do a sole proprietorship which really doesn't need a lawyer, but the most popular form is the Limited Partnership. A full corporation is probably more than you need. Cash isn't the only thing you're looking for. Services, labor, food and equipment are just as important. On a very low-budget film getting enough of these non-cash items might make your film. You know someone who has some of the equipment you need. Convince them to let you borrow it. Talk to the owner of your favorite restaurant. Ask them if they would like to support the arts. If you must use your own money, and you really believe in your film, how much can you lower your expenses? Can you take a second job to raise more money? Your vacation time is when you'll be paid to do the production. If you have any equity in your house you've got a great source of financing. An equity loan could get you $20,000 at a very reasonable interest rate. You can make a feature film for $20,000. Grants are usually only available for non-commercial and documentary projects.

It is usually a waste of time to try to talk people into investing in your film. Tell them about the project and if they're interested they'll tell you. Doctors and dentists are professionals with good cash flows so everyone goes for them. Find some accountants and financial planners and make friends with them. They're looking for unusual investments for some of their more affluent and daring clients. Wealthy investors might have children with movie ambitions. Law firms often have an attorney who specializes in limited partnerships. Make a believer of that person and invite them onboard as your Executive Producer. Many lawyers are wealthy or know where to find money. If they find most of the money be prepared to share any income 50-50 with them. The talent you hire can get you money. Well known directors and actors know people with money. If they believe in your project they'll find the money. Put on a presentation, rent a movie theater during the day when it's not showing movies. Bring in all your potential angels. Project your trailer, introduce your cast and director. Project enormous enthusiasm and confidence. Don't you have as much right as anyone to succeed? Product Reviews

Film crew What does the crew do? The crew for a very small indie production might be as small as two people. The first person is the filmmaker (producer, director, cinematographer, etc.) and the other is the assistant (sound, script, continuity, gaffer, grip, etc.). If you are using anything other than available light then at least one gaffer to hold reflectors during filming is probably necessary. Selecting a filmmaking crew On your first attempts at making a short you will be calling on friends and other wannabe filmmakers. If you've been networking you should have found a few people by now. A good source in most cities is to go to craigslist.com and place an ad for "crew" in the "gigs" section. Don't get more people than you need while realizing that some of the people who absolutely, positively promise they will be there just don't show up at the last minute. The promise of good food on the set and beer and pizza after filming will do more than anything else to improve attendance.

Shortly before you actually start filming have a training session where everyone gets to try the equipment and go through the process of filming scenes. Try to get some of the actors to show up for the training session. You want to foster a feeling of friendliness and teamwork as early as possible. Don't pick your crew too far in advance because people will forget and make other commitments. One tip I've learned is that your crew doesn't necessarily need to know what they're doing to start with, as long as you get smart people who understand what you are trying to accomplish and are really interested in the film. (Another reason to have a really Great Script!) Smart people who care will learn really fast and get really involved in doing a good job. They will also start spotting little mistakes and making suggestions for other ways to try things. Listen to what people say without losing control of the set. Other people's ideas are often very useful and give everyone a sense of ownership in making the film the best possible. Suppress your ego and listen with an open mind. Sometimes you will reject suggestions. Remind everyone that you as the filmmaker/director and author of the movie are the final authority on how things will get done. This is your movie. If people have a problem with that concept let them know that if you were helping them make their movie you would let them make the final decisions. If they still try to take over the set ask them politely to find something else to do with their time besides helping you with your movie. If you find yourself with an actor with an attitude problem it can be a real problem. As you productions get bigger you'll be able to start hiring professional crews. People who know what they are doing can make a movie move much faster and enormously improve the quality of the final product. The first person you want to get once you can afford to hire some professional crew is a good sound person. Good sound makes a film so much clearer even if the images are marginal. Filmmaking crew meetings An important part of the director's job during preproduction is to lead the crew meetings where everyone will learn their role in the filmmaking production process. The more clearly the director can make their vision of

the process to the main crew members the smoother the entire production will go. If the production is a very low-budget one and many of the crew are inexperienced then it is very smart to have a technical training session before the actual production begins. This session is to familiarize everyone with the equipment that will be used and with the procedures that need to be followed during the production to ensure safety and efficiency. Crew for a bigger-budget film production Once your budget is large enough to actually pay most of the crew a salary you can take a different approach. Instead of hiring a lot of individuals you just hire the "department heads", or "keys" and they will hire the rest of the crew. They will get people they've worked with in the past that they know are dependable. Who are the key department heads? The Director of Photography (DP), Production Manager, Assistant Director and Production Designer. Another way to locate professional film crew members is to list your production on The Mercury Report. It won't cost you anything to list your production. Crew (and actors) subscribe to the report and will contact you to apply to work on your production. Productions of all sizes and budgets can be listed The LONG production crew list As the production gets larger you will find yourself increasingly in need of more people to handle various aspects. Doing everything yourself isn't very smart and isn't even admired in the film world. Filmmaking is about collaboration. Here is a list of just about everyone who might be involved in a bigger-budget production. Even if you will be working with a much smaller crew it is very useful to go through a list like this to see all the jobs that will need to get done eventually. Who will handle the various tasks? Figure that out at this point during preproduction and you won't have to fight about it on the set. Preproduction Preproduction crew members Story Editor - The story editor supervises several story analysts who work for the studios. The analysts read screenplays, books and other literary efforts looking for potential movies. The analyst then writes "coverage" (a synopsis) of the material. The story editor reviews the coverage and passes on promising prospects to the studio bosses for possible development into a

motion picture. Writer - The term "Written By" in the credits is a Writers Guild of America designation meaning "Original Story and Screenplay By." The writer creates and shapes an original story, or adapts a book, play or other work for use on the big screen. A script may go through many writers, so the Writer's Guild of America must often determine who gets screen credit as the Writer. Dialogue Coach - The dialogue coach helps actors learn their lines and master accents and dialects that are necessary for their roles. Location Manager - The location manager reads the script, decides what locations are necessary for the film, then scouts for them. The location manager visits possible locations and takes pictures to help the director find the best setting. After locations are chosen, the location manager acquires all the permits and permissions necessary for filming. Set Designer - The set designer takes direction from the art director about the look of the set, and then plans its technical construction. Art Director - The art director, or production designer, designs and supervises the construction of sets for a movie. This person needs to be well-versed in a variety of art and design styles, including architecture and interior design. He or she works with the cinematographer to achieve the right look for the production. Costume Designer - The costume designer creates all the costumes worn by the cast on a production. This person contributes to the overall look of the film, as well as the style and interpretation of the film's characters. Production Production crew members Unit Production Manager - The unit production manager (U.P.M.) reports the daily financial operation of a production to the production manager. Sometimes the U.P.M. will scout for locations and help the production manager with overall planning. Line Producer - The line producer supervises the movie's budget. This includes unique expenses like a star's salary as well as daily costs like equipment rentals. The production manager reports his or her expenses and needs to the line producer.

Production Manager - The production manager (P.M.) makes business deals with the crew and arranges for the production's technical needs. This includes everything from obtaining the right technical equipment to renting accommodations for actors and crew. Director - The director is responsible for all creative aspects of a movie. The director usually helps hire actors, decides on locations and plans the shots before filming begins. During filming the director oversees the actors and crew, sets up shots and keeps the movie on schedule and on budget. The director is usually hired by a producer, unless he or she is also producing the film. Assistant Director - The assistant director (A.D., or First A.D. in larger productions) works to make the director more efficient. The A.D. plans a shooting schedule by breaking the script into sections that can be filmed in a single day and in the most efficient order. During filming the A.D. manages the set, helps line up shots for the director, calls for quiet on the set and coordinates the extras. The assistant director is often a member of the Directors' Guild of America. Second Assistant Director - The second assistant director (second A.D.) is a liaison between the production manager and the first assistant director. The second A.D. usually works with the cast and crew and handles paperwork, including call sheets (who needs to be on the set and when), actors' time sheets and production reports. This person also helps the First A.D. place extras and control crowds. Continuity Person - The continuity person tries to prevent embarrassing gaffes in the final film, such as an actor wearing a hat that mysteriously disappears in one shot then reappears in another. The continuity person logs how many times a scene was shot, how long the shot lasted, which actors were in the scene, where they were standing and any other intricate details - like that disappearing hat! Cinematographer - The cinematographer, or director of photography (D.P.), helps create the look of a movie. The D.P. directs the lighting for each scene, helps frame shots, chooses lenses, selects film stock and ensures that the visual look of the film conforms to the director's vision. The cinematographer usually does not operate the camera on set (this is the duty of the camera operator). Gaffer - The gaffer is the chief electrician on the set, and is responsible for lighting the set according to the instructions of the cinematographer.

Camera Operator - The camera operator is a member of the camera crew and runs the camera as instructed by the director and the cinematographer. The camera operator is responsible for keeping the action in frame, and responding quickly to the action as it unfolds. Assistant Cameraman - Often there is a first and second assistant cameraman. The first assistant cameraman is generally responsible for the maintenance of the camera. The first assistant cameraman also changes lenses, maintains focus during shots, marks the spots where actors will stand and measures the distance between the camera and the subject matter. The second assistant cameraman fills out camera reports and is often responsible for loading and unloading camera magazines, which contain the film. (Also see film loader.) Film Loader - The film loader is a member of the camera crew in charge of loading and unloading the camera's film magazines. The film loader also keeps the loading room in good, clean condition. Steadicam Operator - A Steadicam is a body frame that helps the Steadicam operator keep a hand-held camera steady. This allows the Steadicam operator to follow the action without the jerky movement seen in normal hand-held cameras. Steadicam operators need special training and require much strength and energy. Production Sound Mixer - The production sound mixer (or recordist) records sound during filming. This person is also responsible for mixing the various soundtracks into the film's composite soundtrack, which is then put onto the film with either a magnetic or optical stripe. Boom Operator - The boom operator is a sound crew member who handles the microphone boom, a long pole that holds the microphone near the action but out of frame, allowing the microphone to follow the actors as they move. Key Grip - The key grip is the chief grip on the set. Grips create shadow effects with lights and operate camera cranes, dollies and platforms as directed by the cinematographer. Dolly Grip - The dolly grip places and moves the dolly track, then pushes and pulls the dolly along that track. The dolly is a cart that the camera and sometimes its crew sit on. It allows the camera to move smoothly from place to place during a shot. Best Boy - There are actually two separate best boy positions -- the best

boy/electric and the best boy/grip -- who are second in command to the gaffer and to the key grip. The best boy/grip is in charge of the rest of the grips and grip equipment. The best boy/electric is in charge of the rest of the electricians and the electrical equipment. Stunt Coordinator - The stunt coordinator lines up professional stunt people to take the risks that make the movies so exciting. The stunt coordinator makes sure that all safety regulations are followed and that all safety equipment is on the set and ready for action! Visual Effects Director - The visual effects director's job varies according to the needs of the production. Sometimes the visual effects director helps with effects on the set. But he or she could also be called upon to supervise separate teams of effects technicians working away from the set. FX Coordinator - FX is film shorthand for special effects. The job of the FX coordinator differs from film to film. Special effects range from complicated computer animation to helping Superman fly to simple on-set logistics like making a shower work. Property Master - The property master finds, maintains and places on the set all essential props for a scene. A prop is a moveable item that is essential to a scene. Leadman - The leadman answers to the set designer and heads the swing gang (the people who set up and take down the set) and the set dressing department. Set Dresser - The set dresser is responsible for everything on a set except props that are essential to the scene. The set dresser selects items like drapes, artwork, bed linens, dishes and anything else, to make the set a realistic environment. Costumer - The costumer, or wardrobe person, takes care of the costumes on the set, keeping them in good, clean condition, and making sure the right actor gets the right costume. Make-up Artist - The make-up artist is usually a licensed professional who applies any make-up to an actor above the breastbone to the top of the head and from the tips of the fingers to the elbow. (Also see body make-up artist.) Body Make-up Artist - Union rules state that the body make-up artist apply any make-up below the actor's breastbone, or above the elbow (Also see make-up artist).

Hairdresser - The hairdresser is licensed to cut, color and style the hair of actors in a production. He or she also styles and cuts wigs when necessary. Usually the hairdresser provides all the necessary equipment and rents it to the production on a weekly basis. Production Assistant - Often called a gofer or a runner on the set, the production assistant (P.A.) performs small but essential tasks for the cast and crew. Production Office Coordinator - The production office coordinator (P.O.C.) handles the production's office duties and stays behind when a production goes on location. He or she coordinates the crew, makes sure paperwork gets done and answers the phone. The P.O.C. also puts together new versions of the script as changes are made. Unit Publicist - The unit publicist makes sure the media are aware of a production by sending out press releases, arranging for interviews of cast and crew, setting up on-set visits and organizing media kits, which include publicity pictures, video and audio clips and plot summaries. Second Unit Director - The second unit director heads the second unit -- a separate production crew that shoots sequences not involving the main actors. These can include background shots at remote locations, shots used for special effects and scenes that are not essential to the plot. Production Caterer - The production caterer provides all the meals for a production, especially for on-location shoots. The caterer makes sure that the food provided meets the needs of the cast, often including special items for the star of the movie. Craft Services - The people responsible for coffee, beverages and snacks on the set. They also perform various small chores. Transportation Coordinator - The transportation coordinator makes sure that actors, crew and equipment have some way of getting to the location shoot. He or she coordinates the use of everything from limos to semis. Background - Background is the term for the non-speaking extras seen in the background of a scene. Day Player - A day player is an actor hired on a daily basis. This actor only has a few lines or scenes. The day player must be notified that they are finished by the end of the day; otherwise they are automatically called back

for another day of work. Postproduction Postproduction crew members Post-Production Supervisor - The post-production supervisor oversees the finishing of a film once shooting ends. He or she attends editing sessions, maintains quality control, and coordinates audio mixing, computer graphics, and all other technical needs. Editor - The editor works with the director in editing the film. The director has the primary responsibility for editing decisions, but the editor often has significant input in the creative decisions involved in putting together a final cut of a movie. The editor often starts work while the film is still being shot, by assembling preliminary cuts from the daily footage. Increasingly, editors work on computerized editing consoles without touching the actual film. Color Timer - The color timer works with the cinematographer. He or she works in the lab to correct and balance the color of the film to the director's wishes for the look of the scene. Negative Cutter - The negative cutter takes the negative of a movie and conforms, or matches, it to the final cut of the film as decided by the director, editor, producer, studio and anyone else who may be involved. Final prints of the film are made from this conformed negative. Foley Artist - The foley artist creates sounds that cannot be properly recorded during the shoot. This often includes creating foot steps, thunder, creaking doors and even the sound of punches during a barroom brawl. ADR Editor - ADR is an acronym for automatic dialogue replacement. In this process the actors are called back during the post-production process to re-record dialogue that wasn't recorded properly during the shoot. The editor supervises this process and matches the newly recorded lines to the actor's mouth on film. Music Mixer - The music mixer is part of the team that prepares the final soundtrack for a movie. The music mixer carefully balances and mixes the film's musical score to integrate with the dialogue. Matte Artist - The matte artist is a member of the special effects department who helps create locations that never existed. He or she

constructs backgrounds (either with traditional artists' tools or, increasingly, with computers) that integrate with the live action filmed on a set. A good example of a matte painting is the yellow brick road in "The Wizard of Oz."

Film directing, the director's job Director's job during preproduction The film director is much like the conductor of an orchestra. First, like a conductor has to create a mental ideal of how the music should sound, the director must create an ideal vision for how the film will look. Secondly, like a conductor, the film director must communicate that vision to the various players so everyone is working together toward the single vision. The director's job is sometimes compared to a military general barking orders to the troops. Although some directors do work like that they are generally not well liked or long-term very successful. The most effective directors work by sharing their vision and encouraging the crew and actors to participate in the process by each contributing their best effort and creativity. In actuality the two processes of creating and sharing the vision are actually a single ongoing process, begun by the director but continuously evolving as all the individuals of the filmmaking team contribute their input and the director realizes ways to improve and enhance the overall vision. The director's job is really about communication. Although some directors may also be filmmakers wearing many hats during the filmmaking processes, the only activity involved in the director's job is talking, listening and pursuading. The director needs to understand writing and storytelling, and all the tricks and craft available to do the best job of telling the story. Good directors create a notebook or journal of their thoughts, ideas and plans for the film to keep them on track and to be sure that nothing gets forgotten in the chaos of production. Reading the script The director's first job in preproduction is to read the script. For many independent filmmakers the director is also the writer so you might assume that s/he would already be totally familiar with the script and could skip this step. That would be a mistake for this step is where the vision for the movie is formed. This is where the director can go beyond the script as a blueprint for a movie and dig deep to clarify the premise, find all the hidden meanings, the

psychological drives, the common themes, the passion, the sights, sounds and smells and formulate a powerful and memorable vision. The writer/director is often at a disadvantage in this step because s/he will have a harder time reading the script from a fresh perspective. 1. Read the script as though you were watching the finished movie and had no idea what the story was about. Just let the story play out in your mind's eye. 2. After you have read the script write down in your notebook what your thoughts were. Especially recognize what emotions you felt during the reading. Your job as a director is to create a movie that will bring these emotions to your audience with maximum effect. If the action goes dead at certain points note this also. Resist the temptation to try to come up with fixes at this point. For now you are trying to note how the story works. 3. Finally determine what is the emotional core of the film. What is it really about. What is the goal and obstacles of the individual characters, what emotions are involved and how will your audience relate to, and learn from the character's plight. A good thing to do at this step is to try pitching the story to a friend and see if s/he has a similar reaction to yours and if the story works well for them. In-depth analysis and breaking down of the screenplay This step of the director's preproduction job involves breaking down the script to learn exactly what makes the story work. Determine exactly what are each major character's spine, or life goals and objectives, over the course of the story. Every character has a desire to empower, destroy, ridicule, teach, blame, heal, learn, find, change or seduce. Most characters will have external and internal goals. For example a character's external goal is to build a house but his his internal goal is to find fulfillment and prove his worth to his friends. These objectives may have already been in place before the story starts or may get formed by happening in the first act. Determine what these objectives are for each character. What are each major character's obstacles to reaching their objectives? In an interesting story the real obstacles are internal, psychological blocks, but are represented by more obvious external obstacles such as other characters in the story or natural elements such as a raging blizzard. What are the actions the characters will use to try to overcome the obstacles and reach their objectives? These are the actual steps the characters perform to get their way. What are the ways and means the characters will use? These are refinements on the actions and can be expressed as adverbs such as calmly, boastfully, forcefully, quickly or seductively.

What adjustments do the characters make when their actions and means don't succeed? Repeat the analysis of each major character's objectives, obstacles, means, actions and adjustments for every scene that they participate in. Take good notes in your notebook. This will be very important to be able to retrieve during the production process to help the actors give the strongest and most accurate performance. Also determine in each scene what realistic doings the actors can be engaged in so that they aren't just standing around and reciting lines. Real people are always engaged in some kind of doing, preparing a meal, reading a book, surfing the web, while they are engaged in the various dialogs and actions that happen as they try to achieve their objectives. Working with the writer If the director is not also the writer then it is very wise that the director and writer try to achieve a good working relationship during preproduction and carry it through production. Writers see a story in their mind's eye whereas the director must translate the story into moving images of real locations and actors speaking and performing and do it all within a certain budget. This often leads to disagreements over vision. Additionally writers are often too close to their story to see or appreciate possible improvements that may come from the director with his/her fresh view of the story. The director should always maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude toward the script. Recognize that the writer has been working in relative isolation on this screenplay for many months or years. They understandably may have a fragile ego and be reluctant to consider changes. On large studio productions it is often standard procedure, after buying all rights to the screenplay from the original writer, to immediately hire another writer to handle any rewrites. This prevents possible time wasted in confrontations between the two highly creative egos of the writer and director. It also allows the director and new writer to try a totally fresh approach to the story. If a new writer is not going to be hired then the director should determine as much as s/he can about the writer's original vision including the following.

What was the writer's original inspiration for the story? What was the writer's original reason for the writing the story? What life lessons are taught by the story? What does the writer feel the story is really all about? How does the writer feel about the key relationships in the story? What is the writer's backstory and biographies for the main characters?

Are any of the characters based on real people and what is the significance of that?

The writer and director will no doubt find areas of disagreement and need to work from the most general areas of agreement down to all the most specific areas of disagreement trying to resolve them. The goal is to eventually get to a shared vision between the writer and director. In nearly every case some weak areas in the screenplay will be discovered. The director should make it his/her job to ask tough questions about the logic and honestly of the emotions of the story. Also the director should pose "what if" questions where any number of changes are proposed to the story such as making the villain the hero, or changing the character's actions at key points. These exercises will almost certainly result in the necessity for rewrites as they will lead to a stronger story. Some writers are better than others at rewrites and some will need to excuse themselves from the process altogether if they find themselves mentally unable or unwilling to make changes the director finds necessary. For the independent filmmaker this is when it will be obvious why it is always important to buy complete rights in a screenplay, other wise the entire production can be shutdown by an angry writer. A very important consideration involving rewrites is the ripple effect that occurs when one scene is rewritten which changes the logic of another scene causing a ripple of rewrites. This can stretch the preproduction process out for a very long time. The goal is to find the balance of getting to a screenplay that is strong and effective without requiring absolute perfection. Screenplay readings A valuable technique at this point in preproduction is to have actors do readings of the rewritten screenplay. These can be done cold where the actors have never seen the script or after the actors have been rehearsed depending on the opinion of the director. The writer should be present at the readings so s/he can understand the impact of the story when performed in something other than the writer's head. The script breakdown Now that the screenplay has been refined the director should do another screenplay breakdown to update and expand his/her notes to completely explain the character's objectives, obstacles, actions, means and adjustments on an act by act, scene by scene, beat by beat basis. These note will be invaluable during production. The assistant director usually gets involved at this point performing a logistical breakdown of the script to determine the following.

The number and types of actors required How many scenes each actor will be in and the total length of their performances The requirements, number and types of locations The number and types of stunts and special effects What special costumes and makeup will be required What props are required

Screenplay breakdowns are often done by professional services on larger films. A good script breakdown is an invaluable production tool on films of all sizes. A valuable part of breaking down a screenplay is to measure the actual length of each scene in the screenplay with a ruler. This is referred to as marking 1/8ths. Since a page of a screenplay has about eight vertical inches of text you can measure the total number of inches for a scene and that number is the number of 1/8ths of a page the scene is long. The number of 1/8ths is usually marked in the top left corner of the scene, and circled. If a scene lasts longer than eight 1/8ths, it is converted to "1". So, a scene lasting twelve 1/8ths is marked "1 4/8". Because a production crew can typically film from 2 to 5 pages of screenplay a day, depending on many factors, knowing the total length of the scenes to be filmed in a day helps in establishing the practicality of the schedule. Gathering the creative team The director's next preproduction job is to gather the creative team. Usually this has been underway during the entire preproduction phase. The creative team are the members of the crew who will be contributing to the creative effort of fulfilling the director's vision for the film. The other crew members will be more like soldiers doing specific tasks as they are asked and giving little if any creative feedback. The creative team typically consists of at least the following individuals.

The Cinematographer or DP (Director of Photography) who is responsible for creative operation of the camera and the lighting. The Production Designer who is responsible for creating the look of the film in terms of the sets, costumes and makeup. The Casting Director who will work with the director to find the best possible actors for the film. The Actors. The film Editor who will work with the director to assemble the scene "takes" into a finished movie. The Music Director or Composer who is responsible for getting the right music to match the emotions of the story.

The director will interview and select these storytelling collaborators, share with them his vision, then communicate with and encourage them to help bring the vision to reality. This process will often result in some amount of creative conflict. The director must use his/her communication skills to recognize and validate conflicting opinions but, unless they are an improvement, to insist on the one best solution for making the best possible film. Casting actors On large studio productions the casting process is heavily influenced by the producers since issues of using big stars and fulfilling contracts often take precedent over artistic considerations. For the independent filmmaker the process of finding actors can be exhilarating and frustrating. See this page for a complete discussion of casting actors for independent filmmakers. Leading rehearsals The director is responsible for preparing the actors to do their job by sharing his vision of the movie in the rehearsals. A discussion of the rehearsal process can be found on this page.

Film cameras How Filmmaking Cameras Work Movies don't move. A movie is a series of still pictures presented to the viewer so rapidly that the viewer's brain is fooled into thinking the images are moving. The eye holds the image of one picture for a moment after it is no longer shown until the next picture appears. This is called persistence of vision and allows movies to work. Movies consist of 24 separate still photographs projected each second. This is just fast enough to generally convince the eye that the images are alive and moving. Cameras use a lens to focus the light rays coming from the scene onto a small rectangular area of film or, in the case of video, onto an electronic circuit that is sensitive to light. In a film camera a shutter opens allowing light to shine on the film for a moment, then the shutter closes and the film is advanced to the next frame by a claw mechanism. Then the process repeats 1/24th of a second later. In a video camera light is gather by the electronic circuit for a fraction of a second then the brightness and color values are read out of the circuit for processing and writing to some form of memory. Film formats Film consists of light sensitive chemicals coated on a thin, clear cellulose acetate or other flexible plastic film. The chemicals are color dyes and silver compounds (explaining the high cost of photographic film). Most highbudget, professional films are still shot on 35mm color film stock. 35mm film has been the common format since the very first movies. When the film is processed it becomes a negative image of the original scene with the lightest areas of the original scene represented as black on the film, and the darkest areas of the scene staying light and transparent on the film. Colors are also reversed. A positive print has to be made from the negative in order to view the film correctly. 16mm is a lower cost alternative but somewhat lower quality. A few filmmakers experiment with super-8mm but the results don't hold up well in theater projection. All the world's theater projectors are 35mm so any other film size will have to be enlarged and reprinted onto 35mm at some point if it is to be shown in theaters. Film can be shot in a variety of rectangular shapes called aspect ratios. A movie's aspect ratio is given as a ratio of the width of the frame divided by

the height. The classic size of 35mm film and standard definition television is a width of 4 units and a height of 3 units giving an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This aspect ratio is often referred to as Academy aperture after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which first defined and standardized it. Although the Academy frame was standard for most of the early years of filmmaking a wider aspect ratio is now preferred. In America the most common ratio is a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. Most European films are shot with a 1.66:1 ratio making them not quite as wide as American films project for the same height. The film is shot on the same 35mm film stock but the top and bottom of each frame is cropped by masking it off in the cameras and projectors. High definition video uses an aspect ratio of 16 to 9 units, or 1.78:1 which is very close to 1.85:1 widescreenand makes a transfer to film possible with only a small amount of cropping. Another popular format is anamorphic widescreen having an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is sometimes referred to as scope after the trade name Cinemascope. Scope is also shot on the same 35mm stock and the extra wide aspect ratio is achieved by a combination of cropping the top and bottom of the frame and using a special anamorphic lenses which images the scene onto the film by squeezing the image more horizontally than vertically. 35mm cameras are generally very large, heavy and cumbersome pieces of equipment. They require substantial tripods and dollies and several operators to use them. Some newer cameras are small and light enough to be handheld or supported on a Steadicam, a support that is attached to an operator and keeps the camera steady while the operator walks through the scene. 35mm production is worth it when the budget is large enough as non of the current video formats can quite equal the quality. A few productions are even shot using special 65mm or 70mm film and cameras. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia and the popular IMAX films have startlingly rich and detailed images. Film sound Most film cameras do not record sound along with the image. The sound is recorded in a double system where a separate sound recorder captures the sound from the microphones which is later matched to the film during the editing process. For a long time sound was recorded on Nagra analog tape recorders. DAT (digital audiotape) recorders replaced them with their perfect speed and superior sound. Hard disk recorders and even direct to memory card recorders have pretty much taken over professional productions today. These recorders are essentially portable computers dedicated to recording

sound. Film cameras designed for making sound films have synchronizing crystal clock circuitry to keep the film moving at a precise speed and in perfect sync with the sound recording. Much of the sound you hear in films today is actually recorded after the fact in a studio. Sound effects, music and even dialog are recorded and added long after the filming is completed. Film editing Traditional film editing is a very mechanical process involving physically cutting and splicing a copy print of the master negative to sequence together the scenes of the movie. Each day's film is processed and printed onto positive film stock and shown to the director as dailies or rushes. Sound is transferred from the original media to 35mm magnetic sound stock to be matched to the image film. When all the sequencing of scenes is done the same cuts are applied to the original master negative in a process called negative matching or conforming. Dissolves between scenes and color correction (called color timing) is done after the editing is finished by optical processes. When the sequencing and color correction is done a sound mix (or rerecording) is done to get the final sound and it is all put together to create an answer print Necessary changes are communicated back to the laboratory from the director and editor. Eventually a release print is produced and the film is ready for distribution and theater screenings. In the 1990s this process began to change as directors chose to capture images from the master negative into digital images in a computer and perform nonlinear editing of the digital images in a computer. When the edit is done the digital images are put back onto film stock for distribution. The process costs more but may make the edit go faster and usually results in a better quality film. Video formats Video cameras, like film cameras, focus light to capture a series of still images giving the illusion of motion. They capture light onto a light sensitive computer chip, usually a CCD (charge-coupled device), instead of film. Unlike film which has a relatively continuous light sensitive surface, the computer chips records the scene as a matrix of individual colored spots called pixels. The number of pixels a video camera can capture limits the resolution of the final images. The resulting digital images are usually stored onto magnetic tape, or in some of the latest cameras, onto memory cards. For the purposes of modern filmmaking one can eliminate all the older

analog forms of video such as VHS, 8MM and Hi8 because they produce much lower quality images for about the same cost as digital video formats. Standard definition (SD) video, such as mini DV, is not a good choice for making a production intended to viewing in a theater for several reasons. SD video is effectively limited to about 1/4 of a megapixel of resolution, or about 250,000 pixels so the images have poor detail when blown up to the size of a theater screen. The aspect ratio in most cameras is 1.33:1 rather than widescreen. SD also has a frame rate of approximately 30 frames per second rather than 24. To make matters even worse the frames are divided into two interlaced frames every 1/60th of a second. The odd horizontal rows of pixels are made into a picture, then 1/60th of a second later the even horizontal rows of pixels are made into another picture. The two frames can't be combined because any movement in the frame results in two slightly different views so the moving objects seem to have fine comb-like edges. Very clever software is required to convert 30 frame per second interlaced video into single images every 1/24th of a second. High definition (HD) video formats get around many of the issues with SD video. First the resolution is much greater with HD's resolutions of either 1 megapixel per frame or 2 megapixels per frame. Compression techniques reduce this resolution somewhat with many HD recording systems but HD is still startlingly sharper than SD. Many HD cameras can record at 24 frames per second. A few can even record at a variety of frame rates making fast and slow motion filming possible. Some HD cameras also record entire frames at a time, know as progressive filming, eliminating the problem of interlaced images. Video sound Unlike professional film cameras nearly all video cameras have the ability to record muti-track, DAT quality sound onto the same tape as the images, and in perfect sync. This greatly simplifies the production and editing processes of video filmmaking compared to film production. There are three big caveats the beginning filmmaker needs to be aware of. First is that most amateur level video cameras have very low quality sound pre-amplifiers which means that the sound captured is 48khz, 16-bit stereo just like DAT, but will probably have hiss and distortion that would not by added by a professional level video camera. Second is that most amateur level video cameras only offer automatic gain control. This means the camera is constantly trying to adjust the volume of sound capture based on how loud the sound is, resulting in possible distortion due to sudden loud noises and picking up too much background

noise when there is little other sound to pick up. Professional production requires being able to set a sound level for capture and keep it constant. Third is that the microphone built into the camera, even the most expensive professional camera, will not get good enough sound for filmmaking. The reason is simply that the built-in microphone will be too far from the actors to register the sound clearly without also picking up an excess of room noise and reverberation. Such poor sound quality is often the most obvious sign of a really amateur production. It doesn't work. You must have a separate, quality microphone that you can get as close as possible to the actors. Video editing Video editing is easily done on relatively inexpensive personal computers. Digital non-linear editing allows the editor to experiment far beyond what what was ever possible with film editing, and the ability to apply digital enhancements goes far beyond what was possible even a decade ago, at any cost. Digital video editing will be covered more thoroughly in the postproduction section.

Film vs. Video, Video vs. Film Not long ago an independent filmmaker working on a very small budget would shoot 16mm black & white film. The cost savings were significant over 35mm color film. Black & white film is actually more expensive than color film anymore so that isn't an option for saving money. Today the choices of image capture technology are broader than ever but is it really any cheaper to shoot on video rather than film? The quick answer is: No. Equivalent camera packages cost about the same amount to rent whether video or film. You will need the same number of crew members and the same selection of lights, microphones, etc. With film you will pay $50,000 for film and processing up front. With video the tape is cheap but someone has to pay $50,000 to get the film transferred to 35mm film before the movie can be shown in commercial theaters. In the end you've paid the same amount for an equivalent production. Still, there are some important differences. Factors that favor video include:

The least expensive video cameras that can give you an acceptable image for making a movie is a lot less expensive than any 35mm camera. Capturing sound in sync with a video camcorder is an advantage over the separate capture and post production syncing necessary with film. The smallest video cameras can get into places a film camera won't fit. Video cameras can shoot 40 to 60 minutes or more on a single tape without interruption

compared to about 10 minutes maximum for film. This allows the actors to work longer on their performance, do longer and uninterrupted takes and not worry as much about mistakes. As soon as you yell "cut" you can review your shot. No film processing step. Editing can start at once without the expense of transferring from film to tape. The lowest possible budget video production will cost a lot less than the lowest budget 35mm shoot. You can defer the cost of transferring the video to film until your movie has been sold. If you end up going directly to DVD or cable then you don't have to pay to transfer to film.

Factors that favor film include:

Film is more tolerant of wide difference in the brightness of light in a scene therefore can be easier to light. Video usually requires more careful lighting to achieve the same effect. Film is capable of resolving more detail than any commonly available video format, approximating an 8 megapixel digital image. HD is at best about 1 to 2 megapixels depending on format. However by the time 35mm film has gone through all the processing and optical copying steps necessary to get it to the theater its resolution is not much better than 2 megapixels. 35mm film give less depth of field compared to video cameras which allows greater control of what the audience focuses on. Unless video is captured in an uncompressed format, which is very expensive and technically challenging, compression artifacts and loss of color detail can become obvious compared to 35mm film. Most D.P.s are used to working with film so the techniques are well understood and the work flow is well worked out. Video workflows are still evolving so the crew is having to learn as they go. Film has a "look", because of the grain, non-linear gamma and other subtle factors, that create an appearance and texture in the images that audiences associate with movies.

The bottom line is that if you really want the look of film and your D.P. wants to shoot on film then find a way to shoot 35mm film. If there is a look you can achieve only with video, portability is a factor, you need to defer as many costs as possible, you are going directly to DVD, you are doing a documentary and must shoot hundred of hours of images or you just have no money but want to make a movie then shoot on video. One is not better than the other. They are just different.

Filmmaking Cameras HDV seems to be the sweet spot for low-budget filmmakers at the moment.

There are a handful of "pro" models that are especially interesting. Although they don't all use true HDV technology they all use a form of High Definition recording that will deliver a detailed image the equal of traditional 16mm film or better onto the big screen if properly handled.

Canon XL H1 It's Superior Canon Optics and exceptional image processing give you a brilliant HD image. The XL H1 also features uncompressed HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) and SD-SDI (SMPTE 259M) output, as well as Genlock input and SMPTE time code input and output for multi-camera shoots. The XL H1 features total Cine control, customizable settings and a well-balanced design for the creative control, flexibility and advanced capability your video work demands. The XL H1 is starting to ship for USD$9,000.

Panasonic AG-HVX200 is the much anticipated replacement for the DVX-100. It supports recording the video directly to P2 solid-state memory cards. HD and SD video is recorded on the P2 card as IT-friendly MXF files that can be downloaded to a nonlinear editing system or server, or edited virtually instantly from the P2 card by connecting an IEEE 1394 or USB2.0 interface. P2 cards mount like a regular hard drive from a NLE system's point of view, which eliminates the time-taking task of digitizing footage. The AG-HVX200 is not an HDV camera. Panasonic has decided to go with their own DVCPRO standards instead. This revolutionary, hand-held P2 camcorder provides 1080i and 720p recording with the production proven image quality of 100 Mbps DVCPRO HD. The AG-HVX200 records on a P2 card in 1080 in 60i, 30p and 24p; in720 in 60p, 30p and 24p; in 480 in 60i, 30p, and 24p either in DVCPRO50 and DVCPRO. On the newly-announced 8G P2 card, the AG-HVX200 records for 32 minutes in DVCPRO or DV, 20 minutes in 720p/24, 16 minutes in DVCPRO50, and eight minutes in 1080i/60 and 720p/60. $6,000 without memory cards.

JVC GY-HD100U has many of the features professional videographers have been waiting for in order to migrate to HDV. The GY-HD100U utilizes three newly developed 1/3-inch CCD image sensors, each one featuring an array of 1280x720 pixels. The camera includes a standard detachable 16x Servo Fujinon HD lens. Other available lens options include a 13x (3.5mm) wide zoom HD lens, a wideangle converter for the standard 16x lens, and an adapter allowing standard -inch lenses to be used on the camera. You also get 2 XLR audio inputs with independent controls for each channel. The GY-HD100U's unique compact shoulder design locates camera and viewfinder controls on the left side of the unit. The specially designed Fujinon HD lens provides automatic or manual iris control, with smooth servo zoom and backfocus adjustment. A convenient IEEE1394 interface permits simple, quick connection to an external dual media recording option, a PC or NLE for easy downloading, and editing or archiving. Under $6,000.

Sony HVR-Z1U. 1/3-Inch 3-CCD HDV Professional Widescreen Mini Camcorder, Records and Plays HDV, DVCAM and DV Formats, HD and SD Down Convert, NTSC/PAL. Blurring the line between consumer and professional video cameras Sony has created the HVR-Z1U camcorder. It adheres to the HDV Consortium's specifications for 1080i recording on popular DV mini cassettes. The HDV video standard will provide about double the resolution of the old standard DV formats. It records and plays in DVCAM, consumer DV (SP mode), and the HDV formats. You may use the LCD screen simultaneously with the viewfinder. The design of the camera is aimed directly at the filmmaker, the most modern event video producers and even widescreen news shooters. Because it records in high definition and standard definition modes it can be used in a variety of production scenarios that may change from client to client or evolve over time. It is NTSC and PAL system compatible as well. $5,000.

Sony HVR-A1U. Uses a single 1/3-Inch imaging chip. Professional HDV Camcorder with 3-Million Pixel CMOS Imager, DVCAM and Mini DV Recording

Options, Professional Audio Inputs and Time Code. The Sony HVR-A1U is the entry level HDV camcorder that records high definition video as well as DVCAM and DV standarddefinition video. The camera uses a single three million pixel CMOS chip to capture images. The use of a CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) chip allows the camera to capture amazing high quality images while consuming less battery power and making the camera smaller overall. The Enhanced Imaging Processor (EIP), a Sony created technology, enables the camcorder to capture and process high-definition video and high resolution still images with the highest levels of contrast and detail. $2,700. For high-end digital filmmaking the choices are:

Sony HDW-F900/3 Cine Alta. The HDW-F900 CineAlta camcorder is capable of capturing images at 24/25/30 frame progressive or 50/60 interlace at 1080 resolution. The HDW-F900h utilizes a 2.2 Mega Pixel FIT CCD and comes equipped with various gamma curves for superior imaging. The camcorder features dual filter wheels, comprehensive software adjustment parameters for superior image control. Memory Stick setup system saves and recalls various parameter settings. $91,100.

Panasonic HDC27F Varicam. The AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema Camera brings variable frame rate acquisition to the DVCPRO HD product line up. This is the first high definition production camera that is capable of variable frame rate at the touch of a button. Individual frame rates may be selected from: 4-fps to 60fps in single frame increments. Frame rates may be changed during recording. Designed as a high quality production camera, this native 720p camcorder can be used for 60-fps or the film-like 24-fps acquisition. When acquiring for 24-fps projects, higher than 24-fps operation can be processed for slow motion effects while slower than 24-fps operation can be processed to speed up motion. Additionally, the variable frame rates and related variable shutter speeds create some very interesting ghost like motion blur effects, warp speed zoom effects, and long exposure still shots typical of what one might see in music

videos, sci-fi dramas and dream sequences. $65,900. Which HD camera is best? Which HDV camera is best? A recent article in DV Magazine compared four of the recent "pro" HDV cameras against each other and against the Panasonic HDC27F Varicam and the Sony HDW-F900/3 CineAlta. Surprisingly when tested for resolution, image quality and light sensitivity, the six cameras were more alike than they were different. The two much more expensive cameras had better images than the much less expensive HDV units but the difference was much less than the hype would suggest. The four HDV cameras were also much more alike, in terms of picture quality, than they were different. There are obvious differences in these cameras in terms of features, lens quality, ruggedness and suitability to purpose but the testers concluded: "We came away convinced that any of the cameras would do a creditable job in the hands of a skilled user, and that the choice of camera should be made more on features and ergonomics than on image quality." Mini-DV equipment is available for filmmakers on an even lower budget. You may be able to get a deal purchasing or renting. Top models are:

Panasonic AG-DVX100 Sony DSR-PD150

For 16mm filmmaking some top choices include:


Aaton A_Minima a small, light-weight super-16 camera just write for independent film production. Arriflex 16 SR3 has been around for more than 20 years but with the latest lenses this is a quality work-horse piece of equipment. Idonoskop A-Cam is an extremely tiny hand-held camera holding enough film for 2 minutes of shooting.

And for 35mm:


Aaton 35-III Arri 235 Panavision Millennium

Camera tripods and other camera supports

High quality tripods and tripod heads are available from:


Bogen/Manfrotto Gitzo Slik

For filmmaking it is important to use a very stable tripod and fluid head. Fluid heads use a sealed chamber containing oil or other dampening material to give the head a very smooth movement.

Filmmaking Microphones Your audio workhorse will be your shotgun microphone, boom and mixer. In this illustration the boom operator stands out of the way to the right while he suspends the microphone over the actors trying to get as close as possible without the boom casting a shadow or getting into the camera's field of view.

For outdoor filming a "long shotgun" is preferred. It gives the most directional pickup of sound to get the clearest reproduction of the actor's dialog while reducing the amount of ambience noise picked up. Long shotguns tend to pick up too much echo when used indoors so a short shotgun or cartioid microphone is generally preferred. Top long shotguns good for picking up clear dialog at a distance of 4-5 feet include:

Sennheiser MKH816 A/T AT4071a ($1000 list) A/T AT815a is less expensive

Top short shotguns good for picking up clear dialog at a distance of 2-3 feet include:

Sennheiser 416 ($1040) A/T AT4073a ($850 list) Sennheiser K3U/ME80 ($500) A/T AT835B ($240)

The boom pole consists of the boom itself, generally made of fiberglass, a shock mount to isolate the microphone from handling vibration, a wind blimp cover and cable. A lavalier microphone might be used if it isn't practical to use a boom, for example in a long shot where the boom can't get close to the actors without being in the shot. Lavaliers are tiny microphone that can be hidden in the actors clothing or taped to the side of their face away from the camera. Most lavaliers have an omni-directional pickup so must be placed very close to the actor's mouth to get clean sound. They are also very sensitive to picking up wind and clothing noise. Some industry standard lavalier mikes include:

Sony ECM-55 Sony ECM-30 is newer, cheaper and also very popular ECM-44B ($255list) is a good compromise of sounding good with voice but less bothered by wind and can be farther from the sound source.

For mixing with popular boom mikes:


Sennheiser MKE-2 ($240) A/T MT830 Sony ECM-77B

Other highly recommended lavaliers include:


Sony ECM-77B ($465 list) AT MT830R ($155) Sennheiser K2 lav Shure WL50 lav

Radio, or wireless, transmitter/receivers are used, usually in combinations with lavaliers, when it is not possible to run a wire from the actors to the sound recording device. This can happen when the actors are walking and talking at the same time and a boom can't be used. Radio transmitters are very sensitive to electrical interference and dropouts and are the last choice for picking up sound. Lectrosonic wireless systems are generally considered to be among the best but most of the top microphone manufacturers make high quality wireless transmitters/receivers. Often a matching lavalier microphone is bundled with the wireless transmitter to make a complete solution.

Audio Mixers Audio mixers balance and control the signal strength of the microphones as the sound is passed on to the recording device. Some recording devices have some ability to control the sound volume built in but it is always better to have a separate mixer that a dedicated sound technician can use. Good mixers include:

Samson Mixpad 4, about $200, battery operated Mackie 1202VLZ PRO 12 Channel Mixer with 4 Mic Inputs, about $300, requires A/C Shure FP-33 Stereo Mixer, about $1,300, battery operated

Filmmaking Lights Companies manufacturing lighting equipment of interest to filmmakers include:


Arri Lowel Mole-Richardson Smith-Victor

Also see the Production page on Lighting for the various techniques involved in film lighting.

Movie expendables and general supplies you might want to have on set Use this list as a starting point for your list of expendables to have available

at all times.

Absorbents, paper towels Adhesive sprays Barricade ribbon "caution" Batteries Contact cleaner Dust masks First Aid Fluorescent light bulbs French chalk (talcum powder) Gloves Grip bags Hand tools, hammer, screwdrivers, etc. Heaters, electrical or gas/propane Janitorial supplies, broom, dustpan, rags Ladders Liquid wrench Markers Oil absorbent Paper, brown kraft #40 roll Plaster, casting 20 minute Plaster, dental 6 minute Rain gear, ponchos and tarps to cover equipment Razor blades Respirators Rope Snow, plastic artificial Sponges Stretch wrap 18" Tape, gaffers, masking, packing Tongue depressors Wd-40

The Method In order to play a role the actor must understand what their Overall Objective is. The thing they want more than anything else. They must also understand the character's Previous Circumstances, their personal history that determine how they got be to who they are and how they behave.

They must have a Scene Objective for each scene they are playing which may or may not be related to their Overall Objective. How they play the scene will be influenced by the Moment Before the scene started. While they are acting the scene they will be engaged in Doings because people are always doing some kind of Business. Their character will be dealing with Obstacles stopping them from achieving their objectives. The greater the Obstacles the greater the intensity of the scene. To get fully into the character the actor must use Substitution, endowing the other actors and props with the memory of real people and objects from their lives. This causes the actor to remember the emotions associated with those real people and objects. The actor must maintain an Inner Monologue and think of Inner Objects to help them stay in the scene. They must endow the Place where they are acting with real places they are familiar with so they can feel a sense of reality in their mind. They also build a mental Fourth Wall across where the audience is watching them so they can feel privacy. Each change of thought in a scene is a Beat, usually associated with Actions. If all of this sounds complicated, it is. For most actors it takes years of study and almost constant practice before these techniques can become second nature. When you as a beginning director say "Act sad!" the actor must translate that simple request into a Scene Objective with Obstacles using Substitution, endow a place and create a Fourth Wall, create Doings, an Inner Monologue, and so on and so forth. If you can learn to think like your actors are thinking, and talk in their language you will be a better director and they can be better, and happier, actors.

Casting actors for your independent film Next to having a great screenplay and a clear vision, casting great actors is the best thing you can do to improve the odds of your film succeeding. Casting good actors is 80% of the directing process because once you

have cast actors who understand what they are doing the directors job is almost done. Nothing is worse for the director than having prima-donna actors who can't act, won't follow directions, show up late if at all, are dishonest and quit just when you need them. Casting directors If you have the money hire a Casting Director. Casting directors make it their business to know lots of actors and actor's agents. The best ones have access to a vast number of actors. They don't hire the actors. They bring them to you to audition. Casting directors know the SAG rules, how much an actor wants to be paid and will help you negotiate the contract. The casting director is a member of the creative team. A good one will understand storytelling, will "get" your vision for the film and be excited by it, will have a positive attitude and high regard for actors, will have access to the best talents and agents and will be able to negotiate on your behalf. The best casting directors will figure out a way to get that one special talent despite the fact that they demand more than you can pay and are already booked. Use a casting director who is local to where you are casting the film. The greatest New York casting director won't do you much good if you are looking for actors in Chicago. You can locate casting directors through Breakdown Services, Ltd. The Casting Society of America (CSA) issues a quarterly directory of casting directors. Of course, casting directors want to get paid for their services so if you are doing a very low-budget indie, your can probably forget using casting directors. If you can find one that is hungry enough they may work for a reduced fee but they probably won't have the experience or reputation to be able to access the best actors. Breakdown Services, Ltd. Breakdown Services, Ltd. provides the service of "breaking down" your script into a synopsis and cast list. The breakdown sheets will be sent to casting directors, actors agents and personal managers who will pay Breakdown Services a share of their commission if they get any of their actors cast in your film. Breakdown Services will require that your film has solid financing behind it however so if you're paying for your film with credit cards and your rich aunt's generosity you can probably forget Breakdown Services. Also, when Breakdown Services distributes sheets for you film you will suddenly be visible to the unions who may start to pressure you to only use

union actors and crews. If you're operating on a small budget you won't be able to afford to go union yet. What's the small indie to do? Part of your job as an independent filmmaker is to always be on the lookout for actors. Attend local theater productions. Large cities with any kind of theater going on will have stage actors who would love a chance to break into film. Even smaller communities will have some wannabe actors. In a pinch you can try casting friends, family and interesting people you meet. Most people are willing to give acting a try. The lure of possible stardom works to your benefit. Ask other filmmakers and ask the actors you find to recommend other actors. Find local bulletin boards at colleges, community centers, churches and shopping centers where you can put up notices, or run ads in local papers. There are online casting services where you can advertise for the roles you need. Many of them let you place ads for free and the actors pay to get access to the listings. ExtrasForMovies.com has national listings of upcoming auditions where filmmakers can post their auditions for free. In the San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers can use Bay Area Casting or Casting Connection to post a project and connect with actors. Don't put your phone number in the ad because you may be inundated with calls. List your address and E-mail. Ask prospective actors to send their resume and glossy. All actors have a resume of acting jobs and training they've had. They also have an 8x10 black and white glossy photo. The entertainment business is the only business where you don't have to be entirely politically correct in your hiring practices. If your script calls for a crippled dwarf and a beautiful blue-eyed blonde to have sex then that's what you can advertise for and no one can sue you for being biased if they don't meet your qualifications. Based on the experience they list and what they look like on the glossy you can decide if you want them to audition. E-mail or call them and set up a time when they can audition.

Try to get references and call them to find out how other directors and filmmakers feel about their acting ability and willingness to cooperate. The SAG question Once upon a time actors had about the worst working conditions and job security of any profession. The Screen Actors Guild was formed to provide protection and fair compensation for movie actors. SAG has become very powerful with ever increasing demands for higher pay and benefits for the members actors. This has forced many producers to work in Canada and other countries where all costs are lower and they can limit having to deal with SAG. The fact is that there are always far more actors wanting work than there is work to do. Only a tiny percentage of actors actually make a living by acting. You do not need to use SAG actors. A SAG actor is probably a lot better than your cousin but not necessarily. But if the actor you're interested in is a member of SAG you can still hire them. Many SAG actors will work for free or at least less than SAG minimums. SAG knows it and mostly turns a blind eye because they know actors need the work and need the practice and credits to get ahead. They almost never step in unless a member actor complains to them about how they are being treated. You won't get in trouble if you use a SAG actor and don't pay them the minimum rate if they agree to work under your terms. It's not your problem. Actors won't get in trouble unless they are very blatant in flaunting the rules. If you think you can afford it check with SAG about their various low-budget agreements. The ultra-low budget (under $200,000 budget) allows for SAG actors to be paid $100 per day, plus benefits and a lot of paper work. A short film agreement allows for SAG actors to work for free on short films, under 35 minutes,.with a budget of less than $50,000 as long as the film isn't sold. Never sign a SAG agreement under your own name. If you do you are bound for life to always abide by union rules and use union workers on all your films. Form a limited liability company and sign in the name of the company if you decide to work with SAG. When your film is done you dissolve the limited liability company and you are no longer obligated to SAG. All indies work this way.

Finally,it complete..