I’ve never considered myself a religious person.

And please don’t misunderstand me here–I’m not about to launch into a long diatribe on religion. The whole analogy will make sense by the time we finish, if you just hear me out.

And while I’ve never been what I would call a religious person, and maybe I’ve even thought some of the apocalyptic stories I’ve heard throughout the years were complete nonsense.

But nonetheless, it’s hard not to take a look at what is happening in the world right now and wonder if the “end of times” is near.

I mean, think about it:

And these are all just the stories that have broken over the last few days.

Setting Up Your Home Video Studio

Low Budget (under $50 plus smartphone)


your iPhone or smartphone


shoot in front of a window with indirect sunlight, preferably with sheer curtains

Medium Budget (under $300)


Logitech C920 HD webcam
basic lightweight tripod

Additional Items:

rip stop or opaque vinyl shower curtain clothespins Use clothespins to attach rip stop or shower curtain to front of clamp lights-this will help to diffuse the lights and give it a softer, more flattering look

High Budget ($1200 and up)


Nikon D3300


2 light continuous lighting setup with softboxes


backdrop stand

Editing Software

Windows Movie Maker
Windows, free
Adobe Premier Pro                                     Wndows/Mac, $19.99/month

Mac, free
Final Cut Pro X                                                              Mac, $299

Editing, Exporting, and Delivering Video Auditions


Premier Pro

  1. Go to File-->New-->Project to start a new project   2. On pop-up screen, Name your project, choose a location on your computer for it to be saved, and set drop down menus as pictures below. Then press OK.     3. Go to File-->New-->Sequence to start a new sequence. In most instances, your settings on the pop-up menu will be to select HDV-->HDV 1080p24 (this will make your clip a widescreen format at 24 frames per second). If your clip was shot in a lower resolution (like 720p) then select the HDV-->720p24 setting. Name your sequence, then press OK. Leave all other settings as they are.     4. Go to File-->Import and then navigate on your computer to find your video clip. Press OK and then clip will open up in Premier like below.   5. In the top left project panel, double click the video clip you want to edit. The video will appear in the Source panel in the top middle panel. Here, you can use the play/stop button and the step up one frame/step back one frame buttons to navigate throughout your clip. Use the ‘Mark In’ button that looks like { to choose where you’d like the clip to start. Use the ‘Mark Out’ button that looks like } to choose where you’d like the clip to end.   6. Drag the marked video clip from the top left Project panel down to your bottom right Sequence panel. The new clip will only contain the section that you’ve marked In and Out. You may get a Clip Mismatch Warning--that pop-up will appear if the video clip settings (frame rate and size) don’t match your sequence settings. Select “change sequence settings” to make sure your final clip matches the settings you shot it in.   7. Repeat this process for any additional video clips or takes. Always send at least two different takes of an audition unless specified otherwise (you only need to slate once at the beginning). If you have multiple takes within the same clip, simply mark new In and Out points in the Source Panel on your clip, drag the new clip down to the sequence, and place it behind the first clip in your timeline.   8. In your sequence panel, drag the first clip so that it begins somewhere between 1 and 2 seconds (see the time codes at the top of the Sequence panel. Drag additional clips so they are immediately behind the first. Note that for each clip, there are two parts that move together--your video file in the top and audio file in the bottom. It is possible to Unlink the audio from the video so they can be moved independently, but I don’t recommend doing that for something like this. 9. To preview your video, drag the blue arrow in the Sequence box back to 0 seconds. Then in the top right Preview panel, press Play to view.   10. Go to File-->Export-->Media. In the Export screen, you can scrub through (view quickly) the video using the slider on the bottom right. Make sure all of your clips were exported correctly. In the top right Export settings, go to Format and select H.264 and go to Preset and select Match Source - High bitrate. Make sure both Export Video and Export Audio boxes are checked. All other presets can remain the same. Press Export at the bottom of the panel. Your video will be exported as an MP4 file. 11. From here you could upload the clip to Youtube or Vimeo to send a URL of the video audition. If you need to upload the file, see if there are restrictions on the file size. Definitely do NOT try to email a video file larger than 10MB, as this is too large for most email clients to handle. Check the size of your video file by navigating to its location on your computer desktop, selecting the file and then hovering your mouse above the file--the file size will appear in the bottom of the window. Most video auditions will be measured in MB--if the file is less than 1,000Kb then it’s too small, and if it’s more than 1,000MB (or any size GB), it’s too large (to put it in perspective, a 4-7 minute short film shot in HD and properly compressed into an MP4 file is about 500MB--your audition clip will likely be much smaller than that). If you mess up and send a super large file, most casting directors or clients won’t even bother taking the time to try and download the audition.

Other Video Editing Systems

For all video editing systems, keep export settings as MP4 format, H.264 video codec, and AAC audio codec to get the highest quality video and audio in a low file size.

Windows Movie Maker


Final Cut X

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About a year and a half ago, when I first had the idea to do a podcast about filmmakers, Dustin Lee and Jon Jivan from Maple Films are the first guys I thought of to be guests. They’ve been long time participants of the 48 Hour Film Project in Cleveland. They took the Cleveland film scene by storm with their first entry in the 48HFP, “Transistor”, and ended up winning the Best Film award that year and moving on to Filmapalooza. Since then, Maple Films has been “the team to beat”, winning numerous awards each time they make a film.

Because of their early success, Maple Films was asked to take part in a special filmmaking invitational produced by the 48HFP and sponsored by A&E. From this competition they made their film “Super Pimp”, which ended up winning the A&E Reality Show contest and went on to win the Filmslam Audience Choice Award at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival.

I’ve worked with a lot of creative people throughout the years, and I’ve also listened to interviews with probably hundreds of people that work in film, acting, and the arts. Almost every single person cited one thing that they thought could be the biggest reason that artists and creative types get frustrated and burn out–something that many of them had suffered from themselves at some point in their lives.

Do you know what that one thing is?

The never-ending feeling that they need to please someone.

Have you felt it before? Probably. I know that I have. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt this at some point in their life, but it seems like creative people especially feel like they have something to prove.

Have any of these thoughts crossed your mind?

I can’t be successful if I’m not working in Hollywood.

If I don’t get this next gig then I’m a failure.

If I don’t make xxx amount of money from doing this, then what’s the point?

I’m embarrassed to tell my friends and family what I really want to do because they think it’s a dumb idea.

What filmmaker doesn’t want to have a better looking film?

Sure, filmmaking is about telling a story, and the story is the absolute most important part of any film, but great visuals can go a long way to help tell that story.

Directors like Stanley Kubrik, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, they all use stunning cinematography and camera work to help tell their story on film.

Now you may think that getting the kind of amazing images that these guys get in their films is something you need a huge Hollywood budget to do, but I’m here to tell you, that’s not true.

The truth is, many of the techniques that these and other directors use in their films are very basic. In fact, many of them are so simple that you can learn them right now, start using them TOMORROW, and instantly see better results in the look of your own films.

And the best part is, these are all techniques that you can learn without having to buy a lot of expensive gear or software. You can get started using these right now, for very little,