Tonight, 38 teams of Cleveland filmmakers will begin making short films in just 48 hours.
For the past 11 years, this has been my favorite day of the year.
It’s hard to describe the energy of getting a few hundred people together, knowing that they will all be working their butts off this weekend, and that come Sunday night there will be 38 new films to share with the world. It’s electric, and inspiring.
Tonight is why I do this year after year.
This year is particularly exciting because there are so many new teams. They don’t know what they’re in for, and I don’t know what to expect from them. But that is part of what makes this all so damn fun!
Most of the people on those teams are probably not a part of this email list. But I know that a few of them are.
So, I thought I’d share some last minute advice to get them through the weekend.
And of course, this advice is for all of you, even if you don’t happen to be making a film this weekend.
So here they are, the “secrets” that I’ve learned from watching hundreds of filmmakers do this for more than a decade…
* Keep it simple – the best films I’ve ever seen have been based on a simple concept that is done really well. Small casts, few locations, no big special effects or complicated plots…take a simple idea, do it very well. * Remember that filmmaking is about telling a story – the story has to come first. Make sure that it makes sense, that it’s interesting, and that it will engage the audience. No amount of expensive gear, great cinematography, or stellar special effects can cover up a bad story. * Your actors can always give you more than they’re giving you, but you have to know how to get it from them – many newer directors are afraid to work with actors. They feel like they don’t have the experience, so they have no business giving actors direction on set. Get this out of your head right now. This is why the acting feels flat or just plain bad in so many independent films. Your actors can always give you more–in fact, they want to give you more. Don’t be afraid to push them. Tell them up front that you are going to push them, and that you’ll be having them do each take multiple times, even if they nail it on the first take. This way they won’t be afraid to experiment. And you won’t be afraid to push them. Have them try something different each take…it doesn’t matter what. You can give them suggestions if they get stuck. And all of this applies to “non-actors” as well. Acting is simply saying words and reacting to whatever situation the character is in at that moment, nothing more. We have all been in these situations before, or something similar, so we know how we would react (or we can imagine how we would react). Don’t be afraid to remind actors and non-actors of this. * Bad sound will ruin your film – Having bad sound is much, much worse than not having great sound. Think that over. If you don’t have access to a great sound person or great equipment, then your number one goal for audio is simply to not have BAD audio. Control your environment. Don’t shoot outside where it’s windy, or near crowded intersections, or in places where there’s a lot of background noise. If you only have the mic on your camera, you should use the voice recording feature on someone’s iPhone as a second option. Hide it somewhere as close as possible to whomever is speaking–you will get much better audio. Use a clapper or clap your hands before each take so you have a marker to help sync up the audio tracks. When it comes to editing, take your video (with the camera mic audio track) and put it in your editing software first, then make the audio from your iPhone as a separate track. SYNC THE TWO AUDIO TRACKS FIRST either manually or by using something like Plural Eyes. Unsync the camera mic audio track from your video–this will allow you to treat your video and audio as two separate tracks (so you have three tracks–video, camera mic audio, and iPhone audio). Each time you make a cut, delete the camera mic audio track so your iPhone audio becomes the ONLY audio for that cut–then group the iPhone audio track and video track together so they stay synced up. Repeat this for each cut. You now have clean, synced audio. * Start editing on Saturday – it takes a long time to import footage. Make sure someone is running an SD card or drive of raw footage back to your editor every couple of hours. Have them log it and start assembling a rough cut. * Export a rough cut as soon as possible – once you have all of your film, in order, export a rough cut. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t done color correcting, or sweetened the audio, or added special effects. It’s better to have SOMETHING that is finished enough to tell your story, that you could turn in if you had to. That way if you have problems in post later, you still have a rough cut you could turn in if you wanted to. * If something really isn’t working, move on – figure out a different way to do it. Remember, time is not on your side, so if an idea isn’t working out, simply cut it or find a different way to do it. * Feed your cast & crew – people will give you 100% the entire weekend, as long as you treat them well and make sure they are well fed. Hunger is the fastest way to make everyone hate you. Trust me on this. * Start your credits before Sunday – everyone loves to see their name up on the big screen, especially when they’ve put in so much time & effort in a short period of time. Nothing ruins that experience more for someone than being left out of the credits or seeing their name misspelled. Download the free Producer’s Kit ( el2.convertkit-mail2.com/c/r8uo22kmx0bohvk2d2/e0hph0/aHR0cDovLzQ4aG91cmZpbG0uY29tL3Byb2R1Y2Vycy1raXQ= ) from the 48HFP website and find the Credits Template inside. Use this as a guide to keep track of everyone’s names and what they did over the weekend. Have your editor start working on the credit sequence during some down time on Saturday when they’re waiting to get raw footage from you. * Remember, this is supposed to be fun – by all means treat the 48HFP as a serious filmmaking exercise, but don’t forget to have fun. That’s the most important thing we want you to walk away with, an awesome fun, experience. And don’t forget that everyone on your team may not treat this with the same seriousness that you’ll want them to. Get over it. They are donating their time and talent to help you make a film. You should encourage them to take things seriously, but you also HAVE to let them have fun doing this.
There are of course hundreds of other things I could tell you about this experience, but if you remember these, you are almost guaranteed to have a great time and walk away with a film you can be proud of.
If you’re not actually taking part in this weekend’s filmmaking craziness, you can follow along on your favorite social media channel by searching for #CLE48HFP. Or join our Facebook group–teams often post behind the scenes photos and videos throughout the weekend, and it’s a great place to meet some awesome film people and network.
The link is www.facebook.com/groups/cleveland48hfp ( el2.convertkit-mail2.com/c/r8uo22kmx0bohvk2d2/75u7h2/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tL2dyb3Vwcy9jbGV2ZWxhbmQ0OGhmcA== ).
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P.S. Want to be part of a community of filmmakers and actors that are excited to learn more? Join our FREE facebook community at www.facebook.com/groups/GorillaFilmSchool ( el2.convertkit-mail2.com/c/r8uo22kmx0bohvk2d2/zefgh7/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tL2dyb3Vwcy9Hb3JpbGxhRmlsbVNjaG9vbA== ).
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