Friday, January 20, 2017

Things I learnt from filmmaking Part 1: Money, time and effort

I am pleased to say that my short film, Refuge, has had over 11,000 hits on Facebook and overall the feedback has been positive. We are looking at putting it onto Amazon Prime at some point and I am currently in the middle of the next project - another short film, but this time a sci-fi comedy.
"Um, what's that out the window?" Me Directing my first short.
My first time as a director was a massive learning curve for me, and unsurprisingly a lot of things went wrong along the way. This makes the fact that Refuge was actually finished almost a miracle.

I'm going to be writing up a few posts about my learning from the film making process. This post is all about money, time and effort:

It takes money, time and effort to make a film. The less of these things you put into making your film, chances are the lower the quality of the final product. Equally, the more of these things you have, the better your final product will likely be (although that's not necessarily a fullproof formula).

Between the three producers, about £300.00 was spent on the film. This covered things like travel and food and props. That is a ridiculously small amount but it was all we could afford – and for a lot of people even this would be too much. When anyone says they made a film for 'nothing' they're most likely lying. Even if no money exchanged hands, there's a cost to people's time and effort. We pulled in favours and used our own equipment and facilities, which is why we were able to spend just a few hundred pounds. Taking into consideration the real costs (if we had paid everyone, hired locations etc) the actual figure would probably be a couple of thousand pounds.

Time is always against you when it comes to making films. My understanding is that it takes a full day to capture about five minutes of screen time. The rule of thumb for making films is that each page of script equals one minute onscreen. The second film I worked on had about 12 pages and we only had one day to shoot, so we were having to do twice as much in the time given. Having finished a rough edit, and seeing that pretty much all of the shots are there, I'm amazed we got everything we needed. It didn't help the stress levels, though, and doesn't allow much time for setting up shots or for the actors to get their performance right. The other problem is that, had there been an emergency or other set back, we would most likely not been able to get everything shot. Not a great place to be in, especially when everyone is already giving up their free time to help you on your hair-brained project.

And then there's effort. Filmmaking is hard. I can't stress that enough. Most people have no idea how much work goes into making films, and in some way that's a good thing. You don't want an audience saying to themselves "how many people did it take to make that scene happen?" all through your movie. If they're so absorbed in the film they don't even think about stuff like that then you're doing something right. It requires many people to put a film on screen: writers, actors, directors, camera ops, producers, make-up artists, graders, sound recordists ... the list is endless. Sure, you can skimp on crew (and sometimes you have no choice), but that will inevitably affect the end result.

It can take years to write a script for a feature film, and on the face of it you might think that's a bit long for 20,000 words, but scripts don't just happen. They go through numerous rewrites, being honed, again and again until it's a good as it can be. Even when cameras start rolling, however, the script can be changed several times throughout the entire shoot.

And then there's putting the film together. Not just filming scenes, but also the editing – and the grading, special effects, foley (adding sound effects). The process is long and involved, not something you can throw together in a weekend. Saying that, people do make films in a very short space of time, but usually they have the resources to do so.

Of course, as implied earlier, you could have all the money, time and energy in the world available to you and still make a piece of crap.

There are other things you need to make something great (and I'll touch on that in a follow-up article), but a decent amount of time, money and effort put in to the mix are definitely a good start.

You can watch Refuge here:

And you can follow more of our efforts as Purple Hat Productions here:

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