Saturday, February 24, 2007

Filmmaking - What Is A Pro?

The word “Professional” is often bandied about by indy filmmakers, and I’ve heard and read many things I just wouldn’t expect a “Pro” to say, though the person writing or saying them claims to be one. Time for a definition of terms.

Question: What qualifies a person to be a Pro?

Answer: Paycheck.

That's the short answer, but anything longer is just embellishment. It's one thing to make movies. It's a whole different animal to get somebody to cut you a good check, for the work you've done.

Paycheck is more important than anything to a Professional, because you have to eat and pay bills, or you can't function, much less create pleasing Art.

Question: How does a person become a Pro?

Answer: By adopting a Pro attitude. The Pro attitude is “I work in the movie business. I do good work, and I must be paid for it.” This is regardless of the budget of his current Project, whether it is high or low.

Some don’t become a Pro until many paychecks, but you can have a Pro attitude right now, even if you’ve never been paid for doing your art. If you adopt the Pro attitude now, you multiply your effectiveness many times, and shorten the time until those paychecks come in.

A person with a Pro attitude has aligned his brain cells and unconscious mind, so every action and thought is geared toward one outcome - to be paid for his work, what his work is worth. This has many benefits, chiefly the quality of his work improves.

You can take years to get a Pro attitude, or you can do it right away. I recommend you read a book with a funny name by Stuart Lichtman, an expert on the human brain from MIT.

Another great book on developing a Pro attitude is Napoleon Hill's classic "Think And Grow Rich." It’s free in the library, or get it here online.

They are both good books. Stuart’s is like a series of games, so it’s almost effortless, and it will improve every aspect of your life. Napoleon's classic book takes a while, and you have to muscle it through by will power, but it’s great.

Once you've adjusted your attitude, your unconscious mind will steer your every action and memory, every skill you have, and those you need to learn, toward delivering what you need to do your job, and be paid your paycheck.

Once you do, your natural love of your Art has a chance of being fulfilled. Until you do, you're just floundering.

You may disagree with my brutal bottom-line assessment of what a Pro is. You may feel a Pro isn't defined by a paycheck. To you a Pro might be merely a person with a lot of experience in a certain area, or a person with a natural talent.

Well, “Professional” is defined,

"Pro*fes"sion*al, n. A person who prosecutes anything professionally, or for a livelihood, and not in the character of an amateur; a professional worker." -- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,
© 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Unless he has a paycheck, his "lot of experience" just makes him a hobbyist. By definition, a hobbyist is not a Professional anything. There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, or an “amateur,” (which means you do something “for the love of it”), but generally, amateur quality is not up to a Pro standard.

It’s common to say, "You have so much talent, you're a real Pro," but even natural talent, practiced and refined, won’t be Pro until one’s work quality is good enough to motivate another to pay him for it.

While skill and/or talent certainly are important, the defining quality of a Professional is payment.

Think “paycheck.” May you earn many big ones.

About the Author:

Sam Longoria is a Hollywood producer, working in film since 1970, in a variety of jobs. His work graces several Oscar-nominated films, and one Oscar winner. Sam teaches Independent Producing at © 2005 Sam Longoria, All Rights Reserved. You may forward this in its entirety to anyone you wish. Hollywood Seminars, Box 2449, Hollywood CA 90078 USA

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Shooting a Music Video - An Experience

My experience of shooting a music video summed up in a paragraph.

Everything is rythm. Forget about space and continuity! Get a decent looking performer/actor as the main subject of your video. Do some good framing and composition, a nice theme for your video which can be connected to its music, good choreography, and then all the job is at the editing table. Just cut in rythm, according to the beats of the music. Put in dissolves and fades wherever they look good, or wherever you have bad footage. I found shooting a music video to be quite an easy excercise after all when compared to directing a fiction film.

Let me know if I'm wrong or missed any points.

Digital Filmmaking

Monday, February 12, 2007

Filmmaking Cool But Not Easy

As I'm grappling with directing student film projects in the final year at my film school, I'm realizing that filmmaking is not really a piece of cake, especially when you're the director.

I have done the following projects as part of my three year filmmaking course:

* Mise En Scene (a 2 minute short without dialogue and without cuts, bg music allowed)
* Continuity (short based on the same concept as mise en scene, but this time with cuts)
* Dialogue Excercise (A 3-5 min short film with dialogues and sound)
* Music Video (My most recent project, and I dont think there's anything to explain)

Shooting all these above projects as a director, it was quite an amazing and also mind boggling experience. Its changed my whole mindset on filmmakers and filmmaking! Earlier on, I used to laugh and comment on mistakes and other faults in movies, but now I've sobered up quite a bit.

To get you a hang of what made me change as such, I must say there was an enormous pressure on my head to make my films come out well. And well, my first 2 projects (mise en scene and continuity respectively) which were quite simultaneously done, got me a good hang of this pressure. I had to face lots of problems while shooting them, which I had never quite expected:

- For one, it was a very hot afternoon with a blazing sun, and so the camera was catching an excessive amount of light - making the scene look quite burnt. Any color that came directly under the sun would just look white in the camcorder's LCD!
- Besides this, one of my actors just did not turn up. Also, he conveniently remebered to switch off his cellphone so that we could not contact him.
- Thirdly (and this was quite my mistake) , I was not able to use the crap dolly because my location floor was unsmooth in many areas. So I had to take hand-held shots for tracking movements, and obviously it did not come out very smooth.

Being the director of the film, all the above things almost deranged me that day. But now when I look back, I think it was quite a learning experience. And I've realized how important it is for a filmmaker to keep his cool in the face of adversity during a shoot.

But I am quite tense about my final project, the short film about which I've already mentioned in an earlier post. Still working on its pre-production phase.

PS: I wish I could show you my projects but we're not allowed to take them out of college until we pass out! Sad n Bad!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Preparing for My Student Short Film

Hello Readers of DFB. I apologise for the irregular posting I've had to resort to these days. Since its the final semester of my filmmaking course, life is at its busiest and most hectic phase.

We are 8 students in one batch, and all of us would be given the opportunity to conceptualize and direct a short film of upto 30 mins on DV, but provided that we submit our proposal (that includes idea, synopsis, step outline, screenplay, and shot breakdown) by the February 15th, and I'm racing against time to complete all formalities.

I will post more about my short film once I submit the proposal. I'm quite confident that it will be approved and cleared for shooting. The actual production will take place some time in mid-March, and I'm already getting the goosebumps!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Taking Care of Your Camcorder - II

This post on "taking care of your camcorder" is a continuation of the previous post on digital filmmaking blog.

Cleaning the Camcorder

Some camcorders react badly to being cleaned with benzine or thinners. The body casing can be deformed as a result. Use a soft cloth with mild, dilute detergent mixed with water. Wring out the cloth until nearly dry before use. Never clean the camera while the battery or mains supply is attached.

Clean lenses rarely, and with great care. Avoid getting the lens dirty. Try fitting a protective clear UV filter (semi) permanently to the front of the lens if the camera has a filter thread fitted. You can always buy another cheap filter when it gets damaged.

Cleaning the video recording heads is advised, but with care. Sometimes, after a lot of use, dirt and tape particles build up on the video heads, obstructing perfect quality recording. Some cameras tell you when this is happening, with a display on the monitor. To clean the heads, get hold of a cleaning cassette, which cleans as it plays. But don't do this too often, the cleaning cassette is an abrasive cleaner.

Camera Battery Care
Batteries for many camcorders work by generating electricity through a chemical reaction, using lithium. The reaction is easily affected by temperature and humidity, and impedes the amount of power you get from it. At very cold temperatures, a battery may have its life-span cut down to just 5 minutes, while high temperatures may cause the battery to switch off for some time.

Using the LCD monitor

Temperature will affect picture quality on an LCD monitor. When cold, the picture is darker than usual, even in reasonable climates. After a while the ambient heat of the camera is enough to rectify this, but bear it in mind if you use the monitor in cold environments. Over 100 000 pixels are used on these monitors but less than 1 per cent will be inactive, sometimes affecting picture quality. Don't worry about this as it does not affect recorded picture quality.

Remember that using the LCD monitor will run down the power in the battery much faster than if you use only the viewfinder; a one hour life-span is reduced to 30 minutes when using the monitor.