While creating my recent short film A Day in the Park, I learned a few things (meaning I made several mistakes). I decided to share some of the biggest mistakes (despite the fact that they betray my status as an FNG) so that you can be a little ahead of the curve if you haven’t run into these problems yet.
Make a Storyboard
I had honestly planned on storyboarding the entire film this time around, shot-for-shot. In the end I decided that since I had all of the shots planned out in my head it would be okay, but I missed out on a very important aspect of the storyboard. I didn’t really need the storyboard so much for planning, what I really needed it for was communication. For some reason I always assume that when I say how I want to shoot something, everyone automatically just shares my vision. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It seems that if I describe something to five different people, there will be six different versions (including my own) of that same idea that everyone is equally convinced is what the other people are thinking of.
Find More Actors
First of all I realize that finding good actors can be difficult –nigh impossible. Finding good actors isn’t really what I’m talking about, what I’m talking about is just having enough bodies that I don’t have to be doing double-duty behind and in front of the camera. I know I’m probably one of the worst actors in the world and since no-one on set will critique my work, I’m left with judging my performance on a 3-inch LCD. After seeing the transformation that my acting made from the camera’s LCD to my computer monitor, I’m convinced that anyone can act well enough for a screen of that size.
Get Audio References
This is another one that I had planned on doing, I even talked about it on-set with my audio guy but it slipped my mind before we got around to doing it.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, whenever you record dialogue on-set that you plan on using later, it’s a good idea to record a couple minutes of just silence. This silence can be used when you edit the dialogue together in post to cover up all of the true silence that is created between lines.
Give Good Direction
Of all the things on my list this is probably the one that I need to work on the most. I just get caught up with all the technical details of the production that I don’t pay enough attention to the actual performances. Also, it’s a challenge for me to get my friends to act in a film, then tell them –however politely– that they aren’t acting right.
Commit to Edit
Even though I edited the entire film –and thought I was satisfied with it– before I even thought of opening After Effects, I ended up fiddling around with the timing of everything while I was still compositing. Because of this I actually ended up doing composites that were never used. Considering that some of the composites could have really used a lot more work (I set a deadline for myself so that I wouldn’t be working on this project forever), I should have stuck with my original edit and improved the comps that were a little on the how-can-anyone-upload-that-crap end of the quality scale.