Filmmakers are commonly taught to focus on story structure, plot, and formula while screenwriting, with scene writing usually falling into the background of the discussion. This lack of attention can lead to scenes that are underwritten or underdeveloped, and that ultimately won’t serve the story as a whole.
In this weeks episode, we shift the focus away from general screenwriting theory, and discuss the granular principles of scene writing – Constructs that are not only designed to push the story forward, but more importantly to evoke an emotional response in the audience. Topics covered include: introducing conflict, writing with theme in mind, creating emotional undercurrents, and much more.
Below is Episode 58: The 5 Key Elements Every Scene Hinges On
For the past year, I have been writing a new feature film called WHITE CROW, which is now in pre-production, set to shoot later this fall! Having just completed another feature, there was so much more I wanted to do this time around, and this particular story/concept felt like the perfect vehicle to do so with.
The film centers around a sickly young mother whose life unravels when she receives a heart transplant and begins taking on her donor’s characteristics and memories.
It’s a fascinating story that deals with an incredible subject matter that’s never before been explored on film… And I can not wait to get it out into the world!
As I outlined in this podcast about my writing process, it took almost a year to develop this idea creatively, but was unquestionably worth all the blood, sweat, and tears. WHITE CROW is hands down the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on, and we’re still in the very early days!
Given that this is a micro-budget film, we are going to use some really unique methods for producing, editing, and releasing the film into the world, all of which will be documented heavily on my blog.
My goal is to give each and every one of you an unfiltered look into the true behind the scenes experience of making this movie, so it can serve as a blueprint for your next feature. We will be shooting a behind the scenes documentary, setting up roundtable interviews with our cast and crew, sharing loads of BTS photos on social media, and so much more.
This is something I have always wanted to do with previous films, but never had the bandwidth or resources to execute. This time around though, we have a dedicated behind the scenes crew, so all the ups and downs of our process will be captured in their entirety!
To ensure we can produce this film without compromises (including releasing all of our behind the scenes material), I’ve decided to crowdfund a portion of our budget. I’ve always told myself I would wait for the perfect project if I were to ever run a crowdfunding campaign, and that time has finally come.
Almost two years ago, I decided I was tired of waiting around to make a feature film, and took matters into my own hands. I didn’t want to spend the better part of the next decade networking with financiers and crossing my fingers that someone would produce my film. I just wanted to create something right then and there, and with that intention, the journey of SHADOWS ON THE ROAD began.
Those of you that have been following my blog know how much of an experiment this film was. In December 2016 the concept was born over a casual lunch with my wife, with no conception of how quickly things would progress. Within two weeks we had a first draft of the script, and two short months later, we were already on set shooting.
The only way we could have made this project a reality was by taking risks, self-financing, and keeping our budget exceptionally low ($12,000 to be exact). This meant we worked with a skeleton crew of 3 – 4 people on most days, shot 90% of the locations guerrilla style, and used gear that we owned – notably my URSA Mini 4.6K and Sigma Cinema Lenses. There were no grip trucks, and in fact almost the entire movie was shot with natural light.
Production was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. We shot for 12 days (with a couple pickup days afterwards), and every single day was in a different location. Every location had issues – traffic, wind, security, accessibility, etc. – and each day posed its own challenges. There were nights when I would get home at 3am from shooting, and have to scramble to figure out where we were going to shoot the next day… I remember one particular night where I was desperately searching Google maps trying to find a meeting spot for the following morning, sent out the call sheet at about 4:30am, went to bed for a couple hours, and started it over again the next morning. It was chaos.
The process took a toll on me personally, and I had to take some time away from the project after we wrapped. I didn’t rush through post-production, as I really needed to catch my breath after the shoot… But still, it was only about 6 months later that we had a picture lock, and began working on audio, color, and finishing. We submitted to just a handful of festivals, including Dances With Films where we premiered, and then spent the next two months fielding offers from distributors.
As I wrote about in this article, after speaking with countless sales agents and distribution companies, it was clear that self-distribution was the way to go. And that leads us here, to today.
Just as the production of this movie was experimental, the release will be too. My goal is to get enough pre-sales to hit the top 100 on iTunes, and therefore reach an audience that extends far beyond my own personal network and resources.
So for those of you interested, I would be absolutely thrilled if you’d like to pre-order the film using this link.
Please leave a comment below if you order the film, and let me know what you think when it’s released on October 18th!
Before a film is even written, its success can be determined by the strength of the concept alone. Without a great concept, it can be extremely difficult to attract talent, producers, or investors to your project, and just as hard to market and sell the film once its done. In many respects, the concept development phase is the single most important part of the process, and one that can never be rushed.
In today’s episode, I outline my entire concept development process from start to finish, using my upcoming feature film WHITE CROW as a case study. Topics covered include: Picking the right idea, development tactics, using the logline as DNA for the screenplay, iterating & revising the core concept, and much more.
Below is Episode 57: Writing A Micro-Budget Feature Film Concept From Scratch
4K has been a part of the filmmaking conversation since the RED ONE was first released over ten years ago. At that time, all the “experts” were certain it would take over within just a couple of years, and told us HD would be obsolete before we knew it. A decade later though, it just hasn’t happened.
In some respects 4K has come a long way – especially when considering cost and accessibility. It’s never been cheaper or easier to shoot In ultra high resolution, and there is literally no barrier to entry any more. Just about every new camera can shoot 4K now (even iPhones), which is a far cry from 2007/2008 when the elusive RED ONE was the only real option.
But from my vantage point, the 4K “movement” seems to have already peaked… At least with regards to interest from filmmakers.
I think back to 2014 when cameras like the GH4 were hitting the market and bringing 4K to the masses for the first time. There was this feeling in the air that whatever camera you bought next HAD to have the ability to shoot 4K. If it couldn’t, it would be outdated before you knew it, and you might even lose clients or freelance work as a result.
But as the years went on, most of us realized that 4K wasn’t going to be a game changer. It wasn’t going to land us work. And it certainly wasn’t going to “future-proof” our projects either.
Countless filmmakers that once lined up around the block to buy their A7S II or GH4, ended up selling their cameras within a year or two. Despite having 4K, their cameras were still susceptible to becoming outdated, and having the ability to record 4K internally didn’t change that at all…
My point isn’t that there is anything inherently wrong with shooting in 4K (or 8K for that matter!), and I will always opt to shoot at the highest resolution I can. But this obsession with 4K has largely died down over the last year or two, and I can’t help buy wonder why…
Maybe it’s because just about every camera can shoot 4K now, and it’s no longer the hottest feature to have. Or more likely, it’s that we’ve seen first hand that shooting 4K won’t in and of itself help our projects succeed, and that it’s a luxury not a necessity.
4K is not a requirement for getting into top tier film festivals or winning Oscars. Audiences, buyers, and festival screeners couldn’t care less if your film was shot in 4K. Even Netflix, who is one of the only players to require original productions to be shot in 4K, will still buy produced content that originated in HD or 2K.
Whatever the case – resolution just doesn’t matter the same way that it did a few years ago when we were in no mans land. In 2014 it was easy to convince filmmakers they needed 4K and would be irrelevant without it. And for all anyone knew – that could have been true! But in 2018, after spending years watching countless 4K videos of cats on YouTube while movies shot on iPhones are winning Sundance, we’ve finally gained some perspective.
Back in the film days, cameras were relevant for decades, and most filmmakers didn’t need to obsess over their gear or worry that their work would lose relevancy because of the technology they were using. They focused on what mattered – telling a good story with great performances and entertaining an audience. And I think we’re finally starting to get back to that place…
Cameras will certainly never have the longevity that they once did, but at least now the novelty of 4K is no longer stealing our attention away from other technical considerations – like color science and dynamic range.
Not to mention, the 4K rush drove down prices of HD/2K cameras so much, that true DIY filmmakers now have access to some of the best cinema cameras ever made on the used market.
I had a narrative filmmaker ask me recently if she should buy mid-range cinema camera like the Canon C300 II or a used Arri Alexa Classic. Her primary consideration was overall image quality, and both cameras were going for almost the exact same price.
I didn’t even have to think about the question before giving my answer – Alexa Classic.
The Arri Alexa line still offers the best image quality and color science on the market, and that includes the original EV model. The fact you can pick them up on the used market for what a high end Canon DSLR with a lens will run you, is absolutely astounding. And the going rate is purely a result of the Alexa Classic’s inability to shoot 4K.
That’s not to say everyone should run out and buy an Alexa Classic. They are still not going to be optimal for lots of productions – namely due to size and weight issues. But the fact that buying a used Alexa is a viable option in the sub $10K market is absolutely amazing.
I’ve heard from friends that work at rental houses, and owner/operators of Alexa Classics that there has been a big uptick in interest for the camera over the last year. I only imagine it’s part of the overall trend of filmmakers breaking the 4K spell that was once cast on them, and focusing more on other aspects of the craft.
This mentality has trickled down to consumer level cameras too. Right now, you can pick up a used Lumix GH2 for as little as $200 – that’s crazy! I remember when stores couldn’t even keep them on the shelves just a few years ago… It may be a couple generations old now, but for an up and coming filmmaker without any money and who doesn’t “need” 4K, it’s an incredible gift.
At the end of the day, 4K is just a resolution format. It’s a great tool to have, and one that I use on many of my own projects – but it’s almost never mandatory.
So for any filmmakers out there weighing their options with regards to camera choice, I hope this has put things in perspective for you. Color quality, low light sensitivity, stabilization, and dozens of other variables matter so much more than 4K… So don’t forget to keep an open mind next time you’re camera shopping, and see what the used market has to offer – you might be surprised what you come up with.
Let me know your thoughts on 4K in the comments below!
In 2018, the art of marketing a feature film is just as critical for independent filmmakers to know as the craft itself. No one knows this better than today’s guest, Kyle Prohaska, who is not only an incredible DIY filmmaker in his own right, but also an expert on marketing independent features.
Kyle and his company (Prohaska Studios) have successfully marketed countless feature films including: Asperger’s Are Us, Drive Play Sleep, Standing Firm, and Love Covers All, just to name a few. Over the course of this interview, Kyle shares his expertise on the art of marketing, outlining exactly what DIY filmmakers today need to know in order to successfully sell and market their films online.
Check out Episode 56: How To Market Your Independent Feature Film With Marketing Guru & Filmmaker Kyle Prohaska