So here was my first real post-school production shot with an incredibly small budget. A martial arts web series that paid homage to the American martial arts films of the late 80’s and 90’s. We used our own DSLR cameras (Canon T3i) shooting in 1080 24p mostly using the kit lens. We were able to shoot at a western ghost town just outside of Austin, Texas, which brings me to my first lesson: If you are running a no-budget/low budget film, in order to maximize the look of your film, as you probably can’t build a set due to lack of an art director and a set crew, find an existing location. There’s usually one place most people can point to that has an interesting look, and this place was it. I was able to talk with the owners who were great and they let use the location for free. We shot the first episode there and all of the final as well. Lesson #2: I made sure that after every shoot things were put back EXACTLY as we found it. I always like to maintain a good relationship with the owners of any location we use. I’ve seen other productions mess up various locations and then piss off the owners so badly that they went from allowing no budget productions to not allowing them at all, and that’s a free avenue for local filmmakers now gone. I was determined to not be that guy! Our catering was made up of my wife and I spending all production nights making sandwiches and providing food for the next day. It was hell on the wallet, but waaaaaaayyyy cheaper than having anything catered in. I was determined to make sure our cast and crew, all working for free, were at least fed well (Let’s call that Lesson #3). And they had to be, because when we shot this episode the temperature was around 101 degrees. I swore after this to never again shoot a film in Texas during the summer. NEVER AGAIN. I had a nurse friend available during these shoot days as a precaution due to both heat and the stunts. I was lucky enough to have a friend, but you gotta make sure you have someone, preferably a nurse, to administer aid if needed. Bribe one however you can!
Since I wasn’t able to find a video editor, I had to take on those chores myself, and while I’m relatively happy with the end result, there are definitely parts I would tighten up. I also had to do the sound editing, and that’s a thankless job because if you do it right no one will notice but If you mess up they’ll all hear it. To this day I’m not happy with the punching and kicking noises and wished I had the better skill set back then to improve them, but it is what it is.
So when someone asks me what they need to do to make a film, I tell them the same thing: Go and do it. DSLR’s are cheap, but your cell phone can work just fine by today’s standards. It just takes some imagination and want to. As for problems? That’s what filmmaking is partly all about: tell your story and figuring out ways around the obstacles keeping you from doing so to the best of your ability.
When we get to Episode 2 I’ll go into some of the casting choices and that process, and how to turn a closet into a police chief’s office! And Bugs. Lots of Bugs.