Setting a Story In Motion (w/ Audio)

So I finished my first short with dialogue, 2nd all together (for my Master Class with WH) over Christmas. The challenging aspects included…
Casting, which was sort of hard. I needed to find someone to say all of these lines. My first choice was not a real actor and it didn’t quite work out. She wasn’t very cooperative with the whole process, including learning lines. For the Secretary I got someone I met who works on my floor at work. I also figured I’d do a part myself, so as to expedite the process. When it came to recasting the lead I changed from female to male, adjusted the wording and asked my cousin who is in Art school, working to be in musicals. Which was a godsend, but casting was still my least favorite part.
Location. I filmed in my office, my boss’s office when he was out for lunch & also in Deep Ellum, Texas. That shoot in Dallas was amazing. It was hard to find one place because everything in that area is so great to look at.
Camera angles. I shot my scenes alone, so I just set up the camera to record and hoped for the best. Wide, close, profile. For the Secretary I could only shoot from one angle so as not to show how empty the room was. I shot some inserts of him picking up the phone and on the computer, which came in handy. For the Deep Ellum shoot it was pretty much just walking with him. I filmed some extra from in a tree, in a trashcan, in a bar and on a bench so I’d have something to spice it up.
Editing is my favorite part. Putting the pieces together is so fulfilling. I need to get better, as reflected in my rating, but 8/26 said it was Almost Great or Great and only 5 said it feels rough… but that’s is more of a “Finishing the Story” thing.

What would I do differently? Well it was supposed to be 1 location, someone wants something from someone else and obtains it & include a chase scene. But it totally isn’t any of those things. I guess I’d stick to the structure a bit better and try and I think that would have helped with the story. It’s just hard to change my mind once I see things a certain way. Feedback from other students gave me a -Neutral grade, which are 3/5 stars pretty much overall. 2 people said the story sucked, it had more ratings on the positive side than the negative side, yet the results were mostly neutral.

Werner’s next class was on Negotiation Skills.
Familiarize yourself with a few legal terms. There must be urgency to the project because if you don’t have a deal in 2 day, you might not have a deal in 2 years. Lastly, try and keep the attorneys out of it for as long as possible since they tend to strain the process. Even with actors you want, tell them its them or no one so you can wrap up the deal early or move on. Fair Use is something to familiarize yourself with, especially when it comes to putting music in your videos or using clips in documentaries. Is it okay to have this Pepsi can with the logo exposed in my short? I won’t go into detail, but you can buy the book or try online resources.
on Casting: Choosing the right actors is the first key. Mistakes could happen and you put people on the screen who have no chemistry, so pay attention. What’s on the screen matters and so dont risk it. It would be preferable if your actor is invested in finding the characters voice – not just playing a role. If you have a great actor, coaching them would be embarassing, but some newer, untrained actors give much better performances when pointed in the right direction.

Here’s a little on the beginning of the story from the Film Connection workbook. The first act of a story tends to be around 25 pages -giving your hero a goal and setting them off on their journey. In a Pixar movie you show the character doing what they love most and what defines them in the universe they live in. Then you show a flaw, which should come out of the passion. Have some trouble brewing before something comes and takes what they love most from them. Then add insult to injury making life seem unfair. Then they’re faced with the fork in the road between right and wrong. Make the Unhealthy choice and subsequently have the audience feel their pain. Then comes the first act break. The second act is 50 pages. The final around 25. Helpful tips from the animation studio, though the textbook is a bit all over the place. Remember, that is Pixar’s versio of a first act. But it is insightful.

Normally the first plot point one is a big turning point in your script. It occurs at the end of the first act, around 30 pages into the action, and propels an audience into Act II. But that is the textbook version, explaining the inciting incident. Act one is obviously the set up phase. You see the world the characters inhabits, the protagonist  & the antagonist. The first scene of a good movie can also foreshadow the entire film if done right (or at least the theme).  For the beginning think: what is the characters main goals and how can I show them, What are their objectives and what drives them & What is going to lock them into this story.

I still was not locked in with a mentor, which is frustrating but Matthew Bandura got me an opportunity with a company called Magoya Films to be a sound guy, so they gave me a special 1 day crash course class with a mentor from Mix Master VA studios.

To start off, Sean was a big haughty. He was younger than me and upon hearing his story, I can assume he was just taking things as serious as he always does at work. I respected his hustle, as he was younger than me and moving professionally to get things done. He didn’t quite know how to work an audio mixer, because he records directly into camera. I never wanted to do that because I have heard audio quality is better via an external source. But I got a rough lesson on sound devices from my handy Zoom h5 device, which he had used before. It was as simple as I had suspected (Nicole from MITD had one of these as well). He explained the term MOS or Mute of Sound, the Under Over XLR cord rolling technique, where you don’t let the cord bow and feel the way the cord wants to, for a perfect coil.
Zoom
He explained Shotgun boom mics have a Cardioid pattern that rejects sound from certain angles. One must be in contact with the Director or DP to insure they are not in the shot. They are best pointed at your subject but get bassy when too close. Super and Hyper Cardioid are even more increasingly direction sensitive. He explained that the fluffy noise canceling cover I bought was called a Dead Cat. Keep the DB level between -12 and -6 to avoid peaking. Too be secure, ensure dialogue peaks at -12 so you’re safe if a spike occurs. Lastly you’ll want to have Gaffe Tape and skin mic tape for whatever comes up, because ultimately something will. I can only imagine being a Mixer/Boom operator on a big production, maybe even having an assistant.

Diegetic Sound. The sounds created in the filming process. Examples are a door closing or footsteps. You can choose to use or replace diegetic sound in post. When music comes on or a jolting effect in a horror franchise, those sounds of course are non-diegetic.

It was one of the best lessons I have got from Film Connection. I ended up not getting the job because correspondence took so long, but I’m in contact with someone from 2 new studios and I got a class in, so besides the lack of profit – It was a great opportunity.

~C.R

More from the Film Connection Blog:

Day 1
A lil on Editing
Event Planning
Motivation in Writing
Camera Functions
Lil on Crew & Budget

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