ContractLaw

YOU are a very INDIE FILMMAKER. Should you do CONTRACTS?

YOU are a very INDIE FILMMAKER. Should you do CONTRACTS?

If your case is the one of a very indie filmmaker that has to ask for favours here and there to get his movie finished, the question is “Should you have a written contract with every person that is involved in the shooting of your film? Is it worth the effort?”

Well, first things first.

How does the judiciary system work? With what rules do they play with?

For a lawyer or a judge the most important tool they can work with is evidence.

What is evidence? Evidence in the film industry?

Imagine that you have finished your film and that fortunately it is a hit. 

You’ve done it! You’ve accomplished what you were after!

Now what?

Now, a “friend” of yours in which you trust, as he has noticed that the movie has won numerous film festivals and that has done well in the box office, as he has played as an actor in your movie and as you haven’t filled in a contract in which you explicitly specify how he will get paid, he decides to sue you for a percentage of the earnings in the box office of your movie. 

This is when problems beggin.

So? Big deal… You are 100% sure that you are going to win because you remember perfectly that both of you agreed that it was a non paid job.

But let me tell you, although you “remember” that is not going to help any lawyer defend your case and even less convince a judge!

Every lawyer knows that the first most important thing you have to implement and not only remember when doing any kind of agreement on something is to… PUT IT ON PAPER!

This way, you got your back covered and you have way more chance of winning any kind of dispute or trial that could come up if your movie is successful.

Which contracts should I worry about and do?

First of all, for the most types of contracts we, as independent filmmakers, are looking for there are templates you can download from the internet that work just fine in front of a lawyer or judge. For the most part anyway… Please read everything and ask people that know about this topic before choosing a contract template.

Contract for actors

You have to be careful which template you choose for your actors to sign as there are many points of the agreement that may no suit your specific situation.

In my case the one I chose was one similar to this one (of course in Spanish because I shot the whole film in Spain):

Authorization/Permit for Filming in a particular Location

This particular paper I wrote it out myself.

It is just a paper in which you specify when and where is the owner of X location giving you permission for filming in his or her property.

I did this because it was only me by that time. This meant that I didn’t have a business or brand that represented/produced the movie.

But there are a lot of templates out there on the internet that fit this particular permit. You just need to type in on the browser “permit for filming on location” and you will find several forms/templates that will suit your particular needs. After choosing one is about filling in the gaps with the necessary information.

Other permits

These two are the contracts that I mainly filled in and signed before shooting anything.

But if you have “borrowed” gear from a friend or you are renting it or you are filming in a friend’s house or whatever, always find a template that has all the necessary legal information for the agreement. Then get it signed by both parties, give a copy to each party and save that document!

Always get everything on paper and KEEP COPIES of every contract you fill in and sign!

See you next time!

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Location Scouting for Indie Film (How To Guide)

Location Scouting for Indie Film (How To Guide)

The first thing that you need to have clear is that if you are an independent filmmaker and you can’t rely on much certainties that money offers you, you must search for places that you know will be the best place to shoot because it fits the story and you won’t be bother while shooting.

Does that location suit the story?

This is the most important question that you should ask yourself when looking for a location to shoot in.

The principle is:

The chosen location suits and served the story first.

If that location, although you’ve been thinking it would look so cool in video, doesn’t got the story, don’t hesitate, get rid of it. That simple. It doesn’t matter if it looks awesome. If the location doesn’t fit the story in any way, forget about it. (There are some exceptions to this last affirmation).

If not how can you make a location suit the story?

Imagine that you are looking for a very specific location that you would only find in an apocalyptic world.

In that case what I would recommend is to use what you have around you that you know you can use any time you need to make use of it.

Imagine you need to make a house look like an apocalyptic house that has been previously attacked by zombies. In that case what I would focus on is if I have at my disposal a house that I can decorate as I wish whenever I want (always within the limits of common sense).

Do you have that location at your complete disposal? For how much time?

That’s key.

You need to have a very organized shooting plan and schedule to pull of a location that you have limited access to.

Moreover, you need to make sure that you and your team can work efficiently so that you can accomplish what you said you would in the time that was given to you.

If this is your first project, with your first crew and you have already involved and compromised a lot of people and money in order to film in that particular location my advice would be to beware.

Practice makes master.

So practice until you can master that kind of situations but don’t try to be an expert under stressful and unknown situations.

Where would you store your gear while shooting?

This is an important factor that you need to have in mind of you want to film a feature length film that will take you at least a year to shoot.

If you can leave all your gear in that location while the days of shooting that scene, that is a great advantage. All the time that you needed to put in transportation of your gear to set will be cut off and used for actual shooting. That’s great.

For that to happen you must be sure it is a safe place to leave gear overnight and that it all will still be there the next morning.

If not you risk on spending a lot of time necessary for shooting only from moving from point A to point B.

Exteriors vs Interior in Location Scouting

If you are going to shoot a film mostly in exterior, you should know that you need permits for filming on some “public” places like monuments and private establishments like bars and restaurants that are opened to the public.

In exteriors you risk somebody passing by in front of the camera and blocking all the action in the frame, a lot of ambient noise, harsh light and weather conditions that you cannot control (mostly) and the risk of getting robbed.

In interiors you don’t usually face all those risks but you have to know that for filming in most interiors you need the authorization of the owner or of the public entity that owns the place. I have to point out, in interiors you might need a lighting setup because there is less light, it is a more tight place to film and move and it is more difficult for some stories to fit a narration mostly sustained by interior scenes and sequences.

So one of the best ways to go around those problems is to get the authorization of the owner to film in a private location (interior or exterior) and make sure that you won’t be bothered while filming and you have the tranquility of knowing that if you don’t finish today, you can tomorrow.

So scout well and carefully, think about how that location suits your story and how practical and which disadvantages motivate you or not to film in that particular location.

Happy location scouting and see you next time!

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What Camera Should YOU Get? GH5s: best DSLR out there?

What Camera Should I Get? GH5s: best DSLR out there?

What camera brand should I buy?

There are many camera brands out there, many camera ads, many types of video cameras, many types of DSLR, cameras that film in 720p, 1080p, 2k, 4k and even 6k or 8k…

But the most important topic here is what camera you can get with the budget you’ve got. And is it a good camera?

What budget do I need for a camera?

If you are going to film a feature with that camera my advice is that you work or get however at least 2000$. For that price you can get a pro DSLR mirrorless camera that can get you crisp images and a 4k resolution with 4:2:2. Maybe the GH5S?

What does all this jargon mean?

With a 4k resolution you have enough to make a very decent film that won’t have any troubles when projected onto the big screen. You won’t have any problems as well for putting it in the net and you even may have some room to reframe a shot…

It can film in 10 bit. This means plenty of room to do your color grading in post-production for a prosumer camera.

Camera alternatives

There are less expensive cameras like the Sony a7iii and compelling competitors like his sister the Sony a7sii. But we think they’re nothing compared to the beast that is the GH5s that can film at 60p at 4k in 10 bit and a wide range of necessary video tools for the experienced video shooter like vectorscopes, waveforms, zebras and focus peaking.

GH5s’ conclusion for the moment

The GH5s can film excellent video in a wider range of lightning conditions than his sister the GH5, because it has a slightly larger sensor, dual gain sensor. Plus the Log footage (V-LogL) you can take with a flexibility of 10 bit.

The only downside of the GH5 family is that the Autofocus isn’t as fast or dependable… but this is the only downside of otherwise a camera BEAST!

To sum up, it is a great camera to shoot your first independent film as an indie filmmaker. You won’t be deceived by its capabilities.

Nevertheless, search and compare different cameras before you make your pick.

For when you’ve got it, happy filming and see you the next time!

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WHY BOTHER?! 4 Steps for PRE-Production PAPERS

WHY BOTHER?! 4 Steps for all the PRE-production PAPERS that need to be done

First things first, how much work does PRE-production take?

Well, it depends. I know, I know, it is that shitty answer that doesn’t answer much. But I can tell you what is the exact work that has to be done and if you are a hard worker you won’t have problems to get it all done in less than a month. 

In this post I will go over through the pre-production papers that I went through before beginning the shooting stage and I will tell you how and how much time it took me to go through it all.

1. FIRST make your Shooting Script

A Shooting Script should be in the standard screenplay format. Check our post on where and how to have the standard screenplay format.

Scenes have to be numerated and should look more or less like this:

  • 25. EXT. HOUSE. NIGHT

2. BREAK your script Down

For this you want to check out our other post on How To Make Scene Breakdown Sheets.

The goal is that with a glance you can tell which characters are in that particular scene, which props do you need, the music effects, visual effects, necessary gear…

You need to analyze in depth your script and be sure that you have the most control over each element necessary for finishing the shoot of the day. If you need a car for a particular scene, then, do you have a car? Did you prepare to have a car that particular day? Did you also need to have a permit for filming with that car?

You get the point.

3. Have a Shooting Schedule

This I make with an Excel document.

What I did for DOPPEL is breakdown my script into 5 chapters. Because the story is built in a way to be a TV series. Then, what I did is, by chapters, breakdown how many scenes were in each one.

I need to say that this method may not suit you and your screenplay because before I started writing I knew there would be 4 main stories that were kind of independent to each other and that in the end all were connected to each other. This helped me to break down even more the screenplay into clear chunks and film a chunk at a time.

Then, inside each chapter, what I did was order the scenes by locations and make a table with all the scenes, which characters were playing in each one and a little description of the action of the scene.

After that what I did was make a new page on the same Excel document to make a Gant chart with the scenes, by locations on the left and the number of days it would aproximatedly take me to finish. Then I would fill in boxes in yellow for preparation and in blue for shooting.

This way you organize your shoot and you kind of impose yourself a schedule that you have to follow. Although sometimes you were very optimistic and you won’t finish all the shooting you and in mind, I can assure you that by having a shooting schedule you will be way more productive than those that don’t.

That brings me to our last point…

4. Draw your Storyboards!

I cannot stress this point enough: the more you plan the more prepared you’ll be, the more likely you will succeed.

We have another post on this topic, so check it out.

So check all the preproduction documents that I went through before actually begging the shooting of the film. As well all the legal paper work has to be filled before turning on the cameras because you can get into big time trouble if you don’t. We’ll make a post on the legal paper work that needs to be done for a very independent film!

Happy planning and see you next time!

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Storyboard EVERYTHING?!

Storyboard EVERYTHING?!

Should you or should you not storyboard everything you film?

Some great filmmakers think that storyboarding is of not use and others plan everything and storyboard everything before shooting.

Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Christopher Nolan all of them do storyboards for their films.

Others, like Werner Herzog is against storyboarding. He thinks that storyboards are for cowards.

I have to say that he in spite that a great director that does great movies with wonderful framing and composition without the help of storyboards

BUT,

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Storyboarding is preparation for the day of shooting, as training it is necessary before a competition. The more planned and prepared you are before the day of shooting, the better.

Prepare for the worst, expect the best

I try to prepare for anything that I have control over, so I always storyboard the scenes I’m going to shoot before the day of shooting. For me it is not a very heavy task to do as I like to draw and forces me to put ideas of a screenplay into physical images even if it is a piece of paper and they’re only drawings.

Discipline is everything when it comes to so complex task as filmmaking.

With my storyboards in hand I can sleep in peace, even if they’re not definitive, because I know I have something to work on the next morning. Even I change shots right on set because I find another one more interesting or because the one that I thought of wasn’t possible. But this way you make sure that you come the day of shooting, on to set, full of ideas to work on.

So, if you think you are one of those gifted ones by God that doesn’t need to prepare before shooting, do not prepare and pray for the best because you’ll need it when the pressure is so high that you have to take 20 decisions on a split second all at once and all equally important.

I normally advise to think through principles rather than through analogy, as Elon Musk says. (As ironic that may sound, as I’m paraphrasing another man rather than offering original advise) but why would all the big time directors of Hollywood have a storyboard artist or even draw themselves the storyboards of their movies?

Can you tell which drawing is from which director?

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Why Excel For Organizing Your Shoot

Why Excel For Organizing Your Shoot

Having a visual representation of what you have already shot and of what is yet to shoot, comes super handy when you are in the pre-production stage.

As well, studies have shown that having a to-do-list helps you to boost your productivity, organize your ideas, ease planning, keep track of your progress, have control about what you are going to put off for later and what you are going to do right now (this diminishes the overwhelming feeling of chaos), free your mind from unnecessary worry, avoid spending time in unnecessary chores and, the most important for me, it is A STEP CLOSER to your goals.

How to do organize your shoot in Excel?

There are different ways in which you can organize your shoot.

For instance, you can organize it by big chunksu2026 by scenes.

For u201cDOPPELu201d what I did is that I broke down the script into different chapters (5 chapters in total). Then I wrote all the scenes down in another column (each coloured with a specific colour depending on the location. This really helps when grouping scenes together before shooting so you change of location as less as possible) and after that I left a blank column to the right so as to colour them progressively as I complete each day of shooting successfully.

I don’t know if I’ve explained myself clearly, so here is a photo of what the Excel for the whole movie looks like:

We’ll describe what each column is about and you will understand it right away!

First column

In the first column I wrote which actor I was going to work with.

For example, because it wasnu2019t a film with a big budget, actors had to work for free. This meant that their availability was limited to a certain schedule. Therefore I had only certain hours of the day where each of my actors were available, this meant that I could only work with them certain days a week, certain hours a dayu2026

Thatu2019s why having the script organized by actors is helpful for indie filmmaking.

Second column

Each actor belongs to a certain chapter except DOPPEL who is in all 5 chapters.

Basically in this column the chapter in which the actor appears is specified.

Third column

u201cEscenau201d means scene in Spanish.

In here I write the number of each scene in which each actor appears separately.

Each box where the scene number is written is filled with a distinct colour depending on the location.

You would want to shoot as much scenes in the same location as you can. This way you avoid coming back to a already u201cshotu201d location.

Fourth column

In this case itu2019s really the fifth column. In here I write down/ fill the blank boxes with a colour and a number depending if the scene in hand is shot (cage/ box filled with black colour), pending from revision (gray + 1) or simply not shot (white + no number)

Conclusion

This division might not always work with the script youu2019ve written, but the important principle you have to retain is that the way around pre-production is analyze your script, u201cDivide et Imperau201d (meaning, Divide and Rule!).

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How to make Scene Brakdown Sheets

How To Make Script Breakdown Sheets? (2 STEPS)

STEP 1: UNDERLINE

First you spot in your screenplay the following elements and circle or underline them with their specific colour. Here is a table for reference:

Your Preproduction Script should look more or less like this:

STEP 2: FILL IN THE GAPS!

What is a script breakdown sheet?

It is a piece of paper in which you write every element you need in order to film that particular scene. It looks like this:

We’ll start from the top and we’ll go down:

  • Top- left: (Day EXT= Yellow / Night EXT= Green / Day INT= White / Night INT= Blue) The whole page will be yellow, green, white or blue depending if it is interior or exterior, day or night.
  • Top-right: Date, EXT/INT, Day/Night. You choose which one fits your scene.
  • Top-center: Production No, Production Title, Breakdown page No, Scene No, Scene name, Script page No (Ex: 11-16 pages), Description (brief), Page Count (the duration in pages of the scenes, usually measured in 1/8 of a page) and Location name… fill in the gaps.
  • Centered box: Cast, Stunts, Extras, Special Effects, etc. In here you write every element you have found in your script and that you have previously underlined or circled.

WHY BOTHER?

The preproduction stage is about planning. That means simplify to its fullest your future tasks for when you film, in the production stage, because you will be SO BUSY you couldn’t have ever imagined. More if you are an independent filmmaker that has to do several tasks at once…

If you do your preproduction accurately you have better chances of making and actually finishing the movie. The better the prepoduction and the preparation, the better production, therefore the better film you’ll make!

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