Everything you need to make a feature film for cinema release

image002Having post produced ‘50 Kisses’, seen it through DCP production and finally premiered in a world class theatre, it’s now 100% apparent to me that we have, within reach, EVERY SINGLE TOOL NEEDED to make a movie (as an example, ‘Neil’ above was shot on a 5D and is part of ’50 Kisses’). Of course this is not groundshaking news. But for me personally, to see ’50 Kisses’ on such a HUGE canvas, and to see it hold it’s own… It was a gamechanger.

I now know that if I am not making a movie, the ONLY reason for this is that I am  choosing not to make my movie.

If I am not moving forward, maybe it’s time to get out of my own way.

‘50 Kisses’ is an eclectic feature film made from shorts produced on all manner of cameras, with differing frame rates and editing platforms, codecs and compression.

And even the ones shot on the lowest quality formats still stood up to audience scrutiny at the premiere, up there on a massive cinema screen with the sound cranked up to 6.5!

A decade ago I remember the debate about MP3 not sounding as good as CD – while it’s true, you really need to concentrate to hear the difference. And that is all trumped by the fact that MP3 was fit for purpose. Good enough AND fit almost limitlessly in my pocket / in the cloud.

That’s where we are now with digital cinema.

We have EVERYTHING we need.

image001If there is one mistake you can make today, it’s not moving ahead because the HD camera you have access to is not as good as the one you think you need. It’s not about the camera.

50 Kisses was shot on 5D, 7D, Red, Red Epic, C300, Panasonic GH2 plus others…  ALL held up amazingly well on the big screen.

For an indie film maker, ALL these cameras are fit for purpose: making low or no budget movies that aspire to the big screen.

Caveat: The rabbit hole does go deeper, especially when you talk to broadcasters, but for small theatrical releases, DCP mastering, festivals, online, blu-ray/DVD, VOD, these cameras and low / no budget / guerilla film principles and tactics are completely fine.

So if it’s NOT the camera, what are the areas most vulnerable to inexperience and budget?

Having watched all 127 films submitted to 50 Kisses, I could see some very clear areas and trends that let down sometimes very good work.  On the flipside, when these issues were not present, the work glided along efforlessly (‘Neil’ above being a great example).

  1. Bad sound – get it recorded properly, or in a worst case, post sync (but that’s a lot of work). Work on the sound in post production too.
  2. Too long – take a break from editing then come back and edit ruthlessly. Get it shorter!
  3. Questionable acting – work with actors, not friends or people who want to act!
  4. Too much music – use less music!
  5. Poor locations – choose wisely and find locations that create a world for your story.
  6. Poor images – often lit badly or ungraded. It’s no longer just about the camera, it’s about the aesthetics of what is in front of the camera and a consistent vision. So much can be done in post through grading too.

This list is by no means a great revelation, but it is consistent in that the best films clearly struggled through with little or no budget, but never fell into these traps.

You can buy, beg, borrow or steal a camera and a few lenses. Everyone can. No excuses. And don’t use the excuse that your DP insists on XY or Z camera or lenses. Use what you can get.

You can get Avid, FCP, Lightworks, even Adobe Premiere on a cheap PC will do just fine (in fact its kick ass and you can rent it on a monthly basis). Shiny expensive Macs, while lovely, are not essential.

The darkest of all the filmmaking arts. The low end kit is staggeringly cheap and amazingly good, but it’s the sound recordist that makes the difference. Even without an experienced sound recordist, so long as you take care to mic up properly and get good clean dialogue, you are in a good shape. And if you don’t you can post sync it.

The world is full of actors who would rather work with passionate, focussed filmmakers than wait for the call from Hollywood. Create a project worthy of an actor’s time and experience and they will knock your door down. Aim low and you will end up with your friends acting in your film

Of course there are crewing issues, location needs, catering nightmares, movement orders, actors, crew and not to mention a killer script… But that’s what we do right? We are resourceful people who find solutions to tough problems.

There has never been a better or more exciting time to be a filmmaker.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
My movies www.LivingSpiritGroup.com
My Facebook www.Facebook.com/ChrisJonesFilmmaker
My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix

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