Saturday, 24 October 2015

SHOOTS ten tips for a successful shoot

I'm sure there are plentiful more learned guides out there - and I'd always encourage reading video/film-makers' books (Alex Cox is very readable on his low-budget Indie shoots) - but these are ten simple bits of advice based on years of observing student filming, especially the common disasters that happen...

1: Be authoritative. You're producing and directing the shoot. Have a clear discussion on who will do precisely what during the shoot (this can be noted in call sheets); DON'T leave that until you're at the shoot.
2: Be friendly. Your cast are doing you a favour! You might need them too for additional/re-shoots. Provide food/drinks, and give some positive feedback as you go. As part of mise-en-scene prep you could try finding a cafe prepared to 'sponsor' you for some tea/sandwiches if you feature their cafe as a location (seriously! no harm in asking!). Take toilet requirements into consideration too!!!
3: Clear direction. The cast need specific, short instructions, including body language + movement. Your blogs/YT can be useful here; consider a post with links for anything (in shoot order) you might want to look at/show to cast - you should have gadgets/screens (and will need to have considered wifi availability in advance. Ripping + editing together SHORT video clips could help here too (especially if you're not online at the location). It helps if you can share a ...
4: Call sheet. This isn't just markscheme stuff, it is genuinely your key tool for organising the shoot. A thorough call sheet leads to MUCH quicker shooting. For a music video shoot especially thats likely to be quite a handful of sheets - stick them in a ringbinder!!! Print-offs of relevant images with this can help you/the cast. Hours preparing call sheets may seem onerous, but it can be the difference in getting done in one day's shooting or having to schedule fresh shoots, possibly re-shoots.

5: Set/mise-en-scene prep. Having costume/hair/make-up clear and communicated to cast in advance, props in hand, and any set dressing planned (that SA flyer idea is key for this video and overall package - one shiny new and 1 distressed/aged/ragged). If you have the contacts, involving a costume designer, prop maker, make-up artist (etc) would be smart! 
6: Take tripod time. Handheld is MUCH quicker but extremely problematic. Best to shoot with 2+ cams, 1 tripod 1 handheld. The GorillaPod can be really useful for low angle shots, and taking a GoPro for action shots (maybe snorricam or helmetcam) could help too. A FigRig or any steadicam would be advisable to reduce shake from handheld shots. The camera's stabilisation tools could be investigated. FCPX (most video editors) have image stablisation, but be aware that this works by cropping shots, in turn downgrading the resolution.
7: Cutaways. No matter how well planned, be spontaneous too - look through the lens for interesting framing/shot opportunities and bank them. They don't have to be linked to the sequence you're shooting!
8: Shot variety. Likewise, even if you haven't thought to put these in the call sheets, aim to shoot most sequences from multiple positions. The fewer options you have in editing the less scope you have to make creative editing choices. If you're planning to use slo-mo, investigate the camera: if you can, increase the frame rate so the slo-mo'd footage won't lose resolution.
9: Continuity. Take care over things moving/appearing in different takes of the same sequence (eg cars on the road, the sky, people in the distance, animals). If this is a film rather than video shoot, consider banking a range of ambient sound recordings; you may find that you need to re-create the diegetic soundtrack (some auteurs, eg Sergio Leone, always rebuilt sound after the shoot!) and having audio clips to link multiple takes of the same sequence can be crucial in achieving basic verisimilitude.
10: Pragmatism, resolve . If your carefully written call sheets prove unrealistic and shoots are over-running, decide, in discussion with cast, if an additional shoot on another day is an option. Never panic! If this is the case the plus is that you'll be able to test edit what you've got, and use the experience of the original shoot to work a lot quicker next time. If things go wrong, stay calm and think about what you can do to rescue as much useful material as you can.
A shoot should be an adrenalised but fun experience; it gets stressful when your preparation is inadequate or you're failing to get co-operation/performances from cast (probably because of lack of pre-briefing, direction or positive engagement!). Make it a memorable event for all the right reasons, and enjoy it!

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