20150226-Victorious-Kitty-Shoot-Day-1-BTS-7
Victorious Kitty means absolutely nothing. Just a code name. A placeholder for a title that still needs to find itself eventually. Most big-budgeted movies use code names to keep their production secret for fear of leaks to the outside world–I’m just doing it because I can’t think of a name at the moment.

This video project marks the beginning of my journey in cementing the process in which I make these short film projects for the purpose of legitimizing my business–adhering to all legal matters when producing a video–and establishing a repeatable process in which I can iterate and make more efficient over time. Slowly but surely making my way toward professionalism and its perceived expectations.

A big difference I see in the whole “amateur vs. professional” argument (besides the whole making money thing) is amateurs typically run off instinct and make decisions in the moment which usually leads to long production times and inconsistencies in quality.

And it makes sense. As an amateur I’m playing around, trying to find my voice in this art form. Utilizing techniques that I’ve picked up from filmmaker interviews, or ideas from BTS of Blu-Ray movies.

Being an amateur is about finding your way. This could take a really long time, at least for me it has.

Professionalism on the other hand isn’t about acting pretentious or robotic and inhuman-like (Although I still associate these characteristics because it remains true in my experience).

Professionalism, to me, is a promise that you give to someone. Whether that’s your client, your audience, or your mom. You say you’ll do something, so do something. The importance of professionalism is all in the execution. If you’re not executing on these promises, explicit or implied, then all you’re doing is acting; or what I refer to as “Playing Boss”.

So that’s the reason why this project started.

Now the subject could have been anything but I chose to go the documentary route. But not entirely all documentary. There will be a mix of narrative storytelling and some controlled sequences. I liken it to an artsy and pre-established direction, unlike documentary. But there are a lot of things that are out of my control so this project still has a sort of I-have-no-idea-where-this-story-will-take-me type of treatment.

The subject is a guy I know name Austin training to be a triathlete. It holds a special place for me because in my younger days I was training to become a world-class sprinter. But that went to shit after I blew out my hamstring and since fell back on being a creative type–something that feels more natural to me.

But don’t put aside my physicality just yet, I still parkour when I get the chance.

So what have I done so far?

 

Since this post is named “Day 1” I want to get to that production day quickly.

I’ve had to create several worksheets documents tailored specifically for the needs of my newly-developing production company. Technically I’ll still be a freelancer, but I’ve learned to put my pride aside and realize it’s way too time-consuming and difficult as shit to try to do everything myself. Teamwork makes the dream work. But that’s an entire post/series all its own. Let’s just say I’m creating a new business outside the several other businesses I’ve managed to ignore and consequently failed because of many reasons–one huge reason is because I was chasing money, and that gets uninteresting real quick.

So, worksheets created: budgets and ledgers, client-intake process, call sheets, production schedules, shooting schedules and Daily Production Reports (DPRs).

I’m sure there are more I’m going to need soon such as talent releases, location releases, sponsor agreements, and so on. But I’m creating all these as soon as the need arises since I’m learning proper production processes and implementing as I go.

Production Day 1

Principal photography began February 26, 2015. The location we had secured was a tri-shop in my local area owned and operated by an old co-worker who also happens to sponsor our subject. (Indy Film Tip: Call in as many favors as you can)

For this production I’m running a 3-man crew. Me, and my buddies Hury and Jarad. Of course I’ll be doing most of the work, but I’m also training the other two in producing duties and grip. Until I get this process down, I won’t be hiring. They’re brought on as volunteers and as such are offering up time to help me out.

This shoot was primarily an interview so I only had one setup which made things a little easier. The lighting was pretty much just one soft box to the right of the Austin and a small clamp light directly behind him to pull him away from the background.

I set Austin up with a wired lav mic (because I can’t afford a decent wireless lav) connected to my Zoom H4N. All semi-old equipment here. I initially was going to have Jarad set up as the boom operator with the recorder and a shotgun mic but my dumb-ass forgot to grab the microphone cable, so luckily I always keep the lav mic in my gear bag.

To think of using the on-board camera mic as a last resort would’ve made me throw up. But even before that, I’d use my iPhone to record the audio. I’ve done it before, and it doesn’t sound that bad.

The only camera I have right now is the Canon T2i. I’ve been using it since 2011 and modified it with firmware hacks (Magic Lantern) and a battery grip to give it more weight to help with stabilizing shots.

I have my eyes set on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, but I’m not really a camera junkie. My approach to filmmaking is always content and context first. Mastering my craft is more important to me than the ongoing technology battle that makes anything I buy obsolete once I have it.

It’s the same philosophy I have with making music:

Just because you have a pirated version of Pro-Tools doesn’t make you a musician.

Good music can come out of a 2-track recorder.

I remember back in my audio engineering class we were discussing some of the greatest hits or classics were made on tape players with two cassettes re-recorded over and over again layering different sounds to create a song. Multi-tracking when multi-tracking didn’t exist.

Now we live in an era where guys like Skrillex make whole albums on his laptop in his hotel room as he tours the world. Sequenced, mixed, and mastered with a pair of Beats headphones and two packs of cigarettes.

Tangent. Back to Day 1.

Interviewing people seems to get easier the more I do it. I don’t really consider myself very people-oriented so I still get awkward around folks. But I’ve learned to push down my introverted self and pull out the extrovert when need be.

I think being a club promoter for a time helped to bring the social part of me out as well.

Communication is extremely important as a director. Kevin smith said something about, “If you can communicate a thought, you can direct.”

When trying to pull a performance out of someone, or in this case, pulling out a story from a person you’re interviewing, being clear in your questions and learning where a conversation can go as you’re in it is a pretty valuable skill.

It’s like something I learned a while back that dealt with learning to converse with someone. There’s an invisible thread in the conversation, just pay attention to the details in what’s being discussed and find that thread that can lead to other stories.

Understanding what your audience wants to know is also important. My potential audience needs to have a reason to care for my subject. My goal was to find something somebody, somewhere, could give a shit about. Something relatable.

Find something that the audience will be looking forward to seeing play out such as winning or losing a battle of some sorts. Or a decision that needs to be made.

Does any of this make sense?

The goal in the interview was to find a story and a way to get my potential audience to give a shit about the person I’m interviewing.

And I think I got that from this shoot.

Although I’m not going to know until I finally get to editing.

More BTS shots Jarad took while we were working.