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< Part 17 | Introduction | Part 19 >

The Videomaker's Journey: part eighteen
Producing and Directing.

Use the links in the text to move between sections.

This part is mainly about what happens on the day of the shoot.



I have previously covered a lot of the work that is required to produce and direct a movie. This was deliberate, so that you would not be faced with a mountain of information as you get close to shooting your first movies. Don't expect to get it all together in the first movie you make. At least read Parts 14 to 17. Don't try to learn it all off by heart - gradually learn it as you make each movie.

Points worth revising in Parts 14 to 17

If you haven't read or studied these parts - you will need to do so, now . They are part and parcel of learning how to produce a movie. Some of the contents of each part are listed below so as to help you find various articles.

Points worth revising in Parts 1 to 13

It would be a good idea for beginners to read some of the earlier information - you might see something that will be helpful on the day of the shoot.

Preparation for the Day of the Shoot

You should already have the following lists:

Make a list of equipment to be taken to the shoot.

A typical list.

Camera Work

Beginners should always use a tripod. An expert is able to take hand held shots, when close to the subject.

Camera Check. Beginners should leave this check on the camera, until after they have made a few movies.

  1. Check that the Back Focus is properly adjusted. Zoom into a close up of a distant object - lock the focus - zoom back to a wide angle, check, if the distant view is still in focus. If not, take the camera to a Service Centre .
  2. Does the frame in the eye piece viewfinder match the picture on the TV screen? Also check the flip out LCD screen. You need to use a TV that matches the club projector and other TVs. The Service Centre can make the necessary adjustments.

Sunlight: very low in the sky that is bouncing off water or a car bonnet will double the light reaching your lens. You need to have a finger on the exposure control ready to adjust the exposure - if the subject or car is moving in certain situations e.g. the camera is overtaking cyclists.

Shooting in sequence: provides more enjoyment for the actors - but they will also handle shooting out of sequence without problems. The first time I meet the actors, I always tell them they are part of the team -and it is my intention that they enjoy the making of the film as much as the rest of us.

Children as Actors. I have only made 3 movies with children as actors. Remember children run, they don't walk. I made 3 movies with my 10 year old grandson Dexter in the one month, it made my decade.

Dexter is a good actor, he was not a problem, his 10 year old mate Peter was very good but Peter's 6 year old brother Jacob was a real handful. Also Jacob didn't like rehearsals. We were all working flat out trying to control him, in the end Jacob stole the show, it was a good movie - his family roll around the floor shrieking with laughter when they watch it. Dexter wrote the story and directed this movie.

Be Safe. Don't take shots off bridges. Don't do any thing risky.

When taking shots in cars, or shots from cars, or shots of cars in the street - STOP when other cars or vehicles come onto the scene.

Eveready Dolphin Torch.Eveready Utility Lantern.Practise. When I am shooting a ghost story - I practise a few shots with the camera and the lights on a previous night. The victim, carrying a Eveready Utility Area Lantern, is lit up nicely with the background just visible - the bulb is a bit brighter than a normal torch. The ghost is wrapped in a black sheet with only his face showing - a Dolphin Waterproof Torch with one layer of tissue paper, taped over the lens, is shone up under the chin of the ghost, from the waist.

Practicality. Provide - food - drinking water - changing rooms - toilets - parking and transport, where necessary.

How Long. How many shots can you take in a day? This is the formula I use - adjust it to suit your pace. 5 pages of script = 5 minutes of edited movie = 50 Shots. Shooting time = 1 hour start up + 7 hours

A 15 minute movie can be a 4 to 5 day shoot - we shot a 10 minute movie in 2 days.
The actual time will depend on how good your plan is - how good your camera operator is, if he wastes time - the actors' time is wasted.
Normally - ½  to 1 hour start up - 2 hours shoot - coffee break - 2 hours shoot - lunch break - and so on.
We have one actor who likes a cup of coffee first thing on the set, whether he arrives at 7 am or 10 am. Also the actors generally like to have a talk together about what they are acting - some of them rehearse their lines together.

Rehearsals. There are no rehearsals prior to the day of the shoot. Before each shot we give the actors at least one dry run - we give the actors as many dry runs as they ask for. We ask them are they "ready to go", after each dry run. The Repertory Actors usually know their lines - don't take video shots of the dry runs - some of the actors don't like that.

Directing the Actors. The actors are told to project their voices - be loud - they are not to overlap the dialogue - a gap of a fraction of a second is enough.

I tell the actors they have to be acting for a couple of seconds before they speak and a couple of seconds after they end their dialogue - they don't have to remember this - our "Overlapped Shooting System" will make it happen. An off screen actor will speak before and after them. Even where there is a single stand alone shot, someone will speak off screen, before and at the end of the shot.
If you have no previous experience directing actors, say to them "the acting style should be a bit larger than life". If the actor overacts or is a bit too boisterous, then say "a bit less" or if you want a more lively performance, then say "a bit more".
All this allows the editor to lead with the dialogue or the picture, when editing. Also, this allows the editor to conceal problems at the cuts.

Lajos Egri, the author of The Art of Dramatic Writing, wrote "You must first remember that art is not the mirror of life. When you take a basic emotion, you might as well emphasise that emotion or trait."

Calling up the start of each shot.

  1. Set up the camera
  2. Set up the lights - i.e. the key light and the fill light.
  3. The actors stand - or sit - or walk through a dry run as the camera operator adjusts the frame size and checks the lighting, through the eye piece of the camera. A third light is added to correct the situation or an adjustment is made to the other lights.
  4. The Director talks to the actors while the above is going on.
  5. The actors have several dry runs - this is their rehearsal - how we get the reaction shots is explained to the actors. The actors are told they can call for a re-take if they wish.
When the actors are ready to go we test that the microphone works - do not tug on cables - refer to Part 15 for procedure to lower microphone into position.
The Director calls "Are we ready to go?" - if no one says "No" the Director calls "Camera running?"
The Camera Operator calls "Running!" when he sees the red light is on, or whatever confirms the camera is recording.
The Director calls "Action!".
At the end of the shot, the Director calls "Cut!". With some tricky shots, the camera operator will be instructed to call "Cut!".

If your shooting script is perfect, you won't need cover shots - but if practical, beginners should take at least one cover shot, i.e. shift the camera and/or change the shot size. This may get you out of trouble, when editing, if you haven't planned your shots properly.
We check the camera shots - at coffee breaks and lunch breaks.

Another Type of Movie

There is another type of movie that I want to illustrate to you - the type of story is difficult to describe effectively - to show you the story I have included the video of the movie The Handyman (11¼ minutes )

This film was made in 1985 by Fay and Don Finlay and Ross Wilesmith, they were known as FINLAY WILESMITH FILMS. The movie won the "Film of the Year" in the QMM Annual Competition.

When video came in, they changed the name of the team to FINLAY WILESMITH MOVIES.

Don recently transferred the film onto DVD, I have had to replace the music with a copyright-free tune for use on this website, the original music was for club use only.

Act 1 is well crafted - it introduces the main characters, tells us what the story is about and foreshadows heaps of trouble.
Act 2 unleashes the handyman (Ross Wilesmith) - the subject matter would have been well sorted - but there was no script - Ross is in his element, it is all ad-libbed.
Act 3 is also well written - this is where the housewife saves the situation - but at the end, the handyman foreshadows more problems in the future.

This team have made about 130 movies over the last 30 years. Fay is very quick at writing good original stories, complete with a useful shot list. Don and Ross are both very competent camera operators and editors. Ross has given me valuable advice on directing and story telling on various occasions.

Beginners should start with a very short movie.

THE SURVEY by Fay Finlay

Shot 1 M.S. On footpath outside a house. Woman with clipboard is near letterbox checking the house number against clipboard. She walks out of frame.
Shot 2 M.S. Porch and front door of house. Woman walks into frame, steps up to door and rings bell. She steps back, looking at papers as she waits.
Shot 3 M.S. Door opens to reveal a man with newspaper in his hand. "Yes?"
Shot 4 C.U. Woman "Good morning sir. I'm conducting a survey on Wife Swapping in the Suburbs and I wonder if you'd mind answering a few questions?"
Shot 5 C.U. Man. "No - Go right ahead."
Shot 6 M.S. Woman. She checks papers. "Well, firstly - have you ever been involved in wife swapping?"
Shot 7 C.U. Man: "Well, yes, just once."
Shot 8 C.U. Woman: "When was this?"
Shot 9 M.S. Man. He thinks for a moment: "Uh! - About six weeks ago."
Shot 10 M.C.U. Woman: "Right. Now Sir, could you tell me whether this was good for your marriage?"
Shot 11 M.S. Man: "Yes, it was very good for my marriage."
Shot 12 C.U. Woman: "That's very interesting, Sir . In what way was it good for your marriage?"
Shot 13 C.U. Man (Looking pleased): "Well, I haven't got her back yet!"
Shot 14 M.S. Woman looks up from writing on clipboard looking a trifle puzzled. Man has a happy smile on his face.
Fade to END.


As we come to the end of the Production Section I want to thank the many people who provided me with encouragement and support regarding this project. They are all very experienced movie makers who volunteered to check the drafts of "The Video Maker's Journey." They all helped to keep me on the straight and narrow path of providing easy to understand advice for beginners, on video making.

Col Tretheway and I made 15 movies in the years 2002 to 2006 - we took turns at writing, directing, producing and editing the movies. The methods we used to make these movies, are all written on this web site under the heading of "The Video Makers Journey." Col is very quick at writing original stories - I can come up with original stories, but I am somewhat slower at it.

Alan Beale - for 10 years up to the end of 1996, Alan published my study notes in the QMM Club Magazine. All that information and Col Tretheway's own experience was used in the making of the above mentioned movies. Alan took particular care that my writings on this project were technically correct.

Nev Long - is a gold-mine of information - his best tip was to turn up the volume of headphones and edited movies when checking for unwanted noise. No matter what neat trick I found in my research - Nev could always add more information to it. Nev also took particular care in checking my work - he and Alan often made the same comments.

Fay and Don Finlay - Fay and I founded the QMM Script Writers Group. For many months, we were the only people that turned up for meetings. Fay is also very quick at writing original stories.

Ross Wilesmith - gave me some valuable tips, early in my movie making career - he recently joined the above mentioned team in checking the drafts of "The Video Maker's Journey".

Making the Movie is Just the Start

Next you have the fun of showing it to cast, crew, family, friends, the club and maybe then to festivals.

I belong to the Oakleigh Movie Club Inc., as a Country Member. This Club conducts an International Festival, their Contact Information is shown below.

Conducted by The Oakleigh Movie Club Inc.

The Melbourne International Movie Festival is held in September each year
and is open to all non -professional movies world wide.

Entry forms are available on their web site
a few months before the festival at www.mimf.oakleighmovieclub.org.au

If you would like to be advised when the entry form is available,
or require further information, please log on to the web site,
follow the links to the Festival page and click on "I'd like more information".

Advanced Advice on Writing Screenplays - a reading list.

The following books are useful reading if you wish to advance your knowledge on the subject.

a) The Writer's Journey - Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screen Writers by Christopher Vogler (Image Book Company, 1992 Amazon UK price in June 2008 £5.79)

There are common elements in all "Myths, Fairy-tales, Dreams and Movies" they are known collectively as the "Hero's Journey". Two elements from the Hero's Journey that I use regularly:

  • The "The Refusal of the Call" - the hero finds that the situation is too much for him - the hero is reluctant to take up the challenge.
  • Then introduce the "Mentor" - this is a wise person who gives advice and maybe assistance to the hero - this gives the hero a kick start, he now takes up the challenge.
b) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger (Samuel French 1994 Amazon UK price in June 2008 £6.59)

This is the definitive book on the "Three Act Structure" and the use of "Subplots" and "How to keep up the momentum in the story".

c) The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri.(bnpublishing, 2008 Amazon UK price in June 2008 £5.59)

This book has extensive advice on human nature and how to develop and continually adjust your character's attitude and behaviour so as to maintain audience interest throughout the movie.

d) Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. (Delta, 2005, Amazon UK price in June 2008 £6.99)

This book covers all aspects of screenplay writing. Of particular interest is the information on turning points. The most useful advice in this book is - "first you must know the ending - next the beginning and finally the turning points - before you start writing."

Advice On Entering Movies In Competitions

1. DVDs are the best and most convenient media for playing movies in your own home, in other peoples homes and in competitions. The image and the audio quality is first class -- if the movie is well made.
(a) the entry form will set out the requirements as to how the movie should be prepared and have a leader at the front and some video black at the end -- also there will be instructions on labelling the DVD and its case, and the tapes and their cases. Apart from that follow my advice.
(b) DVDs
  • If you are able to make reliable DVDs that will always play in other people's equipment - then use DVDs.
  • Only put one movie on each DVD.
  • Do not put stick-on labels on the DVD - they will jam the DVD in iMac computers, and cause playback problems in many DVD players.
  • Record to quality DVDs, that are made in Japan.
  • Remember to finalise the DVD, otherwise it probably won't replay properly, if at all in another player.
  • Always check the DVD on at least two players - not just on a computer.
(c) MiniDV tapes
  • If you are unable to make reliable DVDs -- then use MiniDV tapes. MiniDV tapes were the stepping-stone when we moved from VHS and S-VHS tapes on our way to using DVDs.
  • Only put one movie on each tape.
  • Provide a 30 second black leader and 10 seconds of video black at the end of the movie. Remember to mark the leader length on the cassette case.
  • MiniDV tape is tough and very reliable.
  • Play the tapes to check them for hiccups.
2. The Drawbacks To Using DVDs
(a) DVDs that we burn in our computers and DVD recorders do not last very long - if they are used a lot they will probably only last 5 years. When stored carefully they might last 10 years -- we really don't know.

The bottom surface of these DVDs are coated with a dye -- the computer or the DVD recorder burns tiny holes in the dye. This surface is extremely unstable. The holes are easily damaged -- they distort, become damaged by moisture and heat. Professionally made DVDs, which are pressed from a glass master are supposed to last 100 years. But I have read there are problems with some of them too.

(Archive the DVDs to MiniDV tape, or to spare external hard drives, refer to Part 19 -- DVDs and archiving.)

(b) If the DVDs are not properly made -- they will be unreliable. Even if you have good equipment it is possible to make faulty DVDs, if you are inexperienced or careless.

There are four types of DVDs that can be made in my iMac computer. The making of the type I use is so complicated that I keep a one-page set of instructions handy. When burning a DVD without using the check-list recently, I got some of the operations out of order -- I got into a mess -- and then tried to fix it -- I put a bug onto the DVD. What happened next was that the DVD would play in my computer but it wouldn't play in my pioneer DVD recorders, where all I got was a blank screen, as though there was nothing there.

But it would play in my pioneer DVD player in the lounge room!

I have seen other people's DVDs play up, its quite usual. I now take care to read my check-list of instructions every time.

3. Some Problems Encountered By Festival Organisers And Club Projectionists.
  • VHS tapes sealed in VHS cases with Scotch tape and sent through the post without an envelope or packing.
  • Cassettes and DVDs without labels.
  • DVDs with stick-on labels -- this has caused problems when they are played.
  • DVDs that appear to be blank, with no movie -- blank tapes have also been received, obviously they were not checked. You must always check the tapes and DVDs for hiccups.
  • The screen format, 4 x 3 or 16 x 9 not shown on the DVDs or tape cases.
4. Using a DVD Recorder.
This comment explains why you should use at least 5 second long leaders.

Before I bought the iMac computer with the 2006 iMovie editing software -- I used two Pioneer DVR 310 DVD recorders that had iLink connections in and out, and a Casablanca Avio computer editor. In this set-up the DVD recorders will not start recording, unless the player is running -- so if you only have a black leader of 2 seconds -- it takes many attempts to get the recording on its way.

It also takes several seconds for the software in the recorder to kick start into operation -- so I always play a few seconds of the movie to the DVD recorder beforehand. This kick starts the software into operating mode and thus reduces the start up time by a couple of seconds.

For this reason I always install a black leader of 5 seconds. This allows me to easily make copies of DVDs on my recorders -- I don't have to use the computer. Also any projectionist with such a disc can easily cue up the movie for the start by playing the DVD for 2 seconds, then pressing "pause" or "stop" The DVD is thus cued and ready to play.

5. Don't Use Menus Containing Video Or Music On The DVDs.
The type of computer-generated menu where 30 seconds of video and audio are repeatedly played, is not advisable, unless the on-screen menu is clearly marked with instruction "buttons" -- in fact, when there is only one movie, and there are no "buttons" (and this has happened twice that I know of) it is confusing to everyone. People think the video has broken down as it repeatedly replays the same 30 seconds. I have also seen a club projectionist confused by this.

Festivals are asking, "Do not use menus", but I have been using the system described below without complaint.

I do use a menu, but it is a stationary plain black screen, without music.

On it, is seen the name of the movie and the words -- "press play or enter". What happens when it is inserted in a player -- it stops with a blank black screen -- then when "Play" is pressed -- it plays through the 5 second black leader, unless it is paused or stopped. If the "menu remote control" is pressed -- it shows the stationary menu, with "buttons" as described above.

6. Accidental Black Frames
  • Sometimes odd black frames in a movie cause a faint blip in the picture.
  • Sometimes accidental gaps at the start of a movie prevent it from being downloaded from the computer.

When checking a few movies made by someone else, I have noticed a few faint blips -- close examination revealed a black frame -- a possible cause may be as described below -- watch for it.

The iMac 06 software creates black video by separating two adjacent clips on the timeline -- then switching the timeline viewer to the clipline viewer, creates the black video. I understand this is similar to other editing software. At the moment I haven't put a black frame into my movies, but I seem to insert 2 or 3 frames of black sometimes -- when I am adding audio and shifting it along the timeline to a particular spot, but I always notice that when it happens.

I hear of problems when the computer won't download the movie -- I discovered one cause recently -- the computer would play the movie properly, but it wouldn't download. I correctly guessed that there was a problem at the start -- I trimmed a few frames off the black leader -- the computer then downloaded. I now believe that I had put a gap at the start of the movie. If I had switched to the clipline viewer I would have seen it. The short bit of black wouldn't have mattered, even if it wasn't removed.

7. VHS and S-VHS Tape.
Provide a 30 second black leader and 10 seconds of video black at the end of the movie.

The hi-fi audio on S-VHS video tape is far superior to the audio on a VHS tape.

The control tracks on VHS and S-VHS tapes deteriorate as time goes by. The control tracks are easily restored by transferring the movie to a MiniDV tape. Refer to Part 19 DVDs and Archiving and Part 20 Transferring Old VHS and S-VHS Video to DVD for further details.

In my experience to get good reliable picture quality, use Maxell VHS tapes and Fuji S-VHS tapes - and use 180 minute tapes at most. Don't use longer tapes, they will be thinner.

8. How I Present My DVDs.
(a) I usually provide a 5 second black leader and 10 seconds of black at the end. I always check the entry form to see if I have to vary this set-up.
(b) I use the menu-making software -- but I use a stationary black screen, without music at the start -- on it is printed the name of the movie and the instruction. e.g.

Press play or enter

Pass the Parcel

As previously noted, when the DVD is inserted in a player, a plain black screen shows. When the operator presses play or enter -- the DVD starts to play -- if the menu is pressed -- the stationary black screen, with the instructions shows. This is handy, if the operator wants to return to the start.

(c) This is a sample of what I write on the case and the DVD:

"Pass the Parcel"

by Arthur Bullock  and Col Tretheway

5 minutes / normal screen (or 16:9 screen)

Royalty free music.

5 secs. black leader.

9. Alternative DVD Software
What do you do if the DVD authoring software in your movie editing software is unsatisfactory?

[Dave Watterson suggests looking at a free program for PCs called DVD Flick (it is a 10Mb download from www.dvdflick.net) which can process most types of video file and handles PAL or NTSC with ease.

As supplied, it can create menus though not quite so simple as the ones Arthur recommends. There is advice in the DVD Flick forum on creating your own menu. You can build the DVD without a menu and it will simply start playing as soon as it has loaded up.

It allows the addition of subtitles and commentary tracks. Like many such open-source projects it needs modules created by different people. Unlike most such projects it bundles them up and installs them all at once without fuss. It can be used in its default settings. You can burn an ISO image on your hard-disc for later use or cut a DVD immediately… well after a delay for transcoding. All DVD authoring requires time to prepare the files. The default here is a two-pass approach which keeps quality high but takes twice the time.

And if you don't like it you can uninstall it without guilt since it cost nothing.]

There will be more on burning DVDs in Part 19 -- DVDs and archiving.

10. Return Post & Packing Arrangements.
If the movies are to be returned to you, use the cardboard box type of post-packs that are available at the post offices in Australia, they are very cheap and can be reused by the festival staff. The post-pack idea was copied from some place overseas, so no doubt they are available in many countries.

[European readers might consider www.postpack.co.uk who do not require a minimum order and offer fast delivery.]

If you are entering a film, you could send a return-addressed jiffy-bag alongside the film in a larger one.

For many countries, it is also a good idea to put a label for customs -- "amateur film with no commercial value, for festival exhibition only". In Australia , when sending movies overseas you will be asked to fill in a special form and sign it. [Sending from Britain to most parts of the European Union does not require a customs declaration but for other countries such a form is required. Your post office will advise you.]

A single DVD in the post-pack -- will be weighed, and as it is so light -- the postage will be as for a letter -- it will be sent via air-mail. Packages over a certain weight will require an extra charge for it to be sent via air-mail.

It can take one to two weeks for a package to reach a foreign festival. From Brisbane to Britain it has varied from five days to two weeks. [Recent experience shows it can take over a week for a first-class packet from Britain to reach Croatia.]

< Part 17 | Introduction | Part 19 >

© copyright Arthur Bullock, 2008

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