Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dialtone Lessons Learned #1 - Pre-Production

You can never do too much pre-production!

Everyone knows that the most important part of making a movie is telling a good story. The thing is, when you are doing what most people would call “making a movie”, (filming actors talking to each other and doing stuff in locations with their wardrobe on and props in hand, etc.) you don’t have time to worry about how good your story is or if the shots you are getting are telling that story effectively.

You have to KNOW that everything you are doing is telling the story in the way you want to tell it BEFORE you step on location. Pre-production is everything. The actual filming is always more like painting by numbers than anything else… so you better have it mapped out.

Our wonderful storyboard artist, Benjamin Berkompas storyboarded the entire warehouse sequences for us. And for every other location we did both a birds eye view storyboard of each camera setup and movement and a rough frame by frame storyboard for every short. Since I drew them, no one but me could make sense of them, but that's another story.

This was absolutely crucial so that when it came time to film we could have a myopic focus on the nuances of each shot and each frame without worrying whether they would all work together to tell the story that we wanted to tell. We already knew the shots would tell the story. We just had to get them!

I’m not saying the actual filming phase of production is not a creative, storytelling process… it is. It’s just a more focused type of story telling. The story you might be telling in one shot is the story of a door being opened from a close point of view. You need to focus on telling that story right. Or maybe it’s an actor saying one line in a close up. You need to tell that story right in and of itself.

Every frame should be a story, you need pre-production to fit each frame together to have a character progression and a message when they’re all edited together. You can’t worry about that on set.


SamuelY said...

Very true, Brian.
It is pretty close to impossible to do too much preproduction.
I remember listening to a lecture by Geoff Botkin and he was recommending that filmmakers even go so far as to take their storyboards, turn them into a slideshow, and record the actors' voices over it to get an idea for the timing and other such stuff.

John-Clay said...

This is a great post about a very important part of the filmmaking process. Keep up guys!!!

John-Clay said...

This is a great post about a very important part of the filmmaking process. Keep it up guys!!!