Written by Steven Streeter, Jonathan Harris, & Henry “Trey” Grun III
You wanna be A filmmaker?
Becoming a filmmaker is a dream for many. But the biggest set back for most is being able to afford a decent camera, lighting gear, and sound equipment to feel confident that your story will have the wings to fly and not wither and die in the defeat of bad sound, poor lighting, and/ or a terrible image. Further more, it has always been said your success is based off of whom you know. If you’re a regular nine to five worker or a student like myself, you quickly realize you don’t have those connections. With emerging technology times are starting to change. The cost of film making equipment as well as the ability to reach a core audience is now well within your reach. Let me break it down for you.
Getting your Equipment Together
Film arrived on the scene in 1890, with the invention of the first motion picture cameras. The films of the 1890’s were under a minute long and until 1927 were produced without sound. The cameras were cumbersome and difficult to use,
Edison’s Kinetoscope, Lumiére’s cinematographe, and Latham’s Loop to name a few of the camera’s out at the time.
Juxtapose then with now. Every one with a smart phone has a high definition camera that also captures sound. Films today range from three hour epic adventures to six second vine videos. Everyone and anyone can be a filmmaker. So why aren’t we seeing more films produced if the walls that blockade possibility have come tumbling down? Perhaps it is because of the nature of instant gratification that is prevalent in today’s society. No wonder vines have created such a following. The idea of creating a six second video bolsters that feeling of instantaneous success. BAM! You just created a movie. In fact during the amount of time I took to write what I have up until now no doubt 20, 30, 50, or even100 videos could have already been made. But I digress; this blog is not about the problems of today, but rather the opportunities. Let’s take a look at all the opportunities available to you filmmakers who just want to focus on that feature film. Can it be done? Can you find the equipment without having to spend thousands of dollars? Let’s find out.
We will take a look at all the top brand cell phones out there and see what they have to offer.
These are only a few phones, and prices include at least a 2 year contact.
Ok, so now we have covered the ability to capture video. But there are other possibilities for capturing video. Let’s look at some of those.
OK, so we have covered tons of different ways to capture video. So now there is sound. Sound is just as important if not more important for a film. Cruddy video with great sound is bearable, but terrible sound with a great picture is to disturbing to suffer through.
The best way to think of sound when capturing your movie with these types of cameras will be utilizing a dual system, meaning capture your audio separate from the video and sync it together in post. I know this sounds like it would be monotonous and over kill, but in actual fact, this is a standard way to capture your audio. There are some very inexpensive ways to do this.
By placing a recorder in the scene and hiding it with set dressing is a very clever way to capture great sound. (For example, H4n zoom $200, Tascam dr-60D $169.99, Zoom ultra portable $99.99, and the list goes on) There are literally hundreds of ways to capture your sound that are relatively inexpensive. My favorite are those that are free. For instance, if you have a cell phone handy, you could use that.
Lighting is something that you can get very creative with. There is no need to buy into light kits that cost thousands of dollars. Light can be affected through quality, amount, color temperature, and direction. There is no light source more abundant than the sun, and best of all, it is free. Often times you will see photographers using reflectors to deal with the sun. Well, if you own a car chances are you have a sun visor that can act as a reflector. Another issue you might run into is sunlight that is too bright. Well, use the reflector as a shade. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, get creative and save money. So when planning your film, if it is a film you can make during the day, do it and use the sun.
Now let’s look at some inexpensive options. The best place for inexpensive light is a hardware store. Check out Home Depot or Lowes. Even your local hardware store may have work lights. But don’t just buy any work light. Look for LED work lights. These will stay cool and you can more easily manipulate the light without burning yourself. I actually used some LED work lights for one of my recent films, and I used diaper boxes for barn doors. They work great. Just remember, if you can light it, you can manipulate the light. Just get creative and make it work.
This list is made with just a quick search for lighting at the home.www.homedepot.com
These are just a few of the great low-cost options you can find at Home Depot. So you can actually gear up with Camera, Sound and Lights for way under $1000. That is huge when you think about low budget movies that turn around to make millions of dollars. Remember, over half of what I have listed you may already own. So really it is just a matter of deciding you want to make a film. Then put in the work. Write, produce, and put it all together.
Finding your Audience
After creating a low cost production, how will you gain revenue for your works? How will you build a following? Well, it’s not as hard or as far fetch as people think. With the advancement of the Internet, reaching the masses has never been easier. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo allow users to upload content along with tag lines that promote your content to reach a specific audience. YouTube even has partners that are willing to pay users to place advertisements on their videos. For more information on YouTube ads check out:
Other companies such as ITunes and Netflix have made it easier for independent filmmakers as well. These types of sites have built in audiences so getting connected may seem intimidating. And since the process of making films has gotten more affordable, the market has become over saturated with material. The good news is, ITunes and Netflix require users to go through independent distribution companies. Distribution companies generally choose quality films to back. ITunes and Netflix use this method to filter out bad material and to protect their reputation of having quality films. Sites like distribber.com for, instance, are made just for that. The website is easy to use, just fill in the information and submit your film. Having key artwork and quality material will help as well.
Even social media has joined the independent realm. Apps like Vine and Instagram allow users to create material instantly by using their mobile device. Vine only allows six-seconds where as Instagram allows fifteen. The work that has come out of this has changed the game. A lot of comedians use these platforms to directly reach their audience. Some of them post daily material in real time, making ever present in the public eye. Get popular and make money. Some of these “Vine Stars” have even made it big because of their postings. King Bach is an example of someone who took vining to another level. He creates quality skits picking fun of whatever’s current in sports and entertainment. Check out some of his work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRCxzZ6KnwY
The Accessibility of Filmmaking on the verge of Change
With films being so easily produced, what will the industry become within the next few years? The world may never know what’s in store for film, but this is a good time to ride the wave. Making films in today’s age is extremely cost efficient so there is no excuse to wait to tell that story burning on the shelf. Get out there and make your movie.
Written by Steven Streeter. Jonathan Harris, & Henry “Trey” Grun III