Thursday, October 17, 2013

Indie Movie Making – Chapter 1 - The Importance of Great Audio

Today, I plan on getting back to my filmmaking roots. After talking with a few people on a message board, I promised I'd put some advice out there for those interested in making their movie a reality, but don't have the money or knowledge to do so.

Chapter 1 - The Importance of Great Audio

So, you want to make a movie? (Or a book for that matter) The rules between the two are similar, although the implementation is different. These posts are for low-budget sub $20K indies. If you have a good budget and can afford help, please ignore the advice given here.

Let’s start at the beginning, ideas. Ok, you have a great idea. So, how do you get that great idea and turn it into something that you can sell. Well, the first thing is creating a screenplay. You have a screenplay? Cool, because I don’t plan on going into that subject. If you need screenplay help I’ll refer you to The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Troitter. These posts are about turning that screenplay into a visual reality.

Let’s first talk about the three major components of filmmaking: Audio, Lighting, and Camera; note, the order. Burn it into your brain. It’s easy to find a camera person, sometimes easy to find lighting; but it’s usually very difficult to find audio. If you fail at this one component, no one will watch your movie. So, let’s talk audio first.

Audio of a movie is simply what you hear. But it’s deeper than that. It’s also what you don’t hear as well. The first level of getting good sound is obtaining a great microphone. There are several good ones these days for $200 and up, but the closer you get to $1000 the better the quality and yes, you will notice the difference. Do your research to find the one that works best for you. On all my projects I’ve used the Sennheiser 416. But I’m sure there are much better ones on the market now.

It is important as an indie producer that you secure areas that are extremely quiet or at least whatever noise is present stays constant throughout the shoot. For instance, shooting at a house can be great as long as the neighbors don’t decide to cut their lawns. And being in your local downtown may be awesome as long as the traffic is steady and low. As the audio is cut together, if the background changes quickly from one sound to another (or the volume of noise), the audience will be taken out of the movie. And just like a typo or weird structured sentence can ruin a book, so can odd audio.

If you are lucky enough to have meters on your recording device, make sure your voices are high above the low end noises.

EXAMPLE:  Your recording device has 12 little dots to represent sound. You’re voices are averaging 10 dots, and your noise is about 2 dots. That is okay. But if your noise is 7 dots and your voices are 10 dots, that’s not okay. Most of that audio will be unusable.

If you are confused about a location, take your audio devices there and do some recording: Before You Shoot, to ensure great sound.

Okay, that’s all for today. I’ll discuss Lighting and Camera next time. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Descriptive Tips for Writing Fiction

Yesterday, I spent some time looking around the web, and found M. M. Vaughan’s website. She wrote the book The Ability which I’m currently reading. I took a moment to look through her blog and came across an interesting article. “WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle” By ELMORE LEONARD (Published: July 16, 2001, NY Times)

I found the points that he made about writing fascinating. But the last three rules I seriously took to heart and plan on working hard to use in my own writing.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Personally, I don’t like heavy descriptions of characters. Growing up, the one thing I didn’t like about “reading comprehension” was the removal of my personal influence over reading a story. Believe it or not, this was one of the reasons I didn’t like to read when I was in school. I found myself constantly changing out the characters in the book for my friends which made the book more relatable to me.

I doubt, I’ll remove all descriptions; but I’m starting to believe that it’s better to only say what the story needs, i.e. less is more.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

The Messengers is a sci-fantasy concept which takes a good amount of description to grasp. But one of my beta readers showed me that I don’t have to re-explain the obvious.  Readers assume the average. We don’t have to explain a “breathing man” because we know unless a person is dead, they are breathing. But, we have to explain a “blind man” since the average person can see.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The final tip, is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned that an author can never satisfy 100% of the readers. One person will enjoy long descriptive paragraphs while another will hate it. One person will claim the world isn’t detailed enough and another person will fill in the gaps with their imagination. So, what do readers skip? Honestly, right now I don’t know the answer to this. I don’t even have a true answer for any of these, but putting this information into my mind allows me to consider it every time I add words to a page.

Lucky for me, I come from the movie world where it’s all about “get in and get out.” You learn quickly that a viewer who thought your ninety movie was awesome, can hate it when it reaches 105 minutes.  Independent films proved to me that while the average viewer will watch Tom Cruise for two hours wondering what he is doing; they will not view an actor they’re unfamiliar with in the same situation. Part of storytelling is familiarity with characters, setting, and trusting those in charge. Trust comes from a relationship that has to be built. After Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling built up a relationship with her readers, and they trusted her as the books got longer. I doubt she would have had the same success if the first book was 700 pages.