Lance Pickett's YouTube Channel


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Filmmaking Mistakes, Episode 2: Scout your locations!

This episode is part of an on-going filmmaking mistakes hunt that I'm determined to discover, explore and learn from. To join me along this journey, feel free to begin here.

Scout your locations early!

When I wrote the short film we shot last month I had a very specific location in my mind, it was the easiest location I could think of... a friend's house of course. Although I hadn't visited that friend for a while (I was busy writing my films, okay?) I had vivid images of what everything looked like so I knew exactly what each scene would look like. Because I was familiar with the location already I didn't bother scouting it before the shoot. You see where this is going.

Big mistake! The rooms I recalled were bigger than they really were. The furniture weren't what I remembered, they had a freaking flat screen TV! I swore they had a kitchen table against the east wall but it was a countertop instead. The detached garage was a lot higher than I remembered where I planned to have an actor climb the roof then jump off the other side. I wasn't prepared for the single location swamp cooler which didn't do a good job cool off a room full of lights and actors. We were sweating pigs. Good thing I brought lots of water!

I asked for permission to use the house and we just showed up the day of the shoot. All you professionals are shaking your heads, I know it! The good news is, it all worked out, the owners and their house were fantastic! We had to tweak the script to make it work and it worked out just fine. In fact, some scenes worked out a lot better than I planned and it certainly made the story more realistic and funnier.

There was one location I never found during the week of our shoot, an apartment. I kept putting off those scenes for a long as I could. I texted everyone I knew (between shots) for help to find an apartment to shoot in. At the very last minute I realized something stupid, "Why did it have to be an apartment?" We asked a neighbor near our existing location and the guy was more than thrilled to let us shoot there. Coincidentally, he was a crew member for the movie High School Musical, cool eh? He even got free cleaning service from us afterwards.

Another thing about location is, with a low budget film, you really need to be considerate of other's time and gas. While I was perfectly fine with driving an hour each way to the location every day, it got old very fast for everyone else and I really felt pressured to pay for their gas (which would have gobbled up 25% of the budget). Free food suddenly lost its value on the set. I winced every time I gave crew members the address to the next location. I'm fortunate that they were very forgiving.

Aside from the grumblings from the crew it worked out, we got through the week and finished the shoot. I swear I'm gonna scout locations better next time. Keep everything within a 10 mile radius. I learned for low budget films, you really have to be open to changing the script to fit the location not the other way around.

Now, go film yourself mad!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Filmmaking Mistakes, Episode 1: You're not gonna win the Oscars

This episode is part of an on-going filmmaking mistakes hunt that I'm determined to discover, explore and learn from. To join me along this journey, feel free to begin here.

Never think your movie is going to win the Oscars. It won't happen if you do.

Of course I didn't think any of my films will actually win the Oscars. But I'd be lying if I said I never fantasized wining some kind of award. I've produced stuff where I thought would be a huge hit where it completely flopped instead. On the contrary, I've made films I thought would never get anyone's attention and turned out to be a complete success - which ticks me off because I wasn't even trying. I'll give you an example.

There was a decision the FCC (yeah, the one ran by the government) was considering that my friends and I felt pretty strongly against. I don't want to bore you with details but the decision affected our jobs and possibly the future of a particular technology. So we banded together and made a very last minute PSA type video. We wrote it in a couple of hours and shot footage for  about three hours and then I spent all night editing it and posting it on YouTube. The next morning I slept in and then went to work. By the time I got to work, almost everyone in the company had seen the video. My heart raced thinking I've made a huge mistake. The video went completely viral beyond my expectations and swept the nation. Did the video affect the FCC's decision? I don't really think so, people still lost their jobs but it could have been much worse.

Anyway, the success of that video got into my head where I thought that I could do it again. So I did some research on what makes videos viral and I thought I had it all figured out. So, I wrote another script that specifically met all the criteria for a successful viral video. We shot for two hours and then I spent a month editing it - mostly because I also wanted to learn motion tracking and color grading which took me a while to get it just right. I told all my friends I was making another video that was gonna go viral. I launched the video... crickets sang. I admit, I was pretty disappointed. The film was fantastic, people loved it and thought it was funny but it had a hard time going viral.

Moral of the story: If you tell everyone you're movie will be a success, let the film speak for itself. I have this theory that Karma loves proving people wrong. If you do your best without expecting much in return Karma will surprise you.

Now, go film yourself mad!

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New Blog Series: Filmmaking Mistakes

I'm gonna start a series of posts that specifically illustrates mistakes I (and undoubtedly many other indie filmmakers) when making movies. I've been making short films and other video projects since I was 13 years old and I'm nowhere near the realm of success where I want to be. I'm determined the reason is because of the many mistakes I make.

On a positive note, I don't consider myself a failure, otherwise I would have stopped making movies a long time ago. In fact, I look forward to making as many mistakes I can just so I can learn from them, hopefully you will too.

So here I go, publishing a series of my humiliating filmmaking mistakes are for your benefit. These mistakes aren't necessarily in order, they are not prioritized in any way. I will be writing them as I make them. Most will be actual mistakes while some will be that "dude-that-was-almost-bad" kind of mistake. I may also post mistakes made by other filmmakers.

Recommended Reading:
Episode 1: You're not gonna win the Oscars