You heard me! You and I are going to shoot a feature film together and we’re going to do it all on mobile... or whatever you have at your disposal.
This summer, I’m laying down the gauntlet. The challenge is to stop shooting short films and get to your feature film. Maybe it’s your first feature. Maybe, like me, it’s your 4th. No matter which number it is, we’re going to set aside convention and create something spectacular... on mobile! You with me? Good!
Now, how the heck are we going to do this? “Feature films are hard and labor intensive, aren’t they?,” you say. Well, yes. But so is eating an elephant. You attack a feature film the same way as you eat that elephant... one bite at a time.
Let’s go over the broad strokes of what we will accomplish together:
We’re going to write a script or, in my case, a scriptment. For the uninitiated, a scriptment is a lot more than a treatment and not quite a full script. That is to say, it’s all of the scenes written out with scene headings, actions, and maybe a little starter dialog, but not every bit of dialog your actors would say. There is a caveat, though: You must have decent actors to pull this sort of thing off. I’ve been able to pull it off twice before, so I feel extremely comfortable with that sort of creative collaboration.
Next, we’re going to choose our “weapons of mass creation.”
The tools we choose are important. Not the sort of “important” Hollywood makes you think you need, but the kind of important that allows you to get your job done.
When you see a feature film being shot, you see dozen trucks with gear and crew to handle that gear. There are cranes and dollies and rigging and giant lights... and a catering truck to fuel the men and women who run all that gear. Trust me, I know. I was Key Grip for 12 years! That’s a lot of expensive stuff and crew you don’t have. So, we’re going to use what we DO have... YOU and a few of your closest associates! Oh, and more importantly... good food from a local restaurant.
Lumped in with all of this is the actual gear. We’re going to go into the specifics in another article, but the long and the short of it is you need a camera of some sort, sound equipment, and something to illuminate the scenes.
Let’s talk cameras... because they’re sexy. Yes, there’s nothing sexier than pulling the plastic off of a new piece of kit. The sound of the crinkle and crackle as the clear skin peels away... the whiff of adhesive as the film gives away to its inevitable resting place in the trash. We all know and love that new gear smell. But, I don’t want you to spend a lot to make this feature. If you already have a phone, then you have exactly what you need to make this feature. We’re going bare bones on this one... After all, this is a ’mobile creator’ challenge of sorts.
The other gear, we’ll go over later. Just know that we need good sound, so you might have to spend a little cash getting kitted out with the proper gear for that. It might not cost that much, but it will probably cost you something. Sorry. Either pay now or pay later, but you‘re gonna pay!
Ultimately, we’re going to need to edit the beautiful images and crisp sound you captured. Part of this challenge is to do as much of it on a mobile device as possible. Whether you have an Apple or an Android, there are solutions for you in the app stores that are pretty darned impressive. We’ll talk about a few another time, but for now, expect to pay a little something if you don’t already have an app that comes on your device. Don’t worry it won’t be that expensive.
Finally, we’re going to get distribution for the feature film you‘ve created. Now, there are many flavors of distro, so we will have to unpack that in an article all on its own. But, we should make a plan... a business plan for this ‘product’ you’ve taken time and money to craft. What is the ultimate destination for your product? You should think about that before you shoot one second of footage.
Notice I’ve used the ‘p’ word twice? Yes, movies are a product. the sooner you get that into your mush the better. Yes, features can be both art and commerce, but it’s not called ”show business” for nothing... Not “show art,” not “show fun,” show business! If you’re just making your movie to show to granny during the holidays, then that’s on you!
Full disclosure: I have distribution lined up for this project. I want to be as transparent as possible moving forward, so, again, we’ll talk distribution another time.
Why are we doing this? Well, there are a few reasons, but the most important are these:
It is my belief that mobile is ready for primetime. We’ve see what Steven Soderbergh and Sean Baker have done with their feature films that were shot on mobile. At the time, they were somewhat groundbreaking. Now, shooting a feature is nothing new, but what is new is doing an end-to-end mobile workflow... shooting and finishing on mobile.
Mobile is ultra accessible. Sure, you could grab your DLSR or cinema camera, polish up your lenses, charge up your batteries and head out. Once you get back, you’ll throw your footage into your computer, edit and export. It’s been done. It will continue to be done that way. and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the real challenge is to grab what‘s in your pocket, maybe throw on a conversion lens, shoot and edit right on the same device.
Doing a short film is a hell of a lot of fun, but what are you going to do with it when you get done? Yes, you can enter it into a festival, but that’s not a business plan. Shorts are hard to sell, but you know what’s easier? FEATURE FILMS and SERIES! And, they’re needed now more than ever!
We're launching a streaming service. There. I said it! The goal of this exercise is to curate the best projects that can be made. This isn’t YouTube! We want proper movies and series. This is intended to be high quality entertainment. No cat videos. No proofs of concept for something you want to make when you have more money to make it better. Make your ‘better’ right now... on mobile!
I believe that filmmakers should make a buck from all their hard work, passion, and diligence. So, it is my goal to help in that when the service is launched. More to come at a later date.
I keep saying that “I’m using this time period we’re in (the time of Covid-19) as an excuse to not have any more excuses.“ No more “I don’t have X, so I can’t do Y.“ You have a movie studio in your pocket. If you have a story to tell, why wait for someone to give you ‘permission’ to go shoot your project. No! That’s B.S. and we’re not going to let each other fall into that trap, right?!
Reach out on social and let me know what you plan on shooting. Let me know how I can help. I’m here to encourage and problem solve. Together, we can shake off the shackles of fear and excuse to create something that can potentially change your life and the lives of those in your socially distanced circle.
I’ll be posting some more articles about the gear, tips, techniques, business, and more in the coming weeks. It begins now!
Stay safe and let’s get to work!