Friday, 28 September 2018

FILMING strategies for a successful shoot

Having watched the current Y10 manage 4 shots in 30 mins, here are a few pointers that will help you enjoy a more successful shoot. I did something similar for A-Level a while back (here's a student list). Don't expect to be brilliant right away - you haven't had the benefit of being taught anything yet!!!
[typed on a PC with IE only; can't format yet!]

You're on a course to learn; your untrained instincts at the beginning are likely to be poor, featuring:
  • minimal planning
  • minimal referring to the minimal planning when shooting!
  • shooting each action point in a single take
  • not thinking through the best framing for each shot, nore therefore its symbolic (semiotic) purpose)
  • lack of direction (instructions) for cast
  • limited communication from the camera operator/s
  • filming with 1 camera
  • not using a tripod
  • minimal effort on costume, set dressing or props
You'll learn and hone your instincts more the more you practice, just like anything else. If you wait for the few occasions we'll do filming exercises in Media lessons you'll find it hard to enjoy a good shoot.
As Master Yoda says to Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi:
The chap on the left has some wise advice...
Failure a good teacher makes
Play around: make some terrible cinematic atrocities! If you look at A-Level students' blogs, with more filming exercises and drafting of coursework than at GCSE, you'll see some quite cringey things before they end up with the generally high-A-grade film openings (AS) and especially music videos (A2, with more experience!). If they attempted the same film openings/music videos without this practice they would still be pretty awful - but with it, they usually end up being rather impressive!

On the new GCSE you don't get your choice of briefs (tasks, and which media they involve) until June of Y10, but they will involve the media featured in the CSPs. Experiment and you'll get better over time.

Every idea should be explainable in ONE sentence (synopsis).
No clear idea = chaos.
Be clear on characters' look and mannerisms; think about body language.
Keep dialogue short unless you're working with pro actors
Imagine each scene in an actual TV show, movie etc - would you see ONE take for each action point?
Are there ways to use framing/shot types/angles to intentionally hide some details and create some mystery, at least for a little while? (narrative enigma) > HINT: shoot feet, OTS etc and don't immediately show a face
List shots in the order you'll shoot them. Its usually slower to shoot in the order they'll appear on screen.
Either rip up/burn your paper planning or use it as a guide when filming - score off shots as you film them
Do, however, think creatively when filming - can you now see any creative new/better/additional shots? Write them on your shot list if so - from a quick scan of these, are you achieving good shot variety

Someone needs to direct cast and crew: clear, precise instructions with reference to camera position and framing
To help camera framing, have a person, any person, in the character position
Unused cast/crew should stay behind the camera
If a tracking shot requires cast/crew to go further away this must be made clear
Be careful that a 2nd camera/tripod doesn't come into frame
Shoot more, not less: click record as soon as you start the 3-2-1... countdown (don't say the 'action/go'), don't stop recording too soon - trim your clips in editing
If you don't tell your cast you'll be resetting for more takes your shoot will take a very long time
Two cameras speed things up; you can be adjusting 1 tripod while filming a shot with the other
To achieve continuity pay close attention to hair, clothing and mise-en-scene - you can put small marks (eg with paper tape) on the ground to help with quicker resetting (if unseen within camera frame)

This is one that untrained filmmakers neglect
Grab some (usually CU) shots of props/parts of the mise-en-scene that are within the frames of (for example) sequences (multiple shots: shot reverse shot) of conversation which cut back and forth between 2 or more people. Cutaway shots can also be on a hand, foot etc.
These provide options in...

Its only really when you come to edit that you'll realise if you've taken enough/too little
Think of shot A-B-A:
we took a MS (A) and a LS (B) of the same short action: start with A on screen, cut to B, and cut back to A.
Basically, cut away (not cutaway) from takes and return to them once or more to make a more interesting edit. YOU would be quickly bored by a series of single long takes.

Back to Master Yoda: you can always learn and do better on a reshoot. A failed shoot isn't the end of the world, so long as you learn and apply lessons from this. It takes time for ideas like the long list above to become instinct.

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