How to Make a Movie – Filming Day

Watika Lemon is making a movie!  Or at least a short horror film.  In this series, we will walk you through the behind-the-scenes process.  One warning: we have no idea what we’re doing, so please don’t take any of our advice to heart.

tumblr_pcww1gBP5W1rgsaugo2_1280.pngWe had no idea how long it would take to shoot our roughly five minute film.  To be safe, we booked the actor for the day (9 to 5).  After picking them up at the train station, we headed back to the bedroom that was to be used as a set.

The producer and I had done a lot of tests ahead of time, even going as far as to film about a minute of the movie, so the set up was easy.  We didn’t have a formal script (this being a dialog-less movie and all), instead, we just explained each shot to the actor, had them try it out, then filmed it (and possible re-film if we wanted to see it another way)

Shooting went pretty smoothly and we ended up finishing around lunch.  While eating, I went through the footage and found a few shots that I wanted to redo (some were out of focus, and some I thought would be a bit choppy).  Reshoots were finished in about an hour, and filming wrapped by 2:00PM.

tumblr_pcww1gBP5W1rgsaugo1_540.pngSome things I learned:

The image you have in your head may not translate to real life; or the actor may play a scene in a different way than you anticipated – be prepared to change your plans on the spot.

Be really careful when framing – make sure the producer’s hands or the storyboard aren’t visible.

Longer shots are easier to work with.  If you want to cut between two angles, shoot the full action in each angle, then edit – don’t try to film just the quick action you think you need.

I supposed the lesson I’d most like to take though, is take your time.  But that’s a hard thing to do when you’re working on a tiny budget and have to finish in a day.

Part 3 – Casting

Part 2 – Lights, Camera

Part 1 – The Script


Confront the Monster Under the Bed in in the Short Film, Tentacle

tentacle-poster3.pngOur first short film, Tentacle is now available to view on YouTube.  Jess wants to sit back and watch a horror movie, but is interrupted by the horror lurking under the bed.

Starring Jess L. Callaghan, Produced by Carol Son, and Directed by Jaramiah Sabadoz

Netflix and Chill with Cthulhu!

Watch it HERE.

How to Make a Movie – Casting

Watika Lemon is making a movie!  Or at least a short horror film.  In this series, we will walk you through the behind-the-scenes process.  One warning: we have no idea what we’re doing, so please don’t take any of our advice to heart.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 4.31.32 PM.pngWe have a lot of experience casting models for photoshoots; but for those, we generally find a model, then think of a theme that will work with them.  But when casting actors, it’s the opposite; we had a specific idea in mind, and had to find the right actor to fill that part.

It starts with a  casting call, which basically a job ad.  We were pretty vague; only sharing the genre and the age range we were looking for (since we’re going for a classic ’80s horror style, that meant a woman in their low 20s).  We also listed a rough estimate of how long the shoot would take and how much we were paying (yes, this is a production with a budget :P).

The casting call was posted to two sites.  The first was the site we usually use to cast models, and the other was a Facebook group for independent film casting calls.  We got about four responses from the modelling site; and 20 or so from the Facebook group.  Of those, we contacted eight people that we thought would work (based on their headshot and resume); and of those eight, we managed to meet with four.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 4.31.50 PM.pngWe held the auditions in a park on a weekend.  We weren’t really sure what to do for an audition, so we ended up googling it between meetings (In the end, I don’t think we were too far off from the norm).  Each actor was given a short scenario to act out (some asked ahead of time, so got it on the day), and we filmed the results.

The biggest surprise of the day, the thing we weren’t expecting, was that all of them were really good.  Each actor had a different take on the material, but they were all uniquely impressive.  After reviewing the auditions, we chose the one that that most closely matched our own take on the script.

Side Note: Previous instalments of this series talked about writing and technical tests.  Both of these processes have been on-going.  The storyboards have been re-done several times, and new tests have been run (particularly after picking up a microphone).

Part 2 – Lights, Camera

Part 1 – The Script

How to Make a Movie – Lights, Camera

Watika Lemon is making a movie!  Or at least a short horror film.  In this series, we will walk you through the behind-the-scenes process.  One warning: we have no idea what we’re doing, so please don’t take any of our advice to heart.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 6.51.37 PM.pngOne of the things I learned from photography is the importance of lighting.  The better the quality of lighting, the sharper the image will be.  To shoot video, you need a constant light, so the flashes I use for photography wouldn’t help.  After some research, I eventually decided on an LED light – an Apurture Amaran HR672W.

There were a couple reasons for this.  The first is that based on the reviews and the type of movie we’re making, I think it will fulfill our needs.  The second is that it’s easy to upgrade with additional lights should we ever want a more extensive system.

While the light probably wouldn’t work in a large studio, for the compact spaces we’ll be shooting it, it produces more than enough light.  Indeed, I had to keep the power set pretty low to get the effect I wanted.

For the camera, I’m sticking with the camera  I use for still photography, an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.  It can capture 4K video, and has built-in 5 axis image stabilization that works incredibly well.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 5.22.50 PM.pngOnce we had all the equipment, we ran a few tests in the bedroom that we’ll be using as a set.  It started with getting the lighting right.  This involved adjusting the light’s power setting along with the camera’s exposure compensation until we hit the desired levels.  Next, we tried to re-create the shots from the storyboard.  This is where I ran into the biggest problem.  The camera lens I was planning to use (a 25mm) wasn’t wide enough (or the room was too small) to capture the whole scene.  To get the whole actor in the frame, I would have to leave the room, which would obviously limit the shooting options.

Rather than compromise too much, I decided to spring for a new, wider lens.  I suppose I could have gone through with the old one, but the view was so small that I would have had difficulty depicting all the necessary action in the frame at once.

Another thing I learned is that I should probably use a tripod.  Even though the image stabilization works wonders, I tend to sway back and forth slowly, which makes it hard to frame the shot.

All in all, I think we have what we need, equipment wise (except for a microphone – still need to get that).

Next time, we’ll look at the casting process.

How to Make a Movie – The Script

thumbnail_image1Watika Lemon is making a movie!  Or at least a short horror film.  In this series, we will Walk you through the behind-the-scenes process.  One warning: we have no idea what we’re doing, so please don’t take any of our advice to heart.

It all starts with a script.  This is usually where you can let your imagination fly; but as I sat down to write this untitled horror film I was keenly aware that I would be shooting on a budget of something around $200.  So instead of going crazy, I tried to construct a story that was actually do-able.  I kept it to one setting; my bedroom, and one character (I can afford at least that much).  The monster (it’s a horror movie, of course) would be limited to sound effects and brief glances.  I won’t go into the details of the story just yet, but I will add that the story has no dialogue, which means we don’t have to buy decent microphones or worry about audio editing.

I decided to write the script in short story format; partially because I don’t really know how to write s screenplay, and partially because it seemed like a more efficient choice given that there was no dialogue.  The script/story ended up being about two pages of a notebook.  By my rough estimation, that should result in a five or so minute movie.  The stage direction and props were based on things that were already in my room (another cost-cutting move).

The main character is a young woman, in classic teen horror movie tradition.  ’80s horror is my primary influence, and I think that will show through in the final product.

thumbnail_image1-1.jpgNext came the storyboard. This was a relatively new process for me, having to break each moment into component shots that stitch together to tell a story.  I have a little experience in that from drawing comics, but a storyboard is more detailed and less forgiving.  The storyboard, which I drew in a Star Wars: The Phantom Menace notebook, runs 11 pages and features crude stick figures and short descriptions of the action going on in that shot.

Doing the storyboard helped to visualize the story better, which led to a few revisions that will hopefully make the story clearer and improve the pacing.

And that’s it.  We now have a script.  The next step is to bring it to life.

In the next instalment, we’ll look at some of the equipment we’ll be using, and talk about the technical tests we have done to find the right setup.