Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prepping to Direct a Feature Film

Lately I have been busy prepping to direct a feature film that will shoot primarily in August. Since a lot of my time has been spent working on getting it ready, I thought I would spend a moment and discuss the different items on my agenda. This isn't a how-to, it's more of the beginning to a production journal.


For the last year my co-writer and I have been working on a script. We started writing a completely different story in November of last year, but it proved to be more difficult and more budget-involved than we could really handle. Over the course of the next six months we wrote and rewrote, then completely changed the story again.

My co-writer (who also happens to be my producer) took it over one week and just completely rewrote everything. He changed the storyline and a ton of characters to what we had discussed in conversations here and there. It came out pretty great. There was something in the script that hadn't been in there before and it was completely filmable on our meager budget.

We have one more set of revisions to make and then I'm going to call it a lock on the script. That's when we're going to do our budget and breakdowns.

Budgets and Breakdowns

Production Breakdown

A lot of the time, when you do a production for real, you have a production manager break down the script for every single element. We are hoping to have a PM on board for this production, but since we are running on a no-string budget, we can't really afford anyone.

Our PM (or one of the producers) is going to break down the script by scene and extract information on what we need to find resources for - things like locations, costume, props, effects, etc.

Hopefully we can write out any of the higher budget items in the script and just focus on resources we already have.


Our budget consists of zero dollars. Seriously, we have no money. But what we do have is a lot of resources. We are hoping to use what we have and borrow/beg/plead to get everything else. From what I can tell without seeing a full breakdown, I would say all that we really need to worry about is props and effects.

Props can be cheap, especially if we buy them on a credit card and return them when we're done. Effects however, are really difficult. We don't want to leave too much for post-production, but we also don't have the type of budget that most Hollywood films have. We are going to just play it by ear while storyboarding and choreographing our action scenes, maybe we can focus on what we have in those scenes and use tricks of the camera for most other effects we'll need. We may need to bust out our pocketbooks for a few effects, but we're going to have to be really sure those effects are worth it.

Director's Breakdown

Once we have a locked script, I'm going to do my director's breakdown. This will consist of not only camera angles and a shot list, but also moods, motivations, and notes about how I want something to look or feel. This breakdown will travel with me throughout the production and will serve as my personal journal for the film. It will help me remember what I wanted during the times when making a decision will be very difficult (i.e. when I'm very tired).


One of the most difficult things to do on an independent movie is to cast. It's fairly difficult when you have such a low budget, and damn-near impossible without any money at all. For this movie we are going to go with people we know. When we run out of people we know, we're going to turn to Craigslist.

We will be pulling in favors from all sorts of friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. With the combined strength of all the producers and myself, we should be able to find enough people to fill all of the roles.

We have one main character, three supporting characters, a villain and his two supporting, followed by a whole slew of extras and day players.

When you live in a place like Los Angeles, there is plenty of talent waiting for a chance to be a part of something, so you'll find more resources and more actors willing to work for no money or deferred pay. But it's still really hard.


We are filming in August, but we can only film during nights and weekends because most of the production crew work full-time (including me). This causes some major complications, but needs to be worked around since we are all trying to keep our livelihood until we get paid to do this full-time. (We're not quitting our day jobs... yet.)

We have a total of eight days for production. Even in a professional environment, when we have everything in place and all cast and crew ready to go - this is a very difficult amount of time. It's just too fast. Once we get going, we're going to have to turn around and wrap it up. How will we keep ourselves on target to get everything we need? Scheduling.

Scheduling is going to be our biggest asset. With a great breakdown of what needs to be filmed each day and a good First AD, we can get the schedule running like clockwork.

It will also help to have all of our locations planned out beforehand. If we can stay in one location for the entire weekend, we will be saving ourselves several trips and time-consuming setups. We can just light the one location and get crazy filming.

Set photo from a short film directed by my friend Spencer.

So that's pretty much everything I'm focusing on right now. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are ready and willing. I'll keep you updated on the blog as much as I can, as well as featuring behind-the-scenes on my YouTube page.

If you are interested in helping us with the film, are currently in or can be in Los Angeles, and are available in August - leave a comment below or write us at splanderson (at)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Memorial Day 2013

The video for today will be delayed until tonight when I can get home and upload it to YouTube. We had some technical difficulties last night once the video was done (i.e. compressing the video incorrectly), so we have to get it all sorted out before we can post.

Here's a bit of extra backstory for the video, written by Tiffany:

Memorial Day 2013

We decided on the drive to Utah over the Memorial Day weekend that it would be most appropriate to do a video for Memorial Day. We both come from military families and have seen loved ones go to war. This was a big day for us. What we didn't realize is how big it would be for our family and how we would react to attending such events.

The first thing we filmed was Eric's brother running, which was a lot to ask since he'd done a 5K that morning with us. But he's a former Marine, and can push through anything. He did great especially since we made him chase his truck up a rocky dirt road. His wife was such a trooper during the shoot, she drove the truck and did behind-the-scenes video on Eric's iPhone.

The next day we filmed at a Marine Corp. cemetery (Camp Williams) for the shots with the tombstones and mini flags. It was beautiful and as I walked through the grounds and saw the flowers, pictures and other decorations I began to tear up. I was so overcome to know that there were people out there that had lost dear loved ones in various wars. My own father served in the conflict with Panama. It was a scary time and there was a time we thought he might be gone. Thankfully he was spared, but I couldn't help but feel their pain of fathers, sons, husbands not returning home. Such a heartbreak.

That night we searched in two houses for Zach's dress blues and couldn't find them anywhere. It was quite the drama, but expected since a lot of their non-essentials were still in boxes since they'd just moved. Finally they found it, but much too late for us to film anything that day. So bright and early the next morning (6am, I think) we all got up - kids and all, and headed to the grave site of one of the soldiers that died in Afghanistan while Zach was there. It was really emotional for me. I was in charge of watching the kids in the truck during filming so I walked over as they got ready and checked out his headstone. It was beautiful and patriotic. I nearly lost it when I saw a picture of the Marine on his tombstone. I knew by the decoration and attention to detail just how much his family loved him. And losing him must have been the hardest thing in the world. I quickly walked back to the truck and played and talked with the kids so that I could find joy and happiness again.

This was one of the first Memorial Days where I really paid attention and offered my respects for lives lost. The video is a bit emotional, but I think it's appropriate. I can only imagine the tears shed and heartache suffered at the loss of loved ones and comrades. It is important we remember them and know that it was for our safety they perished. They served and many died because they believed in the greatness in our country. So no matter how we feel it's a good reminder that it's not all bad. It's a nation worth fighting for.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Achievement Unlocked (aka Bucket List)

Image from a very good blog post that kind of deals with the same issues
we want to tackle in our show, check it out: Something Barrett Blog
We've had our ups and downs as of late, but we're still going strong with our plans to release episodes of our Bucket List show. We've decided to change the name. We're going with something that is more personal and a bit more targeted to what we are trying to accomplish. We've settled on the name:
The name comes from the gamer industry, specifically from XBox 360 when you accomplish certain tasks of each game. In our context though, we are saying that your life achievements are being unlocked. These achievements are more than just a trophy, or points, they are the very rewards that make life more fulfilling and exciting. We want to encourage others to go out and live their life, to find what it is that will make them happy, to go out and achieve their life goals. Hopefully we can help.

Help Wanted

With the beginning of the show on the horizon, we are still in need of help on a few aspects of the show:

  • Graphic Design and Motion Graphics
    • We are just starting to formulate an idea of what we want the show to look like and could use some helping hands to craft a great visual style for the show. If you are proficient at this sort of thing, or know someone who is, please get in contact with us.
  • Show Ideas
    • Although we have had such a great response to the show and many ideas already given to us, we are still in need of filming more episodes. We would love to experience you fulfilling your life goals and will even do all we can to help you accomplish this. We can contact companies and get to know them so we are able to go and film you while you do what it is that you dream about. We want to focus on the story, and help uplift others as we tell them the story of your life goal.
    • If you know of anyone that has a great story and would like us to invite them to be on the show, please get in contact with us.

Future Videos

On location of our Memorial Day 2013 video
Up until now we've been working hard behind the scenes to create various content to show on our YouTube page. We're having fun and seeing so many wonderful things. Even while doing the Achievement Unlocked show we'll still offer other types of content, but of course feedback is always appreciated. Let us know what you like and what you hate, we want to hear your opinions and ideas.

We're excited to be getting closer to the release of the first episode in the series, no date finalized yet, but it's coming. Until then you'll still get content and it's fun for us, so we hope it's fun for you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Falling Backwards and Moving Forward
It was just this past weekend that our laptop took the last adventure of its life.

It's been camping, to the beach and through the woods. However, it was a quick trip to our friends place to finish up an edit of a music video (just you wait to see that) that it decided it was done. So, with much sadness it has died. Resurrections were attempted as you saw last week.

It was like losing a much prized anything. Or more like losing a job. Your hopes and dreams for the future are destroyed in that moment. We were left without the proper instrument to do what we love and share it with you. We had just returned from our wonderful trip to Utah, been thrown back into work and were exhausted. This was the final blow that decimated our week. We felt deflated and wanted to just throw in the towel. It's so early on,  but we knew we had to keep going. We had to find some way with limited resources to obtain something that would let us continue.
Through much prayer and pleading we found an amazing deal with a co-worker. We were able to get a comparable, but upgraded version of what we had for a very reasonable price. So yay! It's good to know people.

We're back and it took much less time than we thought it might. Life can be really hard sometimes, but then in those moments of frustration we can receive tender mercies that truly remind us we're not alone in the world.

So, let's keep going. What do you want to see? What bucket list items do you want to do? What can we film? Any cool things you're doing? We want to be there. Let us be a part of your amazing stories!