Here’s how I shot my feature in seven days and tips to use for your next project.
Written by Andrew de Burgh
I’m a filmmaker from Los Angeles. Since 2015, I’ve been grateful for directing short films, VR, animation, and a science fiction romantic film. This is the story as my feature The giving even exceeded my high expectations.
After writing and directing a few short films over the years, I was determined to make a feature film. I had raised money for a psychological thriller to no avail when I started writing a conversational and philosophical screenplay about a businessman who is visited by an interdimensional being.
In this post, I’m going to summarize valuable lessons I’ve learned at different stages of production in the hopes that they may prove useful to other filmmakers.
Development and preparation
Write material that is important to you. If you care, other people will be interested.
Also, make sure you write a script that you can realistically record. I’ve seen a lot of producers (myself included) failing funding for films that were too expensive or logistically difficult to make. Raising money for films is a brutal task, and it has to be made easier for yourself. Because of this, my script only had two characters and the whole thing consisted of dialogue. The whole film should take place in three rooms in the same house.
After getting to the point where I was happy with the script, I struggled but eventually managed to raise around $ 18,000 through shamelessly harassing acquaintances, friends, and family. After collecting the money, I made sure I found a small but experienced crew.
Originally I wanted to shoot in 4K, but my cameraman Matt Fore and I finally decided to shoot in 1080 HD on a Canon C300 with Zeiss Prime lenses.
Since the shoot was only supposed to take seven days and we were shooting up to 15 pages of challenging dialog every day, I knew that casting highly qualified and passionate actors would be crucial.
Through auditions and callbacks, I was fortunate to find and cast Sam Brittan and Sharmita Bhattacharya, who both put an incredible amount of effort into the film. Before we started shooting, I had a full day of rehearsal with my actors to make sure they more or less knew what to expect from them. Rehearsals are priceless and can save some time on set.
As a former actor myself, I am fortunate enough to understand the craft of acting. This helped me give more effective direction to my actors while we were shooting. I would advise directors to take acting classes to learn how to understand actors and speak to them effectively.
Be ready to go the extra mile for your movie. For example, to achieve the subtle lighting look I wanted, one of my PAs spent a full day before shooting, laying layers upon layers of black garbage bags on each and every window of the house we were shooting in. This allowed us to be in control. Light more effective.
You may have to wear a lot of different hats to stay on budget. Although I have been credited with the film as a writer, producer, and director, I have also been a costume designer, production designer, casting director, and digital imaging technician.
Juggling lots of hats wasn’t always fun, but it was worth it in the end.
Make sure you budget for the post and find a team that you can rely on to help you realize your vision. Find an editor who fits the project. Our editor Fernando Viquez and I are both big fans of Interstellar, which was an important thematic inspiration for the film.
I also made sure to give our composer Marc Timón artistic freedom to express himself with a unique style.
Make sure you polish up audio; We hired MelodyGun who did a great job with the post sound of the film.
One general thing I believe in is to take advantage of the main photography’s momentum and get it in the mail. I’ve seen filmmakers wait months to start post-production, and that can have a negative impact on the momentum of the film. There is no time like the present.
In my opinion, in its own way, getting seen a film is almost as important as making the film. You can have a fantastic movie on your laptop, but sadly if nobody knows about it, it won’t find an audience.
Create beautiful works of art.
I submitted The giving to hundreds and hundreds of film festivals. Use FilmFreeway; it’s an amazing site for submissions. If you are on a budget there are numerous and really good free festivals to attend.
Don’t let rejections discourage you. I got about 60 of these before we had our first screening! In the end, it was shown at 10 festivals and it won four awards including best actress at the Los Angeles IFS Film Festival.
Find festivals that might be interested in a particular offer. The Dhaka International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film events in Bangladesh, showed the film. I imagine a Bengali-American actress helped in the film!
Politely ask critics and publications if they will review your film. During our festival round, The giving somehow managed to get a criticism score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. After that, it was picked up by Indie Rights who distributed it on VOD platforms.
Looking back, I’ve definitely learned a lot and hope that I can take that with me in my next film.