It’s crazy to think that it sometimes only takes 48 hours to rent your film from an independent filmmaker who flies under the radar to two of the greatest directors in the world and share it with 2.8 million people.
This post was written by Takaya Abdou Lloyd.
That’s what happened when my manager told me about a 48-hour Russo Brothers film competition and I decided to take the risk.
At the time, after six years in Los Angeles, I felt down and unhappy with the way my career was going. I focused on being an actor, which by all accounts didn’t go bad – I’ve had a few feature films and TV episodes on shows like. turned On the edge (Netflix) and legion (Marvel) – but the number of near-successes I’ve had getting roles on big projects was starting to feel bleak. A slow year with COVID didn’t help.
I’ve spent months, even years, working on other projects just to have them quietly made available online to an audience of a few dedicated family members and friends. I’m sure most of my fellow indie filmmakers can understand that.
I’ll talk about equipment, of course, but we made this film the way anyone can. Really. There was no budget, I took on roles as both director and cameraman with little to no lighting experience, and we shot in public parks and a friend’s apartment.
Check it out below!
Find out as you go
We had an initial plan after we had determined the crew and locations, and then everything fell by the wayside when our cameraman left the day before the shoot …
I almost stopped the shoot. The original plan was for me to direct and act in the film, but that was scrapped without a DP. If we wanted to take part in this competition, I would simply have to be behind the camera.
I struggled with the disappointment of not being on screen. I think there is also a fear that we may not do everything, have to stay on one track, or run the risk of diluting our talent in other people’s eyes. I admit I roast social media bios reading “actor-realtor-orchestra-kazoo-player-botanist”. So to look like this guy is an insecurity of mine.
Eventually, I put my ego aside, no matter how much I wanted the Russo brothers to see my acting skills and cast me as one of the next Avengers. I thought a movie without me was better than no movie at all because I love making movies.
We shot the whole thing in six hours. We only had one of our leads, the amazing Blythe Howard, for four hours on Saturday. Then we came back and did Lauren Beausoleil’s coverage in the field for two hours on Sunday morning. Blythe and Lauren brought so much life to the movie through their appearances. They were there on every single take.
I wasn’t at all convinced of my ability to light the shoot. Lighting was a very new skill for me at the time, but it shows how far you can get with basic concepts.
Done is better than perfect
There is only one VFX recording in Get out, so we thought it would be relatively easy, but two hours after the deadline, After Effects slowed to a creep. The playback took place at a brilliant 1 frames per second.
Our system was so bogged down with the 6K footage that it was impossible to make any progress. In the spirit of done is better than perfect, we exported a 1080 version of the clip and started over. We did what it took to meet our deadline. The recording has problems, of course, but it advances the story and in no way distracts. It’s this mediocre clerk who is still doing the job.
Always serve history
The sole purpose of a director is to make decisions, and if you’re making a movie in 48 hours it’s all turned up to eleven. What helped me in this process was just thinking in terms of the story. Using this as a compass you can’t go astray.
A perfect example is the final frame of the film, in which Lauren’s character turns around and walks onto the field. She’s alone in the Final Cut, but that was a last-minute decision. The original plan was to have other people around her, so we took out some of our friends and shot them all together.
It looked really nice. When we started writing the script, this picture really caught my eye, but that day I realized she had to be alone. Other characters in the frame would leave no room for interpretation. Without strictly following the story, we wouldn’t have got this shot of her at the last minute alone, and the film would have a completely different feel overall.
Cheaper than a pair of boots
We spent a total of $ 150.
$ 100 went to smart paper and the remaining $ 50 went to thick green paper to cover the window for VFX.
Somebody please tell me when paper got so expensive that I’m still trying to get over it.
Good equipment is getting cheaper and cheaper and technology advances so that any camera will provide a good picture in the right environment. Time is precious. With more time, you have more control over what’s in the frame. Five extra minutes to tweak the light or improve the performance will really take your film from good looking to great looking.
Dude, is that an Alexa? (Equipment list)
I said it’s not a budget, do you remember? Like no budget actually. None of those $ 200,000 success stories with no budget. I don’t care about equipment. But I’m also a liar because I love equipment. The right equipment can help you and save a lot of time, but only if you know how to use it.
For me it was the Blackmagic 6K Pro. It’s a small camera, but the picture doesn’t compromise. When we shot the sequence in a public park, people walking by thought we were just some cute indie filmmakers. (We are.) When literally every second counts, the 6K Pro’s internal NDs are a tremendous time saver. Instead of worrying about a matte box and fiddling with filters, I was able to swap out the lenses to my heart’s content and drop ND internally.
The lighting consisted of two RGB panels from GVM, a small handheld RGB light and two Aputure LS-mini 20DI borrowed it from a friend. Other than that, I didn’t even have C-stands or professional modifiers, just a shower curtain and 5-in-1 bounce reflector.
The first half of the film was shot on a Canon 17-55mm f / 2.8 for a cleaner commercial look, then when the tone changes it’s all cheap vintage glass. A Vivitar 28 mm f / 2.5, Helios 58 mm f / 2 and Canon 9-117 mm f / 1.6. The 17-55mm was also handy for slider shooting at the end of the movie as it has image stabilization that eliminates microjitter.
Other than that, I used a tripod and $ 30 slider from Facebook Marketplace, walked over my shoulder a lot, and used an office chair as a dolly paired with the Canon zoom to get this vertigo shot.
To speed up production, we ran audio straight into the camera using Amazon wireless lavaliers for $ 60, and also hooked up an external shotgun microphone with a 25-foot XLR cable. The sound engineer and I got to know each other very well that day. Running audio this way meant we didn’t have to plan ahead of each recording, which saves precious minutes, and we didn’t have to spend time syncing audio in the post.
Fast, easy and simplifies the process. Know your tools.
Keep going even if you don’t feel like it
The experience of making this film completely changed my view of the industry and, more importantly, myself. Sometimes you really just need one win to feel like you’re back in the game. I don’t mean an Oscar or the Palm d’Or win, I’m talking about a win on your own terms, whatever you think it is.
It’s really about setting an intention and doing whatever it takes to achieve it. You stop questioning yourself and focus on all of the reasons why things can and not work, which is an attitude that I think we all filmmakers would feel more strongly about to live by.
I am now focusing again on my passion projects instead of waiting for the “right time” in a distant future where I have more money or fame. To me this is a satire series called Hapa who follows a small group of Yakuza members in Los Angeles and focuses on Asian-American stories and the mixed race experience, as well as my production company, Studio Miso.
I would also like to briefly greet everyone involved. Couldn’t have done it without you, Gang – Senna Hanner-Zhang, Blythe Howard, Lauren Beausoleil, Adam Moses, Jacob Dalton, Alejandra A. Peña, Francis Cuffan, Darbiana Dinsmore, Danny Lazo, and Steve Huff.
I enjoy talking to other filmmakers, so get in touch with me anytime. When you’re in LA, let’s have a coffee.