Short film production – Storyboards / camera angles for movie making.

Case Study: When Kane was Able

When Kane Was Abel was a short film pro­duc­tion by NAFA Pro­duc­tions for Tropfest, in which Halyu­ci­na­tions Stu­dios was enagged.  This comedy-martial arts short film drew upon the old David Car­ra­dine Kung Fu TV series.

Halyu­ci­na­tions Stu­dios handled most much of the pre-production  and post-production film editing.  Pre-production including story boarding, loca­tion scout­ing, shoot­ing sched­ules, film­ing, clip log­ging, and the post pro­duc­tion edit­ing and export to DVD. Producer Tony Chu audi­tioned actors and crew and Director Mal­colm Ian Con­nell han­dled Scripting/writ­ing and direc­to­r­ial duties on the day of the shoot.

What fol­lows are sam­ples of the mate­r­ial gen­er­ated to cre­ate the film, which will give you a per­spec­tive of the process of short filmmaking.

Short film production – Storyboards / camera angles for movie making.

Script for "When Kane was Able"

Opening lines from scriptScripting

Pre-production

Scripting

The begin­ning of any movie maker’s adventure starts with the story. Whether it’s a 90-minute fea­ture or a 30-sec­ond adver­tise­ment film making begins with a story.  Our exam­ple here was a seven-minute com­edy script.  The film industry standard is roughly one page of a properly scripted storyline equates to one minute of film. The script deliv­ered to us to work with was on its third draft by Mal­colm Ian Con­nell.  Mal­colm had requested to direct it to see his storyline to com­ple­tion, which is not at all an unusual desire but some­times another’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the deliv­ery of a script can open it up to pos­si­bil­i­ties the writer never envis­aged.  This is always some­thing worth con­sid­er­ing as a writer.

Audi­tions and rehearsals

Auditions were held at The Illi­nois Hotel in Five Dock on October 7th and involved a cold read, plus mar­tial artists were asked to demonstrate their moves. The first (and only) rehearsal was booked on Tues­day 12th October, also at the Illi­nois Hotel, from 6pm till 8pm. From there we went straight to the shoot.

Storyboarding

Halyucinations Story Board Sheet

Opening storyboard

The story needs to be trans­lated into visual media and the first step is the Sto­ry­board – basi­cally a comic book for a film.  Here is the sto­ry­board for the open­ing scene described in the script extract above.  The Graphic Artist Halyu­ci­na­tions com­mis­sioned for the sto­ry­board was Margie “B”.  Margie is a Graph­ics Artist par excel­lence (as well as the artist who designed Halyu­ci­na­tions Stu­dios’ logo).  Margie’s back­ground in Graph­ics design began in col­lege when she stud­ied fine arts and graphic design and con­tin­ued as she worked for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions as a designer.   She also worked as a free­lance illus­tra­tor, in which capac­ity she began work­ing for Halyu­ci­na­tions Stu­dios as a lay­out artist doing the story boards for productions.

Location scouting

Illinois Hotel back bar layout with camera angles

All combined camera angles

The loca­tion venue the pro­ducer found for the shoot and gained per­mis­sion to utilise the back bar for, was the Illi­nois Hotel on 15 Par­ra­matta Road, (cnr Arling­ton Road) in Five Dock.  The bed­room scenes were actu­ally shot last in the actual bed­room of the son of one of the per­sons involved.  The sto­ry­board allowed the Direc­tor of Pho­tog­ra­phy (DOP) to mea­sure up the bar and map it out to deter­mine place­ment of all of the cam­era angles (there were 22 in the hotel bar) for all 61 scenes and then deter­mine the sequenc­ing of the scenes and develop a sequence for a three-night shoot.  The cam­era angles were all mapped out in a to-scale map of the back bar of the Illi­nois Hotel and then these were bro­ken down into a daily (or in this case, nightly) schedule.

Scene breakdown

Camera angles for the first scene in the Bar

Opening bar scene – Kane enters the bar

To come up with the cam­era operator’s angles we’d use in the hotel bar, the sto­ry­board was bro­ken down into a series of scenes and the cam­era angles nec­es­sary to shoot that scene deter­mined. We broke the room up into a series of four quad­rants (A,B,C and D) in order to describe to the pro­ducer, direc­tor and sec­ond cam­era operator the rel­a­tive posi­tion­ing and direc­tion of the cam­era shot.  The open­ing bar scene shot on loca­tion (illus­trated here), in which Kane enters the bar, required six sep­a­rate cam­era angles shot.

We then divided the sto­ry­board into six “scenes” and deter­mined the cam­era angles for each of them.  The result was 61 shots done with 22 Cam­era angles (as shown in the image above).  Keep in mind this was for a seven minute Tropfest film.  This prepa­ra­tion was all car­ried out before a sin­gle frame was shot.  Know­ing the cam­era angles for each scene in the storyboard/script will not by itself gen­er­ate the final plan to com­mence a sequence of shoot­ing objec­tives.  In fact, film­ing in accor­dance with such a sequence is pre­dictably the most inef­fi­cient and costly way to make a film.

Shot sequencing

"Whne Kane was Able" in order of storyboard

Listing all shots in script sequence

This is the practice of list­ing all shots in script sequence. The most expen­sive piece of machin­ery to use on a film set is the cam­era.  (And by that I don’t mean it’s cost because I am sure many peo­ple will say they have lights or props or per­haps actors on whom more money is deployed.)  I use the term expen­sive in terms of what has to accom­pany the cam­era.  They are  lights, sound equip­ment, actors, props, etc and in par­tic­u­lar they way these have to “fol­low” a cam­era from posi­tion to posi­tion.  Every time you move the cam­era so does every­thing else — hence it’s “expense” in time and logistics on a shooting set.  Shoot­ing a film in sequence of the script or sto­ry­board is likely to be the most inef­fi­cient and expen­sive man­ner of doing so.

Far bet­ter indeed to sequence your shoot­ing in terms of cam­era angles and so reduce the pro­duc­tion cost of mak­ing a film.  If you know all your scenes as depicted by the sto­ry­board and can deter­mine as a result of know­ing your loca­tion all the pos­si­bil­i­ties for cam­era angles, then you can sched­ule the sequence in which you shoot to be the most cost effec­tive, with the goal being to min­imise the travel of the accom­pa­ny­ing lights, sound equip­ment, actors, props, etc.

Film Production

The schedule for the first day of shooting based on Camera angles.

The shooting schedule for day one

Continuity

In this case, after we mapped out the cam­era angles, we then resched­uled them for what we hoped would be each day of the shoot.  One of the issues that one has to take care of with bas­eing your shoot­ing around cam­eras and non-lineal pro­cess­ing is, of course, con­ti­nu­ity.  The final film will be re-edited in lin­eal sequence so the shirt the actor wore when he was in a scene on day one has to be worn on day five when the next scene from the sto­ry­board is shot.  In fact, it is often not thing like shirts but the place­ment of props that are mishandled in continuity.  So, to this end the con­ti­nu­ity crew will draw up their own shot list based on what the Direc­tor or Direc­tor of Pho­tog­ra­phy (as was this case) has gen­er­ated to mon­i­tor continuity.

listing of sequences for the continuity crew

Continuity sequence for first day

Hence, we started on night one on the first day of shoot­ing with a close up of Bart, our vil­lain, thrust­ing his fist into “Kane’s face” in a bar fight scene.  It was the only scene that required that par­tic­u­lar cam­era angle.  From there we turned the cam­era 180 degrees (as well as the lights, etc) and shot two sequences that were to be edited into the film 10 lin­ear sequences later.  In this man­ner we con­tin­ued to shoot another 57 sequences for the next three evenings.  But as afore­men­tioned, all this paper­work, plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion was made and dis­trib­uted to cast and crew as they had need before any­thing was “in the can”.

Actor and film crew scheduling

This also allows for the sched­ul­ing of cast and, in this case, because of the unavail­abil­ity of cer­tain actors at spe­cific times, the shoot­ing sched­ule was also adjusted to allow actors who could not stay on set till late, to go home early.  This was after all a short film with min­i­mal bud­get.  So, the choice to shoot spe­cific angles and to do them early as opposed to late in the evening was also guided by cast and crew avail­abil­ity.  So, the choice to shoot the first shot of the “vil­lain” punch­ing the “hero” was because (as you may note on the sched­ule image above) three actors guar­an­teed they would be the first on the set.

Logging sheets

The logging sheet used on set by the Cameramen for "When Kane was Able"

Logging sheet to commence filming

With writ­ing, draw­ing, map­ping, locat­ing, nego­ti­at­ing, sched­ul­ing, and paperwork all com­plete, the first day of the shoot com­mences.  The paper work does not fin­ish here. It would be nice to assume that every shot taken will be per­fectly acted; no pass­ing car, train, plane will inter­fere with sound; no con­ti­nu­ity per­son will for­get the cup that should be to the right of the actor; no actor or crew to the side will cough unex­pect­edly; that the sound boom will not unno­ticed wan­der into the scene from the top of the scene but…

This is why the cam­era per­son should consider the perspective of the film edi­tor.  A log sheet that that records all the takes and which ones were good, bad or indif­fer­ent allows the film editor to commit minimal effort in locating footage to use.   This along with the footage gen­er­ates the guid­ance for the film edi­tor the knowledge of what footage to load up for reassem­bling the non-linear sequences into the final film sequence.  While in this case one of the cam­era­men was the film edi­tor, this may not usually be the case.  This is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the direc­tor and crew as to what shots to use.

Movie making made!

A scene from "when Kane was Able" as the "hero" bids farewell to the Barmaid and attempts to exit the pub.

A scene from “Kane”

Finally, after four nights of shoot­ing, shuf­fling cam­eras, lights, props, actors, crew, the final shot is logged and the cam­eras closed down, the lights switched off to allow to cool and the actors and crew go home.

Post production

Filmmak­ing is a col­lab­o­ra­tive process involv­ing sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of peo­ple. This is when the film is handed over to the film edi­tor. This stage of movie making – the post editing – is what direc­tor Mal­colm Ian Con­nell once described to me as “the loneli­est job in film busi­ness”.  This col­lec­tion of entan­gled hodge­podge of footage has to be reassem­bled into a coher­ent lin­early sequenced story that may loosely resem­ble the sto­ry­board.

And so, I sat in a small office, with the occa­sional com­pany of the Direc­tor, for hours in front of a Mac­in­tosh com­puter run­ning Final Cut Pro, regen­er­at­ing the story.  It was cut together, exported onto a DVD and deliv­ered in time to the Tropfest fes­ti­val coor­di­na­tors to be judged along­side of some 700 other films.

Film makers closure

Whatever the final result of your film it is impor­tant to keep in mind that the jour­ney from con­cep­tion to screen is rarely what you expect. It is a tru­ism in the film busi­ness that there are always three sto­ries gen­er­ated in the cre­ation of a film:  The one you write, the one you film, and the one you edit.  It is very unlikely these will ever be the same and in fact more likely not to be.  Innu­mer­able writ­ers, film mak­ers and edi­tors have said to me over the years that there is lit­tle point being too emo­tion­ally attached to your part of the process in the hope that it will ever be what was orig­i­nally envisaged.

That said, there is a process that one fol­lows in gen­er­at­ing a film that serves the process of enter­tain­ing, edu­cat­ing, elic­it­ing, inform­ing, whether in the form of a 30-sec­ond adver­tise­ment, a music video clip, a short or long film.  The longer and more com­plex the film, the more you will need to fol­low these processes (amongst oth­ers) to be able to affordably gen­er­ate your result.  The sim­pler the film, the eas­ier it is to get away with­out the paper trail, and man­age it all in your film maker’s head, but what­ever the case these are all part and par­cel of the processes you need to fol­low to gen­er­ate your pro­duc­tion on film.

And when you want to do this, please remember to contact us!

Visual Media for Visual Artists

Halyucinations Studios

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