Monday, August 24, 2015

A Better Way to Use the Short Film Idea Deck

Some of you have probably heard me babbling on about The Frugal Filmmaker Short Film Idea Deck (you can buy one here), if for no other reason than I keep offering it as a prize to Trivia Monday at the first of each month. I've always liked the idea of gaming/filmmaking crossovers, especially in story creation, and blogged about it a long time ago.

The Idea Deck is a product of that philosophy and when I created it awhile back, my instructions on how to use it were pretty vague. I've been wanting to post an update for awhile now, and this is it! It's nothing revelatory, but if you've used the deck or wanted to get one, this video may clarify the potential that the deck can have to help you craft a short story or film.

I also would like to point out how I shot this episode, as I'm in my new Alaska digs and am still figuring things out. In the past I've always shot my "tabletop" episodes at an angle, tilting everything on the table to make it look straight on camera.

This time I shot directly over my shoulder by attaching the Eventpod to my tripod's quick release plate, attaching my camera to a mini-ball head on the end of the modified monopod. I used my backpack as a counter weight and spring clamps to keep the sliding keyboard tray in place. If you're wondering why there is a comforter balled up in front of me, it's to absorb my voice and keep it from bouncing all over the room.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I'm in Alaska! Now what?

Well, I finally made it. After a long transitional period that landed me in Utah, I was finally called up to the largest (and coldest) state in the Union. I'm now located in a remote corner of Alaska and am finally getting settled. Now the fun begins.

While I sort of had a game plan before, I'm restructuring a bit to adjust to my new situation. Some things are clear and some are not, but I have a better idea about what I want to do here and what I can do here. Not all roads lead to Nome, er, Rome it would seem.

1. The Frugal Filmmaker now lives in the most non-frugal place in the country. Coming from one of the most affordable states (Arkansas) to one of the most expensive (Alaska), has been an eye-opener. Sure, I knew it would be costly, but you're never really sure what you've done until you buy groceries. Everything here costs about two to three times as it does in the "down states", which really limits to what you can buy. A gallon of milk for $10? It really makes you examine your priorities.

The good news is that I can order most of what I need online. Amazon Prime works just fine in Alaska, and I can get plenty of stuff when I need it (with maybe an extra day or two wait). My other favorite source, eBay, also works quite well unless the vendor refuses to ship here. The Chinese sellers are just fine, but there are some U.S. companies that refuse. I find this strange since USPS Priority Mail costs the same as it does to any other state in the States and ships just fine up north.

2. There are no big box retailers in my remote corner of the state. I'll admit it, I'm going to miss Dollar Tree, Home Depot and Wal-Mart. I found all kinds of useful stuff in those stores and appreciated the immediacy at which I could obtain materials for various DIY builds and props. Those stores were always good in a pinch and readily accessible.

While there is an ACE Hardware here (the only real chain store), my future is going to be online. The good news is that I do a lot more web shopping than I do in brick and mortar stores, so I'm going to be okay. When I need some tool or part right away, I'll have to pay through the nose, but if I can plan and think ahead, nothing really changes.

3. There is a data cap on all broadband internet usage. Yep, you heard right. Where $50 in the continental U.S. would get you decent unlimited broadband, here it will cost $150 and you'll only have 30-40 gigs of downloading. This means normal web usage is fine, but my days of binge watching on Netflix are over.

While this may sound like bad news, it really isn't. Not having any streaming options (outside of YouTube) just means that I have more time to develop content for the channel and spend more time making films. Binge watching is really just time-wasting anyway, especially when it involves stuff you've already seen. I am also changing my account from streaming back to DVDs in the mail, so I can still watch newer films as they emerge.

4. There is no obvious film community. A town as small as the one I live in means no film commision and no local arts program to cull talent from. There is no local theatre to find actors and I appear to be the only one here even who shoots video with any regularity.

The good news is that  there is a satellite campus here and it looks very likely that I will be teaching an introductory video production class.  This will not only give me valuable teaching experience, but also contact will people who want to make films. This may not help me when looking for a hair and makeup person, but it does open up crew possibilities. And then there's that guy with a drone...

5. I have no idea what kind of movies to make up here. Living in the lower states gave me a lot of options for making almost anything I could dream up, but that's not the case here. I'm in a small (basically fishing) town with limited locations and extreme weather in the coming months. It's got me perplexed, to say the very least.

Clearly what I need to do is reverse engineer whatever film I do next. Mark Duplass spoke about this recently in his excellent SXSW keynote address, but it's nothing new. Roger Corman did the exact same thing for decades: take inventory of what you have access to, and make a film using all of it. This includes the indigenous population. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, to make movies that will look and feel like nothing I've ever done before. I can't waste it. And if the weather proves to be a problem, I can always shoot in the summer. They are beautiful up here.

There is no doubt in my mind that living here has many challenges. I can whine and complain about it or take stock it what I can do and make the most of it. There's really only one option, and I look forward to seeing the end result.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Shooting in the Rain (DIY camera rain bag)

I don't think anyone likes to shoot in the rain, but sometimes you have to. When that time arrives, you'll need to take precautions to protect your gear. In very basic rain conditions, I'll just use my Versa-brella, but sometimes a camera rain bag or sleeve is a better idea. As a filmmaker, your camera is the most important piece of gear, so don't let it get wet!

Audio is also a concern. The rapping of even tiny rain drops on or near your microphone can create unusable sound (see the video for an example) and must be addressed as well. The very popular non-lubricated condom can really help here, especially when you need to water-proof your boom mic.

Whatever rain situation your find yourself in, you need to address it. Water can be fatal to your electronic gear, but the good news is that it's pretty inexpensive to repel it.

DIY camera rain bag parts
plastic bag (large enough to fit your entire camera
paper/plastic/styrofoam cup
rubber/hair band

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Q&A: Laptop or Desktop for Editing?

If you would like a filmmaking question answered, send me an email to thefrugalfilmmaker(at), comment below or send me a message on Twitter @frugalfilmmaker.


Midnyte (web series)
Sony Vegas: Recording Sound Directly into your Timeline
Samsung 500gb SSD drive (a little more expensive than quoted)


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