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Director's Notes - Directly from the "From Script to Screen" seminar (check out "Tom's Blog" page for more notes)

First, do it right. 

Making a film - any film - will require a lot of patience, a lot of perserverance and a lot of attention to detail. 

The best advice I can give first time filmmakers is to do it right first. Taking "shortcuts" often results in much more work down the road. For example, hiring or engaging a script supervisor in the short run might increase your total budget a bit right from the start but will save you tons of time (and money) as you move from the shooting to the editing process. Try not to cut corners to save a nickel and end up spending many times that nickel in the long run. You'll thank yourself at the end of the process.

One-Man-Band Shooters Tip. 

This is a post for the “one-man band” videographer shooting a play or other theatrical production that has an established series of entrances and exits.

I shoot these kinds of events all the time and I typically do it as a single operator with two cameras. I like to have the capability of being able to edit a nice, clean, multi-angle version of the production so I do this very simple trick.

When I go to watch the dress rehearsal and familiarize myself with the show, I also record the entire event with a wide shot camera which will catch all the entrances and exits. Then I go home and watch the taped event with a digital audio recorder in hand. I “narrate” the entrances and exits and note when I should be shooting full screen or a tight single, two-shot, three-shot or small grouping. I will go so far as to describe action on stage as it happens in my wide shot video.

When I go to shoot the actual production on subsequent nights, I plug one audio recorder earbud into my ear inside the headphones I use to monitor the live or house sound for the event. I start the playback on my audio recorder about 5 or 10 seconds in advance of the actual event so I can hear myself explaining the action that will be occurring on stage (based on the recording from the dress rehearsal). A technical note - I also know how to fast forward or pause my digital audio playback in the event the live show I am recording lags behind a bit or is moving more quickly than the dress rehearsal did.

In essence, my audio recording is serving as my “director” as I shoot the live event. As long as the pacing stays the same (or relatively close), I know, from watching and recording the show just the one time, when events on stage will be happening. Of course, I also go back as many times as is required to get a good recording of the event. I do this as much for the performers as I do for myself as I want them to have the best record of the best overall performance they offer. The bonus is that it also gives me a chance to learn the show more completely each time I shoot it. I use this technique when shooting plays as well as dance and music recitals. 

It works like a charm and I save a ton on extra camera ops. And in most cases, all I really need is two cameras - one for following the important action and the other (the wide shot) as my “go to” camera in the event I miss something happening elsewhere on stage.