Filmmaking / Directing : Dolphin Girl short film by Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Dolphin Girl short film

Hi Everyone,

I'm gearing up for production on my first short film. It's 10 pages long. I am the writer and will be directing. We are shooting in Florida. One of my producer/director friends told me production is HELL!  Does anybody have some helpful advice who's gone through this before?

Much appreciated,

Tanya

Doug Nelson

I've written/directed/produced many shorts over the years. The first few are daunting as you ascend the learning curve. But if you stick with it and learn from your mistakes, it gets easier. All the best.

Doug Nelson

Dolphin Girl - is that based on the old Kate Wolf song?

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Thanks Doug,

Thinking back to your first film, was there any production pitfall/snag that really sticks out? One of those -- Oh, I wish I had done that differently. Something that your knowledge now could have avoided? If you think of something, please share it.

Best,

Tanya

Tony S.

Pre-production, pre-production, pre-production. And Jameson.

Philip Sedgwick

Get your editor involved in preproduction. Make sure video, sound and editor are on the same page with files, programs and output prior to rolling camera. Establish file offload protocols. Clarify file back up. When hiccups occur remind everyone of the original objective and the collective agreement with that objective.

Dan MaxXx

Wear comfortable shoes, go for a physical checkup with your doctor before you start all in production.

I am a david sandberg fan. He has tons of directing advice on his youtube channel. What's great about his advice is he talks in simple language and uses simple equipment, small crew.

https://youtu.be/_4lYhHWXc5k

When you gain more experience, watch masterclass videos from Scorsese & Ron Howard. They are very technical videos, talk lenses, working and planning large scale productions.

Good Luck!

Tony S.

Stock lots of aspirin and Maalox. Scaring you yet? :) Philip Sedgwick has great advice.

Martina Cook

Be ready to answer lots of questions...lots and lots...and food, make sure everyone has time to eat, or they’ll eat you! Just joking, don’t get confrontational or take things personally, always explain why you want things done in a specific way. Know your storyboard if you have one. Listen to suggestions if you have time. Mobile phones banned around filming area! And sound - that is 50% of your film! Bad sound is no sound :( especially externals - true story of a period drama with helicopter noises in background :( Make sure material is labelled correctly and easy to track back! Day, scenes, times, takes...saves tons of time in post...and have some fun! Good luck! :)

Larry DeGala

ice water. lots of it. one gets thirsty in Hell.

Philip Sedgwick

Water indeed. And coffee. Slate every scene. Be religious about it! First-aid kit. Complete releases and paper work before shooting day. Lots of petty cash (and accounting for same) on hand. Bring a sharpie... have cast and crew sign title pages of the script. Later, a script is a nice, inexpensive give away for everyone. Way cheaper than posters. Other good advice above.

Alfonso Vega

I think it all depends on how you look at it. Just have a blast, make the most of it, love everyone for helping you and focus in your mind exactly how you want it. It will work out in the end, trust me.

Tony S.

Get plenty of coverage. One of the advantages of digital is no costly processing, like back in film's Cretaceous period, More choice in the edit.

JD Hartman

Yes, there is a cost with digital, time is one of them: crew time as you shoot take after endless take, while they sit; talent's time, because "it's fee", so you're never satisfied with how they deliver a scene; DIT's time, who has to back-up in triplicate every file; editor's time, who to wade through upteen hours of garbage. Plan your shots,, shoot what you need, move on.

Rob Ewing

It can be a daunting experience if you're unprepared. Otherwise, it can be a lot of fun. My advice is to roll with the punches. You'll come out the other side better for it one way or the other, and I promise you'll learn at least a couple of things never to do again. It happens. Stay true to your vision, be flexible in the telling if you can, keep the camera moving, and don't forget the b-roll. Also, try your hardest to get good sound, and listen to your cinematographer's suggestions. Oh, and whatever you do, feed your crew.

Tony S.

Umpteen is a big number. There's no mention of pay, or a DIT (I hope she hires one).

This is a ten minute short. A shooting ratio of 9:1 means 90 or so minutes of raw footage. Circle Takes can be accomplished before editing, or even doing a rough cut off-line. Extra footage circumvents a kick in the butt in the edit suite with "I wish I got this shot or that."

Plan, certainly. As I said, pre-production. As Rob Ewing offered, "B-Roll." (He's right. Cast and crew get very grumpy without throwing meat in their cage.)

Settling for a less than acceptable performance will be self-defeating and disappointing to all involved - paid or not. The answer for performance is rehearsal, if possible. Don't move on until you've got it in the can.

Christine Capone

Yes definitely feed the crew! Always have snacks and drinks on hand. The crew will pick at it all day...which is how I gained 10 lbs. during production! haha. Also, as long as you have a good crew, production will run smoothly. The hours are hell and it's a lot of work....maybe that's what your friend was referring to.

Tony S.

I used to shoot a cooking show. As soon as we faded to black the crew would descend as locusts on the food. Didn't matter. They would have gobbled fried cardboard with Drano sandwiches.

Christine Capone

ha! Not crews I worked with. They don't want to eat crap nor should they be fed crap.

Tony S.

The difference: on-set food supplied, random meal prepared and devoured.

Carol Jackson

Good Luck, Tanya.

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Thanks to all for the wealth of production advice. Love this Stage 32 community! I did storyboard BTW... seeing how, before screenwriting, I came from a visual arts background, I'd better! I'll let you know how it went when I come out the other side... if I come out.

Best,

Tanya

Christine Capone

Best of luck to you and have fun!!

Tony S.

Great idea Tanya Carleton Lovrics you've already done more than many.

Godspeed. (And Jameson.)

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Thank you! And Jameson. Cheers, Tony.

Anthony Germann

To paraphrase Kurosawa... "with a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece..." You have a great script! Go out and make Dolphin Girl your masterpiece. Cheers lady!

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Thanks Anthony! I see we were in the Stage 32 Short Script contest together -- well done! perhaps we could do a script exchange later, if you are into that... some screenwriters don't like sharing.

Jeffrey S Karantza

Make a solid plan with your team and get it all on paper. Making a good shot list is key and following it is vital. Have a good team to do lighting so you do not have to wait hours between shots and keep pushing forward. It can be a little difficult on the first one especially when people may have not worked together. Remember that you need to make sure your sound is good also. Bad sound will kill a film so as a director you need to be everywhere at 1 time managing the picture. Once you get a couple done and out of the way it gets very easy with the right crew.

Dan MaxXx

Do you have production insurance and workers' comp ?

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Yes, a good shot list is key!

Jorge J Prieto

Plan, pre plan and delegate, you can't do it all, but you'll be tempted. Good luck.

Sai Pillay

I prefer , Planning On Paper ---- Execution Accordingly, And Seek Intern Who Is Serious And Willing To Go That Extra Mile....

Doug Nelson

Tanya he biggest mistake I made on my first short film production was to believe in people who said they could - it quickly became evident that they couldn't! It had no directing, the lighting was flat, the acting was terrible and the editing sucked big time - other than that, it wasn't bad. That film has never been screened anywhere. People are the weakest link so the cautionary tale is to vet everyone.

Terez Koncz

In 4th grade all the 6th graders told us that 5th grade is hell, but we all survived, haven't we ;D There will be more little tasks than expected, so hire 3-4 runners (trainees). Film students are a good choice, as they know their way around, want to help and want to learn. A pair of helping hands in the right time at the right place can save you TIME, that is a very important factor to consider when you want your film to be shot the way you want it to be shot.

As the others said, planning is very important. I often ask the HODs (dop, pm, AD, beauty team!!!)the day before to memorise the schedule of the days and imagine it as detailed as possible (we also talk it through in detail and I ask them questions about doability). It works like magic - many problems came up then that we could solve in planning, and all of a sudden everyone was on the same page, and they scheduled their own time at the shoot considering the whole day, not only the one task they were doing at the moment.

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Great advice, Terez. Thanks for taking the time. Doug N, you made me laugh. ..."Other than that, it wasn't bad." And, yes, I've already had people trying to overcommit to too many roles.

Sam Borowski

Tanya, do yourself a favor and get an experienced producer - possibly one who is also a director - to guide you, even if you have to pay them a little something. Do it right. Don't go into your first production without much knowledge or any guidance. One thing I like to say when you are in pre-production, casting your movie and getting ready for principal photography: You will never get this time back. So, use it wisely and assemble an experienced team, led by an experienced producer, to guide you. Break Legs! GOD BLESS and STAY FRESH!

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Sam B, I'm a writer new to directing but fortunately I am surrounded by a team of proven professionals. The great RB Botto and Amanda Toney are producers, the talented JT Mollner (Sundance director) is flying in as my mentor, and production will be handled by the adept Scatter Brothers. Sponsored by Tony Armer and the St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission, this production will showcase actors found through Stage 32 by me! I wouldn't have agreed to direct this short otherwise. I wouldn't do it justice. ;)

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

MaxXx, yes, we are covered; good point.

Dan MaxXx

Tanya Carleton Lovrics Ah! Why didn't you say you have an all star support team! Team stage 32! Forget everything I said and listen to them!

(But demand you must have gourmet food every 2.5 hours) Break a leg!

Martina Cook

Wow Tanya, that’s an amazing experience awaiting for you! May I ask how you managed to pull so much talent together? :)

Tanya Carleton Lovrics

Got it MaxXx, gourmet Diva food and only green M&M's. Yeah, a bunch of all stars... and me. Can you see why I'm freaking out?! Martina, I won the 2017 Stage 32 short script contest. All these bigwigs were attached. My advice, enter the Stage 32 contests, people!

Dan MaxXx

Tanya Carleton Lovrics that's awesome! Finally, someone is winning this game.

best $50 submission fee. You parlayed $50 to directing a short movie. That's winning

Martina Cook

Well done Tanya, all the best for your project! :)

Rowan Sutherland

Best wishes. When you're done shoot over to www.BlastOff.us and win a worldwide distribution deal.

Alessandro Machi

If this is your first production, hire a co-director and just be by their side for the entire experience, and of course give feedback when necessary.

Dan MaxXx

Co- direct? No, heck no. This is the award for winning a contest. And she’s got a rockstar support team.

Doug Nelson

Tanya - I agree with Dan M. This is an opportunity to let your light shine. Your first rodeo is always scary but they get less so as you do more of 'em. Hey if I were in FL, I'd be glad to hold your hand but I'm not. You go just have a good time.

Sam Borowski

Alessandro, She has J.T. Mollner, a Award-Winning director on her team. He will guide her. She needs no co-directors. An acquaintance of mine produced a few films - including the western that got into Sundance with him. He's a pro, as are the rest of her support team. Tanya, one piece of advice - One key mistake a lot of first-time directors make is a VERY AMBITIOUS SHOT LIST. Don't waste timee with your "luxury shots," that you will never have time to get to. Get what you need and get out. Get your master and your close-ups and your establishing shots, as well as inserts. And, get out. Between the writing, your actors' performances and fine editing and any music you add in, it will look great. Be concerned with telling a GREAT story, not shooting pretty pictures. Trust me, the easiest way NOT to make your day is to have a long, luxurious shot list. BREAK LEGS! STAY FRESH and GOD BLESS! ;)

Rose Ashikyan

Try to get as much help (department heads) as possible so you don't spread yourself out too thin. It really does get in the way of directing because your brain isn't 100% focused on your scene/shot. Best of luck! :)

Jerry White

Don't be afraid to fail, the first film is usually a bit of a train wreck. Keep your eye on the characters and make gut instincts. Instead of co-directing you could try and grab a PA job on someone else's film and just absorb everything that is happening. Seeing other people work is a great way to see what you would like to do when given the chance. Best of luck with your project and remember, this isn't the last one.

Glenn Roland

Hi Tanya:

Keep it simple! Be prepared and stay flexible.

Alessandro Machi

Seems like the original question exposed issues that are not being discussed. Most filmmakers make their first film with their own resources, and thats a good thing because they quickly learn so many things in relation to budget, schedule, how hard to work people who may be volunteering, the value of a decent crafts service table, feeding people, and how many takes to take.

In this instance it sounds like our director is a first time director, directing with other people's money. That could be a recipe for disaster. The beautiful part is it's her script. The tricky part is should someone direct their own script when they have never directed before, and its someone else's money. I think this is a complex issue especially in relation to how much money is actually available for the shoot. I've worked on all kinds of short film budgets (not as a director) and each scenario is delicately nuanced based on so many factors that a first time director probably should have someone on the set with equivalent power to save the first timer from not finishing the schedule with the budget that was apportioned.

Alessandro Machi

Rose Ashikyan has offered excellent advice. I worked on a couple of Disney Educational films a long time ago that were actually shot on film, but the budgets were so low the producers had to hire heads of each department who knew what they were doing and were using the production to elevate themselves a notch above what they normally did on a set. But they were paid and it was their job to keep their crew together. It was a win for everybody because the person being elevated would actually use their crew again in the future if they were offered other jobs where they would be elevated above their normal position, and in the future opportunities they would pay their crew because they had already worked together.

Royce Allen Dudley

Delegate. Then get people to respect your space as director. Select department heads, communicate your intention, hear their input, then let them do their jobs. Filmmaking at any level is about collaboration... but it's your film, so their collaboration backs your lead. They in turn should delegate. Chains of command and protocols from "real world" are a major thing missing on almost all small shoots, and THAT would be hell. No one should be asking questions of you that should go to another. A good producer and solid, effective but not overbearing AD will help to manage this. You want to prepare as much as possible; more so the fewer dollars exist.

Nelson Torres

Storyboard your shots, go over them with the DP, rehearse your actors, and never be boring.

Nelson Torres

Oh yeah, tech scout. Always tech scout. You don't want any surprises the day of the shoot.

Lisa Laureta

Keep it as simple as you can while not compromising the film, and don't stress. Try to have fun with it! Go easy on yourself because it's your first short film and you're DOING IT!!!! Congrats!

Maia Buljeta

As much preproduction as possible. Be sure to distribute responsibilities evenly and have more than enough people on set to help and cover all the jobs that are to be done. Stick to a shot list, keep your actors and crew fed well, keep the shoots to six hours, and only promise what you can give. And finally, when directing, take it from a "lets try this" point of view. If the director is well prepared, production is a fun, one of a kind adventure that is super rewarding for everyone. Good luck!

Harley McKabe

Do a lot of prep work, trust people to do their jobs and leave more than enough time to complete the job. I lost some good contacts by not prepping, micromanaging and not securing enough time to complete a quality job on various projects in the early stages of my career. Find good people to work with and never not be able to do something yourself if someone falls through.

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