Hi all, I am going to start this little journey post for anyone that may be interested, this is my current position on filming during the 're-opening' time for a scifi indie film. I will try my best to continue updating this post so at least some of you may find it interesting, obviously probably many of you are doing bigger budgeted film so this may not apply to you. :)
Background: I've been an indie filmmaker since 1998, and my actual background is having an MBA specializing in Branding, I see things a bit different than many other filmmakers in our State. (Ohio). As I have experience the opportunity to have many of my feature films distributed, I've always learned about 2 things: 1. Most of the time (either you have a named talent or not), once you have your film in distributor's hand, it can get more than 1 year to actually see some $ in, back in the days, it was much easier to see some ROI right away but now with technology making it easier to film and everyone's filming, it was actually harder to see a return fast, which is why many are doing self-distribution now (and this is the business end of distribution). 2. You have to find a niche genre to stand up now competing against all the different films being made every year, in my city, Cleveland, Ohio, we have at least 10-20 filmmakers making feature films at the same time, and so competition among peers is fierce.
That said, many of us hope to not only have a movie distributed so you have a 'track record', but as well as to hope to see some $ back (harder with sales agent/distributors, as they have a cap or can inflate their expenses cap)... So many filmmakers would make a feature at a no-budget environment so to mean no cost to hope to minimize expenses and opportunity to see some ROI after distribution would be greater. (after all the expenses a sales agent/distributors take out)...
For me, as I own a full time small video production company, that we have fortunately done many productions for small businesses and I also produces several large events in Cleveland. So that has been a good 'basic' income that helps me with bills. Unfortunately in 2020, due to the pandemic, all my events that I was asked to produce were cancelled and I all my video work got postpones lol Luckily as a freelancer, we do get back from all the savings and the State's support.
On gears I use for filmmaking, 50% of them are paid by through my video production business, and the other 50% are actually given to me for free from companies, as I do product testing for several companies that make these gears, so I get to keep them after testing... (this is to give you an idea what I have available here so why I can do a nobudget film as not only my gears are mostly donated).
in 2019, we did a scifi action feature film shot mostly in the fall/winter time (I like this weather for many reasons: 1. not many film during that season here in town, so I get to be able to have enough support, 2. I like cold weather than hot and I don't have to deal with fleas, ticks the like.
As I wasn't a first time filmmaker, and I've been able to deliver what I plan to do, I have gained a lot of people believing in me and willing to work with me for no cost as long as I feed them well, give some gas money when they to to travel far, provide imdb, give them a copy of bluray of the movie and promote them all, I managed to get many support and help because they believe in me and my passion.
So, you have seen my video for Wu Xia 2 the Code that was distributed as Immortal Combat the Code since Sep 1 2020. Sold worldwide and domestically, yet, the report so far from distributor is more red to cover (as they have to recoup their expenses like marketing, travel, design, etc, even thought capped but still it's first money out). I do not forsee to get any $ back probably for 2-3 years or never...
So for this year, I wanted to make another feature film, Wu Lin The Society, as I mentioned at another post, we wanted to figure out how to make people feel safe and being able to come film with me, and we thought perhaps the best way, is to incorporate masks into the scene/story line. So everyone will have to wear mask (clear ones) so they will speak through that, providing another added protection to cast and of course crew will all be masked as well.
We had over 100+ auditioned for different roles and we picked 50% of them from previous cast and 50% new people that we haven't worked with, to help expand our fan base, and crew wise, we had about 50 people signed up and we went with 70% previous crew plus 30% new crew for the same reason, giving them an opportunity to actually learn feature film production in a very organized way (yes, we have been told by many that our organization skill is way better than any indie film planned in our State).
Because of Covid, we have to figure out some ways to make sure cast/crew are at ease, so we used jotform.com (you can create up to 5 free or pay 50% discounted yearly (when you first isng up) to get up to 25 total forms, and I can tell you, I love it, not only Jotform is easy to create, it also have a signature feature that you can get cast/crew/producer to sign.
So, we used Jotform to create the basic forms: Required Safety Guideline read (they must read and agreed on). Cast/Crew/Producer Deal Memo, Writer's Agreement, Location's agreement, and Prop Guns Safety Protocols. We also created a daily on set survey that each person need to acknowledge before entering the set...
In addition, we used google forms to create a Dietary Meal Form, cast/crew availability form, as well as the audition form and crew submission form. We then created a spreadsheet using the cast/crew availability form to spread out the filming (we filming on weekends only from Sep - Dec), once everything is set, it seems only 13 film dates with 2 days that will be 2 units, and about 5 extra back up dates as well as plenty of other days available in case we need to move things.
As this is a sci-fi action film, we have several fight sequences that requires training, so we set up cast to train with our fight choreographer via zoom first and later in person wearing masks, we also have wire-work, stunt work, and rain machine that we are building, so we plan everytrhing as needed to make sure it is safe, enough time to practice and when there are actions involved, a medic is always available. You can immaging how crazy the schedule would look like with over 50 cast that we have to coordinate. lol (Scheduling is a PAIN for sure)
Now, everything is set, we also created 2 crowdfunding campaign, in the past, I have successfully overreach each of my crowfunding but this time, I decided to just do what I can since 80% of the items were donated (gears props, etc). so I just post once a week, you would think that having over 4000 fb friends that if each contributed $10 I would have plenty lol but that isn't the case, in the past I would post every other day but now since once a week, I merely reach my goals, but I'm ok, it was an experiment to see if I do less how that comes out. 99% of the people contributed this time were friends whom already worked with me. the 1% were people who had seen my youtube channel and liked what I did and contributed. within my 4000+ fb friends, only 10% contributed. (which happens to be that 99% of friends) lol
So, we got a schedule done that is still being modified almost daily, as the schedule is a spreadsheet that include dates, cast info, location info, time arrival info, stunt/prop info (the basic), to give as much info this way than they keep looking for info all around (based on past experience), we made a cleaner spreadsheet that pulls data from the complicated one, so the cast/crew will only read what they need by column, and that has seen to be really good for them to follow through our ordeal.
FYI, we are very honest with everyone since while this is my passion and my project, it is them whom will make it or break it. So the more information I can provide, the more they feel respected and willing to adjust accordingly.
we also uses fb messagers for group chat and doing a weekly crew meeting (usually sunday or monday evening for a zoom meeting prior to that weekend shoot, to make sure crew are on same page), Also created some basic previz for 2nd unit so they can go in and out to get what I needed.
I don't do shot list as I have been successfuly film all my features with minimum of 2 cameras and action sequences with 2-5 cameras, so shot list CAN get complicated, but having zoom meeting helps refresh their mind (knowing that 90% of them wouldnt' read the script due to time and the environment we are in).
In addition, we recommend all cast/crew to go take the Covid test if they can a week prior each filming date (simple as everyone is working on everyone's project and we had an outbreak 3 weeks ago at two filmmaker's parties - over 20+ people tested positive). So we are dong as much as we can to make sure we have a safe environment.
So, we supposed to start production this weekend (Sep 18-20), however, one of our lead's father that he saw 2 days prior was tested positive for Covid, while he didn't feel ill or such, after consulting our medic whom also working with the national Covind team, our set doctor and our set medical rep. we decided to postpone this weekend shoot and asking him to get tested asap, if he is negative then we will continue as planned for the following week, if he is positive, we either postpone again or he can decide if he want us to recast... a tough decision...
So here I am, I wish I can include plenty of pictures here so you can see the process we do lol but at here, I'm sharing you our crowdfunding video that gives you an idea what we are trying to do.