6 Things Gary King Does During A Film Shoot
Good news peers, Gary King and his excellent guest column are back!
If you want to catch up on the previous installments, you can read Part 1: Dreaming vs. Doing, Part 2: Films Beget Films, and Part 3: 5 Things I Like to Do During Pre-Production here.
6 THINGS I LIKE TO DO DURING THE FILM SHOOT
When in the midst of production, I enjoy being in the state of what I like to call organized chaos. Yes, there are tons of moving parts and decisions to be made, however I’ve prepped for it and have back up plans….so it’s all such an adrenaline rush I’m actually sad when it all comes to an end.
I must admit the shooting days can be very long and tiring, but there’s such a sense of camaraderie and collaboration, that everyone is there together for the common goal of trying to create something (ideally) special. There’s just nothing like being on a film set. So here’s some things I’ve done on my past film shoots. Some may not apply to every situation, and I haven’t done each one on every set, so your miles may vary.
#1. OVERHEAD DIAGRAMS
As previously stated, I like to create a shot list for the entire script, but I rarely use storyboards. When filming, the shot list becomes the basic blueprint the DP and I will riff from. In that, we rarely stick to it as other factors (such as performance, weather, limitation of time or the actual location, etc.) come into play.
For UNNERVED, what helped tremendously get us through our day (in addition to our shot list) was to have an overhead diagram to map out the camera placement and order of the shots based on our list. Until this project, I’d never used them before. However, being in a tiny, confined space, this aided us as we never had to stop and think about what was next and where it would happen. Usually, my shot list may say something like CU (Close-Up) Mallory….but that leaves it open for interpretation of where the camera would generally go. When crunched for time, it was great to have the diagram to know exactly what angle we’d use for the CU.
It not only helped us with where the camera would be for the shots, it also allowed us to manage the day better knowing what shots to pop off (by consolidating them in a certain area) before having to move the camera.
#2. GET PICTURES OF YOURSELF POINTING AT THINGS (FOR THE PRESS KIT)
As funny as it sounds, the press outlets want the filmmaker doing something. And if someone really took of picture of me directing it looks like this:
People seem to always be more impressed if you’re doing this:
#3. SHOOT OPTIONS
I love having options in the editing room. The biggest learning lesson from my very first short film was not getting any variations in performance. In post, I didn’t have anywhere to go with the characters as every take they were doing the exact same thing every time. That’s no fun. Now, I love exploring the scene with the actors to see what can arise. In the editing room, it gives me more room to shape the character and storylines. It’s much more organic.
For UNNERVED, here’s actor Mark DiConzo discussing what happened on set.
#4. REVIEW DAILIES/GET PICK UP SHOTS NOW
One thing I love to do is watch the footage we shot at the end of the day. It helps me know if we have what we need — or if we possibly need to do it again. When there’s time, it’s great to even roughly cut the scene together to see if the coverage is adequate to tell the intended story. Sometimes I’ll notice we need another shot to complete the visual storytelling, or we may go back again due to performances, or if a shot was out of focus, etc. It’s a luxury to be able to watch what you’re doing while still on set to save money from having to go back months later (while also trying to wrangle everyone’s schedules) to do things again. On UNNERVED, I can recall at least 3 times we did pickups doing the production schedule.
Now, I always try to build in 2-3 days at the end of the schedule just for pickups and reshoots. It’s easier because everyone is still there. Yes, sometimes due to certain factors, we may not know the answer if reshoots are needed until months later….and that can’t be controlled. However if I find out it’s needed, you can bet I’m adding it to my list. (By the way, I also keep a separate running list doing the shoot of pick up shots to be done whenever there’s time).
#5. SCHEDULE A LIGHT SHOOTING DAY 1
For me, in an ideal world, the very first shot of the very first day is something quick and easy. Something that contains very little dialogue and requires very little coverage. It sets a positive atmosphere and gets everyone jazzed when they hear “got it! moving on!” very early in the day.
With my very first short film, I can remember the first shot being an extremely elaborate dolly tracking shot with a lot of dialogue. I was a very eager filmmaker with all these fancy shots in my head I wanted to do. Needless to say, we kept doing take after take and fell slightly behind schedule. My second shot on the list was another elaborate, slow dolly move that was both contingent on nailing the move and performances at the same time. We ended up making our day, however I’m sure the crew didn’t have a lot of confidence in me at the beginning. And I hear there’s nothing worse than when a crew turns on a director, or checks out. There is definitely a difference when a crew cares about the film and the director, and when they don’t.
#6. GET TO KNOW THE CREW AND KEEP COOL
On the very first shooting day (or sometimes even earlier if possible) I try to get to know everyone’s name on the set. I also like to thank them at the end of each day for their hard work. Funny as it sounds, I’ve had a crew member tell me that he’s worked with directors who didn’t give a damn about the crew and even ignored them. While that works for some directors, I couldn’t work like that. I enjoy an environment where I know everyone by first name and there’s a sense of family and friends. No matter how large the set (my biggest crew was about 40+ people on DISMAL), get to know them because you will need them.
I’ve seen a few directors and DPs really lose their cool on set and it’s not fun for anyone. And at times it can lower the moral and cause people to want to just pack up and leave. I definitely get frustrated on set. It’s only natural. However, in my experience things don’t get better if someone blows up at someone else. And I’ve had the opposite happen, where crew members actually stayed a few extra days to work when they could’ve gone home (when the production did a company move to another town) simply because they felt I treated them with respect. The bottom line for me is I like to treat people how I wish to be treated on set. No one person is more important than the other. In filmmaking, it takes a village.
“A poet needs a pen, a painter needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army.” — Orson Welles
Bio: Gary King is an award-winning filmmaker whose work is known for powerful performances with an emphasis on a strong, visual style. He has written, directed and produced several critically acclaimed feature films.
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