TL:DR; More lights, more light, more crew, more time!
With the production of Are You There? fresh (ish) in our heads here are some thoughts about what I (we) will do differently next time! Patrick will add his views to this too, for another perspective.
Camera & Lights: We used the Canon 600d. As good as it was, (it’s mine and I sweated blood to buy it and I love it, but), it definitely performed better with a lot of light. By a lot, I mean more than you’d ever think you’d need! I knew this going into the production, but for budget and time reasons we just didn’t get enough light onto some scenes – even though I knew we needed more going into things, the small crew meant that ideas about lights and generators weren’t possible. Noise is a problem on the 600D image sensor and the more light, the less noise in the image and the better the picture quality. More lights, lights on location and faster lenses would have helped here.
Less Image Noise: We had to use several steps of de-noising on some footage and it definitely was not as good as I had hoped. The solution to the problem is light and lots of it! Light it up and stop it down! Other, better, cameras will have a better sensitivity and may not have quite the same struggle we had to get a clean picture. If you can only afford some things for your film, make sure you have plenty of lights and maybe even a generator for location purposes.
More crew: We made most of this production with a crew consisting of Patrick and myself. We moved the furniture, set up the lights and camera, directed and recorded sound. RJ, our lead actor, helped a lot, as did Zakk and Sharon, but when it came to lighting and camera, set dressing etc. the burden was on us, and me in particular, as I was the one with the ‘vision’ of how I wanted things. This was very stressful and tiring and I always felt that I was forgetting something…
Get your crew together in advance. Do some pre-production with them. Make it clear what you expect from them, then trust them when you get on set. Have meetings, get locations sorted in advance, give everyone a role… Your crew can make the shoot harder or easier and it’s really the director’s fault if a crew member doesn’t know what to do. Also, don’t let crew members drink themselves sick between shooting days ;-) that’s really not helpful!
More time: We shot the whole thing in about 32 hours. That was way too compressed a time frame. It was always rush, rush, rush… Always feeling like we were pushed for time means that we were reluctant to take time to really take stock of scenes and set ups. We gave the actors time to do as many takes as they wanted but we always felt under pressure…
If you’re more prepared and the crew are up to speed, then things will go more smoothly even with a tight schedule. With our limited crew and prep, we put ourselves under more stress than was necessary or helpful.
All these faults are really my responsibility. I can’t lay them at anyone else’s door. But next time (oh, yes! There will be a next time! Ideas are already flowing ;-), next time I will be more prepared and we will do proper pre-production with a fuller crew!
Anyway, I’m sure that Patrick will add his ideas and thoughts but until next time!
Next time: Lessons Learned 4: Actors & Directing