Every film-maker starting out wants to make the best short film and get the best people and equipment to make it happen but often with little or no budget at all, with the hope that the idea is strong enough to get them to commit.
But that’s not usually the best route to go if you want the Hollywood quality and more importantly the commitment from your team to make it so.
Many film makers make the biggest mistake in ignoring the post production side of their production and instead become ‘tunnel vision’ into thinking film making is all about the camera, set and props and actors… forgetting that its actually post production that ties it all together to present your film to your audience.
Being a VFX Supervisor in the industry, mixing my projects between paid high profile projects for Film and TV to short films (unpaid) and music promos (low paid or unpaid) I have experienced the situations arising when you agree to help out on a short films with intention of dedicating a fix number of hours (in-between paid jobs or full time job) and to the brief agreed between the film maker and me as the VFX talent to only find out later the director wants more ambitious requests met on the already tight budget.
Most of the times the film makers that throw that curve ball are usually ones who don’t understand the work and time required to achieve the VFX or request (music, sound effects, animation etc.) and have just watched the behind the scenes of Lord of the rings and think its just about sticking a few green screens behind the actor.
If you are going to make a film then save some money aside in a piggy bank to make it and don’t expect people to work for free especially when you are an unknown with this being your first film, but more importantly if you are serious about making your film and want it to look and sound like an actual feature film then you need to understand that you will need to spend. Its like buying a house or car, if you really want one, then you save for it, of course you negotiate for the right price but at the end of the day you are still spending money on something you really want, same principle applies to making your film which at the end is a product.
FUBAR Redux Teaser Trailer:
See the Full Film at fubar-movie.com
Lead by Example
So with all that in mind, when it came to me making my debut as a director on my short film – Fubar Redux, I ensured I stuck with those principles in mind. Fubar Redux is an epic animated short film set in an alternate reality of cats and dogs fighting a political war. I created a visual style utilizing my visual effects and animation background to develop hyper motion comic as a format for the film inspired by the 1962 film by Chris Marker, La Jetée (IMDB) – which uses a simple technique of still images with narration and music over it.
The motion comic format was my way of getting the Hollywood action type shots for less time and money since it was dealing with still imagery and my job was to bring those images to life using 2.5D animation techniques rather than full on CGI animation which would cost a fortune for that photographic look I wanted if done with full 3D animated CG. So not only was this format (motion comic) a visual device to tell my story but it was also a cost saving one too. So definitely explore ways in telling your story whether its animation, film, stop motion etc and use a medium you are conformable with that way you can find the most efficient ways to get things done smarter and cost effectively as apposed to a new medium you have no experience in. Basically it’s about finding what you are comfortable with and the pushing it further.
Even though I was doing all the VFX myself I still needed assistance in rotoscoping/creating mattes, some branding and graphic design for marketing PR material and or course editing and sound post production. Knowing that in advance I was able to put some money aside from my freelance gigs and later on achieved a successful crowd source funding via Kickstarter to help fund that. You can watch my Kickstarter campaign here.
One of the many things I hear from film makers sending me their script when they need support like don’t tell the people you are wanting sponsoring from or to contribute to the project that this film is the best film ever made or the most original, firstly let them be the judge of that and secondly people who are well placed in the industry for a good number of years get tons of scripts and requests everyday.
What you need to think about is how to get them to read your script in the first place and to do that you need things nailed down before approaching sponsors and contributors:
A solid film festival strategy gives people confidence that its worth giving up some time to do work on your project knowing there will be exposure for them and more importantly the project is not going to just be put on the shelf and no one is going to see it. I have worked on a few projects where everyone on the crew worked their hardest for no and deferred payment only to never see the film online or screened anywhere due to the film makers not working out the festival and exposure strategy.
Agree up front about what’s required and the time and resource you are asking for the given budget. Stick with that. If you want anything else then its only fair you pay for it or at least come up with a good arrangement rather than play the “you have to commit to it, its your duty etc card”… Remember they are helping you not the other way round.
Always ensure that you register your short film on IMDB and that everyone gets an IMDB credit, as that’s always an incentive people starting out in the industry needs to get on the career ladder or anyone to be honest who has a serious career in the film industry. If you are submitting your short via Withoutabox then you get a free IMDB page for your film anyways.
When ever you are trying to get people on board and you are pitching to them… Don’t say “this will be good for your career” or “it will put you on the map” instead show the support you have gathered already and tell them you would love to have their expertise help in making this film a realty by joining the team, make sure they are aware that you appreciate their art/craft in what they do and then explain to them the limited budget you have and ask them their advice first on how to make it work before asking them to join the project.
Don’t just spend your limited budget on the shoot and then hope to get post-production and VFX for free, especially if your film is VFX heavy!! (i.e. you shot a-lot of green-screen material that relies on VFX to complete the scene). A lot of filmmakers make the mistake of thinking filmmaking budgets should all go on cameras, kit etc. and the rest can be done in favours… wrong! You should think about it the other way round, which is – the budget should be spent on skills and talent as its organic and the creative input, labour and talent is necessary to tell your story. Equipment is non-organic and is just hardware and therefore those are the things you should be trying to get a good deal for, for example in return for using the kit you put their logo in the credits of the film or they can use the film as PR for selling their kit to customers etc.
For Fubar Redux, I used the idea of technology sponsorship where the VFX technology tools developers (made sense since Fubar Redux is vfx driven) let me use their tools and provided me with licenses in return for a case study to be written by me, beta testing results sent to them and they can use the film in their product showcase reel.
Most importantly do not scrimp on Audio! Make sure you have budget set aside for music and sound effects. One of the things I learned on Fubar Redux was having lots of VFX on screen is lovely but having the right well crafted sound effects lifts the visual effects out from the screen to the audience! A polished audio makes a your film feel more professional and not amateur and therefore will succeed better from an audience experience and will be taken more seriously at festivals and screenings too. Remember you want the audience to leave with a cinema experience.
When I was budgeting Fubar Redux I ensured I had enough for marketing, festival screenings, campaigns, branding and design work, DVD postal costs etc as all that adds up. You are probably thinking why put some of your film production budget aside when its not going into making the film, well… what’s the point in making a great film if no one sees it! And the only way to build audience is marketing campaigns, festival screenings etc and if it’s your first film and first festival presence, then first impressions count.
Sometimes its best to have someone else look after the budget monitoring to ensure the budget is kept tight and as a film maker you tend to just want to spend to get what you want because you say you need it – need it all! On Fubar Redux I was lucky to have some great executive producers who kept an eye on that side of things with me and would often find the best deal on things before I go ahead and use the budget to pay.
Author bio – Hasraf Dulull
A Visual Effects Supervisor and Director in the Motion Pictures Industry (IMDB profile). Known to his colleagues and friends in the industry as HaZ, with a love for digital compositing. HaZ started his career in Video Games cinematic CG sequences before moving into Film Visual Effects and compositing as a compositor rising up to Visual Effects Supervisor. Over the years he has worked on numerous high profile Feature Films, Commercials, Music Promos and Broadcast series at various studios worldwide. He’s been nominated for several Visual Effects Society (VES) awards for his Visual Effects Supervision work.
In 2012, he released his directorial debut short film: Fubar Redux which was described by the press as “Animal Farm meets Platoon” and is a hyper-motion comic cinematic film which gained a huge exposure through its strategically social media marketing and screened at several festivals (Cannes Short Film Corner 2012 etc.).