Archive for the ‘Pre-Production’ Category

Zhura: A New Online Collaborative Screenwriting Application

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I just ran across a new online screenwriting application called Zhura. It offers free membership and is similar to the collaborative concept behind Celtx. Although Zhura doesn’t have all the pre-production features that Celtx provides, it simplifies the user experience by being an online application doesn’t require any software downloads and upgrades (also check out Plotbot and ScriptBuddy). Zhura’s editing tool allows you to format your script into an “industry standard” layout and if you need a hard copy or want to save it to your computer, you can convert it to a PDF or text (.txt) file. I definitely appreciate the way it maintains a complete history of your changes/revisions.

If you’re working with collaborators on your screenplay or just want to share your work for public feedback – this can be a very useful tool. Their motto is “Make it together.” It’s worth checking out.

The Doorpost Film Project

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

The Doorpost Film Project is a new filmmaking contest which will also serve as an ongoing project that aims to “change the world.” It’s another positive social filmmaking endeavor in the light of Pangea Day which I blogged about before. Along with the project’s optimistic goals, they’re giving filmmakers some serious cash!

Here’s the gist of the contest:

Submitted films (accepted from February 1 to May 1, 2008) need to be 5 minutes or less in length – themed in one of seven universal concepts: ENERGY, LOVE, PAIN, GREED, REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS, and FREEDOM.

Entries are to be uploaded to where it will be streamed and judged by “industry experts” and online viewers.

15 finalists will win $10,000 each to make another short film (8-15 minutes in length). From there, three winners will be selected – 3rd prize = $20,000, 2nd prize = $30,000 and 1st prize = $100,000. Not bad.

Here’s what they say about their organization:

This is more than a contest, this is an ongoing project. We ask you, this century’s revolutionaries, to join us in creating a new way to understand the core of our humanity and a new way to change the world.” [from ‘about us’]

DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – Part 2 “GUTS” (metaphorically speaking)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

In Part 1 (DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – “BLOOD”), I listed several great resources for making your own “blood” related props and special effects. Now in Part 2 – the “Guts” covers several more great links. I used “guts” as a metaphor to describe all the internal building blocks that go into making movie props and special effects.

To be honest, the word “guts” just works well for a two part series: “Blood” & “Guts.”

We’ll start with a good segue to the “blood” post:


A mixture of links from Halloween enthusiasts and filmmakers are comprised in this list.“Build a Dead Guy for Horror Films”“Making A Dead Guy 101”“Making A Corpse”

I“Charred Corpse”

And one of the signature DIY sites has its own contributions:“Making a Dead Guy 101,” “BFX: How to Make a Fake Brain,” “How to Make Fake Heads,“How to Make a Fake Hand”


Studio “…tips and tricks that go into making professional style costumes and props that are used in the Hollywood Movies”

DIY“Costumes”“Costume Resource Links”“The Costume Page (a lot of links)”“The Dyeing Guide,” “The Arming Coat,” “Dress Making Guide”


DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – Part 1 “BLOOD”

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

In a previous “DIY Filmmaking” post, I highlighted several great websites like Indy Mogul and Both provide very useful tutorials for “diy” filmmaking equipment projects. I’ve included several more links from them in this post. They are a great resource for making your own props and special effects. I’ve also discovered several others that cover this topic. In fact, I found so many that I had to split this post into two parts.

For Part 1, my list of sites with DIY Props & Special Effects will cover “Blood” and all the filmmaking special effects that relates to it.


Almost every film uses some kind of blood effect. Be it a simple abrasion or nosebleed; an action flick with shoot ’em up gun-shot scenes or a full on horror slasher film. They all have to produce blood FX in some degree.

Gun Shot FX:

Indy Mogul has a good ‘diy’ gun-shot squib tutorial titled, “How To Make A Blood Shooter.” There is also a video demonstration which was their pilot episode (“Blood-squirting gunshot effect for just $15”) for their series, Backyard FX. has both parts combined.“Hollywood Gunshot Blood Effect!”“Blood & Bullets for No-Budget movies” (How to make compressed gas bullet hits); alt link via“How to Make Fake Blood Squibs for Film, Television and Stage Productions”

MicroFilmmaker“Create a Hollywood Style Gunshot Wound” and “Creating Bullet Hits with Paintball Shots”


Robert Rodriguez’s 10-Minute (DIY) Film School VIDEO

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

One of the most popular filmmaking articles online has been “Robert Rodriguez’s 10-Minute Film School” (courtesy of It’s a transcribed excerpt from a ‘guerrilla filmmaking’ seminar-lecture Rodriguez did several years go. A more detailed version of the lecture is also available in his book: Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player. One of my most popular posts on this site, “DIY Film School – Learn from Websites with Filmmaking Tutorials” also includes a link to this article. Now, a video has surfaced on YouTube with Rodriguez narrating the making-of his legendary film, El Mariachi. He shares some of his “secrets” on how he shot his first film for $7k. One is that he shot the whole thing silent – without sound. He made it work.

Check out the 2 parts of the video by clicking below:


The Hollywood Reporter Breaks Down State-by-State Incentive Programs

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The Hollywood Reporter has a great feature titled “Made In America.” It highlights all 50 states’ production and tax incentive programs and information on all its film commissions. They have an interactive map of the U.S. that facilitates your search. It also includes Puerto Rico and “D.C.” (District of Columbia). If you’re getting ready to shoot your film in America, check out what incentives your state has to offer. Click on their map to browse complete details on production and tax incentives and film commission info by state.

You can also check out Filmlinker’s Links Directory – Industry Organizations for more info on Film Commissions, Groups & Associations, Organizations and Guilds from the U.S. and around the world.

Pangea Day Wants Filmmakers to Unite the World

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Pangea Day is not a celebration of Plate Tectonics but a filmmaker’s “wish” to change the world through the power of film. The “Wish” is part of the TED prize (Technology, Entertainment, Design) obtained by the documentary filmmaker of Control Room, Jehane Noujaim [IMDB info]. Previous TED prize winners also include former U.S. president Bill Clinton and musician Bono.

Pangea Day organizers are asking filmmakers to submit their short films (5 minutes or less) for the event that will be broadcast throughout the world on May 10, 2008.

“We’re looking for films that will make us laugh, cry, and gasp. They can be fiction, non-fiction, real-life, animation, or your own unique mixture. But they should hold our attention for every second. And above all, they should tell a story that someone else on the other side of the world will be able to relate to.” [from]

All submissions will be reviewed by Jehane Noujaim and a panel of jurors. 30 films will be selected to be screened on Pangea Day. Plus, selected filmmakers will also be invited to submit a treatment for a feature film or documentary – eligible to win a grant ($20,000) and awards program established through a partnership with Participant Productions (An Inconvenient Truth, Syriana, Good Night, And Good Luck).

To submit your film, go to and go to the ‘Submit a Film’ page for all the instructions.


DIY Film School – Learn from Websites with Filmmaking Tutorials

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Whether you’re a novice filmmaker or a seasoned pro, there is always something new to learn about filmmaking. It could be new technology, software or just a new cutting-edge process or method that someone came up with. We live in the information age and filmmakers from all walks of life are sharing their knowledge online. Here are several filmmaking tutorials and educational sites (in no particular order) that cover the basics to the advanced.

+ The DV Show – Along with producing weekly podcasts dedicated to answering listener questions, The DV Show compiles tutorials from various video sharing sites like Youtube, Google Video, Yahoo Video,, and others. Here’s a great one titled, “3 Point Lighting Tips.”

+ BBC Training & Development provides online courses and tutorials in several disciplines. There are a lot of free tutorials here! Check out “Good Shooting Guide: the basic principles” and get a feel for what’s available on their site.

+ Take Zer0 is an online film school which posts filmmaking tips and tutorials twice a week. The site’s “Zer0” name relates to “everything you need to know before take one” – which goes along with the dry wit of its two hosts. Check out “The Storyboard…And YOU.”

+ Fresh DV is another great site with filmmaking video tutorials. It educates you on the basics (“Introduction to Slating and Script Management”) to more advanced techniques (“The Art of Pulling Focus” ).

+ Studio Daily and its “online family” Studio Monthly, Film & Video, and HD Studio are a great source for production information. Here’s one of their tutorial pages.


DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Equipment & Tools

Monday, November 5th, 2007

DIY (Do-It-Yourself – in case you’re not familiar with the popular acronym) filmmaking is a necessity for most indie filmmakers on a tight budget. There are several online resources available that give step-by-step instructions on how to build your own equipment and tools – for much less than you would pay from a commercial vendor. But first you should ask yourself if it’s worth spending the all the time building something that you can rent from a professional rental house. Time IS money. Another factor to consider is if the DIY rig you construct does an adequate job compared to professional equipment. Paul Harrill from Self-Reliant Filmmaking shares some insight: “An inexpensive homemade tool that doesn’t get the job done is less of a bargain than an overpriced mass-produced tool that does get the job done.” Regardless, having options to choose from is always an advantage.

Here’s a few links to DIY resources that give filmmakers alternatives to buying and renting equipment:


Perhaps the most popular online DIY film tool is the “Fig Rig.” The Fig Rig name comes from director Mike Figgis [IMDB info] who invented the camera stabilization device for small film and video cameras.

Here are some websites that have set-up instructions for Fig Rigs:

+ “Build a PVC Fig Rig” & “PVC FIG RIG”(
+ “PVC Fig Rig”( by shygantic)
+ “Video Gadgets You Can Make”(


Get “Creative” With Your Film Score

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Music can be an essential part of film’s emotional connection to its audience. As an independent filmmaker, you may not be thinking about that aspect of your film until you are in post-production. Although you will have this budgeted in pre-production, you may not have accounted for all the costs involved in licensing music. There’s a great article at that explains some of these details:

Properly securing the rights to popular songs is expensive. To use any song, you need to obtain two different licenses: The Master License and the Synchronization (Sync) License. The Sync license grants permission to use a song’s composition (all the lyrics and the composed music)–this is often owned by the performer/composer. The Master license is giving permission to use a particular recording of that song in your movie–often the recording label/company owns this.” [excerpt from MicroFilmmaker Magazine – “Tips & Tricks – Music & Score”]

This even includes the “Happy Birthday” song. If you have a scene in your film that has the characters singing “Happy Birthday” at a party, you’ll need to pay the copyright owners for that license.

Independent artists – be it filmmakers or musicians – have similar goals and obstacles that can form a symbiotic relationship of sorts. There are many resources out there that can help you get quality music for your film from indie artists as yourself.

MySpace is a great place to find, sample and contact indie musicians that want exposure for their music. The Foureyedmonsters directors (who I’ve blogged about before – 1, 2) have utilized MySpace for their film and podcasts.

Some established composers want to “give back” to the indie community from which they came from. Moby – the techno composer/DJ/activist, is now allowing independent and non-profit filmmakers to use his music in non-commercial projects. He’s made about 60 songs available. “If you want to use it in a commercial film or short,” Moby declares on his website Moby Gratis. “Then you can apply for an easy license, with any money that’s generated being given to the humane society.”

Creative Commons licenses have also emerged as a godsend to indie musicians who want to expose their music to the public without the restrictive copyright laws enforced by the RIAA. Filmmakers can now take advantage of the flexibility of these licenses which invite multiple uses of a musician’s work. Here are some sites with available CC licensed music: