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In the Company of Strangers

Director's Notes - Directly from the "From Script to Screen" seminar (check out "Tom's Blog" page for more notes)

Time Flies

I just spent a day producing a live, one-time special event. I had a crew of two camera ops. I also operated a camera as well as presenting 24 short film clips via Apple's Keynote presentation program that I had worked on for roughly six weeks. The day of the event (which kicked off at 6:00 p.m. and went for six hours) started for me early in the morning the day before. And yet, when it was time for the MacBook to fire up and the cameras to roll, I wished I had had more time to prepare. No matter how much time you have to get ready, it's almost never enough. My point? Don't dally when you are producing an event, especially if you are relying on other people to do their jobs properly in a timely manner. Sometimes that just doesn't happen. Plan your day(s) carefully and factor in extra time (if you can do so). Oh, and one other thing - when it comes off without a hitch, it's incredibly satisfying. Don't forget to enjoy that moment.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - is the location. Good luck finding it.

As a PM, PC, AD or just a person who is sending set or location directions to cast and crew, make sure you provide directions which are easy to understand. Include information like the actual address, turn-to-turn mileage numbers, prominent landmarks (if they will be helpful) and any road construction issues that might be encountered. Also, please check the address to make sure that it can be found using a GPS device (and if it is not detectable via GPS, let your team know that).

Follow the Rules Until You Can Break the Rules

I mentioned reading the work of other screenwriters in preparation for writing your own screenplay. Accepted formatting conventions change slightly over the years but the basics remain the same. As you read the screenplays of other writers, you will discover that they may have used techniques that may now be out of favor. Keep in mind that once you are a successful screenwriter with work that has been produced, you will have a lot more leeway to write the way you want to write. Until then, try to stick with the current, accepted "rules" of screenwriting so as not to give readers or producers a reason to pass on your work. Also remember, for every "rule", there are exceptions and there is nothing to say that you might sneak in the door by taking some big writing risks. But in general, I believe you would be better served to stick with what is working currently until you're on the "inside".

No Garbage Bags

It's always nice when an actor gets booked on a shoot and is asked to provide sizes or to arrive in advance of the actual shoot for a costume fitting. However, many shoots do not supply wardrobe for the actors and it is incumbent upon the actors to bring their own wardrobe.

If you are ever asked to do this, here are a couple of tips...

1) Make sure your clothes are clean, fresh and pressed.

2) Bring your clothing options in a garment bag or suitcase that will not wrinkle your clothes. (I have actually had actors bring their wardrobe in a garbage bag - believe it or not. That's not professional and it's definitely NOT a good idea).

3) Bring plenty of options and when I say "plenty", I don't mean 2 pairs of pants, two shirts or blouses and only the shoes you wear to the set. Of course, your wardrobe will be dependent on the role you will be playing and you will likely get some guidance from someone at the company hiring you. Still, within the parameters provided to you by the company, bring PLENTY of options - 6 or 7 shirts in a variety of colors and styles, an equal number of pants, skirts or dresses, several belt and shoe options, sweaters, some tee-shirts if appropriate, sport coats, blazers or suit coats - again with a nice variety of colors and styles. You will end up bringing a lot of clothing but when I am the director, I absolutely LOVE the actor who brings me a ton of options that I can play with, especially since I can almost guarantee that at least one actor on the set is going to arrive with not much more than the shirt on his back.

Cell Phones Are Essential

It's important to not only check your emails for messages from your contact on your gig (AD, production coordinator or production secretary, etc. - see part 1 below) but also to make sure your contact has your cell phone number in the event of a truly last minute change. Equally as important, you should have your contact's cell phone number in case you are somehow unavoidably detained. It's all about effective and efficient communication.

Check Your Email Regularly

You've booked a commercial, an industrial video or a role in a film. Congratulations! Over the next few days, I'm going to post some recommendations to make your gig go more smoothly.

Today's tip... If you are communicating with the commercial producer via email, be sure to check your email frequently up until the time you leave for the shoot. There may be a last minute change that comes to you in an email. Also, it's very important to reply to every email you receive so your contact on the shoot knows you got the message.

It's the Same, Only Different

There are feature films, shorts, industrials, music videos, commercials and instructionals. There are narratives and documentaries, live action and animated - docudramas and reality projects. There are ultra-low budget films and big, bloated tent pole blockbusters.

And they will all benefit from the same sort of careful planning and preparation I am writing about in my blog posts.

The degree of prep is going to vary depending on the size and scope of your project but by approaching all your work in a similar fashion, I believe that you will increase the chances of successfully completing your film (and not being completely crazy at the end of it all).

You'll learn this and a whole lot more at the "From Script To Screen" 18-Hour Seminar. Keep an eye on this site for Seminar dates in your area. Check out the seminar information on the home page and REGISTER TODAY!!

Contact Tom

Check out the website for the film that won the awards listed - www.inthecompanyofstrangers.com

Click below to reserve your seat with your registration fee of $279, a group of 10 for $2,470 ($247 each) or a down payment of $100 to reserve your spot - class tuition is fully refundable if the event is cancelled by MidWestGuy for any reason.  

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Here's just a sample of what you'll learn at this 2-day seminar. This is from the screenwriting portion.






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