2.Budgets & Breakdowns
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NO ONE can tell you how to work with your actors, you will have to discover what works best for you and your style of filmmaking. There ARE things you can do as a director to improve your communication on the set.

Every director I've ever talked to has a different way of working with his actors and his crew. I've known directors who love actors and don't know how to direct them or have any idea where to put the camera or why. I've known directors who simply hate actors and tolerate them simply to get what they need for the performance they want. This is what happens in Hollywood with too much money, formula scripts, and the power commerce brings to "product" no one really cares about. You've all heard stories about prima donna's that demand great script changes and simply refuse to do scenes they don't like, or walk off sets for almost anything. I saw one actor stop production because he wanted a bigger trailer, wouldn't shoot unless they got him what he thought he deserved.

Good actors usually need good characters to work from, psychological motivation for their actions, the right kind of encouragement from the director, and made to feel this is a safe place to work. And that's only the start.

Directors must prepare for a scene, just like an actor, or the crew.

Don't be a director who does not know what he wants, that's where most problems start. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know the point of each scene, the motivation for each action, the main emotional moment of each scene and where it leads to the next scene.

Process is EVERYTHING.

Never direct an actor through what you want in results, "Be more mad - happy etc.", take the initiative, you might tell your actors what they want in the scene or conflict, but you must tell them what action to take to achieve it; "Make Sheila stop insulting you."  Give your actors motivation and some meat to work with in the scene.


When your actor asks, or even if they don't, you must be able to tell them about the character.


Who the character is.

What do they want.

Why do they want it.

Where are they coming from, and Where are they now.

Wants what from Whom.

Needs what from Whom.

Every direction should be geared toward giving the actor information about the scene so they can attain and experience the emotional moment of the character. Almost every direction should be a verb.

Never give an actor a line reading.  Don't take lines away from an actor, those are the actors lines, not yours, never speak their lines because they belong to the actor. Period.

It is also very insulting and shows your weakness as a director, or more importantly, your weakness at casting the right actor in the role. If you've cast your film exactly the way you want it, have faith in your actors, allow them what freedom you can, they should be able to know what kind of performance you want by your guidance and the character. Let them discover the character on their own, it's more fun for you both, more interesting for the character, and good actors enjoy that discovery as much as you do. If you expect some anal adherence to each inflection you intended in the script without allowing the personality of the actor you cast in your film to bleed into the character, you're doomed to disappointment and spending more money in footage than you have.  NEVER give an actor a line reading, those are the actors lines, not yours.  Get the picture?


I have great faith in, and loyalty to my actors, and give them as much freedom as I possibly can. But that's what I look for, the kind of filmmaking that interests me is the kind in which the person I cast in the part can bring both the truth I know about the character on the page, and his own truth about that character to the screen. That means I try to cast the right actor, and right person for the roles. No matter what you think about acting and actors, the truth is, good actors (and not so good ones too) are involved in bravery, going someplace they may not like to go over, and over again, and, putting their trust and openness in a stranger - you. Whether it's emotional turmoil, or psychological hell, they willingly go back for a character, over, and over again. We're all human, how brave people handle that is sometimes difficult to take, but, if they are delivering, Mr. Director, you better be supporting them in exactly the way they need.

Read This If Nothing Else

In Casting your main concern is the spine of the character.  "Type Casting", basically, means that a less experienced actor, as a person, has the same wants and needs of the character of the script.  So no matter what decision that actor makes will be right for the character.  An experienced actor has the "chops", the technique to access character traits alien to his own character, make it his own so his/her decisions in character are always right.  Do what you can afford, or what happens naturally.

For instance,

in casting one of my films I had an actor that was perfect for a very important role and I wanted to give him the part, but his "I'm doing you such a huge favor by being here" attitude would have been such a detriment on the set I didn't even consider him even though he was probably much better than the person I hired. Because one young actor had a family member problem (alcohol), I could not give that part to that actor. The problem family member would have been an enormous liability on a fast moving guerrilla set and who knows what would have happened. One actor whom I did cast in a role called up at 1 AM. before his 9 AM. call for his big dialogue scene and said he had to visit a friend in jail and would try to make it. I cut him out of the scene and shot around him, even after he showed up at 11 AM. Two young actors in another film were very good, but one had both hidden legal and ego problems, and the other had severe emotional and psychological problems and both had recently quit drugs which resulted in some testy moments over the course of shooting, but they were so good in the parts and dedicated to the roles that we finished and made a very good film. I will always have good things to say and fond memories for them, even though I made some terrible mistakes as a director.

All that said, I failed to protect my actors from the enormous pressures put on me in one of my films, that was a terrible mistake and I did not realize I was doing it until the film was over. I was learning, I'm still learning every day, but YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE A PLACE FOR YOUR ACTORS TO FEEL SECURE AND WANTED, TO GIVE THEM A PLACE TO CREATE. Sometimes that is very hard when you have no money and everything is on your shoulders, but remember, it's a collaborative effort, help the other artists get to a place where they can create for you, and your film.

If you're a guerrilla filmmaker

and have maybe 3 takes total to get a shot and you know that the actor you want dislikes you, or has a reputation for being difficult, or dislikes the script, or is only doing this "for my reel", or is a prima donna: by the fifth day of shooting that actor has you by the short and curlies and can demand or do what he likes because you have all this footage with him in the part.

It happens.

That's the nightmare and is probably unlikely, but more subtle issues of control like coloration, intent in the performance etc., and dissension on the set can creep in and weaken your film. Remember, again, this is a collaborative process, you and your actors are creating together, collaborating, to bring your script to the screen. Involve them in the process, barking commands is never a way to get what you want. I wouldn't be above doing almost anything to get a performance from an actor that might be having a problem, but breaking through all those barriers is part of the process, for me.

In one road film I knew a lot of crew members and actors were walking off sets around town, it's was like some weird virus or the hip thing to do at the time and I could not let that happen to me, so, I took everyone on the road in two vans and we ripped off locations along the way. Basically I hijacked everyone to the middle of nowhere so "sleeping in that morning rather than working on this film" was not an option. It worked for me because I planned it that way, and it was a road film. You may have to find another strategy that will work for you but try to plan for as much as possible, and include whatever happens as part of the film.


You've probably all heard about, if not actually used a nonlinear editing system and heard how fast, how small, and how good they can be. Although much of that is true, there are a lot of hidden costs that no one involved in just one part of the process will tell you about, and it may not be a viable option for the guerrilla filmmaker. Keep in mind, you're trying to complete your film and survive where many, many others have not. Just because it's the latest thing, does not mean it can work for you.

The old style of editing usually meant a screening of all the footage printed to film and screened in theater with or without sound, then taking that footage to a flatbed to edit both picture and sound 1-2 tracks at a time. The nonlinear style means you get your footage back on videotape, screen it on a monitor then put it into the computer to edit, or some combination of the above.

Nonlinear editing is computer editing in which the negative is transferred to tape, usually with sound and entered into the computer, or digitized both for picture and audio. Once in the computer you can move scenes and 4-8-32 tracks of sound instantly, save a number of versions with great ease, only limited by time, cost, and how much disc space you have. The computer will digitize your footage at different resolutions for different purposes, the higher the resolution the more storage you will need. At a very low resolution you can store almost any feature on 18 gigabytes. A low resolution use's less pixels and therefore looks very "pixilated" but uses less disc space. High resolution (some systems claim better than broadcast quality) uses a lot of space to store the added information, most people would only use this for the last output to tape.

The advantages of nonlinear are obvious:
Speed of editing and amount of variations you can have;
The small space in which you need to edit;
Sound editing capabilities:
Instantaneous output to tape to show people dailies;
On most systems you have the ability to see effects, titles and various other things not available to the die hard on a flat bed-among a whole host of other things.

The draw backs are not so obvious: Looking at your film on a monitor instead of the screen allows
flaws (soft focus shots, dirt or scratches in film) in the "digitized" footage that you would certainly catch in a screened work print to pass unnoticed; Editing on a monitor inhibits the pacing that will finally get on the screen: Trusting what the computer gives you as a negative cut list, rather than it being a simple work-print to negative match up: You're post mixing costs are usually higher; Added post expenses

For the nonlinear editing process here are some of the post production things to consider when budgeting:

Cost of transfer to tape (telecine time).
Cost of tape stock (usually betacam, but better digital).
Cost of editing at post house in which you must include the:
Cost of disc storage space not included with your system, and what quality of computer you are working (some nonlinear system EDL's (edit decision list) are not easily transferred to a cut list for your negative and could incur an obvious tragedy or tragedies for your film if you rely on them). After you've edited the:
Cost of having your negative cut and another
Telecine (could be a very cheap one) so you can do your post music.
Cost of hiring an audio house to re-sync your      footage to the second negative cut transfer.
Cost of the audio mix.
Cost of final telecine to tape.

Except for the negative cut, and final telecine above, these are all extra costs, and you still do not have an optical track, an answer print of your film, or have ever seen it screened, only on a video monitor. HOWEVER, if you can afford to get one of the new, very good, 1000$ dollar nonlinear systems for your computer and upgrade it enough to cut on, you can take as long as you like, and be very sure of your final cut.

The Sleaze Factor

Some added things to consider about telecine for nonlinear are:

When talking to the transfer house find out what their transfer ratio will be. That means that for every running hour of footage what will their maximum time be to transfer it to tape, and get it in writing. A telecine operator has to line up time-code numbers from your audio tape to the sync slate on film for each one of your takes, that takes time. 4:1 is fine, but, whatever ratio you get, count on it being the maximum for your budget, then add 10% for the sleaze factor. You might want to consider not transferring sound at the telecine, and doing it in the computer, but you will have to be sure that the nonlinear system you are using will accept time code from your tapes, that you have the time and expertise to do this properly, and have added the extra expense of time spent on the computer to input it plus rental of the audio source machine against the time of the telecine operator to do the same thing.

If you don't use time code on your set you may have to finally transfer it to a time coded tape anyway, but, you've saved the cost of a time code audio machine, used less film because time code should have a 10 second pre-roll, and if you're using a mono 4.2 Nagra, you've got superior audio. If you plan on using the audio from the telecine and using the computer output mix, you will have to use betacam tapes, not 3/4.

<>3/4 is supremely inferior to betacam for sound,and beta tapes are much more expensive than 3/4, and the telecine time costs more. As telecine progresses the operator will store all his information on discs and include them with the tapes, these discs will then tell the computer how to input the audio, log it for your as you watch. Maybe. Keep an eye on what's being input, if the operator screws up, doesn't include scenes or cuts them off, you have to be sure to get it, you can't edit what you don't have.

Once you have edited your film on a nonlinear system, the EDL (Edit Decision List) you put out from the input timecode numbers from video and audio will match the original recorded tapes, and you can then go back in the sound mix and reenter the original sound from the original tapes instead of using the second generation sound transferred to Beta Cam. But you may never get that far, or want to do it.

If you decide that you want to use a flatbed and get a work-print here are some of the post production things to consider when budgeting:

1. Cost of renting a flat bed and a space to edit:
Cost of work print:
Cost of audio transfer to full coat (35mm audio film):
Cost of negative cut:
Cost of audio mix:
Cost of answer print:
Cost of optical track:
Cost of final telecine to tape.

You have seen all your footage on the screen, you can usually get a lab to give you a dual screening of WP and Audio track so you can see it with sound, and the negative cutter will surely never have a problem matching the negative to the work-print for accuracy, and that huge worry is out of your hands.

You can rent a flatbed straight out for about 450 a month these days. For the latest Avid Film Composer list from post houses is usually 500-2500 a day. Even if you can get a nonlinear system for free, you must work in the cost of getting an editor that really knows his stuff or major problems can occur, which, of course, brings you back to
casting the crew . If you can get an editor for free-

Can you afford all the extra expense's of editing nonlinear?

If you can afford all the extra expenses can you handle not seeing your film on the screen and falling into the "TV editing mode" when editing your film? By that I mean that editing on a small screen is much different than on a 40 ft screen, pacing in your film is very important and if you've been cutting on a small screen do your cuts seem jagged and like a TV sitcom on the big screen? And if it does and you've made a terrible mistake and your negative is cut, now what? Are you sure what the computer is giving you is the right numbers for the cuts you want?

Here's my experience.

First time nonlinear, everybody told me how great, how fast, and how the cost was virtually the same, or less than editing the work print, no body bothered to tell me about all the hidden costs because they either didn't know, or they were on the button clicker band wagon that swept up editors and post people a few years back. The computer I was editing on crashed a number of times and I had to rebuild my film from scratch 3 times, every cut including 8 tracks of audio (100,000 cuts, approximately), that had the effect of burning me out on my own film. I had to go to a number of different houses and move the media around to different versions of the software which meant problems later, and the negative cut list from the 100 thousand dollar Avid was as much as 48 frames off of what it was supposed to be (2 seconds): I couldn't see the soft focus shots that my DP did not tell me about in the digitized footage or on tape and the whole process cost thousands of dollars more than it should have.


I did get to see how good the film was and where problems were immediately, I had a rough edit in 1 week, (working 20 hours a day). If I had it to do over again I would have certainly gone for the flatbed, it would have been cheaper by far, and much more informative about the negative information that actually made it to the screen. I was very paranoid about the negative cut and before I delivered the negative I went through every cut, front and back, in and out, and checked the number on screen against what the print out from the computer gave as the negative cut list. A real, two day pain in the ass. Then I went through every roll of negative and checked each one head and tails to be sure it was jiving with the computer, the discs from the transfer lab, and the negative cut list. Like I said, good thing I checked before I cut, it was way off on many, many occasions and the negative cutter may or may not be good enough to catch any of that, it's not really their job, it's yours.

I have also heard very positive stories about people succeeding in doing a rough mix in the Avid and out putting it to an optical track, a rough mix for sure but far better than you think and that's a huge savings in the end. I've only heard this once, but,
it happens . What you can do, and your luck or skill with these systems may be much different than mine.

You will have to decide on your own what you can afford and what you can't.
Think survival. Think completion. If you've decided that you can show around the digitized output of your film to companies and that's as far as you can hope to go without finishing funds, good luck. Again, finding finishing funds is very difficult, and if you finish the film you can enter it in festivals and hope it does well, and if it does you at least have something to talk to distributors about. If it does, well, the distributors will be talking to you.

Flatbed = Cheaper, much slower, see film projected on screen, more secure about negative cut and sound sync.
Nonlinear = More expensive (unless you've got your own system), very fast, never see projected film, insecure about negative cut and sound sync and pacing.

- The intangibles -

How many variations on a scene can you see before it's counterproductive - too many choices? If you've never cut a film and seen your work on screen what will you think when it's on tape and how will it affect your editing style? Looking through 400 trim boxes stacked ceiling to floor searching for 2 frames of the scene you want to change in your apartment in which you haven't seen your dog recently?


1. Get your deal from the editing house and transfer house on paper, signed, before you commit any of your negative, or deliver any of it to them, and get a receipt for every roll of film.
2. Talk to your negative cutter before you decide to edit nonlinear, his quote may have been for work print, his quote for nonlinear may be thousands higher.
3. Question your audio post house extensively about costs, and get quote in writing before you commit, or deliver anything to them. Get a guarantee of sync, if they won't give it to you, smile, and leave as soon as possible. Get references.

The audio post house I went to knew from my lips exactly what I had to do, exactly how much I had to do it and agreed to the deal. I had an Avid output to DA88 (8 track audio tape) that I needed to mix. They spent all the money on some twerp to re-sync the audio (probably did not need to be done), and he did a terrible job if he actually did anything at all, and then would not guarantee sync! On top of when it did fall out of sync a number of times and the idiot tried to tell me 4 frames out of sync is acceptable, hell simple gunshots were off.


All this stuff is variable. Your particular situation may be perfect for nonlinear, or perfect for work-print type editing. Just be sure to figure as many variables as possible before you start, remember, your goal is completion, survival.
2.Budgets & Breakdowns
3.Producer Stuff
4. Editing & Actors
5.Festivals & Distributors
6.Clean Up
7.Dealing With Agents
8.Production Checklist 9.Digital
Proletariat Home


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