Note: 100+ votes later and I am OVERWHELMED by all the love and support for the #ProjectFilmSupply contest. Thank you! If you're reading this and have no idea what I'm talking about, click here. If you want to know how I got this crazy idea, read on:
Around this time in 2011, I was getting ready to start class again at NYU and I had to come up with an idea to pitch for my screenwriting class. That's also when Hurricane Irene was about to hit. So what do you do when you're procrastinating and have to brace for a hurricane? Watch Netflix!
I found this cheeky Bollywood movie called "What's Your Raashee?" which means "What's Your Sign?" It's a 3 hour comedy about one man's journey to date his way through the Zodiac to find his perfect match. It was delightfully cheesy and painfully long, but it inspired me in a weird way.
Then I remembered this Huffington Post article about the discovery of a 13th Zodiac sign that was going to screw up the entire Zodiac, and push all the signs' birthdays back! I was a Capricorn, and now I had to be a Sagittarius? So I thought, why not combine these two elements, and make my own love story?
So I wrote the first draft of The Serpent Bearer with that in mind.
The first draft was a steaming hot mess. It was littered with plot holes, weak character arcs, and was possibly a little sexist. It was also my first feature film, ever. After the semester ended, I just shoved it deep into the depths of my hard drive and forgot about it.
Since then, lot of things have happened:
- I had the pleasure of working for one of my favorite film directors for 2 years
- I walked the red carpet to my first film festival screening ever
- Made a web series and a bunch of short films (all dating/romance related)
- Went on MANY internet dates
- Acted in a short film about internet dating
- Wrote a book on internet dating
It seems like dating and filmmaking seem to go hand in hand for me. So I decided it's time to awaken The Serpent Bearer and give it another run. But I'll start small. I'm going to film it as a short, and use that to make the feature film I've always dreamed of.
Just as I was finishing up the script for the short film, this contest popped up in my newsfeed. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as this would give me almost everything I need to make the film.
So what's next? We keep collecting votes until August 31st. Share it with your friends and family. And keep an eye out for the short film soon!
A lot of big filmmaking contests have been popping up in the past few months, like the MOGA Mega Video Challenge last year (which I entered, you can watch my entry here), the My Rode Reel contest that just ended, and now The Music Bed is hosting their own! I plan to enter that as well.
But the biggest talking point amongst these contests is "What's the point?" These are big international competitions with huge prizes (The MOGA challenge gave a way 6 Red Scarlets!). Obviously the guys with the big budgets and Red Epics are going to win, right? And if the winners are picked by votes, obviously the popular kids are going to win, right?
Often times, these contests have judges pick their grand prize winners. If that's the case, the best film should win right? Then who is going to be the most experienced filmmaker? The 17 year old with an iPhone who's studying video production in school? Or the 30 year old who's been working in the industry for 10 years whose buddy has a Red Epic?
Instead of asking "What's the point?" You should ask "What do I have to gain?"
What do I have to gain?
- A new film to add to your reel, that you can send to film festivals and host on your YouTube channel.
- The experience and knowledge from creating another project
- New connections/friends during production
- Your work is being seen and judged by influential and groundbreaking filmmakers
- Publicity for you as a filmmaker and your project
- The chance to win a big prize
What do I have to lose?
- The contest (obviously)
- Time & energy spent making the film
- Hard drive space
There will be always someone else who will have a bigger camera, a larger budget, a more famous actor, and more minions on twitter. But what it really comes down to is making the most of your resources. If all you have is an iPhone and an annoying little brother, go make something cool with that nobody else can. Don't like your iPhone? Ask a friend to lend you their DSLR. Don't like your little brother? Ask one of the drama students at your school to act in your film.
Just do it. The positives will likely outweigh the negatives, and even if you lose, it may open new doors for you. I didn't win the MOGA contest, but my video helped me land a few acting gigs!
Side note: Read the fine print of the contest's terms! If you have to surrender ownership of your work, you may want to think twice on what you have to gain from this contest.
It started out as any ordinary day.
I woke up. Brushed my teeth. Took a shower. Made some eggs. Tested my Zoom H4N before packing my camera bag, but the sucker wouldn't turn on. So yeah, I panicked a little. This $300 recorder had saved my butt on numerous occasions, and it helped me make my first (real) short film Strangers. There's sentimental value as well!
So I put fresh batteries in - still wouldn't turn on. I put "stamina mode" on and played with a hundred other settings - still nothing. Maybe it fell one too many times during my impromptu voice over sessions? Maybe it sat in sun too long? Maybe it just decided to take a nap.... forever.
I didn't spend too much time worrying why my Zoom H4N decided to take the eternal nap. I was wondering what the heck I'm going to use for audio now. I did a bit of digging, and turns out there's some much better options.
If you google "DSLR filmmaking" and "DSLR audio" chances are you'll see recommendations for the Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic, with the Zoom H4N. Big shotgun mic plugs into the zoom, and it records on the SD card, and all is right with the world. But in practice, not so much.
In my experience, the audio quality is not the greatest, unless the subject is 6 inches from the microphone. Great for voiceovers. Awful for filming. The signal levels are stupidly low, and when I bump the gain to 100, the noise is just overwhelming. With a little tough love in post with Adobe Audition (another life saver) the end product is manageable, but still a headache to get even that far.
As a microphone, the Zoom is great for recording ambient noise. But as a mixer, it just can't handle a mic like the Rode NTG-2. The pre-amps are too weak, and the noise is too high for it to be used as a proper mixer.
So I went shopping for a new audio companion. I picked up the Tascam DR-60D, and I'm now in love with it. Sound quality is great. 4 audio inputs, 3 levels of gain, plus a nice, big, round knob the adjust the input levels. It plugs straight into my 5D's audio input, so I can have a scratch track to sync with. Or if I play my cards right, it can record straight to the video and not have to sync anything at all! It also fits perfectly right under the camera, so I don't have to worry about dropping anything when I try to hold the boom, the mixer, and my sandwich.
If you get the Tascam DR-60D from B&H Photo, they also throw in PluralEyes 3 for free (a $200 software that magically syncs all your audio at once). What would take me 1 hour of dreadful, manual audio syncing will now take me 2 clicks and 5 minutes of waiting! Magic I tell you.
My Zoom H4N served me well. In its 2.5 year run, it has seen me through my first short film, an entire web series, and numerous emergency ADR sessions. But fear not! Just because I can't use it to record audio, doesn't mean I no longer have any use for it. I do have a lot of papers on my desk that need weighing down.