Michael T Vollmann

Filmmaker

Cleared for takeoff.

Short Film Assignment

SHORT VIDEO PROJECT - 2-4 minutes

 

Objective:

  • Create a 2 to 4 minute film through interviews, voice overs, music and visuals, etc.

 

Guidelines:

  • Can be a narrative or a documentary or experimental.
  • Topic is concrete; film should also explore a theme or larger idea
  • If narrative or documentary, try to focus on one main character
  • Around 30 shots (“b-roll”) to illustrate an interesting visual story.
  • Music and sound effects highly recommended.
  • Consider using a voice over (VO)
  • Consider using text
  • Consider using still images, historical images or “found footage” (pre-existing media)

 

Possible topics:    

  • Focus on a main character or “hero” on a journey, attempting to overcome an obstacle.
    • Example: Interview a family member about a personal story about one of the toughest challenges they have ever had, and how, or if, they overcame it.
    • Example: Create a film about a challenge you personally faced, (real or fictional) and how you attempted to overcome it. Could use VO, self-shot interview, or perhaps try documenting yourself as you attempt to conquer a new skill.
       
  • Using a collection of long takes, create an experiential and lyrical film.
    • Example: Shoot 30 “random” long takes and edit them to create a singular creative piece.
    • Example: Choose a poem, (or write a poem) and record a voice over. Shoot broll to accompany the voice over.
    • Find Inspiration from the Immediate world around you, including nature or art.

 

Steps:

  1. Brainstorm idea, research/identify subject, etc.
     
  2. Write a short pitch or treatment. In one to two paragraphs (no more than 1/3 page single space) describe your film (story, characters, theme, etc.)
    • IS YOUR STORY/IDEA WORTH TELLING?
    • Is the concept original?
    • Who is your audience?
    • Could you explain your basic idea to a friend in once sentence? TEMPLATE: Someone (the protagonist) wants something (the story goal) and goes after it against great odds and/or obstacles (the antagonist and the conflict).
    • Why make this film now?
    • DOES THE STORY TRANSPORT THE AUDIENCE?
       
  3. Type up a pre-production packe
    • Arrange interview (subject, locations)
    • Compile a list of interview questions
    • Write a voiceover script or on screen text (as needed)
    • Create a list of shots (B-roll)
       
  4. Practice technology needed for shooting
     
  5. Shoot the video
     
  6. Rough Edit (Shooting may continue while you begin editing. This means putting the pieces in place to tell the story.
     
  7. Screen for fellow students and teacher to get feedback.
     
  8. Fine cut (trim, effects, color correction, transitions, titles, audio effects)
     
  9. Final Screening

 

 

Types of Short Films

NARRATIVE
Fictional Story (sometimes based on real events)

  • actors
  • animation
  • stop motion

 

DOCUMENTARY
Real events - Documentaries still have a "narrative"

  • interviews
  • verite scenes
  • archival footage/still images/graphics
 

 

EXPERIMENTAL
Personal Experience, Introspective or an exploration of film conventions

  • Can combines elements from both narrative & documentary
  • visceral/conceptual
  • found footage
 
 

 

 

Some of the basic building blocks of the short form (and every film) are:

IMAGE:

  • Camera Footage - Interviews/Scenes/Broll
  • Stills/Photographs
  • Graphical (GFX) - Charts/Maps
  • Text - Supers
  • Lower Third - Name/ID
     

AUDIO:

  • Voice Over (VO)
  • Dialogue
  • Sound Effects
  • & Music

The Long Take

LONG TAKE RULES:

  • 1 minute minimum
  • no (visible) edits
  • boring, but not toooo boring

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM:

  • Nature
  • Art
  • Immediate world around you

Scene from the film "Songs From The Second Floor" directed by Roy Andersson.

 
 

Image Making

SHOOTING INTERVIEWS

BACKGROUND

  • Avoid boring walls or distractions in the background such as outlets, cords or weird plants shooting up behind the subjects head that could look silly.
  • Don’t position subject up against a wall because it’s boring and can create ugly shadows when lighting or even using natural light.
  • It is better to leave as much of the room BEHIND the subject In a small to medium sized room. I’ll often put myself and the camera as far into a corner as I can and then position the subject as close to the camera as feels natural.
 
 

USE A TRIPOD

  • …or secure your camera on a sturdy platform, table, chair, use duct tape, whatever… Nothing is more distracting during an interview than shaky footage!
 

EXPOSURE

  • Set your exposure manually. If using something automatic like an iPhone, hold down on the screen to bring up the manual exposure setting and set exposure before shooting. Automatic exposure changes make things have an amateur feel.

COMPOSITION

The Rule of Thirds

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

 

EXPLORE VANTAGE POINTS

  • Getting down low or up high and exploring different ways to frame your subject can yield interesting and unusual images.
 

  ADDITIONAL TIP VIDEOS FOR INTERVIEWS:

  • https://nofilmschool.com/2016/01/7-simple-steps-help-you-shoot-interview
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9aVVHjBYAw

Narrative Structure

A story needs to have a HERO.

The hero should be ON A JOURNEY, OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

NO OBSTACLES = BORING

 

HERO'S JOURNEY

Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” wasn’t intended to be a blueprint to create stories or films, but it has become that for many auteurs. In the book, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.

 He summarized it as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Campbell broke the concept into seventeen stages, which could be divided into the three act structure most commonly found in film and theater: Separation, Initiation, and Return.

 

CONTEMPORARY SCREENPLAYS

In the contemporary screenwriting book, SAVE THE CAT, author Blake Snyder outlines a 15 "beat" structure for screenwriting. It aligns very closely with Campbell's

 

SHORT FILMS

For a short form film we might want to simply the structure a bit since there's less time to pass along as much information as in a feature film or novel.

If we were to boil down narrative structure to the bare minimum, it might be written in the broadest terms as 5 beats.

  1. Starting point for the main conflict (around the 1/4 mark): The event that makes the protagonist commit to the story goal.
  2. Midpoint (around the halfway mark): The event that flips the reader’s and/or the protagonist’s understanding of the story’s goals, choices, or stakes.
  3. Black moment (around the 3/4 mark): The event that makes the protagonist lose all hope
  4. Climax for the main conflict (most of the last 1/4): The event that forces the protagonist into the final battle (literal or figurative) against the antagonistic forces.
  5. Resolution, or the outcome.

Examples

Search the Short Film of the Week website to find short documentaries on your own. Also, watch these select outstanding short documentaries for inspiration and ideas…

DOCUMENTARIES

The Most Quoted Man in News

Follow Your Fears

Pith and Nails

A Brief History of John Baldessari

A Kiss, Deferred

Beyond This Place

 

EXPERIMENTAL

Mother

Talk About The Apocalypse

Clouds

Geometry

Apartment 15



 

Free Association

Premiere Pro

FOLDER ORGANIZATION

  • Keeping all of your media (footage, music, voice over, stills, etc) organized is an important step before you even begin to create a project to start editing. Taking a few extra seconds during every step to clearly label folders and media in your folder structure as well as in Premiere can prevent huge headaches and missing media down the road.
  • This is a pretty basic and standard structure to keep things organized.
 

EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES, THUMB DRIVES & THE CLOUD

  • If you own an external hard drive, editing off that drive is extremely convenient.
  • Unless thumb drives have improved drastically in the last few years, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to edit off of one. The program will probably run super slow or crash. Of course I’d be happy if I could be proven wrong.
  • With a thumb drive or when using the cloud you can move from station to station by copying your entire folder (keeping the identical folder structure of all your media and files) onto the hard drive and copying the entire folder back onto your thumb drive or the cloud to move the project.
     

CREATING A NEW PROJECT

  • Launch and Login to Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Launch Premiere Pro
  • File-> New Project
  • Under General
    • Leave default, but name your project
  • Under Scratch Disks
    • Set all paths to “z_cache” except for Project Auto Save
    • Set path for Project Auto Save to different hard drive or device than your working project file
  • Hit Okay  
  • If you change stations, or someone else uses Premiere in between your sessions, you will have to reset your cache paths.

    • FIle->Project Settings->Scratch Disks

WORKSPACE

  • Window->Workspaces
    • Can change the layout of your editing workspace

HISTORY

  • While in History panel, click tab to bring up settings and change History Status to 100. This allows up to 100 undo’s by clicking command+z. 

IMPORTING YOUR FILES INTO PREMIERE

  • Drag any media folders you’d like to import EXCEPT 01_Premiere Files, Exports & z_cache from computer into Project panel.
  • You can also import clips by double clicking inside Project panel.

CREATING A NEW SEQUENCE:

  • A standard and the most common HD sequence is 1920x1080 (pixels) with an audio sample rate at 48kHz audio.
  • FIle->New Sequence
  • Use the ARRI 1080p 23.976 default setting

KEYBOARD SETTINGS

  • Professional editors use the mouse as little as possible
  • Shuttle shortcuts JKL  J=play backwards, K=stop and L=play forward (or spacebar)
  • You can press either J or L multiple times and that will fast-forward or rewind
  • You can hold down K while playing forwards and backwards and that will play one frame at a time
  • I and O= in and out

ADJUSTING PLAYBACK QUALITY

  • You can adjust the quality of the playback in the Program panel. At the bottom of the panel you can change it from Full, 1/2, 1/4.  Using lower quality allows for smoother playback while editing.

EXPORTING

  • Set in and out points (using i & o keys) of portion of timeline you’d like export.
  • With desired sequence selected, right click and choose Export Media.
  • Use H.264 Match Source - High bitrate default setting.
  • Selecting destination to export to Exports folder next to Output Name.
  • Click export