7 gifts filmmakers will love

As the Holiday season approaches the question may arise of what should I buy that person I love that is a filmmaker?  Below I have outlined 10 of the best gifts that filmmakers will be excited about in their everyday life that they will cherish at work.

  1. Watches. The Apple Watch Ultra or the Apple Watch Series 8 will make great stocking stuffers for any filmmaker. These newer apple watches have better health sensors are more durable and heck the ultra watch looks like a real spy device from a Bond movie.
  2. Software. Scriptation is a digital subscription that allows filmmakers to mark up scripts, transfer notes and more. They are having a black Friday sale and this would be a great gift without breaking the bank. Normally you would pay $79.99 annually but with this link you can save $30.
    Visit http://scriptation.com/sale on an iOS device.
  3. Call Sheet Holder. You can’t go wrong with the traditional Gold Fold. This product has been a staple for Assistant Directors for years. Even though I like to use a tablet I still carry my leather Gold Fold because I’m less likely to break it or have it stolen when I’m walking around on set. This is the perfect device to carry call sheets, schedules, sides and write down important notes on the day.
  4. Books.  There are several great reads out there that will inspire and equip that filmmaker you know. Check out the following books:
    Best Seat in the House: An Assistant Director Behind the Scenes of Feature Films
    Running the Show: The Essential Guide to Being a First Assistant Director
    How to Survive On Set: The Production Assistant’s Guidebook
  5. Tablets. The reMarkable and iPad are both great tablets for note taking, meetings and location/tech scouts. I love using the reMarkable for the majority of my notes while the iPad can come in handy when marking up overheads or looking at story boards for the next day’s scenes.
  6. Belt Bags. A Belt Bag might just be the missing device your filmmaker needs while on set. This everywhere bag from Lululemon can hold your phone, keys and you can carry around your waist or over your shoulder.
  7. Walkie Accessories. Who doesn’t need a walkie caddie, Tubeez, or FilmPro Elite Surveillance to spruce up their kit? Use the code BEST50 for everything 50% everything at https://onsetheadsets.com/shop/

Best Film & TV Software Management Apps – Free Webinar

I’m excited to be moderating a fun and interactive live demo on Thursday Nov 17th, 2022 at 1pm PST that will showcase some of the best software companies that support the Film and TV industry. This will be a great opportunity to learn about new and upcoming technical solutions for production.

The Lineup

Setkeeper – Nik Bars / Business Development

Distro, sides, crew onboarding and more..

Scriptation – Laura Noxon / Product Development Manager

Mark up scripts, transfer notes

RABS – Josh Weinberg / Founder

Digital Background Vouchers

Assemble – Nate Watkin / Founder

Calendar & Task List, Asset Management & File Sharing

Conduiit – Shawn Hamilton / Founder

Accounting approval system and workflow

Wraptime – Mirko Urania / Founder

Digital Out Sheets, Crew List & Health Check

When: 

Thursday Nov 17th, 2022
1PM PST | 3PM CST | 4PM EST

*Demo will last 1HR total

Register:

Click HERE

Want to learn to direct?

A former mentor/friend of mine Joth Riggs has recently launched a new course [www.directingyourmovie.com] for those who want to step into Directing.

This course gives you the confidence to handle everything from development to pre-production, production and post production.  Everything you’ll need to Direct Your Movie from Script to Screen.

While some courses on directing gloss over the specifics or only discuss directing “in theory”, this course gets into the nuts and bolts of every step of the directing process.

*You can also check out the Podcast episode I did with Joth a few years ago HERE.

Are you getting “Elk in the barn” when it comes to locations?

Elk in the Barn is a metaphor that is used by my podcast guest John Francis Collins. He’s referring to doing the hard work of getting things done when it comes to locations.  Want to know more…check out the episode!

John Francis Collins is a veteran Location Scout, Manager and ALM who has worked on countless movies and tv shows. A few of the projects that John has worked on include Emancipation, The Expendables, 12 years of slave, one night in Miami, Your Honor and Mississippi grind.

The Calm Before the Storm

You know the feeling. It could be the weekend or the week before prep or the day before shooting. You are about to embark on a new mission that will push you, stretch you, exhaust you and lead you to learn new people and ways of doing things.

The Calm Before the Storm is the idea that you are preparing for battle. The next week or months will not be easy. They could be faced with a number of things….so it’s important to take advantage of this calmness.

It’s like preparing for a hurricane. You know it’s going to hit…you just don’t know how bad. Will it be a level 1 or level 5? Will there be flooding, loss of power or will it just be heavy rains for a time period? In preparing for a hurricane you would make sure to have enough food/water at reserve, potentially board up windows and check in on friends or family members.

While the Storm of production is often not as physically destructive as a hurricane/tornado or earth quake… the emotional stress and toll can sometimes feel like you have just been through one.

How do you prepare for the storm?

Anytime I know I may embark on a new project I like to make sure as much as my life is in order because I know the next two+ months will be solely focused on this project.

  1. Refill any medicines.
  2. Change your car’s oil, clean it and fill it with gas.
  3. Do a deep clean of your house/apt.
  4. Go shopping for clothes if you might be traveling to a climate that you aren’t fully ready for.
  5. Hang out with friends/family you won’t be able to see for a while.
  6. Get TSA Pre-check if traveling and want to reduce stress at the airport.
  7. Do something fun you enjoy that you haven’t done in a while.
  8. Go grocery shopping and stock your pantry. If traveling consider a food subscription service or an amazon fresh order.
  9. Turn off your phone for an hour or part of the day to meditate/think and not be bothered.
  10. Read a book, watch a movie, see a concert…something to get inspired.
  11. Call/text a friend and share the news of your new mission.
  12. Charge your devices, pay your bills, water the plants…anything that you might forget.

Obviously this list could be expanded to include a variety of things. The important thing to focus on is getting your shit together because it will be almost impossible to take care of personal things on day three of production.

How to make sides in 30 seconds or less

Yes its possible! You can make sides in 30 seconds or less.

Imagine it’s 9:30PM on a Thursday and you’ve had a long day on set as the 2nd AD. You are about to wrap and are trying to get the call sheet sent out as soon as wrap is called so that everyone can go to sleep with the info for tomorrow. The UPM has asked that digital sides be sent out with the call sheet so you know that if anything changes it will be paramount that these sides are made quickly by whoever does them. The 1st AD has just informed you that yes indeed they are pushing a scene and adding a pickup. The sides need to be made or re-done quickly.

7 Steps to making sides in 30 seconds or less

  1. Choose a software that can make digital sides. Two of my favorite platforms for this purpose are Croogloo and Setkeeper. Both platforms are incredible for script distro, watermarking, creating sides and more…
  2. Upload your script to the platform. Once you decide on a platform you will need to upload a CLEAN version of the script to either platform. I prefer to go into final draft, select all, clear asterisks and save the version as a clean version. Seeing asterisks on sides is oftentimes unnecessary and can make it difficult to read.
  3. Decide what scenes will be in the sides. Usually the sides are listed on the shooting schedule or one-liner, or the advance on the call sheet. Most times there will be a small change or addition that only the 1st AD and 2nd AD know about. Its best to always check with the 2nd AD before making the sides.
  4. Select the sides in the program. Login to your software and jump into the side making section. Once you are there you can choose the scenes you want to make and the order you want to list them in. I typically prefer to list them in script order because it can be confusing to look for scene 1 at the end of the sides.
  5. Decide what format you need the arrows and shading. Within these programs you can decide whether or not to gray out the previous scenes or what type of arrows to use. Graying out can be helpful, however if you have a tight budget it can make the toner waist a lot of ink.
  6. Attach the front of the Call Sheet. This can be helpful so you don’t have to do this later.
  7. Download the sides as a pdf. You will be given the option to put one or two to page. In general I like to download one to a page because I can print two to a page in printer settings (if using a mac) pretty easily. Once you have downloaded the sides you can either attach the front of the Call Sheet or print them as is and then attach the front when its ready. The easiest way to attach the front of the call sheet is to drag the pdf into pdf viewer and then click save.

Inside the mind of an Assistant Director

Assistant Directors can often be mistaken as robots on a film set. They can come off as cold, heartless, and abrasive individuals that only care about making the day. Part of this is true and part of this feeling is a misconception in perception. I think the problem that lays at hand is often the AD is the only one on the film set that does truly care about time. This burden of time effects the entire crew, however most of them are blind to what that means. A 30 minute delay in makeup could mean that a scene is in danger of getting finished. If a scene is in danger of getting finished… the day could go over by 30 minutes costing the company overtime dollars and causing a crew to work longer than anyone actually wanted to.

What does an an Assistant Director actually think about?

Over the years working as a 1st AD and 2nd AD I have felt that my job was to think about time in a way that no one on set should have to. It’s a feeling that sometimes can create pressure, anxiety and stress. Many departments are worried about the aesthetic and rightly so. The AD thinks about how to save time with all departments. By saving time we can increase the number of setups for a scene or even allow for all scenes to actually be shot. Focusing on time actually can preserve the aesthetic because it’s being managed in a proper way.

Are ADs wired differently?

I think so. I think most ADs are a-type personalities that want to get things done and don’t have time for BS. Individuals that are naturally driven and want to do hard work should consider this career path. Most ADs I know are great genuine human beings who actually care a lot. The thing about ADs is sometimes they care too much about the way things are going and aren’t afraid to voice their opinion if something is unsafe or ridiculous.

What does an AD think about during prep?

During prep an AD is constantly thinking about the schedule. If 90% of the schedule problems can be solved in prep then life will be easy… They are tasked with juggling all the constraints of schedule restrictions that come from actors, locations and the vision of the Director. It’s like playing a game of chess non-stop for weeks at end.

What is the thought process at the beginning of the day?

ADs are generally concerned with getting that first shot off. Once the first shot is taken then they can breathe and so can everyone else. Until that happens it’s managing a sequence of events.  They are in charge of holding a safety meeting, blocking, camera blocking, HMU process, Costume process, Dept Tweaks such as set dressing and lighting etc…

What does an AD think about in between shots/setups/scenes?

ADs have to be able to multi-task. There are many times that I’m having to simultaneously think about something for tomorrow’s schedule while focusing on today’s schedule while also considering the effects of next week’s schedule. It’s like managing a huge Tetris game that has a myriad of elements. If we move this scene here will it effect this actor’s avail or this location’s restrictions? We have to know a little bit about all the underlying constraints or we won’t be able to give intel to the higher ups. I often think that being an AD is like being a CIA operative. In a way you are on the ground where the action is happening and assessing a battle plan that you can report back to command.

What does an AD think about at the end of the day?

When most crew members are packing up gear and headed home….often the 1st AD and 2nd AD are reviewing tomorrow’s schedule and signing off on a call sheet. Tensions can increase when the day goes over causing a debate on the call time and turnaround issues for cast or certain crew members.

So how does the AD mind really work?

The AD mind is one that has to care about logistics and getting things done. They care about getting people home on time and getting all the shots at the same time. ADs should naturally want a great product and to keep everyone safe. Good ADs know when to push back and when to relent. When it’s a good time to actually go over or call grace and when it’s time to call wrap.

Conduiit – Accounting Software to Stay Organized

A few months ago I stumbled upon some software “Conduiit” that I really wished I known about earlier.

Conduiit.app is a Cloud-based purchase order, payment request and file management system that allows production management and finance teams to work seamlessly. (taken from their website)

5 Reasons you should consider Conduiit on your next Feature or TV Series:

  1. The approval process can be stream-lined. Stop chasing down producers, line producers and UPMs and asking for a signature to approve a purchase. This platform does that all in one place with the click of a button.
  2. No more check requests without missing documents. Once logged into the platform you can see if you are missing a w9, backup or additional missing docs.
  3. It’s easy to use. You can train any department in a matter of minutes without having to put them through an extensive accounting course. Whoever on your project is submitting invoices (art coordinator, location coordinator, etc…) will have access to the platform to keep all their invoices in one place.
  4. The data can be exported into almost any accounting platform. With powerful report-building tools you can download a .csv or .xls to send to your accounting or finance team to upload into their system.
  5. Reduce email clutter. It can be easy to let a vendor payment slip through the cracks with emails that may or may not go answered. With this platform, everything is visible to production and accounting and thus cutting down on the famous… can you get them to send a w9 email?

Episode 33 – David Venghaus Jr. – Working as an AD on virtual productions

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

In this episode we talk with David H. Venghaus Jr. (@davidvenghaus on instagram) about his his experience working as an AD on films that encompass VFX, Virtual Production and new technology.

Dave is a veteran DGA 1st Assistant Director who has worked on countless movies. A few of the films that Dave has worked on include two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, A Quiet Place Part II, Spider-Man: No Way Home and many more…