Episode 13 – Keith Alan Morris – Working as a production consultant, slow-filmmaking and the value of film school

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In this episode we talk with Keith Alan Morris (@keithalanmorris on twitter) about his role as a production consultant, slow-filmmaking and the value of film school.
Keith has been involved in numerous films as a writer/producer/director and cinematographer. Some of his films include “The Motorcycle Thief, The Clinic and Gutter King which was Keith’s breakthrough film.
In addition to being a film-maker Keith has served as a production consultant on numbers films including Old, Boy, The Magnificent Seven, Elvis & Nixon, and Mr. Right.
Currently Keith is a tenured Associate Professor of Film at Dillard University in New Orleans, an HBCU, where he runs the film program as the Program Coordinator. In 2015, the Film program was named one of two Signature Programs at Dillard.  Keith also won the 2012 Media Educator of the Year Award by the Social Change Film Fest and Institute and helps 3 to 9 features get made per semester.

SLOW FILMMAKING MANIFESTO

The main goal is to LIVE the film.

Filmmakers and Actors must commit to LIVING the film.  

Shooting must never be rushed.  

The sentence “Are we making our days?” must never be mentioned on or near set.

Budgets and schedules should rarely, if ever, be considered. 

Locations must be easily attainable for multiple returns to shoot.

Only essential crew must be used for what the instant calls for. No waste!

Regard the instant more important than the whole. 

A goal is to take the time and every precaution possible to get every instant correct.

The filmmaker must do all his own sound design and post production.

The film shall be the filmmakers’ secret. The film shall not be promoted or released until the filmmaker is ready.

DOGME 95 MANIFESTO

Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)

The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.

The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)

Optical work and filters are forbidden.

The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

Genre movies are not acceptable.

The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

The director must not be credited.

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a “work”, as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.

Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.

Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995

On behalf of DOGMA 95

Lars von Trier Thomas Vinterberg

Links Mentioned in this podcast

Dillard University – Dillard University is a private, historically black, liberal arts university in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

Asana – Collaborative Organizational Communication

Filmic Pro – Aspect Ratio / Filmic look for the iPhone

Celtx – Collaborative Screenwriting App

Studio Binder – Film Production Management

10 things every Production Assistant should know:

When I first started working in the film industry I was working on very very small productions….the kind that didn’t pay or only paid $50 a day. I was still NEW to the industry at the time so I was essentially “paying my dues” as most people would say. I believed that this type of work was temporary but I didn’t necessarily know how I would get onto bigger and higher paying projects.  Below I have outlined a few KEY tips to getting that next big job.

  1. Realize that every job is an interview.

You may have landed your first job as a PA but have you landed your next one? What about the one after that? While you are working on set KNOW that almost anyone in the film crew can recommend a PA to the AD staff, Coordinators or Producers. If you work super hard, show people kindness and go above and beyond people will notice….and those “people” will recommend you on future projects.

2. Always show up on time.

Yes it can be hard to make it to set sometimes….especially if your call time is 4:30AM, you only got 5 hours of sleep the night before and you have an hour drive ahead of you. Don’t let excuses or your lack of motivation get to you. Do WHATEVER you have to do to be on time. Lay out your clothes the night before, set three alarm clocks and take a hot shower if you have to. Being on time is super critical in this industry and in some instances can get you fired if you walk in casually late. Always budget contingency time (10-15 minutes) should there be a wreck on the freeway or your car decides not to start.

3. Come Prepared.

Before you head to set STOP and ask yourself if you have everything you possibly need for that particular day. If you are shooting overnight do you have a flashlight? If you will be out in the desert do you have a hat and sunscreen. Even though it only takes a few minutes to hook up my walkie surveillance on set I like to do this at home so the minute I land on set I’m ready to go. Make sure your phone is charged and you bring a charger brick fully charged. Remember you could be in the elements for 12-14 hours so you don’t want to forget that ONE thing that will make your day less comfortable.

4. Read the Call Sheet and Sides.

Take a few minutes when you receive the call sheet and sides to actually see what is happening and who is working. You never know when a crew or cast person may need information about the day that can be found on this very important piece of paper. This is your opportunity to save the day by knowing where things are and what is happening.

5. Carry Hot Bricks.

Hot Bricks are the industry term for “charged walkie batteries.”  The minute a crew person has a “Dead Brick” your job should be to zip in and replace it flawlessly. In addition to carrying hot bricks it is a good idea to setup a charging station at each location to keep charging the “Dead Bricks”.

6. Anticipate the needs of the SET.

There will be times when you are on a SET where you may find yourself standing around waiting to be told what to do by an AD. In general there will always be something to do in addition to lock-ups whether that’s throwing trash away, offering the crew water, setting up lunch, moving directors chairs…etc. When in doubt don’t be afraid to ask one of the ADs if there is something you can do.

7. Echo the ADs

One of the main responsibilities of a Production Assistant is echoing rolls. If you are doing a lock-up on SET and the 1st AD says rolling, cut, new deal, pictures up, background action it is expected of all the SET PAs to echo “YELL” one of the before-mentioned words. Don’t be timid. You want to echo so loud that the entire neighborhood hears you….well that is except for certain occasions when you need to be discreet like inside a working office building. Be loud and proud about these echoes because it assures the rest of the crew what is going on and they will know when to be quiet so that a take is not ruined.

8. Dress the part.

Consider wearing good tennis shoes that will be conducive to standing for 12-14 hours. Wear comfortable clothes but make sure they are useful and can hold a belt. Avoid being too casual like showing up in basketball shorts or sweat pants.  In many instances its helpful to dress in darker colors (black/grey) so that your bright yellow shirt is not seen as reflection on camera.

9. Learn proper Walkie Etiquette.

Now for many individuals that have never been on a set before this can be one of the most intimidating things to learn. If you aren’t sure how to use a walkie properly ask one of the ADs to show you.

Here are a few examples….

Instead of saying on walkie…does anyone know where John is? You might say does anyone have a “20” on John?

If someone asks where you are refrain from saying general terms like I’m right here. Be specific and say I’m next to the crafty truck.

10. Stay in your lane.

Yes you may have graduated film school and been a DP on numerous short films but if you are working as a PA for whatever set you are hired….make sure you are focusing on the duties and tasks that refer to PAs. Don’t touch equipment or help other departments without prior approval. Depending on the budget of the film will depend on what types of tasks you may or may not be able to help with.