IFH 117: Ask Alex – I’m Making My First Feature Film…HELP!

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So this episode is going to be fun. I’m starting a new segment I call “Ask Alex.” Yes, I know it’s very creative = ) I asked the IFH Tribe to submit questions to [email protected] and I’ll do my best to answer them. This week we have a bunch of questions from tribe member Kenny from Sweden. Here are the questions I answered in this week’s podcast:

  • Which is the best type of camera to buy for your first feature that is cheap? (DSLR or anyone else. Also including lenses or where you can use one lens?)
  • Which is the most important person to hire, a DP or a sound guy for a film? I´ve heard both. Some say good footage and other good sounds.
  • If you don´t have English as your first language should you make your films in your own language since it is your mother tongue or in English(If you know how to speak of course) to reach a bigger market since more people understand and speak English? 
  • Which format is best to use for the finished film? (I know you had a podcast about this but I want to hear your personal opinion)
  • Which part of post cost most money on of following things, sound, colorist or foley. I think it is in that order. Is that correct?  How much of the budget should you save for post-production in your opinion?
  • Should you do this and if so the best ways to send an edited film over the internet for sound editing and colorization and maybe name a few companies that do this for small independent films. Would you be interested in doing that? 
  • What do you say about moving to LA to be a filmmaker if you come from another country? (You had a podcast about that but I am thinking based on an international perspective from a foreigner)

Alex Ferrari 2:21
So guys, for everybody in the states here listening to me happy Thanksgiving, happy turkey day, for everybody else in the world is just another Thursday. But for here in the States, we like to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is what we're grateful for. And in the celebration of stuffing our face with as much food as humanly possible, a very American thing to do. Now, this episode is going to be a little bit more interesting and more fun because I'm going to be doing something I have not done before in the past. I'm going to be doing more of these episodes in the future. And it's going to be basically a whole segment I call ask Alex. I know it's very, very high in marketing and very creative. But I wanted to kind of connect with you guys more and really answer the questions you have for me. So I've got our first series of questions by a listener in Sweden, his name is Kenny. Kenny, sent me a bunch of questions in regards to his first feature film. So rather than just doing a long winded email, I decided to sit down and just do a podcast and answer all the questions. So everybody all the all of the tribe can learn, hopefully in take something away from these answers. So first question up is what is the best type of camera to buy for your first feature film that is cheap. I know everybody does DSLRs but is there anything else you can suggest also include lenses and where you can get them? Okay, so my suggestion, and this is a big a big thing. A lot of people ask me this question. My suggestion is black magic. And again, I am not being paid by black magic. Black Magic is not a sponsor, but I love their cameras. Because of the the amazing quality you get for the cost. If you're just starting out, you might want to buy a pocket camera one of the Blackmagic Pocket cameras, it's under 1000 bucks. It's small, it's powerful, you can shoot RAW with it. It is only 10 ADP, but for your first feature you should be fine. It is a very powerful camera. If not you want to go up to the next level up which is the black Blackmagic cinema 2.5k which is what I shot Meg on or the 4k and if you want to go up a little higher than that you can go to the Blackmagic Ursa. Now these are all very affordable cameras in the grand scheme of things. I know $1,000 might be a lot for a lot of you out there, but it's definitely something you should be looking into. And you can get them used fairly inexpensively too. You could probably get one used for four or 500 bucks online or on eBay. As far as lenses are concerned the most affordable cinema The lenses you can buy are the rochen ons, or the rookies as they're called. The rochen ons are very inexpensive set of lenses that you can buy at two to 300 bucks a pop, for like a 14 millimeter,

I think it's a 1424 3550 and 85. I have a set of those myself, we shot a lot of mag on that. But I also suggest getting the Sigma 18 to 30 millimeter zoom. That is a really, really great lens, it's very high end. For the cost, it's about it's a little bit pricey, it's around 600 bucks, 700 bucks, but you could shoot an entire movie pretty much on that most of the shots I shot in this is Meg were shot on that lens. Very, very powerful, very affordable. But that's what I would suggest, I would not go DSLR I'm not a fan of DSLRs generally speaking, sorry, all your DSLR lovers out there. I'm a post guy and I know what happens when you take it into post. Please leave comments in the comments below. And let me know what you think. But I'm not a fan of the DSLR. I always like to make sure I have the best image possible when shooting something and the Blackmagic cameras definitely do that there are other options out there. But that's my suggestion. So next question. What is the most important person to hire on a set? Is it a dp a sound guy? What would you suggest? Well, a dp is a very, very, very, very, very important member of the crew that you need to hire, I would suggest hiring a good dp. Someone who understands lighting, someone who can shoot very fast and shoot on a budget. I don't want somebody sitting there for six hours lighting scene, we don't have the time we don't have the money. That's not this movie. And as far as sound is concerned, sound is so crucial man, I can't even tell you, I was really nervous about the sound on this as made considering that I was basically doing the sound myself, I took a course, which I'll leave in the show notes about how to record proper sound. And when I discovered it wasn't that difficult to do on my kind of film, which was a very dialogue heavy character based film. It made sense to do it on an action movie or something that was a little bit bigger, I probably wouldn't do the same technique. But But I find a good sound guy to work with. I'm telling you it's very, very important. If not, if it's something small, that's very controllable, Varick a lot of indoor sets, or indoor locations that you can control, getting yourself a nice task cam, and a good mic and somebody to hold a pole that knows what they're doing. You'll be amazed at how good the sound can come out. And I can I'll leave you a link in the show notes as well on a podcast I did on how to record audio cheap. Now the next question he has is should you have your film in English, even if it's not your first language? You know, your mother tongue isn't English. But you are, you know, you're he's from Sweden. So he wants to know, my suggestion is this. It all depends on who you're trying to market this to. If you're going to have a bunch of people with very thick Swedish accents speaking English, I would say do not do English, I would do your native language. Because if you're trying to sell to an American or an English speaking audience, then you should have clear, understandable English because of the accents are very thick, then the audience you're trying to sell to a really not going to be interested in it. So perfect example was an mariachi Robert Rodriguez, you know, he's, he was born in America, he was you know, he's an English boy raised in Texas in Austin. And he went down and he shot his movie in Spanish, because that's how the actors he had access to all mostly of them spoke Spanish. So he decided to make the whole thing in Spanish and it worked very, very well for him. So it all depends on who you're trying to the demographic you're going after. If you're going after an English speaking demographic, obviously trying to shoot it as cleanly in English as you can. If not, it also depends on the kind of movie you're making. If you're making more of an arthouse movie, foreign might work a little bit better for you. And like Robert said, because he made that movie in Spanish. He says a lot of film critics and a lot of audience members gave a lot more weight to things that he really did. That didn't mean anything but because they weren't a different language. It gave it a little bit more of, of gravitas to it. So that's what I would suggest depending on what kind of market you're going after will determine the and also the accent the access to the actors that you will have speaking will determine your decision in regards to language of your film. Next question is what is the best format for your finished film. Generally, in the world of today, Apple pro res four two to HQ or Apple pro res 4444 is perfectly fine and acceptable. And pretty much the industry standard as far as digital deliverables are concerned that we get into dcps and all that kind of stuff, but that's something else. I would say the progress files are fine if you're looking for a tape format to master your master things on, I would go with an HDFS, our HDFS, HDFS our tape, which will be the 1080 p Master, but it's something that you will be needing in the future for deliverables and things like that. But a lot of times, the digital deliverables are more than fine, you can master that in 4k, 2k and so on. So that would be my suggestion for that. Next question is Where should you spend your money in post production when shooting your first feature film, obviously I always say the colorist because he he should be getting I think the majority of the nom joking. The honestly, the no joking aside, I think it's going to be your sound guys and your colorist, a creative editor, you can either edit yourself or find a creative editor fairly inexpensively nowadays, even in different countries is not something that's going to be you know, you could edit it yourself, while a colorist, and a online editor and a sound house or sound mixers, or designers, those guys are going to be a little bit a little bit more, a little harder to find, and also something that you might not be able to do yourself. So I would spend your money on making the image look great, and sound great. And that will set you apart from most feature films, where they they spend a lot of most low budget indie film films, that they spend their money in other places in post, where I don't think it makes as much sense, you know, to spend a lot of money on a big big editor, you know, doesn't make a whole lot creative editor doesn't make a whole lot of sense on an indie movie. Because, you know, at the end of the day, I mean, I've worked on movies that had like Oscar winning editors on it. And they spent all their money on Oscar winning editors, but they ran out of money and color and sound. And I'm like, Well, that doesn't make any sense. You know, you're in a small indie movie, we're not talking about a $20 million movie here, we're talking about $100,000 movie. So you know, it's you got to think a little bit smart about it and just focus on the image. And also on the sound. Those are two very key points. So I would that's where I would focus most of my post production budget on. This one's an interesting question, what is the best way to send a final edit of a film over the internet for sound editing, color grading, you know, what I would suggest is you could probably send audio over the internet, unfortunately, you will not be able to do that with with the image portion of it or the video portion of it, you could easily compress down your entire movie to an h2 six, four MPEG compressed file, which will be five, six gigs at the most. And then you can send all your audio files over which could probably be anywhere between 10 to 15 gigs, depending on how crazy it is. That would be that that's still pretty big. But you could probably get away with that over the over the internet. So if you're going to try to send it over to let's say, you're in Sweden, and you're sending that whole movie over to someone here in LA, to do your sound mix, which is doable. You could probably do audio, video or film The film portion of it or the image portion of it, you're going to have to send a hard drive. There's no questions about it, you definitely going to have to send a hard drive. And the last question is what do you say about moving to LA? If you come from another country? Well, the same thing. I mean, I did a whole podcast about do what do you need to move to LA? To make it in Hollywood was one of my very first podcast and I just released it last week in the throwback Friday release of the podcast, but do what what would be suggestions? Should you move over if you're from another country? Listen, I'll say I'll say the same thing I say all the time. You know, LA is is I know I know a lot of people talk about Atlanta and Chicago and New York and New Orleans and there's other mechas in the states that shoot film, no questions about it. Absolutely. But there is something about LA and I've shot into many of those places. And I've been to many of those places. But LA is la Hollywood is Hollywood. And you know there's so much so many resources here that you will not get anywhere else in the country and probably nowhere else in the world that has the condensed amount of people knowledge, resources, facilities, things like that. You will learn more here in a month than you will in a year working in many places. Now again, these are broad, broad statements. Obviously if you're working in Atlanta right now which is extremely hot, and no pun intended to Atlanta, but but there's a lot of production going on there and a lot of films being shot there and a lot of TV shows me shot there. You can learn a lot there's a lot of shows me shot in Vancouver I mean a lot of shows me shot to Vancouver. So they turn into like these little mini Hollywood mini mini las. But what I've noticed and what I've found is that if you decide to move to let's say, and I'll use my own My own hometown Miami, Miami used to in Florida used to have a pretty good tax incentive. So a lot of people were starting to move to Orlando, starting to move to Miami, thinking that that was going to be like a Hollywood and or Mecca, and they were going to go there and learn everything they did. And a lot of I know a lot of people who did that. But when the tax incentive ran out, and they did not renew it, that industry completely dried up. So that was a big bucket of cold water for a lot of people that I knew that did that, you're not going to find that in LA, if the market dries up in LA, the whole system is going down the hell if there's no work in LA. So I think that, you know, a lot of movies are started here, a lot of shows are started here, the creative is here, the writing is here. Resources are here, no matter how much we might be shooting elsewhere. A lot of the home basis is here in LA. So if you can't come from another country, and you can afford to move here, I would do it as soon as humanly possible. Every year you waste is another year you lose. And that was the biggest mistake of my professional career not moving here earlier, I took me way too long to move here. Because what I've been able to learn in the last eight, 910 years working and living in Los Angeles, is just just astronomical, comparatively to what I was learning in Miami. And some of my best friends who still work in Miami and live in Miami are the first ones to tell you that it is amazing what you learn. in an environment like this. Like I said, the first year I worked here was like working four or five years in LA and Miami, it was pretty remarkable. So if you can afford it come out here you have to have a plan, you have to have at least a year of living financially, money to live here for a year. And debate when I say live here for a year is not just enough to take rent in this, you're gonna have to support yourself for a year, you're gonna have to work for free for a lot of that time into you're able to break into a company or a production or team up with someone to start getting some, some pay as a filmmaker out here. So you need at least minimum six months, more how roughly a year. So what I did, I had at least a year worth of savings, I was lucky that I was able to get going pretty quickly. But it's something that you should definitely do. But be very smart about it. plan things out. Think about it before you come out here, try to make connections, try to take meetings, try to reach out to people do your research on where you're going to live, all that kind of good stuff. So but yes, if you live in another country, and you want to be a filmmaker and you think you want to learn a lot, a lot, a lot more about things, and LA is la it's no other place in the world like it. So guys, that's the end of this session of ask Alex, I hope this was helpful for you guys. I hope you got something out of it from my ramblings. Um, but I have a couple other episodes coming up. They're going to be from other tribe members who have sent me questions, and I am going to do the best I can to answer them. So if you want to submit some questions to me, just email i f h [email protected] That's IF H [email protected] And send me over a list of questions. And I'll pick some questions to answer on on the podcast. And hopefully, I'll be able to answer your question and at the same time, give that information to the rest of the tribe. So guys, I have some exciting news coming up. I can't say anything yet. It's not about film festivals yet. So I can't I'll tell you when. And if we get into any any festivals with Meg, so I'll let you know. But this is other news about about my trip to Sundance, what I'll be doing there. All sorts of crazy stuff. I'm so excited about the new year, I can't even express to you how excited I am for what I'm going to be doing with indie film, hustle. And at Sundance what I'm going to be doing there. Again, I'm not in the festival. I'm not in slam dance either, yet, hopefully we'll see. But I am going to be there and I'm we're going to be doing indie film hustle is going to be in full effect. And we're gonna be doing some insane stuff. So I cannot wait to share all the craziness that I'm going to be doing at the Sundance Film Festival this year. And hopefully, hopefully I'll be there with a movie but if not, at least, you will get to see Sundance through the lens of myself and indie film hustle. And today is Thanksgiving, but tomorrow is another holiday. It's called Black Friday people and I am planning on doing a huge Black Friday sale for indie, indie film syndicate, you're going to get a one month free coupon to test out Test Drive, the indie film syndicate and because you're listening to this right now on Thanksgiving, I'm going to give it to you early. So all you got to do is head over to indie film hustle calm Ford slash i f s Friday, that's indie film hustle calm Ford slash i f s Friday to get one month free access to the indie film syndicate. Now if you don't want to jump onto the syndicate, I don't know why you wouldn't but if you don't want to jump over to syndicate and you just want to check out one or two of our courses, head over to film school hacks.com and you will get currently most our courses I'm gonna say most because we have some masterclass courses and things like that in there as well. But most of our courses are going to be $14 for Black Friday, so you could check them out some of them run from $200 and some of them are 150 bucks but all of our courses are all most of our courses excuse me are 14 bucks so head over to film school hacks.com to check out those so those are our big big deals that we're having out for Black Friday and definitely go check them out guys see if there's anything that interests you you know 14 bucks for a force for a course is not bad or you can get 30 days access to almost all of our courses for free heading over to indie film hustle comm forward slash i f s Friday. So guys, I wish you for all my listeners here in the States happy turkey day. Don't need too much. Because you know being on set you got to be you got to be Slender Man. You got to be you know, limb, you got to be able to move, trust me. I'm not so it helps a lot more when you're actually in shape. So don't don't go too crazy. But Enjoy yourselves guys. And I I'd like to say I'm very thankful for you guys. I'm very thankful for all my listeners. And for everybody who follows the indie film, hustle blog, and all those amazing well wishes, emails of your stories and messages you guys send me. I'm really just so grateful that I'm able to help you guys out in my small way. Get closer to your dreams, as well as see me try to get closer to mine. So guys, keep that hustle going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you real soon.

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