Hire a good still photographer to not only take pictures of your actors, but of you—the director (with the camera), the producer, the camera crew, the sets, etc. It’s amazing what’s requested for publicity and what you wind up needing.
Think ahead redux.
Don’t forget the importance of the on-line and color-correction phase of shooting HD. This is very important when budgeting! Finding a good editor is one thing; finding a place than can competently handle the on-line and color-correction quickly and cheaply is very important. Talk to your DP about the color-correction process as he can usually help you by minutely altering the image in ways you wouldn’t have realized (color, contrast, power windows, etc.).
Think ahead one more time.
A good sound house can give you a great sound mix. Also, a good composer will add an entirely new layer of depth to your film. These two elements (sound and music) need to be mixed just right, along with the dialogue, and a good sound mixing house can bring these all together so they complement each other.
Think long term.
Make connections now. Start talking to film reviewers, agents, writers, production companies, etc. now. Don’t just think about the project you’re working on currently. Lay the groundwork for the next five to 10 years of working with people (some projects take five years to get off the ground!). So, don’t hesitate to start calling people immediately. Making movies is a long-term process. Start planning for the future now.
Set a date! This is true… even if you don’t have all the money.
If you set your start date people will notice—this will immediately set you apart from the others. Vendors, actors and crew will start to call you to donate services and equipment. Plus, it will be hard to stop the ball from rolling (another cliché, but a true one).
Treat HD the same as you would 35mm.
With HD, you will need to use the same lighting principals as you do with film, but you don’t necessarily need the same intensity. HD will only look like video if you light it like video!
Shooting HD does not give you the license to shoot 10 takes.
Your actors may end up hating you if you put them through 10 takes on every set-up. Use the advantage of video to get more set-ups in a day—not more takes of the same set-up.
Rehearse as you would with shooting film.
Just because it’s a video camera doesn’t mean you should be shooting home videos—unless that is what your project is about. Prepare, prepare and prepare. Know what you want before you get on set.
Keep a positive attitude toward everything and everyone.
It’s important to acknowledge the great job your crew and actors are doing (they are probably working for free or very close to it) and remain calm and cheerful—no matter what happens with anything on your project. Remember: you’re the captain of the ship. If you jump, they will jump, too.
Sound, sound, sound!
Make sure you don’t have your nephew or a friend record your sound just because they possess a warm body. Pay for your sound on set if you need to. If you don’t get good sound on set, it will cost you four times as much in post—and it won’t sound as good as it could!
Don’t get caught up staring at the monitor (because it doesn’t look good).
When you’re shooting HD, it’s easy to sit in front of the monitor and listen to the headset all the time because it looks so good (trust your DP). Most actors (and crew) need the human interaction from the director and want to know they’re doing a great job. Constantly convey this in-person!
Don’t micro-manage (I know, it’s another cliché).
Your job is to oversee the entire project and to make sure you get what you need. Your job is not to oversee where every C-stand should go or how the grip truck should be packed.
You will have a finished movie. Nobody cares that it wasn’t shot on film.
As we tour the film festivals, we’ve realized it doesn’t matter that we shot on HD. It only matters that we have a movie in the festival. We actually got more press and attention because we shot the latest in HD.
Hire a great crew and your project will benefit tremendously. If everyone else (DP, AD, editor, production designer, wardrobe/make-up) knows what they’re doing, then you don’t have to! Surround yourself with talented people, listen to their input and creatively apply those comments to your vision.
Don’t trust others.
There is a stereotype that people in Hollywood (business types, i.e. agents, executives, etc.) are lying, back-stabbing, ruthless bastards. I think this is slightly unfair. We’ve made some great friends in this city. However, while there are some really good people in the industry, the business itself makes good people do unsavory things. So pick and choose your business associates—and your friends—wisely.
Remember: every day is a gift!