How to Film Solo Without the FOMO: Filmmaking Tricks for the One-Person Crew | Dandan Liu | Skillshare

How to Film Solo Without the FOMO: Filmmaking Tricks for the One-Person Crew

Dandan Liu, Documentary Filmmaker | Cinematographer

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10 Lessons (13m)
    • 1. Course Intro

      1:33
    • 2. Tip 1: Repeat Motions

      1:46
    • 3. Tip 2: Swap the Tripod

      1:23
    • 4. Tip 3: Keep a Wide Running

      1:05
    • 5. Tip 4: Simplify (no really, simplify)

      1:47
    • 6. Tip 5: Sound Round

      1:29
    • 7. Tip 6: Sfx Are Your Best Friend

      0:57
    • 8. Tip 7: Build a Strong Story

      1:05
    • 9. An Important Note

      0:40
    • 10. Course Wrap-Up

      0:45
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About This Class

Filmmaking solo does not mean you have to degrade the quality of your film! 

While working on a crew does bring a beautiful spirit of collaboration, filming as a one-person band also comes with its benefits. These advantages include: 

1) You have less costs

2) You work more freely

3) You have a lighter footprint, so subjects aren't as self-conscious.

4) You don't draw as much attention to yourself, which gives more access to closed worlds.

5) You can be more spontaneous.

6) You can make more films, which opens more doors. 

In fact, I've shot most of films as a solo-woman band, and the most frequent comment I receive at film festivals is: "I thought you had a whole crew!" 

After filming solo several countries, I’ve developed many hacks to wear multiple hats at once and make high quality films. I’m so excited to share these 7 techniques in this course so you can make high production value films as a one-person band. 

Transcripts

1. Course Intro: Filming solo does not mean you have to degrade the quality of your film. In fact, I've shot most of my films as a one woman band and one of the most frequent comments I get at film festivals is, I thought you had a whole crew. In fact, solo film making is what allowed me to open doors and establish myself as a filmmaker so quickly. So I definitely am a champion of the solo filmmaker and believe that it has a lot of advantages. Number one, you cut costs. Number two, you work more freely. Number three, you have a lighter footprint, so your subjects aren't that self conscious. Number four, you don't draw as much attention to yourself which can allow you to gain access to more closed worlds. Number five, you can be more spontaneous, and number six, you can make more films which allow you to open more doors. Over the years as I filmed in multiple countries, I've developed many techniques and hacks to wear multiple hats at once and I'm so excited to teach you these techniques so you can make high production value films as a one man or one woman band. Let's get started. 2. Tip 1: Repeat Motions: As a solo film maker, it's tempting to prioritize coverage and shoot everything as a wide. However, in order to make engaging films, a good film needs to have shots from a variety of focal lengths and angles, especially close-up shots, to create continuity and intrigue. When filming your subject, ask him or her to repeat the motions several times as you film from different angles and focal lengths. For example, with this film I made on a [inaudible] , I shot a mid shot of him explaining his time machine. Do you know what is fado? Fado is a Portuguese national music. Then, I asked him to explain it again, this time, with a medium shot on his face. Okay. Fado is national Portuguese music. That piece, without a story, that is Fado. Then, I shot close ups of the machines themselves. Having this collection of angles and focal lengths, allowed me to intercut this thing smoothly in the edit, and make my visual storytelling more engaging. 3. Tip 2: Swap the Tripod: I love tripods, but when I'm filming solo, I find they can really get in the way and take a lot of time to move and set up. Then you have to disassemble it, you have to pick it up, move it, and reassemble it again. My secret weapon when I am filming solo is a handheld gimbal instead of a tripod. I use this on all of my shoots and it literally allows me to fly with my camera. For those who don't know what a gimbal is, it's a device that has a sophisticated system with motors that counteracts movement from your camera so your shots are shake free and very smooth. Instead of setting up my camera on a tripod, I'll set up my camera on this gimbal, move quickly wherever I need, and resume shooting. I don't lose time in setting up the tripod. Instead, I reserve the tripod only when I need absolutely still shots like interview talking heads or establishing shots. 4. Tip 3: Keep a Wide Running: Strategically setup a wide shot on a tripod, press Record and have that going. While you're filming other parts of the scene, you can either film from the side with a longer lens, so you not in the wide shot frame running from the back. Or you can come in and get close-ups, and whenever you feel like you need a wide shot, just step away and let the wide camera do the work. For example, when I was filming this exclusive documentary for museum in Italy, I had the wide camera set in the back to take time lapses while I filmed the close-ups. I also find having a wide camera running in the back is very valuable for getting behind-the-scenes shots, which always comes in handy when you are promoting your film. 5. Tip 4: Simplify (no really, simplify): Oscar Wilde once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," and I believe it rings true with film making as well. Before you start filming, step back and ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve here? What is the simplest way to achieve this purpose? I guarantee that you will see many unexplored, simpler ways to achieve what you're looking for. For example, when I film solo, I rarely film the talking head of the interview. I'll just focus on conducting the interview and getting good quality sound. This allows me to really give my attention to the subject instead of having to monitor the interview, the sound, and the camera. This approach also gives me more flexibility to film the subject. I can film during the evening when the lighting isn't that great, or I can film in a room that's not so beautiful but is convenient and has good acoustics. So not only simplify, but see your limitations as opportunities to get creative. I know the advice, simplify your film, might sound basic, but you often don't think about it until you actually sit down and actively think about the question as you go through your production plan. In fact, I've created a guide to help your reflection and listed some inspirational films that have embraced the art of simplicity. Film simplification PDF found in the project resources section. 6. Tip 5: Sound Round: One of the biggest challenges when filmmaking solo is getting good quality sound. A dedicated sound recordist is definitely an asset. But when filmmaking solo, I've come up with a few clever tricks to help you get good quality audio. Besides having a good shock and mic attach to your camera and the lav mic attach your subject, I find it's really valuable to go back after your shoot and have a dedicated sound round. This sound round is where you go back, identify important sounds and record them up close with the mic. Then, in the edit, you replace the sounds with these dedicated sound clips, which will sound richer, like you had an audio recorder with you the whole time. For example, in this documentary I made in Lisbon. After I filmed the inventor talking about his machines, I went back and recorded the sounds of the machines themselves. I used a lav mic and dropped it in the small nooks and crannies of his machines, which allowed me to get their sounds up close. Then, I used these sounds in the edit. 7. Tip 6: Sfx Are Your Best Friend: Make sound effects your best friend. They can really elevate the perceived sound quality of your film. A really good free sound effects library is www.freesound.org, but since it's free, you will have to do some filtering. Boomlibrary.com is one you have to pay for, but it's super high-quality. Or you can get creative and make your own sound effects, a process called Foley, and this will allow you to really get customized, match the timing and rhythm of the action and your film perfectly. You can also get creative with this, like how they used elephant sounds for the fight scene [inaudible]. 8. Tip 7: Build a Strong Story: You want to study the principles of storytelling. When I started, I made the mistake of thinking I didn't have to follow these rules because I wanted to be original. But boy, did I learn how these rules exist for a reason. A good analogy is Picasso. Yes, he did go out-of-the box and make his own rules. But if you step back and look at his most original work, they still follow important principles of visual composition and storytelling. It's the same with film. Learning how to craft deep stories is the most guaranteed way of setting your part as a filmmaker, and will give you a leg up on filmmakers who have elaborate cruise. A good place to start exploring these principles is my art of revision course. Link in the course description. 9. An Important Note: As much as I've talked about the benefits of filming solo, before we end, I also want to note how filming with the team carries advantages that filming solo doesn't. Advantages like more creative perspectives, more specialized talent, the ability to create more complex production set-ups, and this beautiful communal spirit. If you want to advance as a filmmaker, I encourage you to experience both ways and find what works best for you. 10. Course Wrap-Up: I hope that this course has given you the confidence to go out there and film Solo without the FOMO. It's totally doable, and with these techniques, you are set to really heighten your production value. If you like this course, I invite you to check out my other courses on the course instructor Page. Thank you so much for joining me with this course. I'm sending you all my best wishes for your filmmaking journey.