Low Budget Filmmaking — Tips and Tricks for an Indie Look | Matty Brown | Skillshare

Low Budget Filmmaking — Tips and Tricks for an Indie Look

Matty Brown, Filmmaker

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6 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Introduction

      3:27
    • 2. Shooting: Experimental In-Camera Effects

      6:53
    • 3. Editing: Painting the Picture

      11:19
    • 4. Staying Inspired

      4:14
    • 5. Sample Project: "I See You"

      1:06
    • 6. Conclusion

      1:41
78 students are watching this class

About This Class

Join celebrated cinematographer/editor and 16-time Vimeo Staff Pick winner Matty Brown for a fun class on low-budget filmmaking tricks that can help you achieve an emotive, indie-inspired look.

You'll learn Matty’s experimental in-camera effects that you can achieve with any device — including one that involves a Ziploc bag. Plus, peek inside his creative editing workflow to bring all the pieces together.

Whether you’re making a travel video, short film, documentary, music video or personal art piece, Matty’s DIY approach will inspire you to think outside of the technical settings and shoot with heart. Anyone can participate, even if your camera is your iPhone.

Follow along with Matty on a walk around New York City, and see what imagery he captures along the way!

Transcripts

1. Introduction: You don't need some high end equipment or stuff to shoot anything. I actually don't know what settings I use, I just turn it on, and it is what it is. I have no interest in technical aspects, really. I don't even know what lens this is, or what specific stuff it does, it's all emotional and intuitive and stuff like that. I'm Matty Brown and I'm a film maker. I started making these films with the smallest, cheapest equipment. I started learning these slinky techniques and how to tell stories with just emotion. I'm here to explain how experimenting with stuff can really just evolve your craft and the more you make, and the more you experiment, the more you will become successful at what you want to do. This class is called experimenting with short films. Today, we're going to be doing this project and trying to create an emotion with seemingly random images. What I'm hoping that people will take away from this is that, they learn to be free with their camera, harnessing emotion of your project and shooting for that, and the third thing is to edit creatively. I think people should take this class solely for the reason of forcing themselves to think creatively on the spot, just going and experimenting with a bunch of different shots, and seeing things differently. Who really cares if you mess up? Because no one's in the scene, but you and you're editing room. And who knows, maybe that mistake would actually turn out to be something really awesome. I think the people who would benefit the most from this class are probably the people I was just a few years ago, novices and people who are really trying to break into it and understand it, and intimidated by it, because it is a really intimidating thing. It's like you're competitive, and I hope this inspires some people to go out there and just shoot everything they see, just edit everything they shoot, and then create awesome stuff. And if it fails, I mean, that's just part of the step up towards the next cool thing that's going to make them like a Vimeo Staff Pick, or on some cool blog, or whatever, I mean, because you never know who will see it in the end. Anyone can take this class. You can use any kind of camera equipment you have even just your iPhone to go out and shoot a lot of stuff, because it is just a trip to the coffee shop, or a trip around the block. I think the hardest part of this class that people will probably get stuck on, which I get stuck on every time I shoot, is finding inspiration. You go out, and you can't find that inspiration, that theme, that thing that's going to pump you up, and it's just getting over that hump, and just keep shooting through it, keep filling the space out, keep understanding what's going on around you, and not letting that optimism fade. That's the most tricky part of I think any shoot really. What I would love to see people make is not really seeing, but feeling. I want to be moved. Whether it's shot well, or not, it's all about how you make people feel afterwards, which is going to be the biggest piece of the whole thing. I want people to take away from this class is not just motivated but inspired to go out and shoot a bunch of stuff. And so, I think you should just go out and do it. 2. Shooting: Experimental In-Camera Effects: So, we're in New York right now and we're about to go and shoot to create an emotion of tension in like paranoia and that something is going to happen. Even in a spontaneous situation, we can still create an interesting piece by just walking to the coffee shop. I'll be doing a few of my techniques to show that we're looking through the eyes of the person. What I'll be looking for is elements that creates an emotion that something scary is going to happen with just what is happening around you but It's actually a really fun exercise to do. You don't need some high-end equipment and stuff to shoot anything. I actually don't know what settings I use, I just kind of turn it on and it is what it is. I have no interest in technical aspects really. I don't even know what lens this is or what specific stuff it does. It's all emotional, intuitive, and stuff like that. I know that it's important for a lot of aspects, but I've honed in on my style a lot and so, I don't have to worry about new technical stuff so much. One of the main things that I do is if I'm on a trip somewhere and I'm shooting nonstop to try to find that sort of like emotion, I usually stop shooting and then I just kind of go to a coffee shop or a park or whatever, just hang out and kind of just feel the place out, and not focus so much on shooting and then experiencing it through a lens. I think that can be one of the biggest problems of looking for your inspiration is by staying behind your lens the whole time. So, I think putting it down and kind of feeling stuff out and then you see shots like, "Oh man, I should have got that." Then you are like, "Oh, that would have been cool too." Then you start to feel a lot of different things. The reason I do a lot of blowing on the camera with a plastic bag, my fingers, stuff like that, is because it was having less that actually gave me more of a creative mind on to how to play with it more and experiment and do more than what other people were doing because they were all comfortable. I think having those restraints are actually better because you can experiment with stuff. If I don't have time to get the bag out, I usually put some fog lens. Then as the shot goes on, it'll slowly come into focus. Literally inorganic, dissolve in. That's why I like the bag and this is that there's such a better texture than filters and lens flares that everyone does online, so everyone knows how they all look, you know what I mean? Then the reason I put my fingers in front of the lens a lot of the times, just to kind of have that nostalgic quality like to looking into someone's memory in a very quick, easy way, you know? I just like layers, like lots of different things happening at once. So, with the chain link fence and then the tree and then the statue and stuff, it has a kind of a cool effect to it, just so everything is constantly revolving and turning itself. It's mostly to create transitions. So, with this pole here, I can move into another shot. There's tension in the air. You don't want it to be too smooth. So usually, I like to start it off smooth, and then as it gets on and there's more layers, it becomes more and more unstable, by the simple movements of making it feel like it's a mistake. Then if I do want a smooth shot, I just use a neck strap. I don't even have a rig or anything. So, I push it really hard and with my legs, everything's with my legs. I just move back and forth like this. When I do like a really smooth shot that needs to be smooth for just the feeling of it, usually afterwards, I usually flip the camera, or I drop it, or I do something, so it'll thrust in another shot. But, just to have that kind of option that it can go different places. Then, if I get more bold, I'll move this as well with my leg, so it has this unusual movement. So, it's turning as it's going, so it's still smooth, and it takes a few tries to get it to work right, based on how the neck strap is and where it is and stuff like that. Because it's such a quick moving piece, that you just need as many moving shots as possible, especially if you're just experimenting and not knowing how the puzzle will be put together. So, it's just kind of messing around. Plus, a small camera you can fling around and do a lot of interesting things with it whirling around and stuff that you would be too scared to do with the bigger expensive camera. I think of different options if I'm able to. I mean, just because if it's a person moving around, I don't want to impose on them. But if it's something like this painting on the wall, just to get different angles of it and stuff, because I don't know how I'm going to use it. Usually when I see a painting or image or something or even like a lighthouse or something that is big and I want to capture it and get a movement with it, that I can't really get if I'm filming a lighthouse. I just do it like a stop motion thing, into it or around it. For this, I just take one or two steps in one or two, and I just have a little marker on my screen that I just line her face up with where it is, just so I can crop it better and post. I think one of the main things that like attracts me to a puddle shot, is mostly because I don't like clean shots, like very stark clean shots, most of the time. So, a puddle is just another textured way of shooting it. So, there's so many dirty elements, rough edges and stuff like that, and there's always the option of flipping it, so it looks like it's right side up. Also, the way the water is moving, if there's wind in it, you can step in the puddle and create a transition with it. So, it kind of ripples away everything and has those orgamic wipe. Each of my videos are eight hours of footage for a week trip. Now, it's under three hours because I feel like I'm more honed in on the kinds of stuff I like. But I usually take a couple days to get a feel of the place, and then just let the inspiration kind of build based off of that, basically. My current project was actually 10 hours of footage in almost a minute. Then you actually feel bad because there's so much footage that needs be left out and that doesn't work. That is like shots that are so beautiful and they just don't work in the piece. There's other shots that works really well that you don't like that much, but it makes the whole piece as a whole better. So, it's kind of a weird mixture of stuff. 3. Editing: Painting the Picture: Editing really is like you're actually painting the whole picture, shooting in everything, you're mixing all the colors, and you get everything ready, and stuff, and then an editor is the one that actually brings it on to life, and really puts every element together to make the picture happen, because they're all a bunch of just random shots. They don't make sense to me with like one another. Just like a color is just a color, and then you mix them all together, and then they create this amazing thing. It's a fun process. The amount of experimentation, the amount of ways this could have gone make it exciting. It's like walking into an art store and looking all the brand new everything, and thinking to yourself like oh my God, the possibility of this editing. When you go into it, it's the same exact thing that you do so many different things with it. It's just wild. This piece will take me probably two hours total to edit. So, it took us an hour to just walk around and shoot. It's such a quick, just monotonous walk to a coffee shop, and then you get this insane emotion out of it that didn't even exist and you've made this whole different thing come to life. If it does take you longer, I mean, don't like fright. We all have different lengths to get stuff done, and we have different processes to do things. But something like this, just for fun, can be done really, really, really quickly. I would recommend to just play with different programs because they all work differently with other people, and I use Sony Vegas. I don't know anyone who uses Sony Vegas, but it just works well for me. I think picking the music is definitely the hardest part of the editing process for me. Just because it needs to be that specific motion and the music is the driving force of the whole piece for me. A lot of people just settle for a music track, and they put it in, and they don't realize that it's putting their piece in the grave of getting seen, of getting noticed, of getting stuff picked. One of the easiest ways to find cheap really, really good music is like Marmoset, Music bed. Even if you get a Bandcamp and just write to the artists, the first step is to just get every single clip onto the timeline. I know a lot of people they like to watch through it, and choose the clips, and do a lot of time coding stuff, but I just like to put every single thing on the timeline because I never know what's going to be useful, and what will work. Because something that look like a mistake or something boring, might actually work with the music. I usually put everything on the timeline, and then play the music as I'm moving the clips I like out. So, I have another video track above it, and I pull out the shots that pick out to me or like really do all the music. So, I get those on the timeline. If I'm doing a mood piece or a travel piece, the first thing I do is I am mute it, because I like to make my own sound effects, and then I'll come back to it and find little pieces of the audio that work well for it. Then if not, I go online if it's too hard to create or too hard to find the stuff I want, find like the right stuff. If I need like a sound of a crow or something I'll go online. What I do is, I take the footage, and it looks like here we have almost 50 minutes of footage, and then I pick all the good stuff out of it. I'll have another track with all the good stuff which will go down to maybe 10 minutes of footage, and then out of that 10 minutes of footage, I'll separate the slower shots and the faster shots from one another, and any transitional shot will also be in the fast part, because that's Pyra, I'm going to use it more, and then I just bring all those clips together. Then I start playing the song with the clips and moving them around back and forth like a puzzle to figure out what is going to go with the music, the best. In most of my pieces, there's like five shots that I love the most. So, I'll put those five in first, and find a spot for them. Those are like anchor points, and then I start building everything off of those, just so I'm not just randomly putting stuff in. I'll move them around to see where in the music, it's like a perfect match with it, because a lot of times there's just a perfect moment for each of the shots whether it's the movement of the subject or whatever. I do it that way basically. The way that I choose the clips is basically just emotional. It's just the feeling like when I'm going through, and there just happens to be this movement or look or something about the composition that's beautiful. As I'm playing the music track or usually like inspiration music or whatever it is, it just has to feel right for the piece. I keep it in, just because it can add a texture or that little blip of thrust from one shot to the next. I think over the years I've been coming in tune with what would work, and what wouldn't work in all of my pieces. After I cut it down from like those 15 minutes down to seven minutes, I split the calmer smoother clips, from these fast paced ones. The fast paced ones are obviously going to be towards the build up at the end. I know how to consolidate them into their own little track, so that I can easily start the puzzle piece. You just start juggling them around, and figuring out which ones are going to work in specific areas, and then you do the same with the slower shots. You can either hook for your piece. You really need to hook in the beginning. A hook can even be something really slow and drawn out that like a deep feeling, like oh, something is going to happen. It's like a train starting or something. Or it can be this like really intense beginning with another slow ending. It could be so many different things, but it needs to have a hook, and not just be something so simple. Most of the shots, like the woman coming into her, and stuff like that, and there's more like extreme shots of colorful things, and the balloons pop. Those are more like wild, like surreal things, like apocalyptic sort of feeling feeling. As the tension starts to build, and build, and build, those things will become more apparent, and more disliked, enjoyed, which is why I have my fingers over the lens, and the balloons, and it's unstable, and it's like we're gearing up for the end of something. Then there's the lighter ones, the lighter shots. It's still intense or whatever eventually, but these hints of people walking by, and then exploring, do I make him right side up as they walk by, or do I slow it down a little bit to make her even more like pop or something. It has this unusual feel, but I get into a groove, and I just know where everything's going to start to fall into place. There are definitely times where there are sections or shots that really don't work, and then other shots are added to that that aren't working. But I don't realize it until later on, and then I have to redo that whole thing which actually makes you feel like oh man, like this kind of feeling. Because the other anchor points are still there, I can still work over those, and see how it's going to come together and everything. It's based off of like, which shots give off the best the motion, whether it's just a face like someone's face or eye in the shot or if it's like some transition from one to another. It definitely depends on just the subject matter itself. But in the beginning, it would definitely be smoother shots. This shot here would be definitely towards the beginning. Every single unstable shot would probably be toward the end. In the beginning, it's more like wide shots. It's still through the eyes of the person, but they're wider things, and you can just see the city and stuff. But I once you start closing in on various things, you really see that exact like hawk eye point of what the person is seeing, and so cutting off the entire frame except for that, you know damn well that that is the subject of them, that's the thing they're afraid of, the thing that they're hunting themselves or something. Then when you open up, it gives you more of advantage point of just the observer, rather than inside the mind looking at something specific. You can do that with just covering your hand over the camera. Something so simple as that, and letting the little hole follow the the character or whatever it is. I'm really obsessed with this reflections and stuff. It's like an intimacy that isn't warranted. It gives this voyeur feeling of looking into people's lives, even in public, and it has this feeling like I know something you don't. I think when a piece like this, there's adding the tension, there's adding that predatory feel to it, like you're hunting someone down or you're being chased by someone, so you're looking reflections yourself to look around you. There's these interesting characters like a guy with a cowboy hat, just walking by randomly. It's just crazy this sense unnerving. That's why I chose these certain things. A lot of them is people with hats on their head, and their faces obscured by their hair or a scarf or something like that. But one point I want to make though is that learning from other filmmakers is awesome, experimenting and trying to do what they're doing is a really great thing to learn. But one of the best things that you could possibly do, is go out and experiment with your own techniques, with your own style, your own kind of thing, to make yourself have your own voice in it, and not adapt to everyone else's way of doing it. Because then if you do want to stand out, it would be best to also experiment with your own things, rather than just conforming to what everyone else is doing. I think that's really important to know and anything like this. 4. Staying Inspired: I think most of the projects, I lay back and daydream. I put on music really loud. I just let my mind just imagine there's life in these little mundane things around you. The inspiration for the piano piece, ever since I was a kid, I used to put my head inside the piano and hear that sound, this big, black, ominous monster. The passion that comes out of it. It was just so amazing to me. When I was approached to make a music video, I wanted to make that piano come alive. So, that was my inspiration. It was like I need to make this thing scary, and dark, and deep, and dirty. The Portugal piece, I actually did it for a person who wanted a memory of their childhood. Nostalgia is a very specific quality to it that you can't really stray from. My inspiration was to really fog up that lens, make that memory feel and really obscure the camera into having these qualities to it, and then added with sound design and all that stuff, build something out of it. A by Poland, the inspiration for that was I was going around filming all the concentration camps, and it was so devastating. To be in all these places and filming it, what piece can I make out of this. It's so dark, and so it needed to be these really beautiful, deep thing because the place is so intense by itself that you don't need the flashy images and stuff. I was just thinking, how do I make it both and how do I show it. So, I thought it of making it by Poland and letting it, just in half, down the middle showing that colorful, beautiful, life of Poland and then showing also that kind of sad past. I love in-camera techniques. If I see a film or they do it in the film, it just makes me fall in love with their style. It makes you feel like it's real, and I think that inspires me a lot to try and do it myself because oftentimes it's the most simple thing. The best piece of advice I can give someone; seriously do not stop. Do not ever put the camera down. Don't ever stop editing it together. Don't ever stop making a piece because the moment you stop it's going to be harder for you to get back into it again. The more you make, regardless of how you feel about your pieces, they will evolve, they will get better. I made a ton of videos that no one will ever see it because I hated them. Now, when I look back I'm so thankful for every single one of those little pieces because without them I would never be stepping up towards my goals. Share your work. Get feedback and you may get some little like Gem out of that. You may get some stuff that's really sparks your momentum with yourself. Plus, you never know who will see it. When I first started I was filming just stuff in my backyard. One day, I went out in the backyard and saw a slug and I started filming this big fat slug and it was just a bunch of random shots. I pieced it together with music of The Dark Knight and made it all epic, and like his little eyes are coming out, it was like this little thing, it was ridiculous. It's a ridiculous piece. the Italian tourism board saw it, liked the style of it, and the next thing I know I'm flying to Italy to do like a tourism film in Italy. It blew my mind. I mean, I just posted it just to get feedback and stuff, and they saw and my career got started in that sense. Don't let your equipment hold you back. I mean, if you have really cheap stuff, don't let that hold you back. Don't be intimidated thinking that it's not good enough. It took me years to get the confidence. Even as a hobby, but making it good, I didn't think I would be able to do that because I didn't own the biggest cameras. I didn't have a college degree at NYU and I didn't have those resources. There is that struggle that at first year, that second year, it was really intense. Then the last two years has just been like going insane because, like I said, you never know who will see your work, you never know where it'll go. 5. Sample Project: "I See You": 6. Conclusion: Hey guys, I just want to thank you for being a part of this project, and going out there and shooting a bunch of stuff, and then editing your pieces together. So, upload your videos to the mu, and then share it in the project gallery, but just make sure to comment on each other's pieces and interact with your peers, and to build that kind of base in that kind of network with all these different people there in the same boat as you. I think doing that sort of thing will benefit in the long run because you never know, maybe your director with you who's looking at your next piece. The thing that I can't say more than more to anyone is just keep driving through, and I think, you should go out there and just start shooting right now and make another piece and keep the momentum going. In order to be like a good filmmaker, I think you need to understand the editing, the shooting, the sound, the music, and how it all meshes into one ball. All these different layers creates that single emotion, and that's what you're actually telling. You won't telling just the story, you're telling this emotion that's going to be instilled inside a person, that will evolve you into your craft, it'll like hone you and your craft, and eventually you'll start seeing that it's like dieting or exercise like you don't see it right away, but after a while, all the results come in, and because you have that momentum inside that little engine that good, and you just keep going, and going, and it builds up until, you're like holy crap, I'm already here, so just go out and become that right now.