Micro-Budget Filmmaking: Directing | Dustin Curtis Murphy | Skillshare

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Micro-Budget Filmmaking: Directing

teacher avatar Dustin Curtis Murphy, Director, Writer, Filmmaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

16 Lessons (1h 8m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Preproduction Recap: Essential Documents

    • 3. Preproduction Recap: Casting

    • 4. Working with Actors: Auditioning

    • 5. Working with Actors: Rehearsal

    • 6. Tools for Working with Actors

    • 7. Working with Crew

    • 8. Terminology for Working with Camera Crew

    • 9. Camera & Lens Choices

    • 10. Shot Framing & Composition Basics

    • 11. The Psychology of Camera Choices

    • 12. Director's Ear

    • 13. Pace of the Day

    • 14. Atmosphere On Set

    • 15. Back Up Your Footage... NOW!

    • 16. Conclusion

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About This Class

This is the third part of the Micro-Budget Filmmaking Series where you’ll be guided through the entire filmmaking process by award winning filmmaker Dustin Curtis Murphy. Murphy's work has screened at BAFTA/BIFA qualifying festivals and his latest short film was a semi-finalist at the Academy Award qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Part three is a beginner-to-intermediate class about directing micro-budget productions with techniques that apply to both short and feature films.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to work with actors (including the casting, auditions, & the rehearsal process)
  • How to work with a scalable crew
  • The psychology of cinematography choices
  • Pacing and atmosphere while on set
  • Tips and tricks for micro budget filmmaking
  • How to walk away confident that you have all the footage you'll need to edit your film

This class is perfect for anyone who wants to direct their own film and is determined to make it happen regardless of their budget limitations.

About the Micro-Budget Filmmaking Series:

If you’re looking to propel yourself forward in the craft of filmmaking - whether that be an eventual goal to be a screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, sound designer, you name it - you need to know everything you can about what it takes to actually get a production off the ground. It’s great to work with a team of artists who are at the top of their craft, but unless you’re fortunate enough to have a large budget or be hired by someone who does, it’s likely that for a time you will find yourself coming up with your own projects, self-financing and filling multiple roles yourself as your hone your talents. 

Multitasking a variety of roles on a micro-budget production is great practice for when you eventually join larger productions. Understanding the basics of every role will only make you a more effective communicator and leader. It will allow you to empathize with the challenges that specialized workers face and help you to set reasonable expectations for collaborators.

Meet Your Teacher

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Dustin Curtis Murphy

Director, Writer, Filmmaker


Dustin Curtis Murphy is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles, CA. After winning Best Student Short at the age of 18 at Shriekfest, Hollywood, Murphy has continued to make films that have screened at BAFTA/BIFA qualifying film festivals. His latest film Samaritan was a Semi-Finalist at the Academy Award Qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival and is now available to watch online via Omeleto. His previous film festival hit, Nora, premiered at the British Film Institute as the centrepiece of a TED Talk event and is now available on Amazon Prime after winning 19 awards at various festivals, including two for best director.

More info at: www.dcmfilmmaker.com

See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi everyone. This is my class on micro budget film directing, which is Part three in my micro budget filmmaking series, which takes you through the entire process of filmmaking from inception on through to distribution. In this class, I'll be focusing primarily on what I do as a director on set. If you want to know more about the screenwriting process or the pre-production process, then I would encourage you to start at the beginning of the class. So you understand those key steps that are needed before you are ready to turn on the camera and yell action. There could be months of work required to set you up for success. And while you may want to jump the gun and just start shooting, I guarantee you you're going to want to put the work in beforehand so you don't end up onset and unprepared. If you've watched my previous classes then you know, I've had experienced at the time I was a kid starting out as a child actor. Then as a teenager, I started to create my own films and even competed with those at international film festivals, becoming an award winning filmmaker by the time I was 18. My most recent work has been screened at BAFTA and before qualifying film festivals, as well as my current passion piece, Samaritan being a semi finalist at the Academy Awards qualifying flickers, Rhode Island International Film Festival. I also run a community of 1500 plus indie filmmakers here in London where I live, it's called Kino short film. And we offer a variety of screening events, networking, production support, and the People's Film Festival. More info can be found on Kino short film.com. Enough about me. This class is about you and getting your film made. Since I'm focusing on micro budget filmmaking in this series, it's my goal to get you to make your film regardless of your unique set of limitations. Many classes try to get you to focus on the right way to do things. They may teach unions standards, assuming that you're fully funded by a studio and are working with a large crew where every person can focus on the minutia of their particular job. But for the purposes of this class, I'm going to assume that you're working with no more than ten people. I fully understand that some of you may be working with even less than that, but no worries, amazing films have still been made by only a crew of a few people. In this class. I'm going to touch very briefly on the pre-production process, picking up from where I left off with part two of this series. But mostly I'll be focusing on my process, working with actors, working with crew, pacing and atmosphere while onset tricks and tips for micro budget filmmaking and some cinematography basics to keep in mind. I'll also be focusing heavily on short films in my analogies and examples in this class. And that's not to say that these principles can't be used for feature filmmaking, but I always think it's a good idea to start with a short film if you have no experience, gets your feet wet too often I've seen talented people just spin their wheels at the beginning of their career. They go to producers, they go to agents, they go to distributors, they go to film festivals. And everywhere they go, the doors are slammed in their face because they don't have the portfolio or the experience. What I'm passionate about is empowering anyone to make a film as a form of personal expression and as a way to build a portfolio so you can progress in the industry. Alright, ready to get started. 2. Preproduction Recap: Essential Documents: In part two of my micro budget filmmaking course, I covered creative ways to raise finances and how to break down your screenplay into a variety of administrative documents that will help you organize your production before your onset. So by this time, I'm going to assume that you've created your shooting schedule, your shortlist, your call sheets, contracts, and sides. If you don't know what those documents are or if you haven't prepared yours yet. And I would encourage you just to stop this class, go back to the pre-production class and start there so much about being a director. Onset is about rolling with the punches when the circumstances of the day throw you a curve ball, there's going to be constant changes thrown your way. There might be changes in weather, an actor might not show up. You're gonna need to come up with contingency plans. And in situations like that, you're gonna want all your ducks in a row so you're ready to pivot on a dime towards whatever your production day needs. Since that is a very reactive process, it's going to be difficult for me to give you tips on some specific issues that you might have individual with your productions. So if you have any questions, please just leave a comment below and I will try my best to help you out. Or you might be able to get some advice from some other people within the skill share community. As a director, it will be your job to keep your cool while onset when things don't go to plan. And you can use your pre-production documents to analyze them and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that you walk away with all of the footage needed to cut your seam together. Remember two thirds of a film that is perfectly shot is worth less than a full film that tells the full story, that might have some rough edges. One thing I didn't cover in my preproduction class was rehearsing with actors. And while that is definitely a piece of traditional pre-production, I think I decided not to include it because it's a luxury that a lot of micro budget filmmakers don't have. If you're working with a very small budget, you might not have any rehearsal time and you might need to rehearse onset prior to doing the shots. If you can rehearse ahead of time. Great. But for the purposes of getting this started, I am going to now start talking you through my process of working with actors onset. 3. Preproduction Recap: Casting: Even in the most micro budget of productions where you're wearing all the hats, the screenwriting, half the directing, the cinematography, the sound. Even under circumstances like that, there's usually one thing you can't avoid a will need to find collaborators on and that is your actors. Sure you may be able to find friends and families. Some might have more talent than others. But if you have a limited amount of budget to spend on something, actors would be one of my absolute first priorities. Amazing performances can elevate the mediocre film and even the most impressive technical film will fall flat on his face. If audiences aren't invested in your lead characters, audiences need to suspend their disbelief and be convinced that the scene you were showing them feels real and authentic. Obviously, under budget constraints, as a micro budget filmmaker, you probably won't have access to top tier professional actors. But you'd be surprised how many working class, very, very talented actors are out there who are willing to work with smaller productions that they feel passionate about. The thing is you just need to know where to look for this type of talent. Clubs, drama schools, and community theatres are a great place to source actors. They are usually filled with people who take their craft very seriously. Also websites like mandy.com or even social media can make great resources to connect with talent. On my most recent short film, I was actually able to cast somebody whose previous credits include the Netflix series the crown, just by reaching out to him on Twitter and asking him if he'd be interested in reading the script. Also, never be afraid to dream big. Now, I'm not saying that you're gonna get Tom Cruise to star in your next short film. But what I am saying is that some actors with a certain level of credits you may think are above you or maybe intimidated by them and not seeing them was within reach. I met an actress while networking. She has credits at Amazon Prime and doing some original content for them, Netflix original content. And recently she has found that small Indie productions no longer reach out to her for castings. She spends a lot of her time auditioning. And yes, you might get at Big gig every once in awhile. But a lot of auditions for actors, the majority of them actually end in rejection. So actors are very, very hungry to get Onset. The main criteria that they look for if they're working at a reduced rate is going to be a Do they like the project? Did they like the content that you are providing them to to perform? Do they like the scene? And are you a interesting person to work with? Do they see potential in your career? Are you going to be moving forward and might turn into the next big thing that they want to get a early relationship with. So those are the ways to impress them. Alright, so here are my takeaways. Work with people who are actors. It doesn't matter how much Hollywood is willing to pay these people. It matters how seriously they take their craft. Even if you have little or no money, reach out to establish actors regardless, the answer is always no. If you never ask, approach talent with confidence and even if you're offering to them isn't worthy of their position and talent, you just might be surprised at who you get to say yes. 4. Working with Actors: Auditioning: Now, auditioning is definitely part of the pre-production process. In fact, I'm kind of kicking myself a little bit for not covering it in my preproduction class. But anyways, I'll cover it now since we're on the topic of actors. The audition has been around a long time. And speaking as someone who sat on both sides of that experience. It's not a very fun process naturally with bigger productions. So for example, feature films where you have other producers involved. So you'll want their opinions or you have investors that you want to impress under those circumstances, you are definitely going to want to hold an audition. But for a micro budget production, don't feel pressured into holding auditions just because it's the industry standard to do so. That doesn't mean that there aren't things that you'll need to insure are within your actors capability prior to hiring them. Know, all I'm saying is that you can save time and you can save money by avoiding the auditioning process. And there are a unique set of dynamics that can make the audition process difficult or impossible for some micro budget filmmakers. For example, if you're approaching a working actor who may be joining your production as a favor by doing a reduced rate or for free because they really have a belief in you and your project, then you're going to want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes to you. Even at the first of reaching out to them. If you play to their ego and give them the part telling them that, hey, I think you're going to be perfect in this role, the roles yours if you want it, then that flattery can go a long way. In cases like this, renting a space to hold an audition in is an easy cut from your budget line item. If you have limited finances, also, auditions are not always the best way to judge someone's talent. The audition process can be very, very intimidating and oftentimes, actors don't actually do their best work in the audition. I found that the best way to get a more accurate picture of the actor's ability is by looking at their previous work. Most actors will have demo reels that contain a bunch of short clips to highlight their range as an actor. These are great insights into their talent. Also, check out their websites and any other portfolio pieces that they might have. Also, a key thing for me is that it's not always about the actor's ability and who I choose to work with. Sometimes it's more about the working relationship between the two of you and how well you guys get along. So rather than a power dynamic of an audition, which is a job interview, you're the employer there, the employee when there's limited money, they're not going to have that incentive to perform. So you really want to work with somebody who's really passionate about your film and about your ideas. And the best way to do that is to get in a room with a person, buy him a cup of coffee and ask their thoughts on the project and see how passionate they are in getting involved with your passion project. Also, be careful when talking with an actor. Don't do too much of the talking. Do more listening, pose them interesting questions about the character, about the film, and then get their reactions from it. By listening, you're gonna be able to understand just how much they understand your project and the direction that they will likely wanna take their performance. Assess this. And if it works for you, then you've just hired your actor without having to have an audition. Watching an actor's previous work will give you a better idea of their ability than an audition. When meeting enable the actor to share their thoughts, to ensure you're on the same page. 5. Working with Actors: Rehearsal: Typically, the more time that you have to talk about the performance and rehearse, the better that performance will be. Although in some extenuating circumstances, a unrehearsed first take can actually be more authentic and more natural upper performance then take after take, where the repetition of it kind of sucks the life out of the performance in a micro budget production where you're pulling some favors and asking for reduce rates, rehearsing ahead of time, it might be a luxury that you can't afford. But regardless, there's no way that you're ever going to be able to get rid of that rehearsing process even if it happens onset a few minutes before you yell action. So this is my process when it comes to working with actors. I think what I'm trying to say is, what if, what if I passed up an opportunity to meet somebody to put a bend life for death to me, you know, in an ideal world, you should start with a table read within a few weeks before you plan to be in production. Get everyone together and simply read the scripts giving the actors no direction. Just sit back and see what they do. Let the actors get comfortable with the material and get comfortable with each other. After the read through, it's now time to get the scene on its feet, rather than providing the actors with some blocking, telling them when and where to move. I'll often just let them feel the scene out for themselves. I first see what unique ideas they bring to the characters, their natural instinct with blocking. And then I use all those things and tweak them until it's in a position where the performance is ready. It's more like shaping and sculpting the performance than dictating of the performance. This is a great method because it makes actors feel like they are in control of their own performances, which makes them more emotionally invested in your project. You should revel in the fact that an actor is bringing something to the table beyond what you saw in your vision are really well trained actor reaches deep within their experience to pull out some emotional reading of a line that feels very authentic to them. And while that reading might not sound the way you envisioned it in your mind, I challenge you to always question your intention, see if the direction that the actor is pulling. It is an interesting direction to go. Don't always say, it's gotta be my way. This is how I heard it. Go up on this word, end down on this word. You're going to have a very, very robotic, unnatural performance if you direct that way. So some of the most unsuccessful performances that I've ever seen have always been based around micro managing that actor to try to get them to do something specifically technically that you want them to do. Do telling them to sit a certain way and what their head this way and Kauket like this. It's the equivalent of an awkward problem photo. I believe it's Alfred Hitchcock, who is famous for referring to actors as capital and will live massively respect his contribution to cinema. I couldn't disagree more. One of my favorite quotes comes from Paul Schroeder. And if you watched my screenwriting class, this should sound familiar. It's true as soon as you started evolving, living, breathing human beings in the creation, your film, it's gonna take on a life of its own. Actors aren't just pieces of meat to prod or manipulate matter. Alright, I'd like to take a minute to talk about the use of manipulation as a tool in getting a certain performance from an actor. Some of the most famous directors in the past have used Manipulation. Perhaps the level of performance wasn't up to the standard that it should have been. So rather than working through the issues with the actor or the director decides to put the actor into a psychological compromising situation in order to manipulate the actor into reacting a certain way. Or perhaps, maybe they never even gave the actor the opportunity to deliver a great performance before playing a mind game with them, because they wanted to get the Actor into this Headspace that they thought would deliver something that was more authentic. For example, some of the more famous ones are how Oliver Stone's started acting like a drill sergeant on the set of platoon to give his actors the more authentic military experience or how Stanley Kubrick abused Shelley Duvall on the set of the shining. Since Chile devolve was playing a battered wife and he wanted her performance to seem more visceral and real. But for me, the one that absolutely takes the cake as the worst would be the last tango in Paris. Bernardo Bertolucci, the director, didn't tell actress Maria Schneider that there would be a rape scene. So he got her onset and all she knew was that Marlon Brando was suddenly going off-script and attacking her. This is because he wanted the her reaction to feel real. Now, obviously, that is a extremely unethical professional behavior to have at the time, it was justified for artistic reasons. But I always make the argument that the psychological wellbeing of your actors are always more important. And if you hire really, really great actors, they can deliver amazing performances without having to manipulate them. Hire people who are really good at what they do, and let them guide their performance. As a director, it's your job to direct that performance and make those adjustments on set. So you're always going for the most natural performance, but you don't want to be a dictator. I can't tell you how many times I've had a actor deliver me a performance that was very different from the way I saw written on the page. Now, I could've been a dictator and said, no, you have to do it my way. But the psychological thing about in doing so, then you're asking them to go against their natural instincts. And that's where you really get into the territory of a performance. Starting to feel fake. Being onset is a process of creation, but it's also a process of letting go? Yes. As the director, you are responsible for ensuring the quality of the performance. And if the performance is not up to par, you should always speak up. But if an actor is presenting you with a different version than expected, then I challenge you to open yourself up to the possibility of seeing it through their eyes. Oftentimes, the process of collaboration delivers something infinitely more interesting. Then the hiring an actor to B0 robot to bring life into your storyboard. Similarly, as a screenwriter, once your onset, I would encourage you to let go of the words that you wrote on the page. Yes. You want to make sure that the actor is staying on track and they're not patting the script with a bunch of unnecessary words which is going to affect your pacing later down the line. However, your goal as a director is to get the most authentic performance. So if words need to be changed in order for that performance to be more authentic, and you should certainly be open to do so. And don't command that every word that you wrote be read the exact same way that you wrote it. The audience won't be making a screenplay to film comparison. Alright, so Tarantino is absolutely famous for being a tyrant when it comes to making sure that actors stick to his dialogue that he wrote. And I think a lot of indie filmmakers who idolized his talent have kind of taken up the same ethos and brought the same level of preciousness to their own scripts. So even in the face of an actor struggling to bring that bit of dialogue to life, they double down and say no, you have to do it my way. The point I'm trying to make is what takes priority is always what works to deliver a natural performance. Be less precious. Start with a table read, then get the scene on his feet. Redirect. The natural performance is your actors give you versus dictating direction? Question your vision when presented with inspired contradictions from trusted collaborators and be less precious. 6. Tools for Working with Actors: People who do terrible things to preserve their lives cannot be forgiven. Kind of God forgive anything and anyone for anything they do, no matter how Craven now, cowardly. Based. First off, it's important to understand the background of an actor where they trained as a method actor. Have they done a lot of community theater? Are they more involved in modeling and doing commercial work? All of those things will actually affect how you communicate with them and what type of work they're used to doing. Also, get to know about your actors taste. What are their favorite films? What's, who were some of their favorite actors? These are all little bits of information that you can use to build references to more easily communicate creative ideas to them. Say if, for example, a really, really love and respect to the work of Kate Winslet. And you know, in your references that you've seen the film and there's a similar performance that Kate Winslet has given in her film geography. You can use those scenes to kind of highlight and illustrates similar ideas. This is important because micro budget filmmaking is done at such a quick pace that you want to find the easiest way to get to a performance as quickly as possible. And as just a side note, this is also a strategy that doesn't just work for actors that works with every single collaborator that you have. For example, if you're working with your cinematographer and you know you want a shot that is very Wes Anderson. And the other person is familiar with the work of Wes Anderson. As I would imagine most cinematographers are. There's a certain aesthetic that they're going to understand that you will be after. So I come from a theater background. I started acting at the age of five and have been in probably over 30 stage productions within my life. I've done some acting on film, but mainly I've been interested in what happens behind the camera rather than becoming a film actor. Now stage acting and film acting are two very different things. But there is some things that I learned during my time as a stage actor that I think help me communicate with actors when I'm working on film. Typically a theatre actor is used to overacting on stage. They have to express some emotions from the front row all the way to the back of the house, which means that they use big broad gestures and a very loud voice. But on film everything is much more confined. Sometimes the camera is very, very up-close and the actor can just be sitting there and with a very subtle movement, you can understand and emotional inflection that if you do it any bigger, it would come off as appearing very, very fake. So if I'm dealing with a lot of stage actors, what I'll always do is typically give them almost a barometer of where I want their performance to be. And it's always turn down if they deliver me something, it's over the top. It's acted at like a ten and I'm like, OK, the instinct was probably right, the emotion was probably right, but it didn't seem genuine enough. So let's, let's use that and then let's turn it downloads, dial it back to a seven or a six. That dialing of performances as actually a, another very helpful I'm communication tool that you have in working with actors. That's why I'm emphasizing on that line. Know, exactly, always give direction with a positive spin. You don't want to be building into the actors in security. If they're doing something that isn't working, say something more like, hey, let's just try it this way and see if that works. And make these tiny adjustments to get where you need to go, rather than completely making your actor feel that they cannot deliver what you're asking them to deliver. That's the sure-fire way to completely put a bomb in the performance and each take will get worse and worse. I promise you, actors just want the reassurance from Ann outside i that they trust and that's your role as the director. They are constantly assessing their performance from the inside out. So the way the performance feels, so they might not be that in touch with how it's being perceived by other people. You, the director are looking from the outside in, and it's the kind of magical combination of those two things, the emotional experience that the actor is bringing and the objective experience that the director is seeing. You marry those two together. And then that's really where the magic happens. And as you can probably tell, I love the process of working with actors and I probably should do an entire class on just working with actors once my micro budget series is finished. So for now I'm going to stop talking about working with actors. I'm gonna move on to the other aspects of directing because it's a very multi-faceted job where you have to be thinking of a lot of different moving parts. Not just actors, even though they are one of the most important moving parts. Get to know your actors background, Get to know your collaborators, taste and films. Use the examples they give you as a tool to convey your ideas in a context they already understand and respect and always build confidence into your actors. 7. Working with Crew: As a micro budget filmmaker, you may be tempted to shoot your film on your own versus working with a crew. Well, I've built my own director portfolio, creating my own micro budget content. I've also been on many other film sets. I've acted and films, I've produced films for other directors. I've been the cinematographer on a couple of short films, was the assistant director on a music video. And I've even been a production assistant and a runner on larger productions just so I could be around people in the industry who had more experience than I did. I definitely encourage everyone watching to gain as much experience as they can onset, even if it's not in the capacity as a director, if you start feeling other different crew positions, the amount of knowledge that you're going to be able to get will only help you when it comes time to direct your own film. And you need to communicate with others who are in the positions that you once held. In making my own micro budget productions, I've often had to fill the roles of being my own assistant director, being my own cinematographers, script supervisor, producer, editor, and more. I firmly believe that you have to do whatever it takes to get your project made and the lack of having a crew shouldn't hold you back. But you've got to start somewhere. I firmly believe in learning through doing practice makes perfect, but in making films on my own, I've really learned my own weaknesses. And I truly believe that films are made better when the process is collaborative. If your self financing your own film, you may feel that you can't afford a crew. And if you're looking at the end credits, do a Hollywood film, you're right, you're not going to be able to afford a crew that big. But still, you need to know what all those positions are because you and your crew that you do have will be working overtime to fill all those job duties to make sure that the film you make is as of high-quality as possible. Personally, I think the bare minimum crew that you need to make a good film is three people. Use the director, cinematographer, and a sound recorder. I know some people who have made great films with even less, maybe a crew of two people maybe on their own. But I know from my experience that I feel I get the best results when I'm at least working with two other behind the scenes collaborators. My recipe for a three man crew is as follows. Your role as director is to work with actors, come up with camera angles and tell the DOP where to put endpoint the camera. Pay attention to continuity. Focus on the production design, costume, hair and makeup. Set the pace of the day to make sure you're on schedule. I'll be talking more about this later. I understand that everybody's strengths and weaknesses are completely different. And it's your job to be honest with yourself and ask yourself which positions am I able to tack on realistically to my director duties and which ones am I not? The cinematographers role is to follow your direction and set up the shot. You envision. You tell them where to put the camera and then let them set up the tripod, set up the lights, et cetera. It is especially important to delegate this job when you need to have time to rehearse with your actors on a big set. A cinematographer would work with an assistant, a gaffe, or to help with lights. Gaffers usually have assistance as well called best boys or sparks. Some DOPS don't even operate the camera. They worked with a camera person. The camera department on a big film could be huge. Obviously on the tightest of micro budget productions, the cinematographer, we'll be filling all of these roles. The sound person's role is simple, but essentially it's to record all the sound for the scene. And this includes using a boom mic and loved Mike's to attach to actors. And I'll be going more into detail on some sound in a later part of this class. Finding a crew is a lot like finding actors can go online on social media or on websites specifically designed to help you find crew like mandy.com. And there you can check out their reals in their portfolio to judge their ability. Once you're interested in some particular individuals, meet them in person and see if they're the type of person that you can get along with. Oftentimes working DOPS and other crew members are overloaded with working on corporate gigs and commercial work. And so if you bring them a narrative story that you're asking them to work on, that may be more interested just because it's more fun to work on or because they wanted to diversify their portfolio. However, unlike actors in my experience, very good crew members are much less likely to work for free or for a reduced rate. This is because they oftentimes come with their own arsenal of equipment that was very expensive for them to purchase. So they need to prioritize the paying gigs in order to be able to pay their own bills. And you'll need to respect that since you need equipment to make a film, hiring accrue that owns their own kit. Just makes sense. You'd be spending the money anyways on either renting or buying the equipment. So you may as well also hire the people who know how to get the best out of that equipment. It will definitely be cheaper than buying the equipment. And oftentimes it will be the same price as if you were just worked to rent the head Whitman. Take away. As a bare minimum, work with a three man crew. Director, cinematographer, sound recorder. 8. Terminology for Working with Camera Crew: Having confidence in someone else to handle the technical aspects of handling a camera is a complete load off while onset. A great DOP will take your vision and focus on all the little details to make sure your film looks professional. They'll focus on lighting, on framing, on frame rates, exposures, lens choices, the probably be very opinionated on what camera they want to shoot on. And the want to be involved in the final look of the film with color grading. Once you're in post-production. Not to say you don't need to understand all those technical aspects of filmmaking. But with my directing style, I've always found it to be my job to bring a broader vision versus micro-managing minutiae. If you're an experienced DO pave, the next few things that I'm going to teach are undoubtedly going to seem very, very basic. So this is more geared toward micro budget directors who are either self shooting for the first time or working with a DOP for the first time. Let's start by defining those aspects. I just mentioned. Lens choices. The lens is the piece of glass that allows the light into the camera. It's the cameras window so it can see and capture the scene you are performing in front of it. Different lenses have different focal lengths. A wide angle lens is essentially a wider window to capture more of the scene. And a telephoto lens is essentially a small window that can make a shot look like a close-up, even if the camera is far away. All lenses have a number of millimeter attached to them. The lower the number, the wider the lens. Framing. A frame is the corners of your cameras. Window. Framing is the placement and position of subjects in your shots. Shots are all about composition, much like a painting, rather than pointing the camera at the subject and just seeing what happens. You need to have a plan and compose a shot in an aesthetically interesting way. Frame rate film was created by a series of still images played quickly to give the illusion of movement. A frame rate is how many of those still images are taken per second. Exposure. Film is all about letting light in through the window of your camera lens. The exposure refers to the amount of light that you let in. If the camera lens is an eye, the exposure would be how wide that AI is opening lighting. This is just what it sounds like. It can involve natural lighting from the sun if you're shooting outside, it can include balance, which isn't a light, but rather a device to redirect light from the sun. And of course, there is a medley of different electrical lights and colored gels. Color grading. When the film is done, it will be coloured graded in post-production. This is where you can really put a specific cinematic look on the film. There are many, many, many other things that you can learn about the technical aspects of working with a camera. But for now, I'm just going to leave you with those basics. 9. Camera & Lens Choices: The first thing I'm gonna talk to you about is frame rate. Traditional film was recorded as 24 still frames played within 1 second to give the illusion of movement. The 24 frames per second aesthetic is one that is so heavily ingrained in cinema history that if you use anything else, it's likely to either seem like an amateur production or a soap opera with consumers started buying home video cameras, had a frame rate of 30 frames per second. And thus the aesthetic felt very, very different than going to watch a film. Today. Pretty much every camera that you work with is going to have at least those two options, 2430. Even if you're working on something like an iPhone, they're going to have those two options. Always make sure that you're shooting at 24 frames per second to make sure that you're achieving the most cinematic film look. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and uncertain higher end cameras you may want to shoot at a different frame rate, as long as it can then be transferred to 24 frames per second in post-production, if your goal is to sell your film of some international markets, require a frame rate other than 24 frames per second. So your cinematographer may advise you to shoot in a different frame rate. If that's the case, make sure you're having this conversation with your cinematographer. So at the end of the day, you will have at least a version of the film that is the most cinematic to match your vision. Now let's talk briefly about camera choices. You can shoot on everything from an iPhone to a cinema camera and like a red or a airy Alexa, cameras are constantly changing and amazing technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper. Rather than giving you my opinion on specific cameras, I'm gonna leave that as a conversation for you to have with your cinematographer or for you to do your own research online. Remember that the most expensive camera doesn't necessarily mean you're going to make a better film. Film is about creativity. It's about how you use that camera. So even an amazing camera can make a terrible film, and even a iPhone can make something that is amazing to watch. I'm going to break down cameras into three groups. Camera phones, DSLRs, and cinema cameras. At this point in my career, I always get my hands on a cinema camera. However, I do have experienced shooting on all three of those, I would recommend using a camera phone only if it's your only choice or if it works better for narrative reasons. For example, you're making a found footage horror film like Blair Witch. Yes, the phone is already in your pocket. Yes, there are some amazing apps out there that do their best to try to give you a cinematic look out of the phone. But in my experience, I've never been fully satisfied with my results coming from a camera phone. If you have some camera budget than a DSLR is a lot better. They come with detachable lenses, so you'll have much more versatility. A great lens can even elevate the quality of a lesser Canada. Even if a iPhone shoots and 4K and an old DSLR might not, I still would choose the DSLR because of that fact. And of course, if money isn't an issue, then cinema cameras are amazing. They're very complicated, which is why I always use a DOP when working with them. But the results that you get are night and day different in elevating your film from an amateur look to a professional look. Now let's talk about lens choices. If you're shooting on a camera that has a built-in lens, then you might not have very much versatility. However, they're even making little clip on lenses for iPhones these days. If working with a camera phone, be aware that zooming in via your camera app will degrade the quality of your image. So don't do that. If you need to get a close up. There are so many choices out there. But the truth is that you can make a film with only a single lens if you are so inclined. Ideally, I'd recommend shooting with three different types of lenses, a wide-angle lens, a mid-range lens, and a telephoto lens. If you're strapped for cash and you need to cut something that telephoto lens would be the first lens that I would cut because I typically use the least amount. Here's an example of what those three different lens types look like. Now, I didn't move the camera in any of these examples, all I did was keep the camera in the same spot and switch lenses. Not all lenses are created equal, but in my experience, prime cinema lenses have always delivered me my favorite results. A prime lens doesn't zoom in or out. It just has a single set focal length. And because of that, it's typically a higher quality because it doesn't have to deliver that diversity. Takeaways always use 24 frames per second for a frame rate. Cameras with detachable lenses are superior to those that aren't. And my idea LensKit would have three different focal lengths, a wide, a mid-range, and a telephoto. 10. Shot Framing & Composition Basics: In my preproduction class, I helped you create your shot list. So I'm going to assume that you've already done that. If you haven't, you know where to look in that class, I take a scene from one of my films and I dissect all the different shots I used to assemble that scene. Now I'd like to focus briefly on framing and composition. Now, similarly to my section on acting, I could probably teach an entire class on just how to direct the camera. But for the sake of this class, I'm just gonna leave it to some top-level tips. Of course, they are really endless options when setting up a shot, but good framing isn't just about finding the prettiest angle. You need to think about the big picture and how those shots will actually fit together once assembled in the editing bay. As an example, I'm going to take a scene for my short film, The last confession to illustrate a few points. Sorry m length. The traffic in front book at this time of year when trying to patients of a site or a father appears, I haven't died yet. It's very Duncan here. Should I draw the curtains? It's a lovely winter afternoon on there. Thank you. At least let me open the window. It's terribly stuffy. Do you want me to catch my desk of code? If you're hot, take off your jacket. I shot this film in a very classic way. I focused on performance and only moved the camera when absolutely needed. Which not only works within the style of the period drama, but it also makes the production extremely economical. Rather than focusing on a plethora of shots, I worked with my cinematographer to perfect a small handful of shots and kept the frame interesting with the performances. Notice how the characters are on opposite sides of the frame. The priest takes up the left side of the frame and the man in the bed takes up the right. Keeping this consistent throughout the film, even when you switch shots subliminally gives the audience and understanding of the space similar to watching actors on stage, the eyes of the audience bounce back and forth between the characters as they have a conversation left to right. Of course, this seems incredibly simple and basic, but you'd be surprised just how many micro budget filmmakers are. First-time filmmakers don't pay attention to these rules. Audiences are used to mainstream films using the same technique. So if you don't use it, it's very likely that the audience will pick up on that subconsciously, even if they don't understand why, they will start to feel like they're watching an amateur film rather than a professional film. Of course, you don't always have to follow this rule. You could use Center framing, for example, where the characters are always in the center of the frame. And this usually provides a more humorous look that you would find in something like a Wes Anderson film. Once you have an understanding of how audiences process visual information, then you can start to break some of these rules and have a bit of fun as long as you have a motive to do so. But the left and right character orientation for dialogue scenes is a simple and effective tool to start with. Now I'm gonna share two simple tricks that can help you with framing. The first is the rule of thirds. Think of your camera frame as a series of nine boxes, a grid like so. Now this grid has four lines that intersect at four different areas. Those intersections, or your sweet spots for action. Think about putting your character's eyes, mouth, et cetera, in those cross-sections of the frame. Typically that results in more interesting shots. Now there are a lot of videos out there about the rule of thirds. And I encourage you to dive deep into some of those other videos if you want to know more. But for the purposes of this class, it was more just a technique I wanted to make you aware of. The second thing is that 180 degree rule. Remember when I was talking about keeping characters consistently on the side of the frame, even if the shan't changes. Well, an easy way to do this is by following the 180 degree rule. Imagine there is a line drawn on the ground between your two subjects. If you always keep your camera placed on one side of that line, you're more likely to follow that rule. Again, I recommend that you go watch a full class dedicated to the 180 degree rule. And some of those classes will even give you creative ideas for when and how to break that rule effectively. Additionally, if you're looking for any book recommendations, the five C's of cinematography is a great book that I read when studying filmmaking. Being American, I decided not to go to film school now because I didn't think I wouldn't learn anything there, but because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in student debt. So what I did is I started doing research as to what film schools we're teaching as part of their curriculum. And I went and I bought some of those books. I read through those books myself and I started to understand some of those basics. So that's an economical way to give yourself the film school semi experience. One thing that I do feel that I missed out on by not going to film school was more the connections of other industry people that I met. However, there's a lot of interesting ways to network in the creative community. From film festivals, the film clubs, to an array of things that many of the major cities around the world offer. I think the important thing is to be a lifelong student and always progress and always grow. Even if you know a lot, you can always know more. But I don't have to preach to the choir here because you're here taking the class. So my takeaways are the rule of thirds, the 180 degree rule. Take charge of your own education. 11. The Psychology of Camera Choices: Now I'd like to show you a few clips from some of my films so I can illustrate how certain camera choices can affect the psychological state of your audience. Now many of the things that I'm about to illustrate are gonna seem very simple and thus very easy to steal. But I fully recommend that you steal any and all of these that you think would be useful within your own filmmaking? I did. These are all techniques that I stole from previous filmmakers before me. And they've worked great for me. Steal like an artist. I've heard it's temporary passengers on this spaceship. Nature will go on to recover without a soft.com. I aim to be a good asset account. One that doesn't set fighter ship causing it to seep. Enough apps, this timeline, life and life in the city. But this shot finishes off as part of the montage, which you'll shoot fundamentally different than a dialogue scene like the previous example. Since it's a montage, there's no need for continuity or following the 80 degree rule. It's just a bunch of random shots to show the passage of time and to build character. This of course, frees us up to be a lot more playful in terms of framing and in particular with camera movement. A lot of the shots in this sequence are what I'd call special shots. So shots that I wouldn't prioritize at the beginning of my shoot day because if the schedule got tight, there are quicker and easier ways to tell the story within these shots. The Gimbal shots or showy, but more than that, these shots tell a story. So remember story first. I believe that camera movement should always be motivated. So for me, my default shot is always a still shot, and I only choose to move the camera if I think I need to do so for emotional or narrative purposes, the shot I'd like to point out in the sequence is the Gimbal shot that spins around the lead character. The motion of the shot really immerses the audience into the world of the character. We see his reaction to living as a hermit in nature, that he is satisfied with this life. And then we reveal the nature that he is admiring. Immediately, we are thrust into the harsh juxtaposition of the city life, the character once led. It's the contrast of these two shots that makes it such a powerful psychological transition. In the first shot you have the beauty and the smooth motion not dimension, the beautiful score. And then in the next shot, it's handheld and choppy. And there's this terrible screeching sound. Camera motion has a psychological effect on audiences. So before you choose to move a camera, make sure you understand what psychological effects that motion will have on your audiences. And is it the psychological effect that you want them to have as a micro budget filmmaker who may need to cut corners, don't move the camera if you don't need to. Here's another clip from the same film, Samaritan, and I hope it translates when taken out of context. Sometimes the lack of movement creates tension for this scene, which is about a character sneaking out of the house. I wanted to keep the audience on the edge of their seat as to whether he would be caught or not in what is otherwise, I'm relatively fast paced film. This is the only sequence where the entire scene is one shot that lasts almost two minutes. The choice to play the scene this way builds anxiety within the audience. They want the Cambrian cut. They want time to go faster. They are nervous for the character and like him. They want to escape the room by not providing them that escape, you were building tension within that audience. Here's a third example amongst all this horror, he hinted it. One redeeming act. Tell me about it. Was September of 1944. Prisoners from Hungary had been brought here as always, prisoners, but schools into the change in rooms, they unaddressed preparation of a shattering and D Laozi wants the chamber was sealed. This would be introduced. How long did it take? 20 minutes until the screen cry died away. Husbands trembling or without wives, mothers standing on top of that children does on a commando tangle, jumbled pyramid of limb torsos. And this September morning started different. Now again, this is a very simple scene. What keeps it interesting is the sound effects and the performance is, did you notice the slow and almost unnoticeable zoom in? This really helps to draw in audiences. It tells them this is something they need to pay attention to. This is important. I wanted to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. So rather than waiting for them to lean closer, I chose to bring the character closer to them by zooming in subtly. Also noticed the reaction shots. These shots, which I will talk about more in my post-production class, really helped to tell the audience how they're supposed to feel about the scene they're watching. It gives them a reference point to relate to when the character is talking about something that is so clearly awful. It's like when someone starts laughing in a movie theatre, suddenly other people know it's okay to laugh the queue. And now, here's a fourth example. Now this scene is from an upcoming film of mine, so it's still a little rough around the edges. There has been no color grading on the scene and the sound hasn't been mixed properly. But I wanna show you what I'm doing here. Hey, I know anyway, okay, well, I was going to grab a bite to eat and I thought, well maybe we could. Gates and pretty tired, so I'm just gonna click on it. And I thought we could go through the presentation. You know, in the interview you seem to struggle to meet this trainings. You do. Mr. promotion? Why do I think of myself was above you or anything? Good? Is that yes. We didn't find or nightlife indicates what you need is a real real man stood in front of you and washing dishes down. This scene is about an invasion of personal space. Did I follow traditional framing rules? Well, yes and no, the characters do start by maintaining the sides of their frames. But as the male character aggressively invades the female characters space, I also have him invade the frame. He's invading the audience's space and making the audience field just as uncomfortable as he is making the heroine field. This is an example of how you can break framing and rules for a very specific psychological narrative reason. So my takeaways are, always move the camera with motivation, either emotional or narrative motivation. Understand what psychological effect your camera framing and motion will have. Know the rules before you break the rules. And don't break the rules without knowing why. 12. Director's Ear: Autofocus shots, continuity issues, et cetera, and how all of those things are mistakes. But the truth of the matter is, all of those mistakes are things that most audience members will either forgive or not even notice as compared to sound mistakes which are uniquely unforgivable in the mind of even amateur audiences. Well-captured dialogue, professionally mixed with sound effects, atmosphere, and music can turn a gritty, cheap film into a world-class film. That being said, you should not delegate sound to just some roommate who wants to get involved in your film, but doesn't know what they're doing. Capturing sound is an art form and when it's done right, it is an absolute godsend in post-production. At times, I've had to shoot my own films when I had budget limitations and couldn't hire a cinematographer. But the one thing I could never get around was a good sound guy. While I appreciate great sound, I know that capturing sound and editing sound is not my four tag. It's not my skill set. So I won't pretend to teach you something that I really don't feel qualified to do so. But as a director, it's absolutely key that you understand what to look for in a good sound person to make sure that they're doing their job and delivering the sound that you need for your film. So here's a few things you should be making sure that your sound person is doing. Obviously, it should go without saying that you need a proper microphone. Don't use the microphone on the camera itself. A good sound recordings will use an overhead boom, a love mike attached to actors, and maybe even additional mics placed around different areas of the room to capture multiple layers of audio for the scene so it can be mixed properly. The boom mic is getting as close to the subject, it's recording as possible. The boom mic should just be barely out of frame and its angle should be directly pointed at the action or the subjects mouth. If capturing dialogue, you want to record the highest quality natural sound onset as possible to avoid something called ADR. Adr is when you go into a studio after the film is made and ask the actors to lip-sync to their performance. It's a very difficult thing to get right, and it typically makes the performance, it seemed very fake. Also, make sure that your sound recorder capture something called room tone. Kelvin, three seconds. Room tone is the sound of silence in the particular atmosphere that you were filming. But it is never actually silent. It's the tiny buzz of the appliance, the nature, the birds, the wind, et cetera. It's the subtle low volume sounds that are always present in the background. So the takeaway is, get the mikes close. Use multiple mikes and capture room tone. 13. Pace of the Day: If you only walked away with a single piece of advice, it would be this. Perfecting. A single shot is never as important as walking away with a series of workable shots in order to piece together your scene. At the end of your shoot day, you want to be able to walk offset with confidence that you have everything shot in the can that you're gonna need to piece together your scene. If I've learned one thing about post-production is that oftentimes your favourite shots are the ones that end up on the cutting room floor. Why? Because in creating these shots too often we're focused on making them flashy so we can have something cool for our directors real, Maybe it's a gimble shot or maybe it's a drone shot. But in those instances, you're very often less likely focusing on moving your story forward. You're more just giving a texture to impress. And when something needs to go store, he's not gonna go. The unnecessary drone shot is going to go. If you can squeeze in a great dolly shot at the same time, we'll then more power to you. But oftentimes these shots end up being nonessential and they take so much longer to set up that if you focus on them, you could very easily get behind in your pace of the day and you could not walk away with the essential shots that you need to tell your story. All right, so the first shot of the day typically takes the longest. It takes ages to set up. And typically I start the day a little bit behind schedule, but no worries. I make up once I start getting into the flow of the day, typically, when you break for lunch, you're breaking that flow. So when you come back from lunch, there'll be a bit of a lol. So that's why I always try to pack in the most amount of shots that I can prior to lunch and make my afternoon a little easier on myself in terms of the amount of shots I'm trying to capture. Also, one of the most time-saving things that you can do is already thinking about how the scene is going to be edited together even before you shoot it. Too often, first-time or amateur directors don't know how they're actually going to piece the seam together. So they shoot a bunch of material that ends up on the cutting room floor. They might start shooting the entire scene wide when they only need the first five seconds of the scene wide to establish the space. It micro budget filmmaking, it's likely that you'll be the editor. So you can save an immense amount of time if you visualize the edit prior to filming and only shoot the shots, you know, you'll use. If you don't know how to structure a scene with editing, then the time to learn that skill is now before your onset. Analyze how other films have cut scenes together and use their structures as a blueprint. Once you understand the fundamentals of editing, then you can create your own structures and break those rules. Another time saving tool to help with the pace of the day is that of nonlinear shooting. What I mean by this is that some directors film a scene exactly how they envision it. If they know they want to start with a wide shot from the left side of the room. They will get that shot and then they'll move to the next shot, which is a medium from the right side of the room. And then they know they want to see a close up of the other character. So it'll be shot from the left side of the room and then keep bouncing back and forth how they see the scene taking place in their head. What you're trying to do onset is minimize camera setups and lighting set-ups. Every time you have to move the camera and move the lights, it's going to cost time. So shoot everything that you can from one side of the room. Even if that means going out of order in the script, that may mean that you're asking your actors to skip a portion of the scene, maybe filmed the opening, skip some lines from the end of the scene. And as long as you've done your rehearsal, professional actors know how to do that. They know where their arcs are within the scene and they can go in and out of those emotions as need be. Alright, so my takeaways are prioritized. Essential story shots over flashy trick shots. Reserve non-essential trick shots for the end of the day in case you run behind and need to cut your shortlist, plan for your first shot of the day to take the longest, expect a Lowell after lunch, and then save time onset by understanding how you plan to edit the film before you shoot it. And by shooting everything from one side of the room before moving on, even if that means shooting out of order. 14. Atmosphere On Set: It's long been accepted in the film industry that the atmosphere's onset are very stressful. But I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be. If you can foster an environment onset that is fast-paced, productive, positive, encouraging, and fun, then collaborators will cling to you. Starting out, it's likely that you'll be doing a lot of work with a lot of people who are working for free or cheap simply to build their portfolios. So if you're not pleasant to work with, you are not going to get these people back to work on your projects. And what I found is typically when the time comes to get a paying gig, your gateway into that paying gig is through those relationships that you foster onset during portfolio building. And if you're not pleasant to work with when the paying gain comes along, you're not gonna get the call. As a director, you are responsible for setting the tone on set. Some directors choose to play music in between takes so everybody's having fun and they can chill out. Other directors choose to stay very, very focused and make sure everybody is not distracted so they can stay in the zone. The decisions really up to you, regardless of your approach, one important element is directorial confidence. Always exude confidence onset, regardless if you feel confident internally or not. There's nothing worse than a crew that can smell that their director doesn't have a vision. In the absence of that vision, though likely start to overstep with more suggestions. There's likely to be more power plays. Crew members might try to be the director that you are not, and they might butt heads and the entire production can quickly spiral the creative hierarchy with a director on top is there for a reason. And it's likely with a micro budget production that you will also be the producer. The industry. Oftentimes the producer is the absolute hierarchy, even though the director has the creative control over the project. That's not to say don't take any suggestions, just be prepared to lead, have a plan. And when your plan isn't working, be confident in the plan that you switch to, rather than letting that insecurity pull the year entire shoot day apart. Another important aspect to maintaining good atmosphere on set is balancing breaks while under tight constraints when passions run high and people are excited to be working on a creative project, it's common for people to forget about food. I mean, if it was up to me on a shoot day, I probably wouldn't eat anything. Previously. I mentioned two of the three areas that were the most important to prioritize in terms of budget. Actors sound. And now I'll add a third food. If you were pulling favors with people's rates, you can not skimp on your food budget. Good food makes the cast and crew feel very appreciated for their very hard work. And I'm not just talking about meals, I'm talking about having available snacks and drinks onset as well. Ideally, it would be great if you could get someone to focus solely on food so you can focus on, on the creative stuff, but isn't always the case. There's plenty of times I've shot the entire day and then cook the pasta dinner for everybody wants to shoot day was done. You gotta do what you gotta do. So my takeaway for this one is simple. It's just be other-centered, not an egomaniac. 15. Back Up Your Footage... NOW!: Alright, so I edit all my own films and in my next part of the micro budget series class, I will be teaching you about my editing process. So the thing that you need to edit a film is of course, your footage. Depending on how you're capturing footage, it's probably a good idea to schedule multiple breaks throughout the day to transfer that footage to multiple hard drives to make sure you're backing it up and you don't lose anything. A big Hollywood set, there's a person whose sole job it is to be a data wrangler and to transfer footage to hard drives. Now on a micro budget set, this is either going to be yourself or maybe you're DOP. If you have enough space to capture all of the footage onto Maybe one SD card or whatever you're filming on without having to do dumps during the day. Always make sure that you are dumping footage at the end of the day. The last thing you wanna do is to feel confident in the little SD card and then forget about it. And then when you go to edit your film, you realize something's happened to it. I've lost footage on occasion before, and it is not a good position to be in. Transfer your footage on your hard drive immediately and always backup the footage on a second hard drive, then send that second hard drive home with someone else. So they aren't stored in the same place. Also don't be lazy in transferring audio to the same hard drives. Transferring footage can take hours sometimes, but audio takes a matter of minutes. So always make sure all of your pieces are on the hard drive to separate hard drives, separate places. 16. Conclusion: Thanks for watching. I really hope that you found this class useful when it comes to filmmaking. You could go on and on because it's such a complex process. But I hope that my unique process is at least enough of an overview to get us started and to inspire you to just go out there and make your film regardless of the limited resources that you have. Once my five-part micro budget series is available online, I'll probably start creating more classes that delve into certain minutia of production. So keep an eye out for those. If you found this class helpful, please consider writing a review for it so others can find it. And I promised not to take too long before creating my next part of the series and putting that online, which is going to be on post-production. So if you're watching this class and it's been a couple of months since I first posted it. You might want to look around in that class, might be available. Now, if not, it's coming soon. Thanks for watching.