Using ONLY Aputure Lights to Make a Film

The final two shots in our short film The Asylum Groove were inspired by this piece of art which we randomly found online when looking for inspiration for this film.

In this video we are going to talk about the setup and how we lit those two shots.

Both shots were filmed in the same location as the first scene of the film. The location was 16.2 by 7.5 meters and had 6 windows which were 1.2 by 3.2 meters high.

To start, we positioned the electric chair in the spot we wanted and screwed it to the floor. Our actor would be strapped into the chair and wouldn’t be able to get out without assistance.

For his performance, we wanted him to to try and force his way out. Screwing it to the floor meant the chair would not tip over.

To make it as comfortable as possible for our actor, we made some soft straps for his wrists and ankles so he could pull as much as he liked and he would not be hurt.

Having so much natural light coming through the windows worked great for all of the other shots in the film, but for these two shots, we needed it to be completely dark.

Unfortunately, we could not shoot the scene at night as we could not get access to the location later in the day, so we shot it during the day. We made the location as dark as possible in two ways.

The location was a old school hall which had a lighting rig built in and had large blackout curtains. The curtains had been damaged over time and did not cover all of the windows, but it was a good start. We also used some of the curtains to block out the entire background for both shots.

Next we used the law of physics and something called inverse square law, let me explain.

The closer your light is to the subject, the brighter it will be, and the fall off will be harsher. The further away your light is from the subject, it decreases in brightness and the fall off is a lot more even.

The sunlight coming through the windows was further away our key light, which was about 1 meter away from our subject.

When we correctly exposed the camera for the closest and brightest light, this made all over light darker.

We have linked to an article from Petapixel and a video from a youtube channel called Wolfcrow which goes into a lot more detail about the inverse square law if you want to check it out.

For the shot we hung an Aputure 300d from the lighting rig that was all ready in the room. We did this by using a rail clamp which was attached to the bars of the rig. Attached to that was a C-Stand arm so we could bring the light further down, getting it about a meter away from our subject, and it also meant we could easily adjust the angle if needed.

We also attached a safety harness to the light just encase the clamp decided to fail. You can never be to careful.

One advantage of using the Aputure lights was the remote it came with which lets you wireless control the brightest and switch the light on and off.

As the light was up high, having the remote meant we didn't have to get the ladder back out to adjust it, which saved us a lot of time on set.

One of the main reasons we rented the Aputure 300d was because you can attach different mounts to the front of the light creating many different types of light sources.

For the first part of the film we used the space light attachment which we spoke about more in last week’s video.

For this shot, we attached a Fresnel lens which helps to focus and create a beam of light. The light was set at 75% brightness, angled just in front of our actor Chris, creating dark shadows on his face.

Before we filmed the shot we got someone to stand in for Chris, so our 1st AC Rob could get focus marks with the PD Movie Wireless Follow focus we were using.

It’s best to do these technical things with a stand-in. That way your actors aren’t standing around in front of lights all day as well as giving a performance.

We had to film this shot a couple of times because we had some technical issues with the straps not being tight about, causing it to fall of Chris’s head during the take.

One decision we made early one was avoid giving our actor an eye light for this shot. This was because we wanted his eyes to look dark and dead, unlike the previous scene where it was very light. In retrospect, this is actually something we would like to change because you can't read his reaction as well because you can’t see his eyes.

The last shot of the film was this one.

Taking inspiration from other films

We took the inspiration for this shot from this image we found online. We knew straight away this is how we wanted the film to end with the reflection of people watching him from the observation room.

So we built an observation room. We randomly had access to a window which was big enough and mounted onto a stand which was already in the room. Then we built a blanket fort around the window with the help of the blackout curtains, c-stands, more blackout material and lots of clips.

Now we had a room which was facing the chair and was completely blacked out all the way around, apart from the window. We did this to help emphasise the reflection of the people. By blocking out the background, this meant we would only get their reflection and nothing else.

To achieve the reflection of the people in the window we used an Aputure 300d with a space light and set it to 100% brightness which is around a 2k light. This was placed outside the fort, shining through the window, as we could not fit it in side.

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Then we boomed an LED panel into the fort as the main key light for Emily who was playing the woman’s hand in the film. For Ed, who was playing the executioner, we had an Aputure M9 light just to bring him up a little.

We are not sponsored by Aputure - we just really like their lights.

One thing we learned from this shot was just the sheer amount of light you need to add in order to achieve a bright enough reflection to see the subjects.

Another thing we decided early on which helped seeing them in the reflection was dressing them in white. And because I was in the fort operating the camera, I made sure to wear black to avoid being picked up by the camera.

With the camera being in the fort on a slider, the reflection was so strong we could see it in the window. So to combat this, any part of the camera that reflected light, was gaff taped up and it solved the problem.

The final part of the shot were the curtains falling which was achieved by clipping blackout material to the outside of the window and having two people let go on action.

These two shots did take around 4 hours to setup and the footage in total lasts for about 40 seconds, but we think it was totally worth it and without the crew, it wouldn’t be possible so big thanks to them.


Equipment Used

🎥 This episode's kit/gear/equipment:

🇺🇸 US links: 

Aputure 300D - https://amzn.to/2L7JZI2
Aputure Space Light - https://amzn.to/2NK8QA8
Aputure Fresnel Mount - https://amzn.to/2mfuOhD

🇬🇧 UK links:

Aputure 300D - https://amzn.to/2L8CnSe
Aputure Space Light - https://amzn.to/2Lctas0
Aputure Fresnel Mount - https://amzn.to/2LcLaCL

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Making a £8000 film for £500

Short films cost money to make, but how much money do they cost?

In this video we are going to break down how much it cost to make our short film The Asylum Groove. If you haven't seen the short film yet you can find it here.

The film is just over 3 minutes long, we shot it over 2 days, and had a crew size of 9.

We are going to break down the cost of the film into a few different areas. First will be the things we spent money on like equipment rentals, props and costume. Second will be the cost of the equipment we already owned or borrowed from other people, and finally the cost of people's time.

Set - £35.09

The location we used for the film we were able to get for free, but we did spend money on dressing the set to help tell the story. We created the Bedsville Disco sign, pinned up balloons, bought and weathered the record player and added signs to the doors.

Costume - £52.98

The main cost for the costume was from the scrub set and also the elbow and knee pads which our actor wore during the tripping shots. We also bought the dust rags which hung out of the character pockets and we also bought a bow tie for the executioner to wear.

Props - £71.94

Props that we had to buy for the film were the mop heads, wood to build the chair, the head sponge and chair straps.

Music - £23.99

The music for this film was such an important part in the film, it helps to set the tone and mood. We started off with about 20 tracks we found on various different sites, but settled on this one from audio network.

Food - £27.61

Feeding your cast and crew is super important and if it is the only thing you spend money on do it.

Travel - £30.00

We didn’t want any of our cast and crew to be out of pocket travelling to and from the location.

Equipment Rented - £242.39

For this film we had to rent 3 Aputure 300d lights as we did not have any lights that would be suitable for the production.

Total cash spent was £484

The total cost to make this film was £484 which is actually £24 more than it cost to make our last short film Backstage.

The equipment we used to shoot the film was equipment we have been building up for the past 6 years, and it is the same equipment we use on a day to day basis to make these videos. If someone wanted to go out and shoot this film on the same equipment we used, we have worked out it would cost around £4,850. Now making the total cost of the film £5,334.

This total cost only includes the equipment we owned. Rob our first assistant camera and Opie the second assistant camera both brought their own kit which we used. This included C-Stands, tripods, a steadicam and many other pieces of equipment and lots of tape. We have worked with them a number of times and they bring what they think we need to make the production the best it can be.

To put a value on this equipment we have said it would cost about £500 to rent the equipment that we did not already own. Now making the total cost for the film £5,834.

But that’s not everything, what about people's time? For everyone who worked on the film they did it in kind. Hopefully one day we will have the budget to pay everyone, but we have estimated if we paid everyone a standard filmmaker’s rate in North East England, the total cost of the film would be £7,834.

This is a scary number to us and is something we simply can’t afford.

This film would have been impossible to make at that cost, but getting to know people over time who want to help, building up your equipment little by little, and making sure you cater for everyone who works on your film, then it makes it possible to make a film for £484.

You don’t need all of the equipment we used to make a film, not all of the time anyway. We shot our short film Corpse on a Canon 550D with a 24-105mm lens, and on the same shoulder rig we used to shoot this film and we still think that film looks good.

Go out there and make films on whatever equipment you have, and we hope this video has helped people understand how much it can cost to make a short. It is something we did not know until we started to make bigger films.

Let us know in the comments about your experiences of making short films and the things you’ve spent money on to make your films better, give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down if you liked or disliked this video, hit the orange lens cap to subscribe, and remember achieve it one shot at a time.


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Using Inspiration to Light Your Film

In this video we are going to breakdown the process of using inspiration from other films to help you light your short film.

We did this same process to light our short film The Asylum Groove and If you haven't seen it yet you can find it here.

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First of all, you want to look for inspiration. Our short is set loosely in the 70s and in an Asylum, a film we took a lot of inspiration from was One flew over the cuckoo's nest. You can see this in the costume our main character is wearing. We have a video about that HERE.

You can create a moodboard of images which have a similar look to the film you want to make. We took inspiration from films and others were pieces of art we found online. This image of Gene Kelly in Thousands Cheer from 1943 inspired this shot, and this image inspired us to create the final shot in the film.

We are going to be talking about how we set up this shot in next week’s video. So if you haven't already consider subscribing.

Example images allow you to focus your attention and dial in the look of the film, so you can start to work out how to light it, the design of your costumes, and how you would like your location to look.

Now you have this inspiration you can start to make the creative choices which will make it your own.

The location we had for our film was an old assembly hall which had large windows that let in a lot of natural light.

This laid down the groundwork for how we were going to light the film and we wanted to embrace the natural light coming into the room.

It’s not always possible but if you can get into the location before the shoot and do some camera tests it will allow you to work out how you can light your film.

One of the main creative choices we made was to shoot at F8. The was because we wanted to show the detail of the location, as it was already old and grimy which suited the look of the film.

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This was another decision we made after looking at the reference images from films like Thousands Cheer and one flew over the cuckoo's nest both which have a deep focus.

Shooting at F8 also helped us prevent blowing out the window light, which again allows for the audience to see how old and grimy the location is.

One problem we had shooting at F8 was that our subject was underexposed, so we did a camera test. We placed our subject in the middle of the room with the window behind them on a bright sunny day, which would harshest lighting conditions we would encounter on the shooting day.

By using a light meter it told us if we wanted to expose the outside correctly we would have to shoot at a F-Stop of F16, and if we wanted to expose our subject correctly we would have to shoot at a F-Stop of F5.6. This was a 3 stop difference or a ratio of 8 to 1.

To get a little more dynamic range we decided to shoot in Cine 4 which would give us a little more information to work with in post.

With all of this information we worked out the lights we own would not be powerful and reliable enough to light the scene.

So we rented 3 Aputure 300d’s. These lights are rated to be the equivalent of a 2k light and are set at 5500K, this meant we did not have to gel the lights with CTB as they already matched the colour temperature of daylight.

One of the most versatile aspects of these lights is the bowens mount attachment which is on the front of the light. The light comes with a reflector cone, but you can also attach a Fresnel which we used for this shot.

The main attachment we used was a space light which essentially works the same way a china lantern.

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The original idea was to take advantage of the lighting rig we had in the room and hang the lights from there. We soon realised we would need to move the lights a lot more than we planned during the shoot.

Moving the lights helped to keep the exposure consistent and bring the lights closer to our actor, but still allow our actor to be able to move freely throughout the room.

So we put the lights on high up on stands and angled them downwards so the space light could hang down and spread the light evenly. We positioned the lights in front on the windows so the light would come from the same direction of the day light.

Now the light was evenly spread, it brought the exposure up in the room and created enough light so our subject was correctly exposed.

Everything at this point was very even, so to add a little contrast, the space light kit comes with flags which can be clipped onto the space light. We used them to block the light from hitting the background, therefore creating contrast between the subject and background which helps make him pop on screen.

Throughout the shoot we either moved the lights closer to the actor, or dimmed them down to get the correct exposure. The Aperture lights come with a remote which allows you to control each light from the one remote, meaning you can dim or turn off a light wirelessly.

The lighting setup we used on the film was super versatile, we could move the lights where ever we needed them, and they gave off a lot of soft light. Being so flexible allowed each setup to be setup quickly and save time on set, which was important as we shot this film in a day and a half.  

Taking inspiration from other films and art work really inspired us when lighting this film, and it can do the same for you. Find images that closely represent how you would like your film to look, and use them to drive your creativity to create new images.  


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Tips for Casting your First Actor

As zero budget filmmakers we find ourselves taking on a lot of roles, one of them being the casting director.

Today we are going to talk about some things YOU can do to advertise your film to talent, and what to look for in an actor. 

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Facebook is a good place to start. Ask your friends, ask your family, join filmmaking groups, and let everyone know you are casting your movie.

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If you have any filmmaking friends, avoid tagging them all in a single post. Give them a text or a call and personally ask them if they know of any actors who would be suitable for your film. They will be a lot more likely to help you if you go to them directly.

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You can use advertisement boards such as Craigslist, Gumtree, and casting websites like StarNow and Mandy. We’ve used these in the past and can work well.

One mistake you can make is not wanting to release the whole script; either because you are afraid someone will steal it, or you will give away spoilers, but try not to worry about this.

Release your script and let the actors read the whole thing. Don’t be precious about it, it’s only a short film, and you never know, that actor who wasn’t too sure about the project might finish the script and beg to be involved.

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So now you have interest in your film. You’ve set up some auditions. What do you do now?

There are 2 methods we’ve used for auditions; reading for a character in a scene, and performing a monologue. Both work well and can be used for different types of projects.

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If you have a lot of cast members and a lot of actors coming in for auditions, you might want to go with reading for a character. This way you can see a lot of actors doing the same thing and then make your mind up about the ideal person to play that role.

It’s worth filming each audition too. This way you can review them in more detail later.

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But if you have very little dialogue in your film, this method might not be the best one to use.

This is where the monologue comes in, and this was our choice when we were casting for The Asylum Groove because the film had very little dialogue.

Some of you might be asking “well why don’t you get them to perform the actions in the script?”.

This is all fair and good, but dancing around with a mop wasn’t the skill we needed for the performance because we WANTED the dancing to be rusty, so this wasn’t all that important. We were looking for the ability to express fine detailed emotions and the ability to take redirection.

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Adapting to redirection is one of the most vital skills you should be looking for in an actor and you can use monologues as a way to discover this in an actor during an audition.

Firstly, ask the actor to provide a monologue from a film which they think best mirrors the character in the script. This, initially, has them thinking about the script and how they perceive the story. If they show you that they understand the script, you are a step closer to casting the perfect actor.

During the audition, ask them to perform the monologue they’ve rehearsed. This is a great basis for someone’s acting ability. You can see their emotions, nuances, and range.

Then discuss the character in your film; their motivations, their traits, and their backstory.

With what you’ve discussed in mind, ask the actor to perform the same monologue from the perspective of the character in the script.

Holding the audition this way showed US several vital skills: the challenge of redirection and whether they would be able to change up their monologue, and their ability to think about the character, their traits, and how they would portray them.

If, after some redirection, the actors perform the monologue the same way, this is a sign that they might have rehearsed their monologue to concrete and aren’t able to change and mold to the direction given.

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This is a big warning sign to NOT go with this person because if they can’t be redirected in the audition, they might not listen to your direction during the shoot and not give you what you need for the character.


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5 Different Camera Rigs in 1 for $500

As an indie filmmaker we are always looking for equipment that has a good level of price to quality ratio. We have gone out and bought cheap equipment that works at first, but the quality doesn’t last.

For a few years now, anytime we’ve needed shoulder rig parts like rails, handles, or little mounts so we can add more accessories on to our rig, we have been using a company called SmallRig.

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They have found that sweet spot between quality and price.

SmallRig did send us over half of the equipment we will be talking about in this video, but the other half, we purchased ourselves over the last few years.

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Let’s start off with a bare bones setup. For most small cameras you can now get cages and from SmallRig we have a Sony a7s Mark 1 cage. [No. 2010]

We have reviewed other cages for the Sony A7s which you can find here:

This cage is one unit and you don’t have to disassemble the cage to take the camera out of it. You simply just place the camera in and screw it in from the bottom.

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Compared to the other cages we have used for the a7s, this one has a lot of room around the buttons and nothing is hidden behind any parts of the cage, so you can easily get access to them.

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It has 3 cold shoe connections so you can mount loads of accessories, and an HDMI clamp which is adjustable to fit different sized HDMI cables depending on which size you have.

You can also get a top handle for the cage. The one we have has loads of screw mounts so you can attach more accessories, but SmallRig have other top handles to choose from which also work with this cage.

The cage also has a Rosette connection which is built into the side. You can get many Rosette accessories, but the one we like the most is the wooden handle [1941] and it’s not just because it looks cool.

When going handheld, the grip is really comfortable, and it gets your hands away from the lens which prevents micro jitters.

If you’re not a fan of the wooden handle, you can also get a rubber handle like this one. [1963]

By having a Rosette connection on the side instead of a standard screw, it allows you to put a lot more pressure and tension on the handle and it won’t slip because of the small grooves of the Rosette.

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You can also get a bunch of other cages for other cameras from SmallRig, if you want to check them out for the camera you have.

This is the setup we would use most days, but when we are shooting a film we would set up the camera like this.

We will go into more detail about the other pieces of camera equipment we used to shoot our short film in a future video, so if you haven't already consider subscribing, but for now let's talk about how the SmallRig components have helped build this rig.

To be able to add more equipment to the camera, we added a rail mount system to the bottom. You can get a Manfrotto SmallRig baseplate to make this a little easier, but we already had this 15mm Rod Riser Clamp [1408]

This is the setup: we have a Manfrotto plate screwed into the Riser Clamp, which is screwed into the bottom of a Manfrotto release plate, then the camera slides on to this release plate.

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Then you can add 15mm rods to the riser and add a follow focus, a battery, or even a monitor by using this little clamp [843].

By setting up the camera this way, you can take the camera off the tripod with the rail mount attached, or you can release it from the tripod plate and leave the rail system behind.

This comes in handy if you just need to quickly pick up the camera and grab a shot without all of the other pieces of equipment attached.

This setup works well on a tripod, but where the SmallRig components really come in handy is when you are building a shoulder rig.

If you are trying to work out which components you need for your rig, go on the SmallRig website, look at what they have, and draw a couple of diagrams which has all of the components you are thinking to buy.

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By doing this, you can see which parts connect to other parts and work out what you need to build you rig.

The next setup we have is our shoulder rig setup. We swapped out the 15mm rods for longer ones so we could attach a shoulder pad [1483] and this cross front handle kit which has two rubber handles [998].

We have the camera as far back as possible so the weight is more on the shoulder and not front heavy. We can still see what we are shooting by using the same rod clamp as before to mount our monitor further forward with a Articulating Arm, [2066] so we can adjust the angle of the monitor with ease.

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We add all of the other pieces of camera equipment and we have this.

The wooden handle is not really needed on the cage so instead of using the cross front handle kit, you could get this Rosette to rod clamp so you can attach the wooden handle to the 15mm rods.

By only using the few parts we have, we’ve managed to build many different setups which work in different situations.

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You can get this Rosette extension arm so the rig handles are not straight in front but down by your side which is a lot more comfortable and it means you can tuck in your elbows creating steadier shots.

The cross front handle kit can be setup as a fig rig by turning the handles upside down and mounting them next to the camera.

All of the components from SmallRig are built out of metal; the nobs tighten well, and they are built with a ratchet system. So if you can not turn the nob any further, because something is in the way, you just need to pull it out, turn, and tighten.

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Like I said at the start of the video, SmallRig have a great price to quality ratio and they have lots of products that solve problems you didn’t even know you had.


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How to Give Your Shots Reason

The shots YOU use in your film aren’t just there to look fancy. Your shots convey the story on screen, and by giving your shots REASON and MOTIVATION, you can get a step closer to achieving the film look.

We’re breaking down how we applied reason and motivation to the shots in our latest film The Asylum Groove, you can watch it right here:

One thing we wanted to do with The Asylum Groove was give the camera characteristics. This way we could apply reason and motivation to every shot and try to tell the story as if the camera was alive.

So we thought of the camera as a really curious child. They have stumbled into an intriguing situation and throughout the scene they will want to learn more.

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This curious child will be trying to soak up all the important information in the scene and will be giving it back to the audience as entertainment.

Our character Sam has decided to lift his mop and dance to the music. But the camera stays in place. Our reasoning for this movement, or lack of movement, is because his dancing starts very suddenly.

The camera, AKA the curious child, is surprised by what is happening. They stay still and watch as they try to figure out this new piece of information. Sam dances backwards, distancing himself from the curious child. So what does the camera want to do? Get closer.

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Then we cut to a close up of the character. This is needed to clearly see the new expression of love and compassion on his face, a key emotional beat in the sequence. It is motivated by the curious child wanting to find out more about our character.

As humans we tend to read people’s facial expressions, so when there isn’t a lot of BIG information in the scene, we read the MICRO information.

The next big camera move compliments the two previous shots.

This time the curious child knows the character is about to resume dancing. The camera is intrigued and is now invested in the situation. The next shot cuts t o a wide, but this time the curious child follows along with the movement of the character and physically moves forward in order to get another look on his face.

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All of the shots in the Asylum Groove follow this process of the curious child. You can make your shots even more interesting by thinking of the child as someone who doesn’t always tell the truth and doesn’t always want to tell you everything straight away.

The entire beginning sequence of the film is shot with close up inserts, mostly of details, hinting story elements without outright displaying them. In this case, the curious child has joined the scene BEFORE the audience and is slowly giving clues, teasing the audience with small chunks of information.

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At the end, when we find out Sam is being electrocuted, the camera is confused. The curious child has just been transported to this new scene all of a sudden, so they are initially looking around their environment to figure out what is going on.

Once the camera understands the situation, and is faced with our character Sam RAGING on screen, it distances itself from him and the disturbing scene, pulling back, and ending in a wide shot.

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Your shots should have a place in the story. Instead of just shooting coverage, try to find the emotional or dramatic beats in the scene and bring the audience along for the journey - after all, the curious child is dictating what the audience can see. If the camera isn’t interested in the scene, why should the audience even pay attention?


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Making of: The Asylum Groove Part 3 | Behind The Scenes

This is part one of the making of our short film The Asylum Groove. Let us know in the comments below if you see anything in the behind the scenes which you would like to more about. 

Part 1 - https://youtu.be/mSbNZNrZHdg
Part 2 - https://youtu.be/-zSvTmWIZP4


🎬 In case you missed it

The Asylum Groove - Short Film - https://youtu.be/aysGfZyQEiM


DISCLAIMERS:

Some of these links are affiliate links, if you purchase gear via these links The Film Look will receive a small commission, but there will be no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Stop Making Films by Yourself

Taking on multiple filmmaking roles is a great way to find out which areas you want to pursue. But there comes a time when you MUST give some of the key jobs to others if you want to make the best film possible.

We’ve made films were we’ve had a crew of 10 and we’ve made films where we had a crew of 2. On the barebones projects, this meant we were taking the role of: writer, director, camera operator, 1st AC, AD, sound recordist, and we were also the costume & props department.

Taking on all of these roles is great because you get to gain experience in different areas and it can help you work out which areas of filmmaking you want to pursue.

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The downside to multi-role projects is that you can’t give 100% of your time and energy to one role. If you’re the camera operator and director, you’ll spend half your time setting up the shot while the actors stand around, then spend the other half directing the performance while the crew stands around.

All of these roles are actually super fun and sometimes at the beginning you NEED to take on these roles just to get your film finished.

But spreading yourself too thin can make the film suffer. For our short film Keep the Change, I was camera operator and 1st AC, Rich was the sound recordist and we both directed when we got the chance.

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Directing is one of the areas of filmmaking we are the most passionate about, but because we were doing many other roles, the project suffered.

To help combat this, we started collaborating with more filmmakers.

We built up this small crew of filmmakers over the past few of years by attending local filmmaking networking groups, working on other people’s short films to get to know them, and looking at filmmaking Facebook pages to see if there was anyone in our local area making films.

At first, there was 2 of us, then 3, 4, 5, and on our latest short, The Asylum Groove, we had a core crew of 10. This is still a very small crew but it allowed everyone take on roles we were all passionate about, and it gave everyone a specific department and responsibility on set, which meant NO waiting around and wasting time.

I operated the camera, The other Rob was 1st AC and focus puller, Adam was the 2nd AC and clapper loader, and both Rob and Adam provided their invaluable grip skills.

For us, this still feels like a luxury, but we could see the benefit of having a larger camera department straight away.

At no point did I have to step away to do a different job. I concentrated on the image; the lighting, framing, and camera movement. Having the other Rob pull focus meant it was nailed every time, and having Adam set up the marks and frame edges meant we did very little technical retakes.

With me being on camera, Richard could concentrate on just directing. He could spend more time with our actor Chris, dialing in the different emotions he needed to feel at different points of the shoot.

If you’ve wrote a script and plan on directing the film, maybe think about getting someone else to shoot it.

You know the story more than anyone else, you know when each character needs to hit different emotional beats, so why not give your full attention to the performance?

Getting someone else to shoot your film is a big role to give away. If you know someone who can shoot, you can work closely with them in pre-production and plan how you would like the film to look. Onset you will both be working from the same plan and share a stronger collaborative vision.

For The Asylum Groove, we still had to double up roles. Emily, the producer, was also the 1st assistant director, and she even had a cameo at the end of the film. During takes, Rich held the reflector when we needed more light, Jack shot BTS but also recorded sound for the last two shots.

The people who help you make your film don’t all need to be experienced filmmakers. An extra pair of hands on set is a massive bonus, and there are roles such as boom operating, grip assistance, and being the reflector-holder which contribute so much to a film and don’t take a lot of practice to become sufficient.

When collaborating with other filmmakers, find out which areas they are most interested in. Take advantage of their knowledge and passion. From our experience, they are usually more skilled in a certain area than we are.

Don’t let having a small crew stop you from making your film, do whatever you can to make it, you might have a wicked time making it anyway. If you struggle through the process and things don’t come out as planned, at least you still went out there, made something, made mistakes and learned new skills. You can take all of the lessons you learn and apply them on your next film.

In the comments below let us know about your experiences of making short films and how other people have made them better. Also, if you haven't already hit the orange lens cap to subscribe, check out our short film here and remember to achieve it one shot at a time.


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Making of: The Asylum Groove Part 2 | Behind The Scenes

This is part one of the making of our short film The Asylum Groove. Let us know in the comments below if you see anything in the behind the scenes which you would like to more about. 

Part 1 - https://youtu.be/mSbNZNrZHdg


🎬 In case you missed it

The Asylum Groove - Short Film - https://youtu.be/aysGfZyQEiM


DISCLAIMERS:

Some of these links are affiliate links, if you purchase gear via these links The Film Look will receive a small commission, but there will be no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Get The Film Look with Art Direction

If there is one aspect of zero budget filmmaking that gets overlooked more than any other, I feel it’s art direction and production design.

I’m talking about costumes, set dressing, props, graphics; the things that give a movie life. These are things which contribute towards achieving the film look and will give your film a convincing visual identity and will embed it into your make-believe world. But art direction also serves a bigger purpose than just making your film look cinematic.

Today we are going to talk about how YOU can use art direction to help tell a better story by giving the audience visual clues on screen. 

Today we are taking lessons we learned from shooting our latest short The Asylum Groove.

We were challenged to make a film with only a single word of dialogue.

With this in mind, we knew we would want to take advantage of cinema’s visual medium and use art direction to help tell the story, expose the universe, and give the audience clues as to when and where the film is set.

There are three main groups of art direction for a zero budget movie: You’ve got costume design, set design, and props. They all contribute something in their own way but all come together to create a fully fledged world.

First, lets cover costume.

The costume of your character, and the way they wear that costume, is a visual representation of their characteristics and their situation in the film. You can tell a lot about a character by the way they dress.

For The Asylum Groove, we wanted to use the costume as a way to give the audience the character’s backstory and to help him pop on screen, so we designed it in a few different ways.

Firstly, ill-fitting white scrubs. Yes, this costume is also worn by a doctor, nurse, or a surgeon, but by making them worn, unironed, and stamped with a registration number, it would help give the impression that the scrubs are a mass produced, unkempt, mandatory uniform.

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The creases and weathering also gives the costume some texture on screen, and as the scrubs are the brightest colour on screen, it also helps the character stand out from the background.

Costume design seems to work best when you give your costume a history or backstory. Most people don’t wear clothes that they’ve literally just bought that day, so think about your character, the types of clothes they would wear, and how long they have been wearing them before the moment the film begins.

The scrubs weren’t the only costume detail we added. His blue shirt underneath was to give the impression that he still retains some independence by wearing his own clothes underneath. This design also pays massive homage to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which this film is heavily inspired by.

We gave him cheap slippers which instantly negate any question that he might be a janitor or caretaker. The slippers also represent comfort and a relaxed attitude, so clearly he lives or stays in this location for a long period of time.

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The last detail are the rags hanging from his waist and pocket. We included these for a few reasons. Firstly, it shows he’s cleaning. Secondly, having something long and hanging down helps compliment the energy of him dancing and spinning as it flows and lifts when he moves.

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Next up we have props!

Props, and the design of those props, tell us about the character, the world, but most importantly, a prop is a totem of a character’s purpose in the story.

If you see someone flash a badge, you instantly think they are police or a detective, even without them wearing a uniform or saying a word.

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We wanted the audience to know within a few moments that our character had a job to do. So we gave him a mop and bucket. In terms of specifics, we wanted an old tin bucket.

This is a classic-look, and helps gives the film a pre-modern aesthetic. The mop needed to be old, dirty, and with a wooden handle, also helping set the film in the past and maybe even tell the audience that he’s been given sub-standard cleaning supplies for his job.

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The last major prop in the film was the vinyl record. From the get-go we knew this film would involve dancing to an old-school song. We wanted to help place the film around the 1970s, so we took an old record and designed, what we thought, was the most 70s label as possible: orange background, groovy disco font, and a simple design without anything super fancy in terms of graphics.

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This prop was also designed to be used as the title of the film, so we knew we wanted it to look as genuine as we could. Last up, we have set design!

Set design is arguably the hardest part of art direction for an indie and zero budget filmmaker. Whereas things like props and costume are usually quite small and personal, creating a convincing set (depending on the film you are making) is a mammoth task, but if done right, can be a powerful provider of clues to the audience about the world, the period, the state of the location, and the character’s situation.

We cheated a little bit with the set on The Asylum Groove: we actually wrote the script around the pre-existing location. We knew of the school assembly hall before we were even given the one word challenge, and we knew we wanted to use it for a film about people in an insane asylum.

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The location was already old, worn, dirty, and had the most horrible bright yellow walls. Instead of trying to convert it into something completely different, we used the location as the basis for the script and embraced the old, grimy look.

Building a world around an interesting looking location you already have access to will give you an easier job of creating a convincing set and also save you a lot of money.

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If there was one thing we wanted to tell the audience without OUTRIGHT telling them, it was WHY the character was cleaning. His reason for mopping isn’t necessarily a major plot point, but giving the character a true purpose on screen helps the audience settle into the film and not question it from the very first frame.

If the audience had to ask “Why’s he mopping?” at the beginning of the film, it just means we didn’t give the audience enough clues to his situation.

So we added a banner and balloons onto the back wall with “Bedsville Disco” painted on. We deliberately made a poor job of  he back wall, the banner is falling off and the balloons are not even finished. This was to give the audience the impression that the disco wasn’t a glamorous affair, and would fit closer to the derelict hall we had access to.

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We added small details such as signs on the door with “dormitory” and “staff only”. We actually took these from the set of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest stage play.

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Colour design was another thing we wanted to focus on with this film. Because of the bright yellow walls of the assembly hall, we knew we could use yellow’s complementary colour, BLUE, as an accent colour for the character and as a visual device to lead the audience's eyes.

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This is why we picked a blue shirt, blue paint on his hand and the brush, a blue balloon placed on the wall, a bright blue record player, and blue nail varnish for the mother at the end. We wanted everything he interacted with to be blue.

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One last we did was take advantage of the furniture left over in the room. The chairs and sofas were already there, so we placed them in a way which we left created a vacant audience for the character to dance to.

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All of the furniture points in the direct of the character, and the angle of the chairs on stage actually point directly towards the framing of the execution, foreshadowing the audience viewing of the execution at the very end.

Not a hugely important detail, but we thought it could be a cool little bit to add in and maybe, subconsciously, it would add something to the storytelling. 

We even included the execution chair in the background after the moment the character snaps back into the reality when he trips over the bucket.

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Obviously this is only our experience of art direction so far, and we have a lot to learn.

With this film, we suddenly realised how powerful of a storytelling device art direction can be. It can reduce your dialogue, give your audience visual hints towards the story and the world, and there’s no denying a great-looking set makes your film look a hell of a lot more cinematic.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and we as filmmakers should take advantage of that.


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Making of: The Asylum Groove Part 1 | Behind The Scenes

This is part one of the making of our short film The Asylum Groove. Let us know in the comments below if you see anything in the behind the scenes which you would like to more about.


🎬 In case you missed it

The Asylum Groove - Short Film - https://youtu.be/aysGfZyQEiM


DISCLAIMERS:

Some of these links are affiliate links, if you purchase gear via these links The Film Look will receive a small commission, but there will be no additional cost to you. Thank you!

How to Write a Film with NO Dialogue

Dialogue is both a pleasure and a pain. Throwing lines on a page is an easy way to increase your word count but writing well-written dialogue can be one of the most difficult parts of the screenwriting process.

Today we are going to share with YOU what WE learned from making a film that included only one word of dialogue. Check out The Asylum Groove below if you want to see the finished film. 

Nate over at Nate’s Film Tutorials challenged us to make a film with one key restriction: “you can only use one word of dialogue”.

This was a great challenge for us because we’ve been learning about different screenwriting techniques on the channel and wanted to put them all into practice.

So we knew a few things which would help us along the way:

- Firstly, the story needed to be 100% visual; no bloated backstory, a nice simple structure, a single goal, a single obstacle, and all represented on-screen through action.

- Secondly, limiting a character’s lines on screen is easier if they don’t have someone with which to communicate. So we decided to make it about one character in a single location.

This also helped keep the costs down and would speed up the production process, so happy days!

We knew we had access to an old school assembly hall through a contact with our previous film. From the moment we saw the location, we knew we wanted to make a film which looked and felt like the film One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest.

At first we found writing the initial idea quite difficult. What should the word be? When should it be said? We soon realised that the word was becoming the focus of the script. Instead we decided to write the film without ANY dialogue and add a word back in where it would pack a punch.

So now we had a location, a character, and an initial direction to base the script on. We just had to give him a goal to achieve, some conflict to overcome, and some interesting characteristics.

A film without dialogue needs to get the character off their feet, moving around, and completing a task. This creates movement in the scene, gives the actor something to do, and gives the audience something to look at.

We gave the character a mop and a bucket and tasked him with cleaning the assembly hall for the Bedville Disco. Because we can’t explain the backstory of the character through interaction with another character or any form of dialogue, we had to make sure that it was his costume and the set which gave the audience clues about him and his surroundings.

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His goal to mop the floor is soon taken over by his desire to dance to the music, which can be considered an obstacle.

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Dancing then transforms into his goal, which means another obstacle must be written in. He soon trips over the bucket and spills the water.

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His next goal is to clean up the water. What’s stopping him at this point is his moment of ecstasy as he splashes in the water.

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His final obstacle is when he is trapped in the electric chair. He wants answers, he wants to be set free. His final tactic is to cry for help and thrash around in the chair.

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We now have a character with a set of obstacles to overcome in order to achieve his goals, but there is something missing. We need to give him character.

Because this film is so short and essentially quite simple (one character, one location, and mundane tasks) the focus of the film was to create a lovable character through his actions and reactions, then flip our perception of the character on its head right at the end.

Because it's such a short film, we wanted to make sure it had a strong bite which left you remembering the story.

So how do you build up a likeable character without dialogue? Empathy.

The story is told through the character’s actions, and we learn the type of character he is through the way in which he performs them.

To create an empathetic character; someone we can relate to, enjoy their on-screen presence, and understand their troubles, we needed to familiarise his actions in this unique scenario.

Not everyone has been locked inside an insane asylum, but i’m sure we’ve all danced like nobody's watching. And if you are new to screenwriting, we have a video about the basics:

So, even though our character is in a place which most of us have little experience with, he’s human after all, and its those human moments which we connect to. We’ve all experienced: boredom, confusion, nostalgia, delight, panic, and rage.

Adding the word “Mama” into the story was the final moment of impact.

Because we only had a single word to use, it became very powerful. Everything was held up by this word, and the choice of word was important.

We toyed with having the character accepting death in the electric chair, saying the word “Ready”. We thought that way he was technically achieving his goal of accepting death.

Then we changed it to “No!” which flipped the film on its head and gave us the impact which we wanted.

Then we decided on using the word “Mama”. This helped couple the childlike mannerisms of the character, almost everyone understands a relationship between mother and son, and because that word is universally understood and means so much in so little, it gave us the hard hitting impact which we wanted.

Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying “Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

Try grabbing your latest script, remove the dialogue, and see how much of the story is retained. This will test your script to see if you are writing something visual and you’ll be able to work out if you are relying too much on dialogue to further the plot.

Making a film without any dialogue, or in our case, a single repeated word, definitely gives you a better perspective on how precious dialogue can be and why we don’t always need to use words to tell a visual story.

This is just our process, so let us know what tips YOU have for writing a film with very limited dialogue.


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Coming to a Halt | Motivated Camera Moves

The best shots in a film aren’t always just the fancy, super expensive ones. The most effective shots in a film connect the cinema to the story and communicate the plot; whether that's using a tripod, a stabiliser, or even simply handheld.

This is what motivated camera moves are all about - and today we are going to talk about a move we call “coming to a halt”. Welcome to The Film Look.

Today we are using a page from the book “Master Shots” by Christopher Kenworthy. In particular, his chapter on “Revelations & Discoveries”, page 112, titled “MOVING ON”.

If you want to step up your game and learn how to connect your shots directly to your story, this is the book for you. We haven’t been paid to speak about this book, it’s just a great resource that every filmmaker should have access to.

Coming to a Halt.jpg

US links: 

Master Shots Volume 1: https://amzn.to/2tcPMlo

UK links:

Master Shots Volume 1: https://amzn.to/2ln4ZMv

Let’s set the scene: EXT. BACK ALLEY - DAY

Jimmy Nine Fingers is being pursued by the police for stealing priceless necklaces from the jewellers. He’s finally made a break from the fuzz and runs into a back alley only to be stopped by Detective Rusty Johnson.

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There are a few things that aid the effectiveness of this shot, and it all links to the character and story motivation. Firstly you have the character. They are trying to escape a situation, this is why they are running. Then they collide with an obstacle, this is why they stop.

The shot type changes during the move. The motivation for this is to convey the BEST POSSIBLE story at that particular cinematic moment. We begin with a wide shot then land in a close up.

The actor’s performance at the beginning of the shot is almost entirely physical. They are running and we understand they are being chased. By the time they stop, the performance is in the actor’s facial expression. This is why we are landing so close at the end of the move - the performance is now all in the details.

The movement of the shot is complimented in two ways. Firstly the character is moving at great speed. The camera matches this speed and closes in. The actor and the camera land on their marks at the same time, which gives us a sense of fast movement coming to a rapid halt. It’s almost like the camera is the one stopping the character which serves as motivation for the camera move itself.

If we remove the camera movement and instead use a static camera, the effect of rapid movement coming to a halt is lost but we do retain the effect of the camera becoming the obstacle.

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This type of shot would work well if the character knows they have failed to reach their target in time...such as in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy know he will never find Marion in the crowd.

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If we have a static character coupled with a moving camera which stops, the rapid change in speed is lost and feels more like the camera move emphasises the character’s slow but strong reaction to something.

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This type of shot is also known as The Spielberg Face. 

Having three versions of this move is a powerful thing: you can make the choice to add or subtract emphasis on certain parts of this move and tailor it to suit YOUR film.

The tools you use to achieve this move will give you slightly different results. If you use a stabilizer for instance, in our case this is a handheld gimbal, you will get something which looks more clean cut and Hollywood-esque.

If you go handheld, the story beats will be the same but the move will contribute a more brutal approach, which would lend well to a war scene or documentary-style of film.

You can use this technique for a bunch of different scenarios:

  • A boy needs to get home before his mother gets back from the supermarket only to discover when he reaches the house that the car is already on the drive, or

  • The protagonist and his love interest are escaping a glass-walled facility but get stopped by a robot killing machine from the future.

Kenworthy goes into more detail about this move including shot height and blocking details. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of Master Shots if direction and cinematography is your passion.


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Don't Underestimate Feedback from your Cast and Crew | Behind The Scenes

With only a week to go until our new short film The Asylum Groove is released we break down the final moments before we hit export and speak about the episodes to come on the channel.


DISCLAIMERS:

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Why you need a door wedge in your Camera Bag

In order to shoot your film, you’ll need to pack the following: your camera, extra batteries, lenses, shoulder rig, extra cards, a microphone, and... a door wedge.

Yes, this video is all about why you should include a door wedge in the essential equipment you take to a shoot.

A door wedge was something I didn’t know I needed in my camera bag until we were on set shooting our latest short film The Asylum Groove.

The shot was 1L, a medium close up of Sam, our main character. He walks into the frame and starts to mop. The shot was low down so we could not use a tripod. Instead we rested the camera on the handles of the shoulder rig so the camera would have a steady point to rest on and not be too shaky.

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This worked great, but the shot wasn’t level. So I asked the camera team if there was anything we could stick underneath to make it level. Adam Opie, the 2nd AC on the film, handed me a door wedge which was the perfect tool for the job. I was able to incrementally tilt the camera until it was level.

After this epiphanny, we went out and bought a few door wedges, and they have been coming in handy for lot of different setups.

Sometimes in the studio, when presenting, we can’t always fit a tripod into a corner, so we build up some boxes then use a lens cap or some paper to tilt the camera up to get the correct angle. You can never get the lens cap in the right position, but the door wedge has solved that problem.

On set, the door wedge can also be used to help level out a track. You possibly may need a few wedges depending on how long and the type of surface you’re building the track on so making them out of wood will be your cheapest option.

Door-Wedge1.gif

If the chair your talent is sitting on is wobbly, you can use a wedge to solve that problem as long as it is not in shot.

And finally, if you have a shot of a character walking through a doorway, you can use the door wedge to keep it open. It’s the right tool for the job.

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Dialogue is MORE than Exposition

One thing we can get wrong is NOT utilizing dialogue to its full potential. It's easy to write on a page but can be difficult to get sounding great. I don’t think it's because of any lack of creativity or imagination - I think we may simply be approaching dialogue from the wrong angle.

Dialogue is MORE than just a tool for exposition. “Show don’t tell” is a trick used in writing to force ourselves to find a visual way to give audience information without resorting to lines of dialogue.

Instead of Jimmy shouting “I’m so angry, Mindy!”, have him smash a plate. No lines - all visual.

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If you apply this rule to your writing, you now have a vacant space where the dialogue used to be. This gives you the opportunity to use dialogue to demonstrate character traits.

If you think of dialogue as a tool to open up characters, they actions, and better yet their REACTIONS to statements and questions, it starts to open up a lot more opportunities to see who a character really is.

Let's go back to Jimmy in the kitchen. Originally we had Jimmy’s line, “I’m so angry, Mindy!”. Then we found the action in that line, ANGRY, and replaced the dialogue with an action, “Jimmy smashes a plate on the floor.” It shows us his anger.

Let's add a line back in before he smashes the plate. Smashing the plate shows us his emotion. So we can use a line of dialogue to further unravel his relationship with Mindy.

Jimmy: “You are just like your mother, Mindy!” Jimmy smashes a plate on the floor. With a line like that, we are given information about their relationship dynamic.

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“You are just like your mother, Mindy”: this signifies Jimmy’s distaste of Mindy’s mother. It also shows that Jimmy is starting to see traits of Mindy’s mother in Mindy. He is now perceiving her in a different light. A line like that could also tell us that Jimmy has been holding in this feeling as he expresses it during a moment of anger, so maybe Jimmy keeps most of his feeling to himself.

But we can go one step further! Dialogue is not JUST delivered. It is also received.

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There are AT LEAST two people in a conversation. So we can show two sides of a conversation using the delivery of a line and the other person’s reaction to the line. Dialogue is ACTIVE then REACTIVE.

“You are just like your mother, Mindy!”...Mindy could then say something like “She’s a better mother than yours!” which gives us the impression that Mindy doesn’t like Jimmy’s mother but also that she is the type of person who isn’t afraid to say what she is feeling.

Let’s try changing the line and see how it changes the reaction to the previous line

“You are just like your mother, Mindy!”....Mindy then responds “Oh my god. You’re right.”. So in this instance she has realised she has messed up, and is able to perceive her attitude.

But we can actually use the rule “Show - Don’t tell” here!

Instead of the line “Oh my god. You’re right”, she could simply freeze from the conversation, give a moment of stuttering dialogue, but then hold back and drop her eye contact with Jimmy.

Once you start to think of dialogue as being an element which can be received and not simply delivered, you are increasing the opportunities for developing a character’s personality.

One last thing: The reaction to a line of dialogue doesn’t always have to be the clean-cut correct answer. Misinterpretation is something we can include to give dialogue more realism.

Mindy says the line “You shouldn't be sleeping on the sofa anymore”. The reaction to this by default be may that she is inviting Jimmy to sleep upstairs again and she wants to resolve the situation. But let's play the scene out.

Mindy: “You shouldn't be sleeping on the sofa anymore”.

Jimmy: “So I can sleep in our bed again?”

Mindy: “No, you need to move out.” This adds a bit of a twist to the conversation and confirms her ACTUAL interpretation to that line.

Obviously this is a very simple scene with some super basic one dimensional characters, but hopefully that gets the point across.

Try to find the emotion in a line and replace it with action. Then think of the REACTION of a line as a way to show character traits. If you want dialogue to sound more realistic, try having the characters NOT QUITE understand the question or statement, and then have them confirm the real answer.


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