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Cinema Unplugged

by Clive Davies Frayne

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For the last twelve years I've been banging my head against the wall, trying to figure out how to deal with the insanity of the movie industry, whilst at the same time exploring the equally insane world of micro-budget movie making. The problem is that neither system works. The industry becomes more and more obsessed with playing it safe and the independents largely try to imitate the work patterns of the industry, only with less money. For people like me it's a nightmare, because what I want to do is make movies and have people watch them... and, to do that without investing three years of my life and all of my money into a project which then flounders around the ridiculous distribution system.

Location shot for 400 Grams.

Anyway, after many years of pondering the problems of funding, shooting and distributing movies, I believe I have an answer. However, it means completely changing the way we think about movies. It is a production philosophy designed to let creative people make brilliant movies quickly, cheaply and without exploiting the people who contribute to its making.

Here are the headlines:

  1. One DSLR camera, One person, One microphone (The lone gun shoots alone)
  2. Strip movie making down to the basics - a camera, a great story and some actors
  3. A lone gun never asks for permission to shoot at a location
  4. Put something original and honest in front of the camera
  5. Think like a photographer, not like a film-maker
  6. Money is for food, transport and a dedicated hard-drive for each project and nothing else
  7. Natural light only
  8. Everyone who works on a movie, has the right to distribute that movie for free or for profit
  9. No credits before the title ever, regardless of how famous someone is.
  10. The end product must be cinema quality (capable of projection to cinema sizes without falling apart)
  11. A creative common license for the movie (how open you go is up to you, but people must be able to share and alter it for free)
  12. If you’re going to be a gorilla… you may as well wear the full monkey suit.

OK. In practical terms this means you are shooting in public places, but never in such a way that anyone is aware you are shooting. That's why it is done best with a standard DSLR camera. (I really want to see someone figure out how to do this with the RED by the way!)

In terms of the sound recording there are two alternatives: radio mics for all cast - or the way I am doing it, a $30 pair of binaural mics, (which look like iphone headphones) jacked into a portable digital recorder. (I've tested this method and the sound quality is phenomenal, once you've got the hang of it) To use the binaural system, the actors have to set away the sound, which is placed in shot between them... and one of them is given a Zippo cigarette-lighter to clack at the start of a scene, which gives you the cue for syncing the audio.

Location shot for 400 Grams.

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