Location Sound Crew

Last time I talked a little on how to get better sound for your indie film, and the reality of the situation is, either you learn to do it by yourself or hire a professional to capture the sound for you. It is always prudent that ‘when in doubt hire it out.’

Location Sound Crew

It starts with pre-production planning. This planning stage sets the wheels in motion, it establishes time line, job assignments, budget requirements of every aspect of the production and every major player in the production must attend.

The location sound mixer is the number one person as far as sound goes. He/she gets the what, where and when of the shoot and they decide on who and how of putting the audio in the can. They decide the need to bring a boom op and or a utility person (read cable pager) or just run and gun by themselves.

They capture the dialogue of the film and any ambient sounds in the area of the location shoot,  They will hold the up the shoot if unwanted noises are obvious (such as air traffic, trains, heavy traffic, etc.) and,  they do some scouting to find good alternate sites that might help. This is a good time for the location sound mixer to get some ambient tones of all of the locations to help later in the post world and as possible ammunition for the change of location argument.

The sound crew starts their day by assuring themselves that every piece of hardware they have works flawlessly.  They post a header and test tone at the start of every days work. The crew takes meticulous notes on every track they record denoting the SMPTE time code at the beginning of each take and the track number as indicated by the recording device. After each take they assign a grade to the tracks so the editor can find the best audio to use in the film.

On the last film I worked on we recorded two tracks of the same dialog from the same microphone at different recording levels to insure we were acquiring the best possible sound. Sometimes the first half of track ‘A’ was great but the tail really sucked, but, the head of track ‘B’ was weak and the tail was great. In post we ‘comped’ the tracks together so the whole line was great. If what I just said flew over your head like an F-15 on afterburners then maybe you should hire a professional sound team.

All of the preparation and attention to detail insures great recordings and less work for the post production team, less ADR, and a great sounding film. In case you’re interested the current budget requirements for a location sound mixer is approximately $300- $500/day and the budget for a boom operator is approximately $150-$250/day.

You might think this is expensive unless you were to buy the field mixer , recorder, microphone, boom all of the cables, batteries, headphones and chargers required to do a day’s worth of recording, learn to connect it all together and operate it correctly, all while trying to film, direct, light and produce the film. Do the words ’Good Luck’ come to mind.

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Tony Tartaglia hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree awarded from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, Florida and owns his own mixing and editing studio. Tony can be reached for consultations and audio production through his website at [email protected].

What Screenwriters Can Learn From The Inbetweeners

In Britain all the film talk is about a low-budget film that’s been breaking UK box-office records. I think it offers some lessons on how to make a successful indie film.

It’s “The Inbetweeners,” featuring characters from the three-season TV show of the same name. That’s three of the UK version of seasons: a total of 18 episodes. The show was successful, but at the end of the 18 the creators and cast felt they couldn’t go on without repeating themselves. (Yes, they do things differently over here…). There’s a US version in production for MTV.

The show and the film feature four young guys: one nerd, one likeable but not very bright guy, one bullshitter who claims great familiarity with the female of the species but is a virgin, and one relatively normal guy with a major crush on a girl who is a social level or two above him.

Lesson One: It helps if you have a variety of characters so your audience can identify with at least one—or see their friends reflected in them. Of course it works best if your group is realistic, not thrown together for audience appeal. Adolescent boys do hang out in little cliques, although maybe typically they’re not quite as mixed as this one.

The stories are all based on highly-embarrassing adolescent moments, many of them gross (vomiting, nudity, farting, etc.). The film takes the boys off to a cheap holiday in the sunshine to get very drunk and try to score with girls there.

Lesson Two: As with the characters, plots in which the audience can find their own experience reflected are appealing. The Inbetweeners reminds us of our own horrible teen, with the advantage that probably ours were never as embarrassing as the ones we see here

The movie has even more gross moments than the series, and that has made it a huge hit with the teen audience.

Lesson Three: Comic or dramatic set-pieces are great because they feed word of mouth. The more that people are likely to say, “You have to see the scene in which–”,the better.

Naturally the film benefitted hugely from already having a loyal audience via the TV series. Shortly before the film was released, there also was a TV special of a road trip the actors took for charity, in which they had to visit as many places with rude names as possible in a limited amount of time. They travelled in the rust-bucket Fiat Cinquecento featured in the series and although they used their real names they behaved pretty much in tune with their characters (fart jokes, etc.).

Lesson Four: The more you can pre-build an audience, the better. Of course having a successful TV series is a huge task in itself, but it’s also possible to create a web series, maybe some events that tie in to a charity, and so forth, to build up awareness.

If you’re not easily offended, have a look at the series and/or the film. You can buy the series DVD or watch it on YouTube. In my opinion, they both demonstrate lesson five:

Lesson Five: It really helps if the product is good.

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Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of TV, several TV movies, the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz” starring Kelsey Grammer, and has been a script doctor on films starring Eddie Murphy, Kim Catrall, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau and others. His plays have been produced in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles. He is the author of 9 books including “Your Writing Coach” and “Creativity Now.” If you would like to find out more about “The Seven Things That Are Stopping You From Writing And How To Overcome Them,” check out Jurgen’s screenwriting website: www.ScreenWritingSuccess.com

Keven Smith talks Movie Distribution

Kevin Smith at the 2008 Toronto International ...

Image via Wikipedia

I love Kevin Smith’s attitude towards modern movie distribution. If you’re like most independent filmmakers, what Kevin was able to accomplish from his days of Clerks has been amazing. Back then, he not only dreamed the Sundance Dream, but he realized the dream.

The Sundance dream is the idea that you will make your movie, get into Sundance, sell your movie and live happily ever after. As I have been telling you all along, the demise of DVD sales channels, replaced by ever evolving VOD marketplaces are impacting Filmmakers everywhere.

These days, if you are going to make movies and profit, you must now view your independent movie business in ways akin to how any business owner handles their business. You must source and grow your own audience list.

In the following video Kevin Smith shares his perspective on modern movie distribution and how the brave new world is impacting indie filmmakers.

Please feel free to comment.

Indie Film Website For Your Filmmaking

If you’re like most filmmakers, you have a website for your movie. And odds are good you are trying to fit too much into it. So the first thing you need to do is remove all the distracting crap. Whenever I mention this at a talk, invariably someone asks me how to determine what’s distracting? It depends on your website objective.

When building a movie website, most filmmakers have two objectives:

  1. Stage 1 – Raise awareness for your movie.
  2. Stage 2Sell your movie directly.

If you’re still in Stage 1, chances are good you have press kits, actor bios, reviews of your movie, anecdotes from production and about a gazillion other items, including behind the scenes photo galleries. But once you finish the festival circuit, you may choose to enter Stage 2 and start funneling web traffic towards your DVDs and VOD in various marketplaces.

To do this, I suggest you install Google analytics and monitor your traffic. Here is an example from the first feature I worked on:


If you look closely, you’ll notice that many visitors ended up visiting pages that did not lead to a sale. This is like keeping money on the table. So to counter the confusion, I suggest simply removing the pages altogether.

When promoting your movie, the goal is to remove all the extra crap and keep what matters.

The end result is a very simple website that “funnels” people to your desired destination.

When visitors click on “Buy NOW” they are redirected to the point of sale.

Marketing a movie is initially a creative art – but unlike other arts,  the beauty of movie marketing is, with the right tracking tools, you can test and retest your ideas to determine effectiveness.

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The Secret Society Of Modern Indie Filmmakers

Earlier this week, Sheri Candler was spreading word of mouth about a test screening of Gary King’s indie film musical:  How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song. So I did something I haven’t done for awhile – I got out from behind my computer screen to meet and mingle with some new filmmakers face-to-face.

As the lights dimmed and Gary’s movie flickered across the screen, I was reminded of the year I lived in New York City. This was a time when I couch surfed between a sofa and an inflatable air mattress, all the while dreaming that I would someday make movies. Admittedly, maybe these memories were flooding back as a result of Gary’s movie. I mean, the story is based in Manhattan.

During the screening, and afterwards, I realized I have been missing something I haven’t felt for years.

I have forgotten the joy that comes from participating in activities with other folks from the indie filmmaking community. And I also realized that my world of indie filmmaking (once defined and limited by the following filmmaking mantra): save up all summer and buy an Arri BL, scrape together enough money to pay for film and processing, make the movie and PRAY for a distribution deal that makes sense – I’m pleased to say that era of filmmaking is over.

As a result of lower priced production equipment, coupled with new, non-discriminatory distribution, YOU can make, market and sell your movie this year and you don’t need to ask permission. Filmmakers like Gary King epitomize this movement – asking questions like How do you write a Joe Schermann Song starring awesome actress Christina Rose (nice work Christina!)

Past that, there is something else. While the studios are excited about UltraViolet and a new attempt to control their piece of the world wide web, our thriving indie community could care less. Instead of worrying about traditional distribution, modern movie makers are more concerned with their YouTube following – and the size of their growing audience.

As a filmmaker, you are part of movie making history. And you probably don’t know it. But like all artistic and social movements that have come before, you are riding this wave. The question is, will you take advantage of this opportunity – or will you find yet another reason why you can’t make your movie this year?


At the screening, I met close to a dozen people who claimed to have heard of me or knew me from this website. Please give me some time to adjust socially – It’s not every day that people approach me and quote my ideas back to me… But I want you to know I am honored and grateful for your readership.

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