Archive for the ‘Video Production’ Category


So regarding the colors of paint that I had in my palette for the making of my zero budget film: I had an iphone at my disposal that could actually take pretty good HD videos. I had some editing software (like most of us) that comes with most basic software computer bundles. (This would limit me to what kind of transition and special effects might be available to me, but that’s OK if part of the plan.) I had access to various homes for shooting, and I also had access to a church – which could be my story’s uniqueness; after all, not everyone has access to shooting in a church. I also had access to automobiles, as well as a farm with some horses and cows. I think all of these could be put together into an interesting story, and so I began.

If I could make the cellphone actually a part of the storyline, this would lend itself to its realism and authenticity, and explain the “look” that I would be forced to have, as a result of shooting with a cellphone. On the other hand, restricting myself to only shooting as if a cellphone in the hands of one of the characters could extremely limit my story-telling capabilities. But I was Ok with this challenge, and so “My Life Is a Movie” was born – the tale of two siblings who run away from a dysfunctional home life only to be chased into a church, where, safely in the basement, they have to hide to survive, albeit a warm place, and one with available food (although limited choices – hmmm, sounds like my film project idea.)

This idea first took shape as a story for the National Novel Writing Month project, and this novel was adapted into a script. So the novel was based on this same concept of a ten-year-old boy who shoots video of everything with his cellphone. It is his way of escaping from his not-so-good life – kind of ironic that he documents his life as a movie as a way of escaping from it – but it is this process that helps him detach from his life and he can actually think that as a director or an actor of this movie, he actually has more control over what happens – but not really.

The biggest problem that I found is that writing a story with this kind of specific point of view is a lot easier as a novel than as a movie – because I found that adapting it into a script (with a shot list) highlighted the fact that some of the things I wrote about in the novel would not actually be do-able with a camera cellphone – and I had to come up with other shots and angles and ideas and ways to get the story to move forward. Again, I was up to this challenge, but it meant I had to rewrite some of the scenes to make them work for “My Life Is a Move.”

Once the script and the shot list was in place, it was time to assemble the cast and crew.



OK so it’s been awhile since I have posted on zero budget feature filmmaking. I apologize if anyone has been sitting around with baited breath waiting on my next post, but since this is highly unlikely, suffice it to say that I have not been sitting around on my laurels (haunches), but have been putting my money (or lack there of) where my mouth is. In this time I have wrote, shot, and edited a zero budget production feature shot on my iphone. OK, not really zero budget – I spent eighty-five hard earned dollars on some props, cast food, and water. (Not counting the gas I spent to drive to several locations – so let’s add another 2 tankfuls of gas and call it an even one hundred and fifty bucks.) But I am rather proud of my hundred and fifty dollar feature – so much so that I have submitted it to more than half a dozen film festivals in hopes of getting accepted. (I’ve actually spent three times my budget on this, but there are ways to save on film festivals – and some that are zero – which I will post about that in a future read.)

So I can now reflect and go back and share my experiences and what it took to make this happen – so you can make this happen yourself. Starting at the beginning is, of course, realizing that you have zero dollars to spend, so you have to budget for this (sounds crazy, doesn’t it?), but that means coming up with a script that you can actually shoot with no money, and finding the necessary gear. (See earlier posts on this to get you started, too.)

Imagine yourself a painter and you have a blank canvas and a brush. You are given a tube of red paint and a tube of green paint, and are free to paint whatever you like. Now you really have been wanting to paint a space ship with lots of explosions and battles and stuff (because you always have liked these and they are your favorite, and your favorite painter paints these, too…) and you can go ahead and do this, but it will probably look really bad or really strange or not like you intended, but go ahead and paint this because there is no way you are going to paint a picture of something else. (This painting will most likely not sell, if you even finish, because by the time you get into it and start seeing this mess, you might get discouraged and quit…)

Do you have other options? You bet. You could paint an apple. No! you say, I do not want to paint an apple because that has been done before, it is boring, and besides, I do not really like apples. However, you could paint a really nice looking apple – and very realistic – and there are lots of people who like to hang paintings of apples in their kitchen and they just might pay you a hefty price for your painting of an apple. After which, you could take this money and buy more paints – enough to paint a picture of say, a space ship and explosions and stuff. Selling out? I don’t think so. I think it is working toward a goal (spaceships) by utilizing what you have available (apples), and in the meantime learning your craft as you go along (which could lead to a much better space ship once you have the resources to do this).

And if you are really opposed to apples, well, how about a fire truck? Or a cardinal on a leaf? Or holly berries? Or even stretch your imagination and go crazy with something like a painting of a palm tree bleeding? But first work with the two colors you have. You might even find that you’ll have fun painting an apple. I sure did making my hundred and fifty dollar feature, but more on that later…

Here We Go: OK those of you who have read my blog before, know that I spend a great deal of time talking about making films with little money, while not giving up on quality. As of recent, I have targeted feature films on this blog, sharing all the things I have learned throughout my career making television, documentaries, and especially short films, with limited budgets. However, I do not have a feature film shot with a zero budget on my resume. So: I am launching a feature film project that I recently finished writing with the idea in-mind of producing a quality feature film with a zero budget, with the final goal of a theatrical run, film festivals, and DVD and/or VOD distribution.
It will be shot on available equipment and with actors who want to showcase their skills and have the opportunity to climb into some fantastic roles.
This experimental zero-budget feature will utilize long takes, limited locations, and a compressed shooting schedule. There will be aspects of the film that have not been often done. Zero-budget means lots of memorization, limited retakes, but many of these roles are showcase parts. Please keep in mind that this a PG13 film, due to some language and instances of physical abuse. Scheduled shooting plan is 15 to 20 dates (summer 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri, mostly West County), but most roles will only be needed for one or two dates apiece. (The exception is Lyndsy, who will need to be at all shooting dates.) Please  look over the cast list, and if you are interested in taking part in this production, please send me an email of your interest (and include a headshot and/or resume if available) to Please list the parts that seem to be the best fit for you. Auditions will occur in the near future, with shooting to take place soon after. I will forward sides in preparation for the auditions.

Wyatt (THIS ROLE IS CAST.) 10 year old boy who likes to shoot videos. He lives with his sister Lyndsy (14), step-sister Erin (13), step-brother bully Bart (16), Mom, and stepfather Joe.

Lyndsy: 14 years old; Wyatt’s sister; She talks her brother Wyatt into running away from home together with her. They have to be resourceful to survive. She loves to paint and is the artistic-type, but overall is fit and healthy, just not happy. Her paintings tend to be on the dark side, both in subject and color palette. This role has tons of dialogue and screen time, with emotions running the entire range of the human experience. She is in every scene.

Mom: 38-ish; mean-spirited but can fake niceness

Joe: 42-ish; step-dad, deadbeat

Erin: 13 years old; step-sister, long hair, spends most of her time texting on the couch

Bart: (also known as Bart Fart), 16-year-old bully step-brother

Dad: 42-ish; auto mechanic; nice guy when sober; monster when he is drunk; in his scene he is drunk and abuses Wyatt and Lyndsy

Rev. Keys: 60-ish; pastor at a church

Mrs. Keys: 55-ish; pastor’s wife

Mrs. Kennerly: church secretary

Bill the Janitor: works at the church

Homeless Man: scraggly; chases Wyatt and Lyndsy, at one point catching them.

Rodney: church elder

Bob: church elder

Mike: church elder

Key Man: 30-ish; Youth pastor

Mrs. Key Man: 28-ish, Youth pastor’s wife

Nursery Woman: 41-ish, works in the church nursery during church service

Ana Sophia: 5 years old; attends nursery during church

Anthony: 6 years old;  attends nursery during church

Officer Woodson: female police officer

Officer Kelton: male police officer

Extras: 5 homeless people; 6 women book club members; 7 choir members; 6 youth band members; 7 youth group kids; Bass Girl’s Dad; 4 youth group parents; 40 church members; Aunt Meredith (42-ish); Uncle Kevin (45-ish)

Thank you for your consideration. Dale Ward, DWard Media,


Pictofigo_-_IdeaSo you have your film (or book or poem or song or blueprint) finished. You are ready for the next step in your creation when you have a sudden inspiration – an epiphany – and realize that a major scene (or chapter or line or verse or room layout) would be better served later (or earlier) in your film. It will help clarify or raise the stakes (and the tension) if located in a different, more effective, spot.  So you move it. And then you start to second-guess yourself. Maybe this isn’t better and the original (you know, your first choice) is the best way to go.

How do you deal with these swings in inspiration? How do you determine which way is best?  And then how do you let it go and rest in your decision?

So I have come to believe that to first write out your movie as a novel or short story is nothing but beneficial to the quality of the finished project – and that is the goal, right? To have the best finished project?
Five films ago I adapted my first script from an already written short story (“Ragman”). I thought I would not like the process, but I ended up enjoying it better that working from scratch. By limiting myself (and my story), it was actually freeing in that I had to force myself to become more creative in working with what had already been written. Does that make sense? It freed me to think about telling the “Ragman” story visually instead of worrying about storytelling. Heck, the story was already told – I just needed to get the vision onto the screen. Having a free reign allows me to do anything and thus, I can get sloppy. If there is already a written plan, I have to interpret it and the final ideas are more focused, and thus more polished.
Another benefit I found with this first short story – especially since it was written in the first person – is that I could really get into the mind and motivation of the character. When I wrote the short story for my next film (“Delayed Reactions“), I really knew the main character because I had been inside his head for the entire process of writing the short story. It is also nice to have this document to give to my actors – not only the one who was portraying the character that is telling the story, but also the other characters – so they know this main character that much better. (Not to mention that you now have a piece of work to shop around for publishing possibilities.)
Give it a shot for your next short film. A short story can be written in one sitting, so it can’t hurt too bad to try. I think you’ll find the same advantages I did when you go to shoot the film.
That said – I am developing my next project – a zero budget feature film, of course. So I want to write the novel first, but that is not an easy undertaking, and cannot be done in one sitting! Enter the month of November and the National Novel Writing Month. Since I’ve  been having problems with procrastination, I have signed up in hopes of better motivation (and all of you encouraging me if I fall behind.) I totally intend to get this novel written in November, which will allow me to adapt it into a script during December/January, and then get into preproduction in early 2013 – which has always been the plan. Will you all keep me honest and motivated with this undertaking? Have any of you ever done this event? Do any of you want to join me?
And back to the question at hand: any thoughts on writing the short story or novel first? What about any of your experiences in adapting a previously written work? We’d love to hear about it.

Back to food (I must be hungry…): you can save money by when and where you pick up the daily food. Grocery stores might be willing to donate “yesterday’s” food, or at least you can pick these up at a savings. Make sure you shop there when you purchase your water, chips, bagels, etc. – and give a credit in the film. The store may be willing to be a sponsor of the film for a larger credit, and they will donate the necessary foods for the day. It can’t hurt to ask the manager (or owner, if they can be tracked down), and you might consider a smaller, independent grocer over the larger chains. Restaurants may be willing to chip in for a meal or two, and the necessary sponsor credit, of course. Again, it can’t hurt to ask.
Bagel shops and bakeries are great sources of donated foods, too, and they might appreciate a credit in the film. We had a bag of bagels donated for one film, and we had a chicken supplier donate the lunches (well, at least the main course – chicken!) Add a couple of bags of chips and some homemade cookies, and viola: we had a nice lunch.
During my first feature “Walther,” we were able to enlist the culinary delights of the local church’s women organization. Several of the ladies make large dishes and donated them for our lunches and dinners. Dual benefit of great home cooking, and the ladies usually are vying for bragging rights, so they whip up their most popular and delicious dishes – what a yummy competition. They even did the clean up. It was great and much appreciated. Make sure you get everyone’s names because you want to be sure each and every one of these cooks makes it into the credits. Many people who are great cooks can’t help in other filmmaking duties, but still like to be a part of a film project, and this is a great way to let them participate.
Any ways any of you have found to save money on the culinary needs of a film project? Please share your ideas – while I go get something to eat…

So let’s look at zero dollar filmmaking and our locations.
As far as exteriors go, some exteriors are better than others: graveyard, woods, Camp Crazed Killer, these are all conducive to zero dollar feature filmmaking, which is why there are so many low-budget horror and zombie films (besides the “fun to do” factor, and being quite popular and lucrative). Road movies are good options, too. And don’t forget a film like “Open Water (2003)” that was basically shot in a boat out on the ocean: cheap, good continuity, and lighting and noise pollution can be held to a minimum. (Boat shooting does come with its own set of problems that we’ll address in another post.) The other major location for the film was a house, which is the number one zero budget filmmaking location. (You can see one of my shorts shot in a living room, kitchen, basement, and backyard: The 2 Sons and Their Crogzookles.) Other good interior spots are offices, garages, and apartments, while restaurants and stores can bring in issues and might not be the best choices.
One major consideration would be to think about places that you might have access that others would not, so it would be a unique location for you, and one that might have had little use in other films. I have access to a church and a school, so I have come up with a couple of ideas that take place at these locations. It will give my film some novelty and will cost me nil. Maybe you have access to a clinic, restaurant, museum, any unique spot should be considered.
Remember your location when developing your story. Characters can argue just as well (and more cheaply) in a living room than a noisy busy restaurant. If it doesn’t affect the story, opt for the cheaper in a zero budget. Even an argument in a parked car in a garage can be just as effective as in a moving car. And since I can’t recall it being done before, it’d actually be original. (But don’t do it before I have a chance to, ha!) I have to say it is realistic, too, since I’ve argued with my wife in the car in the garage after a night out (and I had done something stupid).
What is one of the greatest, most original locations (but impressive) that you have used in a scene before?  Be sure to provide a link or photos.