Research for Production – Considerations

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Researching your project’s viability, continued…

In the last chapter, we talked about skills and resources needed to acquaint yourself with the financial aspects of your project. Next we’ll talk about other areas that will require your sleuthing skills.

It’s very easy to fall in love with a project and move forward, thinking that everything will just fall into place. (The good news is that things often do fall into place, which is the unexpected reward for daring to create!)

However, this filmmaking magic is not something to count on. I was a Girl Scout, so of course my motto is always, “Be prepared.”

Here are three things for you to ponder.

1. Do you have access to the locations you will need to shoot your project?

Locations can be prohibitively expensive, so it’s always important to know what you might have access to for free.  Does your father own a pig farm? Is your childhood best friend the owner of a skating rink? What locations could you access for free?

Robert Rodriguez shot his $7,000 feature El Mariachi using only the things he had easy access to. He planned the project that way on purpose.  Here are two videos in which he talks about his approach.


2. Do you have access to key props you will require?

If not, do you have the budget needed to rent or buy them? I wrote a short called “Daddy’s Car” which requires a very special prop – a vintage car where I could smash the windshield.  No problem, I thought… Two years later, I still hadn’t found one. It would have behooved me to secure a car before planning to move ahead with the project.

(But, happy ending. I attended a wedding recently and sat next to my lovely uncle. I asked him if he still owned the vintage cars I remember from my childhood. He does and gave me the beautiful car shown above. I still haven’t had the nerve to tell him I’m going to break its 1958 windshield)

3. Do you really need to have that scene where five cars crash into a lake at night during a snowstorm?

Although a cardinal rule in filmmaking is, “show, don’t tell”, could your characters talk about that crazy night where five cars crash into a lake at night during a snowstorm, instead of showing it?

Make sure your scripts don’t have crazy expensive weather-related, water-related, crash-related scenes and such unless they are absolutely integral to the scene.

(Other cautions include screaming babies, animals, child actors or a specific famous song.)

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