Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 14.12
December 2008


How To



Download ATPM 14.12

Choose a format:

On a Clear Day, You Can See the Hollywood Sign

by Mike Shields,

My Dad’s Got a Barn. Let’s Put on a Show!

That’s the feeling I got when I decided to participate in this year’s 168 Project. The 168 stands for the number of hours in a week that you get to shoot and do post production on a ten minute short film. Well, eleven minutes if you push the envelope, and run your credits over the end of the movie. You get an additional week before this to write your script and cast the movie.

The need for writing a script with a compressed time frame such as this meant that I’d need the best software out there for the job. I use Final Draft, and currently I’m running version 7.1.3, on the 17″ iMac I had recently purchased. A simple template for a word processor or text editor wouldn’t allow for ease of use. Navigation among slugline, character, dialogue, and action, and the various tab settings they require can be handled with the Tab and Enter keys. A nice feature is that a conversation between two characters alternates the character names after finishing their dialogue, which allows for continued typing speed. I type at 55 wpm normally, and can do almost this fast with a screenplay, and given the speed motif of this competition, every second counts.

So much so, that to prepare myself to write a short film quickly, as I had never written one before, quickly or otherwise, I wrote this article. Let me know what you think, and then come back.

I was very fortunate to be connected to entertainment industry types at my church, to the point where I had a cameraman with his own camera, a makeup artist, and, most importantly, someone who had edited films in the past. She had a fully loaded Power Mac G5, with a Hyundai 37″ monitor, complete with HD TV Dolby Digital. As I shot in HiDef on a Panasonic HVX200, this made what I saw in the viewfinder the same as what I was editing in post. Or, the same as Julie was editing. I sat back and watched. My theory about moviemaking is to hire the best people to do their best jobs, and you’ll make a great film. The G5 was of the 2 GHz variety, with 6.5 GB of memory, running Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Final Cut Pro Studio 5.1.4. Oh, the “film” was actually stored on a detachable hard drive, the FS100 FireStore. We downloaded to the editing bay using a good old trusty FireWire cable. The FireStore was able to handle 130 minutes worth of footage, which is a little more than we used during the production.


I didn’t have the need to shout, “Cut, print!” We decided early on to download everything we shot, in order to have more choices. This came in handy when an actress had trouble matching from one take to the next on a crucial scene. Final Cut Pro Studio comes with sound editing software built right in, so that we were able to tweak the sound, and steal from one take to use in another as necessary. It was also helpful when my voiceover guy simply recorded his tracks at his home studio. When he was finished, he uploaded them to a .Mac account we had access to, and we downloaded them to the editing bay.

I also had my visual effects guy, who doubled as my prop man, design some logos on his MacBook Pro. He also came through for me with the color correction with After Effects on the final cut, when time was at a premium. When it came time to author the DVD to distribute to cast and crew (you have to give them something when they work for free—feeding them is a good thing, too) iDVD was simple and easy to use, to lay the three main tracks. I had to make a small change to the final product in order for it to be shown, so, that’s the third track on the DVD I handed out during the festival.


I have since gone back after all the craziness and created a Director’s Cut, which filled in a little of the story. It seems that in my haste to complete a film, I wrote a fourteen and a half minute screenplay. I was able to make the necessary additions easily, working with my editor, and this cut will appear on future releases of the DVD. They say that great art is never finished; it is only abandoned. I may leave Party in the House!!! alone for now. It did finally screen at the festival, to the enjoyment of all who saw it. I got the laughs I wanted in all the right places, except for one, where I could hear crickets chirping.

In conclusion, I highly recommend a Mac solution if you’re going to shoot an almost-no-budget movie. I could’ve entitled this piece, “You can make a movie for only $495!!!” However, that wouldn’t take into account all the donations and hard work put in by the cast and crew. I can tell you that I’ve decided to do this again, so look for the next one from me around March. I’ll let you know where and when.

72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.

e You next time.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (0)

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article