Return to Sender: Storyboard

Due to some shuffled plans, I was able to start on pre-visualization for my next short film sooner than I was expecting. With my particular team, we have developed a way to start pre-production that runs very smoothly. It happens in stages.

During the first stage, I go through my script, and I think about how I’d like to see it transfer from page to screen. I pull out my own storyboard template, and I draw it out on paper. Now, I’m definitely not the best artist in the world, so my drawings really help no one out but me. (We figured this out while in production on Lights).

In the second stage, we take my drawn storyboard, and we turn that into a 3D visualization. To do this, I work with my cinematographer, and we figure out exactly what I’m trying to say, and we translate that into something that he can understand. In the end, my storyboard is a plan, and his 3D visualization ends up being the actual storyboard.

Return to Sender Shot 23

This process makes production run so smoothly. We can make a plan for shoot days and know approximately how long each shoot day will take. We can factor in set up time, lunch breaks, and factor in room for error. It helps to put together a production schedule, find locations, use time efficiently, and don’t even get me started on how well it works as a plan of attack for editing.

As I mentioned above, this is the process that I’ve developed for my films with the people I work with consistently. I’ve worked as a producer for other filmmakers, and they don’t all do the same thing. It really depends on the filmmaker.

With all that being said, the storyboarding process is now complete for my next short film, Return to Sender. The images included above are examples from that.

We’re still in pre-production, just moving on to the next phase of that. We still have location scouting to do and casting. I’m considering doing casting differently this time around than what I’ve been doing, but that will entirely depend on scheduling. I’m still up in the air about that.

Stay tuned for more updates on Return to Sender as the process continues!


Xcelerate 2016: Week 4

This post took a bit longer to write than all of the other weeks of Xcelerate 2016, and this was because, for me, it extended a little bit further. I just finished a second week of Lights, Camera, Action! While the class ended this past Friday, it continued somewhat through the weekend, and into the following week.

The reason for this extension was editing. Due to the new format for the class, which I’ll explain next, I just felt that it would be easier for me to edit the film for the kids in my group.

I mentioned briefly in a previous post about how we’d been planning on changing up the format of the class. In previous years, we’d stuck with a pre-made story called “The Secret of the Pirate’s Treasure.” On the first day of class, we’d familiarize the kids with the story, and then we’d start filming on Tuesday. The rest of the week would be filming that particular story, and the final film would need to be finished by that Friday.

We had two weeks of Lights, Camera, Action during Xcelerate 2016, and both of them were slightly different. In the first week, we still filmed the pirate story, but we were able to eliminate the viewing on Friday, which gave us more time to film the story. It wasn’t as rushed. During the second week, this week, we changed the format entirely.

In this past week, rather than work with a pre-made story, the kids were able to write their own. We just gave them a genre! On Monday, we discussed some aspects of filmmaking, showed them the cameras, and did an exercise where they put a short story together. On Tuesday, they formulated the story for the movie they would make throughout the rest of the week, including storyboarding which I loved to do with the kids. Then Wednesday through Friday, we filmed their story!

There were 8 students in the class this week, so we split into two groups. I took one, and another instructor took the other. I don’t know much about how the other group’s week went, but I know that the students in my group got to get a lot of hands on experience. As the week progressed, students were able to run the camera, operate the boom mic, help with direction. It was great! I really felt like I was able to teach them something.

Unfortunately, we ran into some technical difficulties on the first day of filming, and we ran into situational difficulties on the second day, so it took us a bit longer to finish than I would have anticipated. If we had finished earlier, the kids would have gotten a more hands on approach to editing as well. When we finished on Friday, I was only able to briefly show them the editing program and talk a little about avoiding jump cuts and choosing the best shot to tell the story.

Since I didn’t know anything about what the other group did, it’s safe to assume the other group didn’t know much about what my group did either. This is why I asked if I could take the edit home and do it myself. I figured it would be easier for the other instructors involved because they were teaching the class on top of their regular day jobs at the college. We had over 10gb of footage to sift through, and even with the guide I made, it would have been a chore to navigate.

I may have gone a bit above and beyond on my edit, but I was just really excited. The kids put so much effort into the film, and I wanted to give them something to be proud of. As I write this, I’m still making the finishing touches, and I’ll be taking it back to the college this week.

There are definitely still changes that need to be made to this format of the class, but I think this is a good idea that we should continue to run with. I’ll probably make a round up post of the films from all the weeks soon since this is the first year they’re all going to be on YouTube!

Lights: Pre-Production Summary

From September to December, I was busy working on the pre-production planning of my short film Lights. I’ve been wanting to make a video detailing my progress, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I’m still not sure whether I will push this video to a later date or if it will happen at all.

The bulk of my pre-production planning was spent writing the script, which is completely understandable. I wrote a first draft in order to make a deadline, and then I re-wrote the second act and tweaked the ending to correct the pacing, character development, and overall feel of the film.

Overall, the script prints out at 21 pages. There are 21 scenes which alternate between “found footage,” reflection entries, and classic film style scenes.

The film relies on two characters, the main character being Milo and the secondary character being his friend Beth. Both characters are in their early to mid-20s, presumably film students, which leads to the more meta style of the film.

Around the time of Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to cast the actors who will be portraying Milo and Beth. This was accomplished much earlier than expected. I was originally planning on taking care of casting over the winter holidays. Having this done earlier was a huge relief.

Finishing the storyboard for Lights was a pretty hefty job, but I completed it in about a week during December. There are about 21 pages of storyboard as well, which is just a wonderful coincidence (21s all around!). I still need to send the pdf version of the storyboard to my composer so he can have a visual idea of what he’s looking forward to.

All of this information was sent to my faculty advisors in the beginning of December, since this is a student film project after all. The next task on my list will be to put together a shoot schedule so I can book my actors and locations on specific dates.


For the last month now, I’ve been trying to put together a short film. I’m talking something less than 5 minutes.. maybe even 3 minutes tops.

The writing is done. The storyboard is done. Is the final product done? No.

Why? You may ask. B-roll. I would answer.

The whole point of the story is to highlight a game that my boyfriend and I play in the car. It explains the rules of the game and then shows the viewer how it is played, and the student far surpasses the skill of the teacher. It’s a pretty simple format, and theoretically shouldn’t take too long to complete, but the b-roll is a killer.

We need shots of the cars that fit the criteria for the game, and you really can’t plan that. If I could plan it, the project would have been done weeks ago. Unfortunately, in order to get the necessary b-roll shots, this requires us to drive around with a camera every night just hoping to catch some cars that would make us win a game of padido.

It’s not going well. It’s not practical to bring an expensive camera in the car every night, nor is it easy to attach a GoPro to the car every night. Sometimes we grab one on our phones if we see it. The project is turning into a bit of a nightmare if I must say so myself.

To be continued.