Monthly Archives: August 2007

Editing: notes

These are my notes from the SXSW 2007 mini meeting on editing. [Personal comments and observations are in square brackets].


First off, it doesn’t really matter which format you shot on. It’s about story. [This comment from one of the editors on the panel].

David Lynch shot [parts of?] Inland Empire on a PD150.

Hardware: All brands of firewire drive have failures in a given 12 months. ATA drives are better. It’s really important to have back up drives and projects.

Directing: If you say everything is terrible, the editor will never go out on a limb and create something that’s never been seen before. Hopefully, you’re experimenting all the time.

Often a dialog scene will be too long; flexibility is needed. Reactions and body language can tell story as well as lines. You need different angles; coverage. A scene may not play in the context of the longer film. One shot masters don’t always work.

On set: Don’t just start shooting the close up at the point you think you’re going to cut in; actors can’t start at “intense” straightaway.

Fix small things first. Don’t edit from a place of panic.

The original Superman (and the new Casino Royale) reached a pinnacle of fast cutting. Also Don’t Look Now.

DD Allen [panellist]: Watch and learn about rhythmic editing, eg. Reds and The Limey, especially the conversations in the latter.

Label tapes correctly!


Casting: notes

These are my notes from the SXSW 2007 mini meeting on Casting. [Personal comments and observations are in square brackets].


Working with casting directors: First, you need to have a script. Then you need finances in place (sometimes a letter of intent is enough).

Casting directors work through word of mouth. Ten weeks notice is required at the very least to begin casting for a feature.

In casting a film, the casting director will have conversations with the director and will read the script. They will take pictures and resumes to the director. Also, it’s now usually the practice to upload auditions to the web.

Casting directors are there to direct the actors in the room and then the director has sessions with them. They are part of a collaboration between the director and the actors. They use standard and non-standard avenues, eg. agents and also schools, craigslist, etc. They are not the same as a casting facilitator.

A facilitator is an assistant who gets resumes, sets up auditions and the director makes decisions.

Great actors: come prepared, ready to work, are not too chatty but still very human. They make no excuses. They are people who really enjoy their work. They’re open, smart and can be given some direction.

Hire an LA casting director if you’re looking for name talent; it’s all about connections and relationships [note: this was from a professional casting director].

Jo [one of the panellists] almost always works with another casting director. They bring different things to the table.

Local. Local means no travel days, no per diem, hotel, etc. They have to have a local address and be able to show up on short notice.

Jo: “We do like smart actors.”
Lieblein: “Thinking actors are the coolest thing.”

Actors who haven’t watched the show are not wanted.

Kids: you’re also hiring the parent!

A good casting director should manage your expectations, which will depend on the quality of the script and the project.

You should have a plan, eg. five names and a set date for passes, then cast.

Directing Actors: notes

These are my notes from the SXSW 2007 Mini Meeting on Directing Actors. [My comments are in square brackets].


Share your vision and ideas [this applies to crew too]. Make the actors feel comfortable; they must trust you and feel safe. Let them know you’re a team and they’re respected.

The lead principals should have some sort of rehearsal. Often, there’s also a dinner [where they get to meet each other and the director without the pressure of being on set].

Talk about the feeling of the role and the line. Be supportive and introduce ideas. Be willing to be wrong and open to new ideas.

Set emotional objectives and know the emotion of the scene. 80% [of film acting] is tone, 20% is content (lines, dialog). The film is not about the lines. It’s about the reaction to the lines. Watch out for actors coming out of character in reactions [eg. waiting for their next cue].

Don’t be afraid to challenge actors. Professional actors want to be directed. Also recognize when they give you something good.

With non-professional talent: communicate in terms the actor knows and can relate to. You can fake reactions from non-actors (eg. Spielberg using characters in costume to get kid reactions in Close Encounters). However, you have to do this kind of thing with respect for the person and the actor.

Workshopping: a day in which to explore some emotions, in an honest way, without faking out actors on set. [Faking out actors on set destroys trust and undermines the whole process].

Casting directors: to find a casting director, you can look up the CSA website.

Shooting the entire scene from every angle (including close ups) helps the arc and intensity of performance.

Less is more. Be honest. And remember that, if environment didn’t matter, we’d all shoot green screen [all the time].


Recommended viewing: the two disc set of Dog Day Afternoon. Watch disc 2.

Advice from a DP

Here’s some tips I got from experienced feature Director of Photography, PJ Raval, earlier this year at SXSW.

PJ consistently recommended the P2 system, even if you buy one of Panasonic’s cameras that records on this system (eg. the HVX-200), it should hold much of its value for resale after the shoot. [This was certainly true earlier this year].

He said that 24P on the DVX (DVX-100) is better than 24f on the Sony Z1. To get even better results from the pro-sumer Panasonic camera, PJ suggested switching off the knee, setting the pedestal lower and setting the zebra at 90-95%. He also suggested shooting everything on the pre-sets, including white balance (daylight or tungsten).

The anamorphic lens is great, he said, but does have some drawbacks, for example no big close ups due to (spherical) aberration.

Them’s me notes. If that made sense to you (it does to me), then enjoy!