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Lessons Learned from Immanuel’s Song

It’s the end of the biggest project I’ve ever been in charge of. $1300 raised, 6 days of shooting, and months and months of headaches, heart palpitations, weight gain, and swings of crippling depression.

As I wrap up the homemade Blurays and DVDs to distribute among the wonderful individuals who financed the film on Indiegogo, I figure it’s time for a small reflection on Immanuel’s Song.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to make this crazy crazy short film. I’m grateful to the people who made it with me, and for the people awesome enough to donate to the project. I’m grateful for the actors who were willing to work for free to make it happen, and to the staff of UVU and all of their help during the project.

We go into the making of the film in great detail in the video below, and in it you can also see the B-roll footage that Hector Hectares (our editor who doubled as production designer) shot underneath it.

I’m not gonna bore you by repeating what’s been said, so I’m gonna cut to the chase and make a list of things I learned while making Immanuel’s Song:

  • Hire a composer early on in the process, John Milius did this with Conan the Barbarian and it turned into one of the greatest soundtrack of all time.
  • Don’t start production until you’ve found the right actors. Don’t settle or you’ll regret it.
  • As Director, spend time with each actor to craft the performance. Don’t have tunnel-vision on one guy and forget the others in the scene.
  • If you think you’re being nice in a tense situation, be at least 10% nicer. Crew members who don’t know you as well won’t know when you’re just being assertive. They think you’re pissed, and will complain to their friends about it later.
  • If you’re gonna hold auditions, provide sides. Otherwise, no one will show up, unless you’re paying $.
  • Always get chocolate covered almonds for crafty. Everyone loves them.
  • Although it’s good to be specific in your directorial vision, always get a reverse shot. No matter how much you think you’re Stanley Kubrick, a little bit of coverage will help you in the edit.
  • If you know you’re gonna be shooting low-budget, don’t shoot a period piece.
  • Always have a private place for your actors to collect themselves.
  • Show up early to set, always. It’s going to take longer to light than you’ve planned for, every time.
  • Don’t print the DVDs yourself. Pay up. It’s a serious pain in the ass.
  • Don’t shoot in 2.85:1. Do what Fincher does and shoot in 16×9 with guidelines and then crop in post, you’ll have more to work with later.

And the most important lesson?

  • If you can make a short film like this one, you can make a movie. It’s all the same steps, but 5x more shooting.

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