Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 5: Filming the Pitch Video

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 5
Filming the Pitch Video


    One of the things a filmmaker should do when running a crowdfunding campaign is make a pitch video.  For Ariel, that a pitch video would be needed is a given.  One of the points that John Trigonis makes in his book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers (see: ) is that it is important for a crowdfunding campaign to be successful it must make a personal connection.  Why?  While people sometimes support projects, what they more often do is support people who have projects.  In most cases people want to feel that they are dealing with a fellow human being rather than a faceless project.
    In Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, John Trigonis explains other things that go to make a good crowdfunding pitch video.  It should be short, generally about two minutes.  It should be unique and memorable.  Funny and entertaining are also desirable.  It should be all about the contributor experience.  You should certainly tell potential contributors what is in it for them, such as perks and the like.  Additionally, you should use it as one more tool to build your audience.  One of the big things that Trigonis highly encourages is that you should be in your own pitch video.  This goes back to that personal connection that contributors want to have with someone to whom they are going to give money.
    In making the pitch video for Ariel, I did as much as I could to follow John Trigonis’ advice.  In some areas I think hit the mark and in others I had to break some rules.  The concept was to do the whole video in one continuous in which I would talk about the campaign and introduce some of the characters while the actors moved about and presented a silent show that hinted what the Ariel story was about.  While that sounds simple it was not easy.
    I had written out the script (see: ) and had drawn the storyboards (see: ) for the pitch video a few weeks before the shoot.  Also during that time, I started rehearsing my lines.  Originally, there was to be a rehearsal on one weekend and the actual shoot the following weekend.  At the time we were coming up on the Christmas holiday and scheduling for both actors and crew became problematic.  Our rehearsal day became our shooting day.

     The day of the shoot was a cold December evening in a parking lot I was lucky enough to get permission to shoot in.  We met around four o’clock in the afternoon and started setting up the camera equipment and running through the blocking.  We would be shooting with my Canon 60D.  From Gear Rental here in Austin, I had rented a shotgun mic, boom pole, cables and adapter so that we could run the audio directly into the camera.  Not optimal but decent given the budget.  For crew I had Andrea Christian on camera, Chris Valencia on sound and Ivan Salazar and Wesley Frank as production assistants as well as stand in actors.  We had Sara Miller portraying Ariel and Layla Munk, Bret Munk, Sev Medrano and Ivan Salazar as the bad guys and Wesley Frank as a, well, production assistant.
    The way the video went was that the camera would be place on a tripod and pan around and follow me as I pitched the film.  At certain points I would stop and introduce the characters, talk about the story are explain the campaign perks.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, of course, no.  It took about thirty-six takes to get it done.  After our first few takes it became apparent that we had hit just over five minutes; well beyond the two minutes we were shooting for.  Of course, I flub lines numerous times.  So, I had to cut some lines.  Now if you have ever done acting, or even public speaking, you know that after you have rehearsed something hundreds of times and then have to suddenly change, it can throw you off.  So, there were a few takes where I was working out the bugs for the shortened pitch.  There was also getting the timing right and having the actors figure out how to hit their marks.  It was a shot with a lot of moving parts but in the end, we got it done.
    In filmmaking it is difficult not to have a discrepancy between the shot you have in your head and what you actually get.  Some of the takes had sound issues.  After all, we were in a parking garage in the middle of downtown Austin with trucks, trains and sirens causing us to wait to shoot several times.  Also, some of the things I had hoped to see just didn’t quite come out the way I imagined.  That being said, we did get a useable pitch.    In hindsight I think we would have benefited from a rehearsal day.  Also, having a monitor with which we could review the footage and make corrections would have been helpful.
    I must say that the cast and crew were fantastic.  Despite the cold weather and the numerous takes they were ever patient and well spirited. I am very proud of them.  We never did get the video under two minutes.  At best we got it to four minutes.  It was certainly a learning experience which was one of the intents of this exercise.  Overall, while there are certainly areas where the quality could be improved, I think what we shot got the job done.
    The pitch video can be see at this link:

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