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August 22, 2011 / AM Collins

Eye Sore.

This month I have been busy working on Only You, the directorial debut of Karla Nogolica.  This romantic comedy has been a real delight to shoot due to the phenomenal production design by its director.  Karla, like many independent filmmakers, is shooting on a tight budget.  This obstacle should never be an excuse to slack on production design, which is generally the first thing to be forgotten or reduced during an independent shoot.  The director of photography might be able to save you and produce a good image, but let’s face it: white walls are ugly.  I don’t care what camera you are using, how many K you’re shooting at, or how good the acting is. Shooting in an apartment with bare walls would never fly in Hollywood. Therefore, you shouldn’t settle for them, either.

I happen to live in the same building as Karla, and I know that we are unable to paint our white walls. Problem? Yes. Impossible to fix? No.

What did we do to fix this problem? Karla went to Home Depot and made a couple of purchases.  All it took were three $20 wall panels, a $30 bucket of paint, and some assorted rollers, pans and equipment. And for about $100, we were able to cover the entire wall of her apartment. We spent the night painting and decorating the “fake walls,” and let them dry over night.  The added color, along with her meticulously picked color palette, boosted the appeal of the image and gave us the ability to tack and hang what we wanted without damaging the real wall.  We mimicked this same technique in another house and propped the walls with c-stands. This small effort put forth in pre-production probably produced some of the stronger visuals in the film.

As far as props go, Karla went to check out a place called “Stuff” here in San Francisco.  It’s on 150 Valencia.  This place has all kinds of strange things you might need to give your film some cool items.  And not everything must be purchased, we discovered that they also allow for rentals on the larger objects.  This would be ideal for filmmakers on a budget.  She also visited FLAX, IKEA, and Amazon.  But do you know where the easiest and cheapest place to get the most expensive items is? Your friends.  She borrowed a huge mirror and a bird-cage from her neighbor for a couple of hours.  The easiest thing for people to fix problems on set is to throw money at it, but most of the time there is a smart and cheaper way to fix those problems.

Now that I’m on the subject of saving money, I recommend the book Rebel without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez.  It’s his diary while preparing for his first film, El Mariachi.  It’s like a bible when it comes to saving money on set.  Rodriguez is a genius, and a cheap ass, which makes him an excellent director.

I’ll leave you with a mini-poster I created on my iPhone in between takes.  I used a handful of apps to do it.  Maybe I’ll go over an app review for me next blog.

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