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The Self-Sufficient Filmmaker

Lesson 10 of 17

Pre-production - 3 Scene Studies

Francesca Gregorini

The Self-Sufficient Filmmaker

Francesca Gregorini

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Lesson Info

10. Pre-production - 3 Scene Studies

Lesson Info

Pre-production - 3 Scene Studies

I think the best way to sort of explain these things is sort of just doing showing you some scenes from the film and then I'll show you sort of like what it took to get to that to film that scene sort of what are the steps? You know that I took with the cinematographer so that you know we could shoot the scene in the ten seconds that we had a lot of to shoot the scene esso just one second I'm going to tell you sort of you can just set the scene here and tell people what's going on in the laundry s so this is seen thirty three so still fairly early on in the movie if you haven't seen thiss movie it's about this young girl will you read the log lines he sort of no but anyways she's taking the preoccupation with her neighbor she offers to baby sit her baby in order to get closer to her and she's yet to meet the baby but she started to have some uneasy feelings about what's going on here s o she's just been asked to take the laundry basket upstairs and that's the baby's room that she's loo...

king at right now so she's sort of she's hearing some noises coming from that room it's not a baby she's hearing lee these water noises coming from that room so she sort of going tio investigate what's going on there so that's sort of the set up of where we are in the movie and we'll just roll the scene and then I'll show you sort of what we did I thought I heard something but no I don't anything although this letter again it's fine just come down I want to ask for sleeping schedule okay? So that's so that's that scene this was just one of the images too of the images that we're on the mood board sort of toe that spoke to polly and I about what that scene was going to feel like I mean, there was tons more but we just for the purposes of this we just pulled two of those images so this is just a typical sort of shot list and you know, we didn't have that much money so it's like we kind of had to do all the scenes in a limited amount of, you know, angles in time I mean, if it was up to me, this would be like, you know, going around the room and all the angles that I'd like to get or whatever but it's basically it's a medium shot dolly sort of walking back with emmanuel if she's coming up the stairs so we set tracks and we pulled back with her this is a medium shot behind her as she's walking towards the door this isn't over the shoulder toe linda so when she sees linda, you know, we're behind her as to reveal in the close up of her listening at the door and over the shoulder of em to reveal the water coming under the door. These air the fantasy bits that I, you know, having olivia and then I started in ten or hall on dh, then a, you know, moving m p o v of chloe's door. She walks past cover from the if time allows. So this is a shot that we're willing to give up if we ran out of time and, you know, a lot of the time is taken by relieve the setting up of the light. So that's really a bummer because you think you have all this time and it's like for them to get the lighting right is really takes up most of your time and really, you have to shoot the scene with your actors in, like, ten minutes. So it's, like, you just always have less time than you ever possibly imagined that you could have on dh. This is just oh, and then we not we poly draws out thiss beautiful diagram once we've found our location and sort of puts in our shot lists here, but at least we have a diagram of, you know, where everyone is and what the shots are and this is emmanuel at the door and this is, you know, over the shoulder of her this is the side shot when we saw her listening at the door this is watching her from here this is going to pick up linda she comes up the stairs that little guy's linda and you know, there you have it these were the five shots and it's drawn out. So you have all of this in your little directors book along with a mark script this is marking, you know, the beats and, you know, it's tension uneasy, curious that's sort of like what's happening, you know, she's curious about what's going on in that room becomes tense and uneasy when, when that comes up and says with how you're doing on dh this is just an example of screen shots in the edit room and then this becomes sort of the card I built kind of not a mood board, but I build the whole film with these cards in the in the edit room for act one and act to enact three and these little cards sit in there and then as we change things around, they they fly around the board like, actually, we're gonna move this over here and that over there, but for me it helps to have like this scene I know I look at it, I know what the scene is I don't have to come over and read it and wait is that the hallway when she comes up this time or that time like notes it's this so it's just ah quick way for you and your editor it's to sort of move things around matt things et cetera eso we're just going to watch I think one other scene this is a little further down in the movie it's seen fifty four so at this point emanuel has discovered that when this baby is actually just a doll so there's something really wrong with linda but now she's grown attached to her so she feels protective of her and she's not telling her parents that she's actually baby sitting a dull for a madwoman s oh, she has a stepmother who's, a new stepmother who's trying to sort of, you know, get closer to her stepdaughter and, you know, it was just really trying super hard but she's not interested in her stepmother she's interested in the crazy neighbor lady who was looks like her dead mother and s o the scene is well, you're about to see the scene but this is a setup she knows now what's going on hello, hello oh, you look like you've had quite a run no ridiculously short actually I brought you some fresh baked cookies it's very sweetie. Thank you where's chloe sleeping sleeping yeah, she fell asleep in my arms so put her down for a nap. You know we would love to have you a little chloe over for dinner some night oh, wow, that would be lovely but chloe goes to bed quite early. Well, many manual could stay later one night you know, in a little extra money don't need extra money and I use my nights to study french. Well, maybe you could study your french here, you know, while the baby's sleeping yeah, okay, great had settled. How about friday? Okay, yeah. Ok, so that's that scene this was just one of the mood board cards and he pulled and again we came in a bit later than this close up on the cookies but it's just like wide shot from the door over the shoulder of linda reverse see linda dolly pushing on and throughout through janice and linda. So ideally a sorry go back grant from ideally, you wanted do your scenes in his few shots as possible and get creative within that because every time you I have a new scene or like I'm facing this way now facing that way it's not just like oh tossed the camera around it's like move all the lights and you probably only have lights to light one side so now it's not like you're set up to like this side now everyone's down for forty five minutes is everybody turns around and we like this and figures it out so as few shots as possible and as creative as you know as possible and sort of you know, being between the two women you know and moving in on and sort of the the shots in the style of the shots sort of helps to tell the story is sort of closing in on emanuel and she's between her mother and you know, her her it's that mother and her sort of fantasy mother and sort of, you know, trying to figure out creatively with your dp you're creative dp cause you're going to hire very creative dp how do we tell this story just through the lens you know, like even if they weren't talking like you would understand what's happening in the scene by the way that you that you shoot the scene and so then you, you know, probably got better on this one, but she sort of did the kitchen layout and sort of this is, you know, our little track and on the day we ended up moving this stuff so you can you just set it up and then you on the day you do whatever feels right, but we ended up putting emanuel down here and putting the two women here so it's more or less this is sort of how it was set up but then you change it on the day and that's the thing as long as you have a set plan then you can do whatever you want once you're there but you know that you have a set plan if everything goes to hell you can still shoot your scene and have your scene and you know and if you're inspired that day to change things around and great but at least you everyone goes in knowing you're going to get it done in a certain number of hours and this is just the scene breaking down and whatever and this is like in the edit room sort of that scene hanging on the wall somewhere and here we go and this is just the scene is thea underwater sequence and just I guess we'll just roll this and then I'll explain sort of how we accomplish this fantasy sequence wait okay, so that bit of madness these were our sort of whatever are, you know, mood shots but that was really ah huge undertaking we basically took chloe's bedroom that we found in this victorian house somewhere in los angeles and we rebuilt the inside of it not perfectly to scale like a little bit smaller but it's what it was um and we built it in this parking lot in long beach where they had this huge tank that they had built for some you know, multi good billion dollar movie that needed a tank and just built it and then walked away pretty much eso we re created her room we rented, you know, cranes and we basically lifted the room put it over this you know, huge fish tank for lack of better word and then just started to sink it in there with her actors and all our crew and you know, and people with, you know, scoop a year I happen to be lucky that my cinematographer was scuba certified so she's in there with her scooby year and her camera and your piece which is very frustrating for her because she could just hear me giving your directions and she could never talk back to me so that was like her worst day on set for sure. Good, good right um and yes so this was a huge undertaking, you know, for a little indy film but it just shows you like if your dog did enough and you surround yourself with people that understand why this scene is so important to you and how it's going toe elevate the movie that you you know, you find a way to do it, you know, just even in figuring out how would this even work? You know what I mean? S o that's you know and you know and of course everything that could go wrong on the day did go wrong and kaya had a break and you know what I mean and couldn't go down to the bottom and you know, the furniture that was in the room started floating in the room and hitting crew in the head on dh you know, day one our crane broke so we actually couldn't do it and lost a day of shooting that we had to sort of make up somewhere so I mean, it was not free of, you know, heartache and headache but it's just like, you know, you commit to it and you just, you know, see it through and obviously on this there's just like pages and pages of like, what we wanted to get in terms of shots because there's no dialogue and we're here so we better shoot the bejesus out of it and this is basically, you know, chloe's bedroom that we re created and you know, and it takes a lot of I thought, you know, like we had to leave gaps in the floorboards so that it would sink it's not going to just float in the tank because now you've got a floating room that's not going to really work for what you want to d'oh, so it just took a lot of, you know thought on everyone's part also to make sure that we didn't electrocute everybody in that tank with the lighting rigs and you know and all the rest of it and you know, stump people coming in because kaya could only do like a few whatever ten, twenty seconds of acting and then someone would shove a you know, a breather in her mouth and let it go and then she continue you know, her bit of acting and getting through windows and it was really, you know, challenging but it's like, you know, I think the end result was worth it and thank you um and yeah, and then there was some green screen madness that had to happen you know, it's incorporate our fish friends and you know, it's just it was you know, sorry if you and yeah, a couple of questions so was the side of the room clear? So you get a shot where was the camera the camera? Well, the camera was she was with polly's and it was she was swimming around with it well, we did accept that that was another fiasco is that you know, the camera assistant on one of the days didn't sealed the thing proper so then we fried like one hundred thousand dollars camera which thank god was we had insurance for that, but still, you know what I mean you don't want to fry camera um but yeah, that happened and then, you know, working with children, you know, because that baby sort of becomes from adult becomes a real living baby in this fantasy and that's, you know, that was challenging we had to, you know, find babies that looked like the doll that we had then we had tio shoot that sequence in a pool and, you know, and the babies, you know, not terribly cooperative, you know? And you couldn't you had to get three of them because you can only work them ten minutes at a time and it's like the baby's air, not that into it and so kaya standing in the pool, they'd be screaming, crying and but I've been told that, like, if you shove the baby underwater is not going to choke it's gonna stop crying and start talking so, you know, so kaya, standing there and she's really nice, you know, proper british girl and she's a and I think both the baby and just shove it do it because we're running out of time and, you know, I've only got thirty seconds left with this baby, otherwise you got to go get the parents to get the new baby and that baby is getting crying, the sky is going to stand there, so you know, there's a lot of craziness that goes down on then you know we have to cut we have to keep one baby our hero baby so which was a baby that swam the best you know get it from behind and you know it's a whole like madness you know you don't I think at the time like I said when you're writing you don't think like how is this going how you going to do this because if you did you wouldn't do it so you just figure it out later and just assume you know that it's going to somehow work sorry so that score for the movie is beautiful, right? Well nation hopefully is going toe my composer nathan larson is goingto we're going to do a skype call with him and I think that actual piece he did him and if it was him and his assistant or do you remember that was it was a collaboration but it was one of those situations where he let somebody he was working with work with him you know what I mean and uh yeah but he did I thought incredible job you know, throughout the film yeah um yeah thank you. We shot one day in the tank one night actually on dh we lost it the first night because like I said they they hired a crane a cheap crane that couldn't really lift it and but we figured like, hey, we're covered with insurance so there's a matter, we're going to lose to stay, they're going to pay for it. And then, as it turns out, the insurance said to me that, well, had you gone ahead and tried to lift the tank with this crane that wasn't working and killed your actors and your crew, we would have paid I'm not kidding for your last day, but because you made a judgment call and said, this is too dangerous, I'm not goingto, like, dip my actress and all this crew in with a crane that I can see visibly see the wheels of the crane or coming off the cement because you made that judgment call, we're not going to pay for your day, so it's, you know, it's, just maddening, but what are you going to dio? You know, you just that's what it is, and you know you're not going to take them to court with the three cents you have left at the end of the shooting day, so you just, you know, you figure it out, and you hope that you made the right call not, I'm not killing your teachers, but in, like, spending the two days to get this situation achieved, you know, was there something you have a question about the baby, but you kind of I kind of yeah, but now I'm kind of interested in your insurance policy whatever insurance we had don't get that insurance because they paid for basically nothing I think they pay like our makeup guy like crashed into the side of a car one morning because it was too early for him to come to work and he was just tired and I think I don't know they covered that there's something those four hundred dollars but yeah and the camera right and the camera no, they did cover the camera. Yeah, that would have been kind of a game stop her thin and cover the camera. That camera assistant did not survive the shoot but yeah it's like there's so many moving parts you know what I mean? You just going to assume that like something's going to go wrong every single day and it's funny because like you go through day and it's so hard you like god will it's not going to get harder than that? And then it does, you know? And so you then you just started to feel like every day something's going to go wrong and every day we're going to deal with it and move on because that is entirely what happens, you know way actually shot that's a good question because the whole movie was shot on alexa and but in this for this shoot, we had some reds hooked up sort of way. Haddon above shot. We had some cameras rigged in the room, all rolling at the same time and a lot of those we couldn't use because you could see the cinematographer swimming around with her camera in the shot. So it was kind of useless, but we could cut away here and there to some of the wides that you see are shot with. I think some residue think we even had some cannon candy. Whatever the hell it's called, um, because they were cheaper to rent and we just wanted to get as many cameras going at the same time because this was a one shot moment like we could only sink this puppy once, you know, and have dry curtains and all the rest of it. So it was just like everything role at the same time. And because it's digital doesn't matter, um, but yeah. Is that any other? Yes. Some parents let their baby go underwater. Yeah, like nothing but their names on the screen at the end of its super exciting. Their babies are in films. Um yeah, so I mean for that baby that made the cut like, you know, she's in this movie for all time and she's on their water and she's super cute but, yeah, I mean, but there's like a safety person and a custody person. And I think we have to have a teacher, tio I'm like, what are you teaching the children? And they're like two months, but there's all sorts of regulations that protect them, you know what I mean? And and they really do hold their breath underwater. It's like, really crazy. But I guess that's how? Infant swim like they have infants swimming classes. We find these babies from where we found these babies from, from infants. Women cause it was already parents that were, like, crazy enough. Tio spend the time to have their infants want to swim or learned to swim. So, you know, yeah, but all these things, you know, happening simultaneously like people like calling infant swimming classes and, you know, there's just so much, so much going on all at the same time. S o I guess your job is to try to stay as organized as you can and try to think ahead like what we need and who khun coup in the production office can take care of it. And your producers help you. And your assistant really helps you if you've got a good one, yeah, so that's, that bit of madness.

Class Description

Independent filmmakers are often called on to not only write and direct, but to produce their projects. Wearing all three “hats” can be a daunting, yet inspiring proposition. In The Self-Sufficient Filmmaker with Francesca Gregorini, you’ll learn easily-applied strategies for balancing the demands of doing all three very unique jobs.

Francesca’s work has been officially selected by the Toronto Film Festival and premiered in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance. In this class, she’ll discuss both the advantages and challenges of producing a film you’ve written and will direct. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to decide when its ‘right’ to produce your script and when to develop it further
  • Which "hat" to wear at what time from start to finish
  • Personalized paths for fundraising, production, and distribution

Francesca will explore the processes of writing, directing, and producing and how leading the charge can make these three unique perspectives more efficient, productive, and artistic.

The Self-Sufficient Filmmaker will help you develop best practices for all aspects of indie film production and inspire you to take control of your own destiny as a filmmaker. 



I think there were TONS of marvelous takeaways, here, in this course. The examples she presented about Scene Cards, the hardships, and the beauties-- all of it was very beneficial information for aspiring filmmakers. However, the verbal hesitance; "um", "you know", "uh", "you know what I mean", "or whatever"-- that started to get really distracting really quickly. But the course and the overall purpose of the lessons, that was great!


The good - Lots of helpful info about pre-production, things to consider, and working with actors. The not-so-good - Not exactly self-sufficient. If you were to cut out all the " know..." clutter, the course would probably be about 30 minutes shorter.