We first interviewed Alfredo for Cycle 1 of Independent Scene (check out the interview on www.independentscene.com). Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi is an independent filmmaker from Toronto, Ontario. He has written, produced, composed, edited and directed four short films, and freelances as a composer and production assistant for music videos.
Having a big idea is great and exciting; not having a big wallet isn't. When I sat down to write my fourth short film "Reverie Three," I knew that my budget would be pocket change. Having a preproduction plan conscientious of what you are able to acquire is a must, and will hopefully set you upon a smooth production and postproduction journey. The following preproduction plan contains tips based on personal experiences as well as brief insights into "Reverie Three."
Story is everything! If you have a solid story, a subject that you feel strongly about, then your passion to tell your story will come across to the viewer despite your budget; and that's what you want to do: connect with your audience.
2. Location: Weston Service (auto body shop):
The auto body shop is owned by my uncle, Eugene Arcilesi, and has been the setting for three of my four films. As much as I would love to "move out" of the body shop and shoot at other locations, the reality is that finding and securing locations is sometimes a long and difficult process, and if you want to make at least one film in the year, than it's best to use whatever you can get. Simply ask people if you can use their home or business, whether they are your family or friends. Sometimes a crew or cast member will offer their home or business. Just be honest with your intentions. Don't say that you plan on shooting for one day in the living room, when you really need to shoot for three days in bedroom and backyard. Personally, repeatedly setting my stories in the body shop has taught me to be creative. You will be surprised how many stories you can come up with by having them center around one location.
Originally, I anticipated shooting on my miniDVCam, the same camera I had used on my first three shorts. However, this time around, I had the support of Robert Toshoff who afforded me his HD gear, thus, turning up my production value by a marginal notch. To be honest, being so conditioned to shooting with lower-end gear and finicky department store tripods, I didn't know what I would do with the equipment I was provided. This brings me to an important point: if you are able to obtain higher-end gear, that's great, but don't feel obligated to make your production more complicated. Your gear should improve your production and help with your storytelling, not overwhelm your production and dictate your storytelling. I have spoken to many filmmakers who are more focused on their gear, rather than their story. They feel that if they don't have a dolly shot or a crane shot, their film will never be good enough. Don't worry about that! Look at all of the multi-million dollar failures that have come out of Hollywood and such. Dolly or no dolly, tell your story the way you see fit, and if that happens to include dollies and cranes, more power to you. Admittedly, with Robert's addition of a shoulder mount support, I was able to execute the long, single-take shots I had always wanted to attempt, but these were dictated by the needs of the story. Of course, if you have your own gear, than you're already saving yourself some dough. If you're not fortunate enough to own your own gear, or if you do, but you feel you want to step up your production value, there are many vendors and shops that you can visit. Be advised, though, that should you choose to rent gear, you may need to build your production schedule around gear availability.
Finding people to commit to a low/no-budget production is not easy. People who are not being paid, or paid enough, may not feel obligated to the production, especially if a (higher) paying gig comes up. I shot my first two shorts entirely on my own until my third production. Now, I come from a do-it-yourself background, writing, producing, composing, editing and directing my shorts - among other tasks. It's a great learning experience, however, as your productions grow, you will need more help. Since "Reverie Three" was a more ambitious production, I enlisted the help of a few people who I befriended and supported my earlier works, including my own cousin, a photographer by hobby, who shot behind the scenes video and photos. If you have relatives in film or related fields, you just might have the help you're looking for. Again, on the subject of money, if you cannot afford to pay them, feed them! The motto is: a fed crew is a happy crew.
There are many websites dedicated to the search for actors. I am a frequent user of www.mandy.com. Since my first short, I have created a talent pool, a team of actors who I trust to bring to my characters to life. For "Reverie Three," I chose to work with previous, multiple collaborators Kevin Carroll, Robert Nolan and Kimberley Curran, with two new additions, Greg Chociej and Silvana D'Abate. When writing, I keep specific actors in mind, while other times I keep my mind open to new talent. Like crew, if your cast is not receiving any compensation, it's best to accommodate them with food and/or gas money, and whatever other costs that may arise, such as wardrobe. Though it may be difficult to acquire good talent, persevere! Do not sacrifice a good script for the sake of not being able to find talent. I wouldn't have hired the above-mentioned talent if I didn't feel they were right for their respective roles, and considering all the time and effort you're putting into the rest of the production, it's just not worth throwing it all away.
Schedules can be tricky. One weekend might be good for you, but not for an actor. Another weekend might be good for the entire cast and crew, but not for the equipment vendor. And, of course, the weather just might decide to change everything completely. It's best to confirm dates as far in advance as possible, that way your cast and crew can make arrangements. Weekends are ideal shooting days as business locations may be available and cast and crew who hold regular jobs might be free. On "Reverie Three," we had one confirmed shoot date, that being the second shoot date. The first shoot date was confirmed only a couple of days prior to shooting because of a location that suddenly became available. In the end, the film was shot for a total of twelve hours spread over two days.
That is it for now. Of course, there are many other facets to take into consideration when planning a production, but the aforementioned categories are those that are most vital. There is so much that can be said, but only so much time and space to say it all. Remember that "film is the constant search for the perfect moment," and in order to find it you must keep making films!
Currently Alfredo is promoting Reverie Three which can be seen at www.vimeo.com/3990361