All posts by Kenn

Indie Filmmaking Tip – Take it Outside

There’s a reason why so many low budget horror films take place in a house – All you need is one location, half a dozen college kids to kill off, and a serial killer determined to kill them.

Simple. Cheap.

Every additional location you add costs something – time to set up and tear down equipment, the sets and props, and it costs time and gas to get everyone to and from each location. Centering a story inside one location is a great way to keep it simple and cheap, but to add a little extra production value to your film without spending any additional money, consider taking it outside. A few exterior shots can help your film breathe.

Maybe show your characters pulling into the driveway of the house where they will be staying, or at the very least at the front door finding the key under the door mat or planter before entering the house. Maybe later in the script they can run outside only to find their car won’t start or they get chased back inside the house.

In my film, THE FINAL GOODBYE, the opening scene was filmed across the street from my house, followed by a reverse shot of him walking towards my house and then entering it. I also grabbed a few shots of him getting in his car so I would have more footage to use when editing. It didn’t cost us anything but a little bit of time to get these shots, but it added so much to the final film.

Taking it out side to shoot some exterior shots is a great way to help your story breathe without the added expense of moving everyone to a new location because all you did was step outside.

TIP: Don’t forget to grab some footage on the way to your location. For THE FINAL GOODBYE we grabbed some shots of the actor driving to the cemetery location.

On our way to the cemetery location there was a secluded stretch of road that looked amazing. The overcast skies, the wet road and dying trees would really help establish the hopelessness the character was feeling. I want to get a shot of our actor driving towards the camera then shoot the reverse or him driving away from the camera, but Murphy’s Law was working overtime and the typically quiet road had a lot of traffic, then it started to rain. After several failed attempts to get the shots I decided it was best to just scratch the idea and get to the actual location so we could film the story.

Always remember that the story is more important than B-Roll footage regardless of how amazing the shot may be. If it’s not an integral part of your story, you don’t need it. So don’t waste too much time and resources trying to get that amazing shot that has nothing to do with your story.

If you’re shooting a thriller about a serial killer who is stalking your characters, you don’t even have to move the actors outside – just take your camera outside and shoot the exterior of the house. Maybe have a character looking out the window and the camera dips behind a tree, bush or fence. That will raise the production value and the intensity because now you’re showing the killer’s POV (point of view) of watching the characters in the house, and all you did to raise the intensity (and the production value) was to take your camera outside.

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it inspired you to think outside the box and take it outside to raise the production value of your indie film. If you have any comments I’d love to hear from you and please don’t forget to like and share this post. It really helps. Thank you.

All the screengrabs used in this post were taken directly from my film THE FINAL GOODBYE – the very first short film I ever made. To watch it in it’s entirety, click the link below.

About the Author:photo of Author, and Filmmaker Kenn Crawford

Kenn Crawford is an author and filmmaker from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Click HERE to watch his YouTube Videos

The Story of: “A Brand New Day” Music Video

With the lyrics in one hand and a coffee in the other I paced the floors trying to come up with a concept for Sheldon O’Neill’s latest video “A Brand New Day.” He asked if his ten year old son Stefhaun could be in it too, but other than that it was up to me to come up with an idea for his video.

With the song on repeat I jotted down ideas, only stopping long enough to refill my cup, until a “story” presented itself. I started with the standard “shot-by-shot” and wrote down a visual that would match the lyrics exactly, resulting in images of war, famine, nuclear explosions and so on. Visually it would have been intense, but did those graphic pictures best serve the song?Picture of Sheldon O'Neill

In the lyrics Sheldon mentioned so many things that are wrong with the world that I decided to focus on just one of those and build a story line around that. But which one?

My friend Andrew stopped by with a coffee and we tossed a few ideas around. Shortly thereafter the idea of a homeless man struck a chord with me and that was the idea I knew I needed to develop.

A couple of hours and a few cups of coffee later the story was set – a homeless man is seen pushing a cart and going through dumpsters looking for food. He’s cold and hungry and everything he owns is in that cart, and a bunch of teens start tormenting him by taking something he owns. Another teen sees what is happening and does nothing to help.  Later on the homeless man is seen holding a sign begging for help but is ignored until this one child wants to stop and help him, much to the dismay of his father who yanks on his arm and forces him to stay away from the homeless man.

Behind the scenes shot of the music video

Later, the young son is sitting in a restaurant with his father when the homeless man is seen pushing his cart by the window. The father of course is too busy talking on the phone to notice so the child decides enough is enough – he grabs his food and runs outside and offers his meal to the homeless man.

With the story set, Margie and I began working out the rest of the video, including performance shots of Sheldon singing next to a fence with some pallets and against a concrete wall to give an “urban decay” feel to that part of the story. We also designed the shoot around a church to show “hope” – the homeless man visits the church while Sheldon is performing his song that tells the story of how the world has gone astray, but there’s still hope for a brand new day.

Here’s the final video.
I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed making it.

About the Author:photo of Author, and Filmmaker Kenn Crawford

Kenn Crawford is an author and filmmaker from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Click HERE to watch his YouTube Videos

Say Hello to Jack Raven

What do you get when you cross a hard-nose detective, a sweet little girl, and demonic possession?

A Jack Raven Mystery
Casefile # 0327-17: Lucy Perkins

picture of Elliot HayotOn Sunday, March 26th, Elliott Hayot from Belgium contacted me about making short films. Elliott is a Public Relations student and he’ll be taking the selection tests to be an Air Traffic Controller; he also studied filmmaking in high school. He had a short story he wrote that he thought would make an interesting film. He asked if I would take a look at it and possibly consider shooting it some day.

I receive a few requests like that through email and on Facebook, and I’m always willing to help when I can, but his story, The Man with the Hat, really drew me in and I immediately saw its potential as a film.

We chatted for a bit to make sure we were both on the same page and then I went back to planning an upcoming film shoot, but Elliott’s story was stuck in my head and nagging at me to do something with it now… right now.

So I did.

Several hours later the first draft was finished, but the characters took me in a very different direction than what I had originally planned.  Great characters often take on a life of their own. The following day, with the help of my girlfriend to proofread and offer some insight, I worked and reworked it until I had what I thought was a solid draft.

Twenty-seven hours and one minute since Elliott first contacted me, A Jack Raven Mystery was sent back to him to make sure he liked and approved the screenplay.

He did.

It is now sitting in pre-production mode where the 1st AD and I will breakdown the script and figure out exactly what and who we will need to shoot it. Right now we are looking at late spring or early summer before we start rolling cameras. In the meantime, here’s a quick list of some of the speaking and non-speaking roles we will be auditioning for as well as needing some behind-the-scenes personnel such as hair & makeup, sound, lights, and production assistants.

  • Jack Raven – detective
  • Lucy Perkins – little girl
  • Gloria Shannon – detective
  • George Perkins – Lucy’s father
  • “Doc” – the coroner
  • Father Charles Raven – priest
  • Child Services worker
  • Mrs. Smith – the nanny
  • Background actors such as police, ambulance personnel, etc.

Please note that at this time these are non-paying roles. but depending on what type of funding we can get this may change, but until further notice it is on a volunteer only basis. We are not casting roles at this time – but when we do hold auditions, members of The Filmmaking Datatbase will be the first to be notified about auditions. If the roles are not filled through the database then we will hold an open casting call. If you’re not in the database please CLICK HERE and add your email address.

About the Author:photo of Author, and Filmmaker Kenn Crawford

Kenn Crawford is an author and filmmaker from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Click HERE to watch his YouTube Videos