How to shoot with breaking glass #affordableaction

DISCLAIMER: We do not recommend you perform stunts without the supervision of a trained professional. This is given here solely for the purposes of education, and we are not responsible if you or your cast and crew injure themselves, if you try this, you do so at your own risk. Film stunts often deal with dangerous situations, and although the idea is to do them safely so you can do several takes without hurting yourself, accidents do happen. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PRODUCTION INSURANCE TO COVER YOURSELF AND YOUR PEOPLE, AND A SET MEDIC.

Glass, the final frontier… just kidding. But this is indeed an important topic, especially if you can’t afford breakaway glass.

Back in the day, breakaway glass, aka candy glass, was made of spun sugar. You could turn into objects like cups or bottles, or make it into window panes, etc.

Nowadays, breakaway glass is made of resin, and isn’t as fragile and spun sugar, nor as hard to manufacture, but still brittle.

For example, let’s take a quick scene of somebody throwing a glass at somebody, let’s assume he ducks out of the way, and the glass smashes against the wall, but then he steps into the broken shards on the floor, and he’s barefoot.

If you have breakaway glass, it’s a lot safer, and you just need someone with good aim – maybe get them to throw some plastic cups first to make sure the mark’s getting hit consistently.

You can then shoot a medium closeup and see the glass smash against the wall, maybe from the side, so you can see the glass travel across frame, and on a longer lens you can stack the glass and the actor up, and make it seem like it just missed him, even though it may have been a foot or two away.

You can then do another take of an insert on the glass shattering against the wall. In this take, you could fill up the new glass with shards from the previous impact, so when the new glass breaks, more particles will come out, and it will look bigger and better.

Stepping on the glass, with breakaway glass, is a simple matter of a closeup on the feet on well-placed shards. You can make a little pile for the guy to step on and add some wild sound of crunching glass to make the audience cringe and drive the point home.

Then, take some of the bigger pieces and with fake blood and spirit gum, make them protrude from the bottom of the guy’s foot, and you’ve got some impact. Ouch!

 

WITH REAL GLASS, HOWEVER, SAFETY IS A BIG ISSUE – AND WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS WITHOUT THE SUPERVISION OF A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL

What you’ll have to do, is isolate your actor shots from the real glass shots.

So, you can still do the medium closeup, but throw a plastic glass instead. If thrown fast enough people won’t be able to tell, so long as the glasses are fairly similarly shaped.

Also, make sure you get glasses with THIN bottoms, they’ll create smaller pieces, and if anyone steps on those, it’s not as bad as stepping on big thick sharp edges. They’ll break easier too.

So, throw the plastic cup on the medium closeup with reaction from the actor. Shoot a tight insert of the real glass hitting the wall – again practice with plastic cups until aim is right – and for stepping on the glass, spread the pieces around then clean a foot-size oval and have your actor put his foot in that area alone. Make sure it doesn’t look too obvious, but a quick in and out and they won’t have time to realize what happened. You can then do a closeup on upright pieces of glass with some blood on it, and then shoot from the waist up on the actor going to sit down with a bloody foot. Some pieces of clear plastic and spirit gum to the bottom of the foot with lots of blood and you’ve got your shot with no one injured.

Make sure you shoot no higher than 1 foot off the ground, and shot down on the glass/foot. In the back part of your oval, place some bigger pieces pointing up – it will look like the foot is stepping on those raised pieces.

You can also dress the foot ahead of time with spirit gum, pieces of fake glass, and/or blood for good effect.

 

Thanks

Just a quick note to thank the 75-100 people who showed up to our panel yesterday.
Thanks for showing up, for all the questions, and for your kind words.
We look forward to another panel next year.
If you use any of the information you shared, we’d love to hear about it. And if you have questions too.
We’ll post up some pictures as soon as we get them!
Good luck on your projects, and I hope our voices continue to make the indie market stronger and more viable.
Val + Bobby

Shooting Stunts and Action on a Budget [SXSW 2014 #goodaction]

  1. THE RIGHT PEOPLE – surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. Life is a learning experience, and you can always learn something new from anybody, even if it is just how not to do it. Anybody can talk, anybody can show you some footage and claim it is theirs. How do you tell the right people apart? Knowledge and experience. You come to events like this and hear people with proven experience talk, you read books and watch instructional videos made by people with proven experience, people who’ve done it. If you’re lucky, you make friends with a legend and try to soak up as much as you can. Then, when it’s time to hire someone, you ask them to talk about some of the things you know and see how they stack up. For action, the foremost right people are: the Director,  the Second Unit Director which is sometimes also the Stunt Coordinator, your Camera Operator and your Stunt Performers (normally hired by the stunt coordinator, and it should be so). And the first and foremost important thing to know when shooting action, especially on a low to no budget is…
  2. SAFETY –   No stunt, action sequence or actor doing his own stunts is worth injuring someone. Safety is a very broad subject and we can’t cover everything in a paragraph, but as usual, you need to find people you can trust to be safe. It’s natural for a producer to want to cut costs. Movies are not easy things to create. It takes a lot of energy, which can either be time or money. This is one corner it is unwise to cut, unless the person cutting really knows what they’re doing. Always have B and C backup plans if your primary safety mechanism fails. Always walk through each stunt slowly and try to figure out what can go wrong. Think outside the box. Ask an expert. Everybody loves making movies. Even if you can’t afford a pro, take him out to dinner and tell him what you plan to do, and ask him for advice. Offer to give him consulting credit, or something, or better yet, pay him to get the job done right. When you’re dealing with action, all kinds of things can go wrong. Take the example of Sarah Jones’ incident on the set of Midnight Rider, and that wasn’t even shooting action. Of course we can come up with stories of people who got away with it… but they were lucky. What about the people that weren’t lucky? You need to trust your Stunt Coordinator implicitly. If you’re not sure, check with someone else. Again, you can contact us and we can give you an opinion based on the information you provide us. It pays to be safe.

NB: If you don’t think you can safely do something more than once, then don’t do it

  1. PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING –  And as Low and No Budget filmmakers,  you should have started your preparation before the writing stage. Don’t write Star Wars if you’re going to shoot it yourself on a budget. If you don’t have access to it,  don’t write it in.  Then,  before you start,  regardless of budget size,  Low or High, pre-production is where action questions are asked and answered. (Do not put this issue off until you’re almost ready to shoot). Here you can decide what your budget can afford taking Safety into account. It’s better to lose a stunt than regret something for the rest of your life. Here you can ask the right people for safe and cheaper alternatives to a more expensive stunt,  or high-priced camera equipment (e.g. Stand on a truck if you can’t get a crane) – you can ask people like us. Make sure you get a good shot list from the right stunt coordinator well before you hit  the set. Your stunt team will need time to prepare so they can be safe,  and make it look good. Your camera team, ideally, should also learn the routines so they know where they need to be and what looks right and what doesn’t. Obviously budget is everything, but talk to your people and explain your situation. If they opt to shortcut, maybe they’re not the right people for you. If you’ve never shot action before,  just know that the 20 minutes per shot guideline of indie films, does not apply here. Action takes a lot more time to shoot than dialogue.
    1. Prep starts while you’re writing. Not only do you want to make sure you write for the things you have at your disposal (locations, favors, vehicles, etc.) you also want to write things in a way that allows your stunt performers to be safe, e.g. make sure their wardrobe allows them to wear protective padding and fire suits, pick locations where you can hide crash mats, etc.; the more dangerous and complex your stunts, the more it’s going to cost. Fire is more impressive at night or in the dark. Always a good idea to check with an expert and see if there’s a cheaper way to portray your stunt, but perhaps more effective – not everything translates to the screen the same way.
    2. If you know where you’re going to shoot, look around for people in the area who can do your stunts – e.g. skate boarders, free runners, pole vaulters, high divers, motocross racers, gymnasts

NB: USE AVAILABLE TOOLS AND PERSONNEL

  1. MAKING IT LOOK GOOD – The Director and Director of Photography can make a big difference in the effectiveness of shooting action. Bigger, Closer, Higher, Faster, Danger, Impact and In-Your-Face can be accentuated or destroyed by camera placement and lens choice. Learn how to maximize that. Keep in mind ACTION is the most inexpensive opportunity to increase the Production Value and Scope of your film! A common cheat these days is to shoot so close to the action that you can’t tell what is really going on. You can’t tell a hit from a miss. For example, in the Daniel Craig version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there is a flashback scene where a girl swings a large oar and completely misses the man, but he still ends up in the water. This is not a low budget film. Ultimately it’s the Director’s fault, but a knowing DP or camera op could have prevented this. By the time it gets to the editor, if the shot is not there, all they can do is cheat, or hope nobody in the audience notices.
  2. PRACTICALS VS CGI – CGI is like stunt fighting, if it’s good you don’t even know it’s a trick, or that it’s there, if not, your movie better be intended to be campy. CGI can save you work or expensive stunts, but it is not the be-all-end-all because we’ve gotten used to the likes of Avatar. With practicals you shoot it from 3 or 4 different angles and shot sizes, and you can cut a complex sequence and even save a poor take. If you’re shooting digital you know on the spot what it looks like. With CGI a simple cutting task becomes one special FX for each shot in the sequence. The moral? Find the right stunt coordinator and the right CGI guy, and ask them how long and how much.
  3. INSURANCE, WHEN AND WHY – Whether it is minimal or maximum stunts or action USE YOUR COMMON SENSE. If your film has dangerous stunts I urge you as Producer, Director or Head of Production to ACQUIRE INSURANCE! If you have no insurance for your film don’t shoot stunts that can result in injury. A simple fight routine can be done safely, running someone over can be cheated easily, shooting people without squibs or explosives can be done safely, etc. WARNING!!! New or inexperienced stunt coordinators and stuntmen CAN BE DANGEROUS in many cases. Their enthusiasm and desire to be a Stuntman etc. has resulted in many deaths, paralysis and permanent injuries not only for the Stunt Performers but in many cases Camera Crews, Extras, and Other Cast Members Etc.. As the responsible party of your production, keep in mind the litigation to which you are exposing yourself and your production.
  4. MINIMUM REQUIREMENT – If you can’t find the right people in the industry,  at least seek out someone with experience or the expertise necessary to make a responsible decision concerning the stunts in your film and the necessary safety precautions and rigging. For example,  athletes, professionals in the field being portrayed, coaches, etc.

How to Shoot Fire and Explosions

Fire and explosions are spectacular on the screen, and create immense production value when properly done.

If you want to maximize the effect, shoot them at night or in a dark location to get the best bang for your buck. The lighter the location the more it diminishes the impact of the effect. Remember in the dark of night you can see someone strike a match from over 300 yards away. It’s not just the actual ball of fire or explosion but the way it lights up the area and creates a visual concussion. It’s kind of like going to the trouble and expense to hire a great actor and immediately putting them in a monster suit which will greatly hinder their effectiveness.

It’s not that you can’t shoot during the day, but just keep in mind that it will compromise the effect. If you must shoot it in daylight try to create a dark background or be very near other objects, buildings, shaded areas etc. In a lighted area you want to at least achieve contrast. Frame you’re A-camera from ground level or low and tilt up with the subject matter low in the frame so it will catch the entire explosion and immediate aftereffect and rising ball of fire and smoke to totally fill the frame. The most important thing to achieve is Safety.

NOTE: Make sure you have a certified and licensed pyrotechnic technician if you’re planning on doing explosions. You can usually get cooperation from the local fire department and in some cases an EMS crews standing by when people are included. For body burns you should definitely have an experienced Stunt Coordinator and at least 4 to 5 others in the safety crew that focus on each individual task and assignment. (Don’t trust fire extinguishers as your only source of fire control especially on body burns; have something like wet blankets or other backup).

Stay safe,

Bobby Sargent
CEO/President
Producer, Writer, Director, 2nd Unit Director, Stunt Coordinator, Stunt Performer

Raise Hell about Section 181

If you’re somehow involved in the film industry, or want to be, you’ll want to not only read about Section 181 of the IRS Code as created in the JOBS Act of 2004, you’ll want to contact your elected representatives to get it passed again this year — it sunsets at the end of every year, and has not been renewed for 2014.

In broad strokes, Section 181 is the government’s smart way of keeping film production and film production dollars in the US by giving 100% tax write-off for any money invested in a film, in the year of investment.

Here is the bird’s eye view:

  • 100% of the motion picture costs are deductible in the same year of investment.
  • 75% of the motion picture must be shot in the US to qualify for Section 181
  • There is a $15 to $20 million dollar budget cap.
  • There is no minimum film production budget cost.
  • TV pilots, TV episodes (up to 44), short films, music videos and feature films all qualify for Section 181.
  • Section 181 can be applied to active income or passive income.
  • Investors can be either individuals or businesses.
  • Section 181 is retroactive to 2004 and was just renewed as part of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Bill on early 2013.
  • There is no expectation for film distribution or film completion.
  • The motion picture’s corporation issues Schedule K-1’s to the investors so they can take advantage of Section 181.

And that’s why you need to act! You need to contact your elected officials and ask them to renew Section 181 for 2014, regardless of whether you’re in the Major Studio or Independent worlds, but especially if you’re independent. Did you know that the independent film world spends at least $3 billion per year on productions? A recent article on Cultural Weekly, they come up with that estimate based on the number of films submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. They even posit the question, are independent filmmakers the 8th studio?

We are the ones offering the choices that the Major Studios won’t risk. And the audiences are growing tired of the constant flops from the Hollywood recycled garbage.

If you’re an investor, this is an unprecedented tax write-off with no questions asked. Need a tax write-off? Then find yourself a production company with a project with guaranteed distribution, and couple that with State incentives and not only have you reduced your tax liability to the Federal government, you have also increased your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you’re a filmmaker, this is the icing on the financing cake. How many other options are there for tax write-offs of this magnitude?

Every moment of this year that Obama refuses to renew this legislation is hurting all of us in the film world – full-time, part-time, Major Studio, network, independent… all of us. How many more projects would be financed if 181 were active again?

If you don’t know who your elected officials are, you can find out on this website: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Tell everybody you want Section 181 renewed this year (2014) and every year. More investors in film means a greater chance of getting paid work in the film world.

As Bobby says “Let’s make some noise!”

Bobby + Val

Quick Tip: shooting fire or explosions #goodaction

Fire! Explosions! Those things look great on screen.

But if you want to maximize the effect, shoot them at night or in the dark – that way your explosion/fire won’t be competing with that great big ball of burning gas we call the Sun.

It’s not that you can’t shoot during the day, but just keep in mind that it’ll be more impressive at night/in the dark (more contrast).

Also, remember that fire goes up, and you want to make sure you capture that.

NOTE: Make sure you have a certified technician (like our friend Moe) if you’re planning on doing explosions, and make sure you have plenty of safety measures. Safety above all.

Also, read our more in-depth article on shooting fire and explosions.

Got other questions? Shoot us an e-mail to info _at_ txstarentertainment _dot_ com

Want us to cover something specific at SXSW 2014? Use #goodaction

Dear all,

As you may know, Bobby and I are going to be doing a presentation at SXSW this coming Saturday March 8th at 3:30pm in room 13AB at ACC.

We are going to be talking about How to Shoot Stunts and Action on a Budget.

If you would like us to cover something specific, we will be having some Q&A at the end, and we’ll be around after the seminar if you want to chat with us.

In the meantime, if there’s something you want us to cover, go ahead and tweet about it using hash tag #goodaction, and we’ll try to cover as much as possible during our talk or during Q&A.

After the seminar we will have our presentation notes up on our website www.TXSTARentertainment.com, so keep an eye out for that.

Hope to see you at the seminar, or afterwards.

Val Gameiro + Bobby Sargent

 

Amnesia Official Trailer Released

Amnesia is a psychological horror-thriller which TXSTAR Entertainment Inc. helped to produce. Bobby Sargent directed second unit on most of the action scenes, and he coordinated all of them. Val Gameiro, the director and Bobby’s business partner, also spent 2 years learning how to shoot action from Bobby.

The film is still in post-production, but here is the trailer with fantastic music from Carl Dante.