Casting A Minor Celebrity Will Increase Interest In Your Short Film Or Web Series

One great way to elevate the status of your web series is to cast a known actor who has been off the radar. In film, Quentin Tarantino is the master of this. With our modest web series production budgets, we can scale this practice down. For example, if your web series is sci-fi you would try and cast a memorable day player who was in several episodes of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). If you are making a comedy perhaps you look for a lead actor from an 80’s TV show that you’ve not seen show up in anything in a while. Making a Thriller? Find that actor from that memorable X-Files episode, you get the idea. My colleagues and I are always trying to think of actors for our projects that people know, but don’t know they know, until you remind them. If your script and concept are solid and you are organized and persistent, you can land one of these actors for your show.

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Some examples of would be Beverly Owen (later re-placed by Pat Priest) as the teenage niece on, “The Munsters”. Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts who both replaced the Kate Jackson character in the original, “Charlie’s Angeles”. Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes who both replaced Suzanne Somers character in the 70’s & early 80’s TV Show,” Three’s Company”.

Some people may be skeptical but when you have invested all of your time and energy into a project you want to make sure you’ve done everything to ensure the success of your show. Securing an actor that resonates in the pop culture zeitgeist can go a long way in stimulating interest in your project. Consider casting a recognizable actor in a minor role as the Mom or Dad, the Boss, the Quirky Neighbor, the Spaceship Captain… I could go on.

Here is the Hack. Consider this type of an actor for a supporting role in which you can shoot their appearances across your entire season in one day. Once you have an actor in mind you need to consult IMDB Pro to learn who represents them. If they list an agent and manager the manager is preferable as they tend to have a more personal relationship with their clients. If it’s just an agent then use the agent.

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Your Video Production Music On A Budget Can be Royalty Free And Not Suck

I want to share with you some simple scoring solutions I’ve come across and use a few myself. Music is often not dealt with as part of pre-production in tight budget scenarios. A lot of time and effort goes into location scouting, production design, casting and the monumental task of simply scheduling everything. Editing becomes a priority immediately after shooting simply because you want to see what you got. But the score is often ignored by most filmmakers and becomes an afterthought. Not because of ignorance or poor planning mostly because they are the last steps and often fall under the proverb “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it”!

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Often times scoring falls to the editor by default and he or she will score with temp music that you do not have the rights to but helps with pace and tempo. That becomes a slippery slope, you can become married to a tempo and energy and then never get the rights to that track. Also if your picture cuts are married to the music once you change it out recutting is inevitable and that’s going to be double the work. Worst case scenario is your cut was better with music you cannot obtain, that will haunt you. My hack is simple, create a music library of the vibe you want for your project. I Would recommend 3 to 1, three song options for each scene or a moment you will be scoring. Make it clear these are the only options. That way the editor can audition the tracks from that group of preselections that are in your budget or already cleared.

The good news is great news actually, getting the rights to a piece of music to score your production has become very affordable and there are many free options. Filmmakers can get cheap or free scores by creating them through software programs like GarageBand or an online service like Filmstro that allows you to score your video with their library. Websites like Pond5 and Audiojungle have tracks you can get the rights to for around $20. If you consider the time investment of the free options $20 is a bargain. Also with the low-cost sites like AudioJungle and Pond5 you can download any track before you actually buy it. This makes it easy to fill up your projects music library. It will have an audio watermark but that is fine for trying out tracks in your edit. You can also find some free options too. I’ve used Free Stock Music quite a few times. And for free sound effects an excellent resource is Freesound.

GARAGE BAND
Creating your own scores with GarageBand can be rewarding, it’s not too difficult to learn and with the newer version you can import your video. GARAGE BAND TUTORIAL

FILMSTRO
Is a customizable music library that always you to control several aspects of a music track to customise it to your image. It is subscription based. FILMSTRO TUTORIALS

AUDIO JUNGLE
Is part of Envato Market. At AudioJungle you can buy royalty-free music and sound effects inexpensively. The site is home to a bustling community of audio composers and producers. They offer ‘Music Kits” to customise and rearrange music tracks without using complex software. Basically, they give you the separate elements of a track.

POND 5
Similar to AudioJungle, Pond5 is a New York-based online marketplace for royalty-free media. The company licenses stock footage, stock music, stock photography sound effects, after effects, images and 3-D models.

Free Stock Music
There are many free tracks on this site. They offer a 100% royalty free license that allows you to use the music in all types of productions, for worldwide distribution, forever. There are never any licensing fees.
FREESOUND
Freesound is a collaborative database of creative-commons licensed sound for musicians and filmmakers. They have just about any sound effect you are looking for.

There should be an option on this list to fit your creative and budgetary needs. I hope you found this article useful. For more tips and shared experience visit my youtube channel Create Sci-Fi with plenty of informative videos on creating content.

From Trash To Blast! How To Make A Sci-Fi Recycle Bin Laser Blaster Gun

Any good Sci-Fi project is going to need a Blaster, Laser Gun, Ray Gun, Photon Rifle, the list goes on. There are many ways to go about making these weapons for your sci-fi arsenal be it for a film, a cosplay or simply for display. In this article, I want to share with you an inexpensive and fun solution. I’ve come across a lot of craft builds with recycled plastic bottles lately and I thought hey, I have an overflowing recycle bin with a  bunch of material for some Blaster building so I figured I’d give it a try. Here I’m going to share with you what I came up with.

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First I dug into my recycle bin and found some bottles that were interesting and got out some tools.

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I roughly arranged some silhouettes for my recycle bin blaster and this was the winner.

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I start by cutting the bottom off of the water bottle.

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I merge it with a ridged chip container.

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I cut off the top of a cleaning bottle to make a hand grip. I saw that in some online video and it stuck in my head, it’s very clever and works nicely. I hot glue these parts together.

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What I learn here is that the hot glue melts this plastic bottle that is my barrel which was not what I wanted. I had to cut off the damaged excess and I decided to take this opportunity to add some more dimensions. I added a hand soap bottle as a collar that I slid over the damaged area and that cleaned it up and looked good. A happy accident as they say.

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Then I add the trigger. I simply repurposed the trigger from the cleaning bottle. To make it fit I rough out a hole in the handle with a Dremel tool to pressure fit this trigger in the handle. You could also cut a hole with an Exacto blade. It is not a practical trigger so I just secure it in place with glue.

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Next up is a spent deodorant bottle added to the top as some sort of scope. Also, I add the ball from the deodorant model to the bottom of the handle and this interesting sports bottle cap finishes off the profile nicely.

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Everything gets a light sanding so it will better accept the paint.I base coat it with a flat black primer and just dusted it a little bronze over that.

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Painting is done with a dry brush technique. Using a metallic paint with a very light amount on the brush that is further lightened by brushing onto a paper towel. The paint is applied by just lightly brushing the surface and a brushed metallic look is achieved. To add some dimensionality I add some gold metallic by extra lightly brushing the high points and that gives it a nice glow. The final touch is introducing sparse green metallic highlights in places that might be buttons or decorative just to give it a little more life.

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To make the Blaster look real and to give it some character a weathering pass is needed. That is simply some watered down brown and black paint that is washed over the entire piece. It is then quickly wiped off with a paper towel.  The dark wash remains in the low points, cracks and crevices, this gives it the illusion of being an actual object.

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Who knew space blaster hiding out right in my recycling bin! Now if I was doing a sci-fi project and I wanted to suspend your disbelief make you believe it was a real future or a parallel universe I probably wouldn’t use this prop Blaster. However, if I was doing a sci-fi fantasy like a Barbarella or a comedy this is exactly what I would use.

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The Look: The Galactic Galaxy Production Diaries

This week I want to talk about the look of my web series Galactic Galaxy. What really makes Galactic Galaxy unique and frankly me proud is the graphic novel treatment. Most often it is compared to The 80’s epic cartoon Heavy Metal. Which is a happy accident or maybe not I actually saw that movie in the theatres? I’m pretty sure we snuck out of The Great Muppet Caper and into another time and space… I digress. Many of my SciFi influences for the show are from The early 80’s Heavy Metal Comics or Metal Hurlant when it was first released and featured Mobius and my favorite Philippe Druillett, so though it was unintentional, it certainly makes sense.

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I did lots of research on how to technically turn live action into illustration, the most obvious was Rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is an animation technique used by animators to trace over footage, frame by frame. The most influential for me was 1977 Wizards by Ralph Bakshi but that was very basic and more of a Broll filler. But like Heavy Metal an indispensable influence. I would not exist without those movies. More recently were the beautiful movies from Richard Linklater, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly which are beautiful. Bob Sabiston is the man responsible for that work and it is stunning. So much so that it is the other end of the spectrum, the time money and sheer artistry behind that method was well beyond my means

maxresdefaultI used to say back to the drawing board but what is more accurate these days is, back down the google rabbit hole. I started looking into DIY desktop solutions from great resources like Red Giant and Video Co-Pilot. Shout out to Andrew Kramer, once you start to learn about SciFi DIY you can probably trace 80% of it to his tutorials. I was not able to find exactly what I needed so I started to cobble together bits and pieces from various resources until I came up with something that might work in theory. After some initial tests, I was able to come up with something that would work for my budget and not compromise my vision.

The basic process I came up with was a combination of online tutorials, some basic software and a year of trial and error. In essence, I Shoot on green screen and then key out the live action (remove the green). Then I apply a series of filters that turn the actors into an illustration. To add depth and movement a virtual film camera is introduced via Adobe After Effects to combine the 2D live action with a 3D background. To really sell this look I add very subtle camera moves and a few other subtle tweaks with film grain and lens flares.

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In the end, it is a lot of work for a primarily DIY production. Many long hours were put into the creation of this show and I cannot wait to show you the end result. Be sure to subscribe and follow my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking How To.

Proof Of Concept: The Galactic Galaxy Production Diaries

This week I want to talk about the proof of concept short I made for My web series Galactic Galaxy. Once I decided on the unique “tooned” look of the series I knew I had to figure out the ins and outs of how exactly it was going to work? I went through the original script and selected three scenes that showcased the most characters and major locations. The thought is this way I can get a very good idea of how to make this work and what it was going to look like.

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On a very basic level in my apartment, I did a super basic, very rough test of the skull warrior. I shot very rough poorly lit footage. A worst case example if you will. I did a test of the process I planned to use and for a test, it looked pretty decent. I was relieved, this could work. From this, I was motivated and excited.

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I went to work and did a casting for the scene and was planning on just doing it quickly and inexpensively as a test. Well, the good news was I did, in fact, figure out how the process would work and that in fact, it would work. However, that test footage took one year to finish. It was so exciting but so much to work out. But once I had the systems in place and the kinks ironed out it went much quicker with the web series. Still took one year but that was for six times more content.

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As an afterthought, I filmed the Queen character doing a monologue I wrote to give some exposition to the random scenes so I could show it at festivals as a short film, and use it for promotional material. I was fortunate enough to get into the Dances With Films Festival which resulted in a Screening at the Historic Manns Chinese Theatre which was both exciting and motivating. the short also won a silver medal at The Stann Lee Comic Con. Not bad for a proof of concept film with no plot.

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Motivated by the interest shown in the proof of concept film, I was more excited than ever to get to work on the series.  A valuable function of that was early short film was I knew the original script was not going to work and some of the characters while wonderfully acted were not working quite right within the story. Also as I mentioned I love the process and I was looking forward to refining my vision. From the short, it was clear I would have to go back to the drawing board and start the dreaded … rewrite.
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The Re-Write: The Galactic Galaxy Production Diaries

In my first version of Galactic Galaxy, I closely followed the Hero’s Journey structure as laid out by the late great Joseph Campbell. I was 100%  committed to following that narrative structure. It was an exercise for me, my own hero’s journey in a way. I was so motivated that I wrote a twelve episode arc. That original script was 12 episodes and they were 20 to 30 minutes long. I can’t even Imagine what that budget would have been, but it would have been unrealistic. The value of that process was I was world-building, creating my characters and the foundation of the show.

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It was important for me with this project to collaborate with as many people as possible. In all my projects prior, I was a one-man show and although I got good at that, I wanted to break the habit. The first draft of Galactic Galaxy was too spread out. I enlisted the help of another writer, John Plunkett to take my first draft and wrench it into a tighter script format. It was imperative to get perspective and focus.

Early on when I was floating the script out to friends and colleagues to read and give first impressions I could tell right away people were not reading past the first episode. It was too exhausting for them. This was a problem, a major problem. I knew the story was interesting and there was lots of humor but clearly, something was not working. It was just too dense.

The decision to scrap that script and start over was a big move for me as a creator and as a human. I scrapped that whole script, almost a year’s worth of work and went back to the drawing board. The positives have I had my characters, locations, and a basic storyline. I just needed to rework it. Also, it’s much easier to take away content then to add it.

I’ve always been curious about the mythical “writers room” that just sounded to me like an amazing thing to be part of. It occurred to me I could… create one? So I did that. I rented a big production office for a week and put an ad on craigslist, I should mention I’m in Los Angeles so the talent is around. I simply said upfront, I have a limited budget for five full days and we will write six 5min scripts. I got a lot of great responses to the add,  some from crazy town but that’s part of the process. I was able to narrow the people interested down to ones that seemed like a good fit and after a few very brief phone interviews I had a writers room.

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Through that straightforward process, I was able to get three very talented writers. Among them was Charles Horn who was a writer on the Robot Chicken Star Wars Show. That was one great aspect of being in Los Angeles. He simply was not working that week on anything else and agreed to work within my limited budget. Myself and the other two writers dove right in. Day one I introduced the world and characters and my basic plot outline to them and we roughed out the outline for the season. We then proceed as a group to write 2 episodes a day and on the final day did a few rounds or rewrites. The writer’s room did not disappoint, not only was it very effective but it was an experience I hope to one-day repeat.

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We came away with a very strong script that I was proud of and excited to make. The reactions from friends and colleagues to this version were a stark contrast to their original response. The reactions were all positive and I know they were sincere because it was as a weight was lifted and they could tell me how much they were confused and uninterested in the first draft, its a process. One that not only works but is essential.

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From Trash To Blast! How To Make A Sci-Fi Recycle Bin Laser Blaster Gun Video

In this tutorial, I take you through the build process step by step. I show you how to make a screen ready Sci-Fi Blaster Gun from recycled plastic bottles.

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6 key Ingredients You Can Use To Increase Your Storytelling Creativity In Sci-Fi DIY Filmmaking

If you are a DIY content creator, like me and love sci-fi and fantasy, like me, the most rewarding and daunting part is the world building and creation. Here I will share with you six key components to consider in order to bring your vision to life, and how to approach them. I am always working on a tight budget so these ideas are as thrifty as possible. If you go down the fandom rabbit holes for sci-fi on social media and video sharing sites you will quickly realize there are plenty of people waiting to view any new content. All the more reason to get started on putting your vision out there for them.

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  • Multicultural Cast And A Droid

One of the greatest attributes of the sci-fi story is the multicultural cast. Make sure as many races as possible are represented and mixed. One simple and very effective adjustment that works well is switching up gender cliche. In my series Galactic Galaxy, the swashbuckling rogue character is played by a woman. A female captain or warrior always adds nicely to sci-fi. Also, a droid or alien sidekick always rounds things out well. Depending on budget you can go as simple as a basic brow or ear prosthetic. Even inhuman looking contact lenses can do the trick. If you have the budget a Droid can be as easy as a puppet, a person in a costume or a 3D element added later.

  • Going To Need A Bigger Ship

If your story takes place entirely or partially on a starship you need to think of it as another part of the cast. First, determine the character of the ship, is it old, new, fast, slow, loved or hated? Then you need to name and design her. In Galactic Galaxy, our main ship is “The Granny” and the ID numbers on the exterior are GR4NN3. The ship’s computer voice is characterized as an older nagging mother. The point is to have fun and go deep. For the exterior, you can go as simple as a repurposed space ship toy or model filmed against a black background or green screen. Or some basic motion effects with a 3D ship. You can find free 3D space ships online pretty easily. Whether your ship is built practicality or in the computer I recommend kitbashing. That is the process of taking multiple models and mixing them together to make a new one. This works with actual physical models and toys as well as 3D models

  • On Deck Or In The Cockpit

Once your ship has a personality you are going to have to create the deck, or if it’s a smaller cast perhaps a cock pit. Is it pristine or junk? Maybe you plan to shoot on green screen and add the Deck later. A few words on that. If you shoot on green screen planning to add sets later and are on a tight budget keep in mind it never looks very good. It will undermine your intentions. If your sci-fi is humorous then it could actually work in your favor. Simple screen elements are great and add production value. Green panels that will later be windows to space or computer screens can work nicely. For practical sets basic white or brushed metallic wall panels in an octagon configuration interestingly lit with a few green panels to add elements into later will work nicely. Also, the cluttered set made of old computer parts, holiday lights, hardware store bits and bobs is a tried and true option. Just be sure to have a light touch. Less is more.

  • Communication Devices

The hologram communication never gets old. It is a great visual that’s very straightforward to accomplish and it adds scope. You can talk to other planets, alien races, and exotic locations simply and easily. Including a character on a distant planet is a lot simpler when it’s only a head on a video screen. In addition adding another character to flesh out your world will be very easy to costume and shoot. Just lock of the camera and do as many takes as you need. Much like your ship deck considerations, your video communications can be pristine or interference plagued scan lines. Your hologram can be a thing of beauty or a glitchy scratchy element. Don’t overlook their value in moving the story along in an economic fashion.

  • On The Ground

On a Budget, there are a really only a few options in my mind. My personal favorite is the desert. A forest or rock quarry can work. Basically, you should pick a landscape you can frame as pristine and expansive. Alternatively, there is the post apocalypse approach. If you’re in a city find abandoned sites you can get access to. Dilapidated factories seem to be in abundance these days. Use what is around you.  If you’re out in the country a forest or rock quarry can do the trick. And if you’re by a desert, go desert. Beach could work. Whatever you choose, try and do some wide establishing shots on a tripod. With locked off shots from a tripod, it is much easier to add a second moon or fly some ships by over head. Also, know that if you have a big blue sky in your location it is fairly easy to change the blue to another unearthly color.

  • What Was That?

In some cases, you are going to want a  creature. A gigantic 3D creature is always nice. Similar to the robot, a costume could work or a forced perspective puppet. A shadowy implied creature lurking in the shadows will work best on a budget. After a build up you can finally reveal the creature in a burst with some quick cutting. As with the ship if your show is humorous then you can get away with a lot more. Rubber masks and body paint will be fine. If you are going for realism try and keep to the shadows and build tension with your cuts in post.

These are just a few things to think about to get the creative juices flowing. Creating sci-fi has been the most rewarding creative experience in my whole career. For me, I started out making contemporary dramas. I didn’t imagine I could pull off sci-fi on my restricted budgets. But now I know better. Because I wished I’d started sooner I am very passionate about sharing all I’ve learned with you. Keep in mind it’s all hard to pull off so it might as well be what you really want to do, not what you think is practical. Create your worlds and share them, otherwise, they will be lost forever. That would be a shame.

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