Hi, Film-industry hyphenates!
I've said it a thousand times. A good producer is one that asks you the right questions to move things forward. Same with a script consultant. They don't tell you WHAT to do, they ask the right thought provoking questions and allow you, the screenwriter, to improve your story. Luckily, with Lorie, I have both. Here are some questions that Lorie asked me before my pre-pro weekend with my DP, Greg Risley, working on Visible Noise. My hope is that these questions will inspire you the way they inspired me and guide you in our journey to making the important decisions that will shape and enhance the story you tell on camera.
I've edited the email below so that it will make sense when applying it to YOUR story. :)
1) Do you have a vision or through-line for a compositional, pacing, rhythm progression?
2) Is there a visual progression? What is it? Is it static, smoother shots for the earliest segment, progressing to jumpier, grainier shots by the end...? Or, static-to-moving shots...? ECUs to WSs, or WSs to ECUs...? High angles to low angles, or vice versa? Or, are there any tropes from other movies that you might want to work with?
3) What about blocking within the scenes/compositions? Do you want to/plan to play with focus and/or physical obstacles within scenes?
4) Subtextually, what do you want the difference, or dynamic, to be between the characters in the scenes? Will it start off being his or her POV? Or, will the POV always be the audience's, of the "fourth wall?"
Obviously these aren't all the questions you'll ask, but it's a good place to dive in if you're just starting the process of figuring out which visual direction you want to go... and that will be a matter of style, experience, and interpretation of script.
For me, it's important to be able to experiment with shots, angles, and colors with my DP prior to our shoot.
Here's a bit of what we came up with for Visible Noise:
"It looks like a lot of our movie will be handheld, but we will use tracks and other techniques for select shots, as well as different lenses to achieve our mood. Tone wise, we came up with Requiem for a Dream meets The Notebook.
We will also be moving in slow at times, and getting footage for jump cuts where it feels right. The contrast between the two worlds will shift back and forth between our flashbacks (aka romantic, soft, brown/green) that are shot at a slower rate and Story's "real world" that's razor sharp (when on her). Although her world is increasingly out of focus by the time we get to the last scene. We don't reach levelness and clarity again until she has the moment/dialog with Ryan. We decided that this contrast is our visible noise, along with the sounds that will be over-emphasized along the way. We also are choosing a subtle spiral movement that we'll implement into our shots, and occasional tilt shots (dutch angle) to convey a disorienting effect and Story's spiraling.
All of the noises appear louder and more annoying to Story as she spirals. Our idea was that in addition to her phone vibrating while she's lying on the couch in mourning, we'd also hear a LOUD knock at the door. We cut to a mail guy who's knocking normally with the same rhythm to show the difference in our reality's noise and HER reality."
This was also the first time I was able to video the entire film (24 hour film style, without lights/all the actors) prior to shooting to obtain similar shots we wish to get on set. The video also serves as a storyboard, as it's easy to extract still images (thank you, Greg). This prep work is all a matter of personal preference, but having never used a storyboard before, I'm excited to try it. One thing is for sure - it'll never hurt to be over prepared. But the last thing you want your crew to do is WAIT ON YOU if you're not. And my stick figures were a disgrace to stick figures. That's all we'll say about that.
With doing all of this work in pre-production comes a sense of confidence and that's priceless. I highly recommend it, if you have the option. Happy filmmaking!