Making "FIGHT OR FLIGHT", Part I

There's a lot of nuances that went into making our suspense film, "Fight or Flight". A future entry will address the more socially relevant parts of that, but for now we'll start with the fun stuff -- and how anyone can do it, now.

For a crash course, here's our throwback to Rodriguez's Ten Minute Film Schools, with the Mad Twins Film Class on our picture.

To start with, having great locations is a huge asset. Of course, what "great" means to you, will depend as much on the story you're telling, as your own personal tastes. But in general you'll want something that is visually a bit complex, with a lot of detail. And for my money, nothing beats going out to real places and just seeing what strikes a chord with you. Even if we had the cash to build sets, for a lot of things nothing beats the look of just being in a real house, or a real forest.

In the case of not only "Fight or Flight", but nearly every movie I've made so far, I shoot in forests a lot, not just because they can be both soothing yet a little sinister, but because I live in an area that has many forests to choose from. When you're a micro-budget filmmaker, your neighbourhood is effectively your backlot by default, so look at what's around and figure out a story that uses it.

As I said in the video, preparation is VERY important. While this movie has stunt work as an extra reason for that, even in a quieter movie you want to have some idea ahead of time where you're going. It's okay to discover the story as you go along, but you're never going to make a compelling film by just wandering aimlessly with a camera and taping everything willy-nilly.

When you're doing a scripted film, an extra advantage to this is that with no more than a digital camera and a walk through the locations, you can plan every beat of your movie, and know exactly what you're going to need on the day you shoot it for real. Because of work like this, as well as the simplicity of the story, and knowing the locations very well from hiking in that area many times, we were able to shoot all of "Fight or Flight" in about five hours.

Furthermore, we were able to shoot the movie almost entirely in sequence, once again due to this planning. And with the efficiency of digital video technology, this meant that the first rough cut of the film was finished, just two hours after principal photography was completed. Incidentally, all post-production on this movie was done with built-in editing software -- meaning that anyone with a recent computer, can do what we did.

One of the more ambitious things that we did, while making this movie, was do all of our own sound effects and dubbing. Between background noise and a poor on-camera microphone, much of the production sound was unusable (as in many "real" movies). Fortunately, we had bought an MP3 recorder for another project, and we re-used it on this movie (if you have to splurge a bit for one of your own, you can buy one for around $100 in stores, and the onboard mic will usually be decent enough to record on its own). To do our looping on "Fight or Flight", we had to determine ahead of time what sounds would need to be emphasized in the final movie -- usually footsteps, a bit of ambient sound, and anything that a character on-screen did with his hands. And since we live in the area that the movie was shot in, it was no trouble to find somewhere outside that was out of the way, and re-record the sounds there. You get much better looping done that way, versus a studio, because they are essentially natural sounds, just done separately from the picture shoot.

All of this takes some time and work, but it costs very little money, and the only special equipment you need, is between your ears. Go out, and create art!