Filmmaking with Your iPad or iPhone: Prepping the Shoot
A wise person once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s a little unclear who is responsible for these words (I found the quote attributed to at least five different luminaries), but I can tell you with absolute certainty that whoever said it first was clearly a filmmaker.
Preparation takes many forms. It might be knowing where to look for a hard-to-find prop. It might be having the right tools mastered for your next location scout. It might be understanding the importance of a release form. It all comes down to this: The more you prepare, the greater your chances for success.
Everything in this chapter is about preparation. In some cases, I discuss apps and ideas that could have just as easily been included in Part II, “Production,” but I’m hoping that if I inject them here, you’ll spend more time getting familiar with them before your shoot begins. The last thing you should be doing during production is learning an app. Trust me, you’ll be busy with other things.
“We’re setting up the next shot! Quick, we need 300 chickens, a 1963 Chevrolet Impala, and a watermelon-shaped ice sculpture! We also need a stuntman who can jump a 1963 Chevy Impala over 300 chickens into a watermelon-shaped ice sculpture!”
If this has happened to you, I’d really like to see your film. I’d also suggest you download a few of the great production directory apps available for your iPhone and iPad.
It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting tomorrow or if you’re still two months away from calling “Action!”—at some point, you’re going to need to track down something, or someone, for a production. Maybe your space adventure will need a laser-pistol prop. Perhaps your sound mixer will get sick and you’ll need to secure a replacement. Maybe you’ll be looking to rent a hospital standing set, rather than building one from scratch (a standing set is one that remains in place even when not being filmed and is usually available for long and short-term rental). You can find all this in production directories.
Although Google is a great place to search for odds and ends, production directories will save you time by providing well-organized listings of the most commonly requested film production resources and services. Directories make it easy to shop around, research availability, and compare prices.
Keep in mind, these apps access directory content stored in online servers. That means the directory listings will always be up-to-date, but when you’re without an Internet connection, you’ll also be without working directory apps.
Let’s look at a few of the production directory apps patiently waiting for you in the App Store.
Known in Los Angeles as the bible, the LA 411 is one of the oldest, most trusted production directories around. Long before iPhones, iPads, and the Internet, spiral-bound versions of this behemoth directory could be found sitting on production company desks in offices all over Los Angeles. An updated version was published every year and carried a not-so-small price tag. Owning the latest edition was as much a symbol of status as it was a useful filmmaking resource.
The paper version is still published annually, but most of the filmmakers I know have gone digital. Not only is the LA 411 available online, but it now has its own free, ad-supported iPhone app.
As soon as you launch the app, you can quickly perform a search. If you simply want to browse, the app includes 12 master categories: Ad Agencies & Production Companies; Post Production; Sets & Stages; Location Services & Equipment; Production Support; Camera & Sound Equipment; High Def; 3D & Digital Cinema; Grip & Lighting Equipment; Props & Wardrobe; Crew; City Guide; and National Listings. Within each of these categories and their related subcategories, you’ll find a plethora of companies and crew members competing for your business (FIGURE 4.1).
Figure 4.1. Use the LA 411 app to quickly find a greenscreen stage or about 3 billion other things you might need.
The app allows you to share listings via e-mail, bookmark favorites, import any listing’s contact information into your iPhone’s address book, and quickly pull up driving directions.
You don’t have to live in Los Angeles to enjoy the benefits of the bible. There are separate 411 apps for Los Angeles, New York, Florida, and New Mexico.
Whereas the LA 411 originated in print and then eventually transitioned online, doddle began its life in the digital era and as a result provides more of what you’d expect from an iPhone application. It’s slick, interactive, and far more social.
The app has two flavors: a free version appropriately titled doddle and another version called doddlePRO that will set you back ten bucks. For now, I focus on the free version.
To find a listing in doddle, you must first tell the app if you’d like to search by name, by proximity (to you or another contact in your address book), or by country (FIGURE 4.2).
Figure 4.2. Doddle lets you search here, there, and everywhere...or by name.
Searching by name provides a basic search box with no other filtering. Searching by proximity brings up an extensive alphabetical list of categories and subcategories organized into four main groupings: Vendor, Crew, Talent, and Location. Searching by country lets you start your hunt in a particular geographic region. It may sound a bit confusing, but once you’ve performed a search or two, it will become second nature.
Let me give you a quick example. Let’s say you need to find a food stylist for your next commercial shoot. You’d start by tapping the Find a Listing tab at the bottom of the screen, followed by the Where I Am Now button. This tells doddle that you’d like to find listings in your neck of the woods. Next, tap the Crew button toward the top of the screen to view an alphabetical list of every conceivable film crew position (FIGURE 4.3). Scroll to the f’s, tap Food Stylist, and watch your screen overflow with names of possible candidates. Search results can be sorted alphabetically, by distance, or by rating.
Figure 4.3. Doddle’s listings are broken into four categories (Vendor, Crew, Talent, Location) and sorted alphabetically.
Tapping a single listing reveals greater detail, including contact info, web links, and reviews left by other doddle users. From here you can initiate contact, mark the listing as a favorite, add your own review, and add the contact info to your iPhone’s address book.
If that weren’t enough, the app also supplies a thorough listing of U.S. and U.K. film offices, along with a few in South Africa (FIGURE 4.4).
Figure 4.4. Need a listing of film offices in the United Kingdom? Doddle has got you covered.
Not only is the app free, but you can even add yourself to doddle’s directory in up to two categories at no charge. You can post your name, photo, basic contact info, and links to your pages on Twitter, Facebook, IMDB, and more. If you’re feeling especially boastful, you can purchase a Premium Listing, which allows you to add a description of your company or skill set, a downloadable PDF of your resume, photos and videos of your work, and more. A Premium Listing isn’t cheap, but if it brings you work, it’s worth it!
Thus far, I’ve only discussed doddle’s prowess as an interactive, mobile production directory. But there’s a whole separate side of this pint-sized powerhouse that I’ve intentionally left out of the conversation...until now. Doddle users can receive and interact with digital call sheets that have been created with doddlePRO, the paid version of the app! This is a big deal! It’s so big, in fact, that you can read all about it in the separate “Call Sheets” section of this chapter. I’m such a tease.