Production Diary

The latest goings on at Candle & Bell.

Filmmaking Through the Eyes of a Software Developer.

Coming from the world of software development my exposure to filmmaking had been exactly nil. These days I enjoy spending my time between these two very different industries even though on the filmmaking side, I'm mostly just a fly on the wall.

The more and more I see the shoots that Candle & Bell is a part of, especially the short films, the more I see elements of agile software development.

The Similarities

At a very high and basic level, a story (software product) is developed into a script (product backlog). A production planning (sprint planning) meeting takes place and it is decided which scenes (user stories) are required to best tell the story (improve the product).

The scenes (user stories) are further refined into a shot list (sprint backlog) that will make up the shoot (sprint). This shot list forms the basis of a daily call sheet (task log) which tells each member of the crew what shots (tasks) are required along with who and what are required where and when (I'm losing the metaphor a little here).

At the end of each day, production will meet (scrum) to discuss what was done and what was missed and the call sheet for the next day is issued.

Common Rules

Whilst there are always going to be differences between a development sprint and a film shoot (like factoring in locations, equipment, and the weather, for example) I have found it interesting to see some similarities. This all lead me to believe that some commonly touted rules of thumb from software development would no doubt have some application to filmmaking.

KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid. Everyone likes the idea of that jaw dropping shot or that elaborate plot device, something that really stands out, something that nobody has seen before. In reality, it could swallow up most of the shoot for what is likely a well executed gimmick.

Get what you need to beautifully and effectively tell your story. The genius is often what you leave out.

Don't Trust the Tech

Never, ever trust the technology. If you're using something for the first time, if you're using something in a different way, or in a different environment. Test, test, and test again.

Also, backup, backup, and backup again.

Avoid Feature Creep

Tempted to squeeze in some extra shots even though you are already 20 minutes behind? You'd like to get some footage from the other side of the set, maybe even squeeze in that tiny scene that was cut. Don't.

Chances are you aren't going to need it. The moments of magic you're hoping to capture will be harder to get when you're 3 hours down by the time you wrap on the first day.

No Hacks, Please

Care about your craft and your output. Don't rush a shot or hack it together, you may as well cut it completely. Don't fix in post what you should have cared enough to get right on the day and don't take a shortcut because it's easier than correcting a mistake properly.

Use the Best Tools You Can Get Your Hands On

Always use the best tools you can lay your hands on, even if the best tool isn't all that great. All you need to make a film is a camera to shoot with and something to edit on. So yes, get the best tools you can, but don't get hung up on the equipment. It's still mostly about the squidgy organic matter behind the camera.

Whilst filming a teaser trailer for a feature film on a shoestring budget, accliamed cinematographer Tibor Máthé made this point to our founder.

Maria, if you give me a camera, I'll shoot the film.

Tibor Máthé
Question Assumptions and Be Curious

Always ask why, always keep learning, and never be afraid to try a different way of doing things. As long as it is simple (see the first rule) and you don't get attached to it. If it doesn't work, move on.

Cheap, Fast, Good - Pick Two

This is a bit of a cheat because it most likely applies to everything. It pays to know which of the three you are going to sacrifice and to keep that in mind for the whole of the project. You'll have a lot less stress that way.

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