Hack the screenplay!

Shooting with your smart phone

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no reason you can’t shoot your science fiction movie (or web series or short subject or whatever) with you smart phone as long as you know what you’re doing.

This week, I received my new Beastgrip Pro for my iPhone. Unlike the iOgrapher I talked about earlier, it is adjustable and accommodates a wide range of smart phones.

What's in the package?
What’s in the package? Could it be my new Beastgrip Pro?

I will start shooting some test videos with my iPhone 5s and the Beastgrip Pro very soon and will post them on the Sci-Fi Maker YouTube channel.

Tips for hacking the screenplay

“They” say you have to write 10 to 20 bad scripts before you write a good script.

How long will that take you? Three years? Five?

We’re going to hack the screenwriting process to get you to the good scripts faster.

  • The fundamentals – Master scene writing. There’s no point writing a complete script if you can’t write good scenes. Most people who write their first screenplay haven’t mastered scene writing.
  • Build on your strengths – Once you can write good scenes, write good short scripts. Then screenplays. That way, when you write your first screenplay, it will be a LOT better than most.
  • Use the force – Calm your mind. Don’t try to force the writing. No judgement. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
  • Go fast – Write your first draft as fast as you can to circumvent the critical part of your brain. Just get it down on paper. Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in seven days. Quentin Tarantino writes his first drafts as quickly as he can.
  • Then go slow – Edit the heck out of that first draft.
  • Play the freaking note – Be confident and commit your words to the page.
  • Take it out for a spin – Act out your scenes after you write them. Or have your friends do it. Or actors.
  • Find your hacks – You have to find your own hacks – what works for you?
  • Teach yourself – Lean how to teach yourself. In Kung Fu Panda, Oogway is a self-teacher trying to pass the secret of self-teaching.

As always


Screenwriting books for sci-fi filmmakers

Who needs to learn screenwriting?

No matter what job you have on a science fiction movie or video, your job is to serve the story.

Everyone on the set needs to understand how stories (screenplays) work to do their job.

On the set of "Frackers". The director and producer checking the script.
On the set of “Frackers”. The director and producer checking the script.

A producer must be able to identify good and bad scripts to know which projects are worth their time and money.

A director must understand how screenplays work so they can tell the story properly.

Editors can’t make arbitrary decisions about which shots go where or for how long. They have to serve the story.

A director of photography must understand story structure and how stories work to make effective creative decisions about how to shoot the movie.

Screenwriting books

Here is a good, short list of screenwriting books to get you started.

  • Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, by Syd Field
  • Story: Style, Structure, Substance and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler and Michele Montez
  • Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder

I recommend reading all four books to get you started. Then figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

Never stop learning about what makes a good script, but don’t use this as an excuse not to write.

Next week

  • New iPhone video – a cool, new toy should arrive by then
  • Writing bad scripts to get to the good script – we’re going to hack the process

As always

  • Tell us about your science fiction projects here.
  • Please leave us a rating and review on iTunes or Stitcher.
  • You can share your video on our private Facebook group.
  • Keep writing. Keep shooting. Keep learning.

 Affiliate links


iPad 4 video test

Baby, it’s cold outside!

This week, I shot a video test with my iPad 4 using FiLMic Pro.

Next time, I’ll shoot on a warmer day.

If you want to shoot your science fiction video or movie with a smart phone or tablet, I recommend the FiLMiC Pro app. I covered its features last week.

I planned to shoot a video test with my iPhone 5s, but I didn’t have a good way to attach it to a tripod. Luckily, I have an iOgrapher case for my iPad (see link below) which makes it easy to use with a tripod.

Mistakes were made

It was too cold to shoot and, as a result, I made some mistakes:

  • I got in a hurry
  • I didn’t adjust the iPad display brightness
  • I set my white balance too high

One of the biggest mistakes new videographers make is not paying attention to their camera’s white balance setting. Many leave the white balance setting on auto.

The white balance is the camera setting you use so colors are rendered accurately. The goal is to capture colors on video you see in real life.

FiLMiC Pro allows you to set and lock the white balance for your video. It also allows you to set and lock your exposure and focus.

By carefully controlling your white balance, focus, and exposure in your camera, you are getting the best quality video your camera is capable of.

But remember, take your time and do this correctly. Don’t do what I did and get in a hurry.

Your homework

Go out and shoot more video. Pay careful attention to your white balance, focus, and exposure.

Next week

  • More shooting tips. We’ll get better!
  • Screenwriting – we’ll discuss some popular screenwriting books.

Tell us about your science fiction projects here.

Please leave us a rating and review on iTunes or Stitcher.

You can share your video on our private Facebook group.

We’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.

Go out there and start making your own science fiction.

 Affiliate links


Sci-Fi Maker Film School

School is in session

It’s time to get to work.

In 2016, at the Sci-Fi Maker Film School, you are going to learn how to:

  • Shoot great looking video
  • Produce and direct videos
  • Edit
  • Write screenplays and short video scripts

These are the essential skills you need to learn if you want to be a filmmaker.

Frackers pool set with camera
On the set of “Frackers”

In addition, you will learn about:

  • Location audio
  • Special effects
  • Makeup and wardrobe
  • Sets/locations
  • Budgeting
  • Casting
  • Everything else that goes into making a movie

You can’t do every job on a movie yourself, but it is useful to know as much as you can about the entire process.

Along the way, we’ll post videos on our YouTube channel so you can see what we’re doing. We’ll be posting:

  • Sample shots and how they are set up
  • Science fiction video shorts
  • Instructional videos
  • Your stuff
  • Our stuff

Let’s get started

All you need is a late-model Android phone or iPhone capable of shooting high definition video.

You also need an app – FiLMiC Pro.

FiLMiC Pro has been available for the iPhone for a few years and is now available for Android.

FiLMiC Pro gives you manual control of your camera’s settings, such as:

  • Exposure
  • Focus
  • Frame rates
  • ISO
  • Shutter speed
  • Tint
  • Color temperature
  • Aspect ratio

This control is critical if you want to produce great looking video.

There are filmmakers all over the world who are shooting real movies using their smart phones and Filmic Pro.

Here’s your homework assignment

  1. Download FiLMiC Pro on your smart phone. Costs about ten bucks.
  2. Learn how to use FiLMiC Pro.
    1. Lots of good information on their website.
    2. Google “How to use FiLMic Pro”
    3. Watch videos about FiLMiC Pro on YouTube

I’ll be using FiLMiC Pro on my iPhone 5S and my iPad.

If you have a GoPro or similar camera, you can use it instead of your smart phone.

The newer GoPro cameras are very powerful, but you need to learn how to use it. The GoPro cameras have a lot of video options you can use to create amazing looking video.

If you have a different kind of camera, such as a DSLR, that produces high definition video, you can use that.

More homework

Start shooting some video and apply what you’ve learned.

You can’t shoot a movie until you learn how to produce great shots.

Your goal is to create a shot that looks like something from a movie.

Watch some movies. Study the shots. Try to figure out how they were lit and staged.

See if you can recreate a shot you see in a movie or create your own shot with a similar look.

You can share your video on our private Facebook group.

We’ll be learning more about lighting and composition in the coming weeks.

You’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.

Go out there and start making your own science fiction.