Some thoughts about making an improv based vlog inspired short film.
A few years ago, I attempted to film one hundred days of vlog. Watching vloggers like Casey Neistat, and the work he did prior to his vlog; I saw how vlogging could bring new tools to filmmaking. I work a full time job, so I would film footage of myself on the way to work and b-roll. Sometimes I would film during lunch, and I would wrap up the vlog during my commute in the evening. When I got home I would pick a song and start editing the footage so I could post it by the next morning. My favorite time during the vlog was filming during a holiday trip. I could devote more of my day to capturing interesting footage and I was able to spend more time on the edit.
A couple years ago, Adrian Bliss posted a mysterious vlog called Vlogmember. He would post a 1–2 minute vlog every day during the month of November.
Seeing what I could do with a vlog and what other creators could do, I got interested in blending what I learned from vlogging and my experiences making improv based short films.
Last year, we filmed an improvised short film called “Devastating Paternity Secrets Revealed at the Auto Show.” I’ve taken to calling it Auto Show for short. The film was produced much like a vlog. One of the improvisers (Joe Hirte) played Phil a vlogger, his co-star (Dennis Episcopo) played Greg, someone who hated being on camera. Greg had a secret he had to tell Phil, but every time he tried to reveal the secret, Phil would pull out his camera and start vlogging.
Joe used an iPhone 6S while on set so he could film his own vlog as well as some b-roll. I was on set with my Panasonic GH4 capturing footage of both actors as well as b-roll.
Joe would film himself for the introduction to the vlog, while I would film the off-vlog scenes.
During our filming day, I had a beat sheet for the film that described what would happen in each scene. I would refer to the beat sheet and talk with Dennis and Joe about the scene before we would start filming.
Between scenes, and after capturing coverage for the entire film, I would film b-roll of the Auto show where we filmed the short.
Part of the fun was exploring the Auto show. Just being there gave us a lot of interesting b-roll.
When I sat down to edit the film, I imported the footage from Joe’s camera as well as my main camera. I synchronized all of the footage and the audio. This gave me the opportunity to easily switch from Joe’s camera to the main camera depending on what was happening in the scene.
I created a short intro using b-roll from the shoot and music, and music breaks between some of the scenes.
If you decide to film something like this, give your actor some time to work with the vlogging camera. You are counting on the actor to capture the footage of themselves, so you need to make sure they know the fundamentals of how to use the camera. This could be done in a half hour or so.
We used an iPhone 6S for the vlogging camera and a rode H1 with a lavalier mic to capture audio. I wasn’t worried about the camera getting dropped during filming. If you use a more substantial rig, you will want to make sure it won’t fall apart in your actor’s hands and that they can comfortably use it.
As with any short film, you want to make sure you have enough coverage to tell the story of your film. With my camera, I filmed a two shot, as well as singles on both of my actors for most of the scenes. Joe used the vlogging camera to film himself and he did a great job bringing Dennis into the frame with him.
In an early cut of the film, I was enamored with a one take two shot with both of the actors. I thought they both did an excellent job during the scene and I liked how the scene played out. It was a bit jolting for some of my fellow filmmakers going from the fast paced cutting of a vlog and settling in to a long one take scene. I finally decided to break up the scene with a couple other angles and to shorten the scene for pacing.
As with any film, it’s important as a filmmaker to set up the expectations of the film and to follow those guidelines unless you are breaking them for an explicit purpose.
Filmmakers like Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon have expanded the tools available for Vloggers and filmmakers. Adrain Bliss created two seasons of a very entertaining series with a cheap point and shoot camera and some help from his friends. Gary Vaynerchuck has evolved the language of vlog filmmaking working with a team of creatives to produce his daily vlog. (It’s reminiscent of reality TV, but without the fake drama.)
As long as people keep uploading to YouTube, I think we will eventually see more film projects like Vlogmember, and more short films like Auto Show.
I would encourage you to explore this genre if you have a story that would fit the vlog aesthetic. I believe that vlogging has created new story telling opportunities for filmmakers and actors.
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