Home Movie Production: The Art of Storytelling, Direction, and Editing
I’ve been unable to resist the urge to make my videos ever since I got my hands on my first camcorder. Sometimes, I’m the star of them. Since the “apple never falls far from the tree,” my two children have inherited my hamminess.
This was the first of what would eventually become a library of DIY movies on DVD. Whether they were my ideas or my children’s, I can say that my family and I had a great time creating them and continue to have a great time watching and re-watching them. They’re all grown up now, but we still like watching our old favorites occasionally. I wrote this piece in the hopes that you might learn from our experiences and do things differently to preserve the creativity and joy of your family for future generations.
You need to have a plan for your video before you begin. Sometimes it’s preferable to have just one person do things, as too many people helping at this point might cause problems. In my experience, children under seven excel at playing scenes from classic children’s books and fairy tales. We’ve utilized some of these concepts in past productions:
The Three Bears
A Story About a Girl Named Red
Example: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”
John and Mary
A Tale of Three Pigs
In my experience, stories that give the audience more of a role to play tend to be more enjoyable. With a small cast, each actor can showcase his or her abilities by taking on multiple roles (à la Mike Myers in the Austin Powers movies).
Since “Make do with what you have” is our unofficial slogan, I’ve never felt the need to buy any props or costumes for our videos. We’ve made fantastic costumes from everyday household materials, proving that necessity is the mother of invention.
Create a plot outline. My productions always begin with a rough screenplay draft since improvising is where the real magic happens. It’s a lot funnier and more natural than anything you could script. However, your tale needs to have a defined beginning, middle, and end for you, the director, to understand it. An example narrative could go something like this:
In the first section, the three bears are eating porridge. When the baby burns his or her tongue, the parents agree it’s too hot, and the child cries. Mom offers a hike through the woods. Baby and his father both nod, and they exit.
Goldilocks enters all three (“too hot, too cold, just right”) in the second chapter. Breaks the baby bear’s chair after eating all his porridge and then moves to the bears’ seats (“too hard, too soft, just right”). Then they retire to their beds, where they find the bed either too hard or too soft and fall asleep.
Part 3 Bears have returned. Someone has been sneaking bites of Papa’s oatmeal. Papa takes note. Crying infants is a sign of a lack of comfort.
They settle in for a seat. Someone, according to Pops, has been occupying his chair. Mama is on board with this. The baby is sad because he is now broken.
Again, the parents send the kids to bed, but Baby wakes Goldilocks up this time by discovering her lying in his bed. When Gold spots the bear, she screams and flees from the house.
It is your responsibility as the director to go over the rules with the cast and crew, but you should allow them to use their terms. You can always teach a little child what to say if they get stuck, but a teenager would instead work it out independently.
Never lose sight of why you’re doing a video in the first place. To have a good time and bring some happiness into one’s life. No one should take it too seriously to the point of starting disputes or arguments with others. To ensure that you and your collaborators don’t lose sight of the big picture, it’s a good idea to draft a mission statement at the outset.
The value of preparation cannot be overstated. Once the cast has agreed on a story, you must assume the role of casting director. Remember that the apparent option isn’t necessarily the best while making a comedic video. Having an adult play a child or a youngster play an adult can be hilarious.
Next, select the locations for each scene and put notes next to them in the outline. Here’s where your imagination can run free and your creativity can shine. Remember that the camera can only capture so much of the scene, and use this knowledge to your advantage. When filming a night sequence (when the protagonist shines a flashlight on her face while sobbing), we discovered that it was broad daylight outside. We set up our tiny baby tent in the garage’s darkest corner and recorded a convincing nighttime scene.
Making a costume or applying makeup is simple. When performing “The Three Bears,” I’ve never needed to dress up like bears. We dressed how we imagined a mother, father, and cub bear to wear. It would be ideal if mom wore an apron and a cap, but it’s OK if you don’t have any of those things. Wigs and other hair accessories are lovely to keep on hand, but scarves and hats will serve in a pinch. You can get almost do I not think it’s all that vital to look good all the time.
Makeup plays a significant role in the process of transgender transformation. Men can get the desired effect with a generous application of blush and lipstick, while women need a fake mustache. You can use mascara or an eyebrow pencil for this. The camera will pick up anything dark. When applying makeup for the camera, more is better than less. I’ve used eyebrow pencils to make some of my teeth look black so that I appear toothless in photographs. After thoroughly drying the tooth, fill it with a black eyebrow pencil. I have also had success using corks that have been burned to draw on beards.
When filming our Blair Witch Project parody, we used a feminine lubricant called “Astro-Glide” as fake tears. The actress claimed the taste was awful, but it appeared lifelike in the film.
You’re finally in the shooting position. As a director, you must ensure that all actors are aware of their lines and cues. When working with children, I always confirm this information before shooting. It allows them to clarify anything they don’t understand, and if you have them repeat what they’re supposed to say and do, you can spot any mistakes. Actors should also go over scene-ending hand signals. I prefer the “slash to the neck” sign, but you can use whatever you wish as long as your performers are on the same page. It’s also crucial that everyone involved in a scene understand the cues for when it’s time to wrap things up. It could be a single word, a phrase, or a procedure. As soon as a performer stands up and leaves,
Though I recommend shooting my narratives chronologically, post-production editing is always an option. You should also check the filmmaker’s credentials to ensure they know what they’re doing. Once, when he was around ten years old, I handed the camera to my son, and we got some fantastic shots of the ceiling and everyone’s feet. Although a teenager or an adult would be ideal for making a high-quality video, we decided to keep this one because it still makes us giggle. Filmmaking and directing have always brought me joy. If you don’t like what’s happening, you may always halt the film, rewind, and reshoot the entire scene.
You can quickly move from one indoor location to another, or from one outdoor area to another, such as from a forest to a meadow. The two are both completed by us. Goldilocks led us through the bears’ home, from the kitchen to the den to the bedrooms. While watching The Blair Witch, viewers had no idea that the crew just walked in a circle around their performers to confine their use of the woods to a relatively restricted area.
I would make the staff wait to see the footage after each episode, even though they might be nagging. Pop a ton of popcorn and invite all your non-participating friends and family to a formal “premier” of your video. Then, enjoy seeing your child’s beaming expression as they view themselves on film for the first time. This information is invaluable.
After only one viewing, you’ll know exactly what to cut and add. I’m not saying I’m a perfectionist, but there have been times when I felt like a scene needed to be reshot.
I’ve also taken to creating a title page, which consists of my hand-drawn credits and is then filmed.
Every time we finish a video, we have a “cast call” where everyone who participated gets to take a bow and act goofy for the camera.
May the Schwartz be with you as you stage your first production.