The Clint McCommon Guide to a Better Louisiana Film Prize Project

LAFP Note: The following is a special message from Clint McCommon, an all-around awesome guy and one of the hardest working people in the Shreveport/Bossier sphere of film/video production. His Fairfield Studios is one of the best resources a filmmaker could have. So, take a knee and listen up! The coach is about to start talking! — Gregory Kallenberg, Film Prize Executive Director

The Clint McCommon Guide to a Better Louisiana Film Prize Project

So if you are new to the world of filmmaking or maybe your experience is very limited; that does not mean you do not have potential to make a great film.  The first step is admitting that there are things you simply do not know and be ready seek out and be willing to accept advice of those who know this industry.  When you build your film team, finding that right balance of knowledge and experience and enthusiasm can make the difference.

These three words will make or break you.  The more effort you put into a proper pre-production plan the smoother production will flow and the better prepared you will be for the unforeseen hiccups that always occur on game day.  And a proper execution of your production will pay off big time in saving you a nightmare of a post-production.

Time management and communication with cast in crew needs to be your mantra. You have a small budget and even smaller time window to get it right, so plan everything in detail.  We are talking rehearsals, location scouts, storyboards, permits, food and water, emergency plans, weather.  Go over every step of execution and try to find as many holes in your plan as you can.

Your production will be as good (or bad) as the people you work with.  Surround yourself with excellence by finding the best available crew.  I know many want to start with the actors but you need two key players – an experienced director of photography and a good sound mixer/recordist.  And let me drive this simple point home to everyone – quality sound is just as important as picture.

Bad audio can ruin your story in a heartbeat.  We all have felt the difference a strong score and quality sound effects can add to the movie experience, but can you imagine the distraction if the actors’ audio is poor?  So make sure you have a solid sound mixer with quality equipment during production, and have a plan for audio post production.

A skilled director of photography is not important only for running the camera and framing the picture – proper lighting and set design is important.  Getting access to a simple light kit and grip equipment will give your crew the tools they need to really add value to your production.

As you begin your search for the best locations, remember you need permission to film at all locations and many require a location permit or release.  You should start with a film permit from the city.  You can start this process (which is super easy by the way) at  Get your permit application filled out as soon as you have locations and shoot dates.

The care, feeding, and safety of your cast and crew must be a top priority, especially with the hot Louisiana weather.  You never want to be a position where you are out of drinking water.  Make a plan for meals, drinks and snacks for each location and shooting day. Large 5-gallon water jugs can be purchased locally and can be filled for around a dollar apiece. Speaking of care, you need to have first aid kits on-hand and, if possible, someone competent with providing quick medical assistance.  At a minimum you need to have ambulance contact information and locations of the nearest care facilities. Weather can be your best friend and worst enemy.  Mother Nature does not follow call sheets and sunsets do not start on the word action.  Be watching the weather forecasts and have backup plans B thru Z for alternates if possible. Think of where you can go to shoot an indoor scene or something else in case the weather pushes you inside.

Most everyone is shooting digital these days, and while that’s convenient and inexpensive, it poses some problems if you loose that data. If you do not have your sound and video backed up on at least two independent hard drives, you are taking chances you do not have and risking not only your hard work, but that of your cast and crew.  Assigning a person as you Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) or “Data Wrangler” and defining their duties will help big time.  If you are using film – remember to allow for temperature controlled storage.  And remember to plan for the turnaround time for developing at the lab.

A detailed call sheet is important for communicating the plan with the cast and crew, but also can help your planning to make sure you do not miss any planning steps. You can see a sample here Things to remember: Maps and directions to locations, weather forecast, call times for crew and cast, transportation, and phone rosters that includes anyone and EVERYONE you may need contact with.

When working on wardrobe, remember to consult with your director of photography. Certain video cameras can give variable results for thin stripes and patterns called “moiré” .  Plus solid white and black can also cause trouble depending on the camera and lighting.

Plan your post production in pre-production!  Good post production not only includes basic editing, but should include color grading, sound mixing, foley, ADR (dubbing over lines where audio is bad), and any special effects.  For every day of shooting you should allow for three solid days of post production as a guide.  Having a solid editor can make the difference in a good short film and a great short film.  If you are planning green screen or other special effects, consult with your editor and special effects person to make sure you shoot it right and make their job easier.

Your music and sound score will be a critical element to creating your film experience. Remember you must obtain permission to use someone’s original music. Obtaining a license from a top 40 artist might be outside you price range, but you may have luck with local musicians looking to get their art more exposure. If you plan to have original music composed, just remember to allow time for that in your post-production schedule.

Everyone is working on tight budgets, but quality projects comes first from quality cast and crew and followed by good equipment.  You will not get the product you want if you are not willing to put some green behind it.  Many of you will be able to find some quality crew willing to work for sandwiches if they believe in your story, but if they do not have the right equipment you may be wasting a chance to take advantage of their talents. So, do your best to save and raise money and be smart about your budget.

The best of luck with your productions!

-Clint McCommon

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Friends of the Film Prize

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