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Behind-the-scenes on 'Man-child': Creating a Multimedia Lookbook for Producers

My screenplay for Man-child (the project I’m currently trying to get funded with your help!) is one of twenty scripts that will be participating in IFP’s Emerging Narrative program a month from now. Put simply, Emerging Narrative is a program for screenwriters looking for a producer — a situation that many screenwriters and writer/directors find themselves in. Whether you’re participating in a program like Emerging Narrative or not, one way of helping producers better understand your project is to bring additional materials to the table besides your script. These materials might include a sample of a previous work you directed, another writing sample, test footage, a spec trailer, or a lookbook. A lookbook is a collection of stills culled from a variety of sources (not necessarily images you shot yourself) that convey what you want your movie to look like. Instead of using still images as is typical, however, I decided to make a multimedia lookbook: a collage of film and TV clips that demonstrate the aesthetic of Man-child. I hadn’t seen this done before, so I cut together clips from over a dozen films, and paired the visuals with a voiceover about some of the more technical aspects of Man-child — including what camera I’d like to shoot the film on, and a particular kind of camera stabilizer I’m planning on utilizing:

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I’ve since heard from a few producers that this clip helped them get a better idea of the aesthetic I’ll be going for — if the Kickstarter campaign is successful, that is — so feel free to adapt this multimedia approach for your own projects…

Given many of NoFilmSchool’s readers are shooters themselves, I’ve been asked a lot about what camera I’m planning on shooting Man-child with. First of all, I’m not entirely sure: we’re several months to a year away from shooting, so who knows what new cameras will come out in that time? However, as I mention in the lookbook, there are a number of slow-motion sequences in the script. This is a first for me: I’ve never called for slow-motion in a script before, but it’s organically appropriate to the project in this case. It’s hard to beat a RED for slow-motion prowess, and so by default that makes it a top choice for this project. Additionally, because there is a lot of handheld camerawork, including in action scenes, the less we have to worry about rolling shutter, the better. Every CMOS sensor suffers from rolling shutter to a certain extent, but the RED’s sensor readout is far faster than any DSLR I know of.

This is not to say that we won’t employ HDSLRs in some ways — certainly for the behind-the-scenes videos, and possibly as B-cameras as well. And who knows what new DSLRS will come out in the next several months? Ultimately you best tool you can afford (to rent, in the case of a RED).

As for the MK-V Camera Stabilizer, I discovered it at NAB this past year. It was my first time at the tradeshow, and I found myself conflicted between covering it as a blogger and covering it as a filmmaker. The MK-V was one discovery that made the trip worth it as a filmmaker, because it was so appropriate to my particular project and I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. Oh, and the MK-V pictured at left isn’t the right model, but I thought it was pretty funny — Conan walking around with a steadicam on screen would further ruin any chance of suspending disbelief in the box office disappointment.

Of course, all of these things are dependent on the budget — it may be we end up running around with several DSLRs and a Steadicam Merlin. But I’m hoping for a RED and a MK-V!

If you recognize some of the clips above but couldn’t quite place them, here is a list of films incorporated into the lookbook:

  • Ballast
  • Black Swan
  • Blue Chips
  • Boy A
  • Chop Shop
  • The Class (Entre Les Murs)
  • Fish Tank
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Half Nelson
  • He Got Game
  • Hoop Dreams
  • MK-V Camera Stabilizer demo
  • Raising Victor Vargas
  • Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault
  • Soul in the Hole
  • Sugar
  • The West Side
  • The White Shadow
  • The Wire

All copyrights are property of their respective owners; I’m not selling these clips or even using the sound, so I hope this video doesn’t run afoul of anyone.

I’ve also added this video to the main Kickstarter page, as I think it gives a few more details about the project that I couldn’t include in the pitch video itself. In general, when making a Kickstarter video, you want to keep it as short as possible. You want to make sure everyone makes it through the video, at the expense of leaving out details; if someone gets bored while watching it, they’re going to click away and you’ve lost a potential backer. Plus, if you leave viewers wanting more, you can further describe the project with a few paragraphs on the page.

Do you think this multimedia lookbook was effective? What other materials would you think about bringing with you to a producer’s meeting? Finally, have you thought about backing my Kickstarter project yet? We’re reaching the slower middle timeframe of the campaign, so any help at this point is greatly appreciated!

[Basketball photo by The Tattered Coat]
[Music by Clams Casino]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 29 COMMENTS

  • awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwesome!! forgot fishtank in that list! loved the video look book idearrrrrr

  • Sounds great cant wait for more news on it! :)

  • Really nice work Koo. It’s coherent and very well paced. You packed in a ton of information and come off as a true filmmaker who understands story and the tools required to bring it to life.

    I’m a big fan of these kinds of “Look Books” – I’ve done photographic docs as well as video presentation pitches for a number of years and had a lot of success with it. The trick is communicating your own unique voice through the material and not letting the photos, videos etc from other sources look like you’re just ripping off something. I think you did a fine job here. Well done!

  • Brent Gooden on 08.30.11 @ 10:43PM

    I thought the lookbook mutlimedia idea was done before. This will prove very helpful for filmmakers who want to pitch their ideas to the right people. Definately saving this post with many more from you for future reference. Good luck on the project, Koo!

  • really nice job on the lookbook vid – friday night lights was one of my fav tv series. I loved the combination of drama and sports, and I think if you pulled something like that off, you’d have a winner. As for the MK-V – that has got to be the craziest piece of gear I’ve seen yet – so awesome!

  • Wow, every post these days seems to be linked to man-child..
    Koo, i love your blog and i’ll support your kickstarter project, but imho your marketing strategy
    is a little too aggressive. i know its success highly depends on linking and cross marketing
    and getting the word out there, but nofilmschool just feels better without man-child written all
    over it, at least to me.

    I like your multimedia lookbook. At the company i’m working for (in Berlin, Germany), we call them
    “mood films” and use them for almost every pitch. I’m surprised to see they aren’t that common after
    all. It’s a great way to give the client an idea about the feel of the film we’re pitching. good luck on
    finding a producer, i’m sure it will happen!

    • Couldn’t disagree more with this comment. Seems like every film/camera blog these days is just a clone of every other blog. It’s nice to see some original, educational posts on the process of writing, funding and shooting a feature. Where else do you get that? I for one think it’s super valuable to follow you through this process – keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Clayton, sorry Richard. Of the last 12 posts, only 3 are about Man-child, and those three are all designed to help anyone else run a crowdfunding campaign (or, in this case, put together a lookbook). Regardless, I hope most visitors find the info surrounding crowdfunding helpful — you can always skip a post if not!

  • You are a natural story teller in front of the camera. Would love to see your script. My script has a look that is dictated by the vision in my head. Thank you for giving me something else to consider!

  • It´s called a “Mood Film”, at least in the advertising world. Agencies assemble Mood Films with clips of feature Films to present potential clients what the finished product can look like or what the “mood” is.

    • That’s my experience as well, they are also used in the high end film world, to show executives what their film might “feel” like.

  • While your lookbook is informative, it doesn’t give a sense of what makes your story different from all the other student athlete movies. I am surprised that you haven’t shot a conceptual trailer using some actors and locations that may not be in the finished movie, but would illustrate your story. Someone trying to decide which movie to back would want to understand the story in more than generic terms. You can give them a script, and hope that they have time to read it, or you could show them a one minute trailer that conveys your vision better than any words or stock footage collage. I don’t mean to be harsh, I just don’t understand the generic approach.

    • Yes, that’s what the script is for. There are also a number of other materials out there — a synopsis, a director’s statement, etc. Perhaps I’ll post those as well!

      I think if someone doesn’t have the time to read the script after hearing my pitch and reading my materials, I’m not going to worry about trying to change their mind with a one-minute spec trailer. For this project, a trailer would be particularly challenging — I don’t have access to the kinds of actors or locations that would make it convincing. A trailer can be great — I’ve actually shot two spec trailers in the past year — but it just wouldn’t work for this project logistically.

  • Very basic question. Presuming you ripped all those clips off DVD. Can you recommend the right software for this? I currently use Mac the Ripper and Cinematise and if takes ages and creates huge files. Is there an easier way?

  • Nice to see clips of Tom English using his Steadicam rig you should check out the tango he uses as well, very cool bit of kit

  • I really liked the multimedia lookbook, it gave me a better idea of what the aesthetics of Man-Child would be and how it would feel when watching it when the film is finally complete. Good luck with the rest of your Kickstarter campaign!

  • Hey Koo –
    Well done. Appreciate that you’re being so open about your process.

  • Amazing narrating voice! How’d you get such lossless footage from those TV shows. It looked like it came right off the film negative. Any recommendations for DSLR equipment ?

  • This lookbook idea has inspired me so much, I am doing one myself for my own 30min drama as I develop and write the script. Yours was very inspiring, thanks a lot.

  • im sorry to be down but couldnt you find exactly the same (or near enough) narrative if you made a documentary rather than a drama? surely the story you are telling is happening, in multiple incarnations, in REAL LIFE all over the US, right now

    why not just make this as a feature documentary? what are you gaining by drama? (apart from a more cinematic aesthetic)

  • Just discovered this thread (of all things through the Conan link!). I love the idea of a lookbook and increasingly use one in collaboration with production design and with the colorist.

    The MK-V stabilizer seems to have developed quite a lot too. I worked with Felix Forrest at with the MK-V Omega Revolution which is the next generation version of the rig referred to above. We worked over a five day period shooting with it on the Steadicam and off. It has a great trick too – it allows remote control of the rotation of a camera (we were using an Epic and anamorphic glass). After some practice, we could dial in a fully stabilized remote controlled rotation which was repeatable whenever the rig was over its mark. What was really interesting was when we fitted the Omega to a slider… all I can say is wow. Its a surreal shot.

    I have to say that with the talk and use of stabilized gimbals, I think people have lost sight of the skill and capability of a good steadicam operator with access to kit like the Omega.