January 7, 2020

My Wife and I Made a 3000 Shot Feature Film By Ourselves (and You Can Too)

Think you have what it takes to make a feature film? Let this story guide you! 

As I write this, we are just hours removed from the Golden Globes, where Ricky Gervais eviscerated the state of the Hollywood film industry, chastising it for making “awful” films, leaning on, “remakes and sequels,” which he termed as “lazy.”

One movie that certainly wasn’t lazy was ours. A 3000-plus shot, dark, cerebral, psychological thriller titled, Dangerous to Know, that was made entirely (pre-production-and post) by just my wife, Jennifer, and me. 

That’s it.

They say that if you want to change in the world, you need to be the change.

Like everyone else, we know that there’s been a stagnation in Hollywood film recently, which seems almost certainly to be the result of the adoption of the industry’s rigid 90-minute, three-act structure, which has led to overly produced, “phone it in” films, where often the music, sound design, and cinematography are forgettable. 

Amazingly, despite these challenges, talented young and first time Hollywood filmmakers continue, year after year, to defy these rigid parameters and make truly decent films...but one has to ask: “What could they do if their imaginations were set free?”

Thanks to my background as a digital technology expert and futurist, and leveraging what I knew about the underpinnings of the filmmaking hardware and software available at reasonable costs, plus online resources and communities like No Film School, I was able to set my own imagination free and film a 3000-plus shot feature film...and it looks, sounds, and feels incredible.

I’m thrilled to be able to share what I’ve learned, and hopefully inspire the vibrant, open-minded filmmaking community that provided me with so much inspiration at the start, to go out and replicate what I’ve done (with technology that is already vastly better than what I had access to when we started filming in 2016).

How this all came about  

Dangerous to Know is a film that looks as good or better than the Hollywood big-budget productions, but it was made with virtually no-budget, funded completely by the money I’d earned for my Kindle series of bestselling novels.

The story behind it is one that most aspiring filmmakers would understand well: I needed access. 

My dream, since I was six years old, was to one day be a novelist and have my stories adapted for film. Like a lot of people, even much of my own fervent fan base, I assumed that if my book was at the top of the charts for a sustained period of time, that Hollywood would jump at the chance to adapt it.

I was wrong.
 

Although it’s true that Management 360 did call and asked me to write scripts for the first two novels in my Post-Human series, it was explained to me that the scripts would need to somehow catch the attention of a major, established talent, if they had any hope of being made. 

Essentially, if Cruise, DiCaprio, or Spielberg didn’t call me, I was probably out of luck. 

And even if a near miracle did occur and one of the major, established talents did take an interest in my series, I was still going to have to accept that, as the process moved along, I’d lose more and more control until eventually, I had no say at all... “But hey, you’ll make a ton of money, so who cares?”

Writers and directors will understand me when I say: I care. 

Background 

It hadn’t occurred to me previously to actually make a film myself. Like most people, when I saw the sheer scale (in regards to both money and people power, of Hollywood film productions), I assumed that making a film took years of dedicated training and that everyone who was working on a film set was doing a job that few others could master.

It wasn’t until I explored the idea of partnering with a local production company in Vancouver to make a five-minute Proof-of-Concept short film for my Post-Human series that I finally experienced what goes on, from the ground up, in typical film production.

My background as a technologist kicked into gear immediately upon reading the proposed budget’s breakdown of $25K for only a one day shoot (minus the VFX!) and learning that, among other ridiculous oddities, “professional” digital film cameras were $1000 just to rent for a day! That got me interested...really interested.

You see, in researching my Post-Human series, I’d become an expert on information technology and AI, and I knew that the price performance of digital technology nearly doubles, year over year. 

In laymen’s terms, what that means is that a computer, a phone, or a digital film camera, should have its cost cut in half, roughly every eighteen months, and we see evidence of this in the progression of things like tablets and laptops. 

I did a little research and discovered that the first digital film cameras to be used on a major production were made by George Lucas’s team, and debuted to other major directors in 2002. And although the early period of digital, HD film was unquestionably inferior in overall quality to traditional film in the early part of that decade, leading to a slow adoption for the first few years, there was a giant leap forward between 2009 and 2014, when the ratio of digital vs. film in Hollywood productions went from just 10% to 90%, forcing Kodak to announce that they were ceasing production on film stock. 

This made a lot of sense to a technologist. HD had been replaced by 4K and 6K sensors by then, digital post-production tools were easier to use than literally cutting films together in the editing room, and they were far superior in quality as well.

But there was a problem: The fear of change. 

Thinking Outside the Box

It’s become a cliché in business, but the term “think outside the box” was first coined by Marshal McLuhan, a media theorist from the University of Toronto, who explained it as part of a larger argument about people’s conception of the future. He wrote that people “see the future through the flavor of the most recent past,” and he called this the “rearview mirror society.” 

Think about the first cars...they were “horseless carriages.” They didn’t need to look exactly like horse carriages, but it was the easiest way to explain the technology to people who’d been used to their horse and buggy. It made it less frightening. 

The same thing occurred in Hollywood. The first digital film cameras had to be made to look just like the old film cameras, or else cinematographers refused to use them. 

Even DSLR cameras look like the old point and shoot film cameras of thirty years ago, even though there’s no practical reason for it. 

And because of this “rearview mirror” mentality, it made sense that digital film cameras would be treated exactly like the old film cameras (a century-old technology by the time they were replaced) with a generally fixed cost, since they weren’t digital, and therefore wouldn’t double in capability or price performance.

A great example to illustrate the point: Aspiring Filmmakers should go to YouTube and watch David Fincher’s BTS on Zodiac, a film he made in 2007 with a digital film camera and edited on iMacs and MacBook Pros.

Fincher is commonly thought of at the best technical filmmaker on Earth and was an early adopter of digital technology. Zodiac is available on numerous streaming sites. 

Watch it.
 

Ask yourself: Do the quality of the images not hold up?

And when you come to the obvious conclusion, then ask yourself a second question: Would you choose to make your movie with his 2007 “professional” technology? MacBook Pros circa 2007, iMacs circa 2007, Final Cut Pro circa 2007?
Or would you choose something like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, or the Sony A7s II or A7 III? Would you choose the late 2019 MacBook Pro, a brand new Mac Pro? An iMac Pro? DaVinci Resolve 16?

Which do you think David Fincher would choose, had he been given the chance to reach into the future and grab the gear?

This leads us to the opportunity for a technologist/filmmaker.

The Revelation

I quickly realized that I needed to take control of my proof-of-concept short film for Post-Human, lest we spend a ton of money and not get much quality in return. I bought myself a BMPCC for less than the cost of one day of renting one of the “pro” cameras with similar specs, and we filmed the entire thing in under three hours.

The film had over a million views on Vimeo and led to me being asked to write the scripts for the Post-Human series. It also led to a lot of media coverage, and Blackmagic Design even asked to use the film at camera expos they were attending.

Overall, not a bad result for my first short film. 

But the real value was in the insight I’d gained. 

Simply put, I now realized that there was nothing stopping me from scaling up the extraordinarily stripped-down, fundamental way I was filming, to actually make an entire feature film.

Wow. 

The only caveat was that I couldn’t make a VFX heavy science fiction film or a period piece—anything that required lots of VFX, sets, or costumes was still not affordable for a no-budget filmmaker. 

However, if I wrote a story and set it in the present, and I used real locations, our own clothes for the costumes, and rented or borrowed vehicles, I knew I could make a film with absolutely no compromise whatsoever. The technology would make it possible for my wife and I to make up the entirety of the production crew, and we’d learned from doing the post-production on my short film, that we could do the post entirely on our own. 

The Story

I’m personally a fan of David Fincher’s filmmaking, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a big influence on the tone and overall look and feel of the movie I wanted to make.

I’m also an admirer of Quentin Tarantino’s ability to construct scenes in which the mere circumstances in which the characters find themselves, and clever twists and turns in the dialogue, leave the audience gripped even more so than the most outlandish car chases or superhero smash-ups. 

And since we were making a no-budget feature film with the goal of making a film that looked like it cost $65 million, being able to write gripping scenes without resorting to car crashes or heavy VFX, was a must!  

So I settled on the psychological thriller genre, and my first idea was to build a film around Bridget Graham, the lead actress from my short film. Bridget has a certain je n'est ce quoi quality that convinced me that she had star power, and I felt I could leverage the fact that she’d been typecast by Hollywood as the “hot girl” to my advantage, and offer her the chance to play a gritty, conflicted, dangerously disturbed character, and allow her to prove to the world what she could do. She jumped at the chance. 

Once I knew she was on board, I went to work constructing a plot. I’m very lucky in this regard. My wife says that I “think in plot,” and I agree. While most writers struggle to construct plots, I really don’t, and in fact, have the problem of having more plots written in my notes than I have time to write as novels and films.

It only took me about a half hours of brainstorming to come up with my eureka moment, and when I had it, I knew I had the movie. I double-checked with my wife, Jennifer, who isn’t a writer, but I trust her taste. She often goes for walks with me and lets me use her as a sounding board when I’m creating plots, and I always know I have something special when she gets that look in her eye—her breath catches—and she says, emphatically, “Yes!”

And oh, man, I cannot wait for the world to see what we have in store for them in this one! 

Our Equipment

In 2016, the first affordable singlet stabilizer came online, the CameTV. It was sufficiently powerful enough to hold our camera set up, and it was our only stabilizer for the first half of the shoot, which started in early May that year.

Later in the summer, we were able to upgrade to the CameTV Optimus, which was much improved in all respects, and its reliability made our work go much faster. 

We chose the Blackmagic Production 4K and the Sony A7s II as our main cameras. The Sony was chosen for its incredible (and still class-leading) lowlight capability. Since a lot of the movie takes place at night, I knew I needed a camera that wouldn’t require the absurd lighting setups that Hollywood generally employs. This had the added bonus of giving our film a far more realistic and disturbing nighttime look, allowing actors to literally disappear into darkness at times, just like in the real world...no need to suspend disbelief and pretend forests are lit like baseball stadiums with mysterious fogs floating about. ;) 

We used the industry-standard Sennheiser MKH416 microphone and recorded on the day sound with a Zoom H4n and used a RØDE shotgun mic mounted on the camera as well. Most of our sound was rebuilt, however, in post-production, which we completed in a home studio that I decked out for ADR, and later for Foley. 

Although the original plan was to finish filming in the early fall of 2016, our lead male actor, Andrew Robert Wilson, was seriously hurt in an accident during a break in filming when he was back home in Vancouver. The injuries were so severe that it was impossible to film again until he healed, so that didn’t occur until the following May of 2017. By then the Sony A6500 had come online, and we used that camera, and its reliable focus, to get even more dynamic shots during our final days of filming (although the Sony A7s II remained our main camera). 

Finally, the Zhiyun Crane 2 came online, and we used that as a stabilizer for final inserts and reshoots that we did throughout 2018, parallel to our work on post-production. 

Post-Production 

My wife, Jennifer, and I did everything.

We recorded the ADR with the actors, we recorded the Foley, and we even took the DaVinci Resolve 15 Fairlight course to learn to be accredited sound designers for our film. We mixed everything ourselves, with Jenny targeting the acquisition of sound effects and soundscapes, while I focused on the dialogue and mixing everything together for the final mix. 

Color grading for the over 3000 shots was done entirely by Jenny. She learned it from the ground up, utilizing YouTube tutorials and resources like No Film School, and became an incredibly proficient colorist as a result. We went for a hybrid of David Fincher’s, sleek noir aesthetic, highlighting greens and yellows, and Tarantino’s film-look, which was accomplished by using FilmConvert and selecting a similar “film stock.”

I edited the film myself, which was a grueling process, since we did a lot of takes, and we didn’t have anyone who could put together rough edits as we went. With a film that has over 3000 shots, and considering we averaged about six takes per shot, sifting through the footage was a process that took more than a year. It was hampered by the available desktop hardware in 2016 and the first half of 2017, but a much-needed upgrade finally arrived, and that unlocked the potential of the software we used for all of our post-production, which was various iterations of DaVinci Resolve. That, in addition to me being lucky enough to have a photographic memory, sped the process along, and the final 80% of the editing was done in just a few months. 

Finally, the music. 

That, in itself, is an insane story.

Originally, I was going to hire a composer, but once the visual edits to the film were locked in, I broached the subject with my wife and suggested that I had a theory. 

By that point, she was used to me having insane ideas about reinventing the wheel, so she just rolled her eyes and gave me a half-hour to prove my point.

The theory was this: given what I knew about information tech, software and AI, I felt sure that there would be more than enough programs available for me to get the exact music I wanted...if I could compose it myself. 

I’d listened to music that was “placeholder” music from various films for months by that point and had been inspired by Hans Zimmer, Carpenter Brut, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross, and John Williams. And when people hear the score, or if they simply listen to the score in the clips that are available on Dangerous to Know’s Kickstarter page, they’ll hear those influences. 

The really strange thing? I had no musical experience.

All I can say is that a keyboard makes a lot of sense to me, musical notes make sense, and I found as soon as I started experimenting on my iPad Pro, which was connected to my iMac and Logic Pro (and eventually various plugins), that I could begin to tell stories musically. 

It was a magical experience. It was a whole new dimension in which I could express character, relationships, circumstances, and tensions. I’m so grateful for that insight and that experience.

Even crazier? When I returned to my wife thirty minutes later, I played her a little piece and saw that look in her eyes—her breath caught—and then she said, emphatically, “Yes!” 

That exact piece—not a recreation—opens the movie, and you can watch it in Extended Clip 1 from the film on my Kickstarter page. 

Results

The film is currently on Kickstarter until January 14th, now in its final week, raising funds for distribution. It caught the attention of the creator and director of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan, who very generously backed the project and wrote a beautiful letter of support and encouragement for Jenny and I.  

It has the best rewards packages I’ve ever seen, which stem from the fact that I’m a novelist, so there’s a novel version of the story, a graphic novel version (also done by me), an audiobook version, the soundtrack, and even an entire novel for fans of my Post-Human series. We also have chances to get your name in the credits, get a digital copy of the movie itself, become a producer or associate producer or even an Executive producer, and even more. 

Or, backers can just pledge $1 Canadian (roughly 75 cents USD) to show support, earn a heartfelt thank you, and follow along as we try to change film history.

Jenny and I have only screened the movie for a small handful of people, but, so far, the reactions have been exactly what we wanted—but beyond what we could’ve dared dream possible before we began. We’ve really pulled this off...and we’ll get to show the world soon.

We’ll be screening it for an audience in the very near future, and finally allowing Hollywood execs to see it too.

Conclusion

It’s possible. 

Isn’t that amazing? You can film an entire feature right now. You can! And you have access to better equipment than I started with in 2016! The hardware is better, the software is better, and you can work faster because of the lack of bottlenecks. 

I really mean this: if you and a very small group of friends (or even just on your own) decide to make a feature film, you really can make it look as good or better than Hollywood. 

If you suspected this was true before but were too afraid to try (understandably) then let me be your proof. It can be done. 

So, if you’re a writer who dreams of becoming a feature filmmaker, you don’t have to wait anymore. It’ll still be a rough road, even with the technology now mature enough to make it possible, but you’ll be better for having done it. You’ll learn everything you need to as you go.

You’ll be a true feature filmmaker. 

What are you waiting for?           

Your Comment

32 Comments

Interesting story. I'm considering making a film and looking at the logistics. How long did it take for only two people to do all filming, music, post-production? I'm curious because I don't think I could save up enough so that I could not work for more than a year, and it would take me several years to save enough to take a full year off. The cost of two people living together for a year in an apartment indoors with technology, a car, cell phone, and decent food is about $40k minimum where I am, maybe 35k. A 3 year project is like $120,000k + the equipment costs, assuming a person will be able to teach themselves the software and nothing goes terribly wrong along the way. I think it's great that the cameras are cheap now but this still feels inaccessible for almost everyone. I suppose someone could borrow against their mortgage or take out a loan, but that kind of thing isn't really my thing. Or move in with their parents? I guess pursuing dreams often involves that kind of thing.

January 7, 2020 at 3:32PM

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Meghan White
Adobe Creative Cloud Technician
34

The trick is to spend about 4-6 years making your film on the weekends while working a full time job to pay for all of it. That's what I've done and am currently doing (although I'm not overly fond of the 6 year time span). Film on weekends, do post production in the evenings every night. Also the benefit is that you don't have to round up all that money up front. Just feed the project as needed. For my first movie Space Trucker Bruce I spend 3 years building sets and filming then another 3 years on 3D modeling, editing, music selection, Foley, compositing, color correction, etc.. Also don't borrow money for your film. You probably won't be able to pay it back on a first project. Just try to do everything as cheaply as you can. Used or borrowed equipment, old computers, etc..

January 7, 2020 at 8:30PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
772

Wow, that's dedication. I looked at some of their promotional accounts and saw that it took them 3.5 years in total (although stated 3 years 11 months one place) and they worked on it 7 days a week. If your films took you 4-6 years working 2 days a week, then, doing the math, theirs would have taken 10 years at that pace (working on it on weekends). I hope he can jump in the comments and tell us more about the budget. How much they spent including living expenses for instance.

January 7, 2020 at 9:50PM

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Meghan White
Adobe Creative Cloud Technician
34

I spend way too much time on these things. I filmed it on weekends but I work on it a few hours every night on all the post stuff. I'm wishing I could do it in 3 years but it's not working out that way as long as I have a full time job.

January 8, 2020 at 12:48PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
772

It's an impressive looking project!
I like the mountain view at your location. Where is that?
It would be nice to learn a bit more about your budget.

People get hung up on the idea of getting Hollywood to make their film when they just have to go out and do it themselves. Hollywood involvement isn't really necessary when we have inexpensive digital equipment and global internet self distribution. Of course you still have to have a good story and a bit of knowledge and experience actually making a movie if you want it to turn out decent. This film looks very well put together. Good job!

January 7, 2020 at 8:22PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
772

That's quite a story and a long journey! Although I'm definitely not convinced by the (very long) trailer, I like how you manage to learn everything on the go. You must have a strong mental for that, many people would have stopped before the end. I agree with what you say about technology. But I feel that films now are a lot about tech and not much about art at all. Your film looks like any easily forgotten Netflix film. It might be entertaining like some Hollywood craps, but puzzles and rubik's cube are entertaining too. Making a film is one (beautiful) thing, getting the film "out there" is another story. Well you could sell the film to Netflix or something similar i guess.
A few questions: do you know how much money you spend? Did the whole budget come from your own pockets? Did you create a production company for the film? Did you pay everybody, with contracts, etc?
For me that's the hard part. Learning color grading and sound is the fun part, no problem. Learning all the legal stuffs is not fun at all.

January 8, 2020 at 5:35AM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
444

I have produced and also directed numerous indie scifi/martial arts/action films since 1998. All shot within 14 days or less and all edited ourselves. It’s possible. A lot of planning is placed to make sure you have a good running machine.

One thing I’ve learned through the year is never tell people how much or how low it was made when it comes to distribution. Unless you are self-distributing. What is happening that distributors or buyers will google the name of the movie and find all the info. If you have said you made it for $35 for example, they would low now you and you may night get the desired amount. They can say that since you made it this cheap, I will offer your $500 instead of $5000.

January 8, 2020 at 7:13AM

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Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor
330

Yes exactly right. They will be forced to self distribute. The offers they will get will be insulting. Plus the industry does not want to encourage this behaviour as the machine cannot take advantage of it.

January 10, 2020 at 5:16PM

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James Gardiner
CineTechGeek
194

First of all, congratulations. I know how hard it is to accomplish all of this work.

Next, shorten the trailer. The longer it goes on (and I couldn't finish it), the more the flaws in your film become apparent. 60 seconds max, my friend. I was close to 3 minutes into your trailer when I shut it off and had zero desire to watch your film. And to be fair to you, I generally don't like bigger budget versions of this genre, which is somewhere between Lifetime movie of the week and Gone Girl.

January 8, 2020 at 7:17AM

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Trailer is too long, cut it down to 90"/120" here's an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGoC1rhFPVQ

January 8, 2020 at 8:25AM

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Salvatore Castellana
Filmmaker
78

I watched the trailer and the cinematography is nice. It’s like Wally Pfister’s work with Christopher Nolan. Think Insomnia. I’d recommend a re-edit not the cuts but rebalance the exposures for each clip. I don’t have an issue with the trailer’s length itself but it’s dialogue-heavy and not a lot of special effects or expansive sequences so it would be beneficial to shorten it. Requesting a theater to screen it isn’t going to get it played in South Florida where I live. Got to contact the theaters yourself. Nice grind. I’m writing a cost-effective screenplay myself for my debut feature but I’m not sacrificing years to do it. Great work.

You dudes who commented without showing your work are crabs.

Check out my short film that is doing well on Prime Video, Out of Character, now.

January 8, 2020 at 9:34AM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
335

I know it's technically a "no-budget" film but can we find out what was actually spent? I'm all about that one-man band mentality and doing what one can on one's own, investing time instead of money. Even then though the biggest challenge for me when it comes to keeping costs as low as possible has to do with actors, transport and food, three things that are always going to come at somewhat of a cost. Thanks, I look forward to seeing the film!

January 8, 2020 at 11:17AM

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Very nice article and definitely inspiring. Congratulations on finishing the film and best of luck.

However,

I'm afraid your Kickstarter campaign is misled, self-distribution is brutal when you have so much hope for your film. If your film is really good as you claim, you shouldn't be afraid to show people at private screenings and at festivals. Don't be afraid of notes if you can agree they'd make your film better.

With all the clips you're sharing, you're showing too much and teasing too little. Your trailer is long and doesn't tease. Your extended clips are plenty and only reveal (unfortunately) poor sound mixing choices and some and some hard to follow scenes.

I feel you're more interested in showing the technical feat you achieved ( in terms of imagery) which is really impressing considering your approach but audiences don't really care much about it.

By reading your article and Kickstarter video I was really excited to watch what you had, but the by checking all the extended clips I lost my interest. There's nothing engaging there ( to me), and I loved all your references.

Hope this comment come across as a constructive criticism since it's much easier to write from outside than it was for you to create this film.

January 8, 2020 at 11:33AM

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Marcus
135

Alright. You just made me register so that I could comment. Time for some hard truths from someone who actually acquires films for a living: your self-satisfied tone is really not going to help you sell your film. When you say things like "Dangerous to Know is a film that looks as good or better than the Hollywood big-budget productions" or when you intimate that you believe that someone might mistake it for something that cost 65 million dollars, you are coming off as disingenuous, dangerously deluded and/or laughably inexperienced. I assume this will make you feel defensive, but I hope you'll understand I am really trying to help you out and I can't sugar-coat this. I'm not trying to dismiss the sheer accomplishment of making a feature film for 3 grand, but there is no way in hell your feature passes muster as a professional commercial endeavor. Your bravado and your bluster reeks of not-knowing-what-you-don't-know, and all this talk of revolutionizing the way films are made is a shadow over the one thing you have going for you (your plucky, underdog story) and makes me want to root against you. I LOVE the idea of making a film for 3K, and in fact, that's how many of my clients got their start (it's not as unheard of as you think it might be...) but to pass it off as something commercially viable is a claim I feel the need to address because I don't want you to fleece people with your distribution kickstarter by misrepresenting your realistic prospects. Yours is a very nice-looking student film -- and that is all it is. It has taught you a lot for the time when you get ready to make a commercial film. But your cinematography has "YouTube tutorial" all over it, your sound sucks, your title treatment is amateurish, the acting is very flat, the writing is uninspiring and as mentioned by many before, your trailer really drags. There is a minimum entry-level filmmaking vernacular quite simply missing from your movie that makes it essentially completely commercially unattractive to an audience and to a distributor. I'm sorry, but you need to hear this, and so do your prospective donors. Doing a bit of research on you, I can see you're a relentless self-promoter. Kudos for that. But your claims should AT LEAST be tethered to some form of observable reality in order to count as selling points. When your short film claims to be based on a "best-selling" series of (clearly) self-published books, you're straining basic plausibility. You have real accomplishments, David -- 1 million viewers on Vimeo is nothing to sneeze at. There's no need to lie. And there's no need to mislead people about some groundbreaking film revolution when all you clearly want is some cash from some suckers to make yourself whole. On a brighter note, I think your poster is kind of neat. :)

January 8, 2020 at 11:39AM

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Bill
188

This comment is totally correct. The author of the article is either a con-man or severely delusional. NFS should have exercised better editorial judgment before publishing this.

January 8, 2020 at 11:33PM

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Went to director's Facebook page and he summarized the reaction to this article as "really really good". Even references other comments in this comment section posted after yours. Comment fell on deaf ears it would seem.

January 10, 2020 at 4:25PM

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Meghan White
Adobe Creative Cloud Technician
34

This is totally out of character for me... but I too simply registered to agree with you Marcus. I have to say it was near impossible to absorb much positive information from this piece due to the shameless self-aggrandizing nature of the author. A little advice for future 'articles' David... compliments generally only work when they come from other people. Here's to hoping that your photographic memory may retain this information...

January 10, 2020 at 7:19PM

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Lee
24

Finally some nuanced and truthful comment. I totally agree with it.
And could someone explain to me what is 3000-plus shot feature film and how does it have any relevance ?

January 11, 2020 at 1:58AM

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Martin Brewer
Director, DOP
503

Unfortunately I was also completely turned off by the cocky tone of this article. The hard truth is this does not look like a big budget hollywood film. The trailer actually makes it seem like a student-film. The comment from Bill nailed everything I thought and you'd be smart to listen. I've noticed similar attitudes with new filmmakers, all of their friends and family tell them the stuff is amazing and the honest criticism that could help them instead gets dismissed as "haters".

January 9, 2020 at 12:52AM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1793

"is a film that looks as good or better than the Hollywood big-budget productions"
Oh my. Seriously? Because from the first 2 shots i knew that was very low budget. Dynamic range and color grading is not so good. A7SII has his limits... Sound design and mix is quite poor, it clearly lacks power and strong mood, for a teaser. And a 4min teaser? WAY too long. But for no budget production, this is quite incredible. But sorry, CLEARLY not better (and not even comparable) than big budget movies.

January 9, 2020 at 7:38AM

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I went into this article excited to learn and hopeful that a Hollywood-worthy film could be made on a budget I could afford (virtually 0). Despite how difficult your hubris and self-congratulatory tone made it to root for you, I still hoped your trailer was everything you billed it as. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good (for all the reasons everyone has already pointed out). The irony is that your article had the exact opposite effect (at least on me) than you were hoping for—discouragement.

January 9, 2020 at 9:50AM

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Sid King
Student
42

Of course, I can't judge wether this is a 'good' film or not without watching it from beginning to end but I applaud anyone who can actually make any film and finish it.
That's a phenomenal achievement. Well done!

There is however something a little troubling about the tone of this article that, like many others here, had the complete reverse affect on me than I think the author wanted.
The power of self belief is a great fuel but it doesn't always get you where you want to go. Hubris corrected by humility and refined by humbleness is how one truly masters a craft. It takes time and a lot of small and large failures to get good at something. If all you see is excellence in your work you will never improve. There appear to have been no challenges faced or lessons learned here. You just did it all awesomely straight away. Hans zimmer - no problem I can do that - boom - don't know what the deal is Hans!
Even if this is true and you are some kind of film savant, it doesn't allow your reader any way in, we need a chink in your armour. I fear you have fallen a little foul of the prevalent idea that to be inspiring you must be epic - flawless. As a storyteller you should know that every hero must fail before succeeding if we are to relate to them fully.

What I hear in this filmmakers article, strangely, isn't a love of film or even much of an understanding of its language and craft, but a sort of flippant disrespect and disregard of the entire medium, its history and everyone involved in it. As I was reading, I kept thinking, why are you even making a film, other than to prove that the entire professional industry are incompetent suckers or charlatans?

So, despite your article, I am genuinely impressed that you and your wife have made a film yourselves and hope it finds an appreciative audience but maybe preach a little more humble, a little more human.
If you want me to follow in your footsteps, swagger a little less.

January 9, 2020 at 3:27PM

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Paul fern
Film maker
295

Guy who made this film is clearly delusional/full of himself. Comes off as a joke. Will be laughing when this film makes no money and is a complete bust.

January 9, 2020 at 4:20PM

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Rory Sopoci-Belknap
Director
296

First of all, my compliments for making a movie, that is not easy, even if you have all the money of the world. Just ask J.J. Abrams ;).

Secondly, great that you did it for such a low budget, I applaud you for it, just go out there and shoot a story.

I can't comment on stuff outside of the trailer, but that certainly lacks. It does not look as good as a Hollywood movie, or an typical indie movie, far from it. It's a nice first attempt (cinematography wise). Not saying that I could do a lot better, but it shows that it's not shot on great camera's (but your point on old digital cameras is valid), but much more, it lacks great use of light. The A7s II is nice to use in low light situations, but you still need to use lights to make the image more interesting.

Also great that you tried to do every job, it will certainly help you in the future, but filmmaking is all about collaboration. Your wife did not do a bad job colorgrading, but she didnt do a great job either, and that shows. I'm sure the same can be said about audio/music and a lot of other stuff. It is ok that you did not have the money, but don't pretend that these things don't matter.

And also don't be too cocky, being humble comes a long way if your asking people for help. If this article would have another tone, of someone who is aspiring to make great movies, but does not have the money to pay for a lot of it, and tried his absolute best given the circumstances, I would not have hesitated and supported you for 10 bucks. Now I only wanted to spend my energy writing this.

Too bad. Hope you can turn this around and get some valuable insight from all the comments and learn from it.

What are you waiting for?

Good luck! ;)

January 10, 2020 at 6:49AM, Edited January 10, 6:50AM

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Gerbert Floor
DP / Director / Camera / Editor
435

Really just his tone that's problematic. Film actually looks plenty good to be professional. Sound is also fine. Question is, is the story? But yeah. He'd get a lot more love if his tone was different.

January 10, 2020 at 9:01AM, Edited January 10, 9:14AM

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Rory Sopoci-Belknap
Director
296

Congratulations on getting your first feature film completed. I hope you will follow up with an article about how the distribution goes.

January 10, 2020 at 2:06PM

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And there you are, begging for money on Kickstarter like everyone else...

January 10, 2020 at 2:41PM

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Kevin McDermott
Actor/Writer/Director
19

I'll purchase and watch it all. Bravo.

January 10, 2020 at 2:56PM

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Jordan Brady
Filmmaker
193

"Dangerous to Know is a film that looks as good or better than the Hollywood big-budget productions"

Sorry, it isn't. I love finding new and inexpensive ways of shooting film and do believe great things can be done differently. This isn't the case though. The trailer looks amateurish, it's overlong trying to impress with badly executed storytelling cliches, the camerawork is alright at times but inconsistent with unrealistic lighting and the image lacks DR, the sound is awfully recorded and the stock bassy droning effects are tired, and even the story looks shabby from what can be seen. Get a grip and come to terms with reality -- doesn't mean it's not a good effort, of course but far from what you claim it to be.

January 11, 2020 at 9:36PM, Edited January 11, 9:54PM

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zetty
Filmmaker
788

Man... This article just gave me the weirdest newfound sense of appreciation for my imposter syndrome. In most ways I'm hyper-extroverted and extremely assertive, but I can't talk up my filmmaking or self-promote to save my life. I'd been making almost my entire living as a freelance filmmaker for like three years before my wife was even able to convince me to stop referring to myself as an "aspiring" filmmaker. Sometimes I get really frustrated by my feelings of self-doubt and my seeming inability to promote myself. It greatly hurts my income as I struggle to fairly bid jobs or even convince people to hire me in the first place, and as I inch towards getting my second feature film off the ground it certainly isn't expediting the process. But seeing what it looks like when a filmmaker doesn't have that hand of restraint in their life... I've gotta say, I'm kind of thankful for it. Because the entire tone of this article is deeply unlikable and delusional, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Don't get me wrong, I've got a TON of respect for this guy for making a feature film for next to nothing and doing it all himself. In many ways it looks very well done, technically. I think I'm a pretty good self-learner, but this guy seems to blow me out of the water, and I'm genuinely envious of his skills as an autodidact and self-promoter. But most of all I respect what he did because I know what an accomplishment it is to make a feature film of any scale on your own. A few years ago I directed/shot/edited a (kind of...) feature film for my church on a budget of roughly $2,500. It's a musical adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress for kids. (Trailer here if you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISfiC_gY7xY ) It's weird and riddled with problems and not at all what I would have chosen to be my first feature film if I were writing my own life story. But for what it is, I am proud of it in my own way, and it's somehow managed to wrack up nearly 600,000 organic views on YouTube, which astounds me.

Still, the tone of this article makes me uncomfortable, especially looking the filmmaker up and seeing how relentlessly self-aggrandizing and self-promoting he is. The way this guy gushes about his work, I'm actually shocked at how technically competent he seems. In my experience most filmmakers that toot their own horns this loudly tend to more towards the Neil Breen / Tommy Wiseau / J. Neil Schulmann side of things. And this definitely isn't that. It looks legitimately well done on a technical level, ESPECIALLY considering the budget and production process. But the unstructured, bizarrely long trailer REALLY doesn't look very good on an emotional or storytelling level.

I'd loved to be proven wrong, but given the mildly sociopathic tone of this article it's hard not to imagine the film being a soulless mess. David Simpson, if you're reading this and I'm completely off base, I'm sorry. Maybe really is so amazing the confidence is justified. (I'm VERY skeptical.) Or maybe you're just a hard worker who read a bunch of self-help books and you're talking this way because you think it's what you're supposed to do, not because you're arrogant. (A very real possibility.) Whatever the case may be, I'd urge you to reconsider your tone here. A little humility is a very good thing.

January 12, 2020 at 6:40AM

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David West
Filmmaker
1294

First, congratulations to David Simpson on independently producing and directing Dangerous to Know. As someone who last year completed my first feature, I know how much work is involved. As someone who now has a completed feature, I also know how challenging it is to put on your marketer hat and start selling. It's a specific skill to become proficient in, and it's not always obvious what is required. To that point, I have some suggestions that are in line with what David West said.

An ounce of humility goes a long way. It's great that you're confident in your work, but overconfidence bordering on arrogance will turn people off from checking it out. That being said, it's critical not to sandbag it, either. Find the balance.

Play up what's original about it. In your article, I got a sense that you wanted to explore the styles of people that inspire you. That's great, but what's the unique ingredient you bring to this. Emphasizing that will help to reduce any possible impression that your movie is an exercise in copying someone else's style.

Passion for film/storytelling. I don't get this at all from the article. As much value as there is in hearing about the approaches you adopted to solve technical and logistical problems, there's nothing in the article that indicates a love of movies. What drove you to tell THIS story? Why should people take the time (and potentially spend the money) to watch it?

3,000 shots - why? I couldn't tell you how many shots are in my movie, and I don't know why you'd care. If it takes 1 shot or 1 million, what's the difference? The important thing is that you completed a movie (objectively a huge accomplishment) that you are passionate about (remains to be seen).

I hope you take this as constructive criticism, as it's absolutely delivered in the hopes of you expanding the reach and broadening the appeal of your movie. It's not easy for most people to deliver less than positive feedback, and I've learned that if they're willing to tell you something isn't quite right, it's best to listen and realize that element they've singled out might just be the tip of the iceberg in regards to the full extent of what might be wrong with the project, trailer, poster, etc.

Either way, congrats on making it.

January 12, 2020 at 5:20PM

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Rick Caplan
Writer/Producer/Director
206

I've been thinking about this article a lot today, so I went and watched all the "extended clips" on David Simpson's YouTube channel. And I've gotta say, it confirms most of my worst suspicions about the film. Some of the shots are pretty nice looking, and his wife seems to be a decent actress. Other than that... Everything looks extremely amateur at best. Bad, unmotivated camera moves. Poor focus pulls. Scenes that are dark tot he point of disorienting. A disregard for the 180 degree principle and cinematography that just generally doesn't give any sense of geography. Poor editing. Bad audio. Mediocre acting. Monotonous music. An unclear story.

None of it is so bad that I'd tell the guy to quit pursuing filmmaking or anything. For such an inexperienced filmmaker it is in many ways still fairly technically impressive (if not creatively), but given the way the director calls the film things like "a miracle" and "perfect" and "really good", it becomes quite laughable. Contrary to my more charitable original post, the end result actually IS exactly what I imagine what would happen if someone as delusional and full of themselves as Neil Breen of Tommy Wiseau or J. Neil Schulman made a film while at least halfway knowing how to operate a decent camera.

Also, how on earth long is this film? For five minutes virtually NOTHING happens in "Extended Clip 8". It's just random shots of the woman's day passing that the director seems too in love with to cut despite their utter pointlessness. Which makes it impossible for me to think of of the film's "3000 shots" and wonder how long it is. I tried to figure out the average shot length in a few of the different clips, and ended up with figures ranging from just a hair under 3 seconds to a little over 5 seconds depending on the clip. Between the trailers and the clips I've now seen something like 25 minutes of the movie. Besides still having little to no idea what is going on in this film, I'm also having a hard time imagining that the average shot length is less than about 3 seconds, if not a fair bit longer. And if that's the case, that means that this movie is AT LEAST 2.5 hours long. Given what we're seeing of the film, that would make it both unwatchably AND unnecessarily long.

January 12, 2020 at 6:03PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1294