So you have a script and a budget and a crew and you want to make a movie.  That is awesome…good for you! Before you do anything, you need to have your set and your locations locked down and ready. This should actually be one of the first things you do when you are in pre-production. Where you shoot your film is so incredibly important. For me, location scouting is a very enjoyable experience, as it allows me to visualize my film or scene in each possible place that I visit. If you have a great location, then most of the work is already done for you. The world of your film is there in full color when you find the right spot.

One of the first people you should bring onto your project is the UPM – Unit Production Manager. Or a location scout. On many small budget films, these two just aren’t in the budget. And you have to do the leg work yourself. No worries…I do this all the time, as my budgets are very small. But if you have some extra money in your budget, then these two people can help you tremendously. They will go out and investigate the sites for you while you work on other things. And when they have a dozen or so places, then you will go with them and see if these locations are what you are looking for.

Here are several ideas about getting the perfect location for your film, and at the same time save some money for other important things for your shoot.

  1. Rent A Furnished House or Set – Many first-time filmmakers don’t know about this option, because it is usually very expensive. But if you do some number crunching, it is sometimes worth your while. Because what you are doing is renting an entire home that is already furnished. Sometimes a big house can accommodate a 30-person crew along with 8-12 actors.  So when you go this route, you have many rooms in which to set up in. One or two to shoot in, and the rest of your crew to work and setup in. Like a place for everyone to eat together. If you have the budget, then this is something you should consider as it simplifies the entire process. And ultimately allows you to concentrate on filming.
  1. Pull A Favor – Many first time filmmakers have scripts that take place in a home or garage. Because they have no money they tend to just shoot in their own house, or their parents house or a friend’s house. This is done all the time, as the primary goal is to just get the film in the can. This approach is not ideal…as most of the time, you have to settle for less than what you want for your story. But most of the time, this will be fine as the story doesn’t hang on a very specific home…just a home that looks lived in.
  1. Be Location Specific – My most recent film took place in a used clothing store because my vision of the story took place in an extremely old store. The lead character in my film was hundreds of years old. So I went looking for the perfect location. I ultimately found a beautiful little shop called Helping Hand Thrift Shop in LA. It is this amazing location that is filled to the brim with old used furniture and clothes and knick-knacks. It was so jam-packed with stuff, that sometimes it actually hindered my shoot…because there was no room to maneuver. But this shop was absolutely perfect for my shoot, no matter the drawbacks. Because it was all on screen, and it looked just terrific. Please take your time and really go out and find the perfect place. They are really out there waiting to be discovered. And most of the time, these locations won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Finding the perfect location is essential for any film director. If you want to create a realistic world that your story and characters live in, then it needs to look real. Not fake or cheap or carelessly throw together. Because your audience will know immediately. They will either be drawn into your film because the set looks beautiful and supports the story. Or they will be bored stiff because the film looks fake.  So be thoughtful and thorough when location scouting. You will very happy you did.

Want to learn how to make your own film projects?  Auteur Film School offers amazing home-study courses in filmmaking. Drop us an email and we’ll send you a prospectus:

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About the writer:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals internationally. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.




Okay, so you have produced a short film.  Congratulations!!! This is a huge step that you have taken. You are either incredibly excited or completely exhausted.  Probably a little of both. So what do you do now? You have a film that you are incredibly proud of and you want to get it out there to be seen by your peers as well as by industry people. Hopefully, this will lead to some paying work. I have 4 films that have gone to film festivals…so let me tell you how I did it. Maybe you can get an idea of what the process will be.

  1. What Festival Do I Submit To??? – I think that this is where most young filmmakers make their first mistake. They submit their films to Sundance, and Toronto and Cannes and Berlin…All the major festivals. Now this is great, but odds are that this will be a waste of money. First, you need to determine who your audience is. Is your film a horror film? Is it a film made for women by women? Is it a family drama? Is it a documentary? I only ask you this because it is a waste of your entrance fee if you submit a family drama to a horror festival. And vice-versa. Once you get a firm idea of your audience, then you will have narrowed your niche of festivals to submit.
  2. What Platform Do I Use? – There are 2 widely used submission platforms that you can use. I started out using for my submissions but then moved to Film Freeway. Here are several of the main differences.                                                           A.)With Film Freeway fees are cheaper. Withoutabox has 3-4 fees to use their submission platform and Film Freeway has only 1. B) Film Freeway allows you to submit a link with your submission. This is vital because your film should be seen in high-quality mode, and WAB has a very poor system in which to view your film. Unless you make a copy and send it thru the mail.  C) WAB has more places to submit to, but Film Freeway is improving daily.  D) If you are a student, there are many festivals on Film Freeway that allow you to submit for free. E) Film Freeway allows you to search by genre. My latest film is a horror film. I found over 100 festivals that were specific to horror. I then was able to submit specifically to them, which upped my odds of success.
  1. Time Moves Slowly Here – This can be very nerve-wracking if you are in a hurry for some response. You Must Be Patient! I submitted my film to 92 film festivals back in July 2015, and about 30% still have not responded. This is probably due to the fact that the festivals themselves are still out in the future. But what I’m trying to say here is this: Stay calm and be patient.
  2. Do I Attend? – This is a very individual question that only you can answer. Do you have the finances to travel to the festival? If you do, that’s great. Choose your festivals wisely. Go to festivals where there will be industry people attending and other filmmakers. This is a time to meet with many of your peers as possible. Make it count.

In conclusion, getting into a film festival is very exciting. It shows that someone has actually enjoyed your film and wants to share it with others in their festival. This is a good thing. Be happy and be grateful. There are literally thousands of submissions every year to every festival. You got in. Try and make the most of it.

Want to learn how to make your own film projects?  Auteur Film School offers amazing home-study courses in filmmaking. Email us for a prospectus:

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About the writer:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals internationally. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.

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Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. I recently made a short film called HUNGRY. It’s a wickedly humorous little piece on the greed that is rampant at Christmas time. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in the film.

In the very beginning of preparing to shoot a film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. In “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas so I was constantly listening to holiday songs: wild versions, old-fashioned ones and newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells. This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:

  1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song
  2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season
  3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience

Music or sound is vitally important in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film was when the main character walks into the shop while the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman had been alive for several hundreds of years, and this was her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen as that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted. And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing. My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a tight budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. I searched a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted. In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each two-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.

Some of my favorite films have some great music in them as well.

RED – The final film of the Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kielslowski. This is such a magical film and the music he used in it is beautiful and eerie. From sudden crashing cymbals to convey horror, to gentle intoxicating music for the “Fashion Show”, to crashing doors for when the storm blows in. It is such subtle and at the same time “in-your-face sound effects and music.

BLADERUNNER – by Ridley Scott:  The music in this film is the most amazing sounds and music I have ever heard used in a film.  From the weird lively beat by some kind of reed instrument (I’m guessing) when Deckard is walking through the outdoor bazaar, to the echoing music when he is in the great building of the Tyrell Corp. Even the weird futuristic music by Vangelis for the scene transitions are masterful. This movie is the perfect example of how important music and sound are to creating the world of the film you are     making.

LUCY – by Luc Besson: This is the most recent film by the French director who brought us the beautiful and haunting film – “La Femme Nikita”. In LUCY, the use of music has really been amped up to make the horror of what is happening to Scarlett Johansson’s character. There is the slow low drumbeat of when she is waiting in the office lobby in the beginning that makes you squirm in anticipation of something really bad coming her way. Then there is her becoming super aware: She hears the minute sounds of creatures crawling and         the sounds of radio waves as they go up out of people’s cell phones. There are many examples of how he uses sound to enhance this film.

IRREVERSIBLE – by Gaspar Noe:  In this film, there is an undercurrent of bass that was purposely put into the soundtrack. The reason for this is because this low bass sound creates a feeling of nausea, confusion and dizziness for the audience. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but if this was intentional, then it is a brilliant use of sound to affect the audience and bring them into the world of Monica Bellucci’s character and of the world of rape.

SNOWPIERCER – by Bong Joon-Ho: You know, I didn’t really care for this film much. It made me very uncomfortable, which will most likely make Mr. Joon-Ho pleased. It was very claustrophobic and monotonous. The thing about his film that I remember vividly (and probably added to my discomfort) was the constant clacking of the train on the tracks. Normally I love hearing the sound of a train… but here it was used to create the insanity of the situation. The constant noise created a great discomfort on my part as an audience member. Which is a great success for the director, because that is what you want…to have the audience feel something…ANYTHING! And not just sit there munching popcorn, waiting to be entertained.

If you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress enough the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film then this will improve your odds of yours being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and help in keeping them there.

Want to learn how to make your own film projects?  Auteur Film School offers home-study courses in filmmaking. Email us for a prospectus:

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About the writer:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 international film festivals. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.

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As a director, there is no relationship more important when making a film than the relationship you have with your actors. Many directors are somewhat uncomfortable with actors. The reason for this is that they really don’t understand actors and sometimes even dislike them. This is actually a shame because most actors are like puppies… all they want is to be loved and accepted and be told they are doing a good job. Here are 3 tips that can set you up right with the actors you cast in your film.

  1. Communication is Key – Actor’s need communication on what the director wants, and they need guidance on how to get there. Actors will do almost anything to give you what you want. But you need to be clear with them, especially novice actors who are new. Most new actors think that high emotion is the key to good acting. This is film, and high emotion comes off as fake. If you are working with a new actor, make sure that they keep it very simple and real. Have them just say their lines as they would in a confessional. Keep it small and quiet.
  2. Create Trust on the Set – The job of an actor is to open up their inner, most vulnerable selves and then bring that out and put it up on the screen. Imagine that for a second. Put yourself in a place where you have to bring up very difficult emotions and then share it with 30 strangers. And then do it for 5-10-20 takes. So actors need to feel safe and somewhat looked after. It takes a certain amount of trust that is up to the director to create. If they trust you as the director, then they will give you gold in terms of their performance. They will make your film. But if they feel unsafe and distrustful of you or your crew, then the performances they give will not be honest and it will show in the final version of your film.
  3. Respect is Important – The ACTOR is what makes the movie. It is the actor’s performance that will make or break the film. And if the actors stink, then the odds are huge that your film will stink as well. Take care of your actors. If you treat them with respect and care, they will perform miracles for you. They will make you look like a genius and your film will be a great one.
  4. Rehearsals on the Set – Most actors, novices or experienced professionals need to be shown what you want. This means rehearsals. Don’t wait till you get to the set to work with them. You don’t have a lot of time to waste on a set, as time is money. Rehearse at your home, rent a studio to rehearse in, meet in a coffee shop, where ever you feel is best. Walk them thru the scene. Show them what you want and how you want it. Let them have their own interpretation, but also, don’t be afraid of giving them a line reading. And when you get to the set, walk them thru the scene, step by step. So that they will be comfortable when you call “action”. Here’s a little tip that I love to use. Without the actors knowing it, have the Cinematographer film the rehearsals. The actors don’t know they are being taped, and most times they will give a more relaxed take. Don’t count on this because sometimes it doesn’t work. But try it, you might be surprised.
  5. Patience is KEY – As the director on the film set you are king. You are the force that drives the film to its completion. It is up to you to bring the performances from the actors/actresses that you hire for your film. Don’t be power-mad. Don’t scream and throw tantrums because your actors aren’t giving you what you want. Be patient and be generous. Create a relaxed environment, one that allows your actors to create freely. If you go this extra mile, then your actors will reward you with amazing performances.

Want to learn how to make your own film projects?

Sign up for one of our home-study filmmaking courses at Auteur Film School.  Email us for details:

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About the writer:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all internationally. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.

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