Crew Job Shadows

There are a lot of craftspeople on a film set, and in this all new 23-part series, working Hollywood filmmakers take you behind the scenes of the film production crew - from how to and a job to collecting the paycheck.

3 Lessons

The Producers

In this three lessons series, learn how the business managers of a film production work. From the line producer and unit production manager to the production coordinator, students get a detailed, inside look at the duties and responsibilities of the producers.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required for the producers, including:

  • Forming a Production Company
  • Hiring the Crew
  • Raising Money from Investors
  • Tax Incentives
  • Money Management
  • Unions and Guilds
  • Working with SAG/AFTRA
  • Working with Vendors

4 Lessons

The Assistant Director Department

In this four lesson series, the Assistant Director team behind Titanic, Avatar, Stranger Things, and dozens of other Hollywood blockbusters teach you the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the Assistant Director department, how to effectively manage the set, balancing the relationship between the director and producers, and how to get a job as an AD on a professional set.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required of the assistant directors, including:

  • Breaking Down the Script
  • Scheduling the Production
  • Scheduling the Shooting Day

1 Lesson

The Script Supervisor

Working Hollywood script supervisors teach you the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the script supervisor, how to interface with the director, the expectations of bridging the set to the editing room, how to effectively prep a production, and the expected deliverables when the production wraps.

To learn more about how the script supervisor manages continuity and the script notes, add the lesson, “Continuity and Script Notes.”

4 Lessons

The Camera Department

In this four lesson series, learn the roles and responsibilities of the camera department, from the moment to get the call for the job to the time they wrap. Working Hollywood camera crews reveal best practices, expectations, and responsibilities of a professional camera crew.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required for the camera department, including:

  • Introduction to Lenses
  • How to Prep the Camera
  • Building the Camera Package
  • How to Test a Lens
  • Focusing Techniques
  • Lens Focal Length
  • f-Stops and T-Stops
  • The Camera Shutter
  • Frame Rates
  • How to Expose a Shot
  • Depth of Field
  • Neutral Density Filters
  • Polarizers

3 Lessons

The Electric Department

In this three lesson series, professional Hollywood gaffers, best boy electrics, and electricians reveal the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the electric department, how they interface with other departments on set, and how to make a living in the electric department.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required for the electric department, including:

  • Electrical Safety I
  • Electrical Safety II
  • Reducing Light
  • Tungsten Lighting
  • HMI Lighting
  • LED Lighting
  • Kino-Flo Fluorescent Lighting

3 Lessons

The Grip Department

In this three lesson series, learn the job responsibilities of the group department and a professional production. Experienced, professional Hollywood grips methodically reveal the expectations of the grip department, how they interact with the electric department, the working hours and wages, and on-set practices to have a successful career in the grip department.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required for the producers, including:

  • Grip and Rigging Safety
  • Stands
  • Clamps
  • Rigging
  • Grip Tools
  • Grip Techniques
  • Reducing Light
  • Shaping Light
  • Reflecting Light

3 Lessons

The Art Department

In this five lesson series, professional Hollywood production designers, art directors, set decorators, and property masters teach you the hierarchy of the art department, how to achieve the desired look within the schedule and budgetary limitations, and how to effectively interact with the rest of the crew.

While these lessons focus on each role, supplement this curriculum with lessons that focus on the skill sets required for the producers, including:

  • Creating the Look
  • Set Design
  • Set Construction
  • Set Dressing
  • Props
  • Tour a Prop House

New Scheduling and Budgeting Lessons

In this engaging new series, learn how to balance the business of filmmaking with the art through effectively breaking down the shooting script, developing a realistic shooting schedule, and how to develop and manage an accurate budget.

Lesson 1

Breaking Down the Script

Learn to properly break down the script,  line the script, techniques for breaking down each scene, how to use scene breakdown forms, and how assistant directors and line producers should manage the breakdowns from other departments on the project.

Lesson 2

Scheduling the Production

Learn to determine the number of shooting days needed to shoot your film, how to determine the shooting order, manage day and night shoots, account for turnaround time, and the benefits of shooting consecutive shooting days.

Lesson 3

Scheduling the Shooting Day

Learn how to schedule company moves, meal breaks, learn the productivity arc of a shooting crew, how to work with the director’s shot list, skills for managing a shoot running over schedule, how to generate a one-line schedule, and how to create call sheets.

Lesson 4

Developing the Budget

Learn to create an accurate budget, tricks to reducing the budget if you’re running over, how to plan for contingencies, how to manage crew expectations, and how to go into production knowing you’ll have the money to finish.

 

Learn to Direct Actors

All new lessons reveal how professionals direct actors on set for convincing, authentic performances.

Lesson 1

Analyzing Character

Characters, like people in real life, function on different levels. They often don’t say what they mean, are driven by their own ambitions, and are shaped by their past – whether that past is from their childhood or a mere moment ago.
 
In this lesson, learn directing techniques to help actors determine the subtext, intent, and back story of their characters. Learn to develop their directing skills and help their actors portray honest, memorable characters.
 
  • What is the actor’s role in preparing a character?
  • What is subtext and how can the director and actor find this inner meaning of a scene
  • What is intent and how does it shape the actor’s motivations
  • What is back story and how do you craft the proper history for a character?

Lesson 2

Rehearsing Actors

Once the actors are cast, it’s time to begin working with them to flesh out real, breathing characters full of life, depth, problems, issues and challenges.
 
In this lesson, learn how to structure rehearsals, how to conduct a table read, and what the responsibilities are of the director and actors.
 
There is a fine line between nurturing and smothering when working with actors  – know where that line is, and how to get the most our of your rehearsals.
 
  • How to conduct a table read
  • What should happen during the first rehearsal
  • What is the actor’s responsibility during rehearsals
  • What is the director’s responsibility during rehearsals

Lesson 3

Rehearsal Exercises

Characters are created before the actors ever step on the set – the performance is created from elaborate backstories, layered subtext, and infused intent in every line. But with all this work, actors can get stuck in their heads and lose the sense of spontaneity when the camera rolls.
 
In this lesson, learn valuable techniques from working Hollywood directors to get to the heart of the actors’ performance, learn rehearsal techniques from developing the character to overcoming mental blocks on the set.
 
In the heat of the moment, the actors will always look to the director for help… make sure you know how to give it.
 
  • Tips, tricks and techniques for helping actors give you the best performance
  • Advice from working Hollywood directors

Lesson 4

The Language of Directing Actors

The key to achieving excellent performances is good communication between the actors and the director. Like other industries, directing has its own language that allows a director to succinctly express his vision in a way the actors can embrace.
 
In this lesson, learn from Hollywood actors and directors on how to approach and work effectively with actors on set, how to deal with problematic actors, and how to communicate in the actor’s language.
 
Great performances are made from great collaborations – get everything you can out of your cast for the best movie possible.
  • How to establish trust and communication with your actors
  • How to know what you want
  • The language of acting
  • What to do when you’re not getting the performance you want on set
  • The actor/director relationship
  • The types of directors

Lesson 5

Directing Actors on Set

When working with actors on set remember they have a lot to think about: their back story, their intent, and their subtext. What you say can either strengthen their performance or weigh it down. To hone just the right performance – your words matter.
 
In this lesson, learn what to say to an actor at the beginning of every scene – within 30 seconds before they call action and 30 seconds after you call cut, learn how to rehearse on set, establish strong blocking, and how to help actors balance their performance with the technicalities of film production.
 
The director is the only life line to the actors, and what they say can make or break an actor’s performance.
 

This lesson covers:

  • What to say to an actor 30 seconds before you call “Action”
  • What to say to an actor immediately after calling “Cut”
  • The three points that lead to fail-proof direction
  • How to balance performance with picture

Lesson 6

Directing Mistakes

Working Hollywood actors and directors share their personal experiences with the most common directing mistakes and how to avoid them.
 
In this lesson, learn to identify common directing problems and how to fix them to ensure they get the best performance on set possible.
 
Don’t let these common directing errors affect your cast, your production, and ultimately, your movie.
 
  • The most common mistakes directors make
  • How to avoid and resolve these mistakes

Lesson 7

Directing Extras

Movies have long used extras to breathe a sense of realism into a scene.  Extras are non-speaking actors who populate the background of a diner, a stadium or a store to more closely recreate real life. For a filmmaker, extras are a great tool to have.
 
In this lesson, learn how to find extras, the right way to direct them, how to cheat them on set, liability concerns and how to avoid them, logistics on the shooting day, and the most common problems filmmakers encounter when working with extras.
 
Whether you’re working with thousands on a battlefield or just a small handful in coffee shop, create a realistic backdrop of life for your scene.
 
  • How to cast extras
  • How to cheat extras to increase their numbers on screen
  • Logistics the day of the shoot
  • Liability issues and how to avoid them
  • How to direct extras

Shooting on Location

We partnered with the powerhouse Location Managers from Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Transformers 2, Top Gun 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Grey’s Anatomy to give you professional guidance on finding, managing, and shooting on location.

Check out a free preview of from “Working with Location Owners”

And as with all FilmSkills lessons, the new location lessons come complete with a 20-30 minute video, fully illustrated companion text, and downloadable contracts and forms you can use on your own productions.

Lesson 1

Scouting Locations

Locations play a critical role in every film production, and in this lesson, learn how to properly break down the script, scout locations, work on cold scouts, how to assess the technical feasibility of a location, and it’s local industry support. (19:13)

This lesson covers:

  • How to break down a script
  • How to properly generate a list of locations
  • How to scout locations
  • Available resources to help you location scout
  • How to conduct a cold scout
  • How to assess the technical requirements of the location

Lesson 2

Working with Film Commissions

Each state has a film commission tasked with attracting motion picture production to that state. In this lesson, learn the services offered by a film commission, how to use their services to find the best location for your movie, liaise with local industry, and what hidden pricing traps.(24:53)

This lesson covers:

  • What a film commission does
  • How to use their location libraries
  • How to use their scouting services
  • Limitations of a film commission’s services
  • How a film commission can help you liaise with local industry and local government
  • How your budget affects the services they offer
  • How to find a film commission

Lesson 3

Working with Location Owners

Approaching and asking a location owner to use his or her property for your film shoot can be a daunting task. In this lesson, you will not only learn how to approach a location owner, but which contracts and forms are needed, proper protocol, how to deal with problems and how to help a location owner prepare himself for the whirlwind that is the production process. (34:47)
 
  • How to approach a location owner about using his or her property for your shoot
  • How to establish your credibility
  • How to speak and present your case to a location owner
  • The necessary contracts and agreements to protect yourself legally
  • How to conduct a walk through
  • How to deal with problems if the location owner decides to pull out at the last minute
  • The location release form and its importance

Lesson 4

Film Permits

In most major cities, filmmakers are required to obtain a permit to be able to shoot on both public and private property. This lesson will guide you through the permitting process, when one is required, how to get one, the costs involved, and common traps associated with free permits.

(22:58)

  • What are permits
  • When is a permit required
  • Shooting guerilla without a permit
  • The difference between shooting on public and private property
  • Free permits and their hidden costs
  • How to use a permit on location

Lesson 5

Community Relations

No one makes a movie in a vacuum – every day a shoot will invariably affect someone, whether it’s one neighbor or an entire community. In this lesson, learn how their film shoot affects the public, how to work with local officials, how to notify residents, how to leave a positive impact on the community when they’re finished shooting, and a general code of conduct for crews when shooting on location. (25:00)
 
  • How to secure permission from the neighbors in the community in which you’re shooting
  • The public impact of a film shoot
  • How to work with the police
  • How to shoot in a public venue
  • How to deal with disruptive people when shooting in public
  • The proper code of conduct for motion picture crews when shooting on location

New On-Location Cinematic Lighting Demos

Emmy-winning cinematographer Jason Tomaric goes on set to block, light, and shoot 9 sample scenes, methodically walking you through every step of how to achieve professional cinematic results. Whereas previous FilmSkills lessons focus on the tools, this series applies that knowledge to practical, real-world settings. In this comprehensive series, you will learn a variety of skills and techniques.

  • How to choose the lens, plan the camera movement, and set the frame
  • How to identify exposure and color problems
  • How to gel windows to balance brightness of sunlight with production lights
  • How to effectively use white balance and color temperatures to achieve the desired color palette
  • How to shoot a night scene while producing a clean, solid image
  • How to use a waveform monitor and false color
  • How to use a light meter to determine contrast
Play Video

Interior Counter Top - Daytime

Learn how to address exposure issues when shooting on location with windows, how to gel windows, balance exposure, and create natural, motivated lighting. This lessons reveals professional techniques for achieving the perfect exposure on your subject's skin tones wile managing blinding sunlight outside.

Kitchen Table - Nighttime

Learn how to shoot dialogue scene between two people at night, on location. Covering both his and her shots, this tutorial guides you through the blocking, composition, and lighting decisions behind creating a cinematic night scene.

Interior Bathroom - Daytime

Shooting in a small, confined space like a bathroom creates a range of production challenges, which we systematically address in this engaging tutorial. From a simple bathroom to a dramatic shot, learn how to achieve the desired look on set.

Interior Bedroom - Daytime

Learn how to create a sculpted light in a bedroom interior during the day. In this lesson, learn how to balance exposure between the subject and outside sunlight, all while creating a cinematic look.

Living Room - Morning

In this on-location tutorial, learn how to create a morning light on a nighttime set. From working with haze and creating volumetric light, learn to block and light for a cinematic look.

Kitchen Table - Daytime

One of the most common scenes in a production is the interior dialogue scene. Learn how to address exposure issues when shooting on location with windows, how to gel windows, balance exposure, and create natural, motivated lighting.

Bedroom Dialogue - Nighttime

In this tutorial, you will learn to shoot a realistic night scene that achieves the desired emotional tone, all while producing a clean, noise-free image. Emmy-winning cinematographer teaches you professional techniques to shoot a dialogue scene between two people in bed, creating a natural and realistic cinematic look.

Living Room - Nighttime

In this lesson, you will learn how to light and shoot a scene with practical light fixtures at night, how to enhance the light so it is motivated, and how to bring the outside into the latitude of the camera which shooting nighttime interior scenes.

How to get these Lessons

These new lessons are included in the following FilmSkills courses

All New Cinematic Lighting Lessons

Announcing all new cinematic lighting lessons, which visually guide you through lighting tools and techniques practiced on professional movie sets around the world. 

Emmy-winning cinematographer Jason Tomaric partnered with LEDGO, Arri, and Kino-Flo to produce an intensive, on-set series that demonstrates key lighting tools in visually-engaging video tutorials.

Learn how to use LED, HMI, and Tungsten lights, plus advanced techniques for shaping, reducing, softening, and crafting light for a sophisticated, professional look on screen. Learn how to craft color temperature, techniques for lighting the human face, how to use professional gear to create the desired look, and much more. 

These new lessons are included in:

 

Watch a Preview of the New Lessons

The New Lessons

Lesson 1

Techniques to Reduce Light

The all-new video tutorial methodically guides you through the tools and techniques used to reduce light on your subject. This lesson covers:

  • Working with wire scrims
  • Working with dimmers
  • Remotable Wi-Fi dimming options
  • Solids, cutters, and floppies
  • Creating negative fill
  • Lensers and Courtesies
  • Protecting fabric scrims
  • Scrim and C-stand rigging safety
  • Neutral Density gel on windows

Lesson 2

How to Create Soft Light

In this in-depth tutorial, learn how to create soft light using a variety of techniques: 
 
  • How to control the size of a light source
  • Using Fresnels to craft the spread of light
  • Controlling wraparound
  • Working with diffusion on barn doors
  • Working with soft boxes and Chimeras
  • Skinning 4x4s
  • Working with 6×6 overheads
  • How to control spill from soft light sources
  • Real world demo

Lesson 3

Techniques to Shape Light

Creating light is easy – the art of lighting is in how the light is shaped. In this lesson, you will experience industry-standard techniques to shape light to create the desired look. 
 
  • The power of shadows
  • Creating internal vs external shadows
  • Benefits and drawbacks of bard doors
  • Working with black wrap
  • Egg crates and louvres
  • Flags and solids
  • Creating gobos
  • Working with a cucoloris and brancholoris
  • Building duvatyne skirts

Lesson 4

Working with Reflected and Bounced Light

While the previous lessons teach direct lighting techniques, this lesson reveals techniques on how to work with bounced and reflected light. 
 
  • Factoring in the Inverse Square Law
  • Foam core and bead board
  • Collapsable reflectors
  • Shiny boards
  • Physics of reflected light
  • Bouncing light off ceiling
  • Working with overheads
  • Shaping hair lights
  • Working with mirrors

Lesson 5

Color Temperatures and White Balance

The all-new video tutorial introduces color theory, how color is rendered on screen, and how common light sources appear on screen. This lesson covers: 

  • Defining how a camera sees white
  • The Kelvin scale – origins and how it’s used
  • How the imaging sensor sees color
  • Measuring light sources with a spectrometer
  • White balancing techniques
  • How to cheat white balance

Lesson 6

Working with Mixed Light

From gelling lights to working with variable-color temperature LEDs, learn how to color balance lights on set to achieve the desired look. This lesson covers: 
 
  • How to use gels to color correct light sources
  • Light loss calculations through gels
  • Working with LEDs
  • Working with sunlight
  • How to gel windows

Lesson 7

How to Light and Shoot Green Screen

The all-new video tutorial methodically guides you through the process of lighting, exposing, and recording green screen footage.  This lesson covers: 
 
  • When to choose green or blue
  • Differences between chromakey and digital blue/green
  • Shooting in a studio vs on location
  • How to light green screen (space lights, cyc lights, LED, Kino-Flo, book lights)
  • How the bit depth and compression affect a key
  • Capturing in LOG vs REC709
  • How to expose actors
  • How to reduce spill and create a cleaner key

How to get these Lessons

These new lessons are included in the following FilmSkills courses

Learn Professional Grip and Rigging Techniques

Are you getting the most out of your grip gear? From clamps to stands, learning how to rig a light or lighting control instrument where you need it, safely, is an important skill in achieving the desired cinematic look.

That’s why we partnered with Matthews Studio Equipment to produce an extensive series on grip gear and rigging gear and techniques. We will show you each piece of grip equipment – from stands and clamps to complex rigs – how to properly rig them, and on-set safety protocols.

Lesson 1

Grip and Rigging: Clamps

We unload the grip truck to show you how to use common clamps used on film sets, including mafers, cardellinis, C-clamps, furniture clamps, playtpus clamps, scissor clamps, gaffer grip, and how to use each clamp safety.

Lesson 2

Grip and Rigging: Rigging Hardware and Techniques

Learn how to safely use grid and pipe clamps, lollipops, offset arms, wall plates, double and triple headers, grip heads, wall spreaders, Mattpoles, putty knife, and chain vice grips.

Lesson 3

Grip and Rigging: Stands

From baby and combo stands, to hi-his and low boys, learn how to safety use industry-standard stands on set.

Lesson 4

Grip and Rigging: C-Stands

Learn how to properly use a variety of C-stands, including turtle base, spring loaded, as well as rigging options for grip heads and arms.

Lesson 5

Grip and Rigging: Grip Support

Learn how to properly use sandbags, apple boxes, taco carts, and furni pads on set.

Cinematic Lighting Master Course

Learn advanced techniques for reducing, softening and shaping light,  how to work with sunlight, advanced key light techniques for feature films, commercials, and music videos, green screen cinematography, and advanced natural lighting techniques.

Professional Lighting Equipment

  • Tungsten Lighting
  • HMI Lighting
  • LED Lighting
  • Kino-Flo Lighting

Grip and Rigging Techniques

  • Working with C-Stands
  • Working with Grip Clamps
  • Rigging Hardware and Techniques
  • Grip Stands and Elevating Lights
  • Grip Support
  • Grip Tools

Lighting Techniques

  • Light and Exposure
  • Techniques to Reduce Light
  • How to Create Soft Light
  • Techniques to Shape Light
  • Working with Reflected and Bounced Light
  • Color Temperature and White Balance
  • Working with Mixed Light
  • Attributes of Light
  • Three Point Lighting
  • How to Light and Shoot Green Screen
  • How to Light a Scene
  • How to Light Daytime Exteriors

On Location Lighting Demos

  • Lighting Kitchen Scene with Bright Outside Sunlight
  • Shooting a Nighttime Dialogue Scene
  • Lighting a Small Location
  • How to Light a Bedroom – Daytime
  • How to Make Nighttime Look Like Morning
  • Light Daylight Dialogue Scene
  • Light a Nighttime Bedroom Scene
    Light a Nighttime Living Room Scene

List Price $799

$399

New Directors Craft Lessons

We are proud to announce the all new Directors Craft lessons. Designed to methodically guide you through director’s role in visual storytelling, the seven new lessons combine interviews with Hollywood directors, on-set tutorials, and step-by-step approach to the director’s process. 

Meet Your Instructors

Meet some of the industry professionals you will learn from in these lessons.

Rob-Bowman

Rob Bowman

Director, Executive Producer
Rob directed "The X-Files" movie, numerous episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and was the Executive Producer of ABC's hit drama, "Castle."
Josh-McLaglen

Josh McLaglen

Producer, 1st Assistant Director
Josh is the producer of "Avatar," the X-Men movies, "Logan," "Real Steel," and, as James Cameron's 1st AD, ran the sets of "Titanic," "Avatar," and dozens of other Hollywood blockbusters.
Mary-Lou-Belli

Mary Lou Belli

Emmy-Winning Director
Two-time Emmy winning director, Mary Lou has helmed episodes for dozens of prime time shows, including "NCIS: New Orleans," "The Quad," "Hart of Dixie," "The Game," "Monk," and "The Hughleys."
David-Stump

David Stump, ASC

Academy Award Winning Cinematographer
As an Academy-Award winning cinematographer and two-time Emmy nominee, David has worked on "American Gods," "Breaking Bad," "X-Men," Hollow Man," and is the technical chair of the ASC.
Andrew-Davis

Andrew Davis

Director
Andy is best known for directing Harrison Ford in the Oscar nominated, "The Fugitive." He has also directed numerous feature films, including "Under Siege," "Above the Law" (both starring Steven Segal), "Code of Silence," "Holes," "The Package" and "The Guardian."
Instructor-Profiles-15

Bethany Rooney

Director
Director of over 150 episodes of prime-time network shows, including "Grey’s Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "Brothers and Sisters," and "Private Practice." For cable television, she has directed In "Plain Sight," "Weeds," and "Drop Dead Diva."
Randal-Kleiser

Randal Kleiser

Director
Randal Kleiser's first feature "Grease" is the most successful movie musical ever made. Other credits include "The Blue Lagoon," "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," "Summer Lovers," "Flight of the Navigator," "White Fang," "North Shore," "Getting It Right," "Lovewrecked" and "It's My Party."
Stephen-Marrinaccio

Stephen Marinaccio

Line Producer
Stephen worked with James Cameron on "Aliens of the Deep," and numerous features, including "Marco Polo," "The Darkest Hour," and "13 Hours"
Steve-Zuckerman

Steve Zuckerman

Director
Steve has directed hundreds of hours of prime time television shows, including, "Friends," "Empty Nest," "Men at Work," "Melissa & Joey," "According to Jim," "Love, Inc." and "What I Like About You"
Maria-Battles-Campbell

Maria Battle-Campbell

Second Unit Director/Assistant Director
Maria's credits include "Avatar 1, 2 & 3," "The Island," "Stranger Things," "Serenity," "Real Steel," "X-Men: First Class," "Transparent"
Marjery-Kimbrough

Margery Kimbrough

Script Supervisor
Margery has managed continuity on the sets of "The Orville," "The Catch," "The Originals," "Bosch," "Ray Donovan," "Alias," and "Spiderman"
Valeria-Collins

Valeria Collins

Script Supervisor
Valeria has worked on top Hollywood blockbusters, including "Star Trek: Beyond," "Silicon Valley," "Big Little Lies," "True Detective," "Parks and Recreation," "Divergent," and "Fast & Furious 1 & 6"

The New Lessons

Lesson 1

A Director's Prep -Beginning a Project

In this lesson, learn how to begin a new production as a director, how to break down the script for theme, character, and plot, set-up the workspace, and identify the tone of the story. Working Hollywood directors reveal their process of preparing for the first day on set.

This lesson covers:

  • How to set up your workspace
  • How to read a script for the first time
  • How to perform a director’s breakdown
  • How to break down the script for story
  • How to break down the script for character
  • How to find the tone of the story

Lesson 2

Basic Coverage

Learn the basic template for shooting the action in a scene – the master shot, individual coverage, inserts and cat-in-the-window shots. Then professional filmmakers reveal techniques to vary shot size to increase coverage, how to break the coverage template, plan for the edit, and ensure you get the coverage you need. (21:43)

This lesson covers:

  • How to prepare for the edit when determining coverage
  • How to frame and shoot a master shot
  • How to approach close-ups
  • Working with insert shots
  • Shooting cat-in-the-window shots

Lesson 3

Advanced Coverage

Learn advanced coverage techniques from working Hollywood directors. This lesson reveals how to craft a single-shot “oner,” how to create a psychological impact for each shot, design compelling establishing shots, manipulate the pacing and rhythm of a scene, determine the opening visual, and enhance transitions from one scene to the next.
 
  • How to vary your coverage beyond the typical master/coverage model
  • How to properly shoot a oner
  • How to determine the opening visual of a scene
  • How to determine the proper pacing and rhythm
  • How to mind the transitions from one scene to the next to keep up the pacing of the story
  • How to work within the restrictions of the schedule and budget

Lesson 4

Blocking Actors on Set

In this lesson,  learn how to effectively block actors on set for a convincing performance, all while balancing the technical needs and restrictions of the set, what story cues to look for, how to develop emotionally-driven blocking, and how to work with the actors to get the best performance possible.
 
  • How to determine why the actor moves
  • How to determine where the actor moves
  • How to determine when the actor moves
  • How to determine how the actor moves
  • Macroblocking vs. microblocking
  • How to block depth in the frame
  • How to use floor plans

Lesson 5

Storyboards and Pre-Visualization

Learn how to use storyboards to plan their scene coverage, how to use pre-visualization software, know how detailed storyboards should be, creative restrictions to be aware of, how to create storyboards even if you can’t draw, and when to use animatics.
 
  • What are storyboards
  • How to work with a storyboard artist
  • How to draw effective storyboards
  • How to use pre-visualization software
  • When to use animatics
  • How animatics and storyboards can be used in the editing room

Lesson 6

Creating a Shotlist

Learn how to create a shot list, location requirements, how to decide your shots, the elements in a shot list, how the shot lists are used to schedule and budget a film, and to prepare for days when you go over schedule or over budget.
 
  • What is a shot list?
  • How are the elements that make up a shot list?
  • How the crew uses the shot list when scheduling and budget the production

Lesson 7

Continuity and Script Notes

A movie set is a machine with hundreds of moving parts – each department focusing on their contribution, each individual creating his piece of the story, all while the director helps manage it all.  Sitting beside the director is the script supervisor, whose systematic and careful attention to all these moving parts helps ensure continuity.  In this lesson, learn the process of tracking continuity and how to create script notes used to ensure the hundreds of individual filmed shots work together as one, fluid story.

How to get these Lessons

These new lessons are included in the following FilmSkills courses

Directing Master Course for Television and Movies

Hollywood feature film and television directors teach you how to craft the visual experience, break down the script for story and character, cast, rehearse, and direct your actors, design the visual story, blocking and coverage, develop shot lists and storyboards, and how to maintain continuity.

FilmSkills Unlimited

Learn the entire filmmaking process! Unlock all FilmSkills Courses for LIFE, plus 75 FREE bonus lessons, FREE new content, personal training, and discounts on top software and gear.

Record the Perfect On-Set Audio

Announcing a massive update to our already comprehensive on-set audio recording series. Engaging video tutorials feature Academy Award and Emmy winning filmmakers who methodically reveal industry best practices and techniques for recording high quality audio on set.

Watch a Free Lesson

Meet Your Instructors

Meet some of the industry professionals you will learn from in these lessons.

Tomlison-Holman

Tomlinson Holman

Academy Award Winner, Head of Audio, Apple
Tomlinson invented THX, and worked on the sound for "Return of the Jedi," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and is currently the head of Audio at Apple.
Vanessa-Theme-Ament

Vanessa Theme Ament

Foley Artist
Vanessas credits include "The Shawshank Redemption," "Batman Returns," "Gary & Mike," "Predator," "Chain Reaction," "Charmed," "Die Hard," "7th Heaven," and "Mars Attacks!"
Steve-Savanyu

Steve Savanyu

Director of Education, Audio-Technica
Steve is an accomplished recording engineer and the Director of Education at Audio-Technica, the world's leading microphone manufacturer.

The New Lessons

Lesson 1

The Physics of Sound

Before we can be proficient in recording sound, we need to understand how sound works. This lesson covers the the sound wave, how it can be measured and ultimately, how it is manipulated and captured to create emotion through story. (26:01)

This lesson covers:

  • What is sound
  • The sound wave
  • Frequency and amplitude
  • The human hear and its limitations
  • Measuring loudness

Lesson 2

How Microphones Work

Microphones are incredible devices that convert sound energy into electrical energy and can do so in different ways.  In this lesson, we explore how microphones capture sound, how that sound is converted into energy, and the strengths and weaknesses of each microphone type. (23:52)

This lesson covers:

  • How microphones work
  • How a dynamic microphone works
  • How a condenser microphone works
  • How a ribbon microphone works
  • What is the signal-to-noise ratio
  • What is sensitivity and how is it measured
  • What is the maximum sound pressure level
  • What is frequency response

Lesson 3

Microphone Pick-Up Patterns

In this lesson, learn about the important classification- the microphone’s pick-up pattern.  The pick-up pattern is the shape of the zone around the microphone in which it picks up sound the best.  If the sound-generating source is in the zone, the sound will be full and robust, but as the source leaves the zone, the sound becomes more distant or muddy. Learn about omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, figure-of-8, multipattern mics, and much more. (19:09)
 
  • How pick-up patterns work
  • Omnidirectional mics
  • Cardioid mics
  • Hypercardioid mics
  • Shotgun mics
  • Figure of 8 mics
  • Multi-pattern mics
  • How to choose the best pick-up pattern for your shoot

Lesson 4

Audio Pre-Production

Recording on-set audio begins long before the cameras – or the sound recording devices – roll. By preparing the script, determining the proper crew size and creating a list of the required equipment, you’ll be prepared to capture strong audio every time. In this lesson, you will learn proper audio pre-production for your project.

(24:50)

 
  • How to break down the script
  • What to look for in each scene and how to determine the sound recording requirements
  • How to conduct a location scout
  • What problematic sounds to look for
  • How to deal with ambient sounds and reverb on location
  • How to work with a rental facility
  • How to track audio equipment

Lesson 5

Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier mics are small condenser microphones that can be worn on the body or hidden on set.  In this lesson,  we’ll show you how to get the most out of your lavalier microphones and how to deal with common problems. Learn various types of lavalier microphones, which mic to choose in different settings, how best to use lavalier microphones, and their limitations.
 
  • How lavalier microphones work
  • Whether to choose a transparent or a proximity lav
  • The difference between wired and wireless lavaliers
  • How to rig both exposed and hidden lavaliers both on set and on actors
  • How to avoid common problems with fabric rubbing against the mic and which fabrics can cause interference
  • Issues with wireless systems and how to avoid problems
  • Issues with multipath interference and how to avoid it

Lesson 6

The Microphone Boom

The boom mic is one of the most common tools used to properly position the microphone on set to record the highest-quality audio  In this lesson, you will learn how to choose the proper boom pole, the various types of shock mounts and wind reduction tools, how to combat wind noise, and how to get the best microphone boom pole for your money. Recording excellent audio begins with having the right tools. (19:08)
 
  • The types of boom poles available
  • The types of shock mounts and how they work
  • How to mount a microphone in a shock mount
  • The ideal microphone pick-up pattern to use on a boom pole
  • The types of wind reduction tools and how to use them including
    • Wind screens
    • Fuzzies
    • Zeppelins and dead cats
  • Techniques for monitoring audio

Lesson 7

Boom Operating Techniques

At first glance, the boom mic seems to be fairly simple and straightforward to operate. In actuality, however, it is a tricky skill that balances the ideal mic placement with the movements of the operator.  In this lesson, we examine the proper technique for using a boom pole to record on-set audio.

  • The various positions for a boom mic
  • How to properly place the microphone
  • Boom operating etiquette
  • How to deal with shadows and reflections
  • Communications techniques with the camera operator
  • What not to do on set

Lesson 8

Location Recording Techniques

Recording location sound is a challenging process – you need to contend with wind, traffic noise, and compete against the general ambience of the location to record clean dialogue. The decisions you make on set can either make the post-production process easy or add tens of thousands of dollars to your budget trying to fix problems that could have been avoided. In this lesson, learn how to properly prepare for a shoot – the type of gear you’ll need, how to conduct a location scout, and tips for minimizing location noise. (28:17)

  • How to control microphone perspective
  • How to conduct a sound check and set the levels
  • Techniques for monitoring audio
  • How to record multiple actors
  • What to do if there’s “no sound” in the scene
  • The importance of room tone and how to record it
  • How to fight the “fix-it-in-post” mentality

Lesson 9

Recording the Audio

Once the microphone picks-up sound, it is then encoded into either an analog or digital signal, then recorded to a device.  With advancements in technology, the quality of the recorded signal can be virtually indistinguishable from the original sound.  In this module, we explore how sound is recorded and encoded. (37:58)

  • The difference between an analog and digital signal
  • How to set proper audio levels
  • What is the noise floor and how it can adversely affect your audio
  • What is the sample rate and bit depth of a digital signal
  • What is auto gain
  • How compressors and limiters work
  • What happens when audio peaks
  • What is the dynamic range of the recorded sound and recording medium
  • How to determine the gain structure in your audio device chain
  • How bars and tone work

Lesson 10

Audio Configurations

Audio can be recorded many ways – directly into the camera, through a mixer, and/or to a separate recording device.  In this module, you will learn common techniques for recording sound, how to manage line/mic level inputs, work with dumb and smart slates, and work with timecode. (20:00)

  • The differences between single and dual system recording
  • Recording configuration techniques
  • How to work with Line/Mic level inputs
  • Working with dumb and smart slates
  • Working with Timecode

Lesson 11

Cables and Adapters

It’s so easy to focus on the specifications and quality of both the microphone and the recording device that you forget about the cables that connect them. Cables, although seemingly the least interesting equipment can make or break your shoot.  In this module, we’re going to look at the types of cables, and connectors, when to use them, and how to care for them. (21:16)

  • The various cable types
  • The difference between male and female connections
  • Adapters and which ones to use
  • How to adapt cables for DSLR cameras
  • Cable care
  • How to work with breakaways

How to get these Lessons

These new lessons are included in the following FilmSkills courses

Audio Production Course

From choosing the right microphone and working with lavaliers, to recording techniques and set-management techniques, learn how to record professional on-set audio for film, television or video.

FilmSkills Unlimited

Learn the entire filmmaking process! Unlock all FilmSkills Courses for LIFE, plus 75 FREE bonus lessons, FREE new content, personal training, and discounts on top software and gear.

46 Tips to Writing Your Screenplay

The foundation of a good movie is a good script. The foundation of a good script is a good story.  The foundation of a good story is inspiration, research, and the ability to develop the idea into a commercially-viable product that audiences will want to see.

While filmmaking is one of the most expensive art forms in the world, writing a script is not!  Armed with a solid story, pen, and paper, you can craft a story that will move and inspire audiences around the world. It’s your story… tell it right!

Developing the Idea

The core of every good story is a compelling idea that will pull your audience into the world you’re creating. The trick is to find a balance between a concept that the audience hasn’t seen before and your ability to market and sell it.

  • Look to real-life moments for inspiration: childhood memories; interesting events at work; relationships with family, friends, and love interests. Think of family conflicts, your first job, or your freshman year in high school, moving out on your own for the first time, and college experiences. Drawing on your own personal experiences helps you focus your own memories and feelings onto the page.
  • Read blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch news stories that may captivate your imagination. The old cliché says that truth is often stranger than fiction, and in many instances, it is.
  • Keep a journal of interesting events that happen every day; an engaging conversation, a funny moment, an unusual or interesting person you may have encountered in public. These moments can be the seeds of not only good ideas, but can also help fight through writers block when you’re in the thick of writing. 
  • Brainstorm and write down anything and everything that comes to mind.  Listen to inspirational music, turn off the lights, let your mind roam free, and be ready to capture ideas as they strike.
  • Study political history and the lives of dictators, emperors, famous people, and serial killers. All these peoples’ lives involved extraordinary circumstances that are full of drama and conflict.
  • Be original and avoid copying concepts used in other forms of media, stories from movies or television shows, or major plot lines from popular books. Audiences want to see new, unique ideas, not rehashes of old ideas. Create concepts inspired by real-life situations, people, and experiences.
  • Be careful not to infringe on copyrighted work. Copyright infringement can be an expensive mistake if the original owner of the stolen property chooses to sue.
  • Explore the Internet. The knowledge of the world is at your fingertips and can provide outstanding ideas and motivation for a movie.
  • Try reading the yellow pages, magazines, and even advertisements for inspiration.
  • Get out of your house. Traveling to a new place, whether it’s going out of town or visiting a local coffee shop can help spur the imagination.
  • Take breaks and don’t force your imagination. A walk on the beach or through the woods can help clear your thoughts and open your mind to new ideas. The less you think about the story, the more ideas will pop into your mind.
  • Write stories you’re passionate about. Be excited and willing to explore the subject matter. Learn as much as you can about the world, people, and situations you’re writing about.
  • Visit classic literature, listen to operas, and read books. Stories of mythology, ancient romances, and tales of adventure and heroism are the root of storytelling. If in doubt, go back to see how authors of old tackled an idea.
  • Research your idea by studying the time period, characters, customs, fashions, technologies, and values of the world you’re telling the story about. Learning more about the actual events or motivation behind your story will help develop ideas.

Developing Your Characters

The best characters are real – they have flaws, desires, wants, and challenges in life. 

  • Create interesting names for your characters by searching the Internet for name generators, or baby-naming websites.
  • Remember that the characters, much like the plot, have arcs as well. Characters should undergo changes from the beginning to the end of the story and the story should be about this journey they take.
  • Choose three primary adjectives that describe your character and make sure that the character’s actions, motivations, and dialog match those three adjectives in each and every scene.
  • The antagonist, or bad guy, can’t just be a character who simply does bad things. Give the antagonist character inner conflicts as well as those that drive him to do evil. Make him a real, multidimensional character.

Writing Tips and Tricks

Writing takes discipline.  It’s not easy, and your first draft will probably suck. Be OK with that, and know that writing is a process that takes time.

  • Set-up your writing space. Turn off the television, turn off your phone, and create a distraction-free environment you use only for writing.
    Once you decide on your story, write a one sentence description of what your movie is about.
    Develop the theme. What is the message you want the audience to walk away with at the end of the movie? The theme will help you wwrite a focused, cohesive story.
  • Set daily and weekly goals. Plan to write at least five pages a day, regardless of how good or bad they are. Remember that the real writing process begins when you rewrite. The first step is to get a rough draft down on paper.
  • Get organized. By starting out with an idea and flushing it out into an outline, the process of writing the script becomes easier. Also keep a clean, clutter-free work area, free of distractions so you can focus on your writing.
  • Stories are about people, not explosions or car chases. When writing your story, the dimension of your characters comes out when you show the audience how they react in different situations. Describe their strengths and weaknesses, attitudes and opinions, drives and ambitions, and what they want.
  • Try putting ideas on 3×5 note cards before writing the script. Write clever lines of dialog on white cards, character ideas on green, cool scene ideas on pink, and so on. Organize these cards to help when you’re outlining the story.
  • Develop a step outline, or a moment-by-moment description of what the audience will see in the movie. This will make it easier to write the script.
  • Build your story around sequences… remember that shots make up a scene, scenes make up sequences, and sequences make up a film. Sequences are ministories within the larger story.
  • Avoid writing cliché situations, dialog, and moments that the audience has seen before. Writing fresh ideas can be as simple as taking a moment in a scene and writing down ten unique and interesting variations on how it can be played.
  • What is the plot arc? How is the story set up? How do you introduce the characters? How do you introduce the conflict? Where is the turning point in the story? How does the plot build to a climax? And finally, how does it resolve itself?
  • Create setups and pay-offs – situations, props, information, and people your characters encounter must lead to something or have some significance within the story. Remember that the audience is going to be looking for meaning in the elements you show them.
  • Remember that the more you write, the more you have to produce. If the budget is limited, then limit the screenplay length to 90 pages. Ninety pages of script means that 90 minutes of the movie needs to be produced.
  • Always write in the present tense. Do not write, “We cut to Alan Blum who is walking down the street.” Rather, write “Alan Blum casually walks down the street.”

Check out the FREE 40 minute mini-course on how to structure your screenplay

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Formatting Tips

Hollywood has very stringent guidelines regarding how a script should be formatted. It is imperative to follow these guidelines, or your script will end up in the trash without being read.

  • Use 12-point Courier font (the typewriter font), which is the standard script font. When this font is used, one page of properly formatted script is roughly equal to one minute of screen time.
  • Begin each scene in capital letters and describe whether it is interior or exterior (INT or EXT), the location where the scene takes place in the story, and the time of day (DAY, NIGHT, DAWN, DUSK).
  • Type all screen directions, also known as the action, in the same margin as the scene header. Screen directions should explain where and how the characters move and what is happening in the scene. Use the screen directions to describe to the reader/audience what they will see on screen.
  • When writing dialog, write the name of the character who is speaking in capital letters and center it in the page.
  • Descriptions that indicate how a line must be said (for example: sarcastically, coyly, under his breath, etc.) must be placed in a margin 3.5 inches from the left side of the page and enclosed in parenthesis.
  • All character dialog appears under the name of the character who speaks the line. This is to be written 4.25 inches from the left side of the page.
  • Don’t use camera directions. Camera directions indicate where the camera needs to be placed within the scene. This is not the writer’s job, but that of the director and the cinematographer. Write the script as a story, focusing only on the characters and what they are doing and saying in each scene.
  • Don’t break scenes up into shots. A change in scene reflects a change in location in the story. Shots are individual camera positions within the scene that are designed by the director and cinematographer. Break up the script only into scenes.
  • Don’t number your scenes. Scenes are to be numbered by the first assistant director after the screenplay has been locked for production. If you number the scenes in advance, any rewrites will change the scene numbers and throw off the script breakdown and any department working off the breakdowns.
  • Correct spelling and grammar are essential in presenting a professional screenplay for consideration by agents, managers, studios, and production companies.
  • Present the script with a white cover that states the title, the writer(s), date completed, writer(s) and/or agent contact phone numbers, WGA registration number, and copyright information. The script should be punched with three holes and “bound” with two brass brads.
  • On the first page, always begin the script with “Fade in” and end with “Fade to black.”
  • Scene headings—At the beginning of every scene, establish INT/EXT, the location where the scene takes place, and the time of day. Always type these in capital letters.
  • Deciding when your script is done can be a challenge. Nothing can be perfect but you have to know when you have done all you can. 
  • Once you are done, register the script with the WGA, and the US Copyright Office. Both can be done on the internet.
  • Begin to pitch your screenplay to producers, agents, and managers, then begin your next screenplay.

Want to Learn More?

FilmSkills Screenwriting Master Course

The Academy Award and Emmy winning writing teams behind Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Just Call Saul, Now You See It, and several other top TV shows and movies guide you through the entire screenwriting process in 25 video tutorials.