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June 23th 2006 
 Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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Greetings!

In this issue, we talk with accomplished Indie producer/director Matt Zettell about how scheduling your film can have a direct impact on your wallet.
 How good scheduling can save your film big bucks
 by Karina Halle

Director and producer Matt Zettell on set
Director and producer Matt Zettell on set

With Indie films, time is always money. So, it makes sense that a good schedule is vital for managing your film and staying on budget. Indie director and producer Matt Zettell knows this all too well. Currently shooting two 12-day Indie films back-to-back--The Cellar Door and Phoenix--Zettell believes that a good schedule is a key indicator when it comes to your Indie’s success.

“It’s the road map, or the blueprint, to having a successful movie,” Zettell advises. “And I think it’s one of the steps that Indie productions tend to skip over. Or, they don’t spend enough time on it, or maybe they go out and get an AD who is not experienced enough because they want to save money. I started out as an AD and then became a director, so when I direct, I still have that AD clock in the back of my head. To me, time is money and that’s what a good schedule does. It constantly saves me time. When I have more time, I get better shots, I get better coverage. I get to spend more time with the actors and that’s the thing that people don’t often see. They don’t really take the time to do their homework.”

Zettell says that it’s about organizing all the little details and then sometimes going, “Ok, what is most important? You might look at one day and see that it’s an emotional scene where the kid is at his father’s gravesite. That’s the scene where I know I want enough time, so I look at the schedule and start filming other scenes around it.”

“I think with most people, and with Indies, for them every shot is absolutely precious. But you don’t want to spend a quarter of your day shooting for a just few seconds of screen time. Then later, you have to rush through something that’s far more difficult, or an emotional scene, or what I call the ‘money shot of the movie.’”

“Time,” says Zettell, “is what costs you the most. Because you can’t afford to go into OT, you can’t afford to pay extra for locations. And that’s the other big thing, designing a schedule that can realistically be shot in however many days that you have. You’re trying to save money and do it in 15 days, or you’re trying to save even more money, so you do it in 12. Works out great to just say, ‘let’s just do it’, but then, where the scheduling comes into it, you’ve got to sit down with the producer, sit down with the DP and say, ‘Ok, how can we realistically do this? How do we condense locations?’ Something that I like to do when I look at the schedule is that I break it down and look at my page count and see, ‘how much time do I spend in the cemetery?’ You might sit there and say, 'it's 27 pages, that’s huge.' Or you might see it's half a page. So, then you ask yourself, how important is that scene – do I need it? Can I cheat it?”

When it comes to his own films, Zettell notes that the choice of script goes a long way, especially when it comes to saving money.

“Part of the secret is making the script Indie- friendly. One of my films is called The Cellar Door and about 75 per cent of the movie takes place in the central character’s basement. So, now I know I don’t have to find as many locations, I don’t have to move as many people. I’m literally trying to buy time. It’s being creative with your resources, which is pretty vital as well. Reservoir Dogs is a great example of a well-conceived film. In that movie, 75–80 per cent of it all takes place in the same location in the warehouse. That’s smart filmmaking.”

Another part of keeping a good schedule comes with managing the cast and crew. Zettell says that the most important thing to him is keeping his crew happy and on the ball. One of the biggest mistakes some producers make is forgetting that the crew needs to be scheduled properly as well.

“Some people are like, ‘well who cares about the crew?’” he says. “Well, I care a lot about the crew. A happy crew buys you a better movie. I find that if my crew is happy, I get five extra shots a day. And again, I think that’s where a good schedule comes in.
You get them in, get them shot and get them out. You hear about these people going 15, 16 hour days and I can’t help but think, what’s the quality of the performances? If you can limit abusing the crew and the cast, again that comes down to planning and it really comes down to decision making. I always try to push my producers to try and get a schedule in as early as possible, because it dictates how you are going to spend your money and where it is you are going to spend your money.”

Enhanced Gardenscapes

For comments or further story ideas, please contact karina at karina@ifilmalliance.com.


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