New Production Model. Part 4. All about Previs
Acting previs, or how to control the quality of an emerging work.
This essay has been provocatively entitled “How to make cheaper and better films”, but maybe it is worthwhile to think independently of the necessary changes in production, if there are any tools that will enable us to control the quality of the resulting film better than before?
I think so. Provided that the final document constituting a foundation for the making of a film will not only be solely the script. I start from a deliberately exaggerated assumption that ‘no one reads scripts’. Their huge number and small production capacity, which we have in our country, but also in the whole of Europe, causes that very few valuable screenplays make it through the sieve of editors and project selection groups. Moreover, with a large number of scripts, texts by well-known authors have the upper hand.
In the past the script, as the final document before the film was made, was a necessity, because filming was expensive and complicated. Today everyone has a camera in their pocket and can use it to create a sketch of the future film. Shoot the rough draft, hiring actors from the acting school or naturals. Such a sketch – the actor previs – of a film that is to take place on a ship on a rough sea, for example, the future director can make in his apartment. In short, we propose a system in which the documents on which the film production is based is not only a screenplay, but the rough draft version – a previs. Something that can be displayed on the screen to distance oneself from a fixed idea, to test your narration. It is a model similar to Hollywood storyboards or animatics, but it was produced for a penny by future film makers, not by hiring extra professionals. The previs is made with the help of actors, not animated characters.
Thanks to the production of the film sketch, sponsors will know much more about the history we find ourselves in. The director will be able to assess its emotional impact. On its basis, the cinematographer will be able to deduce where the camera plays a dramatic role and where it is only an ornament. He will know where to keep distance from the actor’s face and where to be closer. Such a way of film production would, of course, result in savings. The draft film will provide you with information on which parts of the room in a given decoration are needed and which parts of the room will simply not perform. The set designer will not build “for life”. And the operator will calculate exactly what amount of light will be needed for a specific scene. He won’t order an extra light that will lie uselessly in the truck. A draft film is, therefore, also a form of a financial sketch.
Previs of a film will also allow to better evaluate the film’s screen time, because we often make films that are too long. […]
In addition, the rough sketch will give us control over what we do, even if we do not shoot the film chronologically. […]
We want a system in which every young person, who comes with a text: script, short story, novel, could realize their first film version for no money at all. They can do it using the simplest technology, even a mobile phone, with the help of relatives, unless any of the actors would want to “train” the role.
Previs is a film sketch of the future movie…. The foundation of the new system. It is not only the script and all its supplements such as folders of objects and other iconographic materials (mood boards) that will become the basic “document” of the future film.
[…] The fear of the new, the unknown will hinder the implementation of these tools and the changes we are postulating. These concerns are partly justified. Many professionals will have to change their old habits. But I do not think that there is an alternative. In addition, I do not believe that previses should be used for external evaluation. Nor should they in any way replace scenarios.
How to make a previs
Previs is a record of a feature film story made with any kind of unprofessional camera. The shooting does not have to be connected with shooting locations envisaged in the script. A movie at sea or in the desert can be made in any room. It is enough to write a text that informs the viewers where the action is taking place. It would be advisable to have the actors scheduled by the director, but in lack thereof (i.e., the lack of money for them) they may be played by substitutes in Previs. The editing denseness of the scenes does not need to match the final product, either. It is usually sufficient to have mastershots arranged in order. Complicated action scenes (accidents, chases) can be replaced by a relevant board with a description, or an appropriate piece of storyboard included in the previs. On the basis of the right to quote one will be able to use scenes from already made, well-known films as references to the scene that we are going to make (with the information where the video comes from,. The condition is only the internal presentation within the group making the film.
Advantages of Previs
Previs is a plan, or vision, of the future film much more precise than the script – it is the film’s roadmap.
Every reader of the script in a way builds their own vision of the future film. And surely everyone on its basis would have directed a different film. Often these visions (interpretations of the text) distort the message of the script, are immature, shallow or ignore the rules of dramaturgy. We know that good scenarios can make bad films and vice versa. That’s why screenplays assigned to well-known and respected directors get a better treatment.
Good screenplay + Good Director = certainty of a good, perhaps decent film
Good screenplay + Unknown Director = a lottery – a good work can be obtained, but equally often a misguided one
Thanks to previses (rough draft versions), a young director is able to prove and defend his vision of their (debut) film.
This tool will help you to better evaluate:
The attractiveness of the future film from a distributor’s (viewer’s) perspective
The structure of the future work
The attractiveness of characters and their development associated with the film’s events
Quality of dialogues
Assess the proportions between the main and secondary themes – the dramatic power of the film
Moreover, rough draft films will make it easier to:
find resources for future production (Distributors, Television and Film Finance Institutes, sponsors, etc.)
assess the real financing needs for the project
find and communicate with future creative collaborators (actor, set designer, cinematographer, composer)who may at this stage present the models of their future work, e.g. the composer might provide a sample of his music, the cinematographer in one of the scenes might present his idea for visual narration etc.
Thoroughly assess the proportions between what is live and what has to be generated or added with the use of CGI.
In the course of shooting the final movie, the possibility of replacing scenes performed on the set for those made in the previs will make it easier to control the quality of the emerging film. “The flow of emotions” between the emerging film and its future audience. It is always a problem in the psychological drama, shot not in a chronological order, to assess on what emotional level the actors (their characters) end or start the scene in relation to the whole chain of dramatic events – and the films are not realized in accordance with the the story’s chronology. Previs will make it easier to control this process.
The script has to be written anyway, so previs becomes an additional obstacle on this difficult path to making the film.
We do not propose a system to replace the script-based selection system.
o Previs’s aim is to be an internal film outline that helps filmmakers to build and control a shared vision and makes a good planning tool, also in the financial scope, of a future film. It is no different from the American animatics. It has their presentation advantages, but it undoubtedly outperforms these tools in sketching the emotional impact of a future film1.
o In 99%, typical scripts do not describe the visual side of a future film. As previses are not a finished works and are not created for public showings, it will be possible to use scenes from famous films based on the right to quote, as a reference to scenes that the future filmmaker plans to perform. Such a possibility will make it easier to evaluate the direction of the search and interpretation of a future work.
o We believe that with previs, directors will be able to find creative collaborators or funds for the production of their films, e. g. by product placement
Like any new element of the system in operation, it will undoubtedly face opposition from those who function well in the current system.
o The rough draft film system is not intended for them, it is intended to facilitate the start for young people and the quality control of the film that is being made.
o We believe that our proposal will be accepted especially well by the young generation of filmmakers if they understand that there it does not create another barrier on the way to their desired debut.
For many artists, making an semi-finished product may be viewed as an attempt to strip the creative process of the natural element of every creative endeavor, i.e. the tension and mystery related to the act of creation.
o Unlike other art disciplines, making a film is an expensive undertaking. Money wasted in a bad project is a loss not only for the producer and the patron, but also a “kiss of death” for the debuting director. Films cannot be kept in the sock drawer , as is often the case with books.
o The so-called “creative mystery” often leads to the fact that the whole creative team does not fully know what the director is all about. Everyone merely follow the director’s instructions. Previses clearly outline the director’s interpretation of the script.
Making a Previs might kill the project instead of helping it. Nobody publishes their notes to the future novel.
o Yes, I am aware of that. That is why it should not be mandatory.
o Previs production should not abolish the traditional (scenario-based) method of accepting the film for realization.
o Previs should not be shown publicly. They are to be used for consultation, agreement with other staff and more precise budgeting.
Another utopian idea with no chance for implementation?
For many years now, we have been carrying out utopian (from the point of view of mainstream cinema) projects at our Workshops and so far this has been successful (3D, Interactivity in cinema, Game Developers’ meetings with filmmakers, VR – expanded reality, modern digital post-production).
As a Film Spring Open, we want to persuade young filmmakers (and many of them are our participants) to make such drafts. We want to produce films in the new system and this may be a sufficient incentive for young filmmakers to respond positively. That’s why we have built the Cinebus, a mobile film studio to support Modern Film Production. In this way, we will be able to test the value of risk control with a previs in practice. We have no doubt that potential young film producers may like the idea of a previs as a test case before investing substantial funds. We believe that for many producers, a “penny” investment in the realization of a previs may turn out to be a practical tool for testing the chances of a given project in distribution, its advantages, but also disadvantages, which – thanks to the rough draft version – could be removed during the realization process.
1 Animatics are made almost solely as computer animations, in specialized software. There are several companies specializing such services on the American market.
[Extracts from the Essay “How to make films cheaper and better” by Sławomir Idziak.]
- Jagoda Szelc at the Film Spring Open Workshop 2018
- Visual Dramaturgy. Sławomir Idziak at the Film Spring Open Workshop 2018
- „You cannot make better fire than the real fire” – Neil Corbould – the special guest of the Film Spring Open Workshop 2018
- Tough way to debut. An Oscar winner, Ewa Puszczyńska – the special guest of Film Spring Open Workshop 2018
- Character and Cartoon Animation in CINEMA 4D: 3 Case Studies – Fabian Rosenkranz at Film Spring Open Workshop 2018
- The 13. edition of the Film Spring Open Workshop has come to an end. Thank you!
- Neil Corbould, a two-time Oscar winner arrived to teach special effects in low-budget filmmaking and Ewa Puszczyńska, an Oscar winner for Ida gave a lecture on film debut – the third day of the Film Spring Workshop behind us.
- Make an animated music video for Siles, Zuza Jabłońska or Laboratorium.
- Screenings at the Film Spring Workshop.The Lost Town of Świteź (dir. Kamil Polak)
- The latest technologies, talking Virtual Hologram and mind-tripping experiences in VR – our Special Guests: James E. Marks & Chris Szkoda from DoubleMe (London)
- Having a good head for filmmaking – about the mental training in the profession.
- Screenings at the Film Spring Workshop. Dawn and Short Film About Life
- LG YouTubers group. Be smart, use your smartphone to make a film.
- Screenings at the Film Spring Workshop. 7 FEELINGS/ 7 UCZUĆ.
- Framework programme of the Film Spring Workshop 2018
- Canon – Nature Films Group
- Make a music video for Tymon Tymański & MU and win the scholarship at our workshop
- Get a scholarship and join our brand new group! Open call for the sports film group.
- Interactive narration group. Only you
- Meeting with an Artist – Jagoda Szelc
- The Film Summer Masterclass has come to an end but this is just the beginning of great friendships and collaborations.
- From an idea to a story- from a line to a film. Painting animation group
- Make yourself a movie poster. A film graphics group
- Laila Pakalnina to tutor the documentary group at Film Spring Workshop.
- Tools and means of transport in the new model of film production.
- Fantastic worlds of UNIT9
- Crossing the borders. Summer Masterclass
- Borys Lankosz will teach screenwriting at the Film Spring Workshop.
- Augmented reality cinematic experience group
- The second team – how to speed work without losing in quality control.
- OPEN CALL for Film Spring Workshop 2018
- Film professions. How is it and how could it be? cont.
- Film professions. How is it and how could it be?
- Previs – New Workflow.
- Slawomir Idziak will hold a Visual Dramaturgy Workshop with introduction to New Model of Film Production in Bratislava.
- Filmmakers and artists at the Zakopane Festival of Films about Art. Promotion of the New Model of Film Production.
- New Production Model. Part 4. All about Previs
- New Production Model. Part 3. Chaos, or how the cinematography is done in the film
- Sławomir Idziak with the award for lifetime achievement. Cinebus at the PSC award ceremony.
- New Model of Film Production. Part 2. New is born from the death of the old
- The New Model of Film Production. Introduction.
- What you should know before coming to the Film Spring Workshop 2017
- The Summary of the Film Spring Workshop Programme 2017
- Internet stars at Film Spring Workshop.
- The battles, shootings, car chases, explosions – we shoot action scenes
- Revolution in Motion Capture accessible to anyone
- Allegro at the Film Spring Workshop – film project contest
- Make your own video game!
- Boost your technical filmmaking knowledge at Film Spring Workshop
- “Race cars, space jumps and explosions – putting every boy’s dreams into 3D graphics”. A presentation and workshop by Matthias Zabiegly, Aixsponza.
- Interactive Narration Group 2017 is waiting for you!
- Film Spring Open 2016 Daily Schedule
- Juliette Binoche at Film Spring Open-Air
- Neurobiology of creativity. For love of the Brain
- Previs Group is waiting for you!
- Audiovisual Workshop „Spirit Possession or Confession” through the prism of the work of the French anthropologist and historian Michel de Certeau.
- Open Call to Commercials Group at Film Spring Open-Air
- Equipment at Film Spring Open Air 2014
- Only at FSO! Re-creating workflow of Natalie Portman’s directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness”
- Sławomir Idziak workshops at FSO "The Triple Life of Veronique”
- Actors at Film Spring Open Air 2014
- Graphic of Film Spring Open Air 2014!
- Equipment at FSO – information from technical team
- Recruitment results – Filmspringers 2014
- CHIMNEY POLAND supports Film Adaptations of Theatrical Spectacles Group!
- Music Videos Group KAYAX at Film Spring Open Air!
- Join Interactive Dramaturgy Group!
- Polish Society of Cinematographers offers scholarships for Film Spring Open Air!
- Commercial Advertisement LOTTO Group at Film Spring Open Air!
- 105 000 PLN for scripts associated with Małopolska – Call for VII edition of the Competition “Three Crowns – Małopolska Film Award”!
- Invitation from Young Artists Set of the Union of Artists of Polish Scenes
- FilmSpringers’ "Your Place" now on VOFF
- Film Spring Open Air nominated for the Polish Film Institute Award!