Picking a 3, 8 or 12-Week Shooting Schedule


Sample Scheduling Strip Board

A friend of mine surprised me with a note detailing the results of his unique research. He was adamant about learning why certain films succeed with a shooting schedule that kills other films. The correlation was eye opening and made me curious about my list of shooting scripts.

Typical Movies of the Week (MOW) fit easily into a 3-week schedule due to time constraints and budgets. Although some networks are satisfied with the results garnered by 2-week schedules because they prefer few set-ups and lots of close-ups.

Beginning filmmakers also use the 2-3 week schedule because they don’t yet have the artistic flair or knowledge of what to do with the extra time provided in an 8-week schedule. Many newbie directors can’t tell what the actor did right or wrong, so they move to the next shot without any exploration of how to best capture the human condition.

Oscar® loves the 8-week schedule because it keeps the story intimate and gives plenty of time to explore the artistic values that expose the human condition. The vast majority of Academy Award nominees and winners hold well to the 8-week shooting schedule. Few Oscar® winners use a shorter or longer shooting schedule.

Highly commercial films are forced to use the 12-week schedule due to its elaborate shots, visual effects and global storylines. The bigger box office spectaculars have even stretched the shooting schedule out to 6 months in order to properly create the world of adventure adored by audiences worldwide.

Understanding why the films in each category could succeed was impressive, but I found the list of failures more enlightening.

Many horror and Faith-based films attempt to make an 8-week film in 2-weeks and wonder why their box office couldn’t hit Hollywood’s $40MM mark that determines success within the industry. While most horror films shot within a 3-week schedule hit $12MM, Faith-based films tend to hit $3MM. I was curious about the gap.

According to the research, horror films use a simple “coming after you” action device to move the story forward and salts in a secondary plotline of romance or something from “Geekdom.” Faith-based films seldom use action plotlines, so the story has no forward movement. The filmmakers rely solely on the message’s innate value rather than salting it into an action throughline.

Of course, 8 and 12-week scheduled films usually have a strong action plotline and one or two subplots to entertain the masses. This structure in of itself demands more shooting time and exploration of the human condition. Comedies on the other hand don’t adhere to the story structure, as they explore improvisational work by the talent. Doing so can accidentally remove the pacing and format of the story, making it fall apart in the eyes of the audience.

Most $40MM plus stories are shot on the 8-week schedule using full story structure with an action plotline and two subplots. The longer schedule attracts larger names to the project that can draw a larger audience. The key to the film’s success typically rests on the director, writer and talent. Story is king and knowing how to direct is essential.

Most of the stories I write are for 8 and 12-week schedules. However, most of the shows I’ve been hired to direct have been for 3 and 8-week shooting schedules. The shorter schedules were due to investors or producers that wanted to spend as little money as possible to achieve their results, rather than investing the amount needed to honor the story’s natural schedule.

When I shot Mystery at the Johnson Farm we scheduled 11 pages a day and shot lots of close-ups with little coverage. When I was in The Dark Night’s parade scene we were capturing less than a page a day. On Nolan’s heavy stunt days they were lucky to capture one to two eights of a page a day.

The story demands a certain amount schedule for each of its specific scenes. To rob the story of what it requires only lowers the quality of the film. To give too much time to scenes causes the show to become bloated, forcing the editor to battle the director—trimming favorite shots for the sake of pacing and entertainment value.

The key question with independent film … is the story well structured enough to require the golden 8-week schedule or is it too weak? If it’s weak the filmmaker can either adjust the script or refocus his distribution to a small cable network in place of a theatrical release.

©2017 by CJ Powers

Gen Z Pushes Millennials Aside

Gen_ZChurches and Independent Filmmakers are now realizing they are late in gearing their presentations to the taste and needs of the Millennials. Both groups, which at one time drove our society, are playing catch up in shifting their attention to the next generation. Unfortunately, it’s too late.

Generation Z is now positioned to drive our society forward. They are a bigger group than the Millennials and the remaining Baby Boomers. They are currently the largest population group with the most disposable income at $40B annually.

In the church world, the structure or format of services is still geared toward Gen X. In the independent film world the movies are geared toward Baby Boomers. That’s not to say a handful of churches or movies weren’t made for the Millennials, but those organizations are in the minority. Regardless, both groups should be refocusing on Generation Z.

Millennials desired to learn the truth about living life from the Baby Boomers, but instead got inauthentic rhetoric. Gen X was too small to fill the role, so the Millennials did the best they could on their own. This led to watching less movies and not attending church. Only about a third of Millennials go to movies. Also, about a third attend churches. Neither of which is geared toward their needs.

But this year, Generation Z has now crossed the point of demarcation in being the largest population group and has the most disposable income. They haven’t yet determined their views on church, nor have they decided yet on making movies a part of their lives.

Pastors and filmmakers have a clean slate to build a new audience. Unfortunately, most have just caught on to the impact of the Millennials and might not catch on to the growing power of Generation Z until its too late. But for those who want to be ahead of the curve, I’ll share some of their characteristics…

Realistic Not Idealistic
Gen Z will not take hope from anyone based on an expressed set of ideals. Instead, they want the unadulterated truth about how to do real life. They are very realistic in what daily steps are required to succeed in this life and they don’t care about the media storm or the news drama filling the airwaves. They just want to know the simple truths necessary to live a good life.

Live in the Shadows
After watching the Millennials get into trouble with social media by accidental posts or the PC police chasing down the one wrong sentence someone uttered, Gen Z is standing back in the shadows. This generation has been walking away from top media sites like Facebook (lost 25% of Gen Z in last few years) to avoid being pulled in to the unwanted limelight.

Hard Working Entrepreneurs
Three fourths of Gen Z wants to be entrepreneurs. They are okay with hard work, as long as they get the direct benefit that comes with operating ones’ own business. They see the Millennials as lazy and accomplishing little, making the market ripe for Gen Z to take over. This will shrink large corporations and grow boutique businesses that will team on a project-by-project basis – Breathing life into a new kind of economy.

4D Thinkers
Gen Z is a hyper focused generation whose awareness is all encompassing. They are very much aware of what all generations are doing, how it affects them, and how to counter the negative effects. They are capable of piecing information together from multiple sources and coming up with new solutions that far exceed the Millennials.

Tech Savvy
To keep up with their rapid thought patterns and the development of their ideas, Gen Z sees technology as mandatory to survival. Most would put technology in the same category as air, water, food and shelter. This life pattern will mean more relationships developed over projects than in any other form.

These are the people the churches and filmmakers must learn how to interact with, teach, and entertain. Gen Z will be coming into power in about ten years, giving churches and studios time to ramp up to meet their needs. Unfortunately, many will miss the opportunity since they are just now focusing on the Millennials.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers


Life from the Perspective of Peas and Peanuts

peasMy youngest daughter and I were laughing at dinner. It was hard to withhold side comments when her son attempted to stick a garlic shell noodle up his nose. My son-in-law thought the little guy’s behavior was a little illogical, because if his son really wanted something up his nose, the peas on his plate would make the attempt easier.

Contemplating any form of logic in that particular moment was worth a chuckle, so we all joined in with crazy banter, trying to one up each other on profound comments surrounding the logical choice of peas.

Soon a deep parallel was drawn to my daughter and son-in-law’s middle school youth group. This morning half of the class shared their contemplation of topics few adults are willing to address. I was amazed at their understanding and openness to discuss such controversial subjects.

The most artistic filmmakers, actors and artists I’ve met all held the same willingness to explore the depth of any topic related to the human condition. In fact, the better the artist, the more impact they made in society by addressing the difficult in the development of their works.

Charles M. Schultz is one artist that I’ve admired for years. The man demonstrated integrity in his art and consistently demonstrated how to salt in morals and ideal behaviors that the masses drank in ever so deeply.

The syndicated Peanuts comic strip was his crown and joy. He spent 50 years entertaining the world with difficult childhood emotions that impacted our society. Two weeks after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shultz received a sincere letter from a Mrs. Harriet Glickman, who perfectly articulated the idea of adding a Negro child into the Peanuts strip. She was also astute enough to warn him of the possible ramifications.

Schulz LetterSchultz received thousands of letters every month and rarely heeded suggestions. He was a true artist with many ideas stock piled for future strips. However, he was so moved by Glickman’s suggestion that he responded to her with his concern. Schultz feared any attempt on his part might come across as patronizing and he had no good solution.

Glickman asked Schultz for permission to share his letter with a black male friend of hers by the name of Kenneth C. Kelly and had him write Schulz with two good reasons for including a Negro child in his Peanuts strip. Kelly was also articulate and suggested Schulz introduce the character as a supernumerary that could be developed later into a main character.

But Schultz wouldn’t have it that way. He had something specific in mind to do once his fear of patronizing blacks was defused. Schulz sent a letter off to Glickman announcing that on July 31, 1968 Peanuts would debut Franklin, Charlie Brown’s African American friend.

Unfortunately, Glickman was right about the backlash Schulz would receive, but he handled it well. Larry Rutman, president of United Feature Syndicate didn’t like a scene with Franklin playing with the other children and asked for a change.

Schulz gave the perfect response, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”

Larry printed it and Peanuts went on to impact numerous societies worldwide.

It only takes one artist with perspective and integrity to change a culture.


Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers