Five tips from Australian filmmakers on how they are making the most of lockdown

May 11, 2020
As Australia adapts to life under lockdown, Port Melbourne film-tech company, Blackmagic Design spoke to three Australian filmmakers, Nathan Dalton (Raygun Film Co. - pictured), Peter Renzullo (Scudley Records) and Matt Drummond (Hive Studios), to see how they are making the most of working from home and their tips for how other creatives could do the same.

Focus on activities that can be done remotely such as refining scripts, project development and post-production

Melbourne filmmaker at Raygun Film Co., Nathan Dalton said now was a great time to work on independent projects such as refining scripts and developing video content.

“While I was planning to pitch my scripts at Cannes in May, I’m now using this time to refine and improve them so they will be in the best shape possible for securing more funding next year,” said Mr Dalton.

Perth filmmaker, Peter Renzullo said he was working on independent projects as well as offering online script writing classes to student filmmakers.

“I’m going to be using this time to finalise some scripts and develop them so that every prop and set location is accounted for. I’ll probably also work on a second script since there will be no better time to do it. I’m also focusing on setting up my online script writing service whereby a student can come to me with a certain brief across genre, time and budget, and I can then help guide them through that script creation process,” said Mr Renzullo.

Sydney filmmaker at Hive Studios, Matt Drummond said lockdown had worked in his advantage as now his crew all had the time to dedicate themselves to fast tracking post-production.

“Thankfully our team already had the ability to work remotely so now we’re using this time to really focus on post-production of our latest feature film, Don’t Go Below. We can now spend the time getting the visual effects and colouring just right.”

Look at how others are adapting in your network

Mr Dalton said he has seen a lot of his peers pivot their businesses to try something new.

“Every business is adapting in their own way. I’ve seen a friend who owns a video production company adapt by partnering with a website developer to help businesses take their services online. Other people are still working on client briefs such as repurposing footage for fresh content to distribute on different marketing channels in this climate. I’ve also seen other people begin post production earlier than maybe they would have to make this time as productive as possible,” he said.

Mr Drummond said his brother had transitioned his music classes to entirely online.

“My brother is a music teacher so he’s now taking all of his classes online. He’s been able to teach drumming virtually by using an ATEM Mini switcher to stream everything live from home. He can actually control the camera streams from his drum set and has been able to successfully set up an entire online teaching system from his house,” he said.

Mr Renzullo said the restrictions had impacted all of his peers differently and each one was adapting in a different way.

“Some friends were working on a big film which has now been postponed till next year, however the set creation was ready to go, so now they will have to keep it intact until next year. There’s lots of different problems that arise from this situation, but everyone’s taking a different direction to make it work. Some are spending this time chasing funds and sponsorships for when production gets going again, while others are pivoting to something totally new, whether that’s podcasts or Youtube videos. I think it’s important that either way, everyone still keeps their minds busy and the creative juices flowing,” he said.

Find ways to innovate with new technology

Mr Drummond said that the lockdown would be a catalyst for change as it has provided an opportunity to reflect on the way we do things and how these processes could be improved through innovation.

“Right now the traditional film model is in trouble as it is not possible to host hundreds of crew on set in this climate. This approach is not sustainable economically anyway. Instead we should be looking at how we can use new technology to simplify this process.

“Look at Youtubers who can make amazing content with a small crew and a handful of equipment. Companies like Blackmagic Design are releasing cameras which allow people to do this. For Don’t Go Below, we adopted real-time rendering techniques using ultra short throw projectors and the Pocket Cinema Camera. This allowed us to create a feature film with just a couple of laptops and DaVinci Resolve as the hub for it,” he said.

Use this time to upskill and get to know all aspects of the filmmaking process

Mr Drummond said that now was the time to get online and find courses or other online resources to upskill.

“As filmmakers it is important for us to understand every part of the process. If you previously only had expertise in one area, now is the perfect time to expand into other activities and get intimate, hands-on knowledge across all of it. The best thing we can do is learn from this experience,” said Mr Drummond.

Prepare for projects after lockdown

Mr Dalton said he had no doubt that post-lockdown was going to be a great time for the Arts.

“It sounds like a cliche, but when society experiences something so traumatic like a pandemic, there is bound to be a lot of great art inspired from it. Art comes out of boredom and right now a lot of creatives have more spare time on their hands than ever before. Once this is over, the industry is going to blossom with a whole wave of new ideas coming to life. Essentially, now is a great time to develop those ideas,” he said.

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