Dinosaur Film- Advice & Feedback Please!!!

ZachWalleser Posts: 6
edited March 2016 in Practical Filmmaking

If anyone has the time or patience, I was wondering if you could watch and review my dinosaur film, The Forgotten Vale. Now as you watch this, please keep in mind that this is my first real movie project. It's not going to be a Hollywood production with awesome effects or A-list actors. It's a no budget film that I made for fun with my family and friends. I am looking for honest feedback so I know what I can do to improve my work on future projects. This movie is going to have some obvious flaws and it's apparent I am a noob in some editing aspects. I hope that by receiving some constructive criticism, I can improve my production value and produce better quality work. Basically in your review, please cover general areas such as acting, direction, editing, story, etc. I am glad that I am finally able to share my movie with everyone! It took a long time to make due to scheduling conflicts with my actors as well as my own things going on in my personal life.  This is an original film by me and I took up all the responsibilities in regards to the overall production.  Thank you for watching my film and I look forward to reading your feedback!


  • StephansBilderwelt
    StephansBilderwelt Posts: 521 Just Starting Out*

    It is blocked because of the music inside the video

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 1,995 Just Starting Out

    I can watch it just fine, from Sweden. Try vpn @StephansBilderwelt


  • AvengingEagle
    AvengingEagle Posts: 33
    edited April 2016

    I feel like I'm going to have to do this in stages. I've paused it at 6 minutes in to write my comments so far.

    First of all, congratulations on completing a short film of truly epic proportions. My first live action short was 20 minutes long and quite a challenge, I can imagine a 55 minute long debut project was a massive undertaking and you deserve kudos for finishing it. That being said, here are a few pointers on areas for improvement.

     WRITING: So far, your dialogue is very 'on the nose' and lacks any subtext. Certain lines appear to be put in for the benefit of telling the audience something rather than one character talking to another in a naturalistic way. Every single utterance in your script should have some sort of purpose, a motivation. A character is trying to achieve a goal every time they open their mouth. So in your first dialogue-heavy scene, you've got one woman trying to convince a retired policewoman to take up a case, and the retired lady doesn't want to. Both could have strong motivations and even say subtext-laden lines that, while on the surface sound one way, we the audience know thanks to their delivery or prior information that they mean something else.

     The most basic example of this is "How are you?" answered flatly by "I'm fine". The "I'm fine" on the surface could be taken at face value, that that character really is fine, but it was delivered in a flat, sharp way so we infer that actually that character is not fine. As your story progresses, you'll get more opportunities to let your audience in on information that other characters don't have, allowing you to have scenarios where your characters take lines at face value but the audience knows they mean something different.

     Also, try to show more and tell less. Not every bit of information has to be expressed as dialogue, this is filmmaking after all; an expression, an insert shot, a camera move, a musical crescendo, all can give us the audience information about a situation or a character.

     As I watch more of this, I hope to be able to comment on the structure of your story more.

     CINEMATOGRAPHY: Your choice of shots is a little peculiar, particularly your lack of close ups for dialogue scenes. Don't get me wrong, you don't HAVE to use close ups for dialogue scenes, but two-shots (shots with two characters both in the frame) can get stale real fast if neither character is doing anything and the camera doesn't move. Also, so far many of your camera angles are too high. Unless you're going for a specific effect - such as making a character seem inferior, nervous, or watched - try to keep the camera at eye-level for all medium shots and close ups. Wides you can frame more creatively with the location in mind.

     You're attempting shot-reverse shot OK, such as in the river scene, but the difference in camera height between one shot and your reverse is throwing off the eyelines. Also, you're frequently crossing the axis and action and breaking the 180-degrees rule. If you don't know what I'm talking about, google 180-degrees rule for a detailed explanation.

     As far as I can tell, the lighting is fairly non-existent or at the very least lit from only a single source, producing flat images. Even if you don't have professional lights, a cunning use of practical lights in the scene such as lamps and screens, and some thought-out staging, can produce some excellent results. Again, I was guilty of this at the beginning but then I learned 3-point lighting and my images suddenly got better. As with all these rules though, it's as useful to know when you can break them as it is to know how to apply them in the first place, and that's really a matter of experience and experimentation.

     SOUND: Generally poor sound quality but this is usual for amateur productions, and plenty of my films suffered from it too. This is what happens when you use onboard mics unfortunately, they're just not very good. Even if you used a mounted third party mic like a Rode VideoMic Pro, you might still suffer when characters are turned away from camera (as they often are in your two-shots), or when the camera is pulled back from them. If you can, try and get your microphone(s) closer to your subjects. Your gunshot sound effect wasn't amazing but it would have been OK for a single use. Unfortunately, you used the same sound multiple times in a few seconds and it drew attention to how mediocre it is. There's no equalisation or echo to make it sound like its 'in' the world. Also, was the sound supposed to cut out at the end of the river scene?

     MUSIC: The opening track is cool, but the second more ambient type music doesn't fit amazingly well and because it's plays over several scenes it loses its effect. What you're saying there is that all four scenes the music plays over have the same emotional tone, and they don't: one is a conversation with a bit of mystery, one is at a graveyard, one is a domestic dispute, one is about two friends at the river. Tonally, they are all different and would have different music to match, but you probably shouldn't have four different tracks fading in and out. Use music sparingly, for underscoring particular emotional beats.

     EDITING: You've already mentioned that your editing needs work. In general, your style is that of a shot of character 1 saying a line, CUT TO: a shot of character 2 saying their line, CUT TO: character 1 again. It's nice to mix this up by showing how one character reacts to a certain line, or how they are listening. Way to spot a great actor? Make them listen to someone else...in character. The best ones will give nuanced performances that show exactly how their character feels about a given line of dialogue. As you're not working with professionals, these moments are harder to come by, but you can still look for them in your raw footage, particularly before and after takes when they may not actively be 'acting', little expressions here and there can add realism and depth to an otherwise stagey performance. I'd also say your editing pace is a little slow and several shots and lines of dialogue could be removed without affecting the overall story.

     VFX: So far, we've only had one dinosaur shot for me to go on. It looked OK but I noticed a lack of shadows on the ground, and something about the camera position was a little...off. I did find the lack of muzzle flashes (even subtle ones) a little weird. There doesn't appear to be any grading or colour correction throughout, but that's really the icing on the cake as far as creating a 'look' goes; the groundwork is done through production design and cinematography.

     So there we have it. I will continue watching shortly and see if anything else flags up. Hope this doesn't come across as too harsh. You should be immensely proud of what you've created and its very good for a first proper project. But if you're like me, you'll relentlessly be seeking to improve. It will take time, and a few more films, but you will! And if you're interested in seeing my work, even the early stuff where I made similar mistakes to you, you're welcome to visit my YouTube channel.


  • Rogyrue
    Rogyrue Posts: 170 Just Starting Out*
    edited April 2016

    Well done putting this together good to see some new content in the filmmaking section .  Some good ideas in it and some good acting .  And some nice animation with the dinosaurs .

    Think AvengingEagle  gave you some very good feedback I cant add much to that  . But from a entertainment point of view  55min is  to long for this kind of production . Better to focus on a  shorter production  , quality  over quantity .

    Very ambitious and thanks for sharing , be nice to see where you take this in the future 

  • ZachWalleser
    ZachWalleser Posts: 6
    edited April 2016

    Sorry it took me so long to respond back, I have been recovering from a recent surgery. Thank you @AvengingEagle for your feedback! I don't think it's harsh at all. If anything, I find it very insightful and I know what I can improve on future products. I will gladly check out your YouTube channel as well. 

    Thank you @Digital_Alchemist as well for your feedback! I know it might be a little long, but I don't think I could've told the story properly if it was shorter lol

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 1,995 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2016

    @ZachWalleser, what program do you use to write your scripts in?

    I use Celtx, and have been for a long time, here is what it looks like:

    I manually wrote the things inside the [ ], just to give you an idea of how something like this works. Believe me, if you write your story in this manner, you will be able to visualise your scene, characters, and even cinematography in a much easier and faster way, including while editing, because you can just look at your script again, and you'll see where you put your transitions, and cuts, and the description of the scenes. You can also write a storyboard in this program, but what I do is print out papers after I've done squares in Photoshop, and draw with a pen, I will do that until I buy myself a draw tablet.

    After you're done, just save the project to your hard disk, and you're good to go. You can print them out, and give to your talents, you'll look very professional when you do.

    There are lots of script writing software out there, this was just an example of what I personally have been using for years.



  • Palacono
    Palacono Posts: 3,423 Enthusiast

    @KevinTheFilmmaker just an aside, and I know you only knocked this up as an example; but there is a reason why the word 'appartment' has a red wiggly line underneath it.  If you're handing out sheets to your talent, you might want to give them a once over with the spell checker.

    No idea why it's freaking out about 'Hallway' though. No normal person would hyphenate that, so add that spelling to the dictionary. Do the same with any special abbreviations you use, so it'll catch those for you too.

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,582 Ambassador

    One nice thing about Celtx, besides it's price, is it's cross platform--PC, MAC, iProduct, Andriod--which means you ould throw your script onto a cloud service, like Dropbox, and write at home on a computer, then write at lunch on a tablet, or write on the toilet on a phone.

    Ok, maybe that last was un needed. 

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 1,995 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2016

    Haha @Palacono, no worries, that's just how I write. I don't want to change this, because I've been doing it for a long time now. It helps me understand what I'm writing more. My scripts I write in english, but as long as I can understand them, that's all I want. My friends have no problems with my scripts. And to be honest, I don't know how to automatically spell check.

    @Triem23 When I downloaded Celtx, I just created an account, downloaded it from their website (early 2012 I think), I didn't have to pay anything, and it's not an illegal version. Perhaps the license changed, but I'm not worried.

  • Palacono
    Palacono Posts: 3,423 Enthusiast

    @KevinTheFilmmaker OK, but if you do want to do it, right click on the word with the red underline and you'll get the option to correct it.

    It even works on these forum posts; although not sure if it's my PC or the browser offering  the options. But if I type too fast and make errors, I just go back and correct the underlined worms before posting (of course it won't catch a correctly spelt, but wrong, word ;) )