Low Budget Filmmaking Trick: Story Segmenting
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Low Budget Filmmaking Trick: Story Segmenting

Low budget filmmaking tip: story segmenting offers the filmmakers the reasoning and the use of breaking down the story and segmenting scenes to enhance the movie without breaking the budget.

A filmmaker has many choices in making a low budget film but, as often has been the case, the filmmaker options a movie that has big box office demands.  This could be a science fiction movie, called "When Aliens Attack", about an invasion of Earth sometime in the future, where a billion space ships, made up of millions of different types of aliens, are invading from a distant galaxy.  They have found out that they don't like humans and are bent on destroying their past by destroying the seven wonders of the world.  They plan on doing this, using a time portal to travel back at several times in history and attack the wonders in multiple waves.  It is up to a few determined star fighter pilots from Earth to stop them.

The filmmaker, who desperately wants to make a movie, really wants to make this movie, for some reason.  

Only problem, our filmmaker barely can afford to pay for the pizza, he just bought for the the film crew, who are all recent grads from the local film school.   What can the filmmaker do to make the script an affordable and shootable project?  

The answer is to segment, through the use of dialogue and scene setup, this is called, story segmenting, or the art of making a big budget film on a beer budget.  

Example:  The script calls for an attack on Earth and has an elaborate use of CGI, to create the feeling that the Earth is about to be overwhelmed and attacked, at different time periods, by Aliens.  A CGI Montage or Series of Shots is called for.  

That is very expensive to do, but the filmmaker can segment the scene, by placing two pilots in the cockpits of a couple of star fighters.  Then use a green screen that will use a starlight space background, behind the ships,  to give the feeling of two pilots flying side by side in space.  This allows the pilots to convey the meaning through a few words of dialogue, starting with character "A" using a specific reference, "Look at that!  Those time traveling Alien Scum!  They've opened the portal, we've got to stop them, now!"  

Character B adds, " How?  Look at all those guys, there must be billions of them, and they are coming from everywhere?  They almost there?     

Character A replies, "Have to use full thrusters, then, and I don't know how?  Tell you what, when we get there, you take half and I'll take half, okay?

Character B closes, "Seems fair to me.  Rodger that.  I hope we finish, before my dear Molly has our first baby.  You know she's do today?""

Character A retorts, "Mazel tov!  Well, let's do this, then, for Molly.  Daylight is burning!"

The engines of the fire up, just as the scene dissolves to Molly, back on Earth,  in a hospital operating room, giving birth to their baby.

The filmmaker has just saved a boat load of money on CGI, has made the story more personable, as well as, making the production becomes more controllable, in terms of time and money, because the story has been segmented down to the basic premise of what is happening in the story.  

A filmmaker, especially a low budget filmmaker,  wants to segment a story, preferably before they option the script, but definitely during pre-production, sometime before submitting the first budget to investors for two reasons.  The first is for budgetary and scheduling concerns, the second is to bring the story closer to the audience.  The first is self evident, less CGi means less cost and blocking to match post,  but the second, the audience, while they may dispel belief, to get lost in the epic movie, they will remember only fragments of the movie.  this is usually found, when they are asked,"What do you remember about the movie?  The answer most often heard, "Wow, the Graphics were great and all those explosions?  It is rare in the epic that the main characters name will be remembered.  Whereas in a story segmented film, the audience almost always remembers what was said and who said it.   Another interesting fact, is that more story segmented movies are purchased for home use or request on pay per view than big budget action movies, ask the producers of "Avatar", that originally wanted to do broad CGI in front and drop story.  The director, chose to story segment, the most memorable scenes, and he had a really big budget. While it is an option for Big Budget projects, it is a must for any low budget filmmaker to present a story that will be remembered and made at an affordable budget.  Look at story segmenting as the screenplay's close-up, it is the most intimate a filmmaker can get with the story.    

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