EDITOR’S NOTE: Here it is. The sixth and – oh no! – final chapter in Laura’s series on the making of her very, very, very popular – over 3 million views – interweb series hit The Vamps Next Door.
Relax, Kid, You’re Not Making Star Wars
by Laura Conway
I try to be positive, but having a big imagination works both ways. Try to imagine the worst possible thing that can go wrong during your production. For me, that involves death, so if nobody dies, it was a great shoot. And when it’s over, you can happily say that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. You’re not making Star Wars here, so focus on the positives of the experience or you’ll miss all the fun.
Some practical things to do in preparation for shoot day: Set up the house as much as possible the night before. Have printed copies of the script and the call sheet. Print out the lunch menu and take orders in the morning. Have extra batteries, duct tape and blue painter’s tape (the kind that doesn’t stick to wood floors), have an opaque tarp in case you need to block out light from windows.
Have some wardrobe tape ready in case an actress has to tape her dress to prevent wardrobe malfunction, have a slate ready with dry erase markers and an eraser, designate a bathroom, including free counter space, for the makeup person to set up (they take up way more space than you would think), know which area of the house you won’t be shooting in and use it as a staging area for equipment, have all the props ready to go and a designated changing room for the actors. And make sure there’s plenty of coffee, water, snacks, etc.
One recommendation I have is to “check the gate” after each scene. That means watch the footage you just shot before moving on to the next scene to make sure it looks good… Remember the homeless guy, who works for food, that you picked up and put on camera 3? Make sure his shots are in focus. Vamps Director, Phil, never checks the gate, but I’m the editor and I can tell you that out of focus shots can’t be fixed well in editing… See what you can see:
When I showed up for our very first Vamps Next Door shoot, I didn’t know anything about anything. Now I know some stuff, but nothing can really prepare you for a low budget shoot except to expect the unexpected. Being obsessively organized helps a lot. Until it doesn’t…
Some of the unexpected things I’ve had happen while shooting:
My neighbor decides it’s cut down a tree day
There’s a dog in the back room whining (and it’s not my dog)
Fangs just fall out of the actress’s mouth
An actor shows up for pick up shots with a new beard and new hair color
The fake pee device supposed to wet the actor’s pants just makes a puddle on the floor
The Fire Marshall shows up and says we’re not allowed to really smoke from the bong
The cat won’t react when the script clearly says CAT REACTS
The homeowner is having a mental breakdown, tears included, over all the people in her house
And my personal favorite…The actress’s nipple is showing through her bra and we don’t notice until after we’ve shot it (Editing that nipple out was a bitch… see if you can see it at 4:45…
Every time I finish editing and posting a new Vamps episode, I say, “I’m never doing this again.”
But I do. Because I’ve also had some amazingly cool moments while shooting, like when actors nail my favorite lines, the way good lighting makes an actress’s skin look on camera, when I frame a beautiful exterior shot and it’s perfect, when the fake vomit looks real, when a joke line I wrote makes everyone laugh. And best of all when I look over at all the brilliant, creative people I work with.
So that’s my story about my strange kind of hobby, writing and producing web series. Now it’s your turn to make one!
Read Chapter 1 HERE
Read Chapter 2 HERE
Read Chapter 3 HERE
Read Chapter 4 HERE
Read Chapter 5 HERE
Laura Conway is the writer and producer of The Vamps Next Door web series, directed by Phil Ramuno. Subscribe to the Vamps’ YouTube channel to get notifications about new episodes.