A Message on Film Making...
I think the number one question that is never asked is why I'm doing a huge movie like Tomb Raider. It is quite a daunting task, and definitely not for the weak of heart. Part of the reason is I would be making a movie based on character that many people have some kind of association with and therefore I don't really have to tell a lot of back story. Then as a director I can dive right into the more visual part. However as a writer, I knew I couldn't just set the tone that way. I had to have some kind of cohesive story to take this character on. And as a fan, I couldn't have it suck. I think the most amazing aspect of this is not why, but how. The secret to making bigger movies like this is not only using every single viable resource one can use and make available, but finding creative ways around difficult problems. Also, using those options to help aesthetically toward what it is you want to achieve as a filmmaker.
I am shooting Tomb Raider entirely single camera, a lot of the lighting I'm using is natural light conditions or very unique key lighting (i.e. flares) to compensate for lack of buying a whole lighting kit to light my scenes. This not only saves time it saves money. Saving money is key. I make adjustments to the shutter speed, white balance and the f. stop in camera to adequately fill in what I don't have access to at the moment. Not that you should always shoot this way, but it certainly makes things easier and less awkward if you're NOT lugging around all that equipment. Plan your scenes to fit what you have access to. One thing that I like to do as a director and fledging DP is, sometimes, over blow the scene Janus Kaminiski style. If you watch a lot of Spielberg's later films that is his primary DP and he like to over blow the backgrounds and windows, always using a strong back light or key light in scenes. This not only gives the flick a cool look, but it can make it seem like you have lights outside, when all you have is the sun. Really play with the camera you have and really push it to see what it can and can't do. The last movie I made, I shot it entirely on old school VHS. When people watch it, it looks digital, they can't tell. All because I creatively compensated for what I did and didn't have. Find something that works for you and do it. Find something that fits and go for it.
Also, people comment on the locations to this movie. Well, that is another secret that makes the flick seem like it's on a bigger production scale than it actually is. I can't take full credit for it because Valerie has been a very big factor in finding these amazing locals to shoot at. You just have to be willing to travel a bit and work hard, but you can make it work. This helps our movie and makes it look a lot bigger. For example, the waterfall scene we get to shoot for practically free, problem is we have a reverse shot we have to do for the bad guy who is going to shoot at Lara. Well, if we turn around from the waterfall we see the park it's actually in. Not very tropical and hardly Tomb Raider. Well, there is a small lush setting in a park nearby here in CA that we can use to do the reverse and in editing can match it up with what we have. Editing is going to be your best friend, learn it, study it. Love it, breathe it, and if you can't do that, make friends with some one who does. Just make sure that you over shoot your shots you want, so you don't have to do pick ups and you can have a lot of things to cover you in editing. Editing is a chance to retool your script and find awesome new ways to stuff you never knew was there. A key to making this movie work was to realize it's something that you can't do alone. You need help from friends and other resources, call every one you know - they might know someone who knows someone who knew someone.
When we encounter difficult problems on this movie, we try to find more creative ways around that problem, because something has to work. One thing that impressed me beyond belief was Dan Poole's fan film, The Green Goblins Last Stand (Spider-man vs. Green Goblin). Made for a shoestring budget for 500 bucks, and shot in 1992 on VHS, that movie had more heart and soul than most movies out there, and not only that but it looked HUGE some of the things he was able to do was jaw dropping. You should try to check out the film on-line
I can't give away all my secrets now - that's for the audio commentary. The most important thing you should know as a filmmaker is that nothing is ever as difficult as you make it out to be. There are ways around things, you just have to budget it out. Our main secret to getting this done, because it is such a HUGE project, is taking our time with it. We plan, shoot, plan shoot, usually on weekends, when we have the time and money. This frees us up to conquer the problems that do arise and figure them out creatively.
I have to mention all of my favorite directors. They didn't question if they were any good at making films, they just went out and shot movies. Doing is more important that finding your style. In actually doing and learning, you will find your voice. Raimi, Spielberg, Smith, Crowe, Soderbergh, Rodriguez, Tarantino… they shot what they knew, they shot what they love. And most importantly they did shoot. Grab a camera, any camera, and shoot what you want. Nothing is cooler than that. I have to quote one of the masters of saving money and making cool flicks, Mr. Robert Rodriguez. He says, 'Stop telling yourself that you're a filmmaker, you're already a filmmaker, now go out there and make a film.'
Best of luck in all of you future projects. See ya at the movies.
-- Nick Murphy