Professor offers tips on filmmaking

By Kevin Bartelt

Whoever said making a movie is easy did not make a good movie.

The idea and the reality of creating a film are two different things. Aside from the recent filming of “At Any Price” in October 2011–DeKalb’s 15 seconds of Hollywood fame–students interested in film making won’t find a surplus of movie sets and producers around northern Illinois.

Fortunately, Randy Caspersen, assistant professor of media studies in the Communications Department, can offer valuable insight for students interested in the filmmaking process. Caspersen’s films play in five continents and he was a producer for “Judge Judy.”

What’s the first step in making a film?

“Start with the idea and then turn that into some sort of script. Even if you are doing a documentary about your family history, you still write it up as a proposal. You start by visualizing it and write it in a sort of prose form. The script should take a while. You should spend a lot of time thinking about it. Once you have a script, you need equipment.”

What kind of camera do you recommend?

“Camcorders have really transformed in the last few years, and that still can work. However, what many students have gravitated toward in the last 10 years is a more filmic look–meaning something that looks like a feature film. They have gravitated toward Canon. Their still cameras can take high definition video with an interchangeable lens system that allows you to swap lenses in and out and get the filmic looks that you could never really get with a camcorder.”

How do you get the best sound in a film?

“Don’t use the mic that comes with the camera. If you have a camcorder and it has an onboard mic, it sucks. That is an emergency-only situation. Get better mics where you are controlling the placement. Even if you have the best mic in the world mounted on your camera, you still want a sound person going toward the dialogue or what you’re recording. Usually you use boom mics for narratives, but for documentaries you want a little lapel mic. My big advice is people spend so much time focusing on what it looks like that they don’t realize how important [it is] for the sound to be just as realized as the image. You might be worried about what fancy lens you have on your camera but are you thinking about what fancy microphone you’re using? Are you placing it right? We are much more forgiving of a lousy image, but we are unforgiving of a sound out of synch. Filmmakers like to say your film is 50 percent or more of sound. People forget that.”

What obstacles should students brace themselves for?

“They have to be willing to make mistakes. Try things out. They also have to hustle a bit. If they want to shoot somewhere, they have to either ask for permission, be ready to beg for a permit or for forgiveness if they shoot somewhere weird. They should be flexible for their situation because they may have had one vision but now it has changed for the location or their resources available. On a side note, you’ll work way longer hours than you think. Definitely think about if you want to do this. You can’t do it alone. If you want to make your vision, you should find someone that wants to make your vision too and create a team.“