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audioYou’ve written an incredible screenplay. Your actors brought the characters to life in unexpected ways. Your cinematographer captured the image through breathtaking compositions and lighting. There is only one hitch—

Sound. Dialogue is garbled, wind and background noise obscures the vocals, levels are all over the place—your masterpiece is ruined. Here are some tips that could help.
Continue Reading about “Recording Amazing Audio for Your Low Budget Short Film” »


In my artistic process, procrastination has always reigned supreme. I am the writer that mulls over her ideas for many moons before bothering to put pen to paper. I often wander aimlessly about the Internet looking for creative ways to break myself of this habit, but as any indie filmmaker worth their mettle knows, magic bullets aren’t common in filmmaking.

But hark, I think I’m onto something, or at least something that works for me. Last year, I decided to lock myself away for my birthday and commit to a single idea that needed some serious plot work. First, I set a schedule. I would write in two-hour bursts and allow for “office hours” in between each session so that friends could come wish me happy birthday, feed me cake, and fluff my ego. Second, I identified a goal. In this instance, it was to end the day with an outline for my first feature, a zombie comedy based on a short film I’d already done well with.

Continue Reading about “How To Guide on Visually Outlining Your Story” »


I have been active in Scary for two years both on other crews as well as producing and directing my own film Behind The Cow. I am looking for productions that will facilitate my goal to learn how the pros really do things and why. So I look for projects run professionally to set examples for me. I am also applying my new skills to my next film, Last Note, and I am already seeing better results and more levels of creativity.

In my time in the herd, one lesson keeps standing out for me: Pre-production is everything.  The action on set may be sexy, but it’s the least creative part of the process.  Post-production is also highly creative, but that is not what I am emphasizing here.  However post-production is limited by both what pre-production and production accomplish so we cycle right back to the most important phase: pre-production.

Continue Reading about “Creativity Happens in Pre-production.” »

san francisco film festival

Scary Cow Productions, the San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker cooperative, commemorates its fifth year by hosting the Prime Cuts Indie Film Festival—a one-night only special movie screening at the Castro Theatre.

“The 5th Anniversary of the Scary Cow Indie Film Festival is proof of Scary Cow’s dedication to growing and supporting the independent film community in San Francisco.” - Susannah Greason Robbins, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission

 The Director’s job is insane.  Let’s face it, you have to be a little bit insane to even attempt it, and when you look at the list of things for which a Director is responsible you could easily talk yourself out of trying.  The following is a list of four things to focus on as you enter production.  If you can’t do it all, you can at least do these:
Continue Reading about “Four Essential Elements of Directing” »

I have been with Scary Cow for a year and prior to that I led and worked with many volunteer groups for a variety of projects and fundraising. I have developed some strong and highly successful attitudes and tactics for building volunteer teams and for assessing what team leader is a good one for me to follow as well.

There is no free lunch. You are going to have to give to get. All negotiations whether they are social or professional, artistic or intellectual need to work from that fact.  If you are not skilled at fair negotiating, it will show in your film as well as bring you a million headaches while in production and make it very hard to attract crew or get invited on crews.  Here in Scary Cow we are a cooperative.  You want your negotiating tactics to be cooperative, not entitled or sloppy.

In low budget filmmaking we tend to have no or very little money to use as a motivation and/or compensation for goods and services. So we make choices to work without the things that will only be traded for with cash or we use what little cash we have for the things and people that will not accept anything else. Learn what your choices are as well as other the forms of compensation you have to entice people to work with you.  There are many ways to compensate another person for their services, time and goods. Money is the most versatile and therefore most popular, but it is still only one. I personally find it thrilling to troubleshoot all this and find it a fun way to build lasting personal and professional relationships.

Continue Reading about “No Free Lunch (the care and feeding of a happy crew)” »

Production Assistants wanted!Maybe you’re new to filmmaking.  Maybe you don’t know which aspect to explore first.  Maybe you’re dying to get involved, but are embarrassed because you don’t know the first thing about making a movie.

Can you walk and talk?  If the answer is yes, we’re not only willing to have you on our crew, we need you.

From the crew’s point of view, Production Assistants are the main source of information on a film set.  It’s an entry-level job, but an important one.  Each day, good PA’s arm themselves with as much information as they can get their hands on – call sheets and shooting schedules, the moment-to-moment whereabouts of every key crew member and the cast,  where the bathrooms are, and where and at what time the crew will be eating lunch – and each day they are relied upon to convey that information to everyone who asks.  Despite being at the bottom of the film industry food chain, they are expected to know everything and if you do, it can pay off in all kinds of opportunities to learn and network your way to a better job.
Read on to see the PA Checklist…
Continue Reading about “Wanted: a few good Production Assistants” »

What an incredible few weeks it has been for Scary Cow Filmmakers! An important thing to consider when thinking about where to make your next film is what happens to your films AFTER you’ve made it. So many folks focus on making a film they forget that the best films live long after it’s completion date. For many of our filmmakers, they are finding life for their films in some of the best film festivals around. We’re happy to announce five of our films that have been accepted into festivals!
Continue Reading about “Scary Cow Films Invade a Film Festival Near You!” »

 Actors! We encourage you to attend our open casting call on Saturday, March 12th at the SF PLAYHOUSE (533 Sutter Street)! This is a free event.

This casting call gives actors the chance to audition for upcoming Scary Cow films. Our filmmakers will be watching from the audience, mostly casting for the films being screened at the Castro Theatre on July 2nd, 2011, however, you will be also considered for future projects! You may also be interested in checking out our “Open Acting Positions” page to see the roles we’re currently trying to cast for.

Continue Reading about “Open Casting Call! Come be an actor for our films.” »

As a Director/Producer, my greatest asset during production (and pre-production, as a matter of fact) is my A.D.  As a no-budget, indie filmmaker, you end up doing everything yourself unless you get competent help.  If you don’t have a go-to Assistant Director in your contact list, start cultivating one now.  While an A.D.’s role on a major feature film is a big, big job, suited for someone unafraid of having a stress-induced heart attack, on a smaller scale here are 5 basic things your AD can do to help carry the load:

Continue Reading about “Your Best Partner–in-Crime: The Assistant Director” »

The votes have been counted and our winners have been announced! Another $10,000 has been awarded bringing our total to over Scary Cow Awards Announced!$140,000 in prize money.

Special thanks to all of the great films screened this round – and looking forward to what our winning teams will do with their awarded budget dollars!

Click HERE to see the full awards list.

While I really enjoy the wild and unpolished nature of independent film, all too frequently I observe work that could really benefit from a savage pruning. Sometimes this lacking may be because the work has missed out on re-edits (and friendly screenings of rough-cuts) due to time constraints. But other times, I think the editor and the director didn’t know where to look for ways to make their story cut together in a tighter way.

So, I’ve put together a list of hints I use when trying to get a tighter edit, with the hope they might be of use to other editors.
Continue Reading about “Killing Your Children: getting the tightest-possible edit” »

We often have folks ask what makes Scary Cow different from other filmmaking groups. Scary Cow tries to blend the best of all of them into something that can really help you achieve your filmmaking goals – whether they be to just get your feet wet to fine tuning your already awesome skills. We’ve had complete novices to industry experts all working together in Scary Cow to make some award winning films.

Still, some people want to know specifics as to how we’re different than just finding a bunch of people on craigslist to make a film, or one of the 24-48 hour film challenges, or even attending film school. That’s what this long winded note will try to help clear up.

Check out some of the main differentiators below:

Continue Reading about “What makes Scary Cow different than other film groups?” »

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