Louisiana Tax Incentives
Financial Star of Hollywood South
New Orleans is a Serious Competitor for Films
Basic Equipment for Film Production in a Classroom
Making a Tracking Dolly
Greenscreen -  How to make them cheaply
Foley Sound Effects

August 22, 2012

Louisiana's Tax Incentives
  • 30% Investor Credit
  • 5% Labor Credit
  • 25% Production Credit
  • 25% Infrastructure Credit
  • 25% Digital Media Credit
  • 25% Live Performance Credit

Rolling the Credits

Read Why New Orleans Living Magazine Calls FBT's Leonard Alsfeld - the "Financial Star of Hollywood South"

FBT Film and Entertainment acts as a central resource to provide the film industry with everything it needs
The “Hollywood South” phenomenon in Louisiana generates a lot of flash, but what’s fueling the fire of the booming movie and TV industry in our state are steadfast people like Leonard Alsfeld. The president and CEO of FBT Film and Entertainment (an organization under the umbrella of First Bank and Trust), Alsfeld has emerged as a go-to expert on the tax credits that have been instrumental in growing the industry.

“The legislators were so brilliant in this area,” Alsfeld says. “It’s easy to knock politicians, but this is one of those cases where they got it right. The tax credit laws have done more for our state than the legislators probably ever imagined themselves.”

Following groundbreaking rounds of Louisiana tax credit legislation in 2004 and 2005, more than 40 other states jumped on the bandwagon and enacted similar, often quite aggressive, tax incentives to attract film productions within their own borders. As a result, Louisiana legislators passed even more changes in 2009 to remain at the front of the pack.

“Louisiana is staying competitive because our tax credits are transferable and the net is greater,” explains Alsfeld. “And we have four different areas with state-of-the-art studios for different-size movies: New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. On top of that, we have a better workforce and a better attitude. Film companies like the way they’re treated here. There’s no paparazzi, no price jacking at hotels. Our hospitality wins them over.”
Regarding the most recent changes to the laws, Alsfeld gushes over the inclusion of tax credits for “digital media.” What is digital media? Well, it could be just about anything, and that’s the point. It might entail video games, phone downloads, iPad apps, YouTube videos, website development and on and on.

“Credits to encourage digital media companies to relocate in Louisiana were seen as an afterthought, but the beauty of the digital credit is that it makes permanent jobs where film productions make temporary jobs,” says Alsfeld. “It’s no longer the stepchild. It’s a smart bet on the future of the state.”
Since the tax credits are transferable between those who earned them and others who want to purchase them, the role of FBT Film in all this is to broker the credits between parties. But in actuality, FBT Film’s role is much bigger than that. For productions coming to town, the company has positioned itself as a central resource. It taps local partners to provide functions like payroll, accounting, legal, completion bond financing, gap financing and more. In essence, FBT Film has developed a wide local network to provide all the services a film production might need, while the company itself offers any necessary banking support.

Alsfeld is actively involved in recruiting productions to the state and frequently travels to film financing events in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere to give talks. “If I’m not there representing Louisiana, someone from some other state is going to be in that seat,” says Alsfeld.

Alsfeld’s current expertise is finance (he’s also president and CEO of two other divisions at First Bank and Trust), but in the 1970s he graduated as an English major from Providence College in his home state of Rhode Island. He later got a job at a men’s clothing shop, which instilled in him the success-projecting lessons of “heavy starched shirt and a high-shine shoe.” That sales job led to a sales position in a brokerage, which led him to a brokerage job in New Orleans in 1981. Alsfeld was a “happy bachelor” with no intention of staying here long, but he met his wife-to-be, Cynthia, his first month in town and never left. They now have four children.

One thing he certainly misses about living up north, however, is his beloved sport of ice hockey. So Alsfeld’s passion over the years has been bringing hockey to Louisiana. Twelve years ago, he was instrumental in starting Tulane’s hockey team; he provided financing and a budget, recruited players, coached them, monitored their academic performance and supported the team in countless other ways. After many years, he turned the team over to a coterie of student-athletes, but soon after he launched a hockey team in Baton Rouge for LSU. Again, Alsfeld coached and supported it, stepping down from coaching only last year. He was also involved in the Brass, New Orleans’ mid-level professional hockey team that played from 1997 to 2002 and whose general manager was Alsfeld’s college friend Larry Kish.

So Alsfeld is a big hockey fan, but as someone who works in the film industry, is he a big fan of the movies?

“Absolutely not,” he says. “I couldn’t name three actors outside of my sister-in-law, Patricia Clarkson. I’ve attended probably 12 red carpet premieres in my life, and I’m bored by whole thing.”
What he loves about what he does, however, is helping the region’s economy grow and supporting local talent. “We’ve created opportunities for so many talented Louisiana people to get involved in film at a high level,” he says. “They’re producing, writing, scoring, directing, designing, building. My dream is to keep pushing these great talents up the ranks. They’re becoming masters of their craft and can’t be denied their rightful place in the film industry.”

August 17, 2013

As Filmmaking Surges, New Orleans Becoming Serious Challenger to L.A.
By  Joel Kotkin

For generations New Orleans‘ appeal to artists, musicians and writers did little to dispel the city’s image as a poor, albeit fun-loving, bohemian tourism haven. As was made all too evident by Katrina, the city was plagued by enormous class and racial divisions, corruption and some of the lowest average wages in the country.

Yet recently, the Big Easy and the state of Louisiana have managed to turn the region’s creative energy into something of an economic driver. Aided by generous production incentives, the state has enjoyed among the biggest increases in new film production anywhere in the nation. At a time when production nationally has been down, the number of TV and film productions shot in Louisiana tripled from 33 per year in 2002-2007 to an average of 92 annually in 2008-2010, according to a study by BaxStarr Consulting. Movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford are being made in the state this year.

Of course many states and cities have thrown money at the film industry, hoping to establish themselves as cultural centers. Texas, Georgia, British Columbia, Toronto and Michigan all wagered millions in tax dollars to lure producers away from Hollywood and the industry’s secondary hub of New York. There were 279 movies shot in New York State in 2009 and 2010. For all its gains, Louisiana still trails far behind the Empire State with 95 film productions in that period.

Yet New Orleans and Louisiana possess unique assets which make its challenge far more serious than that of other places. A DetroitAtlanta or Dallas might be a convenient and cost-efficient place to make a film or television show, but they lack the essential cultural richness that can lure creative people to stay. The Big Easy is attracting that type, plus post-production startups, and animation and videogame outfits, giving a broader foundation to the nascent local entertainment industry.

“This is different,” notes Los Angeles native and longtime Hollywood costumer Wingate Jones, who started Southern Costume Co. last year to cash in on the growth in production in the state. “It’s the combination of the food and the culture that appeals to people. It must have been a lot like what Hollywood was like in the ’20s and ’30s. It’s entrepreneurial and growing like mad.”

Critically, Jones adds, Louisiana’s unique culture comes without the fancy New York or Malibu price tag. This is a place where small roadside cafes serve up bowls of gumbo, crayfish and shrimp that would cost three to five times as much in New York, the Bay Area or Los Angeles. Excellent music — from rap to jazz to blues and gospel — can be found simply by walking into a bar and paying the price of a couple of beers. And then there are housing costs, roughly half as high, adjusted for income, than the big media centers
This mixture of affordability and culture is attracting young people — the raw material of the creative economy — as well as industry veterans like Jones. In 2011, we examined migration patterns of the college-educated and found, to our surprise, thatNew Orleans was the country’s leading brain magnet. New Orleans was growing its educated base, on a per capita basis, at a far faster rate than much-ballyhooed, self-celebrated places like New York or San Francisco. In fact, its most intense competition was coming from other Southern cities such as Raleigh, Austin and Nashville, the last two of which also share a strong, and unique, regional culture.

Another sure sign of the city’s growing appeal has been a torrent of applications to Tulane University, the city’s premier institution of higher education. In 2010 the school received 44,000 applications, more than any other private university in the country. The largest group, more than even those from Louisiana, came from California, with New York and Texas not far behind.

Increasingly, the Big Easy merits comparison not only to the Hollywood of the 1920s but also Greenwich Village of the ’50s, Haight-Ashbury in the ’60s and “grunge” Seattle in the mid-’80s. These, too, were once appealing places that were less expensive, less predictable and more open to cultural outsiders. Now they’re increasingly too pricey and yuppified for creative people bereft of large trust funds.

Ironically, Katrina provided the critical spark for this transformation. It devastated the torpid, corrupt political and business culture that viewed the arts as quaint and fit only as a selling point for tourists. In its place came more business-minded administrations in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge, the state capital. In both places, economic developers seized on motion pictures, television, commercials and videogames as potential growth industries that fit well with the state’s expanding appeal to this generation’s creators.

Those now building entertainment businesses in Louisiana see the state’s business climate and cultural heritage as key assets. David Hague manages the New Orleans studio of Paris-based Gameloft. When it was opening in 2011 with plans to hire 20 in its first year, he says it received a blizzard of 2,500 applications. Hague thinks the city has basic appeal for young creative people.

“Everywhere you look there is something inspiring either architecturally or historically; not to mention a thriving arts community,” he says. “When you combine all these aspects and project them forward you have the foundation to build a critical mass of employers in the industry that will keep the area competitive long term.”
The growth of games companies, special effects and other post-production houses may be even more important for Louisiana’s long-term cultural ascendency than the surge in filming. Electronic Arts, for example, recently opened a $28.2 million testing facilities in Baton Rouge, an hour north of the Big Easy. Moonbot Studios, which got started in 2009 in the northern Louisiana city of Shreveport, just won an Academy Award for its short animated feature “The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” and appears to be on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in all fields of digital animation.

These companies have the potential to give the state a long-term competitive edge. After all, generous tax breaks, like those now offered by Louisiana, can be offered elsewhere; over the past few decades, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Georgia, Michigan, Texas and New Mexico have all targeted producers looking to save a buck or two. But while incentives can get film people from Los Angeles, where I live, or in the Bay Area or New York to trudge out to work for a bit in Toronto, Pittsburgh or Dallas, few ever think about settling in these places. In the end, they return to Hollywood, and New York, because a critical mass of writers, actors and technicians have congregated and enjoy being there.

Louisiana has a chance to change that dynamic. The rise of support businesses — post-production, animation houses and costumers – gives it the possibility of building a major new entertainment center. With its history, Louisiana offers more than just money and lavish praise for creators. It boasts a vibrant culture that that is not imitative of other regions or dependent on government; it is intrinsic to the place, and reflects a longstanding tradition that goes back centuries.

The rise of the local film industry has enabled the return of some creative former Louisianans who had been forced to ply their skills elsewhere. New Orleans native Huck Wirtz opened his Bayou FX post-production house in November 2010 after 17 years in the Golden State. “When I left here there was no industry to speak of,” notes Wirtz, a veteran of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. “We always had artists but they didn’t make much money. Now Louisiana culture is becoming an industry. People see the opportunity here to make this the next big place.”

JULY 19, 2012



The Reality Show Producers Code of Conduct

By Dr. Melissa Caudle

All Rights Reserved Copyright 2011

In 1906 Walter Williams, a journalist, issued what he declared was a professional code of conduct for his fellow writers.  He made it clear that like medical doctors and attorneys, journalists had to acquire similar tenets in which they conducted their business affairs.  I believe that we as reality show creators and producers should also abide by a professional code of conduct especially when we are trying to raise funds for our project. 

There is nothing worse than leaving a bad reputation by misuse of money you received from a fundraiser.  When you lose your integrity you can never get it back.  People don’t want to be around others that don’t have integrity or that don’t abide by a professional code of conduct. 

In fact, when others stray and break a professional code of conduct, it hurts the rest of us in this business.  Once a person gets “burned” they are more than likely not to contribute to another fundraising campaign.  That is why it is so important to abide by a professional code of conduct in all business dealings as a producer.  Embodied in what I call The Reality Show Producer’s Code of Professional Conduct are eight tenets I created that set forth guiding principles for reality show producers.

  1. ·        Producers must adhere to standards of confidential communication.
  2. ·    Producers must possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific purpose of fundraising and distribution of funds.
  3. ·         Producers must at all times demonstrate respect to others and their money.
  4. ·         Producers must at all times maintain ethical business practices.
  5. ·         Producers must at all maintain accurate records and documentation of the fundraising process.
  6. ·         Producers must avoid engaging in activities that are considered a conflict of interest or unethical.
  7. ·         Producers will not mix personal funds with funds designated and received during fundraising events.
  8. ·         Producers must advise contributors and investors that to engage in the production of a reality show is risky and that are no guarantee that there will be a return on the investment.

Maintain a Solid Work Ethic

Work ethic and professional code of conduct are not the same things.  Whereas a professional code of conduct guides you as a professional in the manner in which to conduct your business affairs, work ethic is the manner in which you conduct yourself to get ready to do business.  For instance, as a writer I have a work ethic where I am committed to writing every weekday for a minimum of three hours.  It is my business.  It is the first thing that I do after I have my cup of coffee in the morning and after I check my e-mail.  I am committed and have set those standards for myself. 

Likewise, I also set aside the hours for producing my projects.  Other work ethics include answering phone calls, making new contacts, updating my mailing lists, increasing my network.  All of these activities have a direct influence on my outcomes.  It is that important to establish your work ethic when you begin to raise funds for your project.  You have to be willing to commit the time, effort and resources or it won’t get done.  Successful producers know this and adhere to their own self established work ethic.

Successful reality show producers usually have strong work ethics.  Work ethics are intrinsic in nature and are a common core set of work values.  They come from within one’s moral character.  They tell people who you are as a person and how you conduct your daily affairs in business transactions.  Work ethics tells others how you would act in situations.  They will tell others whether or not you are an above board person or one that is underhanded and conducts deals under the table.  Successful reality show producers share the following work ethics. 

·         Get up early and begin their routines.
·         Report to the office first and are usually the last to leave.
·         Maintain open communication.
·         They are reliable.
·         They are above board in all they say and do.
·         Take initiative where others don’t.
·         Demonstrates a positive attitude.
·         Gets along well with others.
·         Avoids gossip in the work place.
·         Demonstrates positive influence with actions and words.
·         They maintain integrity.
·         They conduct business in a straight forward manner.
·         They are honest and refrain from lying, stealing and cheating.
·         They do their job to perfection believing in quality versus quantity.
·         They are humble in their business dealings.
·         They are loyal to their production team.
·         They are trustworthy.
·         They are self-disciplined.
·         They are motivated.
·         They self-assess in order to improve.

Without question having a strong work ethics are essential.  Like I said before they are intrinsic in nature and I believe they are a part of us and have a direct impact on our ability to raise funds.  I have designed the following quiz as a self-assessment for you to identify your work ethic.  Remember that I am not a psychologist or medical doctor and this quiz is designed to get you to reflect on how you conduct your business and personal affairs.


Answer the following questions True or False.

1.  On workdays I get up early.

2.  I am usually the first person to arrive to the production office or shooting location first and I’m usually the last to leave.

3.  I allow others to speak their mind.

4.  In a pinch my production team can count of me to solve the problem or situation.

5.  I always say what I mean and mean what I say.

6.  When there is a task to be completed, I don’t hesitate to complete it and get it done without complaint.

7.  No matter the situation, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

8.  I get along well with others and have very few conflicts with my production team.

9.  I don’t participate in office politics or talk about others.

10.  Others look to me for my advice and opinions.

11.  I have never been accused of backstabbing.
12.  My peers say that I am direct and avoid confrontations.

13.  I do not lye, steal or cheat

14. The task that I’m assigned to is done correctly the first time and without the need for constant reminder.

15.  I don’t need others to tell me that I am doing a good job.  I just get the job done.

16.  I turn down work opportunities that seem to be under the table.

17.  My production team can count on me.

18.  I maintain my own schedule and meet goals that I set.

19.  It doesn’t take much to get me started on my task at hand.  I’m ready and willing at all times.
20.  I always look to improve myself and my skills.

Interpreting the Self Assessment Quiz

The way in which you answered the questions above tells me a lot about your individual work ethic and your ability to raise funds.  Experts might choose to agree or disagree with me.  But, this is my opinion.  They only way for you to determine the outcome is if you were honest in your answers.  Only you know whether or not if you were.  This factor alone will tell you if you need to improve or not.  If you lie to yourself in answering the questions, what does that tell you about yourself and your work ethic?  What does it tell you about how you conduct business? 

Likewise, if you were honest with your answers it also tells you something about yourself.  Is there room for improvement?  To find out, add the number of questions you answered True and match with the following scale.  This is for self-assessment only as I am not giving you psychological or medical advice but simply stating my opinion as to where you fall according to my scale I developed based on years of experience as an administrator and leader and what I observe in people.

If you answered:

0 -7 of the answers True consider the possibility that there is room for self-improvement.  You should really stop and do some soul searching and rethink how you conduct your business and personal life. You have a low work ethic.  You’re probably somebody I wouldn’t contribute to in a fundraising campaign.

8-12 of the answers True then you are more than likely someone that is what supervisors would call a middle of the road employee.  There is room for improvement.  You have a medium work ethic.  It would depend on the circumstance as to whether or not I would contribute money to in a fundraising campaign.

13-17 of the answers True then you are probably task oriented and get the job done.  You often rely on others for direction and initiative.  You have a strong work ethic.  You’re somebody that I would more than likely support and contribute to in a fundraising campaign.

18-20 of the answers True then you have a high work ethic.  You’re chances of getting someone to contribute to a fundraising campaign are the greatest.  

JULY 12, 2012


Almost on a weekly basis, I will receive an Email or phone call from teachers asking me how to start a film production session in their classrooms.  It seems more and more that students are interested in this topic and have access to cameras and editing software.  Having been a classroom teacher and a principal of a high school, I completely understand the importance of involving students in hands-on learning.  I have to agree with the teachers, giving students the opportunity to learn basic camera skills, directing and producing, and editing is the perfect opportunity to enhance learning as well as introduce them to the world of filmmaking.  This topic became ever so more important to me after my own nephew, Dylan, age 14, came to my house and started reading my book The Reality of Reality TV: Reality Show Business Plans.  He didn’t want to put it down.  When it came time for them to leave, he asked me if he could have a copy of the book.  I was stunned.  I thought to myself, “What in the world does a 14-year-old want with a book on how to create a reality show and a business plan?”

Here it was in the middle of summer vacation and Dylan wanted my book.  Of course, I let him have it.  The next day, I received a phone call from his mother in which she proceeded to tell me that Dylan has not put down the book.  I was impressed by two facts:  my book held his interest, and that a 14-year-old was reading during summer break.  Anyway, he and his friends are now on a journey of filming their own reality show web series.  Dylan and his friends aren’t the only teens and children producing their shows and films.  Across America, children in the third grade and up are getting involved.  I personally love this and will do my part to encourage teachers to use film production to enhance their students learning.

There are ways in which learning can be enhanced with film production.  Teachers can have students create re-enactments of historical events, conduct interviews of professionals for career week, produce a video yearbook, highlights from dances, and sports events.  The possibilities are endless.  So, what equipment will be needed?

  • Camcorder
  • Tripod
  • Tapes or Discs (depending on camera)
  •  Basic Lighting
  •  Access to Computer with editing software
  • (Optional Handheld or wireless microphones or boom mic)  Most camcorders have built in microphones.
  • (Optional monopod or dolly)

JUNE 28, 2012

By Dr. Mel Caudle

The key to producing a low-budget film is to make sure the end product has a high-budget feature film look to it.  This simply cannot be accomplished by either hand-holding your camera or keeping your camera mounted to a tripod.

Give your independent film a boost in production value by adding tracking dolly shots.  I know.  You’re an independent filmmaker with very little money to spend and can’t afford to buy or went a professional tracking system.  How much would this added value be to you?  How much is too much and how much is too little to spend on making a cheap dolly track for the independent filmmaker?  That is the exact question I asked several filmmakers who are members of my Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube social networks.  The overwhelming response was anything over $75 dollars was too much and anything under $10 dollars, they would be leery of using as a dolly track.  Therefore, I did my research and came up with the most inexpensive, yet effective way to build a dolly track.

The advantage of using a dolly on tracks is that it can be set up on an uneven surface and it allows for a smoother camera track on grass or dirt.  Portability is also an advantage because often the independent filmmaker has to use personal vehicles to haul their gear to location shootings.  So, let’s get started on the systematic process to build a dolly track.

First, you will need to obtain the following supplies and materials.  These materials can be purchased at any hardware store, and most likely, if you are lucky, most of them you will already have lying around in your or your parent’s garage.

If you have to purchase any of the items, plan to spend anywhere from $40 to $50 dollars of your film’s budget on supplies for your dolly track.


8 foot length of a 2 X 4 – Cost:  $5.43

8-foot length of a 1 X 3 cut into sections 29 inches each Cost: $3.63

4 PVC End Caps 4 inches in diameter– Cost: $2.97

4 secure bolts to all the PVC caps onto the board – Cost:  .73 cents

L- Shaped Bracket with pre-drilled holes (2 pieces about 12 inches each) – Cost: $12.99

One 2-inch dowel for spacing

3/8 inch piece of plywood

Misc. Hardware (nuts, bolts, screws, nails) – Cost $6.50

                16 hex bolts w/nuts and watchers to mount wheels to platform

2 pieces of 10 foot/4 inch PVC pipe: Cost $7.00

One (8 pack) of skateboard wheels – Cost: 5.50 (You can also substitute wheels from a set of roller blades from a second hand store.  The wheels don’t have to be new).

Assorted tools from your toolbox – Cost: Hopefully you already have them.  If not, go to the dollar store and buy you a screwdriver and a hammer for $1 dollar.  Any tool that you purchase will increase your dolly track budget.  Try to borrow tool the following tools: a drill press or electric drill and bits, nail gun or brad nailer, Hex wrench or socket wrench, circular handsaw, and T-squares or ruler to line things up.

You will also need access to a circular saw and a drill.  Please follow all safety guidelines and wear goggles.  If you don’t know how to use either of these, seek supervision and get help from someone that does.  You can also ask the building supply store to cut your wood and drill the holes in the PVC pipe for you.  I went to The Home Depot and they did it free.  A colleague of mine went to Ace Hardware and they were more than happy to cut the wood purchased from them free and drill the holes in the PVC pipe.

Now that you have gathered your supplies, the building process starts.

1. Cut your 1 X 3 board into 29-inch sections.  If you do not know how to operate a circular saw, please get someone to cut the materials for you.  If you purchase your wood from a building supply store such as Loews or The Home Depot, they will cut your boards in the exact length you will need.

2. In the center of each PVC cap, drill a hole in the middle where you will be securing it with a wood screw to your board.  Again, ask for help or obtain assistance.

3. On the ends of the 29-inch boards, mark and drill a hole so you will be able to secure each PVC end cap to it.  Each drill hole should be 27 inches apart.

4. Secure each end cap to the end of the board with the wood screws.  For extra strength, if you have contractor’s glue in your garage, you may want to double secure the PVC pipe onto the board.  I used Liquid Nails for this purpose.  I found that the more you put together and take apart your dolly track, the extra security comes in handy.  These end caps become the fittings for the PVC piping which forms the track.
5.  Assemble your track by attaching the two 10 foot pieces of PVC pipe to each of the boards.  This will form a long rectangle, which will be ready for the tracking assembly.
6. Now it is time to construct the rolling platform for the dolly track.  Start by cutting the 2 X 4 eight-foot board into 37 inches each.
7. Next, you will need to attach the platform stand to the two pieces of wood in step 6.  You can either use scrap3/8 inch plywood (36 inches by 36 inches)  lying around or purchase a piece from your local building supply store .  I like the platform to be in a triangle so my camera operator can easily push his own movement with his feet as if he were using a skateboard.  To make a triangle platform, cut the plywood in half diagonally.  This really makes for a smooth dolly shot.  Use nuts and bolts to screw the pieces in step 6 and the triangle piece of board together forming the platform.
8.  Cut the L-shaped aluminum pieces.  Be sure to file the pieces to remove any sharp edges for safety.
9. Attach the skateboard wheels to the L-Shaped aluminum at equal distances at each end and on the side that when you lie the L-shaped aluminum face down, the wheels will attach to the outside of it forming a 90-degree angle.
10.  Drill 4 holes at the ends of each L-shaped aluminum pieces and then using nuts, bolts, and washers to attach the wheels to them.  Make sure to tighten the nuts and bolts securely. 
11. Now assemble your entire dolly track.  Remember, you can lengthen your dolly track by adding additional PVC pipe in equal amounts to the track.  To join them together, use a small piece of board and attach them with screws on the bottom of the PVC pipe.  This way, the board and screws won’t inter with the top of the dolly track and keep the motion smooth.
There is an easier method to building the dolly track by simply using PVC pipe instead of the 2 x 4 wood.  To do this, purchase your two ten foot pieces of PVC pipe, two PVC pipe that is 29 inches, and four PVC elbow connectors.  That way you don’t have to saw or cut anything.  Then build your platform, attach your wheels and you are ready to go.  Alternative wheels include replacement wheels for an office chair with slots.  Then you simply mount these wheels to the bottom of the platform.  The advantage of this type is you only need four wheels instead of eight.
If you are more of a visual person, search the Internet for videos on how to make a cheap dolly track.  There are tons of videos on Vimeo and YouTube.  By watching them, you will be able to gain a clearer understanding of the process, and then use the above written instructions,

June 14, 2012


By Dr. Mel Caudle

I think one of the unsung heroes in our industry is the Foley Artist – the one person who records and reproduces everyday sounds that we use during the editing process to make our films come alive.  I quickly learned that adding sound effects of footsteps, squeaky doors, children laughing in a park, and much more really helped to sell the scene.  Without these sound effects, the scene was dull.

One of the jobs of the Foley Artist is to make all of the ambient sounds in a movie seem realistic.  Prop masters and set designers spend a great deal of their effort to make the scene look right and the actor comes to set ready to bring the actions and dialogue alive.  But in the end, after everything is said and done, if you have bad sound and no sound effects, the movie isn’t going to be as great as it could have been.

As a little bit of a filmmaking history lesson, the first film to include sound was The Jazz Singer released by Warner studios.  Sound effects all began with a man named Jack Foley.  He couldn’t record every sound the actors spoke and get the ambient background too.  So, he later started recording ambient sound and specialized noised on a different take to be added to the film during post production.  Therefore, sound effects took a path all of its own.  That was in 1927.

As an independent film producer, I can purchase numerous Foley Sound Effect software that can meet my needs. If I need a helicopter or plane crash, I can purchase it.  I can obtain thunder, rain, footsteps, and gun fire.  Sounds are limitless.  They are out there if you can afford to purchase them.

However, not every producer or editor can purchase these and must rely on old-fashioned ingenuity.  To help you, I have included a couple of ways to make some cheap and great sounding Foley sounds.

1.  You have a western genre film and no horses to make the walking sound.  Easy enough.  Two coconut shells cut in half and filled with sponges, when clapped together can replace the sound of horses hoofs walking.

2.  You have a house burning down and can’t really build a fire but need the sound.  Two ways, build a fire in a fireplace and record the crackling.  If that isn’t available, use cellophane and crumple it up.  The more cellophane and people participating in crumpling it, the bigger the burning fire sound.  You can purchase cellophane from any party store or go to the dollar store and purchase cellophane party bags.

3.  You need gun shot fire but can’t fire a gun.  Easy enough.  Use a carpenter staple gun and fire it and pots and pans and hit them with a metal spoon.  Combine the sounds for the gun fire you need.

4.  You need the sound of rain outside of the building where your scene takes place.  Use a water hose and turn own the water and let it pour and drip off the roof of your house.

5.  You have an actor that gets a broken leg or arm and you want the bone snapping and breaking without actually breaking the actor’s bones.  Get a piece of plywood (triple sheet) and let it get soaked by running water on it from your water hose.  Or, let the rain pour down on it and soak it in.  After the plywood dries completely in the hot sun, snap it into two pieces or tear it.  The sound you record will represent the breaking of a bone.  Ouch!

6.  You main characters are going at it in a fight scene and you need the sound effects of them hitting and punching each other.  Use a two pound piece of meat, either pork or a beef roast, and hit away with your fist.  Just be careful not to injure yourself and take the proper safety precautions.

More to come on sound effects as additional blogs are written.  If you have a great sound effect and Foley idea, submit it to me and I will add it here and give you credit for your idea.

JUNE 7, 2012

By Dr. Melissa Caudle

With the ease of editing on our home computers, actors and filmmakers can easily bring the world into their monologues and indie films with the use of green screens.  You only need to search online to find one that will include the complete stand, muslin greenscreen, and clips for less than $200 dollars.  If you don't want to spend that much, there is a cheaper way.  

When I first got into this business, I had zero money for equipment and used whatever I could afford and used my ingenuity to "rig" boom mics, dollies, settings, props, and special effect makeup.  I also built a cheap greenscreen for my films and auditions.  I was an actor too.  

To make a greenscreen right in your own bedroom or living room for an audition, go to the nearest dollar store and purchase the lime green poster boards.  I bought mine for.50 cents each.  I purchased 12 poster boards for $6 dollars to cover one wall area.  

Then, I bought the sticky tacky white stuff that you roll into a ball and hung the poster boards seam to seam.  That was it.  My green screen was ready and I didn't spend but $10 dollars.  

For auditions, you really only need three poster boards and hang them in a corner.  Once edited, the creases where you joined them don't show and if you have an editing system software that can handle chroma-key, you can put any background you want behind you in post.  That way, if you are auditioning for a professor, you can place yourself in a classroom or if you are an oral surgeon, you can place yourself in the dentist office surgical room.  The sky is the limit.  

When I didn't need my makeshift green screen anymore for filming, they easily come down off the wall, store right beneath my bed, and stay there until I need them again.

If you want a more permanent greenscreen, you can purchase the lime green paint from the nearest home improvement store in the exact color you need for a greenscreen and paint a wall in your home garage, laundry room, or if you daring, a playroom or bedroom.  

If you don't want to paint a wall, you can also purchase cheap plywood,4 X 8 feet and paint it with the greenscreen color paint, and lean it against a wall.  When not needed, storage could be an issue unless you have a garage or somewhere else to store it.  

One thing I really like about using plywood painted for a greenscreen, when I need to film a shot outdoors I don't have to worry about securing a material greenscreen to keep it from flapping in the wind. This comes in very handy when I want to film someone driving in a car with a greenscreen.  The car never moves, I prop the plywood greenscreen up against the car or a couple of production assistants hold it secure, and we shoot our scene.  Then in post, we can combine the scenes with the chroma-key tool and have the car traveling anywhere in the world or universe we want them to go.

These are some, but not all, of the innovative approaches I have used to make cheap greenscreens.  If you have others, feel free to share them with your fellow members of this blog by adding to the comment section or emailing them to me at  If they are really good, I'll add them here in this article and give you full credit for your idea.