Guerrilla Guide to Producing 3D Films on a Budget – Pt 2: Shot Breakdown

In these series of posts we’ll be taking about all those money savers that are NOT that obvious for the independent film producer. We already talked about The importance of investing in pre production. 

In this post I’ll talk a little about the importance of doing a Shot Breakdown, and I don’t just mean only putting it on paper, but actually sticking to it. Since sticking to your shot breakdown is one of the best ways of preventing unplanned budget leakage.

So, what is a shot breakdown and what it is for?

A shot breakdown is a detailed list of what is in each and every shot of your film. For those of you that come from a live action background, it is sort of the equivalent of a script breakdown on steroids. It contains thumbnails of every storyboard frame along with shot code, dialogue, actions, fx, characters on the shot, environment used, props,lensing info, frame duration, timecode, special considerations etc. How much information you include in it depends on the project and the vfx sup. So there is no right or wrong format for it, it’s just a matter of style and whats considered as important information.

Mind you, you want this document to be as informative and as straightforward as possible. Include the essentials without overcrowding it with information. A shot breakdown should be easy to read, clear and concise.

Who is in charge of making this shot breakdown?

Every member of the core team .The VFX Sup is normally the first one to include the important info in it. In order to start working he should already have the script breakdown, storyboard and shot code to begin. Although he is usually the first one to start, everyone in the core team adds info to it. The VFX Sup along with the producer make a final analysis after all info is in, to calculate an estimate cost for each shot.

The shot breakdown is meant to be a bible and a detailed guide of your film. It is important for a producer because it allows him or her to make decisions, to budget what every shot is going to cost, to pinpoint the money shots alongside the director and the vfx sup. It is also important because after it’s done, you’ll be able to see some expensive unimportant shots that could be accomplished some other way in order to reduce their cost and let it flow over to the money shots. This step is golden for a producer and the vfx sup. Before going into production there NEEDS to be an estimate of time and money that can be invested in every shot.

For detailed information about how to do a sensible shot breakdown, click here. Remember that the link is meant to provide a guide, but what you decide to include in yours depends on the project and your core team.

Do you have any thoughts or advice on shot breakdowns? If so, comment below!

Females in the Industry: Katina Mercadante’s “Five”

So, I just recently decided I would start this little section in the blog devoted to sharing the work of females in entertainment.

Why am I doing this? Because I am a woman and I know the struggles a female goes through when immersing in an industry that is still male dominated. I will not discuss the negative side of it,  I rather choose a positive approach in sharing the work of females out there, wether they are producers, directors, animators, illustrators, editors etc. The industry is plagued by female talent. So without Further ado I present you this week’s Clip: “Five”

“Five” is a short film directed by Katina Mercadente, Katina is an american director and producer residing in Northern California.

“Five” follows a group of 5 children from different backgrounds and follows them in their religious practices. I chose this short as my first one because it revolves around the beauty of diversity, highlighting the contrasts between the characters while subtly pointing out the similarities between believers regardless of their religious choice.

Diversity is a beautiful thing, I love the contrasts with which our humanity is tainted because of it, and this is why I liked this video.



Although it’s not new I just recently saw Dar Studios‘ short “Shave it”. From Buenos Aires Argentina these people represent latin american talent. This studio excels visually, imprinting in their work a very distinctive visual style. Feel free to check out their work, but first without further ado, I leave you: Shave it.

SHAVE IT- DAR Studios ( Based on a true Story )


Although this has nothing to do with animation I feel obliged to post this trailer. It’s a documentary by Albert Maysles about one of my favorite people on this planet, Iris Apfel.

If you Know Iris, then your heart will ache with excitement for this documentary, if you don’t know her then this trailer will make you google her.

The fact is that I am such a fan of Iris because she reminds me that awesomeness does not age. Her love for fashion, art and life is contagious. She’s just darling, if you don’t believe me. Judge for yourself.

Guerrilla guide to producing 3D films on a budget – part 1

Making a movie on a tight budget is no easy task, there is much that can be done to save money on, but little attention is paid to what can be done to prevent budget leakage on task force that could’ve been prevented. This list is meant to prevent indie filmmakers from making such mistakes and advice is given based on my previous experience as part of the production team of an indie film.

1. Invest in pre production

This is probably the most important money-saver EVER.

Many indie filmmakers tend to invest little time and money in preproduction, and the cost of bypassing it is HIGH. Every penny you spend on this phase will save you thousands of dollars later on.

Storyboard, make an animatic, edit thoroughly, play around with it all until the director feels happy with every single shot, and make a shot breakdown and schedule . These two documents along with the budget are the core of production, they need to be as accurate as possible and have just enough flexibility to allow certain resource flow change in order to protect the project in case of a task force meltdown. ( which hopefully won’t happen! )

A piece of advice: when on a tight budget I seriously recommend starting storyboarding until you have the final script draft. And of course working on concept art, and production design can be done parallel to storyboarding.

The important thing here is that the core team of the project ( Producer, Director, VFX Sup, art director ) know that this is the only room for experimentation that the project will probably allow, and that everyone needs to be happy with the end result when pre production wraps up, because the budget will allow little change later.

By the end of this phase you should be ready to green light production with a well organized project and a happy director.

Part 2 coming soon!


Change is inevitable, and necessary. Over the last few months a lot has changed not only in a personal matter but in my professional life as well.

I’ve made a switch from film production to advertising production. I recently joined Zebra Studios, a studio based in Mexico City where advertising content is produced. I don’t need to tell you that it’s a completely different world, and although I still like film production best I have found things I love about advertising.

First and foremost I love the dynamic environment. I love that everything is changing constantly and enjoy working on multiple projects simultaneously and the room that this environment leaves for pipeline and workflow experimentation and implementation.

I have found great comfort and learning with different workflows I have experimented in different projects ( and I’ve only been here for a month and a half! ) .

I really like the immense growth that artists have in an advertising studio. Since they are bombarded with all sorts of challenges all the time they keep growing and learning at a fast pace. Which is amazing.

I look forward to learning as much as I can about this fascinating industry, do you guys have any advice/ funny story? I’d love to hear it!

The waterwheel goes round, Lifetimes come and go in turn…

Happy New Year!

My first new year’s post has been inspired by a great movie I recently saw, It’s Isao Takahata’s : The Tale of princess Kaguya. I won’t get into any detail of it’s greatness as I feel I wouldn’t do it any justice, but I will say that an incredibly beautiful portrayal of the underlying theme of “Samsara” is what makes this film so special and very ad hoc with this post.

So It is a new year, a new cycle of a new year’s Samsara, the waterwheel goes round again one more time, and with this new cycle comes the closing of very important aspects of my life and the beginnings of a new adventures.

For once, the film I was working on ” Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos” AKA ( A Little Brave Rooster ) has wrapped up production, and with it I close a cycle full of learning and growth. I feel so much melancholy and ache to see this great studio go on hiatus, and amazing team dismembered.

I have said it and will say it again, it was truly a team conformed by the very best talent Mexico had to offer and it was such a pleasure working with each and every one of the artists involved in the project. I came in with great expectations, I left blown away by the experience and people I met.

2014 ended with a very relaxing vacation, it was the perfect  ending for his cycle.

2015 brings great changes, a new city to live in and professionally new opportunities waiting to be uncovered.  I have to say, I am really excited.

So, to commemorate the end of a cycle and the beginning of 2015  I leave you ” Warabe Uta” ( Go round song ) from the soundtrack of  Princess Kaguya.

The Most Valuable Asset

The Most Valuable Asset

As a producer my decision-making process is based on numbers, efficiency and low impact solutions. I run on the idea that nothing is indispensable, my goal is to keep the show running no matter what. Although I agree with the argument that no one is indispensable and everything and everyone can be replaced, I firmly believe that having artist turnover in a studio is definitely not a desirable thing and something to actively avoid. In my experience, artist turnover has a financial impact of 3 -4 months of wages and collateral expenses. What I mean is that when we hire an artist to replace someone who left, we are spending around 3 months of “training” and losing quota and work that otherwise would’ve been done during that time. For small productions or studios the aim should be to avoid turnover as much as possible. I have made a simple list of key things that I consider essential in avoiding artist turnover:   1. Forget that you have employees. Do NOT treat artists like employees. A standard office environment is not encouraging for them. Prepare to toss out the window strict work office rules and small boring cubicles. Try to show some degree of flexibility, give the office some color and as much open spaces as possible to encourage communication and work sharing, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, invest in good ergonomic chairs with awesome lumbar support. I swear that will generate more company loyalty that having casual Fridays or company barbecues.  2. Encourage job rotation. Job rotation is a tactic that has proven to lower employee turnover, and in my experience it works. If you see someone in the art department that has potential, switch them over temporarily to the texture department, see if they are adapting well and offer a change. Keep your artists motivated by challenging them with training and task rotation, your aim should be to help them expand their skill set, grow within the studio and avoid boredom. If you want to read more about employee rotation, I recommend reading this article Job Rotation: Keys to Successful Job Rotation 4. Feed the artists And I don’t mean with food ( although having a lunch room with plenty of healthy options available is a great energy booster for everyone! )  but feed their creativity and thirst for learning as well. There are many things that can be done that are fun, inspirational, challenging, encourage team work and are not expensive like: 1. Having a blank wall where a mural  can be painted and that changes every 6 months or so. 2. Having a “Drawing club”  every other Tuesday, the studio can provide drawing utensils, paper, a nude model etc. 3. Inviting someone over to give a masterclass 4. “Smash” tournament anyone? These are just a few examples, but there is so much that can be done, “feeding” the artists creatively is a great way to generate company value between your team . 5. Be a good leader Showing appreciation and warmth towards your team is a key element. Recognize their triumphs , do not satanize their mistakes, let them show you their work, listen and learn what they do as carefully as you can, show them that you value the work that they are doing, and above all: talk a talk, TALK to them about everything, having a good artist/producer relationship is pure gold. Have any other good tips? Comment below!