Making a Movie about the Drums

Hi, I am a young film Director.
I am currently making a film centering around a girl that uses drumming as a coping mechanism for the loss of her mother. I have a few questions regarding the drumming.
Here is the funding page, where you can find out more about 'Drumsticks' Any donations would be amazing:
-I am a novice drum player, however will be using experienced drummers as the actors, is there any advice you guys have for my direction/anything I should learn before filming?
-I intend to film a major sequence (a drum battle) like a Rocky fight scene, any thoughts on how to achieve this?
-The film will be made for you guys - the audience. Drum players experienced and novice alike, music fans, and film fans - is there anything you guys would love to see in a drumming film or is there anything in the concept you can relate to?

(images from a test shoot)
FB_IMG_1577038413116.jpgFB_IMG_1577038401611.jpg
Thanks.
Nathan
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
So is this like a fiction story with a plot or a real story about therapeutic drumming and treating mental/stress issues? Is this Whiplash for girls-can I play the mean SOB instructor who verbally and physically assaults students (a dream come true-just kidding??). Or I can be the competition in drum off who gets beat-but I'll bleed a lot and put up a good show before falling apart and then being destroyed in the competition. I'll be demoralized the instructor will beat me senseless for losing too sort of like Karate kid. It'll be epic. Short don't sound good-I need time to develop my character-it can't just be a shallow bad guy-but a bad guy with a story so his loss is bitter sweet with the heroine. Give us DW forum members leeway in plot development and you'll win a freaking Oscar. And best sound track.
 

Vintage Old School

Gold Member
Documentary or fictional short film?

Get the best possible location sound mixer you can afford. That's 50% of your story. If your target audience is musicians the sound better be spot on.

I'd recommend having a professional drummer on location as a consultant when you film any of the drum or music scenes. Someone with a keen eye for detail who won't hesitate to give you brutally honest feedback if framing, acting and scenes look and feel realistic or fake and amateur.
 

Someone's Dad

Senior Member
Hate to be a negative Ned, but I think I agree with Buddha. A drum battle would seem too contrived to carry any meaning. Surely, the inner battle of insecurity and anxiety vs performance would be more in keeping with the theme of overcoming loss?
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
As a player, and as a movie goer, I would rather see the film center around what it takes for a 14 year old kid like this just to play.

The mother\father who refuses to let you play drums-who suddenly dies opening the door so you can get your first drum set. The drum set is an old MIJ Kent set she finds in the trash.... (Or maybe Mrs. Smith who she carries groceries for gives her her deceased husband old round badge Gretsch kit that has been in the attic since he died?)

Show the struggle to get gear, especially cymbals, but even a pair of sticks or a new head. The learning process with no money for teachers and no sympathetic adults around to help her on her quest to be a drummer.

Show the hours spent playing when "friends" are out partying or just hanging on the street. Show the neighbors complaining and some sympathetic cops who understand the predictament but are forced to uphold the noise ordinance. Show an older drummer using her for her kit after he pawns his kit for money to buy drugs. He then begins taking her out to all sorts of jam sessions where she inadvertently starts to learn and gets a reputation as a drummer who can carry her own because he has to let her sit in on at least a couple of tunes.... Show the duct tape on split heads because there is no money for new ones. Have her quit high school because of anger issues and fighting....only to fall into isolation where music is her only friend.... Then eventually she has a spiritual awakening and meets the right guy who helps her focus her talent and energy and gets back to a good place where she makes peace with her mom who "abandoned" her by dying.... And the best part is where the doper (kind of a father figure or better yet, and older brother type) who was using her for her kit, gets clean, and sees how she actually "saved" him through the arrangment.... Then they both drum happily ever after...

Well...something like that anyway....lol

Lol
 
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opentune

Platinum Member
a drum battle will make this film cheesy. stick to reality if you want the film made for drummers.
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
a drum battle will make this film cheesy. stick to reality if you want the film made for drummers.
Especially if it’s in an old warehouse or abandoned industrial lot filled with made for TV party teens.

Insted of a drum battle, I think a more realistic finale would be a gig that she’s worked hard to land.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
The funding page description says it is "an action packed 12 minute classic underdog story"

If average feature length film is around 90 minutes, then this short only has 13% of the runway/ bandwidth of an average film in which to tell it's story. An average script is around 100 pages, so this is a 13 page script. About 5 beats. That ain't much.

Seems you may have too much squeezed into this to make it a successful film. You have girl that uses drumming as a coping mechanism for the loss of her mother and a drum battle. Telling both those stories seems like two disparate themes and difficult to do in 12 minutes. You're sacrificing quality for quantity.

Too many screenplays try to cover too much territory. Most of the previous comments advised you to stay away from the drum battle. That seems contrived. Focus on the loss of mother and the consequences of her death in Act 1. You could start film just after she's died to save a few beats. That's the event that sets the action into motion and ends Act 1. Act 1 can be really really short. Just set up the impression the mother died and the girl's depression. Infer the death through the girl's character. One or 2 beats. Don't waste bandwidth on Act 1. Just ground viewer in what happened (death) and consequences (depression). Act 2 is how she uses drumming to cope with the loss and her depression. In Act 2 she is changed: the drumming sorta leads her out of the darkness. She's becomes happier. But don't make that solution/ resolution that ends Act 2 a drum battle. Doesn't have to be that over-the-top. Could just be hooking up with a band who's drummer quit, learning the parts in a week (quickly), and playing first successful gig and they invite her back to become permanent part of band. Denouement is just what happens after the resolution - and quickly - like one beat. That could be the band making her a permanent member. End of Act 3. Done. One-two beats in Act 1, 3 in Act 2, one in Act 3. 13 page screenplay. Nice short film that hold together and tells a story with a strong narrative thread. And is believable. Grounds the main character. Someone we can relate to. Emotions we have all felt. Try and do too much like a frickin' epic drum battle and it becomes less believable. Think Paweł Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Let the audience use their imaginations to fill-in-the-blanks as much as possible - that saves beats, too.

FYI I'm a writer with an MFA. I write scripts along with other pieces.
 
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Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
More on the very ambitious description of project:

"Drumsticks is a unique script focusing on a family who love to drum which is something never seen in film. Especially a young female driven character who plays the drums, which is extremely common in the real world however is unrepresented in the media.

This film is being made for you reading this, if you have ever experienced… a close family bond, or a hurdle separating that bond, if you have experienced loss and grief, trying to impress a parent, and acceptance. Then this film is for you. And of course, if you are a music lover, this film is bursting with brilliant sound.

This script flashes through the past and the present, engaging you in both storylines which builds up into a dramatic climax and ultimately has a satisfying ending.

We want Drumsticks to be a cinematic masterpiece and we have everything in place to achieve this goal."

Some more comments:

* "A young female driven character who plays the drums, which is extremely common in the real world however is unrepresented in the media.". Actually female drummers are not all that common. How many female drummers do you actually see playing in groups in pubs shows or on CD's or radio. Very few. The vast majority of drummers are male. That's a false premise you have stated.

** "If you are a music lover, this film is bursting with brilliant sound.". It's a 12 minute short film. Can't burst with much brilliant sound in only 12 minutes.

*** "This script flashes through the past and the present, engaging you in both storyline". Again, way too ambitious for 12 minutes/ 13 pages/ 5 or so beats. Past and present/ flashbacks will kill this film. Stick to present for a 12 minute short. Do that and do it well.

Following the guidance from others here, if you delete the drum battle then you don't really have anyone playing drums except main character. If actress is a drummer - and good - then so much the better. If not, find a local professional or experienced drummer to help you. Don't use any close shots while main actress "playing drums". And make sure you nail the synch of footage and sound if you dub drumming in post-shooting. That really complicates production and increases your costs. If actress can really play drums well then you eliminate all those risks.

Possible Beats:

Act 1 Beat 1: infer Mother died.
Act 1 Beat 2: main character depression (show don't tell).
Act 2 Beat 3: main character plays drums
Act 2 Beat 4: main character hooks up with band as their temporary drummer because their drummer quit
Act 2 Beat 5: main character practices hard
Act 2 Beat 6: gig and she's a hit at gig
Act 3 Beat 7: denouement the band asks her to become their regular drummer

That's 7 beats. Maybe too many for 12 minute short. Might combine beats in Act 1. That's gets you to 6 beats. Maybe combine Beats in Act 2 playing drums and band discovering her. That gets you to 5.

Think the American movie, "8 Mile" contracted to just it's most basic elements and done in 12 minutes. It's virtually same Three Acts you have, and same protagonist dilemma/ resolution although Mother doesn't die in 8 Mile. Now, in that movie there is a rap battle, but it takes a lot of earlier scenes and beats to set that finale up. You don't have that much time. So delete the drum battle and simplify: your film will be better.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
-I am a novice drum player, however will be using experienced drummers as the actors, is there any advice you guys have for my direction/anything I should learn before filming?
Besides the sound guy, drummers have the most baggage to carry to a gig. Typically, we are the first in and the last out.
We are the first to get looked at when anyone thinks the tempo is wrong.
We are the first to get bored when the guitarist and keyboard player are working out the chords of a song, something they should've done before practice.
When a tune is recorded track-by-track (today's SOP), the drums are the first instrument to be recorded. This is because drums are the backbone of the entire song.
When playing at a gig, the drummer sets the pace. After one tune is done, we count off the next, even is some idiot is talking into the mic (pet peeve 'cuz no one likes hearing lame-o, time-filling banter from an airhead vocalist).

-I intend to film a major sequence (a drum battle) like a Rocky fight scene, any thoughts on how to achieve this?
Don't fall for the trap. The term "drum battle" was created to attract eyeballs to the TV set when Krupa & Rich would go at it on some evening show. The correct term is "trading eights", referring to each drummer gets two measures to play solo, and it is an absolute blast! Lotsa fun to do. Not even close to a "fight" or "battle".

And drummers are a solid clan. We help each other out at gigs and watch each others back. And we know who is hot on the drums and who is not. Perhaps, if you want your drum gal to "fight", have her fight with a whiny vocalist or prima donna guitarist. They are very common and very much a drag to hang with.

-The film will be made for you guys - the audience. Drum players experienced and novice alike, music fans, and film fans - is there anything you guys would love to see in a drumming film or is there anything in the concept you can relate to?
Please, for the love of God and music and all beautiful things, film & record live and synch the audio to the video. Even Whiplash had moments when one could tell the audio was overdubbed, and it makes it an absolute joke. Drummers wanna see the real stuff. However, recording live on set is actually very difficult if the drum kit being played is in a lousy room or space because drums are greatly effected by the room in which they are recorded. For a better understanding of this, watch the documentary Sound City.

Another consideration when recording live is the tuning of the drums. They must sound great. No boink or clatter. Hopefully you know people with good sounding instruments.
 
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