Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Wattpad Is Helping Me as a Filmmaker

It all comes down to story. I have been trying to stretch myself beyond just producing lately due to my love of story - I have been writing, directing and even editing my own work. I'm writing in mediums outside of film - from creating Web series to writing novellas and tackling a full novel.

I noticed Wattpad a few months ago but I wasn't really aware of what it was and how it could benefit me as a storyteller. I had been writing novellas and publishing them on Amazon and I knew I wanted to tackle a novel. 

Then my friend and cowriter Kristin Goodman suggested we publish a novella based on our screenplay The Virgin on Wattpad. I thought, why not? It might bring attention to the story and I had always thought it would make a great novella.

So that's what we did. Kristin took the lead on writing the novella for The Virgin. We have over three thousand reads and have garnered some wonderful comments from readers. You can check out The Virgin novella here.

And soon I realized that my first novel idea would be ideal for Wattpad as well. It seemed like a great way to be motivated to write each day and build an audience along the way.

The novel I'm writing is titled 30 Days to Love and it's about the first thirty days in Shauna and James's relationship. It explores the roller coaster ride that every relationship goes through during the first thirty days:
Shauna can't wait to graduate and embark on a new career across the country in New York City. She's ready for a fresh start until she meets James - one month before graduation. She is determined to not start a new relationship with anyone since she has to focus on finals and move in just a few weeks.
The problem is that she has little resolve around James. And he might just be her soul mate. Each day, she tries to push him away but instead finds herself falling a little more in love with him, knowing that she only has thirty days to make a choice between love and her career.
The scariest part about writing a chapter each day and loading it over the course of thirty days is that I'm putting up first drafts for all the world to see. I don't have the luxury of rewriting until I'm happy with what I've written. I have time to write and load and that's it. 

I have to say it's been incredibly motivating. I look forward to writing 1000 to 3000 words a day. And it's becoming a routine, which I'm so happy about. I can see myself continuing with this schedule of writing each day. And seeing that over 1500 people have read my writing thus far feels awesome. I hope that continues to grow. 

So while my story may be rough, it's inspiring me to keep going - figure out my voice - follow my passion - write what I love. I hope you check out 30 Days to Love here!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Film's Life after Initial Distribution Platforms

I'd like to start a discussion about life of a film after its initial distribution license periods come to an end. I have a couple of titles that are coming up to the end of their first or second license periods with big aggregators who helped the titles appear on big platforms like cable Video-on-Demand, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. I want to strategize the next phase of these films' lives.

I know that I can reload the film myself on Amazon so that's a start. But what else is out there? I know of and have some experience with the following:

IndieReign (www.indiereign.com)
Distrify (www.distrify.com)
IndieFlix (www.indieflix.com)
Amazon (www.amazon.com)

I know there is Fandor (www.fandor.com) as well, but they curate their titles so it's not a guarantee of acceptance.

Are there any other online distribution platforms for independent film? I'm doing the research and will share the list as soon as I have one complete.

And let me know your thoughts on any with which you have experience. Sharing our experiences will hopefully lead to a stronger independent world. Thanks all!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Short Film Series at American Cinematheque This Thursday and Q&A with short film In Confidence director Mitch Levine

A friend told me about a short film series at the American Cinematheque this Thursday. I didn't know about it. It looks like a great opportunity to screen your film in Los Angeles. I'll have to check it out.

This Thursday, In Confidence is playing during the program. Looks like a great way to spend a Thursday night!

Enjoy a Q&A with Mitch Levine, director of In Confidence:
  • What made you decide to become a filmmaker? 
I’d had a career as a director and designer of theatre, opera and dance and started thinking about expanding my visual storytelling pallet to film, an art form I loved as a spectator, but had never engaged as an artist. I was offered a directing fellowship at the American Film Institute, although neither I nor they knew if I could tell a story with a camera. My first day on set, as I called “action” for the first time, I knew I was home.
  • Tell us about your film. What inspired you to make it?
I’m a directing member of the Actors Studio, an extraordinary place that’s home to many of the finest actors, writers and directors in the world. There, I saw a reading of a short play by Deborah Pearl. It was the story of a woman who finds herself in an unusual circumstance and makes a provocative choice – and the consequences that choice has on the rest of her life. That play and its depiction ignited something in me. The play’s themes and the central character’s journey were powerful, poignant and evocative. The performance by its lead actress, Beege Barkette, was extraordinary. And so as soon as the reading concluded, I rushed to the writer and to the actress and asked if they’d be interested in transforming their stage play into cinema – and they both immediately agreed. Together, we re-imagined the play as a film. And less than two months later, we were in production.
  • What do you love about your film?
The incredible esprit de corps that informed every moment of its pre-production, production and post and that continues to this day. I am blessed with an amazing team: We had an angel investor, J.R.A. Maduro, who fully supported our undertaking. And after Beege (our lead) and Deborah (our screenwriter), my amazing producer, Mary-Lyn Chambers was quick to sign on, followed by the remarkable Svetlana Cvetko (our cinematographer and the DP on the Oscar-winning INSIDE JOB, amongst other terrific films), James Kent, our Production Designer (fresh off numerous projects with Michael Mann), costumer Kate Bergh and stylist Kathy Bayley. And then, as we entered post, we were joined by our amazing editor, Nahall Esteghamat, award-winning composer Penka Kouneva (who scored my first film), Geoff Green, our sound designer and Damian McDonnell, our phenomenal colorist from Technicolor. And there were many other artists and others who gave of themselves, including Craig Barnes and Donovan Kosters at Visionary Forces, who donated a complete Alexa camera package and then provided our final mastering and DCP. That was my greatest love, the extraordinary people who supported my vision and the creation of this film.
  • How long did it take you to make your film?
Incredibly, we shot the whole thing in a single day, due to the very limited availability of our principal collaborators. And post production took about seven months.
  • What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge was our very production concept: Beege Barkette gives a remarkable performance – and Molly, the character she portrays – is the only character in the drama. She speaks directly to camera for the entire film – which then intercuts between her conscious and sub-conscious lives. It was incredibly difficult for her to act with a camera lens as her only scene partner – and to make the audience feel as if they are the ones engaged in the conversation. In shooting the “sub-conscious” scenes, Beege had to re-create the emotional foundation and essence of the conscious-state ones. It was an incredibly difficult character journey to direct, but Beege – and the entire team – trusted and believed. And the result is now on screen.
  • Tell us about your experience getting into this shorts program. 
I love the American Cinematheque and what it represents: sharing the best cinema with an engaged and appreciative audience in one of the finest theatres – the Egyptian – anywhere. I was honored to have my first film, Shadows, presented there and feel thrilled and privileged to have In Confidence screening there now. And I’m very grateful to their shorts programmer, Andrew Crane, who’s been an amazing supporter of my films and of so much undiscovered cinema. We’re honored to be a part of this amazing program.
  • If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?
I don’t think I would. This film and its production were blessed.
  • What’s next for your film? When and how can people see it? 
We’re still doing a few fests, but will be distributing it online and through multiple platforms in the very near future. People should stay tuned for news on our website (www.InConfidenceMovie.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/InConfidenceMovie).
  • Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made? 
Believe in your vision, surround yourself with the very best people – and embrace their artistry and creativity in helping you realize it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Rollercoaster Ride of Crowdfunding: Thoughts on Our Campaign for Dandekar Makes a Sandwich

We are about a week out from the deadline on our crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo for our new short film Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, written and to be directed by Leena Pendharkar, starring Brian George and Dyana Ortelli and excited to report that we have raised more than 60% of our financing thus far. Woohoo!

Our cast:

Brian George

Dyana Ortelli

Check out Leena's pitch video here:

We still have 40% to raise and we're excited to make the final push to the end. We hope you join us on this roller coaster ride. Here's the link to our campaign where you can snatch up some cool gifts for your contribution: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dandekar-makes-a-sandwich/x/6178.

I love Ameet Mehta's illustrations that he is doing for us - such a cool sandwich!:

Securing our funding goal will allow us to pay our super talented cast and crew and rent a brand new Red Epic (gets me so excited - hee hee) and pay for our grocery store location (expensive!). We also found a rad 1980s white Volvo for our main character (not easy to find) and we get to make the most awesome sandwich on shooting day. Help us make a sandwich here.

Crowdfunding is always a roller coaster ride! It's a full-time commitment to continually raise awareness and push out new promotions to excite our fans. I find it to be a really fun process with lots of unexpected twists and turns. You never know how a campaign will turn out. I usually strap myself in and go for a ride!

Our awesome Volvo for Dandekar:

Dandekar's Volvo
Crowdfunding is such an incredible tool for independent filmmakers. You can have a project with no funding in sight one month and the next month be fully funded and ready to start pre-production. It's truly amazing. And making the kind of connection with your audience through crowdfunding is priceless. I love it.

I have successfully managed a few crowdfunding campaigns for my films and they are always full of lots of energy and excitement for the process of filmmaking. It warms my heart to know that there are fans out there wanting to see our films get made. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. We work tirelessly each day trying to find ways to get our films made so when a crowdfunding campaign works, I cry tears of joy.

Here we are scouting for our location:

Leena, Sohini and Jane Scouting Grocery Stores
Every film I make always has a crowdfunding component. It's such an incredible way to connect to your audience and bring them into your world. And it's a great way for contributors to really make a difference in the success of independent film. Each contribution helps a project get made.

Here are some tips on having a successful campaign:

1) Know that you have a specific audience to market your campaign toward. Hone in on that niche market. Ask yourself why would they contribute? Are they fans of your actors? Are they fans of you? Will they be compelled to help you because you are making a film in a genre they love? Are they fans of independent film? Whoever they are, figure out how to reach them and give them incentives that would excite them. Are there blogs they read or organizations of which they are members? Go after them where they enjoy hanging out online.
2) Build an email list. I love MailChimp and email my fans periodically to update them on my work. Get the word out to your niche market first and then their word of mouth will help you reach an even greater audience.
3) Create a Web site for your film. It really shows that you are working hard to make your film happen.
4) Write a blog. I love my blog and helping other independent filmmakers. It has enriched my career in so many ways. I am certain my blog has contributed toward my successful crowdfunding campaigns.
5) Hire a publicist. We work with an amazing publicist on our films. She has consistently gotten our projects coverage that we would never have the connections to make. Include her fee in your film's budget and the amount you are hoping to raise in your campaign. It will be so worth it.
6) Give relevant updates that show you are working toward making the film. Show pictures and video and loop your audience in with developments through pre-production.
7) Engage in your campaign every day and throughout the day through social media. You never know when that one tweet will push someone to contribute.
8) Be positive and excited. Let your audience know that you are excited about making your film and your excitement will be infectious.
9) Build a team to help you. It takes a village - work on building that village every day!
10) Never give up! Even if it seems impossible - stay in the fight for your project. Be passionate and engaged and show the love of your work to the world and they will want to share in your passion.

Thanks for checking out this blog post! I want to thank everyone for contributing to Dandekar Makes a Sandwich. Without you, this film would not get made.

But we need more help.

We still need 40% more of our goal. And any funds that we raise above that amount will go directly into our budget for the full feature Days with Dandekar that we plan to make in the new year.

Please help Dandekar make a sandwich! You can see our campaign at this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dandekar-makes-a-sandwich/x/6178. We would love to have you all join us on this roller coaster ride! Thank you!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

We're Making a Short: Dandekar Makes a Sandwich

I can't believe it's been over a year since Leena Pendharkar and I have been making short films together! We started working on short films for our Web channel So Natural TV. And now we're making a short film based on a feature-length script that Leena wrote called Days with Dandekar. 
The short film is called Dandekar Makes a Sandwich. We have cast the hilarious Brian George of Seinfeld fame to the lead role of RK Dandekar, a lonely man who goes on a journey to find his stolen Volvo and finds himself along the way. In the short, Dandekar makes a sandwich and an unlikely connection.
We've started an IndieGoGo campaign to help raise the financing to make the short. We have some fun gifts at each contribution level so we hope you check out the campaign. Maybe you need a tote bag or a T-shirt?
In all seriousness though, I am really proud of the work I have been doing with Leena. We are two independent filmmakers who teamed up to make fun, entertaining stories. I have been producing her work because I really believe in her talent. I think her work has something to say and she has a really fun aesthetic and wry wit - I'm really drawn to her storytelling. I hope you are too.
With your help, we plan to shoot Dandekar Makes a Sandwich next month. Then next year, we aim to film the feature-length script Days with Dandekar - click on this title and become a fan on Facebook!
As I mention above, we have started an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help raise the money to make the short - and any additional funds will go towards the making of the full feature. 
If any of you are able to contribute - whether it's money or posting about the project for your friends to see - we would be so grateful. Thank you so much. 
Days with Dandekar Web site