Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Directors Need Producers

Out of necessity or a desire to be part of the producing process, directors may take on a producer role in their projects. But, in my opinion, they should not solely produce their projects. It's important to have that other person who can relieve the director's brain of the nuts and bolts of the project and to have a sounding board for creative decisions. 

A director already has a huge responsibility to handle creating the visual story for an audience. Why hinder that responsibility with producing details? If I were a director, I would have a producer at my side at all times!! I would find that one person who gets me and build a lifelong relationship that carries me through most projects. Sure, I may go and work with other producers at times but I would find that one I can develop my own ideas with and build a mutually beneficial and creative partnership for the long haul. But that's just me. Each director may have different desires or needs, but each should consider having a separate producer who can handle all or the lion's share of the producing on a film.

A producer and director relationship is like a marriage. They are the ones in charge of the success of the film, both creatively and financially. They build the family on that film and make many decisions together. It's inevitable that arguments may occur but like any strong marriage, compromise is essential. Technically, a producer has final say but that should be reserved for only major last-resort situations. To be honest, I have never had to use my final say with any of the directors with whom I have worked as I have always tried to be diplomatic and compromise as have the directors.

When choosing a producer or director, try to find someone you can see yourself being friends with and who shares similar values on top of having a shared vision for the project. You will be spending years working together, day in, day out. You may even see him or her more than your spouse or partner. So make sure you like that person!

Looking back at the directors I have worked with, they all share common traits of being calm, intelligent, creative, and open to the opinion of others (while never compromising the quality of the film or their vision). And I love and respect each and every one and continue to work with them all to this day. I cherish my relationships with my directors. And I believe they feel the same. We lean on each other in this crazy industry and I know we help each other stay sane.

So I guess I have a "type" of director I like working with. Figure out the "type" of producer or director you like and search for him or her. Find a partner to share the load. I think you will find your work to be even more enjoyable and fulfilling. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why Are Good Location Managers Hard to Find?

It's not like location managing is rocket science; so why are good location managers so hard to find? It's simple. Location managing is really exhausting work, without much glory, and takes a lot of attention to detail to do the job well. 

In pre-production location managers are driving day in, day out to various film locations and trying to find that needle in the haystack that offers the director, the right look, the producer, the right price, the DP, the right amount of space, and the sound mixer, the right atmosphere, and so on and so on. On top of finding the location, he or she must be a master schmoozer who can convince a nervous owner to allow dozens of people and equipment into their space and typically for not a lot of money!

Location mangers handle the negotiations and paperwork between the location owners and the production. They also interact with film permit offices, securing all the necessary permits for a film shoot. If the film has special needs, like shutting down a street, the location manager will also handle any necessary police escorts, etc. 

In production, location managers set up the location for handling the crew (i.e. parking, bathrooms, etc.) and they are the liaisons between the production and the city and the location owners and their neighbors, who are often annoyed by the needs and effects of a 25- to 100-person crew stomping all over their property. Location managers need a charm (and a petty cash budget to pay off the obstinate neighbor who won't shut off his or her stereo) that smooths over the ruffled feathers of those affected by the film shoot and have the ability to ensure the location is protected from the damage that people and equipment can cause. 

Most insurance policies still have a hefty deductible (like $3k) for damage to a location so as a producer, you will want someone managing the locations who shows concern for keeping damage at bay. And the only way to do this effectively is to have a producer and location manager who make the protection of the location a priority.

What I have described above seems like a fairly straightforward job description -- find, secure, and protect locations. It may sound simple but it's not easy. Location managers are usually the first on set and the last to leave (not leaving much time for sleep), and they are constantly dealing with needy, often angry, people and cleaning up after sloppy crew members who toss their garbage all over set each day. Did I mention location managers need to ensure the location is returned in good, clean condition? This includes taking out the trash, etc. 

And because location managing is a hard job, there are those out there who will try to make their lives easier when they hit the inevitable obstacles when locking down locations. I have heard stories of unscrupulous location managers forging signatures on location agreements (only to have it revealed on filming day and the production shut down as a result) or telling the production that all the necessary agreements and permits are in place when they really aren't (which really causes problems when you realize you don't have all the agreements for your deliverables when your film is ready to be sold). 

My advice is to try to keep copies of all the location agreements and permits on file in the production office prior to filming at that location so you are assured that all the paperwork is in order. You don't want to get caught without the right paperwork on filming day. That will cost you time and money. And once you find that good, reputable location manager, hang on tight and don't let go! They truly are lifesavers!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Screenwriting Needs Development, Just Like Your Stories

I am a firm believer that writing in any form is a craft that needs a lot of commitment and hard work in order to excel at it. I don't believe it is something that is based on talent alone. Just like your characters, you as a screenwriter, need development.

It's wonderful if you find that you have a gift for storytelling and for writing dialogue, but if you don't work hard to develop your skills, you may not be achieving the success that your talent could provide.

Why go it alone and only rely on your talent to get you somewhere? Why not seek out the advice and training of others who have gone before you and been successful in getting their screenplays made into films. You have a lot to learn from these success stories. 

The kind of training that may be right for you may be university classes. The Independent offers a comprehensive list of schools with screenwriting programs. There are numerous seminars available as well. Robert McKee's Story Seminar is the most famous. Film Independent and the Sundance Institute offer very competitive screenwriting labs.

Another idea is to hire a screenwriting consultant. My brother, who is a screenwriter, decided he needed more guidance and put an ad on Craigslist offering $50/hour for a screenwriting consultant to help guide him through some revisions to one of his screenplays. He received a ton of response from screenwriting pros and found the experience worked great for him and the consultants (he ended up hiring two different consultants so he could get two perspectives on his work and loved the results).

If you have no money for training, perhaps a writing group would be a good solution for you. Being able to share your writing with others who can offer a critique of your work is invaluable. You may not agree with every note but, inevitably, you will find some thoughts that will truly enhance your story. 

Or perhaps you want to find a screenwriting buddy with whom you can both bounce ideas off and offer critiques of one another's work. However you decide to do it, keep developing yourself as a writer just as you would your stories. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SXSW 2009 Winners

Feature Jury Awards

Winner – 45365
Director: Bill Ross
An inquiring look at everyday life in Middle America, the film explores the congruities of daily life in an American town Sidney, Ohio.

Honorable Mention – The Way We Get By
Director: Aron Gaudet
On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, a group of senior citizens transform their lives by greeting nearly one million U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.

Winner – Made in China
Director: Judi Krant
Lost in Shanghai, an inventor discovers that it takes more than a bright idea to succeed. 

Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast – That Evening Sun
Director: Scott Teems
A ruthless grudge match between two old foes. Lines are drawn, threats are made, and the simmering tension under the Tennessee sun erupts, inevitably, into savagery. Cast: Hal Holbrook, Mia Wasikowska, Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Carrie Preston

Audience Awards

Winner – Motherland
Director: Jennifer Steinman
Six grieving mothers journey to Africa in order to test the theory that “giving is healing.”

Winner – MINE
Director: Geralyn Pezanoski
After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were rescued and adopted by families around the country, leading to many custody battles. Through these stories, the film examines issues of race, class and animal welfare in the U.S.

Winner – That Evening Sun
Director: Scott Teems
A ruthless grudge match between two old foes. Lines are drawn, threats are made, and the simmering tension under the Tennessee sun erupts, inevitably, into savagery. 

Shorts Jury Awards

Winner – Thompson 
Director: Jason Tippet
Since second grade Matt and Ryan have shared the bond of speech impediments, weapons, and things that go fast. But as their last days of high school speed by, the two friends find that their go-carts, dirt bikes, and RC cars can’t outrun adulthood.

Special Jury Award – Happy 95 Birthday Grandpa
Director: Gary Huggins
A fleeting memory in five minutes.

Winner – Shaman 
Director: Luc Perez
Waiting for the bus on a rainy day in Copenhagen, the old shaman Utaaq sees a rare bird from his past. This makes him reminisce his youth, and a beautiful tale about the forces of nature begins.

Special Jury Award – Sweet Dreams
Director: Kirsten Lepore
A Stalwart cupcake escapes from his native land to discover what lies beyond the sugar skyscrapers and candy-condos. His violent shipwreck on a foreign shore forces him to adapt to a new lifestyle. 

Winner – Cattle Call
Director: Matthew Rankin & Mike Maryniuk
A high-speed animated documentary about the art of livestock auctioneering. 

Special Jury Award – The Idiot Stinks
Director: Helder Sun
Animation, Angst, Media, Martians and Miscommunication.

Winner – Thunderheist, “Jerk It”
Director: That Go-Noel Paul & Stefan Moore

Special Jury Award – Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”
Director: Sean Pecknold

Jury Special Mention – New Pornographers, “Myriad Harbor”
Director: Fluorescent Hill

Winner – Performance Evaluation
Director: Breannah Gibson

Special Jury Award – TIE
Fresh Fruit
Director: Edward Kelley & Brenden Cicoria


A Hospital Bathroom
Director: Miguel Johnson

Film Festival Secrets

Chris Holland, the director of festival operations at B-Side, lets you in on the secrets that will help you navigate the festival circuit with your film -- for free. The book is available as a download here: Film Festival Secrets. Give it a read. It's really helpful. 

B-Side is interesting too. Good to see sites that help indie filmmakers and platforms for playing the films survive and thrive. From the Web site:

B-Side is the leading technology partner for film festivals helping audiences discover films. With more than 200 film festival partners, B-Side can enable any festival to have a web presence that rivals the top festivals around the world.

We support festivals by providing cutting edge internet technology for free. The B-Side Festival Guide is an interactive festival schedule that engages audience members and filmmakers with social features such as ratings, reviews, recommendations, and blogs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Producer Writing Specs

Writing specs may feel like playing the Lotto. Over time, you may spend a lot of time and even money (buying software and books, hiring consultants, attending seminars, etc.) and feel like you are getting nothing in return. You may not get a sale, but you will get exposure. And you will be getting much-needed screenwriting experience.

Just like any other skill, writing is improved by repeatedly doing it over and over. And though, I feel I am a better producer than writer, I try to write as much as I can so I can be a better overall storyteller. So as I am developing the projects I am producing, I am also writing my own scripts. If any get made, great! If not, that's fine too. I am investing in myself as a storyteller.

Not every producer writes. I enjoy writing so I make sure to include it in my own filmmaking journey. I also feel it allows me to enhance my development skills. How can I help a screenplay improve if I'm not increasing my own knowledge of what makes a great film? So if you have no desire to write, try to include the study of screenwriting in your own development as a producer or director.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Optioning a Book for Film

Books make great source material for a film. There's a built-in audience, especially if it's a best-seller. And built-in audiences equal interest from financiers as it helps them to feel confident that there will be butts in seats when the film releases.

So, as a filmmaker, how do you go about securing the rights to make a film based on the book you have found? That's easy. First, you need to track down who represents the rights to the book. Typically, a literary agent will represent the book rights.

My first stop for figuring out who represents the rights to a book is the publisher. I contact the publisher and ask who the agent for the book is. Now, this can take a while and sometimes the publishers won't even respond, though I have found most publishers to respond in a timely manner. A film based on a book helps book sales so they are motivated to have a book adapted into a film.

If I can't figure out who represents the book from the publisher, I may Google the author and see if he or she has an Internet presence. If so, I will write the author and express an interest in his/her book and ask him/her for the contact information to the literary agent.

I will be honest here. Agents do not like it when you contact the author directly. But, if you have no other choice, you do it. And that personal touch with the author may help you win the option.

Once I am in touch with the literary agent, he or she is going to want to know if you have the money to option the material. And he or she is going to want an offer. Whether it's a dollar or $10k, they want an offer. I have not found any agent to ever quote me a figure. I am certain you won't get very far if your offer is a dollar and if that is all you can afford, you may want to stick to speaking with the author directly... I didn't say that!

So you made your offer and it was accepted. Now you need to draft an option agreement. It's best to work with an entertainment attorney on drafting a book option. They will help you craft the terms for the book and determine a proper purchase price. If you are too poor for an entertainment attorney, I am sure there are basic book option templates on the Web or you could ask a colleague for a copy of one of theirs and craft your own. I don't recommend this course of action, but we're all indie filmmakers here and we know sometimes, you just have to do what isn't recommended all in the name of making movies!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Memoriam: Natasha Richardson

Maybe it's my age, but I was really stricken by Natasha Richardson's senseless death. It truly shows how fleeting our lives really are. I had memories of all the times I hit my head skiing and thought, why didn't the same thing happen to me? It's tragic and stresses the need for helmets in sports.

I have always respected Natasha Richardson's work as an actor. Here is a tribute I found to remind us of the talent we have lost:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Starting Your Own Production Company

Everyone in the film industry typically fantasizes about starting his or her own production company. The idea of building your own slate of movies is incredibly exciting and enticing. I was bitten by the bug as soon as I started working in film. I just knew from the first day I stepped into a production office that I too one day wanted my own company that made movies.

It's pretty easy to actually start the company. You can be a sole proprietor. Or you can come up with a name for your company and either create a Doing Business As (DBA) name or start a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or some sort of corporation. And voila! You have a production company.

Does starting your own production company mean you are a film producer? Not at all. It's the hands-on experience either in a school setting or working for others or by actually making shorts or features that prepare you to be a producer.

And will you start to magically make movies once you start your company, even with no experience? Sure, if you have the money. Will you make good movies? Probably not. The odds are stacked against you that, with little to no experience, you will be able to successfully develop, plan for, and complete a well crafted film. That's like saying you could President without any political experience. Not gonna happen.

Producing is a career that takes experience to execute. However, many are sucked in by the glamor of being able to say, I'm a producer, and by the relative ease of starting a company, finding scripts to develop, and running around "saying" he or she is a producer. Well, they're in for a shock. Producing is really hard work and takes a lot of stamina, guts, and a high threshold for pain.

So before you leap headlong into starting your own production company, ask yourself, do I have the experience to be a producer? If the answer is no then go get some and then start your company.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Film Financing and Distribution Seminar with Karin Chien

My good friend and close colleague Karin Chien is coming to Los Angeles to share her knowledge on film financing and distribution in a 2-day seminar. If you can afford it, I highly recommend attending as Karin is someone who is extremely knowledgeable and successful as an independent film producer. She gave me my first paid job in film about 10 years ago! Oh how time flies! 

Tell them you were referred by me (Jane) and you will get the early registration rate ($50 off the 2 day full rate, $25 off the 1 day full rate) through to Thursday.

Here is the information from her seminar producer: 

Hey Everyone,

So many people have been asking when Karin Chien was going to do another seminar in Los Angeles!  Well she's back!! A 2 day film financing and distribution seminar on March 21st and 22nd.

For those who don't know Karin Chien, she is a good friend and amazing NY based indie film producer.  Her seventh feature "Exploding Girl" just premiered at Berlin this year.  I brought her out last year and put the seminar together because I wanted to learn film financing and distribution and those of us who took the class were truly enlightened.

Some details below:

FILMMAKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: Getting your Film Financed and Distributed
Instructor:  Karin Chien
Dates:  Sat/Sun, March 21 & 22
Location:  Blank Spaces, 5405 Wilshire Blvd, LA CA 90036
Cost:  $250 or $200 if you mention “JANE,” 1 Day Only $150..
To Register:  email
karen@zuzufilms.com or call Karen Lin @ 323-610-2413

Seats are limited this year so sign up as soon as possible.
Hope you can join.

All the best,

Karen Lin
Filmmaker/Music Video Producer

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can Word of Mouth Be the Key to a Film's Success?

I took a refreshing break from my computer this weekend, made an Irish meal last night (yes, I am Irish), and woke up with renewed energy -- must have been all that homemade Irish Soda Bread. 

Back to the topic at hand, can word of mouth be the key to a film's success? Absolutely and D'uh!

Indiewire and SXSW are featuring the idea that word of mouth may be the key factor to a film's success. Bob Berney, the former head of New Line's now defunct Picturehouse, stated: “I think word of mouth is the key to profitability.” Indiewire points out in the same article that Berney used this approach with the successful films “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Whale Rider,” and “Monster.”

Is this really news to us indie filmmakers? Haven't we always known that the onus for getting our films out there are on our shoulders? Do they really mean: no matter what budget size you have, getting your film shown, mentioned, or highlighted in as many ways as possible that results in the largest group of people talking or hearing about it is the key to a film's success? 

All films rely on word of mouth. Indie filmmakers just have scrappier ways of making it happen. The studios pay for it; we use our blood, sweat and tears. Maybe we can't afford full-page ads in the NYTimes or get the likes of Entertainment Weekly to give a damn about our films, but we can employ creative, less costly, ways of getting our films out to large crowds.  

It sounds good and makes many of us feel better to know that we are on the right track for profitability. What other choice do we have really? Are there really any other cost-effective means for marketing available to an indie filmmaker that doesn't contain some form of word of mouth? All of the social media outlets are based on spreading the word. Even advertising is a way of getting the word out. And critical reviews -- the written word -- are yet another means of getting your film in front of the masses. 

In my opinion, the key to real success is making a good movie that people want to see. From there, it comes down to putting as much effort into the promotion of the film as you do into making it. 

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Whale Rider," and "Monster" were all very good films. Initial lower-cost advertising worked for them because people liked the films, and after they saw them, recommended them to others. She told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on.

So what's the moral of the story? Make a good film and work hard to promote it. You can't have a truly successful film without both ingredients.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ted Hope's Producer Series

If you want to know what a producer does and how he or she thinks and what they contribute to a film, read this series from Ted Hope's blog. He says it all: 

Film Is the World of Who You Know

What they say is true: It's often who you know, not what you know. Don't presume you know more than the next guy and that knowledge is going to be the key to your success. I can guarantee that you are not the only one in Hollywood with your specific skill set. So what will set you apart from the others? Knowing those who can help you get noticed.

It's essential that you take the time to get to know others in all areas of the industry. It's not something that will happen overnight. It's a day to day, inch by inch progression of reaching out and building that rolodex of contacts. Before you know it, a year or two will go by and all those people you have met along the way will add up to a support system of contacts that will help you achieve success.

I am building my network each day and I will continue to do so until I take my last breath. I am not a master schmoozer by any means. I just do my best to reach out and be helpful to others. From there the contacts build. 

I think first about what I have to offer others, not what others can offer to me. And when I do ask for advice or help from my contacts, I make sure to be incredibly gracious about it. In fact, I go into it with the idea that I am lucky to get their support. I never demand it nor do I ever take my contacts for granted. They are taking time out of their incredibly busy days to give me support. It's important to honor their efforts. And if they ever ask anything of me, I do it right away with all my attention and support.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the networking that is required in this business. How do you remember everyone? How do you meet and interact with those who are much more successful than yourself? There's no magic answer, which is actually a blessing. This means that you and I have a real chance of figuring out "an" answer that works for us. 

You need to try many different ways of reaching out and hone in on a few that work best for you. There's only so much time in the day for networking. So be careful about overextending yourself to the point that your work suffers. It's truly a combination of talent and who you know. So give yourself time to cultivate your talent each day but also build the rolodex one name at a time. Patience is a virtue in every aspect of your life, including your film career. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Foreign Coproductions

I am putting together a European Coproduction and it's exactly like putting a puzzle together. You have so many pieces available with which to build the coproduction. It comes down to finding the right pieces and putting them together so they make a strong fit. 

In my case, the story is set in the Netherlands. So naturally, I initially gravitated toward finding a coproducer from the Netherlands. The director is from Belgium and Belgium has some really interesting incentives for film investing so we thought, let's look at Belgium too. There is a piece of the film set in France so we are looking at French money too. And Luxembourg has a great set of studios, where The Girl with a Pearl Earring filmed, that are being considered as well. 

The problem is that in order to access the funds that are available in each country, the project must fulfill certain requirements in each country that make it worthy of receiving their funds. And in order to access these funds, you will need a coproducer from each country who will be the liaison between their funding bodies and the production. The requirements of each film fund typically states that a certain number of cast and crew roles must be filled by citizens of their country. There, my friend, is the rub.

For me, I want to get money from all of the countries. However, for the countries, each wants as many of their own citizens working on the film as possible -- rightly so. Often, it's just not possible to meet the requirements in all of the countries. And the more you piecemeal, the more paperwork and deals and negotiating that you have to deal with, which can make your head spin. 

This is where the puzzle piecing comes in: Which countries will provide the greatest access to funding? 

On top of the funding frenzy in Europe, I must be concerned with funding from America. European coproductions usually allow for no more than 30% American funding. But that 30% does need to be found and often needs to be in place prior to the European financing being triggered. So though the European coproduction system is a viable funding source should your project meet their requirements, it's definitely an organizational challenge. If you're good at puzzles then it might be right for you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On Location

I was in Seattle this weekend and reminded of all the adventures I have had as a filmmaker "on location." Going "on location" usually has me working outside of California in beautiful, interesting settings. So on top of being able to tell stories, I get to see and work in incredible regions that I wouldn't necessarily otherwise even visit. 

Working on location is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. You have to try to set up as much as you can from your home base and then head to the location and start living there as much as three months before filming. It's important to live there and get the lay of the land, hire the crew and lock in the equipment. 

It can wreak havoc on your personal life, especially if you have kids. But it's definitely doable. My husband and I have the rule that if I am out of town, we need to make plans to see one another at least every three weeks. So if I'm on location for six months, I either fly home every third week or my husband visits me. 

The first thing I do when I pick a location for filming is reach out to the film office in the region. They usually have a production guide with a list of all the vendors in the area as well as crew lists of regional crew. 

From there, it's a juggling act -- life, work, art, home -- and a whole heck of a lot of fun and adventure along the way. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Drama Is Everywhere

This morning I was awakened by a search for a knee pad and disdain over chocolate chip muffins versus friendship bread. The drama went on for at least an hour, all before 9am. As I lay in bed trying to ignore my niece's cries and wondering how people can talk so much that early in the morning, I was reminded that drama is all around us and if you are ever in search for fodder for your stories, just look and listen to those around you. 

No matter where we are from, there is a universal language amongst us all: the human emotion. We may react differently to situations but the reaction itself can be related to by all. Chocolate chip muffins caused sorrow in my niece but the rest of us were overjoyed by the tasty, homemade treats. These disparate reactions are what create drama amongst us. 

Our everyday drama may not be overly cinematic but that's where storytelling is exciting. Taking our everyday experiences and expounding on them, massaging them, twisting and turning them into something extremely funny or sad or insightful. 

So whenever you are developing or writing a story and you think you have hit a wall, just look around you. The drama might be sitting right in front of you. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Francis Ford Coppola Embraces Indie Marketing with Tetro

I've heard about Francis Ford Coppola's new film Tetro and what I find really interesting is that he is embracing the forms of marketing that the independent film world has been espousing lately. Check out Tetro's Web site here

Click on the moth and you will see a handheld video of Coppola providing an introduction to the film. It's a very scrappy video of him holding the camera in an outstretched arm as he enters his workspace (in Napa Valley -- I want a workspace in Napa Valley!) and sits down. He talks about how this film is his first original screenplay in years (since The Conversation) and how excited he is for its release, telling people to keep coming back to the site for updates -- very indie indeed. 

I would expect this kind of video from a low-budget filmmaker, not Francis Ford Coppola, which is probably the exact reason he did it this way. He could have easily relied on more studio-type marketing (slick Web site; ads on Variety, etc.) but he's chosen to get very personal about it. He really wants the film to be embraced by the indie world and fans of independent film. Very interesting. 

And his cast is very indie too. Controversial Vincent Gallo, director of The Brown Bunny with the infamous blow job scene, stars, and Coppola comments on Gallo's brilliance. Do I hear another comeback a la Mickey Rourke? I'm looking forward to seeing Gallo in a challenging role featuring his acting chops instead of his sex chops.

The other actors in Tetro include Alden Ehrenreich and Maribel Verdu. Tetro will be 18-year-old Alden's feature debut and Maribel's follow up to a number of award-winning international productions, including Y Tu Mama Tambien.

I'm impressed by Coppola's efforts to self-promote his new feature. He appears to be a real entrepreneur and indie filmmaker at heart with his American Zoetrope production company and wine business. He even states that Tetro is the work he has always wanted to do but his career led him in other directions. Doesn't that sound familiar!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Super U: A Venue to Watch Short Films

Melissa Wood of Super U asked me to mention their Web site to my readers. Looks super cool. As an aside, Super Channel licensed one of my shorts last year so I know they pay for shorts! 

Super U is the online venue to watch the latest short films. Viewers enjoy high quality content, qualified by the viewers themselves. Filmmakers enjoy on-site contests and exposure to broadcasters like Super U’s partner Super Channel, Canada's national pay television network. As Super U grows, filmmakers will share in the advertising revenues generated on the site.

Super U runs regular themed contests for the members with large monetary prizes, and the contests are often judged by a celebrity panel.

Check it out...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Baby Steps to a Feature Film

Making a film is the culmination of thousands, no probably billions, of baby steps. From the inception of a great idea to the final tape or print, countless baby steps of movement have occurred. Films do not happen overnight. They take tons of patience and perseverance. 

The best advice I can give for handling the amount of time it takes to make a film is: love the project. It's this passion and love for the film that will carry you through years and even decades of nurturing, revising, head-banging, and all the other schizophrenic activity associated with filmmaking.

Alright, this is a super cheesy reference but gotta love it!: Kris Kringle (aka Santa) had it right when he sang to Winter Warlock in Santa Clause Is Coming to Town

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it's just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn
That had to have put a smile on your face! 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hiring for Film: Get Referrals. Post Ads. Interview. Check References.

It may seem obvious but anytime you hire someone new on your film, take the time to check the candidate's references. And get referrals! The best way to fill the ranks in the various departments is to call your filmmaker friends and colleagues and see who they like working with. 

If you are in a new area where you haven't worked before, check with the area's film office and ask for crew lists from other productions that have filmed there. Most larger cities have active film offices and each should have crew lists from every film that has shot in the surrounding areas, sometimes the entire state. We recently filmed in Athens, Georgia. Without access to crew lists from other productions through the Georgia Film Office in Atlanta, I would have had a much more difficult time finding our crew. 

As you start calling crew and other film professionals, ask for referrals from them as well. Some may not be available or interested in your project, but they may know someone who is. And post jobs on sites like Craigslist and Mandy.com. I've found really good people from ads on Web sites. You can even put the pay to ensure the candidate is already open to the salaries you have budgeted. 

Next, schedule sit-down interviews, if you can. You may be out of town and have to rely on phone interviews but if you have the opportunity to schedule an in-person interview, do it. Sitting down with someone will give you the best indication of his or her personality. 

Checking references can seem tedious but they can be very revealing about a candidate and they can help you winnow the list of candidates. I'm sure everyone lists references that they know will say good things about them. But, sometimes, references are honest and what they can reveal can help you decide who is best for your production. 

You will be spending 12 to 18 hours a day with each crew member and months with others in post. Take the time to hire those you want to spend most of your waking hours with. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More People Are Going to the Movies

According to today's New York Times article "In Downturn, Americans Flock to the Movies," box office numbers are up -- ticket sales are up 17.5% and attendance is up 16%. That's great news for our business and believable. I'm finding it to be true in my own movie-going pattern. My attendance is definitely up!

Why are more people going to the movies now? I think the recession has a lot to do with it. Movies are still a relatively low cost way of being entertained. They are much cheaper than an expensive dinner at your favorite restaurant or going to a pricey concert or taking a weekend trip. So naturally, movies become part of the plan for some low-cost, get out of the house, fun.

I also think the increase has to do with wanting a break from all the bad things that are going on in the world. Movies are a great respite from all responsibility. The lights are down, no one can talk, the cell phones are off. You are in another dimension for 2 hours, and if the movie is good, you feel good. 

As well as wanting a break from bad things, I think we are all seeking opportunities for bringing normalcy to our lives and the sheer act of going to a movie helps us feel normal. Going to the movies is something we all have grown up doing. Retreating to the theater allows us to revisit the glory days of spending Saturday afternoons at the local cinema, sneaking into R-rated films and eating way too much popcorn. Those were the days!! On that note, I'm going to go to the movies.