Thursday, April 30, 2009

Producers: What Are We Worth?

Indie film producers grapple daily with what their worth is to their projects. How much should our fees be for producing our films? Can the production afford to pay them at all? If not, how much should we defer out and when should we get paid that deferment -- before or after the investors get their money back?

There are no simple answers to any of these questions. It all depends on the kind of project, your experience, the budget, your investors and their requirements, etc. But what I can tell you is: don't sell yourself short and don't be intimidated into taking less than what you believe you are worth on that particular project. If the success of the film is falling squarely on your shoulders, you are worth a great deal to the project and you should be paid for that worth. We producers are human too and need financial resources to survive and thrive. 

No one but you can say how much you are willing to make on a project. Sure, deals can fall through if you price yourself too high and if you are willing to let the deal fall through due to the financiers unwillingness to recognize your contributions appropriately, then again, that is your choice. If you want to take less so the film can get made then that is your choice as well. It comes down to you making choices rather than being bullied into taking a lesser deal. If you are making choices that you feel confident and comfortable with then you are in the right head space for making your deal. 

It is very easy to feel intimidated by financiers and studios, especially if you are new to the business. They will prey on your weaknesses and if you show any self-doubt or low self-worth, they will jump on that and use it to their advantage. Filmmaking is a tough business in which to know your value. It is a creative field and you will find many businesspeople who don't value the creative process very high. Thus, you need to put feelers out to others like yourself and get a sense of the market value for your skills. 

In the end, you need to determine how important your role on the project is to the success of the film and stand as firm as possible to what you believe you are worth. If you are worth that money, the financiers will more than likely accept your deal -- they just may not be willing to accept that reality until they have put you through the wringer. 

If you are delusional about what you are worth then you need a wake-up call and work on making yourself more valuable to your projects. Just because you say you are a producer does not mean you are one. Be realistic and know your worth. I started at the bottom and have inched my way up in my expectations. You can too.

Intense negotiations are why agents and managers and entertainment lawyers exist. They know what their clients are worth and they will do the dirty work of negotiating. In my case, I usually work with my entertainment lawyer on a deal that makes sense for each project. Over time, I have come to recognize what is fair in most deals. And some day, I would like to find an agent to represent my company who can help with other deals as well. 

All of this advice assumes you are a hard worker and knowledgeable of the filmmaking process and you know how to be a producer. If you tend to be all talk and no walk and have never produced a film before then you really can't demand a standard producer fee. But if you do work hard, make things happen, and you know your film would not be moving forward without your critical steps that you have made then you have every right to demand a strong deal. 

Filmmaking is a business and you are working on a sellable product just as any other corporation out there. And when you compare your time to the money you make, I can guarantee your salary often falls below poverty level -- if you are even taking a salary for your efforts. Just remember, even if your deal is deferred, make sure you are getting the pay and recognition you deserve for your hard work. 

Too often, producers are looked at as not really being all that valuable. And we are expected to be the first ones to give up our salaries for the good of the projects and to pick up the slack in any department, etc. But we are human too and just like the actors who demand high salaries during production, we too have bills to pay and need food to eat. So like the actors, we have value and, like their agents, we need to stand up for it!  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Movie Titles Take a Lot of Thought

I even had a hard time titling this post. Movie titles do take a lot of thought. I'm sure there are those films where the title is very apparent. I would think adaptations are the easiest -- just title the film the name of the book! But when your screenplay isn't based on a book, what do you do?

When I title a film, I look at the overarching theme of the film and the audience. What is the film about and who will go see it? With this combo, I brainstorm titles that I think work to impart the story and engage the targeted audience to go see it. For example, if I am titling a horror film, I will think of scary words like Haunting, Fear, Dark, Blood, Hell, Night, Nightmare, Strangers, Alone, etc.

If I am titling a romance, I will think about titles that give me the feeling of romance, such as Love, Need, You. Names of characters can work well too. If you think about it, most romantic films are based on best-selling books so they definitely have the advantage of using the book's title. 

Then there are those titles that just intrigue and build curiosity about the film. Juno and Napolean Dynamite are titles that impart the feel of quirky, fun characters. 

Some titles are just too long or specific. And personally, I think those are the least effective. For example, Tommy Lee Jones' film The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are two titles that definitely don't roll off the tongue. And if they don't roll off the tongue then more than likely I'm not rolling to the theater to see them. 

I like the quick, impactful title that hooks me right away, like Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Into the Wild, Brokeback Mountain, Terms of Endearment, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets' Society, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Say Anything, The Notebook, Twilight, Juno, Amityville Horror, Gangs of New York, Halloween, Dodgeball, I Love You, Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Rudy, Mission: Impossible, We Own the Night, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Jaws, E.T., Gladiator, Walk the Line, Unforgiven, Gran Torino -- the list goes on. 

Titles like Men Who Stare at Goats, Hancock, Riding in Cars with Boys, Osmosis Jones, Apocalypto, Lions for Lambs, Closer, The Mexican, House Bunny, etc., don't do much for me. 

I've worked on a few films that didn't even have titles as we were filming. The screenplay read "Untitled _____ Project." When I worked on Todd Solondz's Storytelling, the script was titled TS2K (Todd Solondz 2000) because there wasn't a title. I remember Animal Husbandry became Someone Like You... and I have to say that I kind of like Animal Husbandry better. It would have stood out more, you know?

So, like everything else in filmmaking, coming up with a movie title isn't easy. It takes time and a lot of thought (months, years even). But when you do figure out that perfect title, it's a great feeling, and when it resonates, I am certain it helps engage an audience and improve your chances at a successful release.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Electronic Press Kits (EPK)

Not many people outside the industry know what an EPK is. I will say, our EPK is looking good for that project and I will often get blank stares in return. Sometimes, newbies to the industry will have that blank stare as well. Exposure to the promotional side of filmmaking will have you learning a great deal about the importance of an EPK.

First off, EPK means Electronic Press Kit. Simply, an EPK is an electronic version of the press kit for the film. It is primarily used by journalists as they gather information for any articles or interviews they create related to your film, but portions of EPKs are even used as Special Features on DVDs. Have you ever seen interviews with actors on the DVD of a film? Those interviews are often part of the Electronic Press Kit.

EPKs are created throughout the filmmaking process. My first exposure to EPKs was on the first film on which I interned in NY. The production coordinator wanted me to make sure to let the ADs (assistant directors) know that the EPK crew would be on set the following day. The ADs coordinate all on-set activity so they needed to be aware of the crew's arrival and know they would need to work with the EPK crew on a schedule for interviews, etc. I gave the coordinator the blank stare and he took the time to explain the EPK and its function.

Once I heard EPK spelled out, I had an immediate understanding but I still wasn't quite sure how EPKs were put together and how important they are to a film's promotion. Thinking about it, I realized that I saw a number of films due to interesting interviews with cast and I've developed a greater affinity for certain projects due to learning more about the whys and the hows of people's involvement on and choices for a project. And right there, from my own experience, I was hooked on the value of an EPK.

Many productions will hire a Unit Publicist who handles the publicity of the production through the shooting of the film. This Unit Publicist will often work with entertainment marketing companies that produce footage for EPKs and DVD extras. That company will send out its own producer and camera crew to conduct the interviews and other special segments that will be used in EPKs and on DVDs as Special Features. 

Even though we are indie filmmakers, we need to create our own EPKs for our projects. Whether or not we can afford our own Unit Publicist or entertainment marketing company, we need to film behind-the-scenes footage and conduct interviews and create Special Features. And much of this footage should be done during production of the film. It's more difficult to try to piece an EPK together after filming is over. So take advantage of the film's production and capture some footage for your EPK as you are making your film. EPKs will absolutely help you get your film out to an even greater audience. 

Speaking of EPK, I just loaded new videos of the cast discussing their roles in our romantic drama Not Since You on our YouTube channel and the film's Facebook and MySpace pages. Check them out and let me know if you are more intrigued by the film after watching them! If so, the EPK is working!

Friday, April 24, 2009

New Trailer for Our Film Tennessee

Super excited for our new trailer of Tennessee and its U.S. release June 5th!

Is It Possible to Monetize Your Film Online?

Is it possible to monetize your film online? That is the eternal question from every filmmaker out there right now. I am skeptical but hopeful at the same time. 

The skeptical, business side of me says how do you make money on products that are entering an oversaturated market in which the going price is $2.99 or even free per download? 

The hopeful side of me says this is the Wild Wild West all over again. Even the big guys haven't figured out a strong solution of monetizing so that gives hope to the little guys of having a chance of figuring out a system that could work. 

Traditionally, the only hope an indie film had of making any return was to be picked up by a distributor and paid a large enough advance to cover costs - or - going on a self-distributed release consisting of paying for venues and DVDs and praying there would be enough interest to cover the costs of the release and the making of the film. This system rarely worked for the majority of independent films being made each year. 

Now there seems to be a race to figure out how to monetize film releases on the Internet as DVD sales and rentals are slowing and audiences are getting more of their entertainment online. The problem is that audiences are used to getting their entertainment for free or at very low cost on the Internet. How do you change that mentality or do you create a system of advertising that covers the costs of Internet sites actually paying decent advances to filmmakers for the download release of the films they feature?

And how do our smaller films compete with the studio films for air time -- even on the Internet? All these questions to ponder -- something I do on a daily basis. And, unfortunately, no real answers yet. If any of you have any ideas on how to monetize our films on the Internet, bring 'em!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cannes Films 2009

Cannes films:

"Up," U.S., Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky," France, Jan Kounen

"Bright Star," Australia-U.K.-France, Jane Campion
"Spring Fever," China-France, Lou Ye
"Antichrist," Denmark-Sweden-France-Italy, Lars von Trier
"Enter the Void," France, Gaspar Noe
"Face," France-Taiwan-Netherlands-Belgium, Tsai Ming-liang
"Les Herbes folles," France-Italy, Alain Resnais
"In the Beginning," France, Xavier Giannoli
"A Prophet," France, Jacques Audiard
"The White Ribbon," Germany-Austria-France, Michael Haneke
"Vengeance," Hong Kong-France-U.S., Johnnie To
"The Time That Remains," Israel-France-Belgium-Italy, Elia Suleiman
"Vincere," Italy-France, Marco Bellocchio
"Kinatay," Philippines, Brillante Mendoza
"Thirst," South Korea-U.S., Park Chan-wook
"Broken Embraces," Spain, Pedro Almodovar
"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," Spain, Isabel Coixet
"Fish Tank," U.K.-Netherlands, Andrea Arnold
"Looking for Eric," U.K.-France-Belgium-Italy, Ken Loach
"Inglourious Basterds," U.S., Quentin Tarantino
"Taking Woodstock," U.S., Ang Lee

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," Canada-France, Terry Gilliam
"The Army of Crime," France, Robert Guediguian
"Agora," Spain, Alejandro Amenabar

"A Town Called Panic," Belgium, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar
"Ne te retourne pas," France-Belgium-Luxembourg-Italy, Marina de Van
"Drag Me to Hell," U.S., Sam Raimi

"Petition," China, Zhao Liang
"L'epine dans le coeur," France, Michel Gondry
"Min ye," France-Mali, Souleyumane Cisse
"Jaffa," Israel-France-Germany, Keren Yedaya
"Manila," Philippines, Adolfo Alix Jr., Raya Martin
"My Neighbor, My Killer," U.S., Anne Aghion

UN CERTAIN REGARD"Samson & Delilah," Australia, Warwick Thornton
"Adrift," Brazil, Heitor Dhalia
"The Wind Journeys," Colombia, Ciro Guerra
"Demain des l'aube," France, Denis Dercourt
"Irene," France, Alain Cavalier
"Air Doll," Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda
"Independance," Philippines-France-Germany, Raya Martin
"Le Pere de mes enfants," France-Germany, Mia Hansen-Love
"Dogtooth," Greece, Yorgos Lanthimos
"Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats," Iran, Bahman Ghobadi
"Eyes Wide Open," Israel, Haim Tabakman
"Mother," South Korea, Bong Joon-ho
"The Silent Army," Netherlands, Jean van de Velde
"To Die Like a Man," Portugal, Joao Pedro Rodrigues
"Police, Adjective," Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu
"Tales from the Golden Age," Romania, Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru
"Tale in the Darkness," Russia, Nikolay Khomeriki
"Tzar," Russia-France, Pavel Lounguine
"Nymph," Thailand, Pen-ek Ratanaruang
"Precious," U.S., Lee Daniels

Isabelle Huppert (president), actress, France
Asia Argento, actress, director, screenwriter, Italy
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director, screenwriter, actor, Turkey
Lee Chang-dong, director, author, screenwriter, South Korea
James Gray, director, screenwriter, U.S.
Hanif Kureishi, author, screenwriter, U.K.
Shu Qi, actress, Taiwan
Robin Wright Penn, actress, U.S.

John Boorman (president), director, author, producer, U.K.
Bertrand Bonello, director, France
Ferid Boughedir, director, Tunisia
Leonor Silveira, actress, Portugal
Zhang Ziyi, actress, China

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fox Atomic Says Buh-Bye

Another motion picture studio division bites the dust. It's always a sad day when any entity making movies packs its bags and says goodbye. Fox Atomic made its own projects, including Turistas, The Hills Have Eyes II, and 28 Weeks Later,  and one of their future projects could have been yours or mine. 

Fox Atomic wasn't going to win any Oscars with the fare they were making, but they were targeting an audience known for spending money on movies -- teenagers. They could have done really well if they had made Twilight or High School Musical. But instead, they made Miss March and 12 Rounds, trying to provide genre and comedy films to this target audience.

Sounds like their genre and comedy hopes didn't pan out. But don't despair, Debbie Liebling (the president of Fox Atomic) will be sticking around as Exec VP of Production at Fox and will still be in charge of shepherding the rest of Atomic's list through production. And with hits like Borat and Dodgeball under her belt, she's a keeper. Let's just hope the titles she has developed for Atomic come close to those two successes. Sounds like Fox could use them. 

Looking at their In Development list on IMDb, I can say that I am interested in Spending My Inheritance. Scot Armstrong is a producer on it and he was a writer on successful comedies, including Old School, School for Scoundrels, and Road Trip. I would hope Spending My Inheritance would reflect his comedic chops. The Wackness director Jonathan Levine has a project on Atomic's slate as well, called The Sitter (He likes his The ____ titles). Even Jason Reitman who directed Juno has a title, Pierre, Pierre, on the list and it's due to star Jim Carrey. Another super intriguing one is the post-apocalyptic title Afterburn from Tobey Maguire's company about treasure hunters seeking relics on Earth after a solar flare destroys much of Earth. A solar flare? I'm so in. Even if these titles are no longer in development, it's fun to speculate their future.

So let's pause for a moment of silence and say our goodbyes. So long Fox Atomic! We hope to see your projects around these parts again real soon. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Twitter Your Way to an Audience?

There is so much publicity on the social messaging site Twitter right now. It's a little crazy. Why do people care so much? 

Anytime there is a phenomenon that captures the attention of thousands, even millions of people, there is going to be a lot of talk about it. And right now, people are twittering about Twitter. I have a Twitter account (janekk), and I find it useful. 

For those of you unfamiliar (which I doubt any of you would be since filmmakers tend to be on the cutting edge of anything new and they need to be concerned with how to build audiences), Twitter is a site that allows users to post what they are doing in real time. This means I can learn what is happening around the world by CNN alongside Uncle Bob's gastrointestinal delights. It's a mixed bag of useful news and links to informative articles and inane chatter about what people are eating or thinking or doing. 

For indie filmmakers, Twitter is another means of building an audience. Just as you are following others, others can follow you. In the time, I have started a Twitter account, a number of people have chosen to follow me and when I release one of my films, they will be one of the first to know about it. 

In turn, I follow news programs, film mags and organizations, filmmakers, and celebrities (i.e. Diablo Cody, Rainn Wilson, Anderson Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore). I like that updates are like a news roll. So I can skim updates and read interesting links that others post. Overall, I find the site helps me to stay current on a million different topics. So, even though I am over hearing about Twitter, I do like using it and I do believe you can help build an audience for your projects. And it's only going to get bigger so why not be part of it? 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle: What a Character!

Susan Boyle is a character! She's the lovable underdog that everyone wants to root for. There isn't a hint of cockiness or self-pity to her. She has a great personality -- just the right amount of humor and self-deprecation that makes you want to get to know and love her. She's a woman with a dream and the talent to attain it. Like us, she's had obstacles to overcome but she finally has had her moment to shine.  I have to admit I cried like a baby watching her performance. Here it is if you haven't seen it yet.

Why did her performance hit home for me and so many other people? It's because Susan Boyle is like all of us. She's the Average Joe who wakes up every morning with a dream to be successful at what she loves to do. And when you see someone like yourself attain that dream, it is a powerful moment. You understand the struggles she has gone through to get to that point because you have been there yourself. Seeing her achieve her dream gives us all hope we can achieve ours. 

What I love about Susan is that she is so unassuming and has such a wonderful sense of self-worth. She could give a crap what others think about her. And that's what makes her a true heroine -- she's someone who knows what she wants and has the faith and determination to make it happen despite what is happening around her. She just keeps on going. 

And we must do the same filmmakers. We are in a very tough, very competitive business and we need to be inspired by Susan's story and keep on going. Three cheers to Susan! And three cheers to the rest of us! 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Many Film Projects Are Too Much?

Starting out as a producer, I had about 40 projects at any given time in various stages of development. I quickly found that was WAY too many projects to develop and even think about. I knew there was a problem when I would get winded just talking about them. 

For a long time, I kept the list of projects at the forefront of my mind, thinking I would get to all of them eventually. Sadly, that has not been the case. It just isn't physically possible nor is it the best use of anyone's time to spread themselves over too many projects. In the time that I have been a producer, I have learned that it takes a really long time and a huge amount of energy to make even one film. Forty is a lifetime of projects. 

I still have that list of 40 projects and I go back and look over them periodically; I may even add to it from time to time. But instead of thinking of them as my current projects, I consider them my wish list. My current projects consist of about five films at any given time. 

I am only one person and there is only so much time in a day. I must prioritize my efforts and be very focused about what I need to accomplish. In order to get films made in a timely manner, I need to have the time to devote to each project every day. It's just not possible to work on 40 projects every day and push them successfully. I have found five to ten to be the max. 

What does this mean for my career? It means that I don't have much room on my slate for new projects. I may add one or two per year. But, I may read hundreds, even thousands of scripts a year. The odds are very low that I will strongly consider any unsolicited work. In fact, I tend to develop ideas in-house and find writers willing to work on spec and move forward as a team on an idea. This process allows me to get exactly what I want and feel I can get behind, without feeling compelled to find that needle in a haystack amongst the thousands of specs out there.

As you build your slate, try to focus on quality, not quantity. Weed out those 40 projects and focus on just a handful at any given time. I know a number of indie producers who only focus on one at a time. Find a system that works for you and realize that being overwhelmed by too many is not a system that works. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bob Berney Distribution Company Unveiled Soon -- We Hope

It's very rare to actual hear of plans for a major distribution company to open its doors, rather than closing them in these hard times. And opening doors is what Bob Berney is planning to do. 

Bob Berney is the former head of Picturehouse, which was a now-defunct joint venture of HBO and New Line Cinema to release specialty films. (New Line eventually bought out HBO and kept Picturehouse for itself.) When Picturehouse opened its doors, everyone was excited to have another source and buyer of independent films. And while it was in existence, Picturehouse released some wonderful films, including La Vie en Rose and Pan's Labyrinth.

Then a shocking thing happened. New Line was folded into Warner Bros. This was shocking because New Line had huge releases like Lord of the Rings. Why did it need to get folded into WB? I'm sure the bigwigs thought it was a strong business decision but filmmakers were shaking in their boots as they saw the writing on the wall -- less buyers to finance and buy their films. And the filmmakers were right to shake. Almost immediately, Picturehouse's future came into question. Warner Bros. had its own specialty unit -- Warner Independent aka WIP. How could the two co-exist? 

They couldn't and in fact, neither would survive. When Warner Bros. took over New Line, it ditched Picturehouse and WIP, explaining that New Line and Warner Bros. could handle any specialty films. On the outside, it was a huge jolt to the system to see both Picturehouse and WIP go. But on the inside, I don't think anyone was surprised that Warner Bros. wanted out of the specialty film business. It's well known that Warner Bros. loves their tentpole films and struggles with releasing small dramas. 

Case in point: Slumdog Millionaire. Warner Independent made Slumdog but when the film was finished, WIP was no longer around to shepherd the film through a strong theatrical release. Instead, the Goliath of Warner Bros. was in charge of its release and they didn't see the commercial viability of the film (can you imagine?). They began positioning the film for a DVD release -- that is until Peter Rice at Fox Searchlight rescued it. Fox Searchlight Pictures, which is 20th-Century Fox's specialty film division, saw the promise of what would become a huge Academy Award-winning film so they paid for the rights to jointly release the film with WB. 

Fox Searchlight is a beacon of success on the indie film landscape. They have released a number of indie darlings, including Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and most recently, the critically acclaimed The Wrestler and, of course, Slumdog Millionaire. If anyone could successfully release Slumdog, it would be Fox Searchlight. And boy, were they successful! 

So, Bob Berney was kicked to the curb after Warner Bros. acquired Picturehouse but don't count him out. He is the peanut butter to the jelly of independent film. He was the one behind the huge marketing success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to indie films. And Warner Bros.' loss will be a venture capitalist's gain. 

According to rumor, Berney is teaming with Bill Pohlad of River Road (who has invested in great independent films like Brokeback Mountain) to create a brand-spanking new distribution outfit. And it sounds like they are going to great lengths to incorporate new distribution models in our ever-changing independent film landscape. Hip, hip hooray! Three cheers to new financiers and buyers! We'll be rooting for you Bob!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Internet Isn't for Everyone

I am in Detroit and staying with relatives who have no Internet connection. It's surprising and a little refreshing. I am at a coffee shop creating this post and looking forward to retreating back to the black hole of my in-laws. I probably won't post again until I am back home next week and part of the Web World again!

How do we reach those about our films who don't rely on the Internet for communication? Right now, there is a huge push for movie marketing to focus on the world of Web users. But we can't forget those who rely on the traditional news outlets, like TV and print (which is downsizing at a rapid rate). 

Getting your film in front of the Web-less audience is a challenge. This is where word-of-mouth and researching your core demographic and how they access information is very important. There are ways beyond the Internet to get the word out about your film and be sure to include them in your film marketing. Or you may be missing out on a huge group of fans of your work!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Produced By 2009

This looks like a great conference. I'm going to try to attend myself!

The Producers Guild is working with the top producers in the entertainment industry to host the first annual PRODUCED BY 2009 conference this June 5th-7th at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. Attendees will interact with and learn from the likes of James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy, Lauren Shuler Donner and producers of Emmy winning TV shows including Desperate Housewives and Two And A Half Men.
Here are some unique sessions that may be good for us indie filmmakers. Honestly, I'm a huge proponent of being knowledgeable about and friendly with the entire industry even though we are indie...but here are the indie film sessions:


From the Guild: Attendees can take advantage of over 30 film, television and new media sessions with 100+ producers covering everything you need to know to be a great producer. This is an opportunity to get in the room with Hollywood’s most successful producers.


When Your Indie Film Is Described as "Too Commercial"

Have you ever made a film that you were really proud of, created absolutely independently, and even garnered excellent reviews from test audiences but were still shut out of the festival circuit with the explanation that it's "too commercial"? Well, you're not alone. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a certain kind of film that the festival circuit likes to program, and if you ain't got it, they won't program it. I won't say that I agree or disagree with their philosophies -- it just is and you need to learn how to survive outside the festival circuit should you be shut out of it. 

It's very well known that premiering at a larger festival and garnering positive reviews lays a strong foundation for the release of your film. But what do you do when you have that "bastardly commercial" film that they don't like... 

You embrace the fact that your film is "too commercial" and you try to sell it into the more commercial avenues. Funny enough, I have one of those films and when I told our sales agent about our plight of being shut out of the festival circuit, he laughed and said, festivals program films I can't sell. I can sell your film. I was very relieved to hear this and thought, you know what?, I'd rather have a sellable film than one that plays a festival and can't find a buyer to save its life. That's making lemonade out of lemons. 

As an indie filmmaker, you are brought up to believe that the film festivals are your only way of gaining exposure for your work. But that isn't true. You may have made the film outside of the Hollywood system but that doesn't mean your film is a natural fit for the festival circuit. There is a misconception that because you made it indie, the festival circuit is the only means of promoting it.  

When taking your film to market, absolutely apply to the big festivals because you never know and a premiere at one of them will definitely help your sales agent have an easier job of promoting your film. But if you are shut out, don't despair. It may not be an indication that your film is bad (I won't deny that it could be); it may just mean that your film is meant for another means of exposure. 

You have the power to get your film out to the world in many different ways. Get creative. Know your audience and reach out to them directly. Social media is your friend when you need to reach out: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc. If you have a lot to say, start a blog or a vlog. Do a podcast. Create a Web site. Just don't let the film festival rejections get you down. Instead, resolve yourself to prove them wrong! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Producers Are Financiers

I don't think there is enough discussion about producers being financiers. Many look at a producer as the leader of the production and integrally involved in the creation of the film, but they don't necessarily look at him or her as the money person. However, one of the largest producing tasks is finding money.

I love movies. I am driven by their ability to change people's perspectives on life. I would love to ignore the money-finding stage and just focus on the fun, creative stuff of making a movie. However, I can't ignore the fact that my main job is finding money. I don't even have to manage the production. I can hire a line producer to do that for me. So really, my main job is being the sugar momma.

I was drawn to producing by the creative desire to help make entertaining films that resonate with an audience. I wanted to make art. I quickly realized though that along with the creative comes the fiscal responsibility of ensuring the budget will be there for the film. This has not been an easy aspect for me. I had trouble selling Girl Scout cookies as a kid. How was I going to sell movies to investors?

With passion, comes confidence. I have such a passion for making films that I am propelled to leave my comfort zone each day and make those phone calls, draft those emails and reach out to others who have money and sell my films. I have come to embrace the fact that I am the money-bags behind the project -- even if I don't find every cent; I know I have to manage it. 

So if you are thinking producing is the career for you, you need to wrap your head around the idea that you need to feel comfortable finding and managing money. You will need to reach out to wealthy people and pitch your work to financiers, production companies and studios. If you don't see yourself finding and managing money, you may want to consider another aspect of filmmaking as producers really are financiers.