Monday, August 31, 2009

Are Indie Filmmakers Too Independent?

Independent filmmakers often work in their own worlds, within their own cliques of people with whom they like working. This is good and bad. It's good because you can grow a small group of very loyal, similar thinking people that you can lean on for the long haul of filmmaking. It's bad because you may only have the people in your small group weighing in on your work. And those people may not have the experience yet to really help you propel your work to the next level. 

Are indie filmmakers working too much in a vacuum? Do we need a better means of expanding our worlds and having more checks and balances on our work? Personally, I try to create greater opportunities to expand my indie world. I work with some great people, but I think it's important to grow my world and get other people's perspectives on storytelling whenever I can.

I'm also wondering if we had more people involved earlier in the process then would more films have greater success on the festival circuit and at the box office? Something to think about.

I know there are programs out there to help us be better filmmakers. Here are a few:

Sundance Screenwriting, Producing & Director Labs
Film Independent Screenwriting, Producing & Director Labs
IFP Rough Cut Lab
Nicholl Fellowships for Screenwriting

Now the issue I have with the above labs are that they are very exclusive and geared primarily toward low budget independent filmmaking. What do the rest of us do when we aren't accepted to these programs or you want to develop broad comedies or thrillers or action pieces, etc.?

Well, the onus falls on you to get your own feedback. I know this isn't easy. Those who are good at development and successful in their careers are often super busy and don't have much time to spend teaching others how to improve their skills. This is where interning and assisting become a very valuable tool for your growth as a filmmaker. 

If you are having a hard time getting the guidance you need from organizations or seminars, etc., try spending time with successful people by offering your help. Many will take you up on your offer and you may find support and a mentorship that could really help you grow as an artist.

No matter what filmmaking is built on relationships. Don't be afraid to expand your network and share your work with those outside your inner circle. Being independent is great but it doesn't mean being alone. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Julie & Julia: Tells the Story of All Us Writers, Freelancers, Filmmakers & Entrepreneurs

I just got back from seeing Julie & Julia and the whole experience brought a tear to my eye! Have you ever had that moment when you feel, wow, he or she really gets me. Julie & Julia really gets me! Finally, a movie that shows my life and the lives of countless other freelancers, writers, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs. And that's the power of cinema. Art really does imitate life. 

If you want to know what it is like for those of us who chose the more unconventional path of seemingly creating a career from nothing but a passion then this is the film to see. The great thing is that Julie took a simple blog idea and it grew into something much bigger, opening doors to the very career she hadn't been able to crack. Likewise, Julia found her passion in cooking -- something she stumbled into -- and she worked diligently on her passion every day and it paid off -- BIG. The key to both is that they never gave up and they gave it their all.

Watching them both sit at their typewriters and then seeing their husbands supporting them was like a carbon copy of my life to date. My husband even leaned over during the movie and said: That's us. I laughed and cried. (I seriously have the most supportive husband, it truly is ridiculous. I love him to pieces for being there for me for 18 years and counting!) I laughed because it's true and I cried seeing others do what I do, achieve success. I love that! 

I know there are thousands more of us out there -- working away, every day to reach our goals of having our work achieve success. I'm friends with many of them and each and every one has their Julie or Julia inside them. We all need to support that creative spirit and that passion. Remarkable things really can happen, even from nothing. 

Here's the thing: As filmmakers we must stay true to our voice and work tirelessly (and I mean doggedly) day in, day out to achieve our goals. It's not easy. You will work the hardest you have ever worked in your life. But it will feel great to see your work on the big screen and know that you did that. You helped create that movie that everyone is watching and from which they will be changed for the rest of their lives. That's the goal. And that is why we get up every day and sit at our computers and write and read and make yet another film. And we love it. 

So thanks Julie & Julia for reminding us that it's important to hang in there and keep working at it -- even when you want to just give up and cry on your keyboard. Crying's okay. Just wipe the tears and keep working.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shorts That Became Acclaimed Features

Check out this list of shorts from IFC that became acclaimed full features! These are examples of how filmmakers turned their short film experience into successful full features. Watch, listen, learn. Cheers!

What Is a Screenwriter's Best Friend and Worst Enemy?

Notes! When you write a script, you are often way too close to see the weak areas. And notes from others who are strong in development can help push you in the right direction. 

On the other hand, too many cooks in the kitchen could take a strong story and propel it into a glob of gook. 

All screenwriters know that rewriting is part of the job of crafting a great script. Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting is a mantra for screenwriters. 

So where do all the different ideas for rewrites come from? Well, I like to call on my respected colleagues for notes. I may have a rough draft of a script and know it has some strong areas and I'm wondering what others will spark to. So I give it to them to read. They come back to me with their thoughts that really help me to hone in on what is working and what isn't. 

Sure, everyone has heard of the horror stories of notes ruining a beautiful script. Maybe the studio loves a core idea but they want the execution to be more generic, more mass audience friendly. This is when notes can tear out the spine to a story and leave it a muddled mess. 

So in the end, notes are your friend and your enemy. You can't live with them and you can't live without them. For yourself, you need to have a confidence and passion and clear focus of the story you want to tell and know how to cull the best notes from the bunch. 

And on the other hand, if a studio has bought your script and they want certain notes addressed, you need to do it -- even if you don't agree. They have purchased the rights to your story and they can and will make it whether you like the final product or not. So unless you want to walk away and let them find another writer to work on their notes -- which is perfectly acceptable and often a choice they make in order to get a fresh perspective -- you will need to be able put your "dreams" for your story aside and try to to make it work for the buyers of your script. 

In the end, it's always wise to get other people's opinions on your work. It's very easy to get anxious and want to get your script out there right away. You dream of the quick sale. But the odds will be much greater for success if you take your time, get notes, vet them, work them in, and give your story the attention it deserves. 

You wouldn't release a film without showing it to others and getting their feedback, right? So treat your writing the same way -- get the notes and learn to love them. If handled right, they will only make you look better and an audience more satisfied!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guest Blog: 5 “must read” books for the passionate independent filmmaker

Here is a guest blog from Toronto-based producer Ian Agard. Check out his Web site and blog at www.ianagard.com. Thanks Ian!

Is your film career worth 30 minutes of your time everyday?

As you make your professional journey through the film industry, you will encounter both challenges and uncertainty that might leave you feeling hopeless and discouraged.

But there is always an answer/solution to any problem you might face as a movie director, producer or scriptwriter.

“There will never be a new problem. Somewhere… someone had the same problem as you, find the solution and wrote it down in a book” – Will Smith

Here are 5 must read books for any passionate moviemaker:

1) Reel to Deal: Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film by Dov S-S Simens

This is an easy and informative read. Very inspiring for someone who’s interested in making movies. Especially for independent film producers. I really like his advice about “first make a movie, then make a deal”.

2) The Film Director Prepares: A Complete Guide to Directing for Film & TV by Myrl A. Schreibman

Loaded with a vast amount of useful information for newbie film directors ranging from topics like directing actors to camera coverage to how to be professional and efficient onset.

3) Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is the modern day king of D.I.Y. moviemaking. His book chronicles how he made a feature film for $7,000 that launched his film career. What I love about this book is Rodriguez cuts through all the Hollywood noise and b.s. and gives you real,honest, useful tips on what you really need to succeed as an independent movie director.

4) The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider’s Secrets from Hollywood’s Top Writers by Karl Iglesias

Based on conversation with successful working Hollywood script writers like Eric Roth, Akiva Goldsman, Ed Solomon, Nicholas Kazan, Leslie Dixon, Scott Rosenberg, Gerald DiPego, Steven DeSouza, Tom Schulman, Michael Schiffer, Amy Holden Jones, Robin Swicord. This book gives you the real deal about the daily routes and how to break into the industry tips from the writers of many of today’s top Hollywood movies. I really loved what Ron Bass (Rain man) had to say about succeeding as a screenplay writer.

5) Stop Waiting and Make Your Movie by Ian Agard

This is a feature film financing guide with 32 information-packed pages of valuable tips and strategies used by both established and emerging filmmakers to secure money for their film productions. For a novice or expert. If you are an independent moviemaker who needs $5,000 to $500,000 to make your feature film, then this e-book is for you. To learn more about it, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Competition for Scripts

I know the people behind the competition. They definitely have relationships to key industry people. If you apply, good luck!

COMPETITION DEADLINE APPROACHING!

How would you like 30 of Hollywood’s biggest names to read your script for a potential production or development deal?
Are you ready?
 
Our panel of over 30 prominent judges includes the Hollywood professionals behind X-MEN, GLADIATOR , (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, THE UGLY TRUTH, THE DAILY SHOW, ENTOURAGE, MILK, ANGER MANAGEMENT, FINAL DESTINATION, MEET THE PARENTS, LEGALLY BLONDE,  and many more?!  As well as agents and managers from Hollywood’s top agencies including UTA, ICM and APA!

MovieHatch ( www.MovieHatch.com
<http://www.moviehatch.com/> ) is the hot new film/tv website and social network which also offers competitions and resources on how to pitch your script, including “Do’s and Don’ts” from our prestigious partners.  Along with the top producers, writers and agents in the industry, MovieHatch allows the public to help decide what films get made!
 
The top 10 audience favorites will be read by ALL of our Hollywood Partners – (see www.MovieHatch.com
<http://www.moviehatch.com/> for a full list). This fantastic opportunity is being discovered by the best emerging screenwriters and filmmakers because, even if the entry isn’t in the top ten pitches, one of our partners may still request the screenplay.  You only need to upload a short video trailer (or a still image) and synopsis along with your full script (which will not be published online).
 
We are now accepting entries for the Fall 2009 Makin’ Movies Feature Film Competition.  But don’t wait – the final entry deadline is September 15th!
 
If you’re getting this posting, you qualify for an exclusive 30% discount.  Simply enter the coupon code “CARPET” during the entry process.
 
Please see www.MovieHatch.com
<http://www.moviehatch.com/> for more details and the complete set of rules.  
  

How Do You Talk to Investors?

It can be very intimidating to ask others for money, especially if you are a new filmmaker and you don't have a long resume of successful hits already. But you have to get out there and search for money for your projects. So how do you talk to investors?

First off, be realistic about who is going to help you finance your movie. It's fairly well known that independent films by new filmmakers are largely funded by friends and family or friends and family of your friends and family. Why? Because you are not a known quantity for investors to whom you don't have a connection. And friends and family love you and want to help you be successful. 

So when you sit down and start asking yourself who has money, think of your friends and family first and then who they may know, etc. I have found this to be the most effective way of financing low budget films. I have been securing funds for small films for a while now and every single investor on the films I have financed has had a connection to the filmmakers in one way or the other. Same goes for my producer colleagues. Though you can and should still try other avenues, I recommend you focus on people you know and the people they know.

Forget the venture capitalists (unless they are friends). They want large projects with known quantities and most hate film investments. They don't know filmmaking. They don't want to understand it. They could care a less about it. Give them a widget company and they are happy. And honestly, do you want to be in business with someone who only cares about his money? Better to have others on board who are interested in your success as well.  

Whether or not you are approaching loved ones or the dentist down the street, you need to know how to speak their language. 

What is their language? Money.

So what do they want to hear? That you are confident and passionate about your skills and project and team and that you know how to handle their money once they give it to you.

I'm certain the passion is there or you wouldn't be a filmmaker. So how do you gain the confidence? Research and work. Do your homework. You need to read everything about film financing and pick the brains of others who have done it as well. Attend seminars on film financing. Hire an entertainment lawyer who can advise you and handle the legal paperwork. 

And you need to work on your skills as a filmmaker. Before you try to take other people's money for your films, invest time and even your own money in building your skills first. Make a few shorts on your own dime. Or go to film school. Invest in yourself and others will follow. 

What else do you need? A business plan. If you do not have a business plan then you probably won't have much success finding money beyond your close friends and family. Remember that a film is a business and it should be treated as such. You need to set up a business entity so your investors have something to invest in. And you have to manage this entity. A business plan is the road map to the success of your film and the means for your investor to see how his or her money is being used. Take the time to make one or hire someone to do it for you. 

Know your investors and what may be motivating them to invest. Ask them why they are interested in investing in film. Really listen. Then focus your energy on appealing to their reasons for investing. 
  • Do they want to be part of the movie industry? Describe how being part of your project will offer them that opportunity.
  • Do they want to help their child get into the industry? Figure out a way to help make that happen. Bring the kid on as a production assistant. Or if they invest enough, make him or her an executive producer.
  • Do they want to meet actors? Offer invites to set and parties for your film. 
  • Do they want to be producers themselves? Explain how their involvement in your project will be a way toward accomplishing that goal. Again, if they invest enough, offer them a producer or executive producer credit. 
  • Do they want to make tons of money? Never use the idea of making tons of money as the motivation for a film investor. Films are high-risk investments. Educate your investors on the risks involved and let them make their own decisions on whether or not they want to take the risk. Sure, you can point out the success of similar small films and you should be positive about why you feel your film has a chance for success but don't make promises you aren't absolutely sure you can keep. 
Lastly, when speaking to investors, be honest. As I explained above, investing in filmmaking is a very risky endeavor. I know because I am an investor too. I have invested in most of my films to date and I know the risks involved. It is your duty to let your investors know it could take a long time for recoupment or they could lose their entire investment in your project. If you lose your investor because they fear the risk then he or she is not the right investor for your project. I have found that most investors are savvy and they want to hear you say the investment is a risk so they can trust you know what you are doing and that you will be honest with them all along the way. 

Just like in love, there is someone out there for everyone. You will find your investor. He or she may be right around the next corner.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Are Studios Open on Saturdays? by John August: Learn the Biz

In John August's blog post Are Studios Open on Saturdays?, John reminds us all that if you want a career in film, you do need to grasp a basic understanding of how it works. 

I have to agree with John. In the film industry, people are working at lightning speeds and have tons of queries every day coming in from many artists. You need to go to the movers and shakers of Hollywood with an understanding of the basic mechanism of Hollywood or you will most likely be ignored. Not out of being mean. It's out of the need to focus on projects that have the highest potential for success. And the chances that someone who doesn't know how the industry works having the next big hit is pretty slim. 

So don't give anyone a reason to dismiss your work. Take the time needed to read everything you can get your hands on, i.e. books, blogs, articles on the industry. Get a subscription to Variety and/or Hollywood Reporter. Go to festivals. Attend panels and seminars and workshops. Go to film school if you like. Just remember to hone your knowledge on the ins and outs of Hollywood as your hone your craft. 


Friday, August 21, 2009

What Makes a Good Filmmaker?

There are many different attributes of good filmmakers. Here are a few that I have found necessary and work on improving each day. 
  • Good taste in stories. 
  • Strong script development skills.
  • Has an eye for talent.
  • Finds his or her own voice and expresses it unabashedly.
  • Knows how to find projects.
  • Not afraid to make mistakes. 
  • Outgoing enough to forge and maintain relationships with others who can help get their films made. 
  • Ability to find and convince investors to take a risk on their project(s).
  • Can lead masses of people through the creation of a final end product.
  • Good organizer.
  • Multi-tasker.
  • Risk-taker.
  • Marketer.
  • Confident in their vision and work.
  • Sets high bar for quality in their work. 
  • Strives to do their best. 
  • Is an entrepreneur.
  • Likes challenges.
  • Great problem-solvers.
  • Endless amount of energy for making films.
  • Last, but not least, an obsessive love of movies!
I'm sure the list can go on forever. But if you have many of the above attributes then you are well on your way to being a good filmmaker. Just keep at it and you will get there. I'm right there with you working on all of the above, every day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Great Interviews

I have been so busy that my head has been spinning around! I wrapped another shoot this past weekend and prepping for another this weekend and working on a writing assignment. Whew! So sorry for the lack of posts but sometimes life and work take over. 

I found this great interview blog and wanted to share. Enjoy reading!

http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

Teasers for Your Film

Teasers can be a conundrum. Should you make one? Will it really help? I hate to say it but there is no right or wrong answer. Teasers may or may not help you. In my own personal experience, they don't really help. 

I made a teaser for a film once and it didn't get me my financing or the cast I needed. The script for the feature got the most notice, not the teaser. I am building the cast and the money for that film from the script only now. The teaser sits on my shelf collecting dust. 

My definition of a teaser is a short trailer depicting the tone, genre, characters, and story of a feature. It's not a short film. There is a difference. 

Short films that can stand on their own and be viable as a full feature are probably your best scenario when deciding to make something that can grow into a feature. That way you have something that can have a life of its own. Teasers really can go no further than financiers or the Web. 

Don't expect teasers to be a magic pill for you and your project. Oftentimes, companies and investors can't glean enough from a teaser to tell if you have what it takes to helm a full feature that will be profitable. 

But teasers could help some individuals feel just comfortable enough to open their pocketbooks. 

Advantages
  • You have proof that you can make something cinematic
  • It shows the tone and quality of the piece you want to make
  • If investors like the teaser, it may push them to back your project
Disadvantages
  • You are spending money on something that really has no sales market. There's no potential for making your money back from a teaser.
  • There's no life beyond the financiers or perhaps a run on YouTube.
  • They can be dated really fast and you may grow as an artist in the time it takes to gather your resources and you personally may decide it's no longer a strong depiction of your work.
My advice to anyone considering making a teaser would be to try to make a short instead. Use that short (whether you want to make a feature from it or not) to build excitement for your work. A great way to gain exposure is to create an award-winning short. The award winners on the festival circuit are tracked by agents, managers and financiers. The powers that be to get you to the next level will come to you if you create something that makes a splash.

So get out there and make something splashworthy!! 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recipe for a Leader

I came across this recipe for a leader and I thought I would share. I don't know who wrote it so I can't offer credit for it. But it's pretty spot on for what a producer should be. 

I think, too often, people accept the bad behavior of some producers as the status quo for how to be a producer. That is not true. There is no excuse for not being a decent human being. I know a lot of wonderful producers with these exact qualities and I aspire to be amongst them. 

Ingredients for a Leader:

Have all ingredients at body temperature. Sift intelligence, ambition, and understanding together. Mix cooperation, initiative, and open-mindedness until dissolved. Add gradually ability, tactfulness and responsibility. Stir in positive attitude and judgment. Beat in patience until smooth. Blend all ingredients well. Sprinkle liberally with cheerfulness and bake in oven of determination. When absorbed thoroughly, cool and spread with kindness and common sense.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Short Film versus Full Feature: What Should You Make?

You want to make a movie but you can't decide if you should take your money and do a well-funded short or use the cash to make a down and dirty full feature.

It all depends on what you need to get out of the experience. Below are a few things to consider as you decide between short film and full feature.

1)  Do you have a great short script and full-length script to choose from? Whatever you make needs to be based on a strong script. So if one is stronger than the other, go for the better script.

2) Are you trying to show off your creative skills as director or writer? This is a tricky area. Great shorts can get you noticed but there is a ton of competition and length matters. Even if your short is amazing, most festivals prefer programming the 10 mins or shorter films. This is because most shorts are programmed in a block of short films, which means longer shorts need to anchor the shorts programs. Your short better be brilliant in order to get a prime anchor spot.

So if you have a short that can show your brilliance in 10 mins or less then you may want to choose to make a short. Or you may want to decide to go full feature. Or take your chances that your 20 mins short will find its home and get you the attention you want.

3) Are you wanting to make money from it? Everyone wants to make money from their films but if that is your primary goal then you should probably make a full feature. The buyers' market for short films is small unless you are making one based on a popular topic or person. Shorts can have their own markets for sales if they focus on stories with built-in audiences (this is true for full features as well). 

4) How much money do you have? If you only have 2 bucks then you need to make a short film because you can't make a feature on 2 bucks -- unless you have someone donating everything to you. If you have a few thousand dollars then it is possible to squeak out a full feature. 

Again this is where things can get tricky. You don't want to make a full feature that really needs $100k for $5k. The only time it makes sense to do a full feature for $5k is when it is written for that budget and it's GOOD. I have seen so many films shot in one room that have bored me to tears. Just because you have a script set in one location and you can shoot it super cheap doesn't mean it will work or should even be attempted -- which leads me to number 5.

5) Be realistic. Take the time to seriously evaluate your goals and reasons for deciding to make a short v. a full feature. Don't make a quick decision based on emotion. Most people want to make full features but if you are at a point in your career that a short makes more sense, i.e. you need more experience, then make a short for the experience. And remember, you need resources to make any movie. Don't shortchange your full feature when you really only have resources for a short.

6) Timing. Shorts can be created and finished much faster. They can be uploaded to the Web in a jiffy and go viral rather quickly if you have a topic of interest. So timing can play a big factor in your decision for short v. feature. 

7) What is the topic best suited for? Some topics may be better as a short than a full feature. Kitties and their antics do very well on YouTube in quick spurts. You definitely don't want to make a full feature of cats playing. You get my drift. Decide what format is best for your story. 

8) Do you have connections to crew who can commit themselves over the longer timeframe of a feature? Connections to crew are very important. It can be very disruptive to the creation of a film to have crew coming in and out all the time. You need a core group to be part of your crew that will get you through the long haul -- at least a producer who can help replace those who can only do short spurts of work. Some stability needs to be in place. Until you have that stability, you should make shorts and build up your connections. 

9) Awards. Don't worry about awards. Make a great short or full feature and awards will become a reality.

10) What is your end goal? Do you want to be known for short films? Then you need to make a short obviously. Do you want to make a great feature and you feel you have enough resources and the experience to make it happen? Then a full feature may be right. 

In the end, it comes down to evaluating your resources, goals, quality of projects, and experience. If you are still having trouble figuring it out then you need to do more evaluating. Write down the pros/cons/resources for each and eventually the answer will appear. Trust your instincts. You usually know when you are making the right decision.  


Friday, August 7, 2009

Guest Blog from Composer Christopher Brady: The Spotting Session

Chris Brady is a wonderful composer and this is his guest blog. Thanks Chris!

The Spotting Session

Composing music for film is my life’s passion.  Yet, it seems almost every day brings challenges which I never anticipated before I actually started working professionally.  When I was a young lad dreaming of becoming a film composer, I had no idea what a spotting session was, much less how important these meetings are in determining the musical course a film will take.

Spotting a film is the process in which the composer, the director and the producer sit down, watch the film, and decide where music should start, where music should stop, and what kind of music should be created for the film.  If the film’s budget allows, a music editor also participates in this meeting by taking notes and creating a cue sheet which lists the timings and brief descriptions of each music cue.  If the budget does not allow for a music editor, these spotting notes are usually written by the composer.

One of the most interesting and tricky tasks which every composer faces is simply communicating with the producer and director.  It sounds much easier than it usually is.  Commonly, the producer and director are extremely knowledgeable, many times even experts, in the various areas film production such as screenwriting, casting, cinematography, film editing, etc.  However, more often than not, music composition is not a subject within the director’s or producer’s areas of expertise.  This can lead to a somewhat interesting and many times hilarious language barrier, which is primarily the composer’s responsibility to transcend.

Here are a few of the more comedic quotes from spotting sessions I’ve been a part of:

· “Can you use a sexy instrument here, like a xylophone?”

· “Make it sound like snow falling on the roof of a small cottage on a cold winter’s night.”

· “Have the music be happy-sad, happy-sad, happy-sad, until this spot right here, then make it suddenly turn into sad-happy. 

· “I would like the music to sound something like crushed ping pong balls taped to the underside of pigeon wings.”

· (referring to a solo violin in the temporary score) “I really don’t like that guitar twang right there.”

I’m relieved to say I was somehow able to navigate the spotting sessions these quotes came from, and was able to create music that the director and producer were happy with.

Frankly, there is no “love” chord, or “sexy” timbre, or “happy” instrument.  Sometimes I wish it were that simple.  But, despite the funnier and frustrating moments of music spotting, I love that feeling I get when I’ve been able to successfully translate the director’s and producer’s descriptions of what they want the music to accomplish in their film.  When the music I’ve created amplifies the emotion on the screen and captures the film makers’ vision, that is what I live for.

Tips on Filming Locations

Let's talk locations.

When scouting, think of the best area to be in and focus your efforts on that area. Limiting your choices is a good idea or you will be driving around for weeks. I'm not kidding when I say "weeks." 

Be realistic about the location. Sure, you may want to shoot in Beverly Hills but, unless you know the owner of the location, good luck finding a cheap one.

Don't forget the permit. If you are shooting in LA, do not assume FilmLA covers every area. They don't. Each area in Los Angeles tends to have a unique permitting situation and some are more rigid and more expensive than others.

I have found that Burbank is tough because the cops control the permits and they are expensive. LA and Santa Clarita have really well-organized offices but they are expensive because they offer permits for 10 locations over two-week periods. Culver City is way too pricey for its own good. Ouch! Santa Monica can be nice if you are shooting and parking on private property. They will not charge you if you are completely on private property. Go Santa Monica! We love that.

For Take Me Home, I believe we shot in every city that had its own permit. We learned a lot about permitting and how ineffective and costly it can be! Plan wisely!

Make sure it has decent parking in the area or a lot you can use for your vehicles. And find a good spot for your equipment truck. You will want it close by. One Production Manager suggested that if you can't find a low cost solution for your truck, just park it in front of the location and eat the cost of a ticket. It may actually be cheaper than a parking lot. Don't tell the traffic cops I said that!

Look for amenities. Does it have bathrooms you can use? If not, you will need a port a potty. Does it have a market nearby for when you run out of water? Trust me, you will run out, unless you have a waterfall at the crafty table.

Where is the nearest hospital in case there is an accident? Nearby gas stations, restaurants, and hardware stores are good to know as well.

Ask for referrals from friends and drive around the areas you like to find locations. The friend referrals are good because you will have a better chance at getting the location for a much lower cost (even free) if you know the person. Don't be afraid to knock on doors. All they can do is say no (or maybe yell at you for not filming a movie on Iraq). But you will eventually find your yes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Heart Cries Out

Poor John Hughes. He died today from a heart attack. I'm almost speechless. His films made such an impression on me and still do. I can watch them over and over and over again -- no problem. (Well, maybe not Maid in Manhattan but certainly Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I still like She's Having a Baby and Pretty in Pink is a keeper.)

Give me a Saturday afternoon and a John Hughes marathon on TV and I won't leave the couch -- not even for food. 

If I had a dime for all the filmmakers I have met (including myself) who said, I want to make a John Hughes film, I would be a gazillionaire. 

John, you had a way about you (pause here in memory) -- you will be missed!

Here is a great tribute:



Shout Out from Hugh Dancy for Art of Deception


Hugh Dancy (star of Evening and Confessions of a Shopaholic) is currently promoting his new film Adam that I am very much looking forward to seeing! 

In Adam, Dancy plays a young man with Asperger's Syndrome -- a type of Autism, which makes social interaction difficult -- who develops a relationship with his neighbor, played by Rose Byrne. It looks super charming and sweet. My cup of tea! 

Watch the trailer here.

The reason I bring this up is that during a recent interview with the Irish Times, Dancy made a shout out to the film we cast him in that we are developing and for which we are putting together the financing right now. The film is called Art of Deception and it's about the famous Dutch art forger Han Van Meegeren. 

Here is a link to the article in the Irish Times

It always feels good to know the other people on board your projects are just as excited about the project as you are. So thanks Hugh! We can't wait to make the film!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 12 of Take Me Home: The End -- for Now!

Day 12 was the last day of filming in this round. We took a very untraditional route when making Take Me Home. We decided to split the filming in three rounds. One round last summer for the road trip from NY to LA. And then two rounds this summer, in order to accommodate an actor's schedule. 

On this joyous occasion of being a final day, we worked a night shoot. And I was still sick. The saving grace was that this troublesome location to find ended up being a really great location. No one complained and everyone was really helpful. 

The weather was still hot but as the night wore on, it cooled off nicely. We got some great footage and everyone seemed in good spirits. 

It was after we left that we found out sound had turned the refrigerator off due to noise and forgot to turn it back on. We had to pay for spoiled food. That was unfortunate. But all in all, the 12 days were a success and we are right back at it next weekend!

In the meantime, I am producing a short this weekend called Gay Baby. I'll let you all know how that goes!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 11 of Take Me Home: A Parking Lot and a Day of Surveys

Day 11 was a tough day. It was punishment for the relaxing beach shoot of the day before. 

We went back to the parking lot of Day 1 and filmed some more green screen. The day was hot and set ups were slow. 

I went off with our location manager to survey the neighbors for our last day's location in steamy Santa Clarita (about an hour away). I was super sick at this point and chugging Emergen-Cs all day long. I'm surprised I didn't overdose on the stuff. 

I have always thought handling craft service was the worst part of set. I now know that location surveys trump crafty. 

Part of the reason crafty is so painful is that you can never please everyone and you always run out of water at the worst time possible. I don't care how many cases of water you have; you will run out. I'd like to have my own waterfall for the crafty table. And a pallet of beef jerky, gum, coffee, and coke.

Back to surveys. Location surveys are required when you shoot at off hours or on the weekend. We were shooting at night at a mobile home park so we needed to survey the neighbors -- about 100 of them in 24 hours. So imagine, a blistering sun beating down on us and the unpleasantness of knocking on doors and interrupting people to let them know you will be really interrupting them the next day. And getting them to sign for the inconvenience. Really not fun.

One of the best interactions I had was with a man who thought more movies on Iraq needed to be made, not romantic comedies. He tore me up over his beliefs for a good 15 mins. He called the director and the permit office too to give them a piece of his mind. I clearly understood and sympathized with his position but this film is a rom com and I couldn't change that. I will definitely be back should I get a film on Iraq greenlit.

In any event, the location manager and I had a miserable day of surveying 100 homes, twice (they want three attempts). We then headed back to set. By then, my head was the size of a hot air balloon so I checked in with my producing partner and proceeded home to bed so I could be alive for the next night. 

And the fun did not stop there. After I left, a few Santa Monica neighbors starting harassing our film crew. One woman came home drunk and began yelling out her window telling us to go away until she passed out. Another told us to move our generator immediately. We did.

The cops stopped by too, just to make sure we were legal. You know, for being a town filled with filmmakers I have to say it's one of the least accommodating. And it's definitely one of the most expensive!! I love LA! (I really do.)