Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011!

Happy Thanksgiving! My cup runneth over with love, thanks, and the joy of another year making movies.

Each year, I pinch myself that I'm able to work full time doing what I love. I'm so grateful to everyone and the stars for aligning to make it all possible.

This year we have seen Not Since You perform well in all of its channels of distribution. We have had an incredible festival run with our recent film Take Me Home and strong foreign sales and a domestic distribution deal on its way. We completed our new film The Diary of Preston Plummer and are prepping for a World Premiere in 2012. And I produced a short film about the Keystone XL Pipeline called Pipe Dreams that has been shortlisted for an Oscar. We had a wonderful LA Premiere - here's an article about it and a pic from it below. (I will also include this article from the New Yorker for background on the fight against the pipeline here.)

I will repeat, my cup runneth over. And I am thankful.

I'm looking forward to a yummy meal and wine tasting with my LA family. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with as much love, thanks and joy!

Peace y'all!

Director Leslie Iwerks & Narrator Daryl Hannah

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to NOT Make a Micro-Budget Feature Film

I define micro-budget features as those made for less than $200k. This correlates with SAG's definition of an Ultra Low Budget film. I have made a few micro-budget films to date and each year festivals are loaded with them.

So how should you NOT go about making them? Sometimes it's easier to talk about what not to do.

Here are areas that can be costly and what you should try to avoid when making a micro-budget film.:

1) A lot of locations - moving all around while you film takes time and money. You know how long it can take to pack a bag for an overnight trip. Imagine packing and unpacking a grip truck? Takes time, which means more shooting days, which takes more money.
2) Shooting on location where you have to fly in your actors and crew - housing, per diem, and airfare is expensive. Period. But if you have major support in a region that will give you resources and housing dirt cheap then it could be worth it. Just be careful and plan wisely.
3) Visual Effects - unless you have a friend who is able to do all of your VFX for cheap, deferred or free stay away from VFX-heavy scripts on your small film.
4) A lot of characters - actors are costly to pay and feed and house so keep the number of characters low.
5) Shots that require expensive equipment like cranes. $$$
6) Action sequences - these require time to set up shots and experienced crew who can make the shots look believable. This translates to more money needed.
7) Animals - says it all, I think: animals. And their handlers need to eat and be paid.
8) Children - says it all times infinity: children. They can't work as many hours as adults. They need a studio teacher on set who needs to be paid and their parents can be difficult. They all need to eat too. See how everything comes back to catering?
9) Stunts - again, the believability factor plays here. You want to work with seasoned stunt people on major stunts as they know how to do them safely and realistically. Experienced stunt people like to be paid well.
10) Period pieces - finding the items that indicate a certain time period can be tough and costly to buy or rent.
11) Crew - keep your crew small, which will mean keeping your equipment and lighting needs small too - which means keeping your night shoots to a minimum.
12) Night shoots - Keep your night shoots to a minimum. You tend to need light for night shoots = money.
13) Food - another reason to keep your cast and crew small. The more mouths to feed, the higher the cost to you.
14) Shooting in the water or rain or snow etc requires special equipment and crew and will slow your shoot down. And it can also increase the pay required for your actors.
15) Insurance - insurance is costly so it helps to keep your shooting days low and your risky filmmaking to a minimum.
16) Shooting days - keep the number of shooting days tight. Each day of filmming can add thousands to your budget. Don't be unrealistic though. Going over can cost you even more money than planning the proper shooting schedule.
17) Going WGA or DGA will cost you money. Micro-budget films should not be made WGA or DGA signatory. That's just my opinion as those unions will demand certain salaries and pay for pension and health and welfare for working with their members. You can find great writers and great directors who are not in the unions for your micro-budget project. Go WGA and DGA when you have a larger budget.
18) Not using pro actors. I do recommend becoming SAG signatory and using SAG actors for any sized film. It is difficult to find strong nonunion actors so save yourself a headache and time on set because they will know how to act in front of a camera and give your film a little cache by going with more seasoned and well known actors when you can.
19) Shoot any ole script - Don't shoot a crappy script because you want to make a movie. Make sure the script is AWESOME. Take your time to find the right project and make it great. That time will be extremely well spent.
20) Not paying yourself is WRONG. Even if it is deferred or as an in-kind investment or whatever. You need to be paid. You are worth it. Filmmaking is a business. Treat it so.

There are a lot more hints on how to make a micro-budget film. Perhaps I should write a book? Hmmm.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fighting Online Piracy

Online piracy is rampant for films. Even our small indie films can be found for free online. It sucks.

As it is, indie filmmakers struggle to earn a living making movies. With piracy, we are losing out on major revenue that could allow us to be financially stable and pay our investors back so we can keep making more films.

We aren't huge studios with deep pockets. Every film sale or rental helps us keep the lights on. Should producers of quality product be forced to find temp jobs to survive when their films could be supporting them if only they weren't being stolen?

To rub salt in our wounds, web sites like Pirate Bay actually think it's funny that filmmakers want to protect their work that they spent millions creating and now have to spend years recouping. They go so far as to ridicule anyone who sends them Takedown Notices. Here are some choice quotes from their responses to Takedown Notices (from their Web site here):

  1. We would like to refer you to our Legal Threats section, on which we, while having much fun, ridicule people like you. Thank you for your contribution.
  2. Hello and thank you for contacting us. We have shut down the website in question. Oh wait, just kidding. We haven't, since the site in question is fully legal. Unlike certain other countries, such as the one you're in we have sane copyright laws here. But we also have polar bears roaming the streets and attacking people. 
  3. ...and I would like to refer you to the relevant court cases. Unfortunately, our legal team partied quite heavily last night, so the only reference I can provide you with is Hogsta Domstolen (the Swedish Supreme Court) NJA  1996 page 79.
  4. Damnit. You got us there. Now I'm scared I pissed my pants. Where should I send the invoice for cleaning them?
  5. You have scored 10 out of 10 points on our Legal Threats Entertainment scale. You win the grand prize: A lifetime of ridicule on our legal threats section (! Congratulations!
  6. Please also note that I'm not currently out of toilet paper, so you may wait a while before sending legal papers.
  7. Please don't sue us right now, our lawyer is passed out in an alley from too much moonshine, so please at least wait until he's found and doesn't have a huge hangover...
  8. It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are ....... morons, and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.

These responses are ridiculous. A professional Web site will honestly call others morons and tell them to go sodomize themselves? Sane copyright laws means it's okay to help content be stolen? Now who's insane?

These sites mock content creators and act as if they aren't culpable in copyright infringement. That's like saying you shouldn't be charged as an accessory to murder because you didn't actually pull the trigger.

Well, it's time to fight back. I have spent hours tracking down links that offer our films for free. But recently my biz partner Jade found this site that helps us find the pirates:

We've signed up and so far, it's found almost 500 links that should come down. That's a lot of links!

I have no idea if this site will really work but we're giving it a try and I'll report back. All I know is we need to fight for our films and revenue. Our livelihoods depend on it. And no, we aren't morons. We're victims.

A call for change: For anyone who thinks it's harmless to use torrents and watch content for free from illegal sites, please think about the filmmakers who made that film that you are enjoying. We are just like you with bills and families to support. We can only survive and thrive and make more films for you to enjoy if you pay for our work. Independent filmmakers often work for free to make their films because we believe in entertaining the world with stories above and beyond what the studios can provide and we RELY on our earnings from rentals and sales to live. I understand entertainment can be expensive, but it's very costly to make as well. We can't keep providing entertainment if it's going to keep getting stolen. Please stop using these sites and help us survive.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jameson FIND Your Audience Award Now Accepting Submissions

From Film Independent - Whiskey and Film - What a great combination! This press release says it all.

Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, is now accepting submissions for the 2012 Jameson FIND Your Audience Award, which is one of the four Film Independent Spirit Award filmmaker grants. Funded by Jameson® Irish Whiskey, the $40,000 cash grant is designed to assist a feature narrative or documentary filmmaker in building the audience for his or her film. The winner will be highlighted at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 25, 2012. 

The Jameson FIND Your Audience Award was established last year when Film Independent saw the need to meet independent filmmakers’ biggest challenge today: getting their films out into the marketplace. Last year’s winner was Jeff Malmberg’s critically acclaimed and Spirit Award-winning Marwencol. As part of the grant process, Film Independent will provide ongoing consultation regarding distribution, marketing and publicity. 

“Distribution models are in flux and many quality, artist-driven films don’t secure a traditional release each year. Thanks to the generous support of Jameson, Film Independent is once again able to help a filmmaker get his or her movie out into the world in a meaningful way,” said Josh Welsh, Director of Artist Development. 

“We are excited to be supporting the Film Independent Spirit Awards for our third consecutive year,” said Wayne Hartunian, Vice President, Scotch and Whisky Portfolio at Pernod Ricard USA. “Our partnership maintains the brand’s commitment to film and celebrating the achievements of American independent filmmakers. Furthering that commitment, the Jameson FIND Your Audience Award tackles the most common stumbling block for upcoming filmmakers by providing the tools to share their work with a wider audience.”

Applicants must be the director or producer of a recent American narrative or documentary feature with a production budget of $2.5 million or less that has not yet received significant distribution. The film must have screened at a film festival no earlier than September 1, 2010 and no later than August 31, 2011. In addition, applicants must be past a Spirit Award nominee or winner, Los Angeles Film Festival alumnus or completed one of Film Independent’s Artist Development programs (Labs, Project Involve or Fast Track) or by nomination solicited by Film Independent. Films with innovative, alternative marketing or distribution plans are encouraged to apply. Films that have overall North American distribution deals or that have not yet begun a film festival run are ineligible. There is no submission fee and the deadline to apply is December 2, 2011. Complete submission guidelines, applications and more information can be found at

The 27th Film Independent Spirit Awards will be held Saturday, February 25, 2012 in the afternoon in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.  The premiere broadcast of the ceremony will air later that evening at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on IFC. 

As the first event to exclusively honor independent film, the Film Independent Spirit Awards has made a name for itself as the premier awards show for the independent film community. Artists receiving industry recognition first at the Spirit Awards include Joel & Ethan Coen, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Ashley Judd, Robert Rodriguez, David O. Russell, Edward Burns, Aaron Eckhart, Neil LaBute, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Hilary Swank, Marc Forster, Todd Field, Christopher Nolan, Zach Braff, Amy Adams, Lena Dunham and many more.

Now in its 27th year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards is an annual celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. The Spirit Awards recognizes the achievements of American independent filmmakers and promotes the finest independent films of the year to a wider audience. 

Awards are given in the following categories: Best Feature, Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Director, Best Screenplay, John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, Best Cinematography, Best International Film, Best Documentary, and the Robert Altman Award.  The Filmmaker Grants include the Jameson FIND Your Audience Award, Someone to Watch Award, Truer Than Fiction Award, and Piaget Producers Award.

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.

Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers.  Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.  

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project:Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a member, visit

Pernod Ricard USA is the premium spirits and wine company in the U.S., and the largest subsidiary of Paris, France-based Pernod Ricard SA, which employs more than 18,000 people worldwide and is listed on the NYSE Euronext exchange (Ticker: RI).  

The company’s leading spirits and wines include such prestigious brands as Absolut® Vodka, Chivas Regal® Scotch Whisky, The Glenlivet® Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Jameson® Irish Whiskey, Malibu® flavored rum, Kahlúa® Liqueur, Beefeater® Gin, Plymouth™ Gin, Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin®, Martell® Cognac, Hiram Walker® Liqueurs, Pernod®, Ricard® and Avión™ Tequila (through a joint venture with Tequila Avión); such superior wines as Jacob's Creek® and Brancott Estate®; and such exquisite champagnes and sparkling wines as Perrier-Jouët® Champagne, G.H. Mumm™ Champagne and Mumm Napa® sparkling wines. 

Pernod Ricard USA is based in Purchase, New York, and has roughly 850 employees across the country.  Pernod Ricard USA urges all adults to consume its products responsibly and has an active campaign to promote responsible drinking. For more information on this, please visit:

Our Short The Frolic Goes Global on IndieReign

There is a ton of activity by developers right now to offer global platforms for movies. Independent filmmakers are looking for ways to promote their content through sites without rigid rules of acceptance, like iTunes.

I own some content that I'd like to launch myself and take the aggregator fee out of the equation so I decided to work with IndieReign.

Our first title that we are premiering on IndieReign is our short film The Frolic. The site even allows us to embed the film all over the Web. So cool!

Check it out here.

AFM Starts Today - What's Premiering?

A great way to keep up with new films is to see what films are premiering at AFM. There are some very interesting films being premiered. Here's a list of the highlights: 


The 32nd American Film Market (AFM) will screen 395 motion pictures, including 65 world premieres and 295 market premieres.

Films making their World Premieres include A Gang Story, starring Gérard Lanvin and Tchéky Karyo (Gaumont); Bad Karma, starring Ray Liotta, Dominic Purcell and Rhona Mitra (Screen Media); Columbus Circle, starring Selma Blair, Amy Smart, Giovanni Ribisi and Kevin Pollak (Lightning Entertainment); Nobel’s Last Will, starring Malin Crépin, Björn Kjellman and Leif Andrée (Zodiak Rights); Snowflake, the White Gorilla, starring Elsa Pataky and Pere Ponce (Filmax International); Special Forces, starring Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou and Benoit Magimel (StudioCanal); and The Expatriate, starring Aaron Eckhart and Olga Kurylenko (Essential Entertainment).

Among the 295 films set to make their Market Premieres are: A Dangerous Method, starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender (HanWay Films); Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson (WestEnd Films); Bernie, starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey (Hyde Park International); Dark Horse, starring Justin Bartha, Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, Jordan Gelber and Christopher Walken (Goldcrest Films International); Detachment, starring Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks and Lucy Liu (Celluloid Dreams); Edwin Boyd, starring Scott Speedman, Brian Cox, Kelly Reilly and Kevin Durand (Myriad Pictures); Face to Face, starring Luke Ford, Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton and Matthew Newton (Jinga Films); George Harrison: Living in the Material World, starring Paul McCartney and Terry Gilliam (Exclusive Films International, Limited); Hick, starring Blake Lively, Chloë Grace Moretz, Eddie Redmayne, Alec Baldwin and Juliette Lewis (Content); Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple and Gina Gershon (Voltage Pictures); Le Skylab, starring Julie Delpy and Eric Elmosnino (Films Distribution); Loosies, starring Peter Facinelli, Jaimie Alexander, Michael Madsen, Vincent Gallo and Joe Pantoliano (CMG - Cinema Management Group); Lucky, starring Colin Hanks, Ari Graynor, Jeffrey Tambor and Ann-Margret (ICAP Media); and Michael, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Mahie Gill and Purav Bhandare (Fortissimo Films).

Other Market Premieres include Peace, Love and Understanding, starring Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Chace Crawford, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyle MacLachlan (Voltage Pictures); Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon and Ice Cube (Sierra/Affinity); Seven Days in Utopia, starring Lucas Black, Robert Duvall and Melissa Leo (Mission Pictures International); Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan (HanWay Films); Shaolin, starring Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Bingbing Fan, Jing Wu and Jackie Chan (Emperor Motion Pictures); The Flying Machine, starring Heather Graham and Lang Lang (Distribution Workshop); The Woodsman and the Rain, starring Shun Oguri and Koji Yakusyo (Kadokawa Shoten Co., Ltd.); Twixt, starring Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern and Ben Chaplin (Pathé International); Vamps, starring Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter and Sigourney Weaver (Parlay Films); Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman (TF1 International); The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale (Protagonist Pictures); The Lady, starring Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis (EuropaCorp); The Sorcerer and The White Snake, starring Jet Li, Eva Huang, Raymond Lam and Charlene Choi (Distribution Workshop); Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, starring Lin Ching-Tai, Umin Boya, Vivian Hsu and Masanobu Ando (Fortissimo Films); and You May Not Kiss The Bride, starring Katharine McPhee, Dave Annable, Rob Schneider, Mena Suvari and Kathy Bates (Showcase Entertainment, Inc.).

For a complete list of the films and the screening schedule, visit  This year, 27 films will be presented in 3D.