Monthly Archives: December 2014

Pitching: The Dreaded Thing Most Filmmakers Must Master

Pitching, much like writing, directing and producing, is a huge deal. It is one of the skills that can make or break your project in terms of selling or securing distribution rights. You work hard to come up with an idea. You then write it and with a push, you gather enough courage to actually make it. You’re feeling like you can’t do no wrong and then you realize that you have a film in the can and then what? What do you do when you want everyone to see your project or hear an idea that can help you achieve your goal? According to Stephanie Palmer, author of the book Good in a Room: How To Sell Yourself and Your Ideas And Win Over Any Audience: ” Just Like screenplays are structured around Acts, beats, and themes, pitches are structured around questions and answers”.

What’s my film about?

One of the most important things during the pitch is to tell the audience what your film is about. This comes in form of a logline, which is a 1-sentence version that sum up the premise of a story. It is vital that you understand how important this section is because it is the first step you take to capture your audience. This is when it is important to hone and polish your logline while making it as strong as possible. If you fail to deliver a strong logline, chances are they will think that you have no vision or clear understanding of your own story. An example of a logline is: After going out to diner, a pessimistic young man discovers that his date his a spider creature with the sole intention of eating him, now he must try to survive with the help of his friend.

What other film most look like yours?

As with all panel or producers listening to you, they want to know whether there is a similar project to what you’re pitching. The film business is all about what is working right now, so you want to have a comparison pitch about a film that was successful and recently produced. According to Stephanie Palmer in her article 10 Steps To Writing A Movie Pitch: A Case Study: ”Genre gives context to the story, suggest a structure for the story, and has implications for budget, scope, and potential revenue”. It is a good idea to create a board in which you compare and contrast. You could break it down to genre, Rating, Domestic Box office, etc.…this is a great way to see a pattern that worked before and you could utilize what you discovered and apply that to your own project.

Pitching Do’s and Don’ts

Filmmakers need to know what their films are all about and the genre they need to be in. According to Stephanie Palmer, whenever you pitch, you have to lead with genre and you don’t want to talk about too many characters to the panel. It is also important to take feedbacks in order to improve your project.

One thing that you can’t do is to give a positive opinion of your work. You want the producers to form their own opinions and see for themselves if the story moves them. Always reserve yourself during the pitch. You don’t ever argue with anyone. You don’t like something that someone said about your film, you thank him or her for giving you a constructive criticism. You should always have a positive attitude because you don’t know if your next pitch would depend on it.

Conclusion

One of the most important aspects of pitching is your ability to answers all the questions about your film. It would demonstrate to the panel that you have a clear vision and you should be entrusted in delivering to finish a project.

Links

http://www.chinesefilmarket.com/2014/11/08/afm-2014-day-4-pitch-conference/

http://www.moviehatch.com/index.php/Public/Pitching-Tips/dos-a-donts.html

http://www.thesmalls.com/dos-and-don’ts-making-short-film

http://www.americanfilmmarket.com/sites/www.americanfilmmarket.com/files/Pitching_Essentials.pdf

 

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Accessibity of Filmmaking

Written by Steven Streeter, Jonathan Harris, & Henry “Trey” Grun III

 

You wanna be A filmmaker?

Becoming a filmmaker is a dream for many. But the biggest set back for most is being able to afford a decent camera, lighting gear, and sound equipment to feel confident that your story will have the wings to fly and not wither and die in the defeat of bad sound, poor lighting, and/ or a terrible image. Further more, it has always been said your success is based off of whom you know. If you’re a regular nine to five worker or a student like myself, you quickly realize you don’t have those connections. With emerging technology times are starting to change. The cost of film making equipment as well as the ability to reach a core audience is now well within your reach.   Let me break it down for you. 

Getting your Equipment Together

Film arrived on the scene in 1890, with the invention of the first motion picture cameras. The films of the 1890’s were under a minute long and until 1927 were produced without sound. The cameras were cumbersome and difficult to use,

Edison’s Kinetoscope, Lumiére’s cinematographe, and Latham’s Loop to name a few of the camera’s out at the time.

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http://www.precinemahistory.net/1895.htm

Juxtapose then with now. Every one with a smart phone has a high definition camera that also captures sound. Films today range from three hour epic adventures to six second vine videos. Everyone and anyone can be a filmmaker. So why aren’t we seeing more films produced if the walls that blockade possibility have come tumbling down? Perhaps it is because of the nature of instant gratification that is prevalent in today’s society. No wonder vines have created such a following. The idea of creating a six second video bolsters that feeling of instantaneous success. BAM! You just created a movie. In fact during the amount of time I took to write what I have up until now no doubt 20, 30, 50, or even100 videos could have already been made. But I digress; this blog is not about the problems of today, but rather the opportunities. Let’s take a look at all the opportunities available to you filmmakers who just want to focus on that feature film. Can it be done? Can you find the equipment without having to spend thousands of dollars? Let’s find out.

Video

We will take a look at all the top brand cell phones out there and see what they have to offer.

These are only a few phones, and prices include at least a 2 year contact.

Phones

www.apple.com, www.samsung.com, www.HTC.com, http://www.LG.com

Ok, so now we have covered the ability to capture video. But there are other possibilities for capturing video. Let’s look at some of those.

Cameras

www.bhphotovidoe.com

OK, so we have covered tons of different ways to capture video. So now there is sound. Sound is just as important if not more important for a film. Cruddy video with great sound is bearable, but terrible sound with a great picture is to disturbing to suffer through.

SOUND

The best way to think of sound when capturing your movie with these types of cameras will be utilizing a dual system, meaning capture your audio separate from the video and sync it together in post. I know this sounds like it would be monotonous and over kill, but in actual fact, this is a standard way to capture your audio. There are some very inexpensive ways to do this.

By placing a recorder in the scene and hiding it with set dressing is a very clever way to capture great sound. (For example, H4n zoom $200, Tascam dr-60D $169.99, Zoom ultra portable $99.99, and the list goes on) There are literally hundreds of ways to capture your sound that are relatively inexpensive. My favorite are those that are free. For instance, if you have a cell phone handy, you could use that.

Lighting 

Lighting is something that you can get very creative with. There is no need to buy into light kits that cost thousands of dollars. Light can be affected through quality, amount, color temperature, and direction. There is no light source more abundant than the sun, and best of all, it is free. Often times you will see photographers using reflectors to deal with the sun. Well, if you own a car chances are you have a sun visor that can act as a reflector. Another issue you might run into is sunlight that is too bright. Well, use the reflector as a shade. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, get creative and save money. So when planning your film, if it is a film you can make during the day, do it and use the sun.

Now let’s look at some inexpensive options. The best place for inexpensive light is a hardware store. Check out Home Depot or Lowes. Even your local hardware store may have work lights. But don’t just buy any work light. Look for LED work lights. These will stay cool and you can more easily manipulate the light without burning yourself. I actually used some LED work lights for one of my recent films, and I used diaper boxes for barn doors. They work great. Just remember, if you can light it, you can manipulate the light. Just get creative and make it work.

This list is made with just a quick search for lighting at the home.Lightingwww.homedepot.com

These are just a few of the great low-cost options you can find at Home Depot. So you can actually gear up with Camera, Sound and Lights for way under $1000. That is huge when you think about low budget movies that turn around to make millions of dollars. Remember, over half of what I have listed you may already own. So really it is just a matter of deciding you want to make a film. Then put in the work. Write, produce, and put it all together.

Finding your Audience

Audience

After creating a low cost production, how will you gain revenue for your works? How will you build a following? Well, it’s not as hard or as far fetch as people think. With the advancement of the Internet, reaching the masses has never been easier. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo allow users to upload content along with tag lines that promote your content to reach a specific audience. YouTube even has partners that are willing to pay users to place advertisements on their videos. For more information on YouTube ads check out:

https://www.youtube.com/yt/creators/ad-types.html

Other companies such as ITunes and Netflix have made it easier for independent filmmakers as well. These types of sites have built in audiences so getting connected may seem intimidating. And since the process of making films has gotten more affordable, the market has become over saturated with material. The good news is, ITunes and Netflix require users to go through independent distribution companies. Distribution companies generally choose quality films to back. ITunes and Netflix use this method to filter out bad material and to protect their reputation of having quality films. Sites like distribber.com for, instance, are made just for that. The website is easy to use, just fill in the information and submit your film. Having key artwork and quality material will help as well.

Even social media has joined the independent realm. Apps like Vine and Instagram allow users to create material instantly by using their mobile device. Vine only allows six-seconds where as Instagram allows fifteen. The work that has come out of this has changed the game. A lot of comedians use these platforms to directly reach their audience. Some of them post daily material in real time, making ever present in the public eye. Get popular and make money. Some of these “Vine Stars” have even made it big because of their postings. King Bach is an example of someone who took vining to another level. He creates quality skits picking fun of whatever’s current in sports and entertainment. Check out some of his work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRCxzZ6KnwY

The Accessibility of Filmmaking on the verge of Change

With films being so easily produced, what will the industry become within the next few years? The world may never know what’s in store for film, but this is a good time to ride the wave. Making films in today’s age is extremely cost efficient so there is no excuse to wait to tell that story burning on the shelf. Get out there and make your movie.

Written by Steven Streeter. Jonathan Harris, & Henry “Trey” Grun III

 

 

Self Distribution or: How I learned to keep my baby and follow Kevin Smith’s plan.

You completed your movie, now what?

Finishing your movie is only half of its success. Once it is completed, you must find a way to make a profit, or at the very least break even in order to stay in this business. For a very long time, talented independent filmmakers screened their films at film festivals with the hopes of catching any distributor’s eye and land a distribution deal. Even though this model still works, the number of independent films produced each year increase and the chances of landing a distribution deal are very slim for a first time filmmaker without any name talent attached. So where does this leave you in terms of making any money? The internet made it possible to reach broad audiences worldwide and this created a whole new platform for distribution. A new trend followed among indie filmmakers to target their audience directly and making their films available online. Self distribution has been around for ages but it has not been as easy as it is today. Nowadays, anybody can distribute their content and reach a large audience. Let’s take a look at Kevin Smith, who believes that self distribution is the way to go for any indie filmmaker.

The Announcement

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At the 2011 Sundance Film Festival indie filmmaker Kevin Smith premiered his latest film Red State in front of 1,200 audience members.  After the premiere of the film Smith took the stage for the usual Q&A that follows each premiere at the festival.  To the surprise of the attendees Smith didn’t go into one of his famous Q&As but spent the majority of the time speaking about film distribution and the cost behind it.  He went on to explain that Red State had a budget of $4 million and it would approximately cost $20 million to market.  Using that example the film had to make at least 4 times that amount to make a profit.  At that moment Smith called the film’s producer John Gordon start the auction during which Smith bid $20 and Gordon sold the distribution rights to Smith.  The announcement shocked the distributors.  Smith took the stage again and laid out a self distribution plan for Red State.  Red State was distributed under his company Smodcast Pictures. But self distribution is actually not a new idea as Smith is claiming it to be. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” followed the same model and made over 370 million. The move itself is admirable, since he is carving the way for new indie filmmakers. It normally takes someone with his fame and fanbase to pull off.

The Plan

Smith’s self distribution plan was to take the film on tour from March 5, 2011 to October 19, 2011 beginning at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  The average cost of admission fluctuated around $60, a Q&A with the filmmaker after the screening was included in the price.  Smith expected the film to take in a projected $1.5 to $1.7 million before the October 19th, 2011 premiere.  When the tour ended the film was released to theaters.

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Results

Kevin Smith’s self distribution plan seemed risky at the time but at the end it proved to be the right decision.  The film made its money back 6 months before the theatrical release.  He used his podcast show and his twitter account that is followed by more than 1 million people to promote the film.  In the end he showed that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars in marketing to recoup the money invested in the film.  As independent filmmakers it is a great way to go but we must acknowledge that most of the indie filmmakers don’t have a podcast, millions of followers on twitter and a loyal fan base.  Kevin Smith deserves a lot of praise for what he did and on the way opened a door for all indie filmmakers to follow.

Kevin Smith’s example is a new trending way of film distribution. Today, thanks to the internet, anyone can build a large following audience and as a filmmaker it creates new opportunities to connect with them as well.  Isn’t our goal as filmmakers to entertain our fans? I think so, and now you can follow Kevin Smith’s footsteps. We are very interested in seeing how other filmmakers take advantage of this model, finding new and creative way to reach the audience. It’s not the only way to monetize your film, however, it is a very good way to build your fan base and gain recognition in the industry. If Universal is not interested in buying your film for millions of dollars, do not panic. Self distribution is always an option. Of course, it is extra work but nobody said filmmaking was easy. The trick is to find your way! I hope this post is helpful to you and wish you the best of luck!

Links to articles

https://gigaom.com/2011/04/14/kevin-smith-red-state-profitable/

https://gigaom.com/2011/01/24/kevin-smith-red-state/

http://www.slashfilm.com/kevin-smith-buys-film-sundance-auction-swears-distributors-announces-full-details-selfdistribution/

http://www.raindance.org/self-distribution-for-filmmakers/

by Balazs Gercsak, Antonio Camuñas and Rafael Molina

 

 

Indie Films’ Attempt to Contend Against the Giants

In an industry where major studios offer moviegoers “super ticket” packages at prices upwards of $30-$50, that include prescreening theater tickets, posters and digital downloads, how are independent films that lack the financing to dream of such marketing and product exploits able to compete? Major-motion pictures and independent films may be in the same universe, but they are certainly not in the same world. Despite their differences, the summer blockbuster and the oscar-contender must still battle on the same box-office field wrought with critics and fans, all armed with their weekly entertainment allowance and popcorn money. But a new trend in the film community is saving film fans from the commute to theaters and also from the theater experience itself. Video on demand (VOD) is becoming the new way to watch and view content in this growing digital age. New popularity and proliferation of distributing via online platforms brings a healthy competition for the traditional distribution model.

Video on demand releases of independent films have been ranging from pre-theatrical releases  to becoming available online shortly thereafter showing up in theaters, or simply showing up only online. Some people criticize this mode of distribution, arguing that movie theater owners deserve better treatment when they put so much effort into the upkeep of their cinemas and that movies are meant to be seen “on the big screen.” Others declare companies that take a film immediately to VOD must lack confidence in the film’s potential (Film Journal International). But the sad truth is, sometimes good movies don’t have the money to be as widely theatrically distributed as they deserve. Take this summer’s distopian indie film, Snowpiercer, starring Hollywood hunk, Chris Evans.

snowpiercer_ver20_xlg

Although people scoff at Evans appearing in a film that’s VOD release came only two weeks after its theatrical, the movie was actually a critical hit and did fairly well financially, hold your breath, because of VOD. Snowpiercer quickly took the number one spot on iTunes. Remembering these are figures for an independent film, Snowpiercer made $3.8 million its first two weeks of VOD compared to $3.9 from five weeks in theaters (Variety). Tom Quinn, the co-president of RADiUS, The Weinstein Company label responsible for deciding Snowpiercer’s VOD release, says that “from an industry perspective, [this model is] a game changer” (Entertainment Weekly).

Bloomberg Businessweek posits that the VOD release strategy might be an ingenious solution to inadequate finances. It would have cost Snowpiercer $25 million to market itself for a wide theatrical release. Compare this to the $5 million it actually spent, not to mention VOD can be made readily available to 85 million homes in the United States in comparison to the 40,000 screens for a limited theatrical release alone (Wired).

Snowpiercer has paved the way for independent films to be seen by people who may be 500 miles away from a film’s closest showing, confined to a hospital bed, or simply curious about a film they wouldn’t otherwise go out and see. The VOD revolution calls for indie films to embrace their financial prudence, peculiar narratives, and innovative distribution tactics. Independent films may be considered small financially, but with video on demand indie flicks have the potential to grapple with the film industry titans, making strides for greater successes.

Written by Megan Saturley & Andy Leo