Filmmaking

At Filmmaking Stuff, we are dedicated to providing filmmaking articles related to production, production equipment (cameras, lighting, audio), film scheduling, budgeting, casting and directing. From time to time, we will also include articles from guest filmmakers. We have provided the following ideas and filmmaking tips so that you can take action and make your movie.

How To Sell Your Short Film On iTunes

If you’re wondering how to sell your short film on iTunes, you’re not alone.

As you know, iTunes is one of the most prestigious platforms for selling movies. And when you think about it, aside from putting your short film in festivals, you might be wondering what to next.

It is at this point when many filmmakers either decide to put the movie on YouTube or put the movie in a closet. Thanks to our friends at Distribber (I once worked at Distribber full time. Now I just promote the heck out of them.) – Anyway, you now have the option for selling your short film on iTunes.

How To Sell Your Short Film On iTunes

Photo © codiarts / Dollar Photo Club

 How To Sell Your Short Film On iTunes

Before you fully decide to sell your short film on iTunes, it is important to know that getting on iTunes is more involved than simply uploading your movie on YouTube. There is no direct upload process. Getting your short film onto iTunes will involve putting your movie through the submission process.

This means that in addition to investing few hundred dollars to cover the submission, your movie will have to pass a rigorous, manual quality control process. This is because iTunes is very particular about the technical quality of the movies they accept.

It helps if you start the process by getting all of your deliverables in order.

STEP ONE: You will need the following deliverables:

– File: Pro Res 422 HQ
– 1920 × 1080
– Native Frame Rate
– Film: 23.98
– Video:29.97i
– Audio: Must have 8 channels of audio, or if not shot with 5.1 then you may submit in Stereo:
5.1 – L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs / PCM Little Endian Each audio channel needs to be its own track Ch. 7 stereo left, Ch. 8 stereo right / PCM Little Endian / Each audio channel needs to be its own track.

STEP TWO: Once you meet the technical specs, you will also need to make sure you have closed captions. For acceptance into the US iTunes store, the closed captions file must be in the .scc file format.

Note: If you do not have closed captions, Distribber offers an additional service to create them.

STEP THREE: The next step is to submit your short film to Distribber. You will be asked to select the type of movie you’d like to submit. You obviously want to choose “SHORT FILM.”

Sell Your Short Film On iTunesDistribber is a filmmaker friendly company. You simply pay them a one-time up-front fee. From there, they either get your movie into iTunes or they give your money back, minus a processing fee.

For some filmmakers, showing the world that you can complete a project and also get it onto a prestigious platform feels pretty dang good.  And as part of my promotional agreement, Distribber also provides Filmmaking Stuff readers a discount on the submission. Click here to get started.

Who Else Wants a Film Production Checklist?

Filmmaking Stuff by Jason BrubakerDear Filmmaker,

Let’s face it… Making a movie is challenging. There are a lot of elements that must come together. Sometimes you work with good people and this comes easy. And sometimes. . .

There is so much to do, that you get overwhelmed.

(Believe me, I’ve been there!)

But don’t worry. . .

Your Film Production Checklist

I put together this Film Production Checklist to help you.

The following film production checklist will provide a brief overview of the independent filmmaking process.

Okay. Before we dive in together, keep in mind that this is only an overview.

Seriously. . .

Without actually grabbing a camera and working with awesome people – some of whom with more experience than you… All the resources in the world will do you no good. So here is our simple goal.

Ready?

After reading this Film Production Checklist, if you can grab at least one useful filmmaking tip from this checklist, then we can both be happy.

That’s it.

Easy, right?

In full disclosure: Where it makes sense, I have included recommendations for related products and services. If you click the links and make a purchase, I may receive compensation. If referrals aren’t cool, ignore the links!

Additionally, it should go without saying… But when making a movie, aside from making an awesome movie, safety should be your number one concern.

As always, if you have questions about anything in this film production checklist, please feel free to contact me. I love it when I find out how these tips have helped you get closer to  your filmmaking goals! Click here to grab your free filmmaker checklist.

Film Production Checklist

In the following film production checklist, I broke the filmmaking process into 65 steps. Obviously some steps will be more challenging than other steps. But like I said, if you take time to study this film production checklist, you might get a tip or two that can potentially make your life easier.

Here we go. . .

1. Before you get started, make sure you read and study everything you can about the filmmaking process. A good place to start is obviously the Filmmaking Stuff website.

2. A screenplay is the blueprint to your movie. Write or acquire a screenplay you want to produce. Make it something exciting!

3. Complete an initial script breakdown. From there, schedule and budget the project. How much does it cost?

Note: If you’re unsure how to break down and schedule a movie, Peter Marshall has an awesome Movie Script Breakdown course. Also, some invaluable production management software can be found at LightSpeed Eps.

4. Write a business plan that details how your movie will be made, marketed and sold – and how much this will cost you.

5. Talk with a lawyer and other producers to figure out your best money strategy. Will you utilize equity funding, crowdfunding and tax incentives to fund your movie? A little bit of everything?

6. Following laws and regulations, go after the money. This will require strategy, persistence, honesty and enthusiasm.

7. Finding, meeting and closing prospective investors on the merits of your movie will be one of the tougher parts of the process. Every “no” gets you closer to “yes.”

8. Most people will want to know how the money is going to be spent, what they can expect in return and how will you eventually get their money back. Filmmaking is a risky business, full of unknowns and you should ALWAYS disclose this.

9. Have a plan for the movie when it is complete. Will you take the festival route? Will you market it to colleges and universities? Will you send it directly to sales agents and acquisition pros?

Note: While it’s great to imagine that a movie distributor will hand you a million dollar check, this rarely happens. In fact, most movies end up in popular marketplaces like Amazon and iTunes, and others. You must plan for this.

10. After following these steps, you have been networking with prospective investors. The question is, were you able to get the money? If not, here are some (but not all) of your options.

A. Choose a new movie project.
B. Alter the screenplay to cut costs.

11. Get more favors and freebies. Seriously, write out a list of everything you can get for free, or at a discount. This includes props, wardrobe, locations, transportation and craft services!

12. Assuming you did get the money, pick a date for production. (And if you don’t get the money, go back and repeat step one.)

13. Hire a lawyer to help you with contracts and releases. If you’re short on cash, do a web search for lawyers for the arts in your area. These folks will usually help with minor legal stuff.

14. Before you have the money, many people will work for little to no money. Expect a lot of “nos” before you find the people who can help you.

15. You can make your life easier if you work with people who have production experience. If you are in a small market, reach out to people who spend their days producing corporate video.

16. Finalize your script. Get it to a point where you are no longer going to keep changing things. This is a locked script.

17. Number your scenes. Then once again, break down your script. This involves grabbing each element, location and character. From this information, create a final schedule.

18. From your schedule and breakdown, create a final budget. You probably know how much money you have to work with. If you find you don’t have enough you have two choices:

A. Get More Money!
B. Modify the script and schedule.

19. Get your crew. Work with a seasoned Physical Producer AKA Line Producer AKA Unit Production Manager to help you get organized. These pros will look at your schedule and tweak it.

20. Additionally, if you’re going to direct and product, having these pros around to help out will open the door to relationships with 1st Ads and crew. These folks will help you hire the right people. They will know a good payroll company. And many know a thing or two about tax credits in your state.

21. I know. Money is tight. So if you cannot hire a location scout, you may have to scout and procure locations yourself. This means you will knock on doors, introduce yourself, your project and your goals. The goal here is to appear reasonable and sane.

22. What can go wrong with a location probably will. So you will want to have a 2nd and 3rd location added to the mix. This way, should something happen, you will have a fall-back plan.

23. Assuming you’re directing your own movie, you will want to find a director of photography who shares your sensibilities and has equal enthusiasm for the project.

24. Your DP will help you find an asthetic for your movie. Given your cost constraints, you will most likely shoot in HD.

25. Marketing: Create a website specific to your movie. Make sure you have a way to get site visitors on your mailing list.

26. Later as you get into production, you will be able to add a movie trailer. (The goal: increase your mailing list subscribers and create a website you can later modify into a sales funnel.)

27. If you’ve raised money, you can hire talented actors interested in your project. But in the event your budget is tight, try to cast people with large social media followings.

28. Once you have all of your actors, you will want to find a location for a table read. Go through the script. If you wrote it, now is a time to take some notes for a final tweak.

Note: Anything you change in the script also changes the budget and the schedule. Seriously.

29. DO NOT skimp on food. You will want someone in charge of Craft Services. They should be good at going out and getting deals on food and catering. If you can not find anyone to do this for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. Allow me to repeat. . .

30. Make sure you have adequate food. If you are doing a union shoot, there are guidelines and rules you must follow. If you are doing a non-union indie, then some advice is: GET QUALITY!

31. Do you have all of your permits, releases and agreements? Do you have production insurance? There are so many different types of insurance, it will make your head spin. Make sure you talk with some experienced insurance professionals to make sure you have adequate insurance for your movie!

32. Meet with your Camera Department and find out how much memory you’ll need (assuming you’re shooting in HD). If you’re shooting film, which might be costly for your first feature – you will want to have an idea of these needs too.

33. Try to take as many naps as you can. This is a fun, but stressful time. So sleep. Eat. And take time to exercise.

34. Once you have all the above stuff checked off the list, you will want to meet with your department heads and make sure everyone’s needs are met. Assuming you’ve maintained limited locations, with a limited cast and crew, you will probably still be baffled by the amount of questions that come flying at you.

35. Seriously, you would think you’re making a gazillion dollar movie. But this is indication people care about their work. They care about the movie. And they want to make it a success!

36. This goes without saying, but don’t be a jerk. Seriously, never forget you are making a movie. Enjoy the experience.

37. Did I mention you need plenty of sleep? I am serious here. Making a movie is going to demand a TON of energy. You need to keep up with the physical and mental demands.

38. Commence production. Defer to your 1st AD and Line Producer to keep everything running on time and under budget. Keep your cool and always remember to have fun!

39. During production, try to constantly get press to profile your movie. It would be great to create buzz, get people to your website and get them to opt into your newsletter mailing list.

40. After the WRAP, have a wrap party. Don’t sleep with your cast and crew, get overly drunk or make a fool of yourself! You are a professional. Act like one.

41. After you recover from your hangover (I just warned you), you will probably start editing the movie. I suggest sharing the edit suite with another set of eyes. And do be nice to your editor. Those professionals can offer valuable feedback. Listen to it!

42. Your first cut will be rough. Screen it with a group of people who have never seen the movie. Get feedback.

43. Take the feedback and refine your edit. After that, take a week off – Do not look at the movie or mess around with it. This way, when you come back to the suite, refine and refine again.

44. Have another small screening with people who have not seen the movie. Take notes. Take those notes back to your edit suite.

45. Add some sound FX to your movie. Clean up actor dialogue and rough areas. Sound is more important than visual.

46. Screen the movie again. This time, have the screening with a new, small set of people. Take notes. Go back and refine.

47. When you have a cut you’re happy with, then you can begin to plan your next strategy. Find out how to sell your movie.

48. There are opportunities for traditional distribution. With some qualified professionals, analyze each deal. Find out if the deal will fit your business objectives. If not, PASS.

49. What if there are no traditional deals? If you planned accordingly, you will have a strong mailing list, a marketable hook and a plan for reaching your target audience.

50. When you are ready to start selling, refine your website into a sales funnel. Upload your movie to one of the many popular VOD platforms. Refine your movie poster and artwork to fit.

51. Upload your trailer to YouTube and all the other video sites on the internet. I prefer to stream from YouTube because I don’t have to pay for streaming and I can monitor viewer comments.

52. Write press releases related to the release of your movie. Have a blog component that details your movie and allows other people to comment. Note, if you need publicity – Contact my friend Heather at Talk Radio Publicity. Tell her I sent you.

53. Play around with your key words and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If those terms are new to you, find someone in your network who understands the importance of the web.

54. Marketing is all about telling memorable stories and getting into the conversations. Adding your thoughts on website forums is one way to get the word out about your movie. But if you totally disregard the conversation – that’s bad form.

55. Create both a Facebook and Twitter handle for your movie. The purpose of this page is to lead people back to your site.

56. Have adequate social share buttons on your website so people can easily tell their friends about your movie.

57. If you have the budget, purchase some offline advertising in publications related to your movie. (This assumes you’ve taken time to define your target audience and ways to reach them!)

58. Wait. . . You don’t have a website yet? Stop what you’re doing and head to Bluehost and grab a domain name and website hosting for your movie website. (I prefer utilizing WordPress for all movie sites.)

59. All of these methods are intended to get people back to your website. The purpose of your site is to get people to watch your movie trailer and click the BUY NOW button. Anything that distracts these visitors must go! Install Google Analytics.

60. If your website visitors fail BUY NOW, then at least try to get them to opt into your mailing list. Do you need a mailing list?

61. Out of all the people who click the BUY NOW button, some will actually buy. If you have access to the contact information, reach out and personally thank your customer.

62. Assuming you are generating revenue, consider using that money to purchase more advertising and repeat the process. In internet marketing, they call this scaling a business. The name of the game is: “Conversion Rates.” Read this marketing article.

63. Sooner or later, you will figure out how to jump-start your next project. And you will realize that making movies and making money making movies is possible.

64. The thing to remember is long term perspective. On average it takes seven meetings to make a relationship! Most people quit long before they get to meeting number seven. Not you!

65. As a final thought, I would ask you to consider the following questions: Given the resources that you have right now, what is the movie that you will make this year?

I hope you enjoyed this brief film production checklist. If you did, you might want to download your copy here.

And one more thing. . .

If you really like this film production checklist, please share it with every filmmaker you know. They will thank you for it and frankly, I will too!

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini

It’s NAB time again, when filmmakers gather to drool over the latest and greatest offerings from companies around the world. This will keep us filmmakers busy for a few weeks, so let’s kick off with a company that been making waves in camera development for years: Blackmagic Design.

Blackmagic Design came on to the scene by first introducing an inexpensive, high dynamic range 2.5k raw shooting camera, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Blackmagic then followed it up with the Pocket Cinema Camera and the 4k Production Camera.

One of the primary complaints about the Cinema and Production cameras was the odd form factor – it seemed people didn’t really want just a sensor in a box. So last year Blackmagic introduced the URSA, an upgradable bear of a camera (pun intended) that, while a large and heavy camera, is capable of 4k shooting with a global shutter.

How can Blackmagic improve on the URSA?

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini

Blackmagic announced the new URSA Mini. And while it is designed to be smaller and lighter then the original URSA, it is not at all lacking in teeth.

It seems that Blackmagic Design is always listening to their consumers. The design of the URSA Mini is a far cry from the simple box of the Cinema Camera. It has a substantial body and removable, rotatable side handle that brings to mind the design of the Canon EOS Cinema series – Which have great ergonomics.

But what about the specs?

The URSA Mini touts a new 4.6k sensor. And the sensor can reportedly record 15 stops(!) of dynamic range in rolling shutter mode. And it can also switch to a global shutter mode at the cost of a few stops of range.

The option to switch can let you maximize your dynamic range in slow moving shots but avoid “jelly cam” when you need it. I’m always in favor of options. The ability to shoot 60 FPS at 4k is also great – it might not be much slow motion, but sometimes it’s all that you need.

There are some drawbacks to the URSA Mini, too. Using CFast cards is a good choice, but they are still extremely expensive (although prices are always coming down). And while the large (5 inch) viewscreen is good, if you want to carry the URSA Mini on you should (news-style) you’ll need to buy a shoulder rig ($395) and a viewfinder ($1,495). Accessories add up fast – including, for example, a v-mount plate for battery mounting ($95).

The Good of the URSA Mini:
– Super 35 sensor size
– Four models: 4k and 4.6k sensors in both EF and PL lens mounts
– up to 15 stops of dynamic range
– Selectable global or rolling shutter (at a price)
– up to 60 fps at 4k raw, 160 fps at 1080p
– Multiple recording formats: compressed and uncompressed raw, all flavors of ProRes

The Not So Good of the URSA Mini:
– Records to dual CFast 2.0 cards (good media, but still very expensive)
– No sensor upgrades (unlike URSA)
– EVF and should kit available (for $1,500 and $400, respectively)
– No built in ND filters

In short, if Blackmagic Design keeps up the pace, then the URSA Mini looks like a great addition to Blackmagic’s other camera offerings. Personally, I am more and more impressed with cameras with extended dynamic ranges, and 15 stops is up in RED Epic territory.

Add it together and the cost for the URSA Mini is not bad for low-budget filmmakers who have the post-workflow available for working with raw files.

The 5 Laws For Hollywood Success

Making a living in the movie biz is challenging. And frankly, garnering Hollywood success gets a lot more challenging when you screw people over. And while what I’m about to share is totally fictional, I can tell you that these types of things happen more than you know:

Dear Jason,

I’m very sorry. I know you’ve been calling about the money we owe you for your totally wonderful (and very valuable) film distribution system. So far, we put your tips to practice and we’ve been seeing great results.

As a result (as you can imagine), we have been incredibly busy! We recently upgraded our editing suite (you should come over and check out our brand new facility – it’s awesome!) But anyway, I know we are a few months behind with those payments.

If it’s okay with you, maybe give us a call after the holiday (we are headed to Key West for the fourth of July. Have you been there? It’s amazing!) Anyway, I promise we can discuss payment. If it’s totally urgent, maybe we can just settle on half the money we previously agreed upon?

Anyway, I’m sure we can work it out.

Best,

MR. UNTRUSTWORTHY

Hollywood Success

Photo © zekabibr / Dollar Photo Club

 The 5 Laws For Hollywood Success

As mentioned, the above scenario is totally fictional. But this sort of thing happens. And whenever this happens, relationships end. Bridges get burnt. And Hollywood reputations get ruined.

Here are the 5 laws for Hollywood Success:

1. Don’t do business with people who you wouldn’t want to introduce to your mother.
2. Get everything (EVERYTHING) in writing. Even among friends. Especially among friends.
3. Always honor your word. If you make an honest mistake, work to rectify it immediately!
4. Plan for the best, but always ask yourself – what is the worst that can happen? Then plan for that!
5. Treat everyone with respect. The man fetching coffee today, controls the money tomorrow.

No matter what side of the deal you’re on (I assume you will be honorable in all your dealings) just be a good person. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it.

If you’d like more information on how to build your network so you can meet successful people, check out the indie producer’s guide to meeting rich and successful people..

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

This filmmaking article is challenging to write. The reason for this is simple. It is tough to admit that a movie you made (that you once thought was brilliant) totally sucks.

Cringing at the sight of your old work is a good sign. The emotion means that you’re growing as an artist. But I don’t know. After having made a few feature films and prior to that, a whole bunch of shorts – I can tell you that many of my movies are embarrassing.

Don’t believe me? Check out this little gem I produced over a decade ago:

Watching this movie makes me queasy. Aside from the fact I once thought it was brilliant, poetic and profound… Full transparency here – I actually sent this out to people. Hollywood people. And worse, I was convinced that having such a great movie would assure my success in the movie industry.

As you can imagine, my big break did not come. Nobody wrote me back. Nobody cared about my movie. And I had to go back to my crappy day job with hope no-longer springing eternal. I was discouraged. I thought my career was over.

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

Luckily I had a group of filmmaker friends who encouraged me to keep going. So I kept making movies. Through the process, my friends reminded me not to worry if my filmmaking sucks. One friend even told me to make as many bad movies as possible – That way I could get all the stupid ideas out of my head.

Thankfully I kept going. Over time, I successfully produced my first feature. And after that, a few more. So in the event your filmmaking sucks, I want to share the following tips with you:

  1. Accept the fact that your first five movies are going to suck, no matter how brilliant you are. Make your first five movies so you can get past the suck.
  2. Surround yourself with a team of good people. You cannot attain filmmaking success alone. You will need the support, feedback and collaboration of other like-minded creatives to keep going.
  3. Realize that some sucky movies still make money. I include this tip to remind you that sucky movies get produced all the time. Many of these movies find an audience. Many of these movies make money.

Here are two examples of movies that should not have worked (but became successful!)

Birdemic: Often referred to as the worst movie ever made, the story reveals what happens when you screw with nature. This movie was so successful, they produced a Birdemic sequel.

The Room: I don’t know what to say about this movie. I have seen it and it frankly makes very sense. But it is remarkable. And special props to Tommy Wiseau – he now describes the movie as a “quirky black comedy” as well as “the best movie of the year.”

It is important to remember that every filmmaker starts somewhere. Maybe your first movie won’t win an Oscar. Maybe your third movie will have poor lighting. But sooner or later, if you keep working on your craft – you will learn from your mistakes. You’ll get better. You will achieve great things.

If you are interested in learning how to get your movie made, seen and sold, you might want to check out my professional filmmaking tools.