Filmmaking Interview with Carole Lee Dean

As president and CEO of From the Heart Productions, Carole Lee Dean produced over 100 programs, including the popular cable program, HealthStyles, and the historical show, Filmmakers, now housed in the National Archives. As an entrepreneur she created Studio Film & Tape, and sold it to Edgewise in 2001. She created a business supporting independent filmmakers in the 70’s with raw stock and coined the name “short ends.”

In 1992, she created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation in honor of her late father. To date, Carole’s grant and mentorship programs have provided filmmakers with millions of dollars in goods and services and have played an instrumental role in creating important documentary films. She is the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts and The Art of Manifesting: Creating your Future.

Carole stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share some ideas about filmmaking.

Jason Brubaker
Could you tell us a little bit about your work and how you got into the industry?

I was married to a cameraman and went to the set each Friday night and watched them unloading those little pieces of film that I termed “short ends.” I started a business of buying them from the studios and selling to independents, thus supporting the birth of the independent film market. I found that studios even sold new film because cinematographers wanted all one emulsion so I took the 10 or 15K feet of new and sold to people like Cassavetes.

Jason Brubaker
Wow! It is amazing how those “little pieces of film” changed the motion picture industry.

Carole Lee Dean
After a few years of selling “short ends” major video companies came to me to market their stocks and I expanded into tape. I started with $20.00 from the grocery money and sold it when my sales were at $9 million a year to Edgewise.

Jason Brubaker
This is an example of taking action on an idea and bringing it to fruition, much like a movie producer.

Carole Lee Dean
Yes, I believe in manifesting. It’s a process of releasing a potential that was already there. That short ends business was just waiting for me. Thank heavens I did not know how to do a corporate business plan or I would have known that I needed a lot more money. My belief that I could do it overcame the lack of money. I bought it and sold it the same day and most importantly I always saw it as a big business.

Jason Brubaker
It’s important to think big.

Carole Lee Dean
Look at a piece of coal; it’s a black rock, right? Well, if you ignite it you have heat and light, that potential was there you just had to release it. The same applies for filmmakers.

Jason Brubaker
Yeah. I think the key to dreams is internal, not external.

Carole Lee Dean
I tell them to realize their genius. How many people would give their right arm to be a scriptwriter? Most filmmakers are writers, producer’s even actors and editors. You are Pure genius and its important to know that so you have faith in yourself and your ability to make and finish your film. By seeing your film on a daily basis, knowing each shot, You are projecting into the future a vision that you can release with your faith and confidence. Fred Alan Wolf, physicist says that when we are daydreaming and visualizing clearly we are creating that future and that a handshake across time occurs and somewhere in the future it happens just as you saw and felt.

Jason Brubaker
I have experienced what you’re talking about. Sometimes things come into my life when I least expect them.

Carole Lee Dean
My father was responsible for the student discount. I spent every Sunday with him and He began this relentless weekly request for me to give a student discount. I agreed to 3%. He said it was not good enough. Then I went to 5%. Still not good enough so finally to keep peace I agreed to 15% discount.

Jason Brubaker
I’m sure the independent filmmakers were appreciative!

Carole Lee Dean
When Fuji gave me the exclusive national distribution of their 16 & 35mm stocks I set a goal for myself to sell in 9 months and Fuji said, “Oh, that’s too high you will never hit that.” I did hit it and I asked them to give me a larger discount and my priority that I told them was non negotiable was a 15% discount for students. I got this discount and after the first ad was printed, Kodak matched that 15%!!!

Jason Brubaker
And that care for supporting indie filmmakers has stayed with you. The Roy W. Dean Film and Writing Grants have become some of the most well known for independent filmmaker. Could you tell us what criteria you look for when you evaluate potential projects for a grant?

Carole Lee Dean
I want great stories with compelling characters. We fund shorts, indies and docs that are under $500K budgets. The films must be unique and make a contribution to society. Look on the site under grants for prior winners for the type of films we fund. We just started taking features and I want to see one win.

Jason Brubaker
How long does the evaluation process take?

Carole Lee Dean
We have the first cut of finalists on the site in 60 days and your name will stay on for a year, which is very good PR. Next cut is made on the site. We highlight the top 15, then top 10, then top 5 and announce the winner. All this takes about 2 to 3 more months. Filmmakers go through 3 sets of judges.

Jason Brubaker
Let’s say you’re a filmmaker and you’re not selected? Do you offer any sort of consultation or advice to those filmmakers?

Carole Lee Dean
Everyone who applies gets a free 15 minute consultation with me. We can talk about financing your specific film or how to improve your package or marketing or, anything you want. This grant is very dear to me and I like to see you improve from entering it. Our aim is to help you get funded.

Jason Brubaker
In your book The Art of Funding Your Film, you provide a very comprehensive overview of the funding process. Given all the rules and SEC regulations, what advice do you have for filmmakers who have never funded a movie – where do they get started?

Carole Lee Dean
It all starts with a great story. That’s the most important part, work on the store, give me compelling characters that I want to spend 90 minutes with. Write and keep writing and rewriting. Send your work out to really good screenwriters for review and listen to them. Read “Save the Cat,” my favorite book on writing. Take your script to the highest level possible.

Jason Brubaker
And once you have a great script?

Carole Lee Dean
Then go to work on your business plan and find good comparison films that you can easily defend. Be honest with your return on investment, always say hypothetical ROI and show one film in comparisons that did not make a profit. Put yourself in your investor’s shoes. Would you take a million from your parents to make your film? Do you seriously think you can pay it back? Keep investors interest your priority.

Jason Brubaker
You have been very passionate about helping filmmakers manifest their dreams into reality. I read your book long before I had produced my first feature. And I can remember times when everyone in my life seemed to think my movie making goals were pipe dreams. What advice do you have for filmmakers who are working to overcome self doubt?

Carole Lee Dean
If you were making movies 20 years ago it would cost you 10 times more to make a film. So ask yourself, “why was I given so much talent and born during the third most important time in the history of mankind.” Here you are with a great opportunity and all that talent. Do you really believe the universe would put you here at this time and not finance you? Of course not.

Jason Brubaker
That is a good way to think. Especially on those days where self doubt creeps in.

Carole Lee Dean
You need to believe in your talents and know that the money will come. Do all those things on your “to do list” and keep seeing your finished film. You will find doors open where there were no doors before. You are your greatest asset.

Jason Brubaker
I know you have been trying to find ways to bring filmmakers together to share ideas.

Carole Lee Dean
From the Heart is now producing events and I will give all of your members a 15% discount on any of our products and events if your people put GRANT in the coupon code.

To learn more about the Roy W. Dean Grant or some of Carole’s upcoming filmmaking events, check out the website.

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