Five things Every New Filmmaker Should Know

Being a first time filmmaker is like navigating rough waters. In fact, making movies is one of the few jobs in the world that, when done correctly looks extremely easy. If you know anything about the craft, you know making movies is challenging.

However, do not let the idea of the work involved or the potential difficulty of the task stop you from making your first flick.

If it was easy everybody would be doing it right?

Five things Every New Filmmaker Should Know

Here are a few tips I  learned while producing my first feature length movie. These are the same things I think every first time film-maker should know.

1. No Such Thing as being too Prepared

You can’t really state this enough. Sounds like it would be common knowledge but the truth is a lot of film-makers/directors go into their projects not having thought out the little things that need to be done. Having back-up locations, what to do if an actor becomes unavailable, How to continue if money becomes an issue?

All these things (and more) happen and many first-timers get stuck because of them but if you take a little time and prepare a “business plan” of sorts to produce your feature you can prevent a great deal of hiccups. This is extra work but worth it!

2. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

I have often said the biggest obstacle I’ve had as a film-maker was myself. I didn’t know that the statement applied to many people. We tend to talk ourselves out of the job before the job has begun and feelings of  “I’m not good enough,” or “I can’t do what they do” or “I’ll never make it!” These doubts flood our brains. This is a common thought process amongst most artist. Read this book: Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

The point is this. Get past it. Some people or going to like what you do and some people are going to hate what you do. But you’ll never have the chance to be good or bad if you don’t take the chance. Besides what the heck do people that never picked up a camera or written a script know about the process anyway?

3. Don’t Underestimate what you own

Another big derailing factor is, “I don’t have access to props, actors, locations, et al.” Wrong! You have things that you use everyday. You have access to things that your friends and family uses. Make a list (getting prepared again) of all the items and locations that you can use to get your movie done.

Having that list will get you mind wrapped around the possibility of your movie become a reality. Yeah, technically you don’t own actors but the point is you can get some for free. LOTS of acting websites, groups, classes and more out there! Believe me, many want to do project just to create a reel and be part of something. Use that to your benefit.

4. Keep From being Overwhelmed

Although it may feel like it there is no reason for you to swamp yourself with every little task on set and in post-production. Find help. Much like the actors, there are people out there that find working on a movie of any size sexy and will help for the experience. If you really work at it you can develop a small group of production staff to keep the wheels of your movie underneath and rolling.

5. Cut Your Losses Quick

Just because you’re getting work for free doesn’t mean that you have to deal with the possible crap that some people will general. This is the advice I wish I knew making my first. Sometimes people change their minds, schedules begin to conflict or any number of things may happen to play havoc with your production but remember your production is as important to the people that invested their time in it as it is to you.

You owe it to them and yourself to do what it takes to keep that project moving and sometimes that means making the hard decisions. Anything that becomes cancerous on your set (you’ll know it when you see it) get rid of it fast! If not it may just drag your production into the toilet.

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Brian Green is an independent filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1999 has worked on and off in the television and film industry. His first movie, The Interrogation. (2011), was an official selection at the (2011) Bronze Lens film festival. It was brought to Atlanta television airing on Atlanta Shorts – PBA30 and will air in National Syndicated television with Africian-American Shorts (2013). Brian is currently in production on another movie, The End Agenda (2012).

How To Create a Final Movie Budget

One of the most essential steps in the filmmaking process is to create a final movie budget. Your movie budget will outline the size of your movie and dictate how each dollar will be spent. From this information, you can finalize your business plan, raise money, hire cast and crew, make a movie – and hopefully have enough money left over for marketing, sales and distribution.

Many motion picture professionals make a living just breaking down, scheduling and budgeting movies. So this is a pretty complicated and creative area. As a first time feature filmmaker, it would be great to partner with a seasoned Production Manager or Line Producer who could guide you through the process.

But if your budget will not permit this, you will have to put on another hat and complete your final movie budget!

Revisit Your Movie Schedule

During your scheduling process, you highlighted the various elements necessary to produce your movie such as actors, props, wardrobe, stunts, transportation, insurance and craft services, et al.

Your next step is to select these elements, import the list into your budget and assign a price to each element. Once you have each element budgeted, you will add up the costs and this will give you a total for your movie.

Create A Final Movie Budget

Once you know how much money you need, compare these figures with your initial movie budget. If you find you do not have enough money to make your movie, you have three choices.

You can either get more money. You can modify your script and schedule. Or you could go through each line item in your budget and figure out where to cut costs. Each choice will have creative consequences.

Later you will utilize this information to write your movie business plan. Your plan will serve as a marketing document that outlines to prospective investors how you plan to spend their money and hopefully recoup it.

Five Steps to Make a Living in Filmmaking

If you want to make a living in filmmaking, you’re in the right place. The one thing I absolutely love about being a filmmaker is that I am my own boss. I don’t have to punch a clock, I don’t have to do every single gig that comes along, and I can do things my way. The greatest part? Making movies is my full time job.

Most filmmakers want this too. The trouble is they want everything on their terms. Everything I mentioned above sounds like I write my own ticket but one thing that I have compromised on, is the content of the films I produce. I make commercials and wedding films. Clients pay me to tell their story.

Now, maybe that’s not what you are looking for but let me ask you this, do you want to work a 9-5 for someone else and do your movie making on the weekends or do you want to work in film full time? The benefits are HUGE! In doing what I do, you are always working on your craft even when you are working for a client. There is no reason you can’t work on client projects and still make your own films too. Here are some steps to get you into the game.

1. Have a game plan.
You can’t make a living in filmmaking from day one but there are lots of opportunities to make money making films for other people. Some filmmakers look at commercials or weddings as the plague. In truth, it’s not at all. As a filmmaker, you are telling a story. That is the very basics of it.

You can tell a story about a small business in a quick 60 sec internet commercial. You can tell amazing stories about two people coming together and starting a life as one in a wedding film. Why not do it? You’ll be doing what you love, gaining more and more experience, make money and as a bonus you’ll get amazing ideas for your next film.

The best part is that you’ll have money to invest in your personally films. So figure out what’s out there in your market, how you can deliver it and how you can find the work. Create a business plan that works for you.

2. Create a persona.
You need to not only be a friendly person when working with clients but you also need to have an edge. Figure yourself out. What makes you tick? What can you do to give yourself character? You want people to remember something about you. For me, I always wear a hat. The kind that the old time paper boy would wear. It gives me an “artists” look without trying too hard. I always wear it, therefore, everyone remembers me.

3. Find the work.
This is the hard part but if you are open to working for low rates starting out, you will gain some great clients and more and more knowledge as you go. Look on production crew pages, Craig’s List, Facebook, look for other companies like web site creators who need someone to make videos for their clients sites.

Make a package deal with them. They will sell you and you do the work. For weddings, find a photographer who matches your style and make a package deal with them. Same thing, they will sell you and you can handle the production work. This is a great way to start out.

4. Deliver the best work possible.
Take your clients work just as serious as your own work. Keep your creative eyes open to new ideas. You might even find new ways to produce your personal films through a client gig.

You made your game plan, you are booking work but other pieces of the puzzle don’t line up. Don’t worry! Adapt. Learn. Grow. I have been running my business for several years and I am always changing something with the goal of being more efficient. Never think that you know it all or that you are better than the next guy.

5. Always be learning.
One other thing. Be cautious with your earnings. Down the road, you will need to invest in areas such as advertising, equipment, studio space, freelancers, et al. If you want your business to grow, always be careful with your money. The biggest mistake is spending before you are making. Save up, invest, work hard and have a nest egg for the rainy days.

These are just a few simple things I have learned while growing my video business from a solo filmmaker posting “Need A Music Video?” flyers around campus to an actual small business with a studio, several freelancers, really nice equipment and money in the bank. I am not extremely well educated. I started out with little to nothing. But as the old saying goes, if I can do it, so can you!

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Shane M Pergrem is a producer who loves doc films and just finished a great feature length film called “The Almond Tree“. It’s being released soon by Snag Films. Check out our trailer below:

How To Turn Your Book Into A Movie

So you are seeking ideas on how to turn your book into a movie. First of all, congratulations on finishing your book. Writing requires every degree of discipline you can muster. And now that your book is complete, I can understand why you would want to turn your story into a movie.

Going from a writer to a screenwriter to a filmmaker is a very complex process. But if you are willing to pay the price and spend the next year learning everything you can about the filmmaking process, you may have a shot a taking your story off the page and getting it to the big screen.

At the preliminary stage, you first will need to decide if you want to produce the movie yourself or try to sell it in Hollywood. Since I hate asking for permission, my suggestion is to start the process on your own. Then later, if Hollywood wants a piece of the action, you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate deals.

How To Turn Your Book Into A Movie

1. Hire a writer to convert your book into a great script. While most writers think they are also screenwriters, you have to understand that the conventions are different. What works in a book may not always work on the big screen. A great case study however, is Cider House Rules. Read that book and then watch the movie. (John Irving wrote both the book and the screenplay.)

2. Break the movie script into a schedule. This is usually handled by a line producer. These professionals break your script into a schedule and take that information to create a budget. Since money may be tight, there is a great software program that does a preliminary breakdown – go here:

3. Create a budget. As mentioned, a seasoned line producer will help you create a budget. Your budget will assign a price tag to each element in your movie including, locations, props, wardrobe, cast and crew. They will also account for food, lodging and transportation… These are things that most first time filmmakers fail to consider.

4. From the budget, create a business plan. Making movies is fun, exciting and sexy. But what good is having a movie if nobody watches it? Your audience is your business and your business plan will provide detail on how your money will be spent and hopefully recouped. Most traditional film business plans fail to include a marketing strategy… But not yours. Make sure you also include a marketing, sales and distribution strategy that you control.

5. Hire an attorney who specializes in private offerings. Whenever you talk big money and throw around the word “investor,” you suddenly expose yourself to all sorts of liability that doesn’t really do anything to help you. Your goal is to always protect yourself and follow every letter of the law.

6. Find and make the pitch to several investors (and get the money.) Once you have an idea on how the money will be spent and recouped, and you have legal protection – you can then search your network for successful business people who may be looking for a new venture. This is not an easy process. You will need to make cold calls. You will need to ask tough questions. And you will need to face a lot of rejection before you get the final YES.

7. Hire your cast and crew (then go through the process of pre-production.) If you have established a good relationship with a line producer, they can advise you on hiring a crew. Additionally, many casting directors will happily take your money to help you find the perfect cast for your movie.

8. Get out to locations and produce your movie. Producing your movie involves hard labor. Dozens of people will show up before sunrise and will not leave until after sunset. To help you manage these people, ask your line producer to suggest an awesome 1st AD. Your assistant director is concerned with one thing – making sure the production stays on schedule.

9. Edit your movie. At the end of your production is your edit. You will hire an editor and spend lots of time in a dark, smelly room eating candy. This is the final rewrite of your movie. You will go through the footage shot-by-shot and smooth rough areas. At the end of the process, you will have a “rough cut” to evaluate. Have a test screening. Take notes. Then go back to the edit suite and revise your movie.

10. Market, sell and distribute the movie. Many first time filmmakers are too new to realize that the world has changed. People who still talk about DVD distribution and describe VOD as the wild west are silly. But not you… Since you were smart enough to create your own sales, marketing and distribution strategy in the planning stage – now is the time to execute the plan.

Obviously, each one of these steps will require quite a few smaller steps. But if you are serious about getting the book made into a movie, you will need to view your movie in ways akin to how an entrepreneur starts a business. If you are interested in more professional resources, you may want to check out:

Make A Horror Movie

As a filmmaker, you need to start somewhere. I suggest you take action and make a horror movie.

Our first feature was a silly zombie movie. The production value was horrific. But the movie got a write up in Premiere Magazine, Fangoria and about one hundred horror related websites. As a result of this buzz, our crappy horror movie gained a cult following and sold very well.

As a result of popularity, our horror movie was pirated and is now available for free all over the internet. While this is not a filmmaking article focused on the merits of piracy as a marketing strategy – I did want to take a quick moment to remind you that you should probably get off your butt and make something.

Here are three reasons why filmmakers should make a horror movie:

  1. Horror Movies are inexpensive. With a good story, you do not necessarily need “name” actors.
  2. When you make a horror movie, finding your target audience is easy
  3. Even if your horror movie sucks, horror fans love to hate (and talk about) horror movies.

If you want to make a horror movie, my suggestion is to find a great script. Then break your script into a schedule and a budget.

Once you have an initial budget, create a crowdfunding campaign to test your concept. While getting money is a benefit of crowdfunding, the greater objective is to guage audience response and demand in the marketplace. Additionally, your crowdfunding campaign will allow you to test the reach of your social networks.

If successful, your crowdfunding campaign will emphasize the viability of your project in the marketplace. You can detail this in your business plan. Then with the added confidence of social proof, you can confidently enter meetings with prospective investors and demonstrate demand for your title.

Of course, if your crowdfunding campaign fails, all you gotta do is think up a new horror concept and start over.

Here is the trailer for Special Dead, our first feature, a crappy horror movie.

If I can make this type of movie, what is your excuse? Go grab a camera and make a horror movie!