Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

Talk to any filmmaker about filmmaking and they will tell you the world has changed.

Gone are the days when you simply made a movie and sold it to the highest bidder.

These days every filmmaker with a camera is making a backyard indie. And as a result, the market is saturated with a never ending supply of mediocre movies. Suffice it to say, as a serious independent filmmaker, it is hard to get noticed.

Filmmaking_Advice

Filmmaking Advice For The Modern Filmmaker

In today’s article, I am going to provide you with essential filmmaking advice.

Stop Thinking Like An Artist
To become successful, you need to stop crying about all the challenges. Instead you need to reshape your thinking. From now on, think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. Adopt the philosophy of a thriving small business owner.

You need to remember that your independent film business lives and dies by word of mouth.  And since your business is your audience, you need to make every effort to amplify your reach.

Make Remarkable Movies
Building your audience starts with engagement. And if you want to engage, you need to focus on making memorable, remarkable movies. A remarkable movie makes people take pause and tell their friends about it. This starts with your log-line – What is your hook? Who is your audience? Why should we care?

Answer these questions BEFORE you do anything else.

Reward Early Adopters
During the social window, you will receive emails from people asking when they can see your movie. And if you’re like most filmmakers, you will tell these eager fans that you’re waiting for a distribution deal. This is a mistake. These people are your most enthusiastic fans. These people will go the distance to become your word of mouth army.

What will you do to help them?

Pay The Price
When I started filmmaking, Hollywood was an impenetrable kingdom. To make a movie, you had to ask permission. But those days are over. With inexpensive cameras, social media, email lists,  and services like Distribber – You now have direct access to your audience.

Are you willing pay the price in terms of time, money, education and experience?

Filmmaking Resources
If you liked this filmmaking advice and you’re ready to take action, you will benefit from the following resources. If you are still writing, you can check out this screenwriting guide. If you have a script and you are seeking investors, you can grab my movie money system. And if you have a feature and you’re looking for ways to sell your movie, you can grab my sell your movie guide.

Filmmakers Need To Get Debt Free

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Filmmakers need to manage their money Image via Wikipedia

Learning how to manage money is one of the most important traits of an independent filmmaker. Because many filmmakers are focused on a big Hollywood payday, they have decided to live paycheck to paycheck, shackled by high debt.

If you’re that person right now, you’re not alone.

It wasn’t too long ago that I lived with no savings and thousands of dollars in debt. I had no idea how to turn myself around. Luckily, I met some very successful people who set me straight.

They told me about “FU money.”

In Hollywood, when you get a bunch of money in the bank, it’s called FU money. You know you have FU money when you can enter into negotiations and walk out of the deal without the fear of starvation.

The most valuable success strategy for acquiring FU money is: “Pay Yourself First.”

When I first heard this concept, I had no idea what the heck people were talking about. But after meeting with some power players, I realized the idea is simple. Whenever you get a paycheck, before you pay any bills or fill up your gas tank, set a little money aside and never touch it. That’s all you gotta do.

I know. I know. Most independent filmmakers want to save money but feel too strapped to take action. This is because each month is filled with bills and other unexpected expenses. For this reason, most people put off saving until the end of the month. The problem is, by that time, there is nothing left to save.

And please let me remind you, as a general disclaimer, since I’m a filmmaker and not a qualified legal, tax or financial professional, even if the following strategy provided me with a bunch of FU money, this stuff may not be right for you. So, please talk to a qualified professional first.

One day, I decided to follow a successful friend’s advice. And while it took me a long time, I eventually dug myself out of debt and lifted that financial weight off my back. Here is what I did:

  1. I wrote down all monthly income, including paycheck, extra jobs, etc.
  2. I wrote down all monthly expenses, including bills, groceries, gas, etc.
  3. I subtracted the expenses from the income.
  4. I had some money left, so I figured out how much to save.
  5. I opened a high-interest online savings account.
  6. I set up automatic withdraws each payday and pretended it was a bill.
  7. No matter what, for one year I didn’t touch the money!
  8. After one year, I paid off my credit card debt.
  9. After another year, I spoke to a financial adviser and started investing.
  10. After another year, I built up an emergency fund.

After saving, I not only had enough money to get out of debt, I had also developed the valuable life-long habit of always paying myself first. FU!

Learning how to manage your own money will give you confidence when you begin managing your movie projects. Thankfully, there are many financial software programs and online services to help you stay on top of your finances.

Since 2001 (when I was making about 10K a year – I wish I was kidding), I have been using one of the popular accounting software programs. Since that time, I have migrated into the free version of Quicken online. Other friends use Yodlee. And some of my other friends still use a spreadsheet. All of these programs will give you a daily snapshot of your net worth, your spending habits, your bank accounts and your credit card accounts. Most will also chart your investment activity. Some of the more advanced programs allow you to work out a budget and offer debt elimination tools.

The reason why becoming a good money manger is essential to filmmaking is because most prospective investors will sense how you feel about money.

If you liked this sort of unique filmmaking advice, you’ll love the independent producers guide to movie finance.

 

Feature Filmmaking Advice

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Image via Wikipedia

Prior to getting my own features off the ground, I worked for an indie producer in New York City. I took the gig because I wanted to uncover the “secrets” to making movies. And after a few months, I ended up working in development – which pretty much meant it was my job to read screenplays and write reports about the material, called coverage.

When I wasn’t reading, most of my days were spent sitting in on meetings and taking notes. Given the fast paced grind of the development office, if you were one of the many writers, actors or filmmakers who sent us a query letters, headshots or your student films- odds are good that I opened some of your mail and put it on a stack. And that stack probably ended up in a filing cabinet. And? Well…

Listen. If you’re ambitious and you’re still waiting around for someone to “give you permission” to make your movies, I’m going to share a secret. There is no better feeling in the world than the day you stop sending query letters and instead, you start producing your own work (or if you’re an actor, you start casting yourself). For years and years, you have dreamed about getting your work on the big screen. You know you’re good. So why ask for permission?

Now I know this can be a scary transition. So I want to provide you with five tips to make becoming a super-hyphenate a little easier.

1. Have a well defined log-line for your project. Seriously. Most first time indie producers settle for a simple character driven story. But the story is always confusing. So here is the test, if you can not explain your story with the use of a simple log line, something is off. Fix the log line now. You’ll need it for your marketing later.

2. Everything in your screenplay costs money. So if your passion project is too expensive, write something based on locations in your neighborhood. Your true genius will come from your ability to tell a compelling story, not by how many expensive Special FX you can pack into your movie.

3. Ice, Snow, Rain, Sun, dogs, lighting bolts and children have always been a challenge to predict. If you include any of these elements in your story, I guarantee that setups that should only take minutes will take days. Avoid these elements if possible.

4. As soon as you decide to produce and possibly direct your movie, hire a seasoned Production Manager to work with you. They will read your script. They will tell you that your movie will cost way more than you think and they will help you alter the story to meet your budget constraints. Managing the budget is their job. Respect it. Then ask your PM if they know a great 1st AD. (They will!)

5. Hire a GREAT First Assistant Director. Not some film school kid either. Pay the money. Build a relationship. The First AD will be the general of your production. They will build off the Production Manager’s budget and schedule the movie. The 1st AD keeps the production on time.

These steps will provide you with a good starting point. Once you have your script, PM and your 1st AD, you will find that your project will start to gain momentum. Finish your feature and people will start sending you query letters. I guarantee it. If you liked this filmmaking article, sign up for my newsletter.

Advice For Filmmakers who Want to Make Movies

Early in my filmmaking career, I made a lot of mistakes – Many of these mistakes are attributable to a real lack of advice from people with experience. The following video featuring Quentin Tarantino, offers great advice to new filmmakers looking for guidance. (And for those of us filmmakers who have produced a few features – This is still great advice!)

In addition to the filmmaking advice offered in the video, here are 5 things you can do today to accelerate your filmmaking career:

  1. Write down your filmmaking goals. What do you want to accomplish in 5 years? Be specific.
  2. Who do you know who knows someone working in the movie industry. How will you contact that person?
  3. Plan at least one short project you can do each month. Examples would be: music videos, short movies and action sequences.
  4. Set up a profile at YouTube. I believe YouTube will become a major outlet for your eventual feature films. You may as well start building a fan base now.
  5. Set up filmmaking page on FaceBook – And then join us at FILMMAKING STUFF FACEBOOK PAGE

Keep in mind the movie industry is changing. In the past – in order to create your own movie business you needed a gazillion dollars and a traditional distribution solution. But those days are almost behind us. You must now think of your movie making as a global business. You no longer need to ask permission to become successful.

If you want to make a movie, make it! Then build a life-long fan base that will enjoy and pay for your work.

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