Time to Make A Movie

When I was starting my filmmaking career, an industry veteran told me to put blinders on, focus and go for it. And with this advice, he also mentioned the importance of a clearly written plan. If you have been taking baby steps towards the realization of your movie, then sooner or later it will be time to make a movie.

When you have all the filmmaking stuff you need, you are no longer operating from theory and planning… You are now in action mode! You will probably need to modify your initial, ideal schedule for the real world realities of production. When it is time to make a movie, you will firm up shoot dates and call times.

Time to Make A Movie

It is at this point in the moviemaking process when most filmmakers get the brilliant idea to just shoot the movie on the weekends, spanning a few months. As a potential upside to the weekend strategy, you may have less scheduling conflicts. You might also score some great deals on rental equipment. But if not managed well, weekend shooting can slow the momentum of your project.

Figure out when you can begin production. The time of the year will impact on your budget. Hot weather will require different provisions than cold weather. And how will rain can potentially wash out your shooting schedule. Do you have a pan B? How about a plan C?

While finding an experienced 1st AD or Line Producer will help you figure out the best game plan for your show, it is possible that you will want to complete an initial schedule on your own. For this, I recommend our sponsor, Lightspeed EPS – It is an online production management tool that allows you to schedule your movie and coordinate with crew.

Crowdfunding For The Canyons

“Hollywood Types” Go Micro-budget and Borderline Hipster with The Canyons on Kickstarter 

By Laura Zinger
Filmmaker And Guest Film Blogger

Have you been wondering when the Hollywood would jump on the blitzkrieg bandwagon that is Crowdfunding? It’s happened.

Writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) has teamed up with writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and producer Braxton Pope to utilize crowdfunding for the new feature titled The Canyons.

If you’ve never heard of crowdfunding, get with the program! As a modern moviemaker, you need to get used to the fact that you will, at some point in your filmmaking career, end up utilizing crowdfunding (Kickstarter or Indiegogo) as part of your fundraising strategy. Not only that, but you’re going to have to sell yourself just as much as you will have to sell your film.

If you’re new to crowdfunding, read this.

For filmmakers familiar with crowdfunding, check out The Canyons Kickstarter Page. It’s well worth it — if only for seeing the perks being offered. The Canyons offers everything from Producer’s coffee with Braxton Pope (only 2 out of 15 are remaining) to a money clip autographed and given to Paul Schrader by Robert De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver! Price tag? $10,000. Sold? You better believe it.

But my absolute favorite reward that The Canyons‘ team is offering is this: “TRAIN WITH BRET”

This perk allows you to train alongside Bret Easton Ellis and his personal celebrity trainer Christian Graham for a week. The package includes three hour long workouts, access to supplements and consultation. How much more could you give an absolute fan than the ability to sweat alongside one of your favorite authors in one of the most intimate of settings, the American gym?

Or maybe I am over thinking the intimacy factor here because I am a woman. Not sure. Please weigh in here, guys. Isn’t the American gym a place of intimacy especially when working out with someone?

Producer Braxton Pope admitted that they have gotten some fire from utilizing crowdfunding, because they are seen as “Hollywood Types.” (My quotes, not Braxton’s.) And some people feel that “Hollywood Types” should take on all the financial responsibility for their film projects and not take away funding from lesser known artists who do not have presumed access to the large piggy banks that “Hollywood Types” apparently do.

Braxton said that they are expected to call up Scorcese and ask him for funding.

Braxton was also quick to point out, that by their team even having a project on Kickstarter their eyes were opened up to other worthwhile projects on Kickstarter that they have themselves have become backers of. Pope has since backed two documentaries and a recording project in the last month. Additionally, Braxton said that there is so much support for crowdfunded projects in general, that there really is no need to get upset about their crowdfunded project.

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Last year alone, Kickstarter pledges equaled $99,344,382. (Please keep in mind that “pledged” means pledged on all projects whether they were funded or not. This is not the number for how much money was actually collected from successfully funded projects. Kickstarter didn’t release those numbers for some reason. Lame…)

According to Paul Schrader, in The Canyons’ Kickstarter pitch video, the team is taking their micro-budget to heart. Paul says, “The money we raise on Kickstarter certainly isn’t going into salaries, because everyone is working for free, or as free as the guilds will allow us to work.”

Not being able to pay cast and crew well or at all is a serious annoyance in independent filmmaking. I mean, how is anyone supposed to make a living? But if that is the sacrifice one must make in order to be independent of the studio system, I believe it’s worth it. (Having worked at Starbucks in my late 20s in order to temporarily escape “the man” was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.)

Bret said that if they can pull The Canyons off successfully as a high quality production on a micro-budget, then they will indeed do another micro-budget feature. (Also, is it just me, or does the shirt and glasses ensemble Paul Schrader has on in the pitch video make him look like a Priest? I’ve done a double take every time I’ve watched this video. Maybe Pope put him up to it?)

But above and beyond who The Canyons team is made up of, and the fact that this team is using crowdfunding to fund their film.

Here is why I suggest that you, Modern Moviemakers, should support and pay attention to them: Bret and Braxton believe wholeheartedly in Transparency. They feel that crowdfunding allows them transparency and openness with their audience.

“Transparency,” according to Uber Indie Producer, Ted Hope, in his appropriately challenging and dynamic post, Our Obligation to Share “begins with us. Transparency is a process, a behavior. By definition, it is an openness to share – share not only our successes, but also our process and all it entails. It seems we have had a lot of trouble committing to this openness.”

In line with their belief in transparency, The Canyons’ team has offered a $10 Kickstarter reward in which you can “Help us cast the film! You will be given access to a private link on www.LetItCast.com that will allow you to vote on our casting finalists.”

Oddly, only 83 backers have signed onto this reward, but the implication of being allowed to have an opinion in the casting of a feature film is game-changing. Will this crowdfunding, the-fan-is-all mentality combined with the transparency philosophy that Bret, Braxton, and Ted Hope all subscribe to turn modern filmmaking into a loose execution of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure novels?

Will this make modern films better or worse? Is this the only way that crowdfunding can actually work? And at what point does fan engagement with crowdfunding lead to pandering to your audience, which is the supreme philosophy of the Studio System?

These are definitely questions worth asking, that modern moviemakers should ask themselves as they navigate the seemingly wonderful, dolphin and sprite-filled waters that are crowdfunding. (Sprites are a race of fairies with green skin and wings for those of you not in the know. And if you don’t know what a dolphin is, god bless you, Google it.)

Bret Easton Ellis says The Canyons lays out the true challenges their team faces in making a micro-budget feature: “Can we actually within those parameters make a real movie where we have the action beats, we have drama, a tight story, the camera moves, and a lot of exteriors.”

If The Canyons is a challenge for these “Hollywood Types” to see if they can make a high quality production on a micro-budget in an attempt at reclaiming once again their creative independence, I sincerely believe any modern moviemaker should take notice, and follow or contribute to The Canyons’ Kickstarter campaign, because for all of us, this is THE crowdfunded, film-based project to watch for the next two days.

In my humble opinion, if these “Hollywood Types” can pull it off, then there’s no reason the rest of us can’t. It’s time for modern moviemakers to pull themselves out of the murky depths of budget constrained quality production and do what this team plans to do.

Also, I noticed that producers Hope and Pope’s last names in juxtaposition seem almost a literal indication of what you as a Modern Moviemaker should be doing a lot of (hoping and praying) as you charge forward with your filmmaking!

You can listen to the hour long phone interview between Bret, Braxton, and myself by clicking the link below.

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Enjoy and good luck, Modern Moviemakers!

Laura Zinger
Laura Zinger talks fast and is the owner of 20K Films, a Chicago-based, documentary production company.

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Laura Zinger (Filmmaking Stuff Interviewer): So gentlemen, I wanted to ask you what The Canyons is about because for the life of me, all I can find is the same one liner which says, “The Canyons documents five twenty-something’s quest for power, love, sex and success in 2012 Hollywood.” What is it really about?

Bret Easton Ellis: I don’t know who came up with that. Who came up with that, Braxton?

Laura Zinger: Who are you going to blame?

Bret Easton Ellis: That really doesn’t, I’m not going to blame anybody.

Braxton Pope: It doesn’t capture the script really [laughs] really well at all.

Laura Zinger: No, I would say no. I would say that’s disappointing.

Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah, I would say…

Laura Zinger: And you raised $144,000 on that.

Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah, yeah it’s strange to me that was how, that that was how the movie ended up being synopsisized. You know I started out when we were first sitting down thinking about doing a micro-budget movie, Paul Schrader, Braxton, and myself, we were thinking how can we make one of these micro-budget movies that aren’t about two people in a car for you know 90 minutes talking…

Laura Zinger: You’re not a fan of that, Bret? Two people in a car for 90 minutes talking?

Bret Easton Ellis: Well when I was looking at certain micro-budget movies, I noticed one or you know they were usually very very simple and they seemed almost hampered by their budgets. But they looked okay and were made for, whatever, $20,000 before post, cool. That was cool. But you know it’s like ok, so two characters, and a car driving along the countryside complaining about their relationships or you know, they were newlyweds, you know 6 people basically in a loft complaining about their relationships, and…

Laura Zinger: It sounds like you’re describing Mumblecore.

Bret Easton Ellis: Uh, yeah, but at least Mumblecore with a movie like COLD WEATHER, for example broke out of the genre by actually heading toward noir, and had almost action beats to it within a Mumblecore sensibility, and I started to think, it’s very interesting you mention Mumblecore, because I think Mumblecore is kind of interesting and I’m kind of amazed at the quality of a lot of the writing and directing, of some of those movies, and it really came together last year, there were a couple of films.

I think UNCLE KENT was one of them, which I thought was really interesting, and I also thought that COLD WEATHER was one of them, and I thought the idea was okay, look, we’re going to make a micro-budget movie, there are certain constraints, but let’s not make the typical micro-budget movie. Let’s make a real movie, let’s make a genre movie and I think because I’m so identified with what the synopsis sounds like, it made it such a sell, but really I wasn’t even thinking about how old the characters were.

Yeah, everyone in the cast is basically in their 20s, but really, my launching pad, where I took off from was noir, was a noir script, and I was thinking about, okay, I know what the parameters were, I know what the boundaries are of what our budget is probably going to be, can we actually within those parameters, make a real movie, where we have the action beats, we have drama, a tight story, the camera moves, we have a lot of exteriors, you know, a lot of things that you know. So that was playing heavily on my mind, I was wanting to do a noir story, I wanted to do a kind of mystery thriller, but yes, but I did have to say it is true, it is kind of my, the cast is basically Ellis archetypes, you know? They are, some of them are rich kids living in LA, well one rich kid in particular, but it is, it does move away from kind of the aimlessness or randomness of quote unquote on some of my work and it really is a sort of tightly plotted thriller, you know.

Laura Zinger: You’re more interesting than the synopsis. You guys, I mean basically like, look, your one-liner, it’s tweetable right, but you both have the most fantastic twitter feeds, like you both write tweets so well, and you couldn’t write a better synopsis?

Bret and Braxton: [Both Laugh]

Braxton Pope: Neither of us wrote the synopsis so, perhaps one of us should have actually bothered to come up with it.

Bret Easton Ellis: Who did come up with the synopsis?

Braxton Pope: Someone from production did, but I don’t know who specifically.

Laura Zinger:  Please don’t call them out.

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What Are Your Filmmaking Goals?

If you’ve been making movies for any length of time, you know that the idea of seeing your work on the big (or small screen) can be totally fun, exciting and (let’s be honest) challenging.

Over the past decade, I have experienced headaches, heartache, challenges and really, really crappy moments. But I have also experienced the awesomely surreal, super exciting moments that come when people watch my stuff and actually say good things.

Having spent many hours speaking to other filmmakers, I know that we are all driven to get our movies made, seen and sold. The problem is – sometimes life gets in the way. Bills need to be paid. And sometimes we put our filmmaking dreams on hold…

I have always found life easier to deal with, when I set exciting goals for myself. By writing down what you want, you can begin to get out of the crappy headspace and negative self doubt into a world where things seem possible.

To get your projects going, I think it is essential that you create a clear and exciting vision for yourself and your future… Because (believe me) you’ll need something exciting to focus on, should things get challenging…

Making a movies is a long term game. One of the mental attributes that all successful people share in common is a never ending ability to keep their eye on the prize. The secret formula for filmmaking success is patience plus unyielding persistence in a face of adversity.


What does your ideal future look like? In order to create meaningful success in both your filmmaking career and your life, it’s essential that you get a clear idea of what you want. This will involve setting some goals for yourself and writing them down. The following actions will help you hone in your movie ideas, your money ideas and also help you paint a picture of your ideal future.


  1. Take out some paper and write down three ideas for movies you want to make in your lifetime.
  2. How much money would you like to have?
  3. How much money do you have now?
  4. What will you do to get the money you need?
  5. The people you hang out with will influence your success. Are you hanging out with people who share your vision? Or, are you hanging out with negative people?

Once you get an idea of where you are and where you want to go, you can begin to take steps in your desired direction.

Happy Filmmaking!

Push To Meet Filmmaking Deadlines

As a filmmaker, sooner or later the realization hits you that the key to dreams is internal, not external. I’m not trying to sound like a space cadet telling you this. But if you’ve been pushing your filmmaking career for any length of time, and you’ve actually made a movie – even a short movie, then you know that whatever you once perceived as your limitations are behind you.

Think back to the person you were a decade ago. Would that person be reading these words?

Now with a few weeks into the new year, many would-be filmmakers who promised themselves they would be more – many have already made excuses as to why this year won’t be the year of the feature.

But many other filmmakers, especially YOU must make this your best year. It’s your obligation to the community.

Come on. Take action! The world is waiting for you…

Leverage Your Following | Sell Your Movie PT 7

Internal rate of return, two solutions, cashflow

Image via Wikipedia

One of the most important filmmaking strategies you must adopt in this era of modern moviemaking is a long term perspective. In years past, filmmakers focused on making one movie, selling it and then moving on to the next movie.

While the idea of creating multiple titles over the course of your filmmaking career has not changed, it is now vitally important that you plan a series of movies from day one. The reason for this is simple. You are now solely responsible for the success of your movie business. And to stay in business, you will need to create a profitable library of titles that continually pay you.

To use a real estate business analogy, in years past you built a house and sold it for maximum profit. But these days, given the changes in the real estate market, it makes sense to hold onto the house, rent it out and collect rent checks every month. This is the difference between capital gains and cashflow. And as an independent filmmaker, the growing demise in DVD sales outlets means that filmmakers must now focus on creating multiple titles – and increasing cashflow, over time.

Leverage Your Following

As I mentioned previously, creating a highly targeted mailing list is now essential for your success.

Thinking long term, the most important component of your movie making success is establishing a loyal following. From a business perspective, the size of your mailing list will provide a solid metric on which to base forward looking revenue projections. In other words, you can take look at your list and say “two percent of our followers bought this movie. I wonder how many fans will be interested in my next movie?” But instead of guess work, you can send your followers an email and ask them.

As you grow your community your fans will begin to know you, know your company and celebrate your work. And as long as you continue to provide good entertainment, you may eventually reach mass great enough to fund your future movie projects. Imagine how much prospective investors will appreciate your pitch when you already have one-hundred-thousand fans eager to buy your next movie?

[box style=”notice”] For more information on how to market and sell your movie, visit www.HowToSellYourMovie.com[/box]

In the end, the heart and soul of all forms of distribution is finding an audience willing to pay you for your work. Video on demand simply removes the middle-man from the process and allows you to connect directly with the people who matter the most – your audience.