Filmmaking Lesson14 Schedule Your Movie

I’m here today to remind you that whenever you’re producing a movie, a whole lot can change between development and prep. Assuming you can get the the cash and an entire team of people to help you, it’s now time for the real work!

So what does that mean?

SCHEDULE

When you have all the filmmaking stuff you need, you’re no longer operating from theory and planning… You’re now in action mode!

You need to modify your initial, ideal schedule for the real world realities of production. This means you’ll need to pick your shoot dates and call times.

It is at this point in the 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’ll have less “hey, I have another gig that pays more those days”conflicts with your actors and crew. And you might score some great deals on rental equipment. But as a potential downside, you run the risk of loosing momentum and potentially having your entire project fall apart.

So you have some thinking to do. But the good news is, assuming you’ve found an experienced 1st AD or Line Producer to work with, you’ll be able to combine ideas and figure out the best gameplan for your show.

ACTION

  1. Remember, your schedule and your budget are related. Add another day and your costs compound. Subtract a day, and you save money. Any changes to the schedule change the budget.
  2. 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 impact your shooting schedule? Do you have a plan B? How about a plan C?
  3. Once you set a shoot date, then it’s showtime! You need to check and recheck your equipment, calendar, actors weather and crew to make sure everything is proceeding as planned.

Jason Brubaker's Movie Maker Action PackThis is both an exciting time, and a time of high stress. I’ve been on more than one show where I witnessed people crying. These were not tears of joy. But seriously, the important thing to remember is, you aren’t doing brain surgery. So if you make a mistake in the process, learn from it, creativity recover – and then move on! Always remember that making movies is an awesome profession. And if you aren’t having fun, even on a bad day, what the heck are you doing?

My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film and My First Movie: Take Two: Ten Celebrated Directors Talk About Their First Film should probably be on your bookshelf. The folks profiled in these books offer a great, human, emotional perspective to the movie making process.

Happy Filmmaking!

Filmmaking Lesson 13 Get The Money Part 2

As I mentioned in previous lessons, the name of the game in your first feature is to cut the need for hard cash, while at the same time preserving or improving your production value… You want to make your  movie look more expensive than it is.

I also mentioned how some filmmakers employ bartering or trading to get the necessary resources.

Now, does cutting your budget and exchanging cash for favors involve A LOT of creativity and planning – YES! But we are talking about your first feature. And if you can learn to cut costs and be creative with virtually no money, imagine what you’ll accomplish when you actually do have money!

That being said – in the last lesson, I spoke about the traditional way business professionals find investors and raise funds by exchanging private equity for cash. Today, I’m going to talk about a lessor known, yet very popular way some filmmakers make their movie. It’s called the risk share method.

GET THE MONEY, PART 2

The other, more common, yet sometimes overlooked way to produce a feature is simply to ask your cast and crew if they would like to partner up and throw in some cash. Now, this is complicated and VERY RISKY and if done incorrectly, could get you into a lot of legal trouble (SO YES, TALK WITH A QUALIFIED LEGAL AND TAX PROFESSIONAL)…

But if you have 20 people working on your movie, and each throw in a few hundred dollars, you’re in the money.

ACTION

  1. If you go this route, SPEAK WITH A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL to help you out, as this sort of structure is ripe for lawsuits if something goes wrong.
  2. Get everything in writing!
  3. Understand who controls the process and who doesn’t. You don’t want an equity owning production assistant telling you what you can and cannot do with your finished film. And if you take shortcuts, this could happen.

Now again, this risk share strategy has many pros and cons – way too many to write about here. But for some filmmakers, being able to successfully structure a project this way, while at the same time doing it legally could be the difference between getting a movie made, or not.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Extreme DV at Used-Car Prices: How to Write, Direct, Shoot, Edit, and Produce a Digital Video Feature for LessThan $3,000, but I seem to remember that Rick Schmidt mentioned the risk share model in the book. I could be confused about that… But Rick Schmidt is quite a filmmaking inspiration and his book is totally worth a read.


Filmmaking Lesson 18 Production Part 2

Once you build momentum during production, assuming you meticulously planned everything, you’ll soon find that most everyone working on the movie will fall into a collective, collaborative groove. And it’s an awesome feeling!

PRODUCTION, PART 2

Even when everything is going as planned, or sometimes better than planned, you still need to make sure you pay attention to the little things. For example, I met with one producer who told me how props was sure wardrobe would bring the watch… And wardrobe was sure props would bring the watch. When it came time for the shot, nobody had the watch. This minor boo-boo resulted in overtime and meal penalties for over 30 people.

See what I mean? Minor hiccups can have not-so-minor consequences. One too-many of these overlooked elements can hurt the moral on the set, slow down production hurt the final product.

ACTION

  1. I’ll repeat this over and over for as long as I live – but when you’re making a feature, food is currency. Make sure you have great food on set. Don’t get skimpy. Don’t expect fast food or pizza or generic treats and cookies to fit the bill. Get good food!
  2. The other thing I’ve learned the hard way is this… Sound! You’ll need very good sound. So many times sound is overlooked. And by the time the filmmaker figures out he or she has a problem, it’s usually in the editing room. And it’s usually too late!
  3. The other thing you’ll need is legal releases. You’ll need releases for just about everything in your movie. The most common releases are actors and talent, crew and locations. There are probably many more that I’m forgetting. So make sure you speak with a qualified attorney who has experience in this arena. But basically, the motto to follow is CYA. (Google that!)

As a recap: Shot list, cutaways, sound, FOOD and legal releases!

Jason Brubaker's Movie Maker Action PackI’m pretty sure I mentioned Robert Rodriguez and how he started his filmmaking career. But I think his story is one of the best stories from the trenches. His passion for doing what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it resonates so strongly with me, that I can’t help but credit Robert with much of my early inspiration. Plus, this was before HD – so making a movie was almost twice as difficult! Check it out: Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player.

Happy Filmmaking!

Filmmaking Lesson 21 Distribution

SELF DISTRIBUTION

By now, you probably have a website that promotes your movie. You can now rework your website into an e-commerce site by establishing an online distribution solution.

Assuming you started with a strong hook, you’ll now be able to leverage your story to help accelerate buzz and make some sales. Selling your movie online is actually easier than ever. And if you ask me,  it seems like a new video on demand innovation is the future of middle-man-less movie distribution.

One of the coolest aspects of VOD is, it is now possible to sell feature films digitally, without carrying inventory. With services like CreateSpace, you simply send them a DVD of your movie. They put it on their servers. And then your move is available for instant download.

And again, if your movie builds positive word of mouth buzz, your odds of finding an audience are pretty good.

But first things first. The following actions should help guide you through the self-distribution process:

ACTIONS

  1. Eliminate anything on your website that distracts fans from the purchase of your movie.
  2. Consider streamlining your website. Cut out everything but a trailer and a BUY NOW button.
  3. Post your trailer on YouTube, with a link back to your website.
  4. When people buy your movie, keep their contact information.
  5. Why? You never know when you’ll make a sequel! Wouldn’t it be great to have a fan base?

Jason Brubaker's Movie Maker Action Pack

Happy Filmmaking!

Filmmaking Lesson 17 Production Part 1

Production is a result of months and months of planning.

I’ll repeat this again. When making a movie, production is the result of months and months of planning. I emphasize the planning aspects of pre-production, because many filmmakers crash and burn during production because they didn’t have a solid plan.

PRODUCTION, PART 1

But you’re different. To make sure your production goals are executed in such a way that you get the most movie for your hard earned money, you will need to check and re-check with your department heads to make sure everything is AOK. Assuming you have a plan A, plan B and a plan C, you’re ready to shoot your movie!

Here are some tips that have helped my filmmaking run smoothly:

ACTION

  1. Make sure whoever directs the movie starts each morning with a shot list. A shot list is a list of shots. And once you have it for each day, you’ll be able to check each shot off the list as you go.
  2. If you’re directing, work with your DP to get an assortment of cutaways. You’ll need many cutaway options to save you from yourself, should you miss something in Post-Production. I’m not kidding about this.
  3. Make sure you have a photographer on set.
  4. Again, work with a great 1st Ad.
  5. And hire a bunch of Production Assistants to help make your life easier!

The production process is a ton of fun. You’ll bond with other creative folks and by the end, assuming all goes well, you’ll feel like family. If you get a chance, check out American Movie. It profiles a guy who is so passionate about making his movie, that at times you don’t know if you should laugh or cry. For a more educational perspective, Hearts of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse profiles Francis Coppola as he struggles to make Apocalypse Now. Both DVDs are full of filmmaking passion and are a must see for any filmmaker working to make a movie.