Filmmaking

At Filmmaking Stuff, we are dedicated to providing filmmaking articles related to production, production equipment (cameras, lighting, audio), film scheduling, budgeting, casting and directing. From time to time, we will also include articles from guest filmmakers. We have provided the following ideas and filmmaking tips so that you can take action and make your movie.

How To Create a Film Website (So You Can Sell Your Movie)

Your filmmaker website will go through two stages.

The first stage of your film website is your pre-launch promotional stage. During this time, your film website will consist of your movie title, a synopsis and some fancy images that express what your are tying to accomplish. You should also include a blog.

When we launched the film website for Toxic Soup, we focused on getting environmental activists to join our newsletter. In addition capturing emails, the Toxic Soup landing page had another goal – We wanted to let people know that Toxic Soup was more than just a movie. It was a movement. And we wanted to get our audience to help spread the message.

film website

Share Your Story

In addition to your email registration form, your film website should include a video that tells your prospective fan about your movie. A good example of this can be found at Cow Power, a documentary focused on turning cow poop into fuel.

Cow power film website

I met the filmmaker, Allison Gillette when she attended my panel discussion at WestDoc. And I especially like her email registration form. Do you see how it is limited to just asking for the email? Many marketers agree that asking for less is more.

In addition to emphasizing your movie, your prospective audience will also want to know a thing about you and why you are making the movie. Why should people watch your movie? How will it entertain them? What do you hope to accomplish with the movie?

Indecently, taking time to answer questions in your intro film website video may also set you up for a crowdfunding pitch video.

Add Testimonials On Your Film Website

Just because you do not yet have a movie, does not mean you cannot find at least one early fan excited about the prospect of your movie. An example might be “Hey Jason – I can’t wait to see your ninja zombie movie!”

These early testimonials simply need to demonstrate that someone else knows about your movie. To do this, you will want to contact your subscribers and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a testimonial about why they signed up for your mailing list.

The purpose of an audience list and why you need it!

The primary objective of your film website during the promotional stage is to get people to enroll in your mailing list. To do this, you will want to research several 3rd party email providers.

The two most popular are MailChimp and Aweber. I use Aweber to manage the Filmmaking Stuff mailing list and have been more than satisfied with their service. (Full disclosure, in addition to using the service, I do get paid to promote Aweber.)

After selecting your  preferred email management service, your next step is to actually create the registration form.

As mentioned previously, you should only ask for the most essential information. In my testing, asking for anything more than a name and email dramatically diminishes opt-ins. Both MailChimp and Aweber make this very easy, as they allow to customize registration forms you can embed on your website.

As a filmmaker, depending on the word of mouth potential of your movie, having a promotional film website can help you take advantage of initial movie marketing opportunity.

film website

How To Create a Film Website

The first step in getting your website established, involves reserving website hosting and a domain name for both your production company, as well as separate sites for each of your movies.

If you already know the name of your movie, you will want to reserve it as soon as you can (before somebody else grabs it).

To reserve your domain and set up a film website, head over to my friends at www.MovieSiteHost.com – Like most links I mention, this is my affiliate link for Bluehost. I have utilized MovieSiteHost for many of my websites, for years, without issue. In the few instances when I needed to reach someone in customer service, my calls were always answered.

In terms of setting up your actual site, I no longer recommend building a site from scratch. Instead, consider using something called a content management system – or CMS. With a CMS, you can have your own film website in minutes…

Movie_Site_Host

Just in case some of these terms of confusing, let’s recap: Website hosting can be compared to the vacant lot where you’ll eventually build your office building. Your domain name can be compared to your street address. The CMS is the raw materials needed to build your office building, or in this case, a sophisticated website.

And assuming you are utilizing www.MovieSiteHost.com for your hosting, these elements can be implement in a few clicks of a mouse.

When you arrive at MovieSiteHost, you will first need to reserve a domain name for your movie.

Pick-DomainTo set up your initial website, after you reserve your domain name, you will be redirected to your control panel. Once there, click on an icon called “WordPress.”

Choose_Word_Press

From there, you will START a brand new install WordPress on your server.

Start_Install

After a minute or two, WordPress will be installed in your account. You will then be issued with a username and a password. Once you have it, you can log into your new website and begin your customization.

Websites-for-filmmakers-made-easy-300x198

In my opinion, WordPress is one of the most robust and powerful content management systems in the world. And the reason I recommend installing a CMS for filmmakers, over building a traditional website is because once you set up WordPress, you will be able to create and modify your content and change the entire look and feel of your website, with the ease of sending an email.

sell your movieBy making these tweaks yourself, you will save the cost of constantly contacting your webmaster.

If you like this tip, you’ll love this film distribution resource.

Ms. In The Biz: A Road Map For Thriving In Hollywood

When Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for best supporting actress this year, her acceptance speech declared equal pay and opportunity for women in the country.  It was a statement that brought big shots like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez to their feet.

This is a struggle that women have been facing throughout the country and in Hollywood.  Trying to make it in the industry can be brutal.  And having to break in as a woman doesn’t make the situation easier.

In 2007 Helenna Santos moved to LA from Canada to fulfill her dreams.  Admittedly, she anticipated the city to join in her in a rousing chorus of, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”  She knew fame or success wouldn’t be instant, however Santos says, “I really had no idea just how difficult it would be.  This city is a beast and I had no idea what I was in for, even though I thought I did.”

thriving in hollywood

Helenna Santos and Alexandra Boylan

 A Road Map For Thriving In Hollywood

Since moving to Los Anglees, Helenna Santos has found success as a producer, writer, actor, and she is the founder and CEO of Ms. In The Biz.  Ms. In The Biz is an online community for women to share resources, wisdom, and foster growth.  The site has been building and sustaining a network of women in the entertainment industry since 2013.

Filmmaking Stuff: Was it challenging to launch msinthebiz.com?

Helenna Santos: I’m kind of a “serial connector.”  I love people. I get my energy off of being in groups and feeding off of one another.  I’ve always gathered groups of people and surrounded myself with people who lift me up.  To me it is never been draining because that’s where I get my energy.  Ms. In The Biz is literally an off-shoot of just me in the everyday.  It’s a place where a lot of like-minded women can create a community to thrive off of.

Filmmaking Stuff: Your personal adventure gave you a sense of need for women to find more opportunities.

Helenna Santos: Every woman I know is sick of the lack of opportunity.

Filmmaking Stuff: Has this led to women creating opportunities for themselves?

Helenna Santos: Yes, absolutely.  Look at the great success Reese Witherspoon has had this past year creating work for not only herself but other women as well. There were other leading ladies who have started their own production companies before her, but I think that Wild and Gone Girl hit at just the right time when the zeitgeist was calling for it.

Filmmaking Stuff: Jane Fonda recently said that men hire others who think like them, implying that would be other men.  Would you agree?

Helenna Santos: In the past men traditionally hired men only because that was the norm at the time, but the norm is shifting.  Now I think people actively look for women in positions that were traditionally male dominated.  We still have a really long way to go but it’s definitely getting better.  With organizations like Women in Film and the Geena Davis Institute there is a lot more conversation and awareness around the issue.  I think that Ms. In The Biz is also adding to this cultural shift.

Filmmaking Stuff: So, your company continues to evolve with the times.

Helenna Santos: It’s the reason that we started the #HireAMs database. It is a place to go to find a female DP, writer, producer, director, script, crafty, sound designer and other professionals. This way, when filmmakers are crewing up, they can come to our site and find some seriously talented ladies to hire.

Filmmaking Stuff: And to go a step further, the more women behind the scenes will affect women’s presence on screen?

Helenna Santos: In order for what we see on screen to change women must have better representation behind the camera. We need more women writing the stories and making movies and creating television overall. This also includes minorities. The acting world likes to use the phrase “ethnically ambiguous.” And I am constantly shocked at how little entertainment actually reflects the world we live in.

Filmmaking Stuff: Do different mediums, like television, have different setbacks or opportunities?

Helenna Santos: Television has given women a great chance to show their talent, but I wouldn’t say that they are necessarily more prolific in TV.  There are incredible female producers, actors, directors, writers in both art forms.  But I know what you are getting at.  Shonda Rhimes is kicking ass which is proof that television is a great vehicle for women to have our stories told over film simply because of the fact that it seems more risks are being taken on that platform.

Filmmaking Stuff: What do you mean by risk?

Helenna Santos: “Risk” since that seems to be the way the film industry sees female driven stories.

Filmmaking Stuff: What about online platforms?

Helenna Santos: I think the digital world has definitely opened things up for women in a way that we haven’t seen before.  Just look at Jenji Kohan on Netflix (Orange is the New Black) as well as Jill Soloway on Amazon (Transparent).

Filmmaking Stuff: You recently stated that an estimated 54% of your readership is male. Why is that significant?

Helenna Santos: It shows that women have a lot more support in this industry than we think we do. Also, it shows that Ms. In The Biz is full of really useful information no matter if you are male or female.

Filmmaking Stuff: How important is it to develop your craft while developing your brand?

Helenna Santos: Anyone who is an artist first and foremost who is uncomfortable with the idea of being a business person. Unfortunately these people need to learn the art of marketing themselves because this industry is saturated. There are a gazillion filmmakers and even more actors. In order to rise out of the masses, we all need to put on our entrepreneur hats.

Filmmaking Stuff: It’s become a necessity?

Helenna Santos: The age of just being talented and waiting to be “discovered” for your talent and artistry are over, if that was ever true.  Okay. That’s hyperbole since there are definitely some people whose talent will carry them out of obscurity. But the reality is, most of us need to “hustle” is more than ever.

Filmmaking Stuff: And the internet seems like a good place to start.

Helenna Santos: When I graduated university with a BFA in acting, there wasn’t really a need to even have a website. Now, if someone isn’t Google-able they might not be hired, because if there is a person equally qualified for the job and they are visibly active on social media and “get” the world we live in, that’s the person who will book the job.

Filmmaking Stuff: And it seems like Ms. In The Biz builds support, fosters networks, and helps women develop their online profiles too.

Helenna Santos: Yes, and another reason Ms. In The Biz exists is to help propel all of us forward and move our society on from the ridiculous sexism of the past.  Overall, the generation of filmmakers who I collaborate with really don’t care whether someone is a man or a woman. If you are talented and skilled at your craft then you’ll get hired. It’s the old guard running the studios and networks that are incredibly behind the times.

Filmmaking Stuff: Do you foresee more opportunities for female filmmakers in the next generation?

Helenna Santos: Absolutely!  This is an amazing time to be a woman in the industry.  There is so much happening that it feels like a huge ground swell of support for creating real change in the business.  Doors will only continue to open and the new face of Hollywood will evolve.

Filmmaking Stuff: A gradual, but inevitable change?

Helenna Santos: It might take awhile for us to reach parity, but it’s coming. It’s inevitable. And this journey is going to be a whole lot of fun as long as we support one another, raise each other up, and not blame men for the position we are in but instead work along side one another.

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Along with her Ms. In The Biz partner, Alexandra Boylan, Helenna published Thriving In Hollywood: Tenacious Tales and Tactics from Ms. In The Biz.  A complication of essays written by twenty one different women in the industry that’s proving to be both helpful and hopeful for women working in entertainment.

How To Achieve Your Filmmaking Goals Fast

How To Achieve Your Filmmaking Goals Fast by Filmmaker Jeff Orig

As filmmakers, we dream big. Perhaps we want to win an Academy Award one day; change people’s lives with our stories; or just make a full-time living from our craft.

Most of us are not taught how to achieve our filmmaking goals and dreams but this is a learnable skill. Like anything getting things done takes knowledge and practice.

How close are you to accomplishing your filmmaking goals? Hopefully you are closer than when you started.  If not, here is a Quick Start Guide to Achieving Your Filmmaking Goals.

Filmmaking Goals

How To Achieve Your Filmmaking Goals Fast

1. Set and write down your filmmaking goals with a clear deadline.  
For example, “Shoot, edit, and distribute my short film by August 1.”

2. Write down all of the reasons why you want to achieve your filmmaking goals.
This will help you stay motivated in the long term.  When the going gets tough, look at this list.  It will keep you going.

For example, “to feel great, to have a sense of accomplishment, to have a calling card short film, to practice and get better at my craft, to have a great piece to put on my demo reel, to work with great actors, to work with great crew, to have an excuse to rent the Red Epic, to have a reason to use my jib.” This is oftentimes not money, but what the money will bring you: freedom, less stress, joy and pleasure.

3. Immediately take ANY action toward  your filmmaking goals.
This is the biggest stumbling block for most people.   They get stuck in two places in this step.  The first place they get stuck is “immediately.”  When I say “immediately,” I mean immediately.

As soon as you write down the goal take some sort of action toward it.  Put the pen down and call to book the location for the shoot or send a text to your cinematographer to discuss ideas on the look and feel of the movie.  Anything and immediately.  This will give you momentum in the right direction.

The other place people get stuck is they over-think what actions to take.  What they fail to see is that any action will guide you as to whether you are getting closer or farther away from your goal.

Think about it for a moment.  It’s like when you learned how to drive in a straight line and turn.  When you first learned, you probably over-steered in one direction or the other.  But eventually, you learned how to compensate just the right amount.  The same is true with taking ANY ACTION toward your goal.

Even if the action you take is wrong, it will guide you.  You will gain clarity on what actions to take and what actions to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, planning is great.  But actions are better.

Definitely create a plan but don’t spend forever creating that plan and not doing anything.  “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” -General George S. Patton, Jr.

4. Measure your progress towards your filmmaking goals regularly and often.
Keep this simple so that you do it.  I like a printed calendar that I mark with an “X” as I do my daily actions. Weekly and monthly check-in’s are too far apart for me.

It is very easy to miss one and then slide into a downward spiral. Daily has been the best for me.  I also keep my checkpoints to something that I can accomplish in one day, often allowing a ten minute minimum.

For example, “contact one agent a day or write for at least ten minutes.”

This allows me to do my daily goal very easily but often ends up  with me doing it for much longer than ten minutes.  It helps me take “the first step on the journey of a thousand miles.”  Momentum is very important.

5. Repeat step 3 (take any action immediately) and step 4 (measure progress)  until you get to your filmmaking goals.
Keep taking any action and keep measuring it.  Before you know it you will have achieved your goal.

6. Make a public declaration with actual consequences.
Research has shown that making a public declaration of your goal and attaching a monetary consequence to the failure of missing that goal leads to higher success rates.

You can even use a free website called www.Stickk.com to help you with this step.  I have used this website and it is excellent.

7. Celebrate the journey and  every achievement of your goal.
This is very important.  Keep in mind that as soon as you achieve your goal, most of us will set a new and higher goal.

If we do not celebrate the journey and achievement of the goal, you will always be dissatisfied because we set a new and higher goal.  The target gets farther and farther away because we put it there.

Enjoy the journey and the achievement.  Remember our reasons why we wanted the goal in the first place.  When you look back you will see how great it was to get there.  Enjoy it while you are there.

Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Set and write down a very clear goal with a clear deadline.
  2. Write down all of the reasons why you want that goal.
  3. Immediately take ANY action toward  it.
  4. Measure your progress regularly and often.
  5. Repeat step 3  (take any action immediately) and step 4 (measure progress)  until you get to your goal.
  6. Make a public declaration with actual consequences.
  7. Celebrate the journey and achievement of your goal.

This is a culmination of several systems that have worked for me.  The systems I reference here are:  Tony Robbin’s RPM system, Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maltz, M.D., and Jerry Seinfeld’s Calendar System.  Definitely check out those systems for further refinement.

But this quick guide is a start, and should help you get closer to your filmmaking goals. Leave a comment below to let us know how you are doing or if you have any other tips that have worked for you.

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Jeff Orig is an award winning filmmaker based in Honolulu.  He is interested in life hacks that help achieve goals; the business of filmmaking; and telling stories better.  He has produced feature film; produced and directed several TV Shows; currently in post-production on the feature-length documentary, The Hawaii Wisdom Project; and has various episodic and feature film projects in development.  Check out his blog at www.OrigMedia.com/blog

 

How To Produce Hit Television Shows Like Charlie Day

As a filmmaker, getting a project off the ground is often easier said than done. From day one, you are faced with a seemingly never ending barrage of challenges like how to get money, how to actually finish what you start, and importantly, how to sell your project…

Faced with this level of uncertainty, it’s not surprising why many would-be filmmakers and producers give up before they get started. But thankfully there are some creative types who face these challenges, go the distance and come out on top.

Today we are going to focus on one such story. It’s a true story about a group of friends who had a great idea, limited resources and no budget. (Sound familiar?) But what these friends lacked in cash did not in any way hinder their creativity. And thankfully so.

Charlie Day

Charlie Day at the premiere for Horrible Bosses in August 2011

How To Produce Hits Like Charlie Day

The television show they created is called Always Sunny in Philadelphia and it has become one of the biggest hits on American television.

Charlie Day is an actor, writer and executive producer of the hit series, and he took a few minutes to stop by Filmmaking Stuff to chat about the show and share a little filmmaker inspiration.

Jason Brubaker
Hi Charlie. Thanks for stopping by today to share some thoughts.

Charlie Day
Sure. No problem.

Jason Brubaker
Can you tell us how you shot the pilot? Is it true that you guys came up with a few ideas, grabbed a camera and did it all for $200.

Charlie Day
The only cost was the cost of video tape really.

Jason Brubaker
Did you have a script?

Charlie Day
There was a script. We did improv off of the script.

Jason Brubaker
Originally Always Sunny revolved around a bunch of out-of-work actors trying to break into the industry. But if I understand correctly, the network made some tweaks and set the story in Philadelphia.

Charlie Day
Well let’s get one thing straight. We are the producers so we changed it. However it was the Network’s suggestion that we do so and I think it was a good one. There were already too many shows about the entertainment industry at that time.

Jason Brubaker
Was the initial story idea autobiographical?

Charlie Day
Ours was not really autobiographical at all. Maybe we used our real names or referenced a show that we were on but outside of that it was all fiction.

Jason Brubaker
Once you had a cut, did you shop the show to other networks before the eventual deal with FX?

Charlie Day
I think we went to Comedy Central, HBO, NBC, VH1 and Fox as well.

Jason Brubaker
Then once things got rolling with FX, you guys ended up with over a million viewers in your first season! Were you surprised by the positive audience reaction?

Charlie Day
We were always proud of our show and expected people to like it. So surprised, no. Pleased yes.

Jason Brubaker
So to put this in perspective, you guys had an idea, grabbed a camera, created a hit TV show… And then one day Danny DeVito decides to join the cast.

Charlie Day
Well it was not a hit when Danny joined the cast. We were looking to boost ratings and get a press story by adding a well known cast member. We got lucky with Danny.

Jason Brubaker
With the addition of Danny and the added exposure that he brought, there had to be some question of what would happen next. Did you feel like your life was about to change?

Charlie Day
I didn’t feel like my life was going to change. If anything I was hoping it wouldn’t ruin the show. We didn’t know what Danny would be like as a person. It turned out he is as great an actor as he is a person. Like I said, we got lucky with Danny.

Jason Brubaker
With over 100 episodes,  the story remains entertaining, funny and totally off-the-wall. How are you guys able keep the story fresh and interesting?

Charlie Day
There’s just a lot of things that make us laugh. And the more we get to know the characters the more fun it is to write for them. It also helps that we are working with some other talented writers.

Jason Brubaker
Would you say the creative process has evolved a lot since the pilot?

Charlie Day
Well since the pilot, yes. It takes a lot more work to do 60+ episodes.

Jason Brubaker
Some people now describe the show as a cult hit. Is there an initiation ritual to join?

Charlie Day
Just watch the show and join the cult!

Jason Brubaker
What advice do you have for filmmakers and other would-be producers who still think they need a gazillion dollars to garner success on their projects?

Charlie Day
If you can get it, great. If not find another way. There’s no one way to make a hit.

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If you like this filmmaking stuff, you’ll love the filmmaker checklist.

Get a Movie Made: 5 Things You Need To Know

I’ve mentored dozens of film students. I’ve met with hundreds. I’ve spoken to thousands. A question I recently asked myself was, “What’s the difference between the people who get a movie made and those who are just stuck spinning their wheels?”

It’s always been a goal of mine to help filmmakers get a movie made. I even had a separate company at one point, dedicated solely to aiding filmmakers in getting their films going. I had identified a series of steps that every project should take to get from Point D to Point R. (Dream to Reality.)

Yet there were some who I knew would never get a movie made, and there were some that I knew, no matter what, they would be successful.

This led me to start to reflect on that. Could I impart that lesson to a filmmaker? Could I identify that “secret sauce” that made the others successful following the exact same steps to get a movie made?

Get_A_Movie_Made

Photo © nito  / Dollar Photo Club

Get a Movie Made: 5 Things You Need To Know

The answer is, it’s a combination of a lot of things… and here’s the list. Add them together and you’ll be emailing me with photos from the set.

1. Extreme Passion – it sounds crazy, but I’ve actually met tons of filmmakers who just weren’t that passionate about their own project! Almost as if they were doing it because they just wanted a way in. With every film I’ve ever made, before I jumped into it, I believed it was going to be a home run. Some of my movie projects failed, some succeeded, but with all, I was extremely passionate.

The people I’ve mentored to get a movie made were extremely passionate. Their eyes would light up with energy when they told me their pitch. It was almost as if they were letting me in on this incredible secret… The secret of their amazing film.

2. Determination – All the filmmakers who got their films going were filled with determination. They all knew they were going to make a film. Most of them had specific dates in mind. It didn’t matter if these dates shifted, if something fell through, or if they got pieces of bad news… they kept pushing forward.

3. Singular Focus – Their goal was to make a film. Period. Their goal was not to worry about their job, not to worry about their future films, not to worry about their “potential careers.” They were focused 100% on the issue at hand, which was getting their films made. There was no “Plan B” (except as defined below).

4. Flexibility to Change – This may be the most important aspect of the list. If you are trying to unlock the combination to a safe, it doesn’t matter how focused, determined, or persistent you are: If you continue to try the same combination, you’re never getting into that safe.

All the successful filmmakers I mentored had one thing in common: they changed their approach when necessary. This includes dropping budgets, raising budgets, seeing things in a new light, changing cast, even changing projects entirely!

This is a key point. Stick too much to “This is the only film I can make,” and you may fail.

That internal dialogue should be, “I’m making a film.” That way, you’re going with the flow and using the energy in the right way. Put the passion project on hold and ALWAYS CHOOSE TO MAKE A FILM!

5. Persistence – They never gave up, never faltered, and continued to chip away. Many of them are full time filmmakers now, and I couldn’t be happier for them!

Don’t ever quit. You can make your film happen. Trust yourself, follow a procedure, and be mindful of the points I just mentioned. You can do it!

If you’d like to take the next steps to get a  movie made, check out this filmmaking course offered by Tom Malloy and Carole Dean. Save $40 by entering the coupon code JASON15.  For more information, click here.

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Tom Malloy is an Actor, Writer and Producer, specializing in independent film finance. He is the author of BANKROLL: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films, which is the best reviewed book on film financing, and is considered a “gold standard” in indie films circles. To date, Tom has raised over $15 million in private equity from independent financiers.