Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

I am going to share the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto with you. After this, you’re going to know yourself a little better as a filmmaker.

And to get the ball rolling, I have a question for you:

What’s the biggest filmmaking failure you must avoid?

Ok, this is gonna sound obvious… But the answer is:

Making a movie NOBODY CARES about!

(Which is sort of the same as making a boring movie that could put monkeys to sleep, if monkeys actually watched movies – and I think some do.)

 modern moviemaking manifesto

Notice I didn’t say BAD MOVIE. You can make bad movies and people will still care.

For examples, check out The Room or Birdemic for an example of this…

But if you make movies nobody cares about, you will fail as a filmmaker.

This sounds obvious right? But if it was so obvious, how come many silly filmmakers keep making movies nobody cares about. I’ll tell you why…

Modern Moviemaking

Inexpensive production technology, coupled with about 237 different ways to get your movie selling (more on this in my email series) makes it way to easy to make mundane, crap movies nobody cares about.

And SURPRISE: Most movies do not make money!

There. I said it. And it gets more challenging than this… Ready for some serious real world film school?

The problem with traditional independent filmmaking is the ever growing gap between investment dollars and a filmmaker’s ability to recoup the initial investment. In other words, indie filmmakers find investors, get money, make a crap movie and never repay the investors…

Oops. Sorry.

But let’s be clear. Independent filmmaking has always been a risky business. And we freely share this with any prospective investors, usually stating: “Filmmaking is risky and you will most likely never see a dime.”

While these types of disclaimers are transparent and accurate, filmmakers could often counter this objection by getting investors to focus on the misguided idea that the movie might get into Sundance.

The movie might garner ginormous buzz.

And if you’re really lucky, the movie might sell to the highest bidder!

(Sound familiar?)

So from this perspective, the real benefit of investing in independent movies wasn’t the promise of a solid investment. Rather the driving force behind investment dollars was the chance of winning instant fame, fortune and a never ending supply of coolness!

And we all want to look cool.

Here is a picture of me looking cool:

filmmaking_Challenge

Many filmmakers still hold this dream.

But the realities of the independent movie business are sobering.

Out of the gazillion movies made each year, only a few get into a major film festival. And out of those movies, very few garner a deal worth mentioning. Adding to this problem is the ever prevalent demise of DVD sales channels, resulting in filmmaking becoming less profitable and less cool than it once was. And as a result, the “invest in my movie because it’s an awesome business” pitch is no longer believable.

Technology is also changing independent moviemaking. For two-thousand dollars, every filmmaker can now grab a camera, shoot a feature and compete for virtual “shelf space” in iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and most of the many VOD outlets.

In the context of business 101, this means that our high quality, expensive goods (our movies) are now competing with cheaply produced goods of a somewhat comparable quality. And if we were in the widget business, this would mean massive layoffs are in the near future. Or to put it another way, our old way of making movies no longer fits the marketplace.

This of course raises the question:

How do we make independent moviemaking profitable (and fun) again?

A lot of people have solutions. One that is gaining popularity is the idea that filmmakers should hire someone to cover the marketing and distribution of the movie from day one. In this sense, filmmakers can focus on making the movie while the marketer can focus on the marketing, social media and list building duties.

Instead of trying to find a traditional distribution deal, complete with a cash advance, you get enough people to know you and know your movie from day one. And once your mailing list (or community of followers) reaches a certain mass, you will hopefully sell enough copies of your movie to recoup your investment.

Build Your Audience Now

Everybody is now talking about audience engagement as though it’s a new concept. But it’s not. In fact, audience engagement has been around since the beginning of story telling. And again, it comes down to telling a great story that people actually care about.

Then the goal is to start telling your story early enough so people actually care.

Here a video I did for the folks at Film Courage that explains this in a little more detail:

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

Modern moviemakers need to build a targeted audience list and grow community around individual movie titles – Everyone fits into some kind of demographic. And everyone wants to be part of something. And many folks aren’t even conscious of this. But building community around your project is easier said than done.

The reality is, it will take tremendous efforts to make the metrics work, begging the question: How much must a community grow to support a movie budget of at least one-million dollars?

One-million dollars is not a lot of money in terms of traditional indie filmmaking budgets. And if we assume all traditional distribution will eventually be replaced by some form of VOD, then as a filmmaker, business success really comes down to three economically focused questions:

  1. Who is your movie’s target audience?
  2. How will you reach your target audience?
  3. And how many VOD downloads does will take to recoup the initial investment?

If you can’t answer these questions, then you know from day one that your odds of success are dramatically decreased. Without a defined market or an established sales channel, it is difficult to justify financing, which makes it very difficult to pay cast and crew, which makes it difficult to produce a movie.

Assuming you can answer these questions, the problem is still economy of scale. If you can’t reach the masses (or reach enough people willing to pay for what you’re selling), how will you ever recoup your initial movie investment? And if you can’t figure out how you’re going to recoup your budget, two things have to change:

  1. Filmmakers will need to make smaller movies.
  2. Filmmakers will need to pay cast and crew less money.

At first thought, neither of these options seems to make independent movie making profitable (or fun) – which is why people keep creating solutions without first scrutinizing the traditional filmmaking paradigm. As a result most current solutions fail to fully SOLVE the indie producing for profit problem – Which prompted me to share my own solutions.

What I’m about to share is the official Jason Brubaker solution for saving the independent movie industry. And it has a name. I call this philosophy…

Modern Moviemaking

Revolutionary, right? Admittedly, I should have added some shazam to my idea and called it something fancy – but coining phrases is not my strong suit. Rather I want to join the other filmmaker thinkers and focus on a workable solution.

Additionally, I’m just like you. I’m a filmmaker, passionate about making movies. But at the same time, I want to help us figure out a way to make a living making movies.

So this movement is your movement. Should you choose to participate in this brave new modern movie making world, there is one solid, economically viable way to make movies profitable again. And it will require that you adopt a modern moviemaking paradigm.

So are you ready to join the modern moviemaking movement?

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

1. Modern Moviemakers will think of movie making in ways akin to how entrepreneurs think of start up companies. Instead of raising investment dollars for just one title, Modern Moviemakers will create a mini-studio, complete with research and development, planning, production, marketing, distribution and sales under one roof.

2. Modern Moviemakers will focus on producing a slate of at least five genre specific movies. These movies will be created inexpensively and will be delivered to the audience via ALL popular VOD marketplaces.

3. Instead of paying freelance day-rates, Modern Moviemakers will put crew on a salary, with benefits. Everybody in the company will own equity in the company. So in this regard, someone who owns 10% in company stock will get 10% of all movie profits. This will supplement crew salary with an ongoing, lifelong stream of income.

4. Modern Moviemakers will work to grow our community (and customer base) bigger. And over time, our fans will begin to know us, know our company and celebrate our work. Only in this way will we eventually reach mass great enough to increase ongoing revenue through multiple streams of movie income.

5. Modern Moviemakers focus on muti-title diversification, with the goal that multiple movie titles build enough buzz to create long term, sustainable revenue. In this regard, we can begin to focus on creating entire library instead of just depending on one title to support our career.

There is no fee to join the Modern Moviemaking Movement. If you think it makes sense, just tell two or 3-5 of your closest filmmaking  friends about the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto.

To explore some other awesome filmmaking tools, check out our resources at make your movie now.

Overview of Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

When you think about it, the most magical word for beginning and low-budget filmmakers is: 4K. Mention of it brings to mind the silver screen, movie stars and fantastic images. There’s just some juno se qua about the idea of shooting with a 4k camera.

When Blackmagic Design announced the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K at NAB 2013, many indie filmmakers felt their pulse rise. And I was one of them. 4K for $4,000? Yes, please!

But before we throw our money at the Aussie company, we need to do some evaluation.

The Good: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

  • 4K for $4,000. The price isn’t everything, but you can’t ignore it.
  • Super 35mm 4K sensor with global shutter. This is great because there is not the dramatic crop factor of the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) and we will not see jello (rolling shutter) in our footage. Twelve stops of dynamic range is nothing to sneeze at, either.
  • Blackmagic_4KBlackmagic color science. Some would disagree with me on this point (and this is still a matter of speculation – see below) but Blackmagic, in my opinion, did a great job of matching the images of the BMCC and the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (BMPC). This creates such a consistency between the cameras that there might be times that it would be difficult to distinguish between footage shot from each camera. Shooters can use a BMPC as a B cam for a BMCC, then use the BMCC as a B cam for the BM4K camera. It’s an almost Apple-esque ecosystem for the cameras that is well though out for multi-cam shooters.
  • 4K and 1080p, raw and Prores. Both are good options for shooting, and shooting 1080p off of a 4K sensor can yield some beautiful results from the over sampling.
  • Canon mount. I know that some people were not thrilled with this mount, and using a more easily adapted mount (e mount?) would have made sense, but with the number of Canon shooters with Canon lenses sitting around, there is a built-in base of users ready to jump the 4K shark (more in this later)
  • Form factor. Wait, this is a good thing? Well, yes – it’s design is seemingly intended to be built up on a rig, which is what most productions will do with their cameras anyway.

The Not So Good: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

  • Form factor. Wait, didn’t you say the form factor was a good thing? Yes – unless you are considering handholding the camera itself – but in all honesty, would anyone who busy this camera actually do that?
  • Internal power. An external power supply is basically a prerequisite, so bear that in mind when you consider the purchase.
  • Fast SSDs. Even the BMPC requires very fast storage media, and I’m sure the 4K camera will be a storage hog in many ways. And you though raw from the BMCC took a lot of space?
  • Limited audio inputs. No XLR inputs does limit your ability to record on-camera audio, which can speed up your workflow if you don’t need to synch sound in post.
  • No high frame rates. The BM4K maxes out at 30 fps, and it includes the “standard” 23.976, 24, and 29.98 frame rates that we all know and love, but you won’t get slow-mo out of this camera.

The Bad: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

  • The worst for me is- this is still all speculation at this point. The general public has not seen any 4K footage, and the camera that was originally supposed to be released in summer is still waiting… Somewhere. While some complain, rightly, about missed deadlines, I’d prefer to wait for a higher-quality, finished camera then a rushed design.

Black Magic 4K BackConclusion

Having access to an affordable 4K might be something that smaller filmmakers are now slobbering for, but here is what you have to remember: the camera is just a tool. If you don’t know how to use it. Buying a 4K camera will not solve your problems.

The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K has a lot to look forward to, but be sure that you know your tools and have a good story to tell before jumping on the 4K bandwagon.

 

Screenwriting Tips For Low Budget Filmmaking

Screenwriting Tips For Low Budget Filmmaking by Adam Patel

I started screenwriting when I was ten. I wrote epic stories that took place in weird and wonderful worlds. They were both spectacular and breath-taking. The only problem was that they would have required a budget in the hundreds of millions to produce.

About two years ago, I got a punch in the face from the fist of reality, and became a producer because I realized something very important. In independent film, he who controls the money, makes the rules. Literally – you can have anything if you can pay for it.

Producing changed the way I thought about writing. And here I share with you my screenwriting tips on writing for low budget, based on mistakes I’ve made. Screenwriting Tips

Screenwriting Tips For Low Budget Filmmaking

I hope these five screenwriting tips can serve as both a lesson and a career strategy to new screenwriters and producers.

1. You’re a screenwriter. Imagination is never your problem.

Writers know how to write. They know how to think imaginatively and create worlds and stories which can have audiences on the edge of their seats, or take their breath away. Unfortunately, before you write the next Lord of The Rings or Avatar, you’re going to have to do something a lot more low key. Why? Because YOU have the power to make a cheap film yourself. And your first credit is the first step on the road to being able to one day write your own fantasy epic and having a realistic chance of seeing it on screen.

2. Write something that you can produce yourself.

Many writers are arty people. I’m one. I know. We’re a right brain lot. We dream. We concern ourselves with possibility rather than probability and practicality. So when you raise the idea of producing to a writer, sometimes they’re not that keen. But there’s one reason why writers might want to produce in the very beginning: Because it means you don’t have to find a producer.

So write something that you can produce yourself. It’s going to be a story you can tell cheaply (unless you’re a rich person). And the aim of this is not to make the best film ever made. It is to get your first writing or producing credit on a feature film. Of course, make the best film you can. But if it sucks, don’t worry about it too much. Your next film will be better.

3. Write for locations you know you have access to.

One of the greatest challenges of a producer is to find locations for the actors to play out the scenes in the script. Location rental can cost a lot. And sometimes locations can be difficult to find and or get access to. When I wrote my first low budget film, I had written what I thought was a decent script. And it probably was. The problem was that although it had very few locations, they were not locations I could easily access. And when I came to produce the film, I quickly realised this. It was a hard learned lesson. So I had to go back and write another film that I knew could be filmed in locations I had access to.

4. Write something with a lot of talking.

Complex action sequences take a lot of time to shoot. The first time I got on a film set, back in 2011, I was amazed by the kind of time lighting takes. So if your film contains a complex action sequence with lots of different shots making up a sequence, you’re asking for a very long and painstaking shoot. It is your first film. Keep it simple. Think soap opera. Talking heads. Talk is cheap. And it is your challenge as a writer to find ways to make that compelling and interesting. (Soap operas put me to sleep!)

5. Maintain creative control.

At the end of the day, following these screenwriting tips for low budget filmmaking is about keeping the power in your own hands. Don’t write anything that you don’t have the skills or resources to film yourself. If you spend months or years waiting around to get a producer attached or to get a certain actor attached before somebody is going to give you production money, your destiny is not under your control. It is in the hands of others. And you cannot control other people.

Keep your shoot simple by limiting both the locations and the action. Talking really is cheap. Writing for low budget is like having a producer (yourself) looking over your shoulder when you write and catching you in the act of writing something that will be impractical for you to film.

I hope you enjoyed these screenwriting tips and genuinely wish you the best of luck with getting your first film made. For most of us it is an adventure we’ve been dreaming about since childhood. I hope my advice helps you make it happen!

– –
Adam Patel is a British screenwriter and producer who has worked on several independent films. You can visit his blog for more film making articles and content as well as news of his latest projects. And if you like it, please follow on Facebook!

 

Independent Film Budget

Creating an independent film budget requires that you get very creative. Unlike studio productions, most independent filmmakers do not have unlimited resources. Instead, most indie filmmakers will quickly realize that their budget is out of their price range. If this is you, here are some tips for reducing your independent film budget.

Looking at the initial budget, is there anything you can get for a discount, or free, or barter? Depending on where you plan to shoot your movie, you may find that local businesses and restaurants will provide you with resources, locations and food for free.

But in order to find these deals, you must be willing to pick up the phone and ask. Make sure that you maintain your integrity and do what you say you will do.

Other areas of the script that require significant resources involve children, animals and weather. None of these elements can be predicted. While sourcing these elements may not be difficult, once on you may find that the unpredictability inherent to each can cause delays and setbacks. You must always remember the time is money. Avoid any element that you cannot easily control.

My producer friend Forest Murray taught me that your screenplay, your schedule and your budget are actually part of the same larger document. If you change one element in any of them, then you are actually changing all of them. Make sure you avoid making haphazard changes to any of the documents. Thinking this way will help you realize the bigger scope and scale of your project.

Information on creating a business plan can be found at www.movieplanpro.com

Future filmmaking BOOK Coming Soon!

For those of you following filmmaking stuff, you know that I have been working on an awesome and comprehensive filmmaking book for quite some time.

I am pleased to announce that the filmmaking book is almost complete. (Update – the book is complete and available here.)

One of the biggest challenges I had was coming up with a title. Thankfully one of our Filmmaking Stuff readers wrote me on the Filmmaking Stuff facebook wall: “How about: Filmmaking Stuff-The Book.”

While the idea seemed simple, the more I thought about it – the more I realized this was the correct course of action! First of all, most of you know me (or you do now) and secondly, if you didn’t know about Filmmaking Stuff, after reading the book you will. I look at this as a win-win for our growing community.

The next step was coming up with a synopsis. I had something written down, but my friend, screenwriter Jurgen Wolff took my crappy writing and cleaned it up a bit. As a result, the following sums up the book pretty well:

“The future of filmmaking is not Hollywood. It’s the thousands of independent filmmakers empowered by the digital revolution. This book shows them how to write the script, use crowdfunding to raise the money, make the journey from screenplay to screen, distribute the movie, and build an audience anxious to see their next one.”

Once I had the content, the title and the synopsis, the next task was creating a preliminary cover design. For this, I chose the famed graphic artist, Ian Hannin.

As a sneak peek, I have included the current iteration of our cover design. You can tell that the cover is based on the aesthetics of the filmmaking stuff site – which is intentional brand consistency.

Right now I am awaiting some quotes from some VIP filmmaker types. I have reached out the usual suspects. And I am eager to get this book into YOUR hands.

With that said, the book is almost ready for the presses. I will initially release it as a hard cover book that you can order through Amazon and other retailers.

Then later, you will be able to grab a copy on your kindle. If you want to be the first to know about the book, make sure you sign up for the Filmmaking Stuff mailing list.

Anyway, happy filmmaking!

(Super excited to get this Filmmaking Book into YOUR hands!)