Hire A Line Producer

As a filmmaker, you need a team.

Having an experienced Line Producer or Production Manager is invaluable in the prep phase of your movie. The other essential professional you need is an experienced 1st AD.

And when I say prep phase, what I mean is – the sooner, the better. Even if you’re still writing your movie or raising funds, an experienced Production Manager and 1st AD can offer insight on how to get your movie produced efficiently.

These hard workers will refine your movie schedule and then keep the movie on time and on budget. Having these two professionals on your team are essential. Once you have these folks in place, they will provide guidelines on how to hire the crew.

To find both a 1st AD and UPM, check out the Director’s Guild of America website.

I know a lot of people who have success sourcing crew on Craig’s List. But hiring people from Craig’s List can be full of headaches too. Plenty of filmmakers who had horrible experiences with hiring inexperienced or untrustworthy talent.

The easiest way to find a crew is through referrals. Especially in the movie industry. People trust people they’ve worked with in the past. So go into your network and find out who knows whom.

You don’t need a huge crew either. A few years ago, I helped out on a 35mm TV commercial with a crew of seven. Each of us was cross-trained to handle multiple jobs. When we got onto set, each carried out every task with professionalism.

Once you hire help, make sure everyone’s needs are being met. Talk with the audio people, the camera people and the director to hear their ideas. Once you get in the groove, you’ll find most people get very creative in a small cast and crew production.

If you would like more information on this type of production, grab a copy of my filmmaking book.

How To Create a Final Movie Budget

One of the most essential steps in the filmmaking process is to create a final movie budget. Your movie budget will outline the size of your movie and dictate how each dollar will be spent. From this information, you can finalize your business plan, raise money, hire cast and crew, make a movie – and hopefully have enough money left over for marketing, sales and distribution.

Many motion picture professionals make a living just breaking down, scheduling and budgeting movies. So this is a pretty complicated and creative area. As a first time feature filmmaker, it would be great to partner with a seasoned Production Manager or Line Producer who could guide you through the process.

But if your budget will not permit this, you will have to put on another hat and complete your final movie budget!

Revisit Your Movie Schedule

During your scheduling process, you highlighted the various elements necessary to produce your movie such as actors, props, wardrobe, stunts, transportation, insurance and craft services, et al.

Your next step is to select these elements, import the list into your budget and assign a price to each element. Once you have each element budgeted, you will add up the costs and this will give you a total for your movie.

Create A Final Movie Budget

Once you know how much money you need, compare these figures with your initial movie budget. If you find you do not have enough money to make your movie, you have three choices.

You can either get more money. You can modify your script and schedule. Or you could go through each line item in your budget and figure out where to cut costs. Each choice will have creative consequences.

Later you will utilize this information to write your movie business plan. Your plan will serve as a marketing document that outlines to prospective investors how you plan to spend their money and hopefully recoup it.

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.

How To Turn Your Book Into A Movie

So you are seeking ideas on how to turn your book into a movie. First of all, congratulations on finishing your book. Writing requires every degree of discipline you can muster. And now that your book is complete, I can understand why you would want to turn your story into a movie.

Going from a writer to a screenwriter to a filmmaker is a very complex process. But if you are willing to pay the price and spend the next year learning everything you can about the filmmaking process, you may have a shot a taking your story off the page and getting it to the big screen.

At the preliminary stage, you first will need to decide if you want to produce the movie yourself or try to sell it in Hollywood. Since I hate asking for permission, my suggestion is to start the process on your own. Then later, if Hollywood wants a piece of the action, you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate deals.

How To Turn Your Book Into A Movie

1. Hire a writer to convert your book into a great script. While most writers think they are also screenwriters, you have to understand that the conventions are different. What works in a book may not always work on the big screen. A great case study however, is Cider House Rules. Read that book and then watch the movie. (John Irving wrote both the book and the screenplay.)

2. Break the movie script into a schedule. This is usually handled by a line producer. These professionals break your script into a schedule and take that information to create a budget. Since money may be tight, there is a great software program that does a preliminary breakdown – go here: www.IndieProductionTool.com

3. Create a budget. As mentioned, a seasoned line producer will help you create a budget. Your budget will assign a price tag to each element in your movie including, locations, props, wardrobe, cast and crew. They will also account for food, lodging and transportation… These are things that most first time filmmakers fail to consider.

4. From the budget, create a business plan. Making movies is fun, exciting and sexy. But what good is having a movie if nobody watches it? Your audience is your business and your business plan will provide detail on how your money will be spent and hopefully recouped. Most traditional film business plans fail to include a marketing strategy… But not yours. Make sure you also include a marketing, sales and distribution strategy that you control.

5. Hire an attorney who specializes in private offerings. Whenever you talk big money and throw around the word “investor,” you suddenly expose yourself to all sorts of liability that doesn’t really do anything to help you. Your goal is to always protect yourself and follow every letter of the law.

6. Find and make the pitch to several investors (and get the money.) Once you have an idea on how the money will be spent and recouped, and you have legal protection – you can then search your network for successful business people who may be looking for a new venture. This is not an easy process. You will need to make cold calls. You will need to ask tough questions. And you will need to face a lot of rejection before you get the final YES.

7. Hire your cast and crew (then go through the process of pre-production.) If you have established a good relationship with a line producer, they can advise you on hiring a crew. Additionally, many casting directors will happily take your money to help you find the perfect cast for your movie.

8. Get out to locations and produce your movie. Producing your movie involves hard labor. Dozens of people will show up before sunrise and will not leave until after sunset. To help you manage these people, ask your line producer to suggest an awesome 1st AD. Your assistant director is concerned with one thing – making sure the production stays on schedule.

9. Edit your movie. At the end of your production is your edit. You will hire an editor and spend lots of time in a dark, smelly room eating candy. This is the final rewrite of your movie. You will go through the footage shot-by-shot and smooth rough areas. At the end of the process, you will have a “rough cut” to evaluate. Have a test screening. Take notes. Then go back to the edit suite and revise your movie.

10. Market, sell and distribute the movie. Many first time filmmakers are too new to realize that the world has changed. People who still talk about DVD distribution and describe VOD as the wild west are silly. But not you… Since you were smart enough to create your own sales, marketing and distribution strategy in the planning stage – now is the time to execute the plan.

Obviously, each one of these steps will require quite a few smaller steps. But if you are serious about getting the book made into a movie, you will need to view your movie in ways akin to how an entrepreneur starts a business. If you are interested in more professional resources, you may want to check out: www.MakeYourMovieNow.com

How To Break Down and Schedule Your No-Budget Movie

If you’re a first time feature filmmaker, you do not need a gazillion dollars to join the feature club. But you will need to learn how to replace money with ginormous creatively. And once your screenplay is complete, then the next step in the filmmaking process is your initial breakdown and schedule.

Breaking down the script means you go through your screenplay, number each scene and highlight each element, including locations, characters, props, make up, wardrobe, picture vehicles and special FX…

All of these things cost money. And once the script is locked, any modification you make to the story or schedule, no matter how minor or major, will subsequently impact the budget.

My producer friend Forrest Murray always says the script, schedule and budget are the same document. You’ll need all three to make a movie… But in the process, if you change one document, you’re actually changing all three.

I’ll chat about this some more later. For today, let’s focus on your initial schedule so you can eventually get to your budget.

Schedule Your Movie And Save

1.After you highlight each element, you’ll want to figure out when you want to shoot your movie and how long you plan to shoot.

2.You can determine this by choosing how many pages you want to shoot per day. Then you can decide if you want to shoot 5 days on and 2 days off, or 6 days on and 1 day off. Or maybe you want to shoot your movie over a few weekends.

3.Everything in the script will impact your budget. There is software for this. Final Draft offers an add-on called Tagger. Tagger allows you to go through the script and pick out elements and highlight them in various colors. Once all elements are selected, you can eventually import this list into your budget and schedule software program.

4.After giving this your best effort, if you still feel stuck, seek expert advice.

5.Eventually, these elements will have a price in your initial budget. What is the price of each element? How much does your movie cost?

Many motion picture professionals make a living just breaking down, scheduling and budgeting movies. So it’s a pretty complicated and creative area. As a first time feature filmmaker, it save you many headaches if you partner with an seasoned 1st AD or Line Producer who could guide you through the process.

If this is not possible for you, I suggest reading every article on the subject as well as watching every YouTube video. This will teach you how to think like a cost conscious, responsible producer.

Regardless of your decision to complete your own breakdown or hire someone else for the job, the reason you’ll need an initial schedule is because this will give you a good starting point… You’ll utilize this information to figure out your budget. You’ll also be able to figure out if you need to cut an element or two, or not.

Cut Your Budget

Once you have your initial schedule, (and assuming this is your first feature), I suggest you create a budget for your movie in the neighborhood of $500K. Before you go crazy thinking this is a lot of money (or a little money), I want you to know you don’t actually have to spend $500K in hard cash to meet the needs of your budget.

In fact, once you determine you’ll make your movie at $500K, you are going to spend the next few weeks working backwards to see how much hard cash you can replace with sweat equity, discounts and favors from friends and family. Why $500K? Because if you actually have the elements budgeted, there is a good chance your movie will look better than if you budgeted for a mere $50K.

The reason for this is mostly psychological. By setting your budget at 500K, you’re going to start out with goal that forces you to get a higher production value than if you simply settled for pocket cash.

Later, with the application of tremendous creativity, it will be possible to reduce a $500K budget after discounts, free food, locations and salary adjustments quite significantly.

Do you have friends who own locations you can utilize for free? Do you have access to discounted equipment? Can you finish your movie faster than scheduled?

Do you have a friend with an edit suite?

Can you shoot some scenes outside during the day to reduce the need for extra lights? Can you find free food for your cast and crew? These are just some of the ways you can reduce that $500K budget.

One of my buddies was able to do this on the cheap. He had a location budgeted for $5K. However, after my buddy spoke with the owner of the location, the fee was reduced to zero. How? My buddy (a creative producer) agreed to shoot a promo for the owner’s business. Another filmmaker friend got free food for his entire shoot simply by asking.

The food supplier was thanked in the credits.

Deals like this happen. But it takes creativity to find opportunity. Here are some questions to ask:

How much money do I have?
How can I reduce expenses?
Can I get free food?
Who do I know who has the location I’m looking for?
How much money will I need?

The other reason you want to keep your first feature budget low is to allow greater opportunity for return. In the event you get a standard distribution deal (which is becoming more and more rare), your movie should look expensive.

If your budget is $500K and the movie looks like $500K, but you only spent $50K or $30K $15K in ultra-low-budget hard cash, and someone pays you back your budget, then you just made a crazy profit!

Nice work.

And in the event you do not get a standard distribution deal, then you’re not quite as deep in the financial hole as you otherwise would be.