The 5 Laws For Hollywood Success

Making a living in the movie biz is challenging. And frankly, garnering Hollywood success gets a lot more challenging when you screw people over. And while what I’m about to share is totally fictional, I can tell you that these types of things happen more than you know:

Dear Jason,

I’m very sorry. I know you’ve been calling about the money we owe you for your totally wonderful (and very valuable) film distribution system. So far, we put your tips to practice and we’ve been seeing great results.

As a result (as you can imagine), we have been incredibly busy! We recently upgraded our editing suite (you should come over and check out our brand new facility – it’s awesome!) But anyway, I know we are a few months behind with those payments.

If it’s okay with you, maybe give us a call after the holiday (we are headed to Key West for the fourth of July. Have you been there? It’s amazing!) Anyway, I promise we can discuss payment. If it’s totally urgent, maybe we can just settle on half the money we previously agreed upon?

Anyway, I’m sure we can work it out.

Best,

MR. UNTRUSTWORTHY

Hollywood Success

Photo © zekabibr / Dollar Photo Club

 The 5 Laws For Hollywood Success

As mentioned, the above scenario is totally fictional. But this sort of thing happens. And whenever this happens, relationships end. Bridges get burnt. And Hollywood reputations get ruined.

Here are the 5 laws for Hollywood Success:

1. Don’t do business with people who you wouldn’t want to introduce to your mother.
2. Get everything (EVERYTHING) in writing. Even among friends. Especially among friends.
3. Always honor your word. If you make an honest mistake, work to rectify it immediately!
4. Plan for the best, but always ask yourself – what is the worst that can happen? Then plan for that!
5. Treat everyone with respect. The man fetching coffee today, controls the money tomorrow.

No matter what side of the deal you’re on (I assume you will be honorable in all your dealings) just be a good person. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it.

If you’d like more information on how to build your network so you can meet successful people, check out the indie producer’s guide to meeting rich and successful people..

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

This filmmaking article is challenging to write. The reason for this is simple. It is tough to admit that a movie you made (that you once thought was brilliant) totally sucks.

Cringing at the sight of your old work is a good sign. The emotion means that you’re growing as an artist. But I don’t know. After having made a few feature films and prior to that, a whole bunch of shorts – I can tell you that many of my movies are embarrassing.

Don’t believe me? Check out this little gem I produced over a decade ago:

Watching this movie makes me queasy. Aside from the fact I once thought it was brilliant, poetic and profound… Full transparency here – I actually sent this out to people. Hollywood people. And worse, I was convinced that having such a great movie would assure my success in the movie industry.

As you can imagine, my big break did not come. Nobody wrote me back. Nobody cared about my movie. And I had to go back to my crappy day job with hope no-longer springing eternal. I was discouraged. I thought my career was over.

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

Luckily I had a group of filmmaker friends who encouraged me to keep going. So I kept making movies. Through the process, my friends reminded me not to worry if my filmmaking sucks. One friend even told me to make as many bad movies as possible – That way I could get all the stupid ideas out of my head.

Thankfully I kept going. Over time, I successfully produced my first feature. And after that, a few more. So in the event your filmmaking sucks, I want to share the following tips with you:

  1. Accept the fact that your first five movies are going to suck, no matter how brilliant you are. Make your first five movies so you can get past the suck.
  2. Surround yourself with a team of good people. You cannot attain filmmaking success alone. You will need the support, feedback and collaboration of other like-minded creatives to keep going.
  3. Realize that some sucky movies still make money. I include this tip to remind you that sucky movies get produced all the time. Many of these movies find an audience. Many of these movies make money.

Here are two examples of movies that should not have worked (but became successful!)

Birdemic: Often referred to as the worst movie ever made, the story reveals what happens when you screw with nature. This movie was so successful, they produced a Birdemic sequel.

The Room: I don’t know what to say about this movie. I have seen it and it frankly makes very sense. But it is remarkable. And special props to Tommy Wiseau – he now describes the movie as a “quirky black comedy” as well as “the best movie of the year.”

It is important to remember that every filmmaker starts somewhere. Maybe your first movie won’t win an Oscar. Maybe your third movie will have poor lighting. But sooner or later, if you keep working on your craft – you will learn from your mistakes. You’ll get better. You will achieve great things.

If you are interested in learning how to get your movie made, seen and sold, you might want to check out my professional filmmaking tools.

 

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.

– – –

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

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

In case you haven’t noticed, filmmaking is changing. And the future of filmmaking is now.

In years past, if you wanted to make a movie, you had to raise enough money to not only cover the film and equipment, but you paid for your DP, your camera operator, someone to pull focus, someone to load the film, someone to lay dolly track and someone else to push your dolly.

If you wanted to create an awesome movie on a budget, you shot Super 16mm. Once the film was in the can, you paid to get the film processed, color corrected, transferred to video, edited “off line” and later blown up to 35mm. And all these steps were considered an affordable option!

Then you crossed your fingers, hoping to land an awesome distribution deal. Can you imagine trying to make movies like that? It’s easy to understand why most would-be filmmakers never took action.

Future Of Filmmaking

Photo © Dmytro Tolokonov / Dollar Photo Club

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

With the emergence of awesomely inexpensive production technology, making a movie is getting easier. And everything has changed.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve heard anybody in the filmmaking community seriously consider shooting their first feature on film. And why would they? These days, if you want to make a great looking movie, you grab your $2,000 DSLR camera and you start shooting.

That’s it. No film stock. No silly processing costs. And no transfers to video.

You simply take your camera out of the bag, point and shoot. Then you edit on your computer and upload to several of the video on demand websites. And you can start selling your work to the world.

This is an AMAZING time to make movies, right?

Or is it?

For the first time in history, filmmakers are experiencing what happens in other industries when robots start producing comparable goods for less and less money. You get an overwhelming supply of inexpensive product in the marketplace, which devalues the market as a whole. Couple this with the demise of traditional DVD distribution, and you can understand why it’s difficult land a killer payday.

Considering these unfavorable odds, why would any filmmaker risk millions on a budget when there are less opportunities to make the money back? This is our new paradox as filmmakers.

Producing product is not the problem. It is easy to make a backyard indie.

The real challenge is keeping budgets low enough to increase the odds of recouping, while at the same time creating movies that people actually want to see.

This seems obvious.

While there are no guarantees in this or any business, aside from making an awesome movie, here are three things you can do to increase your odds of success:

  1. Know your target audience.
  2. Have a plan for reaching your target audience.
  3. Cast actors who have a large social media following.

Having spent the last half-decade working in marketing and distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers completely ignore these steps. Most never take time to sketch out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy for their movies. And as a result, most movies end up dying in digital obscurity.

Don’t do that.

Five Useful Filmmaking Tips (That You Can Do Today)

As a filmmaker, if you aren’t making movies, you are thinking about and planning for your next movie. But as you know, the challenge of actually making your movie can sometimes feel overwhelming.

So if it’s okay with you, I’d love to share some filmmaking tips so you can take action and make your movie now. Here are five filmmaking tips to get your movie made this year.

Five Useful Filmmaking Tips

Photo © bepsphoto / Dollar Photo Club

Five Useful Filmmaking Tips

1. Answer this question: One of the most important filmmaking tips is to ask yourself the correct questions. Seriously. One big reason you haven’t made a movie is because you’re still waiting for everything to be perfect. I have news. Nothing will ever be perfect. Better that you take action on the movie you can produce this year than wait around. Here’s the question:

Given the resources that you have right now, what is the movie that you can make this year?

2. Get your hands on a good screenplay: Without a great script nothing else matters. But when you’re shooting on a budget, you also need make sure your story falls into the resource parameters discussed in step one. If your screenplay does not fit the parameters, you either need to alter your story or get a new script.

If you need help coming up with some screenplay ideas, you might enjoy 101 Short Film Ideas or my Write Your Movie system.

3. Load your screenplay into the Lightspeed production management software. This is one of the best innovations, possibly ever. You load your screenplay and create a script breakdown. In addition to this, you can later use this software to manage your production. (Please note, I get paid to refer people to this site – so use your own due diligence.)

Convinced it will work for you? Sign up for FREE by going here.

4. Take your schedule and create a budget: After you break your screenplay into all the necessary elements, you will create a budget so you can assign a price tag to each element. If you find your budget is not inline with your cash limitations, you either need to raise more money or you need to repeat steps one through four.

5. Create a Crowdfunding Campaign: There are three reasons you would want to create a crowdfunding campaign. Firstly, a crowdfunding campaign allows you to test your movie concept before you actually make your movie. If successful, your concept may work in the marketplace. Secondly, crowdfunding allows you to test the reach of your social network and expand it. And finally, a successful crowdfunding campaign will give you some necessary cash.

Anyway, I hope these filmmaking tips help you get one step closer to your filmmaking goals. And if you’d like more stuff, you might want to grab a copy of my Filmmaker Action Pack.