How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Working in film distribution, I can tell you that everything is changing. Production is getting cheaper and easy access to the marketplace is the norm. This is an exciting time to be a filmmaker.

Paradoxically, because more and more movies are getting made each year, this is also one of the most challenging times for making money as a filmmaker. We are experiencing a market saturation similar to what happens when sweatshop factories start producing comparable goods for less money.

And while you may argue that many backyard indies are amateur garbage, this doesn’t change the fact that filmmakers now have more competition than ever before. Your biggest problem is figuring out how to make your movie rise above the noise.

Rise Above The Noise

Photo © Sergey Nivens / Dollar Photo Club

How To Make Your Movie Rise Above The Noise

Before you pour your heart and soul into your passion project, answer these questions:

  1. What is your movie about?
  2. Who is in your movie?
  3. Who is going to buy your movie?

Most filmmakers never take time to answer these simple, yet essential questions. Or if they do, the answers are often based on hope or delusions of grandeur. My target audience is everybody!

Having well rehearsed answers to these questions (that you can deliver with enthusiasm) will increase the odds that a movie distributor or a fan could potentially (easily) tell other people about your movie.

sell your movie“Zooey Deschanel is attached to your movie?!?”

Having a name actor or a strong story hook makes your movie memorable. Knowing that an audience exists for your type of movie, as well as having a promotional plan for reaching your audience is also helpful.

That is what word-of-mouth is all about.

Once your pitch is established, all of your other movie marketing tasks such like your logo, font, DVD cover (still important), poster and website will be much easier to design.

So I’ll end today’s thought with three questions: What is your movie about? Who’s in it? And who is gonna buy it?  And if you like this sort of stuff, you’ll love my Sell Your Movie System.

 

Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling

Script breakdown and film scheduling is essential for any serious filmmaker.

Let me share the following, fictional yet typical filmmaking email.

(I get these types of questions every couple weeks.)

Hi Jason –

I wrote this really awesome movie about space travel, time travel, the end of the world and I’m really looking to get it produced. The problem is, I don’t know how much it will cost. Can you tell me how much it will cost me to produce? Thanks!

To some, this type of email might seem a little silly.

script breakdown

I mean, how the heck can anybody take a movie concept out of thin air and decide how much the movie would cost to produce?

Truth be told, there are many factors to consider.

You have to find out if the filmmaker is planning to utilize CG or actual, physical sets. Will the filmmaker cast his next door neighbor or Will Smith? Will this movie be shot on film? On HD Video? Or some crazy mix of 3D?

And those questions only begin to scratch the surface. You still need to think about payroll services, production tax incentives, worker’s compensation… It’s enough to make your head explode. And all of these variables – every single one – influences the budget of any movie.

So these questions, plus about a gazillion other questions need to be answered before you can even think about creating a budget, writing a business plan or seeking investors to get the money. And the bigger question is this:

How do YOU decide how much your movie will cost to produce.

The starting point is taking time to complete your script breakdown and schedule your film.

Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling

Don’t get overwhelmed. You can do it.

And let us be totally frank for a moment…

As a filmmaker, there will come a time in your life when making a feature film becomes a driving, burning desire!

Making your first feature is the rite of passage into the world of professional filmmaking.

Assuming you’ve become comfortable making short movies, then making your first feature will be just another step in an exciting career.

I am  assuming you’ve written, or you control the rights to a fantastic script that you would like to produce. So you next need to figure out just how much your movie will cost.

Script Breakdown

Your script breakdown begins with having a screenplay you are happy with.

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.

This is why your script breakdown is essential. Without it, you will have no idea what your movie will cost.

Action Steps: Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling

I wanted to share a few tips on how to complete your movie script breakdown. Performing this task and then completing a film production schedule is necessary before you determine your budget.

Here are some some steps to help you break down your script.

1. Number Each Scene

Once you lock your screenplay, you should then go through the script and number each scene. You do this by placing a number next to each slug line. What is a slug line? It’s the little line that explains where each scene takes place.

It looks like this in the script:

INT. JASON’S OFFICE – DAY

Once you number each scene, you will want to actually measure the scene. Since screenplays are usually printed on paper eight inches tall, every scene is measured in 8th’s of the page.

You will go through each scene and measure the length.

The reason for this measurement has to do with the length of your movie.

For example, if we assume that each page written in proper screenplay format – Then we can also assume that each page equals at least one minute in screen time.

So if we come upon this scene:

INT. DINER – NIGHT

And let’s say this Diner scene measures 4/8th (or half the page) then you can guesstimate that the scene will be roughly 30 seconds long in screen time.

2. Highlight Each Element

In addition to knowing final screen time, this information will help you determine how long it will take to actually shoot the scene (and also which cast, crew, props and equipment is needed to shoot the scene), which will influence your schedule.

…And your schedule influences your budget. Again, your script, schedule and budget are related!

Speaking of elements, you will want to go through the script and highlight each element, for each scene. Some common elements include locations, characters, props, make up, wardrobe, picture vehicles and special FX…

All of these elements cost money.

You’re “breaking the elements out” so you can eventually put the elements in your budget.

3. Determine Shooting Schedule

Once complete, you will want to figure out when you want to shoot your movie and how long you plan to shoot. You can determine this by choosing how many pages you want to shoot per day. For example, you may decide 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.

Keep in mind that unions have rules on how you schedule your movie.

In addition to time constraints, you will want to consider momentum. Filming your indie film over a series of weekends may seem convenient. But doing so can actually diminish the creative flow and can make it tough on cast and crew holding jobs outside of the production. Sometimes it makes sense to just marathon your movie schedule.

Get your movie done so you can get it to market as soon as possible.

Many motion picture professionals make a living just breaking down, scheduling and budgeting movies.

This should tell you it’s a pretty complicated and creative area.

As a first time feature filmmaker, it would be great to partner with an seasoned 1st AD or Line Producer who could guide you through the process. But because a lot of filmmakers do not have money until they actually raise the money, hiring a UPM or 1st AD is out of the question.

So this leaves only one alternative. You must complete your own script breakdown and film scheduling. In my opinion, there are two components to this process. You will need a script breakdown education as well as script breakdown software.

Luckily there are quite a few resources to help you.

And in full disclosure: I believe in the efficacy of the resources I’m about to share. But I do have affiliate agreements with both providers. This means they pay me to promote.  So make sure you conduct your own due-diligence prior to making any purchases, both here and everywhere on earth.

Script BreakdownScript Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course for Indie Filmmakers:

This online course offered by Industry veteran Peter Marshall answers the ever important question.

“How do I know if this shooting schedule is realistic?”

A lot of new filmmakers go into production on a film and find out a few days into production that their production schedule was completely screwed up. In some cases, these unfortunate filmmakers find out that the schedule was totally unrealistic.

As a result, the cast and crew ended up with tons of overtime pay, a bad attitude and YOU ended up running out of time and budget.

The goal is to avoid these headaches.

Peter worked for over 25 years in the industry.  He know (better than most) that a properly designed shooting schedule is crucial for your budgeting process.

If you would like to find out more about Peter Marshall’s Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling course, click here.

Film Scheduling Software: LightSpeed eps.

One of the most exciting software programs to help you with your script breakdown is called LightSPEED eps.

In addition to being an awesome script breakdown and scheduling program, LightSPEED eps allows you to centralize your production information and provide secure access from your computer, wireless device, from anywhere in the world.

Watch this brief script breakdown video:

With this web-based production management software, you can provide your your production team with current information from anywhere in the world.

In practical terms, let’s say you are based in LA, but your First AD is based in NYC. You will now have the ability to oversee all aspects of your project. If something changes, you will be able to notify your staff of critical updates in real time!

After getting a face-to-face demo with the management team, I left the meeting convinced that LightSPEED represents the future of script breakdown and production management.

Because these guys are very indie filmmaker friendly, they have provided Filmmaking Stuff readers with a FREE trial for one user. If you would like to find out more about the LightSpeed EPS script breakdown and film scheduling software, click here.

Secrets of Successful Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

One thing that’s true for all indie filmmakers is this: Sometimes life sucks.

Movie deals fall apart. Investors bail out. People don’t come through and they let you down. And sometimes what you thought was a sure-thing becomes a no-thing…

While nobody wants to experience pain and heartache, it is equally important to know that these challenges are part of the journey. And what I just described are the same realities and the same circumstances that all successful indie filmmakers face.

The difference? Successful indie filmmakers don’t give up.

But that probably doesn’t make you feel much better. And if you’re in the midst of a shaky project or an uncertain life circumstance, I can sympathize. When I was in NYC, we were going into production on a 1.5 million dollar movie.

I can remember feeling pretty excited about the whole process. I was finally working in the movie business. I felt awesome. . .

(Note: If you’re reading my emails, look for the one titled “The First Time I Got Fired.”)

Then all-a-sudden the entire project fell apart. Something about the investors getting scared… Something about the actor’s mom… Dunno. The reason the project fell apart does not matter. But what I know is this – I suddenly found myself in New York with no job and no money.

Imagine going from a feeling of awesomeness to a feeling of heartache in a single day.

That experience truly sucked.

indie filmmakers

Secrets of Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

I remember calling my friend and mentor Joe on the phone. I thought he would be encouraging. Maybe even say something nice to me. Instead he said something I never forgot… He said, “Get UP!”

ME: What?

JOE: Get UP! You just experienced your first bloody nose. Welcome to the world. At this point, you have two choices. You can quit – or you can get up, wipe your bloody nose and push forward.

I chose to push forward. I had no other choice. It wasn’t easy. For a time, I had to leave New York and move back to my parent’s house. And while this was humiliating, I forced myself to think of each challenge as a rite of passage for any serious indie filmmakers. How bad did I want it? Okay. Prove it!

This belief got me through my darkest times…

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…”

Eventually I found a job, saved money for a few months, packed my car and moved to California. Once there, I got some stuff in motion and was finally able to produce my first feature.

While I’m proud of that accomplishment, I can tell you that my challenges have only gotten more complicated. Since that time, I have been fired from several jobs, dumped, heart broken, broke and fired again. In the years since, I have had more than a dozen projects, job offers and awesome opportunities come and go. Poof!

And while failed opportunity still sucks, all of it has somehow become less sucky, I now understand a solid, fundamental truth. And it is the reason I can sleep soundly most nights. Are you ready?

Uncertainty is the price of success.

There will be good times and bad times. There will be red and black. You will win and you will lose.

And while I’m not here to tell you every day is going to be fun. (It won’t. Every setback sucks.) But if you let your challenges steel your resolve instead of stealing your soul, I guarantee one day you will wake up happy. The sun will shine. The stress will dissolve. And you will be excited for whatever life has to offer.

I look forward to watching your movies.

If you would like more tips like this, click here to grab your filmmaker checklist.

 

5 Unsurprising Reasons Friends Are a Horrible Movie Crew

Let me guess, you have the perfect movie idea. You even have your “final” version of your script.  You even have funding! Now it’s time to get some buddies together, form a movie crew and shoot your movie, right?

Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, shooting something for fun with friends is great! Let me say it again. Shooting something, for FUN, with friends is great.

drunk movie crew

5 Unsurprising Reasons Friends Are a Horrible Movie Crew

While there’s no point in filmmaking if you don’t enjoy it, doing it with plans to make a profit is serious business.  If your movie crew is all or mostly your best buds, it can lead to several problems.

1. You Run Out Of Money Before Shoot Day

You did your homework and created a budget to make and market the movie.  Good job! Now that you’re ready to shoot, it’s time to buy or rent equipment.   Your friend shooting the movie wants you to buy a Red 4k camera package. You planned on using the DSLR you bought last year, and rent some good lenses for a week. “But the art will suffer!” he says. Don’t listen to him.

You have to stick to your budget. If you don’t, something else very important will need to be sacrificed. Then you’ll end up with beautiful footage, on day 1. That’s the only day you’ll get, because now you can’t afford to pay the actors.

2. You Don’t Assign Duties Up Front

Micro or No budget filmmaking requires that everyone on your movie crew performs multiple duties.

Your actors will need to hold the boom mike when not acting. Your sound mixer will need to do craft services. Your cameraman will do hair and makeup.

It’s YOUR responsibility to ensure that everybody on the movie crew understands your expectations. You have to get in their face if they’re texting when they should be dressing your set. And if you don’t fix these problems right away, that negative vibe will infect your movie crew. Let it go too long, and fist can start flying on set.

3. You Turn The Set Into A Party

You’re 3 days into shooting and so far everything’s going great. There’s 5 more days of shooting, but tonight the football game is on. And since you and your “movie crew” always watch football (and get hammered) drunk – It makes sense to continue the tradition!

So your buddies on the movie crew has the brilliant idea of bringing a TV to set. They also bring a cooler filled with beer. And while watching the game can be a nice break from the hot lights, drinking booze on set is ALWAYS a bad idea (and downright dangerous.)

Save the beer for the wrap party. Besides, you’re on a tight schedule, with no time for hangovers.

Make sure everyone keeps it professional until you wrap.

4. You Overlook A More Talented Stranger

It is awesome if your best friend owns a grip truck and happens to be a lighting wizard. That won’t be the case with the majority of your friends on your movie crew.

To have the best movie crew you can afford, look outside your existing network.

Craigslist and other websites have several potential crew members waiting for you. Get to know other good filmmakers and have them refer people they’ve worked with in the pase. Microbudget filmmakers are excited to refer good talent. And you need the talent to succeed.

This goes for post production too (assuming you make it to post!) An experienced editor is better than a friend who just figured out how iMovie works. To smooth things over, convince your friend to be a free assistant to the editor.

5. You Put On Your Big Boy or Big Girl Pants

You can run into similar problems with people you just met. With your friends though, it’s harder to be the boss. Make it easy on yourself and pick the right friends to be on your movie crew. Don’t be afraid to hold out for the appropriate professionals.

Invite the rest of your movie crew to the premiere. And if you would like more info on this and other aspects of filmmaking, click here to grab your free filmmaker checklist.

– –

254535-DougAdams-1Douglas S. Adams is an Independent Motion Picture Producer and Actor based in Baltimore, MD. He wants you to learn from his no-budget filmmaking successes and failures, start and FINISH your movie, and get people to buy it. You can read his blog and learn more at www.alphadogproductions.net

 

Film Production: 3 Tips To Avoid Crying On Set

You need to Create a Plan B for your movie. You need to cover your butt!

Here is how it happens. . . 

You plan everything out for your movie months in advance.

jason-brubaker-digital-film-distributionYou get the locations, picture vehicles, actors, crew, stunt professionals — And then for some reason, two days before you begin production some crazy series of events take hold and everything falls apart.

Your picture vehicles disappear, actors quit the project, crew members take on another job that pays more and the stunt people. . . Wait, you hired stunt people? What kind of indie film are you making?

At this point in the whole mess, you probably start to cry. (I would.) Then your girlfriend stops talking to you. You take up smoking cigarettes and start drinking heavily, straight from the bottle.

You sit alone amongst the ruins of your production.

You could have been somebody. . . You could have been a contender. . . 

If only you would have created a plan B for your movie.

Planning For The Unexpected Saves Headaches

The thing is, if you can maintain a good attitude and roll with these kinds of setbacks, you’re gonna find out that each day on your movie set is just another day in paradise.

That being said, you can eliminate a lot of frustration if you prepare for these unexpected events in advance – just in case.

Film Production: 3 Tips To Avoid Crying On Set

Keep this in mind. Whatever could go wrong, will go wrong!

That’s just the nature of indie film. Heck, at times it’s the nature of the universe.

It’s your job to plan for this sort of stuff.

  1. How is your budget looking? Do you have enough money to pay for your movie and also account for the unexpected? If not, you’ll run out of money. I promise.
  2. Create backup locations… Seriously. You need to do this. Just in case.
  3. One more thing, talk with some insurance professionals about insurance for both your workers and equipment. While you’re at it, make sure you talk with a qualified attorney regarding legal protection.

You just never know!

If you’re interested in checking out some popular resources, I invite you to visit: www.MakeYourMovieNow.com