producing

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5 Reasons To Binge-Watch “The 100.”

Very thoughtful article.

See, look:

“The 100” does not dwell much on the ethnicity (nor the gender) of its characters, but it is a quite diverse cast. Lindsey Morgan, who plays the recently injured engineer Raven, is partly of Hispanic descent. And so, as it stands now, one of the core characters on “The 100” is a partially paralyzed woman of color who happens to be a gifted and respected mechanic-engineer. And “The 100” treats this development as no big deal, which is as it should be.

Your move, titans of cable drama.

Oh, now you wanna read more? 

THEN CLICK THIS WORD RIGHT….  HERE.

10 Tips for Successfully Producing a Micro-Budget Feature

From Indiewire:

1. Make sure the script is written as a micro-budget feature.

That the script must be excellent is a given. You can’t make a good movie from a mediocre script. But if you’re intending to shoot a micro-budget movie, you also need a script that works with –  rather than fights –  your budgetary constraints. Of course that means avoid car chases, tons of VFX and period pieces. Moreover, think about where your film fits in the marketplace. Don’t make a $200K version of a studio romantic comedy – you won’t have the star power or marketing budget to compete with “Valentine’s Day.” “Mutual Friends,” for example, is an ensemble romantic comedy, but the tone fits squarely in the indie genre – it’s honest, awkwardly real and specific where four-quadrant movies must be broad.

2. Have a “home base” location during production.

When you’re filming, much time is lost to loading in and wrapping out. When you need to shoot 5, 6, 7,  or even 8 (yikes!) pages a day, you will rue the time your crew spends lugging c-stands up a four story walk-up. Write one primary location into the script. Somewhere you can shoot (for free) for perhaps half of your shoot days. The shoot days spent here will be walk-aways. You can pre-light. If you’re lucky, you can even use this spot during prep as your production office/rehearsal space/wardrobe and art staging.

3. Open it up.

I’m going to contradict what I just said, but even with a home base, you can’t have the whole movie take place at just one location or it will look micro-budget and feel visually stagnant. I definitely advocate for a home base location, but you’ve also got to get out and about as much as possible. On “The Big Ask,” we were lucky because, filming in the desert, the backyard of our home base was an endless expanse of open terrain, including ravines and mountains. And being in a rural area, we were able to gain access to tremendous locations including bars, hotels and, of course, Joshua Tree National Park (which offers the strangest moonscape any filmmaker could hope for). On “Mutual Friends,” we shot in NYC. While securing interior locations was tricky, for exteriors, the city was our oyster. We did walk and talks through Riverside Park, shot scenes (with minimal dialogue) in the hustle and bustle of Chinatown on Canal St. (Note: I completely broke this rule on “Dead Within,” but the entire premise of the movie relies on one location: apocalypse outside, our characters, trapped inside).

4. Shoot while locations are open.

It costs money to compensate a diner for shutting down during the breakfast shift so you can get your shot. Shoot while they’re open and they may not charge you a thing. Of course, you don’t have the same control as you do when you ‘own’ a location, and of course, this tip doesn’t work for every scene, but I’ve been shocked by how many times I’ve gotten away with this. On “Mutual Friends,” in particular, we shot at a bakery, yoga studio, cafe, Asian goods emporium, and other locations, all while the businesses were operating normally. We got permission from the owners ahead of time to avoid problems, found a quiet spot on the day-of, and played out the scene with the actors lav'ed (with a mic on their person).

5. Cast matters. A lot.

There are certainly examples of tiny indie movies with no-name talent that came out of nowhere and catapulted to great success. Those movies are the exception. If you premiere at Cannes, you don’t necessarily need name actors to obtain distribution. But “premiere at Cannes” is not a great distribution strategy.

In the process of selling my four films, every single sales agent or distributor I spoke to asked one question first: “who’s in it?” When your marketing budget is close to $0, you need to rely on publicity, which is free (cost of the publicist aside). What generates publicity? Recognizable actors. Aim high. Get a good casting director. As with a $50 million budget, your cast is your insurance policy for your investors’ money.

6. There’s no excuse for bad production values.

In today’s world of $3,000 pro-sumer cameras which produce images that look shockingly good, there’s no excuse for a movie that looks like crap. People always come out of my work-in-progress screenings bowled over by how good/big/real the movie looks. If you’re going to go through the tremendous effort of making a feature, it had better look and feel like a “real” movie. That’s the minimum barrier to entry to be taken seriously professionally, and without that your movie simply will not be commercially viable. You don’t have to shoot on an Alexa (not once has a sales agent/distributor asked me what camera we used) but the finished product does need to look professional.

7. Make sure your cast and crew have worked at your budget level before.

When I first met fabulous DP Aaron Kovalchik, who shot “The Big Ask,” we talked about the challenges of shooting the night exteriors in the middle of the desert. Aaron said, “Maybe we could rig a china ball onto a fishing pole.” I fell in love. You need your team to consist of professionals who bring creativity, flexibility, and problem-solving skills. It may seem exciting to get a DP with high budget credits, but if they’ve never had to work without cushy toys or an IATSE crew, they (and you) will be in for a world of hurt. The same is true across all departments.

Bonus Tip: It’s easier to get your movie to look good than sound good but bad sound is the tell-tale of low budget films. Your resources are precious, but spend some of them on getting good sound – in production and post.

8. Figure out how your core filmmaking team will pay their bills while you make the movie.

Micro-budget filmmaking is not financially sustainable, but it does take quite a lot of time - often several years to take a feature from development through release You have to know going into the process how you’re going to pay your rent, and still have time to edit/do the festival circuit/market your film. “The Big Ask” co-director Rebecca Fishman, for example, plays Christine McVie in a Fleetwood Mac cover band (yes, awesome). Talk with members of your team so you can try to schedule your busy 'money-work’ periods for different times, and pass the baton of the film back and forth.

9. Know what you can figure out on your own, and when you need to pay for an expert.  

Micro-budgets are DIY by default – you can’t always (or even often) pay for others to do things so you Do It Yourself. I’m not a lawyer, but I do a lot of the legal work on my movies myself. I’ve developed a good folder of templates I can adapt to almost any situation. That said, when it came time to sell “The Big Ask,” Tribeca Film had an in-house business affairs team as well as outside counsel. I needed to hire a lawyer.

10. Budget through release.

I cannot stress how important this is. It’s great to have a festival copy, but if you don’t have money to apply to festivals, it’s not going to do you much good. Likewise, if you get into a big festival, but don’t have money to transport you and your cast there and maybe even hire a publicist, you’ll be missing a major opportunity to attract publicity and thus buyers. And finally, even if you’ve got your distributor and they do a great job placing your film with iTunes and all the cable VOD providers, perhaps a few theaters (win!), but having a little kitty reserved for marketing can go a long way. Often the distributor doesn’t have the resources to do the grassroots marketing the filmmaking team can. With a little cash, you can send your director and lead actor on a book tour-type series of promotional screenings, or hire a social media guru to help manage your Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr feeds, or throw a couple hundred bucks into Facebook ads, all of which can translate into higher visibility and grosses for your film.

Bonus tip: Work with people you like. You’re not making money producing micro-budgets, so you’d better be having a great time.

Producing Other People’s Work

For the first time in my career, I’m producing projects that I did not write nor am I directing. This is in stark contrast to my current work on 6 Angry Women, where I am wearing multiple hats as a writer, director, editor, producer and executive producer. 

Yours truly multitasking on the set of ‘6 Angry Women.’

For our upcoming animated project, I am just a producer, and one of two producers to boot. It’s an entirely new experience, an exercise in letting go and simply being there for my collaborators. I’m having to curb my own creative impulses and applying my mind to make sure my director and writer’s vision is seen to absolute fidelity to their original ideas.

When you produce your own work, you have to be able to be brutally honest with yourself, and you have the advantage of not worrying about offending anyone with your glib or crazy ideas. You also have the danger of becoming married to one way of doing something, of not having an outside perspective. Over time I feel I’ve learned the ability to be very objective with my own work, and I am able to kill my own darlings without hesitation.

But when you produce someone else’s work, it is an entirely different dynamic. They are not coming to you for your vision or perspective, they are coming to you with the sole intent of having their visions become a reality. It’s the common question throughout the industry, which is what exactly is it that a producer does? The simplest and easiest way for me to express it is that a director makes a film, and a producer makes the director’s film happen.

At least that’s my definition of it. I know a lot of producers who feel their role is to creatively contribute to a project, to work with writers and directors to shape a screenplay / treatment into something that can be made. I never liked that approach, because if I’m going to put that much effort into crafting a story, it may as well be my own. I know a lot of writers and directors get frustrated with that process because they want their ideas to happen, to take afoot, to start the process of getting money and elements together.

When I get a script / treatment, I think it’s important to maintain almost absolute fidelity to the originator’s vision. There’s a fine line to be had when making creative inputs to that original vision, where your own taste may be in conflict with the creator’s taste. Which is why the selection of the project becomes of utmost importance. You should only try to produce projects that pique your interests, speak to your tastes, or are in a place you are freely willing to explore.

I know this can be a luxury - we often have to produce things we have zero connection to because it is just work. When faced with this - which is more times than not - you can offer creative input solely on whether things make sense or not. Input can be logical, and creative suggestions should always be couched in a ‘my two cents’ framework. You are there to make the artists’ vision true, and if there are moments where you feel it is not being true, then you can make your notes.

How do you know when the work is not being true? You do this by getting to know your artists, by understanding their goals, objectives and personalities. Get to know their taste. Know them inside out. When you do that, you can easily sniff out parts of a story / storyboard that were done for convenience or simply to patch something up. It’s at that point you have to make the difficult call and say “I think this part needs work because it really doesn’t feel like you or this story.” Never put your own narrative desires into your input, allow your collaborators to work a solution in their own paradigm, and assist them by giving them references, ideas, and examples. Never tell them what to write or how to write it.

The other creative part of producing someone else’s work comes in the form of sourcing and securing all of the resources that a director needs for their vision to become a reality. This starts with finding money, which has to start sooner than later. I know too many producers who drown in the details of a script, and it is years before it even reaches a single financier’s hands. The script should be ready to read, but know that it is a living document, that it will continue to evolve with the addition of directors, actors and other elements. The stronger thing is not whether it is perfect, but rather it be a perfect sell. It must be gripping, it must have a hook, something I can use to lure investment.

When we get the money, securing talent becomes the next major step, and this can involve a lot of creative business ideas, a lot of calls and positioning. As maddening as this process can be, I enjoy it. I like negotiating, I like pitching. After ten years of being in this business I’ve gotten use to rejection, and I find other ways to get what we want and what we need. And we do it with kindness and charm. No one likes an annoying nag.

There is an inherent part of me that wants to assure quality on all fronts. Anything with my name on it must be of the very best quality, and I won’t cut quality for the sake of simply making something happen. If a director has an expensive idea, my approach is to never shut that idea down, but rather an approach of honesty. I love this shot, we can’t afford it, so let’s think of creative solutions together on how we can achieve it, or something like it with what we have. We do that together. I’ll never leave a director on an island to figure something out, because I’ve been a director in that position and it’s a horrible place to be. As a producer it is your responsibility to find solutions, to research new resources, and to give your director every opportunity to make their vision come to life. And you must do this quickly and within budget, without sacrificing quality. Fail to do this and you will not be a successful producer.

Lastly, as a producer you have to make sure your production is happy. Always ask people how they’re doing. If you see concern on your director’s face, ask them what’s up, what it is you can do. Your job is to be there for them, to problem solve, to come up with elegant solutions. Nine times out of ten, throwing money at problems won’t solve them. You have to get creative and work in concert with your collaborators. Make shit happen. Produce.

It’s a nebulous dance. It’s your project but then again it isn’t. Your signature will be on it. If you do it right, people will know it is your work, even though it’s not your words and not your images. That is the magic of producing, of being that guiding hand. Initiative shows.

Yesterday...

I got an e-mail asking for a 2nd interview from the non-profit. My old boss at large consumer goods company told me she called him this week and he told her I was “the second coming of the messiah.” Um. Oversold me a little, but very nice, thanks! Haha

Got an email from an agency I’d met with at the very beginning of my unemployment- asking if I was still available for freelance. Yes. Yes I am. They want to hire me to help with a content audit. (The boring but very necessary part of a good content strategy…)

I got a call from a recruiter about another agency she wants to submit me to. Sweet, let’s do it.

I will probably be able to fall back on the mall if nothing else pans out.

I feel good and confident in my producer role for Are You There Eli? But man, we need that money. I updated and improved our campaign a little yesterday from what it previously was. I want Evan to know that I can and should be handling all the stuff like that. Copy for anything we release on the film publicly should run through me. Not a power trip- it’s just that we all have our strengths and that’s one of mine.

I did some fancy footwork and procured the cables that we need to run the mixer this afternoon/evening to record for GuiltyFilm. Hopefully this setup won’t be as hard as I’m expecting it to be. *crosses fingers* Jim said I could call him for help if I need to. He’s my favorite sound guy!

All of that and I even got in some pool time with the bestie and made green bean casserole for girls’ night. I’m killing it.