How DID you finance your projects? Anything you would do differently knowing what you do now?
What kind of scheduling advice do you have that’s general enough you could write it into a book? I’m always struggling with that!! (also hi Arthur!!)
What made making a feature so much more of a marathon if a full season of a web series is often the same amount of content?
I do a pretty deep dive into the script before casting. I break down each scene into dramatic beats, and write out a set of objectives/actions/obstacles/notes for each character in each scene. That usually leads to a re-write. Then during casting I try those objectives out as adjustments. The casting process serves as a kind of practice - I can see what works and what’s not working. I rehearse with the actors as much as possible, and spend time with them in person and/or on the phone going over their characters. I also work with the crew as much as possible. I suck at storyboards, but I love overhead diagrams. Ben Wolf & I have worked together for 18 years, so I trust him & his ideas a LOT.
I don’t mind improv but I don’t require it. If the actors come up with something on the fly that really works I’ll say “let’s incorporate that into the next take too.” Sometimes I’ll let the actors riff after the scene is over.
How did you and Ben Wolf meet? Also what are overhead diagrams?
Thanks for being here today! I have a question about film festivals because I haven’t really seen a good web series one and I was wondering if it’s worth the money to submit since (in your words) there isn’t money in indie distribution, ESPECIALLY for web series, and that’s kinda the point of festivals for features, right?
For “Found In TIme” I had a fantastic casting director, Katherine Hinchey. We’d worked together before (I line produced a feature she’d produced). On “Three Trembling Cities” I did the casting myself, 'cause I had no budget to pay Kat.
A casting director has (a) taste and experience, so a good one can really sense who’d be right for a given role; (b) contacts with actors and agents and managers, so they can get to people you wouldn’t know about; © training in acting (often). If you know how to communicate with actors, it can be a very collaborative process (where you’re in the room giving the actors direction). Some directors, on the other hand, would rather let the casting director do the first round of auditions, and then come in for the callbacks.
Casting directors can also lift a lot of the organizational headaches of casting off your back.
What are the first things you cut out of a budget (or skimp on) to make sure you can still make a high quality project?
I have to say that despite knowing you a very short time, you’re one of the most supportive people I’ve met in the industry to date. What keeps you in that space and what do you think holds others back from being supportive or helpful to their peers? This may specifically apply to the indie film world, as I find web series creators are a different breed.
Sorry for improv I meant you can’t prepare for everything, because if you could, you wouldn’t need to give notes to actors! I meant director improv, being able to make changes you didn’t know would need to be made until the day. How do you prepare so thinking on your feet during that isn’t so panic-inducing?
Thanks! That makes a lot of sense!
Hi Anna! I try to make a pitch video, poster, synopsis and “elevator pitch” (a short verbal synopsis you could give to someone in the space of an elevator ride) for the project that I think would be interesting & exciting. I don’t always have a great sense of what’s “exciting” about my work, so I rely on the input of whoever I’m partnering up with. Sometimes I’ve hired people to help me with the crowdfunding campaign preparations. I often look at other people’s successful campaigns to see what seemed to resonate with people.
Generally, people are attracted to plenty, and run away from neediness. If you act like you already have your project together, but you’d love to have them aboard, they’re more interested in helping you out. If you act like you’re desperate and can’t do the project without them, they may walk away. I don’t know if that helps or not.
Cool! Is filmmaking (or working on films, like you mentioned line-producing for people in an earlier question) your full time job?
Absolutely, depending on your project. For “Three Trembling Cities,” we found two platforms that catered specifically to groups that we felt overlapped with our intended audience: ViddSee (for Asian-produced/starring/focused content) - since 3 of our leads were Asian (Iranian and Indian, respectively) and the nature of the piece itself was something we felt their audience could relate to. And DreamAfrica, since half our lead characters were African immigrants or from diaspora countries.
Later on we reached out to Brooklyn On Demand (since many of the teammembers were from Brooklyn, 80% of it was shot there, and it’s a very Brooklyn-themed show in some ways), and Seeka.tv.
If you have a project that fits a genre (comedy, sci-fi,horror, etc.) it definitely helps to get it onto a platform that caters to that audience. As long as it’s not an exclusive license.
What is your general marketing strategy (for your feature AND series), and what does your marketing outreach look like? How does it differ for both forms?
But do all those platforms actually help you promote or get further financing for new seasons or anything? What is the point of a distributor if it’s not, like, Netflix?
I knew going into the writing process that I wanted this actor to play the role. It’s also VERY loosely based on his life (the show is about immigrants, and Arash whose family moved from Iran as a kid, and his character, Behrouz, is an actor whose family moved from Iran when he was a kid).
I’ve written other scripts where I had a particular actor in mind for a part, because I know him/her. So I modeled the character somewhat on the actor, or thought of situations/dialog that the actor would be very excited about.
I don’t know if there’s ONE thing I love more than any other. I love writing, I love casting (when you first see your work come to life is very exciting). I love collaborating with other folks. I love working with the crew and cast to build the world. I love editing, because my the time production is over I’m sick of everything and I just want to be alone for a bit. I love working with sound designers, editors colorists and composers because the add so much to the process. I love working with VFX artists because they have such great ideas. I enjoy the festival tour experience because who doesn’t like applause.
I don’t like firing people, dealing with petty cash, and driving the van after being up 20 hours.
Was there a lot of VFX in your feature? Was that hard to do on a budget to also make it look good?
“Found In Time” had some investors, some crowdfunding money, and a lot of credit card debt and cash. I also qualified for the NYS tax incentive, so that money went right into paying off some credit cards and a little went for post.
“Three Trembling Cities” - some crowdfunding, mostly self funded. I make a living doing a bunch of different things, and I just learned to live with less (I don’t go on vacations much, live cheaply, etc.)
What I want to do differently from now on is get better at attracting investors. I can’t really do another self-funded project.