How’d you attract investors in the first place? I don’t think anyone we’ve had an AMA with has actually done that before! Lots of crowdfunding and some sponsor stuff, but never investors!
What qualified you for the NYS tax thingie? What does that mean exactly?
Hey Jaime! Well, some very quick tips:
- Start with exteriors first, then move to interiors. If you schedule a big exterior day on your last day, that will be the day that a tornado/snowstorm/shark attack hits, and now you have nothing else to shoot and so you have to add another day to the schedule.
- Start with days, move to nights. This is partly for turnaround reasons, and partly because starting at night puts everyone at a disadvantage (people just move a little slower late at night).
- Consolidating your lead actors’ days as much as possible can make roles more attractive for bigger “names” (if you’re thinking of going that route). They can jump on your project and jump off.
- Minimize company moves.
- Don’t do anything complicated right after lunch (everyone will be asleep).
- HMU and wardrobe take longer for women than men, so it’s better to schedule scenes with women a little later; shoot something with the men first and then your HMU can get the women ready while you’re shooting.
- Keep in mind that minors can’t be on set for 12 hours straight. You may have to shoot all their angles out and get a body double to do OTS shots, or rearrange their coverage.
- Stunt work and car work takes forever.
I can think of more stuff. But I’ll save it for another email.
Do you have any networking advice? i know it’s a really big way to meet people to work with/to get hired by/to get invested in but I’m SO bad at it
I want to hear more about car work! How does that even work?
I think it’s partly the pursuit of “name” talent (to help get financing for features). Mostly because feature distribution can take a while - you may have to take the film out to festivals and find a distributor that way, or start calling/emailing them up and going through a rejection process. Meanwhile you’re taking the film out to get buzz and reviews (can make a film more attractive to distributors). Then once you get a distributor you have a contract that needs to get wrangled, then you have to deal with delivery, then wait for the months or sometimes years for the distributor to put the film out on the various platforms or release it to theaters. While this is going on you’re still trying to make the film “stand out” in people’s minds. Even Sundance films go through this - the film comes out at Sundance, gets reviews, goes to some other festivals - and then it’s still not available for a year or more. From a filmmaker’s perspective it’s exhausting.
The distribution part of webseries is - you’re done, upload it, THEN promote it. It’s more linear and you’re also promoting something that people can GO WATCH RIGHT NOW instead of waiting to see. Plus the budgets are generally lower so you just have to shoot on a tighter schedule, write a tighter script to begin with, etc.
Ben and I met through my lawer, Bob Seigel. I’d just fired my DP from my first feature, “Caleb’s Door.” Long story. Creative differences. I needed someone to come aboard super-fast, since we’d already shot three days. Bob suggested Ben, I met him, then looked at his reel, and realized I’d seen one of his films years before - “Gold Mountain” - and the producer and I looked at each other and said “he’s our guy.” Plus he was fast, had some great ideas right off the bat, was always willing to try stuff, and was very sensitive to actors.
Overhead diagrams are like this. The show the scene from overhead, with camera positions and actors’ movements marked out.
Holy shit I definitely want to do this way more than a storyboard now. Way better for non-drawers!
There’s some wonderful web series film festivals out there. Toronto Webfest, Brooklyn Webfest, NY TV Festival, HollyWeb Festival (I’m heading there next week), UK WebFest, IndieBoom! and Baltimore New Media Festival have all been great venues and very nice to me. I look at festivals as part of my promotion budget - I have to get the word out about the series, and it doesn’t hurt if we can get an award (the laurels do help drive traffic, I think). I can also meet other creators, learn about the latest ideas in distribution etc., get some good reviews.
Stareable is also gearing up for their first webfest!
That’s our hour, folks! HUGE big thanks to @avincie for being here today and completely changing my life with his overhead diagram revelation! You can find his show Three Trembling Cities on Stareable right here:
My salary. Lol. I’d rather pay a small, but more experienced crew and shoot for fewer days, rather than hire on more people and pay them less or nothing. Sometimes that means the schedule is very tight but I think people are my best resource.
The last two projects I’ve shot without an AD. Ben and I figure out the shotlist ahead of time and we constantly shorten it on set. I still get into scheduling ratholes but generally we get our stuff done on time. I’ve done without a script supervisor as well.
We usually shoot with a tiny light kit and I don’t use a dolly or a lot of lenses or fancy gear. Ben has a glidecam, and some great primes.
On “Three Trembling” we did without walkies, and stuffed everything and everybody into one van. On “Found In Time” we had a cargo van (for stuff) and a pass van (for people).
On both films I did some of the simpler VFX (hiding oopsies mostly) and the titles. But I hired a VFX artist on both projects for more complex stuff, and Ben did some great day-for-night correction work. My colorist on both projects also helped with some reframes and color timing.
Thank you Amen. I would say the same for you - Amen has been very generous and helpful to folks.
Selfishly, I think teaching helps me learn, and sometimes it helps me get work down the road. Selflessly, I really think working together lifts everyone up. I understand that not everyone can do that - either they feel they have to focus on their own work, or they feel they’re in competition with other mediamakers.
The truth is that the only competition we have to worry about is with the corporate overlords. If we can stick together and learn from each other we have a better chance making good stuff and also getting fair value for our work.
I agree, web series folks have been especially helpful in that regard!
Oh I see what you mean! The script analysis, shotlist & rehearsals are my fall-back guide. I think the act of writing down the plan in the first place actually helps me a lot (it’s like a mental run-through). Even if we have to deviate from the plan (which happens often enough), at least we had a plan to begin with, which makes coming up with alternatives a lot easier. So even if everything falls to shit, we can look at the shotlist and figure out how to combine setups, maybe work with the actors to change the blocking a little bit, and figure out how to get through it. If an actor is stuck on something, I can also go back to my list of adjustments and try something else. Does that make sense?
Not at the moment. I work as a computer programmer, and also teach production management. I line produce and prepare budgets for other people’s films as well. I worked full time in film/tv production for several years, but when I went to switch to directing more, I found it harder to also production manage projects, and the money I was being offered wasn’t as good as I could make in the non-film world.
Generally, I look at marketing as a multi-pronged attack:
- Reaching out constantly through private emails (to people I know) telling them about “the project,” and also through my monthly e-blasts
- Contacting reviewers once the film/show is done, and volunteering to write “making of articles”
- Going to festivals and building non-festival screening events (for “Found IN Time,” that mean conventions, sci-fi meetup groups, etc.), again to get buzz and reviews, and build the fan base
- Keeping in constant touch with cast, crew, investors, crowdfunders, and anyone else who helped the project along
- Social media feeding - FB, Instagram, Twitter, whatever new platform comes up next year
- Releasing trailer & scene clips
For the film, it was reaching out to sci-fi/fantasy/horror websites, magazines, meetups, etc. to get them interested.
For the webseries, since I had a show that touched on immigrant rights, I reached out to immigrant rights groups (not just for marketing but also to help them in whatever way we could), other filmmakers who’d done similar work, the library, colleges, bookstores - places where we could talk about the themes of the show
Does that make sense?
I think these platforms all want to drive traffic to their sites, and while they don’t have Netflix budgets, they are willing - and often very happy - to help market your work.
The folks from DreamAfrica are working with us on Season 2. Viddsee is actually looking into going into development on projects, and they’ve crowdfunded some shorts already.
I should mention that Seed & Spark is also in the distribution space and they do a great job getting the word out about projects they’re a part of.
Seeka.tv and Brooklyn On Demand have done a great job promoting the show through their email blasts and Twitter accounts.
So I do think it’s worth talking to them.
I had about 25 shots planned out for the feature. We planned them out ahead of time, so we did as much as we could to make it simple to deal with in post. [Don’t move the camera or change lighting; shoot clean plate shots, etc.] So Ben shot the scenes with the VFX in mind. I think I dropped two shots from the list because the editor didn’t think they were needed for the story, and he was right.
I came up with another 10 shots that I thought would help add something, and weren’t difficult to do (adding digital blood to a stabbing).
We had another 15 or so shots that Vickie Lazos (our VFX artist), Verne Mattson (colorist) or I had to deal with to fix some mistakes in production (hiding a cable, reframing a shot slightly to avoid a boom dip, or cleaning up some gaak in the frame).
It can be hard to do on a budget, but if you’re willing to be patient (don’t rush the VFX artist), do some of the elementary work yourself (I was able to mask out a couple of boom dips with a garbage matte), and plan as much out ahead of time it’s not impossible.