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Production Journal

The Film Strategy 5 with Cindy Cowan.

Production Tips

Your November 2016 Calendar for Film Festivals, Screenplay Contests, Fellowships, Labs and Awards.

Case Study

When To Say No To A Film Festival

Case Study

The Full Costs and Income of an Indie Film

The Production / Filmmakers Toolkit

Documents, Templates and Resources for Every Phase of Production.

3.27.2017

PRODUCTION TIPS: Your April 2017 Calendar for Film Festivals, Screenplay Contests, Fellowships, Labs and Awards

The good people at Script Reader Pro have just made your life easier. 

Why is that you say? 

Because they've made your filmmaking life easier to manage this year with their calendar of all the major upcoming screenwriting contests (orange), awards (blue), festivals (green), fellowships and labs (yellow) in 2017.

Like Yogi Berra says, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” 

Saturday, April 1
 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship Deadline
Wednesday, April 5
 Kansas City FilmFest
Thursday, April 6
 Kansas City FilmFest
Friday, April 7
 Kansas City FilmFest
Saturday, April 8
 Kansas City FilmFest
Sunday, April 9
 Kansas City FilmFest
Monday, April 10
 The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Regular Deadline
Monday, April 17
 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
 Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition Late Deadline
Wednesday, April 19
 Tribeca Film Festival
Thursday, April 20
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Friday, April 21
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Saturday, April 22
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Sunday, April 23
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Monday, April 24
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Tuesday, April 25
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Wednesday, April 26
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Thursday, April 27
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Friday, April 28
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Saturday, April 29
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Nashville Film Festival
Sunday, April 30
 Tribeca Film Festival
 Shore Scripts Short Film Fund Final Deadline

2.10.2017

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: How Tarantino Got Reservoir Dogs Funded and Why It's Worth Knowing People Who Know Celebrities


The gift of overwhelming information to read on the internet burdens us to actually read it. One article that I came across that I found personally engaging was Peter Darling's Best Way to Run a Business. I think it is aimed at solo attorneys and budding entrepreneurs and small businesspeople. I think it is also useful for filmmakers. (To read the entire short article, click here.) 

The part that stood out for me and which I find relevant for filmmakers is this one: 
There are people all around you excelling at what you’re trying to learn. Start paying close attention to how they do it...
Every day I am surprised when I ask clients and filmmakers if they know how "X director" or "Y producer" made "Z film" and the answer is "no." I am surprised because anyone who has been in the trenches long enough will tell you how hard it is to make a film.
The difficulty comes in 7 stages, each getting progressively harder:

  • It's hard to come up with an idea worth writing. 
  • It's hard to write a script worth raising funds for.
  • It's hard to raise funds for a film worth directing.
  • It's hard to direct a film worth editing.
  • It's hard to edit a film worth distributing.
  • It's hard to distribute a film worth marketing.
  • And it's hard to market a film against all other competing forms of art and entertainment. PERIOD.
So acknowledging the difficulties, doesn't it make sense to study how successful directors, writers nd producers made it?  Hence, the quote above. The people excelling at what you are trying to do are the Scorceses and Tarantinos and Iñárritus and Duvernays of the world. So why not study their methods*, and, at a minimum, gain some tips on how they produced their work.  With that concept in mind, I'd like to regularly update this section with clips that answer the question how did he or she write it, produce it or fund it.

* By "methods," I mean the way they developed, produced and funded their projects, I am not saying copy their directing methodology or their filmmaking style. 
+++++++

Today's question: How did Quentin Tarantino get the money to make Reservoir Dogs.

From Wikipedia:
Quentin Tarantino had been working at Video Archives, a video store in Manhattan Beach, California, and originally planned to shoot the film with his friends on a budget of $30,000 in a 16 mm black-and-white format, with producer Lawrence Bender playing a police officer chasing Mr. Pink.[4] Bender gave the script to his acting teacher, whose wife gave the script to Harvey Keitel.[5] Keitel liked it enough to sign as a co-producer so Tarantino and Bender would have an easier job finding funding; with his assistance, they raised $1.5 million.[1] Keitel also paid for Tarantino and Bender to host casting sessions in New York, where the duo found Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth.[6] 
Three key takeaways from this excerpt:
  1. Keep honing your craft (in writing, acting or filmmaking) by taking courses.
  2. Develop good relationships with people who know people that can get your film funded.
  3. Most importantly, write a script with juicy lines and stories that gets people who know people to show your script to them.

2.01.2017

PRODUCTION TIPS: Your February 2017 Calendar for Film Festivals, Screenplay Contests, Fellowships, Labs and Awards

The good people at Script Reader Pro have just made your life easier. 

Why is that you say? 

Because they've made your filmmaking life easier to manage this year with their calendar of all the major upcoming screenwriting contests (orange), awards (blue), festivals (green), fellowships and labs (yellow) in 2017.

Like Yogi Berra says, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” 

Wednesday, February 1
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Thursday, February 2
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Friday, February 3
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Saturday, February 4
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Sunday, February 5
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Thursday, February 9
 Berlinale Film Festival
Friday, February 10
 Berlinale Film Festival
Saturday, February 11
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
 USC Libraries Scripter Award
Sunday, February 12
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
 British Academy Film Awards
Monday, February 13
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
 Toronto Int Film Fest Talent Lab
Tuesday, February 14
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
Wednesday, February 15
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
 Creative World Awards Contest Late Deadline
Thursday, February 16
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Berlinale Talents Annual Summit
Friday, February 17
 Berlinale Film Festival
Saturday, February 18
 Berlinale Film Festival
Sunday, February 19
 Berlinale Film Festival
 Writers Guild Awards
Wednesday, February 22
 Final Draft Big Break - Early Bird Open Date
Friday, February 24
 Cesar Ceremony
Saturday, February 25
 CineStory Foundation Late Deadline
Sunday, February 26
 The Oscars
 Tracking B Screenplay Contest Late Deadline
Monday, February 27
 Film Independent Screenwriting Lab Deadline
Tuesday, February 28
 Nickelodeon TV Writing Program Deadline

1.20.2017

PRODUCTION TIPS: Best Practices from A Grant-Awarded Writer to Fund All Types of Programs (Guest Post)


Giovanna Aguilar is a multimedia content producer and a good friend. She recently wrote an article on LinkedIn with tips for people, like filmmakers, who are seeking and applying for grants. Her article is very informative, helpful and encouraging so I wanted to share it with you. Show that you like it by sharing it and liking her original LinkedIn post, as well.


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So, you are considering grants to fund your dream project or program. Perhaps you are a nonprofit, filmmaker or public school program in need of financial support. How do you begin the grant writing process? How do you bring to fruition your thoroughly researched idea?

January is not only for setting new year’s resolutions but also for planning your grant submission calendar. It is important for you to know that this is when most grantors restart their funding cycles.This represents an opportunity for you, but it must begin with a mix of preparation, patience and perseverance. Trust me, these three Ps are going to make all the difference in how you secure your first awarded grant — funds.

I got started writing grants by chance and out of utter necessity when one of my film projects, DreamTown, needed funding. The director had sent me a previously submitted grant application that I wound up spending a couple of days rewriting expeditiously to beat the deadline. By the time it was completed, I had a severe migraine. My first tip to you: Do not do that - throw yourself into a tight deadline, especially the first time. It will deter you from the already draining process. Yes. It helped that I had a template to work from, which is essentially what your first application will be, a reusable document with key sections that include the project’s objectives, impact and budget.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to be straight with you. Whether you are writing the grant proposal yourself or hiring a professional, it takes work, a lot of work. Your job is to write effectively based on a strategy for your program. Let me reiterate this point, you must write based on a strategy for your program. This is nonnegotiable. You must have a strategy, a plan, in place, or a spin doctor-grant writer who knows your industry inside and out. Yes. I won’t lie. Luck and spin happen too.

Ultimately, though, securing grant funds is about selling your story to the grantor. And I must admit that filmmakers are deftly suited for this, which is why I am happily sharing insight into grant writing best practices that have worked for me across all types of programs. While the grant writing process is quite an arduous one, these 10 are a good start.

G’s —Top 10 Best Practices for Writing Winning Grants
  1. Respect the Grant Writer. I start with this one because whether you are writing the proposal or hiring an expert, you will be asked to provide information. This is not an option. The sooner you get what is needed, the sooner the work can begin and be completed. For larger grant applications, you may be asked to provide audited financial statements, a tax-exempt letter, and other pertinent documents or information. Respect the grant writer. There should be no chasing down for information.
  2. Read the Grant’s Eligibility Requirements. Before you go any further, read the RFP’s or grant eligibility requirements. Go through the whole checklist and make sure they fund your type of program. For instance, will the grantor fund your project in your state? Is the grantor funding only STEM programs and yours is for dance? Does your organization need to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to apply?
  3. Who, What, Where, Why and How. Go back to the basics of every story and be ready to articulate concisely and effectively the following, but be as specific as you can be:
      • Who Is your program or project going to benefit or target?
      • What is your program going to do?
      • Where will the program take place?
      • Why is your program so important that the grantor must fund it?
      • How will you ensure that you can do what you are proposing with the funding? 
4. What Needs Funding? I know this is listed above, but you would be surprised how often the obvious question is the one that is least thoroughly considered. In my experience, this is a typical situation for public or government-funded programs, unfortunately. Wanting a lot of money, let’s say $100k, for the science department is not enough. You must present a program with defined objectives.
5. Be concise as you persuade the grantor to buy your story. Most applications are submitted via the grantor’s online platform. As a result, make sure your copy is not over each section’s character limit. I recommend using your handy Word count tool, as you go. Trust me. You will kick yourself at 11:58 p.m. when your application is due at midnight, and you have to cut 100 words from each section.
6. Are matching funds required? Yes? You will know this by reading the grant eligibility requirements, but I cannot stress how overlooked this one is. You will need to know how much the grantor requires to be matched i.e. 50%, 25%. You will be asked to provide this line item in the budget along with corroborating materials.
7. Request letters of support. If this is an option, get letters from your most influential supporters. Grantors are very interested in your resourcefulness, which also means you have a chance to brag about who you know and why they love you and your project. You can make the request easier by writing the letters yourself and sending them to your supporters for approval. Just make sure the letters are returned to you on company letterhead and with the appropriate signatures. This is common practice in the grant writing process.
8. What is your program’s impact? You can start by explaining the demographics of your target audience and how they will be positively affected or influenced by your program. This is where you really get to open up about the heart of your cause. Are you producing a story about an underserved, under-represented community? Research previously awarded grantees and study what type of impact they have had.
9. Prepare a realistic and thorough budget. Make sure you have a line-by-line budget of your project’s expenses and then get ready to write summaries of what each line means and how they all connect to the whole project.
10. Be patient and try and try again. Getting awarded a grant is ultimately like playing a numbers game that includes a mix of great storytelling, a program strategy and a justifiable, realistic budget. Grantors must be wowed by your proposal and be persuaded to trust you with their money. Note. As part of the numbers game, you can continue to tweak your living, breathing grant proposal, because that is what it will be. There is always room to color the story with another layer, shade, tint… OK. You get the picture. Each submission is an opportunity to improve your story.
Originally published on Jan. 14, 2017 by Giovanna Aguilar on LinkedIn