Case Study:

Using Script Coverage to Get Name Talent.

Script to Screen

Fusion's Open Call For TV Projects is a Push for Diverse Voices.

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.


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 10.30.13 (HALLOWEEN EDITION)

[Note: I couldn't get the Monday Morning Mixer out on time because of some issues with my mom's health that I had to attend to.  We're still working on it, and even though she's strong (God bless her), it's taking its toll.]  

Nevertheless, here's the midweek edition, Halloween style.

To start with, October 30 marks the day for two morbidly tragic true Hollywood tales; the suicide of Max Linder and the murder of Ramon Navarro.

October 30, 1925

The story of silent comedian Max Linder, who committed suicide this week in 1925, is a truly tragic one. Beginning his career in 1905, Frenchman Linder was the first great screen funnyman, writing, directing and starring in hundreds of shorts, in which he played the instantly recognizable Max, the dapper Frenchman with the cane, top hat and moustache. He was a huge influence on emerging stars like Charlie Chaplin, who called himself a “student” of Linder and was greatly influenced by his comic stylings. However two attempts to make it in Hollywood were unsuccessful and Linder’s career faltered. A dispatch driver seriously wounded in World War I, Linder was plagued by ill health and deep depression, and by the mid-1920s had all but retired. In 1924, he and his young wife, American heiress Jean Peters, tried to take their lives in Vienna, Austria, but were unsuccessful. A year later, they died together in a suicide pact in Paris, leaving behind a daughter, Maud, who was barely a year old. Forgotten until Maud’s 1963 documentary about him, Laugh with Max Linder, revealed his historical importance, Linder remains a criminally overlooked figure in early cinema. ~~Focus Features

October 30, 1968

Ramon Navarro came to LA in 1913 with hopes of making a new life for himself. While working at the Alexandria Hotel, he was spotted by director Rex Ingram who cast him first as an extra, and then as the lead of Prisoner of Zenda in 1923. The beautiful young man was deemed the worthy successor to Rudolph Valentino’s Latin lover role. Reportedly he shared more than a legacy with Valentino as the two were close friends and supposedly lovers at one point. Despite his success with films like Ben-Hur and The Student Prince, Navarro never really transitioned to sound. His next big headline would have nothing to do with cinema. On Halloween, 1968, the police found the naked, dead body of the famed silent film star. Following phone records, detectives found Paul and Tom Ferguson, two brothers who’d visited Navarro on October 30. Towards the end of his life, Navarro was an avid consumer of male hustlers. But the brothers were there because they falsely believed that Navarro had $5,000 buried under his floorboards. As Tom was on the phone with his girlfriend in Chicago––the call the police used to catch the brothers––Paul beat Navarro to an inch of his life to get him to tell him where the money was. In defeat, the brothers attempted to make the scene look like a rape/robbery. After stripping the star down and tying him up, they scrawled "Us girls are better than those fagits" on the bathroom mirror. Navarro soon choked to death on his own blood. During the trial, the defense attorney Richard Walton blamed Navarro’s sexuality, exclaiming "Back in the days of Valentino, this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer. There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety." Both brothers were sentenced to life, but paroled after only seven years. Paul was again arrested and convicted for rape. ~~Focus Features

In celebration of Halloween, the answers to today's questions are all relevant to making or enjoying a horror movie so without further ado...

WRITING: What shouldn't you forget when writing horror scripts?

PRODUCING: What are 13 steps to making a horror film? And the secrets to its low budget success. UPDATE: How do you take horror interactive?

FINANCING: How much revenue is in the horror movie business? And 5 reasons why you should stick to the supernatural when making a horror movie.

DIRECTING: Compare good and bad 11 horror movie tropes to use them effectively.

SHOOTING: What are some scary shooting techniques?

LIGHTING: Low-budget horror movie lighting tips. Plus some more tips.

SOUND:Ever wonder why the music in horror films scare us?

STUNTS & FX: How horror films have helped advance the visual FX industry.  Plus 100 of the greatest special FX make-up artists of all time.

EDITING: Horror Film Editing: A short blog that compares the 2 major ways audiences are frightened (‘jump scares’ and the ‘fear of the unknown’) to show how editors can convey fear and unease within their films.

MARKETING: What goes into making a good horror film trailer? Plus, 12 of the most effective horror-based campaigns of all time.

DISTRIBUTION: How Jason Blum made horror films that grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office. And how one filmmaker secured a distribution deal for his no-budget horror film with money upfront.

LEGAL: Real life horrors occur when scary accidents happen on the set and that's one very good reason to get insurance. So, here's a primer on production insurance.

If you happen to be stuck without a good horror feature to watch on Halloween then check out this list.  But if your prefer quickie scares, then watch these horror shorts

And just because... one of my favorite horror films of all time, Vampyr:


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 10.23.13

October 23, 1992

Twenty-one years ago, on October 23, a small independent drama, Reservoir Dogs, was released, launching not only the career of its writer/director Quentin Tarantino but also about a decade’s worth of irony-infused, hip-seeming and violent crime pictures. Looking back, however, and despite the many copycats that came since, Tarantino’s work is still appealing cinephilic and, despite its own many influences, uniquely voiced and original. The story of a group of beaten, bloody gangsters holed up in a warehouse with an undercover cop in their midst, Reservoir Dogs borrows from the favorite films of its director, who undoubtedly watched them many times during his stint as an L.A. video store clerk, but it does so with true affection. The film’s storyline owes something to Ringo Lam’s Hong Kong pic City on Fire, the hipster attitude and carefree mingling of crime drama with pop ephemera –– Tarantino’s gangsters debating Madonna, for example –– to Jean-Luc Godard and his Breathless. And from another French director, Jean-Pierre Melville, Tarantino adopted a stylized, somewhat anachronistic costuming and behavioral formality for his modern-day gangsters. Produced for only $1.2 million and grossing just under $3 million, Reservoir Dogs really made its mark on audiences when it was released on video and when its critical success granted Tarantino the clout to make his next film, Pulp Fiction. ~~ Focus Features
WRITING: Is having multiple projects a bad idea?

PRODUCING: So you're trying to cast your movie and want to see where your potential stars rank... then this is for you.

DIRECTING: Watch then consider how you would stage an opening scene of bombardments and sieges?

SHOOTING: How should you shoot digital with post in mind?

SOUND: How is an understanding of sound waves and rays a must if you want to have great sound in your recordings?

EDITING: So you're thinking of getting AVID Media Composer 7... here are some things you should know.  Plus some power tips on using it.

MARKETING: Want a good way to launch a horror film franchise?

My Best Friend's Birthday - Quentin Tarantino... by FilmGeek-TV


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Monday Morning Mixer - 10.21.13

October 21, 1984 - François Truffaut dies
One of the central figures of the French New Wave, François Truffaut, died October 21, 1984. Born in Paris in 1932, living an itinerant childhood with his single (later remarried) mother and several relatives, Truffaut became a child of the cinema early in life. He would steal away from school and sneak into matinees — childhood experiences that would form the basis for his first feature, The 400 Blows. He won the Cannes Best Director Award in 1959 for the picture, in which the 14-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud played his alter ego, Antoine Doinel, enacted the tale of a neglected child poised between a life of petty crime and something greater. Before The 400 Blows, Truffaut had made several shorts but was mostly known as a tough-minded film critic at Cahiers du cinéma who often savaged conventional French cinema and endorsed instead the journeyman Hollywood directors celebrated by “auteur theory,” the critical school he helped found. Throughout the 1960s, Truffaut went on to make a number of critically acclaimed films (Shoot the Piano Player, Stolen Kisses, Jules and Jim, The Soft Skin) that married a loose-limbed montage with resonant characters, a sometimes literary sensibility and a passionate belief in the power of cinema. In 1966 he made his English-language debut with an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and in 1973 he won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Day for Night, his masterful ode to relationships amidst the strange fusion of fantasy and reality that is movie production. In 1977, Truffaut played a French scientist in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In fact, throughout his career, relationships with other directors were a constant, whether they be his fractured friendship with Jean-Luc Godard or his series of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock (Hitchcock by Truffaut), which are a masterclass of filmmaking insight. Today, Truffaut lives on in his movies, of course, but also in the inspiration he’s provided to the directors who grew up loving his films. In a Time ( essay, Martin Scorsese captured just a few of the things that make Truffaut’s films so meaningful and memorable: “There are things that Truffaut did in those early movies that left a lasting impression: the opening expository section of Jules and Jim, where time and space is abolished and the images flow like music across the screen; the series of shots from Fahrenheit 451 (another underrated picture) where the camera moves in close-closer-closest on a character in imminent danger, which I admit I've duplicated many times in my own films. And the character played by Charles Aznavour in Shoot the Piano Player, who keeps almost acting but never does until it's too late, had a profound effect on me, and on many other filmmakers.” ~~Focus Features
WRITING: What is the one big problem of your script?

PRODUCING:How did Hunter Weeks finance his first 6 films?

FINANCING: What are 4 ways to finance a TV pilot?

DIRECTING: How do you use the camera to tell the story?

SHOOTING: What should directors know about focal length?

LIGHTING:What are the similarities and differences between a cheap halogen light and an expensive flourescent bulb for HDSLR filmmaking?

SOUND: What are the main sound techniques used in film?

STUNTS & FX: How do you show someone blown in half?

EDITING: What can writers teach you about editing?

MARKETING: How the heck you market an artist like Jean Luc Godard around the world?

DISTRIBUTION: Why do horror remakes continue being made? It's all about the ROI.

LEGAL: What's a good way to start a production company?

And since Godard and Truffaut both came up in today's post... here's a short film they both directed together:


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 10.16.13

Edison's Black Maria, the world's first film production studio
October 16, 1894

On Wednesday 16 October 1894, rodeo star Lee Martin from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show rode a wild bronco for the cameras of W. K. Dickson. Performed in a makeshift rodeo just outside Thomas Edison’s “Black Maria,” the first movie production studio located in West Orange, New Jersey, the early cowboy spectacle was part of a cavalcade of entertainments –– from cock fights and boxers to jugglers and magicians –– that Dickson filmed. Buffalo Bill, who just happed to be performing in Brooklyn at the time, brought down a range of stars from his traveling show to perform, including Martin, and, then two weeks later, Annie Oakley gave a sharp-shooting demonstration. ~~ Focus Features

WRITING: What are 18 exercises you can do right now to combat writer's block and fix your script?

PRODUCING: What are the top 10 successful horror production companies making big bucks with fear? 

FINANCING: How do you create an actionable timeline for crowdfunding your movie?

DIRECTING: What are the 50 greatest shots in film history?

SHOOTING: What do you know about steadicam?

LIGHTING: How should you light dark skin
And some more on that topic. Plus this video...

SOUND: What are 5 examples where the choice of music made the scene work?

STUNTS & FX: Who ensures no animals were harmed in the making of a film? (Bonus: visit the Production Toolkit for AHA guidelines and videos on working with animals.)

EDITING: How can you make an AVID editing bay for under $1500?

MARKETING:What are 6 ways to fix movie trailers?

DISTRIBUTION: What is a festival worth for your film?

LEGAL:  What are some things you should know about production insurance?  And a few things more...

And here's more of Dickson's Buffalo Bill videos:

Shooting at the Black Maria


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Monday Morning Mixer - 10.14.13

1930 National Science Museum copy of 20 frames from the Roundhay Garden Scene
 October 14

The world's oldest surviving film was shot today in 1888; the year Jack the Ripper went on a killing spree, Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear, Susan B. Anthony organized a Congress for Women's Rights and director F.W. Murnau, playwright Eugene O'Neill and poet T.S. Eliot were born. And on this day 125 years ago, Louis Le Prince filmed the first motion picture: Roundhay Garden Scene.  It was recorded at 12 frames per second and runs for 2.11 seconds. Was it meant to be a scene for a documentary, a fictional film or reality TV?  What do you think?

If you're into movie firsts and vintage film like this then check out this YouTube channel: Change Before Going Productions.

And now with a little history under our belt, let us proceed with the questions that will make us better filmmakers... 
(FYI: There is a heavy New York magazine tilt to today's mixer because they put out a great series of articles under the banner "How to Make a Movie" that is worth the read. No, they are not paying me for putting the links here.)

WRITING:What are Diablo Cody's 7 rules for being a screenwriter?

PRODUCING:How do casting directors find and make new stars?

FINANCING: Do you know all of your film financing terms from A-C, D-F, G-M, N-R, S-Z?

DIRECTING: What's the difference between directing a movie and television?

SHOOTING: Want to know how a master DP like Emmanuel Lubezki shot scenes from 5 classic movies (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and Gravity)?

LIGHTING: What's the 1 simple lighting tip you can do to create spooky smoke, fog or rain?

SOUND: How do you compose a killer score?

STUNTS & FX: How do you design a superhero costume?

EDITING: How do you edit an improv-heavy comedy?

MARKETING: What about your key art game plan do you need to rethink? Parts 1 and 2

DISTRIBUTION: Who are the aggregators of VOD distribution you should know?

LEGAL: Do you need a contract with the author of an article or book about true events?

Short film of the day: Pull My Daisy
Pull My Daisy (1959) is a short film that typifies the Beat Generation. Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, Daisy was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play, Beat Generation; Kerouac also provided improvised narration. 


PRODUCTION TIPS: 5 Areas to Prepare BEFORE You Go to the American Film Market

A major event for filmmakers around the world is less than a month away... The American Film Market.  "The American Film Market (AFM) is a film industry event, produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), the trade association representing the world's producers and distributors of independent motion pictures and television programs. It is held each year at the beginning of November in Santa Monica, California. About 8,000 people attend the eight day event to network and to sell, finance and acquire films. Participants come from more than 70 countries and include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, etc. Founded in 1981, the AFM quickly became one of the premier global marketplaces for the film business, where unlike a film festival, production and distribution deals are the main focus of the participants." (Wikipedia)

This year's AFM will take place from November 6-13, 2013. And any serious producer, director or filmmaker worth her salt trying to raise funds for or sell her film needs to go there.  To ensure the most favorable outcome for your project, you need to have the following items securely under your wing.
  1. Script & Visuals
    • Your script needs to be polished and in its final draft version (although it will probably still go through some changes if buyers, talent and investors become interested in it).  You must know your script inside and out and have hard copies available for people to read, if they ask for it.  However, don't leave your script with any parties unless you discuss it (or have discussed it) with your attorney beforehand.
    • You should also storyboard 1 or 2 key scenes that can demonstrate your shooting vision (via shooting style and shots) as well as sell the energy, intrigue and peak moments of your script. Key art in the form of postcards and one-sheets are also items you may want to have with you for your meetings.
  2. Pitch & Business Cards
    • Your pitch needs to be solid as a rock.  The AFM even offers some good advice on how to prepare your pitch:
      • A good pitch can get a bad film made and a bad pitch can leave a terrific project languishing on the shelf. Pitching is part art (it’s a creative process), part science (pitches need to be organized and follow a tight script) and part salesmanship. There are many resources on pitching, so our only advice is:
        1. If you are madly, deeply in love with your project, if it’s your only child and the AFM is its first day of school, get someone else to do the pitch. Pitching it yourself will definitely convince people that YOU love the project but it probably won’t do much more.
        2. In the pitch meeting, remember that YOU are being evaluated along with your project. When a company commits to your project, they are also committing to work with you.
        3. Your mission during each pitch meeting isn’t to sell your project. You won’t get a deal in one brief meeting. Your mission is simply: Get the second meeting!
        4. Consider attending the Pitch Conference Saturday morning.
        5. Read AFM's Pitching Essentials
    • Bring business cards is a no-brainer but make sure it's a memorable design with the most important pieces of information on it: your name, email address, company/project website and phone number.  Too many cards are cheaply made and cluttered with tons of titles (example: "producer-director-writer-editor-chef-stuntperson-hacker") and every single piece of contact info (2 phone numbers, 3 email addresses, twitter, facebook, instagram, linkedin, vine, etc.) that they end up just becoming garbage food instead of an AFM-keeper.
  3. Business Plan & Follow-up
    • Your business plan is for your internal purposes but it determines what you do externally.  It should be a document that you know as well as your script.  At a minimum, people interested in your project want to know your realistic plans of making it, who is on your team, how you will market it and how it will make money.  To get that information requires putting in the work.  Without preparing a business plan beforehand, you will only have a vague notion that is not properly vetted.  Also make sure your business plan is well thought-out, honest and legit.  Too many filmmakers rely on ridiculous profit potentials and ambitious but vague strategies that don't have a hope of surviving once they are put under the microscope.  Don't be the one to slack on this. If business plans intimidate you, hire or partner with someone who can help you get it done.
    • You have to follow up on the meetings you attend AFTER the AFM is over.  Whether it's to send documents or information promised in meetings, to reach out and plan new or additional meetings or simply to thank the parties you met for their time, follow-up is proper business etiquette and the hallmark of a professional.  You also want to establish a cordial relationship with the people you meet, even if they passed.  This lets you keep them in the loop as you make the film so that you can reach out to them for a future project.
  4. Production Team & Prospects
    • Between writing your business strategy plan and networking/talking to specific people, you have probably gathered some key individuals to your team.  Aim to gather people that complement and strengthen your project.  If you're a first-time producer, get an experienced co-producer or line producer.  If you're more of a numbers type, get a partner who can pitch and charm. If you have access to a top actor or actress, entice them to join the team. Ideally, in your team, you'd like to, at least, have a reputable DP, a good entertainment lawyer, a veteran line producer and a casting director with good connections.
    • Be prepared to explain in your meetings who your prospects and how you can get them.  Prospects will be any important people you still haven't attached to your production team and any A-list or B-list actors you plan on recruiting for your project. Again, your prospects have to be people you can obtain within the realm of actuality.
  5. Research & Observe 
    • There is no film that is right for all distributors, and no distributor that is right for all films.  So to find the right match, you MUST research the companies and the executives you plan on meeting with.  Fail to do so at your own risk.   Speak with entertainment attorneys and producers rep who may offer suggestions.  Creating your business plan allowed you to find films similar to the one you're currently pitching so you should find companies that produced or distributed those and films like them.  Also take a look at their advertising campaigns and box office results.  Do the companies have a solid reputation? Are they mired in law suits?  Can you make a strength and weakness analysis of the company?  What are the trends for the company?  Here are some additional bits of advice from AFM:
      • Create a List of Target Companies
        Over 400 production / distribution companies have offices at the AFM but not all are right for your film. Focus your time and effort on the companies best suited for your project. Starting about one month before the AFM, go to The Film Catalogue.  Most AFM companies list their projects, profile and staff contact information.  Do further research on the web.  Find the companies that are the best candidates for your film.  Once you have created a target list, count the companies on it. If there are less than 10, you’re being too picky. [“No distributor is right for MY film!”] If there are 100 or more, your homework grade is “incomplete.” Keep working. The target list for most projects is 30 – 50 companies.  
      • Create a List of Target Executives For each of your target companies, create a list of key executives. Most important are the people in charge of acquisitions, development and production. Look for their names in the trades and on company websites. If you can’t find the right names, call the company’s main office and ask. Finding out who’s who is critical. You will never get anywhere by walking into an office unprepared and saying: “Hi, who is your head of acquisitions? I’d like to meet with him… or her.”
    • During your time at AFM, you must be on point and observe the grounds for any unexpected opportunities.  Maybe there is a new company that you overlooked in your initial research that would be perfect for your film.  Or maybe it's an opportunity to meet an actor or a top producer and set up a future meeting with them.  Maybe it's your chance to make your elevator pitch in an actual elevator.  The possibilities are there if you're observant.
Ideally you've been doing the above steps for some time and now you're setting up meetings with the producers, buyers and investors you want to meet at AFM.  If you're not fully ready, don't make the mistake of making a bad professional impression.  Unless it's a timely project, you might be better off waiting til next year.

To attend, get prices, the schedule and more, visit:


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 10.9.13

Oct. 9, 1964 - Guillermo Del Toro born.
Guillermo Del Toro, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, today celebrates his 49th birthday. Del Toro is, in some senses, the ultimate fanboy filmmaker, a lifelong lover of movies and comic books who moved from aficionado to auteur, bringing an uncommon artistry, intelligence and sophistication to the horror and fantasy film genres. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, del Toro was first drawn to horror movies – from the more cheap and cheesy 50s monster flicks and Hammer Horror movies to James Whale, Mario Bava and George A. Romero films – when he still extremely young. However, as he tells it, horror was all around him anyway. In interviews, he’s talked about seeing monsters in his bedroom as a toddler, and then being haunted by the ghost of his uncle – ironically, the man who had first introduced him to horror movies and novels. He began to draw his own monsters, and the fantastical world of horror he created became an escape from the world around him. (His grandmother, however, “went in with a vial of holy water and tried to exorcise me for the shit I was drawing. I started laughing and she got so scared that she threw more at me.") Also, says del Toro, being Mexican means that death is ever-present in his work: “I worked for months next to a morgue that I had to go through to get to work. I've seen people being shot; I've had guns put to my head; I've seen people burnt alive, stabbed, decapitated ... because Mexico is still a very violent place.” Del Toro first got into movies working in makeup and effects (he studied under the legendary Dick Smith), and later co-founded the Guadalajara Film Festival. In 1992, he directed his first feature, the inventive and macabre Cronos, and has not looked back since. ~~ Focus Features 

Now after paying a proper homage through that glorious Simpsons intro, let's get cracking with some filmmaking questions...

WRITING: Want an inside look into writing for the Michael J. Fox show?

PRODUCING: What can the makers of "You're Next" teach you about making an independent horror movie?

FINANCING: Why should studios act like indies?

DIRECTING: How did Wes Anderson make the Royal Tenenbaums?

SHOOTING: What are the signature shooting styles of 5 contemporary directors?

LIGHTING: What are some horror film lighting tips?

SOUND: Read an abridged history of the creative use of sound in film.

STUNTS & FX: How can you create practical sci-fi special fx on a budget?

EDITING: Which one of these 20 amazing movie title sequences will inspire you?

MARKETING: What are 10 key steps to creating an effective movie marketing strategy?

DISTRIBUTION: As you prepare for the AFM (American Film Market) what can you learn from Yahoo and the AFM itself?  

LEGAL: What are 2 questions you want answered before you pitch or shoot your film?


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Monday Morning Mixer (TV NEWS EDITION) - 10.7.13

Oct. 7, 1996
FOX News Channel launched today in 1996 to 17 million subscribers.  Rupert Murdoch launched the 24-hour news channel on both cable and satellite as part of a News Corp. "worldwide platform" for Fox programming, reasoning that "The appetite for news – particularly news that explains to people how it affects them – is expanding enormously." [And yet "We report. You decide." is the logline.]  Murdoch's foray into cable television faced two legislative hurdles; first, no company outside of the US was allowed to own broadcast stations there and, secondly, a company could not simultaneously own a newspaper and a television station in the same city.  Using charm, influence, vision and money, the rules were relaxed or revised.

In January of 1996, Murdoch hired former NBC executive and Republican political strategist, Roger Ailes, to run the channel.  "Ailes worked individuals through five months of 14-hour workdays and several weeks of rehearsal shows before the October 7 launch. At launch, only 10 million households were able to watch Fox News, with none in the major media markets of New York City and Los Angeles. According to published reports, many media reviewers had to watch the first day's programming at Fox News' studios because it was not readily available. The rolling news coverage during the day consisted of 20-minute single topic shows like Fox on Crime or Fox on Politics surrounded by news headlines. Interviews had various facts at the bottom of the screen about the topic or the guest.  In the 2000 presidential election, Fox News, which was available in 56 million homes nationwide, saw a staggering 440% increase in viewers, the biggest gain among the three cable news television networks."

If you're interested in journalism and media training then check out Poynter.News University.  They claim to be "one of the world's most innovative online journalism and media training programs... open to journalists, bloggers, freelance writers, journalism students. Anyone who wants to improve their journalism-based skills" with free or low cost online courses.  

And keeping in theme with FOX News "birthday," the rest of the mixer will cover topics from a TV news perspective...

WRITING: What are 6 questions that can help journalists find a focus and tell better stories?

PRODUCING: What's a day in the life of a television news producer like?

FINANCING:How have online channels diversified and improved the quality of TV programming and lowered the barriers for entry to produce and distribute media content?

DIRECTING: How do you break into TV news?

SHOOTING: What do you do as a news room floor director (20 video tutorials)?

LIGHTING: Watch a video tutorial filmed and edited by Bart Noonan, chief cameraman of Reuters TV, that shows you how to set up lighting for TV news interviews.
SOUND: What are 9 tips on using a lavalier microphone? Plus a bonus video on using lavs with an external recorder.

STUNTS & FX: What can you learn in a 5-part series on attire, make-up and hair tips for television appearances?

EDITING: "Story tonight at 11" the anchor says to the camera. You're the TV news editor, looking at your watch; it's 10:30 and YOU have an hour of RAW video clips to sift through for this story... what do you do?
MARKETING: What are the competing theories for FOX News's success?

DISTRIBUTION: Who owns the media?

LEGAL: What does the government shutdown mean for broadcasters and the FCC?


PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 10.2.13

October 2, 1979

Sony v. Universal Studios may be the most famous of all copyright cases because it was a decision that would determine the future of media. People who know nothing about copyright know that the Sony-Betamax case held that home videotaping of television programs is fair use.   One of the key moments in a case that found its way to the Supreme Court occurred today on October 2 when a district court handed down an opinion that absolved Sony of liability.  The copyright law, Judge Ferguson held, did not give copyright holders “a monopoly over an individual’s off-the-air copying in his home for private non-commercial use.”  Universal appealed to the 9th Circuit and remanded it back to the district court.  The following day, members of Congress introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate to legalize home video recording.  On June 14, 1982, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Sony case, and members of Congress sat back to wait and see what the Court would do.  Attorneys for Universal and Disney (representing the interests of the Hollywood majors) argued that the new video technology from Sony Betamax which allowed consumers to record programs off the television was an infringement of copyright. The plaintiffs were seeking to halt the sale of such video recording devices. Sony Betamax, on the other hand, cited the precedent of audio recorders, which people for years had used to tape music. In the end, the court sided with Sony, claiming a fair use right for consumers. The final judgment of that case on January 17, 1984 not only opened up a new era of video distribution, but paved the way for current debates over digital duplication and new technologies.  Read about the case here and here.


WRITING: What are the numbers for first time-writers and directors in Hollywood?

PRODUCING: What is your motivation for producing?

FINANCING: Get a glimpse into the film financing business.

DIRECTING: Want to see 12 early short films by now famous Hollywood directors?  Of course you do.

SHOOTING: What do you need to know about shooting super 8 and 16 for HD transfer?

LIGHTING: Want to see 20 lighting tutorials for film and video? Of course you do.

SOUND: Explore sound design for film and documentary and the importance of the pre-production process on your soundtrack.

STUNTS & FX: What went into creating the Fast and Furious car chase sequences?

EDITING: And how should you edit a car chase sequence?

MARKETING: What can your FREE Twitter analytics tell you about your marketing efforts?

DISTRIBUTION: Ever wanted to understand the Nielsen ratings used on television?

LEGAL: What are 3 must know music licensing points (from the perspective of a musician but useful for a TV/film producer to know)?


CASE STUDY: 14 Lessons from Yellow Cape Communications, a Successful Multi-media Firm

Being a successful filmmaker is not only the province of those who make it in Hollywood.  There is a thriving industry within the corporate and industrial video markets that requires the skills of a filmmaker.  Although it might not be what many dream of doing when they go to film school, it is not a consolation prize.  Corporate productions can require budgets reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars which can provide a good living.  And many filmmakers who thrive in the corporate and industrial video markets still find time to pursue more personal independent projects. Jason Fararooei is one of those creative types running a successful communications firm in Charlotte, North Carolina that serves the corporate and industrial markets.  For many of his Fortune 500 clients, he provides corporate communications videos to support organization wide training programs intended to impact and reduce expenditures for high cost line items.  For the benefit of filmmakers, in and outside of the corporate world, he provided us insights for a case study on a series of training videos he did for a large national trucking company.

GENRE: Corporate training video


AD/PRODUCER: Jeannie Sullivan

BUDGET: Undisclosed 

FINANCING: Provided by client

PRODUCTION DATES: 2013 - ongoing


SHOOTING FORMAT: 720p and 1080p; shot with Panasonic broadcast cams and Canon HDSLRs

SCREENING FORMAT: for the Web and internal Learning Management Systems

SYNOPSIS: Training videos that outlined best case, mid-case, worst case scenarios for the leadership coaching of front line employees.

Development and Financing

1. FILMMAKERS SHOULD HAVE EXTENSIVE DISCUSSIONS WITH THE CLIENT.  Many filmmakers seek investment for their films but don't want to involve the investor in the production. Granted, creative decisions are best left to the filmmaker but there are investors who are genuinely interested in the art of cinema and including them in the conversation could be, (within reason) beneficial to all involved. Filmmakers who prefer to keep "the money" at arm's length should take a cue from filmmakers who work with corporate clients and have no choice but to include them. Integrating the client early on can generate good will and understanding of the filmmaking process which pays dividends later in the production.  Jason and his AD, Jeannie Sullivan, wrote all of the scripts along with the trucking company's Senior Leadership (SVP) and the Talent Development Director. Together they created videos that train and support a new behavioral coaching model to be utilized by the front line leaders of the company.  Working closely with the client, Jason and co. advised on the need for crew, talent, gear and time at each stage of the process. The client, being provided all necessary decision points, could respond accordingly in real time.  This closeness allowed the client to deeply appreciate the importance of the project and provide full support for its completion.

2. TRUST YOUR TEAM AND DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY. Jason credits Jeannie with selling the idea and the budget.  After gathering a capable team with strengths in different areas, Jason trusts his crew to live up to their potential and have a stake in the decision-making. Jeannie cultivated and managed a positive client relationship with the client which led to a well organized production from the get-go.  This trust was also reflected during the production.  Unique to this shoot, Jason used 6 camera operators shooting with 8 cameras along with the usual motley filmmaking gang of a grip, soundperson, gaffer, PA, and hair/makeup. He gathered his team based on their professionalism and gave them creative freedom and autonomy to complete their jobs as they know how. "In other words, instead of being a micromanaging Director; I asked for something and left it up to my crew to execute. This included finding their own shots."

3. PREPARE THE CLIENT FOR WHAT IT TAKES TO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT - THEN DELIVER IT. As Jason notes, "In this corporate video production finessing the relationship with the client proved to be the important and most beneficial aspect of the production. We had a very close working relationship with senior leadership that ensured client buy-in and commitment. Jason explained, "Time and time again, productions with large budgets (like this one) and a positive working relationship with senior leadership can be the difference between success and ultimate failure (no matter how well you execute on creative and technical aspects of the production itself). The client wanted to use employees as talent (no professional actors were utilized) and we took great time and effort to prep the employees for what would be their first on-camera performances. Had we not invested significant effort into preparing them and working with them before their shoots, their performances would have been subpar. But because we did invest time and effort on the prep/front end, they performed extraordinarily well on camera."
4. KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT. It goes without saying that a Producer/Director needs to know their equipment. They don't need the specialized knowledge of a DP or an AC but they should be familiar with shooting formats, the types of images they're capable of producing under certain lighting levels and the types of lenses available for production.  Jason's company owns much of the equipment they use while renting the items they don't.  "Your equipment is crucial to your production - you must have the right tools for the job - otherwise your production is going to be a complete hell."  Furthermore, "Knowing your equipment means you can visualize during the scriptwriting phase with great accuracy."

5. CULTIVATE RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE FILMMAKING COMMUNITY.  A filmmaker's work lives and dies by the quality, talent and commitment of the cast and crew as much as it does by the quality, talent and commitment of the director-producer.  The advantage of the filmmaker who has worked in the community for years, while cultivating good crew relations leads to top notch productions. Jason puts it succinctly, "I’ve DP’d for over 10 years (5 years in the Charlotte market) and I knew crew from productions I shot for other companies in my current region. As a result, I was able to get crew who came from the Charlotte film and motorsports market (Fox Sports South).  Because they've worked for me and with me before and know how I run things they were happy to collaborate with me on the project."

6. HAVE PLENTY OF COVERAGE (MULTI-CAM).  Having a large budget and a close working relationship with his client, Jason was able to arrange a shooting strategy that was effective but not usually common in productions; using up to 8 cameras on the set.  "We had an incredibly tight schedule to achieve. Shooting what were basically 13 different scenarios plus client interviews, talent interviews, behind the scenes footage, and teleprompter work in a couple days was a challenge. Having 8 working cameras on set was crucial to ensure we stayed on time during production. If I had one good take covered 7 ways I had the peace of mind to know that I could afford not shooting safeties."

7. MARK OFF YOUR CAMERA POSITIONS AND ANGLES. "The other crucial pre-pro was marking off cameras and angles and set lines the day before our 2-day production. Prior to shooting, I utilized and budgeted for one full gear set day to ensure my crew was fresh for the performances and roll time. On our shoot days we had 3 main sets we were shooting on. Marking and pre-lighting (though this required extra gear) allowed us to move quickly throughout the shooting days to accomplish a very aggressive shoot schedule." Prepping early and setting the stage prior to shooting is meant to ensure quality too. "I’ve worked enough productions where a crew has had a tough 2 or so hours of setting up and then another tough 8 or so hours of shooting. There's a quality drop-off when you push your crew like that. I wanted my crew fresh and rested for the performance days." 

8. LISTEN TO YOUR CREW.  The Producer-Director is the person in charge but it helps to have a thick skin and an open ear to make it in this business. And there is another reason to have your crew fresh and alert; they can be your eyes and ears and cover your back.  As Jason remarks, "Prepping early and starting them fresh paid off - they caught a couple of mistakes I had made and covered those mistakes for me, without ever asking or even knowing about them. Had my crew not been fresh, I’d have had errors to work around in post."
9.  MURPHY'S LAW IS TRUE.  Filmmakers must have two contradictory thoughts in mind when they shoot; prepare to the fullest and expect to deviate from the plan when bad things to happen. Unfortunately, in such a complex multi-person, multi-equipment, multi-location operation there will be lapses of judgment, mistakes and simple bad luck.  That shouldn't detract from your strategy, instead, embrace it as a given and be ready to tackle it when it arises.  For Jason, when it arose, he was able to handle the issues during the different phases. During production he had some "continuity issues, of course, minor tech issues, and one downed camera mid-production (for all shoot days)."  Although he couldn't foresee exactly what would happen, you "always expect to have failures - which is why you cya (cover your butt) with redundancies."  Fortunately, he had a trusted crew who could troubleshoot the issues. He also had some sound issues, noting "audio from the lavs was tough - for some reason we had issues with scratches due to starch on the talents' shirts. It was just one of those scenarios where the TV Gods were pestering us but we resolved them using lots of mole skin and finesse."  Jason also had issues in post, "The biggest problem we had was with color - because we were shooting throughout the day (with lots of natural light) and using multiple cameras there was bound to be variances within the 7 different camera formats. I knew this would be a challenge going into post, and we simply worked through it."

10. NON-ACTORS STILL NEED TO PREPARE.  "The talent performed above my expectations," says Jason proudly.  This was due to close interaction and preparation, as well.  "I gave them step-by-step instructions, provided coaching via Fuzebox web meetings, and provided them their scripts for memorization 1 week before shoots.  Of course, there were some dropped lines during the shoot but this was expected since they're not trained actors. However, multiple takes solved this along with breaking the script up into segments for the cast. This was all possible because of our shooting strategy which afforded us plenty of coverage."

11. KEEP THE STRATEGIC GOAL IN MIND AT ALL TIMES DURING THE SHOOT, ALWAYS MOVING TOWARDS IT BUT BEING FLEXIBLE TO ADAPT.  "Whatever I'm shooting, once I commit to it as a Director, I accept no subpar substitutes in achieving the strategic goal and neither should a filmmaker regardless of her career level."  However, don't mistake planning for the bible. A shoot schedule is just a blueprint that should give you the confidence to get your strategic goals executed.  "On our shoot we had a detailed plan that we essentially threw to the wind once we started shooting because so many (uncontrollable) variables shifted and changed in the moment. Always be prepared to come off your own 'directorial script' and work in the moment and on the fly. Trust your instincts, your experience and abilities - continue to lead with grace and rely on your crew to help you overcome the barriers and obstacles."
12. INTEGRATE YOUR EDITOR INTO THE PRODUCTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This is highly important and is usually overlooked by filmmakers.  "First of all, I secured an editor I've worked with extensively. I kept my editor in the know before the shoot started and asked him specific questions about what would make his editing process flow smoothly. He advised me on preferred shooting styles, formats, and camera preferences."  The editor was also a trusted professional Jason could delegate responsibilities to.  "Again, I provided my general style/feel/wants and trusted in the expertise and professionalism of my editor. Making television is a creative process - for me it’s fun to see how others approach the work and what direction they go. If the approach is way off then I’ll adjust but for the most part I provide lots of creative freedom and enjoy that aspect of the entire process. The final videos are as much the editor's work as they are mine."
13. YOUR MARKETING IS ALWAYS DETERMINED BY YOUR AUDIENCE. This production was unique because the client and all of their employees were the target audience for this piece.  While there were external marketing prospects, the entire project was created for internal audiences.  Therefore, our discussions with the client revolved around how best to reach the employees effectively. 
14. THE GOLDEN RULE: TREAT YOUR CREW AS YOU WANT TO BE TREATED.  "Treat the crew with kindness, care, respect and professionalism. Pay them well, pay them promptly and rely on their skills, creativity and expertise." Why do this? "Because it's the right thing to do for you, for them, and for the industry." Jason's second tip - "Never undercut or give away services for nothing or near free. It hurts our industry, our colleagues and tells the outside world that our skills and work are not valuable in the least. That’s the worst thing we can do to ourselves as production professionals and as a culture."