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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.

7.23.2015

PRODUCTION TIPS: 3 Tips to Working With a Tight Budget

Filmmakers, no, you will not go to jail for bankruptcy. Fraud on the other hand...
It is difficult to plan ahead and come up with the perfect budget for a film but the allure of making a film can not be denied. And so, the filmmaker plods ahead come what may to make that film. But for low-budget indie filmmakers all it takes is one misbudgeted item to derail the whole project.

So when you gotta make that film even if you lack enough funds then you must be efficient and flexible to make it to the finish line. Here are 3 tips to get there:
  1. ATTRACT TALENT WITH PARTNERSHIPS
    • Find the best Writer, Protagonist Actor/Actress, DP, Sound Mixer, Line Producer / Production Manager, Lawyer and Editor you can afford. Develop a professional relationship and friendly rapport with them. Think long term.
    • If you can't afford their fees, put together a compensation package that is more than just credit and deferred compensation. Even low pay is better than nothing. Some other forms of compensation:
      • Profit participation for select cast and crew.
      • Offer your services and assistance on THEIR future productions.
      • Purchase equipment for them.
      • Rent them your equipment, location or other possession at a discount.
      • Provide them with access to a location or introduce them to a key cast/crew-member or investor for their project.
      • Share their project or services on social media and other publicity outlets.
  2. OPERATE AT LOWER COST
    • Create a budget with a contingency amount that will allow you to be flexible and respond to change.
    • Don't use the latest audio and video equipment to make your film. Note that a buzzed-about film like Tangerine was shot on an iPhone. IMO, it's more important to have a good cast and crew then to have the latest technology.
    • Make or build your equipment. You have ducttape, wires, markers, pens, pencils, paper, wood, cardboard, fabric, tools, thrift stores, junkyards, 99-cent stores, ingenuity and the internet. There is no excuse why your extremely low budget has to be used to buy or rent slates, lighting kits, dollies, costumes, etc. when you can build them yourself. Again, it's better to spend that money on living, breathing talent then on inanimate objects.
  3. FIND AND KEEP THE RIGHT AUDIENCE EARLY ON
    • Start building your audience from the moment you start writing your script. Even if you're not trying to be as calculated as an MBA-trained marketing professional, you still have an idea who might be attracted to your film. It can be your peers or fans of your past work or festivals you have been accepted to or the demographic you and your script's characters belong to. Ideally, you should explore the marketing potential of your film through research and analysis but even if you don't, your intuitive knowledge about who your audience is still helpful. That means you should start reaching out to that audience ASAP. Tweet and post about your script to your followers and friends. Have readings of your script, if possible. Collect contact information throughout every step of the way and then show them behind the scenes pix, exclusive scene clips and background information on your story. Be creative and use humor or build suspense about the project to entice your audience. And don't forget that crowdfunding not only can bring in the money, it can bring in the fans. 
Danny Jiminian is a producer and attorney who specializes in Entertainment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Law and Nonprofits and practices out of New York. For a free consultation, email him.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it is just information and opinion. But if you want to, you can visit my professional website and hire me at www.djimlaw.com.

Image posted originally by Craig Newman

7.17.2015

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Karlovy-Vary Film Festival 2015 Round-Up


The Karlovy Vary Festival is one of the oldest in the world and has become Central and Eastern Europe’s leading film event. 

Here are 2015's winners:

Crystal Globe Winner (Grand Prix)
  • Bob and the Trees (USA, France) – director, Diego Ongaro
    • Bob and the Trees is a 2015 verite drama film that won the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Shot in The BerkshiresBob and the Trees follows farmer and logger Bob Tarasuk (played by himself), his son and business partner Matt (Matthew Gallagher), and Bob's wife Polly (Polly MacIntyre) as they work to earn money during winter. The film, Diego Ongaro's feature-length directorial debut, premiered in the noncompetitiveNext section of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January 2015, where it was met with warm critical reception.
    • According to the website, "Bob and the Trees is proud to be one of the first feature films shot on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera."
      • No Film School - A massively in-depth interview with DPs Chris Teague and Danny Vecchione
      • x96 - Video interview with the cast and crew during Sundance
      • Boston Magazine - Diego discusses how his shooting style provides the freedom to be surprised by his own storyNPR - Diego talks about getting the call from Sundance
      • Stark Insider - discusses the film's use of the Black Magic Pocket Camera

Special Jury Prize ($15,000)


Best Director Award
  • Babai (Germany, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, France)  director, Visar Morina
No Trailer found

Best Actress Award


Best Actor Award



Best Documentary Film 

7.06.2015

PRODUCTION TIPS: Test Screening Your Film + Free Questionnaire Template

I know, I know... Test screenings seem like an idea dreamed up by studio executives as a way to squeeze the artistry and creativity out of a director's movie and torment him with data that confirms his movie is "shit." But believe it or not, while there are many films that have been test screened from potential greatness to mediocrity, many films we love today benefitted from the comments after a test screening (Exhibit A and B). Everything from changing the title to changing the ending is possible after a test screening. While few directors take solace in the brutal feedback a group of strangers may give his baby, the executives want the feedback data to see if the film will have an audience and, as a result, make money.

It's easy to deride test screenings and "fucking hate them" but think of it from the investor's point of view for a minute. Every movie is essentially a new business start-up. And new business start-ups don't have a readymade market waiting to buy their product; they have to find them or build them from scratch. With the rare exception of movie franchises like Indiana Jones or The Avengers or Star Wars, audiences don't know what a typical movie is about or if they'll like it. Therefore, there is no guarantee people will go see the new movie in enough numbers to make money. This is why, for better or worse, so many movies are made about best-selling books and comic books and famous people because they have a built-in audience upon which investors have a better chance of recouping their money from. And even that alone does not solve the problem of appealing to audiences, which is why pretty much all movies get test screened. The test screening is a preview into whether the market for the new "business" exists, whether they will flock to it and if they won't, what can be changed, added or deleted to make them come.

Before the movie is made, marketers rely on past releases to predict how a film with certain elements similar to a past film (story, director, star, budget, genre, etc.) might perform. Throughout the filmmaking process, there are also research data and data analytics put together by research companies based on focus groups, social media tracking, assessments of advertising effectiveness and so on. But when the film is completed, there are no hypothetical ifs or maybes, there is just the film that was made. At that point, the filmmaker can either cross his fingers and just release it nationwide or first conduct a small test screening.

When conducting a test screening, indie filmmakers would do best to avoid filling an audience with friends and relatives. Friends and relatives will be too emotionally invested in giving the filmmaker a good review (even if it doesn't deserve it). Some recommend that even other filmmakers should not be involved in a test screening since they might be too self-interested or technical in their feedback but I don't think it should be a hard rule. A filmmaker or two in a test screening filled with non-filmmaking strangers will not skew the results. Ideally, your test screening audience should be a mix of strangers from different walks of life with a concentration of the type of demo you think would be most attracted to your film (for ex. screen a horror film for an audience of men and women of different races and age groups but with a majority of them being men between ages 18 - 25.)

One thing to worry about with test screenings is the buzz that a negative response after a test screening could create. Babe 2 is proof of that when the negative buzz after the test screening scrapped plans for a Babe 3. But all things are fraught with risk and the helpful feedback and potential positive buzz should outweigh it. Since no filmmaker intentionally tries to make a bad film (even Ed Wood, I think), all a filmmaker can do is create their best work and stand by it. True, it's not easy to get negative feedback but it's part of the game if you are making movies at a certain level. At that level, when it's about making money, both the filmmakers and the film marketer want to know 2 things about the potential audience:
  • Why would a person choose to see that particular film? and 
  • If they didn't want to see it after the screening, what could the filmmaker do to make them want to watch it?
Figuring out those answers and applying them to the movie will be the difference between a blockbuster and a bust.


++++++++++++++++++++
FILMMAKERS: Whether you have done multiple test screenings or this is your first time, use the Film Strategy Audience Test Screening Questionnaire for your future test screenings. It's also in the Filmmaker's Toolkit, in the "Marketing" section. It is easy to use. You don't have to use all parts of it but you do have to fill in the relevant info pertaining to your film such as the date, the movie title, the character names, the elements you want reviewed, etc before giving it to your test audience to survey.


Danny Jiminian is a producer and attorney who specializes in Entertainment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Law and Nonprofits and practices out of New York. For a free consultation, email him.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it is just information and opinion. But if you want to, you can visit my professional website and hire me at www.djimlaw.com.


Photo Credit: Roey Ahram (Creative Commons BY NC ND)