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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.

11.30.2016

PRODUCTION TIPS: Your January 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.” 

 
Monday, January 2
 Hamptons Screenwriting Lab Late Deadline
Thursday, January 5
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Friday, January 6
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
 Lola Awards (German Film Awards)
 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Extended Competition Deadline
Saturday, January 7
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Sunday, January 8
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
 Golden Globe Awards
Monday, January 9
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Tuesday, January 10
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Wednesday, January 11
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Thursday, January 12
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Friday, January 13
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Saturday, January 14
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Sunday, January 15
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
 CineStory Feature Retreat Regular Deadline
 Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship Final Deadline
Monday, January 16
 Palm Springs International Film Festival
 Nantucket Film Festival Screenplay Competition Late Deadline
Wednesday, January 18
 Palm Springs International ShortFest Film Submissions Deadline
Thursday, January 19
 Sundance Film Festival
Friday, January 20
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
Saturday, January 21
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
Sunday, January 22
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
Monday, January 23
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
Tuesday, January 24
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
Wednesday, January 25
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Thursday, January 26
 Sundance Film Festival
 Slamdance Film Festival
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Friday, January 27
 Sundance Film Festival
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
 Hollywood Just4Shorts Screenplay Contest Deadline
Saturday, January 28
 Sundance Film Festival
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
 Producers Guild Awards
Sunday, January 29
 Sundance Film Festival
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
Monday, January 30
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Competition Late Deadline
Tuesday, January 31
 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
 Write Brothers Screenplay Competition Extended Deadline

11.11.2016

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Danny Jiminian on Strategic Planning for Content Creators panel at the IPRHFF (Nov. 12, 2016) 10-11 AM


Tomorrow I have the privilege of being on a panel at the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival (IPRHFF) with 2 talented and experienced filmmakers and producers, Christopher Lopez and Sonia Malfa. It will be moderated by consultant, Roxana Colorado.  We will share our experiences and advice on effective and strategic ways to get your film or tv show across the finish line. Among a number of topics, I'll be focusing specifically on how to protect yourself when you pitch a film, why you should always use contracts and how to build a relationship of trust with your investors. Hope to see you there!


IPRHFF Multimedia Conference: TV, Film and New Media 
New Location: Hunter College 68th St. & Lexington Avenue, Southwest corner West Building Room 714 
[Please provide ID at Visitor's Service Desk at building entrance]
9:30 AM - 6:00 PM (Six Panels) 
22 Latino Thought Leaders in Media & Entertainment and Moderators 
FREE ADMISSION 

All of the panels are worth going to but I will only be on the first one from 10:00 - 11:00 AM.


Strategic Planning for Content Creators: 
Pre-production, Pre-production, Pre-production: 
Proposals, Mission Statement, Budget, Legal for Filmmaking/TV/New Media 
Moderator: Roxana Colorado, LN Strategic Consulting Services 
Danny Jiminian, Esq. 
Christopher Lopez: Director/Screenwriter, Adrift 
Sonia Malfa: Filmmaker/TV Producer

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Jiminian Law PLLC is devoted to helping clients in all areas of business, nonprofits, copyrights, trademark, sports and entertainment law.  Providing knowledgeable and effective representation are the keys to my success.  Danny Jiminian, Esq. is available for a free consultation if you call him at 917.388.3574 or 929.322.3546 or email him at danny(at)djimlaw.com.

11.04.2016

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: The Film Strategy 5 with Cindy Cowan, Producer

THE FILM STRATEGY 5 with Cindy Cowan


Sad to say, but even in 2016, there are simply not enough women in Hollywood running things behind the scenes. While women do represent significantly on the silver screen[1], they are underrepresented as decision-makers behind the silver screen.  Studies abound that demonstrate the dearth of women as directors, producers and executives in film and television. As one who craves perspectives beyond the ones we have been fed for years, I hope that these revelations will eventually make a difference. Until then, we should applaud the trailblazing women who have been able to make their mark, despite the odds against them.

Cindy Cowan is one of these trailblazing women. A woman who began her career producing and writing for a CBS News affiliate in Miami, Florida, she then co-founded Initial Entertainment Group (IEG) in the 90s during the heyday of the indie film era. Under her leadership, IEG projects were nominated for two Emmys, Golden Globes, and a People’s Choice awards. She also worked with legendary auteur, Robert Altman, to produce Dr. T and the Women. With the Michael Douglas and Benecio Del Toro starring Traffic, she achieved a pinnacle of Hollywood success with an Academy Award.

After selling her stake in IEG, Cindy started a new production company, Cindy Cowan Entertainment (CCE). And she has continued making her mark. CCE is currently juggling a slate of horror, drama and action films, TV shows in development and a library of motion picture assets. Currently, she is in post-production with Miracle on 42nd St., a documentary starring Alicia Keyes, Terrence Howard and Samuel Jackson, in pre-production on a big action film with Millennium Films, a bio-pic with Amazon, a small thriller with Insurgent Media, her first television animated show and her first television mini-series.

With years of experience and credits under her belt, I knew Cindy was someone with valuable insight so I reached out to Cindy for wisdom she could share with Film Strategy readers.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Cindy graciously dropped some knowledge useful to filmmakers at every stage of production.

Promo poster for Red Lights, one of many CCE productions.

DEVELOPMENT: in your opinion what makes a script worth your time and money to shoot? 

A good story that moves you in some way. The story has to be relatable; meaning that the characters “pop” and have an arc so that talent will want to attach themselves. Relatable also means that “you” as the audience are engaged, that the script has a definitive beginning, middle and end, and that it goes after what ever audience you are targeting.

PRE-PRODUCTION: experienced filmmakers acknowledge that the pre-production phase is the most important stage in filmmaking, can you share a couple of things you do to ensure a successful pre-production? 
(1) Make sure you have an experienced line producer that has knowledge of whatever area or country you are shooting in.
(2) Try to limit the amount of location moves if you can.
(3) Make sure you have enough money for post (people often times do not leave enough money here and this is one of the most important places in your film).
(4) Have enough money for music, guilds, bank and bond fees.
(5) Plan out your days as much as you can.
(6) Lock in your locations and draft your storyboard.
(7) Finally, plan, plan , plan...each day has to be thought out way in advance with your director, LP and DP.

PRODUCTION: how do you stay on schedule and on budget when you shoot while still maintaining aesthetic integrity?
So much depends on a successful preproduction, that I would reiterate what I said above. If everyone is on the same page as the director from the onset and the days are really planned out, you should not have a problem (or if you do, you’ll be better able to address them). During production, a very experienced director of photography is like gold. If he is good and fast, he will help keep your director happy and on time. I would recommend that a producer make sure all questions from the actors and the director are answered before the start of each day, to avoid wasting time once the work day officially begins and the camera rolls. This is a function of a good director and production manager but I can’t stress enough that talent should know exactly what is being shot before the day begins. That’s why I strongly believe that rehearsals always help!

MARKETING: how involved are you in the marketing of your films and what do you find to be the most effective forms of marketing for your films? 
My films are usually studio released so my exact involvement is more limited than some of the smaller self released films. For those who play a more active role in the marketing of their films, I would say that your one-sheet and, if possible, billboard/ad needs to be right on spot with the target audience in a unique eye-catching way. Too many good films have such bad marketing behind them that they never get a chance to get or grow the audience they deserve. It is very important to have TV, Theatre and web spots but those are dependent on how much money you have. Therefore, whether you are a big or small production, truly maximize the word-of-mouth marketing whether you are using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, web ads and the conventional methods of TV/film trailers and TV promotional appearances. Remember, you have only a few minutes to let an audience know what your film is about which is why you must get a good editor and make sure your trailer targets your audience with whatever emotion you think will best hook them in to see your picture.

DISTRIBUTION: what is important to you when you negotiate your distribution deals?
Most importantly, I need to know who the distributor is and whether they are the best ones for my picture. To that end, I have 10 questions I like to ask to help me figure that out:
(1) Is the person negotiating my distribution deals in the top 7 sales agencies?
(2) Can they get the best numbers per country?
(3) Can they actually collect what they say they have sold?
(4) Have they been in business for a while?
(5) What is their distribution fee?
(6) How much are they charging me in costs for the various markets?
(7) What is their track record? 
(8) Are they trying to package my film with others?
(9) What does their marketing of the film look like? and
(10) Who will actually be selling my film?

To learn more about Cindy Cowan and her slate of films and TV shows, go to www.cowanent.com.







[1] Although salary disparities are a real thing, they'll be a subject for another day.

11.02.2016

CASE STUDY: When To Say No To a Film Festival


This Film Collaborative article offers a great look into the thought process that goes into deciding whether to screen your film at a particular film festival or not. Oftentimes, filmmakers make it to the film festival stage with no clear strategy or long-term vision. This article sheds some light on what filmmakers should do in that situation.

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originally published by The Film Collaborative blog on 10.27.16
I love film festivals by-in-large and they have done great things for many of our films. In fact, we have multiple films this year that have generated over $50K in revenue on the festival circuit. Many companies cling to the myth that playing festivals hurts distribution deals and revenue, yet most of our top festival performers still received six figure distribution deals while continuing to generate revenue, awards and exposure on the circuit.
While The Film Collaborative is perhaps best known for monetizing the film festival universe, we provide just as much support in creating an overall festival strategy (which frequently includes playing some top festivals that don’t pay).
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “When/how do we determine that a festival is not worthwhile?” And, frequently, I see filmmakers making similar mistakes in terms of what festivals they say yes to. So with that in mind, here are real world examples of when and why (and often where) film festivals should be avoided.
The first three things we ask when determining whether or not a film festival should pay are:
  1. Do the domestic and/or international industry attend?
  2. Do the domestic and/or international press attend?
  3. Are other film festivals going to look to this festival’s lineup to fill their slate?
If the answer is yes to all 3 of the above questions, the festival probably doesn’t need to pay you a fee (and won’t offer it either), as they are providing significant additional benefits. These are the festivals we call impact festivals…and, in truth, there are not very many of these.
However, if they are not fitting the above criteria, then we believe they should be paying you a fee, as they are not what we call an impact festival and therefore need to offer compensation for their screenings. An exception of course is when major travel could be involved—though it is important to note that many festivals will pay a screening fee and cover travel. We don’t include festival travel or perks in our revenue totals but we have filmmakers that don’t pay rent the entire year and simply travel from festival to festival.
With this basic information in mind let’s pivot to festival no-go’s.
Over the summer, a film that I’ll be releasing theatrically next year got accepted to the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. The festival mandated that the filmmaker (who lives in NYC) attend the screening and refused to pay a screening fee. They also made it clear that they would not pay for print traffic or travel. Meanwhile, they would put the film in an auditorium that seats several hundred people. There was no way we were about to give away $5,000 worth of tickets and have to pay for the privilege to do so for a non-impact festival. If the film was capable of selling out in L.A., we’d rather apply that to the theatrical, or, for less money, do a special preview screening for an invited audience of maybe 100 people. Looking to those 3 questions above, I could honestly say the answer was “no” to all 3. There was a tiny bit of downtown only press but we were not going to get a THR or Variety review by playing this particular venue. And the festival demands were beyond absurd. If they can’t afford to even cover someone’s shipping, they should not be operating.
Perhaps the bigger issue, however, is that the festival is in the second largest city in America. If you plan to have a theatrical release you have to weigh the pros and cons of playing any fests in those 5-10 top target theatrical markets.
Along those lines, I was advising on another film whose central subject lives in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island International Film Festival had invited the film, but this festival also refuses to pay screening fees. It was not going to be the festival that would be causing the film to sell out, but rather the appeal of the subject, and all of us recognized this. Not only would Rhode Island not pay, but they were very unpleasant to deal with, and so the filmmakers wisely took the film to another festival that would give them just as much (if not more) exposure in the market. This other festival also paid a screening fee and they truly worked with the filmmakers so that they would still be able to use their capital accordingly when the time came for theatrical.
While both of these examples were obvious no go’s we frequently run into the more complicated matter of whether or not a film should play a bigger festival in a city that does not pay, hold until theatrical, and/or play a festival that does pay but is less prestigious. Perhaps the most common manifestation of this is broader international film festival (think the enormous Seattle International Film Festival) vs a niche specific fest (Like Seattle Translations). In this case it really depends on time and strategy but again if the filmmaker holds huge sway in that city it’s almost never worth giving it away for free. In these cases filmmakers really need to look at the size of their audience in the market.
With our film Tab Hunter Confidential, I was clear early on that I did not want the film to play any festival in Palm Springs. Tab Hunter is a former matinee idol and gay icon. The combo of which made it clear to me that despite its population of 100,000, Palm Springs would be our top theatrical market. The Palm Springs Film Festival is a truly amazing festival but since our brand awareness within our target demo was high, it allowed us to create an event arguably bigger than what the fest could provide. Cinema Diverse, which is Palm Springs LGBT festival, is run by a true mensch who I knew would still support the film’s theatrical even if we declined his admittedly well-paying festival. Skipping the festival opportunities allowed us to sell out a 500-seat theater and generate over $10,000 in box office in Palm Springs. Tab is a great example of assessing value all the way around, as TFCD made the choice with the producers to walk away from a distribution offer and instead self-release on iTunes where the film peaked at #2. You can read more about that release in my colleague David Averbach’s blog article from last month.
We had a different situation with (T)ERROR, when we opted to play two festivals in Manhattan. Following the film’s Sundance premiere, we took it to Tribeca and Human Rights Watch New York. Tribeca allowed us to continue the awards/prestige trajectory and (T)ERROR was the opening night film at Human Rights Watch, which enabled us to position the film with several politically-oriented festivals. It was smart for this title, but it admittedly made booking a theater in NYC quite complicated. Several venues did not want the film, as they thought it had exhausted its audience. The film played for 3 weeks at IFC Center and went on to win IDA and Cinema Eye Awards. If this film had been a world premiere at Tribeca, I likely would have turned down Human Rights Watch, not because it doesn’t have value, but because of possible future theatrical issues.
In the city of San Francisco these choices are constant as the city has some of the top festivals of almost every niche (Jewish, LGBT, Asian, Environmental, etc.) in addition to the well-respected San Francisco International. In that market, if there is a niche we can position film for, that option is almost always better in the long run than playing a San Francisco Film Festival. Screening at Frameline can be the difference between a 5 figure LGBT festival run and being passed over by the entire LGBT circuit. This is where knowing the audience for the film is so important in evaluating festivals. And I encourage every filmmaker to figure out what niches the film can be positioned for and what the top 2-3 fests are for those niches.
More recently, I’ve dealt with a simple reality of time. Perhaps the most difficult thing to do is figure out when a festival is too demanding compared to what it is they offer. For the Love of Spock is one of our top festival and theatrical bookers of the year and, with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek in September and 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s easy to see why. I admittedly found myself quite frustrated that non-impact festivals in rural towns of less than 50,000 were offering chump change and asking for crazy requests like having the director attend their festival during the first weekend of the film’s theatrical release. With one festival in particular I turned them down three times only to have them try and go around my back. The filmmakers were responsible enough to let me know what was going on and we ultimately passed. If a festival is being unreasonable compared to what they offer, it is perfectly fine to say no. Your time has value after-all.
The most likely reason that we will say no, though, is premiere status. Holding out for a top European premiere (Berlin, Locarno, etc.) instead of launching at the first fest that says yes in that region. Most festivals are understanding when it comes to navigating premiere status, but beyond the World, International, European, North American premieres of a film, most of the other obligations are really stretching it. And if there’s 4 festivals in New Mexico that will pay for a film ahead of one that’s asking for the Florida premiere we will usually say take the 4 paying festivals. This is the one area, however, where we see filmmakers turning down festivals that they should be saying yes to. Every year I see filmmakers pulling films out of festivals after Sundance in a hope that Cannes will take their film. And most of the time it hurts the film as they sit out dozens of festivals only to get rejected by Cannes and be subsequently forgotten after all the other fests like Berlin, SXSW and Tribeca have passed. Once the filmmakers get the rejection letter from Cannes they try to reroute course, but some of the festivals that fought for the film months earlier will hold a grudge and instead turn the film down.
Luckily, most festivals are welcoming places and 9/10 a festival that says yes can and will be a positive notch in the film’s exposure belt. But when fests are not willing to pay or are a huge drain of time and resources, that’s when you have to be prepared to say no. Of course keep your theatrical release in mind but you only need to focus on the top few target markets. As you look at the fests in those markets, figure out what your brand awareness is and how the festivals can or cannot help you connect with an audience. The truth is most festivals happily will promote their alumni titles when they open.
by Bryan Glick