I produced an under £100,000.00 feature film.

Getting the money was easy:

With the current UK Enterprise Investment Scheme offering a 50% tax rebate to a UK tax-paying investor contributing to a project with a £150,000 ($225,000) cap, raising money has never been easier. I should know – I have been closely involved with three such projects in the past 18 months. I have so much confidence in my ability to raise money that I re-launched Raindance Raw Talent – our production arm in April 2015.

Alas I have made many mistakes thus far. Some of them so elementary that you’d wonder how a card-carrying experienced pro like me could possibly slip up. Slipped up, stumbled, fallen and pure simple made 6 stupid mistakes have I! Despite having a 100K.

Judge for yourself: Watch the trailer here:

6 Mistakes I Made On A £100K Feature

If I could pull back the projects I have worked on over the past 18 months, here is what I’d do:

1. Hire movie professionals

A hundred grand isn’t a lot of money in movie terms, but it is a whole lot of money when it’s sitting on the table.

At £100k one can afford to make some choices when it comes to cast and crew. My mistake? I tried to save money by hiring students and first-timers. It’s why they’re a lot cheaper. It’s also true that they don’t know what they are doing because they lack experience. The result is work that needs to be redone and the shoot drags along because no one has done it before.

Here’s what I do now: I hire veteran Heads of Department: Camera, Sound, Art Department, Effects and Editor. Once these senior roles are filled, I surround them with students and first-timers. Veterans generally like the opportunity to pass along their skills. For a novice to work with a film pro on a live shoot is an invaluable experience. In such a cauldron people either learn quickly or they get drummed out. It’s money well spent. I should know – I’ve learned the hard way.

A word about cast: with a veteran crew experienced and known actors are more likely to agree to act in your film. Most actors want to know who the director and DoP are. Tick at least one of those boxes with experience and right away you add to the pedigree of your project.

If you want to attract really good actors you need to take a slice of your budget and hire a casting director.

2. Not thinking about transport

Was I really dumb on Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. We needed a house for a month with a decent bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room. We found such a beast through a real estate agent – they had such a property they’d just tarted up for a rental and available at our budget. Stupidly I went along forgetting that the house was in the extreme north of the city, and most of the cast and crew lived in the extreme south.

The result? I spent nearly £4,000.00 ($6,500.00) transporting crew and cast to the supposedly ‘cheap’ location, and lost a good two hours per day as well. I’d have been better off paying a lot of money for a centrally located house. I might not have saved money but I would have gained the transport time.

3. Not getting good film publicity stills

Deadly Virtues exposed another massive error in judgement – and it was entirely down to me. If you ever hear anyone preaching about the importance of stills it’s probably me in the various seminars and workshops I deliver around the world. But what did I do on my shoot? I entrusted this vital job to an intern and nearly every single picture was unusable.

Do as I say and not as I do! In order to make the poster I had to employ a graphic artist who created an image using stock photos and lots of fake blood. (See below)

While I am at it, getting a great poster is another fundamental cock-up I made. It wasn’t until several months after the film was finished that the film got the poster – and an eye-catching one it is too, thanks to Robyn Larkin at WhatIsBoBo and Julian and Rosanna at Jinga (the sales agents).
DEADLY_VIRTUES_DVD_SLV_V0h-2

This is the poster that the distributor has used for the DVD release in Asda nd Tesco – a huge achievemnet for Matchbox here in the UK. You can order the DVD here.

Good as this poster is, it is impossible to use in a landscape format as you will see from the top image, and on the YouTube image. Don’t screw up like I have.

4. Not having a festival strategy

Dah. I really screwed this up with my own film. You know what mistake I made? I just assumed that festivals everywhere would be clamouring for my film. I didn’t bother lifting a single solitary finger to try and build a relationship with festival programmers in other film festivals. In fact I really had to fight the programmers here at Raindance – because they thought at first it was a vanity project of my own making! Can you believe it?

Networking is such an important thing. Building bridges with festival programmers is the very first thing you should be trying to do. And start before your films are made.

5. Not developing social media

Here I messed up again too. I should have made sure I got the url’s and and other social media names on Twitter and Facebook – but alas I didn’t. I also never bothered developing those social media elements either which meant that the profile of my film remained really low.

Since then I have been developing unique social media campaigns for each of my new projects. I say unique as no two films have the same social media requirements.

6. Not name-checking the title

The original title of Deadly Virtues was Dirty Weekend. This was a great title as it totally sums up the film – until we found out that another member of Raindance was in post-production on her film with exactly the same title. Co-producer Elisar Cabrerra came up with Love.Honour.Obey which relates to the script and which features in the trailer. Unfortunately this was a very similar title to another film: Love & Honour & Obey – another Brit flick starring Ray Winstone and recent postgrad student Sadie Frost – who also has a cameo role in my film.

Finally director Ate de Jong combined Love.Honour.Obey with Deadly Virtues – a name that has now stuck. But what effort we would have saved and what confusion we would have avoided if only I’d checked the name first!

Fade Out

The irony of all this? I have a popular Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking class in which I advise and explain how these costly mistakes can ruin your career. I very nearly ruined my movie’s career too – except to say it’s been sold to 11 countries (and counting) and has it’s UK releaase on September 28 2015. And the trailer has been seen 200,000 times. Not bad I guess for being such a total screw-up.

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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