Category: Filmmaking Career

Can You Actually Make Money From An Indie Film?

Creatives generally don’t make great entrepreneurs because most of them have their heads firmly in the clouds which, frankly, is exactly where they should be. Subsequently scriptwriters and directors are often not much cop at the ‘business’ part of show business. The problem is that low budget filmmakers often have to straddle both worlds, as I found out when I both wrote and produced my first feature film ‘Trick or Treat’. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for me I used to be a banker and so I didn’t find it too difficult to grasp the financial side of making a film and, even more importantly, could give potential investors the impression that I did! I always asked myself this question: “Can you actually make money from an indie film?

Can you actually make money from an indie film?

Whist film investors often want to get involved in movies for the kudos and fun, the reality is that most still want to turn a profit. Aspiring filmmakers need to get comfortable with the requisite ‘bread-head’ lingo and be able to answer all the tricky questions that will come their way when they’re presenting their business plan. I believe the lessons I learnt from my recent film-making experience will help newcomers to this industry make their investors a return – which after all may well be a pre-requisite to getting the opportunity to make a second film!

As far as I can see, the simple way to make investors make a profit is to create a brilliant film with the highest possible production values and the most well-known cast for the least amount of money. Of course, this is a little easier said than done! However, my seven-point plan below may just make this lofty goal slightly less impossible:

1 Script

This may sound blindingly obvious but the only way you’re going to attract stars (who you’re going to need in order to attract finance) to work on a low budget film is if they love the script, so don’t do anything until you’re absolutely 100% happy with it. We only managed to get the likes of Frances Barber, Jason Flemyng and Shaun Parkes involved because they saw the screenplay’s potential.

2. Plot

For God’s sake try to avoid period pieces, dinosaurs, car chases and explosions! In fact, try to have as few actors and locations as possible. As screenwriting legend William Goldman said, you need a valid reason to have ‘fifty camels in central park’.

3. Tax breaks

Make sure the special purpose limited company you set up to produce your film is SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) approved (or EIS if you’re after more cash and are making several films). SEIS gives investors 50% relief on their income tax as well as other tax breaks that actually mean only 11.5% of their capital is at risk (but unfortunately the amount you can raise is limited to £150K). And don’t forget to utilize the UK tax credit (offsetting 20% of legitimate production costs) and make damn sure your company is VAT-registered too.

4.Favours

Call in as many favours as you possibly can from friends, family, film students and actors you once met in a pub. This may well be a trick you can only pull once, so use it wisely!

5.Auto-exploitation

Forget about paying yourself or your co-producers up front on your first film. Your debut movie is your calling card, or as they say call it in the retail industry, a loss-leader.

6. Deferrals and points

Try to pay cast and crew with as high a percentage of deferred payments and points (e.g. % of future profits) as possible BUT be scrupulously honest in dishing them out if your film shoots the lights out.

7.Get a great team

There are certain crew who will be vital in keeping costs low. They are worth spending decent money on because, if they’re any good, they will actually save you money. A tight-fisted, imaginative line producer and First AD are worth their weight in gold.

So, to use a real-life example to illustrate what a British indie film needs to do in order to make a return, let’s look at my movie Trick or Treat, which cost £400K to make. That cash came from the following sources:

Cash Raised 
  
High New Worth Individuals’ equity investment (SEIS)150,000
HNWs’ loans120,000
Tax credit70,000
Deferred post-production fees (to be paid by future sales)60,000
 400,000
Which was spent on the following things: 
  
Crew (incl. food & expenses)190,000
Cast (incl. expenses, excl. deferrals/points)30,000
Equipment (including damage)30,000
Locations (including hotels/travel)30,000
Insurance/finance/legal20,000
Post-production (incl. score/editing)70,000
Misc (props/costumes/petty cash etc)30,000
 400,000
  

Taking into account our sales agent’s commission and their marketing costs, my spoddy spreadsheet tells me Trick or Treat needs to make gross revenues of £350K to give my investors the 20% return I ‘promised’ them (taking into account the 50% tax break they’ve already received). It’s a long shot but, with the right headwind, it might just work!

Trick or Treat is headlining the Marbella Film Festival and will be out in UK Cinemas from 25th October and then our fantastic sales agent will be selling it internationally at the American Film Market with a digital UK release to follow early next year. It’s too early to say whether it will make a profit for our investors (and the BFI stats suggest only 1 in 10 British indie films do actually ‘make money’) but all I know is that we’ve done everything we can to make sure it does… now only time will tell.

If it’s good news I’ll report back but if it’s not… this may well be the last time you hear from me!

Geraint Anderson is pleased to announce that since he wrote this article his movie ‘Trick or Treat’ has won the award for best feature film at The Marbella International Film Festival and that Evolutionary Films have secured a cinema release (Vue & Odeon) on 25th October (pre-order Book online here)

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, Interviews

Why Aren’t Indie Filmmakers Using This Revolutionary Technology?

Avengers: Infinity War is not the film you might expect to start off an article on indie filmmakers. Bear with me because this is going somewhere good. Avengers: Infinity War was a landmark film in visual effects. It is the first film in the MCU to realise the full power of our favourite purple demi-god, Thanos. It utilised the same technology that War for Planet of the Apes did to bring life to an army of chimps, gorillas, and orangutans the previous year.

Avengers: Infinity War                                                                          War or Planet of the Apes

It becomes cheaper. Attack of the Clones was the first studio film shot entirely on digital cameras (back in 2002), and now we all carry cameras capable of shooting a film (often in 4K!) in our pockets. The digital effects that revolutionised cinema in The Abyss, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park can now be created and rendered on a home PC. Gollum was brought to our screens 17 years ago in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but there has not been the same uptake of the technology used to create him in the indie world. Where are the indie mocap characters? Because, contrary to what you might think, we are in the perfect place to take advantage of this tech.

This isn’t an idle assumption either, because for the past year I’ve been in production on an action-fantasy feature film in which the main antagonist is none other than a CGI creature fully animated with motion capture technology. This means that the monster (or rather, the actor playing the monster) can be directed like any other actor in the scene and elicit a fully-realised performance. Because, while I’m big into technology, I am no animator and there’s no way I’d be able to create convincing animation without the help of a talented, real-world performer.

My hope is we’re can entering a time where people’s imaginations are their only limit to what they can put to film – and as the technology to do this gets more and more accessible then we’ll see more adventurous films being made.

I’m looking at a release date of early next year for my film – titled ‘Anghenfil’. There’s loads of other brilliant aspects to the film – including medieval (and modern-day) battles, legendary swords, exceptional makeup effects, and incredible original music. So, to keep updated on our progress and release date, follow us on your favourite social media platform:

Website ► http://www.motioncapturemonster.com/

Instagram ► https://www.instagram.com/ryigarry

Twitter ► https://twitter.com/RyiGarry

Facebook ► https://www.facebook.com/Anghenfil

YouTube ► https://www.youtube.com/user/ryigarry

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, Gaming, In Our Opinion

A screenplay and a novel- The Must know differences

Ever wonder about the difference between a novel and a screenplay?

I was a novelist before I tried my hand at screenwriting, and it was only a happy accident that led me to change direction. In 2009 the BBC optioned the rights to my first book ‘Cityboy’ with a view to turning it into a TV series and whilst I thought it was a catastrophe when their option lapsed a few years later, if it hadn’t I’d have never got into film-making. That’s because, with the confidence that only unbridled naivety can engender, I decided that I’d cut out the middleman and simply write the Cityboy screenplay myself.

So, I bought ‘Screenwriting for Dummies’ and the latest version of Final Draft and opened up my trusty laptop. Within hours it became quite clear that I was flailing in the dark. I realized that I needed to learn a whole new skill set and that, of course, is why I immediately signed up to one of Raindance’s amazing screenwriting courses!

There are actually quite a few similarities between successful novel-writing and effective screenwriting – both involve telling a compelling story with believable and interesting characters, an exciting plot and realistic dialogue that respectively keep the reader turning pages and the viewer glued to the screen. Both media thrive when they are original, innovative and lacking in tiresome clichés and both eschew implausible ‘Deus Ex Machina’ developments and tedious over-used tropes. Novels and screenplays also often utilize the three-act structure and generally benefit when the writer chooses to ‘show not tell’ and ‘arrive at the party late and leave early’. The time-old (but perhaps old-fashioned) story of a likeable/relatable hero who reluctantly leaves his comfort zone to go on a seemingly impossible mission to overcome a vicious antagonist can work just as well in both formats.

However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. A screenplay is a short (100-140 page), pacey and almost entirely visual way of telling a story. For example, whilst a novelist has the freedom to spend sixteen pages describing exactly what’s frustrating ‘Mildred’, a screenwriter does not. A screenwriter could use a convoluted voiceover to explain precisely what’s going on in a character’s head, but it’s frowned upon (as is ‘on the nose’ dialogue that is sometimes used to perform the same function). Subsequently, the screenwriter will instead simply state something as concise as ‘Mildred clenches her fist in anger’! Likewise, the long tangents and multiple sub-plots that are common in literary novels have no place in a ninety-minute film, especially as attention spans become ever shorter. Generally, if a scene doesn’t move the main plot forward or efficiently enlighten us about a major character’s motivations it should be binned.

Successful screenplays also generally stick to a more restrictive formula than novels whose content is only limited by the writer’s imagination and the rules of grammar (and sometimes not even those!) Blake Snyder’s screenwriting guide ‘Save The Cat’ receives a lot of flak for its formulaic advice but so many great films have an ‘inciting incident’ at around page ten and two ‘plot points’ (that dramatically change the story’s direction) around page 35 and 75 that only the most arrogant rookie would choose to ignore his words completely. Likewise, scenes should generally not be longer than six pages, uninterrupted dialogue not much longer than eight lines and the ending/resolution should always be ‘inevitable but not predictable’. Indeed, you can bet that even non-conformist screenwriters like Tarantino, who seem to abhor such formulas, have an intimate knowledge of the ‘rules’ they choose to break.

Let’s also not forget about budget. If you have the misfortune not to be Aaron Sorkin it’s unlikely that you’ll be writing a multi-million-pound movie and that means your screenplay should contain as few actors, locations, explosions, car chases and dinosaurs as possible. I genuinely believe that such budget limitations force the scriptwriter to use his imagination and that they make his or her job all the more vital – as only a brilliant low budget script has any chance of attracting a decent director or known actors and without them you will struggle to attract finance. Obviously, I like to think that’s why my recently completed half million-pound film ‘Trick or Treat’ managed to secure great actors like Frances Barber, Jason Flemyng, Craig Kelly and Shaun Parkes!

One other similarity between a novelist and a screenwriter that I should also mention is that both need to be unbelievably persistent and capable of dealing with almost constant rejection. Despite years of trying, Cityboy never got made (though I still hope that one day it will be) and nor did my next three speculative scripts. It was only my fifth screenplay, for ‘Trick or Treat,’ that came good. Frankly, neither the thin-skinned nor the uncommitted should even consider pursuing either career path.

I may be just a tiny bit biased, but I believe that the screenwriter is the most under-appreciated component of any successful movie project with the director and lead actors generally getting all the glory. However, I absolutely love screenwriting, so despite the lack of accolades this is what I’ll keep doing… and besides my teeth are just a bit too wonky to play the lead!

Geraint Anderson is pleased to announce that since he wrote this article his movie ‘Trick or Treat’ has won the award for best feature film at The Marbella International Film Festival and that Evolutionary Films have secured a cinema release (Vue & Odeon) on 25th October (pre-order tickets here)

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career

7 Quick Tips: Recording and Mixing Music for Film

Sound is undoubtedly one of the most crucial parts of any and every film, which is responsible for enhancing the complete feel of the film. The audience is going to react following the kind of music that is added in a particular film sequence. Music helps in providing a continuity so that any cut in the film looks normal and smooth. It is not easy to record or mix music for your films. But if you know music lessons and certain important and quick tips, it is going to be extremely easy for you. Given below is a list of 7 quick tips that you can follow for mixing and recording music for your film. 

Choosing the mixing software

There is no denying the fact that there are numerous digital audio workstations that you have the option of selecting from. However, it is entirely up to you to understand and decide which digital audio workstation is going to be ideal for you. Ensure that you are gaining knowledge about your software in an extremely intimate manner. Any savvy mixer not only keeps sticking to his DAW but also knows every function. Ensure that you are not cheating on your digital audio workstation. Remain true to it and reap all the essential benefits. 

Setting up the audio mixing session

Most of the digital audio workstations are responsible for providing nifty templates if you do not know how you should start. For instance, Pro Tools is responsible for including the ‘Rock’ template, which is capable of setting the session with different tracks for the following:

  • Drums
  • Bass
  • Organ
  • Guitar
  • Empty tracks to record something.
  • Click track
  • Pre-routed headphone mix
  • Reverb return
  • Chorus return
  • Delay return

This indeed is one of the basic mixed templates, but you can choose from the other template options as well. If you are unable to find the template that is apt for your film, it is a good idea to create your very own template. Making a template on your own is one of the greatest steps associated with developing a mixed style. It is ideal for booting the computer up as well as starting interesting mixes right from a single scratch. 

Don’t forget to invest in good headphones

If you discuss with any reputed audio engineer, you will come to know that having a good set of headphones is necessary. Without an ideal set of headphones, it becomes impossible to review the audio that you are creating. Therefore, you must invest in good headphone sets before you progress with audio mixing. It is also suggested that you get hold of good and branded speakers so that reviewing the audio becomes easy. It can also detect unwanted mix easily. 

Name the tracks and color code the track groups

Naming the tracks may sound simple, but in 3 months, you are going to forget about the tracks if you have named it ‘Audio track 10’. If you are recording lead guitars, ensure that you are doing yourself a big favour and naming it ‘lead guitar’ before you are hitting on the record option. The process of poor naming of the individual tracks will be responsible for leading to puzzles and confusion, and you will also have to spend more time figuring out what is what. 

It is also suggested that you focus on colour-coding the tracks. You have the freedom to choose any colour that you want. But it is suggested that you make every drum track yellow, the vocal track blue, and the guitar tracks green. This will help in numerous processes that include bussing and also helps you to track different layers of the session. It only takes around two minutes to colour-code appropriately. It will help you to save time so that you can concentrate on the other aspects of recording and mixing music. 

Cut the fuss. Use a bus

Try to picture a red bus in your head, and now, picture it with different sounds. This is exactly what a bus will be in any mix. When you send numerous sounds to a single track, you have the opportunity of applying these processors to all of them at the same time. 

You can also try this on a drum bus. This helps in processing all the sounds of the drum as a single unit. Make sure that you are treating them with a similar reverb to provide the perception that they belong to a similar space. 

You also have the option of setting up compression or delay bus. It is suggested that you keep experimenting with all the different sounds, and decide which sound has to be sent to which bus. You are going to receive guaranteed results. An important thing that you should keep on your mind is to make sure that you are committing to appropriate sounds. This will help you to avoid tweaking endlessly later on. 

Planning on panning

Most people do not have a proper understanding of panning. Panning is responsible for controlling the width of a particular mix. It is the left breadth to the right breadth of stereo fields. Panning helps in the proper placement of the sounds within your mix in an ideal manner. The placement can be either in the left or the right of your stereocenter. It is advised that you keep the lower or the heavy sounds towards the center, which means the kick or the bass. You have to make them the centering forces, around which you can work easily. If you pan everything centrally, you will discover that the mix is sounding flat and crowded. Therefore, you need to remain careful when you are panning. 

Basic audio filtering

You need to have sound knowledge about the basics associated with mixing. Just like numerous other processes, every person has various opinions, and this is true, especially when it comes to audio mixing. However, certain essential basics of mixing should be followed by almost everyone. One crucial basic is knowing the appropriate mix, which you should be working with. 

You need to have a proper understanding of the textures that you are looking forward to getting within your track. You need to understand the space that you will be responsible for creating. Know if you want it to be punchy and upfront, reverberant and distant, etc. You need to concentrate on enhancing the character of each sound when you are in the recording stage. You always need to keep the bigger picture in your mind when you are choosing and recording the initial sounds. 

Ensure that you are pushing the original recordings without processing in a substantial manner. You have to start understanding where you will be heading for your final mixdown. Make sure that you are only committing to perfect sounds so that you do not have to keep tweaking it later on. 

Final Thoughts

Recording and mixing music for a film is one stressful and hectic job, that is filled with a lot of confusion. It is essential that you follow all the steps that have been mentioned above so that you can record and mix music easily for your films. Let the music fly high! 

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, Post-Production

What it’s Like to be the UK’s Youngest Film Director

My name is Elliott Hasler, I’m an 18 year old film director and writer. I’m writing this blog post sitting beside the pool in a beach-side villa at the Maldives’ no.1 resort, Soneva Jani. Last night my most recent film, ‘To Hunt a Tiger’, had its world premiere at Cinema Paradiso, the Maldives’ only overwater cinema.

Rewind two years and aged 16, I’m sneaking into a room above a pub in Brighton for the premiere of my debut feature, ‘Charlie’s Letters’, which I’m not legally allowed to attend due to underage drinking laws.

Despite ‘Charlie’s Letters’, a feature-length depiction of my great-grandfather’s WW2 experiences, receiving critical acclaim upon release, with myself being hailed “the next Spielberg” by Culture Trip magazine, I’d never have thought that in two short years I would be partying in Cannes, then be flown out to the Maldives on an all expenses paid trip to host the world premiere of my film ‘To Hunt a Tiger’  at the luxury Soneva Jani resort (at which my accommodation would normally cost a staggering $15,000 per night!).

‘To Hunt a Tiger’, which has been submitted to this year’s Raindance Film Festival, is a period short film about a troubled British hunter who travels to India during the Raj-era with the intention of hunting one of the magnificent and elusive creatures. 

I shot it a year prior to the Maldives trip, on a micro budget in both nearby Sri Lanka and England, pulling in favours here, there and everywhere. Recruiting world-class talent in the form of John Locke (Darkest Hour, The Favourite) and Charlotte Peters (Pound of Flesh, Interlude in Prague), with Emmy Award winner Daniel Clive McCallum writing an original score.

It was undertaken with every intention of creating a realistic, sumptuous and wholly atmospheric drama akin to the works of legendary filmmaker, Sir David Lean (indeed the opening scene of the film was shot on the same location as Lean’s 1957 classic, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’).

This for me is how independent filmmakers must work; by replicating Hollywood on-screen. An eight minute film set in an apartment with two characters sitting out a zombie apocalypse is not only boring and an example of lazy, unimaginative filmmaking, it’s pure white noise. 

‘To Hunt a Tiger’, and indeed ‘Charlie’s Letters’, replicated big-budget Hollywood pictures on next to nothing. T.H.a.T cost around £800 and Charlie’s cost approximately £3,000 – all of which went into what you see onscreen. Too many independent filmmakers are interested in replicating Hollywood on-set professionalism behind the camera but fail to realise that such Hollywood-esque tropes are not being replicated in-front of said camera and are thus amiss to the audience.

It’s my belief that films and dreams are one and the same, dreams have no limits, therefore why should films? I was told all too often that a feature length film before my 17th birthday was impossible and I should try the ‘Whiplash’ trick of making a short first – I say why bother with the short? 

Because the fact is I’m now a month shy from beginning shooting my second feature, ‘Vindication Swim’, a true story about the first English woman to swim the Channel. I’m working on it with an Emmy Award winning composer, a production designer of the same stature, world class actors from films ranging from The Favourite to Darkest Hour to Pirates of the Caribbean, and with, I might add, a substantially larger budget. 

Thus my advice for wanna-be movie makers is don’t give up your day jobs, and my advice for gonna-be movie makers is don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger.

Filed under: Filmmaking Career

IMDbPro Tips & Tricks – Showcase Your Career with Your Name Page

Hello there! I’m Jed and I’m part of the team at IMDbPro. My role focuses on connecting with entertainment professionals so we can continue to improve and expand our product in ways that enrich your career. I’ve learned that some people only use IMDbPro specifically for one thing, so I’ve started this instructional series to help members optimize their IMDbPro membership by explaining how to use all of its features, especially those that have launched in the past few months.

 

As an introduction, I thought a good starting point would be covering Name Pages, the bread and butter of IMDbPro.  So let’s begin with the basics:

 

What’s the difference between IMDb and IMDbPro?

IMDb has a wealth of entertainment information for fans, which these days is pretty much everyone. Everyday IMDb visitors fall down its rabbit hole of entertainment trivia, videos, and info to jog their memory about an actor or movie’s name, discover a new film or TV show, or view trailers and images. Ask around and you’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone who has never visited IMDb to learn more about an entertainment program or celebrity, answer their entertainment questions, or settle a wager.

 

IMDbPro, on the other hand, is an expanded resource of IMDb specifically for professionals working in the industry. IMDbPro includes all of the information on IMDb in addition to contact information, representation details, in-development titles, comprehensive STARmeter data, industry news, box office data, and other extras that are important to entertainment professionals.

 

What is a Name Page?

Ever wonder how many credits Elliot Grove has or how to get in contact with him about a project? Log into IMDbPro (with a 30-day free trial if you’re not already a member), search for him, and you’ll come to him Name Page. Name Pages list a person’s representation and their contact details, what in-development titles they’re attached to, how their STARmeter has fluctuated over time, and more professional information to help you make a connection.

 

Name Pages are how all of IMDb and IMDbPro’s users learn about your career. IMDb and IMDbPro Name Pages are connected, and IMDbPro members can curate how their information is promoted on both sites (more on this below), which helps you manage your brand and position yourself for the types of projects you’re looking to land next.

 

How do I manage my Name Page?

If you are a current IMDbPro member and haven’t done so already, you can claim your Name Page here. Claiming your Name Page gives you greater access to edit your page so you can optimize how your career is promoted. Updating your info on IMDbPro also affects your IMDb page as well as the details featured on Amazon Prime Video and Alexa-supported services. Below are some examples of these enhanced editing features and how you can use them to your advantage. **Note that the below hyperlinks will direct you to your own Name Page only if you are logged into an active IMDbPro account.**

 

Known For: The top of each person’s Name Page includes a short list of the titles they worked on and that they are most “Known For.” It’s a career snapshot that gives viewers a quick sense of who you are and where they might know you from. This is algorithmically generated based on the viewing habits of IMDb fans but with IMDbPro, you can customize your “Known For” titles and be more strategic about showcasing the work you’re most proud of.

 

Let’s say your filmography is primarily TV credits but you’re looking to do more feature films. If you have past feature credits, you can move one or more titles into your Known For section so that viewers get a fuller picture of your work during a quick perusal of your Name Page.

 

If you’re talent, let’s say your roles have been primarily comedic but you’re being considered for a role in a drama. If you have past dramatic credits, you can move one or more of these titles into your Known For section to highlight your range during a quick perusal of your Name Page.

 

Primary and Featured Images: Similar to Known For, IMDb by default will set a Primary Image for your Name Page and six featured images. It might select the first headshot you ever took, which may have been taken years ago. As an IMDbPro member you can curate the images that best represent who you are and the career you are pursuing. Your featured images can be updated at any time and as often as you choose.

 

A great tip for talent: update your Primary Image headshot  to best match the characters you are currently auditioning for.

 

Vanity URLs: IMDbPro members also have the ability to create a custom URL that links to your Name Page. IMDbPro members are directed to your IMDbPro Name Page and everyone else will go to your IMDb Name Page. These short, manageable URLs are perfect to add to resumes, business cards, and other print materials as well as your social media bios, email signature and more. To create a vanity URL, click “Edit your page” at the bottom of your Name Page.

 

Access your IMDbPro Discount

If you’re not yet a member of IMDbPro, don’t forget that you can start with a 30-day free trial. Raindance Members receive a discount of 15% off. If you’re already a Raindance Member, visit the Members Area for instructions on how to redeem this benefit. This discount can be applied to an annual or monthly membership.

 

What will I cover next?

Like I said, this is just an introduction. Moving forward I’ll be creating more content that highlights different features and tips to help you optimize your time on IMDbPro. If there is a particular topic that you’d like to hear more about, let your Raindance membership administrators know. I’ll be in contact with them to make sure my content is relevant to your work.

 

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, if you’re hungry for more IMDbPro content, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, Promotion, Marketing and DistributionTagged with: , ,

7 Challenges Facing Independent Filmmakers

All I hear is how terrible the challenges facing independent filmmakers are. Coming back from the Cannes Film Festival this spring I ran into two veteran British film producers, who between them had produced nigh on 60 features. They’d been nominated for or won several Oscars and who by any standard are considered to be highly successful. They were both very negative about the future of the film industry, and the prospects of making films like they had been over the past thirty years. ‘Independent Cinema’ is dead they argued.

I beg to differ.

No segment of the media industry has had as many changes since the Millennium as the film sector. Technology and film production has changed. Film distribution has changed. On top of that, rapid currency fluctuations have played havoc with film producers’ cash flow forecasts.

Here are the seven basic challenges facing fimmakers since the Millennium, and what I believe to be an effective strategic position to take for success.

1. The digital revolution has flooded the marketplace

Fact: Cheaper digital production methods have helped create more product than buyers.

Strategy: Make certain your movie is genre specific. Genre is the only way that a film buyer and the marketing manager of a distribution company can quickly visualise the movie poster, trailer and marketing campaign. Never forget that distributors buy genre, not drama.

2. Online distribution is becoming commonplace

Fact: On Valentine’s Day 2005 the co-founders of Youtube.com registered the name at www.whois.com. Youtube revolutionised film distribution and has changed the way consumers watch movies and television. The impact of illegal online distribution has also had the same impact on the film industry as it has the music industry.

Strategy: Develop a hybrid distribution strategy that encompasses traditional cinema/DVD/television releases with online distribution.

3. Hollywood is bankrupt of ideas

Fact: The gaming industry has influenced story telling techniques and filmmaking techniques. These new storytelling techniques dominate.

Strategy: Successful filmmakers are most likely artists who consider themselves visual storytellers using moving images to tell their stories. Incorporation of gaming techiques both in terms of storytelling and visualisation will make movies stronger.

And what of apps? Where a new video game can now cost $20m to develop and market, an app can be built for next to nothing.

4. Cinema distribution is still healthy but it is different somehow.

Fact: Not only has image and sound capture been dramatised by advances in digital technology like DSLR, but cinema distribution has been affected too. Britain screens are now fully digitised. . A digital screen does not need expensive 35mm film prints. Films can be emailed to a cinema screen’s hard drive and films can be scheduled easily with a click of a mouse. Cinema exhibition has also benefited from 3D technology. Like it or not, screens will be demanding 3D product. In America it is estimated that there will be an astonishing 25 million homes equipped with 3D TV screens by 2018.

Television networks are struggling to find enough HD content for their HD channels, let alone their new 3D channels like Britain’s Sky 3D.

Add to the mix online platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime and you have an entirely new distribution outlet.

Strategy: Successful filmmakers will learn how to communicate with television and cinema owners to deliver saleable content in the format which will deliver maximum revenue.

5. You can’t fund them like you used to

Fact: The Euro economic malaise has translated into public sector budget cuts, dampening the political appetite for using public money to fund films.

Strategy: Filmmaking should be commercially viable without the need for public funding, and film budgets need to stand the scrutiny of investors seeking cost-effective production, as well as a reasonable rate of return.

6. Producers struggle to get development funding

Fact: Development funding is hard to get. Yet without proper development, movies will continue to suffer from weak storylines.

Strategy: Until the script is fully developed, a movie should not be made.

7. Film producers don’t necessarily need to be involved with social media.

Fact: Social media is here to stay and a strong social media strategy is something that is becoming an essential part of a film’s package.

‘Paranormal Activity’ may have cost a mere $15,000 to make. What Paramount bought was not the film, but the social media strategy that the filmmaker Orin Pelli developed around his film.

Strategy: The film industry will embrace any filmmaker, writer, director or producer who has a strong and clearly defined social media strategy.

Fade Out

Why not come to the Raindance Film Festival? There are over 200 programmes and talks in all aspects of independent film. Raindance Tickes and Passes are available here.

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, Promotion, Marketing and Distribution

What I Look for in a Film (as a 15-Year-Old)

1. Visual storytelling

Film is primarily a visual medium. Those from the silent era  (D.W. Griffith‘s movies from the 1910’s, Buster Keaton‘s movies from the 1920’s etc.) are still referred to as ‘films’, which shows that the camera, more than the microphone, is a filmmaker’s tool; that film is primarily a visual medium.

So I would argue for ‘show not tell’ whenever possible. For instance, a character could say on screen to another character ‘she’s my girlfriend’ as exposition, or could be seen kissing whoever ‘she’ is. Both scenarios would get across the same message, and yet the former seems more lazy. 

Of course there are times when there simply isn’t time or a plausible reason for them to kiss, but if their actions can portray visually to the audience that they are dating then the movie is better using to its advantage the opportunity of film. If people wanted to listen to words, they could go and listen to a radio programme, where the microphone is the main tool.

That’s not to say that sound does not play a major role. I am referring to endless dialogue when I say that visual storytelling is the better option, but I have never been more impacted emotionally by anything in a movie than non-diegetic sound. What would Titanic (1997, dir. James Cameron) be without ‘My Heart Will Go On’? 

Sometimes a swelling score in the big moments can have a huge impact on our aesthetic senses, on the tone of the film. Or, equally, a lack of sound. The ending of The Godfather Part II (1974, dir. Francis Ford Coppola) is suitably bleak, due to its protagonist, sitting completely alone, in silence. After a three hour film full of expressive, jam-packed and noisy scenes, this quiet moment is reflective and allows the audience time to see and feel how hopeless it all is.

Overall, I think the emergence of the talkies in the late 1920’s has benefited films as mood pieces. In terms of storytelling, though, sound has not helped. Using dialogue to explain away every plot point in the film is lazy, and defeats the point of a visual medium.

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2006) is the best example I’ve seen of visual storytelling. As talking films must do, it sets up some scenarios with dialogue, but manages to deftly walk the line between action and dialogue. The scenes that take place on the mountain, for instance, are a masterclass on telling a story cinematically. The few lines are all matter-of-fact, and do not spur the story on. We can see the pair herding sheep and falling in love, which is the story.

The music, too, is very beautiful, and lends a lot of emotional weight to the characters’ relationship. Brokeback Mountain’ uses both sound and mise-en-scène in the best possible ways. Everything that happens on-screen tells the story, and the score provides melancholy emotion.

2.  A unique vision

There are some films I have watched which truly transport me to a place I’ve never seen and never will see, and yet make that place look and feel believable. Examples are Avatar (2009, dir. James Cameron), Star Wars (1977, dir. George Lucas), Interstellar (2014, dir. Christopher Nolan) etc.

I think one of the many great gifts of the medium is being able to take one person’s vision, have hundreds of people work to harness it and then have this thing which started out in somebody’s head reach thousands of people. Nowadays with the right budget anything is possible in filmmaking; and I wish, therefore, that big studios would move away from money-grabbing franchises and start to finance fresh ideas. Because without pioneers such as Christopher Nolan, we never would get to see any unique visions on the screen which have been financed to their full potential. 

For me, Hollywood needs to start moving towards first time ideas that will show people things they have never seen before – because that is one of the main things I look for in films.

Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott) is the most visually striking film I’ve seen purely for the reason that it is an utterly unique vision from Ridley Scott. It was at the time a futuristic version of Los Angeles. And what a future! 

This film inspired countless others to use neon lighting, but very few have used it as well as this. The cityscape is bathed in saturated, unnatural lighting which adds a futuristic look. The religious elements of the story are supported by the beams of radiant light which stream through murky settings. 

‘Blade Runner’ is like a blend between cyberpunk, film noir and a religious painting, both in terms of mise-en-scène and in the events which take place. Scott can literally feel what things should look like; up to the point that he asked for some pillars in a hall to be turned upside down. There are tons of Netflix rip-offs and so forth of the film nowadays, but fortunately for me this was the first cyberpunk I saw, and so I got a feel of its originality.

3. Authentic, human characters

I have read an Alfred Hitchcock quote where he states that people do not go to films to see the familiar. As I said in my previous category, I love to be transported to another place, but at the same time there is something comforting to me about seeing characters or character traits that remind me of myself. That helps me to empathise with said character, and makes them emotionally resonate. 

As nobody is perfect, it is refreshing to see the flawed side of human nature represented. As a younger kid, watching films like ‘Star Wars’, I assumed that heroes and villains were all one-dimensional. When I had an idea for a film a few years back in which the antagonist’s actions are explained psychologically I thought I had had the best idea since editing!

Unfortunately for me, as I have since discovered, my idea was hardly original. In fact, I would go as far as to say that few films try to pretend anyone is perfect. Yet too much of the time it is carefully calculated. The protagonist might make a bad decision, but usually for the right cause. Or the antagonist may have had a difficult childhood, but the protagonist has had it worse. 

All this is why it is refreshing when a film presents human nature in all its ugliness, all its compassion, its hypocrisy. That way, when you place ordinary people in extraordinary situations, they will actually be ordinary people, and their story will be all the more extraordinary.

The Godfather (1972, dir. Francis Ford Coppola) is about a mafia family struggling for power in America. The main characters are all, at a glance, bad men. Their professional lives are led by assassinations, bribing and other extreme criminal activity. 

One of the most impressive things in the film is the way in which it initially presents Don Corleone as a psychopathic schemer, but gradually reveals him to be as reasonable as possible under the circumstances, and just a man who loves his family. 

As opposed to him, his son Michael Corleone is set up to be the hero of the tale. In the opening scene he tells his girlfriend how he does not want anything to do with his bloodthirsty family. Michael’s descent into corruption is truly chilling, and the movie shows us his two extremely different ways of behaving. 

It is Don Corleone’s apparent corruption and then reasonability, and Michael’s apparent reasonability and then corruption which go to show how we shouldn’t judge people by appearances and make the two of them three-dimensional characters. 

Everyone else in the Corleone family too; they are very violent men, but love their families. They show both evil and tenderness; either extreme. It is this authentic portrayal of humanity that, as time goes by, reminds me that, while it may not be my favourite, ‘The Godfather’ is the best film I have ever seen.

Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , ,

5 Classic Movie Scripts Every Screenwriter Should Read

Want to be a good screenwriter, but do not know where to start? We will tell you how to take the first steps towards your dream. Be attentive and keep the tips, they will definitely come in handy!

What Is a Movie Script and What Do You Need to Know About It?

The script of the film is a kind of skeleton, based on which stunning pictures and the greatest works of cinematography are created. Relatively speaking, the script is all information that will be captured in the future and transferred to the screens. This is a step-by-step “instruction” that includes all the dialogues, the places where the action takes place, all the characters involved, and a brief description of their emotions. Creating a movie without a script is impossible.

Why Is It So Important to Know and Read the Works of Famous Authors?

Creativity is part of the experience of predecessors, your own insanity, as well as the ability to see what the majority does not see. With this recipe, real talent is born and developed. But we have to remember that such talent needs constant boosting and nourishing. The study of literature, famous cultural figures, as well as their works, give an idea of how to apply your own talent in the best way. That is why the first and only right step for a person who wants to take a path in the field of screenwriting mastery and become a successful and sought-after screenwriter, is reading scripts that influenced the world cinema industry in one or another way.

Every well-known screenwriter has found their own way of knowing all aspects and possibilities of screenwriting. Each of them has learned from the masters of the past. And you have to follow that path too.

It may seem to you that this is like plagiarism. However, we must immediately clarify that this is not so. Studying existing scenarios helps the novice screenwriter understand how to put theory into practice. Because you can be as good as you want in theory, but you need to know how to put such theoretical knowledge into practice.

Here are the benefits that you can get by reading scripts:

  • A newcomer can see what a real script should look like. Not how it is presented as a template in the theoretical literature, but what text is actually taken as the basis for filming.
  • Get inspired from various techniques of writing. Each scriptwriter invests in the script skills that they have developed over the years. Reading the scripts of different authors, the novice writer discovers the world of new and old techniques that were used to write. Having a wealth of examples of creative techniques, it is much easier to build your own.

Reading Literature is the Way to Great Achievements

It is important to remember that in addition to screenwriting, you must not forget to read additional literature that will help to deal with the techniques of writing.

For example, we recommend reading this article which briefly describes how to expand an idea into a ready-made script, as well as steps that will help develop creative thinking. Save the recommendations in order not to lose them.

Also, as recommended The New York Times, read the work of the author and marvellous screenwriter Syd Field, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting”. In this book, each reader will be able to find step-by-step instructions for writing their own creation. The author tells and most importantly, proves that everyone can learn everything. It is only important to strive to achieve the goal. Syd Field will guide you through the whole journey, from the very inception of the idea to the ready and valid scenario.

His works have been translated into many languages. However, if you were unable to find it in the language you need, then you can always contact The Word Point for help. Here you can translate absolutely any kind of document, ranging from scenarios, and ending with any financial papers.

5 Movie Scripts that Anyone Who Wants to Take Place in the Niche of Famous Screenwriters Should Read

 

The great creation of the famous Charlie Kaufman hardly left any viewer indifferent. The film considers such a thing as love. What is it? How do we understand, that the rapid heartbeat is exactly the feeling that is called “love”? Is it possible to deliberately cross out all the feelings from the soul and where can that lead to?

  • Winner of the British Academy Award in 2005 for Best Original Screenplay;
  • Golden Globe nominee in the Best Screenplay category, 2005;
  • Winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, 2005.

 

How to use something that wasn’t intended to be public? Who is pleased to recognise their own desires in a character when they are completely different from generally accepted norms? David Lynch skilfully wields human “flaws”, as well as features of the psyche.

  • Nomination for Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay, 1987;
  • Nomination for Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, 1987.

 

This is a good example of where the attempts to live as you want can lead. The script describes understandable, but at the same time mysterious characters, that are not so easy to reveal. Looks like reality, isn’t it?

  • Winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Script, 2000;
  • Winner of the Oscar award for best screenplay, 2000.

 

This is a story that deserves the attention of everyone. It tells how strong the power of a word is, as well as a vivid example of how words should be supported by deeds.

  • Winner of an Oscar winner award for Best Adapted Script, 1963.

 

This is difficult-to-perceive and emotional story based on cruelty and love. This scenario is an excellent reference to how the encirclement can affect the person and deprive the right to choose even own destiny.

  • Winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Script, 1973;
  • Winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Script, 1973.

Summarising

Remember that it is always difficult to start something new. The first steps are not easy. However, if you have a goal, then you need to make enough effort and continue to go towards it, despite the difficulties and obstacles. Your efforts will not be ignored.

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, ScreenwritingTagged with: , , , ,

Music Videos Directed By Auteurs

Last week, Netflix released a 15 minute IMAX short film/music video Anima, starring Thom Yorke and featuring three songs from his new album of the same name. Directed by none other than Paul Thomas Anderson and shot by the great Darius Khondji, it’s something to behold. It’s also pretty significant that Netflix has commissioned what is essentially a music video by a filmmaker known more for his artistic value than commercial draw. To celebrate the release of Anima, here are some examples (by no means a definitive list) of great music videos directed by auteurs. Music videos, while not bound so much by narrative, are an opportunity for top film directors to experiment visually, and in some cases create incredible images that might never make it to the screen elsewhere. 

Thriller – John Landis

 

The most famous music video of all time. What else? John Landis, director-colossus of the late 70s and 80s, behind Animal House, Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London and Trading Places, directs this zombie-fuelled music video for the King of Pop. A gleefully metafictional comedy horror, Jackson and his girlfriend play out classic horror tropes in layers of movies-within-movies and nightmares, including a werewolf transformation and a zombie awakening. The zombies are pretty good dancers though.*

Bad – Martin Scorsese

Already the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The King of Comedy, Scorsese decided to collaborate with Jackson in 1987 with the longform ‘Bad’. It stars Michael Jackson alongside a young Wesley Snipes. It’s really a short film at 18 minutes long, and has a lot of dialogue with fluid scene cuts and narrative progression enveloping the actual song. Scorsese’s trademark camera movements are at play, initially in a blue washed monochrome, and then suddenly jumps into high saturation colour as Jackson switches from good school boy to “bad” boy.*

Karma Police – Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer is probably the one director on this list who might not be considered by everyone to be an auteur. But Sexy Beast and Under the Skin form an incredibly important part of British cinema, and have a pretty distinctive style while doing so. Radiohead used Glazer to direct ‘Karma Police’ in 1997, and he chose a desolate road in Middle America to shoot a fidgety yet eyes-glazed-over Thom Yorke to chase a man running in front of the car, only for a gas leak to enable the man to set the car on fire. It has strong imagery and pretty amazing cinematography, almost exclusively with a point-of-view camera in the driver’s seat of the car. 

Try – Paul Thomas Anderson

This Michael Penn music video is one very long take down an even longer (like ridiculously long) corridor. Paul Thomas Anderson utilises the Spike Lee staple “double dolly” shot, seen most recently at the end of BlacKkKlansman. Here the camera is dollying, but Penn himself is also on a dolly, so that it seems he is floating across the floor. What’s cool about this one in particular is that PTA pulls the rug from under us and breaks the fourth wall, actually revealing Penn to be on the dolly. The corridor keeps going on thanks to changes of direction and clever camera movement, and Penn travels through different scenes along different parts of the corridor. It comes together in an impressive one-take music video that in intricacy almost rivals the opening shot of Boogie Nights. Plus it’s got a cameo a pretty good cameo by Philip Seymour Hoffman as a soundie, but unfortunately not as Scotty J.

Across the Universe – Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson has directed some magnificent music videos. Another honourable mention might be Fiona Apple’s ‘Fast As You Can, where PTA seemingly changes the lens multiple times mid-shot as a train comes racing into a subway station. His best one, though, has to be the Fiona Apple cover of ‘Across the Universe’. A stylish black and white single take (or two) follows Fiona as a 50s set diner (from Pleasantville) is ransacked around her. It’s beautifully staged and executed as the camera seems mesmerised by Apple and forgets about the carnage around her. It’s pretty hard to figure out how she’s singing (and spinning) in time while everything being destroyed behind and in front of her is in slow motion, but that’s the cost of watching a master have the freedom of a big budget music video to play with. Spot the cameo from PTA regular John C. Reilly. 

Weapon of Choice – Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze has done a lot of music videos and adverts through his prolific career, and even has a WatchMojo video dedicated to his top ten music videos. Here is one that really shows his directorial skill, and shares similarities in its crazy weirdness to his feature films like Being John Malkovich. It stars Christopher Walken as a bored concierge who decides to dance (and fly) in the middle of the night in the Marriott Hotel in LA. Because, you know, it’s Christopher Walken, and he’s actually a professionally trained dancer. It won 6 MTV awards as well as being ranked ‘Best Video of All Time’ in 2002 by VH1.

Six Days – Wong Kar-wai

One of the most distinctive and idiosyncratic directors alive, and certainly one of the most influential, Wong Kar-wai’s style seems perfect for the music video medium. Parts of Wong’s films, like the Dinah Washington/Toy Airplane scene in Chungking Express, the final scene in Happy Together, and just about the whole of In The Mood For Love, use music as centrepieces of their scenes, almost as key to the story as the characters themselves. What would Chungking Express be without ‘California Dreaming’, or Happy Together without…, well, ‘Happy Together’? Here Wong teams up with regular DoP Christoper Doyle to shoot this video for DJ Prayer in 2002. It’s even filled with references to the number 426, a nod to Wong’s upcoming film at the time, and sort-of-sequel to ITMFL, 2046. It kind of feels like a Wong Kar-wai showreel, as he throws in all his staples; hyper stylish martial arts, people looking in lots of mirrors and a woman lying on a bed sensually (although presumably in a lot of pain as she gets a tattoo). It also features his signature style of quick cuts, fast, off-axis camera movement, step-printed slow-motion and neon-drenched lighting.

Honourable mentions:

‘Vogue’ (Madonna) – David Fincher

‘I Just Don’t Know What To With Myself’ (The White Stripes) – Sofia Coppola

‘Come Into My World’ (Kylie Minogue) – Michel Gondry

‘Paper Bag’ (Fiona Apple) – Paul Thomas Anderson

‘Here With Me’ (The Killers) – Tim Burton

*By including ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ in this list, we’re considering the work of the directors and their cultural impact, and it is not an endorsement of the musician’s proclivities.

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, Technical Craft, Web ContentTagged with: ,