Guerrilla Filmmaking 101 First in a series of articles to guide independent filmmakers without studio backing to a successful completion of their film. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Motivation Budgets & Breakdowns Producer Stuff Editing & Actors Festivals & Distributors Clean Up Dealing With Agents Production Checklist Digital
MOTIVATION Why are you doing this? That simple question that I felt I had to answer time and time again after committing all my resources, time, energy and money to a project I didn't feel was 'commercial', and had absolutely no name talent attached was one that kept popping up repeatedly. The answer was very simple; I had to do it. I had a great script, great actors, I happened to have maybe enough money and I thought maybe, if I'm lucky, this has the potential to be a great film. The idea that it would make money never affected my decision to proceed with the film, and once committed finishing was not a question of "if", just "when". I thought it would be a great film. That question still looms in front of every one of my projects; 'Why am I doing this?', and, more frequently these days, 'If this was my money that I'm spending, would I still do this film?' If the answer is no, the answer is no. If you are considering taking your first plunge into no-budget, self-financed filmmaking and believe you have a great script that you have to shoot, do yourself an enormous favor and honestly answer that question before you start. If you are sick of waiting for someone else's money to arrive on your doorstep before you shoot your first film and are financing it from whatever means available to you, it's a question that could mean everything to the bankruptcy judge at your hearing. Filmmaking this way can literally ruin your life if you walk into it believing that you're a great filmmaker and you can make all your money back on 'the other end.'
DILETTANTE'S On the other hand, there are dilettante's bumping into each other all over LA bitching and moaning about a measly "million for my first feature" that will never make a film, and are motivated by money no matter how well they play the part of the auteur. They should be doing music video's, or move back home, or become bitter studio executives that churn out the kind of stuff that, well, studio executives churn out. What should concern you is the amount of filmmakers walking around town with sixty seven 5 year old cans of film in their closet for the film they can't complete because "insert reason/excuse here". If you believe your script is commercial, has the potential to be a big commercial hit, do not spend your own money to do it unless you can afford to lose it. You might be right about it being a hit, but the odds are against you. I suggest asking yourself the same question and if the answer is money, your motivation is a common one, and best of luck. I suggest an action film, or porn, or violence. That 'product' always sells. (see article on the 1998 AFM ) For the rest of us working in film, your medium of choice is a very expensive one, and I believe one of the most powerful mediums available to artist's. But you know that. Or at least you should know that. If you've never made a film before, never been on a set before, never worked with actors or a crew before, never run an inch of film through a film camera before and have never thought of the visual elements of each one of your shots before, or ever made a schedule, budget or broken down a script before, or even if you have, Guerrilla Filmmaking 101 should be able to help you get started in a direction that will allow you to complete your film. Ok, now, you've made the decision, your answer satisfies you that if no one ever sees the film you still know it will be a great film, and you believe your script is ready to shoot, you're probably wrong. FEEDBACK If you are the only person that believes your script is great, you've got a problem. Your next step is to get somebody else on your side, preferably someone that can help you with production, but getting actors involved is a very good thing. Pass your script out to a few people you trust that will give you honest feedback. Not what you want to hear, but a biased/unbiased
opinion. That's usually honest feedback. If you're not making a narrative film, write down your idea for the film in a way that someone else can understand, and get a feel for what you intend the film to be. Listen to what people say, and that's a very hard thing to do. If they don't 'get it,' that's your problem, not theirs. Communication for the filmmaker is everything. Whether it's to the crew, actors or your uncle with the money, a director without communication skills is in a lot of trouble. And at the script level, the start of your film, it's the key to your film being what you want. Have a read-through of your script, get the key characters in whatever scenes you think you would like to hear or you think might have a problem, find some actors or friends or relatives that are interested, get them together in one room and have them read the scenes for you out loud. It's always better to find willing participants that can invest your characters with whatever direction you can give them. The easy stuff. Does the scene work? Do any of the lines you've written sound plausible coming out of the mouth's of real people? Are the parts so idiosyncratic/difficult/impossible that you need Brando/Branagh/Olivier for the part? Those are the easy questions, the one's a first time writer needs to know about what he's done from the perspective of voices outside his own subconscious. The hard questions still come back to haunt you, and still ring back to the first question. What do these characters mean to you? Is there any truth in what they say or do? How do you know? What is this film about and do I have anything to contribute to the lexicon? Why am I doing this? What Is This Film About? Possibly the most important question for a filmmaker is the one that sounds the most mundane: What is this film about? I have a friend that will probably get the money for his first film and when I asked him what the film was about, he started telling me the story. That's not what your film is about, that's the story. What is it you have to say? What is the film about from the filmmakers perspective, not the writers? The story may be about a used car salesman who murders some customers, but the film is about father figures, last chances, extended families and redemption. This is not a slight distinction, if you're just filming the action of the script, then you really have nothing to contribute and should question your reason for doing it. Tough love bubba, the audience for impotent filmmakers doing
what hollywood does every day is thankfully growing smaller very quickly.
Okay. That's lesson one. Cheap, difficult, but absolutely necessary. Finish the script, answer the question, get feedback from people you trust, do a read-through, answer the question. If you're satisfied with your answers, the next step should be easy.
BUDGETING AND BREAKDOWNS or 'CAN I REALLY DO THIS?' In the 80's I finished a script I thought was really an exciting piece for my first feature, and 20th film. I had been trying for a long time to get name talent involved while constantly looking for the right unknown actors for 2 very tough parts. It wasn't until 1993 I ran into some actors I was convinced would be perfect for the parts, and that wanted dearly to do it. That chance meeting sent me on the trip of completing my first feature film. Now that you have answered your question's of motivation with whatever degree of satisfaction, you must now decide if you can cast the actors in the parts. In all films, casting is everything. For the no-budget guerrilla filmmaker you also have to factor in; 1. The discomfort the actors will have to endure. 2. For how long. 3. And will they be willing to stay with the film until it's finished? What will you do if your lead actors have "had enough" and walk on your film? Although there are things you can do in that case, it is obviously something you want to avoid. Which comes first, casting or budget? A debatable point. If you've got the money do you have the cast? If you've got the cast can you really do this? Casting is an individual problem germane to every film. I can't stress more strongly the need to cast your film with actors you know are perfect for the parts, and do not proceed with the film under any circumstances unless you're thrilled with your cast, you'll only wish you had when you see it in the editing room. Casting. Very hard to do, not so hard to start. In whatever town you are in you must find the local paper for entertainment, contact the local theaters and agents and let them know you are casting a film. With or without pay, what parts, what genders, what ages and most importantly, when will the first day of shooting be. You will be surprised how many responses you get, they may not be what you want, and you may have to cast from LA or NYC, but
you will get many earnest actors that will want to work on your film. You might also want to try the internet, contacting agents and breakdown services by email across the country, but make it clear about the money, and if you are paying or not. What many filmmakers do is divide the deluge of photo's and resume's into 3 stacks; Right type and experience: Wrong type but interesting: Hopeless. Read the resume's and see what kind of experience, stage or film, the actors your're considering have had. A stage actor with no camera experience might be tough for a low budget production, but don't count them out, very often it is a natural progression. Give your actors 'sides' to read a day or more ahead of the reading, give them time to prepare and give you the best they've got. 'Sides' is a theater term from Shakespearean era named because the writers, in order that their plays could not be stolen, very often only gave their actors their dialogue, so they only had one side of a scene. 'Sides.' Naturally you don't want to do that, but pick an appropriate scene so you can see what they've got in terms of the character. Give them any direction they ask for, but don't offer any, this gives you a chance to see if they come to a part with what you want. Callbacks - call back the actors you would like to read again, give them as much direction as they want, and, I suggest recording the reading on videotape. You might be surprised how differently an actor comes across on screen. Ask your actor if he would like to improvise something about the part and see what they come up with. Don't try to stick to 'type', just look for a good actor. I've had actors blow my socks off that were just not right for the part, and I couldn't wait to get them in my film. So, now it's cast, can you really do this? Your first step in answering that question is "exactly how much money do I have?" Not how much you think will come in, and if Bob comes through with..., or that darn genius grant should come through by... How much money and credit do you have to spend, now? Don't ever rely on anyone else to help you with financing, don't believe anyone will ever come through with money to help you, what you have is your budget and that's it. People, investors,
friends, all the hangers on have nothing invested in your film like you do, and life for them changes as rapidly as yours does. When an investors check clears the bank and you've actually spent the money, then it's part of your budget, not before. The best intentions will not pay the lab that's holding your negative because you can't pay the processing fee because cousin Bob's tractor conked out and he had to buy a new one "sorry I didn't call." Even though most reputable labs will work with you if you've established a relationship, you have to assume; THE LAB DOES NOT CARE. SCRIPT BREAKDOWN Now, you've amassed your fortune, whatever else comes, comes, but you know what you have, on paper. Your next step is to figure out how much this will cost, and the first way to do that is to break down your script. A script breakdown is exactly what it sounds like, each scene is broken down into all the elements that will go into it. Even though you will probably be stealing all your locations, and using whatever happens to be on the wall as set decoration, you must break down your script in all the elements to find out what you will have to pay for, or will have to find for free, and when it has to be where at what time. A common way to do this for filmmakers without high end scheduling programs is to get a number of colored pencils, make a key on the first page that tells you exactly what each color is for, and go through the entire script, scene by scene, and highlight each one of the elements in the appropriate color. Locations, vehicles, SFX , stunts , wardrobe , props , set dressing , cast members for each scene, camera equipment everything that you will need to complete the scene must be part of your breakdown. For example: EXT. DESERT - DAY Standing in the bleak desert sun , Bob looks up and sees vultures circling overhead. Hearing a sound , he turns as suddenly a team of actors from babewatch drive by in a 62 Volkswagen with flat tires. A MAN approaches from behind, pulls an enormous gun from his waistband and just as Bob is about to speak, pulls the trigger and..... With the exception of 'vultures circling' you will need to bring everything to that location, including actors from babewatch, man, crew, Volkswagen, flat tires, and find a desert location that suits your shooting arrangements. You'll be lucky to get vultures circling, but you won't have to worry about it on the
day of the shoot, it's something that could be a separate shot without sound and no actors. You have to know this and plan for it, but mostly, at this stage, how much will it cost? It's also wise after you've made a complete breakdown to allow a page for each scene, with all it's elements, bind it and keep it with you, or at least somewhere on the set. Okay, now, you've got this enormous list of stuff to acquire for your film. Go through it carefully and decide what is absolutely necessary, what you can get for free, and what you can get rid of that's extraneous to the script, story or character. Once you have it pared down as far as you think you possibly can, up pops another question. FINAL DESTINATION Where do you intend the final destination of your film? It makes an enormous difference in the amount you will need to finish your film. Most distributors will not look at unfinished films these days, and the likelihood of getting finishing funds from an organization or a distributor is not good, nor should you plan on it. If you intend your film to be seen on the screen, not on tape, you should now start making your budget, from the screen out, all the way to buying your first roll of film. You know you want your film to be on the screen, an A/B answer print costs X per foot at the lab, your script is 120 pages long and you expect it to be about 2 hours in length finished, that's 12,000 feet of film (35mm - 4,000 16mm) at X per foot for the answer print, plus X per foot for the optical track, plus X per foot for wastage and lab work, plus X per foot for the sound mix, plus X for cutting the negative, plus X per foot for the work print/transfer to video, plus cost of editing, plus X per foot to process the film, plus X per foot to buy the film at a shooting ratio of X, plus cost of audio tape stock, plus camera, sound, equipment rental, plus location-wardrobe etc. either rental/buy, plus whatever transportation costs, plus food for actors and crew - now do you see why a break down is so important? PLAN FOR WHAT YOU CAN PLAN FOR You may be able to eliminate a lot of things as your production moves forward, but you have to plan for the things you can plan for, like processing, gas, prints-the essentials of getting your film finished to where you would like it to be seen. I recommend planning for at least a 1st answer print (a 1st answer print is the first exposure and color-corrected print back from the cut
negative, a "timer" does this in the lab, scene by scene on rewinds), when you get it to the point where you might want people to see it, film festivals and markets are not interested in your good intentions, they need to see reels of film in their projectors, not your Avid output. Showing your film in the best light is important, plan for it, which means budget for it. It's not impossible to get post production financing, but it is improbable considering the amount of films being produced these days. So, how's the budget now? Look a lot more bloated than you thought? You've just begun. Now you know the listed prices for everything, and have based your budget around them and discovered you don't have the money. Before you do anything else I suggest you evaluate your script and your budget in the harsh light of day. If you've written a script that demands so much production, and locations, and travel and "insert reason here" it couldn't possibly be done for the amount of money you have, DON'T DO IT. Get real, if you're a guerrilla filmmaker with next to nothing you have to know that your script can't include travel to Colorado for that shot, or even across town, unless of course you can or have it for free. The money you have is your budget for everything. Maybe you need to write a script with all this in mind that you can shoot, then start from scratch again. I can't stress that enough, if your budget is so far away from what you have, DON'T START THIS FILM . BECOME A PRODUCER Ok, now, your budget is too big but it's in sight, not so far off you can't see the end, but still too far away to start. Now what? Now you pick up the phone and become a producer: ask for deals. It's that simple, and that complicated. Being a good producer is not an easy job, you must ask business and labor for things they don't want to give you, but you must have to finish your film. How do I choose a lab? How do I get a crew? How much crew do I need? What about Cameras? Non-linear or flatbed? ..........etc.
PRODUCER STUFF Recently I sent a much less experienced producer than I a very well written and received script of mine. This 1 film producer said to me, "as Mozart said in Amadeus, 'too many notes'." Heh heh. While I did not point out to her that was made up by a writer for the character of a dull witted dilettante German prince speaking to Mozart, who responded, "There are just as many notes as are needed.", I did say thank you for the kind words and wished her luck, to which she responded by saying I couldn't take criticism, and laid a few cliché's on me. A famous screenwriter told me a long time ago, "a good producer will say "not for me, but thanks." A bad producer will tell you what's wrong, how to rewrite it and when to send it back to them." There is a lot of ego tied up in filmmaking, trust your instincts and forget destructive comments from small people, but remain open to constructive criticism. Sometimes that's not easy to do. Don’t' Lie. If you have to be your own producer you'll be entering a schizophrenic arena in which most of your time will be spent as producer, and the rest as director or whatever job you're doing at the moment. People speak to 'Producers' differently than they do 'Directors.' I imagine it's because they believe the producer has control of the money, and more power. You can use this to your advantage, I don't tell people I'm also directing unless I will be directly involved with them on the set, or unless they ask. I don't lie to people I want to work with either as producer, or filmmaker. As the producer of your film you have to decide that you want to remain doing business with all the people you talk to who have anything to do with your film, and, maybe just as important, your next film. Just because you don't care if you ever have a big budget, the incentive for labs, crews, negative cutters, and all the people concerned with your film is the prospect of you being "the next big thing," or just having a big budget for your next film that you will bring back to the lab/negative cutter/editing house/transfer house - and all the production personnel associated with your film. Don't lie.
Everybody has heard your bull before, and if they haven't and you "fool" them, they will feel like you've cheated them or insulted them and they won't have anything to do with you, or worse, they will try to do your film, or your next film some harm. It happens. Some people will feel like that anyway even on the biggest films. I suggest keeping your conscience clear. As soon as I hear some lame bull from weenie #16 I either hang up the phone or say no thanks. When I'm working on someone else's film in a crew capacity it's for money, like being a waiter. Would you ask an actor to wait on tables for free? Tell people what you're doing, what you've got to do it with (money), let them know the story and try to get them involved in the process. That's not always easy, but not impossible. CASTING THE CREW If you get people to help that know what they are doing, get them for next to, or nothing, count your blessings. Competent production people move up quickly and have no reason to work on your film if there is no money. What would you do for no money 10-15 hours a day? Why should they? Well, maybe because they need a credit as (?) on the next rung up whatever ladder they are climbing. A 1st assistant camera person as your director of photo, a boom person as your mixer, or, maybe the intangible; they think you have a great script and their work will be seen by a lot of people. Any of those combinations are incentives for production people to work on your film for nothing, or for very little. I hand everyone the script on all my films and tell them exactly what I have, and let them make the decision based on that. I've made some terrible mistakes which I'll get into later. Keep in mind, no one, absolutely no one will have the same energy for your film that you will , no matter what they say, promise or invest. HOW MUCH CREW? Deciding on how much crew you need is a matter of going carefully over your breakdown to see what kind of production equipment you'll need, and who knows how to use it. If you're guerrilla filmmaking you'll need a camera and sound, and if you don't know how to use the camera, add a director of photo. Production value is what you can steal in the way of images and locations, which certainly dictate how fast you'll have to shoot, and how big of a crew you can have. I would count on
having at least a director of photo if you're not intimate with the camera, and a sound man. The luxuries will be a 1st AC to pull focus, a 2nd AC to load, a Boom person, and a Grip or Gaffer if you have lights or C Stands. Any friends or sympathizers you can get to help you are certainly a positive, and if they know nothing about filmmaking, they will learn as quickly as you. You'll have to deal with people in mid-career and they may be glad to be there, but you may not be so glad to have them. I hired the nicest kid in the world based on his expertise as a mixer and recommendation from another mixer. We did not have the luxury of dailies and this nice kid recorded great stretches of dialogue without a limiter, over-modulating, distorting almost everything he did. If I would have seen him just once in the year following I would be in jail now. I hired a very nice guy with a pretty good reel to shoot and that I finally fired after finding out he ruined 4 days of shooting, 300 miles away by not catching an obvious camera problem, and then had to have optical's done to exclude all the production equipment he kept in the frame. This all happened on the same film, but it did get finished, and ended up on a "favorite films of the year" critics list. LEARN TO SAY NO My point, finally, is this: your crew is very important, if they can't prove themselves, even if they are working for free, you must get rid of them immediately and get someone that can do the job. This specifically applies to technical expertise, and on your set that will mean camera, and sound. Even the biggest films have soft focus shots where the operator or 1st AC has screwed up, but it's the second biggest failure of no-budget films. The first is bad sound. Get references . Listen to the sound reel, watch the composition and exposure, talk to the lab and the timer that timed this guys work, talk to the sound house that did this guys last transfer. Believe me, it's worth it. Personally, I will never give any technical crew personnel a chance without references, experience, and an exhibited desire to work with the director. LABS How you pick your lab may be the most important aspect of your film, a poor lab that processes your film in old, dirty or hot chemistry will make your negative look poor and change the whole "feel" of your film. Or, worse yet, they may lose footage,
scratch it or any number of completion-threatening disasters. Talk to the salesmen at all the labs before you decide the list price at Bottom Bucket Labs is the only thing you can afford. Talk to the lab, try to make deals with them, be creative, but don't lie. Remember, they have your negative. Some of the things to consider when picking the lab are: 1. Do they replenish or dump chemistry and at what temperature? 2. Do they have a screening room and if they do, is there a charge? 3. What have they done before and have you seen it? 4. Will they pick up for free? 5. How fast do they process and print (if you need it). 6. Do they do film transfers to tape and if they do both the processing and transfer can you get a better deal? A lot of low end labs will process your film for next to nothing, but they use dump chemistry system of replenishing, which simply means that after X amount of footage the chemistry is exhausted and they dump it and put in new. If you happen to be at the head of that schedule, you're probably fine, if not, you're in terrible shape. Guess where they'll put your no-profit film? Also find out the optimum temperature for processing (usually 68 degrees) and find out what temperature the lab processes film, hot chemistry means shorter process time and they can process more film in a day. It also means a lot, A LOT more grain on your film, DON'T DO IT. One thing I tried was offering to pay cash, up front, before the processing began to get a better price. I don't suggest this at a shady lab, they may not rip you off, but they can. I tried this strategy at a transfer house (Video Plant) and it cost me dearly. The lab can be a good friend or a horrible enemy, and you want everybody on your side that has anything to do with your film. The sales department, scheduler, the projectionist, assembly, and in my opinion the most important, the guy who decides how to get your film to look like you want it, the color timer . In my last film the timer got a credit without asking because he did a great job and was extremely helpful to me at the lab. So was the timer on my first feature but I was too poor to get his name on the credits. Make personal relationships with these guys, their talent is important to your film, and if they like you, like anybody else, they are more likely to help you when you need it. GET IT ON PAPER STUPID
Once you've gotten a deal and lab to process and print or transfer the footage to tape, get the figures on paper, signed. That way you can hold them to their deal if things change or they want to renegotiate, and legally you have recourse if something comes up. This is another reason to pick a reputable lab. Most reputable labs will never renege on a deal they make whether in writing or not. I had a transfer house that made a deal with me, I paid them in advance, then after months of delays ran through the money and told me I could not have my negative back unless I paid them more money. (Video Plant). It happens. They did a crappy transfer much of which had to be redone, it cost me much more money than we agreed to, and it took them forever to do it. Even if I would of had it on paper what could I have done? Sue them? They've got your negative. Choose your labs wisely. PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT It's money again. Two trains of thought; 1. Hire people with their own equipment. 2. Rent your own equipment from a production house. If you hire people with their own equipment you can pay them the rental you might have to give a production house: they make a little, you don't have to pay production insurance for the equipment. The flip side of that is the obvious; If you fire them because they suck at their job, you lose the equipment and your production stops. You do what you have to do in guerrilla filmmaking. It's safer to rent, cheaper to hire someone with equipment. If the DP quits and takes his camera home to play, can you get your actors back together when you finally get a camera? Will they come back? If he quits and it's your camera you can shoot the scenes until somebody else comes back on. Think survival, and money. Same goes for the sound man. Listen to all his takes at night for at least the first 4 nights. If you have the luxury of dailies (see lab above), how does everything sound and look? Get rid of them pronto if your unhappy, it won't get better , or rather it usually won't. If you're thinking of shooting on weekends to save money it's a grand idea fraught with pitfalls. They are;
1. Actors finding paying jobs and leaving the day before shooting. 2. Crew finding paying jobs and leaving the day before shooting. 3. You finding a paying job...etc. 4. Running out of money before the 13 weekends of shooting are complete. 5. Everyone else running out of patience before you complete including the equipment house that has already rented your camera as a 3rd camera for Babewatch exteriors. This kind of stuff happens all the time. Equipment houses are in it for the money, your film is not high on their list of priorities and you can't count on people who have to deal with the realities of money and living for your film, only yourself. No one will ever have as much energy and commitment for your film as you. If you can get everyone to commit to a schedule that consists of a week or two for principal work, shooting pick ups on weekends makes a lot more sense to everyone. The films almost done, why not? 35 or 16? The decision to shoot 35mm or 16mm is a tough one to make. Don't believe what anyone says about saving money by shooting Super 16mm over 35mm. If you present a film in 16mm to a distributor that might have some interest and he throws in the 40k or so cost of enlarging your film to 35mm, he may tell you to do it. At that point you've a grainy 35mm print of a 16mm film that now cost as much as it would have to shoot 35mm. It's stupid unless it's your only viable option. My first film was a junkie road film shot in 16mm using my cameras, I had two at the time. I had no choice, but more importantly to me, the grainy, gritty subliminal feel of the texture of the film added to the story, rather than detracted from it. Lawrence of Arabia in Super 8? I wouldn't suggest that aesthetic decision. I'm not a format bigot, but, you and your film will be taken more seriously by the labs, the sound house, and all the people you deal with including the distributors and buyers if you shoot in 35mm. That's just the facts, jack. Better deals on 35mm equipment can be found and you've got a much better looking film, and if you shoot short ends you will spend not much more than you would on 16mm. Remember, if you plan on blowing up a 16mm film, you have to light the thing extensively to keep the blacks black, and saturate the colors by the time it's blown up to 35mm and
LIGHTING TAKES A LOT OF TIME so you can figure to spend more money for the extra days of shooting that you will need. It slows things down, considerably. In 35mm you can get away with a lot more because the larger negative will handle the nonexistent lighting, and still look good by the time it gets to the screen. If your end venue is videotape, and you never expect it to see the screen, your format doesn't matter too much. I've seen some very good looking things shot in Super 8 transferred to tape, and that's very cheap. Or, if you've got a film that lends itself to the gritty feel you can do what I did, very little if any lighting. IF IT WORKS, DO IT A lot of films are now being shot in video or digital(MiniDV) handicam format then transferred to 35mm for projection in festivals or distribution. If this is your only option, and it works with the kind of film you're making - do it. Price the cost of the transfers though, they can be very, very expensive. Keep in mind the look of what you're going to end up with. The transferred footage can look pretty good, it doesn't look like film, really, and it doesn't look like video, mostly. Some strange marriage of the two, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, just be sure it works in with the kind of film you're making, make it work for you and not against. PRODUCTION Even if you can't pay your crew you've got to feed them as best as you possibly can. There may be some die hard film lovers on your set, they may all be, but feed them well and keep them as happy as you can. Make a deal with the deli for free whatever for a credit in the film, and another for catering for a percentage of the net, be creative, give them a slice of filmmaking for what they can afford to give you, if they want to. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED BY A NO. It's part of the process, just move on to the next place. How about giving the restaurant owner a little part in the film while you shoot that all important restaurant scene in his restaurant while he caters the cast and crew? I met a great couple in the desert that just for the hell of it volunteered their huge motor home for the shoot. I gave the guy a real nice little part and he did a great job, it ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the film. Be creative, give people what they
want in trade for what you want. I had much better luck out of town than in the big pueblo, people gave me the use of their business free of charge and I gave them credits in my film and undying gratitude. Let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing to help you, it can mean a lot to the next filmmaker that needs that location. And don't screw them, leave the place clean, the way you found it, shake everybodies hand and be earnest in thanking them Mr. Producer. If they wanted to they could kick you out, or sue your production later on. Be A Good Scout Scout your locations months in advance and talk to all the people you have to reach to make it a done deal. Lock down the time and the day and if you can, get a contract and you must have a release or don't use the place. It could hurt you later, and have a fall back plan, an alternate location. Getting locations to sign a paper for a free days shooting is desirable, but you may not be able to get it. Play it by ear and don't be disappointed if you can't get it, use your fall back location if you have one, or start the next scene, or do pick ups, don't waste the time worrying about it. "Would you mind signing an agreement about the day we come in to use your bar? We just want you to feel comfortable about this, and we should each get a release."Try that. Tighten up your schedule to fit your filmmaker desires, financial realities, and logic of locations. If you've got a restaurant, club, bar location for one day that's perfect for 3 scenes which occur at the beginning, middle and end of your script, throw your plans for sequential shooting out the window. Use the location, make the scenes work in the way you need them to work and shoot the scenes sequentially that will allow themselves to be shot that way. Think survival. OK. Mull that over for awhile.
ACTORS & EDITING ACTORS NO ONE can tell you how to work with your actors, you will have to discover what works best for you and your style of filmmaking. Every director I've ever talked to has a different way of working with his actors and his crew. I've known directors who love actors and don't know how to direct them or have any idea where to put the camera or why. I've known directors who simply hate actors and tolerate them simply to get what they need for the performance they want. This is what happens in Hollywood with too much money, formula scripts, and the power commerce brings to "product" no one really cares about. You've all heard stories about prima donna's that demand great script changes and simply refuse to do scenes they don't like, or walk off sets for almost anything. I saw one actor stop production because he wanted a bigger trailer, wouldn't shoot unless they got him what he thought he deserved. Good actors usually just need good characters to work from, psychological motivation for their actions, the right kind of encouragement from the director, and made to feel this is a safe place to work. And that's only the start. Directors must prepare for a scene, just like an actor, or the crew. Don't be a director who does not know what he wants, that's where most problems start. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know the point of each scene, the motivation for each action, the main emotional moment of each scene and where it leads to the next scene. Process is EVERYTHING. Never direct an actor through what you want in results, "Be more mad - happy etc.", take the initiative, tell your actors what they want in the scene or conflict, "Make Sheila stop insulting you." Give your actors motivation and some meat to work with in the scene. Who, What, Why, Where, Wants, Needs, Feelings. When your actor asks, or even if they don't, you must be able to tell them about the character; 18
Who the character is? What do they want? Why do they want it? Where are they coming from, and Where are they now? Wants what from Whom? Needs what from Whom? How do I Feel about Whom? Every direction should be geared toward giving the actor information about the scene so they can attain and experience the emotional moment of the character. Almost every direction should be a verb. Never give an actor a line reading. Don't take lines away from an actor, those are the actors lines, not yours, never speak their lines because they belong to the actor. Period. It is also very insulting and shows your weakness as a director, or more importantly, your weakness at casting the right actor in the role. If you've cast your film exactly the way you want it, have faith in your actors, allow them what freedom you can, they should be able to know what kind of performance you want by your guidance and the character. Let them discover the character on their own, it's more fun for you both, more interesting for the character, and good actors enjoy that discovery as much as you do. If you expect some anal adherence to each inflection you intended in the script without allowing the personality of the actor you cast in your film to bleed into the character, you're doomed to disappointment and spending more money in footage than you have. NEVER give an actor a line reading, those are the actors lines, not yours. Get the picture? SO SHOULD YOU I have great faith in, and loyalty to my actors, and give them as much freedom as I possibly can . But that's what I look for, the kind of filmmaking that interests me is the kind in which the person I cast in the part can bring both the truth I know about the character on the page, and his own truth about that character to the screen. That means I try to cast the right actor, and right person for the roles. No matter what you think about acting and actors, the truth is, good actors (and not so
good ones too) are involved in bravery, going someplace they may not like to go over, and over again. Whether it's emotional turmoil, or psychological hell, they willingly go back for a character, over, and over again. We're all human, how brave people handle that is sometimes difficult to take, but , if they are delivering, Mr. Director, you better be supporting them in exactly the way they need. For instance, in casting one of my films I had an actor that was perfect for a very important role and I wanted to give him the part, but his "I'm doing you such a huge favor by being here" attitude would have been such a detriment on the set I didn't even consider him even though he was probably much better than the person I hired. Because one young actor had a family member problem (alcohol), I could not give that part to that actor. The problem family member would have been an enormous liability on a fast moving guerrilla set and who knows what would have happened. One actor whom I did cast in a role called up at 1 AM. before his 9 AM. call for his big dialogue scene and said he had to visit a friend in jail and would try to make it. I cut him out of the scene and shot around him, even after he showed up at 11 AM. Two young actors in another film were very good, but one had both hidden legal and ego problems, and the other had severe emotional and psychological problems and both had recently quit drugs which resulted in some testy moments over the course of shooting, but they were so good in the parts and dedicated to the roles that we finished and made a very good film. I will always have nothing but good things to say about them. All that said, I failed to protect my actors from the enormous pressures put on me in one of my films, that was a terrible mistake and I did not realize I was doing it until the film was over. I was learning, I'm still learning every day, but YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE A PLACE FOR YOUR ACTORS TO FEEL SECURE AND WANTED, TO GIVE THEM A PLACE TO CREATE. Sometimes that is very hard when you have no money and everything is on your shoulders, but remember, it's a collaborative effort, help the other artists get to a place where they can create for you, and your film. If you're a guerrilla filmmaker and have maybe 3 takes total to get a shot and you know that the actor you want dislikes you, or has a reputation for being difficult, or dislikes the script, or is only doing this "for my reel", or is a prima donna: by the fifth day of shooting that
actor has you by the short and curlies and can demand or do what he likes because you have all this footage with him in the part. It happens. That's the nightmare and is probably unlikely, but more subtle issues of control like coloration, intent in the performance etc., and dissention on the set can creep in and weaken your film. Remember, again, this is a collaborative process, you and your actors are creating together, collaborating, to bring your script to the screen. Involve them in the process, barking commands is never a way to get what you want. I wouldn't be above doing almost anything to get a performance from an actor that might be having a problem, but breaking through all those barriers is part of the process, for me. In one road film I knew I a lot of crew members and actors were walking off sets around town, it's was like some weird virus or the hip thing to do at the time and I could not let that happen to me, so, I took everyone on the road in two vans and we ripped off locations along the way. Basically I hijacked everyone to the middle of nowhere so "sleeping in that morning rather than working on this film" was not an option. It worked for me because I planned it that way, and it was a road film. You may have to find another strategy that will work for you but try to plan for as much as possible, and include whatever happens as part of the film. EDITING You've probably all heard about, if not actually used a nonlinear editing system and heard how fast, how small, and how good they can be. Although much of that is true, there are a lot of hidden costs that no one involved in just one part of the process will tell you about, and it may not be a viable option for the guerrilla filmmaker. Keep in mind, you're trying to complete your film and survive where many, many others have not. Just because it's the latest thing, does not mean it can work for you. The old style of editing usually meant a screening of all the footage printed to film and screened in theater with or without sound, then taking that footage to a flatbed to edit both picture and sound 1-2 tracks at a time. The nonlinear style means you get your footage back on videotape, screen it on a monitor then put it into the computer to edit, or some combination of the above.
Nonlinear editing is computer editing in which the negative is transferred to tape, usually with sound and entered into the computer, or digitized both for picture and audio. Once in the computer you can move scenes and 4-8-32 tracks of sound instantly, save a number of versions with great ease, only limited by time, cost, and how much disc space you have. The computer will digitize your footage at different resolutions for different purposes, the higher the resolution the more storage you will need. At a very low resolution you can store almost any feature on 18 gigabytes. A low resolution use's less pixels and therefore looks very "pixilated" but uses less disc space. High resolution (some systems claim better than broadcast quality) uses a lot of space to store the added information, most people would only use this for the last output to tape. The advantages of nonlinear are obvious: Speed of editing and amount of variations you can have; The small space in which you need to edit; Sound editing capabilities: Instantaneous output to tape to show people dailies; On most systems you have the ability to see effects, titles and various other things not available to the die hard on a flat bed-among a whole host of other things. The draw backs are not so obvious: Looking at your film on a monitor instead of the screen allows flaws (soft focus shots, dirt or scratches in film) in the "digitized" footage that you would certainly catch in a screened work print to pass unnoticed; Editing on a monitor inhibits the pacing that will finally get on the screen: Trusting what the computer gives you as a negative cut list, rather than it being a simple work-print to negative match up: You're post mixing costs are usually higher; Added post expenses . For the nonlinear editing process here are some of the post production things to consider when budgeting: 1. Cost of transfer to tape (telecine time). 2. Cost of tape stock (usually betacam). 3. Cost of editing at post house in which you must include the: 4. Cost of disc storage space not included with your system, and what quality of computer you are working (some nonlinear system EDL's (edit decision list) are not easily transferred to a cut list for your negative and could incur an obvious tragedy or tragedies for your film if you rely on them). After you've edited the:
5. Cost of having your negative cut and another 6. Telecine (could be a very cheap one) so you can post music. 7. Cost of hiring an audio house to re-sync your the second negative cut transfer. 8. Cost of the audio mix. 9. Cost of final telecine to tape.
do your footage to
Except for the negative cut, and final telecine above, these are all extra costs, and you still do not have an optical track, an answer print of your film, or have ever seen it screened, only on a video monitor. HOWEVER, if you can afford to get one of the new, very good, 1000$ dollar non-linear systems for your computer and upgrade it enough to cut on, you can take as long as you like, and be very sure of your final cut. The Sleaze Factor Some added things to consider about telecine for nonlinear are: When talking to the transfer house find out what their transfer ratio will be. That means that for every running hour of footage what will their maximum time be to transfer it to tape, and get it in writing. A telecine operator has to line up time-code numbers from your audio tape to the sync slate on film for each one of your takes, that takes time. 4:1 is fine, but, whatever ratio you get, count on it being the maximum for your budget, then add 10% for the sleaze factor. You might want to consider not transferring sound at the telecine, and doing it in the computer, but you will have to be sure that the nonlinear system you are using will accept time code from your tapes, that you have the time and expertise to do this properly, and have added the extra expense of time spent on the computer to input it plus rental of the audio source machine against the time of the telecine operator to do the same thing. If you don't use time code on your set you may have to finally transfer it to a timecoded tape anyway, but, you've saved the cost of a time code audio machine, used less film because time code should have a 10 second pre-roll, and if you're using a mono 4.2 Nagra, you've got superior audio. If you plan on using the audio from the telecine and using the computer output mix, you will have to use betacam tapes, not 3/4 . 3/4 is supremely inferior to betacam for sound,
and beta tapes are much more expensive than 3/4, and the telecine time costs more. As telecine progresses the operator will store all his information on discs and include them with the tapes, these discs will then tell the computer how to input the audio, log it for your as you watch. Maybe. Keep an eye on what's being input, if the operator screws up, doesn't include scenes or cuts them off, you have to be sure to get it, you can't edit what you don't have. Once you have edited your film on a nonlinear system, the EDL (Edit Decision List) you put out from the input timecode numbers from video and audio will match the original recorded tapes, and you can then go back in the sound mix and reenter the original sound from the original tapes instead of using the second generation sound transferred to Beta Cam. But you may never get that far, or want to do it. If you decide that you want to use a flatbed and get a workprint here are some of the post production things to consider when budgeting: 1. Cost of renting a flat bed and a space to edit: 2. Cost of work print: 3. Cost of audio transfer to full coat (35mm audio film): 4. Cost of negative cut: 5. Cost of audio mix: 6. Cost of answer print: 8. Cost of optical track: 9. Cost of final telecine to tape. You have seen all your footage on the screen, you can usually get a lab to give you a dual screening of WP and Audio track so you can see it with sound, and the negative cutter will surely never have a problem matching the negative to the work-print for accuracy, and that huge worry is out of your hands. You can rent a flatbed straight out for about 450 a month these days. For the latest Avid Film Composer list from post houses is usually 500-2500 a day. Even if you can get a nonlinear system for free, you must work in the cost of getting an editor that really knows his stuff or major problems can occur, which, of course, brings you back to casting the crew . If you can get an editor for freecan you afford all the extra expense's of editing nonlinear? If you can afford all the extra expenses can you handle not seeing your film on the screen and falling into the "TV editing
mode" when editing your film? By that I mean that editing on a small screen is much different than on a 40 ft screen, pacing in your film is very important and if you've been cutting on a small screen do your cuts seem jagged and like a TV sitcom on the big screen? And if it does and you've made a terrible mistake and your negative is cut, now what? Are you sure what the computer is giving you is the right numbers for the cuts you want? Here's my experience. First time nonlinear, everybody told me how great, how fast, and how the cost was virtually the same, or less than editing the work print, no body bothered to tell me about all the hidden costs because they either didn't know, or they were on the button clicker band wagon that swept up editors and post people a few years back. The computer I was editing on crashed a number of times and I had to rebuild my film from scratch 3 times, every cut including 8 tracks of audio (100,000 cuts, approximately), that had the effect of burning me out on my own film. I had to go to a number of different houses and move the media around to different versions of the software which meant problems later, and the negative cut list from the 80 thousand dollar Avid was as much as 48 frames off of what it was supposed to be (2 seconds): I couldn't see the soft focus shots that my DP did not tell me about in the digitized footage or on tape and the whole process cost thousands of dollars more than it should have. However, I did get to see how good the film was and where problems were immediately, I had a rough edit in 1 week, (working 20 hours a day). If I had it to do over again I would have certainly gone for the flatbed, it would have been cheaper by far, and much more informative about the negative information that actually made it to the screen. I was very paranoid about the negative cut and before I delivered the negative I went through every cut, front and back, in and out, and checked the number on screen against what the print out from the computer gave as the negative cut list. A real, two day pain in the ass. Then I went through every roll of negative and checked each one head and tails to be sure it was jiving with the computer, the discs from the transfer lab, and the negative cut list. Like I said, good thing I checked before I cut, it was way off on many, many occasions and the negative cutter may or may not be good enough to catch any of that, it's not really their job, it's yours.
I have also heard very positive stories about people succeeding in doing a rough mix in the Avid and out putting it to an optical track, a rough mix for sure but far better than you think and that's a huge savings in the end. I've only heard this once, but, it happens. What you can do, and your luck or skill with these systems may be much different than mine. You will have to decide on your own what you can afford and what you can't. Think survival. Think completion. If you've decided that you can show around the digitized output of your film to companies and that's as far as you can hope to go without finishing funds, good luck. Again, finding finishing funds is very difficult, and if you finish the film you can enter it in festivals and hope it does well, and if it does you at least have something to talk to distributors about. If it does well the distributors will be talking to you. Flatbed = Cheaper, much slower, see film projected on screen, more secure about negative cut and sound sync. Nonlinear = More expensive (unless you've got your own system), very fast, never see projected film, insecure about negative cut and sound sync and pacing. - The intangibles How many variations on a scene can you see before it's counterproductive - too many choices? If you've never cut a film and seen your work on screen what will you think when it's on tape and how will it affect your editing style? Looking through 400 trim boxes stacked ceiling to floor searching for 2 frames of the scene you want to change in your apartment in which you haven't seen your dog recently? WARNING! WARNING WILL ROBINSON! 1. Get your deal from the editing house and transfer house on paper, signed, before you commit any of your negative, or deliver any of it to them, and get a receipt for every roll of film. 2. Talk to your negative cutter before you decide to edit nonlinear, his quote may have been for work print, his quote for nonlinear may be thousands higher. 3. Question your audio post house extensively about costs, and get quote in writing before you commit, or deliver anything to them. Get a guarantee of sync, if they won't give it to you, smile, and leave as soon as possible. Get references.
The audio post house I went to knew from my lips exactly what I had to do, exactly how much I had to do it and agreed to the deal. I had an Avid output to DA88 (8 track audio tape) that I needed to mix. They spent all the money on some twerp to re-sync the audio (probably did not need to be done), and he did a terrible job if he actually did anything and then would not guarantee sync! On top of when it did fall out of sync a number of times and the idiot tried to tell me 4 frames out of sync is acceptable, hell simple gunshots were off. GET IT IN WRITING ! All this stuff is variable. Your particular situation may be perfect for nonlinear, or perfect for work-print type editing. Just be sure to figure as many variables as possible before you start, remember, your goal is completion, survival.
FESTIVALS & DISTRIBUTORS Congratulations. You've got something you can show to people that you're proud of and you want it to be seen by as many people as possible. The strategies you employ to get your film seen are varied. Here are some ideas and related experiences. FESTIVALS PRODUCERS REPRESENTATIVES often can have very beneficial results for your film. A producers rep. is a person supposedly with connections or some weight or pull with film festivals, buyers, and distributors. They can be beneficial at both the preproduction of your film in finding money, actors or procuring much needed favors. The drawbacks are financial, if you can afford one that helps you get your film started it is well worth the money. Their pricing structure changes and some are negotiable and will work a deal with you, especially if they like the project. At the other end of your film, when it's done, the same goes true. Film festivals and programmers are deluged with tapes, if a producers rep can get your tape to the right person it may mean the difference between it being in the festival and out. Most producers reps take about 25% of a sale they make to distributors or buyers, but you can work your own individual deal with them depending on what you think your film can do. FILM FESTIVALS are one of the best ways to get your film seen and reviewed, and to start some kind of buzz about your film. Getting into festivals, and the right festivals for your film is not a trick, but will take some clear eyed analysis of your film, your contacts, and the festivals that are out there. It's very hard to see your film from outside your own perspective without getting too bitter about the realities of the present day film scene. But, you've made your film because you were motivated by something other than money, you think it's a great film, and now you'll do your best to get it seen, to hell with what other people think. Right? OBVIOUSLY you don't want to send your junkie road film to a documentary, children's, or mountain film festival. Sundance and it's satellite festivals (Slam-Slum-Bum & Whatever's nextdance), Toronto, Berlin, Cannes and Rotterdam are the big festivals for films and critics these days and getting into the "biggies" is like everything else, connections help a great deal.
It is much easier to program a film with Winona Ryder than your cousin Ed (who also happens to be a great actor) in a film festival. The audiences will come, pay for the tickets, and it has prestige for the festival. Cousin Ed may have done the seminal performance of the decade, but you'll have to get past the first wave of screening, usually done by young, overworked interns that may or may not of heard of Orson Bean, much less Orson Welles. Hard fact is that your film about aging may be a great film, but if the person who sees it first is 17, your film has an extra barrier that you must avoid if possible. Try calling the festival director, maybe you can make some personal connection and get him to see it, this is also where a producers rep. would be very handy, if they know somebody and if you can afford them. Again, get references from anybody you hire ( casting your crew). DO YOUR RESEARCH! Opening at Sundance is great, if you get in, but if you've finished your film in February, do you wait a year before releasing it? THE WORLD PREMIERE IS VERY IMPORTANT TO A FESTIVAL. Berlin will not take your film if it shows in Rotterdam: Cannes will ONLY show premieres and all the other big festivals will want to be the first to show your film. Do you wait for a year and take a chance on Sundance, or enter Cannes, or Berlin, or Rotterdam? Do you think your film can compete with the glitz and money at Cannes? Do you know somebody in any of the festivals that you can be sure you will get in for your World Premiere? What if you decide to wait a year and do not get in Sundance? That means your film is now old in festival terms, people will hear of it and word gets around, and what do you do for a year? You can't really promote your film because it will seem old by the time it premieres at a festival. It's unfortunate, but being the "next big thing" is status quo, festivals and festival directors love to discover films, and audiences like to feel they are seeing something for the first time, as they very often do at festivals, so promoting your film for 12 months prior to a festival could be counter productive, and will sour a distributor for the same reason. WHERE WILL A BIG FESTIVAL PUT YOUR FILM? If you get in the big festival are you going to be relegated to a bad theater at 9 AM. with little publicity, against the smaller festival in which your film will the opening night film?
If your film doesn't hit it big with the big festival you might be much better off with the smaller festival which is thrilled to have you and will treat you and your film like the prize of the festival. However, having shown at the big festival sometimes is enough to get many other festivals in line to show your film next. This is something you have to decide in your strategy, and it changes with each film, and for each festival, and EVERY YEAR. If your film is a quirky, chatty gen-X upbeat film in which everyone lives happily ever after can you expect a festival with a history of programming films with 50 year old difficult characters and without stars that win awards and get 3 picture deals to program your film? And if they do, where will they put it and why should you wait? ONCE YOUR FILM HAS HAD ITS WORLD PREMIERE hopefully you will be approached by a number of programmers who want your film in their festival. The smaller festivals are often the best ones, at least the ones you may have the most fun attending, but, you should try to organize them close to each other, if possible. A European and a North American Premiere are independent of each other, and usually will not hinder either Premiere. If your film is not reviewed well in Cannes, maybe the critics here will like it, but, it's more likely if it's at a big festival like Cannes ALL THE CRITICS will be there and will have already reviewed your film. Very often a critic will print only a capsule review of a festival film waiting for a longer appraisal for the theatrical release. Partially because films can be recut and changed before a theatrical release, and partially because many critics feel they can't devote a large amount of space to a film that may not be seen by anyone outside the festival. This is not ALWAYS the case, some critics only review once and will reprint that review when/if the film is released theatrically. REMEMBER, you made the film, you're responsible for what's on that screen, you put it out there, you take whatever comes, it's a crap shoot no matter how you figure it so just make films that you're happy with and leave it at that. RECENTLY I got phenomenal reviews from a city in which my film opened, embarrassing reviews, but the one national critic who was in the theater when my film was there for press screenings said he did not review films without distribution for fear of ruining their chance. Well, kinda', however, he has taken a few films under his wing and has really helped that film get around. I don't know what any of that means, maybe he was tired that day, or bored, or just saw a bad film, whatever, it's up to you to get them in the theater and take whatever comes. Find out their phone number, call them, talk to them, most will be open
to that kind of entreaty depending on their schedule but call EARLY, give them every chance to make it and make it easy for them to come. IF YOUR FILM IS NOT LOVED BY THE CRITICS you will have to try and get it in as many festivals as possible to generate some positive word of mouth outside the critics circle. It's always better to approach a distributor with positive notices and press about your film and just because one critic didn't like your film, doesn't mean another one will not, and vice versa. FORGET THE REVIEWS, DON'T TAKE THEM PERSONALLY. I've been pretty lucky so far, but the truth is you will know when someone has a valid review, if they have crap to say about your work and you know it's crap, forget it. Crap in this context means fawning butt kissing, and horrible derision's. If you believe the good reviews you have to believe the bad, that cliché' said, remember that a lot of great films have been trashed by the critics, as long as you know you've made a good film that's all you can hope for. Another sad fact is that festival directors may be in touch with other festivals and share their opinion, good or bad, with that director. Great if they like your film. Not so hot if they don't. It's not a democracy and it's not fair. But it is human nature to share opinions with peers, so that's just how it goes. I have it on good information that one festival director said, and I quote, "I will never put one of Schlattman's films in this festival." Well, don't waste your money by entering this festival. Simple. But what does that mean for other festivals? Probably a lot, but this sort of personal attack is not indicative of all festival directors thank God, pettiness on the part of this person does not mean that most festivals will not take a fair look at your film and base it's merits not on some wankers opinion, but on your film. Fact is that most festivals try to get the best they can for their festival, however, "BEST" is subjective. MANY BAD INDEPENDENT FILMS GET MADE and how many bad films can 1 person see before they start to hate everything?
SOME FESTIVALS ARE ONLY IN BUSINESS to make money. Be very wary of festivals that want exorbitant fees to enter, even if you get in your entry will mean nothing to everyone else that knows what a scam that festival is running, and could possibly hurt your film. These are unscrupulous festivals that would like you to believe that $150 to watch a tape of your film is a fair fee. You'll have to decide that for yourself, I suggest dropping that festival from your list unless they invite you, FOR FREE. - FESTIVAL ETIQUETTE Your in, your at the festival, etiquette means forgetting about trashing the festival that has invited your film to screen. I was recently at a festival in which a renown dilettante did nothing but moan and complain and cry in the bathroom because they weren't treating her like the royalty she thought she was, and in a festival in which everyone else was having a great time. Consequently this person became the festival joke and will never be invited back. Keep your mouth shut if you're not happy and praise the festival if you are, simple courtesy, act like a child and expect to get treated like one . Drink till you drop? Did it. Loved it. Don't do it no more. Can't tell you how many people I pissed off or impressed poorly, but I used the festival as an excuse to blow off some steam after finishing my film, seemed like the perfect place. WRONG. Couldn't have been a worse place, that's where all your peers are, and people that might be able to help you in the future. Have fun, play safe, and remember, 1st impressions last a long, long time. FINAL FESTIVAL NOTE. You'll have to decide what festival, and subsequent festivals will be the best for your film, AND, if you have not heard until very, very late in the decision process or the deadline, WAKEUP, they may take your film, but you're not high on the prestige list. If they really want your film, like it, and will give it a good screening slot and press, you will know RIGHT AWAY plan b, or call the next festival and tell them that they can have the world premiere of your new film if they act NOW. You have to take responsibility for the success of your film, it's wonderful if Sundance fawns over your film but if they don't, and want it only as a backup its poor position may hurt your film as much as help. DO YOUR OWN PRESS at the festival. Whatever press the festival does is great, but you can take out ads, offer yourself
for interviews for any magazine/paper/shopping list that will take you in that town, put up posters DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET PEOPLE IN . So there. DISTRIBUTORS Preface Keep in mind the state of filmmaking in the new millennium: If you don't have a marquee actor that will sell tickets Nationally, and Internationally, the chances of you getting theatrical distribution are virtually zero. It's not impossible, but very, very, very unlikely.
DISTRIBUTORS ARE IN BUSINESS TO MAKE MONEY . No news flash, but keep it in mind. It's BUSINESS, as Mamet said in The Spanish Prisoner, "In business you must assume the other guy is ALWAYS out to screw you...". Tell me about it. A rule of thumb for any deal with a distributor is that you make no deal without advance sales money. Period. You can fluctuate in how much you want depending on your film, but get as much as you can, theoretically all your production money, up front. A DISTRIBUTOR THAT HAS 50 FILMS to sell will be trying to sell your film first if he has had to put out money for that film, simply to try and make his money back. If he is successful, theoretically, so will you be. Theoretically. What he will tack on to your film as "EXPENSES" may in fact be one of the most dishonest practices in all of filmmaking so you will want to put a cap on his expenses in your contract. I guarantee an unscrupulous distributor will hit that cap, but you know what's coming, it's not a surprise. He will also have little motivation to sell your film against one he owes money on. He might be able to sell your film without an advance, but it will not be the first one he tries to sell. HAVE A LAWYER LOOK AT YOUR CONTRACT , if you can't afford a lawyer, don't sign a deal. Are you interested in a distributor that just wants your film to expand his library of films so he can look good at the next market? Me either. Why choke up your film with a guy that won't sell it? It's better for you to just hold on to your film because you at least have the option to get
it to somebody that will try and sell it in the future. THE LENGTH of your contract is important, if your deal is not favorable, or you question the distributors ability, put a performance term in your contract. In other words put a stipulation in your contract that if he does not perform certain functions by a certain date the contract is null and void. I had one wanker that after 6 months didn't perform any of the contractual agreements, then wouldn't sign a release. Twerpism is rampant. GET REAL. They're not all crooks, but don't expect your film with no stars, bad reviews and 3 hours in length to sell to a market that wants violence, stars and sex. It may be a great film, but if they can't sell it, they can't sell it. Look at the good films that don't do well, why will yours be any different? By the same token don't believe that your film won't sell because somebody says so. I know of a case where a guy got $10,000 for his film and the next day the distributor sold it for 1.5 million and the filmmaker never saw a dime. I also know of films with 1.5 million in advertising that did not make 10,000 at the box office. So GET REAL BUB . SELF DISTRIBUTION is just as much, OR MORE of a gamble as having a distributor work for you. If you have the time, the energy, and the desire to call theaters across the country, ship tapes, ship prints, call local papers, pay for advertising, check advertising in all the towns, colleges, bake shops and film organizations that will show your film then go for it. You may gain contacts, friends and experiences invaluable to you later on, BUT REMEMBER, very few films make money that way, you could be investing money and time in a MONETARILY fruit less endeavor. That might not mean anything to you and that's great, but don't expect to make a lot of money on the road with one film, and be able to pay back all your investors. Also consider what you're doing next and how much time do you spend NOT WORKING on the next script. Get your priorities straight before you go on the road. DISTRIBUTORS have contacts you don't have, it's a tough club to break into and I've heard the derision some distributors spew about filmmakers in private. I don't know that it hurts the filmmaker her/his distributor doesn't like them or his/her film, but talking trash can't help. AFTER A THEATRICAL RUN, if you're lucky enough to have booked one, you will have to start contacting the buyers in all the markets by mail, or phone, or go to one of the various worldwide markets at the festivals.
They are very expensive but could be very lucrative if that's what you want to do. You will have to spend money on advertising, again, an office ($10,000 at the American Film Market), phones, posters, tapes and all the other stuff. There are other, no-budget ways to try and sell at these markets (AFM article) that have been very lucrative for some, but I personally have not been very successful doing that. MY EXPERIENCE has been bipolar. One film with great reviews was stolen from me through my own fault in placing any trust in this "distributor", but when he did not perform on his contract I did not give him my negative. He then refused to perform, and after ruining sales potential of the film started reneging on the contract I informed him he no longer represented the film. That's the last I ever heard from him, he has not delivered the tape elements and will not contact me. Fine. When I can afford a lawyer I'll get the materials back, but in the meantime you just have to forget it, move on, just another bad reputation you want nothing to do with. On another film, again with great reviews, no one offered any advance money so I took it to the IFFM on my own and got an immediate sale. I'm now selling that film worldwide and have had some luck doing it, and have made certainly more than I would have from a very small distributor. I've made no attempt to try and get it into theaters because I simply don't have the money. Simple as that. DON'T SELL DISTRIBUTORS SHORT. It's like used car salesmen, there are so many seedy lots out there you have to be careful where you step. The little guys can be just as good as the big guys, but brother, watch out. Distributors can do everything for your film if they are behind it. Ask yourself a few questions: How well did it do at the festivals? Compared to what's out there, how well will it do in the theaters, in video sales? Does it have any stars? What's the marketability of the film? IN GENERAL JUST GET REAL ABOUT YOUR FILM . All that stuff is very important when getting a deal. Obviously if it's done great at the festivals, DISTRIBUTORS WILL BE COMING TO YOU. If you're not the "NEXT BIG THING", but you still have a great film, how you handle what you do with distributors could mean the life of your film. SKIPPING THE FESTIVAL circuit is another possibility, but has some major drawbacks. Let's say that you think your film has some marketability but you don't want to bother with the expense and time of film festivals, what do you do? You start setting up screenings, or sending out tapes to the major distributors that
handle the kind of film you've made. They may love your film, and if they have the first crack at it over anyone you may have made a friend, a great deal and see your film in theaters with a million in advertising. A NO IS A NO FOREVER, USUALLY. If they don't like it, and say no, no matter what it does after you then take it through the festivals they will more than likely still say no. Who wants to admit they were wrong, especially in the business arena? Nobody. A guy in acquisitions that said no to your film for whatever reason in January, will probably never say yes in October. A SIMPLE POLICY for approaching reputable distributors is to offer them the film and wait for their response. You might want to call in a couple of weeks, but don't bug them. The acquisitions person may love your film, but the company he's working for may not be able to pick it up for some reason, or may not be able to do anything right now for some reason. Don't alienate them, let them tell you what they think, often they may not say no unless you're a pest. They may just say not at this time, or we'd like to think about it or some combination. Don't push them into saying no if they don't want to, that's good for both of you. Now take your film to the festivals and if it does do well then they can say yes and everybody's happy. Most of the people working with distributors are there because they love film in one way or another, and most reputable distributors want to put out good films that they like and move them in some way. HOWEVER, when all the movie going public ignores great films and casts dollar after megadollar down a freezing watery hole for poorly written tripe, the man putting up the money for the film nobody goes to has to deal with reality. It's not a simple equation. X amount of dollars in advertising equals how much in sales? Do you take a chance on something you like versus something you hate that will make the payroll this month? You also have to remember how many bad, really bad films distributors have to look at. Thousands of films, I couldn't possible imagine looking at that many bad films and it having no affect on me, but that's what they have to do, these are people just like you, could you watch 40 tapes this week knowing that 39 of them will be God awful tripe and know you've got 40 more to watch next week, and the week after, and the week after? Not me. Your problem is going to be in dealing with the unscrupulous distributor that makes money in a variety of ways off your film and has no intention of doing anything reputable with any film. That's what you have to watch out for and there are a ton of
them out there. I get an anonymous list every month, usually of the same guys but it shrinks and expands according to which guy has gone under this month and come up under another name next month. This happens all the time. One ploy that seems to work for one guy is getting the filmmaker to pay for advertising, prints and screening selling a relationship with theaters. This is called a VANITY PRESS in the printing world, where the author pays for his own printing. It's called "4 walling" in the film world, where you rent the theater, pay for advertising and do all the leg work. What the hell do you want to share %50 of the door with a distributor who's doing nothing? Again, you should do everything possible to help your release including interviews, Q & A, personal appearances and posters and cards and whatever else you can think of, but if you're going to four wall your film, do you really need to share it with a distributor? The answer might be yes for your particular deal, and film, but it needs a big ? I recommend dealing with the top distributors with names you recognize, and that represent films you like. I realize this sounds simplistic, but it is simple. You like what they've done, you're already off on the right foot. Don't discount the small distributor, he may have just as much regard for your film as you, but not the financial ability to deliver on his desires and then your film is dead, with his name one it. At least if you hold on to it the rights are still yours and if you or one of your actors has huge success and you all become heart throbs. the demand for your film will suddenly increase. If you turn into a sleaze and figure you can make money off your actors success by shooting scenes around your original short to make it a feature you deserve the lawyers he hires to sue you and your film into submission. PLAY FAIR. If you've both lived up to the contract you've signed betrayal by either of you should not be a problem because you not only want to work together again, but would like to see the film you just made have a life. But in the end, what's the difference? We know that you've both played fair, so none of this will apply, WILL IT? IT HAPPENS. Use your best judgment, and be as intuitive as possible, if you don't have a good personal relationship, your professional relationship will probably suffer. DON'T MAKE INSTANT DECISIONS, take a few weeks to sign a deal, think about it if you question it. ASK QUESTIONS, GET IT IN WRITING. It's your film, and you are responsible for it's life.
CLEAN-UP ACTORS WALKING This is probably the worst thing that could happen to your film and I hope for your sake it never happens. But, family crisis, accidents, so many things can happen to people while in production that the idea that this could happen is not far fetched, but improbable. However, what if your lead actor walks in the middle of production, what in Kurosawa's name will you do? You've got all this film on her/him, she/he absolutely refuses to continue for whatever reason that you absolutely cannot solve, what can you do? Make it a positive. This could be a nightmare if you let it be one. What if you go through the scenes and story line you've already shot and decide what you have and can use and either do one of two things 1. Quit and chalk it up to experience. OR 2. Continue with what you have and make a different, maybe better film. O.K., you've got half a film with this now missing character, what other character in this film might have just as interesting a story that you haven't revealed yet? What if you shoot a double for the first lead on the floor that 'just died' from your new leads bullet/heart attack/overdose/boredom/left town? Try something! Maybe take a day off and re-write something that works with the characters you have already introduced in a plot or story twist that can still accomplish what you've set out to do. I know this sounds way out in left field, kind of Plan 9 Ed Woods stuff, but you have to do something to help your film, hopefully you have supporting characters that you can now build into a different story that will be just as strong. They'll be calling you 'GENIUS' in the papers. Seriously, this is a real chance with your money and your film, but for my money, it's better than trying to beg an actor that won't come back, or quitting production on a film that will probably never be finished. 38
You've already taken an enormous chance up to this point, why not push on and finish it, it may end up being a better film. Take chances, experiment, it's what makes filmmaking fun and that make great stories, besides, what have you got to lose? CREW Be sure to pay all your actors and crew on time, and be sure to pay them consistently across the various departments. For instance, the Gaffer should get the same as the Key Grip. Best Boy Electric and Best Boy Grip should be the same. All Grips and Electric get paid the same. Before your production begins, everyone will know what everyone else is getting paid, guaranteed. Don't start with bad feelings because of rates, that's something you should solve in pre-production. This is, of course, if you have enough money to pay anybody. ADR What a heartache. You lose the energy of the scene, and, even if uncle Bob doesn't notice, EVERYONE will feel a slight psychological shift between cutting in dialogue recorded in a studio, and what you did on set even if they can't articulate the perceived change. On top of that, some actors have a very hard time looping. I t's difficult and they just can't find the moment or character again, so avoid it if at all possible. However, if you have to, and can't afford ADR sessions in a booth with full playback, one thing you CAN do is what I did; (1) Make a cassette recording of the scenes for each actor that you have to replace from your edited work print for timing, pace and performance, then: (2) Find a room that sounds like the room you originally recorded the sound in, record the new performance with the actor then just (3) lay it in over the dialogue in question with an ambient track and it can work OK. I got all my actors into the various rooms one Sunday when I was alone in the editing suite and did all the looping in a couple hours in various rooms, closets, outside - wherever. I had to do this in my last film because the car we were using for the picture vehicle ended up not being the one we were promised (the guy just never showed) so I had to replace the references to that car. You're better off getting wild lines on location when you're shooting, especially if you think you might like to change something, or are unhappy with a performance.
However, the sound man I had was so incompetent it's lucky for me that I didn't, it all would have been distorted anyway. "Film & Video Budgets" - Michael Wiese Seems to be one of the best resource books for putting together a realistic budget for a number of different film and video projects. He has some sound advice about paying crew and scale rates available for those of you that might be able to pay scale. Singleton also has a book for budgets and breakdowns, it's OK, but harder to read, not as well organized or printed. RECOMMENDED Foto Kem - Burbank CA.(Lab) Power Post - West Los Angeles (Audio) Todd AO - Hollywood (Union - Xpensive) Chris Weber Post - Burbank (Negative Cutting) Blacbal - Burbank (Graphics) STAY AWAY - NOT RECOMMENDED Video Plant - Los Angeles Video Plant Audio - The Valley Amazing Movies - Hollywood Filmworks – Hollywood
DEALING WITH AGENTS or DEVELOPMENT HELL So, you've got to the point where you realize you are going to have to get a marquee actor in your film to; a) Get the budget you need to make this film. b) Attract a large enough audience so the film gets seen. Unless of course you can call up the actor and hand him the script because he's your poker buddy, HOW do you find out where he is, and how do you get him a script? Well, finding out where is the easy part; call the Screen Actors Guild and ask them for contact information for the actor in question. Now the proverbial ka ka hits the fan. I hate the agent system. An actor finally proves himself in some arena in which people can see his work and then he's isolated from the good scripts because his agent doesn't see a percentage for himself or the 'commercial potential' of a script. Take it or leave it, that's how things work with agents. They are not necessarily bad people, doing their job entails all the superficial tripe of Hollywood, it's not about the actors but about the money in which the agents can get for their actors, and of course, their 10% (some of them get 15%). Yep, it blows. Recently I've been shopping a project around, take heed, learn from my mistakes. First of all, representing yourself as both producer and director is just bad news, unless of course you have a commercially successful film under your belt. Even if your films have had phenomenal critical success in their limited theatrical release ( 5 million is the bench mark), unless your name is thought of with Miramax or October, you are NOBODY. You must find a producer that you trust. Don't minimize this attribute, he may have millions at his disposal but could rip you off for your work, sell you down the pike for money or just be so greedy that his involvement could ruin your film even if he gets it financed. If you get 10 mil to make a film and it turns out to be a piece of crap, who loses? Not the producer, ("Who produced it?) not the actors ("What could they do with material like that") - the director. Yep, that's you babe. I don't know how to
tell you how to find this person. Obviously it's somebody you have some connection with, and that reads your work nearly as well as you do. He has to be one of your fans, with ideas of his/her own. It's a collaboration, a marriage, your Carlo Ponti or whom ever you envision as being a good producer but it's hardly ever the person waving money in your face with a double digit IQ. Not that it couldn't be, but it hardly ever is. If you have somebody else telling the world how great you are, you already have credibility with whomever they are talking to by proxy. YOU are not telling them how great YOU are, someone else is extolling your virtues. THAT MEANS A LOT. That means that already somebody else believes in you, SOPHOMORIC BUT NOT SUBTLE OR DISMISSIVE. One of my producers is a guy who has just lived through some horrible melodrama in which he lost his business, his money, his house, his girlfriend of 7 years and he owes the IRS some million or so dollars. The guy was a walking country western song for so long he was beginning to make me puke. However, when I met him, he still thought he was up, he got it, he liked the work and we made some connection. I saw through his bad, and I do mean times, and he has worked very hard trying to get my film to screen. He's a younger man than I, he has a tendency towards arrogance, twerpism, and doesn't know what to do at times, but, I showed a guy that likes my work, and was smart, how to deal in straight business terms with the people that might be interested in my work, and the guy has taken the ball and run with it. He has the potential to be a great producer, and I will always be grateful for our relationship. This is what I told him to do. First of all, I knew I had a good script. Do You? Are You Sure? Is it Perfect? Well? OK then, who are absolutely the best actors, bar none, that you would like to see in the parts? No, Mel Gibson cannot play a 22 year old junkie on the streets of Moscow. But who could? No, Tommy Lee Jones can't do it. GET REAL. Casting is the most important part of your film. Even if you were to get it to Mel Gibson, would he even consider doing a 22 year olds part? Don't be stupid, who could do this part? OK, you've narrowed the casting down to 8 people, or couples that could do the part, what next? Call SAG and find out who represents them. Now what? Well that's where a little creative publicity comes in. I don't know what you've done, but I've had some pretty good reviews, we wrote a letter of introduction and included some clippings from reviews, 1 sheets, and production company interest with the letter and just sent it to the people
involved (agents, managers etc.). Accentuate the positive, build up whatever you've done and make it look as good as possible without sounding like you are, like someone the actor might like to work with. SPELL THEIR NAME RIGHT. Simple courtesy, I screw it up all the time, unintentionally, with a name like mine I've learned to forgive people their poor spelling, but agents are not regular people, awful lot of self inflated ego you have to deal with. Spell their name right, you need them on your side. Don't send them a synopsis. A 2 line condensation of the film might be better in your intro letter. They won't read your script if they don't like the synopsis. They probably won't read your script anyway, depends on the agent. Some are stereotypes, some have triple digit IQ's and have some concern for their clients, most will not read the script because they are busy and will have it 'covered', or can't read, or you are nobody. BIDNESS 1. Write an introduction letter to the agent representing the actor you want. 2. Send them a script only when they request it, otherwise it will get sent back or thrown away. 3. Follow up calls - 2 a week - It will take weeks to get a response, usually, don't get too antsy and become a pest. 1st they will have somebody else read it (coverage), then they may read and if they like it will call you back. 4. Offers - The agent may then ask for an offer to do the part, if you can, make an offer. If not - improvise, but don't lie. 5. Dead in the water - you could be if they want escrow money, pay or play money and you don't have it. This is straight business. Agents make money when the actors do. This is a business transaction, not art. Make the agent (and their assistants) as comfortable with you and the work as possible. Your producer has to make you out to be someone the actor should work with in their career. How do they do that? I dunno. Make you out to be the creative genius we've all heard about? Fun to work with? That's why THEY ARE PRODUCERS AND YOU'RE NOT. My take is always a good script. "If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage." Ain't cliché's great? Truth is most actors, MOST actors, want to do something that will stretch them and their abilities - JUST LIKE YOU. Your problem is writing the
script they want to do. Write it. OK, how do you get it past the agent? That's the catch 22 of the film business. Agents are the bane of the independent film community, usually for actors that are working a lot they will not forward a script without money, or play or pay money, or a whole host of other obstacles intended to dissuade you from 'bothering' their client. The fact is that their client may love to do your script, but if he doesn't see it or get a chance to read it, you are dead in the water. O.K., I got a prestigious production company with over 2 billion in investment capital that is currently making a film with Jack Nicholson to write a letter of intent to produce my film contingent, CONTINGENT on the cast for X million. The agents did not know this production company, they weren't Paramount, or October, so they would not even forward a script to the client without an escrow account. That means that they want to see cash they know is there rather than the promise of a good film. Well, OK, understandable from their point of view considering how many bad scripts are floating around, but incredibly lazy of them considering this company was financing films for Paramount. They only know how to play by their rules, it has nothing to do with the actor, usually. I know some actors tell their agents they ONLY want big budget films, so it may not be the agent at all. You've been NON-CONTACTED by the agent, now what? Cruise the places that your actor may haunt - bars, theaters etc.? Possible, but imagine you're an actor who gets accosted by somebody on the street with a script in his/her hand? It has to feel like getting stalked, and that is not conducive to a trusting relationship on the set. PRODUCERS JOB. Get your producer to do it, he/she wants to produce? Produce! You might want to try getting a known casting director on board that has cast the actor you want in another film (IMDB). Find out who some of the casting directors are in town, many of them want to produce, see if you can get them to read your script and if they like it, offer them a producer credit. If your script comes from a casting director an agent will automatically take a much more serious interest, mainly because he represents a number of actors who may ALL need this casting director in the future. If your casting director is any good, then the script will get read and the agents will treat your project with a lot more regard. They'll still play the game, but you now have some clout. Other than that, it's personal relationships, who you know that
can help you. I know, that sounds terrible, but it's the truth, and it doesn't always help. For instance, one of my actors has a personal friendship with an actor I had in mind for the lead in my next film, slept at his apartment in New York while working on his film. He liked the script, and would not give it too him. Jealousy? Selfishness? Maybe, probably, but the end result is with one degree of separation, I could not reach the actor. Blows doesn't it? You have to try the straight route I've outlined above, it may be the actor you want is screaming for good work and he may get a chance to read it. It may be the agent sends it on and the actor hates it but won't tell you. It may be that the agent is playing the hollywood shuffle with your script for reasons of his own. None of that matters, you have to play the straight route first, and, if none of that works, be creative, buy a billboard on Sunset Ave. advertising your script, cruise the bars-try something, anything. You may be the reason your actor has a whole new agenda with his agent.
Production Checklist Marketing/Advertising/Publicity Materials During production there are a number things you need to keep in mind in order position your film to be as 'distributable' as possible for the worldwide market. Obviously, for many of you, many of these things will simply be out of financial reach, or you may not be able to get because of legal reasons. For instance, the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is usually done on certain days set aside when a video crew comes to the set and does interviews with actors, the director and whomever they deem interesting. It's an important tool for publicity, word of mouth etc., however, if you are stealing all your locations, your sag actors are there with no agreement and the cops are looking for you, you may want to hide from any publicity rather than attract it. Finishing is everything. An option for this may be to get one of your friends to shoot video for the whole shoot, then you have a behind the scenes documentary, and EPK and the possibility for another film. I couldn't get the people that I hired to actually shoot anything with a camera that was on the set, or even show up. Believe it or not, even if you're not paying you have to choose wisely when hiring somebody for this job. I took what I got, which turned out to be nothing, which was exactly the amount of footage I got. 1. SHOOTING SCRIPT 2. CAST CONTACT LIST 3. PRODUCTION CONTACT LIST 4. UNIT PUBLICIST WRAP REPORT & CONTACT LIST 5. AD/PUB VENDORS & ELEMENTS CONTACT LIST 6. COMBINED DIALOGUE AND CONTINUITY LIST 7. MUSIC CUE AND LICENSE SHEET 8. PHOTOGRAPHY CAPTION LIST 9. PHOTO APPROVAL LIST 10. PAID AD CREDIT STATEMENT & NAME AND LIKENESS REQUIREMENTS 11. FINAL MAIN AND END CREDITS 12. TRAILERS AND/OR PROMOS (DOMESTIC & INTERNATIONAL) Digital Betacam NTSC master & 3/4" cassette with matching visual and address track time code. Audio-DA 88 cassette of Picture and DAT cassette of music only. 35mm interpositive including all credits, titles and inserts.
35mm internegative including all credits, titles and inserts. 35mm optical soundtrack negative. 35mm 2-track stereo magnetic print master Dolby (or equivalent). 35mm 4-track magnetic stereo music and effects master. 35mm mono magnetic master with separate track dialogue, narration, music and effects. D-1 NTSC letterbox and D-1 NTSC full frame video transfer. D-1 PAL letterbox and D-1 PAL full frame video transfer. 13. TV PUBLICITY CLIPS (DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL) SP Betacam NTSC & PAL video masters. 35mm 4 track magnetic master containing separate full-coated music, effects, dialogue and narration tracks. Printed table of contents with running times and transcript. 14. TV SPOTS/ADVERTISEMENTS (DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL) SP Betacam NTSC & PAL video masters and sample 3/4" VHS cassette. 35mm 4-track magnetic master containing separate full-coated music, effects, dialogue and narration tracks. Printed table of contents with running times and transcript. 15. ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT "EPK" SP Betacam NTSC & PAL video masters and sample 3/4" VHS cassette. 35mm 4-track magnetic master containing separate full-coated music, effects, dialogue and narration tracks. Printed table of contents with running times and transcript. All B-roll footage shot in prep of EPK. 16. WRITTEN PRESS KIT to contain bios (at least on paragraph) of leading actors, key crew members, one page plot summary, any interesting anecdotes, a quotation or two about the film from key personnel including lead actors, director, producer, screenwriter, etc. 17. COLOR NEGATIVE ORIGINALS (not less than 200) comprising production, publicity and portrait photographs; representative number shall bear an explanatory caption. Access to all original color negatives, transparencies and contact sheets. Coverage should include leading actors, heads not cut off, full body in each significant wardrobe piece, many face only, any key props/inserts, etc. 18. B/W STILL PHOTOGRAPH CONTACT PRINTS (not less than 200) comprising production, publicity and portrait photographs; representative number shall bear an explanatory caption. Access
to all original B/W negatives, transparencies and contact sheets. Coverage should include leading actors, heads not cut off, full body in each significant wardrobe piece, many face only, any key props/inserts, etc. 19. B/W TEXTLESS PRINT OF NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING ART INCLUDING: Correct advertising billing plus sample billing blocks which may be applicable to the licensee's use of the film. Title Treatment Copylines for use in such advertisements. 20. 8X10 TEXTLESS COLOR KEY ART NEGATIVE ORIGINAL 21. 8X10 TEXTLESS B/W KEY ART NEGATIVE ORIGINAL 22. PRODUCTION NOTES ON DISK INCLUDING: Synopsis. Contractual bios. Interviews and reviews (if applicable). 23. PRODUCTION NOTES - HARD COPY ORIGINAL.
DIGITAL 425$ PER MINUTE AND NO NEGATIVE ! The upside is the cost of production. You could literally shoot the whole thing on a couple hundred bucks of tape, edit it and have a finished video for what, couple thousand? Then take that finished video in what ever format you finish in (digital, Beta, hi 8) and hand it to a lab to turn into a print. Beware. One of the medium prices quoted at a popular lab is 425$ per minute of running time for projects longer than 60 minutes. They will produce a negative and optical track. What you get back is a print and that's it bub. They keep the negative and the optical track and you have to pay extra to extract it from them, if that's even possible. What they will do is give you answer prints at whatever price they deem apropos for answer prints. Be careful. Also be sure that it's what you want. I recently screened all formats transferred on this process at a lab and my feelings have not changed in the last 10 years. It looked very good, for video. The process they use writes on the negative in a "warbling" (sic) format, which eliminates the scan lines usually associated with video. I saw a number of formats transferred both from original, digital and beta. 35mm - Looked the best. 16mm - Grainy, but good. VHS - Had crummy smear lines, very grainy, some appeal. Beta - Better. Digital (all formats - miniDV, DV Cam & DVPro) - About the same as Beta. High Definition - Very good. Truth is, none of the formats, even transferred from high definition look nearly as good as film and, for my purposes, the process looked too good; it did not look like video with scan lines and the video particle matter usually associated with same. So, for the no budget film there seems to be very little difference once it's transferred to film from a High 8 or a Digital format, unless of course you are using a high end camera and a prime lens. Even then you have to understand there is no real focus point in video, it's a nebulous writing code on tape, 49
digital or analog. The High Definition stuff is much sharper than anything and may be just as sharp as film, but everything else suffers from the same focus problem. Believe me, go check it out at a lab first. On top of that if you want the scan lines or to degrade the image it will cost you an extra fee at most of the labs. Do it in editing and only bring what you have to to the lab if that's the route you intend for your video. The labs will all try to tell you lowest contrast possible even for if you have the time and lighting waiting forever for lights, shoot
to light your set in the digital cameras. Yeah, right, to confine your project to film, screw the video bub.
The big advantage shooting consumer digital cameras over High 8 is the sound. All Video Tape sound sucks, Beta's about the best, but still sucks in comparison. If you can use a Nagra or buy a DatMan for $700 and slap it on the side of your high 8, you're set. But, for convenience, a 16 bit sampling in mono for dialogue is good, and you can get a good mic and use it with the camera, or get a boom man, or use radio mics and dump the whole thing onto a nonlinear system and use what comes out as your track. Even better, rent a SMPTE DAT and dump all your sound from the camera tapes onto the SMPTE DAT as a back up, then use that as your prime and you will be able to rebuild any kind of original sound track from masters, including a dead sync Optical track for your 35mm prints. There is word out now that Digital 8 tape is not stable and as prone to degradation as SVHS, considering this may be your negative you may want to opt for the camera that uses the digital or MiniDV tape. It's rep is much better at the moment. I've figured a way to do a transfer to film from video that will cost about 0.50$ per foot. You can look here to find out, or email me
Four Media Company (4MC)
Electron Beam " c CRT Film Recorder " " " Teledyne CTR 3 Kinescope
$425/180 per min
$520/309 $1200 $250/150 $250/105
Y/Extra/Extra Y/NEG./Y Y/Y/Y N/N/Y
Sony High Definition Cinergi Swiss Effects Soho Digital Film Team Film Craft Ringer Video