5.Festivals & Distributors
I sent a much less
experienced producer than I a well written and well 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.
another shoot I gave a
young man the chance to be location producer, with
no experience. He never worked on a feature but guaranteed he
deliver the locations and equipment needed for the shoot. I let
talk me into using his studio for casting, he then disappeared days
actors were supposed to show. He then began spewing some of worst
ever heard, became arrogant, started strutting around my actors while
to get his wife and friends cast in the film, paying whatever lip
he had to and disappeared, again, 20 day's before principal. This may
poorly for the small town he's from, but who would actually want this
on their set?
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
There is a lot of ego tied up in filmmaking, trust your instincts and
destructive comments from small people, but remain open to constructive
criticism. Sometimes that's not easy to do.
you have to be your own
be entering a schizophrenic arena in which most of your time will be
as producer, and the rest as director or whatever job you're doing at
moment. People speak to 'Producers' differently than they do
I imagine it's because they believe the producer has control of the
and more power. You can use this to your advantage, I don't tell people
also directing unless I will be directly involved with them on the set,
unless they ask. I don't lie to people I want to work with either as
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.
because you don't care if you ever have a big budget, the
for labs, crews, negative cutters, and all the people concerned with
film is the prospect of you being "the next big thing," or just having
big budget for your next film that you will bring back to the
cutter/editing house/transfer house - and all the production personnel
with your film.
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
biggest films. I suggest keeping your conscience clear. As soon as I
some lame bull from weenie #16 I either hang up the phone or say no
When I'm working on someone else's film in a crew capacity it's for
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),
them know the story and try to get them involved in the process. That's
always easy, but not impossible.
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.
you do for no money 10-15 hours a day? Why should they?
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
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,
no one will
have the same energy
for your film that you will
matter what they say, promise or invest.
HOW MUCH CREW?
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
add a director of photo. Production value is what you can steal in the
of images and locations, which certainly dictate how fast you'll have
shoot, and how big of a crew you can have. I would count on having at
a director of photo if you're not intimate with the camera, and a sound
The luxuries will be a 1st AC to pull focus, a 2nd AC to load, a Boom
and a Grip or Gaffer if you have lights or C Stands. Any friends or
you can get to help you are certainly a positive, and if they know
about filmmaking, they will learn as quickly as you.
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
over-modulating, distorting almost everything he did. If I would have
him just once in the year following I would be in jail now. I hired a
nice guy with a pretty good reel to shoot and that I finally fired
finding out he ruined 4 days of shooting, 300 miles away by not
an obvious camera problem, and then had to have optical's done to
all the production equipment he kept in the frame. This all happened on
same film, but it did get finished, and ended up on a "favorite films
the year" critics list.
LEARN TO SAY
point, finally, is this:
crew is very important
, if they can't
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
up, but it's the second biggest failure of no-budget films. The
is bad sound. Get references. Listen to the sound reel, watch
composition and exposure, talk to the lab and the timer that timed this
work, talk to the sound house that did this guys last transfer. Believe
it's worth it. Personally, I will never give any technical crew
a chance without references, experience, and an exhibited desire to
with the director.
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
but don't lie. Remember, they have your negative.
Some of the
consider when picking the lab are:
they replenish or dump chemistry and
at what temperature?
Do they have a screening room and if they do,
is there a charge?
What have they done before and have you seen
Will they pick up for free?
How fast do they process and print (if you
Do they do film transfers to tape and if they
and transfer can you get a better deal?
A lot of low end labs will process your film for next to nothing, but
which simply means that after X amount of footage the chemistry is
and they dump it and put in new. If you happen to be at the head of
schedule, you're probably fine, if not, you're in terrible shape. Guess
they'll put your no-profit film? Also find out the optimum temperature
processing (usually 68 degrees) and find out what temperature the lab
film, hot chemistry means shorter process time and they can process
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
before the processing began to get a better price. I don't suggest this
a shady lab, they may not rip you off, but they can. I tried this
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
department, scheduler, the projectionist, assembly, and in my opinion
most important, the guy who decides how to get your film to look like
want it, the
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
you've gotten a deal
and lab to process and print or transfer the footage to tape, get the
figures on paper,
way you can hold them to their deal if things change or they want to
and legally you have recourse if something comes up. This is another
to pick a reputable lab. Most reputable labs will never renege on a
they make whether in writing or not. I used a lab in LA called
Plant, I made a deal with them, I paid them in advance, then after
of delays ran through the money and told me I could not have my
unless I paid them more money and then charged my credit card with an
thousand dollars without my signature or permission. It happens.
did an terrible transfer, much of which had to be redone, it cost me
more money than we agreed to, and it took them forever to do it. Even
I would of had it on paper what could I have done? Sue them? They've
your negative. Choose your labs wisely.
money again. Two
trains of thought;
people with their own equipment.
2. Rent your own equipment from a production house.
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
to hire someone with equipment.
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.
goes for the sound man. Listen to all his takes at night for at least
first 4 nights. If you have the luxury of dailies (see lab above), how
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;
finding paying jobs and leaving the day before
Crew finding paying jobs and leaving the day
You finding a paying job...etc.
Running out of money before the 13 weekends
of shooting are complete.
Everyone else running out of patience before
complete including the equipment house that has
already rented your camera as a 3rd camera for
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
living for your film, only yourself.
one will ever have as much energy and commitment for your film as you.
If you can get everyone 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?
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
to shoot 35mm. It's stupid unless it's your only viable option. My
film was a junkie road film shot in 16mm using my cameras, I had two at
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.
Arabia in Super
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
jack. Better deals on 35mm equipment can be found and you've got a much
looking film, and if you shoot short ends you will spend not much more
you would on 16mm. Remember, if you plan on blowing up a 16mm film, you
to light the thing extensively to keep the blacks black, and saturate
colors by the time it's blown up to 35mm and LIGHTING TAKES A LOT OF
so you can figure to spend more money for the extra days of shooting
you will need. It slows things down, considerably. In 35mm you can get
with a lot more because the larger negative will handle the
lighting, and still look good by the time it gets to the screen. If
end venue is videotape, and you never expect it to see the
your format doesn't matter too much. I've seen some very good looking
shot in Super 8 transferred to tape, and that's very cheap. Or, if
got a film that lends itself to the gritty feel you can do what I did,
little if any lighting.
IF IT WORKS,
lot of films are now
being shot in video
then transferred to 35mm for projection in festivals or distribution.
If this is your only option, and if it works with the kind of
film you're making -
the cost of the transfers
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
look like film, really, and it doesn't look like video, mostly. Some
marriage of the two, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, just be
it works in with the kind of film you're making, make it work for you
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.
DISCOURAGED BY A "NO"
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
and I gave them credits in my film and undying gratitude. Let them know
much you appreciate what they are doing to help you, it can mean a lot
the next filmmaker that needs that location. And don't screw them,
the place clean, the way you found it, shake everybody's hand and be
in thanking them Mr. Producer. If they wanted to they could
out, or sue your production later on.
Be A Good
your locations months
in advance and
talk to all the people you have to reach to make it a done deal. Lock
the time and the day and if you can, get a contract and
must have a release
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.
mind signing an agreement about the day we come in to use your bar? We
want you to feel comfortable about this, and we should each get a
Tighten up your schedule to fit your filmmaker desires, financial
realities, and logic of locations. If you've got a restaurant, club,
location for one day that's perfect for 3 scenes which occur at the
middle and end of your script, throw your plans for sequential shooting
the window. Use the location, make the scenes work in the way you need
to work and shoot the scenes sequentially that will allow themselves to
shot that way. Think survival.
OK. Mull that over for awhile.