Last week, I was invited to give a lecture at the University of California, San Diego and it was a great experience (also, I got some honorarium I was able to use for my film!). I spoke a lot about the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that news media, film and television influence perceptions of minority groups. While preparing my talk, I found some interesting tidbits I thought may be of interest.
One: the media still hates black people. African-American actors are shown swearing 75% more than Caucasian characters. The most conservative of studies seem to say that whatever the ratio is of crimes by African-Americans to White-Americans, local news media shows African-Americans as criminals four times more than that. And even when Will Smith — maybe the most lovable black man ever — wanted Cameron Diaz to be the love interest in Hitch, the studios balked. They said viewers would freak out over a black man and white girl.
And those sorts of perceptions continue. I focused part of my talk on the new accepted prejudice: prejudice against the Muslim community. On a subtle level, it seems entertainment still wants to make Muslims and Arabs (even though Arabs are less than 20% of all Muslims) out to be backward foreigners. I pointed out how in the show HOMELAND, some characters were meant to meet at “Hamra Street” in Beirut. They made Hamra street look like this:
When actually Hamra Street looks like this:
And, of course, there are the plethora of ways Muslims are still the terrorists with harem girls whenever possible. Remember TAKEN? Was it really necessary to put crescent moons tattooed on the hands of all the bad Albanian guys? And was it necessary that a sheikh had to come in and hire a bunch of innocent girls to be his dancing harem prostitute girls?
Probably not, but media has a long way before it really portrays minorities well.
On that note, want to support one such effort to represent minorities in a realistic, authentic way? Please help us raise our last $40K for THE TIGER HUNTER! Donate here and spread the word: CLICK HERE.
LOOKING FOR A CINEMATOGRAPHER…IS HARD
A lot of people don’t realize how important the cinematographer is. You know how THE GODFATHER has a distinct type of lighting, or how ROAD TO PERDITION looks like an Edward Hopper painting? The cinematographer did that. Aka, the DP (Director of Photography).
Right now, we are looking for a cinematographer. I have one in mind who I really like, but as I’m not sure schedules or the like will work out, I’m still looking.
Every producer and mentor I’ve asked tells me the same thing: “I know a lot of DPs…but not very many really good ones.”
Do you all know any? Contact me. Would love the reference. Till then, we are asking previous mentors, colleagues, and just looking through folks who shot some Sundance titles in the past some years.
Any cinematographer you especially liked that shot a film under $5M (our film isn’t that big, but a lot of DPS are flexible a bit)? Let me know.
Hi Lena! I'm making a short film and wanted to read your blog from start to finish for inspiration. Is there a way to do this? I know that the guy on the talk to strangers blog managed to find a way. Thanks and hope you're well!
Hey Alex, of course! One way you can do that is start from my first post and then just cycle through them in order (arrows on the bottom). That should work.
Other than that let me know if I can be of any help. Best of luck!
At UCLA Film School, our very experienced acting teacher, Delia Salvi, told us that it’s always possible that something could unexpectedly fall through with our actors and we would be left crying on set that day. Her suggestion: cast TWO actors, rehearse with both of them, go as far as you can without contracts penalizing you, and just don’t let them know that only one of them is the one you really want.
Not letting a back-up actor know they are a stand-in seemed really mean, and I have never followed that suggestion.
So, why was I reminded of all this? This week, we can’t find our line producer. He’s MIA, non-reachable by any of his colleagues. We heard rumors a family member was sick.
The question: should I already go searching for a “back-up” line producer? I’ll wait a little…but I do see why Delia gave that advice!
Dear investors of mine who read this blog: movies have dozens of huge “oh no!” obstacles that come up all the time, and all filmmakers know that the final product is just a product of how we deal with them. Don’t be scared.
My producer and I have been trying to get a hold of an actor that we want for a featured role. After a bit of trying, she came up with his cell phone number.
I said, “Great! Let’s call him!”
Her: “Are you crazy? We can’t just cold call _____ him out of the blue! You don’t do that!”
Me: “Then what?”
We haven’t come up with that part.
Among my new year’s resolutions: only spend one day a week attempting to fundraise. Why? We’re filming a MOVIE this year. I really wish I could spend more time working on that.
Here’s an idea of how things have been going:
- Last year: we raised more than 90% of our budget through investment and partial donation! We had a great Kickstarter campaign…until it was so successful that one of our major donors pulled out, leaving us with an important gap in our budget. After our campaign, everyone thought we had all our money, nobody wanted to donate again, and it was too hard to launch another crowd-funding campaign without people understanding what happened. Plus, I have no plans to launch another social media barrage and lose all my friends…
- Late last year: three donors promised to fill our gap in funding, then pulled out. Hopes go up every time, then get crushed.
- We tried a fundraising event in another city. Paid for food. Tried our best to outreach. Hired entertainment. Worked hard for weeks. Very few people came (even though over 100 confirmed their attendance — don’t neglect your RSVP!). Sad times.
- We tried getting a booth at a convention in Chicago. Lots of work. Very, very, very, very, very cold. Lots of standing and begging. Didn’t make much.
So, I think I need to move forward. I need to spend more time on the movie, and just hope somehow our gap in funding will come from somewhere during that one day a week so that we can afford a certain pretty cool actor who already wants to be in our movie (if we can afford him). As for the other six days of the week…you get to hear updates about the movie that don’t have to do with funding! Yaaay!
CAN YOU HELP? HAVE IDEAS?
That said, if you are moved to help us fill our shortfall, we do have an under-the-radar crowdfunding page set up. Please donate or spread the word to help us reach our goal by clicking HERE. Donations are now TAX DEDUCTIBLE!
Have ideas on how we can raise money? Contact me.
WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION DO YOUR INVESTORS WANT TO KNOW?
Now that we are NEARLY funded ( you can still help us get the last bit by visiting HERE ), a lot of other filmmakers and curious people ask me: what do you need before pitching to investors? What do investors care about?
To answer, I thought I’d compile one list of the type of questions investors ask. Here we go:
- What is the risk, and the projected ROI (Return on Investment)?
- What is the investment structure — do I have equity in the company or a percent of net profits?
- Do any of the other investors have more equity than me, and do any investors have preference over others?
- What is the holding company for the film? Have all rights been assigned to it?
- Who are the members and holders of the LLC?
- Does the film have a completion bond?
- What is the distribution plan? When can I expect first returns?
- How much money is in hand, and where is it being held (e.g. escrow)?
- How can I be assured that my percent in profits will not be watered down (aka if the budget increases)?
- What talent is already attached?
- How is the budget broken down?
- Is this your first film (aka use this moment to answer: why should I trust you with my money)?
- What is the chain of title? Is this based on an original idea?
- Will I get on-screen credit?
- When do you absolutely NEED the money by?
- How can I make sure that you include me in your next project?
- When are you filming? How can I be assured this film won’t drag on for five years?
Having good answers, and supporting documentation where required, for the above greatly helps ease investor concerns.
Good luck! And if you found this information useful or just want to support, please throw us a few dollars before time is up by visiting HERE.
Yesterday we got some news — the distributor behind films like THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is very interested in distributing our film, and possibly even coming on board as a Pre-Sale. For those not in the film industry, a pre-sale for an indie film like ours is virtually unheard of these days. We’re talking out the details now…and holding our breath.
That’s it really for an update. We are excited! Wish us luck.
AND, when you have a successful distributor interested to this extent, it definitely helps to have a film! Unfortunately, we have a tiny bit of our budget left to raise. Can you help? If so, whatever you can do, please click HERE to support!
SHOULD I FLY ACROSS THE WORLD TO MEET WITH AN ACTOR?
A couple weeks ago, I got news that made me very excited. The actor I was most eager to have in my film was introduced to me. For an actor who has done a couple films that both made more than $100M, he was incredibly down to earth and kind. And I thought I couldn’t like him more.
I wanted to meet with him to pitch our project, but encountered a snag: he isn’t in the country. He is filming out of the country for the next months. He isn’t even on the same continent.
That said, this is the actor that I think can really bring the film to life. Immensely talented and, from our correspondence, I also think he would be a pleasure to work with. Pitching on Skype just wouldn’t be the same.
So, I’m thinking of being a little crazy…and traveling to another continent across an ocean to meet with him. I want to really be able to express to him my vision of the film, and also show him how valuable we feel he is to the project. I asked a few of my mentors whether they think the actor will think I’m being crazy and they said no…so I’m going to propose it soon. I’ll let you know how it goes…
And don’t worry — I won’t be using any donated money!
Forget the giraffe riddle - help us out here!
Imagine this — one of the actors you really want for your movie (a quite famous actor that everyone knows) has just been personally introduced to you by email. What do you say to him to get him to meet with you, instead of just brushing you off and saying, “Yeah just send me the script” (in which case he may not get to it). Or, is meeting with him even the most strategic route?
Unfortunately we can’t disclose his name, and the tricky part is that we don’t know enough about his personality. We know that his face is known across the world because of a couple films he did that all made over $100 Million. In addition, he is currently a supporting regular on a critically acclaimed drama on TV right now. We have no clue whether he is open to doing a film that could show his acting chops in a way his other films haven’t, or whether he no longer feels he wants to work on lower budget films. So…we want to play our cards right!
Brainstorm with us in the comments section! Time is ticking!