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.
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!
I don’t know who this actor is, but he sure seems happy signing his contract.
After a bit of a hiatus where we worked on cutting down the size of our script (to get the running time under 100 minutes), we are now starting to send formal offers to letters. The process:
- Find creative ways to hunt down actor. Since this is an indie production without $20M to spare, that screen time to get the actor excited about your story is important. We found one actor at a film festival and got access to him in the Green Room. We arranged a private meeting with another through a friend of a friend.
- Actor reads script. Loves it.
- IF the actor is not holding out hope of being in the next Superman or other comic book movie, we send him offer and he considers it. And then we stress out.
Surprisingly, in this realm of filmmaking, actors actually consider offers that are quite low. Helen Hunt just did a film called The Sessions for less than $20K. As I’ve mentioned before, Ryan Gosling did Half Nelson for something like $15K.
That said, we are really mostly focusing on our lead role…which I will divulge was in offers a bit more than $20K. Wish us luck!
For those interested, the rest of the letter includes:
If there is anything else that you need to know or any further material you require, please contact me.
BENEFITED FROM THIS POST? WANT TO HELP US AFFORD OUR FILM AND PROSPECTIVE (KINDA BIG) ACTORS? Please support the film by visiting our website HERE and also spreading the word with the included links!
PETTING THE DOG (OR SAVING THE CAT)
Later known as “Save the Cat” by fans of the Blake Snyder series, “Petting the Dog” is a device used often in screenwriting: show the main character (however surly he is) doing something self-sacrificial or even just kind by doing something like petting a dog or saving a cat early in the script — and the audience will like the character, and thus root for him.
In our script these days, we actually unknowingly went back and added such a device. And lo and behold, everyone liked the main character more from the get-go.
Some examples in other movies:
- Aladdin (who may otherwise be unlikable since he is a thief) offers some of his stolen bread to a local orphan
- In October Sky, Homer’s father stops yelling at him just briefly enough to save Homer’s friend from his abusive father
- Andy Dufresne asks the name of the prisoner who was killed
- The Godfather is softened because he is petting a cat (something Marlon Brando just threw in)
- Steve Carrell literally pats a dog in the beginning of Get Smart
- Still-human Murphy shows that he is learning a gun trick so his son will think he is cool near the beginning of RoboCop.
A “pet the dog” moment won’t make a horrid character likable, and isn’t as convenient a cheat as people think (the quality has to already be part of the character) — but we can’t deny it’s a device that is used in a lot of movies, whether consciously or not. Next time you watch a film — chances are you will find such a moment…
IN FILMMAKING…HOPE IS NOT A GOOD THING.
At least, in part. They say filmmakers — no matter how talented, need to learn how to put up with rejection. What we have learned is that they also need to learn how to put up with their hopes being raised up high. Then crushed. Again and again.
Some examples of how this has played out for us:
- One investor told us he would invest $100K. He just had to ask his wife, and it shouldn’t be an issue. We thought we were done fundraising. Then, it turned out he and his wife couldn’t agree. No money for us…
- One donor told us he would donate $30K to our Kickstarter campaign. Our eyes lit up. We thought hope was on the horizon! Then, he changed his mind. Figured other people were donating I suppose.
- One investor was about to invest about $100K with us. Our lawyers hammered out the details for about 4 months since he traveled a lot. Then, at the last moment, right when he was about to sign…another deal came up and he took that one instead.
- One donor pledged $60K to us before our Kickstarter began. Once we finished our campaign, we couldn’t find him again….leaving us with an unexpected amount that we still have to raise.
The lesson? Don’t count anything until the money is in your account. After a lot of hard work, we have about 95% of our budget in hand, in our escrow account. The second lesson? Don’t get your hopes up unless there’s no way they can be crushed!
Can you help us raise our remaining amount? Click HERE to learn how to help!
HOW DO WE DESCRIBE THIS?
We have strange tasks some days. One of the things we’re trying to figure out today is how to describe the Indian push-up above (at the very beginning) as succinctly as possible, in a way that both describes it and also describes the eccentricity around how it looks. We need it for our script, and just calling it an “Indian push up” hardly captures the description or humor for those unaware.
Any ideas? Comments below!
(We also need to describe an Indian squat, but that’s a bit easier).