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).
If you are a studio, the answer is easy. They can make the movie any length they want, with many these days edging toward 3 hours.
For a smaller production, however (even ones ranging into the millions and millions of dollars), sometimes we aren’t able to simply make the film however long we feel it should be. Or, to be more specific, we can…but it makes selling the film a lot harder.
There’s a couple things to take into account. The longer the film, in general the longer the number of shooting days. The more shooting days, the more money that is spent. A lower budget film (here I mean under $3M) should try to shoot the film in under 30 days. 18 days is ideal. If need be, 26 days is always common—the amount we are going for.
In figuring out how long the movie should be though, it’s not just about how many shooting days you have. One factor is maximizing your chances for better distribution deals. How can you do that? First, we have to know that broadcast Video-On-Demand (think TV channels, HBO, etc) is much more lucrative for filmmakers than traditional VOD (think Netflix). To become more appealing to Broadcast VOD, however, you need to get your film to the money spot—around 95 minutes, give or take a bit. That way, a channel can play your film, have it run for 95 minutes, then still have 25 minutes left in the 2 hour slot to program in a show. If your film takes up 105 minutes, there’s barely anything the channel can fit into 15 minutes that’s worthwhile. So, unless your film is literally among the top 1 or 2 films of the entire independent marketplace that year…VOD distributors will pass.
Not every film has to be 95 minutes. But, we’re sharing what we learn. Maybe it will help some of us get better distribution deals.
BENEFITED FROM THIS POST? WANT TO HELP US AFFORD OUR PRODUCTION DAYS? Please support the film by visiting our website HERE and also spreading the word!
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO PAY YOUR ACTORS? AND WHAT’S A SCHEDULE F?
For filmmakers making a film under $5M, there is something called a “Schedule F,” and it will become your best friend.
As opposed to what some people think, indie films can attract talent they can afford, as long as it isn’t somebody like Robert Downey Jr. or Tom Cruise. Take “The Sessions,” a film with William H. Macy and Helen Hunt this year. The film was made for somewhere (give or take) around $1M, and Hunt and Macy both worked under a “Schedule F.” This means that they must be paid a minimum of $65K for all their work, and that’s around what they received.
It happens all the time. Actors like acting, and they also don’t get paid what they used to, despite their immense talents. Actors use to get a percent of profits at “First dollar,” meaning as soon as revenue began coming in. Now, they usually get it at “Cash-Break Zero,” meaning they get it once the studio or company actually begins taking a profit.
These days we are figuring out what offers to make. When I consult companies about where to start in negotiations, they always say the same: “start with a Schedule F.”
These days, we are weighing options…and balancing our egos, too.
In putting together a film, in some ways it’s all about spending money wisely. Right now, we have two fairly large actors (one who definitely wants to come on board) interested in the project. The problem? We have to decide how many of these higher-profile (aka more expensive) actors are worth the cost. They are amazing actors…but budget is always a limitation. On one side, we have successful producers telling us that we should spend most of the money on production costs and not above the line. On the other, we have people telling us to package the heck out of this film.
These days, these factors are coming into play in all areas. Some films, like Fruitvale Station or Beasts of the Southern Wild, don’t really have actors that sell the film by themselves, yet they are successful. Then again, some films have 4 or 5. It’s a tough decision to figure out how many marketable actors you need to sell your film…and it’s one we’re figuring out these days with the advice of many in the know. But, we haven’t yet made those decisions.
The same thing comes into play with producers. On one hand, it feels good to hire a producer who has produced several successful films in our budget range. It feels good to say, “Yeah, we have so-and-so producing. We’re awesome.” It also makes our investors feel good, whether or not it is necessary. And, as we saw with Fruitvale Station (produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Bongiovi), that can make a big difference. Then again…with some producers who have now “made it,” they are often now spread too thin and won’t give the same passion to your project as they did on the films that made them famous. And the reality is that a lot of the films that sold this year in the independent marketplace weren’t from producers who had already sold big films. Do we think Fruitvale Station wouldn’t have been successful with Whitaker’s help? I don’t know.
That gives us the question we have to keep asking ourselves—how much will a certain person bring to the project? Can we accomplish the same thing by having a less “famous” but very enterprising producer, coupled with an established casting director? Are we favoring a certain decision just because it makes us look more respectable, feel more confident (aka giving somebody else our burdens), or make our investors comfortable (even if it’s not the best decision)?
As of right now, those are decisions we are still making. But as time moves, we’re still moving forward with a line producer who will get things rolling before we hire the producer. I know posts have been slow, but will keep you updated!
Want to help us better afford those actors? We have a small part of our budget left…please help by visiting our website HERE!
A WELL-KNOWN CELEBRITY WANTS TO BE IN OUR MOVIE!
That’s what’s happening in our world right now. We’ve been just barely starting the process of “packaging” our film. It’s not really full casting, but it’s attaching actors for some of the key roles.
In that process, a well known star read our script, and his manager just told us he wants one of our lead roles. This actor, when he is on TV, makes over $150,000 per episode. He is on one of the biggest shows on TV right now. He has international appeal. He is extremely talented and versatile, and as the director, I can see him in the role he wants. And, he has enough recognition that having him on board would help us get even bigger actors interested for the supporting roles.
Now, I don’t want to make it out like we have Tom Cruise on board, but for our film and our goals, this is a big deal. Suffice it to say that we are excited. So what needs to happen now on our end?
Well, for the most part, we need to make him an offer. He already knows our budget so we know he is comfortable working within it. But to solidify this deal, we need to have our full budget in place, but we are missing a small amount. Some smaller films ask actors for “letters of intent” (whereby the actor issues a letter stating he intends to be in a certain film when the budget and such are in place), but actors above a certain level often will not do that. This is the case here. So what is our step now? Raise money!
If you can help us at all in raising our budget, please visit our website HERE. Can you throw us $10? $100 $500? $5? It will help! Thank you again for all of your support!
And on the plus side, once we have him signed - we can announce it!