Friday, August 28, 2009

Fundraising suggestions....

Here's a chat exchange I just had with a filmmaker that I will share with everyone because there was some good f*&^%ing advice in there, dammit!!

10:55am XXXX
Basically, im the only producer right now.. we just need to raise some funds...which ive never done!

10:55am Jacques
Holy tomatoes!

10:55am XXXX
i know!

Well, I never did it before when I first did it. Basically, you just gotta jump in with such things, learning to swim by being tossed in the ocean (as my older brother did to me - that mothaf^%$er).....

10:57am XXXX
i agree!

10:59am Jacques
It's a learning curve, but charm and common sense usually are the best guides. Target the potential investors. Figure out what they need to know based on what their goals might be. Tell them the facts good and bad (but dress them up nicely). Sound like you know what you're doing but don't be afraid to admit mistakes. Follow up until they tell you to stop. Move on to the next. It's a numbers game.

11:00am XXXX
right...i get cha

11:01am Jacques
Never bullshit them. They are usually too smart for it. But it doesn't hurt to play to their emotions. Film investment, for the most part, is a really dumb bet. They either do it because it is their job (as in a production company) or because they have an emotional attachment to the idea of being in films. It might be sexy for them or an ego thing or just fun...

...but they can't feel like they are pissing their money away, so you gotta have a nice, smart proposal...(not necessarily a real, detailed business plan)....

11:03am XXXX
That makes sense!! We have a preliminary marketing plan that im turning into a business proposal as we speak....did u contact any and all people with money? Or did u find a list of film investors?

Lists are meaningless. If one exists, it means 4 billion other people have it.

With production companies, it's all about the script...and relationships. And packaging, if you can do that...but that's hard without connections/cred.

11:05am Jacques
With private individuals, you gotta use degrees of separation. Who do you know? Who do they know? Never go farther than 3 degrees of separation...

11:07am XXXX
ok, The writer/director wants to aim high (insert big names) with prod. co's that I am sending the script to...BIG names! I feel its a shot in the dark...

11:07am Jacques
yeah. It's the common routine. It is a shot in the dark, but it works, sometimes. Like maybe less than 1% of the time. :) I certainly wouldn't put all my eggs in that basket....

With private individuals, set up as many individual meetings as you can. When you have people interested, wait until you have at least 5-10, then do a presentation or dinner for them to lock 'em in. The collective energy and enthusiasm often helps a lot. But if you can lock 'em in without that, so much the better.

11:07am XXXX
ooh good idea!!

11:10am Jacques
Make everyone invested in the project (not just involved, but emotionally and financially invested) - you, the director, anybody else - work up a list of investor potentials. And when I say investor potentials, I don't mean necessarily people with money, but also people who might know people with money....

Then attack the list with all your resources - a strong proposal, charm, intelligence and most importantly, gratitude and respect....

Okay. That's my mentoring for the day. Hope it helps.

The New Media Revolution - ?

A New Media revolution is underway, apparently, but I fear I might be sleeping through it. What the f%$# is "New Media", anyway. I've been hearing this phrase for awhile, now, and I'm not any more certain today of what exactly it is than I was back when I first heard it. Is it referring to actual content, the format of that content or the way that content is delivered...or all of the above? Is it some crazy, as-yet indescribable hybrid of books, film, art and other stuff? Is it stuff that is already here or stuff that is coming in the future? Is New Media strictly tied to the internet or is it stuff that can be bounced up to satellites and projected against a 10 story building? Or can it be as simple as a good HD cable t.v. show as opposed to the network crap we were forced to watch throughout my growing years? Maybe it's just anything media-related that I have trouble understanding.

Of course, I had to go to wikipedia, where I often scurry to when I want to begin to understand something - or at least get a pulse on how others understand it. Here's what it says, essentially:

New Media is a term meant to encompass the emergence of digital, computerized, or networked information and communication technologies in the later part of the 20th century. Most technologies described as "new media" are digital, often having characteristics of being manipulatable, networkable, dense, compressible, and impartial.

Hmmm. Whatever that means. Other terms commonly associated with New Media include: interactivity, media convergence, viral communities, open source, globalization and others that are equally opaque to me. However, I do know one thing as an independent filmmaker, the way media is created, delivered and promoted is changing. Fast. Actually has already changed tremendously, for the most part. And the way stories are told may (or may not) change with it.

Is this big news? Hell no. People have been talking about this for years and the forward-thinkers have been batting it around for decades - even pre-internet (as we know it now, anyway). But it always seemed like the theoretic mental masturbation of think tank-types and not anything that would have any real-world relevance to a hustling young indie filmmaker bred on "Stalker" and "Mouchette" or even "Star Wars", who still craves the romance of sitting in a big dark theater with a bunch of eager strangers.

There will always be a place for that, even if that theater now often exists inside people's homes (minus the strangers...I think). But people are now watching their movies in lots of different ways. And I've already made it clear in other blogs that the commercial theatrical model for truly independent filmmakers is all but dead. Digital technology has already won the content creation revolution and that same technology, applied in different ways, has us squarely in the midst of a content delivery revolution. The cost barrier for making films is much lower these days - and that includes everything from CGI work to 3-D. And the cost barrier for delivery of those films is lowering, as well. Right now, you can upload your film to a "store" where people can purchase a DVD or download it in various ways and you can promote it through various network sites with affiliate sales support - without it costing you much of anything up front. It's a low-level distribution/marketing network that used to cost thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars to create, but can now be done for practically nothing, depending on who is willing to do what for you for free. In any case, there's probably never more than a thousand dollars in inescapable costs and not too much more than that in elective costs.

Does that mean a brighter future for indie filmmakers? Possibly. But unlikely for most filmmakers and far from guaranteed for even truly talented filmmakers. In this fine ol' world of ours, you often get what you pay for. Just because the tools have gotten much cheaper, doesn't mean they'll work magic for you. Most filmmakers are crappy marketers. Actually, quite frankly, most filmmakers are crappy filmmakers. Which also means a glut of crap is getting made, forcing good filmmakers to be innovative to be heard above the din...or risk getting lost in a sea of cinematic mediocrity.

That need for innovation is starting to trickle down to the way "films" are getting made. (Will the term "film" and "filmmaker" start to die? - Media and content are sooooo UNsexy....). We're seeing more and more serialized work (i.e. webisodes), mixed media work, interactive works, works of unusual lengths and some stuff that is simply uncategorizable. At first, I dismissed these new works as the desperate attempts of opportunistic filmmakers trying to fit square pegs into round holes. "We can show movies on cell phones?? Great! Let's make a 30 second version of Gone With The Wind!". But as more and more "New Media" emerges, they are starting to look like not just new work, but new models of work - new paradigms. The old school part of me is admittedly still resisting this new stuff. I grew up watching movies in theaters and I can't help feeling that anything that is not created for that experience is not CINEMA. But is that really true?

I'm not saying it isn't true, I'm just exploring the question. In one sense, of course, it is indeed true. The term cinema refers to the place where you watch films itself. So, for something to be cinematic, it needs to be ideally suited to that environment. Also, I feel like so much "New Media" stuff is simply sales tools or pandering to the growing A.D.D. epidemic rather than exploring all of the aesthetic possibilities of visual storytelling. And finally, with all of this "convergence" what distinguishes one thing from another. When is a book no longer a book or a film no longer a film if the two can be combined digitally to create a hybrid experience?

On the other hand, it's clearly time for filmmakers to broaden our conception of "filmmaking" - of visual/aural storytelling. The times, they are a-changin'. New Media, whatever the f^%$ it is, is here. Or coming soon. Old media, if not dying, is definitely limited in its ability to provide opportunity for filmmakers. If we are true artists, true creatives, we will embrace the creative challenge these new models are presenting to us. It's actually a very exciting time. But it is a transitional time and that, even with the best of transitions, is always a slightly melancholic experience. In any transition, something dies when something new is born. Even if it's just our old dream/fantasy of sitting in a dark, crowded cinema, feeling the buzz of the audience as your film slowly unfolds for them. Well, we can still have that at festivals and private screenings. That won't ever go away. But there's a brave new world out there that doesn't yet make sense to me. I think I need to get off of my old-school ass and go explore it.....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Summer In The Life Of This Filmmaker...

Well, well, well. Lookie-here what the cat dragged in. A new blog. I know, I know. I've been a very naughty blogger. I let June, July and most of August just slip away. And I'm kinda shocked at how quickly those months have passed. But, let's face it, if work/obligations were an animal and time was a car, I tried to fit an elephant into a VW bug. Surprisingly, I got most of it in.

So, what the hell was I doing besides working? Livin', dammit!! Livin' the filmmaka life! So, let me just try to catch you up on what that was all about....

Well, June was all about film festivals. There seemed to be so many festivals in one month you could literally go to two different festivals in one day. I only attended 4 and that seemed overwhelming. I was at Dances With Films, CineVegas, Los Angeles Film Festival and Palm Springs Shortsfest. And frankly, I had an awesome time at all of them.


There was a nice mix of film watching, schmoozing, serious film talk and flat-out partying at each of them. All were nicely organized and energetic. Although it's a shame the Los Angeles Film Festival can't figure out how to have a closing night party or some kind of wrap-up event to bring together all the peeps who connected throughout the fest. I know money is tight, but when a fest is missing that, it always feels like it fizzles out rather than ending with a bang. Anyway, I could do separate blogs about each of the fests, but I took too long to get around to writing this blog so that I may confuse the details a bit. What goes on isn't much different at any of them, but it's the how and where it all goes on that makes the difference and gives each its own unique energy. However, I will say that "The Revenant" on which I was one of the producers, played at CineVegas and won the Audience Award for Best Feature which made that experience extra special. And I also had an especially amazing personal adventure at L.A. Film Festival that only happened because of the festival. Nonetheless, each fest truly deserves its own separate blog, but I wasn't up to it this year. Here's some blogs/reviews/wrap-ups done by others:

However, June was also about the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition we're hosting - and it cranked up even more intensely in July after the final extended deadline. Amanda Sweikow, Filmmakers Alliance Executive Director and my partner in all things filmmaking, shouldered the bulk of the load. And what a load it was. This is our first year doing this competition, and, taking that into consideration, we are handling it exceptionally well. But we had no idea how much work organizing all of the submissions and getting them out to judges was going to be - not to mention responding to the mountain of filmmaker queries and various requests. And on top of it, we had to manage far too many flaky judges. Simply put, it was a bitch. And Amanda and I are still concerned that some good projects may have slipped through the cracks, although we pray that is not the case - despite what some disgruntled filmmakers who did not make it to the quarterfinal round have assured us.


I also started shooting my new short film "My Last Day On Earth" in June. The pressure was on because I wanted to get it in for the VisionFest selection committee deadline. People assume that because I'm the President of Filmmakers Alliance that my film's inclusion in the program is automatic. It isn't. Nor would I want it to be. If the people on our selection committee don't think it should play in VisionFest, I wouldn't want it to play there. Some filmmakers get really upset when their films don't get selected, which I don't understand. I mean, I understand the disappointment. I would be pretty damn disappointed. But ultimately, if the film is not being received well by the committee, it will probably not be received well by a larger audience. And hence, would not benefit me as a filmmaker to have it out there. The only exception to this is if the film is so incredibly unique, the selection committee just doesn't "get it". But I've worked closely with the committee over the years and it is very good - no matter who is on it - at differentiating between unique artistic intention and intention gone wrong. Simply put, they can see the difference between stuff they just don't get and stuff they don't want to get. Anyway, I made the deadline and the film got into the selection pool. But the making of the short deserves a blog all its own, which I will do very soon.


As July kicked in, VisionFest cranked up to the next level. All the last minute details are overwhelming and, again, Amanda was on top of it all. But I had no small share of stuff to do. That, along with arranging and doing the re-shoots and aerial shots for my short kept me running. And lastly, I had some fundraising to do for our new global web-based expansion, which launches in early 2010. So, all of this crazy activity - making a short, working on and raising money for the Global FA, the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition and VisionFest all spilled over into August and finally came to a rest of sorts on August 19th.

That day, I had a big meeting with a potentially huge partner for the new global site with VisionFest right on top of it that evening. So I had to prep for VisionFest - including cleaning myself up and putting on an actual suit - early in the day, go to the meeting and then run straight over to the Directors Guild for VisionFest. My film was selected by the committee, by the way, and VisionFest was a huge success. But that deserves another blog of its own.


With the passing of this year's VisionFest, the crazed energy seems to have to have mellowed a bit, although there's still more fundraising and a ton of work to do for Global FA. Which begs still another blog as I'd love to relate to everyone how that is evolving, the mindset behind it, and the resources we are trying to pull together for it. For YOU! Then, there's still a couple more rounds of the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition to judge/manage and the usual FA activities to handle including moving out of our current (very dirty and decrepit - but dirt cheap) facility. And personal life? I squeeze in some fun and drama here and there. I don't talk about my personal life very much in this blog other than to allude to it in regard to how it might directly affect my filmmaking life - which is what this blog is about. But the two lives are necessarily intertwined for me since I believe experience fuels imagination, deepens creativity and sharpens authenticity. However, there is frankly, not that much to relate....just a lot of internal activity - questions about happiness, love, meaning, purpose, obsession, fear, comfort, ego, art, etc. - that I will attempt to address through the work.

What's next? Independent Film Week in New York City in late September...and the festival circuit with my short.....And, of course....more blogging to come...I promise!!