Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More hope from Hope....

Here are two more posts from Ted Hope. I know you all can just go to his blog, but just in case you are too foolish to go there on a regular basis, I will continue posting some key posts of his here...

The Twenty New Rules: What we all MUST TRY to do prior to shooting

I am prepping a new film with the shortest amount of time I have ever had to prep a movie. It is also one of the more ambitious projects I have been involved in. There is so much to do I can't afford to squander any time (luckily I have been prepping some blog posts in advance, so this doesn't take time -- it expands time!). The short prep is also unfortunate because now is a time that the producer has to do even more than ever before.

My To Do List may be more of a Wish List these days. Instead of doing everything I think I should be doing, I have to focus first on what absolutely needs to be done to get the film in the can.

Now is the time we should be doing things differently; yet given the opportunity to make the film I want, with the cast I want, even at a fraction of the budget that I want -- how can I let that opportunity go by?

Having more options and better tools, doesn't solve everything by any means.
These times are tough indeed. Everyone knows it is hard out there for an indie filmmaker, particularly for a truly free filmmaker. Most would acknowledge that it is harder now than it has ever been before. Few have revealed (or admitted) how the current situation will change their behavior. I think right now, with reality staring me in the face, I can only speak about what I wish I could do. There is still a big gulf between thought and expression. How does the present alter what we all wish to do on our films?

Personally speaking, I would say we need to evolve the definition of what it means to be ready to shoot a film. Granted, more can always be done on the creative level and that is certainly worthy of discussion, but here -- on TrulyFreeFilm -- we are discussing the apparatus, the infrastructure, the practices that can lead to a more diverse output, robust appreciation, business model, and sustainable practice of ambitious cinema. So, what would I do if I really had my shit together? I have been trying to answer this and share my thoughts along the way.

Today's version:
  • Recognize it is about audience aggregation: Collect 5000 fans prior to seeking financing. Act to gain 500 fans/month during prep, prod., post processes.
  • Determine how you will engage & collect audiences all throughout the process. Consider some portion to be crowd-funded -- not so much for the money but for the engagement it will create.
  • Create enough additional content to keep your audience involved throughout the process and later to bridge them to your next work.
  • Develop an audience outreach schedule clarifying what is done when -- both before and after the first public screening.
  • Curate work you admire. Spread the word on what you love. Not only will people understand you further, but who knows, maybe someone will return the good deed.
  • Be prepared to "produce the distribution". Meet with potential collaborators from marketing, promotion, distribution, social network, bookers, exhibitors, widget manufacturers, charitable partners, to whatever else you can imagine.
  • Brainstorm transmedia/cross-platform content to be associated with the film.
  • Study at least five similar films in terms of what their release strategy & audience engagement strategy was and how you can improve upon them.
  • Build a website that utilizes e-commerce, audience engagement, & data retrieval. Have it ready no later than 1 month prior to first public screening.
  • Determine & manufacture at least five additional products you will sell other than DVDs.
  • Determine content for multiple versions of your DVD.
  • Design several versions of your poster. Track how your image campaign evolves through the process.
  • Do a paper cut of what two versions of your trailer might be. Track how this changes throughout the process.
  • Determine a list of the top 100 people to promote your film (critics, bloggers, filmmakers,etc)
  • Determine where & how to utilize a more participatory process in the creation, promotion, exhibition, & appreciation process. Does it make sense for your project to embrace this?
  • How will this project be more than a movie? Is there a live component? An ARG? An ongoing element?
  • How can you reward those who refer others to you? How do you incentivize involvement? What are you going to give back?
  • What will you do next and how can you move your audience from this to that? How will younot have to reinvent the wheel next time?
  • What are you doing differently than everyone else? How will people understand this? Discover this?
  • How are you going to share what you've learned on this project with others?
As I've said, I know I am not doing all of these yet on my current production, but that leaves me something to strive for the one following. The goal is to keep getting better, after all. But man, I wish I could be doing more!

The desire to do more is so huge, but time and resources limit me, limit us. Sometimes it feels like an accomplishment to at least get the film financed. Still though, I can't claim to be doing my job (producing) well if I am not doing all of these. I have to do better. I know it is even harder on smaller jobs. Still though, as much as our job descriptions keep expanding as our salary level decreases, this list is what we must accomplish. Or at least it is the list I think we need to accomplish right now.

I am going to shut up now and get to work. There's too much to be done.

15 Ways To Show Your Collaborators You Appreciate Them

As an indie film producer, what can you do to show appreciation for all those that are helping you make your film?
  1. Do your job well. Make a film everyone is proud of. Give the team memories that they were lead well.
  2. Provide timely information and decisive actions, as clearly as possible. Don't try to hide anything. Don't sugar coat; speak truthfully about the situation -- reality may not be pretty, but presenting it clarifies your mutual trust.
  3. Recognize how well your collaborators do their jobs and show how much you appreciate them. Show respect. You can't make this film without them; they chose to join you and you are fortunate to have them.
  4. Learn everyone's name. Learn something about them. Take interest in their lives. Remember & celebrate their birthdays. Thank them for their work.
  5. Demonstrate that you are concerned for your crew's health. Provide vitamins and sun screen. Can you provide flu shots on set? When someone is sick, send them home.
  6. Have a true commitment to safety. If working long hours on location, provide overnight accommodations. Don't let people drive when they are over tired. Really have a safety meeting each day.
  7. Good food is quickest route to someone's heart. Provide thoughtful craft service: healthy food, fun food, new food, fresh food. Work with your caterer to make sure people are getting what they want.
  8. Provide a constructive work environment. Keep the workplace clean and orderly. Don't joke around camera. Don't let people read in view of others. Give everyone access to information.
  9. Don't contribute to a bad world. Help your team recycle. Don't force them to waste due to their work situation. Use less paper.
  10. Bring some fun into their world. Provide entertainment or education at lunch breaks. Do "dollar days" at the end of the week.
  11. Let them help the world at large. Organize a blood drive at lunch during production, a toy drive, or coat drive during the winter months. Get absentee ballots when they will be working during election periods.
  12. Adopt and post/display strong anti-discrimination, anti-sexual harassment policies.
  13. Help them enjoy themselves. On location, provide an extensive entertainment list for all visiting crew and cast, including restaurants, theaters, medical, specialty stores, massage, and directions. Organize some group outings during non-working hours.
  14. Go that extra distance to make things better for the team. On location, provide laundry service. In booking travel, always enter everyone's Frequent Flyer miles. Provide direction books in all vehicles.
  15. Recognize everyone as a key part of the process. Get them the tools they need to do their work well. Screen dailies and invite everyone. Create a blooper reel to screen for crew. Give them posters, DVDs, t-shirts. Inform them as to the progress of the production. Allow them to comment on the website.
When I have asked for some of these things from past production teams, I have occasionally met with some resistance. "I am a production manager, not a camp counselor!" "These people are adults; they should be able to take care of themselves!".

I don't agree. Everyone works hard. We need to show that we appreciate it. It's funny though, when I put this question out there to the Facebook & Twitter worlds, I think people mostly recommended alcohol and backend points. Money and booze, maybe that's all it takes...

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