Friday, July 8, 2011

My sabbatical is over...

I'm back. This blogging shit is tough. After the first two weeks of not posting then I start thinking I should just give up. But I should just continue for the sake of my own sanity. So here I am again.

And here is a trailer I cant get enough of!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

reverse movie reviews #4

I think you kids will like this one. Same drill as usual... what is the story about/ would you see this movie/ whats good about the trailer and whats bad?

As for the last film review, great comments! I put these films up here as a great way to get these film teams a little feedback as most of our film reviews are indie films and they can't afford focus grouping.  So even harsh critical analyses is useful information.  That being said, if you know an indie filmmaker who would like his or her film trailer commented on, send them my way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



I understand that we all watch a little bit of reality tv from time to time; it's just like ordering an extra large pizza for yourself. But this is the bottom of the barrel as far as television goes and it has made a lot of money over the last 8-10 years. Finally, the networks both big and small, are noticing a trend in advertisers distancing themselves from reality shows and they are planning more scripted television shows. 
Here is a link to a New York Times article about the subject.

But my favorite line from the article...

“Do you really want to rely on Snooki to do justice to your brand?,” she asked, referring to a “Jersey Shore” cast member.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reverse movie reviews #3

What do you think the story is about by only watching the trailer? What do you like about it, or dislike? What do you think about the production value? Would you go see this movie?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Films you didn't know were under 5 million...

When you watch a film, its hard this day and age to know really how much was spent on it unless you have a sharp eye.  So I thought I would give an idea of what a film looks like when the production company had little to no budget compared to the big boys.

First up- Winter's Bone

This film was shot for 2 million, on location in the Ozarks, had no recognizable talent, and crushed it at the theaters last year. It also was directed by a woman, which is unfortunatly rare in the film industry.  And finally it was nominated for oscars. Not bad for the price of a Arbys franchise store.

Next up- Hard Candy

This is one messed up film,(Shot for under 2 million) and it was the big introduction to our favorite Juno actor, Ellen Page, whom had done little stuff on tv movies before this messed up little film.  It didn't do so well in the theaters here in the States, but they loved it over in Europe... those sickos.

Finally- My Big Fat Greek Wedding

(Shot for under 5 million)Granted, when you have people like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson helping you out, you can make shit happen for a film at whatever budget. But this little comedy was shot for peanuts... and made an insane amount of money because of smart steady marketing.  Much like my previous post, the actors got screwed once it made money and sued.

So in the end, these three examples are across the board as far as genre; one romantic comedy, one twisted thriller, and one drama.  Noticed I stayed away from horror because, frankly, there are too many examples of awesome horror films shot for nothing that found its audience.  But with these examples, they all have some things in common.

  1. Little to no huge crowds of extras. This costs a lot of money and I am sure the producers were calling friends and favors for the wedding crowds in My big fat.  
  2. Repeat locations- Dressing up and moving to new locations is expensive.  When you have a crew of 30-80 people and a cast of 5-10 moving even 2 miles is a costly endeavor. Tiny budget films work around that by having less locations, and hide production value by taking a single actor and shooting a new location with a skeleton crew.  
  3. Great writing- If you pull in the crowd early with great writing and flow of the movie, the illusion is set and it wouldn't matter if they were acting next to a cardboard background. We would buy it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

yes thats the guy from Malcolm in the middle...

Christopher Masterson is his name. Which brings me to another subject.

Getting actors for Indie Films is easier than you think.

T.V. actors are always looking for a way to break in to the big leagues.

Name actors with big film careers are looking for something of substance.

Thier agents are not as concerned with the actors reputation being hurt by being in a little indie film that probably won't get them further than festivals.  And if its good, they might get some awards, meaning more buzz meaning more money for their next 100 million rom com/action/ extravaganza!

One of the perks of making Indie films. But this can bite you in the ass as well. Big names on a little film means a big chunk of the money if there is any to go around. And could lead to nasty law suits. Ever heard of Randy Quiad?

He did this little indie film shot up in Canada about some gay cowboys. It was a simple walk on role that probably took him 3 days of his time.

here is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

"Actor Randy Quaid has filed a lawsuit against Focus Features, the producers of “Brokeback Mountain,” alleging he was duped into appearing in the movie at a reduced rate, according to this report by KCAL TV in Los Angeles. Quaid had a supporting role in the film, playing the Wyoming rancher who hired Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) to herd sheep. According to the lawsuit, Quaid says he “donated” his time after moviemakers allegedly told him he was making “a low-budget, art-house film with no prospect of making any money.” Brokeback has reportedly grossed more than $80 million in the U.S.
Quaid is seeking at least $10 million in damages on claims that include intentional and negligent misrepresentation."


Reverse movie reviews #2

Whats the story about on this one? How much do you think they had for a budget? I should let you know that they don't have the rights to the Aerosmith song...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Empire Crew

a rare shot of a small part of the film crew of Empire Strikes Back.

Spring cleaning of the blog

As some of you have noticed I am redesigning the style of the blog. Let me know if you like it or hate it or if you have some ideas for the design.

Film Industry Bloggers

Here is a great blog if you have been following mine and want even more insight.

Film Industry Bloggers

Monday, May 2, 2011

Money for Indies

I was talking to another producer in the area today about our main struggle... finding money for film.  It always is dancing out in front of us like like the proverbial carrot, taunting us to do more acrobatics to convince the investor that this film is an investment that they can have some faith in.  Recently, I talked to my best friend who told me that he is going to throw some money at the next project I develop, to which I gave him the same speech I give any investor. Its a risk!  To which he replied that over the last 4 years he has lost 200k in real estate and another 80k in stocks, so called safe investments, so he would rather lose his money to a friend.  

While this is touching, it has got me thinking that I need to do a bit more research in to the risks of real estate and mutual funds nowadays to see if I can't get some facts to point out about the relative risk all investments have.  I've seen film projects with a built in audience(a positive doc about Christianity to be sold to churchgoers, etc.) a distribution deal already signed and still the production can't find the private equity to pull off the film, not because of incompetence of the production team but because of the stigma that non studio films have. "Films go over budget and don't make money back."

I hate to admit it but there are a lot of good reasons that this statement is true. 

1) For the most part, out the gates, most film teams have little experience working with large budgets and honest development and preproduction.  Of course a film goes over budget when you thought you could feed your crew on 5 bucks a person a day.  Most film crews shoot 12-16 hour days 6 days a week and when you are a grip lifting a 300 pound dolly 10 times a day, it takes a little more than mac and cheese to keep him going.

2) Of course the odds of making a films budget back is slight if the producers had these cockamamie ideas that a film festival was going to pluck their little baby out of the THOUSANDS of films submitted and that a distributor will fly down from the heavens and give them a sack of cash.  Most film schools and books tell the film auteurs about the three stages of a film project. Pre-production, principle photography, and post-production.  This is crazy! Distribution is the most important phase next to actually shooting the thing! And most I have met have sadly known so little about distribution and promotion of their film.  Film making may be an art form, but this is show business and if you don't show that film to as many eyeballs as possible, then you got no business.  

Private Equity    

Independent film can only be made by using private investors. Sure there are ways to get a little bit of cash into the kitty, like product placement for example.  But the main way non studio films are made is from an investor wanting to use the tax incentives on film and having faith that they will get a good product back and their money too. 

What really drives producers like me bonkers is that the big guys(The big studios) have gotten out of the game of independent film.   The large studios have stopped making 10 mil films not because they don't make money. They make a lot!. Just not to their standards.  They need films to make 100+ Million to make it worth their time. Personally if I made a solid film for 4 million and after all is said (theater, dvd, netflix, broadcast) and done, it makes 12 million, I am pretty happy. And a lot richer for doing what I love. 

So the biggies aren't making Indies.   But audiences aren't turning their back to independent films, quite the contrary, interest in Indies has built and grown for more than a decade and isn't slowing. And just because the studios aren't making them doesn't mean the theaters don't want them. They need asses in seats and popcorn munched upon. 

So now Distributors are in this pickle. They need content to put in front of the audience when they are not watching Batman 6.  So the Distribution Acquisition Executives are showing up in force at film festivals, desperate to get their hands on indie films that someone else took the risk of funding.  Its a sellers market again at film festivals.  And I hate not having anything to sell at the moment, because film investing is "too risky"

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

Can anyone name that movie scene that they adapted into this short film? Don't cheat and read the name. Don't press pause... or you will see the name.

Reverse Movie Review #1

Alright folks you asked for it. This first one is a test. How much do you think it was shot for? What is the movie about? And where does it show its production value at? What are good shots, what are bad?

Reverse movie reviews

So I like the direction i am going with the blog.  Thanks again for the advice. I like the idea of a movie review but in reverse.  I show my readers a trailer for something obscure and ask them how much they think is was made for and what do you think the trailer was about. Could do something like that weekly.

I will continue my little crusade to show the nuances of pre production and its importance in creating good films.

Which is funny because I produced the Denver chapter of the 24 hour film racing competition.

Which it the antithesis of preproduction.   But a great competition for those that like to procrastinate.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back by Popular Demand!

Wow you guys liked this one! ok another shout out to Devin Hume the amazing Director!

This is a short film I helped with last month. Obviously, I could go on and on about how it looks like a feature but that will have to wait until a separate blog about the changing paradigm of accessible equipment.  For now, know that this was a joy to work on as both 2nd assistant director and as an actor.  The voice at the beginning is me. I played the coroner with the glasses.

Spanks For Everything!

Thank you to all that have shown interest in my blog.  I wanted to take a moment to ask if there is anything you would like to see more of from me?

Leave a comment or I break more!

First AD: The General on Set

According to wiki

In the realm of film, the duties of an AD include setting the shooting schedule, tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking the arrival of cast and crew, maintaining order on the set, rehearsing cast, and directing extras. Extended responsibilities may include taking care of health and safety of the crew.

The First Assistant Director (First or 1st AD) has overall AD responsibilities and supervises the Second AD. The "first" is directly responsible to the producer and "runs" the floor or set. The 1st AD and the unit production manager are two of the highest "below the line" technical roles in filmmaking (as opposed to creative or "above the line" roles) and so, in this strict sense, the role of 1AD is non-creative.

I can't say enough about this role on set.  A good assistant director keeps you on time and on budget.  Even if you are at low level of production, getting a good AD will save you the hassle of being disorganized on set and will allow the director to focus just on the creative aspect.  The skills needed to be a good AD are varied. Organization, experience, communication, psychological tools for the warfare that is a bustling set.  It may state they are non creative but when you have a location fall through, a grip truck gets a flat, an actor needs more candy in their trailer, and your director wants a helicopter for the shot all at the same time, you have to be pretty creative in solving all the problems stacked on each other.

Here is a great blog about ADing. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Drop that BOX!!!

Once a production moves out of the Garden level, things get complicated.  Pre-Production, preparing before the camera is turned on, becomes key.  Communication is at the heart of preproduction.  One of the best tools I have found to keep the production humming along is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Most people use it for saving work files to be used at a different location (doing work at home).  But for film production, it is gold!  It is simple to use, works just like a folder in your library.  But the best part is you can invite anyone to the folder.  

In other words, lets say you have an art director who takes a pic of a dress for the lead and want to find out if it matches.  Put in a folder named art direction and the director can look at her convenience and approve it.  Making separate folders for separate departments keeps the chain of command focused, which helps immensely when you get to principal photography.  

Even if you havn't worked in film, you have probably heard of the term"we'll fix it in post". In other words, a shot for the film didn't work and somehow it will be fixed while editing the film together. Well, when a problem arises in preproduction, I say, "lets make a dropbox folder". And a happy producer I am!

Production levels: Where are you? part 1

With rapid access to better technology and greater access to audiences, this world of filmmaking is opening up.  So I think now more than ever there should be a conversation about how to gauge what level a production is at and what the intention should be when developing it.

First the different levels of production.

1) the Basement- so you have a camera, a youtube account and a lamp pointed at your face.  If you are lucky you have a friend to hold the camera and laugh at you during takes.  Please know I am not knocking this level of production.  Many have launched a successful career this way but it is important to keep in mind that this level always starts with the enjoyment of doing as the motivator. This guy did not upload his face to get paid by Geiko Car Insurance. But paid he was and 114,000 subscribers he has.

Brandon is a perfect example of a basement filmmaker who wanted more and now is working on indie films. He jumped over a lot of levels because of his success, but lets follow the step by step and assume that at some point you want to do more than vlog.  You want to see the sunlight.

2) Garden level living-  So now we are talking about pre planning.  The garden level filmmaker wants to tell a story and this requires her to actually think out how she is going to capture the shots.  With no training other than watching movies, she learns first hand that our intentions and the end result are vastly separated.  A small community is built off of necessity to create the vision. Grandma plays a role but I need a taxi cab for a scene and a trench coat for my actor.  Realization of the limitations this level has while pulling off shots is great experience for this filmmaker. You begin to realize what you have that Hollywood doesn't, mainly the possibility of great writing and the lack of bureaucratic direction. .  But strange enough, the odds of monetizing at this level your film project is even less than in the basement.   There are very few that purposely stay at this level, but those that have revel in their so called weaknesses and campy films.

3) The Bellhop-  or rather the film student.  This production level varies greatly but makes a difference in the quality of the filmmaking.  Now a production has access to film specific equipment(no more table lamps for lighting)  a wealth of practical knowledge, and a community all focused in filmmaking.  This is also a community that each member is trying to stand out from the herd so a good deal of conflict can be found here.  Projects that at earlier levels would have been impossible to pull off can be accomplished but now there are several issues that can kill the simplest film.  A professor may not grant access to equipment because the script has poor structure, you need heavy lifting done on set and now one is interested because your director is not the nicest of people.  Projects may have no point beyond the student wanted a grade.  Many issues can come up that will kill a project, but that is the greatness of this level.  Student films are supposed to fail.  Its much better to have your production fall apart here than out in the real world with other peoples money.  Which leads us to the next level... tomorrow!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Shiny Things Trailer

Shiny Things - Trailer 2011 from Devin Hume on Vimeo.

This is a short film I helped with last month. Obviously, I could go on and on about how it looks like a feature but that will have to wait until a separate blog about the changing paradigm of accessible equipment.  For now, know that this was a joy to work on as both 2nd assistant director and as an actor.  The voice at the beginning is me. I played the coroner with the glasses.

Where it starts... a writer writes. A producer... produces...

So to start off on any film project, there is an idea. Obviously you need no title to come up with an idea, so anyone can be the catalysis to start a film project rolling.   It's the next step that defines them.  If you take the idea and start scribbling down the concept and start developing the characters, obviously we have a screenwriter on our hands.  Screenwriters have to be the least respected jobs in film and they carry the creative burden.  I usually respond to a person saying that they are a screen writer with "I'm so sorry"... well it depends on how much ass I am kissing at the moment... Which brings us to producers.

If you take that little idea for film and start furiously talking about it with anyone that will listen, chances are you are a producer.  Now there is plenty out on the web warning the budding screenwriters about choosing their producers carefully so I won't go into detail here, only to give the advice to watch out for a producer that promises the moon as opposed to a producer that shoots for it. 

This little bit is about the producers to be. So lets say you have a great idea but you chicken peck your emails and prefer sending texts.  Finding a writer is the next step and the good news is that there is an endless supply of writers.  The bad news is it may be hard to tell how good they are. I would recommend go to and read as many in the genre you are interested in.  There are tons of outlets to find screenwriters on the internet but most ideas will be best served through human interaction. Choose a local, and that way you don't end up with battlefield earth when you started with a romantic comedy concept. That and what a producer really needs is to be able to sell the imagery with her words.

Get in writing what you and the writer are working on, so when you start suing each other you can point back to that sign napkin as proof you were right. Just kidding, getting an entertainment lawyer is the way to go and we will have to talk about it another time.

The Theme

I am a thriving filmmaker in a town that is not known for filmmaking. Good Old Mile High Denver,Colorado.  Like most filmmakers, I have tried a ridiculous and random list of other professions and all the while known that film is the one for me.  I'm not entirely sure what I want this blog to be yet. Maybe one part personal experience, one part technical conversation about film management, or one part brainstorming new ideas and concepts.  I use my Facebook account for a distribution of the interesting short web based films I find and most FB friends seem to enjoy that there as opposed to me updating people on my sock color, so I think I will continue that but I feel a need to put down my thoughts on the actual workflow entailed in producing film projects.    From how to approach other filmmakers in the community to how to hold a meeting of creative and non creative or what software programs serve a production by keeping organized the best.  I have not found a blog that summarizes this and it happens to be my passion.  I look forward to trying different directions and maybe hearing others thought on this.


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