Have you ever wondered if film school is the right place for you? What exactly are you going to learn by attending? Here’s a video by Michael Gleason called Everything I learned in Film School in Under 3 Minutes. Maybe this will help you decide if you should dump the idea or go for learning some film theory.
2 questions that I get all the time are, how did you get started in the industry? How do I get started? Well, here’s my answers:
I started out working as a PA (production assistant) for the first year or so, much of that time volunteering my services for free. Being a PA sucks, but it allows you to see how a set runs and hopefully find your way into a certain department. That department for me was the production team or the producing staff. Eventually I started coordinating on commercials and indie films. Then I worked my rear end off with one company as a PA on a television pilot, and as that show went further into development, they moved me up the ladder. I became an associate producer, and then a producer on the series. Even though I have produced, coordinated, and managed sets, when I’m not busy and a new company calls me for a few days to work as a PA (for a good day rate) I almost always take it. I believe in networking, and the opportunity to work with new people opens up more doors. Put yourself out there and do it! Let others know you want to work!
Getting to this point in my career was a ton of hard work and a bit of luck. ANYONE can do the same if they set their mind to it. I am constantly learning, growing, and expanding my career. Never quit pursuing.
Oh that dream of working in the movies….
Photo courtesy of Mark Totten
If you’re dreaming of one day working in the biz, I recommend putting yourself out there to PA on set. Go to local film schools and ask if you can assist on their projects, or find local production companies and ask to apply as a PA for upcoming productions. Don’t worry, no experience necessary. All you have to do is show them that you want it bad, and you are willing to work your tail end off to get it. Create a quick resume of your skills. If you need help with what to put on your resume, ask anyone that knows you well or knows your talents.
Want to move up?
If you have been PA’ing for months or even years, and are asking yourself, “how do I move up?” the answer is easy. Ask to move up. When you work with a new crew, network like crazy. Keep in touch with anyone that you connected with. Even just to say a quick hello or hit them up on facebook. Give them a reminder that if they have anything coming up, you are available to work. If you’ve recently worked on a big project, let them know. Ask them how they recommend taking on a higher position. If you show interest in it, they will likely recommend you in the future. You never know when someone from two years ago will call you to do such and such for their upcoming film. And if you are lucky, that person will ask what you are currently doing or trying to do and bring you on in that position.
If you found a department you want to work in, ask if you can work as a PA in that department. Or hire you as an extra person within that department at a lower pay. If you can find an independent film to work on, they will likely take less experienced people. Get on Mandy.com or craigslist to see if you can find some local jobs. If it’s driving distance or you know someone that lives nearby that you can crash with, go for it. even if it’s far away. If you are applying for a bigger budget film, particularly a studio film, it’s a bit tougher to get on to their crew. Don’t be discouraged to apply. If you are bound and determined, find their production office and ask for a place to apply. Sit in the room until they get you someone to talk to in person. In person is ALWAYS better. You are much more likely to get the job. Persistence and Determination are key.
If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The old tradition for filmmakers: make your movie, enter film festivals, distributors eat it up, and Waalaa….you make your investor’s money back…and hopefully you put some in your pocket. Today, it seems that is the old man’s way of doing it. If I were to rely on that method, it would be equivalent to putting all my savings into buying lottery tickets. Times have changed. And keep changing. Every day. How do we, as independent filmmakers, keep up?
Many people are running to Netflix and VOD. Is that a better option? Or an addition to the film festival route? So far, I haven’t heard any positive reviews about Netflix experiences. Maybe you know someone who has? VOD seems to be a positive route, but does your film have enough hype around it for VOD to be useful. For that matter, millions are making movies all the time, so how are ours going to stick out of the crowd?
I keep going back to the potential of proper use of the internet. The majority of people are on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to the theater, but marketing usually hits me online. Maybe the best route today is finding your niche audience online. Let them enjoy your film.
Thomas Woodrow, the producer of the film Bass Ackwards, came up with one of the first creative distribution solutions after failure to get distribution from a successful festival run. Said Woodrow, “We knew that the only one thing Sundance guaranteed us was a tremendous amount of publicity, a chance for people to hear about the film and to be curious about it. We also knew that we had an anti-commercial film, difficult to market, without an obvious target audience outside of the people that go to film festivals. We knew we had virtually no chance for traditional pick-up, and imagined that if we did things the regular way and waited for other companies to come to us, we’d probably see ourselves on IFC’s digital platform six months later, and nothing else.
We also knew that we had spent so little on the film that we could afford to take risks,” he continues. So we decided to just go for the jugular and to use the publicity generated by Sundance to release the film directly to the audience. We knew we couldn’t wait until people forgot about the Sundance press, so we decided to launch the film as wide as possible immediately after the Festival, meaning February 1st…one day after the Festival concluded.”
After spending $15,000 for the Sundance release, the team also made preparations for the aftermath of the release. Theatrical bookings were being made to run immediately following Sundance. Digital platforms were being armed with the film so that people could see it as soon as they heard about it. DVD release was scheduled immediately after the festival with Amazon.com on pre-orders to ship on Feb 1. Cable VOD was coordinated to work immediately after the Feb 1 release, except it ended up being pushed back 1 month.
For more detail on Bass Ackwards.
Bass Ackwards was the first to take the step into the unknown. Now things have changed considerably, but at least Woodrow made $35K back on his film. Better than nothing. Maybe it was worth it, maybe not.
Curt Hahn, director and producer of the film Deadline, took a unique approach. The film is about two investigative reporters so felt they could get support of the newspaper industry for this movie. Major newspapers hosted premieres of the film in their cities. Not only did they write stories, but they also promoted the film in their ad space, $700,000 worth. They took this grassroots approach and traveled in a tour bus to 46 different premieres in 46 cities. They set up a red carpet every night, which is a big deal in smaller cities and towns. Television stations covered it as well. Genius!
For the interview with Curt Hahn.
For more on the film, visit their website: deadlinefilm.com.
So, what is the best method for you to distribute your film today? I believe that is entirely up to you and your creativity, and how much involvement you want in the distribution process. There is no harm in going the traditional route if you want to hand the job over to someone else. You may not make as much money as you would have several years ago, but you never know.
IF you want to get creative with it, get out there and study study study BEFORE you make your film. If you’ve already made it, it’s never too late to start studying now. Develop your own method, mix and match, pull from other ideas, whatever you have to do to make it happen. There is help in sites built specifically to teach, such as Film Specific who helps in all areas from packaging your film to distribution, or something I found recently on indiemoviemaking.com called Distribber.
It seems somewhat pricey to me, but maybe others have had much success out of it. Has anyone used this before or know someone who has?
I am in the process of piecing together a distribution plan for our “secret” project. It’s not really secret, we are just in the VERY early stages of development and don’t want to release any details until we are further along. I will post details of any projects that have used distribution methods that I find intriguing as I do my research. If you know of any interesting methods, please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Also feel free to make any additions or comments about anything in this article or anything completely random!
We are working on our first web series titled “123 UnderGround.” We are extremely lucky and thankful that we have a great crew and cast working for experience only. It has been quite an experience for us. First off, we offered positions to many of our friends that have never worked on a set before. I filled many of the positions myself: Producer/Co-Director/Production Manager. Definitely a way to keep me busy. Even though I explained responsibilities to the newbies on set, I should have offered more training to keep them busy. Learn for next time.
I’m not sure we would change anything on this round. We procrastinated a bit too much and ended up not being able to use a good portion of the equipment we were offered, but it turned out great. Thank you so much to our friend Mark Totten for offering his equipment.
One thing I didn’t expect….we said no budget but it ended up being a heavy chunk of a budget out of mine and Kevin’s pockets. Equipment is expensive. Luckily we had lunch donated, which is something I will have to lock down for any future shoots as well. But to keep budget down, we decided on the rule that if it’s not a full day, people will have to provide their own lunch for the next few months or until we can afford to provide it.
The great thing about indie filmmaking is that a small crew allows you to move fast! Luckily we had enough people on set that Kevin and I could direct without having to worry about minuscule bits, but next round I will teach my friends exactly what we need help with to make things move even faster. I believe that if we continue to do this often, people will learn, and we will be more efficient than I ever dreamed.
Planning was key to being efficient. We posted the broken down script on the wall to analyze scenes the week before. All props and equipment were prepped and ready during the week prior. All cast and crew were locked down several weeks beforehand…actually it was more like a month. I changed the script at least 10 times to make things easier on us to shoot. Lunch was arranged a month ahead of time. We had table readings arranged weeks ahead of time to prep the actors. We practiced with the equipment beforehand to make sure everything was in working order. We bought plenty of extras (media cards, cables, batteries etc.). We brought everything to set we could possibly think may be needed JUST IN CASE. We notified the police department. We made sure everything was arranged with the location owner as needed. And nothing went wrong.
The only bad thing out of the entire experience was the sound. We chose a location on a major roadway, and wow was it loud. I was hoping we could work while the church crowd was off the roads, but that only lasted for two hours. Sunday’s are just as busy as any other day on the road. We will have to ADR everything, build the sound from nothing. But, I don’t necessarily think that will be a bad thing. We may end up with amazing sound. Who knows…we will find out soon.
Mark Totten covered the behind-the-scenes footage for us. He will cutting it together to provide tutorials. Check back soon.
If you would like to stay up to date with us on our webseries, please follow the facebook page.
SHOOTS & LADDERS
Maybe you attended a movie premiere, watched a television show that rocked your world, imagined the perfect commercial for a brand, or maybe you’ve been obsessed with filming since you can remember. You watched the credits roll, just thinking “How cool would their job be?”
My epiphany was similar. As soon as I realized I wanted to work in the industry, I hit up the local film office asking how I could get started. After working for 9 months, I decided to attend school for theatre…that being the only thing that was available and similar to film. While in school, I worked on projects here and there, gradually gaining more and more experience. None of my classmates were doing the same. 75% of them wanted to work in the film industry, but all of them had the same mentality, “Move to LA after school. Then get jobs.”
So I started talking to the chair of the department and another professor about this situation. After months of developing an idea, I started a project with the goal of helping people get started in the film industry. We came up with a web series rotating around interviews with industry professionals. I attached people I never believed I could attach. The expense of it though, was astronomical….at least $400,000 to cross the country and shoot/edit the entire thing. So needless to say, it fizzled out.
Since then, I graduated and have been hard at work. And now, I’m back to the project. I will not be doing the cross country version of interviews, but gradually compiling interviews as I go. I will link articles, magazines, books, videos, anything that I find will be helpful to anyone getting started. Also, for any videos that I film, I will make sure to compile plenty of behind the scenes and tutorials for all of you.
Here we go!