Getting Your First Feature Sold

The following is an excerpt from the whitepaper GETTING YOUR FIRST FEATURE SOLD by Gini Graham Scott (author of Finding Funds for Your Film or TV Project), which you can download for free here.

Doing Scene Breakdowns

Create your shooting script

Order and number scenes and shots

  • Break your scenes into shots
  • Estimate the time for each scene

Use screen breakdown software

Use columns in word processing or Excel

Use a linear approach

Finding Locations

Determining the number of locations

Deciding what locations to use

  • Permissions and precautions
  • Scouting for locations
  • Taking photos of proposed locations
  • Getting pick up shots
  • Considering what to change
  • Considering liability and damage issues

Casting Your Film

Where to find actors

  • Using a casting service (ie: SF Casting)
  • Advertising for actors (ie: Craigslist)
  • Contacting film organizations

Payment arrangements

  • Full pay
  • Deferred pay
  • Providing backend points to lead actors

All this and more covered in GETTING YOUR FIRST FEATURE SOLD by Gini Graham Scott free whitepaper available at halleonardbooks.com.

Finding Funds for Your Film or TV Project includes a complete overview of the many different ways to get funds for your film – from preparing the materials you need, such as business plans, private placement memorandums, trailers, sizzle reels, and crowd-funding pitches – to how to make effective presentations to prospective funders, from as family members, friends, and business associates, to angels, private investors, established producers, and film financiers. Scott provides a comprehensive introduction to the many options for fund-raising, and includes information on how to prepare the materials necessary, from business plans and Private Place Memorandums to video and PowerPoint presentations to using crowd-funding techniques.

The Appeal of Investing in Films

Gini ScottGuest Blogger: Gini Graham Scott, author of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film as well as the upcoming Finding Funds for Your Films or TV Project, talks about investing in films for Ray O Light Media.

 

Are films a good investment opportunity. I think they are for the right kind of investor. Here’s why. I have written this in a Q&A style to answer the major questions that prospective investors ask about whether to invest or not.

1. Why is film investment an attractive investment opportunity? Is it because of the high return or because of the nature of business?

For many investors, the high return is a big draw, because films do have the potential for a very large return, though there is a very high risk with a lot of big “Ifs”. A film can do extremely well if it has a good script, good acting, good production value, has a budget that fits the type of film this is, and strikes a chord with distributors or buyers for the TV, DVD, foreign rights, or other markets. Then, if the film goes into theatrical release, it has the potential to have an even larger audience, though theatrical is not the primary source of income for most films, just the big blockbusters, since the theater owners take about 75% of the box office unless a film goes into a long-term release and there is a high costs for prints (though an increasing number of theaters are going digital). The value of a theatrical release is more for its promotional value for gaining other kinds of sales, except for the huge blockbusters.

Despite the potential for high returns for some films, investors in it for the money have to realize that any film investment is a big risk, because many problems can develop from when a film goes into production to when it is finally released and distributed. Theses risks include the film not being completed because it goes over budget and is unable to get additional financing or there are problems on the set. Another risk is that the film is not well-received by distributors and TV buyers, so it doesn’t get picked up. Or even if a film gets a distribution deal, the risk is that there is little or no money up front, so the film does not see any further returns. So yes – a film can have a high return, but an investor can lose it all.

As a result, for many investors, other key reasons for investing are more important. They believe in the message of the film. They like and support the film producers, cast, and crew. They like the glamour of being involved with a film, including meeting the stars and going to film festivals. They see their investment as an opportunity to travel to distant locations for filming and for promoting the film. And they see investing in the film as a tax write-off, much like giving to a charity.

2. What kind of investment returns can investors can expect, since many independent productions are not designed for big screens, where are the sales coming from?

If all the stars align, and there is a good film done with a reasonable budget and distributors, buyers, and an audience responds, the film could readily earn 4 to 10 times its cost, making everyone very happy. A low-budget indie scenario for this level of return might be a film shot for $50,000-200,000. It might get $500,000-750,000 for a TV sale and earn $1-2 million more through DVD, streaming, and foreign rights sales, even without a theatrical release.

For most films, the main value of a theatrical release is the PR value of getting the film known, so buyers will want to purchase or rent the DVD and TV buyers will want to show it on one of the premium cable movie channels. Also, most films don’t get a theatrical release, and the funds are earned through other channels.

3. What kind of movies can usually generate good profits, since the recent Oscar Awards show that a big investment does not necessary mean big returns?

Some of the big blockbusters that pass the $100 million threshold can certainly make a profit from a successful theatrical release, both in the U.S. and abroad. But whether they make a profit depends on their budget. Because of the high salaries of stars that are typical in these films and other high cost items, such as special effects, many blockbusters still may not make a profit. Thus, dollar for dollar, many low-budget indie films may be a better investment, since the multiples are higher with a success; there is more likelihood that a low-budget indie, which is done well at a reasonable budget, will be sold and make back it’s money, and the potential for loss is much less.

Keep reading this article on the Ray O Light Media website.

 

Finding Funds for Your Film or TV Project includes a complete overview of the many different ways to get funds for your film – from preparing the materials you need, such as business plans, private placement memorandums, trailers, sizzle reels, and crowd-funding pitches – to how to make effective presentations to prospective funders, from as family members, friends, and business associates, to angels, private investors, established producers, and film financiers. Scott provides a comprehensive introduction to the many options for fund-raising, and includes information on how to prepare the materials necessary, from business plans and Private Place Memorandums to video and PowerPoint presentations to using crowd-funding techniques.

 

How Filmmakers Stay Sane on Set

Toni Attell and Carl Gottlieb are the authors of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers.  Enjoy an excerpt of their book below, provided by IndieWire.

The source of most drama outside of the script is the actors, and anywhere they congregate may be a hotbed of intrigue, gossip, and disinformation. This is also true of anyone who talks to actors, so view the makeup, hairdressing, wardrobe, and transportation departments as minefields. Even on a low-/no-budget production, where all the departments are combined in the person(s) of your overworked colleagues, a few misplaced or ill-chosen words will resonate throughout the production, and anything said in confidence is public knowledge as soon as it can be repeated. A favor for one will be expected by all, and any violation of boundaries will result in the loss of those limits.

This is not to say a director cannot speak or be spoken to; if that were true, directors would be the loneliest people on the set. Feel free to chat about wind and weather, but remember that in all close-knit male groups, from nineteenth-century British colonial armies to the crews of nuclear submarines, there are three topics deliberately ignored: women, politics, and religion. In a less gender-specific world, include members of the opposite sex as subjects to be avoided. Add to those topics these sources of friction: the problems of the production, the character of the personnel, and the personal lives of everyone on or near the set. The director’s problems are uniquely off limits; like the captain of a ship or the leader of a combat patrol, his or her thoughts must remain private. We discussed the director’s isolation before; it goes with the job, it even has a name: “the loneliness of command.” If you must share gossip and commentary, do it with someone far from the set or the production: a therapist, a life partner, a close family member, or an animal companion (these may all be the same individual). If you’re a writer, your closest confidante may be the director. If he or she is not sympathetic, the same limits apply to your options.

A strategy (or habit) that many executives (including directors) find useful is to acquire or maintain a group of friends or confidantes with whom you can share frankly and safely. The advantage of this is that the natural loneliness of command is softened by a close-knit circle of advisors, sounding boards, and lieutenants who can be trusted to keep people and things organized and functional (including yourself, on the bad days). But, beware—the inherent danger is that your group becomes a “posse,” a gang that gives the appearance of a support group but is, in fact, a barrier. These individuals are people whose principal interest is preserving their turf, influencing your decisions, and insulating you from all criticism and useful input. They become gatekeepers and relish the role.

Keep reading this excerpt on IndieWire!

 

Originally conceived as a workbook for young directors, The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers has become a handbook for easy reference, with all the information a student director/actor/producer needs to create a film, from inception through production, to sales, distribution, and exhibition. The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Filmmakers: The Editing Process

glennGuest Blogger: Glenn Berggoetz is the author of The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide: Make Your Feature Film for $2000 (Limelight Editions). Visit his blog for more great tips!

 

One of the toughest parts of being a filmmaker, if you don’t do the editing of your films yourself, is waiting to see how the final edit of one of your films will turn out.  Tomorrow I’m meeting with editor Erik Lassi to watch the first full-length rough edit of our film Midget Zombie Takeover.  I’m quite excited!

There are pros and cons to having someone else edit your film.  The major con is that you relinquish some control over your film, which can be a bit worrisome.  With my film Evil Intent the initial editor of the film didn’t have his heart in the project, and when I viewed the final edit, the film was bad.  I thought I had simply written and directed a bad film, but I was convinced by a friend to have someone else edit it, so I did, and the second  edit of the film was completely different, and quite good!  We now have a distributor for the film and a tentative cable TV deal for it.

The major pro to having someone else edit your film is that they can add extra insights and humor (assuming you’re doing a comedy) to the film.  When Alan Dague-Greene edited our films The Worst Movie EVER! and To Die is Hard he added in dozens of little humorous touches to the films that I’d never considered.  His fresh pair of eyes made both films much better than if I had decided to edit them myself.

So consider having someone else edit your films.  It can bring fresh material to the project, plus it allows you more time to move on to writing and shooting your next film.

More Tips from Glenn
The pay off for your efforts
There are very few days off for a filmmaker
The editing process
Be creative to land your screenings
Do something every day

Award-winning independent filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz shares all he knows about making a marketable feature film for $2,000. While most books on independent filmmaking talk about how to make a film with a budget of anywhere from $50,000 to half a million dollars or more, the reality of the indie film world is that most filmmakers rarely have more than a few thousand dollars at their disposal for making their film. This book is written specifically for those filmmakers, and for filmmakers who would typically waste years trying to raise tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their film simply because they’re not aware that there’s another, more efficient way to go about it.

Filmmakers: The Pay Off for Your Efforts

glennGuest Blogger: Glenn Berggoetz is the author of The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide: Make Your Feature Film for $2000 (Limelight Editions). Visit his blog for more great tips!

 

While small-budget filmmaking like I do might seem as if it’s dooming the filmmaker to anonymity, it certainly doesn’t have to.

This past summer we shot two films, and for $2000 we made the film “Midget Zombie Takeover.”  We’re planning to have the finished edit of “Midget Zombie Takeover” ready in January.  But even though the finished edit is months away, we’ve already booked the film into two theaters and heard from an international distribution company that’s interested in acquiring distribution rights to the film.

Small-budget filmmaking does not have to be bad filmmaking.  The keys to making a good film are to have a great script and a handful or so of talented cast and crew members who can make you look like you know what you’re doing.  You can have all of these things on a small budget.  If you want to learn how you can improve your odds of making a great film on a small budget, purchase my new book that’s just out from Limelight Editions, The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide: Make Your Feature Film for $2000. 

More Tips from Glenn
The pay off for your efforts
There are very few days off for a filmmaker
The editing process
Be creative to land your screenings
Do something every day

Award-winning independent filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz shares all he knows about making a marketable feature film for $2,000. While most books on independent filmmaking talk about how to make a film with a budget of anywhere from $50,000 to half a million dollars or more, the reality of the indie film world is that most filmmakers rarely have more than a few thousand dollars at their disposal for making their film. This book is written specifically for those filmmakers, and for filmmakers who would typically waste years trying to raise tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their film simply because they’re not aware that there’s another, more efficient way to go about it.

Filmmakers: Do something every day!

Guest Blogger: Glenn Berggoetz is the author of The Independent Filmmaker’s Guide: Make Your Feature Film for $2000 (Limelight Editions). Visit his blog for more great tips!

One of the keys to being successful as an independent filmmaker is to make sure you do at least one thing every single day to advance your career.  That one thing can take many forms.  It might mean jotting down ideas for a script or working on a script.  It might mean lining up cast and crew members for your next film.  It might mean sending out emails to promote you previous films.  Whatever it might be, do it!

In my own case, at this point, since we completed shooting two feature films in the last few months, I’ve been focusing on promoting our previous films, and today we received a big payoff when I found out that our film “The Worst Movie EVER!” will be shown in November at yet another independent theater.  That makes six theaters the film will have played in, and by the time the film screens in November, “The Worst Movie EVER!” will have been making the theatrical rounds for fifteen months.  That’s quite a run.  And with every new theater the film plays in, and with every extra dollar the film brings in at the box office, the chances increase of landing foreign deals, DVD releases, cable deals, etc.

So make sure that every day you do at least one thing to continue your career.  And on those days when you have some extra time on your hands, do five or ten things to advance your career.  You might not be a star overnight, but you will have taken a few more steps along the path toward reaching your goals.

More Tips from Glenn
The pay off for your efforts
There are very few days off for a filmmaker
The editing process
Be creative to land your screenings
Do something every day

Award-winning independent filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz shares all he knows about making a marketable feature film for $2,000. While most books on independent filmmaking talk about how to make a film with a budget of anywhere from $50,000 to half a million dollars or more, the reality of the indie film world is that most filmmakers rarely have more than a few thousand dollars at their disposal for making their film. This book is written specifically for those filmmakers, and for filmmakers who would typically waste years trying to raise tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their film simply because they’re not aware that there’s another, more efficient way to go about it.

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Guest Blogger: Hiroshi Tasogawa is the author of All the Emperor’s Men: Kurosawa’s Pearl Harbor (Applause Books). This post is taken from an interview with Flixist.com. Please visit their site for more insight from Tasogawa. He had been the translator for Akira Kurosawa while the director was working on the Japanese portion of the film Tora! Tora! Tora! Kurosawa was expelled from the production before his vision was realized, but Tasogawa (as you’ll read in his book) has a unique perspective into that original vision for the film. In this post, Tasogawa gives his opinion on the finished film Tora! Tora! Tora!

I first saw the film at the 1970 world premier at the Criterion Theate in Manhattan. I felt then and I still feel now that the Kurosawa version of Tora! Tora! Tora! would have been a different film in many ways. Most likely, it would have been a better film with more humanized tragic components woven into the Japanese sequences. This feeling is based on my understanding of Kurosawa’s mindset and aspirations concerning the Pearl Harbor epic film.

What was probably most compromised was the opening scene which Kurosawa thought very important. The entrance of the tragic protagonist, Admiral Yamamoto, the C-in-C of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Combined Fleet. He arrived at his flagship the Nagato on September 1, 1939. That was the day when World War II began in Europe. In this opening scene, Kurosawa was about to describe beautifully a sense of destiny surrounding Admiral Yamamoto who was soon to be the architect of Pearl Harbor attack. For years Yamamoto had risked assassination dangers and tried boldly to prevent a disastrous war with the United States.

After Fox expelled Kurosawa from the studio, Elmo Williams — with the approval by Darryl Zanuck — revised Kurosawa’s final shooting screenplay although they tried to keep the basic storylines. They deleted a dozen scenes, and shortened or rewrote more than 30 scenes. Those changes seriously affected many of Kurosawa’s ‘pet scenes’. Most regrettably lost was this opening scene. Kurosawa’s idea was cheapened almost beyond recognition. I resent it.

Read more from Hiroshi Tasogawa in his interview on Flixist.

When 20th Century Fox planned its blockbuster portrayal of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, it looked to Akira Kurosawa – a man whose mastery of the cinema led to his nickname “the Emperor” – to direct the Japanese sequences. Yet a matter of three weeks after he began shooting the film in December 1968, Kurosawa was summarily dismissed and expelled from the studio. The tabloids trumpeted scandal: Kurosawa had himself gone mad; his associates had betrayed him; Hollywood was engaged in a conspiracy. Now, for the first time, the truth behind the downfall and humiliation of one of cinema’s greatest perfectionists is revealed in All the Emperor’s Men. Journalist Hiroshi Tasogawa probes the most sensitive questions about Kurosawa’s thwarted ambition and the demons that drove him. His is a tale of a great clash of personalities, of differences in the ways of making movies, and ultimately of a clash between Japanese and American cultures.