Jenna Edwards

Jenna Edwards will answer all your questions about filmmaking including pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. Send your questions to info@film-method.com.

Jenna began her film career in the late 1990s as an actor. She has worked in many areas in film including; acting, talent representation, crew and made the move to producing in 2008. Where, on her first feature film (April Showers) as a producer she learned not only the ins and outs of producing, but also distribution and marketing. She has since produced several more features and is a producing teacher at New York Film Academy. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her experiences and answer young filmmaker's questions through the Film Method Mailbag.

New to Los Angeles Part Two

August 26, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

I want to do something different for my next two posts.  In the past two weeks, I’ve sat down with several “transplants” new to LA.   I noticed they all had similar questions so I want to point out some things you should know if you are thinking of making the move to Los Angeles to pursue the film business.

Have business cards

Please take this business seriously.  If you owned your own accounting business, it wouldn’t even be a question that you would have business cards.  Show biz is the same way (maybe even more so).  We are networking crazies. I, personally, love it!  I love meeting new people but I tell you what, if they don’t have a business card, part of me thinks a little less of them just because I don’t think they are taking it seriously.  If you are an actor, please have your picture on your card.  It’s the easiest tool for you to use to get jobs out here.

Expect to work for free

The people that work in this business and have been doing it awhile more likely than not, have a group of people they trust, they’ve worked with before and they know can get the job done. If you expect to get into that inner circle, you’re going to have to prove yourself and not many people are willing to take a chance on someone they don’t know unless that person is willing to bust their ass for free to prove they are reliable and worthy of the person’s time.  It’s just a reality of the business out here.  I’m not saying it will be forever, but there is truth to the saying “it’s all who you know”.  You have to be able to do the job when you get it, but getting it is in who you know. So, if you don’t know anyone then you need to mentally and economically prepare to work for free so that they can get to know you.

Don’t put a time limit on it

Honestly, the statistic I’ve heard is that it takes 7 to 10 years to make it as an “over-night” success in Hollywood (so imagine what it takes to just be a “success”.  So, if you’re one of those people who thinks they’re going to come out here for a year and try to make it big and if you don’t then you’ll go home, then I say, please don’t bother.  The highways are crowded enough and it’s an insult to those of us who have busted our asses for years out here.

Don’t give up!

It’s a tough business and you have to be able to find joy in the little parts of it like auditioning, networking, taking classes, reading, studying, all of that.  If you don’t, this town can surely eat you alive.  Most importantly, find a group of people with similar aspirations and support each other.  I often hear people say that LA is “fake” and “dog eat dog”, and it certainly can be.  But, for me, I have never been in a more supportive, understanding and loving environment.  Make sure you surround yourself with good, positive people and enjoy the ride because it can be quite a ride.


New to Los Angeles Part One

August 25, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

I want to do something different for my next two posts.  In the past two weeks, I’ve sat down with several “transplants” new to LA.   I noticed they all had similar questions so I want to point out some things you should know if you are thinking of making the move to Los Angeles to pursue the film business.

Get experience

I know this sounds like a “duh” but if you can get ANY experience where you are at, do it.  The more you’ve been on sets, in the casting room, in the production office, the better off you’ll be coming out here.

Brush up on your networking skills

You have to understand that Los Angeles is one big networking pool every day, all the time, so if you don’t know how to strike up a conversation with someone in line at the coffee shop or at a party, you could be missing out on some pretty big opportunities.  The great thing about LA is that there are groups set up specifically for networking.  So, when you go to one of their parties or events, there is no awkwardness because everyone knows you’re there to network.  So, research those groups and start attending their events.

Save your pennies

Los Angeles can be a really expensive place to live.  Please do your research before you come out here, have a plan in regards to where you’re going to live, what kind of work you will be doing while you are pursuing your show biz career and have some money in the bank.  The majority of people here work freelance so if you have never done that or don’t know what it’s like to live from job to job, ask people who have, read articles on the subject so that you’re not stressed when you are thrust into that way of living.  Also know that apartments and jobs come up at the last minute.  Meaning, when I moved here from the Midwest, I planned to find a place 3 months ahead of time.  Well, there were no places that had that length of notice.  Typically people here give 30 day notice so you have to be prepared to jump into a place kind of at the last minute.  It’s much less notice for jobs so just be aware of that when you are planning so you don’t get frustrated.

Have a plan

No matter what you want to do in the entertainment business, remember that it’s a business.  Therefore, you are running your own company so make a business plan for yourself.  Every successful business has one and 9 times out of 10, those who fail out here set themselves up for that failure by not having a plan.  If you want to be an actor, research the shows you would be good for, find out who the casting directors are. Do those casting directors do workshops?  How can you get yourself in front of them?  If you want to be a director, can you intern with a director you admire out here?  Do you even know the name of their production company?  It’s a great time in the entertainment industry because information is right at your finger tips so make sure you do the research and create a plan.  You’ll impress those you are talking to that have been here awhile and you’ll feel less stressed out when you get here and everything is going a thousand miles a minute.

Q: What’s the best/cheapest school for aspiring producers?

August 24, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: What’s the best/cheapest school for aspiring producers?

Brian W.,  Des Moines Iowa

What’s the saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder?  Well, deciding what the best film school is for producers is kind of similar.  It’s in the eye of the beholder.  Meaning, what’s right for me and the way I learn may not be right for you and the way you learn so I am not going to give a specific school here.  I recommend (and I know I say this a lot) researching.  There are many different kinds of producers and many different tracks to go on.  For example, if you want to be a creative producer at a studio, then I recommend a four-year university that has a lot of ties to the studio system, that really focuses on networking and creating a strong community amongst its graduates.  If you are more interested in doing every facet of producing on an independent level, from the budgeting, to lifting sandbags on set, to being with the director and editor while they are working on the project then a more nuts and bolts film school is for you.  Those schools tend to focus on hands on experience in every position on set, they tend to be shorter in time than a four-year university, they’re more like a trade school.  Then there is always the school of hard knocks.  You can go out and intern (which I call free film school) and just start making films with your friends. So, as you can see, there are many options for those who want to produce.  Do your research and choose the one that is right for you.  If you can’t afford the film school you think you need, remember some of the best producers around didn’t go to expensive schools, some of them didn’t go to film school at all.  Frankly, if you want to be a producer, I would recommend getting a business degree so that opens up a ton of options for school right there.  There is no one way to become a producer and every experience brings something different to the table when it comes to filmmaking and that’s what makes this business so special and so much fun.

Q: If you’re a writer/producer what’s the first hire you should make in terms of getting a project financed and started?

August 23, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: If you’re a writer/producer what’s the first hire you should make in terms of getting a project financed and started?

Eric F., Scottsdale Arizona

This is a tricky question because there is not one answer.  It really depends on where you’re at in your career as a filmmaker, what kind of investor you are going after, what kind of film you are making, where it is going and who your contacts in the business already are.  If you are a 1st time writer/producer, I would recommend that your first hire be a producer who has done this before.  I say this because there is a lot to navigate and this person will most likely be able to help guide you through the process.  Do your research and know when you are hiring an honest and experienced producer.  Make sure that you and that person communicate well and can work together on a daily basis.  You are about to spend a lot of time with each other and it should be an enriching process. Typically when you’re a writer, you think mostly creatively (which is good) but the process of turning your script into an actual moving picture is more business than creative in the beginning.  You will need someone who understands budgets and business and it doesn’t hurt if they are good at negotiating.  Just a heads up – as the writer/producer of the project I would be prepared to write a lot of things you wouldn’t normally be writing like the verbiage for the business plan, website content, etc.

Q: What is the best scheduling program for beginners?

August 18, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: What is the best scheduling program for beginners? Elaina H., Omaha, Nebraska

I don’t know about the best and I certainly don’t think that being a “beginner” has anything to do with it.  The industry standard is Entertainment Partners (or EP, formally known as Movie Magic).  This program is the most widely used in the industry so it’s good to jump right in and learn it so that you can communicate with others during production without issue.  Meaning, if you are working with another AD and you’re scheduling a shoot they are, more likely than not, going to be doing the schedule on this program so they can email you files without having to convert them into another program.  It just makes things easier.  There are some other programs out there that are good as well, but they are not as widely used.  So, if you are going to be doing a single project with you and your buddies a program like Gorilla might work perfectly well for you.  But, if you are looking to pursue a career as a professional AD, then EP is the way to go.  It really depends on the scope of your project and what your personal goals are moving forward.

Q: What’s the first step in the process of acquiring the rights to adapt a film from a book?

August 12, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: What’s the first step in the process of acquiring the rights to adapt a film from a book?  Do you need to do it even for a short film that may only see festivals?

Trevor S., Lincoln Nebraska

The first step is finding out who represents or owns the property (book, story, article, etc.).  You can do this (typically) by looking at the book’s cover and finding the publisher, then you go to your computer and google said publisher in order to get a phone number, email or mailing address.  Then you make a call, write a letter or send an email inquiring about who owns the rights to the story.  This can be a lengthy process so make sure you plan ahead.  Once you find out who owns the property, you will go through the above process with that person/entity again.  If the owner of the property likes your pitch and wants to move forward there is a completely different process involving many, many negotiations and contract points that I would not recommend doing alone so I implore you to contact a lawyer at that step.  If it is a well known property there will, more likely that not, be several lawyers, agents, managers and publishers as well as the author all chiming in during the negotiation.  It can be quite overwhelming, but just know that you are not the first to do this, nor will you be the last so be patient and keep your eye on the prize.  If it’s a smaller property then you may only be in contact with the author, I would still recommend that you contact a lawyer and get them to sign off on any deal you make with the author.  Better safe than sorry and these contracts can get tricky.  If it is for a short film, you still need to get permission for several reasons.  1.  This property is still owned by someone else and you can be sued.  2.  There’s nothing worse than working really hard on a project, getting it done, getting it into festivals and then having someone pull it because you do not have the right to make it in the first place.  3.  You never know what is going to come of your short film.  There are plenty of ways out there now that you can distribute short film content (some of which pay), but you can’t distribute content that you do not have the rights to.

Q: How do you entice/pitch to sponsors/product placements for your film?

August 10, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: How do you entice/pitch to sponsors/product placements for your film?

Andy G., – Philadelphia PA

You ask.

I know, I know, you’re saying “Jenna, don’t be an ass, I’m being serious here.”  But, the truth of the matter is that most people never even get to this part.  They psych themselves out.  So, the most important thing anyone making a film can remember is that it never hurts to ask.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…the things you need to know before you ask.  You need to know their product, you need to know their audience and you need to know what you are going to do with the product as well as what your project brings to their table.  If you are making a film about sex-crazed college kids, you probably don’t want to approach Johnson and Johnson given that their entire ad campaign and company revolves around family.  Be intelligent and most importantly, approach the situation with the attitude of, “how can we benefit you?”  They’ll appreciate you thinking of their benefit and you’ll appreciate it when they let you use their product.  One last thing to remember… ask BEFORE you shoot.  If you put the product in the movie and then you go to them and ask permission, they know that they’ve got you up against a wall.  They can demand all sorts of things and you will then have to give them what they want or cut around/blur the product in every frame you’ve used it in the movie and that can get very expensive.

Q: When dealing with distribution, is it smarter to try to find a “post-house” before you start your project?

August 9, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: When dealing with distribution, is it smarter to try to find a “post-house” before you start your project? Or is it more common to get a deal after you’ve finished the film?

Stuart S., New Holland Pennsylvania

I am a big believer in planning.  Therefore, I would interview your editor as one of the first crew members you want to bring on the project.  They are going to be able to give you great script notes and you will be able to plan a post-production schedule with their input, which they will appreciate.  Whether you have a large enough budget to go to a “post-house” or you have to piece your crew together individually (which some people prefer), get quotes and interview that post house/individuals in pre-production.  If you can, bring on a post-production supervisor as they will be able to help you figure out what your work-flow should be on-set in order to make post run more smoothly.  If you do not have a lot of funds for post-production, then you will need to do even more planning so make sure you are thinking of post-production early on during pre-production.  It will save you time and money in the end, not to mention making everyone’s life easier.  Remember, post-production is one of the most costly parts of making a film and good post can make or break your project so please budget accordingly.

Have you noticed a trend in filmmakers making a trailer…?

August 7, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: Have you noticed a trend in filmmakers making a trailer for their film as a tool to raise money?

Paul C., Minnesota (via the Film Method mail bag)

Go Minnesota!  (OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way)

I’m not sure “trend” is the right word, but yes, I have met many filmmakers who find this a viable option for raising money.  With technology being so much more readily available, making trailers or promo videos for a specific project is a great way to show your vision to your investors.  Before this technology boom, people made short films as “calling cards” to show investors and consumers what they were capable of doing.  Now, if you don’t have a short film of the same genre that you’ve already shot or there is something visually specific you want to get across to your investors, shooting a promo video or a trailer is a great way to make sure the investor understands what you can do as well as the specific look and feel of the project you are raising money for.  As I’ve stated above, raising money is one (if not thee) most challenging parts of making a film and if you can stack the deck in your favor and make it so that your project stands out, then by all means go for it!

How do I go about raising money for my film?

August 6, 2011 by bmcclure  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: How do I go about raising money for my film?

Talk to EVERYONE you can think of, tell them about what you’re doing and make sure they know that you need the funds to do it.  Make sure you are passionate and integral with what you say you can deliver, but most of all, do your homework.  Meaning, have a business plan put together, make it look professional, know the trends, know where you’re movie is going once it is finished.  Making a movie is a business and you are asking someone to part with their hard-earned cash to make your business a reality.  Respect that!  It always floors me when I talk to filmmakers about the projects they are trying to raise money for and all they talk about is the story and the sets and the artistic part of it.  I’m going to be blunt here, 90% of the people you are going to get money from don’t care about that.  They care about how they are going to have a shot at making their money back.  It’s true that there are investors out there who have so much cash they don’t care if they make it back, but they are few and far between.  If you are a filmmaker and you don’t care one lick about the business side, then find a producer who does care and get them to put a business plan together.  My biggest piece of advice on this is HAVE A PLAN and PUT IT IN WRITING so that everyone knows what your plan is and so that you know what your plan is.

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