We are happy to announce an addition to the Film Method family! Skye Rentals offers a complete line of production equipment, communication rentals and delivery service to get your film, television or commercial production running smoothly. Contact them today and tell them that Film Method sent you for a 25% discount on your order! www.skyerentals.com
Ashley Ruskiewicz is the winner of The Complete Film Production Handbook giveaway contest! Ashley’s essay displayed not only her ability to learn from a difficult situation, but she also showed her understanding of hiring people who know their role on a film set and working with people who are committed to your project, which shows that she is well versed in Film Method-ology!
“Lessons From the Backlot” by Ashley Ruskiewicz
I learned a wealth of information from an experience on a film set where I was directing and co-producing. I discovered the keys to the entire production process, but also the fundamentals of maintaining order on set. We had a very small crew and we lost one member due to the extreme heat that day on the Universal back lot. The assistant camera crew member was not cooperating with the producer, and was giving her own input for how each shot should be taken, interfering with me as the director, and our director of photography. While suggestions were welcome, the crew member was trying to change things that had already been decided in pre-production.
Because of the heat, the assistant camera thought it would be okay to sit in the shade with the slate, so after every shot I had to wait a couple of minutes to get her attention to bring me the slate and walk across set so we could slate each shot. I saw that the production could have easily been played out with just me, the producer, director of photography, and the two actors. While we all had a specific role to play we knew what we were good at and used our skills to get the film made. The producer for example, wrote the script and acted as both the producer and script supervisor, making sure everything was on time and that the crew and actors were taken care of.
I learned from this experience that knowing your role on a film set is extremely important to be able to get the job done effectively. The crew as a whole was under pressure because we only had the location for a certain amount of time that day. As a producer, it’s also important to hire people who are reliable, and have interest in the project. The same assistant camera person was supposed to be in charge of post-production. She ended up flaking out for another project, leaving me to edit the short by myself. The production went smoothly, but it would have been much better had everyone stuck to their roles. I found that knowing the people you will be working with, and how they work, before you get to set is crucial to ensuring a smooth production.
Eve Light Honthaner has written the ultimate film production handbook and she’s giving one away to a lucky Film Method listener! To enter the contest simply create either a one-minute video or a 500 word essay about an experience you’ve had on a film set and what you learned from that experience. For the video, you can re-create your experience or simply tell us the story! Send your video or essay to email@example.com. We will be accepting entries through Friday, September 30th. Enter today to win!
September 7, 2011
This is an exciting week for Film Method! We’ve got tons of new stuff for you including a new episode with director Varda Hardy, new photos from our latest photo shoot, contests and more! A new feature, Writing Method with Aydrea Walden starts this week as well. Poke around the website- we’ve got some new images and new features that you won’t want to miss!
Film Method’s Support from Start to Finish feature focuses on Varda Hardy’s Kickstarter campaign for her musical documentary Big Voice this month.
The contest to win Eve Light Honthaner’s book The Complete Film Production Handbook starts this week as well as the race to get 1,000 Facebook followers. The 1,000th follower will win a 2 hour consult with co-host and producing advisor Jenna Edwards!
If you’ve made a feature film, congratulations! As an independent filmmaker, you’ve just accomplished a feat that many find impossible. You’ve put together a cast and crew, refined your script, found some financing and in the process, you’ve even figured out how to ignore all your significant other’s not-so-subtle hints that a career selling life insurance wouldn’t be that bad.
But behind all the excitement, you and I both know there is one nagging question on your mind. And it is the same question asked by every independent feature filmmaker. You’re wondering: “How am I going to sell this thing?”
That is a good question. And if you’re crossing your fingers for a huge paycheck and a three-picture Hollywood deal, what I’m about to tell you is going to be very different than what you had hoped for.
Thanks to technology, any person with a thousand dollars can grab an HD camera and create a backyard indie. And while this does not guarantee quality, it does create a market flooded with cheaply produced movies. Couple this with a decline in traditional sales channels and your odds of finding a profitable deal have become increasingly challenging.
For most filmmakers, this revelation comes as a shock. After all the work you put into making your movie project a reality, the prospect of putting a no-deal DVD onto a bookshelf and failing to get a return on investment is discouraging. And if it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably tell you that a career selling life insurance wouldn’t be too bad.
But I have good news! Like you, our first feature was met with empty distribution promises and crappy deals. So by necessity, we started selling our title on Amazon as both a physical DVD and a video on demand download. At first, none of the producers liked that idea. I mean, even if a traditional deal sucks, at least there is still validation of seeing your title on the shelves at the local video store…
Then we made our first sale. We thought it was an anomaly. How could we possibly make money with our movie? We had no stars. We had no formal distribution. And most people on earth had never heard of our title (including you.) But then we made another sale… And then a third… And then a dozen…
That was 2006. Since that time, our movie has sold in ways we never imagined. As a result, every four months I get a nice check. And while it’s not enough money to buy my retirement, I can’t complain.
This success was enough to convince me that making money as an indie filmmaker is no longer about the BIG pay day. These days filmmakers need to create good work, find their target audience and focus on selling movies consistently over time. As a result, I now believe the modern moviemaking model is to eventually create multiple streams of movie income.
For many filmmakers, this sort of talk might be crazy.
Think about it. In years past, filmmakers only self distributed their movies when they had to. It wasn’t a choice! But these days, filmmakers can choose to self-distribute, because 9 times out of 10, making your title available on Amazon and iTunes and other popular VOD marketplaces can potentially pay more than a traditional deal. Because a deal that pays zero is not a deal. (Of course I’m expressing my opinion.)
The following “How To Sell Your Movie” checklist will provide you with a broad overview of how to market and sell your movie without the middle-man.
This checklist should be considered a good start – but many of you will want further information. For that, check out: www.howtosellyourmovie.com
Wherever I thought it would help, I’ve mentioned partner companies and affiliates. This means, if you follow my suggestions and use one of these services, I’ll get a commission. The folks I mention are good people. But you are welcome to ignore my links at will. I won’t be upset. As with all things, take what works for you and ignore the rest.
That said, let’s get started!
How To Sell Your Movie Checklist:
1. Create a website specific to your movie. Go to www.moviesitehost.com and grab hosting for your site and reserve your domain name there. When you purchase your hosting, a domain name is usually included in the purchase price.
2. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Don’t make your marketing complicated. Make sure your colors, logos, posters and fonts are consistent.
3. Most filmmakers make a crazy website with all sorts of bells and whistles. Your website should be simple. You should have a trailer, an about page, a buy now button, links to your social networks and an audience list.
4. Out of everything I mention, getting people onto your audience list is most important. An audience list will allow you to collect a name and email address of your visitor. To build an opt-in list, which is FREE for the first 500 subscribers, check out: http://www.aweber.com/
5. Take a moment to think about your target audience. Hopefully you have a marketable hook for your movie, and a plan for reaching your target demographic. If not, figure it out!
6. Get your movie selling as a Video on Demand rental and download. To do this, upload your movie to the many VOD marketplaces, such as iTunes, Amazon and NetFlix. For an easy way to accomplish this, try www.moviesalestool.com
7. You can sell DVDs too. Amazon’s Create Space makes this easy. And even though it’s more expensive, I advise you to stay out of the shipping business. Let CS manufacture your DVDs and fulfill your orders on demand. This way, you can focus on increasing your sales, as well as your next movie projects. Not shipping.
8. Your trailer is your sales tool. Upload your trailer to YouTube as well as other, popular video sites. Make sure your trailer mentions your website. Put your focus on optimizing YouTube. Why? Because YouTube is both a social network and the second largest search engine on earth (also owned by Google.) It’s worth it!
9. Write press releases related to the availability of your movie. Include back links to your site. Send the release out via one of the online press release submission sites. In addition to this, don’t be afraid to call magazine editors and journalists who write for your target audience. As they say, if you don’t ask – you don’t get!
10. Join online forums related to your target market. Create a profile, complete with a signature link to your website. Now, whenever you join a conversation, you’ll spread your links.
11. Just because you’re in a forum doesn’t mean people care about you or your movie. If you join conversations without adding value – or if you become one of those spam happy people who talk about your movie and fail to add value to the discussion, you will be seen as a spammer.
12. If the idea of contributing to forum conversations annoys you, then just pay for advertising on the site. The whole point is to increase awareness of your movie and get prospective audience members to your site.
13. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and join the popular social networking sites. Again, you’ll want to build a fan base for your movie. And to manage it, try www.ping.fm This tool allows you to update all your social networking sites at once, which is cool!
14. The purpose of using social networks is to connect with your target market, spread word about your movie and once again, lead people off the networks and onto your Audience list.
15. The reason you can not rely solely on social networking for your audience list, is because many of those sites have gone out of vogue. I lost 10K “friends” on one of them. As a result, I estimate this tip is worth $100,000.00.
16. Additionally, have your webmaster put a button on your website so people can tweet, bookmark, and share your movie website with friends on their social networking sites. (Can you please click the tweet button at the top of this article?)
17. If you have the budget, purchase some offline advertising in publications related to your movie. To find related publications, go to a book store and look for magazines. Also, try Google.
18. All of these methods are intended to get people back to your website. The purpose of your site is to get people to watch your movie trailer and click the BUY NOW button. Anything that distracts these visitors must go!
19. You’ll soon realize that most people will not buy your movie on their first visit to your website. If they don’t click, then at least try to get them to opt into your audience list. Then you have a chance of getting them to buy later.
22. Out of all the people who click the BUY NOW button, many won’t buy. But some will!
23. Consider using that money to purchase more advertising and then repeat the cycle. The goal is to keep investing and reinvesting the money until you produce a self sustaining machine.
24. Sales will tend to level off after a few years. This is the normal. When this happens, find some other filmmakers with a movie geared towards the same target audience. Offer to promote their movie to your audience list. If these other filmmakers have an audience list too, ask them to promote your movie. Be willing to pay them a cut of your profits.
25. Time for your next project. But unlike before, you’ll have a strong mailing list at your disposal. And as a result, you can now ask yourself the following magical questions: “How many VOD downloads do I have to sell to recoup my investment? And how am I going to sell them?” Answer those questions, and you’ll also be talking the talk with your investors.
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Jason Brubaker (IMDB) is a Hollywood based Independent Motion Picture Producer and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily by growing your fan base, building buzz and creating community around your title.
You can find more of Jason Brubaker’s articles at www.filmmakingstuff.com
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’re all ready for an exciting year of new interviews with different filmmakers as we launch into Season Three, which will be dedicated to production! We will be speaking to all walks of life in the filmmaking world including producers, all kinds of crew members from gaffers to script supervisors and even a production assistant or two (afterall, they are the ones running the set!).
We’re also excited to continue our partnership with Jenna Edwards to answer questions from the Film Method mailbag. We want questions from YOU, the listener that pertain to all aspects of filmmaking so that we can get you the answers you need to make your film. Jenna’s next article will be released next Wednesday, January 12th.
We’ll kick off this month with a special series of shows dedicated to distribution, which will include an interview with digital distribution expert Jason Brubaker on January 12th and an interview with former Sundance short film programmer, Roberta Munroe on January 19th just in time for Sundance.
Shorts & Spirits LA or S3LA is a quarterly screening series that focuses on short form content. The next event is next Thursday, November 11th and Film Method will be apart of the festivities! Speakers for the event include Emmy award winning DP Mario Ortiz. Come join us if you’re in the area. We’ll be in beautiful downtown Burbank thanks to our amazing sponsor, Video Symphony!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the 80′s lately and just how much that decade, more than any other, shaped my attitude towards pop culture. I was probably at the most impressionable time of my life in the 80′s, ages five to fifteen, and everything from film, television, comedy, and music, some of the most important things in my adult life, were shaped by this decade. There have been a number of times recently that I’ve heard a song from the 80′s and it will take me right back to a specific time and place during my adolescence, when life was just beginning and every moment, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, was full of all the heightened emotion of the end of a John Hughes movie, complete with emo soundtrack. Everything was new and fresh and vivid and everything mattered. Here is a list of some of the most influential pop culture icons of my day with all its guts and glory:
Pitfall, Adventure & Journey Escape
Video games were a big part of my childhood and that’s probably why I was inspired to write this blog after watching Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World last weekend. About halfway through the movie I knew that the director of the film was my age, or at least within five years of my age. I happened to be right as Edgar Wright was born in ’74 and I came along in ’75. His use of crude video game visual and sound effects took me back to the living room of the first house I lived in where I played countless hours of Atari with my brother, Brian. Some of our favorites were Pitfall, Adventure, and E.T. I remember when Brian beat Pitfall as he completed all of the hundreds of screens (that pretty much looked exactly the same) only to be taken back to the very beginning. That was big. A friend of Brian’s was the first in the neighborhood to get Pitfall II when it was released and I remember that Brian and said friend were nice enough to let me go to his house one day to play it. There were many many more “adventures” in the new game that included the ability for the Pitfall dude to float up many different levels in the caves on a balloon! There was also more than one background! It was huge. I also remember playing Journey Escape, which was based on the band Journey. The soundtrack to that game was the song Don’t Stop Believing, which upon hearing always takes me back to the basement of my cousin’s house, which was the scene of muchas Journey Escape game playing. Atari 2600, you gave us such joy.
Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
In my humble opinion, Star Wars should be on the favorite list of every filmmaker who grew up in the 80′s. This trilogy is probably the main reason that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was two years old when the first movie came out and probably didn’t see it until I was about six or seven when it played incessantly on HBO. The Empire Strikes Back was released in ’80 when I was five and Return of the Jedi in ’83 (you do the math). Brian and I collected many Star Wars action figures and toys. I had the Death Star (that’s right, a seven year old girl had a toy Death Star) and Brian had the Millennium Falcon and various other ships and things. But besides just having great toys, these films were important for a number of other reasons including, oh I don’t know, maybe its cinematic genius! A New Hope was the epic set-up to a groundbreaking trilogy. There are the obvious grand and brilliant elements such as the earth-shattering score by John Williams and the amazing special effects (yes, those were real explosions) done by ILM that made the film grandiose and larger than life. But underneath all those layers of score and effects was a story; the story of a young man who had suffered great loss and who found his purpose in leading the fight against an evil empire. This team of filmmakers brought us into their world of droids, wookies, and mystical planets and sold us on an oft told and classic tale of good vs. evil. These movies weren’t about special effects and people in strange costumes, but rather those things supplemented the strong story and powerful characters. They immediately pulled us into the magical realm that they masterfully created and compelled us to care about Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, and yes, even Darth Vader. A New Hope proved that it doesn’t take an unlimited source of money to make great movies, but rather a team of people dedicated to excellence and a whole heap of creativity. P.S. Marcia Lucas, wherever you are, Hollywood really needs you back.
Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, and Eddie Murphy
My comedy education started at a very young age. I believe I started watching SNL around ’83 or ’84 and Late Night in ’85 or 86. I heard my first Eddie Murphy album at the tender age of nine. I guess my dad thought he was buying us a tape of Eddie Murphy singing the hits, but no, that wasn’t the case. Don’t judge dad too harshly, though, they didn’t have those clever little “parent advisory” warning labels back then. The classic album included hits such as Buckwheat, Doo-doo, and Hit by a Car. Ah yes, those were the days. If it’s any consolation, those bits were much tamer than Eddie’s later material! Some of my earliest SNL memories include the sketch with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest who play janitors that try to one-up each other with ideas of self-mutilation while completing each other’s sentences and Phil Hartman’s Anal Retentive Chef. Some of the best years in SNL history were from ’87-’89, which included cast members and comic geniuses Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn and Phil Hartman. Not surprisingly these are the first years that Conan O’Brien wrote for this legendary show as well. Around 1985 I began watching a revolutionary new late night show aptly called, Late Night with David Letterman. My family had been fans of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson so I guess Letterman was the next natural step. I found his sense of humor to be fresh (from what I knew of comedy at ten years old) and it definitely appealed to my odd and early-shaped comic sensibilities. Although Letterman’s crude interview style offended many, I found it to be honest and refreshing. Carson was the consummate professional and could mock you while making you feel that he was still on your side, but Letterman took brutal honesty to another level while still staying somewhat personable. I believe that Letterman was also the first to bring the concept of the “remote” to late night. He actually LEFT the studio to throw things off of buildings and to meet the employees at the neighboring businesses including the one hour photo mat and the Hello Deli sandwich shop.
Michael Jackson, et al
I have an uncanny knack for remembering which year certain songs from the 80′s were released. Invincible by Pat Benetar from the movie The Legend of Billie Jean: 1985, U2′s With or Without You: 1986, Don’t Dream it’s Over by Crowded House: 1987. Most of my memories of these songs have to do with where I was living at the time of their release. My family moved around a lot in the 80′s (six times and three states between ’84 and ’89) and music became a sort of bookmark in my mind depending on the bedroom, friends, or emotional growing pains I was experiencing at the time. After my family moved for the first time in my young life we had a hard time adjusting to our new town. Brian and I, who were already close, spent a lot of time together during that time as we were trying to cope with the new surroundings. There were a lot of pop culture elements that we bonded to such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Last summer when Michael Jackson died, there were so many cars that drove down my street blasting songs from his discography (which was awesome and I kind of miss it). When Billie Jean or Human Nature would drive by it would always take me right back to 1984, complete with all the mix of emotions that came with growing through a tough situation at the age of nine. The cool thing about those memories is that they also include the unforgettable time I spent with Brian, who is one of the greatest and most important people in my life. I didn’t know at the time, but those would be some of the last true childhood moments we would share together.
Days of Our Lives
There were many great TV shows in the 80′s, but none more memorable to me than Days of Our Lives. Of all the shows I was taken with in the 80′s including Family Ties, Cheers, Moonlighting and The Wonder Years to name just a few, it’s a soap opera that takes the #1 TV spot of that decade. You may be saying to yourself, “A soap opera was your favorite TV show of the 80′s?” and to that I say, “yes, it was”. Now before you totally loose all faith in my artistic sensibilities, just hear me out. I really think it was a different time for soaps in the 80′s and that there was much more time and attention invested in fleshing out the character’s stories. Besides, this is a list of what was most influential to ME in the 80′s so I get to put whatever I want on it. : ) It was 1986 when I began watching Days of Our Lives religiously and it had to do solely with the super-couple of the millennium, Patch and Kayla. I was eleven years old at the time and had never watched soaps except apathetically with my grandma when she used to babysit Brian and me. The chemistry between Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans was astounding, even for an eleven year old and I was captivated by their characters and their story. It was the bad boy meets good girl story that we’ve seen thousands of times, but it worked because the characters worked and these two actors brought something spectacular and unique to this genre. I recently went back and watched some old clips on You Tube and was impressed with the writing, directing, and of course the acting. I’ve read interviews with both Stephen and Mary Beth where they talked about how hard they worked in those days. You can tell that they completely threw themselves into these characters and that they weren’t just going through the motions because they were on a soap opera. Like a good Robert Redford movie, the story took its time, paid close attention to detail, and gave us as viewers time to get on board with this relationship instead of just throwing us in the deep end and expecting us to swim. One of my favorite things to do with a movie, a TV show, or a script is to break down why something does or doesn’t work. Looking at the old Days clips makes me realize that part of why I liked the show so much back then and why it worked is not very different from why I love Lost today. Both shows (Days then and Lost) invested in their characters to make them multi-dimensional. If it’s not about the characters, then I usually don’t care about the material and don’t get involved. I stopped watching Days around 1993/1994 when I started college and when both Stephen and Mary Beth had moved on to other projects. It seemed like a good time for me to get on with my life as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little walk down memory lane. I know I did. I always like an excuse to reminisce about all-things-80′s and any excuse to bring up Lost, which has nothing to do with the 80′s. Stay tuned for more great podcasts!