Episode Ninety-Eight: Film Music

January 25, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

Background Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We return to the topic of music in film once again with London based composer Ram Khatabakhsh. Ram discusses his passion for composing music for film and working as a composer for independent film. We also spend a fair amount of time talking about his beloved Casio keyboard.

Ram Khatabakhsh- Composer

Ram started playing the keyboard at the age of six – just to figure out the melody of his favourite songs and themes. His parents bought him a small Casio keyboard at the time. He continued to play on his keyboard as a hobby after school hours and learned to play his favourite songs by ear. By age of 11, he was attending private piano and music lessons and exploring multiple musical genres. At the age of 15, Ram began to compose his own music and was instantly captivated by this. His passion for film music was apparent from the early days. He attended Kingston University in London where he obtained his degree in music composition. In November 2008 Ram was commissioned to write orchestral music and had his music performed by Kingston Chamber Orchestra in public concert.  In June 2008 Ram had his music played and work shopped at Royal Academy of Music in London where he worked along side the conductor Christopher Austin and composer Philip Cashian. In November 2007 Ram’s music was performed in the South Bank Centre as part of the PLG Group season. Ram’s music is highly motivated by film music, as this is the greatest goal in his career. He has been working as a freelance composer for several feature film projects and has written music for number of online advertisements and commercials and short films.

Ram currently directs a music production company (Motion Sound Production) based at Pinewood Studios (UK) where he collaborates with directors and producers and works with a number of talented musicians and engineers.

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Episode Ninety-Seven: Tom Vaughan On Writing

January 18, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

Screenwriter and Development Executive Tom Vaughan joins us to talk about working as a writer in Los Angeles and teaching screenwriting in LA and Houston. Tom also shares what it’s like to develop scripts at a small production company and gives some advice to new screenwriters as well.

Tom Vaughan- Writer/Development Executive

Tom Vaughan studied at the University of Houston with Broadway legend Jose Quintero and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee. It was his work as a writer and director in Houston theatre that got him recognized by Hollywood.

He was soon writing screenplays for, among others, Phoenix Pictures, Spelling Films, Rysher Entertainment, TNT, MTV Films, Castle Rock Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers and Disney/Touchstone.

His productions include BLACKOUT with Jane Seymour for CBS, and CRITICAL ASSEMBLY with Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked up) for NBC. He served as writer as well as Co-Producer on ATOMIC TWISTER with Sharon Lawrence and DEAD IN A HEARTBEAT with Penelope Anne Miller and Judge Reinhold, both for TBS. His feature film debut was UNSTOPPABLE, starring Wesley Snipes.  He just completed his directorial debut, PLAYING HOUSE, based on a script written with Kristy Dobkin. They are now full-time writing partners. Most recently they wrote HALLELUJAH together for acclaimed Japanese director Kazuika Kiriya (Casshern, Goemon).

He has been teaching screenwriting for nine years between Los Angeles and Houston and finds it as gratifying as actually practicing it. He is currently the Director of Development for the Los Angeles production company Dirty Robber.

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On-Set Editing

December 6, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

The podcast on editing made me think of what’s been happening with on-set digital work-flow and I was wondering if you all had noticed. The possibility of on-set dailies is leading towards on-set editing and for some Indie productions and companies who produce small corporate commercials it is already happening. Editing on-set as shooting is going on is now within reach of the low budget filmmaker.

Craig T.  via Film-Method.com

I have noticed this as well and it can be a dangerous practice to get in to if you haven’t thought it all the way through. For some forms such as commercials, it might be a great thing.  But, for film, it is not a good idea to have your main editor cutting things together on set.

If you do decide it’s a good idea to cut dailies together on set, then I suggest having an assistant or 2nd editor who does that while keeping your main editor away from this part of the process.

This could actually be very helpful because you can make sure that you are getting all the shots you will need in order to cut the film together.  However, if you have done your due diligence in pre-production and you have a competent Director, DP and Script Supervisor then you should be fine.  People are people and mistakes do happen, but they can happen even if you’re editing on set.

It is a great idea to be sending your main editor all the footage as you go (this is what’s called “editing behind camera) so that they can get it all arranged and be working on their first cut while filming is still taking place.  But, it is important to keep the editor clear from any outside influence in regard to the edit.  What I mean by that is; if an editor is on set with you and knows it took 12 hours for you to get that one shot but the shot isn’t serving the film at all in the edit, what’s to keep him from leaving the shot in the edit?

The editor’s only focus should be on telling the story and it is your job as a producer to make sure they are not unduly influenced.

A Word About Crowd Funding

November 14, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Today, I am not going to answer a question, instead I am going to talk about something that really made me frustrated.  This week someone posted a really not nice comment on Facebook about how if this person gets asked to support a crowd funding campaign for film, they automatically know that said film is not going to be professional in look and in treatment of the crew.  There were some other just plain idiotic comments in this post as well but I really wanted to focus on two things in regard to this.

1.  That is a bunch of malarkey!  Depending on the scope of your project, crowd funding can be an amazing way to raise money for it.  I do not recommend trying to raise millions of dollars, but who is to say that wouldn’t work as well.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have not used crowd funding to fund any of my projects, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t and I know plenty of people who have and their sets were run professionally and their projects looked fantastic.  Some even got great distribution deals.  So, if you are going to go out and raise money via crowd funding, I say go for it!  The key is to know your project and raise enough funds in order to make the experience for the crew and cast enjoyable, make sure you can get the equipment, locations, cast, crew, etc that will make your project look great, treat everyone with respect and gratitude and by all means, let them know what they are getting in to before they sign up.  If they are aware up front of the scope of the project and you have done your best to set yourself up to succeed then there should be no reason the cast and crew wouldn’t be happy to work on it.

2.  The most frustrating thing about this person’s post (aside from the discouraging manner in which he wrote it) is that this person is a consultant for producers.  To my knowledge, this person has not produced anything!  He does not have an IMDb page to speak of (yes, I understand that not all films get put on IMDb but it is the job of the producer to get those credits up there) and whenever you ask this person what they do, they are very vague and they change the subject and just say that they are a consultant.  I do not want to discourage anyone from doing what they love and if consulting is what this person loves, then great.  BUT, I do discourage fraud and at this point, that’s how I feel about what this person is doing.  For all of you just starting in the business, please do not say you are a producer, writer, director, editor, etc., until you have done that job.  I know, this may sound harsh and it is counter intuitive for those of us who have always been told to own what we are doing.  But, you can say, “I am an aspiring producer, writer, director, etc” or “I am studying to be a producer, writer, director, etc”.  Then get out there and make a short film, music video, web series, something that allows you to have done said job.  Then you can claim that title. Don’t start giving discouraging advice on jobs you haven’t done.  This business is tough enough and I can’t stand it when people make discouraging comments on things they don’t know about.  I may be harsh in my advice sometimes, but it is always coming from a place of love and encouragement.  Keep pursuing your dreams and never give up.  If it’s your true passion, then it will be yours one day.  Be patient and don’t put the cart before the horse and by all means, crowd fund away if that’s what you want to do.

Episode Ninety-Two: Tech in Film

November 9, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

As technology advances, the options for independent filmmakers increase significantly, which can make picking a camera or a digital release platform very difficult and overwhelming. Filmmaker Andrew Robinson joins us to talk about everything from selecting the right camera for your project to working with Hulu as a release platform and home theater technology.


Andrew Robinson- Director

Andrew Robinson’s career in Hollywood began eight years ago creating advertising and marketing campaigns for some of the industry’s biggest films and television shows. Upon graduating from The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California Robinson took a job at BLT & Associates working for clients such as ABC, TNT and CNN. Robinson left BLT and went to work for Shoolery Design and their primary client CBS, helping with the launch of the hugely successful CSI: Miami for Jerry Bruckheimer.

Following his time at Shoolery, Robinson worked for Crew Creative Advertising in their theatrical advertising department. During his first three years at Crew Creative, Robinson worked on various hit films, including Harry Potter, Superman, Jarhead, The Island, Rambo 4, Happy Feet, Dodgeball and The Dukes of Hazzard to name a few.

Robinson returned to television advertising as co-creative director of the newly formed Network Department at Crew Creative. While serving as the department’s co-creative director, Robinson oversaw the launch of TNT’s The Closer, Tyler Perry’s House of Pain, A&E’s Mad Men, and FX’s Dirt and Rescue Me, among others.

Robinson’s advertising and film work has been seen all over the world and has been covered by The Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Times, CNN, Fox, KTLA and more.

During his five years at Crew Creative, Robinson found time to write and direct the feature film, April Showers starring Kelly Blatz (Disney’s Aaron Stone), Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids), Illeana Douglas (To Die For) and Tom Arnold (True Lies). April Showers was released by Warner Brothers in the spring of 2011.
Currently, Robinson is hard at work on his next film Love in Training, which will begin production in 2012.

Andrew Robinson’s Website

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Support From Start To Finish: Go To Hell

November 4, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Support from Start to Finish

November 4, 2011

After making over a dozen short films, the Vegan Cannibals are gearing up for a full feature film, Go To Hell. Fans of their work know their style as outrageous, visually striking, sometimes gory but always entertaining and thought-provoking.

Their short ‘The Diary of Anne Frank of the Dead was a hit on the horror film festival circuit, taking Best Short Short Film at the DragonCon International Film Festival 2008 and was chosen by Dread Central (www.DreadCentral.com) as one of 8 Short Films to Die For in 2009.

Rationed, a suspenseful, thriller won Best Picture at the Inland Empire 48 Hour Film Project 2009 and went on to place 3rd overall in the International competition.  It was selected to play at Cannes International Film Festival in 2010. And is currently being featured on www.ScariestMoviesOnline.com.

Go To Hell is written by Emerson Bixby (writer of Disturbed) and directed Scott Baker.  It follows groups of individuals as their story lines converge in a demonically possessed old movie theater. Featuring non-stop horror-comedy action, it is sure to please any horror hound and fan of outrageous cinema.

The Vegan Cannibals are independently producing the film so as not to be constrained by the oversight of studios or investors, enabling them to make the film true to their vision. They are reaching out to the horror community and lovers of independent cinema to help them fund their project.  Through Kickstarter (Go To Hell Kickstarter Page) they are looking to raise the intial funds necessary to build the FX and start the production. They are offering incentives to those willing to donate and are appreciative of any help.

Further information about the Vegan Cannibals can be found on their site www.VeganCannibals.com and you can follow director Scott Baker on Twitter @MrScottyBaker.

Scott Baker, a native of Northern California, received a degree in History from Sonoma State University and served in the United States Peace Corps from 2000-2001 in Turkmenistan.  He co-founded Vegan Cannibals Productions with Philip Stimmell in 2002.  Their first film, Brunch of the Dead was a feature-length zombie-comedy. Since re-locating to Riverside they have done several award-winning short films, including Rationed which screened at the 2010 Cannes Short Film Corner and 2 episodes for their new series Findings (think Ghosthunters meets Reno911!). Scott’s film Rationed was 2nd runner-up in the world finals of 48 Hour Film Project, aka, Filmapalooza as part of the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The film was also selected for a showcase at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival (Short Film Corner Marche du Film).

Episode Ninety: Connecting With an Audience

October 26, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

One of the most important things to consider as you’re making your movie is how you’re going to connect with an audience. Whether it be a niche subject or a broader family film, you must know who your audience is and how you will find them. Jon Reiss of Think Outside the Box Office joins us to share his pearls of wisdom on the topic.

Jon Reiss- Producer/Author

Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker whose experience releasing his most recent documentary feature, Bomb It with a hybrid strategy was the inspiration for writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era, the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films.  In that book he created the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) in order create a new crew member who would be in charge of a film’s audience engagement and release.

As a consultant, Reiss is unique as one of the only filmmakers who works with other filmmakers throughout the world helping them devise strategies to release their films.  Reiss has worked with IFP, the Sundance Institute, Screen Australia, Film Independent, Creative Scotland, The South Australian Film Corporation and numerous film schools and festivals to devise ways to educate and help independent filmmakers in the new economic landscape.  He has conducted over a dozen TOTBO Workshops over three continents in the last year and is the year round distribution and marketing mentor at the IFP Filmmaker Labs. He also teaches at the Film Directing Program at Cal Arts.

Reiss is working on two more book projects: the first is devoted to the PMD, the second book takes the structure of distribution and marketing outlined in TOTBO and applies it to all the art forms. Reiss is also a regular contributor to Indiewire, Tribeca Future of Film, Sundance Artists Services, Hope for Film and other publications.

For more information go to: www.jonreiss.com

FB: www.facebook.com/reiss.jon

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

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Where are You?

October 25, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Writing Method

Where Are You

As you work on your screenplay, you will notice that your characters will need to be somewhere. Whatever is happening from scene to scene, it must happen in a location that the people in your movie can populate. And since your characters are going to be stuck in these places, why not make those places interesting!

The locations in which your characters appear should not just provide shelter from the elements and a place to hide the boom mic. They should tell us as much about your characters as their dialogue does, they should surprise us and they should provide pressure, inspiration and/or motivation for your characters.

Any location can go from being just a set to being a place unique to your character and story. Even if the location is someplace relatively simple like a bedroom, office or bar, it should still give us additional information about the people we are watching. Why did your character choose this bedroom, office or bar? What specific things are in those places that make your character feel at home…or feel uncomfortable? What photographs, art or random oddity is on the walls, shelves or floor that inform this story? Or, is it a location that your character doesn’t mesh with? What’s in the place that lets us know that? How does your character blend in to or stand out from this location?

Try this to build your locations the same way you build your characters: Think of an office. Let me guess, there’s a big window, a sizeable desk and some sort of Aeron Chair? Nothing wrong with that, but nothing exciting either, what can you do to that office to make it as memorable as your story? Are the walls a strange color? Was it decorated by a hippie? A robot? A child? A prison designer? (Don’t laugh, my dorm was designed by a prison designer. When we were told that, it made a lot of things about the space make much more sense).

Is the window too big or too small, or does it have windows at all? Is the chair one of those kneeling chairs, maybe a yoga ball or is the desk a standing desk? Is the room in disrepair? Is there a friendly spider that lives in one corner that no one has bothered to clear away? Are the plants in good shape or do they all (like every plant I’ve ever touched) have one starkly dead frond that signals its imminent doom? What was in that office before it belonged to your character? A school? A drug ring? A nursery?

While you don’t want to get overly clever and take your viewers out of the story, think of ways to make your location unexpected. For example, if your character is in someplace typically messy like a construction site, is there a way to make the site unusually clean? Or vice versa. If your character is in a typically sterile environment like a hospital, is there a way to make it messy? Are they in a cave that’s bizarrely brightly lit? Or on a porch that was built so that it can’t get any sun? Inside of a sauna whose motor has broken so it’s cold or a walk in freezer that’s malfunctioning so it’s hot?

You should also look at how changing a location changes the feel, importance, urgency or meaning of the scene. I had a director take an argument scene I wrote that was originally set in a car and set it in a guest bathroom during a party. The actors suddenly had way more pressure on them than I gave them and the scene sparkled to life in a whole new way.

What can you do to put your characters someplace where what they’re doing matters in a new way? What’s going on just outside or just off screen of where your characters are? If it is a scene with coworkers, are they at an awkward team-building event instead of the break room? Stuck in a long elevator ride? Locked out on the balcony of an office they weren’t supposed to be in? Participating in a fire drill?

And once you get away from typical locations, you can have even more fun. Are they backstage at a play that has alternately loud and soft scenes? Maybe they’re hired killers practicing at a firing range on the same day that a soccer mom meetup is there? Breaking up during a hot air balloon ride?

These things should not be done at the expense of your story. If your character needs to be in a typical location with typical features, leave her there. Chances are, however, you can take a few chances with location details and make your story even more memorable.

Q: What’s the best way to get names attached?

October 24, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q:  What’s the best way to get names attached?

Aleisha Gore via facebook

There is no one-way to attach talent and attaching talent can be a daunting task.  The one thing you must have is a good script. It helps if it’s not your director’s first film and if you have some work you can show the agent.

The standard process is to send your script around to agents and have them read it and see if it’s right for their talent.  If you can go through the manager you may have an easier time of it but getting people you don’t know to read your script is a challenge. I know this sounds pretty gloomy, but I just want you to be prepared.  I have sent out scripts from directors that have worked with pretty big names and it’s still a challenge to get a response. There are a couple of things you can do to hedge your bet though.

1.   NETWORK.   You may be thinking “but how do I network with Brad Pitt?” and my answer would be, you probably don’t. But, you might network with his agent or assistant or know someone who knows someone he is close with. You may also know someone who has worked with the talent you’re looking to attach and don’t even know that they struck up a great relationship on set and are now buddies (contrary to popular opinion, people who have the actual relationships with the stars don’t go around bragging about it) so mention your desired talent to everyone you can think of without being obnoxious about it.

2.   BE PROFESSIONAL.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but I am not just talking about showing up for meetings on time and answering your phone properly (very important things BTW), I am talking about having a well put together script and a well put together plan. Why are you planning to attach this talent? Meaning, are you doing it just because their name is Brad Pitt? Have you put any thought into what the actor might get out of it? If you haven’t, then you should not approach them until you can answer these questions and have a well thought out, professional plan including a script that has been read by people other than your mom or best friends, a script that is well formatted and a script that has been proof read for spelling and grammar.

3.   HAVE THE MONEY.  Using an actor as an attachment in order to raise money is a very common practice in this business.  However, if you have a great script, have done some networking and have a plan you might not need an actor attached to raise the money. Sometimes newer filmmakers make the mistake of attaching talent too soon and/or attaching the wrong talent for the role and project. If you can raise the money before casting it will give you a lot more to work with. If you know how much you are wanting for an actor, you can always raise just that amount and do a pay or play deal with the talent. That means they get the money whether the film is made or not.

4.   CONSULT. Make sure if you are looking to attach talent that you consult with a professional. Someone who works in distribution and knows what “names” are actually worth attaching early on. You would be surprised who actually moves the needle when it comes to sales.  Also, the talent that means something to a US audience might mean very little to a foreign audience and the bulk of your sales money will be foreign.

Whether you attach name talent before hand or during, the most important thing is making sure you cast people who are right for the role and who will benefit the project.

Episode Eighty-Nine: The Sound Edit

October 19, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

You may have heard it said that sound can make or break a film and wondering how that could be possible. More than likely you’ve seen a low budget movie and known that something wasn’t quite right, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Chances are, the sound was shotty. Shaun Burdick joins us to discuss the different jobs of a sound editor on small and large scale movies.


Shaun Burdick- Sound Editor

Shaun Burdick is a Los Angeles based Sound Designer. A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s MFA program, he got his start working on Jamil Walker Smith’s directorial debut Make a Movie Like Spike… as the film’s Dialogue Editor. For the past ten years he has leant his talents as a designer and mixer to various theatrical productions and independent films around the country.  His most recent credits have included Re-recording Mixer on the independent documentary Empty Hand: The Real Karate Kids, Sound Designer for The Night Shift, TV pilot Jalama Beach, Mother’s Red Dress, Of Silence and additional audio design on the video game Supremacy MMA. In February 2011 he was nominated for the MPSE Verna Field Award for his sound design work on the short film En Route. Currently Shaun is serving as the Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer for the independent feature 29000 Wishes. 1 Regret.

www.burdicksound.com

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