Many people have lofty dreams of making their own film “masterpiece”. It’s a nobel pursuit to throw caution to the wind, forget all the naysayers, and make your movie the way you want to do it. That is of course unless you have investors that are expecting to be paid back. Join us as we talk to ex-sales agent and founder of The Film Collaborative, Orly Ravid, to hear about her experience that led her to create this fabulous organization whose tag line is “Filmmakers First”.
Orly Ravid- Founder of The Film Collaborative (TFC)
Orly is a 12-year industry veteran whose experience in film ranges from festival programming to acquisitions & domestic licensing and distribution, as well as business affairs, foreign sales, and digital distribution. In 1998, Orly joined veteran boutique foreign sales company Amazing Movies & Highland Crest Pictures and launched the company’s Art House domestic distribution label.
Orly then joined Maxmedia, producers of Chen Kaige’s Cannes Selection Emperor and the Assassin and the Miramax/Dimension release The Others starring Nicole Kidman. At Maxmedia Ravid worked in production and development and created FilmFixx, the company’s domestic distribution arm that launched with the highly controversial film Baise Moi. Orly subsequently consulted for various independent distributors and filmmakers under her own label, Ravid Film Consulting. In 2004 Orly launched Wolfe Releasing’s foreign sales, theatrical, and digital distribution arms and handled its acquisitions and business affairs.
In 2010 Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit organization devoted to the distribution-education and the distribution of art house and documentary cinema. The Film Collaborative since its launch has worked with over 100 filmmakers. It has consulted on distribution for films such as Sundance Winners GasLand and Contracorriente (Undertow), Revenge of the Electric Car (Tribeca), SXSW Winner Weekend, to name just a few. TFC specializes in splitting rights and helping filmmakers navigate digital distribution, and it created the first ever Digital Distribution Guide (TM) utilized by filmmakers and industry alike. TFC was commissioned to write a report on the topic for uniFRANCE to help its sales agents to navigate new media and has advised Sundance on its new “artists services” digital distribution initiative. TFC is releasing a book about distribution entitled Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul that will be available in multiple digital formats and in paperback as of September 19, 2011.
From 2007 -2009 Orly served as VP of Acquisitions and Distribution of publicly traded Berlin-based Senator Entertainment. Orly regularly moderates or speaks on panels at Sundance and other film festivals regarding new technology and digital distribution. Orly served as a Programming Associate for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival and as Programming Consultant for Palm Springs International. Orly has served on the Board of Directors of Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival. Orly earned a B.A in English Literature and Film Studies at Columbia University and graduated with honors.
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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.
Q: What are some ways I can maximize my educational opportunity, and what should constantly be on my mind as I develop my own voice as a filmmaker?
Summer Anderson via Film Method Mailbag
I love this question! It is so important to understand what an amazing opportunity it is to be amongst other filmmakers in such a tight space with access to equipment. My advice to you is to network your butt off (as you should be doing anywhere) with your fellow students. Work in every crew position so you understand what you will be asking of people when you are in charge. Shoot as much as possible in the correct way, meaning using real pre-production as much as possible. Utilize the equipment that is offered to you. If you are in a class that is not allowed access to certain equipment, then help the upper classmen with their shoots. Intern as much as you can. Really use this time to find your favorite aspects of filmmaking. Are you a producer, director, writer, editor, or do you just love the grip department (it can happen)? Do you love art films, action films, television, commercials? Once you figure this out, tell everyone! You never know who someone is looking for or what projects they have in the works. ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS! Ask questions of the teachers, the staff, your fellow students. You should be so exhausted when you go to film school that you need a little vacation when you get out because you’ve worked on so many films. Obviously, you need to take care of yourself, but you should never be bored. Get out there, meet your fellow filmmakers and find the ones that you fit together with like a puzzle piece. Your goal should be to come out of film school with a pretty solid idea of what you want to do when you get out and a handful of short films that show your desired area. You will have many that you did just for practice that you won’t want to show anyone, but you should have a handful that you are proud to show people saying, yeah, I did ___________ on this.
Have you ever thought of everything that goes into creating the whole look of a film? We’ve brought in three experts to tell you all about it. From the placement of the actors, to the set dressing, props, costumes and make-up- all of these matter when deciding what’s going to be in frame.
Oneita Parker- Costume Designer
Oneita Parker has been designing costumes for film, television, commercials, music videos, and theatre productions for more than a decade with zeal and excitement found in everything she creates. Oneita got her start in Hollywood designing costumes for several award-winning short films that toured the festival circuit. Oneita has gone on to design costumes for several award-winning features that have also received theatrical release all over the world. Many times she has been blessed to work with such amazing talents as Samuel L. Jackson, Mink Stoll, Angela Bassett, Jazmine Guy, Courtney Vance, Don Cheadle, Corbin Bernson, Piper Perabo, and Catherine Heigle to name a few. She has worked with such great directors as Mark Webb, JJ Abrahms, Jamie Babbitt, Q. Alan Brocka, and Rosser Goodman among others. Oneita Parker got her start in the rag trade catapulting herself into college a week after high school, to pursue her dreams of being a fashion designer at FiDM in San Francisco. After a year of straight A’s it was either Los Angeles or New York. She chose New York and continued her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in fashion design and textiles. Oneita Parker currently lives in Los Angeles with her lovely wife and three cats.
Charles Haine- Director of Photography
Charles Haine is a ﬁlmmaker/entrepreneur who has been working in the motion picture industry since 1999. After completely his MFA from USC in 2005, he has worked as a freelance director, cinematographer and colorist. Since founding Dirty Robber in 2008, he has worked tirelessly to grow the company, expand it’s infrastructure and provide cost effective resources including arrange the deal behind their no-cost ofﬁce space, and recruiting talented staff. As a colorist he has worked with Radical Media, 47 Pictures, Boxer Films, Arclight ﬁlms and many others for clients including Ford, Jeep, Honda, Mcdonalds, Burger King, AMC, St. Jude’s Hospital, and many others, including several feaures, and numerous music videos. As a director of photography has has shot three feature ﬁlms, his most recent receiving distribution through Lion’s Gate, and has shot commercials, music videos, industrials and several short ﬁlms. He also is an associate professor at Los Angeles City College teaching cinematographer and editing, and he teaches color grading, visual design and stereography at Columbia College Hollywood.
Michael Fitzgerald- Production Designer
After growing up in theater in Santa Cruz, California, Michael Fitzgerald moved to LA to attend UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, & TV. One of his first jobs was creating Cuba in LA for Josh Evan’s “Che,” where only a theater nerd would make with a tobacco plant out of lettuce, rope, paint and palm leaves. Michael has created visual stories for directors including a hippie commune and teen punk world for Adam Sherman’s “Happiness Runs,” skate ramps, clubhouses, & a con man abode in Cosmo Segursons “Nic and Tristan, Go Mega Dega,” a bachelor pad loft and Seattle News station for Slamdance 2009 hit Blayne Weaver’s “Weather Girl,” Paris apts, Drag bingo, & and Silverlake artist duplex, in Jason Bushman’s “Hollywood Je T’aime,” a creepy house and a game that comes alive for “The Black Waters of Echos Pond,” and the comic book reality for a high school of jocks and geeks in “The Secret Life of Dorks.” Michael had the challenge of building two entire New York apartments from scratch on stage for Slamdance 2010 hit “Four-Faced Liar”. Currently Michael wrapped a 3D version of Fred Figglehorn’s next adventure for Lions Gate and Varsity Pictures and Maya Entertaiment’s “Without Men,” where he created a whole village from scratch starring Eva Longoria and Christian Slater. Michael has also worked on two web series with Rob Pearlstein “Matumbo Goldberg,” with Anthony Anderson and Extreme Office for Samung Galaxy Tabs. And spent the last year on Michael Kristoff’s “Live at the Foxes Den,” with Jackson Rathbone, Elliot Gould, Brian Doyle-Murray, Bob Gunton, and Jocelyn Donahue where he got to create an entire den/lounge from scratch..the Foxes Den!
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To go union or not to go union. That is the question. Line producer Mark Moran and production coordinator Molly Moran bring their expertise from working on numerous film projects in their 10+ years of being in the film industry to discuss all of the film unions including SAG, IATSE, Teamsters, DGA and the WGA. Their knowledge of working with unions is vast and impressive.
Mark Moran- Line Producer
Mark Moran has helped create a wide range of studio and independent movies, including 96 Minutes (Brittany Snow), Beautiful Boy (Maria Bello), 13 (Jason Statham), Spread (Ashton Kutcher), Pretty Bird (Paul Giamatti), Walk the Talk (Cary Elwes), Bee Season (Richard Gere), Basic (John Travolta), Secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Sweet Home Alabama (Reese Witherspoon), and Novocaine (Steve Martin). He has produced features shooting all over the U.S. as well as in Canada and Eastern Europe.
Mark is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America. He has produced short films, web series, music videos, and commercials, as well as the PBS documentary Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, which won the IDA Award for Best Short Documentary and was short-listed for an Academy Award in 2005.
Prior to all this, Mark started a software company at age 17, launching him on a successful career designing and programming computer games in San Francisco, where he received a patent for a CGI process combining filmed live action with computer animation.
Mark graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a degree in literature & writing.
Molly Moran- Production Coordinator and Accountant
Molly Moran is a film production coordinator and accountant. She began her career in 2004 working on indie features in New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. She then spent two years working for famed producer Barbara DeFina, who encouraged her to focus on production office work as the best training for producing. This led to her spending a year working on the Will Smith movie I Am Legend. In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles and has since coordinated features shooting in Georgia, Louisiana, and California.
Q: Do you approach investors first or talent first? That is, if you have a script that is fully developed, what is the first phone call you make?
Kelsey (via the Film Method mail bag)
That’s a good question because it can be a bit of a catch 22. It really depends on the topic of the script. For example, the first feature I made was written and directed by a survivor of the Columbine High School shootings. Because of the topic and the fact that a survivor was directing, we didn’t need actors attached in order to secure funding. The writer/director played that role for us in a way.
If you are going to make a movie that is a bit more typical, it might be about the same topic, but you don’t have a direct relationship to the subject, then you will most likely need talent attached. This can be really challenging because in order to attach talent, they will require funding most of the time. You see where the catch 22 comes in. This is why it is so important for you as a producer or filmmaker to network and create the relationships within the film community. It can take years to cultivate the types of relationships you need to get someone of name attached to your project, so you should start now. But, I will say this, you NEVER know what an actor or manager is looking for so put your project out there. Start to contact agents at the same time as investors. If it’s your first film, try to find someone who has done it before so that they can help you navigate the waters.
I wish I could tell you specifically which to go to, but like most things in this process, there is no one-way to do it. The most important thing is to have a solid business plan, a solid script, passion and perseverance. It will take a while and it will be bumpy at parts so if you are not 100% thrilled and passionate about the project, not only will the people you’re talking to be able to tell, but there will be nothing to get you through those rough patches.
BIG VOICE is a musical feature documentary directed by award winning filmmaker Varda Hardy and produced by Marina Viscun, Deb Love and Karen Lavender. BIG VOICE is a LiveTribe Production. With BIG VOICE, Varda maintains her commitment to create meaningful work that will both delight and inspire audiences.
This uplifting documentary explores the lives of the top-singing students of the award-winning Santa Monica High School Choir, and its visionary choir director. At a time when drastic budget cuts endanger both the quality of our public schools and their arts programs, this determined high school music teacher strives to create a thriving vocal music program that ignites in his students a passion for music, a sense of belonging, and the value of working hard to achieve their dreams.
Santa Monica High School’s Jeffe Huls is “larger than life” choir teacher with a passion for teaching and an edgy sense of humor. His talented students practice diligently to pass the highly competitive auditions, meet daily to learn and sing challenging music, and perform both for their local community and in venues around the world. But why is Mr. Huls so moved by the power and artistry of the human voice? Why has he dedicated his life to teaching teenagers how to sing? And what does it take for Mr. Huls’ students to rise to his high standards? Why do they dedicate so much of their time and resources to singing? What critical life lessons do they learn and how does singing in the choir affect their artistic and academic dreams as 21st century teenagers?
BIG VOICE will follow Mr. Huls and his teenage students interweaving interviews and concerts with ‘slices of life’ footage. It will explore what it means to be a teenager facing an unknown future, and an accomplished artist creating great art in the context of a public school. In addition, this visually stunning documentary will include original songs created for and by the students with the assistance of Grammy-winning artists*.
BIG VOICE reveals the challenging journey of an extraordinary teacher who overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles to educate and transform students to step into adulthood as powerful contributors to a world that needs them. BIG VOICE will entertain you, touch your soul and uplift your spirit.
To see the BIG VOICE Promo Video and find out more about this musical documentary please visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bigvoicemovie/big-voice-dare-to-dream
Varda Hardy- Writer/Director/Producer
I confess. I love making movies. I want to make beautiful, truthful work that will engage and inspire. You may have seen some of my short films…Window starring Louis Gossett Jr. that screened at Cannes and aired on cable networks across the U.S.? Or Race To The Sky which aired during the Grammy Awards? Maybe you caught What Kind Of Planet Are We On? It received the “most innovative” non-profit video on YouTube & went viral with over half a million unique views. Or Ode To Los Angeles which recently won the Grand Prize from NewFilmmkers LA/LA INC? I treasure each of these films and the challenges my crew and I experienced making them. And now we are embarking on another incredible challenge, BIG VOICE! It takes a huge amount of effort to create meaningful films, but it’s worth it. I’m deeply grateful to my family, friends & community for supporting my efforts to use my creativity, skill and filmmaking ability to create good works.
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!
As we near the end of the production season we circle back to the topic of directing. Varda Hardy started in this industry as a script supervisor and worked steadily until she made the switch to directing five years ago. Varda recently won $100,000 for her 1 minute film about Los Angeles for the On Location: The Los Angeles Video Project. Varda’s Kickstarter campaign for her new documentary Big Voice is the focus of this month’s Support from Start to Finish feature this month.
Varda Hardy- Writer/Director/Producer
I was born in London, England. A year after I was born, my parents moved to Israel where my father served in the army. My mother is South African and my father is Romanian. He had moved to Israel to escape the communist take-over of his native land. My mother was on holiday in Israel when she fell instantly in love with the young soldier–my father. I fell in love with “the movies” one summer night in Israel when I caught sight of A Man and A Woman screening at a drive-in theater nearby my window.
Following six years in Israel, my mother brought my older sister and I back to England where we remained for several years until we moved to San Francisco. It was in San Francisco that I started to make my own 8mm movies with a camera my 8th grade English teacher Mr. Mohan lent to me. He believed that there is different kind of learners and some people learn best by making things…like movies. He was right about me. I love to make things, especially movies. I lose myself in the creative process, the germs of ideas bubbling up like and catching on fire like lava rising from the mysterious inner earth.
Following San Francisco came a short stay in Los Angeles and then we were off to the “big apple”. I went to High School at Dalton New York City, where I fell in love with dance and theater. Then I went to Cornell University where I re-discovered my passion for filmmaking under the tutelage of Cultural Anthropology Professor Robert Asher. Like Mr. Mohan, Prof. Asher believed in alternative forms of learning and expression. He encouraged me to pick up an old super-8 camera to create a report instead of writing it. I went to NYU for a semester where a screening of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now got under my skin. That’s when I knew I would pursue directing.
I studied directing at Cornell University, received my MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, worked as an assistant director and then script supervisor of numerous film projects both for television and theatrical until about five years ago when I shifted into directing. My husband Patrick S. Bennett and I are enjoying raising two lovely daughters Paloma and Raven, the rest is icing on the cake.
Q: How do you interview an AD? How do you know he/she is worth the chance as so much is riding on his/her capability to handle chaos and remain calm?
Jake H. Wahoo Nebraska
It’s interesting because I just did a consultation with one of my students at NYFA the other day about how to choose the right DP for their shoot. So, I am going to make this a general how to interview someone post because I feel that each role on the set is important. Yes, the AD is a super high pressure job and it may seem more important that you get the right AD than getting the right grip or PA, but the truth of the matter is, one person that does not fit within the team could equal disaster for a production.
The key is to know how the producer and director work. So much of being good at these two jobs in particular, is knowing who you are as a person. You need to know this so that you can fill in the holes and make sure to get a balanced crew. You must know what each crew members job in general is so that you can ask for a sample schedule and ask how long it takes them to do a schedule, but the most important question is…how do you like to work. If you know that you like to have a meeting right before the shoot, then after lunch, then at the end of the day and the person you’re interviewing really doesn’t find it necessary and in fact thinks it’s stupid, then they are probably not the right person for you to work with. The thing is, there is not right or wrong way to do the things it takes to make a movie (as long as you’re being ethical) so it’s not a “bad” thing for you to hire people that work the way you do. If you like to laugh and have a lot of fun on set and you are interviewing an AD or DP or anyone for that matter who is sitting across the table from you for like 20 minutes and hasn’t cracked a smile, do you think this person is a good fit for your production? They may be super qualified and really good at their job, but you are going to have to spend a lot of time with them so they may not be the right fit.
If you’re the producer and you know that your director is very internal with his process, it’s probably not a good idea to hire an AD that is an introvert. On the flip side, you know your director is very A.D.D., be honest (and respectful of the director) when you are talking to the AD and tell them what the director is like and ask them how they would handle that. Part of your job as a producer is to be able to see who will work well together and who won’t.
One particular thing to remember when interviewing an AD though, is that their job can be VERY stressful, so make sure that they have a calm demeanor and that they are respectful enough to ask the crew how long it will take to set the shot and that they trust the crew to do their job, but can get them to work efficiently. Above all, TRUST is the word you need to remember when hiring key crew members. Do you trust them to do the job well? Do they trust you to do yours? Do they trust the crew to do theirs?
It can be a tricky process. One last thing I will say on this and it’s a really hard one for new producers and that is, you may have to fire someone. It’s OK as long as it’s because the project or the crew is suffering because this person is on the project. It’s really not a personal thing or an ego thing so make sure that you remember that. One bad apple on set can poison the entire shoot so you’ve got to be able to do what it takes to make sure the process is smooth.