Q: With being on the forefront of online distribution…?

September 2, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q:  With being on the forefront of online distribution, has SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) or any other unions dealt with the possibility of trying to control their investments online?  Do the Unions have anything set up now for online distribution deals such as pay per click?

Andy H., Lincoln Nebraska

Most unions have created contracts that work with productions specific for online distribution. They are each different and can be a bit confusing or non-solid, if you will. Meaning, the online distribution world is so new and so much like the wild-wild west that everyone is still just trying to figure it out.  They are continuing to update the contracts as they go so if you are going to shoot something with the union for online distribution, make sure you do your research, talk to as many people as you can and be as educated on the process as possible.  Each union has a website so make sure to check those out.

As for the unions having deals where they make money from online distribution, that is not the unions’ purpose.  The union is there to protect their members be it actors, directors, crew members.  So, they are not allowed to be a part of the distribution process other than to make sure their members are getting their share of the residual income from the distribution deals the studios and producers set up.

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’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.

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!

Soonami Productions