Join Cindy Freeman and Jenna Edwards for the last Film Method episode. It’s been an incredible run these past few years as they’ve covered everything from raising money for your film to hiring crew members, running an efficient set, marketing your movie, and much much more. After 99+ episodes it’s time to sign off.
Cindy Freeman – Host/Producer
Cindy Freeman moved to Los Angeles from San Diego in 2009 to pursue a career in the film industry. Upon her arrival in LA she immediately began working with producer Jenna Edwards to create behind-the-scenes content for Jenna’s feature film April Showers. Cindy also directed the behind-the-scenes content creation for Jenna’s film In the Darkness. It was while Cindy was working with Jenna that she was inspired to create the Film Method podcast.
Cindy has worked on a number of independent films as a production assistant and 2nd A.D while in Los Angeles and in July of 2010 she began working at Dreamworks Animation as a production coordinator.
To contact Cindy you can write to her at email@example.com.
Jenna Edwards- Co-Host/Producing Advisor
Jenna Edwards began her film career in Minnesota where she was signed on as talent with Easter Hailey. Quickly after being signed Edwards was hired by the agency as a full time employee giving her a head-start on her Hollywood education. After two years of rising through the Minnesota film community Edwards made the move to Los Angeles.
Soon after Edwards moved to Los Angeles she was hired by Agent Jamie Ferrar. It was while Edwards was working for Ferrar that she developed an interest in the casting process, before long she had moved from talent agencies to working in casting with such industry leaders as Sally Steiner (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Boy Meets World), Barbie Block (Jonas, Pepper Dennis) and Allison Jones (Super Bad, The Office). During this time Edwards was also able to gain valuable production experience working on shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Malcolm in the Middle, and working with studios like Disney, MTV, FOX and CBS.
After several years of successfully navigating her career through the Hollywood studio system Edwards made the leap to independent film with her first feature April Showers. After her success with April Showers, Edwards formed Mattoid Entertainment with partners Jeremy McGovern and Andrew Robinson where they made, In the Darkness, the first narrative feature to ever premiere on Hulu.com. Most recently Edwards made her way back to Nebraska, where she shot April Showers, to team up with some new filmmakers on a comedy film called Trunk’d.
To contact Jenna you can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the kids are around, you might wanna send them out of the room for a minute. I’ll wait.
Hmmhmm, dooduhdooo….did I turn off the—
Hey! You’re back!
Okay, so sex and sexuality are part of the human experience. We all got to Earth thanks to some very special hugs and chances are that at some point in our lives, we’ll do some hugging ourselves. Thus, it makes sense that sex and sexuality will turn up in screenplays. But there’s a way to do it so that it makes sense and there’s a way to do it that is creepy, alienating and ineffective.
Here are 4 types of sex scenes that tend to miss the mark and what you can do to fix them.
The scene where the lame/mean/jerky guy says something inappropriate or embarrassing to a woman but she decides that there’s “just something about him” and so she pounces on him anyway.
What people intend to show with a scene like this: That despite his shortcomings, the hero is not a bad guy and this unnaturally attractive woman sees that.
What people really show with a scene like this: That their female character is desperate and/or has no self-esteem and isn’t someone the audience is going empathize with or respect.
But, Aydrea! This totally happens in real life! Girls hook up with crap dudes all the time! Yes, you are correct. But films aren’t real life. And while we may hold each other to flexible standards, audiences generally do not give such lenience to characters in film. If someone is attracted to someone in a movie, we want there to be a real reason why. Something beyond “I dunno, he’s cute. There’s just something about him.”
The person who gets pounced needs to give the pouncer something that they truly want or need. The guy can act like a bit of jerk, but if he displays a genuine soft spot for his cat or grandmother or war orphans—then he might be pounceable. But when a woman in a movie offers herself as some sort of taming device without getting anything in return, it makes both characters look weak.
The scene where the super powerful businessman/politician has incredibly rough/graphic…playtime with his assistant/secretary/wife’s friend then walks away and goes into a meeting or event like it’s totally no big deal, leaving the impossibly attractive nude lady to gather her things and get out.
What people intend to show in a scene like this: That the businessman/politician is so impressive that he can have whatever he wants and that he’s so detached from it all that he can’t even enjoy it and we should ultimately feel bad for him.
What people actually show in a scene like this: That they couldn’t think of something creative or new to show this character trait.
But Aydrea! This totally happens in real life! Powerful people sometimes have crazy affairs and don’t show remorse! Yes, you are correct. But jerky powerful people also do lots of other things that show that they’re unempathetic. Ebeneezer Scrooge was the quintessential mean ol’ rich guy and there’s nothing sexy about his story.
Also, sex isn’t the only way to show that a character doesn’t care about something of value. Spending bazillions of dollars on a car, just to wreck it seconds later and not care about the little Honda Fit he destroyed in the process because he’ll just pay everyone off would get the same point across. Flushing diamonds down the toilet or having a house full of amazing gadgets that never get used, children who never get hugged and pets who never get walked could also communicate the same idea.
But Aydrea! I’ve watched movies where people use women like playthings and we still kinda want to be like them! Yes, you are correct. But in movies like that that work, those characters usually balance out their misogyny with many other likeable traits. Also, yes, there are some filmmakers who tend to be pretty exploitative when it comes to this sort of thing, and if you are Michael Bay, then what on earth are you doing reading this blog? If you’re not Michael Bay and can’t write your own ticket, then you should be trying to impress readers, studio execs and producers with substance over style.
The scene where the guy really wants to have sex, but the girl doesn’t, so the guy kinda just goes ahead and starts doing sex to her anyway and she eventually comes around and has an amazing time about it.
What people intend to show in a scene like this: That the girl really is actually into this guy but that she’s just shy or something.
What people actually show in a scene like this: That the characters are kind of okay with sexual assault.
But Aydrea! This totally happens in real life! Sometimes girls just play coy and are totally okay with getting busy if you convince them! Yes, you are correct. However, films are not real life and on screen, a guy who coerces sex out of a woman comes across as a creep. And the woman who can’t stick to her point of view long enough to get to sleep comes across as weak.
(Also, let’s be honest, if someone is really not intent on any hanky panky, someone prodding them annoyingly while they’re trying to rest up for their big presentation the next day is more upsetting than seductive.)
A scene like this can work if it’s clear that the characters really do care about each other and if there’s a clear reason for the woman’s reluctance. A scene where an exhausted Dad reminds an exhausted Mom that they’re going to make more of an effort to make a go of it could be informative and sweet. A post-therapy scene where a concerned boyfriend reminds his girlfriend that she doesn’t need to be afraid of closeness anymore can be compelling and transformative. But to show a guy just being greedy and inconsiderate and a woman finding that hot is insulting to everyone.
The scene where the woman uses nothing but her tight dress and low cut shirt to distract/disarm the powerful dude.
What people intend to show with a scene like this: That everyone has an Achilles’ heel.
What people actually show with a scene like this: That they think men are simple automatons who have no ability to control themselves if they see lady skin.
But Aydrea! Some guys really don’t know how to control themselves when they see lady skin! Yes, you are correct. But in a film, this type of scene diminishes the stakes and gets boring. If all the woman needed to do was flash some flesh to get whatever McGuffin she’s after, then why are we watching an entire movie? Why doesn’t she just prance through life in a bikini taking money from stunned bystanders’ wallets, walking out of stores with unpaid merch, and slowly but surely rising to the rank of Supreme Ruler of all the World! By letting sex or sexuality be the secret weapon, characters don’t have to think, plan or grow. And that’s boring.
A sex scene is just like every other scene in a movie. It should show us new information about the characters and it should directly affect the plot of the film. It should motivate character to new action and they should be changed, if even slightly, by having experienced that scene.
If a sex scene is inserted just to seem edgy or cool, it will feel flat, unnecessary and exploitative.
Just like actual sex, when it comes to writing about sex, the tension is often more interesting than the release. While it’s titillating (pun intended) to see nudity on screen, if you’re trying to evoke the kind of emotional reaction that will make a movie really resonate with audiences, not giving it all up is really the way to go. Enter a scene (pun intended) just before or just after the act and you’ve got a lot more to work with in terms of exploring character, defining relationships and maintaining momentum.
All right, you can bring the kids back in the room…
Okay, what’s up?
But Aydrea! You really like Wedding Crashers and there’s unnecessary boobs in that movie! What gives?? Yes, you are correct. First, I think the boobs in that movie are totally unnecessary, but here’s why they’re not a total turn off. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are good guys in that movie. They have a silly game of crashing weddings, but they don’t do it to be malicious and they help everyone have a fun time when they’re there. In fact, in the opening sequence of that movie, the guys help a fighting couple reconcile. Yes, they help them ultimately so that they can get off of work for the day, but their help is sincere. Because they are well-intentioned guys, their playtime with the girls feels fun and playful, not manipulative, gross or creepy.
But Aydrea! You liked Blue Valentine and that movie is totally graphic! Yes, you are correct. That sequence, however, falls into the “we know this couple is really trying to work on their relationship” category. The whole film is pretty much about them trying to work on their relationship. That sequence is full of personality and fun (Future Room? Awesome) and we learn things about the characters based on their interactions.
But Aydrea! I don’t agree with anything you’ve said. I think these kinds of scenes are awesome and I want to write them anyway. I think you’re just being sensitive. Maybe because you’re a girl! Yes, you are correct. But you know who else is a girl? Many of the people you’re hoping will read, pass along and green light your scripts.
Whatever! There are movies with nudie scenes and I wanna put one in mine! There’s a myth about town that says that nudity gets you an automatic distribution deal. I can’t confirm what I’m about to say, but this cannot possibly be true.
But even if it is, nudity will likely also get you an R-rating. R-rated movies are a harder to monetize because fewer people can go see them and so fewer people pay for tickets to them. So being a bit more modest can actually help your box office.
Want Some Cheese with that Whine?
(Or: 3 Ways to Make a Sad Story Sad)
Death. Disease. Destruction. These things are real bummers, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to have the impact you want them to in your script. It is necessary for less-than-ideal things to happen to your characters, but not all downer events are created equal.
In order to feel bad for characters, three things need to happen
- We must know the character and care about them. This is not to say that we’re going to laugh when an unknown character gets a bad diagnosis, but without the proper set up and character development, bad news for a character can feel at best, unimpactful and at worst, manipulative. The bad news should feel specific—like something that we definitely don’t want to happen to THIS person.
A degenerative illness will feel like a bigger kick in the gut to a competitive athlete than it will be to a homebody. A sudden death of an up and coming star, scholar or leader will hurt more than the passing of a person who hasn’t done much nor aspires to. An agoraphobe forced to relocate because a tornado destroyed his house will invoke more of a reaction than the same situation happening to an executive who’s never at home anyway.
- The bad news should feel organic to the story. While out-of-the blue events happen in real life all the time, these deus ex machinas often fall flat on film if they’re not supported.
If we haven’t met a character’s extended family in the first 75 minutes of your story, it won’t make us all that upset if we find out that their favorite aunt died in minute 76. If a character has put nothing on hold preparing for a promotion, we won’t bat an eye when we learn that the gig went to their coworker. If we’ve never spent time at a character’s summer home, it’ll barely register when that summer home is wiped out by a late season storm.
- The bad news should affect a character on a physical level and an emotional level. Losing a job sucks, but it is completely possible to live off unemployment for a while and get a new job, so it’s not the end of the world. However, if the loss of a job means that a character has to move back home with their millionaire, superstar sibling and their controlling parents who never supported them in the first place, that character’s in a much more painful situation.
Chronic diseases are terrible. But it is possible to get medication, join a support group and have a perfectly normal life. However, if the illness is brought on by the unregulated drug the new patient invented and rushed to market…that really hits home for that person.
Getting trapped in a storm would put a damper on any road trip. But if a character gets trapped in a storm that’s just like the one that orphaned her when her parents had to drive through it to pick her up from camp because she wouldn’t stop crying…that takes the emotion up several levels.
Your audience wants to feel bad for your characters; they’re looking forward to empathizing with them. Make sure that you give them what they need so that they can.
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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Q: Producing 10 minute short with filmmakers I met through a friend and wanted to know what type of insurance I would need for shooting in a friends home and/or a nursing home or commercial building. One day shoot with a cast and crew of about 10 people. I want to make sure my production company, crew and the property are covered.
Huewilly via Film Method Mailbag
That’s a great question and there are plenty of options for this type of project. Meaning, you can find another company to co-produce with you who has insurance, purchase short-term coverage or, if you plan to make many of these films within a year, you may consider purchasing an annual policy.
I am not an insurance agent so your best bet is to contact an insurance provider for a quote. Don’t be intimidated, you do not have to purchase right then and there. It’s like buying car insurance, you want to shop around and get the best coverage at the best rate for your project. I will say this; most standard insurance companies do not handle film insurance. It is a specific kind of insurance and if you are renting equipment from a rental house, you will typically need to cover a minimum of a million dollars just to be safe. If you are not in Los Angeles, or another major filming hub like New York, chances are you are not going to be able to find coverage locally. You’ll want to look in LA. To cover everything you want to cover you’ll probably need liability and work comp. If you are using union actors, you will go through a payroll company and you’ll want to look into their insurance policies as well. That will all be explained by SAG.
When you call, you’ll need to know your budget (including how much you have to spend on insurance), how many people you need covered, what length of time and there will be a few other questions. Don’t worry if you don’t know, just so that and research and get back to the person.
It can be complicated at first glance, but once you talk to the right insurance agent, he/she will be able to explain it better than I can.
Congrats on your shoot and I hope it all goes well.
Thanks for listening,
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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Producing animated content is a much different process than producing live action. The concept of creating a whole world is the same, but in CG animation, every aspect of the production is created in a computer. The process is vast and very fascinating. Join us as we speak to animation producer, Ellen Coss about her experience in the world of CG art and animation.
Ellen Coss- Producer
Ellen Coss is a 25 year veteran in computer generated imagery, starting her career at the seminal Digital Productions.
In the 1980s feature films were not using computer imagery, but theme park attractions were. Ellen spent 2 years at Universal Studios as the production manager of the film for Florida’s Universal Park Attraction “The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera”. The film, a motion based race through three of Hanna Barbera’s cartoon worlds employed computer backgrounds and 2D characters, optically composited. This was one of the first projects to combine 2D and 3D animation.
Ellen then joined Rhythm & Hues as a producer for theme park attraction films such as Seafari, which won first place at Imagina that year. She later became the Executive Producer of the theme park division and was responsible for bringing in multi-million dollar projects to the studio.
As many of the projects she worked on became creative milestones in the industry, Disney Feature Animation brought her in to produce their theme park attraction films. Magic Lamp, employed exaggerated squash and stretch techniques common in 2D but not common in cg, and Mickey’s Philharmagic, a stereoscopic film which took nine of Disney’s beloved 2D characters and created them in 3D. It is currently playing at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando and is the number one audience rated attraction.
Ellen then joined Dreamworks, as a Production Executive, where she worked for a year on various studio initiatives. Subsequently she was the Associate Producer on the feature film Over the Hedge, released in 2006. Hedge was heralded by Jeffrey Katzenberg as the smoothest running production ever at Dreamworks Animation. During a second stint at Dreamworks, Ellen produced the Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, which aired on NBC and Secrets of the Masters, which was the companion DVD to Kung Fu Panda 2.
Seeing that overseas production was the wave of the future Ellen headed to Prana Studios, a 325 person animation studio with offices in Mumbai India and Los Angeles. As Head of Production Ellen contributed with her years of production pipeline experience as well as her new role as a voice in the process of the company developing their own I.P. Prana is currently producing, as a 1/3 ownership partner, three direct to DVD features entitled Unstable Fables being distributed in 2008 by TWC. Under Ellen’s direction all pre-production including script writing, storyboarding and visual development occurred in Los Angeles, with physical production currently taking place in India.
Ellen then got a call to produce The Tortoise and the Hippo at Walden Media with John Dykstra directing. She developed the project for 7 months until it was put on hold because of the writer’s strike.
Ellen then provided producing consulting services for the animated feature Arthur Christmas an Aardman Animation film to be distributed by Sony.
Ellen’s reputation in the industry is one of an excellent executer, and a nurturing manager, as well as a supporter and contributor to the creative vision of all projects. Her goal on every project is to produce an excellent creative product, on time and on budget and to have the people associated with the project feel that it was one of the best working experiences in their career.
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January 10, 2012
You know that as a screenwriter, you will need to put words on the page to tell your story. You may not, however, need to use quite so many of them.
Writer types (myself included) often love basking in the glow from their sparkling, perfectly obscure, amazingly profound WORDS. Their characters say such amazing, impeccably-timed THINGS. They talk, Talk TALK their way through three acts, telling you not just the plot points you need to know, but also how untouchably brilliant the writer behind that masterpiece is.
Not that we don’t love the Sorkins and Codys of the world. But sometimes, it’s nice to give the words a break.
Hmmm, is it obvious that I watched the new silent film The Artist this week?
The Artist uses maybe 20 lines of spoken or written dialogue in its entire 100 minutes. And yet, despite the fact that we don’t hear crackling wit snapping back and forth between the characters, we always know exactly what’s going on, we’re on board with how characters are feeling and we get to delight in the visual medium that film is.
Without so many words, you get to delight in and focus on all the other ways to tell a story: what characters are wearing, their expressions or what artifacts are in their environments. Characters in fact, can often come to life much more when they are not resting on the crutch of words. Actions, in turn, get to be much more definite, clear and decisive when you don’t have someone in the shot narrating what we’re seeing anyway.
My two favorite sequences in one of my favorite movies, Children of Men, also have no dialogue. In fact, most of the third act of that movie is, apart from score and sound effects, silent. If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazingly powerful and nothing any character could say would do those moments justice.
There are so many moments in our own lives that are made powerful not by the clever turn of phrase someone threw together at just the right second, but by what they didn’t say, by what email didn’t come, by who wasn’t at the party, or who was, or the way they just turned away when you showed up and made eye contact. A point, a smile, a frown, a tear, a step away from you, or a subtle scoot toward you, a kiss, a stumble, a something left behind when they thought they had cleaned up all the evidence…these types of things often speak loudly and clearly without using words at all.
Just for fun, try rewriting a scene or two of your latest screenplay without just half the dialogue, or if you’re feeling up to it, no dialogue at all and see how it changes the scene, or the piece entirely.
Thank you for your time this week. In honor of the topic, I’m gonna shut up now.
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.
For our last episode of Season Four and of 2011 we recap the past season and all we learned about post-production, distribution and marketing. If you missed any shows this season this is a good summary of all that we covered. Jason Brubaker joins us to re-hash the season!
Jason Brubaker- Producer/Author
Jason Brubaker 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.
Jason is a contributing author of The Independent’s Guide to Film Distributors, he is the founder of Filmmaking Stuff, a professional resource for independent filmmakers, and his articles on independent movie marketing, distribution and film production have been featured in The Independent, the New York Film Academy and Movie Maker Magazine.
Brubaker has has lectured on these subjects to filmmakers from around the globe through various filmmaking seminars, panel discussions and workshops. www.freefilmmakingbook.com
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