Episode Ninety-Nine: Signing Off

June 21, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

Photo by Ashley Ruskiewicz

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.

Prior to moving to LA she produced a travel documentary, See Girl Go and a short film, Drips through her production company Soonami Productions.

To contact Cindy you can write to her at info@film-method.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 (JonasPepper 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 SlayerMalcolm 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 info@film-method.com.

Let’s (not) Talk About Sex, Baby or: 4 Types of Sex Scenes We Don’t Really Need to See Again

March 13, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under Writing Method

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.

In summation:

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…

No, Wait!

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.

Q: What type of insurance would I need…?

January 23, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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,

Jenna

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.

Episode Ninety-Five: Post-Production Recap

November 30, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

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
www.moviesalestool.com
www.modernmoviemaking.com

Film Method Hosts

For more information about the Film Method hosts, please visit the About page.

Episode Ninety-Four: Editing Film

November 23, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

There’s a saying that when you make a movie you actually make three movies by 1) writing the screenplay 2) shooting the movie and 3) editing the film. The editor of a film can serve as one of the primary storytellers of your movie and therefore is a critical role to cast when hiring your crew. Editor Karl Hirsch joins us to talk about workflow, the technical aspects of editing, and collaboration.

Karl Hirsch- Editor

Karl Hirsch is an award-winning picture editor, post-production supervisor, and trailer producer/editor. His boutique post-production company, HirschFilm, opened in 2003.

Karl has worked on films such as For the Love of Money (James Caan, Oded Fehr, Edward Furlong, Delphine Chaneac), Officer Down (Sherilyn Fenn, Casper Van Dien), Fist of the Warrior (Ho-Sung Pak, Peter Greene, Michael Dorn), The Third Wish (Betty White, Jenna Mattison, Armand Assante), Frame of Mind (Chris Noth, Tony LoBianco, Barbara Barrie).  His films have been released by Lionsgate, Echo Bridge Entertainment, Phase-4 Films, Freestyle Media, Lifetime Television, Movieola, FunnyOrDie.com, Mini-Movie Channel, and Warner Brothers Video-On-Demand.

Other editing and post-production credits include Stuart Gordon’s King of the Ants, starring Daniel Baldwin and Kari Wuhrer; Paul Carafotes’ Club Soda, starring James Gandolfini, Joe Mantegna and Louis Gossett Jr.; bio-fuel documentary feature Gashole: Killer Movie, starring Kaley Cuoco and Paul Walker; The Tub, starring Melora Hardin and Dedee Pfeiffer; and HBO Films’ If These Walls Could Talk 2.

Karl has also produced and edited hundreds of trailers, promos and sizzle reels.  Recent work includes Lasse Hallström’s Hachi: A Dog’s Story, starring Richard Gere; 2nd Take, starring Sarah Jones and Tom Everett Scott; theatrical advertisements for the documentary screening series Something to Talk About; Smother (Liv Tyler & Diane Keaton) for Inferno and Variance Films; Jim Isaac’s action/thriller Pig Hunt; and promotional material for The Grammy Awards.  He has also produced sizzle reels for musical acts Il Divo, Bowling For Soup, and Good Charlotte.  Karl was nominated for a Golden Trailer Award in 2002, and was a Telly Award winner in 2008 and 2010.  The short thriller Clown was awarded “Best Editing” by the International Sci-Fi and Horror Film Festival in October 2005.

Karl is also a producer of English dubs of foreign-language features.  Credits include Gen (Turkey), Wolfhound (Russia), and the animated features Goat Story (Czech Republic) and Space Dogs 3D (Russia). Karl’s client roster includes Inferno Entertainment, Epic Pictures, The Recording Academy (The Grammys), Yahoo!, KidZania, Octagon Worldwide, Brainstorm Media, Siegel+Gale, Helio/Virgin Mobile, Future Engine, THINKFilm, VMI Worldwide, and Cutler Enterprises.  He was featured in Paul Osborne’s documentary feature Official Rejection, and in Kim Adelman’s book The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Making Short Films. He has guest-lectured at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, Film Independent in Los Angeles, and has spoken on film festival panels in Victoria BC, Austin, and Phoenix.

Karl and his wife Lauren have written three monster movies together, made a short film about hiccups, and are currently producing a series of childrens radio plays.

Film Method Hosts

For more information about the Film Method hosts, please visit the About page.

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

Film Method Hosts

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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

Film Method Hosts

For more information about the Film Method hosts, please visit the About page.

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.

Q: Do you believe everyone has to “make their bones” and work for free?

October 18, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q:  Paying your dues, i.e. Working for free (Copy/Meal/Credit if you’re lucky) is a well established part of getting into the film industry. I’m curious about your thoughts on that practice, specifically in regards to the recent class action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight by Alex Footman and Eric Glatt for their unpaid internships on the film, Black Swan. Do you believe everyone has to “make their bones” and work for free? Do people who are paid work better than those who are there for the experience only? Do Footman and Glatt have any ground to stand on?

Mike J. – Lincoln, NE

Wow, we are getting good questions lately.  I love it!  I love this one in particular because it allows me to warn people ahead of time that when you come to LA (even if you’ve been here before and come back) you are going to have to work for free for a while in order to establish yourself. It’s just a fact of this business.

This business is so intense with the 12+ hour work days, working in close proximity, and the large amounts of money spent in such a short burst of time (even if it seems small on paper, it’s still a large amount of blood, sweat and tears). It makes this business different from a typical company. Because it is so intense, you don’t have the luxury of hiring someone and trying them out only to let them go if it doesn’t work out. Sure, the interning thing is about paying your dues, but it’s really more about filmmakers being able to vet people before getting caught up in a lot of paperwork. There are a lot of people in this business and yet it is a really small community. It’s important to look at it this way, if you were a producer crewing up a project, would you choose to hire and pay for someone that you just met with a bunch of projects on their resume that you don’t know from Adam? Or, would you choose to hire someone who is new, but has worked for you in the past, shown up, been enthusiastic while doing his/her job and is trust worthy and reliable? I’m going to say that you will choose the latter. Since there are so many variables when making a film, you want to be strategic about choosing the most responsible production crew to position yourself for the best possible film shoot. So, expect to work for free and frankly work just as hard if not harder when you’re working for free because your reputation will proceed itself and you will get paid jobs faster than those who are not willing to work for free.

Now on to this lawsuit, to which I say, are you kidding me?  This lawsuit makes me so angry. The plaintiffs in this case have done themselves (and other potential interns) such a disservice by being greedy and taking NO responsibility for their own choices. Now, I don’t know all the details of the lawsuit so if they had it in their contracts that they would get paid if the movie sold, that’s another story. BUT, if it is a straight up internship then they need to take responsibility for the fact that they said YES and CHOSE to do the internship for FREE. Just because the movie did well doesn’t mean that should change.  Besides that, how many people starting out in this business would have died to have a film like BLACK SWAN on their resume? I know I would have. They were a part of a film that people actually know the name of. They could have taken personal responsibility for the fact that they agreed to be non-paid interns on this film and parlayed that into paid work. Instead they are wasting everyone’s time by suing AND making producers nervous about bringing on interns in the future.

To sum it up, you should expect to work for free (think of it as free film school) and do it happily. It will NOT be forever so know when you are at the point of taking the next step to saying no to unpaid work. Learn to network with those you are working with so that you will get brought on to future project. And, most importantly, take responsibility for your choices. If you don’t want to work for free on a particular project, say no. Don’t say yes and then sue them later. That’s just irresponsible.

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