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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Q: How does one go about getting film production insurance and what are the costs to consider when budgeting for an indie film?
Ferdinand via twitter @filmmethod
There are several places to go for film production insurance. The thing you have to make sure you understand is that production insurance is a very specific type of insurance and most insurance companies don’t carry it. So, if you are filming something outside of a state that is used to having films there, they probably won’t have it. You can get it from a state outside of the one you are shooting in and it will cover it.
I recommend talking to filmmakers who have gotten insurance before and see who they like and contact that agency. Don’t be afraid to ask for a quote during the budgeting process, in fact, that is the best way to do it. I would get a quote while budgeting from a few different companies, for budgeting purposes, pick the highest quote and then add a little more money to that line item just to make sure you can cover yourself incase the prices change between the time of budgeting and filming. Also, production insurance is not the same as work comp so be aware of that. If you go through a payroll company, they will usually have work comp that you can get through them for a percentage.
You are going to need (at minimum) a policy that covers up to a million dollars on equipment and locations. Most equipment rental companies will expect that and so will most locations. You also need to make sure you understand that most insurance claims have a deductable per claim. For example, if you break a light and you damage someone’s property at the same time, that’s two separate claims. Therefore, the deductable will need to be paid twice. So, budget in there for a few claims just in case. Also, some of these policies don’t cover auto. So, if you need to rent a grip truck, be aware of this.
When you do find the insurance company with the best policy for your shoot you should be prepared to show them your script and fill out a form that may seem a little strange to you. They do this so that you can’t lie when applying for insurance. For example, if you have animals, guns, stunts (even if it’s just one person falling down), etc., that will change your policy quote. Don’t lie on your application just to save a few bucks because it’s not worth it. Because if they find out you did have a dog on set and you didn’t tell them, they can legally deny your claim because it voids your policy.
Oh and don’t forget about E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance while you’re budgeting. This is an insurance that you will need to get once the film is completed. You can get quotes on that in the budgeting process as well.
Don’t be afraid of the insurance process, it is there to protect you. Your best bet is to get the quotes early so you have budgeted enough to cover what you need.
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.
Q: Any thoughts on asking talent, etc. for Letters of Interest? They’re non-binding, right? It seems like they can allow both you and the talent to test the waters a bit, while having something interesting to tell investors about. Thoughts?
Aydrea (via the comments section on the Film Method Mailbag)
Thanks for reading my September 12th post, “Do you approach investors first or talent first?” In regard to getting letters of interest, I need to first differentiate. A letter of interest is not the same as a letter of attachment. Many filmmakers use the two terms as if they are the same. They are not. One means they are interested in the film for any number of reasons, but are not formally “attached” to the project. The other means they are attached to the project which means they have a contract in place stating they will receive X once the funds are raised. Because so many filmmakers do not understand the difference, agents, managers and talent are hesitant to do letters of interest. A letter of interest is non-binding, yes. But, the talent knows that you will be using their name to raise capital and therefore, some feel they should be compensated for that. In addition, the non-binding part can come back and bite them in the butt because the filmmaker could use their name to gain interest but then not actually use them in the film (rare but it happens) and then they don’t see a dime and their name gets somewhat watered down. Also, for filmmakers you want to think long and hard about who you are going to get these letters from because if you go out and get a letter from a lesser known actor/actress and that person is the reason the investor wants to put money in then along comes Brad Pitt or someone bigger, you may not be legally bound to the original talent, but you are going to be bound through the expectations you have set up with your investor.
Like with any aspect of the filmmaking process, there are pros and cons. You as, an intelligent and responsible producer or filmmaker need to be able to weigh those pros and cons before you get yourself into a situation that isn’t all that peachy.
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.
Q: What is your dream job for producing?
Deloris H., Buena Vista Florida
Wow, it’s so nice of you to ask. Honestly, my dream project tends to change from time to time. I will say this, though, my dream project regardless of the content or the medium would be to have a cast and crew that are excited about the project. To have a filmmaker that is honest and realistic about what the project is (i.e., they know that it’s not going to win an academy award if it’s a slasher film…which I don’t want to do anyway). To have a group of people that love what they do, realize it’s not brain surgery, and are having fun. To have a crew that really likes each other, respects each other and knows what each other’s job is. I just like to make people smile, whether it’s through the process of actually making the film/TV show or by making a comedy that makes people laugh while watching it.
Thanks so much for asking, I really appreciate it.
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.
Producer Jenna Edwards answers all your questions about filmmaking including pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. Send your questions to email@example.com.
Jenna Edwards’ Bio
Jenna began her film career in the late 1990s as an actor. She has worked in many areas in film including acting, talent representation, crew and made the move to producing in 2008 where on her first feature film as a producer (April Showers) she learned not only the ins and outs of producing, but also distribution and marketing. Jenna has since produced several more features and is a producing teacher at New York Film Academy. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her experiences and answer filmmaker’s questions through the Film Method Mailbag.
Q: If you’re a writer/producer what’s the first hire you should make in terms of getting a project financed and started?
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: 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!