Today, I am not going to answer a question, instead I am going to talk about something that really made me frustrated. This week someone posted a really not nice comment on Facebook about how if this person gets asked to support a crowd funding campaign for film, they automatically know that said film is not going to be professional in look and in treatment of the crew. There were some other just plain idiotic comments in this post as well but I really wanted to focus on two things in regard to this.
1. That is a bunch of malarkey! Depending on the scope of your project, crowd funding can be an amazing way to raise money for it. I do not recommend trying to raise millions of dollars, but who is to say that wouldn’t work as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not used crowd funding to fund any of my projects, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t and I know plenty of people who have and their sets were run professionally and their projects looked fantastic. Some even got great distribution deals. So, if you are going to go out and raise money via crowd funding, I say go for it! The key is to know your project and raise enough funds in order to make the experience for the crew and cast enjoyable, make sure you can get the equipment, locations, cast, crew, etc that will make your project look great, treat everyone with respect and gratitude and by all means, let them know what they are getting in to before they sign up. If they are aware up front of the scope of the project and you have done your best to set yourself up to succeed then there should be no reason the cast and crew wouldn’t be happy to work on it.
2. The most frustrating thing about this person’s post (aside from the discouraging manner in which he wrote it) is that this person is a consultant for producers. To my knowledge, this person has not produced anything! He does not have an IMDb page to speak of (yes, I understand that not all films get put on IMDb but it is the job of the producer to get those credits up there) and whenever you ask this person what they do, they are very vague and they change the subject and just say that they are a consultant. I do not want to discourage anyone from doing what they love and if consulting is what this person loves, then great. BUT, I do discourage fraud and at this point, that’s how I feel about what this person is doing. For all of you just starting in the business, please do not say you are a producer, writer, director, editor, etc., until you have done that job. I know, this may sound harsh and it is counter intuitive for those of us who have always been told to own what we are doing. But, you can say, “I am an aspiring producer, writer, director, etc” or “I am studying to be a producer, writer, director, etc”. Then get out there and make a short film, music video, web series, something that allows you to have done said job. Then you can claim that title. Don’t start giving discouraging advice on jobs you haven’t done. This business is tough enough and I can’t stand it when people make discouraging comments on things they don’t know about. I may be harsh in my advice sometimes, but it is always coming from a place of love and encouragement. Keep pursuing your dreams and never give up. If it’s your true passion, then it will be yours one day. Be patient and don’t put the cart before the horse and by all means, crowd fund away if that’s what you want to do.
Q: How do you make a budget?
Carla M., Gainesville Florida
I always say, “the budget is the script for a producer”. Meaning, without a budget the producer cannot do their job effectively. Making a budget is a very creative process. It’s kind of like writing a script. When you first start to make budgets there will be a lot of research involved. You will need to make phone calls and look online for quotes and the cost of certain things in the budget. Once you’ve done a few budgets, you have less research, but there is always some research involved. Then when you get those quotes, you will need to use those numbers to fill the budget in. Like writing a script, the process of making a budget is different for everyone. You need to know the parameters: How much money can likely be raised? How many shoot days? What SAG agreement do you fall under? What level of crew can we afford? Are you making a movie with friends and neighbors? Where are you shooting? How many locations, cast members, scripts days, etc? For me, once I know these parameters and I’ve filled in the budget for the first time, I tend to need to process it. It is usually well over what I want it to be so I then go back and start dwindling it down. Sometimes, I need to leave it alone for a day and just let it sit in my head and I’ll come up with a creative solution to the budgeting issues I’m having. The thing to remember is that the budget is an ever-changing thing. For example; you will find that someone on the production team knows someone who can get something in the art department’s wish-list for free that you had budgeted at $100 but that the grip equipment you thought was going to cost you $50 is actually $150 and so you move the money for the art department into the grip department. The budget is constantly changing so remember that it’s a guide and don’t get too stuck on where you put the money initially. You must be able to see the big picture and stay within your total budget cost while being flexible within those parameters. Measure twice and cut once as they say. Make sure you’ve done enough research that you can confidently say you can make the film for the amount in the budget. There’s nothing worse than not being able to finish because of budgeting incorrectly.
Q: How do you entice/pitch to sponsors/product placements for your film?
Andy G., – Philadelphia PA
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.