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.
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 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.
November 22, 2011
Q: What should you keep in mind before writing your first screenplay?
Question from EYESthatHEAR on Facebook
1. Screenwriting is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, there are some prodigies who can whip out a perfectly formed first draft, but most professional writers will spend months or even years on a script before they plug every plot hole, smooth every character arc and crystallize every line. Be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
2. You are writing a character’s story, not your story. Even if you are writing a story based on your life or the life of someone you know, you will need to give your character their own existence. They shouldn’t do, feel, think or say things simply because you do, feel, think or say those things. Your character needs their own motivations, reactions, faults and desires.
Even stories about famous people are rewritten for dramatic effect. Most people’s lives don’t naturally fit into a three-act structure, so even if you’re basing the story on a personal story, you will have to embellish or even create some details to make a story work.
3. Structure supports your story. Songwriters need to understand music theory to make songs work. Car designers need to understand engine mechanics so they make sure there’s room for one in their latest concept vehicle. Architects need to understand structural principals so that their buildings don’t fall down. Surgeons need to understand how cells interact with each other so they don’t kill their patients.
The same concept goes for screenwriting. In order to make a story work, you have to understand what the parts of a story are, how they work together, where they should fall and why they’re important. Otherwise, you may have a whole bunch of scenes, but not necessarily a working screenplay.
4. Writing a screenplay, selling a screenplay and producing a screenplay are very different things, so know what your end goal is. If you just want to write for the joy of writing, then have at it. If you want to sell your screenplay, finishing the script is only about 50% of the work—because next you’ll have to make and nurture the connections that will lead to a sale. If you want to produce your screenplay, you should make sure that what you’re writing is within your production capabilities—i.e. unless you have access to lots and lots of capital, maybe figure out another way to do that explosion on the moon sequence.
5. You’re in good company. Writing a screenplay is difficult work, but the good news is that lots of people have done it before you. There are plenty of blogs and websites (like this one) that can give you good, solid advice. There are produced writers (like this one) who can mentor you along the way. And there are hundreds of thousands of movies to watch to keep you inspired and writing!
Q: Now that you have brought on Skye Rentals as a sponsor, you talk about base camp a lot. What is it and why is it so important?
Now that you have brought on Skye Rentals as a sponsor, you talk about base camp a lot. What is it and why is it so important?
Brandie D. St. Louis, MO
I’m glad you asked this question Brandie because I feel like it might be one of those questions that a lot of people don’t know the answer to, but are too afraid to ask. I didn’t know what base camp was until I had done a couple of films early on in my career as an actor.
Base camp is the location or area set up where everyone gathers away from the actual set. It’s like the conference room in an office building if you will. It is the area where you set up your craft service table, have your walkie station, have some tables set up for people to take a seat for a minute, it might be where you hold extras, etc. The reason for base camp is so that you have a place for people to gather when they are not needed on set. If you are shooting at a convenience store for example, you probably wouldn’t have enough room for all of this to be staged inside the building (unless there is an entirely different room) because you will be seeing everything in the shot. So, you would probably set up base camp in the parking area.
Sometimes, base camp is a drive away from where the actual filming is taking place. An example of this would be if you are shooting on a large ranch and power for base camp is near the house on the ranch but your actually filming the scenes off in the woods somewhere, you would set up base camp near the house and drive people to the location where shooting is occurring.
The reason base camp is so important is that this is the area the cast and crew come to eat, check in for the day and get their assignments, have the daily meeting, ask any questions of production they might have, grab their walkies, etc. If you are filming on the side of a road or off in the woods or at a location too small for the entire crew to fit, then you need this area as a gathering place. It is important to have it to keep order and let everyone know what’s going on.
That is what we are talking about when we talk about Skye Rentals. I love these guys because they provide everything you would need to have a successful base camp. I know it sounds silly, but having a table and chairs and some tents or heat lamps makes all the difference in the world to how professional your shoot looks and feels. It may not seem important, but if your crew knows you took enough time to set up a base camp that has at least the basics, they are going to understand that you take your job seriously and they will treat the production a little more professionally and that will show up on screen.
The Sum of All Parts
A fractal is geometric shape that can be broken apart into infinitely smaller versions of itself. They look like this:
They show up in land formations, on some animals, in lightning and in frost patterns. They should show up in your screenplays.
How does a screenplay work like a snowflake, you ask? Well, apart from the fact that it’s unique and its existence requires you to often be cold and transient, the 3-act structure that guides your whole screenplay should also guide each scene.
Your characters should be different at the end of your screenplay than they are at the beginning. At the beginning of your movie, an inciting incident forces the character to act. At the first act turn, they should make a choice that fundamentally changes their trajectory. At the end of the second act, they should, because of their own actions, be at their worst so that they can be redeemed by making a new set of choices through the third act.
Each scene should work this way as well.
The changes and choices will be on a smaller scale, but the same emotional movement should apply.
Your character should be different at the end of each scene than they are at the beginning. If they are not different in some way that means that they’re not changing. And that’s boring. If your character is happy at the beginning of a scene and then, regardless of what happens, is happy at the end of the scene, that indicates that either nothing happened or that your character doesn’t have the ability to react to things that are happening. Also, if your character isn’t changing from scene to scene, then it is unlikely that they will be able to change as a person when you look at the whole screenplay.
Each scene should have an inciting incident—something that makes this scene necessary. Whether your character is answering a phone call, introducing themselves to a new customer or planning how they’re going to jump off a bridge, there must be something new that is happening that your character is reacting to.
Your character should take action. Even if the character chooses to be inactive, the character must do something. The character can choose to answer the phone…or not. They can choose to be nice to the customer, ask the customer a question or throw food in the customer’s face. Or they can use tripadvisor to find the perfect bridge.
Something must happen in each scene that is new or different. The phone call can be from someone unexpected, or from someone expected but who’s delivering unexpected news. The customer can deliver a present, detonate a bomb or propose. All the bridges in the country, your character learns, have been washed away.
Your character must have a physical and emotional reaction. They may hang up the phone, call the police on the customer or decide to start building their own bridge. Whatever they do, they must feel differently at the end of the scene than they did at the beginning. If they were happy before the phone call, they must now be embarrassed or defensive or scared. If they were bored before the customer, they must now be titillated or sad. If they were content before the bridge searching, they must now be determined or vengeful. Whatever the change is, it needs to happen so that the larger change can happen by the end of the screenplay.
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.
It’s hard to imagine a movie without music. Music is one of the key elements in filmmaking and is used to help set the tone of a film as well as supplement emotional arcs of characters. The topic is vast, but we attempt to scratch the surface with composer Paul Spaeth and music manager Susan Thampi. In this episode we discuss budgeting for music, licensing, and working with a composer to score your film.
Susan Thampi- Music Manager
Susan has worked in all areas of the film industry including development, distribution, and both live action and animation production. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Thornton School of music, she got her start in post-production at Kennedy Marshall productions, after selling her couch on craigslist to an executive at Warner Bros. She has worked on over twenty freelance independent productions in various roles including production designer, editor, and producer. She joined DreamWorks Animation in 2009, and was named Music Manager for the studio in January 2011. That same month, she released her first solo classical music album entitled Chanson Boheme, a fusion of opera and world music. She is currently working on the animated feature Puss in Boots for DreamWorks, set to release in theatres on November 4, 2011.
Paul Spaeth- Composer
Paul Spaeth’s soaring yet poignant artistry has inspired admiration from a large and diverse audience. At MP3.com, upon reaching over 1.6 million downloads, Paul Spaeth was recognized as the Top Artist in LA and remained in the Top-Ten of Amazon’s download charts for months.
Evidence of his wide-ranging musical appeal began with winning the Pepsi-Summerfest Talent Search at age 15; as a solo pianist competing against rock bands. Since then, mentors such as Morten Lauridsen (composer-in-residence, LA Master Chorale) and film composer Christopher Young (The Shipping News, Spiderman 3) have praised Spaeth for his “innate talent” and rare melodic sensitivity.
Paul Spaeth rides the line between silver screen, stage, and concert hall with resounding success. Spaeth’s work in cinema has premiered at such prestigious film festivals as Toronto, Monaco, Naples, and Montreal. Since the premiere of his first orchestral piece at age 17, his award-winning concert works have been recorded by some of the leading artists of his generation. Spaeth’s artistry has inevitably attracted high-profile producers, agents and multi-platinum songwriters, and in 2003 he won the Recording Academy’s Grammy Scholarship Award.
Paul Spaeth attributes his success to his philosophy of the “numinous experience in music”: a clarity and directness that draws individuals to an intensely personal experience. As said by one listener, “The subtleties strike us honestly, driving to the core of who and what we are.”
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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.
Have you ever thought of everything that goes into creating the whole look of a film? We’ve brought in three experts to tell you all about it. From the placement of the actors, to the set dressing, props, costumes and make-up- all of these matter when deciding what’s going to be in frame.
Oneita Parker- Costume Designer
Oneita Parker has been designing costumes for film, television, commercials, music videos, and theatre productions for more than a decade with zeal and excitement found in everything she creates. Oneita got her start in Hollywood designing costumes for several award-winning short films that toured the festival circuit. Oneita has gone on to design costumes for several award-winning features that have also received theatrical release all over the world. Many times she has been blessed to work with such amazing talents as Samuel L. Jackson, Mink Stoll, Angela Bassett, Jazmine Guy, Courtney Vance, Don Cheadle, Corbin Bernson, Piper Perabo, and Catherine Heigle to name a few. She has worked with such great directors as Mark Webb, JJ Abrahms, Jamie Babbitt, Q. Alan Brocka, and Rosser Goodman among others. Oneita Parker got her start in the rag trade catapulting herself into college a week after high school, to pursue her dreams of being a fashion designer at FiDM in San Francisco. After a year of straight A’s it was either Los Angeles or New York. She chose New York and continued her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in fashion design and textiles. Oneita Parker currently lives in Los Angeles with her lovely wife and three cats.
Charles Haine- Director of Photography
Charles Haine is a ﬁlmmaker/entrepreneur who has been working in the motion picture industry since 1999. After completely his MFA from USC in 2005, he has worked as a freelance director, cinematographer and colorist. Since founding Dirty Robber in 2008, he has worked tirelessly to grow the company, expand it’s infrastructure and provide cost effective resources including arrange the deal behind their no-cost ofﬁce space, and recruiting talented staff. As a colorist he has worked with Radical Media, 47 Pictures, Boxer Films, Arclight ﬁlms and many others for clients including Ford, Jeep, Honda, Mcdonalds, Burger King, AMC, St. Jude’s Hospital, and many others, including several feaures, and numerous music videos. As a director of photography has has shot three feature ﬁlms, his most recent receiving distribution through Lion’s Gate, and has shot commercials, music videos, industrials and several short ﬁlms. He also is an associate professor at Los Angeles City College teaching cinematographer and editing, and he teaches color grading, visual design and stereography at Columbia College Hollywood.
Michael Fitzgerald- Production Designer
After growing up in theater in Santa Cruz, California, Michael Fitzgerald moved to LA to attend UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, & TV. One of his first jobs was creating Cuba in LA for Josh Evan’s “Che,” where only a theater nerd would make with a tobacco plant out of lettuce, rope, paint and palm leaves. Michael has created visual stories for directors including a hippie commune and teen punk world for Adam Sherman’s “Happiness Runs,” skate ramps, clubhouses, & a con man abode in Cosmo Segursons “Nic and Tristan, Go Mega Dega,” a bachelor pad loft and Seattle News station for Slamdance 2009 hit Blayne Weaver’s “Weather Girl,” Paris apts, Drag bingo, & and Silverlake artist duplex, in Jason Bushman’s “Hollywood Je T’aime,” a creepy house and a game that comes alive for “The Black Waters of Echos Pond,” and the comic book reality for a high school of jocks and geeks in “The Secret Life of Dorks.” Michael had the challenge of building two entire New York apartments from scratch on stage for Slamdance 2010 hit “Four-Faced Liar”. Currently Michael wrapped a 3D version of Fred Figglehorn’s next adventure for Lions Gate and Varsity Pictures and Maya Entertaiment’s “Without Men,” where he created a whole village from scratch starring Eva Longoria and Christian Slater. Michael has also worked on two web series with Rob Pearlstein “Matumbo Goldberg,” with Anthony Anderson and Extreme Office for Samung Galaxy Tabs. And spent the last year on Michael Kristoff’s “Live at the Foxes Den,” with Jackson Rathbone, Elliot Gould, Brian Doyle-Murray, Bob Gunton, and Jocelyn Donahue where he got to create an entire den/lounge from scratch..the Foxes Den!
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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.