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.

Episode Ninety-Eight: Film Music

January 25, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

Background Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Film Method Hosts

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

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

Episode Ninety-Seven: Tom Vaughan On Writing

January 18, 2012 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

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.

Film Method Hosts

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

Networking in L.A.

December 12, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: I’m new to LA and everyone is always talking about going to networking parties but I feel uncomfortable.

Billie M, Los Angeles

With the holidays upon us, it’s an opportune time to network as there are parties galore. But, if you are living in Los Angeles (and I’m sure this rings true in other places, just on a smaller scale) there are networking opportunities daily all year around. It’s really important that you get out there and meet people in your industry. It’s an industry built on who you know after all. A few tips to keep in mind:

1. Always have business cards. There is no excuse not to have a business card and if you don’t have them, people may not take you as seriously. If you don’t put what you do on the card, make sure you are able to write on the card so that you or the person you’re talking to can write it down.
2. Don’t be afraid of networking. When I first came to LA, I thought networking was so slimy and impersonal until I realized that it’s really all about getting to meet people. Don’t go into it thinking “what can that person do for me”, go into it thinking “what can I do for them” or “cool, I get meet a new person”. If your intentions are good, you will usually have a good time.
3. If you are bad at meeting and talking to people, practice! It is part of your job to interact with people. You are in a collaborative field after all.
4. Invite a friend along who is good at networking and pay attention.
5. Have Fun! It’s contagious and who doesn’t want to be around someone who is having fun?

I hope you are successful at meeting new people, welcome to LA and Happy Holidays!

Getting to Know You: 5 Ways to Introduce Characters

December 8, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Writing Method

December 8, 2011

Time is precious in a screenplay, so you want to get as much contextual information (not expositional information) out as quickly as possible. In order to understand your story, the audience will need to know a decent amount about each character’s personality almost immediately.

The wrong way to do this is to have another character provide spoken exposition like the following. Imagine this scene is the first scene in a movie.

INT. AMANDA’S OFFICE – DAY

AMANDA (30s) sits at her desk. Co-worker DARCI enters.

DARCI
Hey Amanda, since you are too busy and shy to meet anyone since your recent and painful breakup from Mark who works downstairs, I thought I’d invite you to a party tonight. You’ll probably freak out at all the people there since you have social anxiety, but I want to help you since I know that deep down, you really do want to connect with someone.

You will not want to watch the rest of this movie.

The dialogue above is boring, on the nose and takes all the fun out of discovering who a character is.

Following are are five effective ways to introduce your characters to the audience without spelling it out for them. Imagine each example describes the first time we see a character in a movie and notice how much information you can learn without having someone directly say who the character is, what they care about or what they want.

We’ll look at each method with the following characters:
Johnna is a focused and dedicated athlete.
Terri is a fiery and successful politician.
Amanda is sweet, shy and kind of a loner.

Show the character in a situation or environment where they are comfortable.
A character’s positive or relaxed reaction to their environment will tell the audience that this is where they belong, that these are the things that make them happy and, per screenplay logic, the world that will be yanked out from under them later in the movie. You could get a lot of mileage by showing:

Johnna:
• Happily crossing the finish line of a race many seconds ahead of the other competitors.
• Tossing yet another medal onto a pile of trophies
• Doing an ordinary task in an incredibly athletic way.

Terri:
• Shaking hands at an election event
• Posing for pictures in front of festive bunting
• Hotly debating her barista Lincoln-Douglas style over the benefits of soy vs. nonfat milk in their coffee and earning thunderous applause for her position.

Amanda:
• Happily making a reservation for one at a restaurant
• Engrossed in a book in the company break room while everyone around her chats with each other.
• Doing yoga, bird watching or a crossword on her secluded back porch

Show the character in a situation where they are uncomfortable
By showing us what makes a character uncomfortable, we get a different, but equally as informative view on who they are. You would learn a lot about our characters by seeing:

Johnna:
• Frustratedly coaching beginning athletes who are unable to keep up with her regimen
• Slowly walking a 10K for charity with her aging grandfather.
• Arguing with a teacher who doesn’t believe in ranking students by giving them grades, scores or competitions

Terri:
• Working with a deaf coworker who can’t hear her ranting
• Getting restless at a stoic, quiet event like a funeral or classical music performance
• Yelling at the TV while members of the opposing political party are talking about perfectly reasonable points.

Amanda:
• Breaking into a cold sweat while trying to give a speech
• Getting startled when strangers politely speak to her on the street
• Trying to hide on a cramped bus full of her rowdy family on their way to a reunion.

Show Us the Character’s Environment
It’s not always necessary to use other characters or dialogue to help define your character. An audience could get a pretty good idea of who they’re about to meet if they see:

Johnna:
• A state of the art gym
• An extensive trophy collection
• A race track just after a race with foot prints and an awards podium still on the field.

Terri:
• A campaign office filled with posters
• A line of cars in a motorcade
• The UN building

Amanda
• A simple and sparsely furnished home
• A hidden garden, beach or park
• The exterior of an office building with only one office light on

Show Us an Object Meaningful to the Character
Almost everyone has an item or two in their possession that defines or illustrates who they are. Giving these kinds of objects to characters helps define and illustrate them for audiences. Imagine what people might learn if they see these characters holding, looking at, putting away or taking out:

Johnna:
• A gold medal
• Well-worn boxing gloves, baseball mitts or knee pads
• A leg brace that she puts on reluctantly

Terri:
• An historic coin
• A picture of her with the President
• A newspaper with a scandalous headline

Amanda:
• A nearly full journal
• A pair of state of the art noise-cancelling headphones that she keeps at work
• A thank you note written on and sealed in beautiful stationery.

Make the Character’s First Line of Dialogue in the Script Emblematic
The first thing a character says should tell us something about them. Instead of just taking up space in the scene, that first line of dialogue should pull the audience into the character’s point of view immediately. Here are some examples of lines that might do that.
Johnna
• “What do you mean I didn’t win?”
• “I’m only on mile 67, I’ll have to call you back.”
• “I don’t walk cramps off, I scare them off.”
Terri
• “I think I’d prefer them to call me ‘Mr.’ President.”
• “While I appreciated the arguments presented, you may still not attend the sleepover as our family vacation will take precedence.”
• “If he says yes to the bill send a flower basket or beer of the month membership or something. If he says no send him to hell.”
Amanda
• “No…but thank you! I appreciate it, but I shouldn’t…can’t…. I have a … thing…”
• “Can I get three tickets for this flight in a row together…No, just one passenger.”
• Opens her mouth to talk, but can’t get words out—only quiet squeaks. Her coworkers walk away uncomfortably.

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.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

November 29, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

November 29, 2011

A good producer knows his/her strengths and more importantly, they know their weaknesses.  Why do I think knowing your weaknesses is more important than knowing your strengths?  I don’t if you really think about it, because, knowing your weaknesses is a huge strength.  It allows you to fill in the gaps creating a stronger team and therefore a stronger production.

When I first started, I didn’t know the first thing about giving script notes. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like and was very good at pointing out what I didn’t like. But I was not good at pointing out why I didn’t like something. Because I knew my weaknesses, I was able to find producers who were strong in the area of script notes. Through surrounding myself with others who had that skill set, I was able to learn and develop my own skills at giving script notes. If someone were to come up to me right now and ask me what my weaknesses were, I would be able to list them right now.  But, then I would also be able to tell them who I have surrounded myself with to balance those weaknesses out.

We are all imperfect and no one is good at everything, therefore, it is important for you to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to fill in the gaps.

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.

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5 Things to Remember Before You Write Your First Screenplay

November 22, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Writing Method

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!

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