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.
You may have heard it said that sound can make or break a film and wondering how that could be possible. More than likely you’ve seen a low budget movie and known that something wasn’t quite right, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Chances are, the sound was shotty. Shaun Burdick joins us to discuss the different jobs of a sound editor on small and large scale movies.
Shaun Burdick- Sound Editor
Shaun Burdick is a Los Angeles based Sound Designer. A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s MFA program, he got his start working on Jamil Walker Smith’s directorial debut Make a Movie Like Spike… as the film’s Dialogue Editor. For the past ten years he has leant his talents as a designer and mixer to various theatrical productions and independent films around the country. His most recent credits have included Re-recording Mixer on the independent documentary Empty Hand: The Real Karate Kids, Sound Designer for The Night Shift, TV pilot Jalama Beach, Mother’s Red Dress, Of Silence and additional audio design on the video game Supremacy MMA. In February 2011 he was nominated for the MPSE Verna Field Award for his sound design work on the short film En Route. Currently Shaun is serving as the Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer for the independent feature 29000 Wishes. 1 Regret.
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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.
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.
For our last episode of our season about production we bring back the lovely and talented producer and author Eve Light Honthaner. Eve has worked in numerous production offices in the span of multiple years that she’s worked in this industry. We discuss the end of principal photography and transitioning into post-production.
Eve Light Honthaner- Producer/Author/Teacher
Eve’s career in the entertainment industry spans many years, primarily in the field of production management. She’s worked in every capacity from PA to line producer and as a staff production executive, most recently for DreamWorks. She’s worked on shows budgeted anywhere from $1 – $250 million and on projects that have been shot throughout the U.S. and internationally, including Titanic, Just Married and Tropic Thunder.
Eve is the author of The Complete Film Production Handbook and HOLLYWOOD DRIVE: What it Takes to Break in, Hang in & Make it in the Entertainment Industry. And since 1998, she’s combined her many years of practical experience with a love of teaching to help others succeed in this fiercely competitive business.
In addition to the six-week course she teaches at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts each summer, schedule permitting, she does one- and two-day workshops throughout the country.
Eve’s Website- http://evehonthaner.com
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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.
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.
September 7, 2011
This is an exciting week for Film Method! We’ve got tons of new stuff for you including a new episode with director Varda Hardy, new photos from our latest photo shoot, contests and more! A new feature, Writing Method with Aydrea Walden starts this week as well. Poke around the website- we’ve got some new images and new features that you won’t want to miss!
Film Method’s Support from Start to Finish feature focuses on Varda Hardy’s Kickstarter campaign for her musical documentary Big Voice this month.
The contest to win Eve Light Honthaner’s book The Complete Film Production Handbook starts this week as well as the race to get 1,000 Facebook followers. The 1,000th follower will win a 2 hour consult with co-host and producing advisor Jenna Edwards!
Q: How do you interview an AD? How do you know he/she is worth the chance as so much is riding on his/her capability to handle chaos and remain calm?
Jake H. Wahoo Nebraska
It’s interesting because I just did a consultation with one of my students at NYFA the other day about how to choose the right DP for their shoot. So, I am going to make this a general how to interview someone post because I feel that each role on the set is important. Yes, the AD is a super high pressure job and it may seem more important that you get the right AD than getting the right grip or PA, but the truth of the matter is, one person that does not fit within the team could equal disaster for a production.
The key is to know how the producer and director work. So much of being good at these two jobs in particular, is knowing who you are as a person. You need to know this so that you can fill in the holes and make sure to get a balanced crew. You must know what each crew members job in general is so that you can ask for a sample schedule and ask how long it takes them to do a schedule, but the most important question is…how do you like to work. If you know that you like to have a meeting right before the shoot, then after lunch, then at the end of the day and the person you’re interviewing really doesn’t find it necessary and in fact thinks it’s stupid, then they are probably not the right person for you to work with. The thing is, there is not right or wrong way to do the things it takes to make a movie (as long as you’re being ethical) so it’s not a “bad” thing for you to hire people that work the way you do. If you like to laugh and have a lot of fun on set and you are interviewing an AD or DP or anyone for that matter who is sitting across the table from you for like 20 minutes and hasn’t cracked a smile, do you think this person is a good fit for your production? They may be super qualified and really good at their job, but you are going to have to spend a lot of time with them so they may not be the right fit.
If you’re the producer and you know that your director is very internal with his process, it’s probably not a good idea to hire an AD that is an introvert. On the flip side, you know your director is very A.D.D., be honest (and respectful of the director) when you are talking to the AD and tell them what the director is like and ask them how they would handle that. Part of your job as a producer is to be able to see who will work well together and who won’t.
One particular thing to remember when interviewing an AD though, is that their job can be VERY stressful, so make sure that they have a calm demeanor and that they are respectful enough to ask the crew how long it will take to set the shot and that they trust the crew to do their job, but can get them to work efficiently. Above all, TRUST is the word you need to remember when hiring key crew members. Do you trust them to do the job well? Do they trust you to do yours? Do they trust the crew to do theirs?
It can be a tricky process. One last thing I will say on this and it’s a really hard one for new producers and that is, you may have to fire someone. It’s OK as long as it’s because the project or the crew is suffering because this person is on the project. It’s really not a personal thing or an ego thing so make sure that you remember that. One bad apple on set can poison the entire shoot so you’ve got to be able to do what it takes to make sure the process is smooth.