Support From Start To Finish: Go To Hell

November 4, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Support from Start to Finish

November 4, 2011

After making over a dozen short films, the Vegan Cannibals are gearing up for a full feature film, Go To Hell. Fans of their work know their style as outrageous, visually striking, sometimes gory but always entertaining and thought-provoking.

Their short ‘The Diary of Anne Frank of the Dead was a hit on the horror film festival circuit, taking Best Short Short Film at the DragonCon International Film Festival 2008 and was chosen by Dread Central (www.DreadCentral.com) as one of 8 Short Films to Die For in 2009.

Rationed, a suspenseful, thriller won Best Picture at the Inland Empire 48 Hour Film Project 2009 and went on to place 3rd overall in the International competition.  It was selected to play at Cannes International Film Festival in 2010. And is currently being featured on www.ScariestMoviesOnline.com.

Go To Hell is written by Emerson Bixby (writer of Disturbed) and directed Scott Baker.  It follows groups of individuals as their story lines converge in a demonically possessed old movie theater. Featuring non-stop horror-comedy action, it is sure to please any horror hound and fan of outrageous cinema.

The Vegan Cannibals are independently producing the film so as not to be constrained by the oversight of studios or investors, enabling them to make the film true to their vision. They are reaching out to the horror community and lovers of independent cinema to help them fund their project.  Through Kickstarter (Go To Hell Kickstarter Page) they are looking to raise the intial funds necessary to build the FX and start the production. They are offering incentives to those willing to donate and are appreciative of any help.

Further information about the Vegan Cannibals can be found on their site www.VeganCannibals.com and you can follow director Scott Baker on Twitter @MrScottyBaker.

Scott Baker, a native of Northern California, received a degree in History from Sonoma State University and served in the United States Peace Corps from 2000-2001 in Turkmenistan.  He co-founded Vegan Cannibals Productions with Philip Stimmell in 2002.  Their first film, Brunch of the Dead was a feature-length zombie-comedy. Since re-locating to Riverside they have done several award-winning short films, including Rationed which screened at the 2010 Cannes Short Film Corner and 2 episodes for their new series Findings (think Ghosthunters meets Reno911!). Scott’s film Rationed was 2nd runner-up in the world finals of 48 Hour Film Project, aka, Filmapalooza as part of the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The film was also selected for a showcase at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival (Short Film Corner Marche du Film).

Episode Eighty-Eight: Selling Your Film

October 12, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

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.

The Film Collaborative Website

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Episode Eighty-Seven: Music in Film

October 5, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

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.

Susan’s Website

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.”

Spaeth Music

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Q: What are some ways I can maximize my educational opportunity…

September 27, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

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.

What happens in your movie? Both TO the character and IN the character?

September 20, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Writing Method

What happens in your movie? Both TO the character and IN the character?

When developing a story for a screenplay, you need to make sure that you’re considering both the physical action of the story and the character’s emotional arc. It can be easy to favor one over the other or to neglect one altogether.

I had these conversations with clients recently. Some specifics have been changed to protect the property, but apart from that, here’s how it went.

#1

Me: So tell me about your movie.

Client: Well, it’s set in 1715 on the coast in Japan. It’s about these four women. One’s an acrobat—she has a famous father, one’s an immigrant—her parents were killed in a car crash, one’s an architect—she also loves poetry and one’s a domestic worker who’s about to get engaged.

Me: Okay, so what happens?

Client: Well, they all deal with their lives and they learn to be stronger people.

Me: But what happens?

Client: Well, like the acrobat wonders if she should be following in the family business. The domestic worker wonders if she should really marry this guy—

Me: Okay. But what happens?

#2

Me: So tell me about your movie.

Client: Well, this guy finds out that the material that will save his cat is under the ground in his neighbor’s yard. So first, he calls up the vet, but the thing is the vet is actually a “vet”—like he went to war—so he gets all weird and says that he’ll help him, but only if the guy first helps avenge the death of his fellow soldiers. So the guys go and do that and it turns out that the guy who the vet wants the guy to kill is actually his neighbor, so the guy thinks that’s great because now he can get the mineral that’s in the neighbor’s yard, but the neighbor paves over the entire yard and then the guy’s wife is dying, so the one guy can’t kill the other guy unless he kills the wife too, so he has to go track her down so that he can get them both in the same place and he and the vet go on the road together. So it’s like a buddy comedy with an assassin angle.

Me: Okay. So what happens?

Both of these pitches leave out a key element. The first told us quite a bit about the characters…but lacked plot. The second had the opposite problem.

When developing an idea for a script, your story should have both elements. There should be action and events that your character initiates and deals with. There should also be an emotional transformation as well. Ideally, these two threads are related.

Here are some wildly random examples from real life:

Wall Street

Plot: An up and coming stock broker gets a chance to make millions working for his idol.

Emotion: Once after money, fame and power, Bud learns that what he really wants is his moral fiber and his father’s respect.

The Shawshank Redemption

Plot: A man escapes from prison.

Emotion: A man used to just taking life as it was dealt to him learns to stand up for himself,  takes charge of his life and escape physical as well as emotional captivity.

The Change Up

Plot: Two men switch bodies.

Emotion: Best friends come to respect each other while more deeply appreciating their own lives.

The King’s Speech

Plot: A man hires a tutor to fix his speech impediment.

Emotion: A prince who believes he does not deserve the honor of being king overcomes his lack of confidence to accept the throne and lead his country during its most difficult hour.

Inception

Plot: A man is hired to go inside a someone’s dream and change his mind.

Emotion: A man must come to terms with the death of his wife…while still seeing her spirit every day at work.

Without the emotional layer, the plots sound kind of boring. And without the action of the plot, the emotions sound kind of schmaltzy. But put them together and you have movie magic!

Well, maybe not with The Change Up, but you get what I’m saying.

Here’s how the first pitch might sound if a plot were added.

Client: Well, it’s set in Japan, 1715. Four women decide that since the country still has a ban on Western literature, they’re going to form an underground book club. They work to smuggle books across the country, teach other women English and hide their meetings from the authorities. The work affects them all differently and as they read stories, they each begin to rewrite the story of their own lives. One realizes that her family’s business is a worthwhile career choice. One realizes that she must break off her wedding. One finally gets up the nerve to publish her own book. And one adopts a child to create the family she didn’t think she deserved.

Now we know the plot of the story: Four friends form a secret club.

And some sense of the emotional through line: By taking a risk, stifled people learn to open up.

The second could be helped like this:

Client: Well, it’s about guy who’s afraid to interact with people so he loves his pet cat more than anything else. In fact, he hates humanity as much as he loves his cat. He hates people so much that when he learns that the only way to save his cat’s life is to kill 2-3 people, he’s willing to do it; so he plans and trains to be hit man. But when he begins to develop relationships with his tutors (the girl who teaches him how to fire a weapon, the guy who helps him get fitted for Kevlar, etc.) he learns that people aren’t so bad after all and faces a tough choice between his cat and his new friends.

Plot: Angry guy becomes a hit man to save his pet’s life.

Emotion: Shy guy learns to connect with people.

Your script will need both of these elements in order to register with audiences. Explosions and plot twists are fun, but it’s the emotion tying it all together that makes it meaningful and memorable.

Q: Do you approach investors first or talent first?

September 12, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

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.

Support from Start to Finish: Big Voice

September 8, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Support from Start to Finish

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.

Episode Eighty-Three: Directing with Varda Hardy

September 7, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

As we near the end of the production season we circle back to the topic of directing. Varda Hardy started in this industry as a script supervisor and worked steadily until she made the switch to directing five years ago. Varda recently won $100,000 for her 1 minute film about Los Angeles for the On Location: The Los Angeles Video Project. Varda’s Kickstarter campaign for her new documentary Big Voice is the focus of this month’s Support from Start to Finish feature this month.

Varda Hardy- Writer/Director/Producer

I was born in London, England.  A year after I was born, my parents moved to Israel where my father served in the army.  My mother is South African and my father is Romanian.  He had moved to Israel to escape the communist take-over of his native land. My mother was on holiday in Israel when she fell instantly in love with the young soldier–my father.  I fell in love with “the movies” one summer night in Israel when I caught sight of A Man and A Woman screening at a drive-in theater nearby my window.

Following six years in Israel, my mother brought my older sister and I back to England where we remained for several years until we moved to San Francisco.  It was in San Francisco that I started to make my own 8mm movies with a camera my 8th grade English teacher Mr. Mohan lent to me. He believed that there is different kind of learners and some people learn best by making things…like movies.  He was right about me.  I love to make things, especially movies.  I lose myself in the creative process, the germs of ideas bubbling up like and catching on fire like lava rising from the mysterious inner earth.

Following San Francisco came a short stay in Los Angeles and then we were off to the “big apple”.  I went to High School at Dalton New York City, where I fell in love with dance and theater.  Then I went to Cornell University where I re-discovered my passion for filmmaking under the tutelage of Cultural Anthropology Professor Robert Asher.  Like Mr. Mohan, Prof. Asher believed in alternative forms of learning and expression.  He encouraged me to pick up an old super-8 camera to create a report instead of writing it.  I went to NYU for a semester where a screening of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now got under my skin.  That’s when I knew I would pursue directing.

I studied directing at Cornell University, received my MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, worked as an assistant director and then script supervisor of numerous film projects both for television and theatrical until about five years ago when I shifted into directing.  My husband Patrick S. Bennett and I are enjoying raising two lovely daughters Paloma and Raven, the rest is icing on the cake.

On Location: The Los Angeles Video Project
Varda’s Website
Varda Hardy on Facebook
Live Tribe Productions

Q: If you’re a writer/producer what’s the first hire you should make in terms of getting a project financed and started?

August 23, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

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: What’s the first step in the process of acquiring the rights to adapt a film from a book?

August 12, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: What’s the first step in the process of acquiring the rights to adapt a film from a book?  Do you need to do it even for a short film that may only see festivals?

Trevor S., Lincoln Nebraska

The first step is finding out who represents or owns the property (book, story, article, etc.).  You can do this (typically) by looking at the book’s cover and finding the publisher, then you go to your computer and google said publisher in order to get a phone number, email or mailing address.  Then you make a call, write a letter or send an email inquiring about who owns the rights to the story.  This can be a lengthy process so make sure you plan ahead.  Once you find out who owns the property, you will go through the above process with that person/entity again.  If the owner of the property likes your pitch and wants to move forward there is a completely different process involving many, many negotiations and contract points that I would not recommend doing alone so I implore you to contact a lawyer at that step.  If it is a well known property there will, more likely that not, be several lawyers, agents, managers and publishers as well as the author all chiming in during the negotiation.  It can be quite overwhelming, but just know that you are not the first to do this, nor will you be the last so be patient and keep your eye on the prize.  If it’s a smaller property then you may only be in contact with the author, I would still recommend that you contact a lawyer and get them to sign off on any deal you make with the author.  Better safe than sorry and these contracts can get tricky.  If it is for a short film, you still need to get permission for several reasons.  1.  This property is still owned by someone else and you can be sued.  2.  There’s nothing worse than working really hard on a project, getting it done, getting it into festivals and then having someone pull it because you do not have the right to make it in the first place.  3.  You never know what is going to come of your short film.  There are plenty of ways out there now that you can distribute short film content (some of which pay), but you can’t distribute content that you do not have the rights to.

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