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Liam

In a rut / festival tips / actors

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I’m kind of in a rut, I’ll try not to make this too rambling and bitter (in previous drafts it’s been much worse)..

I don’t want to speak too soon, since I’ll be in a film festival this week. But it’s really small, looks like a lot of terrible films going.. Not sure I’ll be making any valuable connections (of course definitely going to give it a try).

First, any advice for how to make the most of this festival? I have a feature film written and ready I believe (should I print up physical copies or better off with a pitch and taking down some emails?).

Other ways to go on from here? This film I was able to do with only me, but that’s not sustainable. I’d love to just be surrounded by like-minded, ambitious friends, but that’s not where I’m at. Find actors on craigslist..? Move to LA? I’m looking at animation (another way to not need anyone), but it’s daunting, to say the least.

I hear the advice every now and then “raise $10,000 and just make your film” - almost a possible amount, but where does that money go? I can’t imagine needing $10,000, and I’d probably still end up with really amateur actors, right..? Since it’s still not much money to anyone half big. So it just sounds pointless.

So um.. Fix me :)

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

If the film industry is anything like the rest of the world (which it has to be), it's all about knowing and meeting the right people.

Maybe you will have to move, or find a way to get closer to people who can help you achieve your dreams. Unfortunetly it's super rare that you will just be "discovered" in whatever thing you are into and make it work from that. All we hear about is the 0.05% of people in life who do make that happen somehow so it gives us unrealistic aspirations I think.

I'm not saying don't try, I'm just saying you need to be realistic and do what you can outside of being a great director to reach the point you want to be at some day.
 

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16 minutes ago, tweak said:

If the film industry is anything like the rest of the world (which it has to be), it's all about knowing and meeting the right people.

 

THIS. 

Even if you have $10K to spend (as even just offering people a hundred bucks a day can make a huge difference), then that is no good if you don't know the right people so you can spend your very limited budget wisely. 

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55 minutes ago, tweak said:

If the film industry is anything like the rest of the world (which it has to be), it's all about knowing and meeting the right people.

Maybe you will have to move, or find a way to get closer to people who can help you achieve your dreams. Unfortunetly it's super rare that you will just be "discovered" in whatever thing you are into and make it work from that. All we hear about is the 0.05% of people in life who do make that happen somehow so it gives us unrealistic aspirations I think.

I'm not saying don't try, I'm just saying you need to be realistic and do what you can outside of being a great director to reach the point you want to be at some day.
 

True, I'm basically feeling just that: it's make or break time. just wondering how best to do the work and take some risk while I'm still "young"

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Ask yourself some questions and give yourself some honest answers. 

1. Do you have access to $10,000 to make a feature?

2. Can the script you wrote be made for $10,000?

Because in all honesty there is absolutely no reason why 2 feature films couldn't be made for $10,000 if you accept the limitations of the budget and work within those limitations. 

Hell, a feature could be made for $500 if you have access to things for free. 

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21 minutes ago, mercer said:

Ask yourself some questions and give yourself some honest answers. 

1. Do you have access to $10,000 to make a feature?

2. Can the script you wrote be made for $10,000?

Because in all honesty there is absolutely no reason why 2 feature films couldn't be made for $10,000 if you accept the limitations of the budget and work within those limitations. 

Hell, a feature could be made for $500 if you have access to things for free. 

Exactly, hardly take any money to make a feature. I just don't have any people

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1 minute ago, Liam said:

Exactly, hardly take any money to make a feature. I just don't have any people

Place an ad in Craigslist... There are always young actors that will work for free and usually some talented ones. Post some ads at a local college or local theatre. Your local library, or a county library probably have meeting rooms you can reserve for free... Hold auditions there.  In your ad make sure you include non union/no pay, offer them a free copy of the movie and clips for their reel. You will get offers from union actors telling you how great they are and you should hire them... Either ignore the offer or politely refuse their services.

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11 minutes ago, mercer said:

a feature could be made for $500 if you have access to things for free. 

I made my last doc for basically free.  Just my wife and I doing everything.  Paid for flights to and from Japan, that was pretty much it.

As for the current film festival circuit:  They're a legacy thing.  Back in the day festivals had clout simply because they were a bigger deal.  Now-a-days they exist to prop up the purveyors on the things and, maybe, actual filmmakers every now-and-again. 

BTW, I'm a film festival producer for our local shin-dig here in SoCal, and I also helped (years ago) to launch one of the current premiere film fests in the mid-south, such as it is.

Ultimately, fests are like everything else these days.  Everybody's doing it since digital made it easy.  It's not a problem to get into some sort of a film festival.  However, it's not easy getting into a good one.  I just got back with my film from a rather lousy fest, that had no serious networking, horrible screenings, poor attendance...yet it was a lot of fun.  My wife and I even gleaned a great nugget of financial info from one of the panels that was wildly invaluable, so you never know... We have our last one in Toronto coming up, and it's gonna be the most "legit" festival we got into.  Still, that might be a lesser experience than our goofy no-budget fest we just attended.

We enjoyed our time at the goofy fest.  We made some new friends.  If you can do that, that's the main thing.  Just be gracious, try to get on the same wavelength as the interesting people you'll meet, and you'll be fine.  At the middle rung and lower rung of festivals, these things are just glorified parties -- if you're lucky!  (Some aren't even that) That's the best you can hope from it.  Having fun and meeting some good folks.

There's really only two or three festivals where industry stuff actually happens and films get "launched."  Because of that, there's only industry films represented.  Unless you're a creative wunderkind that made something uniquely awesome (and entertainingly so) you're probably not going to get into any serious festivals on your own. 

Actually, in spite of making something awesome and new, that actually would probably get you rejected from most film festivals.  The reality is that most selection committees are community regular-joe/jane types.  They're not savvy about film.  If subject matter floats in front of their eyes that they can relate to, they'll ignore all the shortcomings of the flick and give it a big old bear hug, filmmaking craft be damned.  Arguably, this happens with "savvy" festivals as well.

29 minutes ago, Liam said:

Exactly, hardly take any money to make a feature. I just don't have any people

Three actors and three crew.  Make something with that situation.  Learn how to be smart with your time and talent.  It WILL pay off; creatively and professionally.

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12 minutes ago, fuzzynormal said:

I made my last doc for basically free.  Just my wife and I doing everything.  Paid for flights to and from Japan, that was pretty much it.

As for the current film festival circuit:  They're a legacy thing.  Back in the day festivals had clout simply because they were a bigger deal.  Now-a-days they exist to prop up the purveyors on the things and, maybe, actual filmmakers every now-and-again. 

BTW, I'm a film festival producer for our local shin-dig here in SoCal, and I also helped (years ago) to launch one of the current premiere film fests in the mid-south, such as it is.

Ultimately, fests are like everything else these days.  Everybody's doing it since digital made it easy.  It's not a problem to get into some sort of a film festival.  However, it's not easy getting into a good one.  I just got back with my film from a rather lousy fest, that had no serious networking, horrible screenings, poor attendance...yet it was a lot of fun.  My wife and I even gleaned a great nugget of financial info from one of the panels that was wildly invaluable, so you never know... We have our last one in Toronto coming up, and it's gonna be the most "legit" festival we got into.  Still, that might be a lesser experience than our goofy no-budget fest we just attended.

We enjoyed our time at the goofy fest.  We made some new friends.  If you can do that, that's the main thing.  Just be gracious, try to get on the same wavelength as the interesting people you'll meet, and you'll be fine.  At the middle rung and lower rung of festivals, these things are just glorified parties -- if you're lucky!  (Some aren't even that) That's the best you can hope from it.  Having fun and meeting some good folks.

There's really only two or three festivals where industry stuff actually happens and films get "launched."  Because of that, there's only industry films represented.  Unless you're a creative wunderkind that made something uniquely awesome (and entertainingly so) you're probably not going to get into any serious festivals on your own. 

Actually, in spite of making something awesome and new, that actually would probably get you rejected from most film festivals.  The reality is that most selection committees are community regular-joe/jane types.  They're not savvy about film.  If subject matter floats in front of their eyes that they can relate to, they'll ignore all the shortcomings of the flick and give it a big old bear hug, filmmaking craft be damned.  Arguably, this happens with "savvy" festivals as well.

Three actors and three crew.  Make something with that situation.  Learn how to be smart with your time and talent.  It WILL pay off; creatively and professionally.

I think festivals are worth entering as long as your honest about your film. There's no reason to give Sundance a couple hundred bucks unless you know you have something really special... And even then you probably shouldn't. 

Short films are probably the smartest approach to jumpstart a career, but even shorts take a shit load of work and when done, for just a little more work and a little more money, you could have made a feature that at least has some monetary value on Amazon or through self distribution. 

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Any connection you make will be valuable.

I just filmed a short for a great director.  I had no idea he used to make movies as a director in L.A. and had taken a break to raise his sons by owning a restaurant, where my wife happened to work. We met, chatted, he saw one of my shorts and loved my camera work. I fell into a great working relationship, hopefully shooting a feature with him next year.

Don't scoff at what you see on display there. If you see someone's else's work that you enjoy chat with them, you never know what might come from it.

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7 minutes ago, mercer said:

I think festivals are worth entering as long as your honest about your film. There's no reason to give Sundance a couple hundred bucks unless you know you have something really special... And even then you probably shouldn't. 

Short films are probably the smartest approach to jumpstart a career, but even shorts take a shit load of work and when done, for just a little more work and a little more money, you could hear made a feature that at least has some monetary value on Amazon or through self distribution. 

Oh yeah, most definitely.  Self distribution is the new (only) way to go for filmmakers like myself.  

Sundance gets a ridiculous amount of submissions (tens of thousands) from earnest people unable to be self-critical.  I'm working with a producer now that shipped off a proof-of-concept video I did with her to Sundance.  It was ridiculous.  I wouldn't even think of putting it into my own festival --and I made the thing!  I thought it was decent...for a corporate video, but that was the extent of it.

So, yeah, knowing the inherent value of your work and being self-critical seems to be a tricky skill for a lot of people.  Trust me when I say that exploiting such naivete is the financial backbone of many a film fest.  Those submission fees add up.

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36 minutes ago, fuzzynormal said:

Unless you're a creative wunderkind that made something uniquely awesome (and entertainingly so) you're probably not going to get into any serious festivals on your own. 

Actually, in spite of making something awesome and new, that actually would probably get you rejected from most film festivals.

I actually had this happen. I made a short that was narrowly rejected from a very high profile because the voice was too strong and one of the programmers was afraid it was too weird for their brand. Every lower tier festival rejected it outright because it was way too weird for them. Very discouraging, but I was at fault for not knowing the community I was applying to be part of.

You should just do what you want and enjoy yourself. You will probably have fun at the local festival, which is more than I've ever gotten into! If not, don't apply to it next time. Lesson learned. Easy. Find people who are doing what you like. That's step one. Breaking in is step two. Do step one first. Trust me. The same goes for film school, etc. Watch the shorts they're producing, meet the students and faculty. Is this the community you want to be a part of? If so, it's worth considering applying.

LA is an extraordinarily difficult place to produce quality work cheaply ($10,000 for a short, let alone a feature, sounds 10X too low compared with a high end thesis film). If you have a strong technical skill set you can benefit from this when some of the money trickles down your way. If you learn Avid or Nuke or something or become a wizard at motion graphics you can make six figures in your twenties without much trouble, but I won't suggest you'll like what you're doing. There are lots of good local actors in most communities, even just community theater, but you have to look for them and write a script that's strong enough that they want to be in it. You have to be the community they want to be a part of. Or you can pay them. :)

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14 minutes ago, fuzzynormal said:

Oh yeah, most definitely.  Self distribution is the new (only) way to go for filmmakers like myself.  

Sundance gets a ridiculous amount of submissions (tens of thousands) from earnest people unable to be self-critical.  I'm working with a producer now that shipped off a proof-of-concept video I did with her to Sundance.  It was ridiculous.  I wouldn't even think of putting it into my own festival --and I made the thing!  I thought it was decent...for a corporate video, but that was the extent of it.

So, yeah, knowing the inherent value of your work and being self-critical seems to be a tricky skill for a lot of people.  Trust me when I say that exploiting such naivete is the financial backbone of many a film fest.  Those submission fees add up.

Obviously when I wrote "you" I meant you in general, not you specifically... I know you're a veteran at all this.

I'm a writer/director that spent the last year + trying to be an okay camera operator with the right tool. Now I just want to simplify everything and make movies. Hopefully people will like them and I get one into SXSW, but most likely I may make my money back by creative marketing through Amazon, but the lesson will be invaluable.

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44 minutes ago, mercer said:

Short films are probably the smartest approach to jumpstart a career, but even shorts take a shit load of work and when done, for just a little more work and a little more money, you could have made a feature that at least has some monetary value on Amazon or through self distribution. 

The difference between a 3 to 7 minute short film and an 80 minute feature is **HUGE** in terms of the amount of work it takes to get finished.

However I do agree about those 20 to 40 minute "shorts" some people make, I find it strange they didn't just go all out and make a feature film instead. 

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12 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

The difference between a 3 to 7 minute short film and an 80 minute feature is **HUGE** in terms of the amount of work it takes to get finished.

However I do agree about those 20 to 40 minute "shorts" some people make, I find it strange they didn't just go all out and make a feature film instead. 

Some of those were probably features that turned into shorts in the editing room. Worked on a really indy film (no pay) that was supposed to be a feature, after editing it was 48 minutes. Killed the director to have it be that short.

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1 hour ago, mercer said:

I think festivals are worth entering as long as your honest about your film. There's no reason to give Sundance a couple hundred bucks unless you know you have something really special... And even then you probably shouldn't. 

Short films are probably the smartest approach to jumpstart a career, but even shorts take a shit load of work and when done, for just a little more work and a little more money, you could hear made a feature that at least has some monetary value on Amazon or through self distribution. 

Sundance is still only like $40. so i entered for the hell of it. But yeah, even really liking my film, it was a little ridiculous to do

1 hour ago, fuzzynormal said:

 

Three actors and three crew.  Make something with that situation.  Learn how to be smart with your time and talent.  It WILL pay off; creatively and professionally.

If i had two people (and a script to match) I'd be ecstatic

1 hour ago, Geoff CB said:

Any connection you make will be valuable.

I just filmed a short for a great director.  I had no idea he used to make movies as a director in L.A. and had taken a break to raise his sons by owning a restaurant, where my wife happened to work. We met, chatted, he saw one of my shorts and loved my camera work. I fell into a great working relationship, hopefully shooting a feature with him next year.

Don't scoff at what you see on display there. If you see someone's else's work that you enjoy chat with them, you never know what might come from it.

Yeah, I'm going to be very open and intentional. I'll watch every single film and talk to anyone. but still that's two talented people who get along and can work together, that seems way more rare than saying any connection you make is valuable.. still trying not to be a downer though. 

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@Liam i feel your pain my friend. ive been there

id like to help, and respond at length, but im on mobile rn, so first please tell me this so i can get the temperature of the situation:

~

so you want to be a filmmaker. what are you willing to do to get what you want?

how long are you willing to work for it? how hard?

i would guess that youre in your early 20s. what if i told you that youre going to exceed your creative goals by leaps and bounds one day, and that people all over the whole world will see your work, but its going to take 15 years?

is that ok with you?

why or why not

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2 hours ago, kaylee said:

@Liam i feel your pain my friend. ive been there

id like to help, and respond at length, but im on mobile rn, so first please tell me this so i can get the temperature of the situation:

~

so you want to be a filmmaker. what are you willing to do to get what you want?

how long are you willing to work for it? how hard?

i would guess that youre in your early 20s. what if i told you that youre going to exceed your creative goals by leaps and bounds one day, and that people all over the whole world will see your work, but its going to take 15 years?

is that ok with you?

why or why not

It's obviously harder without any guarantee. I think I'd be willing to move to LA, but I think it would really just be the same thing and higher rent. I'd definitely be willing to help other filmmakers who I gel with. Like if I partnered up with someone and we did their film, then mine, etc. That would be amazing. I'd be less interested the worse the hypothetical partner is of course and the lower the job I have.. I wouldn't want to be sound guy number three on a movie I know sucks and then maybe that job could lead to being a permanent sound guy's assistant at.. whatever.. I mean, just an example, no offense to sound guys, but gross. I also think side connections through something lower like that are still not great, since it's like oh.. the boom holder has a script. Everyone has a script. I honestly feel like my goals are very minimal and would either lead to something or not, which would still be some closure and could mean i have one or two films I'm kinda proud of. Can't think of a lower, fulfilling, achievable job to put in my dues or work my way up. should probably focus on this festival first...

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I haven't done the festival thing - or yet made any movies of my own. I did, a long time ago, write a screenplay that was made into an internationally distributed (big screen) feature (it bombed). So one thing I would say is that if you are taking your feature script anywhere you definitely need what in the UK we call a selling synopsis. Basically getting your film onto a single sheet of A4 in a way that the reader can se what it is about the project that makes it deserve their money. No-one is going to read a full screenplay at an early stage so you need that elevator pitch on paper to even have the smallest chance of someone calling you a couple of days after the festival and wanting to chat.

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Don't think is make or break, There's loads of valuable info here! In my case is make small bets. Never risk your money in one big project if you can't afford to fail. The same for fests, better go to five fun small fests and win friends, contacts and info in chunks than go to a big one and miss the opportunity. Psychologically is better to find a great cheap wine than a bad or normal expensive one. Look this year's star David Sandberg.

53 minutes ago, Tim Sewell said:

No-one is going to read a full screenplay at an early stage so you need that elevator pitch on paper to even have the smallest chance of someone calling you a couple of days after the festival and wanting to chat.

I agree with you 100%. Not even one's parents will read a script without asking first what's about. And before presenting anything I'm a zealous proponent of Blake Snyder's method mixed with a dose of Brian Mcdonald's ink for a couple of last revisions.

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