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Stop wasting time & first feature film


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#1 Mendes Nabil

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 07:30 AM

Hello all, i'm a French filmmaker from Paris and i've recently won a VOTD Award for the Chapter 0 of my short film : "God wears hoodies".

I am the "Writer - Director - Cinematographer - Editor - Colorist - Producer" of it.
 
Here is my website where you can find my 35mm stills work: 
www.nabilmendes.com
 
And here is the film: 
 
It's a 4mn moody piece that introduces the lead male character of my upcoming short, BUT..
 
My plan was :
 
-To make that first piece and get noticed (which is kind of the case) 
-being signed by a production company like Somesuch, Iconoclast or Caviar and make money by directing music videos and commercials
-Inject the money into the production of my short film
-Convince producers with that short film and shoot my feature with a decent budget.
 
I'm stuck in the second stage, i have received the congratulations
of big league companies From the US and UK (no French companies answered me), but i still have no job.
 
 
So instead of wasting my time following a fancy plan i've decided to directly shoot my feature film (it has to be shot on Super 16mm), my question is:
 
Should i go wild in the scenario process and write the film i truly want? It will requires money and i'll have to hustle for financiers and producers..
 
Or should i restrain myself and write a humble piece that i can self produce ? Which will be really frustrating and unhealthy, as a street-workout athlete and someone who strives for greatness and balance it's not acceptable, my ambitions are destructive enough.
 
I'm losing my mind guys, any word would be greatly appreciated..
 
Thank you

Edited by Mendes Nabil, 19 January 2017 - 07:31 AM.

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#2 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 09:38 AM

You mentioned "balance" at the end of your post.  That is the most important thing to consider when making a film.  Balancing the creative pursuit with the business of filmmaking.  

 

If you can line up a distribution deal before you shoot I'd go for the project you are most passionate about.  But definitely align yourself with an experienced producer and an accredited investor.   Do a business plan for the film, get script coverage, do a proper breakdown of the script by an experienced line producer and get a realistic projection of the budget.

 

Also, put some faces people will recognize in the film.  Without that, selling it is damn near impossible.  There's always the exception, just don't bank on being that.   If you go with a cast of unknowns, get them from a casting director who is invested in pushing their careers forward.  This way, by the time your film comes out, they might already be announced in something bigger. 

 

Then you've got names in your film before they were even names.

 

For an indie film, you need to use a firm like this if you want anyone to actually see the film http://sawyerentertainment.com/

 

Oh, and think of festivals as nothing more than a party circuit to celebrate the film's completion.  Don't think of them as a path to selling or distributing the film.  If you do you'll be greatly disappointed.

 

Good luck.  


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:00 AM

Also, put some faces people will recognize in the film.

 

How?


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#4 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:56 AM

 

How?

 

You employ a business / legal VP to draft offer letters.  Someone with a track record and working relationship with agents.  Or you book a casting director who is eager to push people destined to become names and you get them while they're breaking in.  Either way.  But you pay outright for both of these people to become involved.   


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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 11:37 AM

You mean your plan for success in the movie industry has not gone as "planned?" :)

 

Well, you'll be pleased to know you're in the same boat as EVERYONE here.

 

Since you're in France have you looked at what state financing is available for feature films?  I'm guessing France has a lot of programs in this area.  Start there and see how high you can build up the budget.  Go for the low hanging fruit first.  Then getting private equity will be easier if you already have 45-55% of the budget.

 

And why does your feature need to be shot on Super 16mm specifically?

 

In order to get a feature film made filmmakers need to think like a producer, as it's producers that get films made, not directors or writers.  If you're the same person, that's fine, but..you need to think and act like a producer.  That is often very difficult for a filmmaker to do.

 

R,


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#6 AJ Young

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 12:33 PM

I highly recommend getting someone to produce your film so you can focus on directing. In my experience, a director who is also the producer on such small productions is usually a bad combination. The producing side usually takes over and makes it difficult for you as a director to do you job. You're stretched too thin to direct and produce and the negative results will show up on screen.

 

On shooting film: I don't recommend it for this budget level (I'm assuming you're aiming for USD $500k or less) because film stock, processing, initial scanning, and final scanning will demolish your budget leaving little for you to use for actually making the movie. Digital cameras look great and some excellent indie films have been shot on the lowest end of digital cameras. Plus, the costs will help you put funds towards what really matters: production design, crew, post production, etc.

 

You can write the film you truly want, but the reality is, as a first time feature director, it won't turn out the way you truly want (especially if you're producing it yourself). I recommend writing a modest script that can be shot modestly. This first feature will be a huge learning curve for you and "putting you eggs into one basket" isn't a good idea. Save the stories and scripts for the films you truly want for the next features when you get more financing, have more experience, and can do your scripts justice. Learn from this movie with a script that, of course you'll love, but isn't your prized race horse.


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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:10 PM

I don't think it's a good idea to make any feature film without a concrete idea of how you're going to sell it. This almost always means it isn't worth doing.

 

P


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#8 AJ Young

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:11 PM

I don't think it's a good idea to make any feature film without a concrete idea of how you're going to sell it. This almost always means it isn't worth doing.

 

P

 

Excellent point.


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#9 aapo lettinen

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:28 PM

I don't think it's a good idea to make any feature film without a concrete idea of how you're going to sell it. This almost always means it isn't worth doing.

 

P

 

I think a feature film needs to be already sold to some extent beforehand for it to be worth making. 

 

The less one thinks one needs dedicated producers the more one actually should have them I think. Especially in very low budget genre where there isn't necessarily any full time line producers and production managers in the production. 

First time directors are quite normally melting and having nervous breakdowns if they also need to wear the producer's hat. It is of course possible to learn to do both at the same time but one should have lots of experience from one of the fields FIRST before trying to combine the positions


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#10 Justin Hayward

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:33 PM

I don't think it's a good idea to make any feature film without a concrete idea of how you're going to sell it. This almost always means it isn't worth doing.

 

P

 

Yes, hanging your blood, sweat, and tears 5-year-long passion project on the will of a handful of film festival programmers is a gamble.  And not one I'm willing to take a my age.  10 years ago?  Yup.


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:12 PM

I highly recommend getting someone to produce your film so you can focus on directing. In my experience, a director who is also the producer on such small productions is usually a bad combination. The producing side usually takes over and makes it difficult for you as a director to do you job. You're stretched too thin to direct and produce and the negative results will show up on screen.

 

 

All very nice and I agree to an extent if you can swing it.  But, I think he and everyone else who aspires to do this will discover as I have done…..if you want to make movies you need to wear multiple hats, there is just no way around this.

 

For a first time director to find an experienced producer who will raise the financing and deal with banks and distributors, etc, well that is going to be difficult if not impossible.  In the vast majority of cases the director will have to produce his own movie to get it made.  I've had to produce all mine.  Number 5 is close to full green, and number 6 is being cast.  But I'm the one driving all of it…hard.

 

R,


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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:14 PM

 

Yes, hanging your blood, sweat, and tears 5-year-long passion project on the will of a handful of film festival programmers is a gamble.  And not one I'm willing to take a my age.  10 years ago?  Yup.

 

Oh come on Justin…..you can rest when you're dead. :)

 

R,


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#13 Justin Hayward

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:47 PM

Not saying I won't make a feature, but I'll follow the Richard Boddington formula and aim to make something tried-and-true before I waste another five years on my personal indy dramas that go nowhere.  :)


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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:58 PM

First off, I love your short. I watched it twice, you've got some talent there! :)

As a teacher of filmmaking, I have a phenomenal powerpoint presentation that I just delivered to my students. It breaks down the whole process of taking your script idea, how to build momentum for fundraising and how to get eyes on the finished product. I acquired the information by working on the distribution side of filmmaking and actually paying for seat time with top distributors.

Now yes, I do live in America and we don't have subsidies for the arts here like they do in Europe. So I teach my students the not-so-straight-forward path to "success" and ultimately it's a lot of work and dedication. Most people who've I've given the speech to, don't realize how difficult the process is. A lot of them just want to make something on the weekends and give it away, just to get something made. There are a lot of "positives" to that idea as well.

If you send me your e-mail address, I will gladly forward the presentation to you, this way you can see the steps involved. But it's the actual, real-life, no bullshit process. It has all sorts of little details that people wouldn't think about, which is the reason I wrote it. There are some details missing, but most of them are only related to US distribution and order of operations based on releasing an "indy" in the states.

There is a catch 22 conundrum in the film/television industry that plagues young and new artists; if you haven't done something before, it's hard to get people on-board for your vision. This goes for any set position, any post position and especially the top roles of writer, cinematographer, editor, producer and director. Example... if I've been shooting documentaries and nature stuff for years, I would be ignored if I wanted to start shooting narratives. It's the same for directors, just because you've done a short, doesn't mean you can helm a feature. They are two completely different things that really don't share much in common with one another. A short can be made in a weekend, where a watchable feature takes a lot more time and money, which means far more commitment from crew, cast, yourself and financiers. I always tell people to work on a feature film in some capacity first, just so you understand the complexity of the circus you're about to get involved with.

To highlight some of the key comments from above...

Producer... Yes, god yes! Actually, you really need TWO people. You need a "name" producer to help you get cast, marketing and financing. You need a "line" producer, to help get your assets in order and figure out how to make your movie. These are generally two different people, but you COULD find one person to do both jobs. Focus on the line producer first, use their connections and if you NEED someone else, bring them in to help score you some cast. As my powerpoint says, you need "representation" because you don't have the clout yet. NOBODY is going to watch your short film and say "yea I'll give this kid a chance", it's just not going to happen. Any producers you bring on board, you will need to know them personally and get them on board based on who you are and your vision, rather then the finances.

Distribution... There is an astronomical difference from having a distribution deal memo "guarantee" prior to shooting, vs pre-selling your movie. A deal memo is not a contract, it's just an agreement that whoever gave you the memo has first rights to the movie. This is what you'd use to get funding and sometimes even cast on board. Pre-selling is when you have a complete/full contract with usually a sales agent, that basically works out all of the details before the movie is even shot. Generally pre-sales are a bad business model for GOOD movies. If your movie is going to be crap, pre-selling maybe the way to go because at least if you do the deal right, your investors will get paid off eventually. Generally speaking, you should find a successful production company willing to help you work out a deal memo with a studio prior to shooting. You NEED a production company anyway, thanks to insurance laws and liability. It's cheaper to just hire one, then it is to make your own. A lot of times, if you do this right, the production company will be the distributor of sorts.

Viewership... is the question of WHO will watch your movie, rather then HOW they'll see it. If you want to make money, you have to write to an audience. This means you need to first understand your audience. You can start by watching other movies in a similar vain and try to figure out what made them successful. Then you can taylor your script and visuals to match the audience. This is truly where the art of script writing comes into play. It's a fine balance between what YOU want and what the "industry" will accept. Eventually when you write enough, you will figure out the formula and you'll be off to the races.

Finally... Don't try to break into the industry being some "artist" making art films because nobody is going to see them. You can be an artist and make big movies, AFTER you become successful. Most young filmmakers kill themselves trying to bring their passion project to the screen and they generally fail. Save that passion project, save that big budget movie for later in life. Understand this is a long-term venture and you can't make a multi-million dollar movie on your first go. You've gotta make something simple, easy and most importantly, something that people will WANT to see!

Them's my tips! I'm here to answer questions and I'd be more then happy to guide you. Richard is also a phenomenal resource and we should all be blessed he's on here giving advice because he GETS IT DONE! :)
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#15 Michael Rodin

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 02:59 PM

On shooting film: I don't recommend it for this budget level (I'm assuming you're aiming for USD $500k or less) because film stock, processing, initial scanning, and final scanning will demolish your budget leaving little for you to use for actually making the movie.

Still I'd calculate and compare the costs of shooting film vs hi-end video. You may be surprised to find out how cheap S16 can be.

You can get a huge discount on camera rental for a feature (like a 1 day week). SR2s go almost for free, and Ultra16 lenses aren't particularly expensive.

Contact your Kodak rep, they'll find you a discount program so you'll save 30% or more on fresh neg stock.

For offline editing, you can do an SD transfer on an old flying-spot telecine at a rate up to 50x cheaper than proper DI scanning, straight to your editing system if you will.

2K scanning has become much more affordable in last 10 years. And a properly graded HD TK still looks beter than anything out of a video camera, at least on small screen.

 

Don't forget, professionally grading Redcode RAW or securely storing dozens terabytes of digital footage isn't cheap either.


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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:09 PM

Even as a film advocate, I'd not recommend making a first feature on film. The key reason is that you need instant dailies because you need to make corrections as you shoot and without that ability, you may not have blocked something right or maybe missed a key shot. If you can watch your stuff back right away and can piece together everything right there on set, you'll have a far better chance of success.

Also, when you're moving super fast on an indy film, you don't have time to wait for dailies to insure what you have is good. You've gotta strike and move onto the next scene and re-shoots due to errors in camera, aren't something you can afford to deal with.

Unfortunately, the best way to shoot an indy is to hire a cinematographer with a digital package and use whatever they've got. This way the two of you are certain what you shot is what you've got. There will be no mistakes with lighting, no mistakes with camera issues, or film/processing issues. Plus, you can put all that saved money into production design, which is where most indy's lack.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:16 PM

I don't necessarily agree with the advice to make something impersonal and commercial rather than something artistic and personal.

 

First of all, the majority of independent movies made are unsuccessful anyway, so wouldn't you rather have your name on something you were proud of?  Nothing worse than selling out only to find that no one is buying anyway.

 

Second, there is not one single market out there -- there are markets for horror films, for example, and there are markets for art films (not as large, obviously).  Markets for family films, markets for action movies, etc.  It's just important that you consider your target audience.  Probably the best thing would be to make an artistic genre movie so you have some crossover appeal, or at least, a fall-back audience for that genre.

 

I spent some years shooting straight-to-video commercial low-budget stuff that had a ready foreign buyer, and I can tell you that most of those directors made a few more like that and then gave up, or they never got out of making films like that.  And then I started making some festival oriented art house films and most of those directors also made a few and gave up, but others were able to take the good response to their films and work up in budgets or transfer into television directing.

 

Either way, whatever you do, I think it's important to make something that generates more than a "meh" response from the audience.  It has to stand out in some manner, visually, writing-wise, or in the acting, the style, whatever.  Make strong, bold choices.


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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:20 PM

I don't necessarily agree with the advice to make something impersonal and commercial rather than something artistic and personal.


I was just saying to make it "more" commercial, rather then ONLY personal. Having worked with a lot of indy filmmakers over the years, mostly all of them complete failures, I've learned there is a fine line between "art" (which is the short film in the first post) and "commercial". You can have both, but it's SMART to lean towards the commercial side.
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#19 Michael Rodin

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:20 PM

Even as a film advocate, I'd not recommend making a first feature on film. The key reason is that you need instant dailies because you need to make corrections as you shoot and without that ability, you may not have blocked something right or maybe missed a key shot. If you can watch your stuff back right away and can piece together everything right there on set, you'll have a far better chance of success.

Also, when you're moving super fast on an indy film, you don't have time to wait for dailies to insure what you have is good. You've gotta strike and move onto the next scene and re-shoots due to errors in camera, aren't something you can afford to deal with.

Unfortunately, the best way to shoot an indy is to hire a cinematographer with a digital package and use whatever they've got. This way the two of you are certain what you shot is what you've got. There will be no mistakes with lighting, no mistakes with camera issues, or film/processing issues. Plus, you can put all that saved money into production design, which is where most indy's lack.

Directorial things and continuity can be observed on video playback. No need for dailies here.

Screwed exposure or a missing 85 will be seen on an SD telecine, which can be cheaply used for video dailies. Anyway, screwing exposure on negative is so hard I think it's more often done on purpose than by accident.

It's only focus which you need to judge on film dailies or DI scans.


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#20 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:25 PM

Directorial things and continuity can be observed on video playback. No need for dailies here.


Yea, you got a hi-8 deck in your pocket? Also, you really can't tell if something is in focus on a SD video tap and no way can you tell "color" content, impossible. Reviewing clip by clip, also doesn't say much. With digital, your DIT has all the files right at his fingertips and you can walk over and re-watch everything at the click of the mouse. This is a HUGE benefit to a new filmmaker.
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