By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire October 25, 2011 at 3:47AM
T.R. has been selected as the latest winner to receive tickets to Christine Vachon and Ted Hope's first-ever Statesider masterclass in producing, Killer/Hope Masterclass: Get Your Movie Made, Make It Well, Make It Great, Get It Seen & Survive to Do It All Over Again.
Want to win your own pass? Here’s how it works.
• Ted and Christine pose a series of questions about your filmmaking experiences.
• You post your answer in the comments.
• They select their favorite answer from the responses.
• The answer’s author gets a free ticket to their class.
The class will be held at Cantor Film Center in New York on November 5 from 10a-4p. Tickets are available for $150.
The next question is:
What was and what did you learn from your most difficult film production experience?
Tell us your answers in the comments.
And here’s the winning answer to the question, "What will you do differently on your next film?"
At the risk of being dramatic… EVERYTHING! I’m coming off a filmmaking experience where the main take away is, “Well, at least we learned what not to do.” For this response I’ll narrow it down to THE RIGHT BUDGET, ADEQUATE SUPPORT, MARKETING/KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE and IT ALL STARTS WITH THE SCRIPT.
I co-directed a micro-budget feature that made money back for its investors but had things been done differently it could have done so much more. A writer/producer approached us about being directors for hire (back-end only) on a “found footage” movie that would boast a big cast and multiple, enormous locations. He convinced a production company in LA to co-produce and be an equal investment partner (they are also an international sales agent). The total budget was $60,000 so they didn’t have much to lose.
Our financing fell through in the fall of ‘08 for a project we’d invested a lot of time in. The opportunity to direct again overruled all rational thought. To stay on budget we did not pay our tiny crew. The sound mixer and special fx make-up artist got an equipment/kit rental. Our amazing DP was a good friend whom we’d collaborated with on our 1st feature. He provided his Canon 5D. The rest of the crew were unpaid assistants. We broke up multiple shoots by location, always needing time regroup. After the first shoot we cut a teaser that the producers brought to AFM. We sold multiple foreign territories before production was complete. The footage looked amazing. This was going to pay off! Now my cautionary tale gets scarier than our scary movie. Another teaser playing at AFM had the exact same premise as ours! We wanted our teaser on Youtube but were told whoever picks it up will control how it’s marketed. Our producers have experience selling movies. Our previous directing credit was a family drama that barely played at fests plus many years experience working on reputable films (2 Killer Films and my partner worked on an HBO movie produced by Ted Hope). We lost the Youtube fight. Our competitors posted their teaser and now have a million plus hits. We went on to complete 3 mini shoots with just a 5 person crew including ourselves. We weren’t done when a major US fest invited us to screen our unfinished film. The producers turned them down. That festival then invited our competition to screen instead. They got a US distribution deal and you can find their movie playing VOD in time for Halloween! Our original teaser was put on Youtube late this summer. We get more rip-off comments than anything else. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATING AN ONLINE PRESENCE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE SO YOU CAN CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE.
KNOWING YOUR SCRIPT and its AUDIENCE is just as crucial. Our producers wanted a horror film because they had experience there and it’s a safer bet with no budget and unknown cast. The NY producer who sold the idea planned to write while we prepped. It took four months to get a 1st draft. We pushed forward even though the pages we were getting were rough and truth be told, not very scary. Telling distributors it’s horror helped sell the movie but eventually you want an audience to embrace it. This is especially true for a small movie where the best case scenario is a platform release. The script was completed so late there was no time to amp up the scares, improve the dialogue and make sure it all made sense! Now it’s opened abroad and surprise, horror fans are let down. The poster promises one thing and they get something else. I’m biased but I think we delivered an eerie, supernatural thriller with some fun, impressive performances and great photography. With a strong script and directors who can dedicate more time to directing we could have had a success.
We’re back to financing our own project starting with a script that has undergone countless tweaks and rewrites. A thriller that has challenging characters we hope will attract some great talent. We’re shooting in a state with great tax incentives (instead of where the story takes place). It will be a micro budget but we’re raising enough to pay our crew a living wage including us. You can’t be deep in prep and shooting while holding down another job to pay the bills. Get support, collaboration is vital. Even though you can just point and shoot with today’s technology, pay attention to lighting and composition. You’ll have a product that looks much more valuable than what was put into it. We’re building the website for our next feature now even though the project is in development. Something we regret not doing last time is documenting behind the scenes (a blog or post BTS webisodes). This time we’ll make sure it happens. We love the whole process which is why we do it. Now in control we’ll do it right.