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October 21, 2013 12:31 PM
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Veteran and Indie Producers Offer Tips to Young Filmmakers at Santa Fe Independent Film Festival

David Paulsen, David Sontag, Andrea Monier Casey Cipriani

In addition to its 100+ screenings, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival has been hosting a number of educational panels for independent filmmakers in attendance. At the Production Panel, veteran and independent film producers came together to discuss the state of American film making today. Indiewire asked the panelists what tips they had for young, up and coming filmmakers. Here's what they had to say.

David Paulsen (Producer, Writer, Director, "Dallas"; Executive Producer, "Dynasty")
"First, find your passion project. Then go out and try to find funding. Start with your parents, your credit card, anybody who has some money. And then try to make it. What I would do is sit down and write something or find somebody to write something with me that I knew I could shoot very inexpensively. And how do you know that? You look at the expensive stuff and you cut it out, car chases, explosions. You shoot a couple of people in a room or you shoot wherever you can get a camera in there and not have to pay for it. Try that and do it yourself. Maybe just a small picture, just a short to start yourself with. Get it made, get it in the can. And you will learn so much that way. You'll learn how to shoot. You'll learn what not to shoot next time. You'll learn how to edit it and what mistakes you will have made for sure doing that. And then move on to the next one. How many painters are out there just painting and expecting it to be in the Louvre? That's kind of what we're asking for. In a way that's what so many people going into the film business are asking for. 'How do I make my picture, which is going to be a major success?' Well, you don't. You start off with small paintings first, drawings first. And then you build up to that."

READ MORE: Santa Fe Independent Film Festival Opens with John Sayles' 'Go For Sisters' and Honors Boxer Johnny Tapia

Andrea Monier (Producer, "Tapia"; Co-Founder, Wishbone Films)
"It's also aligning yourself with other filmmakers. For me personally, when I was an actor I networked with other actors, and then I started networking with writers and networking with directors. Then I started working for producers and I realized, 'Wow that person and I have a similar affinity, I want to work with that person.' So it's really just getting out there and networking because you never know.

"I've had the craziest ways of finding funding for movies. For example with 'Tapia' we had expensive licensing rights, we already had the movie finished. But I knew to show it I needed more money and I was under the gun. So I started sending it to people. I knew this guy who did a boxing documentary and he called me and said, 'Oh you should call this guy at ESPN.' Called the guy at EPSN, he said sure, send it over. He watched it, all of a sudden he sent it to a boxing promoter. The boxing promoter sent it to 50 Cent. 50 Cent came on board and gave us money to finish it. It was unbelievable and I was like, how did that happen? And it was just because I believed in it and I knew it needed to be told. And I just said, who do I know? I'm pulling out my Rolodex, who do I know that's either in film making, documentaries, boxing, whatever, and I'm going to e-mail them and say hey can you help me? And you never know. I got like 15 nos. But you need one yes. It's just not giving up and aligning yourself with other filmmakers, networking, coming to events like this, going to conferences, going to film festivals, and doing the work."

David Sontag (Former Executive Producer of ABC, Former Senior Vice-President of 20th Century Fox Television, Executive Positions at NBC and CBS Films)
"I think both Andrea and David have said it well. I think, one of the things I really believe in is following your passion. Absolutely believe in what you're doing, whether it's a short or a web series, which by the way you can shoot in your house, with your computer. If you have a computer you can get on the web with your own series. That's where we're at now. There aren't that many layers between us. So the first thing is passion. The second thing is, don't think about commercial success. If you say, 'Oh this will sell,' you're in trouble because the passion is gone. And what will translate into the work you do is the passion that you have for the story you want to tell.

"There's an old dumb story about a writer whose publisher said to him I'm going to drop you, your books are not selling. And the writer said, well what's selling? And the publisher said, books on Lincoln, doctors, and dogs. So the guy went out and wrote a book called 'Lincoln's Doctor's Dog.' Don't do that folks, it's not going to work. Don't worry about the commercial end of it. Care about sharing a story with somebody. That's the same whether you’re a producer, director or a writer. A producer who reads a script or reads something in the newspaper and says, that's fabulous it's a story about the human condition. I want to do something about that. That's the passion that will drive you to go forward and make it. When you go in to raise money, that passion will translate to the other person. Because the person on the other side of the table is nervous about giving you money no matter who you are. But if there's a passion and commitment that comes through in your belief in what you want to do, it'll translate into dollars."

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3 Comments

  • Frank Casanova | October 21, 2013 3:21 PMReply

    Everybody dances around one glaring truth. When asking for money "to fund your passion", you're really asking for DONATIONS from Donors... so don't dare call them Investors. That's a falsehood. If you decide to not make your movie a "business", then you have no real plan to get the Investors their money back. So just be honest... You want donations. And that's OK. Just be honest.

  • GoodPoint | October 26, 2013 8:37 PM

    The guy was ignoring the fact that a filmmaker can be passionate about making a commercial
    film. There is nothing noble about making a piece of art that no one wants to see...unless you learn to not do that again...lol

  • Red | October 21, 2013 2:59 PMReply

    Thank you