Category Archives: Filmmaking

Halloween Movies

Wolf ManEveryone has their own ideas about what a Halloween movie is and of course there are always personal exceptions in any list. Around our house the defining elements of Halloween movies are Dead, Undead, Recently Dead, and of course anything that is specifically Halloween. Oh, and Witches, always a Halloween favorite. This also brings up another exception, curses which may or may not fall into the Halloween category. Deciding on whether or not a Curse story is Halloweenie is purely contextual, Wolf Man, definitely, Freaky Friday, definitely not.

We use this criteria for two reasons; the traditional celebration is about the thinning of the veil between the worlds that occurs on All Hallows Eve. Second is that it covers all of the basic monsters we normally associate with this time of year, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, and Vampires. Zombies usually fit in with this as well but the growing spectrum of Zombie may later see some exceptions.

Last year we fell off the wagon so to speak and only watched five or six Halloween movies as opposed to the usual 25 or so we normally get to. Yesterday Tammy said “This year we need to watch ALL of our Halloween movies.” Okay, I’m game. Here’s the movie list for this year, all 50 of them. We need to start watching them NOW if we are going to get them all in before October 31st.

These are the movies we have on the shelf, it is by no means an exhaustive list of good Halloween movies. These are the ones we actually own and watch at least once every year or two. They have all held up through many culls and will likely be around for a while. I didn’t post any kind of rating and the list includes some guilty pleasures, so don’t judge. 😉

Have any additional suggestions for us? Let me know through one of the social media sites I participate on. There are links at the top of the page.

  1. Addams Family (1991)
  2. Addams Family Values (1993)
  3. Army of Darkness (1992)
  4. Blade (1998)
  5. Blade 2 (2002)
  6. Blade Trinity (2004)
  7. Blade House of Chthon(2006)
  8. Casper (1995)
  9. Contagion (2011)
  10. The Craft (1996)
  11. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
  12. Dracula (Bela Lugosi 1931)
  13. Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters (2012)
  14. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff 1931)
  15. Ghostbusters (1984)
  16. Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
  17. Halloween Town (1998)
  18. Halloween Town Kalabars Revenge (2001)
  19. Halloween Town High (2004)
  20. Halloween Town, Return to (2006)
  21. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
  22. Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
  23. Hocus Pocus (1993)
  24. The Little Vampire (2000)
  25. The Lost Boys (1987)
  26. The Monster Squad (1987)
  27. The Mummy (Brendan Fraser 1999)
  28. The Mummy Returns (Brendan Fraser 2001)
  29. My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987)
  30. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (also a christmas movie) 🙂
  31. Once Bitten (1985)
  32. Practical Magic (1998)
  33. Resident Evil (2002)
  34. Resident Evil Apocalypse (2004)
  35. Resident Evil Extinction (2010)
  36. Resident Evil Afterlife (2010)
  37. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  38. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
  39. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  40. Underworld (2003)
  41. Underworld Evolution (2006)
  42. Underworld Awakening (2012)
  43. Vampires (1998)
  44. Van Helsing (2004)
  45. Warlock (1986)
  46. When Good Ghouls Go Bad (2001)
  47. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
  48. The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney 1941)
  49. World War Z (2013)
  50. Young Frankenstein (1974)

* updated to include dates

“The Future of Food” movie

My wife and I watched another documentary on the American food chain, The Future of Food. Yes, we did watch on Netflix instant, and no I am not getting paid to promote Netflix; we have just found a lot of great documentary films there.

As the title suggests, it covers topics about where our food production is at, a bit about how it got where it is, and, of course, where it is going. It’s a bit unsettling to think that.

I grew up in San Jose, California (and still live here), I can remember farms and orchards in the Silicon Valley, sparse and spread out, but they were here. I also remember watching them slowly fade away over the years. I always thought it was due to the “progress” of urban/suburban development with all of the new people moving into the area. Now I see that it was only partly the “progress” of development. It seems as though things were going on that, unless you were involved in agriculture, you most likely wouldn’t have noticed. One of these developments was the introduction of patents for genetic modifications, or more importantly, genetic markers in agricultural products.

Since I am not a genetic scientist, and my understanding is somewhat limited to biology classes in school and the documentaries, I think I’ll leave the details to the movie, which I recommend you see. What I will talk about is the farmers and the hell that many have been through, and are going through still.

I am not a farmer, nor have I ever been one. My parents were not farmers, but my grandmother grew up on a farm, as did her parents, and theirs on back. There must be some sort of recessive farming gene that skipped my parents and landed squarely on me because I seem to have that pragmatic farmer mentality. During the movie that recessive gene was stimulated into overdrive. While watching, again, what Monsanto has been doing to farmers and our food supply over the last few decades is appalling, down right criminal in some cases.

If the name Monsanto sounds familiar, you may remember it from the movie Food Inc., another great documentary about the business acquisitions that are centralizing our food supply and some of the criminal actions the Agri-MegaCorps are getting away with.

Centralization is the heart of what I wanted to talk about in this article. Centralization in food production is very much like centralization in the financial industry. We have recently seen what happens when a diversified economy gets bought up and conglomerated into a small number of financial institutions; a small hiccup or a minor disaster in the economy can cascade into a full scale depression turning the local, national, and global economy in turmoil. Our food system in the United States is following the same path that the financial institutions have followed, centralization. Would we be able to weather a Food Crash better than the Financial Crash? I don’t think so.

The problem is compounded in one sense because in a financial crash, the government can jump in with a bail-out. Money problems on the large scale are more a matter of shifting ones and zeros than a physical solution, they eventually tie to something tangible, but it takes a long time for it to manifest in a physical sense. In a Food Crash we aren’t just pushing ones and zeros around, it is about getting food to people, it is a product based problem. The government is just not in a position to provide that kind of help. There are any number of scenarios that could cause a Food Crash and the only solution is taking preventative measures and restructuring the system.

Localization and independence are the only real solutions for these problems. It’s the age-old adage “never put all your eggs in one basket” but that’s exactly what companies like Monsanto, Philip Morris (yup, they own Kraft Foods Inc.), ConAgra Inc., and other Agri-MegaCorps are doing. They keep consolidating and it is estimated that if things continue the way they are, within the next ten years 90% of all US food production will be traced to just six companies, oh, and one of them is Wal-Mart. Did I forget to mention them earlier?

So what do we do? First and foremost as consumers we need to be more knowledgeable about where our food is coming from, and what is in it. Another thing is that as consumers we have to realize that we are the only ones that are really looking out for us. The federal government can only do so much and lobbyists for agri-business have massive resources that we just can’t compete with. Our power is as consumers and voters. When we take the time to read labels and buy local, organic when possible, and in general pay more attention to where our food is coming from we are telling Agri-Business that they can’t sneak things past us.

Rebuilding the small local farm industry is better for the economy, better for the environment, and provides healthier food. It is also a more sustainable food supply chain. The distributed food chain is much harder to break than the the conglomerated one. Its not just a matter of taking control of our food industry, it’s also about national pride and security.

Maken’ Movies

This week I kinda’ had it in my head to get moving forward on an indi project I have been rolling around for ages.

Some stuff surfaced on the Canon EOS 7D sooting HD video, even better than its predecessor the Canon EOS 5D. I shared what I found with some filmmaker friends, which started some conversations, leading to more thoughts and conversations, bringing about some research, and so on an so forth. Before I knew it, Bob’s your uncle and I’m digging up old materials from all over the place. Suddenly I’m hip deep in scripts.

Okay, I wasn’t literally hip deep in scripts, in truth, not even ankle deep. It sounded good though didn’t it? I did feel like I was swimming in scrips. I’ve been thinking about doing an online radio-drama series for a long time but the idea of writing 13 or more episodes at this particular place in time seemed a little too much for me to embark on; to be even more truthful, I have been leaning more toward the video route and I know I’m not ready to write 13 plus screenplays for an episodic or 13 plus original shorts.

Turns out I had a stack of old 1940s radio show scripts, some of which, fit the noir/detective genre I have been wanting to do. One of them struck me as very visual, so I decided to try and hammer out a feature adaptation for screen, big or small. The original was a 40 minute radio play, I started off by transcribing the original into SceneWriter as a rough draft for easy editing. Next up, the first draft edit of the rough. Got a time bump of a few minutes, but more importantly, it feels right; the script feels right, the edits feel like they are working, the visuals are clear, the juices are really flowing on this one. I finished the first draft and moved on to the second.

Re-writes are a constant. Every time a script is written it will be re-written over and over again, three, four, five, seven, ten times if needed, so I am told. I’ve finished my first re-write, I now have a one hour screen play, not polished by any means, but a one hour screen play with several new scenes. The new scenes need fleshing out, they are pretty soft right now, but they are workable. I figure with fleshing out those scenes and a few more writing/re-writing sessions I should easily reach 90 minutes or better; a full length feature.

What does it all mean? For me, I think after a another re-write this will be ready to go into preproduction. Script breakdown, characters, shots, props, locations, and all of the schedule development stuff. Of course the re-writes will continue as the project progresses. After breakdown begins I guess I will have to start looking for some cast & crew. Interns, I need interns… I think I am going to hire myself to direct.

Look ma, I’m a triple threat: Writer, Producer, Director.

😉

Digital Media Revolution: Disparate Infrastructure Is The Enemy

I was scanning my Twitter feed and came across this tweet from @AllenChou;

“40% of broadband households watch full-length TV shows over Internet yet TV/Film Distribs not making $”

So I checked out the article Allen linked to. In part it says…

DIGITAL: Study shows industry needs to find better business model By Susanne Ault — Video Business, 11/11/2009

“NOV. 11 | DIGITAL: U.S. broadband households watching TV shows and movies online has doubled over 2008, according to a Parks Associates study.

More than 25 million U.S. households regularly watch full-length TV shows online, and more than 20 million watch movies. Parks singled out free, ad-supported online video-on-demand site Hulu.com as driving people to watch such programming on the Web…”

DigitalDelemaWhile this article focuses on distributor’s need to modify their business model to better monetize internet distribution, it brings something more to the table in my eyes.

At a time when media content is produced for many distribution mediums, the question has been how to distribute across platforms. The solution is not more, it is less. The aging infrastructure in America has become a collection of disparate distribution platforms; broadcast television and radio, cable, satellite, internet, and telephone. All of them use different protocols and systems, but they don’t have to.

In the last decade some of the large communications conglomerates have made some headway in providing multiple services over their primary medium. The problem is that all of them are continuing to provide services to the end user on the same disparate and aging infrastructure they started with. Making it even more interesting, all of them use the same data between distribution points, the disparity is in the head-end to user segment.

The answers to monetizing media exists in a wide range of solutions via the internet, pay-per-view, subscription, and more. The best way to get to greater profit margins is to kill off the antiquated mediums and eliminate the expenses in using them. IP based distribution of broadcast television, radio, cable, satellite, and telephone is available via the internet. What needs to happen is a standardization of infrastructure. The user end is simple: provide an Ethernet connection and all of the services are available with little or no changes on the consumer’s end. By choosing a unified and standardized infrastructure media producers/distributors can focus on making the media available and increasing margins.

A simple example is HBO or Showtime. They don’t need cable TV or satellite providers to get their media to market. A simple login to a subscription-based service can grant access to all the media. The advantage to the consumer is lower prices and the ability to select exactly what media they want access to. No intermediate contract obligations to keep the consumer tied to “licensed channels” on a carrier and the benefits of time shifted media; see what you want, when you want it. Media producers have significant advantages, too. The inherent demographic and statistical data, active and accurate viewership data. Quantifiable data for advertisers.

Another example is broadcast media. If a TV station stopped broadcasting its outbound only signal and focused its resources on providing free WiFi for an area, distributed its media via the internet, its programing made available world wide, it would be a greater value to its viewers and its advertisers. It would also reduce its own operating costs and free up the radio frequency spectrum.

Main stream media and large media producers hold the key. It is up to them to make things happen. It requires them to change the way they look at their content, it requires thinking in an Open Source mindset. The larger the number of potential viewers the better. Things like DRM don’t help protect your media, it makes the media less accessible. Likewise proprietary viewers or binding to specific players make your media less accessible, and thereby less attractive to consumers. I purchased the movie UP with the “Digital Copy” disk from Disney. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone, I have a BlackBerry. Because the iTunes/Windows Media Player is only options for viewing the DRM’d movie, it is completely useless to me. So why would I buy a DVD with this “bonus?”

There is nothing wrong with charging for your content and the public recognizes that. If HBO stopped selling its programing to cable and satellite and distributed consumer direct via internet only the content they produce would reach more viewers and provide them with more feedback and data from their viewers with no intermediaries. How would they fare financially? With the die-hard fans of many HBO programs, I think they would exceed current margins in 2 years or less and recoup any costs of the change in business model in less than 5 years.

These kinds of changes would also create new distribution channels for independent media producers. Without the constraints of programing time slots and the possibility of infinite catalogs, channels could purchase or license indi productions directly. It even provides the opportunity to list the property and pay content producers on a residual basis. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, a high quality broadband internet connection should be freely available to everyone, a network of regulated free WiFi and hard line solutions, provided by a consortium of fed, state, and local governments, service providers, media providers, and businesses. Contributors to the national WiFi network get a tax break for being a part of the infrastructure. It’s green, it reduces consumer cost, it reduces provider cost, and it enhances viable infrastructure while removing old disparate technologies. It really is a win win for everyone, but it starts with content providers and infrastructure.

If a cell phone can connect, you should be able to get it all.

Building A Production Team

Howdy all!

This is going to be a short post today, I am totally wiped out tonight but I wanted to get this out right away. I will be refining this post and building a Team Search page later but for now I will get to the guts of the matter.

FlyBoyJon is building a creative team. I have a couple of projects in early development and I need to get them moving forward, so I am looking for some pre-production development talent to start building that creative team. I am looking for… Director, Director of Photography, Editor, Production Designer, Visual Effects Supervisor, and Writer. This is not an exclusive list however, anyone in production is welcome to contact me.

In the interest of clarity I wanted to be sure to let you know that this is not an open job listing. I am looking to connect with more of my fellow production people. If something comes from connecting, fantastic. If not, we will have exchanged some information and maybe be able to work with, or help each other out in the future. This is an open invitation to network with fellow production people.

If you are interested, feel free to send me an email or you can leave a message for me by using the Call Me button up on top of the page. Please remember to send/leave your name, contact information, what you do, and any other information you think relevant or important. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

I am also looking to meet up with fellow producers in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area so please feel free to drop me a line or email anytime.

Writing For Screen

SkyBlueIn 2004 I was working on several commercial productions. One of the people I was working with had some experience in screenwriting. He had a script optioned and the film was given a green light. Unfortunately, as things sometimes go in Hollywood, the film was shut down before principal photography began. It had been several years and he was looking at producing the film himself. We had become production partners and began to talk about production projects he had started. I spent a good deal of time retooling some of his older work and we collaborated on several new projects.

What I had not realized at the time was that I was developing the skills of a producer/screenwriter. The work we were doing was preproduction script development. After a while he suggested that I come up with a concept and begin writing the screenplay on my own, which I did. I started with a basic story, then started writing it in screenplay format with dialog. Not the best idea, at least for me.

When I am producing, I can move and think very quickly. My thought process is able to encompass the entire production. Everything is physical and relative, there are reference points and connecting processes. When I am writing, things happen a bit differently. The writing process in more difficult for me, it is all vapor. When I first began writing I was stuck for long periods of time because I needed a connection between each scene. I had to write in chronological order. Recently I have been developing the ability to maintain relative continuity while writing scenes out of chronological order as they come to me. I have been trying different exercises and new techniques to improve my skill and speed in screenwriting.

As I mentioned, I had developed a basic story and began writing the screenplay back in 2004 the working title of which is Sky Blue. After building the basics, my writing/producing partner and I started to co-develop the script. I didn’t like the new direction the project had taken. All of the things I loved about the story had disappeared. It was clear that we had very different visions of the story. At the time I was new to screenwriting and filmmaking, so I differed to him on many of the creative choices. Now its five years later, a LOT of water has passed under the bridge, and I am a different person. A much stronger writer, and a much more confident producer.

I recently read a book by Lawrence Turman called “So you want to be a Producer.” He produced “The Graduate,” among many other films. In truth, I have read Larry’s book several times so that probably should read as ‘I recently re-read…’. In the book, Larry’s biggest point to aspiring producers is be true to yourself. As he put it “taste is everything,” referring to your intuition and good taste, and he was so right.

I had shelved the script for over a year. I was just unable to look it in the face. It depressed me to see what my idea had become. I chucked it, obliterated it. Paper copies I had were shredded, the digital copies were deleted, and I went back to my original concept. Sky Blue is back on my screenwriters workbench. I started writing it again at the beginning of the week, I have fourteen pages completed, but more importantly, I have a beginning a middle and now an end. The ending had alluded me for so long. There are a few rough spots and some holes, but that’s fine this is a second go at a first draft right? The story is much more complete and I know where things are going, now all I have to do is get them there believably, interestingly, and lovingly. I like this script again. No, I love this script again.

I will be posting more about Sky Blue as things progress. I am excited again, now I can finish the script, do my 3X5 cards, storyboard, all of the preproduction development is beginning to take shape once again in my mind.

Making Media Magic

reels-bl-2 copyIn the media producing world these days, it seems as though there are only the two extremes of thought. “Art for Art’s sake” or “be as creative as you want, as long as it makes money”, kind of like Henry Ford’s “You can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black”.

An Art Zealot I am not, a money grubbing fiend… maybe a little, but no. I do want to produce something I am proud of artistically and at the same time have it be commercially successful.

The measure of pride in an artistic endeavor is relatively easy for the artist to gauge, ether you are satisfied or you are not. Defining “commercially successful” on the other hand can be a difficult task.

In the “professional” production world, commercial success is all about having a good profit margin. If it cost you $1,500 to produce the media, you want to be paid at least $3,000. Let’s face it, we don’t work for free right? A 100% margin is, in business parlance, an acceptable margin. Anything below 25%, and its more like a hobby, at least from a business perspective.

As an artist, paying the bills to produce the project, getting by personally, and having a little extra to fund the next project is usually sufficient to consider your self commercially successful. This is of course the typical “art for arts sake” artist and not the person employed to make a living on there artistic skills; who is by the way no less the artist. Frequently the two coexist within the same person; the daily trudge side and the high art side. Producing TV spots by day and personal projects by night.

I believe most people who make a living from there artistic talents, have an idealistic streak within themselves that wants to do nothing more than their art and just not have to worry about the day to day needs for subsistence. I know I certainly do. The freedom to make movies when the creative iron is hot, having all of the hardware and technology needed for production at hand all of the time, it would be a wonderful thing. But for most of us that is not the case.

For me, the goal is a balancing of the two extremes, produce something that I am artistically satisfied with that also keeps the bill collectors away, and provides for a growing collection of the equipment, materials, and technology to keep moving my art to new levels. Along the way it would be nice to help others on the same path.

So where’s the magic? The magic is when you can achieve artistic and commercial success in one project. Regardless of who the media is produced for, a TV spot, a documentary, a slasher film, a corporate piece. If you the producer is satisfied internally with the work, and you actually made a dime, you have made media magic.

I guess after all of that, it comes down to this…
Only you can make your art magic.

~FBJ

Low-Budget Motion Picture Studio Development

reels-bl-2 copyThis entry is a paper on micro-production companies I wrote a few months ago. I know of a few people who follow this blog who are participating in low budget film making and though this might be of interest.

~FBJ

Contents

•    Introduction
•    Low-Budget Motion Picture Production
•    Making movies cheaper
•    The keys to the kingdom
•    What makes a motion picture commercially viable?
•    What makes a script commercially viable?
•    Start selling early
•    Getting started
•    Return on investment
•    Mitigation of risk
•    Elements to successful production
•    Keeping the talent pool fresh
•    Summary

Introduction

A new course is being charted in motion picture production. Sextant MPS has been building a catalog of properties since 2004, its founders have been developing properties individually since the early 1970’s, and as a collaborative are in position to produce any one of its many motion picture properties.

With the development of new technologies and the falling prices of equipment and software there has never been a better time to enter the motion picture industry. When cameras cost $50,000 or more it is difficult to justify purchasing new ones frequently; when they cost $500 you can easily keep up with the Jones’s as new breakthroughs occur.

Low-Budget Motion Picture Production

Low-Budget does not have to mean cheap or crap. There have been many commercially successful low-budget films in the general distribution market place. Some have been cheesy, presumably on purpose (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, cost $90K, spurred 3 sequels, video games in a franchise grossing hundreds of millions of dollars), some have been cult classics (Blair Witch Project, cost $60K, grossed over $240M), and others have been serious entries into the general market (Chasing Amy, cost $250K, grossed $12M).

The Screen Actors Guild calls anything under $2.5M a low budget film. The Hollywood industrial standard is anything under $25M. Independent filmmaking is generally under $250K.

Previously mentioned examples of low-budget films all could be done today for less than they cost when they were made. Technological landscapes have changed a great deal in the last five years. High Definition video and extremely versatile Non-Linier Editing systems (NLE’s) have come down in price so fast that it is now possible to buy a good quality, pro-sumer camera and an NLE for less than $10,000 combined. These advances in technology make it possible for new companies to enter the market fresh, and upgrade with the technological advances frequently without breaking the bank.

Making movies cheaper

Many motion pictures are still being shot on film. Shooting on film adds a lot of cost to the project. A project using 16mm film can expect to pay $100 per minute of film. A project shot on 35mm could expect the cost to be $1,000 per minute. This cost is on film used to shoot, not your projects run time. The average production has a 5:1 shoot ratio or higher, this means, for every minute in your scripted project you will shoot 5 minutes to get that 1 minute needed. The average project shot with 35mm film costs over $505,000 just in film stock and daily processing. This does not take into account scenes that are shot and cut in post-production. Shoot digital, and you just saved half a million dollars.

The keys to the kingdom

The keys to making low-budget commercially successful motion pictures are making movies that are fresh, entertaining and commercially viable. Independent filmmaking has been very successful with respect to making motion pictures on a small budget, it has however, been traditionally unsuccessful in making motion pictures that are commercially viable.

What makes a motion picture commercially viable?

Many, independent filmmakers produce motion pictures with the mantra “art for art’s sake”. Although there have been commercially successful films produced under this edict, they are few and far between. The saving grace of independent film is its tenacious ability to produce motion pictures on a very low budget. The motion picture industry as a whole has operated on its own edict that it takes big money to get big money. This has been proven incorrect by several filmmakers within the traditional motion picture industry, Clint Eastwood is a master at producing low-budget (by Hollywood standards) films that are commercially successful. On the fringe of the established industry, Robert Rodriguez has also produced a number of commercially successful films on low budgets. Both filmmakers understand the key concepts to making low-budget, commercially viable films.

Commercial success can be achieved in low-budget by the selection of an appropriate script, writing and editing that script with the intent of linking it to a marketing plan, and the judicious use of the independent filmmaker spirit

What makes a script commercially viable?

Key elements of a commercially viable script are a unique story, or in the very least a unique retelling of the story, and development of the screenplay with an eye toward product placement and ancillary commercial opportunities; including merchandising, book sales, sequels, and unique marketing opportunities such as membership websites, organizations, societies, or movements.

Start selling early

Viral marketing of a motion picture property requires careful integration with key elements of the story, dynamic content and ease of distribution. The most successful example of viral marketing in a low-budget motion picture that made lots of money is the Blair Witch Project. The story of Blair Witch Project is weak at best, the production quality is also weak, however, due to the nature of the story, and in light of the enormous viral marketing campaign surrounding the project and it became a very strong property for the distribution company and the studio. Together the viral marketing campaign and the extremely low budget for production of the film where responsible for its financial success.

Getting started

Although the definition of low-budget is the subject of debate by various organizations, the disparity is based on whose industry standards are being cited. A budget of $250,000 is quite sufficient for the production of commercially viable film. Within this budgetary range, preproduction funding for the development of a property can be between $10,000 and $25,000 up-front, depending on the complexity of the film and technical requirements it may have.  In its most simple terms, a low-budget studio could feasibly produce seven to ten motion pictures in one year for under $5M. Up-front capital for an independent, low-budget studio to produce these films would be in the range of $500K -$750K.

Return on investment

Turnaround times on low-budget films, though shorter than major studio motion pictures, still run between one and two years.

Preproduction development times run from 3 to 10 months depending on the complexity of the motion picture. (median time in months; 6)

Most low-budget motion pictures can complete the preproduction phase between 3 and 6 months.  (4)

Post-production, like the other phases, is dependent on the complexity and technical requirements of the motion picture.  Post can run anywhere from 2 to 10 months. (5)

If distribution has already been arranged, the motion picture should go directly to theaters or consumer direct channels. If distribution has not been secured in advance, it becomes necessary to present the motion picture within the film festival circuit. Playing the circuit could add 18 months or more to secure a distribution contract. (6)

Assuming a run in the film festival circuit before a distribution contract is negotiated; this brings our median time in around 21 months before revenues are generated on the motion picture. This is of course assuming that the property is picked up by distribution. This is not always the case.

It is the responsibility of the producers to provide their best efforts at securing distribution for any motion picture from its inception. There are however, elements well outside the producers’ control that may prevent the film from obtaining distribution.

Mitigation of risk

The business of making movies has always been a risky venture. There are no absolutes in the industry guaranteeing distribution or the profitability of a motion picture. A producer can mitigate risk by ensuring the property is developed as a commercially viable project, and by securing product placement contracts and distribution contracts during the development phase of the motion picture. Elements that can reduce risk of loss include completion insurance and preventative measures against stock asset material destruction and curtailing proprietary information exchange

Elements to successful production

Filming in digital formats, thorough preproduction planning, extensive storyboarding and shot lists, and the early involvement of editing staff can reduce back end expenses and time a great deal. Spending a little extra time in the preproduction phase can smooth out the bumps in the road before you get to them.

Keeping production elements in the house whenever possible may cost slightly more initially, however, the flexibility and oversight it allows outweigh the slight cost increase quickly. Development of regular crew list keeps the set environment familiar and allows the crew to flow smoothly from one project to the next. Frequent reanalysis of the production paradigm provides regular feedback on the flow of the production, more importantly it provides the producers with information that can streamline the flow of production and provide continued cost reduction information from one project to the next.

Continual development of industrial relationships such as distribution companies, vendors, and talent, along with regular scouting of new crew, talent and locations provides the studio with ready resources going into the next project.

Keeping the talent pool fresh

Experimental filmmaking with regular cast and crew in between projects by making short subject films, though not usually commercially viable, presents many opportunities for the development of new techniques, equipment, and expanding crew skill sets. This kind of intermediary project also provides an opportunity to audition new crew and talent in a professional environment, without commercial loss. Furthering the growth and development of regular crew and talent affects the bottom line positively.

Summary

Maintaining a top-of-mind awareness, a studio can develop a reputation for its ability to develop fresh properties and get them to market quickly while maintaining a high quality product.

Combining the independent filmmaker spirit with big-picture management, a small studio can produce a high volume of commercially viable motion pictures annually while incurring very low cost-per-project expenses and a minimal studio overhead cost.

Busy Bee Buzzing Blissfully

desktopSo much going on. Over the weekend, Thursday the 22nd through Monday the 26th, I was fi/fantasy/media/costume convention and actually did stuff. This year was also a year of firsts, I was not working the con, I paid to attend, I was a contestant in the masquerade costume contest (in a group), the group I was in, WON Best in Show for Presentation!

There was drama within the group that caused stress for a week now, but I think that is over with. I do love costuming and theatrical presentations. I always have fun.

On other fronts, the SteamFaire project is moving along nicely. I was able to do a great deal of meet and greet at BayCon and had nothing but positive responses from everyone. With over 40 registered users on the SteamFaire.com website I am moving forward… wait for it… full steam ahead. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

I have called for a meeting on June 8th to move the planning to an open forum for discussion and input. I expect there will be a great deal of creative and interesting things brought up at the meeting.

Tomorrow, back to the gristmill. I have to something about that.

~FBJ

A Book Project

topsheetMotion Picture Budget Book and
Motion Picture Budget Workbook

This is a set of books I have been working on for some time now. The books are intended to help film students and new producers understand the budget process and provide a foundation for budget development. The Workbook is available here in its preliminary format for your perusal.

Even if you are not involved in production this workbook will give you an idea as to what goes into making a major motion picture.

Please feel free to post any comments you may have on this project.

~FBJ