An Award Winning Filmmaker Decided to Write a Book. Here is What She Learned and Her Outside-the-Box Way of Getting a Great Deal to Write the Screenplay
by Carole Dean
Many filmmakers tell me they want to write a book to go with their film. And they want to know if the book should be published first. I decided the right person to ask is Alexis Krasilovsky.
Alexis won the Roy Dean Film Grant for her global documentary feature: Women Behind the Camera, which won four “Best Documentary” awards. She also directed a second global documentary, “Let Them Eat Cake” (2014), She is a member of the Writers Guild of America West.
Written under her “nom de plume” Alexis Rafael, her most recent book is “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess”. Set in 1969, it tells the story of Ana who arrives at Yale just as it’s going co-ed. It tackles sexual liberation and sexual assault on campus, as well as sexual harassment in the film industry.
I interviewed her on The Art of Film Funding Podcast about filmmakers writing books. How important is it for your film? Here are some tips from this podcast.
What Advice Do You Have for Going from Filmmaker to Author?
“It’s often a good idea to write a book first,” suggested Alexis. “It not only helps you to solidify your ideas, but by getting a book published first, your readership becomes your potential audience for the movie.”
“If it’s a women’s topic, that can be especially significant. Women comprise 75% of the readership of novels. Even though the film industry is still very male-dominated in terms of who decides what gets produced and what doesn’t, they are finally recognizing that it can be very good business to produce a film based on a book written by and for women.”
Did You Base “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” on Your Own Experiences?
“Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” is a work of fiction, set against the backdrop of the sexual liberation era, anti-Vietnam protests and Black Panther demonstrations. It’s a portrait of a filmmaker, Ana, as a young woman who won’t let sexual harassment stop her.”
But I am not Ana. Unlike the Ana of this novel, I did let sexual harassment stop me. I retreated into academia instead of going to bed with the last producer I worked for in Hollywood. The books which I wrote while a professor became a kind of R&D – research and development – for creating the character of Ana as she moves forward through the 1970s and 1980s in L.A. and N.Y.”
But some of what Ana experiences did come from my own life. Like Ana, the Yale student, I protested against the war in Vietnam in Washington, although the real me didn’t drop acid.”
What Do You Want People to Take Away From the Book?
“I want readers to find affirmation in their right to pursue consensual sex, as well as their right to live without sexual violence.
For those readers who are part of the “#MeToo” movement, I want my book to provide healing by furthering the discussion about Ana, a relatively isolated character, and young women today, who belong to a Sisterhood.”
What is the Unique Strategy You Are Using to Get a Deal to Write the Screenplay?
“Before embarking on the screenplay, I took time off – including a research fellowship and a sabbatical – to write a nonfiction book entitled “Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling.” It was published by Routledge in NY and London last fall.”
As a member of the Writers Guild, I thought that by establishing myself as an international expert in screenplay adaptation, I’d get a better deal on the screenplay for “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess.” I’ve been speaking about adaptation at CBS Studios and on panels around the L.A. area. In January, I’ll be giving a screenplay adaptation workshop at the International Academy of Film and Media in Bangladesh.”
I hope that strategy pays off. After teaching screenplay adaptation as a screenwriting professor for over two decades, you can imagine what a thrill it is to sit down at the computer, open up Final Draft, and finally, finally, go to work on my own screenplay.”
I just sit there and laugh and laugh – not all of “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” is tragic.”
Author Alexis Krasilovsky Explains When it’s Been Right to Move Adaptations Beyond the Original Material
by Carole Dean
Are you thinking of making a film or documentary by adapting a book, magazine article or TV show? You’re not alone as many academy award winning films, Emmy winning movies, and series began as adaptations.
There’s a ton of pitfalls. Some, of course, are legal that could stop you before you start. Or, you could get tied up in lawsuits after you’ve invested time and money. Other traps are creative. How far should you or can you go in changing any aspect of the original?
“A good student will memorize the storyline and analyze the characters and some of the things they say – whether it’s a graphic novel, a short story, a play or a novel” noted Alexis. “But a great student — or a professional screenwriter — needs to honor the spirit of the work without just regurgitating its storyline and dialogue.”
The original work needs to come alive in a new medium. Alexis says an adaptations calls for a close relationship with the original author. But, you don’t want to be slavishly married to the book.
“It may mean divorcing yourself from the material you’re adapting in order to discover your own voice in the process,” she explains. “That fresh perspective can be the key towards involving your audience so that they’re excited by the story and what you do with its characters, setting, and time frame.”
How Important Is It to Stay with the Original Setting of the Story?
“Moonlight”, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” was shot in Liberty City, Florida. It’s the Miami suburb where both director Barry Jenkins and author grew up. But, Alexis mentions, before filmming began, there was talk about setting a in Chicago!
For some stories, like “Moonlight”, the original location is an integral part of the story and should not be altered. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine Trainspotting taking place somewhere other than Edinburgh, “The Milk of Sorry” in any place other than Peru, or “Wuthering Heights” outside of England (although Luis Bunuel’s “Wuthering Heights”, renamed “Abismos de Pasion”, takes place in Mexico).
But many times, the creativity of changing a setting is what makes a film a winner. One is example is Nobel Laureate Naguib Mafouz’s novel, “Midaq Alley” The original story takes place in a run-down alleyway in poverty-stricken Cairo, Egypt.
Mexican Filmmaker Jorge Fons reset the location in his film “Midaq Alley” (El Callejon de los Milagros). His film explores the parallel lives of characters in a run-down alleyway in Mexico City. The film won 11 Ariel Awards in Mexico – the equivalent of our Oscars, and dozens of other international awards and nominations.
It’s a great example of a story without borders: It’s a story that resonates with poverty issues in both Egypt and Mexico but is also universal.
Adding to Original Material
Akira Kurosawa was famous for his many adaptations. Alexis told a story contained in his cleverly named autobiography, “Something Like an Autobiography” in which talked about how he combined different original stories to create a classic.
“As I cast about for what to film,” Kurosawa recalled, “I suddenly remembered a script based on the short story “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. .. written by Hashimoto Shinobu. It was a very well-written piece, but not long enough to make into a feature film”
Later the memory of it jumped out of one of those creases in my brain and told me to give it a chance. At the same time, I recalled that “In a Grove” is made up of three stories. I realized that if I added one more, the whole would be just the right length for a feature film.”
Then, I remembered the Akutagawa story “Rashomon.” Like “In a Grove,” it was set in the Heian period…The film Rashomon took shape in my mind.”
Kurosawa felt, that in order to write scripts, “you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great.”
“I’ve tried to do just that in while writing my book, “Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling,” said Alexis “I hope it will be helpful to others.”
Bonus – Alexis Krasilovsky Negotiator’s Legal Checklist for Film Adaptations
There are six basic questions that negotiators can discuss and check off when working on film adaptations:
Is the basic story under copyright?
Who owns the rights?
Have the rights been previously granted to a third party?
If in public domain, have other versions been previously made and released.
Monetary negotiation with owner or agent of copyrighted version. 6. Non-monetary negotiations (such as territory, script approval, sequel rights, credits, etc.).
Attorneys can be very expensive and therefore doing one’s homework prior to your consultation can be a worthwhile investment. The answers are discussed in detail in “Great Adaptations,” in the second chapter.
Hoʻoponopono, the Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness and reconciliation, can release your creativity
by Carole Dean
Forgiveness is a higher vibration than love
“My enemy has come to ask me for forgiveness.”
I was in the hospital with my father who had just had a stroke. We did not know if he would live. Dad was staring at the door to his room when he said those words.
I said Dad, you have to forgive him and let him go. “Darling”, he said, “I forgave him long ago. He must forgive himself.”
That was one of the most important moments in my life. Since then, I have learned that forgiveness is a higher vibration than love. It is the vibration that we all want to reach while we are on this planet.
Then, I found a wonderful Hawaiian prayer. It has been an important tool for healing myself and forgiving others. It brought balance in my life and I owe much of my success to its lessons.
It’s allowed them to be heard, be creative, and get funded.
‘I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you’.
Those are the few and powerful words of the Ho’oponopono prayer. The literal translation of the prayer from Hawaiian is ‘to put to right; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, make orderly or neat.”
Many people believe Hoʻoponopono to be a mantra of mental and spiritual cleaning that could be compared to Buddhist techniques for clearing karma. According to the Hawaiian worldview, “errors of thought” are the origin of problems in the physical world. The prayer begins the process of cleansing them.
When we forgive others, we are really forgiving ourselves.
Money Has Ears
Ok, how can this help you fund your film? If you feel like you have a strained relationship with money, you can use this powerful meditation to break through personal blocks. Creative differences, funding falling through, or family issues distracting you from reaching your goals? This prayer can help get all of that behind you.
With Hoʻoponopono, you take total responsibility for your own actions and everybody else’s too. You must let go of your ego when using this prayer. Connection, clearing, and forgiveness are much more important than ego concerns about who is right and who is wrong.
This will move you out of any feeling that you have been victimized. It will release anger that is blocking you from moving forward.
Rejection is a Daily Occurrence for Filmmakers
Each of you has to deal with rejection on a daily basis. Healing and forgiving are partners in this Hawaiian prayer. When you have been rejected by a donor or a grant, this can help you accept it and move on.
There is power in release of trauma, power in release of anger, power in the release of frustration. All of this power you have is now being used to handle, to keep in place, all of these emotions.
You can heal yourself and remove any unpleasant situations, rejections or loss, with Hoʻoponopono. This is asking a lot from a prayer and I believe it works.
Bring up a rejection of a donation to your film or bring up a confrontation with someone. Then, say this prayer daily for a week or until you feel you are in balance with this person or issue.
You will begin to heal that hurt and soon you can say their name without any hurt feelings. That is when you know you’ve forgiven them.
Give it a Two Month Try Out
Those of you who want to try this, please join me and let’s do it for the months of August and September. This would give us lots of prayers to forgive people including ourselves.
You might use a memory trick to tie new things to some habit. For example, like when you brush your teeth, remember your Ho’oponopono prayer!
Give yourself time to start saying it before the day comes on you or when you go to bed. Pick someone, some event, that you want to heal and begin your forgiveness prayer. Say it at least 5 times for one person.
I will do it with you. This opens up our creative forces.
Look Online for a Guided Ho’oponopono Meditation
There are prayers on line from 7 minutes to over an hour that you can use. I suggest you find one that works for you.
I am a long-time meditator. I put myself into a quiet place or I do this when I go to bed. In my mind, I bring up the person or event. Then I say Ho’oponopono, their name, and then I slowly and sincerely repeat these words:
I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you, I thank you.
I suggest you do this 3 to 5 times for each person. I send them forgiveness with each prayer, even when I think I am the wronged person! It does not matter, I know I must forgive them and I must forgive myself.
Forgiveness is the highest vibration on the planet and that’s where creatives want to live, where we are vibrating with the resonance higher than love.
Hidden in New Tax Law are Incentives For Film Donors and Investors That Could Help Finance Your Entire Film
by Carole Dean
Did you know that when President Trump signed into law the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in January, 2018, new incentives for film investors were created that could help get your film funded? I didn’t and I’m pretty sure most filmmakers we work with at From the Heart Productions did not know either (and since many in Congress had not even read the new law before it was enacted, they may be clueless as well).
Corky Kessler, Esq. is one of the top film attorneys in the US and he knows better than anyone how filmmakers can take advantage of tax laws. When I interviewed Corky on The Art of Film Funding Podcast, he brought this incentive to my attention and revealed you can use it to get your film funded.
The part of the new law that relates to film, television and theater and is called “bonus depreciation, section 168.” Bonus depreciation means when a film is first shown, at the end of that year, the investors get a 100% depreciation.
As a result, that means the investor can take a loss of 100% for the amount invested. For example, say your donor invests in 2017 and in 2018 you have your first screening. At the end of 2018, your investor can get his 100% depreciation for the total amount of his investment.
What a great way to attract major donors or investors to your project by giving them a massive tax deduction.
Take Advantage Before They Put Restrictions on This New Law
Before there was bonus depreciation, there was Section 181 of the tax code. Enacted in 2004, Section 181 allowed you to eliminate your investor’s tax bill by what they’ve invested in your film.
Corky says that, when section 181 was introduced, it had no rules or regulations until February 2007. Those first years were wonderful. It was like the wild, wild west with lots of opportunities to help film investors.
This new law replaces Section 181. And, just like the early days of that law, there are no rules and regulations for the new law. So, the field of how to interpret things is wide open. This is good for filmmakers.
Putting Your Film “In Service”
Your film needs to be “put in service” to get the depreciation. But, right now, there is no definition of what that exactly means. We know it has to be shown somewhere. The law just isn’t clear on where that somewhere needs to be. A festival could qualify. You could rent a theater, charge people a dollar, and the film is “in service.”
But, wait. The law does not say if it has to be shown in a theater. It does not even say how long the film has to be shown.
Corky says it could also be shown on YouTube or social media. The law is triggered when the film is “put into service” meaning the time that a film is first shown. For television, it is the year it is first aired, for theater it is the year of the opening night of the theater.
The Sky is the Limit
Under Section 181, said you could expense up to 15 or $20 million. This new law has no limit. It could be $100 million. Better yet, the law is retroactive and begins in 2017. The law ends on Dec 31, 2020.
The New Law is Excellent for International Co-Productions
One carryover of Section 181 is that 75% of your service wages of the film have to be performed in the United States. 25% can be in any country you want.
So, in theory, let’s say we have a $10 million movie. You could spend $2,500,000 in service wages in Canada or England and take advantage of their excellent tax incentives for filmmakers. Plus, you could shoot in France with their 25% incentive or the Dominican Republic with a 25% incentive.
We can go any place that we want and spend the 25% and still qualify for the US incentive.
Part of the new tax law is Section 199A. It gives you a 20% deduction on taxable income for money coming back to you. If I return a dollar to you, you pay tax on only $.80. So, you make 20% on the incoming funds. I believe you can write off a maximum of $350,000.
Get a Good Accountant and Lawyer
There are limitations on what you can do under this. So, please make sure to talk to your accountant to understand them.
A good lawyer to guide you through this is advisable as well. Corky Kessler works at Rubenstein Business Law with his partner David Rubenstein. He can be contacted at From the Heart highly recommends him and his services for filmmakers.
He’s been in the business for many years and he is intelligent, creative and a lot of fun to work with.
20 Filmmakers Take Next Step Toward Winning Grant Valued at $30,000
From over 300 submissions from around the world, 20 films have been named finalists for Spring 2018 Roy W. Dean Grant. The grant, which is offered by non-profit From The Heart Productions, seeks unique films that contribute to society.
The Roy W. Dean Grant winner will receive $30,000 in a combination of cash and donated from film industry professionals and companies which support independent filmmakers.
“We are truly blessed right now having so many talented, creative filmmakers with passion for their projects shining a light on the social, environmental, and human rights issues facing our world.” said Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions.
Submissions included documentaries, features, short films and web series. While most films came from U.S., projects were received from filmmakers in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Belgium, Chile, Spain, and Portugal.
Out of these Roy W. Dean Grant Finalists for Spring 2018, the grant judges will select a final five from which they will choose the winner. Announcement of the winner will be made in September.
Awarded 3 times each year, the Roy W. Dean Grant seeks films that are unique and make a contribution to society. There is a Spring, Summer and Fall Grant. The Fall Grant is now accepting entries and closes September 30th. Films submitted to the grant can be short films, documentaries or features from early stages of pre-production to those needing help in post.
Recent past winners of the grant include the award winning “Heist: Who Stole the American Dream”, “The Brainwashing of My Dad”, and Emmy winner “Mia: A Dancer’s Journey”.
About From The Heart Productions
The 501(c)3 non-profit was founded by Carole Dean when she saw how many filmmakers with important, new, and often controversial stories were having trouble getting financing for their films. From The Heart offers fiscal sponsorship for films which allows donors to get a tax deduction for their donations. Their Intentional Filmmaking Classes which teaches filmmakers the tactics on how to get funded is now open for enrollment. Classes start in September.
No Other Crowdfunding Platform, Not Kickstarter or Indiegogo, Can Claim This. What is The Secret to Seed&Spark’s Success?
by Carole Dean
Web Series “One True Loves”
The films that get fiscal sponsorship at From the Heart Productions have consistently received the “green light” on Seed&Spark. This means they hit their crowdfunding goal and get the funding they raised. This occurs more often at Seed&Spark than other crowdfunding platforms.
Recently, I welcomed Gerry Maravilla, Head of Crowdfunding at Seed&Spark, to my The Art of Film Funding Podcast. He revealed the advice they give to filmmakers on how to have a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Goal Setting on Seed&Spark
This is a crucial part of the entire crowdfunding campaign. Getting this right is a one of the keys to success.
It begins with a surprising statistic and comes down to simple math.
“There’s traditionally a 1% conversion rate from social media share to a donation.”Gerry states. This means, if you have 1,000 Facebook followers, you can expect only 1% of them to donate!
He says that you can get 20 to 30% from your email lists. This must be a personal email to each person, not an email blast that would bring you much less. Personalization is the key to getting the highest percentage rate from your list.
Gerry suggests you ask your crew for their email lists. Ask your family too for any names they will let you use to crowdfund. Put all your names together.
So, how much can you can raise? The most popular donation amount is $25.00. So, consider that 30% of the list will give you $25.00 each. Multiply the number of names on your list by 30% and then by $25.00. This is a goal you know you can hit.
“But this is nowhere near my budget,” you say? Yes, but setting a goal at $100,000 when you can only expect to raise $1,000 will result in a failed campaign and no money.
Take what you can get from this campaign. Use the money move forward with the film and begin expanding your email list for your second campaign.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make an “Ask.”
Seed & Spark recommends that you reach out early to your list long before you start crowdfunding. Let them know that you are planning a campaign to fund your film and give them the start date. Say you need them to commit to make a donation for you in the first few days as that is the critical time.
“Once you hit that 30% in the first week you can easily hit 60% in the second week,” Gerry says.
Get your list excited and committed. Ask them, “Can I count on your support?” Let them know how much you need them.
Be sure that each email you send is full of gratitude. Gratitude is a key word in crowdfunding. Donors appreciate this and the energy in that email will be totally different with your heart on the page.
Creating interesting emails is key to keeping people motivate. Even if they have donated, you want them to be involved and you want them to read every email because you want them to donate again. Use creative titles in your subject line, that will get you a higher opening rate.
Our Fiscally Sponsored Film “Two Weeks” Hit Their Goal and Were Able to Start Filmming
Campaign Preproduction is a Key to Success
Sounds crazy? Right? Yes, you have to treat a crowdfunding campaign just like a film. Gerry believes this preproduction work is another important key to their 80% success rate.
You need to prepare by building your email list and putting it on a mailing platform. (We like Constant Contact at From the Heart Productions, but there are other good ones as well).
Find the “uniqueness” about your film. What makes it special? Start marketing it with that in mind. Send links to the film or your campaign video to your list. Let them know you will be crowdfunding soon and ask if they can share this on social media to support you.
Contact Seed&Spark early and discuss your film with them. They’ve got great instructional videos on their website. Learn how to build your audience. Get your social networks and your email list ready for your campaign.
Give yourself several months. Study successful campaigns and learn from other filmmakers. Don’t rush into this, plan the campaign and it will bring you a greater return.
Give Your Donors an Immediate Tax Write-Off with From the Heart Productions
Our non-profit works closely with Seed&Spark. We are a partner with them and offer the lowest fees of any fiscal sponsor when using their platform. Having fiscal sponsorship allows donors to the campaign to get tax deductions for their donations. That creates a powerful incentive to donate.
Gerry says you want to be sure to mention your nonprofit name on your page. This shows your donor that a nonprofit has reviewed your film and accepted it.
Many donors like the fact that a nonprofit is involved to see that you use the funds for the film. They feel that you will finish the film. We believe that sponsorship gives you more credibility with donors.
Gerry Maravilla is available for more information at . Anyone wanting information on crowdfunding can email
Director Robyn Symon’s first Kickstarter campaign for her documentary “Do No Harm” reached it’s goal. Could she make it happen again?
by Richard Kaufman
Documentary filmmaker Robyn Symon was told it was impossible for a film to have two successful Kickstarter campaigns. Her Roy W. Dean Grant winning film “Do No Harm” raised over $100,000 on the first Kickstarter effort. She needed to raise at least that much again to help get her film finished.
On The Art of Film Funding Podcast , she she shared with host Carole Dean tips on how she defied the naysayers and reached her goal the second time around.
Put Together a Team With Connections
“Do No Harm”, fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions, reveals the sad shocking truth about physician suicides. While their jobs are to serve as our healers , they have the highest rate of suicide among any profession.
She knew on her second Kickstarter campaign she would need to reach new supporters and expand her followers to be successful. To do that, she wanted to build a team who could connect with those in medical field.
She sought out those “who had vlogs, podcasts and they had like tens of thousands of followers.” She didn’t want anyone just because they loved the film. She selected 5 or 6 people after “I looked at their backgrounds carefully to know that these people knew how to connect with other people.”
One of them, Dr. Pamela Wible, Roybn called her “secret weapon”. She’s considered “the guardian angel to physicians and medical student suseptible to suicide.” Her vlogs get 50,000 views and a Ted talk she did seen by over 380,000 views.
With a team in place, they were getting word out about the film even before the campaign began.
Have Money in Kickstarter Campaign Before it Starts
“You should have a few thousand dollars already committed.” Robyn suggested. So, as soon as you pull the switch on the campaign, the money is already tallied for all to see.
“No one wants to be the first money in.”
Everyone on her team agreed to contribute $1,000 before the campaign went live. So, right at the start they already had momentum.
Robyn Raised $131,313 on Second Kickstarter Campaign
Don’t Have a Goal That’s Too High…Or Too Low
“If your goal is too high, you’re not going to be sucessful”, she said. Conversely, you don’t want to have a goal that is too low and easily attainable.
“Once you reach your goal its very difficult to raise more money.” She suggests not to go for all the funding at once in one campaign. Break it up into smaller asks.
“You have to make it very clear what the money is being allocated for” such as pre-production. So, when you go back for more funding, you’re not rejected by those who think you’ve already raised enough to make your film.
Consider Using a Kickstarter Campaign Expert
Because she was concerned about raising money a second time on Kickstarter and finding new supporters, she hired an Kickstarter expert.
From the Heart Productions has one expert they work with who has a fantastic track record of crowdfunding success with their fiscally sponsored films. They hooked him up with Robyn to help her with her campaign.
“I think it was really helpful.”, explained Robyn. “He has done so many of these campaigns that he really made the page look fantastic.”
She regretted not setting her goal higher as she reached it in a week! Her goal was $60K, but she really needed $100k and thinks she could have raised $200k.
“It’s tough, really tough, to go back and say “Yes, we reached our goal and we have 3 weeks left.’”
Fortunately, she was able to refocus her campaign on raising funds for marketing and was able to get an additional $60,000.
Richard Kaufman is a board member of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship and the Roy W. Dean Grant for independent filmmakers. Richard has over 25 years experience in supplying filmmakers with discounted film stock and hard drives. He is currently a Senior Account Executive with Filmtools.
Strategic partners are key to crowdfunding and marketing your film. Connecting with them is a key to audience building for crowdfunding and selling your downloads.
by Carole Dean
You May Not Need to Stand On Your Head to Land Strategic Partners, But You Need to Make a Concerted Effort
Strategic partners are groups or nonprofit organizations online whose members would be interested in the subject matter of your film.
Because I run From the Heart Productions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, I’m quite aware of how careful and protective nonprofits are of their mailing lists. We never give it out. It’s hard work getting donors who’ve gained your trust.
Most nonprofits live off of their mailing list. They are very familiar with their top donors and take good care of them. That includes only sending them pertinent emails regarding their mission.
But, if you follow these steps, you can build a group of strategic partners of your own.
Start Small, Finish Big
I suggest that you make a list of the top 20 potentials for strategic partners. Some of these will be the largest organizations online that are interested in the subject matter of your film.
However, I wouldn’t start with any of the largest in this group. I would start with some of the smaller nonprofits. Find out what works and what doesn’t with them.
Calling Strategic Partners – What Not to Say When You First Call
When you call these nonprofits or organizations, who can become major “connectors” to your audience, don’t say “Hi, I making a film that your members would really love.” You will not be quickly received. Expect them to immediately close ranks unless you do this right.
They want to know a lot about you and the film you’re making. Also, they will want to know how it will be received by their members. You want to create a long-term relationship with the organization. What you say and how you introduce yourself is most important.
It might take you more than a year to gain the trust of strategic partners. I suggest the first call is to introduce yourself. Tell them who you are and what you’re doing. Make it short, sweet, and engaging.
The goal is to be able to communicate with them on an on-going basis, like every 4 or 5 months, to keep them informed of your film’s development. You know that this nonprofit’s audience is interested in the content of your film. What you want to do is to create a relationship. Begin building trust so they will share your film with their audience.
Create a Script
Before your first call to potential strategic partners, get prepared and write down what you want to say and how you want the call to go. Do not read it. This is to remind you of the highlights you want to say.
Establish credibility. You want to introduce yourself as an award-winning filmmaker or someone who graduated from film school or someone who is very passionate about the subject matter. Make clear you are determined to create this important documentary or short film.
Next, you want to give them an under a two-minute pitch of your film making sure that they get the “essence” of your film. Consider using sticky story content so that you leave them with key elements they can remember.
Don’t Ask for Help…Yet
Get the person’s name and title and ask her if you can continue to communicate with her on the progress of the film. Don’t ask for anything else. Hopefully, you’ve introduced yourself and your film in a charming way to create a long-term relationship. That’s what you’re after.
This is why I want you to only contact them once you have committed to your film. This is a key to increasing your audience for you personally as a filmmaker and for the film.
Stay in Contact
Every 3 to 5 months find something wonderful to tell them. Call after 2 expressos and be upbeat. Convey that you are excited about your film. Make a good impression of you as a filmmaker and how important your film can be to their audience.
Keep it under 3 minutes. Your budding strategic partners will appreciate your concern for their time. If it is hard to get them on the phone, then send a brilliant email. Don’t expect to get a reply because you probably won’t get one.
But, they will read it. I know because people who apply for my grant email me all year with updates. I read them and enjoy them but I don’t always respond because of time. However, when they do call me or apply again to the grant, I remember them and the film. That’s what you want.
When to Get Them Involved
After about a year, you will begin to hear the interest they have for you and the film in their voice. This is when you can begin to decide when you can ask them to get their audience involved in your film.
Don’t ask too soon. You should be able to know when to ask them to post something about your film on their website or drive their audience to your website to see your trailer and you get their email address.
This is a Worthwhile Endeavor
I spoke to filmmakers who created such a great rapport that the nonprofit actually introduced him to their top donor who helped fund his film. Anything is possible. Create a vision of what you want from them and move towards that.
I was introduced to the law of attraction and learned that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to as long as I could imagine it and believe it, having faith that it could come true..
by Joy Cheriel Brown
Joy Directing Scene From Her Short Film
In 2012, I was digging around my home office and found a short script I had written eight years earlier when I was a Senior in college. It was a contender for my thesis film, but I had decided to put it away until later because it would have been a nightmare to find a location for it since the script was based on my first hospitalization for Schizoaffective Disorder, and I was taking a full load.
It was now years later and I had just started my production company when I found this script. I had always planned to do three shorts before I made my first feature film and the third short was always meant for the festival circuit. I would definitely need money to do this, and I had none.
I didn’t quite know how I was going to do this, but I had an idea of where I would get the money. For my second short film, I had gotten a grant from the philanthropic arm of a major telecommunications company. So I decided that I was going to get the financing for my third short film from another big company as well.
I knew that to get a grant from this company, I would have to get a fiscal sponsor because I was not a 501(c)(3) company and therefore, did not have non-profit status, which was the only way I would be able to get a grant from this company. I had no idea how to get a fiscal sponsor either.
During the summer of 2012, I was introduced to the law of attraction and learned that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to as long as I could imagine it and believe it, having faith that it could come true, and that when you have a dream, the universe moves people and circumstances to give you what you want. Because I didn’t know how to get a fiscal sponsor so I hadn’t made any attempts to get one, having so many other things that needed to be accomplished when making a film and building a team. Instead, I was applying for grants that could be awarded to individuals so I applied for the Roy Dean grant and let it go.
Several months later, after I had forgotten that I had even applied for the grant, I got a call from a woman who identified herself as Carole Dean. She told me that I while I did not get the grant, I was a good writer and she wanted to give me fiscal sponsorship. I took this as the first sign from the universe that I was going to get the project done.
I had already missed the 2012 deadline to apply for a grant from the company from which I was sure that I would get the money, so I had to wait for the 2013 deadline. When 2013 rolled around, I applied for the grant and was denied. I didn’t even bother to ask why. However, I reached out to the company again three years later, after two failed indiegogo campaigns, and this time, I got a call from a woman who remembered my application from a few years earlier and told me why they had rejected my application. So, I corrected that item and this time got it approved, even though it was hardly for the amount that I had asked for. Still, I took this to mean that I could get it done with the amount that they gave me and wouldn’t be able to pay all my cast and crew as I had hoped.
Moreover, by the time that the money would be awarded to me through the fiscal sponsor, it would no longer be the time of year that I wanted to shoot the film. The actual incident had taken place during the summertime and it was non-negotiable to shoot it at any other time of the year because I felt that it was significant. Plus, I didn’t want to rush to get the rest of the cast and crew together. Therefore, we would have to wait ANOTHER year before we could shoot, and I still hadn’t been able to find a location.
The next year, I brought on a location scout that did such a phenomenal job that I made her a producer. Previously, she would not have been available to take on such a large responsibility—ironically, I had met her the year I decided to make the film in 2012—but now timing was right. In 2015, I had met a director who would direct my first stage play who I also made a producer, and the three of us were sort of a dream team. If I had made the short in 2012, neither of these women would have been a part of the team, and I believe the film would have suffered for it.
Anyway, my location scout-turned-producer and I stumbled upon the perfect location for the film while checking out another space. The amazing thing about that was that before 2017, the space wouldn’t have been available because people were still living in it!
What I learned from this project is that everything happens in divine timing and at the right time for it to be most beneficial to you. We will release the short, N.O.S., later this year, and the universe continues to arrange people and circumstances as we complete the project.
Joy Cheriel Brown has studied screenwriting since 1991. She has an MFA from National University for Creative Writing, with a concentration in Screenwriting, and a Bachelor of Arts from Howard University, where she studied Film and English and graduated summa cum laude.
She has either won or placed in several contests and has had many of her screenplays chosen as official selections in the DC Chapter of Women in Film and Video’s Spotlight on Screenwriters catalog from 2014-2017 and has served as a mentor on screenwriting panels for DC Shorts and Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council’s Festival of Literary Arts.
Joy also wrote, produced, and directed the short film, Figment, in 2004, and was the writer and one of the producers for the short film, One Chance, which premiered at the Bowie Performing Arts Center in 2011, and wrote, directed, and produced the short film, N.O.S., which will be completed in 2018 and was a semi-finalist in the 2015 ScreenCraft Short Film Production Fund. The feature film, Love’s Duty, is currently in development with her production company, Third Person Omniscient Productions, whose mission it is to produce quality movies, plays, and television shows that enlighten audiences about the human condition and shed light on the meaning of life.
Joy also offers screenwriting coaching to those who want to write meaningful screenplays that are ready to be produced.
Don’t think of crowdfunding as asking for money. Think of it as inviting people to join your community. You’ll be a lot more successful
by Carole Dean
“Invite People to Join Your Community” When Crowdfunding
When you are crowdfunding, you may think you are just asking friends, relatives, your dentist, for donations. But, you are inviting others to join together to support you in the making of a film.
Asking people to “join your community to make a film” is a totally different energy than asking people for donations.
This is the energy of inviting.
When Creating Your Crowdfunding Page Write it Like an Invitation.
People love films. And hopefully, they will love yours enough to join accept your invitation.
Every film has something remarkable about it. What is remarkable about your film? What is it about it that will make people join together and make it happen?
Use the concept of a “sticky story” (make this a link to the article) so that people can remember what you tell them. Create a story with something emotional, something shocking, something concrete and something very credible so they can remember and pitch your film to their friends and earn social currency.
Make a List of What You Need People To Bring
You need more than money to make a film. The benefit of bringing a community together is gathering together those with different talents and skills. Talents and skills you need to make your film.
You should list exactly what you need. That might be people to help you with social networking, a personal assistant, a driver, or someone to help with food on the production, etc. Think of the things that you want and ask for them on your page.
How to Answer “What’s In It For Me?”
You can’t invite someone to join in making your film without expecting to give them something in return. Donors always want to know “what’s in it for me? “
This is where you can get off the charts creative with your gifts for supporting your film. You could have standard gifts like t-shirts, mugs and social media shout outs, but I really, find these are boring gifts.
Think of something unusual and exciting.
Gifts That Donors Share With Others
Here’s one great example. One person on a crowdfunding campaign was very talented with the Photoshop. He asked people who donated “where do you want to be?” Then, he took a photo of them and photo shopped them to that dream location.
One person was put on the moon and another in the South Seas. Another was place on an expensive yacht. Of course, the donors loved these photos and they quickly posted them on Facebook, twitter, all over social media. They also and drove new people to the filmmaker’s campaign and this created new donors. This is what you want. You want your donors promoting you.
Recently, I had a filmmaker offer a hand-drawn portrait for $100 on her network for good campaign. I couldn’t resist! So I donated and she sent me a precious hand-drawn photo. It was well worth the hundred dollars and the fun of seeing a personal rendering of a photo.
Use Your Creativity
Use that brilliant creativity of yours for your crowdfunding. Don’t just focus on how you can get money out of someone. Think about how you can get them to accept your invitation to help you and others make your film a reality.