Lessons for Indie Filmmakers from “Shot by Shot” Author Steven Katz

Teaching filmmaking to Michael Jackson, how let go of the fear of creating, and using your iPhone to create a storyboard

by Carole Dean

The classic book on filmmaking “Shot by Shot: Visualizing From Concept to Screen” is celebrating its 25th year in publication this year.  Author Steven Katz joined Claire Papin and Carole Dean on The Art of Film Funding Podcast

Lessons for Indie Filmmakers

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash – You can create storyboards by shooting photo boards using your iPhone or any other camera to shoot it.

He shared some stories and what he’s learned about filmmaking over the quarter decade since the film book was first published:

What He Taught Michael Jackson on Filmmaking

“At one point, I taught Michael Jackson and I had to be sensitive to the fact that he was Michael Jackson. But, a couple of times after I got to know him, I said, ‘Michael, you can pay for anything.  If you wanted to make a film for $35,000, you can do it!

“And yet, so much of what we’re working on together over these many months, we’re circling, coming to getting started to making a film, why aren’t we making a film every day? Why aren’t we making a film every week?’… And I’m talking about making a short of some kind, that’s how you learn.  

“For new filmmakers, if you’re at that age when you can take weeks off, months off, or use weekends and not have too much else to do except your love of filmmaking, then you ought to be doing that. Whatever is the gene that prompts you to be highly self-motivated and not fearful is good for filmmakers.”

How to Get Over the Fear of Creating

“When I was in China, it’s a very mimetic culture, they copy everything, and it was a difficult habit to break with the artist I was working with. I did bring 20, 30 people to the room and say, ‘Okay, let’s just talk about how you generate an idea, and where they come from.’

“I would just pull people at random out of the class and say, ‘Okay, well how did you get to work this morning? What happened?’ ‘Well I biked, and I did this, and it’s eight miles for me.’ ‘And where did you get food?’ ‘Oh, I did this,’ and out of that, I would start to pick little moments. I would say, ‘What if this had happened?’ And I would build a story out of the events they’d be telling me.

“And the whole point of it was, Hey, every day you do something. Go to lunch and something interesting happened, and if it didn’t happen figure out a place where it could’ve happened and then let your imagination run.

“I think a lot of the fear that people have about going out and just making something, is where their ideas come from and is the idea too big? You do get better at it. You get better by doing small ideas, that’s the first thing you have to learn is, you don’t have an unlimited budget.”

 

 

Creative Ways to Storyboard

You have a script. You’re a director, you get this (script) and you’re reading it and of course what’s happening is, you’re having all these pictures in your head.  If you want to say, ‘I want to start with a close-up and I want to pull back and then we’re going to cut to Nancy over here for a close-up. And then we’re going to go wide.’ Well that doesn’t mean very much. It has to be seen visually, so visualization is getting it from where it is in your head, where you see it, onto a new form.

“There are many different ways to do that and storyboarding is one of them. You can go out and shoot photo boards, like you can use your iPhone or any other camera to shoot it. You have a scene in a diner, well get your friends, you’ll buy them lunch and then you go around shooting them from all different angles.

“Now you’ve got all these shots, now you may not even be recording the dialogue, you’re not doing the video either. You’re just getting individual frames. Then you’ll bring back your shots and put them into an editing package. You’ll start to put something together and that’s a photographic version of a story. These are all things you’re doing to be able to present the material to other people, but it’s also for yourself.

“With a pencil and a sheet of paper and you can draw stick figures. So, if you’re a director and you don’t draw, you can make up this very primitive looking thing but believe me, that primitive thing when you write dialogue underneath tells you so much. And what happens is, people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t understand why this didn’t work. I got two close-ups in a row, that’s not good.’

How the Directing Greats Protected Their Work

“Alfred Hitchcock would design all his shots in a storyboard. He would go shoot those shots and he wouldn’t really shoot many alternative ways of doing things. And it was the way he could ensure the control of how he wanted to do his movie and the studio couldn’t step in as they often do today and take control.   So, say you shot 45 different shots, but you only at the end need eight of them. And you can endlessly try different versions of them.

And there was a story of John Ford, I forget what picture, it was with Maureen O’Hara, one of his later pictures. He was being asked in an interview about a famous shot where the Maureen O’Hara’s very close in a carriage, and very, very far away is one of the most prominent characters and they’re silhouetted in the distance and tiny in the frame.

“So, someone asked John Ford… ‘I remember that shot. It was so great, but it was done in such an unconventional way, why didn’t you go and get the close-up? Did you get that? Did you cover that in the shot in case the long shot didn’t work?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t shoot it’ And he said, ‘Well why?’ He said, ‘Because the studio would have used it.’ “

Just do it!

“Look, you want to become a filmmaker? You’ve got to make films, that’s it. That’s the shortest answer. There are a phenomenal number of resources out there, YouTube, and anything online with courses.

“If, you don’t go to film school another option is to do something like the New York Film Academy. There are a number of those and many of the colleges are now offering shorter programs for people who just want to train to get the basics of filmmaking and they’re not looking for a degree.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

What is Your Finished Film Worth?

I’m on mission to solve a mystery that is preventing independent filmmakers from fully realizing financial success. And, I need your help

by Carole Dean

It’s basic business 101.  When you start a business, you need to know how much money you will make from selling your product.  As an independent filmmaker you should know, before you even start, what you can expect to get when selling your film. Right now, that is nearly impossible. 

Let’s fix it.  

Selling Your Film

Photo ©Tokyo Lee Productions, Inc – Director Heather Lenz with artist Yayoi Kusama during production of Heather’s documentary “Kusama-Infinity”

Determining Your Profit

When I started my business, Studio Film & Tape, I knew exactly what to expect as profit.  I know because I set it. 

Back before the world of image capture went digital, you needed motion picture film to create a feature, documentary, or television series.  I bought back leftover motion picture film from studio productions.  I called that film short ends.  From buying millions of feet of short ends off of features and selling them at a discount to new film to independent filmmakers, I eventually created the one of the largest privately woman owned business in US. 

I decided that I could sell short ends of Kodak film stock if I put the selling price very low.  So, I set my purchase price accordingly.  I wanted a 45% gross profit and I was able to achieve that. Gross to me was the selling price less the cost of goods.  I had my books set up for this on a monthly basis.  If I did not see a 45% profit, then it was caused by one of two things: a mistake in the inventory or thief.  Believe me, I experienced both.

Filmmakers Are in the Dark

It is very simple to run a business with clarity like I just described.  Now, fast forward to today’s world with filmmakers creating budgets to make their features and documentaries.  As head of the non-profit, From the Heart Productions, we support hundreds of filmmakers each year.  I find most of them have no idea of what they can sell their film for. 

They are sure they will get into one of the top 10 film festivals. They are also sure that a distributor will take their film and pay prices paid at Sundance.  Some filmmakers think their film is perfect for Netflix.  But do they know the price Netflix will pay?  No.

They only know what they read in the papers when Netflix or Amazon makes a gigantic purchase at Sundance or Toronto.  Then, they use that number as a reference and believe that Netflix or Amazon will pay them the same price.  Please do not do this.  Anytime a selling price is in the papers, that means it is extraordinary.

Here is Where I Need Your Help

Filmmakers need to know what to expect from a sale of the finished product when preparing their budget.   How can you create a budget for a film when you don’t know if you will ever get that money back?  You can’t really or shouldn’t. 

I am asking every one of my filmmakers who has sold a project, “what did you get paid?” But I really want to gather as much information as possible.

This is where every filmmaker who reads this comes in.  If you sold your film, please, let me know the selling price.  You can be anonymous.  I just need numbers to create a data base for filmmakers to know what they can expect when selling their project.  Once I get enough reliable data then I can release it to everyone.  With this information, you can create a budget that will give you a profit.

What I’ve Heard So Far About Selling Your Film

Distributors that I’ve spoken with tell me that VOD (Video on Demand) will get you $3,000 to $5,000.  If you spend a lot of time and money marketing, you might make $15,000.00. 

What??? I thought VOD was the financial replacement of the DVD and that you could definitely get some of your $300K budget back.

Many filmmakers say to me, “I am sure Netflix will love my film.” That may be, but I am told by a reliable source that they pay $1,000 per completed minute for films with known actors and docs known actors voices or interviews.  That would mean your 90-minute feature or doc is now worth $90,000?   Since that is a buyout, how can you make back your budget if it’s over $100K?

One film distributor said that Netflix recently paid only $25,000 for a completed feature.  And that Hulu just paid $22,000 for a finished feature.  This is not good news.  I think it is interesting that both of them paid almost the same price.  How did that happen? 

Strength is Real Numbers

We need to find out what amount can be expected from a film sale.  Do you know? If not, please do some research.  Call people with similar films, ask them, “what did you sell your film for?” Please share with me. If they are reluctant, say, “Was it over $100K or under $100K?” Try to get an idea. You owe this to yourself so you can make a profit.

We must band together and find what are the current selling prices of films.  We have to be honest with each other and share this information. It’s not fair to those who are spending 6 years making documentaries or features who end up with a brilliant film and then ask, “Where’s the money?”  I find that It’s just not there for 90% of the filmmakers.

#WhatisYourFilmWorth

Together we can solve this mystery.  You can email me at  and give me your selling price or some general idea of what it was.  You can be anonymous.  We need a central organizing place for all of us to talk about the amount paid for films.  I want to be this place.  You can call me as well at 805 201 2080.

Don’t mind letting let others know what you got for selling your film?  You can also let me know via Twitter.  We are at @fromtheheartprd.   Let us know what you got for your film with the hashtag #whatyourfilmisworth You will be helping us and others as well.

I see hundreds of films going through my film grant.  There are so many talented filmmakers there are across America.  I want them and all filmmakers to know the potential selling price when they create their budget.

Your time and talents are too valuable to give away. 

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

What is Your Unique Selling Point?

In advertising and marketing, they call it your USP.  Finding your Unique Selling Point is what will set your film project apart and make it stand out from all your competitors.

by Carole Dean

Heather Hale is a film and television director, screenwriter, and producer with over 60 hours of produced content, including 20 brand new episodes of the television talk show Lifestyle Magazine.  She joined me on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast to talk about her brilliant new book, Story Selling: How to Develop, Market and Pitch Your Film & TV Projects

Unique Selling Point

“What are you doing that’s fresh and different, that we haven’t seen before, that makes this film stand out?”

Heather believes a great pitch is the key to raising money for your film and it must include your USP (Unique Selling Point) to be effective.  She discussed how filmmakers can define and create their USP then maximize it to win investors and an audience. 

What is the Unique Selling Point for Filmmakers?

For filmmakers and content creators, Heather says that ideally your USP is in your log line. “Simply elegantly, and above all quickly conveying what will compel your target audience to pay to view your film or TV show.”

How Do You Find Your USP?

“It’s what’s fresh and different about your film that we haven’t seen before,” she advises. It could be your unique point of view, your unique subject matter expertise that you bring, or your frame of reference.  It could be the way you’re telling the story as there are many non-linear story telling techniques now.

“What are you doing that’s fresh and different, that we haven’t seen before, that makes this film stand out?  Think of films like This Is Us with the two parallel story lines, and even Jane the Virgin.  It’s a telenovela, but we’ve never seen anything with that kind of fun, tongue-in cheek, campy style.  Ask yourself, ‘What makes your film fresher and more relevant to today’s audience?’”

Your USP is what bonds your film to your audience and builds rapport. She offers Game of Thrones as an example.

“There’s so much social media discussion over that, because people root for it, they get emotionally engaged.  What is your point of entry that makes for rabid fans? Viral is not a business plan, you can’t make something go viral, it has to catch on.”

How to Build the Spine of Your Log Line

A simple way to build your log line, Heather suggests, is to start with the six questions journalists have used since the beginning of news to tell a story.  “Sometimes they call it the five W’s, who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how. It’s the inverted pyramid that inherently forces you to stick to the spine of your story. So, you start with the most compelling details first before funneling down to the rest of your pitch.”

“For example, who is the main character. It’s the protagonist. It’s also who stands in his or her way, the antagonist.  Sometimes this could be a what, like an antagonistic force, but you’re always better if that is personified as a who. Next is what happens to him or her? That’s your catalyst or inciting incident.

“’What’ could also refer to what he wants or she wants.  What is the protagonist’s goal and what is the problem? What’s the conflict? What are the obstacles and stakes?  The climax is the most important what. It’s the most important moment in the script. The where and when is where the story is set, the story world, the milieu or the backdrop. That should influence all the other elements of the script.

“How does the main character overcome all that adversity? Well, there’s your plot. How does your protagonist or other characters evolve psychologically?  There’s your transformational arc. How does he or she resolve the conflict?  That’s how your story ends, which drives back to your climax. Ultimately, the why is why should we care?  That’s the theme. So, I often think the plot is what a story is about, while the theme is what the story is really about, the undercurrent.”

“Why do we care? That’s the theme. Yeah, why? Why would I watch this? Why would the protagonist put him or herself through all that? That’s the why, the driving force, the theme. And typically, your plot, and your character arc are a metaphor for that theme.”

How Important is Your Log Line to Selling Your Project?

“It’s critical.  It’s everything boiled down to that one sentence and it’s sometimes all that anyone will hear. And it’s what gets pitched over the phone, across the credenza, across conference room tables. In markets and meetings, that’s one line that people will use to default to. So, you want to be the one who’s crafted that perfectly.”

 

 

Log Lines with Irony Create a Great Sales Pitch

When watching a movie or a television show, Heather notes, viewers like to proactively add two plus two for themselves, to try to figure out the mystery, to figure out who will end up with who, second guess the plot, and the antagonist’s plan.  

“So, just as you try to make the script an engaging fun read, you want to allow the story to unfold similarly for your pitch listener. So, when the log line is an intriguing puzzle to solve, and inherent in that conflict is the juxtapositions of irony, that’s the arc that launches this inevitable climax, and it shows what the character arc is going to be.

“Irony not only is fantastic in a log line, it’s a really terrific re-writing tool, because you can work backwards and forwards from log line to script and back again, minding the collision of sub-text to explore maybe missed creative opportunities, and where you could be pushing boundaries. It would be more obvious about what the character has to learn and overcome. It would be more obvious about the contrast between characters. That irony is a really critical.”

Your Log Line is Like a Great Reduction Sauce

“I don’t know if you’re a cook or a foodie, but a reduction sauce could be a sweet sauce drizzled over a dessert or a savory gravy dolloped over protein or vegetables.

“It starts with this huge terrain of raw ingredients, like your screenplay, like your documentary, like your reality TV show. Whatever it is, you have this huge amount that is slowly boiled down over time, reducing each flavor to its core essence. And then ultimately strained into this rich, dense, fully saturated, but completely original new puree, and that’s your log line.

“So, if you see a Broadway musical or an opera, the overture reveals snippets of all the music and moods to come, and the log lines are this alluring tease. It’s a synthesis of all the essential ingredients. So, writing that log line is like a microcosm of your script. Just as editing a moving piece of content. I think reverse engineering backwards and forwards enhances both. One informs and improves the other.”

The Importance of a Great Tag Line

Tag lines are understood within the context of the title and the log line, and when they’re accompanied by key art, they give you the whole picture.  Film is a visual medium and tag lines help viewers or readers understand the whole picture in an instant.

“If you remember the Social Network, about Facebook,” Heather gave as an example, “the tag line was, ‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies’. That sets up what some of the conflict is in the world. I had a bunch listed in the book. Chicken Run; ‘Escape or die frying.’ That’s a pun that also shows you the stake in the film.

Tag lines just allow you to give that extra angle or that extra twist.  Heather suggests to look on IMDB at a comparable project and look below the storyline and you’ll see plot keywords and tag line. And you can click to see what are the project’s tag line.

“What were the keywords that they used and then brainstorm using other people’s tag lines. Not remotely are you cloning or stealing or using someone else’s idea, you’re just looking at different angles to push it to see what’s been explored or not explored. It can be a really rich fertile territory for brainstorming.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

5 Ways to Exceed your Financial Goals

How to Keep Your Environment and Emotions From Holding You Back

by Carole Dean

Breianne Pryse is an intuitive life strategist and business coach trained in many modalities. She specializes in helping people get beyond their limitations and create what they desire.  Born with many intuitive gifts, she excels at moving people and businesses into places they never thought possible. 

 

Financial Goals

Toss Your Past Traumas and Current Negativity Surrounding You Into a Bin and Take Back Your Energy

In my The Art of Film Funding Podcast interview with Breianne, she provided these 5 ways to exceed your financial goals.

Keep Your Energy Clear

If you’re working from your house and it doesn’t feel good, this can be a sign there’s too much energy there.   It could also mean there is too much negativity or it’s a sign you have not released your energy correctly.

“With all the political stuff going on, the weather, we are constantly bombarded with energy. We have to own that,” Breianne suggests.  “We say to ourselves ‘All right, I am really bombarded by the energy. Universe, I’m feeling crap today. All right, I’ve got to change this. I have life to live and more important things to do. I need to change it. I’m going to change it today.’”

She points out that there are very basic things that you can do to change the energy around you. “Spraying rosewater around an environment is really great.  Roses are the flowers of angels, so doing that is very good. I like to flood myself with white light as that really helps.”

“Putting boundaries on energy, changing your space. Think of going down to the beach one day and working, instead of sitting in front of your computer in your office. A lot of people have modalities, prayers, rituals that make them feel good and shift their energy. Salt baths and showers are really excellent, because it cleans out your auric field and it cleans out your skin.

“But, is really super important that you honor that you feel like crap and you can change it.  Because as we know, we can get caught up in the nastiness so much, and we forget that we can change it.  We really need to be in our power, and in our awareness and we can do that by changing the energy.”

Clearing Your Mental & Emotional Past

Breianne believes our past traumas not only affect who we are today. They also affect our thoughts and our feelings.  

“Most of us are energetically sensitive people,” says Breanne. “Sometimes when we go to create something awesome, we can feel like we hit a brick wall. Or we’re trying really, really hard and it doesn’t work.  Well, a lot of times that’s some sort of mechanism, some sort of energy within us from our past, that is preventing us.”

Start by Identifying the things that are limiting you.  She offers “one fun exercise that you can do is to imagine in front of you a bin of velvet white, or purple light, and it’s burning really, really bright. You want to find any past traumas stored in your body.  You want to ask, ‘All right universe, what stuff did I pick up from my mom that prevents me from having the money that I want to have right now?’”

“Feel into that energy, and you start picking it out of your body, and physically throwing it into the bin. You can do the same thing with your father.

 

 

“One of the things that was very helpful to me is, I had a lot of feedback and energy from people with old sayings from Oklahoma and Arkansas, because that’s where my family is from originally. One of those was, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’ Well, that might really be affecting me now, and even though I don’t consciously buy into that, I can remember my grandmother saying that. So, I pulled that and I put it in the bin.”

She believes your ancestry plays a part in this, too. Usually by the age of two, where your parents were financially gets ingrained in you.  So, if they were struggling, and usually when they’re starting a new family, there is a lot of struggle, that energy can be in you and make it hard to make money.

To overcome that, Brieanne likes “talking to the traumas and saying, ‘All right, trauma. Thank you very much. I’m reclaiming my energy. I’m stopping you. I am choosing to create money to help me, my family, humanity.’”

“Throwing everything in the bin is awesome because that’s just saying you no longer need it, and you no longer want it. Now, with this, you need to go back to that magical word, truth. What I notice with a lot of people is that they did not get rid of it. What they did is, they just put it in a box. They did something else with it, so they can’t find it anymore, but it’s still there running the show.

“What I do is, I invite all the energy from all the things that I’ve ever thought I’ve cleared, all the things from all the modalities that I thought I’d zapped. I bring it all up, pull it up from inside my body and I just throw it in the bin. That helps clear it.”

Refine Your Ask

Before embarking on their project, Breianne advises filmmakers to ask “All right, universe, is it time for this film? Will this film have the impact that I want it to have at this point?”  

“It’s all about asking and refining your ask, but you have to remember to ask.” She reminds people that they’ve got to ask every day and ask consistently.  “Because the universe hears everything. Ask the universe ‘How can we make more money today? What can I do to make more money for my film today?’”

“Please don’t say ‘Oh my God, it’s so hard to make money. Things don’t work for me.’  You need to basically be asking daily, and you keep asking, as you refine your ask. Are we asking for the right thing? And just see what happens.

“One of the things that was explained to me was sometimes what you’re asking for is too small. Sometimes, things don’t show up because we’re asking for $10,000 for a film. Maybe we should be asking for $100,000 for two films. Back to that magic truth energy of what is working and what is showing up.”

Be Aware of What Shows Up

“If you’re asking for something, and something else shows up, pay attention,” Breianne warned me.

“Carole, I know that you’ve had this experience too. With me it’s like, I want new clients. So, I send fliers out in the west. Well, all the clients come from the east. Nothing comes from those fliers. It’s all about telling the universe that you want something, but not being attached to how it shows up. I’m sure you’ve had the stories from your filmmakers many times, they’ve spent all this time and energy trying to get money one way, but then it magically appears from somewhere else.

“We have to be aware of that, and say, ‘Wonderful universe, how can I magically receive more energy?’  We have to shift, because if we’re so ultra-focused on one way, we’re not going to see all the opportunities.

“What’s wonderful about this day and age is there’s a zillion and a half ways to make money, we just have to choose. We have to choose what works for us, and go with that, okay? Then that brings it to the fifth way.”

You Have to Put Energy and Action into What You Want to Create

That’s just how the universe works, regardless of what anybody tells you.

“Years ago, when the film, The Secret, came out, there were a lot of people who loved it.  I had a psychologist.  She said, ‘Oh yeah, we have The Secret Syndrome.’ I said, ‘Well, what does that mean?” She says, ‘Well, it means people said they asked for something, like they wanted a million dollars.  Then they went, and sat in their armchair for a year, and got mad because they didn’t get their million dollars!’”

“But the million dollars wasn’t going to find them sitting in their armchair, watching TV. So, it was such a phenomenon that they had to create a syndrome for it.

“It’s basically taking action. Now, sometimes that action can be going down to the local coffee shop, because you might meet the person who is going to give you the money.  Sometimes, it could be going down to the beach, spending some alone time meditating, contacting an old friend that you had, you know?  It’s all about just looking for energy, opening the energy, keeping it open and following it, because that’s how the magic happens, is just following the energy.

“Choose to be in the energy of a successful filmmaker, of a person who makes good use of other people’s money. Go back to number one about keeping your energy clean. You keep your energy clean, you keep your focus, and you keep yourself in that wonderful money energy.  Allowing yourself to stay there, regardless of what craziness people are doing around you, stay focused on your goals.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

 

Are You Blocking Your Money Energy?

Beware the Counter Intentions Keeping You from Realizing Your Dreams

by Carole Dean

Dr. Joe Vitale was featured in the film “The Secret” and he’s a bestselling author of many books including The Miracle, Six Steps to Enlightenment, Zero Limits, and the one I recently interviewed him about, The Awakened Millionaire

Counter Intentions

Are Your Counter Intentions Blocking Your Path to Success?

In this book, Joe says that mental blocks might be the cause of our inability to even imagine ourselves standing in awakened abundance. 

When he joined me on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast, I asked him what were some of these blocks and how they could be overcome.

Look Out for Counter Intentions

Joe refers to mental blocks as counter intentions.

“The whole concept of counter intentions,” Joe states, “is something I originated and I believe it is kind of my claim to fame. I think it’s an insight to why people say, ‘Well, self-help doesn’t work,’ or, ‘The Secret didn’t work for me,’ or, ‘The Law of Attraction doesn’t work for me.’

“It’s the idea that there’s two things going on at any moment in our mind. The first is we have intentions. Our intentions are usually good.  Our intentions are things like, ‘I want to make a movie that makes a difference.’ ‘I want to start working out and exercising.’ ‘I want to start dating.’ “I want to be healthier.”  “I want to make more money.’  Those are our intention. They are noble, they’re good, they’re positive and we all want them and like them.

“But, inside our subconscious mind are what I call counter intentions. The counter intentions are limiting, negative beliefs, most of which we’re not even aware of until we start to explore and look for them. It explains why in January there’s a rush to join the gym and by the end of January nobody’s in the gym. At the beginning the intention was there. ‘I’m going to join the gym. I’m going to get fit.’ That’s a great intention, but why didn’t we go back?

“Unconsciously we had things like, ‘Well, this isn’t going to work for me. I’ll always be this way. Working out is too hard. The gym is too far away.’ I mean there’ll be all kind of things. Those are counter intentions.”

Let Go of Excuses and Rationalizations

“With filmmakers, it’s very much the same with anybody that wants to write a book or some of the other people I hear from who have dreams. They’ll say, ‘I have a dream. I want to make this movie.’ I’ll say, ‘Great. Let’s make the movie. That sounds exciting.’ But then you’ll start to hear the counter intentions like, ‘Well I’m too old.’ ‘I’m too young.’ ‘I don’t have the connections.’ ‘I don’t have the money.’ ‘I don’t have the experience.’ Those excuses, rationalizations, as believable as somebody can rationalize them and argue for them, are actually counter intentions.

“Those are the reasons we don’t know what we’re going to do. There’s always going to be counter intentions. You can look at anybody at any time and they can stand there and say, ‘Well, I’m going to join the gym.’ Then they’ll say, ‘I’m too old.’ ‘I’m too young.’ ‘It’s my DNA.’ ‘It’s the weather.’ ‘It’s my whatever.’ Those are counter intentions. What we want to do is become aware of them and release them so we can achieve our dreams, including making films.

Awareness Can Instantly Release Negative Thoughts

Joe says that awareness is really a simple thing. When people read his book “The Awakened Millionaire” or his free book, “Attract Money Now”, a lot of the counter intentions disappeared because awareness of them alone helped blow the whistle on them.  They started to release their counter intentions when they realized those are just excuses and old beliefs.

“It is important to become aware of the beliefs because most of them aren’t even ours,” he explains. “We’ve downloaded beliefs from our family. I tell people, ‘Were your parents Mr. and Mrs. Buddha? Were they enlightened?’ No.

“Our parents came with their own limiting beliefs and they passed them onto us. Good-naturedly, I mean they were looking out for us. They weren’t trying to program us for lack and limitation or don’t go for our dreams or money is bad. They had those beliefs and just simply passed them on. We as little kids don’t know any better. We download all that information thinking, ‘Well this is the way life is.’ I’m here to tell you that’s not the way that life is.’”

When There is a Will There is a Way

“I teach people to expect miracles. I teach people to go for their dreams. One of my latest books is called ‘The Miracle: Six Steps to Enlightenment.’ Even the book you’re referring to, ‘The Awakened Millionaire,’ is all about the idea of breaking free of limitations. Another book I wrote is called Anything Is Possible and it’s from the philosophy that today, I don’t know that there’s anything we can’t have, do, or be.

“We may not know how to achieve it or create it but I bet there is a way or we can create a way. I come from the mindset that nothing’s impossible, nothing. You want to make a movie? You want it to be a blockbuster? You want all kinds of success from it? Why not? That’s the new mindset. This new mindset comes from eliminating those limiting beliefs, breaking free from the trance of limitation.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

5 Steps to Making a Great Film

Roy W. Dean Grant Winning Filmmaker Jason Smith Shares The Advice He Gives Filmmakers That He Mentors

By Carole Dean

Jason Smith’s Documentary “I Voted” Was Selected to the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

What makes a great film? Jason Smith, who directed the Roy W. Dean Grant winning documentary “I Voted”, has some definite thoughts on this. Jason has worked as a voice over artist on over 100 films including Avengers: Infinity War, Thor, and Deadpool. He also mentors’ filmmakers.

Jason was recently a guest on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast.  He listed what he considers are the 5 “Be’s” necessary for a great film.

 

Be You. – There’s Only One You

Nobody can make a film like you because they’re not you. Nor can you make a film like someone else. You will always be your own best advocate so you might as well be first in line for your own fan club.

“That doesn’t mean being egotistical, obnoxious and self-centered” explained Jason. It simply means having a sense of confidence in what you do. It also means digging deep in creating content that resonates with you – because if it doesn’t resonate with you, it won’t resonate with others.

Be Open. – Change is the Only Thing That is Constant

“The best laid plans usually turn into something else” Jason quipped. Sometimes change is fortuitous, frequently it’s not. But it is inevitable and it will impact your project at every stage of your endeavor. So, flexibility is paramount. The ability to adapt is integral to success.

Be Resourceful – In Independent Filmmaking One Often Has to Cut Corners Using Borrowed Scissors.

You will most likely be asking for favors and assistance. Pay people when appropriate (which is most of the time) and respect their value. You may not be able to pay market value to professionals but pay them something.

And if you cannot come up with the funds to make your film, ask yourself if you’re presenting the project in the best light. Maybe you’re not attracting others because you haven’t fully fleshed out what you’re doing.

Be Passionate. – Showing Up is a Big Part of Any Filmmaking Venture.

“If you’re convinced, you’re making the greatest film ever, figure out how to share your vision with others” he advised. By convincing others thru your passion, you will build a team and a community. Those are necessary components for the success of your film.

“Convincing people thru passion is necessary for any artist, especially when the art is in the conceptual stage.” You will need to convince others of the value of your idea. Then, you will need to convince audiences thru your execution that your great ideas are up on the screen.

Be Honest. – While Telling the Truth is a Good Way to go Thru Life.

“Yes, you want to be honest with others and not lie. However, we sometimes lie in life – it’s part of the human condition. And the most important human that we should never lie to is…ourselves.” Jason noted.

When we lie to ourselves about our film, we run the risk of making an expensive awful mess that will lose money and damage relationships. The list of lies we can tell others runs long, and the list of lies we can tell ourselves runs even longer.

 

The Art of Film Funding PodcastCarole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

 

The 5 “P’s” of Pre-Launch Crowdfunding

Expert Analysis on How to Prep Your Campaign to Guarantee Success 

A brilliant and respected data researcher for the motion picture industry, Stephen Follows has now set his sights on breaking down what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The 5 “P’s” of Pre-Launch CrowdfundingHis new book “How to Crowdfund Your Film: Tips and Strategies for Filmmakers” details the hard data filmmakers need to create a crowdfunding campaign that will hit their goals. 

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, host Carole Dean of From the Heart Productions was joined by Stephen who shared with Carole his 5 “P’s” of pre-launch crowdfunding that are critical to a successful campaign.  

Pitch and People 

Stephen said either of these can be #1.  Both are complimentary.

In your pitch, you need to understand what is the unique compelling idea that will delight your audience that will cause them to promote or fund your film.  Is it rewards?   Is it the film’s story?

For people, you need to decide who is your audience for the film.   Who will this project appeal to that can turn into donors.  

If you know what makes your film unique, then you can find who your film will speak to the best.  If you know who your audience will be for the film, you need to figure out what would be a good pitch to them to bring them on board.

Planning

You need to do as much research as possible Stephen advises.   “In the evening or the weekend, lunch break, you noodle around looking at other crowdfunding sites that are trying to raise similar amounts, same niche, and same audience.”  Figure out what is working for them and creating their success? 

Process

This is where you are building a team.  Work out tasks for each member.  “You are sort of building a machine which is your pre-launch engine.  Think of it as pre-production.” 

Promote

“This something that can be quite tricky for filmmakers” Stephen warns.  Most filmmakers see themselves as artists and not salespersons.  “But they do have to acknowledge that the projects that work are the ones that are promoted.”  You should be the main salesperson for your film

If you feel you are not capable of selling your project, find someone else who can do it for you.  Don’t expect when you put up your crowdfunding page that the money will just come in.

Stephen suggests that you pre-launch should take up no less time than the campaign itself.   “It will take time,” he says, to get your 5 “P’s” done, “but, it will pay off.”

From the Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to educating and assisting independent filmmakers on getting funding for their projects.   They offer fiscal sponsorship with personal fundraising guidance, three Roy W. Dean Film Grants each year, and the Intentional Filmmaking Class.  

Secrets to Sensational Interviews

How an Award-Winning Filmmaker Got Her Subjects to Open Up on Camera and Reveal More Beyond Her Original Questions

By Carole Dean

Stephanie Howard was a news reporter before she became a filmmaker and created her brilliant documentary, The Weight of Honor.  This Roy W. Dean Grant winning film is a tribute to the caretakers who dedicate their lives to our wounded soldiers.

I interviewed her for my The Art of Film Funding Podcast where she shared with me her secrets for sensational interviews.

Read, Research and Learn Everything About the Topic

Secrets to Sensational Interviews

Stephanie Interviewing for “The Weight of Honor”

Before you create your questions, know everything you can about the person and the subject matter.  Write all of the questions you want and be sure to cover each of the topics you have chosen. 

Do not write a yes or no question.

Write the same question in different ways to get the answers you want them to say.  It’s often needed.  You know what you want them to say to move the film forward so write several of these critical questions in the hope of getting the right answer for the film.

You do not want to be on camera. Normally, you want only the interviewee on the camera.

If they say “as I said” or “Like I was saying” …. Stephanie stops them and reminds them that this has to be new information just for the viewer. You need to answer in the first person. Plus, she reminds them to repeat the question in the answer.

The Most Important Part of Interviewing is Listening

When you are listening, you can maintain eye contact and you know what the next question is from what they just said.  Keeping eye contact is important so they are focused on you.  They could be giving you a real jewel in the answer and you could miss it if you are focused on your list of questions.  You never know what answers you can get and how listening can open new threads of information about your subject matter. 

One of our Roy Dean Grant winners was making a historical family film.  When she was interviewing her subject, he answered her question, but then he also said something about “all those other Negros that were buried under the tree.” 

The woman who was with him said, I don’t think you want to discuss that.  Our filmmaker kept asking questions about this issue while she had him on camera and found that she was sitting on a film about scores of missing black people in the area.  This created Lily & Leander: A legacy of Violence, a brilliant documentary film, just from hearing every word. 

Ask Your Crew

Stephanie said one of the things she recommends is when you are through asking questions, say to your crew, “Do you have any questions?”   This keeps the crew listening too.  She finds that they have excellent questions. 

The crew is listening because they know Steph will want their input.  This really sets a co-creative situation.  They know you appreciate them and they want to be part of the content of the film as well as the production.

Keep the Camera Rolling

Tell your crew that even when you say, “ok kill the camera,” do not stop filming.  You can get the best information during this time.  People relax when the camera is off.  When your subject says something that you want in the film, Steph just says, “let’s fire up the camera and get that” even though it was on all of the time. 

Because you have a signed release it’s all legal material.

I heard some wonderful comments in our fiscally sponsored filmmaker Jilann Spitzmiller’s film, Still Dreaming.  She kept her camera rolling when people thought it was off and caught a conversation that added so much to the film. 

When people think the camera is off then you can get some real jewels.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Sharing Wisdom: From Filmmaker to Author

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.

Filmmaker to AuthorAlexis 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.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Getting Creative When Creating Great Adaptations

Author Alexis Krasilovsky Explains When it’s Been Right to Move Adaptations Beyond the Original Material

by Carole Dean

AdaptationsAre 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?

Fortunately, on my recent The Art of Film Funding Podcast, I had an expert on adaptations to offer tips and guidance on adapting material. 

Roy W. Dean Grant winning filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky is the author of Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling.  Educated at Smith and Yale, with an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, her book is a compendium for anyone wanting to adapt a story from almost any source. 

How To Keep Adaptations From Being Stifling

“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:

  1. Is the basic story under copyright?
  2. Who owns the rights?
  3. Have the rights been previously granted to a third party?
  4. If in public domain, have other versions been previously made and released.
  5. 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.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.