3 Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean, author of “The Art of Film Funding”, discusses her new class “How to Fund Your Film”.  Why you need a believable budget, a killer script, and a plan to capture HNI’s.

Carole Dean’s passion and mission is teaching film funding.  She found her love and calling after creating her revolutionary first business. Beginning buying left over film from studios in the 1970’s, she sold it to filmmakers at discount helping spur an explosion in independent films. Getting to know her clients, she saw how difficult it was for them to get funding. They were artists and dreamers and not savvy in raising money from investors.  So many great films, filled with incredible life-changing stories, from talented producers and directors, were going unmade and it made her mad.

 

Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean’s new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available now on Vimeo.  You can save $10 off the price until May 31st by using the code GetFunded. 

 

In 1993, she founded and is president of From the Heart Productions, a non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers find money for their films.  The organization offers film grants, film funding classes, and fiscal sponsorship for filmmakers.  Since its creation, Carole has helped guide filmmakers to raise nearly $30 million for their projects.  In 2012, she authored the best-selling “The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts”.  

Her new video class, “How to Fund Your Film”, has just been released and is now available on Vimeo on Demand. In it, Carole has created a detailed, informative, and fun course for filmmakers that lays out a step-by-step plan for funding their film.

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, Carole previewed her new class with host Claire Papin.  

Why Did You Create the How to Fund Your Film Class?

I give a lot of consultations to filmmakers. I am lucky, I love what I do. I have the greatest job in the whole world. I get to talk to filmmakers who want advice on film funding.

And one day I hung up the phone from a consultation where the woman was very pleased with what we created together. It’s always a two-way street. It’s bouncing ideas and my sharing the knowledge.  I began to realize that I have a lot of information. You know, sometimes you get used to it, but this filmmaker was shocked at the knowledge I shared.

And I thought, I really have got to get all this down. I have so many stories to tell about people who were successful by doing unique and unusual things. So, I decided to start taking all of the notes that I give to filmmakers and putting them together so I could create a new book. It really started out to help save me time. But then I realized, that there’s a lot to learn I ended up with a three hour class!

Which is the Blink of An Eye Compared to How it Takes to Make a Film

The sad news is, it’s an average six years for someone to make a documentary plus two more for marketing and distribution. So, if you knew going into a film as a documentary that it was going to take you eight years, you might think twice.

My job is to help you make it a lot faster.  I want you to know where the pitfalls are and where to put your focus. And that’s what I put in this book. The idea would be that you get finished faster.  Then, for features, it can take from 3 to 5 years and of course that’s all about finding the money.

I spent a lot of time on finding money in the class for feature makers as well as for documentaries or shorts or webisodes. It’s all the same thing. It’s raising money for your art.

Where is the Power Point?

It is on Vimeo and from the current sales I find what people do is they will watch about 20 minutes and then they’ll come back and do another 20 minutes. It is in sections to let them do as much as they want at a time. It’s all created for filmmakers with current filmmaker’s success stories.

How to Fund Your Film Has 14 Sections?

You may remember Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland said, where, where do we begin? And they said, Oh, you start at the very beginning and you’re going until the very end.

So, the very beginning of the class is when you say:  I want to make a film and it goes until the end where you have lots of information on funding, marketing and selling yourself and your film.

You Begin with Stressing the Importance of Finding the Time to Create a Film

Where will you find the time to make a film? That’s what I want you to ask yourself first.  Are you willing to put in 15 to 20 hours a week?

Because most filmmakers have a job, a usually a full time or two half time jobs and then they have their family. They have to their health. They have to take care of their health and exercise, meditate. And now you have your precious film that you want to bring into that world.

You have to make some major decisions on where to find the time. In the very beginning, we cover how to schedule your time, how to find it, what to give up. I give you suggestions, but you make the decisions.  You really want to make a commitment to creating your film.

And You Need to Make Time for All Your Rewrites

That’s the most important thing about writing. My friend Jeff, who runs The Writers Bootcamp says, when you’re finished with your script, well congratulations, but you are only 7% finished because now you have the rewrites.

I helped one man with a mystery, a thriller film, and I read 52 revisions of his script. He was very successful, he raised the money, he made his film, he won awards for it. So, it takes a total amount of focus.

You have no idea how many times you’re going to have to rewrite your script. That’s for a feature for a documentary it’s such an organic piece that you’re always rewriting it because as soon as you turn on your camera, the film takes off and it often goes in a new direction.

You Mention in Your Class a Very Clever Method to Getting a Great Final Script

I want to see a script that is a dynamite script because a good script will not make a good film. It has to be a dynamite script.

So, when you finish that script, get some coverage, get people, not your friends or family. Don’t send it to anyone you know.  Send it to a professional reader for coverage.

You can find them on Craig’s list. Please, get some honest feedback and you have to continue to do that until you really have a strong, incredibly good script because your whole future depends on the power of that script.

And it is the same with the documentary. I say put some passionate in your proposal. Because when we are judging films, we’re sitting here, reading one proposal after another for the grant.  When we hit one with passion, we jump out of our seats with joy and want to share with the rest of the judges. I want passion that jumps off the page.

You Give Advice on Why Filmmakers Need a Believable Budget

Oh my gosh, yes. That’s when everybody freaks out, but the whole secret is that it must be believable. You want a believable budget.

And for the grant I get a lot of budgets that are even numbers and I know they’re guesstimates and I will accept them, but I don’t know about other grantors. I think that for your own self being and the peace of mind, you really need to know what your budget is.

And You Tell Them How to Get One

So, I have put in How to Fund Your Film Class people to call people that are donors to our Roy W. Dean Grants. I recommended David Raiklen for music,  Sam Dlugach for color, Jerry Deaton for sound and more people for the New York area.

These people are exceptionally talented, and their prices are reasonable. And they love documentary filmmakers and independent filmmakers.  Especially ones that come through From the Heart Productions.  

And that’s what you want, is you want someone who will love your film and take on the same passion you have for it.  And that I’ve seen that happen with all three of these people with sound, color, music and more. You always want to put a brilliant team together.

And, and I’ve explained to how to do that.  To get a believable budget, you really need to call people and say, here’s what I’m doing and what do you think this will cost?  Give me an estimate. And I know that,  as I get closer, I can get to the penny.

You want to get a believable number because you never know when you’re going to get in an office or at a luncheon with some person who says, well, really how much you need?

And you can say $56,000 is what I need on my budget and bring up the budget on your phone and say, here it is. And you can defend every line.

You’ve Also Mentioned the Importance of Networking for HNI, High Net Worth Individuals

Well, this is the next phase. You get your believable budget, your incredible script, your killer script and your brilliant outline impeccably done for your documentary or short or webisode. And you have the pitch, the proposal, the paperwork. Now what are you going to do?

Well, you’ve got to get out on the street and meet some wealthy people. And so how do you do that? Well, you’ve got to become part of their world.  So, you want to identify community organizations where wealthy people could belong.

And many of these organizations offer a low-priced membership that you could afford. And yes, they have some gala events, but that may be worth it at the end of the year.

But the main thing is that if you join and you really put in some time and give of yourself to that organization, let’s say that it was a for the humane society, that’s something that simple.

You might be walking dogs right alongside of someone who’s worth a couple of a billion dollars!

Carole Dean’s class “How to Fund Your Film” is now available on Vimeo on Demand.  You can save 10% if purchased by May 31st by using code GetFunded

Extraordinary Filmmakers Project

We Invited Our Fiscally Sponsored Filmmakers to Share Stories of Moments that Changed Their Lives

By Carole Dean

Every two weeks for over two years, I’ve conducted our Film Funding Guidance Class for all or fiscally sponsored filmmakers. 

In it, my board and invited guests and I impress upon our filmmakers the power they have in their minds and how to use their intentions to complete their film.  We give practical advice on how to help keep them motivated moving forward.  Each week, a filmmaker is invited to pitch their project.  They get invaluable advice from us and other filmmakers on how to improve it.

Extraordinary Filmmakers

Our fiscally sponsored filmmakers share what inspired them and their films

With the sudden onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was easy to tell from my conversations with them that our filmmakers were distracted and worried.  They were concerned about the health and welfare of friends and family.  They were also very down that with many of their projects were now on hold. 

I wanted to do something that we could do as a group.  Something that would support other artists and filmmakers.  It would need to be a project that would lift all our spirits, bring us closer together,  and put our filmmaker’s brilliant minds to good use.

Extraordinary Filmmakers

We discussed many options and one that had the most resonance for them was for each of us to write a chapter in a book.  They keep the rights and let From the Heart Productions publish the eBook. 

I suggested a working title of Extraordinary Filmmakers.  

They could write about anything spiritual that happened to them.  Or, they could write about something extraordinary in their lives, even the moment when they knew they had to be a filmmaker/storyteller. 

First Meeting

It was agreed that we’d meet once a week.  We had our first meeting via conference call and the turnout was great.  So many attended that we’ll be able to have 12 chapters of the book. 

Some key decisions were made. 

Our deadline for edited copy will be July 24th, 2020.  Filmmakers will break up into groups to help each other with chapters.  We’ll appoint editors to review the work during the 3 months until project end.  In each meeting, we’ll discuss the most recently finished chapters and offer advice for any improvement.

Giving Back to Other Filmmakers

It was also decided that the book will be for sale.  The profits will go to an emergency fund for filmmakers in need. 

I could not be happier with the response, excitement, and energy surrounding this project.  It is a great opportunity to put in writing important moments in their lives and inspire others.  Also, I’m very glad that any money generated will be used as well to help other filmmakers.

 

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.

Setting and Achieving Goals in Uncertain Times

How to move your film, film career, and life forward through an unsettled future

by Carole Dean

This is a special moment in all our lives. Nearly all of us are hunkered down at home during a pandemic.  How do we continue with our lives and keep funding our films with daily cancellations of events and the fear of being close to people and of even going out? 

Now more than ever, we need to focus on our future.  We need to have goals and the confidence we can reach these goals after we emerge safe and secure from this crisis. 

Filmmaker Pandemic

Film shoot on hold? Film festivals canceled? Use your shelter-in time to set goals.

I asked Breianne Pryse to join me on The Art of Film Funding Podcast to give us suggestions on creating and implementing goals.  Brianne Pryse is a natural born intuitive impasse, healer, coach, speaker, and writer.  

She is also a regular on our Film Funding Guidance Classes advising filmmakers how to continue to progress on their projects.  As a lifelong student, she’s been trained in many different modalities. Since 2002, she’s been a full time healer and coach.   

Here is her advice from this interview.

Setting Little, Medium, Big and Almost Impossible Goals

One of the things that I really recommend is to set goals.  But you also must revisit them because sometimes we write them down on a piece of paper and never look at our goals. I believe you must look at them every day or at least every week and you need to be able to connect with them.

I also recommend you have four types of goals. You have the very small ones that you can check off almost daily, so it shows you that you’re getting things done. Then you have the medium goals that have a little bit of work, where you can still check these off easy too.

Then you have the bigger goals where you’re doing a film and working on funding. Getting your film funded may be a big goal.  It’s important that you ask for money and give specifics, like you want to say the dollar amount of your funding goal. Getting your crew, that’s a whole different big goal too. So, you write these down.

Now, the fourth one that I feel is very, very important. It is that you ask for a goal that is just beyond what you think is possible. For example, is your goal beyond impossible possible? And maybe something like, I get an award-winning editor on my film, or I raise $50,000 for my fee. Something just beyond what you think you can do. Because what that does is expand your energy and it helps you connect to the quantum field in a different way.

Examples of Goal Setting

Well, a little goal is, ‘I get up at six o’clock in the morning and write for an hour before work.’  ‘I spend a day without going on Facebook and wasting time.’ Goals like this are good because it tells the universe that we’re in, that we are serious about our goals and we’re making changes.

And it’s all about change. Right now, we are in a very, very high energy year. So that means we need to keep on top of things, or we will get swept away in the negativity and in the craziness, which we do not want to do.

So, these are examples of small productive goals. And then medium goals may be that you write a certain number of pages that day or that week. Because as a filmmaker, most of the time you’re writing your script or you’re writing your promotional material or emails or grants, etc.  And put down actions too.  Ones like I contact three people today for funding, this is also a medium to large goal.

 

 

Why “The Secret” Did Not Work for Many People

I attend a lot of classes where we are told, ‘Oh, you just sit in the chair and you say you’re a millionaire and millions come to you.’ And we know that’s not true, but it is absolutely true that we can create anything we want. We just need to get out of our own way.

It’s feeling into the energy and talking about it to the universe. And just looking at the numbers like, let’s say I need $100,000 for myself. Okay, I’m going to choose to go for this. All right? And then you create that goal and then you start asking questions of the universe. 

What energy can I be today, universe, that would create this? Where can I go to find this funding? What can I do today in this moment to really, really get progress on this goal?

Because what also happens with goals is, as we set expectations.  We all do it regardless of whether we admit to it.  Sometimes we get disappointed because our expectations are not met in the timeframe that we would like. So, the more we can just be in the energy, talking to the goals, allowing energy to move and showing us and asking the universe to show us what’s stopping us is a really, really big thing.

One of the big exercises that you can do is, get a journal, and draw a line down the middle. On the right you write what is happening. And on the left you write what you would like to happen.

An example is, I write on the right I have more bills than income. And on the left I write I would like to create money to pay off all my bills

Now you start asking, okay, so what am I doing wrong? What is going on that is creating the opposite?  And just see what happens and what you hear because the universe is happy to tell you the problems, but we need to be open to hearing it.

Sometimes the universe makes you aware of where you’re overspending, where you’re emotionally spending, where you’re not allowing other people to contribute to you. Now you can write these down under what you don’t want and then you start looking at the behaviors that you can change to solve the problem.

Setting Boundaries for Yourself

One of the biggest things I ever learned was setting boundaries.  Here’s what I recommend people do.

Before you get out of bed in the morning you take a deep breath.  Say, ‘I hear by now and forever on all levels of my being set 100% healthy boundaries on people, negative energy and negative self talk.’ Then, take a deep breath and blow it out.

This pushes people’s energy out of your field. Now you add anything and everything to that. If you’re fighting with an ex, you put boundaries on that person, on their energies. If you’re doing negative self-talk, if you’ve got a specific thing, like your relationship like with your mother. You can put boundaries on your relationship with your negative self talk relationship with your mother. And if you start doing that, that will help you get clear thinking.  You can focus more on your goals and be present in the now.

The more you can set the boundaries, the more you can think clearly. And it was life changing when I figured that out about 15 years ago. Now it also helps when you are feeling great and then you’ll talk to somebody and you feel like you were hit by a bus. That’s a boundary violation. So, you walk away, you say I set 100% healthy boundaries on that person and all their energies and then inhale and exhale and remove it.

Carole, I love your filmmakers and I believe that film is one of the few forms of freedom of speech we have left. Through films people are more willing to look at important issues. I think it’s awesome and  I love and I support the work you do at From the Heart Productions.

 

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

How Indie Filmmakers Can Survive California’s AB-5 Labor Law

The New Law Disrupts How Non-Union Cast and Crew Are Employed.  We Invited An Expert to Answer Questions from Filmmakers on Navigating the Changes.

by Carole Dean

Veteran entertainment attorney Mark Litwack’s practice includes work in the areas of copyright, trademark, contract, multimedia law, intellectual property and book publishing. As a producer’s representative, he assists filmmakers in arranging financing, marketing, and distribution of their films.

AB-5

Your Freelance Crew on Your Film Are Now Your Employees

Mark has packaged movie projects and served as executive producer on many feature films. He has provided legal services or worked as a producer rep on more than 200 feature film. He’s the author of six books that are all invaluable for filmmakers.  Mark has been a generous donor to the Roy Dean Film Grant for years.

I invited him on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast to help us understand the recently enacted California Assembly Bill AB-5.  The bill went into effect January 1st, 2020 and will impact the employment status for many on nonunion film productions.  It will restrict the use of 1099’s.  Employers are now required to use what is called the ABC test to determine if an employee should be classified as an independent contractor.

Here are the edited highlights:

Can you give us some background and overview of the new law, please?

The California legislature passed this law to codify the principles of a recent 2018 court decision that’s referred to as the Dynamex case in which the Supreme court revised the prior test called Barrello for determining which workers are considered employees and which should be considered independent contractors.

The reason for this new law was to stop some labor practices that were considered abusive.  Namely companies in the gig economy like Uber and Lyft who would hire drivers as independent contractors then deny them benefits that employees have, such as a minimum wage, overtime, rest breaks. In addition, employees compared to independent contractors have the right to form a union.  Independent contractors must pay all the social security and Medicare costs.  They are also not eligible for unemployment insurance.

Basically AB-5 creates an assumption for employers. Consider all workers as employees, unless the employer can prove the worker’s role is an independent contractor according to the state’s new criteria.

Most independent filmmakers, if they wanted to play it safe, would hire a payroll company and pay most, if not everyone, as an employee to avoid any potential penalties. The prior law SB -459, enhanced the penalty for employers who misclassify personnel penalties range from $5,000 to $15,000 per violation.  Where there was a pattern or practice of violations, the penalty could increase from $10,000 to $25,000 per violation.

My guess is there’s an awful lot of independent filmmakers with people they hired as independent contractors when they should have been employees.  It just never surfaced or came to light.

Much of the change has to do with government wanting to make sure taxes get collected.

The government is more likely to receive taxes if they were automatically taken out of an employee’s paycheck than if the gross amount is paid to an independent contractor. That’s why the IRS takes the position that, for most people working on film production, they should be classified as employees, not independent contractors.

They obviously want taxes withheld. If the person is being employed through a loan out company, then the loan out company will withhold taxes. This should not pose a problem for the producer. Moreover, if the person is being hired, not just for their time but, but also equipment is being supplied, it is more likely to pass muster as an independent contractor. But simply calling a person you hire an independent contractor or using an independent contractor form of contract does not by itself give you much protection.

How do you decide who is an employee and not an independent contractor?

In determining whether or not an individual is providing service as an independent contractor or an employee, it can be basically distilled down to what’s called a control test. Simply put, an employee is an individual who the employer has the right to exercise control over the manner and the means by which they perform their services.  An independent contractor is sort of being hired for the end result.

So, if you hired a painting company to come and paint your house, they show up at your house.  You will often supply the paint, although you often get to choose the color.  They supplied the ladders, they supply the equipment, they supply the painters, and they paint your house. And maybe it takes a week and then they leave. And you, the homeowner, you’re not in the painting business and you can just pay them as an independent contractor. They’re in the painting business and that painting company, if they hire people, you know who worked for them, those people should be classified as employees.

So, in a movie, the director pretty much controls how everyone on the set does their job. Actors can’t change their role. They can’t decide when they want to show up. Everything is tightly, should be tightly choreographed, otherwise, you know, the shoot is going to be a disaster.

Exactly. Let’s go over that ABC test. Can you tell us what that is?

The ABC test requires that the hiring entity establish each of the following three factors to classify workers as independent contractors.

The first is “A”, that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work.   

“B” is that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity, the employer’s business.

“C” is that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

This new law creates specific exceptions and says the law can be applied somewhat retroactively. The exceptions fall into several different categories. (There are) certain exempt occupations, contracts for certain professional services, specific businesses, certain business to business contracting relationships…

But there is no specific exemption for filmmakers or those who work in film or television.

 

 

We’re still out here trying to figure out how to work within these laws. Most of my questions I’ve taken from filmmakers and I so appreciate your helping us to get clarity on this. One filmmaker asks, how does AB-5 affect non-union films?

It affects both union and nonunion films, but union productions already pay 95% of their workers as employees, not as independent contractors. And for this reason, unions believe that this law does not affect them. The unions have also said that they don’t think this law affects using loan out companies, but some attorneys are not so sure. For nonunion employees who were paid as independent contractors, the employer can be liable. The filmmaker can be liable if they are misclassified.

The safest thing to do, frankly, is to hire a payroll company. And let the payroll company deduct taxes and social security.

Some of the filmmakers are wondering should they create their own loan out company like create an LLC or an S Corp or even a single member LLC. If they decided they wanted to become a loan out company, what would you suggest they consider? Which type of a corporation?

What are we talking about crew now? People being hired? Yes. Well, it appears that they can.  They can set up a separate loan out company, which is considered a separate legal entity from them personally. And the purpose of loan out companies is basically to save on taxes.

When an actor sets up a loan out company, they usually own it 100%. When they get hired by a studio, they say to the studio instead of hiring me directly as an employee, I want you to contract through my loan out company for my services. So, the studio enters into a contract with the loan out company, which is 100% controlled by the artist. They also get the artist to sign what’s called an inducement agreement which binds the artists directly to the obligations.  The studio can pay a flat fee to the loan out company.  The loan out company hires you and pays you. But, the loan out company is your employer. They are the ones who should be deducting and paying taxes.

A lot of people want to, if they’re in the business, they want to set up a corporation or an LLC.  That gives them some insulation.  Because if things go bad, you could find yourself in a lawsuit.  As a sole proprietorship, even if you founded it as DBA.  A DBA is just a fictitious business name. It doesn’t give you any legal protections at all.

Let’s talk about labor versus gear rental fees. For freelance cinematographers, can they receive a 1099 for their gear rental and a W2 for labor on the same job?

Yes, they can. When you rent equipment, you’re not hiring someone. There’s no employment relationship there because you’re not hiring someone.  These rules about whether you’re an independent contractor or an employee have to do with hiring people to provide services. When you’re renting equipment that’s totally different.

Right. Okay. Got it. Part of the law says collaborating with the same people often could demonstrate that you are dependent on that one job and therefore an employee. What if you’re working as an adviser and most of your work is for one company?  But you have no call time and you can work when you set appointments. How would you classify this?

Well, this is gray areas here. And you know, one of the problems with this whole scheme of treating employees and independent contractors differently is it’s not always crystal clear whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor.  They could fall within this gray area where it’s not so clear.  So, there’s dangers.

My advice is if you’re concerned about being fined the safest thing to do is to hire them through a payroll company. Hire them as an employee and have taxes deducted. There’s no risks for that. It’s only if you hire someone who’s deemed an employee and you pay them as an independent contractor then you have some risk.

So, it’s much cheaper for you to just abide by the law until it’s amended to include the film industry or new laws are made. The safest thing you can do financially is to either start the loan out company or just hire a payroll company.

Right.  And by the way, those penalties are for violating the law.  There could be additional penalties. For instance, if you hired someone as an independent contractor and they should have been employees and they also worked a lot of overtime.  Now, you might also be liable for violating the overtime statute. So yeah, there could be a whole, a whole bunch of potential problems.

Oh my gosh. A letter I received said an option to consider is hire an entertainment law firm. If you’re a producer that has employment contracts in place drafted after 2020, you could potentially be subjected to tax penalties and lawsuits by both city and state of California. Does this mean that even if you have contracts in place, you could be fined if you were paid wrong?

Yes. When the courts look at a contract, if the contract says this is a contract for the sale of a duck, but it’s obvious what you bought instead was the chicken. The court’s not going to be fooled. you know? So, if you say this person is an independent contractor just because the contract says this person is an independent contractor, then it doesn’t make right.

If they should have been an employee, the contract’s not going to fool anyone. I’m not sure most independent filmmakers need to hire an entertainment law firm specifically for this. I would say hire a payroll company. 

If you hire a payroll company, you will probably be okay because this is exactly what the payroll company has expertise in.

If you’re uncertain about what to do, you can hire an attorney. But my guess is that most of the time, if you just had a payroll company that would solve the problem.

 

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

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

How an invitation to a movie set changed my life and helped spark a revolution in independent filmmaking

by Carole Dean

It was early 1970 and a lovely Friday morning, my favorite day, because I was going to my favorite hairdresser in the valley.  Connie Stevens was a movie star in the 70’s and she owned this lovely salon with the best hairdressers in LA.   My curly hair would be straightened and then piled on top of my head in a “beehive” of cascading curls.  It was a time when straight hair was in, some women were actually ironing their hair to get the last kink out of it.

Short Ends

Driving home with my hair full of spray net, I was totally focused on what to wear as this was a special night.  Mike Joyce had invited me to go to the set of a top TV show.  Mike was a camera man who loaded the film on the camera and handled the distance finder.  

He met me at the gate and escorted me to a captain’s chair saying Visitor…and put me near the action. David Jansen was at his height of power as the Doctor chasing the one-armed man who had killed his wife and Jansen was being charged with the murder. 

Once seated the fun began.  It was lights, camera, action and then it was Reloading….and I saw Mike take this large magazine that held the unexposed raw Kodak film stock off the camera and go to the dark room.  He was soon back with what looked like the same magazine and once it was back on the camera, the Director of Photography said,” Ready” to the Director, who said, Lights, and the set lit up, camera and then action. 

And in just a few minutes and they did the same thing all over again.  This happened 4 times in a row and David Jansen was all upset.  He was stomping around the set saying his lines out loud, and then the same thing would happen again.

The Invention of “Short Ends”

Once we were off the set, I asked Mike what was happening.  The set fiasco was more exciting than watching them shoot The Fugitive, that was boring.

Mike explained that David was flubbing his lines and it was a long scene.  So, when David got the lines wrong, they had to put in a new roll of film to get the entire scene at once.

Well, what do you do with those little old “Short Ends” of film I asked?  We write the footage on the can, tape up the cans them send them to the film department and get new rolls.  What?  You don’t use that film, no, said Mike.  One mistake in this business and you are history.  I can’t take a chance that the film is good.  But Mike you just loaded it yourself.

Mike said, “Not one assistant cameraman will use those, what did you call them?  Short Ends.  No, we know we can get new rolls.” 

My mind was spinning, I had been looking for something that I could do, and this seemed like it was a business in the making.

Well, what if I bought that stock and sold it to these new independent filmmakers?  No, Mike said, no one in their right mind would ever buy film stock that did not come from Kodak.  Forget about it.  Waste of time.  That will never work.

My $20 Business Idea

He was adamant.  But I was not convinced.  You know how you feel when a light bulb goes off inside you and you know this is a good idea?  That’s just how I felt.  I knew I could create a small business buying this left-over stock and selling it to the independents.

All of the union filmmakers like Mike were horrified at the growth of the independent film business.  Those people were not in the union and the word was to never deal with them, don’t help them in any way. 

The cameraman’s union was father to son.  It was only because Mike Joyce’s father was a cameraman that he was allowed to get into the local 659 union.  These independents could shoot films much cheaper and steal shots without permits.  They were brilliant at finding up-coming actors and directors to work for them for peanuts.  The proletariat said they were the dirt of the earth and had to be stamped out quickly.

How do you start a business?  I called city hall and they helped me find how to get a business license and it was very cheap to get a Doing Business As certificate.  Next,  I found I could rent a typewriter for $10.00 a month and off I went to the library to get copies of the Hollywood production companies.  I also copied the animation people., I was not sure what they did but I knew I had to include them.

So far, this was not too expensive.  It was a $20.00 investment.  Now the hard work started.  I hand typed 250 letters and send them to the companies and animators in Hollywood. I got one phone call. 

Vick Shank was an animator in the valley, and he said he would take a chance on 2000 feet of 35mm raw stock.  Fantastic!  I closed him, got the agreement he would have a check ready for me, and said that in 2 days I would deliver the film.

High Heels, Long Legs, and Need for Film

Now, I had the sale but no raw stock.  This was I felt the easy part, to buy the stock.  It never entered my mind that I could not get the stock.  From what I heard they sold it for the silver content for pennies.

Bill Wiedmeyer was the head of Columbia Pictures Studios.  Everyone said he was a nice man, so I call and got an appointment with him.  Walked in with my new mini skirt dress, with my long legs in high, high-heels and my hair in the famous be hive.  He pulled a chair up next to his desk and had me sit there next to him.

He immediately opened his drawer and took out the scissors and said, Lean over here.  I did and he cut off the price tag of my new dress.  At first, I was embarrassed but forget that, I was on a mission, so I just let that go and hoped he would hear me out.

Bill was a delightful man, we chatted for about 20 minutes on the state of the industry at that time and discussed our favorite films.  A Man and A Woman, was the French film that everyone was discussing and he loved that I had seen it.

Finally, I asked him if he would consider selling me some short ends of film.  I told him about my new business.  He thought that was wonderful and I gave him a good price for the film because I had already sold it and I was ready for a nice negotiation.

But he didn’t negotiate.  He took me to the vault and showed the thousands of cans of film and I was in heaven!  Here was my inventory, all I had to do was sell it.

Now, the only problem was I didn’t have any money.  So, I said let me have 3,000 feet today and I will be back and buy all your film.  He started to laugh.  You want me to take a check for $90.00?  I will have so much explaining to do, they will never believe me.   Now was the time to convince him that he would be so happy when I sold all his film and he just sat back in his seat and looked at me.  I knew he was thinking so I sat very still and let him think.

Yes, I will do this for you, he said, and got up and went to the vault again and pulled some cans of the shelf, took my check and I was in business.

Completing My First Short Ends Sale

If I was fast enough, I could get to Vick’s office today.  So I ran home, cleaned the film cans with Comet then rubbed them down with tea towels to make the shine.  I asked Vick to get my check ready.  I delivered the film and got to the hank to deposit his check to cover my check to Columbia because I did not have $90.00 in my account!

That was a memorable day.  It was empowering.  It meant that yes, there is a market for this film. I just needed to find the people who will buy it.  Vick said to try other animators as 100 fee was a day’s work for him, so he was set for weeks.

Now, it seemed to me that to get more customers I needed to have a reference.  So, each day I created a reason to call Vick.  What I really wanted to know was if the film was good and to see how he was and if he was enjoying using the short ends.  Finally, I got up the courage to ask him if I could use him as a reference.  “I will agree on one condition,” “OK, I said, anything you want Vick!”  He replied, “just stop calling me so I can do the work!”

Now armed with a vault full of film stock, one reference, and lots of confidence all I had to do was get on the phone and learn how to sell these little old short ends.

Helping Independent Filmmakers Finally Get Their Films Made

This little ‘ol short ends business took off.  Kodak loved me because I put value to their left-over stock.  They often sent me customers. 

What really happened is that many directors of photography who are now revered as some of our “greatest” started with the short ends we provided.  By providing film stock they could now afford, we helped many directors, writers and producers create their future.  It gave them a chance to make their movies. 

We sold to Cassavetes and Roger Corman who started the careers of Martin Scorsese and James Cameron.  Rudy Ray Moore, “Dolemite”, was able to shoot his features with our film stock.  We took credit cards too!  Robert Townsend and other filmmakers loved this. 

We ended up with three offices. Hollywood on Highland Blvd off Sunset, The Film Center Building in New York City, and one in downtown Chicago. 

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you know you can do!!  Just smile at critics and do it anyway.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

 

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

 

How to Use Relaxation to Unlock Your Creativity

“They call creative people ‘daydreamers’ because we are much more creative when we relax.”

by Carole Dean

About three years ago, I found Reiki master Sevina Altanova and have been receiving highly beneficial Reiki treatments weekly.  Her relaxation techniques have made a huge difference in my work.  Since I’ve been getting treatments, I’ve stepped up writing more blogs for filmmakers, I’m creating a new online film funding course, and designing a new eBook for filmmakers who join our mailing list. 

 

“We are over-scheduled, overstimulated, overworked, overburdened and we need a practical way to overcome the bad health effects of our high-pressure lifestyle.” Sevina Altanova

 

She recently founded her own company, Stress Management Resources.  “People who are constantly engaging their minds may not realize that this hampers their creative impulses. For filmmakers, it is very important for you to relax in order to boost your creativity.”

As a guest on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast, Sevina offered tips on how to improve your relaxation and discussed the life changing relaxation techniques I’d learned over the years.

Daydreaming Can Create your Future

 According to research in neuroscience, creativity occurs in the moments of rest rather than while we’re working on or thinking. So, do yourself a favor, schedule time to daydream. Perhaps in your daydream, you see your finished film on the screen in your favorite screening room and feel your success as you jump out of your seat and bow to your standing ovation.

Physicist Fred Alan Wolf, author The Dreaming Universe, told me in an interview, “when you are daydreaming you are really creating your future. It’s like a handshake across time.”  Later in your life when you experience this event, you feel like it has happened before.  That is because you truly experienced it in your dreaming time, which can create your future.

It created my future.  During boring school classes I put on a bright smile and took off to be on the set with my favorite movie stars and watch films getting made.  I was flying over the Great Serengeti and watching the wilder beast migrate, I was gliding down the Nile on a slow boat and riding elephants in India. 

All these things I experienced almost exactly as I had day-dreamed them.  I remember flying low over the wildebeest and in fact when I went to Kenya, I saw the same vision I had in meditation while I was ballooning over the wilder beast. It felt just like I had imagined, before I even knew what ballooning was.  These experiences all felt like they were deja vous, like I had done it before and in fact I had.

 

 

Meditation Manifests Miracles

Sevina highly recommends meditation. “Did you know that meditation is over 5,000 years old? People do meditation to maintain health, heal their bodies, calm their minds and reconnect with their spirit. The most important things in meditation is that you are connecting with your higher self.  Meditation lets the mind relax.” 

As a 40-year meditator, I fully agree. While I was running three offices, NY, Chicago and LA I meditated twice daily.  That was a time you could not talk about meditation or they thought you were a “kook.”  Especially when you were in the business of film and talking to engineers. 

So, I learned quickly to find a quiet place, tell no one, and just disappear for 20 minutes.  In NYC, that was the air conditioner room and in L.A., the office supply room. I would put a note on the door, “taking inventory,” but they knew I was meditating as it soon became very quiet in that place.

This was the most beneficial thing I could have done to help me run three offices at once.  At some point, I read about TM, transcendental meditation, and decided to try it.  Little did I know that Seinfeld and Paul McCartney and David Lynch were all hiding in closets like me.  All of us were experiencing reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep, greater clarity, calmness and a great memory.

I still do this twice a day and now I have a pathway to heaven.  I created a super-highway in the circuits of my brain, so I go to a quiet state quickly and 20 minutes evaporates.  It is the way to live your life with less stress. 

Sevina says, “Any type of meditation that works for you is what you should do.  A walking meditation works for some people, a driving meditation works for some.”  (I always end up in some strange location so I can’t do this!) 

Find what works for you and be good to yourself, put this in your google calendar MEDITATTE MY FUTURE INTO BEING

Music Does Sooth the Beast in Us

“You can relax by listening to soothing music” says Sevina. An article by John Stuart Reid, cymascope.com, says experimentation has found viable red blood cells remained higher in number when exposed to music vs silence, indicating promising results for healing. He says that music therapy, a concept first espoused by Pythagoras of Samos 2,500 years ago, is gaining popularity for depression and relieving anxiety.

“There are millions of studies that show that meditation decreases stress. It will decrease your blood pressure and you have quality sleep. Your entire health will improve, and you will get a stronger immune system.

“When you practice meditation or relaxation, you connect with your partner much better.  You can even resolve problems easily.  Because you are coming from the perspective of love and understanding, you have this ability because now you are relaxed.”

Breathing Exercises are Perfect Before Meetings

Relaxation can decrease stress and tension in a matter of minutes.  Learn to control your nervous system through relaxation practices such as meditation, Reiki, breathing exercises and yoga.  It’s very, very easy.  Anything that brings you joy and calms you down is relaxing.

I want to share a breathing exercise that is incredibly super simple, quick, and beneficial.

You take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds and you slowly exhale. If you repeat this three-to five times, taking deep breaths and holding them for three to six seconds then slowly exhale, you will find after the fifth time your body starts relaxing.

This is something you can do anywhere, before a meeting or a at rehearsal or before you pitch your film.

Please check out Sevina’s website at www.stressmanagementresources.com.  She has meditations, deep relaxations, she does Hypnotherapy and relaxations on SKYPE.  Sevina.altanova@gmail.com.  She is dedicated to helping filmmakers improve their health and create their art.  She is also doing some mindful eating workshops soon that all of us can benefit from.

 

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.

“Sound” Advice to Save You Money in Audio Post-Production

How New Filmmakers Can Avoid Disasters in  Audio Post-Production for Their Films and Learn From an Expert How to Do it Right the Next Time

by Carole Dean

Jerry Deaton, President of AudioKut, has spent the last five years developing his company as one of the new breeds of boutique affordable audio post-production facilities. A donor to the Roy W. Dean Grants for many years, he has mastered the sound of many of our winners and our fiscally sponsored films too. His credits span from re-recording mixer, ADR mixer dialogue editor, to sound design editor, composer, and everything in between.

 audio post-production

“Hire those out of college because they probably have the gear, they have the time, and they’re willing to put the effort in. But, then also hire somebody who’s been doing it for a long time to come out to your location and just kind of check on them.”

Recently, Jerry decided to support filmmakers even more by teaching.  He now gives classes where students sit with him and learn on their own project how to fix and mix their films.  He also checks the final work if they need it.  All of this is on an hourly basis. 

Emerging filmmakers end up spending only a fraction of the cost for audio post and become better filmmakers in the process.  He walks them through all of the technical and creative steps of the process. 

I asked him to join me on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast to discuss his new class and how independent filmmakers can avoid audio mistakes that only show up when you get to post.

Choosing the Right Editing Software Can Save You Money in Audio Post-Production

Jerry said that sometimes it’s as simple as selecting the right software to save money.  The software new filmmakers choose may not do what they think. 

“I find first-or-second time filmmakers with small budgets are wearing several hats.  They are the producer, writer, director, editor and they are expected to know each of these professions intimately.  But, honestly, they don’t.  They don’t know enough so they choose the wrong software. 

“Let’s say they choose Final Cut Pro 10 to do their editing.  It may be a cheap and easy platform to work with but, after all those countless hours they put into editing, they find that when they’re ready to go to final picture lock, they cannot get the sound off in a professional manner.  

“You can’t turn it over to a post house.  You will have to do it in a very archaic manner to even get the sound out.  Then, it costs you much more money for the sound post house to basically re-cut that sound so that it’s workable in a post environment.” 

He suggests spending just a little bit more money and investing in a program like the Adobe Creative Suites or some other platform that will allow you to export your audio in a professional manner.  Just this alone will save so much time and headache down the line.

Getting Quality Sound and Saving Money for Micro Budget Filmmakers

“If an independent filmmaker is making a micro or low budget film,” Jerry suggests, “they need to be very careful in hiring a sound person. Preferably you want someone who has worked on other films.”

“However, there are a lot of filmmakers coming out of college that have been trained to do sound and in a theoretical environment.  When they get out of school and they want to get their first couple of jobs to build their resume. Then often, they’ll do an independent film for free. But what you’re going to get is somebody who may be making a lot of mistakes because they’re learning on your film. And, if I was the filmmaker, the producer, the director, I would not want that situation.”

He recommends filmmakers to go ahead and hire those out of college because they probably have the gear, they have the time, and they’re willing to put the effort in. But, then also hire somebody who’s been doing it for a long time to come out to your location and just kind of check on them.

“The expert needs to be able to tell you: ‘This guy or girl knows what they’re doing, don’t worry about it.’ Or if that expert says, ‘look, from what I see, your movie’s going to be really bad,’ then that’s worth paying for. That assurance wouldn’t cost you much. That visit could be done on an hourly basis.”

But a lot of producers and directors don’t know this is a possibility until they get to post and then they find the problems they have.

”If they called me and said, ‘this is our situation, we’re getting ready to do principal shooting in three weeks. You know, we’ve hired a sound person but we’re not sure they’re really going to be able to do the job.’ I would tell them, hire somebody from my company to come out and spot check.

“If they give a sign off, you’re good to go. And then, you can bring the package to us. This way, you will not get a bunch of surprise comments like, ‘Oh, why did that mike cut out or Oh, why is your refrigerator running during your love scene?’”

Stacking Sound Files Can Be Costly and Leave the Editor Without the Best Choice

“When editors receive their sound files from the sound mixer on location, they’re usually receiving them in a stacked formation. So, let’s just say a scene a will have eight files. That is one person talking. So, it’s eight files of that one person saying one line, but on eight different mikes or eight different situations, eight different audio captures. And then what happens is, when the editors bring those eight files into their editing platform, they tend to merge all those together. And when it gets to sound post, it’s a big problem to unmerge those so that you can choose the best recorded audio piece.

“So I would tell whoever is compiling all these sound files, it’s usually the editor or editors/director, that they should learn the technology behind doing this the right way so that when it does get to sound post, it doesn’t cost them extra money.

“These problems are created because people don’t know what to do with these files, they just look at them and think, I’ll just put them all together. It’s like, no, don’t do that.  They were made so you have the very best sound to choose from. That’s why they did it more than once.”

He thinks directors and editor/directors are learning a lot of their technical skills from YouTube tutorial videos. And that those are great because they do give you a lot of insight into the technology.

“But I still would tell a director/editor, hire somebody that’s been doing this for a long time. Bring them over to your editing suite and just have them walk you through how to navigate these waters. It would be probably the best, $75 or $100 an hour you’ve ever spent, and it would last them the rest of their career.”

Jerry Deaton’s Classes on Sound Recording & Editing

audio post-productionJerry’s new class evolved from all the errors he’s seen with independent filmmakers make on their films. He’s the one they call when they run into these massive problems.

“Some get into problems at a locked cut. If they’re at a lock cut, there’s nothing that can be done. It’s just repair mode. But if they call me before they’ve started filming and they need somebody to help walk them through the waters of sound, I do this for people.”

So, instead of waiting for calls from desperate filmmakers asking him to rescue them from a terrible sound issue, Jerry created his class.  He charges an hourly rate and will come out to the location or talk to the filmmaker in the editing bay. 

“I will say, look, do this and this, and it will help you avoid so many problems in the end.  And you can either bring it to me or you can bring it to any other sound post house who will be so grateful that you did this the right way.

“Remember five years ago, everybody had a department. Everybody was an expert in their department, so editors knew how to do this. Directors knew how to direct sound. People knew how to capture location sound and prepare for sound, post. People knew how to edit and, and deal with the audio and the post-process.

“But with one person wearing so many hats, you’re getting all these gaps in knowledge. The people that are wearing all these hats should really reach out to experts in every department of filmmaking and say, look, just give me a few hours, tell me what I’m doing wrong, let me fix it and then I’ll get back to you in three months when I’m done with my edit.”

You can reach Jerry Deaton at AudioKut.com.  You can send him an email at Jerry@audiokut.com or call 818 434 2601. 

His vision of the new Hollywood has connected him with many like minded independent film makers and support teams.  They understand big budgets do not necessarily make great films. It still takes talent, a good story and an artisan approach to technology.

 

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.

Changing Your Money Mindset to Fund Your Film

It starts by rewiring our money programming, removing money blocks, and igniting your money super powers

by Carole Dean

With over 35 years of vast experience in the corporate, government and entrepreneur sector, Olympia Hostler loves her work helping ambitious women who want to work less, make more, and live free.  Her “Mind Over Money Makeover” program is designed to help high-achieving women realize their wealth potential.

money mindset

Are you stuck with scarcity mindset that is sabotaging you and stopping you from seeking the funding you need?

“Once women ignite their money super powers, wealth shows up in a steady flow and in more ways than they could have imagined,” she told me when she was a guest on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast

She shared with me the secrets and methods she gives her clients to help them create wealth and thrive by changing their money mindset.

It’s Not Enough to Will It

She was quick to say that using will power or brute force does not work.  Change has to happen at the source to get the results and wealth you want.  The source of “money blocks” is our internal programming and usually that is imparted on us by our well-meaning parents, friends, family and the media.  We often take on what they believe.

Another change she adds that we must make is removing old conditioning that we did to ourselves. When we have certain experiences and we draw conclusions and we make rules, that becomes our conditioning that we put on ourselves. And most of us adopted our parents’ beliefs, thoughts and habits, because, it is a primal instinct. The question is, are these conditionings working for you?

Unblocking Your Money Beliefs

Olympia says that money blocks come from a money programming process.  It is the programming we get from our parents, authority figures, society, media and friends. This programming becomes a self-sabotaging virus and affects all areas of our life. This feeds into having false beliefs, limiting decisions, unprocessed fears and faulty conclusions. 

These limiting beliefs exist on three levels of our being; our body, mind, and heart.  You must shift all three of these back to your “factory settings” to transform your well-being, your health and your wealth. 

Resetting Your Programming

“This is where you undo the years of dangerous programming and get to be yourself again.”

She says we need to realize that the mind controls our behavior, thoughts and emotions. That the heart is responsible for love, gratitude, receiving, connection and support, compassion and community with other people. That the body holds stuck emotions, traumas, stress and fear that affect our physical health.

“You remember that deep person inside who is full of joy, hope and love, that person for whom things come easily and naturally for sustainable wild wealth. It’s when the magic comes back to you and wealth shows up in your life in big ways and in ways that you could never have imagined.”

Changing the Scarcity Mentality

Money myths are lies that Olympia believes our scarcity mentality feeds us and we accept as true.  It’s your scarcity mindset that is your self-sabotaging, inner programming that is holding you back and keeping you small.

She explains that its our scarcity programming that feeds us & we accept scarcity as truth. We think that there will never be enough whether it is success or money. This keeps us stuck and holds us back from living our lives on purpose with passion. It stops us from sharing our gifts with the world and other people who depend on receiving our gifts to fulfill their purpose.

They are the basis for thinking and behavior that makes us say NO to a lot of opportunities and not even recognize some opportunities. We also say YES to things that do NOT serve us, keep us busy and distracted from our greatness.

Meditation

Another way Olympia advises that we change our thinking is through meditation, aerobic exercise, and novelty.

Meditation is super important to keep us mentally, emotionally and physically clear; relieve stress; improve our health; receive guidance; regulate our nervous system and so many more countless benefits.

“In meditative states, we go into our theta brainwaves which lowers stress and anxiety levels, as well as facilitates healing and growth.  Meditation is a single pointed focus, you can do it while walking, and at any time.  You are most productive when focusing on one thing. 

“For best results – it is imperative that we prioritize goals and tasks – then do them one by one.  We are so much more efficient, productive, happy and healthy that way. Twenty minutes is the ideal meditation.

“Novelty is learning and experiencing new things as well as doing the same things differently or changing your habits.”

Being a BFF with Money

Olympia teaches, “You can change your relationship with money to be your BFF.  In my online course, I call this section ‘For the Love of Money’. Changing your relationship with money begins with believing it’s possible.”  

What actions, thoughts, fears, … are standing in the way of being BFFs with money?  Olympia suggests asking yourself if you knew you would succeed beyond your wildest dreams, what would you do, be, or have? If you knew you could not fail, what would you be, do or have?

Would it be what you are doing now?  Something different?

She advises to give yourself permission to be wealthy right now. Commitment starts the snowball.

 

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.

A Good Colorist is the Wizard of OZ

When you realize what a colorist does, it’s easy to understand why no one knows they exist. 

by Carole Dean

Sam Dlugach won our Roy W. Dean Film Grant in 1996 and is one of the best colorists in LA.  He has over 30-years’ experience working with all types of films.  Sam works for a major production company, but moonlights helping indie features and documentaries. He generously gives us his time to serve as a judge for the grant and donates he services to the winners. 

Colorist

I recently interviewed him for my The Art of Film Funding Podcast and asked him how to help filmmakers understand how important a colorist is for their film. 

What Does a Colorist Do?

Sam equated the coloring of a film as the same as mastering is for audio. After a song has been recorded and mixed, then mastering is the final process before it goes to distribution. That’s like putting the final polish on your films’ audio. Well, that’s what coloring is for the image.

“We can take some beautifully photographed work,” Sam said, “and enhance it just that extra 10% or 15% to make it even more impactful in terms of emotion that we want the audience to feel.”

He explained that no matter what you’re shooting, whether you’re shooting a documentary, short film, or a feature film, you’re probably using multiple cameras, multiple lenses, and you’re going to certainly have all sorts of different lighting conditions. At the very minimum, what a colorist does is make all that stuff match.

Actually, when you realize what a colorist does, it’s easy to understand why no one knows they exist.  When they finish their job, the film looks perfect. Every single shot is lit perfectly, and all your shots match, each scene flows seamlessly, and the audience is fully engaged in the film never realizing all the work the colorist did.

Enhancing the Story and Setting the Mood

“In a more creative sense,” he noted, “I’m part of the storytelling process.  I’m helping the director and the director of photography set story beats in terms of the look of the film, in terms of the mood of the lighting, and the contrast ratio and certainly the color imagery.

“I have a day job where I work on TV commercials, so a lot of what I’m doing daily is emphasizing the product and de-emphasizing the background or bringing out people’s faces. There’s a lot of very specific stuff that I’m doing on a psychological level to direct people’s eyes.

“That same sort of artistry and science works in storytelling as well whether it’s episodic television, or a music video, or short film, or feature film, or documentary. Anything that I can do visually to help tell the story is my main job.”

 

 

Matching Scenes and Matching Visions

If filmmakers bring great footage, then the colorist can look great as well.  But many times, filmmakers have challenges on the shoot.

“They may have had problems with lenses, problems with cameras,” Sam explains, “or very different lighting setups from shot to shot that have to be evened out and made to match. It’s a collaborative process at best.  When you’re working with a team of people, if everybody’s got a singular vision of what this film is supposed to be, and everybody’s just working towards that one image, it can be a really great experience, and the rewards for the film can be great.

“I’ve always loved working with filmmakers and directors of photography because I work to achieve their vision.  And a big part of what I do is to interpret what I’m being told.  Some people come in, and they have a better understanding of what happens in the color bay, and some people really are intimidated, or they don’t understand the process.

“It’s my job to deal with all levels of filmmakers and all levels of people that walk into my room and understand what they are trying to tell me so we can find a way to achieve their vision.”

What First Time Filmmakers Need to Know about Working with a Colorist

Typically, after you finish your edit, you would send Sam a version of the edit with a decision list and it will refer back to your original footage.  He creates the edit timeline.  He on the Baselight system and uses a $40,000.00 monitor.  Sam sees everything with this monitor that your audience will see.

The first thing he does when he meets someone new is to talk about the story before he ever looks at the film.  Together with the director he makes notes of scenes and shots by writing down what they mean and exactly how they are telling the story.  They discuss the color journey of the entire movie.

Sam will look at the timeline of the move and talk to the director about the story.  The main question is “what is the story we want to tell?”  They will stop and look at shots of each scene.

“What is the emotional tone?” Sam will discuss with the director. “What are we going for here? How does this flow into the next scene? How does it relate to the previous scenes?” Sam and the director start very basically coloring from raw camera information to a finished look for that single shot.

By the end of the first session when the filmmaker leaves, they should have a good feeling about how the movie will look.  They will have seen scenes from all over the movie that tell the story they have painted together. 

The filmmaker goes away and Sam works for a week or two coloring.  When they come back, Sam will have filled in the holes, done the coverage, and stitched the film together.  Then, Sam watches it with the filmmaker and makes notes to do a trim pass and sometimes a second trim. 

Sam works with people outside of Los Angeles area.  He colored a fiscally sponsored film of ours in Hawaii.  You can transfer files very easily now so you don’t need to be in the same city as your colorist.

Seeking Passionate Storytellers

Sam loves working with independent and documentary filmmakers that are passionate and really have a story to tell.  

“In a perfect world I’m invested in that story too. I care about what they’re trying to say, and so I tend to gravitate lately to unique stories about human nature, about people.” 

Sam wants to work with filmmakers that have something to say about the times we are living in.  “I love working with documentarians because they’re usually trying to right some wrong. They’re usually trying to expose something that needs to be exposed.”

“I get a charge out of working on projects that make a difference, and so I do tend to be a little picky about the projects that I get involved with independently. There’s a great thing about knowing you came through from the Heart Productions. The people that gravitate to what you’re doing at From the Heart tend to be great people and tend to be impassioned storytellers with their heart in the game, and they’re not just in it for the money. They’re not just brazenly commercial. They’re doing something that matters.

Gift to Filmmakers at From the Heart Productions

“I’ve met so many wonderful people from the work that you’re doing (at From the Heart Productions) and from the outreach that you do with independent filmmakers.  I encourage people that are in your program, and your funding programs, and your writers that you work with and filmmakers that find you to come talk to me.

“My door is open, and like I said, advice is always free.  You can reach same at Samdcolor@gmail.com and the time to interview and hire a colorist is early on in production.”

 

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.

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.