Trailer Tips

Bill Woolery, the editor behind the trailers for such films as “ET” and “The Usual Suspects”, was known as “The Trailer Specialist.” 

This blog was written for us by Bill when he was a donor to the Roy W. Dean Grant. In this, he offered his advice on documentary trailer editing drawn from his 25 years of experience. He also wrote a chapter in Carole Dean’s book, “The Art of Film Funding.”

by Bill Woolery – Guest Contributor

In the complex business of getting your documentary funded and distributed, having a dynamic, well-edited video promo has become a critical element in a successful strategy.  But often when the producer/editor turns his attention to creating this kind of trailer, the results can be less than satisfactory. 

Why?  Because long-format pieces and trailers are two completely separate video realities.  Each has its own rhythm and energy; each uses a different language to express the same emotions.  Editing a documentary benefits from a well-developed, logical Left Brain …while trailer editing is much more a Right Brain exercise.  Structurally existing in different worlds they nevertheless are both true and faithful to the concept and the heart of the overall project. 

Trailers for documentaries are used in two ways.  One format’s goal is to impress funding entities with the importance of the project and the value of contributing to it.  In this case, the editor takes whatever footage is available and attempts to recreate the theme and quality of “whole picture.”  The other trailer format is created from the completed documentary and is used to showcase it to potential distributors, broadcasters & home video releasing companies. 

RHYTHMN & PACING 

You’ve worked hard and are satisfied with the pace and rhythm you built into your doc. This is surely an asset that you want to preserve in the trailer, yes?  No!  Taking various chucks from your doc and assembling them into a promo without totally rethinking the editing will produce a clumsy, ineffective result.  Individual & overlapping arcs, the “build” in momentum, the emotional “gear changes” that characterize a great trailer have little in common with the corresponding elements in the full-length piece. 

Yes, the trailer will try to cover all the salient points and emotions it can, but the way that these play off each other and contribute to the whole requires a different construction.  True, the trailer may be 50 or more minutes shorter than the doc, but if it’s a great cut nothing will be “lost” from the integrity of the full piece.

VOICE OVER 

Few things will reduce the impact of a trailer more than the use of an amateur Voice Over

A RULE THAT NEVER FAILS  

LET THE MATERIAL LEAD YOU.

“We’re thinking it should be 3 minutes,” I sometimes hear. “Does that sound right to you?”  In theory, yes.  But, as the cut begins to hone down into a solid form, the intrinsic qualities of the material become the determining factor in these kinds of decisions. 

In the trailer mind-set, you’ll find that the material will “tell” when it’s been on the screen long enough.  It will tell you when you’ve revealed too much of it, or if you need to add a bit of setup so that it can “speak” more clearly.  It will tell you if the music cue is wrong.  I usually like to build a long sequence first and then allow the scenes to tell me which of them are superfluous and which should remain in the cut.

“BUT WE ALREADY PAID FOR THIS MUSIC” 

In scoring your doc you’ve probably made many choices using music sensitively and episodically.  But music in a trailer runs continuously -with rare exceptions for dramatic pauses.  It must have momentum, a pulse that propels the trailer (either strongly or gently) from top to bottom.  If your doc already has such a cue, you’re in luck.  If it doesn’t, there’s little alternative to finding a new cue.  You could also ask your composer to create faster tempo versions of the existing cues. 

If you use several cues in the trailer always start with the slowest tempo first and proceed with quicker and quicker ones.  This rule can be broken …but the only exceptions I’ve encountered were due to unusual circumstances, say when the trailer has to end on a tragic note that follows a more active and expositional middle section.  It’s not a particularly good idea to end a trailer tragically.  No need to devise a “happy” ending, but it’s a better choice to leave it open ended with a bit of mystery about the people and the outcome.

 MAKE SURE IT ENDS 

Avoid a slow music fade out at the end.  Yes, your doc may have a beautifully constructed, delicate ending that leaves the viewer in tears.  Your trailer can also invoke a similar poignancy …but it must have a definitive ending.  Why?  The viewer may leave your doc a changed person, pondering a new awareness. 

But when the trailer ends, he or she needs to be thinking, “Hmm, I really want to see that.”  That’s the “new awareness” you want to create here.  This need not be seen as a “selling out” or a commercializing of your project.  It’s just the way a trailer has to work.  A good trailer cut will not compromise the integrity to your project.

 AN EDIT ROOM SECRET 

Invite the clients to sit down the first time they view the trailer cut on the monitor.  A standing person can be uncomfortable and will perceive the cut to be longer than one who is sitting.  Whenever I hear, “It feels just a bit too long,” it’s always from the person standing. 

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Helen Hall Awarded Puzzle Theory Grant

Filmmaker Will Have 3 Years Use of Innovative PR and Marketing Platform for her Documentary on Nikola Tesla

From the Heart Productions has awarded Helen Hall 3 years of use of Puzzle Theory which will assist her in building a marketing and PR campaign for her Roy W. Dean Grant winning film “Pictures of Infinity”.   Valued at $5,000, the Puzzle Theory Grant is made possible by a donation from Puzzle Theory and its creator Ina Sofia Kalo.   The award will not only help Helen create buzz for her in progress documentary on Nicola Tesla, it will provide an example to show other independent filmmakers how Puzzle Theory will revolutionize their marketing.

Puzzle Theory Grant“I am so grateful to receive this grant from Puzzle Theory, and excited to begin working with such an innovative and inspiring platform!” said director Helen Hall upon learning of her being chosen for the award. 

“Puzzle Theory is everything I could have hoped for, and have been missing, until now – a way to document films as they are being made, and a place to create a ‘behind the scenes’ story about the making of the film.  I have been doing this on different social media platforms, but in pieces.  This platform brings all those pieces together in one place, and there are still many more dimensions to explore. 

“Thank you Ina Sofia Kalo and Carole Dean, for this generous gift, and I look forward to sharing all that I learn from this experience.”

About Puzzle Theory

Developed by Ina over two years, Puzzle Theory is an exciting tool for independent filmmakers.  With it, Ina has created a way for filmmakers to attach to their audience while making their film. 

“You or your production company can register a film at any stage of production,” Ina explained on a recent The Art of Film Funding Podcast. “It can be any genre. Our categories are fiction, documentary, TV series or animation. You build your own page. It will have your unique URL and you can post the link anywhere.

“You have different modules that give information about you, you but basically you start curating your film using storyline. You combine original pictures and video or production shots and video with hand selected content from your existing social media accounts and pages.

“Using our proprietary technology, you can tag and extract any information from current content of your existing social media. We give you the tools to hand select only the most special pieces that you want to include with the making of your storyline.”

At this point Puzzle Theory is by invite only.  The company is curating their own platform with a lot of attention to detail, and though some films may contain some nudity and violence, the staff has to make sure that such content is not inappropriate.  She has a brilliant website and best of all she has a question-and-answer session monthly.  You can find that on her site and get to hear her personally. 

About “Pictures of Infinity”

Recipient of the Roy W. Dean Grant for Spring of 2013, “Pictures of Infinity” is a feature documentary about Nikola Tesla’s discovery the Earth produces an unlimited reservoir of natural electricity and the system he invented to harness it to provide an infinite, nontoxic and renewable resource for the shared benefit of all humankind.

More than 100 years ago the great scientist, engineer and visionary Nikola Tesla predicted the current environmental crisis and knew we would need a radical solution. He devoted the last part of his life to providing one, with his discovery that the earth produces an unlimited reservoir of natural electricity and his invention that harnesses it, based on an entirely new understanding of physics. Tesla’s ideas were so advanced for that time, and challenging to mainstream science, that all funding for his projects was withdrawn, his name seemed to disappear from the history books, and since then all of this visionary work has remained veiled in mystery.

What Nikola Tesla discovered is a natural form of electricity produced by the spinning earth, within stars, in the cosmic vacuum of space, and Tesla found a way to produce it with his invention known as a ‘Tesla coil’. The film follows the events in Tesla’s life, and reproduces the groundbreaking experiments that led to the discovery he called his ‘greatest achievement’. Independent scientists and engineers provide solid scientific evidence to confirm it. In the process Pictures of Infinity reveals the soul and spirit of a true scientist and humanitarian whose passionate quest for knowledge was always at the service of humanity.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and that make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From the Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $10 million through its fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts 

“Keeper of Time” Wins First Roy W. Dean Grant for 2020

Winner to Receive $30,000 Cash and Production Services to Complete Project

From the Heart Productions has announced that the winner of their Spring 2020 Roy W. Dean Grant is the documentary “Keeper of Time”.   Awarded 3 times each year by the non-profit organization, the grant goes to a unique film that makes a contribution to society.  Director Michael Culyba and his team will receive $3,500 cash and thousands more in donated production services and products to help them complete post-production.

 

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner

 

“This is such a beautiful and thoughtful film” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions which sponsors the grant. “All of us at From the Heart Productions are very excited that we are able to help this film get completed.”

“Keeper of Time” is a feature length documentary film that explores the history of horology, mechanical watchmaking and the very concept of time. With interviews from top horological experts and the finest watchmakers in the world, it delves into the world of timekeeping by examining the planets and stars above, the astonishing engineering of mechanical watches, the sophisticated atomic clocks that keep our modern world running and much more.

All the while, “Keeper of Time” contemplates the theoretical and physiological notions of time, aging, and human mortality with interviews from cutting-edge scholars in the fields of theoretical physics, quantum mechanics and philosophy.

In addition to the $3,500 cash prize, Michael Culyba will receive an G-tech ArmorATD drive from G-Technology,  40% deduction on color, editing, and sound & all production services from ProMedia NYC, 30% discount in equipment rental from AbelCine Tech, Inc. NYC,  and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors.

About the Filmmaker

Michael Culyba – Director/Producer/Editor – Michael has been editing documentary films in New York City for over seventeen years.

Some of his credits include Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (Toronto International Film Festival 2006), Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized (Toronto International Film Festival 2011), Running from Crazy (Sundance Film Festival 2013) and My Own Man, produced by Edward Norton (TriBeCa Film Festival 2014).

Most recently he edited two-time Oscar winning director Barbara Kopple’s film This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.  Keeper of Time is his directorial debut.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

“How to Have an American Baby” Wins Roy W. Dean Grant

Winner to Receive $30,000 Cash and Production Services to Complete Post-Production

Awarded to an independent film that is unique and makes a contribution to society, From the Heart Productions announced that the 3rd and last Roy W. Dean Grant in the 2019 cycle goes to the documentary “How to Have an American Baby”

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Fall 2019

Directed by Leslie Tai, “How to Have an American Baby” is a kaleidoscopic voyage behind the closed doors of the Chinese birth tourism industry—a booming shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists who travel to Southern California on “birthing vacations” in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies.

Through a network of stories, the film traces the human supply chain from Beijing and Shanghai to Los Angeles—chronicling the fortunes and tragedies that befall the ordinary people caught in the web of its influence.

“We are very honored to support a this very talented filmmaker and help her to complete this moving, powerful film” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions which sponsors the grant. “It provides a fascinating look into how those from other countries view American society.”

In addition to the $3,000 cash prize, Leslie and producer Jillian Schultz will receive  $6,000 in animation services from Emmy winner Charlie Canfield, $500 expendable, lighting and grip equipment from Filmtools, one week DSLR camera package rental from Birns & Sawyer, and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors

About the Filmmaker

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Fall 2019

Leslie Tai – Her work chronicles the dreams, anxieties, and consumer desire of China’s rising middle class and the Chinese diaspora from a distinctly female perspective.

A Chinese-American filmmaker hailing from San Francisco, Leslie moved to China in 2006  on a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship after graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Design|Media Arts. There, she earned her filmmaking chops in the underground Chinese documentary world as a student of Wu Wenguang, a founding figure of the New Chinese Documentary Movement. From 2007-2011, she made and exhibited films as an artist of Wu’s Beijing-based studio, Caochangdi Workstation.

Tai is recipient of a 2019 Creative Capital Award and a graduate of the MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University. Her short films have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, Visions du Réel (Nyon), International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and broadcast on The New York Times.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $10 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts

Documentary “999” Named Winner of 2nd Roy W. Dean Grant of 2019

Filmmaker to Receive $30,000 in Cash and Film Production Services to Help Complete Film

The documentary “999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport from Auschwitz” has been chosen by From the Heart Productions as winner of their Summer 2019 Roy W. Dean Grant.  Awarded 3 times each year, the Roy W. Dean Grant goes to an independent film that is unique and makes a contribution to society.  With the grant, first time filmmaker Heather Dune Macadam will continue her work to bring this important film to the public.

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner

“We need to reminded of the holocaust and it’s terrible toll with great films such as this.” said Carole Dean, president of From the Heart Productions. “It is an amazing, untold story that we are proud to help document.” 

In addition to the $3,500 cash prize, the Roy W. Dean Grant Winner will receive $500 expendable, lighting and grip equipment from Filmtools, $1,295.00 Scholarship to Writers Boot Camp, 2TB ArmorATD hard drive from G-Technology, and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors.

About the Film

On March 26, 1942, a train took 999 unmarried, young Jewish women for government service–they thought they were going to a shoe factory to work. They ended up in Auschwitz. “999 – The Extraordinary Yound Women of the First Official  Transport to Auschwitz” reveals the hidden story about how the Slovak government paid the Nazis to take their unmarried young Jewish women for slave labor, where they were supposed to be worked to death.

Who were these young women? Why were they chosen? How did a handful survive over three years in the death camps? Multiple narratives have been collected from survivors and families over the years that retrace that fateful transport and frame the girls’ stories with 94-year-old Edith Grosman—#1970—to discover the truth of this largely unreported and completely ignored women’s history about the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz.

What started as a documentary is now also a book being published by Kensington Citadel Press in the US. Heather’s goal is to have the documentary released with the book.  The book is already creating a bit of a buzz on BookBuzz where it was picked  as one of the top 10 nonfiction books for Fall/Winter 2019.  Being translated into 12 languages to date, it will be released in the UK as The Nine Hundred by Hodder and Stoughton (February 2020).

About the Filmmaker

Roy W. Dean Grant WinnerHeather Dune Macadam – Heather began her career as a performance artist and dancer with the Martha Graham Contemporary Dance Company. After an accident prematurely ended her performing career, she began writing.  Her first book, was the memoir Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz,  which she co-wrote with the 716th woman in Auschwitz.  In 2012, the Digital Edition went viral and became an instant best seller, topping Holocaust and Memoir lists on Amazon.

She has been published by The New York Times, National Geographic, The Guardian UK, The Daily Mail, Marie Claire, Newsweek among other national and international publications, and was a semi-regular commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Ms. Macadam holds a Masters in Creative Writing and has received a Presidential Grant for Research from Savannah College of Art and Design and a PEN American stipend.  She is the director and president of the Rena’s Promise Foundation and ran the Rena’s Promise Intl. Creative Writing Camp 4 Teens for 5 years, reaching out to children at risk and helping them discover their creative voices.

Her Roy W. Dean Grant Winning Film is her first film.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 27th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $10 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

How to Take Control of Your Film’s Financial Future

Conversation with award winning filmmaker Karen Day on the importance of being your film’s advocate and getting the upper hand with a film distributor 

by Carole Dean

Karen Day is a very successful writer, photographer, and filmmaker because she made it happen.  She is always working on creating a successful future for herself.  She focuses on humanitarian issues in exotic locales like Afghanistan, Cuba, Myanmar, pre-war Iraq, pre-Madonna Malawi, Hollywood, and Washington, DC.  They’ve offered her exciting opportunities to dodge bullets and write for national publications like More Magazine, O, The Los Angeles Times, and The Pentagon.

Film Distributor

Director Karen Day on location with cast and crew from “Nell Shipman: The Girl From God’s Country”

Winner as writer and producer of the Roy W. Dean Grant for Nell Shipman, The Girl from God’s Country, she joined me on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast.  She offered advice to independent women filmmakers just starting out on which we both agreed. 

While it’s important to seek out others for advice, independent filmmakers need to take active control of the future of their own work to have a successful career and to make any money.

The Harry Potter Effect

Karen says one of her real joys is being able to mentor women, young women beginning their career in filmmaking. “It’s a real tipping point right now in the industry. There’s so much opportunity. And it’s difficult to find a mentor.”

“But, Carole, you know better than anyone, and I think you’re one of the major voices in how to manifest and believe in yourself that you can get things done. I call it the Harry Potter effect. I put my mind to an idea and start whipping results out of the ether. I might as well have a master wand.”

This is very true.  Karen realizes that your faith in yourself and in your film is paramount to a successful production.  Your attitude towards yourself and your film must always be of the highest level as you deserve to be funded.  Belief and faith will carry you a long way in the film industry “and make doors open where there were no doors before.” 

The Dark Web of the Film Festivals

Karen was at Raindance Film Festival with her latest film Bamboo and Barbed Wire, a documentary that chronicles the life of a 17- year old Syrian refugee girl in Idaho.  She says that Raindance is a premier festival and they give filmmakers an amazing amount of support. There are distributors there from around the world.

But, she warns, don’t assume that just by getting accepted and networking will get you a deal for your film. 

“There’s a lot in the film festival world that independents still have to learn the hard way. You think oh, ’I’m going to get accepted, and then I’m going to be distributed, and then I’m going to be famous.’ No, actually, there’s a lot of innerness and I call it the dark web, the dark world of politics that goes on in film festivals.

“It’s a good way to meet people and make connections, but it’s not as simplistic as it appears. Film festivals and film distributors are in the business of making money on movies, and producers and writers and directors and cinematographers are in the business of making movies. And it’s a hard lesson to learn that there are two different businesses.”

She is right.  The distributors want to buy the film for the cheapest price possible and filmmakers think they will get prices near what was quoted in Variety for recent sales.  However, these prices are normally exceptional prices.  Distributors and Netflix and Amazon are paying low prices unless you have a known actor in a feature or a documentary.  In that case, it’s a bit higher but not what they were paying a few years ago. 

The information I get from our fiscally sponsored filmmakers is that by the time they get to a festival, usually they are tired from years of producing and are ready to let go of the film.  Once they get an offer, they are so excited that someone loves the film and wants to help, that they often make poor decisions.  Distributors are offering egregious contracts and very low up-front money these days. 

 

 

Finding Out What Your Film is Worth

Because of the horror stories I have heard from filmmakers about bad contracts, distributors not complying with contracts and people selling their film for 20% of the cost, I started a search for who is paying what for films.  That search turned into a blog.

It’s very important that we know the current selling price for docs and features. So, if you want to share any information on what the current prices are for films and docs, please contact me.  All info will be kept confidential.

Karen says that going to the festivals and talking to other filmmakers is the best way to find what happened to other filmmakers, what prices they were paid, who are the worst distributors and who to watch out for.  You won’t find this information in print, only word of mouth or in our blog talk shows where some filmmakers will offer up the truth about their poor distribution deal.

Find Leverage with a Film Distributor

Karen said that getting a distributor as an independent is not always what you thought it would be. Often, people think that a distributor will change your life.  You need to know what money you can make and you need leverage to negotiate.

“The one thing I can say is, if you do have a distributor that’s interested, immediately contact several distributors to see if they will be interested.  Because then, you have more power to negotiate a minimum guarantee.  Number one thing I say to independent filmmakers is, your MG, your minimum guarantee with the distributor may be the only dime you ever see.  So, make sure that you negotiate that.   And the best way to do it is to get more interest than one distributor.

“I did that, and so I was able to negotiate more money than I was originally offered. And I naively thought, oh, well, this is going to be a cakewalk now.  But what’s true is my distributor is in the business of making money on movies, and they’re like a shark. They have to keep moving to pick up more films and compete with all these distributors to find the next great documentaries.

Be an Advocate for Yourself

“I literally had to become a thorn. I’ve been working with the major network media for a long time, so I know what it’s like to push. And some people don’t have that advantage, because I’m older, too. It’s not like I’m 20. I’ve been around the block, as they say, about 4,000 times.

“The bottom line is, none of it’s easy. It was a daily process of what are you doing, what’s happening? Otherwise, you seep into the carpet and you’re thinking, oh, it’s going to happen for me. Mm-mm (negative).

“I can definitely say there have been a couple of great films. The great film Sonita, which is about the Afghan rapper who escaped an arranged marriage. Somebody was doing a documentary on her and they bought her out of the marriage.  It won an Audience Award at Sundance, and it was sold to PBS National.  I can’t divulge how much it was, but I would say it’s not enough to buy a used car.

“I really feel that the art of film negotiation is the number one thing, and the art of film funding. You have to be your own best advocate, and you just want to say, ‘Oh, I’m an artist.’ Well, you can be a starving artist all you want, but you better learn to be a business person too if you want to make a living at your art.”

 

 

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.

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.

“The Love Bugs” Named Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018

Winning Documentary Receives $3,500 Cash and Thousands More in Film Production Services

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018“The Love Bugs”, a warm and touching film about two renowned entomologists who, after 60 years of work, seek to pass on their knowledge and millions on insects, has been named the Roy W, Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018. 

Awarded 3 times each year by From the Heart Productions, the Roy W. Dean Grant goes to a film that is unique and makes a contribution to society.  The 2nd grant awarded this year will help winning directors Allison Otto and Maria Clinton complete their project.

“The quality and passion behind the projects submitted by filmmakers around the world gave our judges a difficult task to choose a winner”, commented Carole Dean, president of From the Heart Productions. “We are very proud to have this film join our family of grant winners.”

“The Love Bugs” in the documentary are Lois and Charlie O’Brien.  They are two of the foremost entomologists and pioneers in their field who have devoted their lives to science and to each other.

Over the course of 60 years, these two soulmates quietly amassed the world’s largest private collection of insects–a scientific game-changer with more than one million specimens and more than 1,000 undiscovered species. And now, after decades of research and the development of a parental bond with their collection, they’ve decided to give it away.

In addition to the $3,500 cash prize, the filmmakers of the Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018 will receive $500 in expendable, lighting or grip equipment from Filmtools, a hard drive from G-Technology, $600 in free closed captioning from Netcaptioning, $500.00 for a one-year Tier 1 subscription of Show Starter Scheduling & Budgeting Plus software. 

Other donations include:

Sam Dlugach, one of LA’s top colorists, donor to the grant for 15 years, donates free color correction for fundraising trailers, free workflow consultation and camera tests. A 20% discount on final color correction services.

Jeffrey Alan from Alan Audio Works writes original music and gives the winner of the Roy W. Dean Grant sound mixing at a major discount.

And more from heartfelt donors.

About the Filmmakers

Allison Otto – Director

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018Allison is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, producer, visual journalist and licensed drone photographer. Her clients have included National Geographic, BBC America, NBC, the Sierra Club, the American Alpine Club, Outside Television and Lonely Planet. Allison’s exclusive story of the discovery of a new invertebrate species was selected by National Geographic as one of their “Ten Best First-of-their-Kind” stories of 2016.

In 2013, Allison released her first film, Keeper of the Mountains, which was awarded a Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment Grant  It won 15 awards, screened at over 30 film festivals around the world and was named “One of the Best Adventure Films of 2013” by Outside magazine.

 

Maria Clinton – Co-Director

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2018Maria Clinton is a filmmaker, photographer and an Adjunct Film Professor based in New York. Her photography work has been featured in various exhibits.  Maria’s clients have included NBC, CNN’s Great Big Story, About.com and nonprofit organizations. Her work focuses on complex characters, social constructs and the presence of diverse voices. 

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About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 26th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films.  The grant goes to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers needing help to continue working on their film and to get it completed.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant that have been completed include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey, the SXSW Best of Fest Music Film The Winding Stream: An Oral History of the Carter and Cash Family, and Kusama-Infinity which is now going into theatrical release around the US.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to educating and helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer films fiscal sponsorship which allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has raised over $3 million for crowdfunding films.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

Creating a 2nd Successful Kickstarter Campaign for Your Film

Director Robyn Symon’s first Kickstarter campaign for her documentary “Do No Harm” reached it’s goal.  Could she make it happen again?

by Richard Kaufman

Documentary filmmaker Robyn Symon was told it was impossible for a film to have two successful Kickstarter campaigns.   Her Roy W. Dean Grant winning film “Do No Harm” raised over $100,000 on the first Kickstarter effort.   She needed to raise at least that much again to help get her film finished.

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast , she she shared with host Carole Dean tips on how she defied the naysayers and reached her goal the second time around.

Put Together a Team With Connections

“Do No Harm”, fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions,  reveals the sad shocking truth about physician suicides.  While their jobs are to serve as our healers , they have the highest rate of suicide among any profession.    

She knew on her second Kickstarter campaign she would need to reach new supporters and expand her followers to be successful.  To do that, she wanted to build a team who could connect with those in medical field.

She sought out those “who had vlogs, podcasts and they had like tens of thousands of followers.”  She didn’t want anyone just because they loved the film.  She selected 5 or 6 people  after “I looked at their backgrounds carefully to know that these people knew how to connect with other people.”

One of them, Dr. Pamela Wible, Roybn called her “secret weapon”.   She’s considered “the guardian angel to physicians and medical student suseptible to suicide.”  Her vlogs get 50,000 views and a Ted talk she did seen by over 380,000 views. 

With a team in place, they were getting word out about the film even before the campaign began.   

Have Money in Kickstarter Campaign Before it Starts

“You should have a few thousand dollars already committed.” Robyn suggested.   So, as soon as you pull the switch on the campaign, the money is already tallied for all to see.

“No one wants to be the first money in.”

Everyone on her team agreed to contribute $1,000 before the campaign went live. So, right at the start they already had momentum.

Robyn Raised $131,313 on Second Kickstarter Campaign

Don’t Have a Goal That’s Too High…Or Too Low

“If your goal is too high, you’re not going to be sucessful”, she said.  Conversely, you don’t want to have a goal that is too low and easily attainable.  

“Once you reach your goal its very difficult to raise more money.”   She suggests not to go for all the funding at once in one campaign.  Break it up into smaller asks. 

“You have to make it very clear what the money is being allocated for” such as pre-production.  So, when you go back for more funding, you’re not rejected by those who think you’ve already raised enough to make your film.

Consider Using a Kickstarter Campaign Expert

Because she was concerned about raising money a second time on Kickstarter and finding new supporters, she hired an Kickstarter expert.

From the Heart Productions has one expert they work with who has a fantastic track record of crowdfunding success with their fiscally sponsored films.   They hooked him up with Robyn to help her with her campaign.

“I think it was really helpful.”, explained Robyn.   “He has done so many of these campaigns that he really made the page look fantastic.”

She regretted not setting her goal higher as she reached it in a week!  Her goal was $60K, but she really needed $100k and thinks she could have raised $200k. 

“It’s tough, really tough, to go back and say “Yes, we reached our goal and we have 3 weeks left.’” 

Fortunately, she was able to refocus her campaign on raising funds for marketing and was able to get an additional $60,000. 

 

Richard Kaufman is a board member of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship and the Roy W. Dean Grant for independent filmmakers.  Richard has over 25 years experience in supplying filmmakers with discounted film stock and hard drives.  He is currently a Senior Account Executive with Filmtools

Roy W. Dean Grant Won by “Belly of the Beast”

2nd Roy W. Dean Grant Winner of 2017 to Receive Cash and Services to Complete Documentary

"Belly of the Beast"

Still from Roy W. Dean Grant winning documentary “Belly of the Beast”

Oxnard, CA Dec 16th, 2017 –   From the Heart Productions , the non-profit dedicated to helping indie filmmakers get their films funded, has awarded its second Roy W. Dean Grant of 2017 to the documentary “Belly of the Beast”.  Awarded 3 times each year, the grant goes to films that are unique and make a contribution to society.  As a result of winning, “Belly of the Beast” will receive $3,500 in cash and $30k in film production products and services to help it complete production.

Directed by Erika Cohn, “Belly of the Beast” intimately chronicles the journey of women fighting reproductive injustice in their communities. 

“Persistence and passion for the project paid off for Erika” admired Carole Dean, founder and president of From the Heart Productions.  “This was the fourth time she applied to the grant with this project!   We could see the growth in her work and the last submission really impressed us.”

For winning the Roy W. Dean Grant, “Belly of the Beast” filmmakers receive $3,500 cash given by From the Heart Productions.  The winners also receive a hard drive from G-Technology, Scholarships to Writers Boot Camp , 25% discount on Publicity services by David Magdael & Associates, Inc., 35% discount for lighting services from PASKAL LIGHTING, and much more from many heart-felt donors

About the Filmmaker

"Belly of the Beast"Erika Cohn is an Emmy award winning director/producer who Variety recognized as one of 2017’s top ten documentary filmmakers.  Most recently, Erika completed The Judge, a film about the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Shari’a courts.  It premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and will be broadcast on PBS’ 2018 Independent Lens series.

In addition, Erika co-directed/produced, In Football We Trust, an Emmy award-winning, feature documentary about the unique faith and culture that ultimately drives young Pacific Islander men into the NFL.  It  premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS’ 2016 Independent Lens series. Her work has been supported by IFP, the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Institute, Hot Docs, Sheffield, ITVS, Women in Film, BAVC and the CPB Producer’s Academy among others.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 25th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to films.   The grant has been an important lifeline for filmmakers needing help to continue working on their films.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films would have never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant that have been completed include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey, the SXSW Best of Fest Music Film The Winding Stream: An Oral History of the Carter and Cash Family, and the now in release on video and on demand the very relevant The Brainwashing of My Dad.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer films fiscal sponsorship which allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has raised over $2.4 million for crowdfunding films as a partner with Indiegogo.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com