Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Intro to Meet The Producer...

I don't know how many times over the years that I've wished for a producing mentor to guide me, to bounce ideas off of, to even reassure me that I'm doing fine as I keep stumbling along following my Muse.

So, I've come up with this questionnaire, and I plan to ask fellow creative producers to respond to it at this blog for your illumination and hopefully, inspiration:

Sustaining the Muse
A Producing Questionnaire
  • How did you get started as a producer?
  • What do you look for in a project, and how do you decide whether to commit to getting it made?
  • Do you have a Big Dream or career goal? What inspires you to produce movies?
  • What’s the hardest part of producing, in your opinion?
  • Name a movie, or several, that you wish you had produced.
  • How much time tends to pass between projects for you? Is this intentional? What do you do during this downtime?
  • Do you produce multiple projects simultaneously, all the time, or do you prefer to focus on one at a time? Why?
  • How do you pay the bills? Do you earn your livelihood from producing, or do/did you have a “day job” or do other income-earning activities?
  • How long did it (will it) take to support yourself as a producer?
  • Whose producing career(s) do you respect/admire?
If you have ideas, suggestions for additions or deletions, I'm all ears (and eyeballs)! I'm hoping to post responses from my first guest producer in August.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Downtime and Day Jobs

Okay, I admit it, I'm a loser. I have so many ideas for this blog that I've been constipated from actually DOING anything about them. I'm disappointed with myself that it's been so long since I've posted.

My excuses: always, baby time with my toddler daughter. Plus, my husband's still doggedly pursuing a full-time job, and in the meantime, he's home with us, and that gets distracting. And, it took a while to get the laptop operational, so that I can leave the baby and husband at home and go off yonder to post to this blog. :)


So here I am, let's move forward!

Something I always wonder about fellow indie filmmakers is how they manage to pay the bills while building their careers?
  • What do they do between projects?
  • Do they have downtime between projects, or do they always keep 3, 5, 8 plates in the air at all times?
  • Do they consistently eek out money from their producing work, or do they have to supplement with other income-generating activities?
  • Was/is there a turning point for them into profitability/revenue stability?
I've been on this journey for over 12 years now. I'd consider at least half that time as a sort of personal grad school for myself. But, in the rest of the time, although I've earned income from my efforts along the way, I'm still not in the black with my filmmaking/producing efforts. And, I haven't made a consistent living at it, yet.

Things I've done for money while trying to build a filmmaking career, so far:
  • Had a corporate day job as an instructional designer.
  • Managed a native plant nursery outside of Austin, Texas.
  • Garden design and maintenance for homeowners (this lasted a couple years, until I got poison ivy for a third and vicious time, ack!@).
  • Screenplay consulting.
  • Coaching other filmmakers and screenwriters. Either on creative/writing objectives, or on the marketing/business aspects of developing their scripts into feature films.
  • Temping. At studios, and not.
  • Water fitness instructor.
  • Teaching filmmaking to high school students at an "alternative" high school.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff, too.

I like the coaching, consulting and teaching gigs. I really like that exchange between my client and me. It's very gratifying if/when I can be an effective catalyst for someone's creative process. And, I've been fortunate that those types of gigs are picking up for me since my move to the Great North.

I'm still figuring out some formatting and organizing schema for this blog, but I plan to query other producers on their income-generation habits and efforts. Please stay tuned.

Or, post a comment with your experience(s) paying the bills while pursuing your muse!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Gate Keepers?

Another link here, commenting on Mark Gill's "The Sky Is Falling" speech:

The part of the entry where the author, Brian Newman, remarks that new "gatekeepers" are needed in the indie world piqued my attention.

I'd like to be a Gate Keeper. I love putting people together. And, that extends to audiences meeting filmmakers...


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Food for distribution thought

Some great, great stuff over on the Filmmaker Magazine blog.

Check out the links below to filmmakers' stories about the state of indie film distribution.

At Filmmaker's blog -- check out the entry, "GOING THEATRICAL AND PROJECT 281 ," for Scott Macaulay's addendum to the link above.

Lots to think about for a creative producer trying to forecast the endgame of her indie-films-to-be...

There always is.

Monday, July 7, 2008

To Do's

Figure out budget ranges of indie films I want to produce. For the genres I'm interested in, is the "sweet spot" $1M, $3M, $15M?

Research comparable, recent titles in the genres I like -- figure out their budgets, markets/"windows", and marketing costs.

Spend more time at download-able movie websites -- Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, etc. Figure out who's starting/operating which web-based movie sites (Amazon, Apple, Sony, HD Net, etc.) and what their goals are for expanding their customer bases/services and content offerings.

I don't need theatrical releases to motivate my movie producing. If a project and its economics and the state of the marketplace support a theatrical release for it, totally cool. But, there are plenty of other outlets to target for reaching audiences and consumers/buyers for the movies I want to make. I want to get a better idea of who my buyers can be for my movies...

Horse in front of cart

Been thinking a lot lately about starting another production company. Researching and writing a business plan for it. Trolling the websites of the AFM and Cannes to glean ideas on the market for film sales. Thinking about writers I know and wondering what they've written lately.

In the past, I've either written stuff myself (shorts) in order to have stuff to produce and direct. Or, I produced a screenplay contest for several years in order to meet more writers. That effort culminated in finding a script I wanted to option (to direct and produce at the time), but ultimately, in short, it wasn't meant to be.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, there were two scripts from two different writers that I wanted to option to produce as indie films. There was also a story idea I had for a thriller that I began working on with a screenwriter who was supposed to write the script. I knew I liked the scripts, the ideas, the writers' abilities. I thought if I had cool content in "my basket," I could go out as a producer/merchant and sell my goods in the marketplace. The whole have-good-script-and-produce-it-on-a- shoestring-then-hustle-for-an-acquisition model.

As I did my homework on the projects for their viability to earn enough money in the marketplace, though, I knew that two of them would be hard sells. For the budgets I was looking at doing them (under $3M each) and their genres (indie comedy/drama and international comedy/drama), I'd have a really hard time recouping the investment it would take to make them on spec.

Even though I loved their stories, and I STILL think about how I could get them made, I bowed out of pursuing options on making them when I learned I was pregnant. I didn't think I could do those projects justice while taking on parenting for the first time. No more "film babies" until I got the hang of our human baby. :)

Well, our daughter is now 14 months old, and I'm itching to get busy again. And, now, I want to do things differently. I want to raise money to make three films over five years, to start. Those films will be within a certain budget range, each (TBD), and they'll fall into one of three genres that interest me: sci-fi/fantasy, action-thriller, or indie drama (maybe comedy). I'm not planning to start with content and then try to sell it to pay for having made it. I want to start with money and find content that meets my creative and financial criteria.

Horse in front of cart; not the other way around.