Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My New Website!

Hello Lovelies.

I have finally pieced together a website to host my producing blog and assorted other tidbits. Please join me at forwardMarsh!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Keeping It Real

My daughter painted her legs blue this afternoon.

Paint table set up, check. Water-based paints in little cups, check. Brushes out, check. Paint smock on, check. Paint away, little toddler child of mine!

Lo, I stepped into the kitchen to get my little Matisse a snack and when I returned to the living room, I was greeted by a big, look-what-I-did grin, and blue legs!

I share this with you all, because I've had a very full day as a parent, and my joy for producing feels very far away right now.

And, it's a Monday, and I don't have any fewer producing tasks beckoning me than usual. I'd like to be 100% ON TOP OF THINGS every minute I want to be, but it's not happening today. Agh.

And, yes, my toddler did look adorably cute (and messy) when I found her like she was. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meet The Producer Noah Harlan

I'm delighted to present producer Noah Harlan's responses to my creative producing questionnaire. Noah is co-founder of 2.1 Films in NY and maintains a blog, The 401st Blow, which I love to read.

Sustaining the Muse
A Producing Questionnaire

* Please name all the "hats" you wear as a creative producer.

I teach producing at NYU and one thing I reiterate to my students is that, as a producer, you have to know something about everything that is involved with making a film as eventually everyone will have a question for you. That beings said, as a classical 'producer' (ie: not an executive, co-, associate, line or other type of producer) you are a talent scout, a friends/counselor/guide, a collaborator, a financier, a financier-finder, a marketer, and a leader. I think the most important 'hats' are the collaboration and the leadership, but they rest firmly on your taste. Assuming you have taste, your ability to accomplish things is predicated on your capacity to understand the needs of those you work with, support those people and keep a hand on the wheel so you're always moving forward.

* List all of the jobs you've held before or while pursuing a career in producing.

Intern, Production Manager, Production Coordinator, Casting Assistant, Casting Associate, Line Producer, Co-Producer, Field Producer, Producer

* Do you have a Big Dream or career goal as a producer? What inspires you to do what you do?

I love engaging people's imagination, I love creative expression and I love problem solving. There is not a particular film goal that I have beyond trying to make as many films as I can that I believe in. I don't put limits on what type of film I want to make as there are huge blockbusters I love and tiny arthouse projects I love.

I don't know that I can say what inspires me to do what I do. It feels more like a compulsion perhaps. Since I don't see a specific goal to my career, I likely don't have a singular motivation. If there is one thing I do feel, it is that I love to be transported - to forget where I am and get lost - and film and media allows us to bring that sensation to others.

* Please name five essential skills and/or traits a creative producer needs to sustain a career.

(in no particular order)

1) Tenacity: You will hear 'no' more than you can imagine. You will not make a lot of money and when you do, there will be no assurance that you ever will again.
2) Taste: You cannot control whether your films are financially successful. You cannot control whether your films are critically heralded as successes. However you can control the taste-level of the projects you choose. A producer's success if tied, in part, to their ability to get people to respond to their projects and consider them for financing. If you spend your cache on bad projects people will be less inclined to return your calls and read your scripts. If you are always pushing ahead with projects that are admirable then those who pass on one will always be curious about the next.
3) Leadership: If your crew and/or collaborators do not believe you know what you are doing, and you cannot inspire them to keep doing what they are doing then they will abandon you and the work will suffer.
4) An Understanding of Finances: You are asking people for their money, know what you are talking about. Increasingly the notion of a producer who doesn't have to deal with financing is a fallacy. You will have to. Take care of your investor's money, watch the contracts and understand the deals you're offering.
5) Patience: This takes a long time. From concept to script takes at least a year generally. Then you finance. Then you shoot. Then you edit. Then you release. While it can be very short, it generally is a long time in the making and often, if you rush it, the work is half-baked.

* Name a movie, or several, that you wish you had produced. And/or, producer(s) you admire (living or passed on).

The list of films I wished I had produced is probably far too long to reasonably print. I admire the careers of Jon Kilik, Scott Rudin, Marin Karmitz, Marek Rozenbaum, Jean Labadie, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Sarah Green and many, many more.

* How do you define success for yourself?

I'm never satisfied and thus it is hard to define success. Perhaps a time will come when I look back and say, I was successful, but for now, I suppose, it is being able to continue making movies. When I can't do that, I'll have failed.

* What's your motto when it comes to raising money for your project(s)?

It's out there.

* How long did it take to support yourself as a producer?

Given the cyclical nature of our revenue, it's a perpetual question for all indie producers. However I was working for a few years before I could make enough off of producing to not take other jobs.

* Who do you turn to when you need a pep talk?

My fiance and our dog. Mostly our dog.

* If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd be a faster reader. I feel like I'm terribly slow, I'm not, but I feel like I am. There's a lot of things on that list I suppose but I try not to think about them...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Indie Producer

At dinner this weekend, I was asked, "How do you find investors?"

I posted on "how do you find financing?" a year ago, but today, as I'm in the midst of shopping an offering to prospective investors, I have a few things to add.

First off, know what you're selling. Be able to talk about your project in product/genre, scope, market, cash-flow, projected Return On Investment, and sales terms.

Secondly, and more importantly, know what type of investor you believe will "vibe" to your project. Will they be friends and family supporting your Big Dream? Will they be accredited investors who pool their monies in an Angel or Venture Capital group? Will your project lend itself to international co-production/financing partners? Will your ideal investor be someone who's as passionate about the topicality or genre of your project as you are? Will they be folks who thrill to support vanguard/experimental/pushing-boundaries content? Will they be constituents of your website who'll donate monies to your project?

Know what you're asking for, and don't be coy. Be specific.

Some samples:
  • I'm seeking accredited investors for $500K of an $800K action-adventure movie to be shot on HD in 2011. My minimum investment amount is $50K, and my offering closes in March 2010. The remaining $300K will be/has been secured through an international co-production arrangement.
  • I'm seeking $500 donations from a minimum of 100 constituents of my website over the next four months for an experimental narrative-with-archival-training-footage on Crime Scene Investigators and the history of their craft.
Once you identify your ideal potential investor(s), develop a contact list:
  • Start with your writer/director/filmmaker. Is there anyone in their orbit who has said, 'Call me when you're ready...'? Put them on your list.
  • Same thing goes for you, the producer. If you have any angels in the wings, now's the time to make your "ask."
  • If you're inspired by a panelist's comments at a conference, approach or contact them for feedback on your project/plan.
I've trolled through many, many film-related web sites reviewing past panels and panelists from the last two-three years. I've read transcripts of panels, watch videocasts, listen to audiocasts. If I've landed upon someone whom I'd love to "pick their brain" about my strategy, I'll seek them out for their feedback. If, then, they think I'm on a good track, I'll ask them if they might be comfortable referring me to someone as an investor, co-producer, financier, etc.
  • If your film lends itself to a certain field or demographic (archaelogy, Asian-Americans, weepy romances, etc.), brainstorm/research potential entities or nodes of support there, too.
What magazines, associations, organizations, conferences, retreats, websites, etc. exist in support of that field or demographic? Do some homework: look at panelists, boards of directors, editors, event/fundraising coordinators, you name it...

I'm not advising that you contact them for money, per se. But, if they're in the field/group that's pertinent to your project, ask them for feedback, clarification, potential buy-in when it's finished. And, if they're amenable, ask them if they can think of anybody (person or entity) who might be inclined to support the project with resources and/or investment.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 1, 2009

More producers? Nope...

Remember the additional producers I thought we'd seek? Not doing that now. Mostly, because I've managed to finally whittle the final numbers, projections, estimates, and so forth down for the project's lifespan... and, it's just not a compelling enough financial scenario to warrant additional producers. Now, if circumstances lend themselves to a financier(s) coming on board, with credit(s) given for producing, that will be something else to consider. But, for all the work and responsibility that being a producing partner would entail, at this budget level, more producers on board is a luxury we can't afford.

And, that's okay.

AND, I've finished the Fighting Version of the Business Plan. OH MY GOD. Hallelujah!

My completed first draft was 40 pages (including 5 appendices). The Fighting Version is 22 pages (including 3 appendices). The time is nigh to begin soliciting investors... Wheeee!

While in Austin, we confirmed our editor, website designer/developer, and attorney. We had a productive meeting with our Art Director, Ia, who's aiding Jentri in storyboarding the script. We also had promising meetings with several DPs. We'll be making a final decision about that key role by mid-June.

My toddler starts daycare two days a week at the end of this month. I'm really psyched about having more time to tend to this blog!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

After The Conference

I had a great, productive, charged-me-up time at the IFP MN Annual Producers Conference. The greatest result out of it was two-fold: I got good feedback on my revenue sources and projections for Lost In Sunshine, as well as my positioning ideas for it, and one of the panelists expressed interest in coming on board to help the project. If/when I have anything formal to announce about that development, I will. But, at the moment, let's just say I felt like skipping TRA-LA-LA! for the rest of the afternoon! :)

Post conference, I know definitely that we need to make due with less money than I initially thought. What I hoped to do with $700K needs to be done with $500K (or less). Daunting, but good to know.

Very recent developments in the Texas legislature are promising for better-funded film tax benefits, so we're hoping to finalize Texas as our shooting location. I'm flying down to Austin in mid-May to meet with our growing kickass production team: line producer, locations manager, film editor, potential cinematographers, storyboard artist, and more.

My brain's getting fuller and fuller with Things To Do. As if that's possible.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Still Business Planning. God, I'm still business planning.

Here's the current skinny.

Traditional theatrical release is an aggregate money-loser and has enormous P&A costs for entry. North American cable sales for indies are currently diminished, because cablers are wanting more "sure thing" content with bigger-name talent in them (there goes my ultra-low-budget budget), among other reasons. Foreign sales numbers are down for indies for a bunch of reasons (subscribe to Filmspecific.com - love that site). Traditional home entertainment (DVD) distributors generally offer no advances for acquisitions, spend a lot of necessary money to market your title (if you're lucky), and pay you a smidgeon of any unit sales at the end of a long line of expenses, fees, and percentages owed to other players. Broadband and download scenarios are neat-o in concept, and no doubt will play bigger roles in even a few years, but currently offer close to zero in revenues.

So, where can an indie project make any money, especially make its money back with a return?

Cue Vincent Price laughter. Ha ha ha ha ha aha hahaha!

And, how will I, the producer, ever make a dime either, after investors are repaid? I'm already looking at how I can squeeze out a stipend, really, out of our budget. And, we're talking five figures here. And, that's supposed to tide me over between now and that mythical time that the movie makes enough revenues to have paid back its principal, and the remaining net profits will get split between me and the investor pool. And, right now, I use the term "me" loosely. It's likely that it will be some sort of "us" to share those monies.

Okay, now we've moved on to maniacal laughter. Seriously, someone needs to be locked up. It's scary.

I do this because I love the process. And, I'm motivated to inspire people with stories.

I've been working on projected return-on-investment (ROI) tables for Lost In Sunshine. And, it's hard. In a way. Because I can see how we can/will do it. But, making returns on movies is ALWAYS a nail-biter. But, then again, I'm really psyched about us keeping the reins of this project - from conception and execution through launch and distribution. There just aren't a lot of comparable titles and their numbers to reference. And, my projections include a large percentage of direct sales numbers from our (in-progress/future) website.

I keep thinking about our prospective investors.

On one hand, knowing what we need to do going in, arms us to prepare and work our asses off for that outcome. On the other hand, the Doubt Monster says, 'But, from what you can tell, maybe only one or two films/filmmakers have even reached those levels of revenues in the last two years.'

I'm not one to prop up exceptions as standard operating procedure. I want investors to know what a crap shoot indie film financing is, even if the producer(s) do everything "right." And, I keep wondering if there's more data I'm missing. I'm getting a picture; I just have moments where I wonder if there's a piece or two missing...

So, ALL OF THIS ABOVE, greatly explains my excitement over attending the IFP MN's Annual Producers Conference this coming Saturday in Minny-apple-less. Last year, I was blessed to be invited as a panelist; and, this year, I get to go listen to Peter Broderick talk about distribution! Plus, I'm delighted to be scheduled for a one-on-one mini-session with Matt Dentler of Cinetic Rights Management. He used to program SXSW, and jumping off bridges premiered there in 2006; so, I have a certain fondness for him already. I look forward to picking his brain over some of my digital projections, and all the others, too.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's Lorie Up To?

Obviously, I am so behind in posting here. Same old, same old. Still refining business plan for Lost In Sunshine and still parenting my two-year-old.

But, here are some updates:

Have realized I can't do Lost In Sunshine justice as its sole producer while also parenting the aforementioned two-year-old. Jentri and I are now seeking two additional producers to bring Lost In Sunshine to fruition. We're talking with friends in Texas and Minnesota about referrals and prospective partners to move forward with.

To wit, we're looking for a Line Producing maven who'll be on top of all things technical, mechanical, line-producer-y including not only pre-production and the shoot, but post production supervision, distribution deliverables, and website support. Someone who's psyched about our plans to build community around our project and embrace a budding indie distribution paradigm that involves a lot of DIY and nurturing a website.

The other partner we're seeking is someone who likes the "business side" like me. Someone with integrity and gumption who's confident and enthusiastic about soliciting investors and attaching talent. Someone who wants to market and distribute this movie with me and successfully monetize it to pay its investors back, with a return, as well as pay us, its producers!

You producers out there know that this is ambitious. Producers get paid LAST. Isn't that ironic? Without us, would there be a movie? Maybe so, maybe not. But, we're afflicted with this passion for the process, aren't we? Anyway, I still have this dream of getting paid to do what I love so much. I'll get there. I don't need lottery money earnings, just money to put toward my family's expenses. Oh, and toward a personal chef, too. ha ha

Another thing I've finally figured out is a positioning strategy for the story/movie. What will be our "hook?" What will distinguish our movie from all the other well-executed, art house, road trip, ensemble character study movies in the marketplace? We've decided to embrace the spirituality, New Age, metaphysical elements of our story and characters. That's been a big A HA for me. A lot of follow-on dominoes fall into place, based on that decision. Which gets me that much closer to finally completing the business plan.

Oh, if you haven't found/read it already, Jon Reiss has written some great case study stuff for Filmmaker Magazine on his DIY theatrical release of his doc, Bomb It! I really appreciated him posting his estimated and actualized budget(s). Check it out.

Applied to the Sundance Creative Producing Fellowship, the Tribeca All Access Program, and the LA FilmFest/Film Independent's Fast Track Program. I know we weren't selected for Tribeca (but, Kat was! Yay for Kat!), and I haven't heard anything from the other two, yet.


One side of me feels like the kid who nobody wants to pick for their Dodgeball team. The other side of me feels like if we were meant to benefit from being in one of the above programs, we'd be selected. If we're not selected, our path lies outside of them.

I'd still like to be picked, though. Wah.

Okay, what else? Oh the IFP Minnesota's annual Producers Conference in April in Minneapolis is hosting Peter Broderick as one of its panelists this year. I'm super-psyched. I think I'm a groupie of his. On his bulletin, he posted news about a movie called The Age of Stupid, which I was excited to find. I admire what/how they've done with their website strategy and release plan(s) for the film.

I LOVE blogs. All these cool, creative, inspiring people share the insides of their brains in writing, and I get to crib ideas and motivation from all of them!

Okay, haven't seen my husband all day, so off I go.

I know I'm not as consistent with posting here as I'd like. But, I'm going to keep showing up, consistently or not, so I hope you'll keep checking in with me. As my daughter gets older, I imagine I'll be able to return to the productivity level I used to work at. :)

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Meet The Producer Christine Kunewa Walker

Meet Christine Walker, President of Production at Werc Werk Works, a Minneapolis-based production company founded in 2008 with producing partner, Elizabeth Redleaf.

Christine Kunewa Walker is an award-winning producer who recently completed production on FORGIVENESS, written and directed by Todd Solondz. She is Executive Producer on the new Béla Tarr film THE TURIN HORSE (in production) and Producer of the recently completed comedy NOBODY directed by Rob Perez (40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS). Christine also co-wrote and produced OLDER THAN AMERICA starring Adam Beach and Bradley Cooper, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival; produced FACTOTUM starring Matt Dillon and Marisa Tomei, which premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival; and along with producer Ted Hope, line produced AMERICAN SPLENDOR which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance film Festival and the International Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Christine’s awards and recognitions include: Producer’s Guild of America Diversity Award, Independent Spirit Award nomination, Sundance Institute’s Producer’s Fellowship, and the Minnesota Blockbuster Film Fund Award.

Sustaining the Muse
A Producing Questionnaire

* Please name all the "hats" you wear as a creative producer.

The most important thing to remember about any 'hat' you wear is that you can't let it sit on your head for too long. Otherwise, you're doing someone else's job and neglecting your oversight responsibilities.

* List all of the jobs you've held before or while pursuing a career in producing.

Prior to producing, I was a publicist, a development fund administrator, and a film programmer. Since I started producing twelve years ago, producing has been my sole job.

* Do you have a Big Dream or career goal as a producer? What inspires you to do what you do?

As long as I continue to produce, I am living my big dream every day. I am inspired by the people I work with from my own producing partners to the writers, directors and the rest of the crew. On a daily basis, they challenge me to work harder and to exceed my own expectations for myself.

* Please name five essential skills and/or traits a creative producer needs to sustain a career.

Stamina. Effective communication skills. Talent. The ability to see the big picture. The ability to evoke pity.

* Name a movie, or several, that you wish you had produced. And/or, producer(s) you admire (living or passed on).

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, The Wrestler, The Motorcycle Diaries, Slum Dog Millionaire, The Lives of Others, Napoleon Dynamite, Once Were Warriors, Far From Heaven, Boys Don't Cry.

I admire Christine Vachon. She's brilliant. She's a fighter. She does not shy away from difficult material. She's an icon.

* How do you define success for yourself?

Getting paid for what I do.

* What's your motto when it comes to raising money for your project(s)?

It's easier to raise money than to make a great movie.

* How long did it take to support yourself as a producer?

Five years. Ten years, if you factor in food and housing.

* Who do you turn to when you need a pep talk?

My husband.

* If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My metabolism.

Tommy Pallotta leaves Facebook

This is a brief interview from the Filmmaker blog with Tommy Pallotta, producer, director, and animator (think, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, and most currently Lance Weiler's HIM). He and Scott Macaulay discuss social networking and Tommy's desires to reach out more directly to his audiences for his projects, than via sites like MySpace or Facebook.

Since I plan to reach out as directly as possible to our audience(s) for Lost In Sunshine, I thought it was a nice little thoughtful piece to digest and nod along with in agreement...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lost In Sunshine production blog

Jentri Chancey is the writer/director of Lost In Sunshine, the movie I'm currently producing. Just click on the title of this posting to go to her production blog, where she writes about her creative process, pre-production, and directing her first feature.

Also, here's an excerpt from one of the essay questions I answered in applying for a Creative Producing fellowship offered by the Sundance Institute:

I came on board to produce this project because I admire and respect the talent and determination of its writer-director, Jentri Chancey. Jentri impressed me with her ability to take script feedback and turn it into better-defined characters, a more compelling structure, and a more uniform tone. And, she was quick and focused about it, too! I like the themes she’s working with, and she’s so fueled by an inner creative fire, that it’s infectious. She’s really trying to articulate something meaningful and universal with her characters and their journeys, and that resonates very strongly with me.

My vision of the film is for it to be a tight little drum of an art house indie by a first-time filmmaker. It will be made with the lowest budget that can afford name actors for our two lead roles, one supporting role, and a cameo. It will aspire to Terry Malick’s cinematic vision, Rick Linklater’s characters’ searches for meaning, and Robert Rodriguez’ (and Elizabeth Avellan’s) DIY-and-kick-some-ass-at-it production methods.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just checking in...

Hello, hello.

A quick note here to say I'm currently still researching and writing about DIY theatrical distribution, direct sales of DVDs from filmmakers' websites, and indie/art house cinemas across the country in my business plan for Lost In Sunshine.

I'm also working on an application for a producing program at the Sundance Institute, which is due very shortly.

I promise to write many posts about what I've put into our plan for LIS, as soon as I FINISH it. Agh. Agghhh!

I told my husband tonight that it takes so long, because I'm trying to plan out the whole lifespan of the film, refer to hard data where I can, articulate assumptions and projections as clearly as I can, and oh, figure out how to execute on an emerging indie film distribution paradigm while I'm at it. No big thing.

No time for links at the moment, but Google the following:

Stu Pollard

Good Dick, the indie movie, as well as Lance Hammer's Ballast

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thinking out loud...

Thinking out loud... about my business plan.

My Indie Comedy/Drama

$500K production
$200K (?) Launch Capital

With this money "in," how much money "out" can I project? And, in what time frame(s)?

I've researched comparable titles for LIS and listed which festivals, markets, and territories they've played in. From that info, I derived several tables of sales projections for foreign territory DVD and broadcast rights sales: low, moderate, and exceptional. I've also noted the same for North American DVD and broadcast rights, AND all rights deals in all territories. I used data from Stacey Parks' Film Specific website (I love her website) and from IMDB Pro.

The range between Low and Exceptional sales for foreign territories is $7,500 (or, more accurately, $0 actually) to $400K+. I looked at sales possibilities, again, based on my comparable titles, for two territories, four territories, and seven territories. So, for the sake of figuring out targets for other revenue streams, I'm setting a goal of $100K in foreign territory sales. For now.

North American sales might range from $25K to mid-six figures. So, what if I sketch in $75K as a target...?

What about theatrical? I haven't been planning this project as a Get-Picked-Up-by-Fox-Searchlight hopeful. Though, I'm not opposed to that, for the right price. :) But, I'm not wed to the idea that our film has to have a wide theatrical release for the sake of our own gratification. Or, any theatrical release. That being said, I'm trying to figure out if and how any limited, specialized, and/or DIY screenings should make up part of our distribution plans, so that we can a) make direct sales of our DVD at them, and b) we can pollinate awareness of our film for continued/future direct DVD sales from our website.

Been following, as always, Truly Free Film, the Workbook Project, and just recently, the Sundance Institute's Art House Convergence conference in Park City, the few days before its film fest. The Convergence listed nearly 20 art house cinemas that are partnered in its Art House Project. In a nutshell, they want to share ideas, resources, concerns, etc. together to keep themselves alive and vibrant in the exhibition world of megaplexes. And, there appears to be some sort of loose tie-in with Sundance-screened films playing at many of them.

So, I've been trying to get a handle on --
  • Should we aim for a Screening Plan/Release/Tour with Sundance AHP cinemas, if possible?
  • Should we aim for screenings at Landmark Cinemas and/or Regal Cinemas' art house programming?
  • Should I try to plan for some sort of festival screening(s) adjunct...? For instance, if we played at a film fest in NY state, should I aim to coordinate a(ny) screening(s) at an art house or other cinema within the region within a month of the fest?
  • Should we aim for a release with a consignment distributor instead? Maybe Magnolia's Truly Indie? Maybe Magic Lantern, Freestyle Releasing, or Indie Direct?
If we screen at say, 20 cinemas during our tour, how many DVD unit sales might I project from them, conservatively? I'd expect to lose money on the actual box office... Given different "how's" above, how much can I project that the different approaches might cost?

Of course, a lot of the above questions/ideas tie into how we position ourselves, marketing-wise, and how (well) we build community around LIS. I'm still working on that, and that's a whole 'nother posting.

Plus, all this cogitating gets me thinking about our post-production process! If we aim to have DVDs ready to sell at/during our festival run, how much longer will our post be? How will this affect our festival submissions goals? Blah, blah, blah...

The To-Theatrical or Not-To-Theatrical is just a potential piece of the revenue stream that I'm obsessed with, at the moment. There's also the ideas I/we have about our website, blogs, and complementary stories/videocasts, podcasts, art work, and the like. I want to spec out some assumptions and projections for those, too, costs-wise and revenue-wise. And, there's the digital platforms release strategy to anticipate, too...

I'm consumed. Fairly happily consumed, but a little impatient with how long it's taking me to figure stuff out. I wish I could spend a day, or afternoon even, with Peter Broderick.

If you have any ideas, pointers, etc. let me know!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Enough On My Plate


I'd been thinking about raising financing for a slate of three films: one "art house" indie, and two low-budget genre movies. My head says it's the smart thing to do - spread the risk over several projects, not just one; and, it is, with caveats. There are NO SURE THINGS. Even genre movies , which generally sell better than other genres, take work, commitment, and most importantly, heart to see them through to any successes they might have.

After a lot of homework on low-budget genre films, and the challenges of balancing my time between nearly-full-time toddler parenting and indie film producing (not to mention, this blog), I've decided to focus singly on my current "heart" project: Lost In Sunshine.

I'm feverishly working on my business plan for it. We're looking at a $500K budget, and another couple hundred thousand additionally, for end-game operating capital: P&A costs, distribution deliverables costs, market attendance expenses, and so on. I'm deeply in the throes of sketching out how the project will be monetized in its varied distribution outlets. I'm looking at the viability of foreign sales for our genre and budget, festival strategy and whether I can coordinate ancillary screenings in a fest's region, direct sales of DVDs (at screenings, off web site, etc.), downloads and VOD windows, and whether/how to execute a DIY theatrical tour of the movie. I'm also looking at existing distributors who might "ping" to our movie.

All this on top of charting potential cast, their costs, their "bankability," their suitability, etc., researching comparable titles, and the fun stuff of pre-production with my filmmaker: storyboards, location scouting, budgeting, crewing up, and so on.

I also continually find myself inspired by Ted Hope's postings and musings at Truly Free Film. I'm trying to incorporate the ideas put forth there into my plans for LIS.

Then, there's my website. It's taking me longer to get it out there in cyber-space (what else is new?), but it's coming. Soon. Really.

If you've seen the solicitations for applicants to the IFP Filmmaker Lab, I recommend it highly. jumping off bridges was one of eight participants during its inaugural year in 2005. It was four days of focus, sharing, learning, collegiality, and digesting. We learned a LOT about the life of our movie after it was "completed." Basically, there was a whole 'nother life after that point. :)

Back to work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In the weeds...

That's where I've been. And, things are looking pretty grassy still from where I'm at now, but I can see the view again.

What I've been wrestling with, in a nutshell, what kind of producer I am.

That's all. No big thing, right?

I have a capacious need for creativity, expression, and inspiration. I also have a Big Brain. I'm blessed, indeed. But, I sometimes feel caught in the middle between them. Heart says make movies about Human Moments. Brain says that's all well and good, but a good things-blow-up genre movie would nicely round out your cash flow as an entertainment company. Why not produce both?

I can see how to package one. I can see how to sell one. I can even see lots of good ways, visually and production-wise, of how to make one.

Because a movie, any movie, is like a baby. It needs committed parents. Parents who are in love with it.

What I've figured out in the last couple days is that my rudder for committing to producing a film is simply, I can't NOT do it. It comes down to my heart. It comes down to realizing a story has crept under my skin. My Brain can have all sorts of things, smart things, to say about lots of projects; but, my heart has to unapologetically bond to a story before I know I'm its producer.

I'm currently inspired by producers Vox3 Films. One of its partners, Steven Shainberg, made one of my favorite films, Secretary, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. I like their company's mandate and their taste. And, they're art house, without apology.

Very cool.

I can see the view again.