Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Step 19. - It’s your job to get an audience out to see your film.
If you can’t hire a producer’s rep, you will have to do all of the work. One of the major goals at film festivals is to get reviewed by movie critics. Be proactive. Check to see if the local TV station or newspaper has a film critic. Call the critics directly to get them to see your film.
If your movie is not loved by one critic, move on. That’s just one person’s opinion. If you work at it, you will find a critic somewhere who is going to love your movie. Try to get your film into as many festivals as possible to generate positive word of mouth outside and inside the critics circle. It’s always better to approach a distributor with positive press and reviews. It can only help you.
You also can’t count on the festival to do your marketing. Being in a film festival does not help your cause unless you have an audience to see your movie. That means you may have to take out local ads to promote your film. You’ll have to pay for posters, promotional materials, and EPKs to help get the word out about your film. Don’t expect the film festivals to necessarily help with your press. You’ll probably have to set up your own interviews with magazines, newspapers, etc. The bottom line is you have to take responsibility for the success of your movie. You can’t count on anybody to help, and that includes the film festival director. It’s your job to get an audience out to see your film.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I like the classics. Perhaps, the best Christmas movie of all time is the original version of Miracle on 34th Street, which was released in 1947. I’ve probably seen it at least 40 times. It never gets old. It’s an astonishing film, not just because it’s a Christmas movie, but because it’s exceptionally well made and stands on its own two feet as an authentic film. Sometimes we forget that Miracle on 34th Street has won three academy awards and was nominated for Best Picture. Here’s one thing you probably don’t know. The studio was so confident of the success of the movie that they released it in May 1947 because more people go to the movies during the summer. Today can you imagine a studio releasing a Christmas movie in the summer? It wouldn’t happen.
Let’s take a closer look and see what this movie is really about. Maureen O’Hara plays Doris Walker, a divorced mother who is raising her daughter to believe in a world governed by logic and reason. Fairy tales and Christmas have no place in this modern interpretation of the world they live in. Doris is a young, mobile executive working at Macy’s, the largest retailer in New York City, who is determined to get ahead in life.
Back at her apartment, Doris discovers her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) has taken a liking to her next door neighbor Fred (John Payne), who is a young, idealist up and coming lawyer. He teaches Susan a very different way about how to view the world, one where anything is possible, including giants, fairy tales and even Christmas. This sets up the central conflict which drives the main theme of the film. Eventually, Kris Kringle goes to work for Macy’s. Through a series of events, Kris is put on trial for his mental stability, which could land him as a permanent resident in a mental institution. Fred takes on the case and is determined to prove that Kris Kringle is the one and only Santa Clause.
The issue is faith, believing in the things we cannot see when logic tells us it’s not possible. On the other hand, we have common sense, logic and reason—the things we can feel, touch, and smell. It’s the same thing we struggle with in our daily lives. How do we believe in a God that we cannot see or feel? We know faith is a central part of the Christian message. But to embrace it means that our common sense, logic and reason will not help us make that leap of faith which is necessary to please God. Although, Miracle on 34th Street never directly mentions God, it’s pretty clear that Kris Kringle is a metaphor for our ability to believe in the things we cannot see, such as our faith in Christ. Which road will we ultimately choose and embrace?
Here’s something else to think about during this Christmas season. If you call yourself a Christian, then that means you believe that God himself, born of a virgin birth, came to this world in the flesh. Think about it. That’s an incredible statement. You ask me, that takes a lot of faith and belief. As far as I know there’s no video on You Tube to prove it. But we still believe it. Right? How is it then that we can believe this, but the way we live our lives is through logic, reason and common sense? Now, does that make any sense?
Monday, November 28, 2011
However, there is one exception. Sherwood Pictures has constantly achieved remarkable results. In 2008, their third film, Fireproof, made an impressive $34 million at the box office. It created an enormous buzz within the film industry, especially in Christian circles. As a result of their success, there was much anticipation for the upcoming release of their new film, Courageous, which hit the theaters back in September. Some industry experts speculated the new film could make $50 million or $60 million in its initial theatrical run.
But I’m not sure that’s what Affirm, a division of Sony Pictures, had in mind. They put a lot more money, time and effort in promoting and marketing Courageous than they did Fireproof. And, basically, they have achieved the same results. As we know, costs have risen over the past three years. Financially the results they have achieved are probably less.
I don’t see Sherwood Pictures changing the type of pictures they make any time in the foreseeable future. I think the question is what does Affirm plan to do in the future. If they are interested in achieving bigger results, they may very well embrace films that have the potential to become a “crossover” movie.
But I think we have to put it in perspective. Courageous had an opportunity to play for several weeks on over 1,200 screens nationwide. It reached a significant audience. Consider, at the same time, that Sony released the George Clooney film, The Ides of March, which made only $39 million. Obviously, Clooney had many more resources at his disposal. Courageous was made for only $2 million. That amount is basically what Hollywood pays their caterers for a typical film shoot.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Breaking Dawn added an estimated $62.3 million for the five-day weekend, which is a bit off from New Moon's $66.3 million over the same time period in 2009. On Saturday, Breaking Dawn passed $200 million, and through its first 10 days the penultimate Twilight movie has earned $221.3 million.
Arthur Christmas debuted in fourth place with an estimated $17 million. It's $12.7 million three-day start ranks at the bottom of Aardman Animation wide releases, though it surely relieved some demand with its Wednesday opening. While this isn't a very impressive debut, the movie's direct connection to the upcoming Christmas holiday should translate in to strong holds throughout the month of December. 3D presentations accounted for 53 percent of the gross, and the audience was 59 percent female and 31 percent under the age of 25. The movie received an "A-" CinemaScore.
Down in 10th place, Alexander Payne's The Descendants added a massive $9.24 million from just 433 locations. That's an incredibly strong expansion for the Fox Searchlight awards contender, and the movie will surely be making a nationwide expansion in the next week or two.
Aside from the onslaught of new family movies, the weekend also saw a few noteworthy limited releases targeted at adults. My Week with Marilyn burst on to the scene with $2.1 million over its first five days. After playing at 123 locations on Wednesday and Thursday, it expanded to 244 theaters for the traditional three-day weekend and claimed a spot in the Top 12 with $1.77 million.
Finally, The Artist opened at four theaters on Friday and earned $210,000 for the three-day weekend. That's 59 percent of The King's Speech's opening at the same time last year. The Weinstein Company will almost likely expand the movie gradually over the next two months to take advantage of inevitable awards buzz and strong word-of-mouth, though it's hard to imagine this black-and-white silent movie playing well outside of arthouse theaters.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
19. The Festival Circuit
Over the past few years, the number of film festivals has exploded. Today, you can find film festivals playing everywhere from college campuses to small and big towns. But, in reality, there are only a few that really matter. Sundance, Toronto, South by Southwest, Cannes, Tribeca and Berlin International Film Festival are the big players. This is where you are going to find the distributors, buyers and film critics necessary in helping you to make a deal.
Of course, the number one reason why you as an independent producer and filmmaker spend the time and the money exhibiting your film in festivals is for a distribution deal. It used to be that if you were accepted as an Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival, you were practically guaranteed a distribution deal. That’s not true any longer. Today excellent films that play at Sundance are being bypassed. There are no longer guarantees that playing the festival circuit will get you to the Promised Land. Today, you just have to think of it as one tool to get your film noticed.
The big festivals are very difficult if not impossible to get into. You will need a big time actor or a director who has a good reputation. If you are lucky to get into a big festival, you might be assigned a 9:00 a.m. showing—not exactly the best time. This could kill your movie. On the other hand, small or mid-size festivals could feature your film on an opening night allowing you to make a big splash.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
President, Flannelgraph Ministries / Media Missionary School
As we go through the normal routine of our lives, we often overlook the things that we should be truly thankful for. It’s human nature to focus on our problems and what we lack in life. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. But recently I was reminded of the things that I should be thankful for.
Last Thursday we had an open house at our new site for Media Missionary School. It dawned on me just how many friends I have—people who will stand with you and support you no matter what. In fact, this open house wouldn’t have happened without my friends. I especially want to thank Jenny Stambaugh for her tireless efforts organizing the event. She made the evening a big success by taking care of every detail.
Open house would not of been as nice without the help of Chris and Monica Human who came out to get the space ready and to clean things up. They made it possible for everybody to enjoy the evening. Thank you guys for all of your support and love.
thank you to Jerri and Ryan Hamrick, who have a catering business called Cake by Jerri, for donating all of the food. Not only that, they brought their staff to serve: Mickenzie Marie Friscus, Felecia Carolyn Smith, and Joanne Schulte Arnott. Thank you so much guys for coming out. By the way, Jerri’s food is amazing. If you are thinking about catering an event, you should check them out. I am also thankful for friends like Isaac Stambaugh, who has been my partner here at Media Missionary School from the very beginning. I can always count on his support. You are truly blessed in life when you have good friends.
There were so many people who came out for the open house. I want to also personally thank my pastor, Bo Weaver, from The Bridge Church in Wilder, KY; Gary Dawson, who provided space in his building for our new media center; Dwight Young from Bloc Ministries; Thomas S. Green, who recently was graduated from film school; Lori Roberds; Jalyssa Eliasen; Eric and Kurt Tuffensam; Marcus King; Devra Rochelle, Mark Denney; and of course my partner for many years from the old days at Victory Videos Ministries - Dave Dobbins.
The last couple of years have been challenging to say the least. The ministry I founded over 20 years ago decided to take a different direction in which I had no future. The good news is we’re moving forward. God has given me a second chance, and this is something I am most thankful for. That doesn’t often happen in life. But this time around, I have an opportunity to build something special and to get it right. One thing I am determined to do here at Flannelgraph Ministries and Media Missionary School is to follow, without hesitation, the will of God.
What I have come to realize is Thanksgiving isn’t just a day. It’s a state of mind. We should be thankful for the things God has given us like friends and family. But most of all, we should be especially thankful if we know Christ as our Savior. The truth is everything else we receive in life is just gravy.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Step 18 - The Sound Edit
Chances are the sound you captured in the production process will not be sufficient. That means you will have someone to do foley, which is the process of creating sound effects. For example, when someone walks across the floor, we expect to hear the footsteps. During production, no matter how hard you try, you will never capture this sound effectively. It must be created in the post-production process. Just remember this, usable sound isn’t recorded, it must be manufactured.
Editing is a tough process with a lot of hard decisions. You are going to have to trust your editor. Knowing where to cut is essential. A frame here or a frame there can make all the difference. Whether you’re the producer, director, or writer of your film, sometimes you have to be willing to have your favorite scene to be left on the cutting room floor. Just because you shot 130 minutes of footage, you don’t have to use all of it. Your editor should be good at knowing what kind of pace and rhythm your film needs to be successful.
On a lighter note, you’re hiring a freelancer who has a day job. That usually means that he/she will have access to editing facilities. So in essence you’re getting a two for one deal—the editor and the edit bay.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Step 18. The Wilderness
In reality, a lot of productions never emerge out of the post-production process. They fail for the most obvious reason, a lack of money. I hope you’ve budged your film in a way that will allow you to get to the finish line. If you’ve run out of money at this point, you may be facing a very long uphill battle.
The one thing you really need to think about when looking for an editor for your film is whether or not he/she has experience in color correction and has the software and filters that will make your movie look like it was shot on film. This is absolutely critical. More than likely, you’ve shot your movie on a digital format, which is nothing more than ones and zeros.
The post-production process is very complex and technical. You definitely need to get someone who is not only artistically capable but also technically proficient. There are a thousand and one things that can go wrong, including frame rates that don’t match, incorrect aspect ratios, sync issues between audio and video, and dead sync. You don’t need to understand every aspect of editing. Just find someone who knows his way around the edit bay.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Step 17 - Good Directions
Good directors give psychological motivation. Every direction should be geared toward giving the actor information about the scene so that your actor can achieve and experience the emotional moment of the character. That means that you need to understand the character. What does the character want, why does the character want it and from whom? Where did the character come from, and where is he/she in the present moment? It is essential for the director, to understand human nature and what people want and need from each other. If you can do that, you are on the road to becoming a good director.
Your actors will always want more takes. The key to staying on schedule is to say no. When you have two good takes that you feel comfortable with move on. The reality is the performance will probably not be any better at the 7th or 8th takes versus the third or fourth takes. The only thing you are going to achieve is wasting time and money as well as exhausting your cast and crew. If you gave good direction, you will have to trust the results.
The sweetest words you are going to hear are “it’s a wrap”. That’s when your entire 100 page script has been shot and is in the can. That’s a total of somewhere between 75 to 90 scenes. There’s one final suggestion that might come in handy. Build into your schedule at least one day for pick-ups and reshoots. This allows your crew time to go out and shoot some B-roll and additional coverage shots.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Twentieth Century Fox EVP Simon Swart talks to Christian Movie Connect host Cheryl Wicker about his company’s vision of offering films that have great values and messages, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Amish Grace” and “Like Dandelion Dust,” as well as “The 5th Quarter,” which is based on a touching true story of tragedy and courage that made everyone who has watched it, including himself, highly emotional.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Our message is to redeem culture and change the direction of our society. We must train media missionaries in order to inject Biblical principles into mainstream media and entertainment. We do this by influencing the content as well as personally living a missional lifestyle that impacts the people around us.
What we are doing now.
Film Camps – We offer a 5-day summer film camp for high school students. Our camps provide a complete experience in the filmmaking process from script to screen.
Web Resources – mediamissionaryschool.com provides resources on faith, media and culture, including videos, interviews, film reviews, production tips, news, and movie trailers.
Media Classes – We offer a full range of classes, including camera operation, cinematography, editing, low-budget filmmaking, media literacy, script writing, etc. Seminars and Workshops – We offer seminars and workshops to organizations, home school co-ops, and churches on media-related issues that impact Christians, culture and society.
Publishing – The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture is our first book. It offers a comprehensive plan on how we can impact culture through the media.
What we are planning to do in 2012
New Volunteer Opportunities – Our new site gives volunteers new opportunities to serve in the areas of production, administration, web development, mentoring, teaching and training.
Film Camps – Our new facility will provide a better environment to conduct film camps. There will be two beginner camps for high school students and one advanced high school camp.
Church Media 101 – Our new site will allow us to better serve and meet the needs of the Church by providing specialized training in church media. We will conduct a four week class three to five times per year.
Future Plans – Media Missionary School plans to produce cost-effective and quality feature films that will allow our students a hands-on and real world experience. Our six-month live-in program provides a unique opportunity where students will function as a community to learn the role and purpose of becoming a media missionary.
We are primarily committed to the development of the messenger as well as the message. Our program is designed to support the media missionary on a practical, spiritual and emotional level. At the end of the six months, our students will be equipped with the necessary skills to work in the media and entertainment industry.
We plan to publish our second book, The Media Missionary, The Roadmap for Hollywood Success.
How Can I Help?
Please consider making a financial donation (a one time or monthly contribution)
Give in-kind donations such as couches, chairs, desks, flat screen televisions, computers, etc.
Donate your time to help with construction and cleanup.
Volunteer and offer your expertise in areas such as marketing, graphic design, web development, accounting, teaching and mentoring.
Consider hosting an event or party at your home where we can present the vision of Media Missionary School to your friends and family.
Consider having Media Missionary School come to your church to speak and teach on issues concerning media, faith and culture.
Consider purchasing The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. A special rate is available for 20 or more books.
You can provide contacts. Who do you know that might have an interest in Media Missionary School?
And remember to pray for Media Missionary School.
Needed Resources (donated)
4 Wide-screen 40” plus HD TVs
3 wide-screen 32” HD TVs
4 - 5.1 stereo receiver/amplifiers
4 Stereo speaker systems which include right/left/center and 2 back speakers
4 Blue-ray Players
4 DVD players
1 portable projection screen
1 video projector
16 studio light cams
1 video switcher
4 sound mixers
1 single SLR camera
3 Hewett Packard desktop computers
3 Apple computers
1 printer/scanner/fax machine
1 paper cutter
6 high-back swivel chairs
1 large conference table with 8 chairs
6 – 72 inch bookcases
12 long slim wood-top tables
50 cushioned folding chairs
3 small couches/love seats
3 comfy chairs
3 coffee tables
5 wall clocks
3 computer desks
1 toaster oven
1 vacuum cleaner
Assorted cookware, dishes, utensils
1 water cooler/cups
1 coffee maker
Food supplies, coffee/creamer/sugar/sweetener, tea, hot chocolate, salt/pepper shakers, non-perishable food
Cool art work with an entertainment vive
Movie posters and memorabilia
Movies, DVDs and Blu-Rays
Cleaning supplies, mop, broom, bucket, etc.
Gift certificates and gift cards
Drywall, carpet, building materials
Graphic design artists
Information technology specialist
Teachers/instructors in the following areas: directors, screenwriters, producers, editors, director of photography, production managers, camera operators, actors
Friday, November 18, 2011
Step 17. Game Time
People are people, and human nature will rear its ugly head. People will have different opinions, personal conflicts, jealousy, misunderstandings, and other issues. You might be able to overcome equipment, budges and location issues; however, the human issue is the most challenging of all. No matter how much care you have taken in putting your cast and crew together, there will be someone who’s main task seems to be to single handedly destroy your movie. Deal with it straight on. Sometimes, you might have to tell someone it’s time to leave. It’s not if these issues will happen. It’s only a matter of when they will happen.
I suggest you delegate the tasks of where to put the camera and coverage shots to your DP. You have your hands full. Concentrate working with your actors. The most important thing you can do as a director is set the tone and the atmosphere on set. How you act and react will affect both your crew and the cast. Barking commands is never a way to get what you want. Remember, filmmaking is a collaborative event. The secret to making a good movie is getting everybody involved in the process. Keep your directing at a simplistic level so your actors can relate to it.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Step 16. The Plan
If you are a first time filmmaker and producer, I suggest that you be intimately involved in every aspect of preproduction; that especially includes “the schedule”. Every film production has a bible, and it’s called “the production schedule” or “the production board”.
Your production manager is responsible for creating the shooting schedule and production board, which are based on a detailed analysis and breakdown of the script. The production board is essentially a blueprint that you follow during the production phase of your movie. It is designed to keep you on budget and on time. Without it, you have no chance of completing your movie. The production board’s main purpose is to group locations, actors, props, wardrobe, and crew in order to create an efficient and timely schedule. For example, if you need an actor for only two days and you’re shooting a 24-day schedule, it would be inefficient to have the actor work on day 6 and then on day 20. A good production board would have the actor on set on days 6 and 7.
As the production draws closer, meet with your director and director of photography to look their shot list, lighting diagrams, storyboards, and blocking schemes. Have they done their homework? Do these look in order? Now is the time to find out—before you turn on the camera. All of these things are necessary as a low-budget filmmaker to stay on time, on schedule, and under budget. If the lighting diagrams and blocking schemes are too complicated, you might want to ask for revisions. “Keep it simple” should be your golden rule. Movie making is essentially an exercise in logistics. Good planning will solve a lot of problems within the production phase. Without a plan, you’re going to spend all of your time talking about what you want to do instead of actually doing it. Trust me; you can’t afford to do that.