Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Festivals - 2

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 19. -  It’s your job to get an audience out to see your film.

If you have the money, you could hire a producer’s rep that has weight and pull with film festival managers, buyers and distributors. Their job is to get you noticed and get you meetings. They have the relationships. You don’t. They may be able to move you to the front of the line. But the producer’s rep does not come cheap. And remember, there’s no guarantee that the rep can get you a deal.

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.

Most filmmakers want to enter into as many film festivals as possible; however, you have to take the cost into consideration. I’m sure your budget is now stretched to the max. Practically every film festival requires an entry fee which is nonrefundable. And remember because you submit to a film festival doesn’t mean you are going to get in. If you enter 50 festivals say at $100 a pop, that means $5,000. If you do get accepted to a film festival, it doesn’t do you any good unless you can personally attend. That requires an airplane ticket, hotel and meals. The costs add up quickly.

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

Miracle on 34th Street

It’s that time of the year. The Christmas season is upon us. And, if you are like me, one of my favorite activities during the holidays is sitting down and watching a Christmas movie. Nowadays, there’s no shortage of new Christmas flicks. It seems like every day the Hallmark Channel or the ABC Family has a new original debut Christmas movie that’s deemed to be a ”new classic”. But most of these films are sort of like junk food or empty calories. There’s nothing really new or original about them. The same ol candy canes, reindeer, Santa Clause on vacation, and other lame plots.

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.

Yes, Miracle on 34th Street has exceptional acting, great charm and atmosphere, a beautiful story, and timeless themes. But after seeing this film so many times, and I’m sure you’re familiar with the plot, is there something we have missed? It would be easy to dismiss this film as just cute or as another family-friendly, cookie-cutter Christmas story.

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.

Doris also organized the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade where the Santa Claus she has hired becomes intoxicated on the day of the big parade. Enter in Kris Kringle (Edward Gwenn), who discovers the drunken Santa. Doris convinces Kris to take on the role of Santa and save the day. The only problem is Kris Kringle believes he is the real Santa Clause.

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.

At this point in the story, Doris and Fred have developed a friendship which could lead to something more. However, Doris sees Fred’s decision to take on this case as foolish, which could potentially destroy his legal career. There you have it—a discussion of two vastly different world views disguised as a Christmas movie.

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?

It’s rare for any film from 1947 to express such dark themes as Doris’ view of the world. Her world has been ripped apart. She can’t believe in anything apart from reason and logic. It’s really all she has. Can Doris find redemption and the ability to believe in something greater than just the stability of a good job? Maybe, as you watch this film, you will see that the themes are a little more complex than you originally thought. I can’t think of anything that’s more challenging for any of us to deal with. How do we handle belief and faith and our natural tendency to relay on logic and reason?

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

Was Courageous a Success?

There’s no secret that Christian movies have recently struggled at the box office. The numbers speak for themselves. To Save a Life grossed only $3.7 million, Letters to God grossed $2.8 million, The Grace Card grossed $2.4 million, and most recently The Mighty Macs managed to make only $1.8 million.

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.

So was Courageous a success? Defining success can be very subjective. There are two ways to approach success in terms of evaluating Courageous—spiritually and financially. Were people impacted by the movie? Were lives changed? Did Courageous encourage men to be better fathers and better husbands? There is no way I can answer those questions. Only the producers will be able to evaluate the spiritual effectiveness of their film. However, financially we do have the numbers. Currently, Courageous has made $32.7 million and is nearing the end of its theatrical run, so that number will not likely increase by much. Most Christian filmmakers would be thrilled with those results. It’s an impressive number.

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.

Courageous, perhaps, has proven a point. Is there a ceiling for a Christian film? Sherwood Pictures has developed an extensive network to help promote and market their films. Their use of social media has been groundbreaking in terms of reaching their audience. So they know how to get the base out. But in order to really hit the big numbers, say $60 million plus, it is going to require a different kind of movie. The industry calls it a crossover. For example, Soul Surfer and Blindside are films that play well within the Christian audience but are also capable of impacting a larger, more mainstream movie audience.

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.

I suppose the issue of success is tied to whomever you talk to. There’s no doubt that some people will see a $34 million to $36 million gross as a failure. Maybe expectations were just too high.

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

Weekend Report: 'Twilight' Leads,' 'Muppets' Succeeds Over Thanksgiving Weekend

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 easily repeated in first place at the box office over Thanksgiving weekend, while The Muppets revived the long-dormant franchise with a strong second place debut. Arthur Christmas and Hugo weren't quite as fortunate, though the true measure of their success will be determined over the next month.

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.

The Muppets opened to an estimated $42 million, which is down from past Disney Thanksgiving entries Tangled ($68.7 million) and Enchanted ($49.1 million). Considering the previously-dilapidated state of the Muppet brand, though, that number is an enormous accomplishment, and credit is due to Disney's marketing team for reintroducing the puppets in a fun, engaging advertising campaign. In just five days, the movie eclipsed the total of all previous Muppet movies with the exception of 1979's The Muppet Movie, which it will pass by next weekend. Of course, it still lags behind all of the movies in attendance except 1999 dud Muppets from Space, though that will quickly change over the next week or two. The audience was 53 percent female and awarded the movie an "A" CinemaScore.

Happy Feet Two fell 14 percent to $18.4 million for the five-day frame. In comparison, the first Happy Feet improved 22 percent to $50.6 million over Thanksgiving weekend in 2006. The sequel's $44.8 million total is a far cry from the original's $99.3 million through the same point.

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.

Hugo claimed fifth place with an estimated $15.4 million at just 1,277 locations. As hard as this may be to believe, Hugo's $11.35 million Friday-Sunday gross is actually director Martin Scorsese's third-highest debut ever behind Shutter Island and The Departed. Throughout the marketing effort distributor Paramount Pictures consistently emphasized the benefits of seeing Hugo in 3D, which paid off with a 75 percent 3D share. Paramount is currently planning to expand Hugo in to many more theaters on Dec. 9, which should help the movie hold well throughout the season.

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.

David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method opened to $241,000 from four theaters over the five-day weekend for a solid $60,250 average. The period drama about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung stars Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, and it should be in good shape for a solid limited run.

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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Festival Circuit

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

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.

There is a significant amount of resources from books to videos that can help you to formulate a film festival strategy. So I am only going to hit a few high points. First, you want your film seen. Second, you want to get your film reviewed. And finally, you want to create some kind of buzz about your film. Film festivals are still the best option to achieve those goals. In order for that to happen, you need to get into the right festival. Remember, there are hundreds of film festivals, and they come and go like the the wind. Some are just a total waste of your time and money.

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.

Do your research. Know the types and varieties of festivals. Go after a few that you think would be a good choice for your film. For example, if your film is a western, look for festivals that specialize in showing the western genre. Do you have any contacts or know people who work within the festival circuit who can help you? Find out the names of the festival directors and managers of the film festivals you are most interested in. The more you know the better. Festival directors are a rare breed. What they want most is a chance for a world premier. They love to discover films and find the next big thing. So use that to your advantage; however, once you give your world premier away, it’s gone forever. So it’s a big decision which festival you start with. It could lock you out of other film festivals because you can no longer offer the one thing that festival directors love the most - a world premier.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, a State of Mind

by Harold Hay
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.

I must send a big 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.

We may not have raised much money; however, having the support of people behind you who believe in your vision is priceless. I’d rather have friends who will stand with me than all the checks in the world.

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.

No matter where you are in life, I’m sure there is something you can be thankful for. As I said, it’s easy to focus on the negative and the things that are not right. If you take that route, you might as well cash in your chips. During this time of thanksgiving, take stock, look around. You will be amazed what you have to be thankful for. I know I am.

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

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Sound Edit

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 18 - The Sound Edit

The sound edit is one of the major areas of the entire filmmaking process that is often overlooked by first time filmmakers. What makes a movie “a movie” is the sound track and sound effects. Without it you don’t have a film. Most editors are good at editing pictures but are not experts in sound; therefore, you need a sound editor. The sound editor is responsible for editing a soundtrack that includes dialogue, sound effects, and music score. The process involves creating multiple sound tracks layered on top of each other. The mix is essential in developing a dimentional sound and direction.

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.

You also are going to need a composer to create a sound score for your film. Music is essential for creating the emotional impact for each scene of your movie. Can you imagine watching a movie without music? It would be unwatchable, boring, and devoid of emotion. Most large churches have music directors who are capable of composing music. More than likely, they would love to have an opportunity to write a music score for your movie. The key to being a good producer is finding alternatives to the expensive process of making a movie, and that no truer than in the post-production phase.

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.

Based on the money you have, you can’t hire a fulltime editor. That means that your film editor and sound editor will have day jobs. They will have to work on your film during the evening or on weekends. For good or bad, this is going to extend the amount of time it will take you to get a finished edit. This could be as long as 12 months. I highly suggest if at all possible do not allow your edit to go longer than a year. You don’t want to lose your momentum nor do you want your investors to start to think that they made a bad decision. The longer the process goes the more the pressure builds.

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

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Wilderness

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 18. The Wilderness

Just when you think it is time to come up for air and a break, you are now going to face one of your most challenging aspects of making a movie (the edit). Post-production often feels like a wilderness experience—a time in which you feel like you are wondering around looking for a way out. At this point, you really don’t have a film. You have hundreds of pieces that somehow must fit together and emerge as a watchable movie.

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.

Where do you start? Hopefully, you’ve talked to an editor way back in the pre-production process. It just makes sense to have an editor onboard as early as possible. If you haven’t, my guess is you really don’t have the money to hire a professional film editor or to pay enormously expensive hourly rates at a post-production house. A good editor knows how to edit even if he/she has never tackled a feature film; therefore, look for someone who is looking for an opportunity to move into feature films. A good place to look for an editor is at commercial and industrial video production companies, local television stations, and large churches with media departments. Always get a demo reel.

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.

Film is a chemical process; therefore, it is a completely different look than a video. Film has a layer of grain and texture that makes it look a bit dreamy. This is what people expect to see when they watch a movie. If it looks too realistic, it resembles what you would see on your nightly newscast or documentary. Color correction is the process that helps turn video into a film.

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

So You Want to Make a Movie - Good Directions

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 17 - Good Directions

If you are going to give “good directions”, you must know the script inside and out. Do you know the point of each scene? Do you understand the motivation for each action from your characters? Do you know the main emotional moment of each scene and where it leads to the next scene? Remember, your movie is being shot out of order. This can be disorienting, especially for inexperienced actors. Never direct an actor through what you want in results. Tell your actors what the character wants to achieve in the scene. Describe the action that needs to occur in order to achieve the result you are looking for in each scene. For example, don’t tell the actor to be angrier, upset, sadder, or happier. Give them the motivation and the reason why they are expressing the needed emotion.

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.

The production set can be an overwhelming, scary and chaotic place because there are lots of people moving around with lights and equipment and all other sorts of distractions. As a result, good directors need to provide a safe place to work so their actors can be creative and feel secure. Providing the right kind of encouragement is absolutely a necessity to achieve the results you are looking for. Allow the personalities of your actors to bleed into the character. Let them enjoy the discovery of finding the character on their own because it’s more fun for you and the actor and will lead to believable and credible characters.

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.

What does a typical production day look like? In one word—exhausting. Your production manager will create call sheets that tell cast and crew where to be and at what time. Your days will probably start around 6 a.m. and finish up around 9 p.m. In a typical three-week shoot, the first week will have a few bumps as cast and crew try to get into a rhythm. For the first couple of days, start out with something simple to build confidence. Your second week will be the most productive. I suggest that’s when you shoot your most complex and difficult scenes in terms of setups. By the third week, your cast and crew are just trying to survive to get to the end. Nerves are a little bit fried. So you might have to hold a few hands. Never the less, this is the week to shoot the more complex emotional scenes because the actors can access the emotions more readily due to stress and weariness of the production process. By now your actors should be able to relate to their characters

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

Christian Movie Connect Episode 18 - Simon Swart

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

What is Flannelgraph Ministries and Media Missionary School?

Flannelgraph Ministries is a (501c3) Christian organization whose purpose is to raise up media missionaries to the mainstream media and entertainment industry and to empower Christian media professionals working in Hollywood and the broader media and entertainment industry. Flannelgraph Ministries and Media Missionary School’s mission is to develop visual storytellers for global outreach. Our goal is to reseed culture by injecting a Biblical worldview into mainstream media and entertainment.

Our Message

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.

The Plan

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 – provides resources on faith, media and culture, including videos, interviews, film reviews, production tips, news, and movie trailers.

Friday Night Flicks – Each month Media Missionary School screens contemporary films, studio blockbusters, independent features, as well as, classic cinema from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Film night provides an opportunity to enter into a discussion and dialogue about the meaning of movies and how they impact us.

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

Storytellers Media Training Center – By opening our new facility at 1530 Tremont Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, we will be in a position to better serve our students and future media missionaries. Our new facility will include classrooms, edit bays, and a production studio.

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.

Classes and Training – Storytellers Media Training Center provides a central location where ongoing classes and training can be conducted more efficiently. We will conduct eight to ten events, including several all-day Saturday workshops on “Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Movie on a Shoestring Budget”.

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.

Encourage your church to become a monthly supporter by adding Media Missionary School to your mission support.

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
Lighting grid
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

Office supplies

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
Lighting, lamps
3 small couches/love seats
3 comfy chairs
3 coffee tables
5 wall clocks
3 computer desks

1 refrigerator
1 stove
1 microwave
1 toaster oven
1 vacuum cleaner

Assorted cookware, dishes, utensils

1 water cooler/cups
1 coffee maker
1 toaster
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.
Bathroom cabinet/supplies/towels

Gift certificates and gift cards
Airplane miles
Drywall, carpet, building materials

Human Resources

Cleaning crew
Construction/carpet layers
Graphic design artists
Web developer
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

So You Want to Make a Movie - Game Time

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 17. Game Time

Finally, after months of planning and strategizing, it’s time to move from pre-production to the production phase. In the next three to four weeks, everything you are trying to accomplish as a filmmaker and producer will be on the line. So it’s no time to relax. In pre-production, when problems arise you had the luxury of time to find solutions. That’s not the case during production. When you have a problem, it must be resolved quickly; otherwise, it could derail your entire film. As a producer, your main role in production is to be a problem solver. You can expect problems anytime you put 20 to 30 people together for several weeks with tight schedules, long hours, and with a difficult working environment, Again, that’s no different than shooting a mainstream or Christian movie.

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.

Think of production as the big game. You’ve spent months developing your game plan. Now it’s time for the big kickoff. But just like with any game plan, you have to be flexible and adapt to the game situation. Let’s take a look at the game plan. It’s pretty simple as a low-budget filmmaker. You are the coach, and your job is to make sure everybody executes their job. The DP (Director of Photography) has to move in a fast and efficient manner to set up the camera and lights. There’s no time for complicated and time consuming shots and lighting schemes. Your production manger has to stay on budget and on time. That means he or she must have the ability to say no. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, your department heads and other crew members will be asking for more resources and money. The production manager must remain firm to remind everyone what was agreed upon in pre-production. Remember the golden rule—the money you have is the money you have.

And what about the director, who is essentially the commander and chief during the production phase? Your director’s prime responsibility is to get two good takes and move on. If that doesn’t happen, you will run out of time and not finish your movie. Considering you are producing your movie, I hope you haven’t decided to direct it as well. But if you have, here’s my advice on what you should do as a first-time director. The director’s primary job falls into three categories. First, where do I put the camera and why, second, getting all of the coverage shots you need, and third, working with the actors to achieve a performance that will make the movie work.

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

So You Want to Make a Movie - The Plan

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker.  No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

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.

The people you hire for your crew as well as the volunteers obviously need to do their jobs. You will have to trust their judgment, but don’t be afraid to ask questions about the schedule. The schedule has to be tight, but it also needs to breathe enough so that crew and cast are not pushed to the breaking point.

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.