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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

raising money for your feature

The first thing you'll want to get together is a film proposal.

What’s a film proposal? Think of it as a business plan.

Imagine you’re starting a business, and you’re seeking investors. When you have that first lunch meeting with them and you pitch your idea, what will you leave with them after the pitch? A business plan, or a business proposal.

So a film proposal is the same thing. The following is a list of what needs to be in your proposal:

 - synopsis of the story 

- bio of director and or producer and any other attached talent or crew 

- business plan 

- list of comps 

- distribution plan 

- contact sheet 

- title page 

- marketing strategy

In the next post, I'll go into detail on some of the above items.

Monday, July 22, 2013

good short film

short film

Click on the above link to view a good short film. It has what I preach - 1 location, few characters. It's character driven. People wanting to get ahead, people making mistakes...

DetrĂ¡s Del Espejo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Low Budget Features

Ok. All the time, I get disbelievers. The common statement being - you can't make a feature for under 25K. And yes, it's usually a statement, not a question. People see this:
... and they immediately say no way.

Read the book before you say it can't be done. If you still have doubt or any questions, fire away, that's what this blog is for. Or comment/ask questions on either the Google + page or the Facebook page.

Let's start with the first basic rule of making feature films for in and around this budget - that is 25K and up to like 75K. Two big rules: few locations, few characters.

If you think you can make a feature for under 100K with as many locations and characters as a typical commercial film, you're insane. Delusional. Out of touch.

You can not. Simple. No ifs, ands or buts. This is the place where you start, that is, if you really want to make an indie film for this amount of money. One or two main characters, and maybe one or two supporting characters. And location? You should have one or two major locations.

How do I know? I did it. I shot my 1st feature Sleepwalk in about ten days. Yes, ten days! In the next post I'll talk more about the number of shooting days and how that can keep your budget down. But for now, if you're thinking, scheming, planning on making a feature for little to no money, this is the approach. The only approach. Just a few characters, and one or two main locations.

Here's a link to the book:

"How To Make a Feature Film For Under 25K"

Monday, July 15, 2013


Thought of the day for both directors and writers - what does the character want?

Yes, this is what it's all about. Does not matter what stage you are in; creating the character on paper, writing the treatment, writing the script, rehearsing with the actor or filming - in all of these areas it's about the same thing - GOAL of the character.

You can define or view it any way you like. Their goal, their needs, their desire, all adds up to what they want, which really will define who they are. Yes, actions speak louder than words, so what your character does to achieve his or her goals is all important.

So as the writer, you must create solid goals, needs, wants.

As the director, you must be clear on what the character wants, as knowing this will inform you how to rehearse and direct the actors. It's all about what we want in life, so it's the same in cinema.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creating character

Getting back to the discussion of plot or character driven stories, here's another great example of a character driven story - TOOTISE.

Click on the below link, it's Dustin Hoffman talking about how the character was created:


This is exactly what I was talking about last week - if you're making a character driven story, whatever stage it's in - script or production, so much effort needs to go in to making the character real.

How to we make characters real? As writers, director and actors? By knowing who they are. How do we know who they are? By defining what they want. What is their goal? What do they have to overcome to achieve this goal?

What are their fears? DreamsInhibitions. Flaws.

Always start by what a character wants. If you create a goal or desire which is strong and real, and hard to achieve, you'll have both a well developed character, and a strong story.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mean Streets

To continue from last week's short list of all time great indie features, let's take a peak at Mean Streets. It's fitting that we discuss Mean Streets after Faces, as the story goes, John Cassavetes told Scorsese after he made Boxcar Bertha - "You've just spend a year of your life making a piece of shit." He then told Scorsese to make something personal, something you know.

This inspired Scorsese to make a film about his own experiences growing up in Little Italy. The budget was around 300K and raised independently. The film was released by Warner Brothers and was well received by most critics, and has become one of the most original American films ever.

So for all you first time feature filmmakers, make something personal! Write/direct something you are passionate about. The biggest mistake is to try and make something you think will earn a ton of money. Don't think this way. If you're passionate about the story, good chance maybe we will be too.

And be lean and mean. Few locations. Small cast and crew. Keep it simple.

Here's a link to the script. Read it, it's great:


Friday, July 5, 2013


Article on FACES

The above link is a very well written article on the classic indie film FACES.

I single this film out as for me and many other filmmakers, it is the film which inspired us to make our own indie films.

The focus of my How To film book is all about doing everything yourself, from raising the funds, to purchasing and renting the equipment, casting, assembling the crew, etc.

"How To Make a Feature Film for Under 25K"

Well, Faces was made in the most independent way possible. The film was shot over a period of six months, mainly at night and on weekends. Most of the money was put up by John, and most crew and cast members were either friends, or beginners. The majority of the film was shot in John's house, and it was edited in John's garage.

This is independent filmmaking.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Best Independent films of all times

Here's a quick must see list:

1.  FACES - has to be on the top as it's the first American indie film to be nominated for an Oscar. JC really set the path for all to follow.














Missing anything?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blocking and transitions


Click on the above to watch a quick scene from the film SEXY BEAST. I want to draw attention to two things: blocking and transitions, but mainly blocking.

Notice the 1st and last shot of this clip - both very awkward, tension filled blocking. The 1st shot we see Kingsley at the airport, waiting. But he's not waiting like most normal people do. He's standing very awkwardly, very impatiently, while others sit and walk by. He looks as if he's going to explode. His arms oddly at his side, like they're dangling. He looks down, then away at people. The camera slowly moves in, as very intense music builds. Excellent.

Yes, there are other elements that make this scene work so well, such as body language, intense score and the slow camera move in. But I want you to realize how important the blocking is and how easy blocking this well can be accomplished.  It's simply thinking outside the box. This character is tense, you want to keep him tense, so don't have him sit with and act like the other passengers.

Next is the terrific transition - as the score builds, we cut to a close up of the engine and it's noise builds, then cut to inside the plane, all quiet and nice. Great transition. Simple. Effective.

And the last shot? Very much like the 1st shot. Again, here is is standing. Waiting. Seemingly in discomfort. Awkward. Out there on his own island. Great.