By Ben Yennie

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 7 – LA Macabre

In This week’s Episode of Film Insight, Ben and Randy decompress about the Recent SF Web Fest, and Ben interviews the guys behind LA Macabre.  LA Macabre is a horror webseries currently doing a crowdfunding campaign for it’s second season.  In the interview, we talk about how the guys went about building their audience, marketing their webseries, and preparing to run a Crowdfunding campaign.

If you’re listening to this at Launch, then you can still donate to the LA Macabre Kickstarter by clicking below.

DONATE NOW!

If you want to see season one of LA Macabre

WATCH NOW

LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK!

If you listened to Ben in our new commercial breaks, and would like to check out his book,

BUY IT NOW ON AMAZON OR BUY IT NOW ON BARNES AND NOBLES

If you would like to learn to pitch better, check out the Producer Foundry Workshop, IndieFilm Investor Pitching 101

Hosted and Produced by Ben Yennie (@TheGuerrillaRep) and Randy Hall (@RandyHall)

Edited by Alex Nigro

A Beginner’s Guide to Brand Integration for Film and Video

Brands and advertisers are having a harder time than ever reaching consumers. DVRs are ubiquitous and the number of people who watch more than 6 seconds of the ad on YouTube are abysmally low. But a crisis for brands could mean a wealth of opportunity for content creators. Branded entertainment, sponsorship, and product placement are some of the best ways for youtubers to actually make a living from their content, and can help save budget or even raise money for an indie filmmaker.   But how do you go about talking to brands about your content? Here are some tips to help get you started.

  1. Look for Brand Alignment

If your movie is about a bicycle racer who gets injured and must rebuild his life to make his next big race, then maybe you’ll want to approach bike companies, sportswear companies, protein shake companies and the like would be great people to approach about sponsorship. Same basic sorts if you do a video blog about running.

  1. Start Small

It’s a lot easier to get a sponsorship deal from a small business than from a giant mega corporation. While the smaller companies won’t have the same budgets as the mega corps, but it’s a lot more likely you’ll be able to strike a deal in a lot shorter time frame. Additionally, the viewers and reach you’ll need to attract them will also be much smaller.

  1. Start Local

Try local companies first. Depending on where you live this could mean small businesses all the way up to relatively large corporations.  Given I live in San Francisco, there are no shortage of local companies to approach. Generally, the smaller companies won’t actually give you any money, but they can give you in kind donations. We’ve gotten coffee from Philz for our events, and other giveaways for our raffles from local companies.

  1. Know What You’re Asking for.

Make sure not to ask for something that there is no way the company can provide.  Don’t ask the mom and pop general store for 100,000 dollars, they don’t have it.  Maybe ask them to donate some sandwiches for a spot in the credits.  Approaching restaurants can be an excellent way to cut your budget as well, if a few restaurants do craft services at cost, then you’ve just provided a high quality meal for your crew for very little money.  Don’t think that product placement needs to have a dollar amount attached, in the indie world, any help makes you look better and more attractive to investors. And on that note… 

  1. Track the Value of your In Kind Donations

If you get local companies and brands to give you free or discounted stuff for your movie, figure out what the total value of the donation is and keep track of it. These costs add up, and when it comes time to approach investors you can claim you’ve raised that money in in kind donations. Having that money in the project lessens the risk for the investor and increases the value of the project. It also shows them that there is general support and interest from the filmmaking community.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to fund your entire movie on product placement and sponsorship alone, but if you can get part of the budget through sponsorship and brand integration, you’ll be in a much better position than you otherwise would be.

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 6 – Claudia Christian and Adam Schoemer

In This week’s Episode Ben and Randy interview Claudia Christian and Adam Schomer who produced and Directed the Documentary “One Little Pill.”  Claudia is best known for her role as Commander Susan Ivanova on TV’s Babylon 5.  The documentary is follows the lives of several people who have suffered from alcoholism, and have been helped by a controversial new treatment called The Sinclair Method.

You can find out more about the Sinclair Method through http://www.onelittlepillmovie.com/. The interview is more about the challenges of producing a documentary, and the celebrity effect on crowdfunding, and how even name talent isn’t aways enough to get wide-scale traditional distribution for your film.

Adam and Claudia talk about the issues of maintaining the confidentiality of documentary subjects, and how sometimes you need to shift focus and adapt in the middle of producing your documentary.  The crew also touch on the touchy subject of conflicts of interest for documentary subjects and their families.

Next in the interview we talk about their challenges approaching television stations and how “One Little Pill” got their first wide-scale television distribution deal in Finland, and the challenges the filmmakers are facing in getting US distribution for the film to help spread the message of the Sinclair Method’s efficacy in treating Alcoholism.  Adam talks a bit about how specialized TV stations can be in selecting which time slots for distribution of social issue content.

Later in the episode, Ben and Randy talk to Adam and Claudia about the difficulties of wide scale self distribution through platforms like VHX and Vimeo and the effects of social impact of viral growth.

How to Talk to Agents About your Movie.

After you’ve done everything in the last post, it’s time to call their agent.  You can find the contact information for their agents on IMDbPro.  The agent is the dragon at the gate, and depending on which agency you’re contacting, company policy may well be to not talk directly with filmmakers. That said, most talent are always on the lookout for promising leads for their client, so if you’re professional and don’t mince words they’ll probably take your call.

When you look up the actor on IMDb, you’ll find the phone numbers for their people. If they have an agent listed, then that’s the person you need to talk to. If they don’t, then you can talk to most anyone at that agency about that actor.

So once you make the call, you’ll probably be connected to reception. At this point, all you have to say is {Agent’s Name}’s office please. If there’s no agent’s name listed say “I’d like to talk to someone about [Talent’s Name]”

Once they connect you, you’ll most likely talk to the agent’s assistant.  Say who you are, the name of your company, the name of the project, and who you want to make the offer to.  If you’re in a position to offer a pay or play, say that immediately. Say it in as few words as possible.  They’ll probably ask about the status of the project, Don’t lie, but don’t give them every little piece of information, and avoid information that could hurt you unless they specifically ask for it.

Since this is the first call, the best case scenario is to get a script and offer request via email. If they ask for that, you’ve done your job, get they’re email, and the assistant’s name, and send the email as quickly as you can.

If you’re really lucky and can offer a pay or play or the film is fully financed, they may connect you with the agent directly. If they do that you have to get the information out quickly and be very friendly about it. Agents are paid to get people to like them, but they’re also very busy. So a little small talk might happen but be ready to go through the deal points very quickly. Being straight business on the first call is a good strategy, if there’s a follow-up call that’s the time for small talk.

It’s really important that you don’t mince words when talking to these people. Role play it with a friend before you call, it helps a lot.  Answer their questions as succinctly as possible, these people get dozens if not hundreds of calls a day, don’t waste their time.

After the agent has your offer, it becomes a waiting game.  If you call them too often you’ll appear desterate and they’ll turn you down. If you never follow up, then they’ll keep pushing your project back and the client will never read it. Following up about a week later is generally pretty safe, and if there are any changes in the production like a new attachment or some money in, that’s a great reason to email and update the agent.

I find in following up for anything, about the most you can reasonably contact someone without being annoying is Monday, Friday, Wednesday, then repeat indefinitely.  That said, if they give you a time that they’ll get back to you, give them an extra day after when they said they would and follow up.  If they tell you no, stop calling and move on to the next name on your list.

So those are the basics of calling an agent about talent.   There’s a lot more to it, and the way you say this information has just as much to do with success as what you say.

For more information, feel free to reach out to me. I do consulting on clarity.fm and I also will make these calls for you, for a fee. As always, feel free to check me out on twitter @TheGuerrillaRep and check out my book on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, as well as many independent bookstores nationwide!

Guerrilla Rep Cover

3 Things to Prepare Before Calling Hollywood Agents

In order to make a profitable film the traditional way, you need three things.  The first is the money to make it, the second is someone to distribute it, and the third is a recognizable star to sell it.  Without all three things, it’s very difficult to make a profitable independent film if you spend anything more than about 25,000 dollars.  Unfortunately, in order to get one of these things, you often need to have the other two in place, so the only thing you can do is bark up all three trees at once.

You’ve got to remember that these people get dozens of offers every week, and they have to sift through them quickly.  If all you have is a script by a first time director with no distribution or financing, it’s going to be a difficult sell to even get the script into the talent’s hands.  It’s not impossible, but If you have distribution or financing, the road is much easier

I’ve personally attached talent to in development projects from films like Twilight Eclipse, Babylon 5, and Disney’s Atlantis, and there’s a formula to it.  There’s a certain process on how you go about doing it that isn’t always taught in film schools, so I thought I would write a post on how to go about doing it the right way.  What follows are the three things you need to do to get ready to call agents about your script.

Step 1.  Write or Find a Good Script.

The first, and arguably most important piece in getting Talent attached to you film is a good script.  If you’re an indie filmmaker, it’s unlikely you have the money to get the actor to do the role just for the paycheck.  Luckily, every actor (and by extension every agent) is looking for good, juicy roles that can propel them and their clients to the next level.  You need to have a memorable and deep character and compelling story to capture the interest of a name actor.

The actor will need to emotionally invest in the character you’re looking for them to play if you’re going to have a shot at attaching them.  Every actor is constantly seeking his or her next big, juicy role.  Actors have a brand they need to protect and expand, and in order to do that they need good roles.  This doesn’t necessarily need to be an Oscar worthy role, but a deep and compelling character that fits with the actor’s brand, which brings us to our next point.

Step 2.  Research.

Not every actor is right for every role.  You’ve got to do your research and find your top 5 candidates you’d like to play every major role in your movie.  Think about movies they’ve worked on in recently, and look on their IMDb Pro page as to what they have in development.  In the indie film world, having an actor that’s the right fit for a role is almost as important as having a big name actor, just so long as they have a resume of recognizable work behind them.

If this is your first feature, you’ll also want to see if they’ve worked with first time directors recently.  Also look to see if they have a particular interest in the themes of your movie.  Looking up interviews they’ve done on late night talk shows can be a good insight into the sort of person they are when they’re not performing.  You can find a lot of those interviews on youtube.

Even if they’re a huge name, if they’re not really working you may be able to get them.  Most actors act because they love the craft, and if they’ve got huge projects that have paid them really well recently and some time on their hands, they might well be willing to vastly lower their rate just to play a compelling character.

Step 3: Figure out what you can afford, and what you can offer.

If you’re an indie filmmaker, more than likely you won’t be able to come close to the actors regular salary if they’re a big name.  Try not to insult them, but make sure you don’t give away the craft services money.  Even if they’re interested, you need to know when you have to walk away from the table.  Walking away might mean not having your dream cast, but it’s better than screwing your movie because you just spent all the crew’s pay on the lead actor.

One thing you can think about is what sort of perks you can offer that would be extremely low cost or even free for the production.  Does your uncle own a limousine company?  Maybe he’d transport the actors for free in exchange for a signed headshot from them.  Maybe your cousin works in a winery, a case of wine could be donated to the production and given to your actor.  Are you shooting in a ski town?  Maybe the mountain would give you some passes for the actor’s day off.  There’s lots of things you can do like this, just be creative!

Once you’ve done these three things, you’ll need to go on IMDb Pro and find the phone numbers for the agents that you’ll need to talk to.  For tips on doing that, and a sample call script, stay tuned for next week’s blog!

About Ben Yennie
Ben Yennie is one of the Founders of Producer Foundry, an Author, Producer’s Rep, Film, and Startup Consultant.  In a past life, he was the Chapter Leader for the Institute for International Film Finance.  you can follow him on twitter at @TheGuerrillaRep and find his book by clicking below.
Guerrilla Rep Cover

Available From Amazon and Barnes and Nobles!

7 Ways to become a Leader in Your Filmmaking (Or Any) community

Photo copyright Producer Foundry 2014, taken by Evan Pleger
Photo copyright Producer Foundry 2014, taken by Evan Pleger

In any community, there are members who get more done than others. Some people rise to the top of the pile, while others tread water and don’t move their projects forward. Some people are only tolerated in their community, while others become leaders. It’s not random, the people who become community leaders do certain things to set themselves apart from the pack.

Successful entrepreneurs and filmmakers have a way of becoming leaders in their communities. The qualities required for both are remarkably similar. What are those qualities you ask? Fear not my intrepid reader, what follows is a list of the 7 ways to become a leader in your filmmaking (or any) community.

1. Show up.

The old adage of half the battle being showing up is very true. If you always show up, then the community will begin to know you. After a while, you’ll become a face. You’ll get to know the other members of the community. If you’re always there then the organizers will eventually trust you with more responsibility. As you become more ingrained in the community, you will naturally figure out how the community functions. Once you know how the community functions, you can begin to become a leader within it.

2. Learn People’s Names

I’ll admit that I’m kind of bad at this one, but it really does make a difference. When you can greet a person by their name, then you’re going to forge a much better connection and business relationship with them. It can be hard to remember everyone’s names when you meet a lot of people at a networking event, but it really is worth the time and mental energy.

3. Actively participate

If you want to become a leader, you need to be noticed. It’s been said that only about 1 in 10 members of a community actively create content for it. If you sit in a corner and mess around on your phone, no one is going to notice you. If you ask intelligent questions, you become a part of the conversation. Take the time to actively participate, and you’ll be amazed what it will do for your career.

4. Connect Both Online and Offline

If you only see members of your community once a month at whatever event you all frequent, your ties to them won’t be that strong. Assuming we’re talking about a professional community, connecting on linkedin will be the best place to do this. Google Plus and Twitter can also be good. Once you’ve known someone for a while, facebook might not be a bad idea but you might want to add them to different lists in order to keep your personal and professional lives separate.

5. Don’t make it all about you.

The essence of community is being a part of something larger than yourself. Unfortunately, many people only take part in communities because they feel like they can get something out of it for their own personal projects. If you focus not only on your needs, but the needs of others, then you’re going to be able to get a lot farther in your community. Successful people never forget the ones who helped them get there. Not everyone you help will be successful, but if you help enough people then some of them will.

6. Help others before you ask for help.

If you have the resources and ability to help someone, you should. Time is one of those resources, so I’m not saying let your own projects or health fall by the wayside. However, helping people is key to building social capital. As I mentioned in my last blog on community, social capital is necessary to getting things done. This is especially true in the Film Industry.

7. Celebrate the successes of your community

If something good happens to someone in your community, celebrate it. Be happy for your community members who find success. Being envious of people for their achievements will prevent you from furthering your own goals. Negativity only creates more negativity. Luckily, the same can be said for positivity. If something big happens within the community, then share it. Revel in it. Take pride that you’re part of a community that is making things happen.

People remember how others respond to their success. Having found some level of success myself, I can tell you far too many respond with envy. They respond by tearing you down because they feel threatened by your success. Those people are toxic, and you need to associate yourself with people who will celebrate your successes. The only way to surround yourself with those types of people is to be one yourself.

4 Reasons Community is the Most Important thing in Independent Film

Producer Foundry Meetup @ SFSDF

I’ve been running Producer Foundry for a bit over a year now, and I’ve learned quite a lot. By far, the most vital thing I’ve learned is that the most important asset any independent filmmaker has is their filmmaking community. One filmmaker is generally nothing to write home about, there are about 12,500 who graduate from film school every year in the US alone. But when we band together, that’s when amazing pieces of art happen. There are many reasons that your community can and will make or break your career, four of which I’ve listed below.

1.Your Community will help you get your film made

If you show up to one event expecting to get your entire crew and have them work for free, you’re probably out of luck. However, if you take the time to become a real part of your filmmaking community. But if you take the time to be a real, tangible fixture in your community then people are far more likely to jump on and crew your project.

I’ve said before that this industry relies heavily on social capital. If you build a strong community and know as many people as you can, then you’re more likely to get to the people you need to know through connections you’ve made within the community.

2. Your Community will help you find work.

Many working filmmakers and distributors will go to people they know first because they know they can get the job done. Having been VP of Biz Dev for a startup in the recruiting space, I can tell firsthand how hard it is for people in all industries to find the staff they need. In any industry, finding talent is a full time job. Many top companies pay as much as 2 months salary to a recruiter for finding a good staff member.

Being an active part of your film community will mean you have more connections so that when there’s work to be had, you’re more likely to get a call. If Debbie needs an AD, she’s going to call someone she’s worked with before. If that person is busy, they’ll recommend someone else they know. If you know both of those people from your networking within the film industry, then you might be the person getting that call.

3.Your Community will make your film better

Collaboration is necessary to make quality independent films. Not only will becoming an active part of your film community allow you to network with the best crew in your area, it will also give you people you can show your script to, get critique on your cuts, and generally make your project better. Constructive criticism and feedback greatly improve the quality of any project, and being an active part of your film community will give you a network of people you can go to and get that feedback. Which brings me to my next point.

4.Your Community will make you a better filmmaker.

As you critique other filmmaker’s work and learn to understand the style of others in your community, it will help you develop your style. Artists learn from each other and are influenced by each other. This has been true for all the best artists throughout the ages.

In fact, the entire Impressionist movement was started from a small community of artists including Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, andEdgar Degas. The group would meet and discuss their work, politics, and the art of the day at Café Guerbois in Paris. At the time, the group was misunderstood and widely considered untalented. Tired of being rejected from Paris’ famed Salon, the group of intrepid artists formed Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs(“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) to exhibit their artworks independently. This action gave birth to one of the most influential styles of art the world has yet known.

I’m not saying every community will give birth to a new movement, but if you help your friends and community members with their projects, you may see solutions to their ideas that they never would have thought of. They’ll do the same for you, which will help to define, refine, and develop the style of the entire community.

If you want to be more active in your film community, check out Producer Foundry on Facebook, Meetup, YouTube, Twitter, and On The Web. If you’re in the Bay Area, learn to budget from the UPM of Blue Jasmine and Big Eyes at the Build A Better Film Budget – Primer Workshop, and Check out our February Townhallfeaturing Entertainment Attorney Daniel Riviera.

If you like my writing, Follow me on Twitter, or buy my book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget on Amazon!

The 12 Slides you Need in your IndieFilm Investment Deck

12 slides you need in your indiefilm pitch deck

Pitching to independent investors is a much different formula than we’re generally taught in Film Schools. The formula we’re taught in Film School is generally built around a studio pitch. A studio does a lot more than give money to a project. They have huge marketing, PR, legal, and distribution teams that they use to monetize any films they finance. As such it’s not the filmmakers job to pitch their projects on anything except story when working within that system.

Filmmakers must take a different approach when talking to independent film investors. Generally, angel investors are only looking to finance projects, they don’t have resources to help market and distribute the film. While Film is a highly speculative and inherently risky investment, and most film investors don’t invest in film solely for the ROI, they need to know you have a path to get their money back to them.

There’s a certain formula for creating a successful slideshow for investors. These presentations (Generally referred to as “Decks” in Silicon Valley) have been honed to tell the story of your company. Investors are used to seeing this format when deciding whether or not to invest in your project. It’s pretty easy to find samples of this formula for regular companies on SlideShare, but since the film industry is so specialized there must be some modifications made to the formula in order to make a good Deck to pitch your film to an investor. Below is a breakdown of what should go into a Filmmaking deck.

SLIDE 0 – Project Name/Artwork.

In a standard company pitch, the first thing that appears is the name of the company and the logo. For a film or media project, instead use the name of the project, the name of your production company, and the onesheet for your project.

SLIDE 1 – Project Overview

Generally, this would be where an entrepreneur would put an overview of his or her company, what it does, and what it’s mission is. For a film or media project, put the logline of your project, as well as the genre and a basic overview of the story.

SLIDE 2 – Why Does this Project Need to be Made?

In a standard company pitch, slide 2 and 3 would be the problem that the company seeks to solve, and the solution it offers. Since Films are generally made more as entertainment, they don’t always have a problem that they’re fixing. So instead, focus on why this project should be made.

Some approaches you could take on this would be that there’s not enough family friendly media being made, Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in media, young LGBT kids need a role model, or that whatever niche you’re targeting doesn’t have enough entertainment. Figure out WHY your story needs to be told, and it can’t just be that you’re an artist and it’s in your soul.

SLIDE 3 – Why Your Project is the One to tell That Story.

In the standard company deck, this would generally be the solution that your company offers. For film, focus on why you and your team are the ones to tell the story you established in slides 1 and 2. Don’t go too deep into the team, you’ll cover that later.

SLIDE 4 – Opportunity

This slide is where an entrepreneur or filmmaker focusus on the size of the market and how they plan to access it. Focus on any niche communities you can target, and the genre your film is in generally performs internationally.

SLIDE 5 – Unique Competitive Advantage

Your Unique competitive advantage will remain mostly the same as it would in a pitch for any sort of company. You need to emphasize why your film should be the one they invest in. Do you have a large following in the niche audiences you’re targeting? Do you have some unique insight into the subject matter that no one has heard before? Is there something unique about your background that makes you the ideal person to tell this story.

Focus on why your film or media project will stand apart from the competitors and has the best chance to make a profit. In short, How will you stand out from the pack when others don’t?

SLIDE 6 – Marketing Strategy

Long time silicon valley strategist Sheridan Tatsuno likens market research to setting up a target, and marketing to shooting the arrow at it. You’ve set up the target in slides 4 and 5, now it’s time to show how you’re going to shoot the arrow and make a bullseye. How will you utilize social media? Which platforms will you use? Are you already a part of communities of your target market?

SLIDE 7 – Distribution Strategy

Generally, this would be your Go-To Market strategy. In film, this essentially means your distribution strategy. What rights will you be handling yourself, and what rights will you be handing to a distributor? What platforms will you use? How will you handle US Sales? Are you planning on attaching an international sales agent? How will you go about doing that if you haven’t already?

SLIDE 8 – Competitive Analysis

Show other films in a similar genre that have done well. Remember, this isn’t your business plan, so only show about 3 if you’re showing individual projects, not the 20 you should research. If you’ve already done your full competitive analysis, show one or two profitable representative samples and then the aggregate on all of the 10-20 films you researched. Charts and tables are good here.

You only want to use content from the last 3-5 years. Content older than that doesn’t realistically represent the current marketplace. This is something that even professionals who estimate ROIs don’t always follow. It’s always a red flag for investors when your examples are too old,

SLIDE 9 – Financials

Generally, you’ll need a few of the major line items from your topsheet budget. A good bet would be your above the line, pre-production, principle photography, post production, and marketing and distribution (or P&A) costs. Due to union caps, it can often be beneficial to raise your marketing and distribution budget at a later date. Projected ROI will also go on this slide.

SLIDE 10 – Current Status

This should be fairly self explanatory, but here are a few questions to ask yourself. What have you accomplished so far? Do you have any talent attached? Are you talking with Sales Agents? Where is the script in development? Are there any notable crew on board?

SLIDE 11 – Team

Focus on why you and your team are uniquely qualified to not only bring this film to completion, but deliver a quality product that can give an excellent ROI to all involved. Has your leadership team won awards at festivals? Have projects they’ve been on done impressive things?

SLIDE 12 – Summary/Thank You

For the final slide, put the three most important and/or marketable things about your project into a single slide. Investors get approached with a lot of opportunities and their brains can get cluttered. If an investor walks away knowing only these three things about your project, what do you want them to be?

Most importantly, thank them for their time and consideration, and make sure there’s an easy to find way to contact you ON YOUR DECK. Ideally on the first and last page. We’ll often send out decks when we send out the executive summary, so make yourself easy to contact if they’re interested.

On that note, Thank you for reading. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to learn more about pitching your film project, please come to Producer Foundry’s Pitch Workshop, on Wednesday, March 18th at Samy’s Camera on 9th and Bryant in San Francisco. Click here to register.

If you like my writing, Follow me on Twitter, or buy my book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget on Amazon!

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This Week in IndieFilm News- March 6th

Week of March 6th IndieFilm News

 

Full articles can be found below

Chinese Box Office Overtakes US For First Time
New IndieFilm Crowdfunding Platform Allows for both Equity and donations
North Carolina Lawmakers Propose 50 Million Dollar Entertainment Grant Fund
HBO Announces Launch of HBO NOW Streaming Platform for 15 dollars a month
New 22 million entertainment fund launches in San Paulo
Connected TV Ownership tops Blu Ray Disk Players