Tagged filmmaker

Why Producers Shouldn’t Ignore VidCon

When I bought tickets to my first VidCon last year, I was very excited. I had been interested in the online video revolution for quite a while and as a burgeoning video producer myself, I was convinced years ago this was the wave of the future of digital distribution and entertainment. However, when I’d eagerly tell friends and professional colleagues I would be attending, most hadn’t heard of it, didn’t think it was for them, or didn’t think it a credible or serious industry event. However, after only a few years, I could see that VidCon was quickly becoming the hub for online entertainment. So, with a Creator badge around my neck, I dove into something very new, vibrant, and innovative. After my experience last year, I knew I had to come back and I will be attending this year’s convention in Anaheim this June 23rd-25th. I feel that even “serious” independent video producers should not ignore what VidCon has to offer.

VidCon started as a fan convention founded by noteworthy YouTube celebrities Hank and John Green (Vlog Brothers). The first convention in 2010 had 1,400 attendees and an “industry day.” In 2016, more than 20,000 attendees are expected to attend and there are now separate Industry and Creator badges with their own content.

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As the convention has grown, so has its incredible offering of insightful panels and workshops. This year, Industry track attendees will have access to “22 master classes taught by top industry experts,” as well as the inside scoop on what’s new in the business of online video. The Creator track, which was started last year, acts as a video production school, teaching up-and-coming vloggers about cameras, lighting, and script writing, while improving the skills and knowledge of veteran producers with tips on branding, legal concerns, and expanding production. Creator track workshops and seminars are taught by YouTubers and online video producers which give you a look into online production workflow.

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I attended last year as a Creator and personally found a lot of the workshops to be fairly basic, having been to film school. However, these teenager to twenty-somethings were receiving a pretty comprehensive crash course in video production. With dedication to producing regular content, taking an iterative approach to their craft, and checking in yearly at VidCon to learn more and receive advice from other content creators, I could see that these young creators had the potential to outperform and outgrow the current media industry, without having to pay for a film school education! For me, and those of us who had experience with production, I found some great insight from attending Q&As of noteworthy creators. Other creators and I had the opportunity to ask questions about the process and received a transparent look into what it took to make videos like theirs.

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The entertainment industry has taken notice of VidCon. Many of the large media companies have digital or online production arms and many of them are setting up shop at the convention. The Hollywood Reporter even ran a story on VidCon in its 5th year stating, “VidCon Matures as Hollywood Descends.” The Reporter sees, “VidCon’s growth [as] symbolic of a larger shift in online video.” I’ve even written about brand collaboration and integration in online video, citing the development and success of YouTube channels like “Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Influencer marketing, internet optimization, transmedia storytelling– these are the trends being developed and discussed at this convention.


As a content creator, I would highly recommend staying abreast of what’s happening at VidCon. When you stand in the convention hall, you can feel the pulse of innovative energy that will sustain new media growth. The information available from industry professionals, creative content producers, and interested fans is incredibly valuable. Be warned! A majority of attendees still are those tweenage fans of internet celebrities and a huge portion of the convention is dedicated to their enthusiasm and entertainment. (See inflatable fun zone below.)  But, the potential for networking in and learning about a powerful media sector shouldn’t be passed up. I got my tickets early and badges are currently sold out, but you can tune into the live stream. Plus, there’s always next year.

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I want to close with a quote from Hank Green, co-founder of VidCon, who revealed during 2014’s keynote speech a bit about the incredible momentum there is in online video creation. He said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea. I don’t think that any of us know what we’re doing. There is a wave, and it’s made of technological things and sociological things, and it’s individual people making individual decisions about how they’re going to spend their individual time. And we are riding it. And that’s impressive. But it is not as impressive as understanding the wave.”

The wave originates at VidCon. Cowabunga.

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.

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 2: Making Waves with your Webseries 2 – Financing

sanfranlandFilm Insight is back with a 4 part Web Series Panel. The audio is recorded from an event that took place in August as a partnership between the Bay Area Women in Film and Media and Producer Foundry.

The second installment focuses on Financing, and different methods filmmakers use to get their webseries funded.  Subscribe on iTunes to get all four parts!

Panelists include:

FEATURED MODERATOR
Maya Zuckerman
Co-Founder of TransmediaSF

For Bios please check out the original event on eventbrite

Come back in two weeks for the second part of the series, and in the meantime, check out the Producer Foundry Page and Group on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Join Our Mailing List!

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 1: Making Waves With Your Web Series 1

web-seriesFilm Insight is back with the first of a 4 part Web Series Panel. The audio is recorded from an event that took place in August as a partnership between the Bay Area Women in Film and Media and Producer Foundry.

The first part is all about story, and how storytelling is crucial when marketing your media.  Subscribe on iTunes to get all four parts!

Panelists include:

FEATURED MODERATOR
Maya Zuckerman
Co-Founder of TransmediaSF

For Bios please check out the original event on eventbrite

Come back in two weeks for the second part of the series, and in the meantime, check out the Producer Foundry Page and Group on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Join Our Mailing List!

Film Insight Episode 4: Marsha Levine on Product Placement

Marsha LevineRandy and Ben talk with Marsha Levine, owner of A-List Entertainment, a LA-based product placement agency. Definitely helpful to know how product placement (and clearance for brands) happens, even for indie films!

Film Insight Episode 3: Marc Smolowitz on Producing

Marc SmolowitzRandy and Ben have a jam-packed discussion with Marc Smolowitz, award winning Bay Area producer/director. He rouses us with inspirational messages to young producers! He wows us with his tech background and the inevitable return to his passion! Don’t miss even the tiniest bit of it!

Film Insight Episode F1: Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

Sebastopol Documentary Film FestivalRandy goes solo to the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival to find out more about the documentarian lifestyle and some of the interesting community of folks who make the festival happen!

Randy speaks with Doug Pray, director of the film “Levitated Mass”, as well as Erica Ginsberg, executive director of Docs In Progress about improving your pitch, and finally Papagena Robbins from Concordia University about the role of experimental and archival documentary films in our society!

Film Insight Episode 2: Prasenjit (Pras) Chaudhuri, Digital Marketing Strategist

Pras ChaudhuriBen and Randy talk briefly on the wildly popular first Producer Foundry meetup in San Francisco before turning to talk to Pras Chaudhuri, digital marketing and monetization strategist for Reliance Entertainment, as your hosts seek to discover how current or emerging filmmakers can identify and target their audience, even before they have a film!

Amazing!

Also, look for special film festival coverage coming soon from both the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival from last month, and the imminent Sonoma International Film Festival! Randy is going to be talking with anyone he can stick a mic in their face!