Tagged independent film

[PODCAST] What is a Film Market and how do they work?

In this preview chapter from the first ever audiobook (and book) on film markets, author Ben Yennie shares some insights into why markets like AFM are still relevant, even with the rise of OTT platforms and the collapse of DVD.

Yennie summarizes how film markets are the most accessible place to cultivate relationships with sales agents and distributors. Those partnerships are how you can grow your career. Many of the PayTV channels and larger OTT networks still have large dragons at the gate, so in order to make money in independent film, you still need to build these relationships.

While AFM 2016 is behind us, this book and this chapter are something that every filmmaker should listen to. The book is used as a textbook in many film schools across the US, Canada, and even the UK. The audiobook is conversational, but not preachy. It’s made such that even people who got into the film industry to be creative can not only gain a lot of vital information but also enjoy the listen.

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.

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

7 ways to become a leader in your filmmaking (or any) community.

Photo copyright Producer Foundry 2014, taken by Evan Pleger
Ben Speaking at the first Producer Foundry meetup

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, I’ve shared the top 7 ways to become a leader in your filmmaking (or any) community on LinkedIn.  While you’re there, feel free to connect and join the Producer Foundry Group!

4 Reasons Community is the Most Important thing in IndieFilm

Producer Foundry Meetup @ SFSDFI’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.

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Understanding Money

understanding moneySince my background is at the Institute for International Film Finance, and I put in a year at Global Film Ventures, I get a lot of filmmakers contacting me asking me to help them fund their films.  Some of them are good pitchs, most are not.  Getting investment for you film is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible.  There are many reasons for this, but one that is not often talked about is the fact that many filmmakers have a mindset that money shouldn’t come with strings, and that all they should need to worry about is making the film.

There’s this attitude filmmakers have that someone should just give them a check then go away so they can make the film.  I’ve had many filmmakers say that flat out to me, and the ignorance of it is incredibly disturbing. There’s a lot more to investment than just writing checks.

 

Angel investors didn’t get their money by giving it to just anybody.  Investors generally do quite a lot of legwork to research those who they invest in, and they’ll never invest in someone they don’t trust.  This attitude of “just give me the money and let me be” is a huge red flag, and makes an investor far less likely to trust you.  If they don’t trust you, they won’t invest in you.

Once you take money from someone, you have a responsibility to them to send periodic updates, and let them know how everything is progressing.  You need to be available to take their calls at most any reasonable time, and always return their correspondence within at most two business days.  All money has strings, and you can’t expect an investor to just write you a check then never check in on you.

Another attitude problem a lot of filmmakers have is that they feel they don’t need to understand business.  Many feel just need to make the best film possible and money will come to them.  While there’s a kernel of truth in that, relying solely on making the best film possible is a great way to end up broke with a film that never goes anywhere.  The best product without a marketing team will never make money.  Filmmakers do need to make a great film, but they also need to understand at least the basics of how to promote a movie and how it will see revenue.

Distributing a film, promoting a film, and selling a film are all incredibly different skill sets that require decades to master.  Filmmakers can’t be expected to be experts on every job involved in making a movie.  They do, however, need to understand what they don’t know and compensate for that by getting people on their team that do understand how to do those jobs.

In essence this is the difference between a producer and a production manager, or the difference between an executive producer and a line producer.  Line producers and production managers are great at understanding how to manage a crew and get a film in the can.  Producers need to have a good understanding of business, negotiation, deal making, finance, and distribution.  Executives do the latter almost to the exclusion of everything else.  Every film needs at least one of each of these people, and really they shouldn’t be the same person filling multiple roles.

Every film needs people who understand money, how to raise it, how to make it back, and creative ways to save it.  Filmmakers of all kinds can be excellent at the last part of that.  Innovative bootstrapping is a skill perfected by many guerilla filmmakers.  That said, you still need money, and people who understand how to make a film see revenue on your team.

Even if you find an intermediary who can help you get the money from angels, you’re still going to have to have regular phone calls and meetings with that intermediary.  In fact, that intermediary is probably going to have more contact with you than an investor would because they understand both investment and filmmaking.  You need people like this on your team, and you need to understand that you’re creating more than just a film.  Every film is in essence a business, and in order to run a successful business you need skilled business people just as much as skilled artists and visionary directors.

Whenever you seek investment, it is into your business.  You need to understand that the business is necessary.  You also need to have an appreciation and at least a basic understanding of what it takes to make money in business.  This should not be your sole consideration, but it does need to be part of your plan when creating a film.  If you do not include this in your plan, you’ll never actually see revenue from your projects.

So readers, if you’ve ever thought that all you need is someone to write you a check; remove that notion from your head.  In order to get money, you need to understand money.  Only if you understand how money works, and have a good business plan will you be able to successfully get investment and make a profitable film.

Personal Branding

personal brandingFor Filmmakers who haven’t taken marketing courses, a brand is far more than just a logo.  A brand is the collective experiences customers and business partners have with any business.  In essence, a brand is essentially a company’s reputation. On a personal level, it’s about far more than just developing a look.  It’s about managing every aspect of your image, and the interactions you have with everyone you do business with.  If you want to achieve success in any industry, your personal brand is very important, even more so in the Film Industry.

Since I had a rather long blog about the importance of developing a look, I won’t cover too much of that here.  The biggest thing to keep in mind when establishing your personal brand is managing all of your interactions with potential business partners, clients, and especially potential customers.  This means that you’ve got to maintain a certain level of professionalism any time you do business.  One key element to this is covered in my blog on Reciprocity, but there’s more to it than just that.

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