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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Learning About Filmmaking


Before I started this blog I was interested in watching movies mainly for my own viewer pleasure. But this blog is really evolving my relationship with films, as I’m becoming more and more interested in all the processes involved in filmmaking, and let me share with you that I find each and every stage of the process fascinating, as fascinating as when I was learning the processes of many of my big corporation clients that -to say it in a simple way- went from Research & Development to Production, to Marketing, and to Sales.

Believe it or not, filmmaking is no different than let’s say the vehicle manufacturing industry where you can find major, medium and small sized players. As a matter of fact you, yourself, can manufacture your own vehicle from scratch if you wish to do it … and the same happens if you wish to do your own any length film.

I have been thinking a lot about this, as since I watched that Tarkovsky movie I got the itch to do a film and/or really get involved in filmmaking. But since I’m still so much marketing oriented (good old habits die hard!), I cannot start the “project” without visualizing the complete process. The good news is that finally today I have seen the light and the process became crystal clear. Now I can start.

The project has to start with an Idea and well, I have many ideas in my head (that’s where the storyteller name comes from, just in case you’re wondering), so I will distill them and find the one story that has to be told. Then comes the first creative task with the written storytelling or screenplay if you wish.

If we follow the process with a not wealthy person and newbie like me, the next stage is to pre-sell your idea or in other words, find the money that will allow you to continue the process to find a director, casting, production, etc. But since this is an example that includes a one orchestra man or woman (a do everything one person), lets imagine that with the written idea you’re ready to pre-sell it.

So I got the idea, the story and already pre-sold it (actually I have done it and will direct, act, edit, etc.), the next stage is the most boring for me of all and one that I have to change my attitude towards it or I’ll be in trouble. How do I know? Well, remember that I used to work in advertising and casting, pre-production, filming and editing are quite boring tasks that the general public think are very creative and interesting when in my opinion they are not. But since it is my first child let’s imagine that passion (and unfortunately perfection) will overcome me and I’ll be able to do it.

So, eventually I will have the first draft of my very first film! And I say eventually because editing plus if I can include some special effects is not done only one time, usually you have to do it once, twice and who knows how many times more (I like perfection, remember?) until you have the first draft ready to be shown to your first viewers and have invested a lot of money as editing is done at a studio that charges by the hour!

But, thanks to digital filmmaking, post-production can be less expensive as if you have the right software and some powerful PC’s, you can do it at the quietness of your own home, which most likely has to be the only way I could do my first film and if I do not wish to spend lots of time rendering any other format.

Please continue to imagine that after my first screening I got some positive feedback from viewers and after doing more post-production the film is in its final form and now I have to find viewers and hopefully make some money to pay my expenses and give some profit to my investors.

While you been doing all the post-production tasks you probably will get a little bored, so to distract yourself you should be doing some important marketing tasks like checking all the festivals submission dates, getting the official forms and making a calendar with all the festivals that you wish to submit your film. The more submissions you do, the greater the possibilities that your film will be accepted, but I know I cannot submit a digital film to Cannes or Venice, unless the film is REALLY worldwide cinema class.

Before you send anything I suggest you find the local rules for registering a film and find a lawyer friend that could do it for you; remember that the film is your property and should be registered as such to avoid possible problems. So with your final film you send all the submissions you wish and you can afford if they request your film in a particular format, as most festivals do.

Actually you will need at least one festival acceptance to be ready for the next Marketing task and if by any chance you do not get it do not despair, as what could happen is that the next task will be harder but feasible.

The next marketing task is to approach some production companies in your country. Be sure that they will be puzzled that you have a film ready for them, some will be polite and ask you to send them for their screening, I suggest that if they ask do not send it unless you can be present at the screening and you bring with it with you. Be careful as in this stage anything can happen to an innocent newbie, especially if the film is outstanding as it should be. Depending of the size of the country or city where you live, this task could be a major time consuming, but fortunately I live in a so-called third world country where there are not many production companies so I wont be investing too much time locally.

The advantage of being picked up by a local production company is that they have some connections that you do not have and knowing and using these connections will help you to not have to learn all alone everything that’s involved in the distribution stage.

In my advertising experience pre-production, production and post-production are not really that interesting stages of the process, but distribution is one very interesting stage for me where some industries have unwritten rules and practices that completely destroy any product or service. I believe that the filmmaking industry is one of them.

So, there I will be with my first film, hopefully one or more festivals accepting my submission, and perhaps a serious and honest local production company willing to get involved in the distribution process. I wait, I wait and I wait… but nothing happens.

See, we live in a no barrier communications era where there are “free” and direct distribution channels that when used with a marketing purpose (some big corporations are just discovering the power of these direct channels to promote their products and services… it was about time!) they can become the best vehicle to obtain film viewers and call the attention of really important production and DVD label companies in the industry. We have the Internet.

Thanks to this blog I have “discovered” the most amazing network of film direct distribution I could imagine and you probably too if you like to watch any of the online products available. One example of direct distribution is this blog, I could upload my film here and you will be able to watch it! But I could also go to those places with millions of viewers and if only I know how to correctly name the video tag(s), viewers will come and if the film is outstanding, well you can guess what could happen.

But that’s not all, there are other direct distribution channels that will take you closer to your goal to have a major production or DVD label that could more formally promote your film and allow you to make money to pay your expenses and give profit to your investors. You just have to do some very traditional marketing tasks like those included in the equivalent of what it is direct marketing and direct mail. You have to knock the doors of those companies and let them know about your film. They probably have thousands of requests, but what makes the difference is how attractive you make the invitation.

Anyway my intention is not to tell everything about direct distribution or direct marketing, as you can find tons of info in the net. My purpose is to let you know that even major TV networks, major movie studios, major production, and major DVD label companies are finally starting to use the internet to broadcast and/or allow view-on-demand any type of films, not to mention that smaller companies have been doing it for some time now. So, any newbie filmmaker has a “free” direct distribution channel available and waiting for you to include your film.

Some of the short films I have seen, I saw them first online and then I found them in DVD compilations. Some DVD’s I own because I really like to see them with the best quality possible and whenever I want. If my first film is a short, be sure that the net will be my best way to find viewers; but if I’m a little bit crazy as I am, surely will be a medium if not a full length film, then not many things will change, but be sure that I would use all my marketing knowledge to make some money to cover my expenses and generate profit.

If my first film becomes outstanding as I imagine it, then the second one it will have an easier route as I will no longer be a newbie filmmaker, I will have some connections and absolutely, then I will apply for grants, programs, etc at the big film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Rotterdam, San Sebastian and everywhere else I could get some help that could also build my reputation as a good filmmaker and that will allow me to get real financing before I enter the pre-production stage.

The filmmaking industry, as many other industries, is a connections related business; so, if you’re able to find the right connections the road to your filmmaking experience could be a lot less arduous as if you don’t. But do not expect that everything will come easily for you, you have to pay your dues and if you take good care of every stage of the process there are higher possibilities that your final product will succeed and exceed your expectations. This is true even when you do 30 seconds films that most people call advertisements.

Yeah, it’s very possible that I will become serious about filmmaking and I just needed to outpour all my thoughts before the next stage. One of the good things about having a blog is that you have a place to share with others –especially my known readers- whatever you feel like sharing.

Know it is a long post that many will not read, but if you reached this line, perhaps I could get any type of feedback from you (for my known readers please send me an e-mail!) and will be most welcomed.

Thanks and be happy!

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