Any Producers Lurking Here? (Looking For Advice)

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  • #16
    I've made a few shorts. Everything has been on a shoestring budget. It sounds like you're looking to produce something a little more involved. Nevertheless I would offer the following advice.
    • For actors reach out to local acting schools. There are people of all ages that enroll in those classes, many are invested in pursuing it as a career and will jump on any opportunity to be in anything. I've been impressed by the quality of actor I've worked with.
    • For crew, there are meetups and communities for filmmakers, where a lot of behind the camera people get together. They work on productions that come through town and/or do a lot of local corporate work. Many will jump at the chance to do something creative.
    • I usually write a draft of what I want, then revise it into something I can realistically produce once I've started to put together a cast and have a good sense of what will be possible.
    • Be prepared to constantly re-write and edit scenes on the fly because there are hurdles everywhere - actor has to leave at certain time, location doesn't the way you imagined, people in the area not cooperating, and a million other things.
    • Don't settle for mediocre for a shot or scene. The lack of available time sometimes leads to sacrifices on takes, etc, which you hope to cut around, but it's rare. Make sure you're happy with it. Pickups with small budget are unrealistic.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Rantanplan View Post

      ETA: found that filmmaking forum: https://www.dvxuser.com/ Kind of like a Done Deal Pro for filmmakers. I would definitely suggest checking it out and asking some questions there. It seems pretty active, too. 900 people online right now.
      I spent a lot of time on that dvxuser forum. Good stuff.

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      • #18
        Couple points I want to address. I don't want anything for free other than insight that I can use for further research. I'm a professional. Not a charity case.

        That said. I probably could get some friends to help me out for a little less than their usual rate in exchange for hiring them for a key position or doing them a solid on a different gig or by giving them a starring role if they're an actor.

        And yes. I am a little snobby. I said as much. But you also have to look at it from my perspective. Years ago I did indie stuff. These days I do stuff that's slightly bigger, more complex, and more demanding on a number of levels. It's an overwhelming leap at first because there really isn't anything to prepare you for it, and even the 30 year vets that are much better at their jobs than I am are still learning, but after you've done the pro stuff, you do look at indie productions and consumer grade equipment (and professional productions and professional gear) in a different light because you can see how and why things get f*cked up and don't come out right, so you develop preferences based on what you know works in certain situations and what is reliable.

        But thanks for some of the advice tossed around in here. That filmmaking forum definitely seems helpful.

        But alas, I ran the numbers, and my theoretical base camera, lighting, and audio package would cost about 100k on its own, and I'm not even looking at the best gear money can buy. It would also make more sense for me to buy than rent because the ultimate costs are roughly equivalent, and if I owned, I could at least use it to start a company and get some of my money back by renting it out and using it to land gaffing and DP gigs or whatever. An interesting idea, but a little crazy because while I do okay, I'm not exactly rich either and could also use one of those house things to live in.

        I think self-financing is out of the question, but I guess I could look at marketing my script and doing some fundraising next year and see what happens. As for buying all that gear, maybe that's something future Prezzy can mull over if he beefs up his savings a bit (a lot) more.
        Last edited by Prezzy; 12-23-2021, 08:50 PM.

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        • #19
          The first thing is to have a script you are passionate about making. Do you have that yet? I know you have many scripts, but do you have the one you want to put all your heart and soul into?

          Also most movies are made (as you know) with rented equipment. I think renting is the way to go unless you do want to be a full time DP making other people's stuff come true. But to me, you find a DP and they have equipment and you pay them for their time and they bring the equipment too. You are working on real movies and I'm in making a 15,000 dollar indie movie in NYC mindset with 2-4 actors -- so we aren't seeing eye to eye -- but even if you are shooting higher -- renting and finding a DP still make sense.

          Start with the spec. Get people interested. Maybe you hook up with 2-4 other hungry up and comers. A producer. A DP. A lead actor. Pull your resources. The least important part is the equipment. You know that first hand. I mean a bad director or bad script or bad actor doesn't get saved by the million dollars worth of production value.

          I spend all my time researching best mini-DV cameras and fair use law and all these other things that did NOT help me make a movie. AS I never did. I did not focused on the right things. Fear lead me to dream and consider, but never act on my goal of making my own movie. It's a big regret. I think about fixing all the time. I hope one my specs becomes a movie and that dream is fulfilled that way. But still it's better to control your own destiny than to hope and wait. Trust me.

          Why not make a 10K dollar feature first than you can make your 2nd one the bigger budget thing you have in your head.

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          • #20
            I would sink more money into a name actor instead of spending most of your budget on the best gear out there. Most people do not go see a movie for the quality of the image, unless it's a big blockbuster special effects kind of movie and that's one of the very reasons it exists. You seem to not really care who's in your movie from the way you mention that if the person's an actor, you'll give them a starring role in exchange for a reduced rate. That sounds to me like your priorities are mixed up, but you also haven't really said much about the script, so it's hard to tell.

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            • #21
              Hey Prezzy; have you ever heard of Studio Binder on YouTube? They have a lot of great videos that might help you. At least on the budgeting end.

              https://www.youtube.com/c/StudioBind...uery=budgeting

              it's a great resource. I think it covers scene breakdowns. I know two writer directors: one who has written, directed and produced her own feature. And another writer directing her first short. If you want to send me a few questions I can forward it to them to see if they can respond.

              https://www.musicbed.com/blog/filmma...ie-film-budget

              What you might need is ways to cheat on your budget. I remember listening to James Cameron on his Masterclass talking about how to use practical locations to reduce your budget, for example, in Terminator he filmed on a street where there were car dealerships because every towns has a road filled with them and they are usually lit up at night. So those helped him mitigate the expense of night filming because he didn't need to supply all the lights.

              So a good portion of reducing your budget is finding ways to do it cheaper.

              I haven't done it myself, so I can't speak from experience, but it you need a helping hand, I live in LA and if I can navigate my day job, I volunteer. It's sounds like you've got it covered, but I'm willing to help.

              You're right, it looks like the person you'd be best to talk to is a producer.

              Good luck,
              FA4
              "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
              Hollywood producer

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Rantanplan View Post
                I would sink more money into a name actor instead of spending most of your budget on the best gear out there. Most people do not go see a movie for the quality of the image, unless it's a big blockbuster special effects kind of movie and that's one of the very reasons it exists. You seem to not really care who's in your movie from the way you mention that if the person's an actor, you'll give them a starring role in exchange for a reduced rate. That sounds to me like your priorities are mixed up, but you also haven't really said much about the script, so it's hard to tell.
                Allow me to correct myself as I misspoke a little. I would not offer a role to an actor for a reduced rate. I would just hire an actor whose rate isn't as high to begin with.

                Crew rates are a bit more flexible as we work off a tiered system depending on movie budget and position. I make more as a regular lighting technician on my current gig than the gaffer did on my last movie. He knew he could have made more money in a lesser role on another film, but wanted the gaffer credit because he was focused on long term career goals.

                Perhaps my priorities just aren't your priorities though. I care who is in my movie. Just not in the way you would. I've worked with plenty of actors who maybe aren't names you would know, but are plenty talented and would suit certain roles that I've written or fit my artistic style overall. More importantly, I'm comfortable with them as people because I know them. Due to my anxiety ridden nature, I work much better when I'm relaxed, so that's also a quality I seek in people I work with.

                Would I like a name actor? Sure. I know some name actors that have those qualities too, but I'd be more than happy to elevate a lesser known actor that can rock the role if I can't get those people for whatever reason.

                As for gear, I think you underestimate its importance, both to me and audiences in general. I use gear to make money and advance my career and am constantly investing in equipment because of what I currently do, so it has value to me regardless.

                As for audiences, you are so wrong in the assertion that audiences only care about gear in blockbuster movies. Most movies, even successful indies that don't try to do too much, are still shot using expensive cameras, expensive lights, and expensive sound equipment. Why? Because A) cameras, lights, and audio equipment aren't cheap to begin with, even the cheap ones and B) when those things aren't used, audiences can tell because those are the movies that have that amateurish B-movie vibe that just looks off and is a red flag to people that this movie may not be worth their time.
                Last edited by Prezzy; 12-24-2021, 08:49 PM.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                  Hey Prezzy; have you ever heard of Studio Binder on YouTube? They have a lot of great videos that might help you. At least on the budgeting end.

                  https://www.youtube.com/c/StudioBind...uery=budgeting

                  it's a great resource. I think it covers scene breakdowns. I know two writer directors: one who has written, directed and produced her own feature. And another writer directing her first short. If you want to send me a few questions I can forward it to them to see if they can respond.

                  https://www.musicbed.com/blog/filmma...ie-film-budget

                  What you might need is ways to cheat on your budget. I remember listening to James Cameron on his Masterclass talking about how to use practical locations to reduce your budget, for example, in Terminator he filmed on a street where there were car dealerships because every towns has a road filled with them and they are usually lit up at night. So those helped him mitigate the expense of night filming because he didn't need to supply all the lights.

                  So a good portion of reducing your budget is finding ways to do it cheaper.

                  I haven't done it myself, so I can't speak from experience, but it you need a helping hand, I live in LA and if I can navigate my day job, I volunteer. It's sounds like you've got it covered, but I'm willing to help.

                  You're right, it looks like the person you'd be best to talk to is a producer.

                  Good luck,
                  FA4
                  I LOVE studiobinder. They do great work, and I believe their stuff is an adequate substitute for film school, which in my opinion, isn't worth it for most (not all) people entering the industry anyway. Well, not my opinion. Moreso the people I work with that went to film school lol

                  And you're right about the James Cameron thing. It's actually a fun mental game to try and consider workarounds to make things cheaper. As a comedy writer, sometimes I even integrate the cost saving ideas I come up with during the writing process into my jokes. I love that kind of planning and problem solving, and is perhaps why I'm cocky enough to think I could direct a feature with a decently sized budget and not cause the whole production to descend into utter chaos.

                  But yeah, I'd be interested in taking you up on the offer to forward some questions to your friends. I'll DM you with them sometime over the next few days once the holiday stuff settles down.

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                  • #24
                    Great.. Enjoy the holidays.
                    "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                    Hollywood producer

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                    • #25
                      You too. Thanks, FA4.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Prezzy View Post

                        As for audiences, you are so wrong in the assertion that audiences only care about gear in blockbuster movies. Most movies, even successful indies that don't try to do too much, are still shot using expensive cameras, expensive lights, and expensive sound equipment. Why? Because A) cameras, lights, and audio equipment aren't cheap to begin with, even the cheap ones and B) when those things aren't used, audiences can tell because those are the movies that have that amateurish B-movie vibe that just looks off and is a red flag to people that this movie may not be worth their time.
                        I disagree. The things you're describing are tools. You just need to figure out which tools are right for your job. Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh have made features using iPhones, which were appropriate for the look and feel they were trying to achieve. Expensive doesn't directly correlate with better quality.

                        The one area you can't skimp on is sound. You can get away with a lot, but bad sound is a definitive mark of a low quality production.

                        There are also many hacks that save a ton of money. I read once that Jean-Luc Godard used a wheelchair for dolly shots. I do the same thing. I made a pseudo-stedi cam rig for less than $50 in parts from Home Depot. Those are things that could cost hundreds or thousands a day that can be re-produced at home and give the same effect on screen.

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                        • #27
                          To be clear, I wasn't saying that a film shouldn't look good--today's audiences are sophisticated and won't stand for something with sub-par production values. I'm saying that for many kinds of movies, the look of the film is not the reason you're planning on spending money to see it. It's the actors and the story, sometimes the director.

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                          • #28
                            I understand what you're saying, Rantanplan. I think what I'm saying is audiences don't consciously choose a film based on the look, but it is a subconscious factor in their evaluation of whether they'll watch it or not at the very least. If you're doing things right, no one will notice it at all. But if you do it wrong, they sure will.

                            Zetiago, are also correct. Expensive doesn't directly relate to better quality. But putting the right gear in the right hands does. It is also true that expensive can also compensate for a lack of skill and make a hack look like a genius to the untrained eye.

                            And you're also correct that Sean Baker had success with Tangerine. But I'm not going to lie, the look of that film still hurts it. At least for me. The aesthetic of that film gives me panic attacks because of how bad a lot of the shots look, so I have to be in a very particular mood to watch it. This isn't unique to Tangerine and iPhone movies though. I have trouble engaging with films that have lackluster cinematography because it disrupts my immersion into the story.

                            But yes, never skimp on sound gear. I always tell the sound guys on my crew that they're more important than anybody on that given production.

                            While you can get away with sh*tty rigs (a term I use with much affection) to get a job done, it is a good idea to know when it's worth investing the money in good tools. Sometimes the quality they give you simply cannot be reproduced by an inferior product.

                            EDIT: Side note. I know the guy who runs the company, and he'd probably kill me for saying this, but my favorite sh*tty rig of all time is someone using two 8 foot Quasars as a dolly track. F*cking hilarious.

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                            • #29
                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZeWOAliA6Y

                              I love Duplass. I got to get my own fat ass off the couch and make my own film too.

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