Posts Tagged ‘Film Independent’


Spirit Awards 2010 Nominations – 2. December, 2009

The Spirit Awards were announced yesterday and I’d say there were few surprises. Still, that’s just me. This IndieWire writer was surprised 10 times. I was going to discuss the nominations but guest commentator Dark Tony insisted on adding his filthy two cents in the form of a point-by-point rebuttal to the IndieWire article. That means this post is NSFW so lock up your daughters and send the kids to the neighbor’s because the beast is unleashed.

  1. I didn’t see THE LAST STATION but it has a shitload of quote-unquote big indie actors, a studio director slumming and zero box-office mojo so why wouldn’t FIND pick them up off the streets? It’s like their own… what’s that classic… about making that chic acceptable to society… oh, yeah, PRETTY WOMAN.
  2. Didn’t see GOODBYE SOLO but I did see A SERIOUS MAN and I’m calling it backlash for the Coen Brothers’ new idea of what makes an ending. Seriously guys, why do you keep jerking us around? It ends just as a tornado touches down? You fucking bail just when something is about to happen? You could have put TWISTER to shame and it’s hard to top Jan DeBont but you chickened out. Get fucked!
  3. Dude, it’s the indie world. They like stories about, you know, minorities, especially when they’re told by other minorities. As for that one that was just like the one from last year but was total bullshit, you know the one, by that guy that spends way too much on music videos, fuck, I mean, FIND needs some pretty people at their event and they don’t get prettier than the vapid looking magic-pixie-nutty girl or whatever the fuck that fucking new movie cliche is.
  4. You’re gonna dog PARANORMAL ACTIVITY? That guy made billions of dollars by cutting together home videos of his annoying friends. That guy should be made CEO of GM.
  5. Who?
  6. They’re the kings of making fake indie movies that make real money. Hey, make those guys in charge of GM.
  7. I once partied with that fucker. No, seriously, I did, and he thought I was a crazy fucker.
  8. Man, one’s about tuna additive and the other, shit, who the fuck watches documentaries?
  9. The world needs some fresh tail.
  10. That lot, you know they loved getting slapped. That’s right, you’re a bad girl. You want another?

Jesus, that guys is an a**hole! Thank God he’s only a guest commentator on my blog… but for the record, one of those ten rebuttal points is true.


Posted in Industry

Let’s Get Meta Bitches! – 17. October, 2009

Good news: Film Independent saw my blog post/review of last weekend’s Filmmaker Forum and not only did they repost my blog (click image to see more)


They also put me on the front page (click image to see more).


The bad news: they edited out my “more critical” points but “they appreciate my candor.” Also, they recently email blasted members with a review of the Filmmaker Forum but only included some other guy’s softball regurgitation of the weekend.


Three cheers for brutal candor!


Posted in General

Filmmaker Forum 2009 – 12. October, 2009

This past weekend I attended the 2009 Filmmaker Forum, an examination of the ever changing face of independent film hosted by Film Independent. What follows is a fuzzy recounting of my weekend.


While Jeremy Thomas has had a successful and varied career, his speech was neither an in-depth examination of the indie film industry nor was it a forecast of the impending doom and the blue skies to follow. it wasn’t terrible but it won’t set the blogosphere afire. Saturday’s highlights were:

1) Linda Lichter. As a panelist, she was frank and honest and always cut through the bulls**t. She also always reminded the other panelist that while their version of indie was a $5 million film with Luke Wilson, most of us  were making films for less than a million, often less than a $100k. Linda, if you’re reading this, I want to tell you that you’re a rock star (too bad I already have an awesome lawyer).

2) Peter Broderick. While every other panel should have been titled “why indie film sucks and it’ll only get harder for you” Peter actually brought us hope and inspiration. He told us that we can still make our films and find an audience. Is it harder than ever? Yes, of course, but the tools are there for us to shape out destiny. Thanks, Peter.

3) Lizzie Gillett. First, she crowd-funded a documentary. Second, she had a virtual world premiere where both Moby and Thom Yorke played. Third, she appeared via Skype from the UK. Fourth, I think she’s really cute and she might be single.

4) Richard Klubeck. If he quits the industry, NPR should pick him up. He has a great radio voice.

5) Ron Yerxa. Did a great job moderating a panel plus he was impeccably dressed. As the weekend progressed I realized he wears the same uniform but I still give him points for trying.


I was a bit more out of it this day. I’ll get into that in a bit but here were my highlights

1) “Distribution Case Studies”, “Day & Date: Three Years and Counting” and “New Uses for Film Festivals” panels. These were lively panels and I actually knew two of the panelists (Steak House & Jon Reiss). During each discussion, panelists started interrupting each other, correcting each other, throwing down. In short, it was the perfect kick in the ass to a sleepy Sunday.

2) The following quote constitutes a highlight: “international pre-sales for indies aren’t dead. You bring me an action thriller with Jason Statham and I’ll get you a ton of money out of Germany.” BTW, that was said sincerely and with a straight face.

3) Finally using hash tags in Twitter. I still don’t really understand them (Marsha Collier explained them enough to me so that I’m no longer in the dark) but I started using them and suddenly I saw some of the power and scope of Twitter.

4) Seeing my friend Abby and getting to wish her a happy birthday in person.


The big difference for me this year versus previous years are the meetings I’d set up. If you read my earlier post, you know I had meetings with a distributor, a CE, an agent and a consultant. So active/charming/fearless was I that I also met with three managers and one more agent. Almost every meeting went well. Sure, not all meetings ended with “send me your stuff”, how could they when, say for example, you only rep directors with Canadian passports, but four of them ended with “send me your stuff.”

Let me repeat: I impressed 4 people enough for them to ask me to send my stuff their way. Will they read/watch my stuff? Probably not; that’ll get farmed out to an assistant or intern, but I got my toe jammed into four doors and I call that a major f**king accomplishment.

Time to rest.

(Ha! Yeah, right. I wish.)

Mini Meetings – 8. October, 2009

Wondering about the radio silence? Yes, I am back from all my travels but I’m also attending the Filmmaker Forum by Film Independent this weekend. It’s a 2-day seminar on the current-yet-always-evolving state of independent film.

I know, I know, you’re saying “attending a seminar shouldn’t preclude you from blogging regularly” but I also I signed up for their IndieLink. Normally an IndieLink is a moderated meet-and-greet between two groups of up-and-comping professionals. For example, they regularly have ones where directors and producers get together with composers.

For the Filmmaker Forum, they’re a bit differnt. This time around they’re 10-minute meetings with industry professionals. I sent in my preferences expecting to maybe get one meeting but probably get shutout.

Imagine my surprise when I scored four big meetings. This Saturday, in the space of one hour, I’m meeting with a distributor, a creative executive, an agent and a hybrid distribution consultant.

Therefore, I’ve been doing my homework for the past few days. I’ve been studying up on the kinds of films they package/sell/distribute. I’ve also been trying to figure out how I want to spend my time with them and how to make their time with me, at the very least, pleasant.

In ten minutes, I have to tell them how awesome I am without coming off as an arrogant or clueless jerk. I also have to tell them about one rad project I’m working on, a project that will prove to them that I’m a filmmaker they should want to track.

I think I have a strategy.

  • For the distributor, I can talk about my recently shot feature, ask what kind of distribution is typical for a film of its size and how I can best position my film (as is) for niche distributors.
  • For the hybrid distribution consultant I can also talk about my feature but I also have a multimedium project (aka, transmedia) that I can mention. I’ll be sure to ask about the possibilities/realities of generating revenue for such a project through non-traditional streams, how to maximize social media exposure and the possibilities of sponsorships (I keep thinking Nerve or Match might be a good fit for my feature).
  • As for the CE, I can talk about my feature as well as these two scripts I’m cooking up; one a twist on the bromance genre and the other a haunted house/possession story.
  • As for the agent, I should cover the aforementioned projects while also talking about my recently completed TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES spec and the CHUCK and/or FRINGE spec I’ll write next… but of course I’d rather be directing those shows.
  • I have to engage these people, get their advice and expertise, while pitching myself (and my works, both current and future) without coming off as a desperate creative.

    So, is there something I’m missing? Am I misguided in my logic and approach? What’s your advice?

    Posted in Education, Industry

    A Mash Note to Rachel Rosen – 11. August, 2009

    In my lifetime as a filmgoer, I’ve been to over a thousand screenings that were followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers and 99.9% of them were God f**king awful. I mean so bad you’d want to sacrifice your first born to Odin in the hope that he strike dead all those that approach the microphone.

    Now, a good portion of these are awful because the subjects are boring but more often than not it’s the moderator, or lack of moderator, that is to blame. God help me every time the film ended, the lights went up and the “moderator” said, “wasn’t that great? Okay, the director is here and I’m gonna turn it over to you to ask him/her questions.” These “moderators” think they’re doing the audience a favor by allowing us more time to engage the filmmaker but instead we have to suffer through “how much did it cost?” and “how long did it take to shoot?” or other equally inane questions.

    No, a good moderator asks the smart questions that illicit intriguing answers from subjects and leave the audience to ponder “that was a really good question, way better than what I was going to ask. Maybe there are stupid questions and they’re mine. Oh God, I hope I have a razor blade so I can end my life of insipid question asking and no longer bring shame upon my family name.”

    Okay, yes, I’m am prone to hyperbole and that was a strong dose of “Dark Tony” but if you’d sat through as many awful Q&As as I have, you’d understand.

    So it is with that preamble and with great sadness that I announce the departure of Rachel Rosen from Film Independent. Not only was she a great director of programming but she was one of the best damn moderators I’d ever seen in action. How good was she? When I was at Sundance in 2007, I saw her on a bus and I pushed my way through the crowd just so I could sit next to her and gush about how well she ran a FIND Q&A.

    Yes, she’s that good.

    So, with a bit of sadness (I never had the pleasure of having Rachel moderate a Q&A for one of my films) I wish her the best of luck in her return to San Francisco.

    Posted in General

    Consult This: Music Rights – 11. June, 2009

    Dan Wilcox, KCRW DJ and Music Supervisor, held a small lecture about music rights for movies at Film Independent and it was… well, here’s what I learned.

  • For a low-budget film, the music supervisor’s salary could be anywhere from $4-10k but that is, like everything else, negotiable.
  • When licensing a pop song, there are two sets of rights to deal with. First, there are the master rights, sometimes called the sync license. This allows you to play the performance. Next, you have to acquire the publishing rights. This allows you to perform the song. Confused? Let’s use “All Along The Watchtower” as an example. Bob Dylan wrote the song so you need to secure the publishing rights from him. But let’s also say you want to use the Jimi Hendrix version so you need a sync license from his estate.
  • Sometimes you can acquire rights as a step deal where you pay a small fee for each step (festivals, theatrical, DVD, etc.). According to Dan, this is almost always a bad idea. You’ll end up paying more in the end and distributors will treat you as if you have the plague.
  • Expect to pay 30-50% more if you’re using the song over the opening or closing credits.
  • Two sites you should become acquainted with: BMI and ASCAP.
  • Some labels/publishers/ariststs have a “most favored nations” clause in their contract. This basically says that everyone gets paid the same. Try and talk folks out of this if you plan on using one super popular song. Imagine your film features 9 songs by unknowns. You agree to $5k for each song but there’s a “most favored nations” clause. Now, for your 10th song, you license a Rolling Stones track for $500k. Guess what? Suddenly you’re paying $500k per song for each of the 10 songs.
  • Try using something in the public domain.
  • Truth is, I knew most of this stuff from previous attempts to license pop songs. Those experiences were so painful I’ve had an aversion to licensing popular music since. But who knows, maybe with this next movie I might try it again. There’s this one song I feel I gotta have and, well, what the heart desires, right?

    On a final note, let me leave you with one of Dan’s sets.

    Shop Talk: Music Videos & Commercials – 14. May, 2009

    Recently FIND held another lecture in their “Shop Talk” series, this time inviting director Chris Milk to speak about working in, and breaking into, the commercial and music video world.

    First, it should be noted that Chris moved backwards through these industries. He first landed in the corporate jungle of Madison Avenue as a commercial director before venturing into the wild west of music videos (why do most directors start with music videos? Because it’s easier to convince a bunch of addle headed musicians that you should direct the video for their third single than it is to convince Murray the used car lot owner to fork over a big chunk of his advertising budget for you to helm his late-night local television spot).

    For reference, here’s a commercial by Chris (a spec ad, I suspect):

    And here’s his video for “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” by Gnarls Barkley:

    Second, he confirmed everyone’s fears – as the country goes, so do these industries. We all know the music industry has gone to hell. Gone are the days of million dollar music videos. Today, a major band is lucky to get a low six-figure budget for their first single; I know someone that was offered a $10k budget for an effects heavy third single by an artist that’s huge (I mean HUGE) on KROQ. Chris seems to think that the ideal newcomer will not only be able to shoot great footage but will also have the postproduction expertise to make $5k look like $50k.

    Unfortunately commercials, once seen as the safe haven for highly paid helmers, are also seeing their budgets slashed. These days advertising executives are looking for young talent to create viral campaigns. FYI, viral should be defined as “we won’t give you any money so you have to scrounge up the equipment yourself and we want it done in a week.” Chris mentioned that there’s really only one industry that still spends lavish amounts on their commercials — the pharmaceutical industry. Still not deterred? According to Chris there’s one last thing you gotta do: brand yourself. Are you the funny, shaky-cam guy whose work reminds folks of THE OFFICE or are you the guy that can shoot table-top so well that you’ll make all the lactose intolerant Americans rush to their phones, credit cards in hand, when they see your ad for Domino’s new extra cheesy family pizza? Wanna be both? No can do. Production companies are looking for consistency and reliability they can pitch to ad agencies. Want to stretch your creativity? That’s what music videos are for.

    Personally, I’ve always been interested in music videos and commercials. Years ago I pitched like crazy on a rock video but in the end felt like I got screwed by the talent so I gave it up (lesson learned: getting screwed over isn’t personal, it’s strictly business).

    I also had a brush with the commercial industry after winning awards for this, a Philips Electronics spec ad/PSA hybrid:

    At one point I had a Japanese company contacting me, asking me to pitch some ideas for their Pepsi-man campaign. I sent in a few ideas but never heard from them again (lesson learned: while domestic ad agencies might ask a handful of directors to pitch on their boards, foreign companies will invite dozens, if not more, to submit their take).

    I was also told that I should shoot a Coke spec ad. The catch: I’d have to pay for it out my own pocket. Yikes! Not only was spending $30k (I kid you not) of my own money on a spec ad just not a possibility for me, it just felt wrong. I thought if I had $30k I should make something personal, not a commercial for a ridiculously wealthy multinational.

    But there I go again talking about “personal” when I should know that it’s strictly business.

    So what now? I’d love to direct a music video and/or commercial. Doing a very low-budget spec ad or video isn’t out of the question but first I think I need to build up my After Effects skills.

    Free Money – 8. February, 2009

    Film Independent & Netflix are offering an opportunity of a lifetime. One lucky first-time filmmaker will win $150k along with goods & services from Panavision & EFilm. Just know that they’re only accepting the first 2,000 entries and the deadline, February 9, is just a couple of days away so don’t delay.

    Posted in General

    “Consult This: Getting Started In TV – Writers & Directors” – 28. January, 2009

    Part 2 of the last FIND seminar featured a couple of NBC/Universal executives delivering this message: it’s hard for writers and harder for directors to break into TV. They both suggested checking out the NBC diversity website, applying to the Comedy Short Cuts competition and their Writers on the Verge program. They also suggested the directing programs at NBC (a professional must nominate you), CBS and ABC/Disney.

    As they answered questions for the majority of the event, let me highlight a few useful answers.

    1. Have at least 2 TV scripts: one spec of a current TV show and another of an original pilot.
    2. Lower lever comedy staff jobs are all about the jokes. Have great jokes.
    3. You must develop your own personal brand (or as a previous employer once put it, “why do I want to spend 10 hours a day with you?”)
    4. Treat your first meeting like a blind date. You want to impress.

    Enough blogging. Time to get cracking.

    Posted in Education

    “Consult This: Getting Started in TV – Writers & Producers” – 9. January, 2009

    This time Film Independent hosted a seminar concentrating on how writers and producers break into hour-long scripted dramas. Brian Peterson (Co-Executive Producer, SMALLVILLE) gave out a few pointers to would be TV spec writers (like me) between dishing on the brutal truth of writing and producing a network show.  A few of the best tips:

  • You have to be a fast writer. Usually you get 2 weeks to script an episode but 3 days isn’t unheard of.
  • Have no more than 3 lines of action ever. If it starts to look like a block quotation, consider a job with Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • It seems like everyone can write decent dialog (Really? I find that hard to believe.) but they all forget the emotion.
  • Focus on the main characters. This isn’t a minor character’s time to shine.
  • Use every location twice. It shows you know the show and can write within the budget.
  • Don’t have more than 2-3 people per scene. More people means more money spent.
  • Don’t save your best hook for the end of the episode; use it at the end of act one.
  • Don’t try to keep ahead of the show’s weekly developments. Couch you episode in the previous season. This shows you can work within their parameters.
  • Honestly, that last one struck the loudest chord in me. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve been trying to write a spec for TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES but have yet to finish it because I’ve been fighting to stay ahead of show. Unfortunately, once I have my spec plotted out, something happens on the show that forces me to alter my structure or my b-story or consider another character or… you get the picture.

    Posted in Education