Wow….did that just happen? The better question is, How in the Hell did that happen? How exactly did Warren Beatty announce “La La Land” as the “Best Picture” winner, only to have it reversed in favor of “Moonlight” moments later when “La La Land'” producer Jordan Horowitz?
Warren Beatty claims there was a mix-up with the envelopes, but that’s not what Emma Stone says: (click on her image below).
In fact, here are her exact words when the media asked her to comment on being involved in the greatest Oscar scandal of all time. “I don’t mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card. So I’m not sure what happened,” Stone said. In other words, Warren Beatty couldn’t have been handed Emma Stone’s envelope, if Emma Stone was clutching onto it backstage.
Accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers claims there are always two envelopes for each winning category – a statement they made during BBC interview earlier in the week, so it is conceivable the mix-up was valid.
Hmmm, sounds like we’ve got a healthy conspiracy theory brewing. Here’s a quick clip of the debacle:
In any case, “Moonlight,” a $1.5 million dollar independently financed coming-of-age film about a gay black teenager in a rough neighbor in Miami, became the smallest budgeted film to ever win “Best Picture” at the Oscars, Should you be wondering what the next smallest budget to win the “Best Picture,” was, that would be “Precious,” (released in 2009 and won the “Best Picture” Oscar in 2010), which had a $10 million budget.
“Moonlight,” which was released on October 21, 2016, has earned $21,520,324 at the box office domestically, and another $3,689,457 internationally, giving it a combined box office total of $25,209,781.
Furthermore, in addition to “Moonlight,” earning the “Best Picture” award, it also won two more Oscars; Mahershala Ali won for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role,” and director Barry Jenkins won the “Best Adapted Screenplay,” Oscar alongside Tarell Alvin McCraney, who based the script on his own play, “Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”
Minority artists had a big night at the 89th annual Academy Awards. In addition to Moonlight’s well-deserved wins, Viola Davis won the “Best Actress in a Supporting Role,” Oscar for “Fences,” and Ezra Edelman won “Best Feature Film Documentary” for “O.J.: Made in America.” Additionally, here are other key points on how the evening parted from the status quo:
The 2017 edition of the Academy Awards marked the first time that black actors were nominated in each of the four major acting categories.
Six black actors were nominated in the top four acting categories.
Four of the five “Best Documentary” nominees were black, including the winner, Ezra Edleman for “O.J.: Made in America,” which, at 467 minutes, also set the record for being the longest film to ever win an Oscar.
After the outcry of #Oscarsowhite in 2015, the Academy invited 683 new Academy Members; from 59 different countries; 41% of which are women and 46% of which are non-white. But, never in a million years did I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would correct itself in front of millions of viewers on TV and countless streaming services, but they did and I, for one, am thankful. So, things are changing, ever so slowly, but markedly, which is good.
On that note, I’ll wrap up today’s article. By the way, Should you be as so kind to lend me your ears, please check out the iTunes link to my podcast, Limping on Cloud 9. Additionally, here is a link to our website: Limping on Cloud 9. I’d like to once again thank you for lending me your eyes.
Hey everybody, I hope you had an epic week. As we all know, every single creative person in the entertainment industry hears the word “no” far more than he or she hears “yes.” Thus, my intension today is to provide you with situations where saying “no” is the best move for both you and your project. So, without further ado, here are four situations where saying “no” to a contract clause, benefits your film’s financial success.
No Automatic Contract Extensions Without Performance
When going over your film, TV, VOD and or Over the Top network distribution offer, one key point to look for are extensions mentioned in your license term. Many distributors will try to sneak in extension verbiage somewhere in your contract, which will be heavily beneficial toward them. Of course, it’s your job as the filmmaker to protect your own interests, i.e. the interests of your film.
Here is what to look out for:
Your contract with your sales agent/distributor calls for five years, but due to an “automatic extension” clause, embedded somewhere in the contract, you could be signing your film away for 20 years or more, without knowing it. They say “ignorance is bliss,” for a reason; meaning if you failed to read your contract thoroughly, or have it read by an entertainment attorney, then it’s your fault for not catching the distributor sneaking an automatic extension clause into your contract. Our industry is flooded with shrewd negotiators who will always take as much as they can get, so be careful. Of course, it’s always smart to include a performance-based extension clause based on the amount of sales your distributor/sales agent generates.
Here’s some more stuff to get fired up about:
No License Reassignment Without Approval
Another thing to look out for is giving your distributor or sales agent the ability to reassign your film (sell it to another sales company) without your approval. The main problems with allowing your sales agent/distributor to reassign your rights are a) the company your sales agent/distributor reassigns your rights to has no relationship to you or your film. They’re probably receiving your film in a “bundle,” where several films are “fire-sold” together at a deep discount and b) your film will have to adhere to the rules and regulations of a new contract from a company you may not have ever met or heard of. Thus, your film should rest with the sales agent/distributor you originally signed with, until or unless you agree with the reassignment.
No Licensing Without Bankruptcy Protection
Demanding this clause as part of your contract will save you a tremendous amount of headache and heartache. What you want is to protect your film’s future in the event your sales agent/distributor files for bankruptcy. A smart move here would be to make sure your film can’t be included in the sales agent/distributor’s list of assets when they file bankruptcy. You may want to have your lawyer write a clause that says your film’s rights revert directly back to you the moment your distributor/sales agent files for bankruptcy. If you fail to do this, your film will be tied up in bankruptcy court.
No Percentage Based Administrative Costs Without Ceilings
Many contracts try to gather additional administrative fees through percentage clauses. This is never good for the filmmaker, unless reasonable “cost ceilings” are built into the contract. For example, let’s say your distributor is asking for $50,000 in administrative fees, plus 20% of the sales they generate for your film, both of which are normal. But, if they want an additional 15% in advertising and marketing costs (or any additional costs for that matter) based on the sales they make, then you’re getting royally screwed if there is no “spending ceiling” on the deal.
Assumption #1: Your sales agent/distributor is signed to receive $50,000 in administrative fees +20% of sales.
Assumption #2: They generate $500,000 in sales for your film.
You are already paying them $50,000 for their admin fees and $100,000 more for their 20% sales fee (20% of $500,000 = $100,000). Thus, they are earning $150,000.
If you allow them an additional 15% for marketing and advertising, you’d owe them $75,000 more (15% of $500,000 = $75,000).
3. This totals $225,000 out of $500,000 for the distributor.
Thus, the smart move would be to put a ceiling on the amount of marketing and advertising costs your distributor/sales agent can recoup off sales. Whether that number is $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or more, you need to have a finite monetary amount on those “additional costs,” so that the distributor can’t drain you dry.
And for good measure, Here’s a Ted X talk on the art off saying “No.”
Okay, that’s the (lack of) genius I have for you today. However, before I go, here’s a link to my podcast, Limping On Cloud 9. My podcast has nothing to do with the film industry, but it is positivity infused, quirky and a bit offbeat. Limping On Cloud 9 is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Additionally, here’s a link to our website, which includes pictures and descriptions of each podcast.
Hey, friends. I hope you’re had a wildly productive week, or at least a mildly relaxing one. Today I’m presenting a $50,000 question:
I’ve got $50,000 and a cinematic dream. How I can maximize my money into order to launch my career to the next level?
Now that’s a question most filmmakers have to answer at some point, so without further ado, here are my answers.
First Things First
Your initial action should be to decide what you want out of the project. Do you want money? Fame? Do you desire more money than fame, more fame than money? Being honest with yourself with help you clarify how to best spend your investment funds.
Growing Your Budget
If your $50,000 is readily available and verifiable, multiplying your budget shouldn’t be too hard. This is because many investors will consider films with partial funding. They may want to recoup their investment before you can recoup yours, but giving your investors “first position” during the payback stage is a small price to pay to multiply your budget.
Packaging Your Film – The Spend
You could spend all of your $50,000 on attaching a valuable actor (male of female), whose involvement would sharply enhance the value of your film. Make sure the actor is worth a hell of a lot more on the open market, ($500,000+) before you advance the $50,000 to attach their name.
You could also get an actor who normally charges $1 million to agree to a $500,000 out of your budget and them offer him or her payments from the first crop of money that comes in from sales to make up the other $500,000 of their fee. I’d also throw in an executive producer fee and backend profits as a “thank you” to the actor for taking less up front. That way, you’re utilizing your $50,000 to attach and actor worth up to $1,000,000. Not bad, eh?
Marketing, Social Media and Crowd Funding
With $50,000, you can also create and maintain a strong social media presence as well as drive attention to your crowd funding campaign. While I don’t recommend you spend all $50,000 on social media, spending up to $15,000 may make sense ($2,500 per month for six months). Doing so should help you garner enough interest to wrangle an investor or two or more. Furthermore, spending $15,000 on social media should help you get about 150,000 likes or followers across all of your social media accounts.
Book Rights, Life Rights.
One key insight is that you don’t have to spend any of your $50,000 on production. You can just use the funds to acquire or develop A-list source material, like book rights, rights to an article, or life rights of a person in the public eye. I assure you doing so will get you noticed by those who matter.
As for other ways of earning thousands of dollars, here’s a link to Snoop Dog playing for $25,000 during the “Fast Money” round on “Family Feud.”
Okay, that is what I have for you today. But before I go, I’d like to invite you to check out my blog, Limping on Cloud 9 (iTunes). Should you wish to see pictures and descriptions of our podcasts, check out our website:
Hey, everyone! I hope you’re having a great day. Today I’d like to discuss a trap that visually all filmmakers fall into at some point in their careers (I know I did). It’s called the Indie Filmmaker Trap, and it’s more treacherous than loose quicksand.
This is a crucial element of this development process. Here’s what you want to avoid:
1) You write a script you love, so you send it to a few places.
2) Those places say “no,” so you send it to a few more places.
3) The new places say “no,” leaving you frustrated.
4) Instead of rewriting, you make your film yourself.
5) You convince yourself your vision is the only one that matters, and everyone else flat out wrong.
6) You beg friends and family to invest, and some do. However, more than likely, they are investing in “you” not your film; meaning they’re only giving you the amount of money they are wiling to lose, because they know they’re losing it.
7) Encouraged by getting a little bit of outside money, you risk your credit cards, car and other assets to make your film the way you want to make it.
8) Two to three years later, you have a completed film – but it probably has a limited cast and a low production value.
9) You send your film to the same places that rejected your script years earlier.
10) They reject your film, because, a) they passed on it the first time around, b) you have no bankable stars, c) you have no production value and c) you never bothered to change your screenplay/address concerns others had with it to begin with.
The above sequence happens far more than it should, but luckily, The “Indie Filmmaker Trap” is an affliction that can be cured early on. All you have to do is three things:
a) Listen to concerns about your story. If one person has a key concern, thank them for their notes and file the information away. However, if three or more professionals have the same exact issue with your script, it’s time to change it.
b) Get professional coverage, because your friends and family will never tell you what they really think. Remember, studio execs have no vested interest in giving you detailed notes. They don’t have the time for it, nor does it benefit them in any way. All you’ll hear from them is that they liked your film (or script) but it wasn’t in their wheelhouse.
c) Stop banking on the fact you think your film will be the breakout gem that defies the odds and makes you an “overnight sensation.” The truth is, there’s over 11,000 combined shorts, features, documentaries, etc that apply to Sundance alone every year, and you may only hear of five or six of them. What’s even more daunting is of the half-dozen you hear about, less than one per year on average ever makes money, or even makes it into the public eye. As for breakthrough “hits” like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, those only come around every eight to 10 years.
Okay, that’s the (lack of) genius I have for you today. However, before I go, here’s a funny video of “How to be a Filmmaker.”
Furthermore, if you’re an avid (or curious) podcast listener, my podcast is called, Limping on Cloud 9. It has nothing to do with the film industry, but it is positivity infused, quirky and a bit offbeat. Limping On Cloud 9 is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Of course, if you’d like to listen to my podcast while seeing pictures and reading a description on the topic, visit our website below. Thank you for lending me your eyes!
Happy Hump Day, everyone. I hope your Valentines Day was joyful and fun . Getting back to reality, today we’re exploring three quick ways on how to field horrific notes on your scripts or feature films, without jumping off a bridge, or burning a bridge with the person who gave you the notes.
In today’s cinematic world of fragile egos and harsh opinions, the only thing harder than listening to insensitive professionals bash your life’s work, is to actually listen to their suggestions. Since filmmakers have been known to fancy themselves auteurs, the mere thought of altering their vision to enhance the commercial viability of their project turns their stomach. However, ignoring good notes that could turn an edit here and a rewrite there into a distribution deal here and a film festival award there, will turn far more than just your stomach; it’ll saddle you with an unsellable mountain of celluloid that will sharply reverse any forward progress you may have earned in your career.
Thus, here are three tips on how to accept the right advice.
Know Your Project’s Endgame Before You Field Notes
Having a realistic expectation of where your project is headed is key to positioning it for success. Is your project a super low-budget cult classic with no stars, or is it a star-driven, Sundance darling that may win more awards then sell tickets at the box office? While both strategies can do wonders for your career, you should have clear idea as to which path you’re focused on.
Once you figure out what your endgame is, you can start to focus on only the notes and opinions that directly pertain to it. This will help save you a colossal amount of time, because you won’t clutter your mind with 3,168 or so opinions that may not pertain to the current focus of your project.
No Personal Connection To The One Considering Your Work
While it’s comforting to have your family and friends praise your project, their opinions are useless. They have to interact with you on a daily basis, so they’ll be careful about their criticism. Billy Joel said it best in his song Honesty: “Honesty, is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue.” Remember, human nature doesn’t change; it merely evolves. Thus, the solution is to have your work reviewed by respected, professional people who do not have a personal relationship with you. While their notes may be brutal, their praise will be honored and endorsed by all major entities in town.
Beware Of Including Coverage With Your Script Submission
Regardless of how good the coverage, including it with your screenplay will almost guarantee nobody will read your script. Reading five pages is a lot easier than reading 105 pages, so if you give your reader the opportunity to do so, he or she will certainly exercise that option. Furthermore, if you use a high-priced script doctor, some places may question the authenticity of the coverage, because they know you paid a very pretty penny to get it.
Okay, that’s (almost) all I have for you today. Here’s a link to a short video about key screenwriting techniques used in “Gone Girl.”
By the way, should you be as so kind to lend me your ears, please check out the iTunes link to my podcast, Limping on Cloud 9. Additionally, here is a link to our website below. Thank you for lending me your eyes.
Hey everyone. Today we’re going to explore a few key “Copyright Strategies” that can sharply increase the value of your cinematic property. However, before we start strategizing, let’s walk through a few basics first.
The Basics: Copyright Protection in Years
For original work filed by the author under his or her name, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. That’s far greater than the five-year term of a WGA Registration. If you deem your script to be worth a $55 investment, then you should splurge for both registrations ($35 for an Electronic Copyright Registration + $20 for WGA Registration for screenplays from non-WGA writers).
For completed motion pictures, screenplays and related performing arts, an Electronic Copyright is your best bet at $35. Should you prefer to mail in a hard copy of your work, the fee jumps to $85. Here is a link to all of the current copyright fees: https://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html
Completed motion pictures and screenplays require a Form PA, while novels are registered under Form TX. Furthermore, there are “Short Form” versions of the above forms, but they can only be used during if the item being copyrighted is created by one author.
A Copyright’s Validity Begins When….
When registering a claim through the ECO (Electronic Copyright Office), your copyright is valid when you, a) complete the online form, b) pay the required fees and c) upload the material. You’ll also get two confirmation e-mails; one to confirm the successful upload of your material and the other to confirm the receipt of your payment.
Copyrights Stand the Test of (Most) Rewrites.
Regarding screenplays, unless you are completely changing the story, as well as its characters and the names of the characters, there is no need to copyright your script more than once.
When To File a Copyright Claim
Make no mistake, you should always copyright every project you create. However, when you do it can make a world difference to your project’s value.
Consider these insights:
Copyright the material right away, because the year in which a screenplay was written does not adversely affect the value of the literary property.
You should copyright your finished product quickly, unless your film is completed toward the end of the calendar year.
When Not to File a Copyright Claim
Completing a Film in the Last Quarter of the Calendar Year
If you complete your film during the last quarter of the calendar year, it may behoove you to copyright your film in the first week of January, to get the new year’s copyright. Think about it, if you were to buy a new car today, a new 2013 model is far cheaper than a new 2014 model, even though both models are brand-new. It’s the same with films, so do your best to your copyright your film at the beginning of a calendar year as opposed the end of it.
Shy Away From Putting Copyright Information on IMDb
Unless you’re 1000% confident your film will be sold and distributed in the year you finished it, do not list the copyright on your IMDB listing. Just fill that space with question marks. Why? Because if your film is listed on IMDB as a 2017 release and then it takes more than 12-months to get it released, international film buyers will pay far less for that film, thinking you were unable to sell it. Should this sound confusing, here’s an explanation:
December 2016 to January 2017 is only a one month time span, but it counts as one-year on your copyright. December 2015 to January 2017 is only a 13-month time-frame, but that counts as two years on your copyright. Thus, don’t prematurely sabotage the value of your film on IMDB.
Okay friends, that’s what I have for you today. But first, Here’s a quick video called about copyrights, produced by “Crash Course.”
I thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again soon! In the meantime, please check out my new podcast called, “Limping on Cloud 9,”. Here’s our website:
It was February of 2006. I had just returned from my annual birthday trip to the Super Bowl when I learned that an indie producer from the east coast wanted to hire me to rewrite a modern day pirate script. So we met, agreed on the value of my words, and I started writing. A week later my mailbox still hadn’t been graced with a check. After avoiding my first several calls, my “producer” finally answered my call just long enough to try to renegotiate my price. Obviously, mutiny was afoot over my payday.
When we met again, I asked him how his film was being financed. His answer was the most harrowing and painfully unique I’ve ever heard. He claimed his film was going to be financed by lawsuit settlement money from a guy who was run over by a UPS truck and turned into a quadriplegic. Wow! A recent quadriplegic wanting to risk the bulk of his settlement money on the second-most dangerous investment in America (restaurants being the first). What a huge mistake. One thing I was sure about is that I no longer wanted to have anything to do with his film. I don’t need bad karma, and the producer never paid me anyway, so I bowed out.
That experience solidified my belief that indie producers will do anything – and I mean anything – to get their films financed. This, of course brings us to today’s topic: Indie Film Financing. Let me start by saying over the past 20 years, I have directly invested in production financing for independent films, development financing for much larger films and I’ve been a indie producer who has tried to reel in investors. Throughout it all, I’ve made money, lost money and have learned hard lessons that will forever be tattooed in my memory. So, my goal here today is to give you some insight on how to position your film in its best light to potential investors.
The Right Investors Aren’t In It For the Money
Classic film investors won’t be affected if you lose their money. Of course they usually want to make money (sometimes they don’t because of tax liability reasons) but their real reason for investing in an indie film is so they can tell their friends they’re an ‘executive producer.’ These investors are usually too busy to keep tabs on your film, or visit your set more than once. But, they’re also very shrewd and they need to make sure you know what you’re doing before they cut you a check. Thus, they will rake you over the coals on your budget and demand your production is filled with seasoned veterans. They will also ask you hard questions about your film’s distribution. In most cases, these investors have invested in films before, so be ready for an assault of challenging questions. Obviously, their money is hard to get. But, it’s the best kind because you’ll keep getting it in the future if your film gets to breakeven or even gets close to breakeven for them. Plus, in the event your film tanks, these investors usually won’t cause you much grief because they’ll use the loss as a write-off on their taxes.
Getting ‘Dumb Money’ Is A Dumb Move
By ‘dumb money,’ I don’t mean these types of investors are dumb. In fact, they’re usually quite intelligent and highly successful. Doctors, dentists, lawyers and corporate professionals usually fall into this category. These are people who make a very healthy living, but will certainly feel a pinch in their pocketbook if you lose their money. These investors are usually easier to get on board, because they have no idea they have a better chance of starting for the Los Angeles Lakers next season than they do of making their money back. They will also want to be on your set far more than you’ll want them to be there, and they will call you incessantly for updates. Be very careful with these types of investors, because they will come after you if their money is lost.
Be Honest With Family And Friends Who Invest
Let’s be honest; mom, dad, grandma, your siblings, cousins and your best friend from grade school don’t really believe your film is going to make them rich. In your mind they’re investing, but in their mind they’re donating. So, if you choose to take investment money from family and friends, it may be a good idea to ask them to give you the amount of money they can live with losing. That way making them money is a pleasant surprise. But, losing it won’t ruin your relationship with them.
Create a Business Plan That Makes Sense
If I had a dollar for every business plan that has come across my desk with ridiculous assumptions and exorbitant fees for the filmmakers, I could afford to the buy the Ferrari’s for every day of the week – on cash! Trust me, once your financial assumptions shoot into the galaxy of ridiculous, your potential investor won’t sign that check you’re pining for. So, in an effort to help you get that check signed, here are some insights on how investors view indie film business plans:
a) Your business plan doesn’t have to be Bible-thick, especially since 99% of your potential investors won’t read it anyway. They will, however, focus on two crucial aspects: how much money you’re asking for and when they should expect to see a return on their investment.
b) Don’t pay yourself too much money. For example, if your film is a $1,000,000 budget, don’t pay yourself $100,000 to direct, another $100,000 to write and yet another $100,000 to produce. Asking your potential investors to let you pocket $300,000 of a $1,000,000 budget will kill their interest. Investors don’t want you to get rich off their money, they want you to make just enough money to cover your bills during the shoot. Simply put, your investors want you to suffer alongside them until they get their money back. Besides, if you ask for heavy fees, some investors will ask you to prove you’ve made the same level of money on your previous project (I know I always ask).
c) Demanding the investor sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) before they look at your proposal is NOT a good strategic move. Think about it, if you’re asking an investor to give you money, you shouldn’t threaten them with a lawsuit. In this age of lawsuit happy people, the last thing an investor will do is sign something that allows you to sue them. Thus, most of them (me included) would rather not get involved in looking at your business plan. But if you insist on having a NDA signed, you should clearly notify your potential investor of your intention before you meet with them.
I was duped by such a crafty move several years ago, when I took a meeting with a producer who wanted me to invest in and distribute her multi-picture production slate. While a very positive ninety-minute meeting ensued, as the meeting winded down, the producer pulled out a NDA for me to sign. Asking me to sign an NDA after the pitch? Needless to say, my interest evaporated. On the inside I was thinking, “Damn, what a waste of ninety-minutes,” while on the outside I politely told the producer I don’t usually sign NDA’s for film business plans. Suddenly, all of the positive vibes left the room and the meeting ended soon thereafter.
d) The film successes you choose to compare your film with should be within the realm of believability. For example, if you’re making a $400,000 comedy, don’t compare its potential to “The Hangover” – which was a bigger studio film, with studio advertising and studio muscle at the theater chains. Try to find films with budgets like yours, and list how well they did without a theatrical release. Since getting a theatrical release on an indie film is like winning the lottery, your numbers should look strong without adding potential numbers at the box office. If they do, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a check cut.
e) If you choose to describe your film (tonally speaking) as a cross between two other films, make sure those two films were successful! You can’t imagine how many filmmakers will list their film is a cross between two critically-acclaimed indie films that nobody outside of the indie film world has ever heard of. Remember, investors don’t care if your film is like other critically acclaimed gems. They don’t care or if it plays at Cannes, Sundance and Berlin, or how many awards it’s won. All investors care about is making money. So, if you’re going to say your film is a cross between two others, make sure you mention highly successful titles that a even farmer in Kansas has heard of.
f) Make sure your numbers make sense. I recently looked at a business plan that stated “since the filmmaker’s previous short film made 798% in the educational market, his feature film will make 798% in the mainstream market.” Are you kidding me? How much did his short cost? A few thousand? How much does he want for his feature? A few million? Anyone with half of a brain will see the flaw in that logic. Sometimes you have to take a step back from and ask yourself if you would buy what you’re selling.
g) Do not include your script with your business plan, unless your investor specifically asks for it. No, I’m not worried about an investor stealing your script; I’m worried about them reading it. Most investors have never read a screenplay, and so they may not understand the “EXT. DRIVEWAY – DAY” or the “CU: ON A BURNING CIGARETTE.” Just give them what they need and no more.
Only Take Money From Accredited Investors
Being an accredited investor means your investor is willing to sign a document stating they understand the high-risk nature of investing in your film, and they have the money to lose. Usually, this means the investor’s total net worth should be at least ten times greater than the amount they’re investing. Making sure your investors are accredited is the one step that most independent producers ignore. But, it’s an important element of your investment package, because accredited investors can’t sue you if they lose money.
Treat Your Investors Like You’re Married To Them
Because you will be married to them, for a few years. Before you take money from an investor, ask yourself if you’re okay with dealing with them. I firmly believe some of the best investment money I ever dealt with was the money I chose not to deal with.
There are several ways to finance your film and since we’ve only covered investors and business plans today, I will continue discussing other ways of financing on Wednesday.
That’s my offering for today. Before I go, here’s a link to my new podcast, Limping On Cloud 9, which is positivity infused, so it may serve as a short getaway for you. My podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.
Hey, filmmakers! Since Sundance is in full swing, I thought today would be a good time to discuss three insights on the Sundance submission process.
Acceptance Numbers Don’t Lie, Even if You Wished They Would
For the 2017 edition happening now, a total of 113 feature-length films were selected out of 4,068 submissions (2.778%), and 68 short films made the cut out of 8,985 submitted, (0.00756% – yes, less than 1% of short films made it). There were 13,782 total submissions, including other areas like Documentaries, World Cinema and Next.
Conversely, Harvard University’s 2016 acceptance rate was 5.9%. Thus, it’s over two times harder to get your feature film into Sundance than it is getting into Harvard. What’s even more daunting is that it’s nearly eight times harder to get your short film into Sundance than it is for you to get into Harvard!
Worldwide Reach of Sundance
One fascinating fact about Sundance 2017 is that 2,043 of the 4,068 feature length submissions were from outside of the United States. That’s an astounding leap toward growing Sundance global brand, but it also puts American filmmakers on notice, because Sundance isn’t just showcasing America’s finest independent filmmakers anymore. Furthermore, Sundance 2017 accepted films from 32 countries, accepted 37 first-time filmmakers, and showcased 98 worldwide premieres.
What This All Means or Doesn’t Mean
Should you be wondering why I’m spewing so many daunting facts and figures your way today, it’s my way of trying to get you to realize that the fate of your film shouldn’t live or die with getting into Sundance. Your film is a reflection of your efforts, vision, voice, and of course, your talent. Thus, you should carefully guide it through its journey toward distribution. Of course, if that journey starts at Sundance, then good for you and I offer you my heartiest congratulations. However, if Sundance isn’t your starting point, worry not, because if you stay positive, focused and relentlessly focused, I assure you that your efforts will define your film’s ultimate worth far more than getting into any one film festival will.
Okay, friends. That’s what I have for you. But, before I go, here’s a cool short film from The Sundance Film Festival.
Furthermore, my new podcast, Limping On Cloud 9, is right here:
My podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again soon. Until then, have a tremendous week! I can be followed on Twitter @HammadHZaidi.
As Sundance kicks off this Thursday, a festival I love and have attended about 20 times, I thought I’d share some insight on Film Festival Strategies. Now every festival – big and small – have their own DNA, and the cinematic fabric they possess is what makes them original, “must attend” events. So, instead of sharing a snowdrift full of Sundance insight, (I’ll do that on Wednesday), today I wanted to give you some general strategies which apply to all film festivals. In doing so, I’d like to start by sharing one of my most magical film festival experiences: The Dawson City International Short Film Festival.
I was gazing at this stuffed bear in a glass case at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska when the first eerie, “what the hell am I getting myself into,” feeling arrested me. The bear wasn’t a cute little stuffed animal – he was very big and very dead, and was the proudest example of taxidermy that Fairbanks had to offer. My filmmaker buddy Steve Nelson and I were only in Fairbanks because we were en route to the Dawson City International Short Film Festival in Dawson City, Yukon. That’s right, the Canadian Yukon – incredibly damn north from everything and just south of the Arctic Circle. All I knew about Dawson City was it had been a thriving Gold Rush town and Steve and I were staying at a hip B&B called “Bombay Peggy’s,” which used to be a brothel. Side Note: Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black stayed at Bombay Peggy’s while they were shooting David Frankel’s film, “The Big Year.” So, as I bid farewell to “Mr. Bear” and boarded our plane, which was no larger than a Dodge minivan – I almost went into cardiac arrest when I realized our flight attendant was also our co-pilot! But, my fear quickly melted in sheer fascination as we flew over some of the most breathtaking unbridled wilderness on the planet.
Steve and I were smitten when we landed in Dawson City. Nestled at the edge of the Yukon River and the Klondike River, this perfectly timeless location for a film festival sported gravel roads no streetlights and no cell phone service. In short, Dawson was a slice of Heaven itself and “Heaven” was graced by some of the most fiercely creative and wonderfully eclectic people I’d ever met.
David, the festival director, is a gem of a guy who had his beloved dog sled him to work during the winter months. Wendy, the owner of “Bombay Peggy’s,” was a treasure, John, an artist turned Webmaster, turned Mayor of Dawson City and John the Vet, the town veterinarian turned animator, were also some of the town’s golden nuggets. Hell, I even befriended “Caveman Bill,” another fine artist who lives in a cave (I’m serious). Throughout the weekend, I realized that The Dawson City International Short Film Festival is exactly what all festivals should become, or strive to become again: a place to celebrate films and filmmakers, without the politics of trying to get a sale.
Filmmakers should refrain from applying with a rough cut or an otherwise incomplete film because your first impression is just that, your first impression. Trying to get noticed off a rough cut, would be like me back in my dating days, showing up on a blind date with my 5’4”, rail thin and somewhat disabled body, telling my date “Hi, I wanted to meet you right away, but don’t judge me for what you see. Give me a few months to make myself look better and I’ll come back a foot taller, far more buff and able bodied.” Obviously, that tactic would never work in dating, nor does it work while applying to a film festival. Remember, film festival programmers can only see what they can see.
2) Shorter Is ALWAYS Better
Of course I believe “shorter is better” because I’m a short guy. But, with regard to films, this trend applies to both shorts and features.
Shorts – Keep the total running time in single digits, because the shorter your film is, the easier it is for the programmer to find it a slot. This is because most screening slots are two hours long including an intro and a Q&A session. So, a “long” short will miss out on several festivals that may have liked the film, but simply couldn’t find a slot for it. The other reason for keeping it short is that distributors, executives or agents can review it between meetings or over coffee. Conversely, a “long short” may sit on their desk for eternity, because the thought of watching something too long is daunting.
Features – Keep your film somewhere between eighty-five and ninety-five minutes long, especially if your film isn’t laced with well-known actors. When I was a screener for Sundance in 2005, I saw seventy-eight features in five weeks. When all you’re doing for over a month is watching movies from morning till moonlight, there’s a noticeable difference between watching a very good ninety-minute film and a drawn out two-hour film that could have been a very good ninety-minute film.
3) Avoid Overly Used, Student Film Markers
Most student films are littered with drugs, weapons, nudity and foul language. While I love these elements when they enhance the fabric of the story, like in “Scarface” (1983) and “Raging Bull” (1980), several indies use them so incessantly that their film gets lost in the mix with thousands of other films just like it. I’ve always believed that doing something fresh and different is a far more potent weapon than using a potent weapon. Besides, most Oscar winning shorts tend to be fresh and quirky with a impressive level poignancy or cinematic accomplishment.
4) It’s Where You Start, Not Where You Finish
Unlike most cases in life when your finish is more important than your start, the perceived value of your film on the festival circuit is based on the first one that accepts you. Thus, having your “World Premiere” at Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, SXSW or Tribeca is a dream come true. Subsequently, premiering at a small festival before you find out if any of the larger ones want you may turn into a nightmare because you will be disqualified from larger festivals for playing a smaller one first.
5) Be Careful Not To Play Too Many Festivals
Do you know what a distributor thinks when an indie filmmaker says their film played thirty-eight festivals? He or she immediately realizes that since the film has already played in so many cities for free, most of the people the distributor wanted to sell the film to have already seen it.
6) Hide Your Treasure Before Your Premiere
Never show anyone a copy of your film before its Worldwide Premiere – unless a buyer/distributor is willing to buy your film before it premieres.
7) Don’t Hold Back Links of Your Films From Distributors
After your World Premiere, show distributors your film. Most distributors can’t make screenings and it’s easier for them to watch it on DVD anyway. Don’t worry, if your film is solid on the silver screen, it should hold up on the tube.
8) Wine Is More Expensive Aged, But Films Aren’t
If the goal is to get your film distributed, then you should think twice about going on a full-fledged, year long festival tour, because all you’re doing is making your film older and worth less money. Just play some key festivals, then get your baby sold while it’s still perceived as being new and fresh. In the event that your film fails to get distribution, then play as many festivals as your heart desires.
9) Construct A Great Viral Campaign
Make your website and internet campaign hip and memorable by giving festival programmers and distributors a reason to visit it more than once. Just make sure that you don’t upload your actual film upon the internet, because doing so may quickly disqualify you from many festivals.
10) Get Film Festivals Engaged Early On
First do your research on what film festivals best suit the tone and genre of your film, and then contact them early on in your filming process. If you can get them engaged into your film, you may have a better shot at getting into their festival. Of course, your final product is what really matters, but a healthy relationship with a festival can often times tilt the chances of a “yes” into your favor.
11) Don’t Burn Bridges With Festivals
There are quite a few reasons why festivals may pass on your film. They either didn’t like it, they liked it but it didn’t fit into a time slot, or it didn’t fit into their program’s theme, to name a few. Either way do not call festivals that rejected your film and give them a screaming piece of your mind. Always remember, not only do festival programmers have feelings, they have impeccable memory capabilities. Much like a teenager getting a driver’s license, getting accepted by a film festival is a privilege, not a right. Filmmakers should embrace film festivals as such (a privilege) because they may be your film’s best platform to capture an audience.
Okay, that’s what I have today. Before I go, here’s a link to a cool little video from “Film Riot” about “How to Get Into a Film Festival.”
Furthermore, my podcast, Limping On Cloud 9, which is positivity infused, so it may serve as a short getaway from the pile of work you’re staring at at this very moment. My podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Here is our website:
Hi everyone. I hope you had a magical week. Welcome to “What To Expect When You Are Expecting (A Sale). Today’s article is written for filmmakers who are selling their recently completed motion picture. With Sundance and Slamdance coming up in a matter of days, and Berlin opening on February 9, I thought today would be as prime time to help you get prepped for what may happen to you and your film. While this article is assumes a sale will occur, recent history proves that such an assumption for an indie film is far closer to fantasy then reality. However, assuming you made one hell of a film with a sellable cast and genre, here’s how you can expect the sales process to roll.
Side Note: Don’t forget to check out the links to two podcasts at the bottom of this article; one of which is centralized on today’s topic.
Deals Take Longer Than You Think To Seal
While some deals come together quickly (bidding wars), most take a few to several weeks to close, so don’t expect to see a check in a matter of days. For that matter, even if you sell film in a matter of days, it will be (at least) at matter of several months before you’ll see a dime. However, it’s not all bad. Once you get a deal in place, your second deal should be a bit easier to wrangle. Of course, you’ll have to wait seemingly forever for that check too, but at least you’ll be getting two payments coming in, not just one.
Most Buyers Are Buyers For Larger Buyers
These days, most buyers are buying for a larger entity (major distributors, exhibitors, networks and cable channels internationally), and those entities decide the fate of your film. Thus, unless your film falls exactly into what the buyer has been instructed to buy, then they have to submit your film to the company they’re buying for. This process adds a week or two or four or eight to the closing of a deal.
Taking Delivery Can Add Several Months To The Process
“Taking Delivery” means the actual entity that’s buying your film is ready to pay on the deal and receive your master. Usually, that process is quick, once they are ready to take your film. However, if the buyer doesn’t need your film until the fall, or until 2018, the process will be undoubtedly delayed.
For example, if your film sells to a German cable distributor, but that distributor has your film slotted for a December airdate, then they my try to hold off on payment until November. The good news is, you have a sale. The bad news is you may have to wait 11 months to get the deal complete. Don’t worry though, in most cases, at least a 20%-25% up front payment comes with delayed delivery deals.
The Anatomy Of Your Film Selling Internationally
In an effort to further explain how an international film sales deal goes down, here are some bullet points to consider:
1) You meet several sales agents and choose one.
2) Your sales agent puts your film in their “New titles available” e-mail blast to 8,000 to 10,000 buyers or more.
3) Your sales agent gets several e-mails back and your film gets anywhere from 5-25+ meetings set up about your film.
4) Your sales agent tells you that several buyers are interested in your film.
5) You grow a smile as wide as Texas and start looking for a new home, car, etc.
6) A week later, you hear nothing from your sales agent, so you call them. They tell you that all is well, and the deal(s) for your film are progressing fine.
7) A day later, you get a call from the car dealer you went on a 40-minute test drive with. You tell the dealer you should be in to pick up your car by the weekend.
8) The weekend comes and goes, and so do you – to your phone – to ask your sales agent what’s taking so long. They get less patient with you.
9) That pesky car dealer is calling again, for the sixth time in eleven days. You don’t answer, or return the call.
10) Your sales agent hears from a few buyers, who want another DVD copy/link sent of your film. Remember, buyers don’t have to see your movie to know they want to buy it. They just have to check its quality level to make sure it meets broadcast standards.
11) Now you’re pissed off, and you think your sales agent is lazy.
12) Meanwhile, your sales agent thinks things are happening at a normal pace, or even faster than usual.
13) Nonetheless, you call your sales agent and either give them a piece of your mind, or “strongly encourage them” to close the deal.
14) As soon as you get off the phone, your sales agent tells their assistant not to put your calls through anymore. Your contact has been regulated to email only.
15) One week later, your sales agent gets an offer on your film. It’s less than they wanted, but they’re a bit pissed at you, so they aren’t willing to go the extra mile to negotiate an increase your sale. They just want to get paid.
16) A week after that, they call you to give you the “good news,” but all you hear is that your film sold for 10X less than you were expecting. Now your sales agent is on your shit list, and you tell your friends how shitty they are.
17) Meanwhile, your sales agent tells everyone in the international sales world that you’re a crazy filmmaker and that you have unreasonable expectations.
18) Just in case you’re wondering, you don’t make enough to get that new car, but your film got a sale and that’s more than you had before!
What to take away from this anatomy lesson is that deals take time to close; even slam-dunk fast deals. Thus, it’s better to keep your relationship with your sales agent intact, because it only hurts your film and your career not to do so.
That’s what I’ve got for you today. Before I go, I wanted to mention a few things:
I did an audio podcast of today’s topic for Stacey Parks, “Start-Up Film School” titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Sale.” Here is the link:
Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you had a great first half of the week. Today I’m going to centralize on protocol and strategy for first time and or emerging filmmakers. My intension here is to give you a bit of insight on what you should expect the “first few times out of the gate,” because knowing what to expect will make you seem like a seasoned pro during negotiations. So, without further ado, here’s some key insight.
Your Maiden Voyage Will Probably Not Make Money
The first big pill you may have to swallow is that your first project is probably not going to make money. Should your film or script it break out of the pack of the thousands of projects made in the year it’s released, then Godspeed on your way to stardom. However, if it doesn’t light the world on fire, then you should be prepared to write it off as a loss, or have your investors write it off if you’re lucky enough to have investors.
Knowing how unlikely it is to make a profit the first time out, you’ll want to keep your budget low. That way, you’ll be a lot closer to realizing financial break-even, and if you don’t achieve break-even, at least your losses will hurt less. Thus, you should treat your first project’s budget as the price of admission into the amusement park that will become your career. Remember, while most people love going to Disneyland (especially on days when all the rides are working on there’s not a lot of traffic in the park), not many get to experience the Magic Kingdom without feeling a little pinch in t their wallet or purse. It’s the same with your career in film/TV. Sure, you can come in and play on the roller coasters, but you’ll have to pay handsomely for the privilege.
Since so few film festivals mean anything to the advancement of your career, you should really hold out to see if you can wrangle the attention of one of the “big seven” titans. The biggest festivals on the planet are Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, and Venice, followed by Tribeca and SXSW. So, if your film doesn’t get into one of those, then you might as well focus directly on getting a distributor and not spend the next 12-18 months playing festivals that won’t advance your career.
Furthermore, if you do wrangle a spot in one of the festivals above, you should accept the offer and thank your lucky stars. It amazes me how many filmmakers don’t fully understand the gravity attached to playing one of the biggest film festivals in the world. For example, I recently spoke to a filmmaker who turned down premiering at Berlin to play his film at Rotterdam. Why would anyone do that? Regardless of how hip and cool Rotterdam is (which is what I’ve heard from many accounts), it’s simply not Berlin. Thus, choosing a less significant film festival over a titan is like choosing to drive a Camaro over a Ferrari. Sure, Camaros are rocket-fast, but they’re nowhere near as head-turning as Ferraris.
The quickest anyone will get back to you on your film, TV pilot or screenplay, is two weeks, and more than likely your response time will be four to six weeks or more. People don’t generally view new projects quickly, unless they’re an immense amount of heat on the project, i.e. a major film festival win, an A-list attachment, or verifiable financing. So, if somebody does get back to you incredibly fast, they either a) love the material and are about to change your life, b) dislike the material, so they want to get it off of their plate as soon as possible, or c) they have very little going on and are looking for the next project to sink their creative teeth into.
Side Note: Possibilities “a” and “b” are ones you can deal with, but beware of “c”, because that person may not have the experience, strength or contacts you need to help you push the project forward.
Option Prices (for Scripts)
Should you get someone to spend the next year or two bringing your written words to life, don’t expect them to give you a huge payday to do so. Just having a credited producer wanting to develop your film with you is a huge step in the right direction. So, unless you’re script wins Sundance or the Nicholl Fellowship and has multiple studios bidding on it, your option will range from $1 (seriously) to mid-three ($500) to low-four figure range ($1,000-$1,500), and maybe even up to $5,000 or more, if a) they really want your material and b) the scope of your film attracts “A-list” stars or directors. So, don’t get caught up in demanding a six-figure option figure, unless you’re already a seven-figure screenwriter or best-selling author. Just focus on gelling with the right producer, with the right vision for the material, and of course with the right contacts.
All of the points we just discussed are meant to help you understand what to expect, but by no means are they absolute certainties. Thus, yes, you can breakout and make silly amounts of money your first time out. It’s highly unlikely, but of course it can happen. I just want you to know what to expect in 99.9999999% of the time, so know how to navigate your future.
Okay, that’s what I have for you today. Before I go, here’s a funny short film to give your mind a quick break:
And here’s a link to my new podcast, Limping on Cloud 9:
Happy Monday, everyone. I hope your weekend treated you well. Now the workweek is once again interrupting our Sunday afternoon happiness, I thought it’s be a good time to infuse a bit of )useful information.
Today we’re going to discuss how to make your business plan more appealing to potential investors.
I’ve considered hundreds of business plans over the last 23 or so years. I’ve heard pitches on everything from motion pictures, TV shows, video game companies, concerts, radio stations, DVD duplication, production slates, online magazines, oil drilling expeditions, bottled water, wind energy, real estate, private schools, leasing airplanes, airplane parts, car parts, melting metal, minerals, foreign currency exchange, a Christmas lights company, an ostrich farm, alpacas, a production backlot, hotels, motels, jewelry companies, garment factories, a surplus store, antiques, technology and several more that I can’t remember off the top of my head. While I said “no” to most of the business plans I read, I did invest in more than a handful of them, namely films, real estate and video games. When I look back at why I said “yes,” to the ones I did, my reasons were because a) I believed in the people and b) I believed in the product.
In all of my years on considering business plans as well as writing some of my own, I’ve come across several faux pas that will likely kill most investors’ interest. Thus, here are three key things to know about your business plan in order to give your dream the best to become reality.
Investors Don’t Actually Read Business Plans…
Most investors are too busy to read 40-60+ pages on why you need their money. They’d much rather know how much money you need and when they’ll see it back as quickly as possible. Thus, it behooves you to keep your business plans concise and focused. While there is no magic number, under 20 pages will usually illicit a stronger response than a document north of 50 pages. Remember, while the first thing any investor will do is look at the first page of your business plan, the very next thing they’ll do is flip to the last page to see how long of a commitment it is for them to read it.
Utilize Executive Summaries
Another effective practice is to send a two to three three-page “executive summary” of your business plan to potential investors, before you send them the full document. Doing so will substantially shorten your “investor response time” and it will also filter out those investors who aren’t interested in investing.
Make Sure Your Profit Assumptions Are Within The Realm Of Realism
Plugging in realistic numbers of what your investment is expected to earn will go a long way toward helping you gain respect with your potential investors. Remember, investors got to where they are in life by being smart, strategic, focused and shrewd. Thus, planting “pie in the sky” numbers into your business plan will hurt you far more than it will help. Doing so will tell your investors that you are either a) trying to hoodwink them or b) aren’t smart enough to know the pie in the sky numbers are unrealistic. Now, don’t get me wrong, you should definitely share with investors how much your investment could possibly make, but don’t present those numbers expectations.
Do Not Use A Sense Of Urgency To Land Investors
Far too many entrepreneurs try to use their own sense of urgency to convince investors to cut a check. However, doing so is never a good idea. Remember, Investors are already wealthy, and it’s highly unlikely they gained their wealth through pressure-packed, time-sensitive situations. Thus, no matter how much of an urgency you may have, your investors will not share in your urgency.
Now I’d like to share a great video about business plans:
If you need a little Monday morning pick-me-up, here’s a link to my podcast, “Limping On Cloud 9.” In addition to the link below, you can also find us on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Thank you for lending me your eyes and ears.
Greetings from unusually chilly Hermosa Beach (anything under 70 degrees is freezing to me). As tormented waves crash into the cool sand behind me, I thought now would be a good time to post a column on how to deal with potential investors. I hope the promise of the New Year has doused you with enough optimism and relentless fervor to capture your dreams in 2017. While such a feat may seem next to impossible, at least you’re standing right next to “impossible,” instead of being light years away from it. So, whether you have a start-up, a film project, or any other soon-to-be-multi-billion dollar idea, this article may help you get to your goal sooner than you think.
Today we’re discussing three things you can do to save time when dealing with potential investors. While there are no blazingly quick career routes to take, knowing what path not to journey will save you months of anguish. Thus, here are a three ways to save time on your quest for securing investment money for your undoubtedly fantastic project.
“No” Usually Means No – Until Other Major Investors Validate You
I’m always amazed of how many entrepreneurs keep pursuing potential investors after they say “no.” Week after week and month after month, relentless movers and shakers in waiting keep bothering potential investors with information on their most recent developments. However, rarely do investors change their mind (unless the new development is a “game changer” that makes the investment a slam dunk. Thus, it’s pointless to waste time on a gun-shy investor. Even if they are a family member or close friend, and you’re sure you can eventually turn their “no thank you,” to a “where do I sign,” situation, it’s still a better use of your time to pursue people who actually want to invest. Remember, once you get others to invest, you can always go back to investors who passed on your project and ask them to reevaluate your investment opportunity.
Give What Your Investors Are Requesting, But Nothing More
One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is giving investors more information than they asked for. While they usually do this as an act of ethical transparency, giving more information than is asked for is dangerous, because you don’t know how that information is going to influence the decision making process. Furthermore, providing too much information extends the time needed to evaluate your offer, and makes it much harder for the potential investor to find the information they requested in the first place. That situation may be detrimental for you, because once you frustrate a potential investor; you will almost surely lose any chance of securing an investment for them.
(Most) Investors Like Repeating History, Not Making It
The smartest path to willing investors is to focus on those who have invested in the past. You should study what your potential investors have backed financially, because most investors key in on few areas. Investors usually devour, absorb and ultimately master every aspect of the area they like investing in, and so they rarely invest outside of their comfort zone. So, it’ll be far easier for you to approach investors who have a history in the field your company is in. Surely, seasoned investors will scrutinize your plan far more than novice investors, and they’ll be more demanding about what they are to receive in return for their investment. But, those are small prices to pay in order to get your dream financed.
Okay, that’s what I have for you, but first, here a funny investment video.
Happy Hump-Day, friends. I hope your week (and year) is off to a roaring start, but if it isn’t, this article may help to get you in motion.
In our ever tangled world of entertainment and technology, advancements happen as fast as creative pioneers can think them up. That’s why the spark of a great idea you’ve been nurturing recently needs to get out into the universe sooner as opposed to later. Remember, if you’ve thought of something great, 393 others around the globe may have the same – or very similar idea. Thus, it behooves you to jump on it as fast as humanly possible, because the only thing separating you from the others is you’re going to be “bionic” about your actions and put them into motion today. That’s right; you have seven days to make a positive move for yourself. Yesterday is history, and the promise of tomorrow is often times broken, so all you have is what is right in front of you. Thus, without further ado, here are three things which will help you charge forward.
Purge Your Rolodex
While most people focus on building their Rolodex, I contend purging those who don’t support your ambitions is actually smarter than keeping them on. Sure, having hundred-millionaires and billionaires in your Rolodex are great conversation starters and ego boosters, but knowing them doesn’t matter if they’d never invest in you. As harsh as that statement sounds, I believe who introduces you is as important as the person you’re being introduced to. Thus, if the “powers that be” don’t hold the person who introduced you to them in high respect, you can rest assured they won’t see you any differently, even if you can offer them something intriguing.
Create a Positive Tribe Around You
While purging your Rolodex is healthy for your corporate contacts, doing the same in your personal life is equally as important. So, it’s time to shift way from those who hold you back. You don’t need to dump everyone who doesn’t buy into what you’re doing, especially since you’ll need a handful of trusted friends to ground you when your feet are too far off the ground. However, surrounding yourself with positive types will enhance your confidence and presentation.
Arrest Your Procrastination Tendencies
I’m sure you can think of 1,031 reasons not to go after your dream; giving time to it will ding your current job, take time away from your family, cause a wave of naysayers, will seem irrational and irresponsible, and most importantly, it will most likely fail. But, what if it doesn’t? What if 18-months from now you are exactly where you want to be in life, and going exactly what you want to be doing? I can tell you from experience that there is no better feeling than diving into the creative unknown, nearly drowning, and then coming up for air on the other side, with your childhood dreams securely in hand. And that my friends, is worth the torture you may have to endure to get there.
I urge you to take the first step toward your goal in the next three minutes. Once you do, you’ll realize how easy the following steps become. Then, before you know it, you’ll be charging down the road you’ve always longed to travel. On that note, I’d like to thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again soon!
But, before I go, I’d like to announce my new podcast, Limping On Cloud 9 which may serve as a short-term getaway from the pile of work you’re staring at at this very moment. We’re available on iTunes, (liked above) Google Play and Stitcher. Additionally, here is our website:
Welcome to Monday. Before we get rolling into what surely will be a hectic week, let’s first enjoy The Boomtown Rats, classic, “I Don’t Like Mondays.”
With 2016 clearly in our rear view mirror, today is the perfect time to help you jumpstart your 2017 career strategy by discussing key “sweet spots” for indie film budgets. The values of non-star driven indie films have plummeted by in the international and domestic marketplace, so knowing what to spend and what not to spend on your film is immensely crucial to your success. So, without further ado, here are two indie film budget sweet spots that will help you thrive in 2017.
Side Note: The following “sweet spots” apply to well-crafted motion pictures made with name talent in sellable genre, i.e. Action, Psychological Thriller, Intelligent Horror, or Sci-Fi. Thus, films made outside of sellable genres will not perform in the same manner, even if they’re made within the “sweet spots.”
Sweet Spot #1 – $250,000 Budget
This budget range is advantageous to filmmakers, especially first timers. The reason is because the $250,000 budget range may be just large enough to secure at least one financially worthy talent. I’d spend at least 50% of your budget on talent, because nothing raises the value of your film more than a name. Aside from talent, I’d spend 15%-20% on post-production and the last 30%-35% on everything else. Smarter yet, I’d look to give away equity to a post house, prop house, grip truck owner or sound equipment owner, in exchange for having their services rendered at little cost to you. Doing so will allow you to spend even more money on casting name talent, which will further secure your film’s chances of getting noticed and becoming profitable.
Sweet Spot #2 – $2,500,000-$5,000,000 Budget
The advantage to having this budget level is that now a new world of talented A-list people is open to you. For example, The Dallas Buyers Club (2013) had a budget of $5 million, and Boyhood (2014), a film shot over 12 years, had a production budget of only $2.4 million. Securing this budget range almost cements you getting some level of recognizable distribution, and it sharply increases your chances of getting theatrical distribution. Of course, your budget alone doesn’t guarantee you anything. You still have to make a great film that gets received as such by both the critics and the masses. But, having $2,500,000 to $5,000,000 is one hell of a good start!
The 3X to 5X Budget Factor
Well-made films made within these budget ranges are usually worth three to five times their actual budget. So, your $250,000 flick may be worth $750,000 to $1,250,000 in the open marketplace, while your $5,000,000 film might wrangle $15,000,000-$25,000,000.
What Happens if Your Film Fails to Achieve Sweetness?
For those of you focused on making a $250,000 film, don’t worry, because your budget range puts you in a fairly safe financial position. Provided your film is well done and is in a sellable genre, you should see about a 20%-40% profit, provided that you secured a fair distribution contract. However, it’s much easier to lose money on a $2,500,000-$5,000,000 film. This is because while a small film can recoup their investment from VOD, Cable, TV, and DVD, without ever having a theatrical release, films made in this range have to perform on multiple levels in order to achieve break-even.
The good news about films made in this range is thanks to their star power, they usually have some inherent value. Thus, your investors will most likely see 33%-50% of their investment return over time. To be clear, I’m not stating your investors will earn a 33%-50% profit – I’m saying they may get one third to one half of their investment back, if your film stumbles into a less stellar financial life than you had hoped. While those numbers may seem discouraging, just know that every single investor I have ever met, would rather get part of their money back, instead of getting zero back.
Okay, friends. That’s what I have for you today. Before I go, here’s a link to my new podcast, Limping On Cloud 9, which is positivity infused, so it may serve as a short getaway from the pile of work you’re staring at at this very moment. My podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.
Happy New Year, friends and colleagues. I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful holiday season, and are rested and ready to embark on 2017. As we dive into the new year, I wanted to share my column, “Going Bionic.” My posts are designed to benefit those in the motion picture industry, little with a bit of positivity infused podcasts based on my eclectic, amazing and sometimes bittersweet life as a person with a disability.
Many of my articles are strategy-based, so they can be applied to any form of business. Furthermore, many of them are written as I travel to the most significant film festivals and film sales markets. These include, but are not limited to, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, FilmArt in Hong Kong and Tiffcom in Tokyo. Thus, they are written while I experience them in real time.
Before we tangle ourselves into today’s edition, I’d like to announce my little pick-me-up podcast called “Limping On Cloud 9. ” We are on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Additionally, here is our website:
Now back to our regularly scheduled article…As I recently watched a ESPN 30X30 documentary about June 17, 1994 (which was the day O.J. Simpson fled his home in a white Ford Bronco), I realized June 17, 1994 is also the graduation date printed on my MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Hot damn, it’s been nearly 23 years since I cut the film school umbilical cord and journeyed into the abyss of real life. While I’ve been blessed with an enriching career, I never thought it would take me 23 years to get here! Thus, today we’re going to discuss five things you should consider while managing your career expectations. Welcome to “Going Bionic,” and more importantly, welcome to 2017. Here we go!
Understand That Hollywood’s Starting Point For You Is Different Than Your Self-Imposed Starting Point
The one thing I hear time and time again is how painstakingly long it takes filmmakers to get to their career going. Some key moments that can jumpstart a career include writing a screenplay that wins or places at a reputable screenwriting contest, or having a film noticed at a major film festival. However, while you may have rewritten your script 38 times over nine years before it got noticed, or whether you had to make 11 short films and two feature films before your “first feature” gets noticed, (I’ll explain that in a sec), Hollywood views your career start date as when you first achieved distribution from a reputable entity. This means that regardless of how long it takes you to get noticeable distribution, the powers-that-be will still see you in fresh new writer and or director whose public career just started.
Have a Clear Goal
Just saying “I’ll do anything, just give me a job,” may get you your first gig, but it may not get you closer to your goal. So, make sure you have a career goal in mind, and marry your goal with a well thought out plan to reach it. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to let people know your future intensions. This is because if you’re a smart, hard worker, your bosses may look out for key opportunities that are inline with your aspirations.
Understand What You’re Willing To Sacrifice
One thing I can assure you is that things always take longer than you want them to, so be prepared to endure the clutches of cinematic poverty for more than a few years. Trust me, it’s going to suck for at least some period of time, and you’ll want to quit the entertainment industry at least 14,000 times as you climb your career ladder. Furthermore, you may lose relationships, your confidence and even a few friends who don’t understand why you just don’t give up on your pipe dream and “get a real job.” But, if you remain smart about your decisions, focused and relentless, you will ultimately reach your goal(s). You’ll also most-likely look back at your early days of struggle as being the time when you had the most fun.
Don’t Make Your Timeframe Unrealistic
While it’s possible you could shoot out of the gate and reach the A-list instantaneously, it is not the most likely situation. What is more likely is reaching your goal after years of struggle. Oddly enough, many film industry friends of mine tell me that I’m “damn lucky to be where I am 20 years out of film school.” This rings odd to me, because I always thought I’d be at this stage three to five years out of film school. Thus, don’t beat yourself up over how long things are taking, because film careers are like fine wines; they take years of aging to become amazing.
Have An Open Mind To Opportunities Outside Of Your Goal
While it’s always good to have a clear goal in mind, you should also be open to well-respected entertainment opportunities outside of your specific are of interest. For example, don’t shun a TV, cable, or online opportunity, just because you think it will detract from you being seen as a filmmaker. The bottom line is, earning good credits in areas outside of your specific area of interest will get you a lot closer to your ultimate goal than doing nothing will, so make sure you keep an open mind to all creative and career-enriching possibilities that come your way.
Okay, friends, that’s what I have for you today. But, before I go, I know your Monday wouldn’t be complete without a funny YouTube video. Enjoy, and thank you for lending me your eyes!
Welcome to Going Bionic, coming to you live from the Marche du Film, otherwise known as the Cannes Film Market.
By the Numbers
The 2016 edition of the Cannes Film Market had already registered a record, 11,900 registered professionals, which is a record.
985 films, 790 of which are “market premieres,” are being shown at 1,426 market screenings.
There are 800 film festival organizers, 3,200 producers, 1,,200 sales agents, and 1,785 buyers attending the Marche du Film, with 3,450 films for sale.
What’s Hot With Buyers
Regarding independent cinema, family content is currently quite a healthy genre for films without well-known talent. More specifically, stories involving tweens or teenage characters with animals are the easiest genre to close a deal on. While the offers on these films tend to be in the spectrum between better than marginal to solid, they may not change anyone’s tax bracket (unless they crank out a slew of them per year). Furthermore, as always, action pictures with sellable names are always good, as are thrillers with names.
What’s NOT Hot With Buyers
Coming of age films, dramas, most comedies and romantic comedies, which are void of A-list talent. Of course, this is nothing new, and these genres have not been in favor for many years. Should you be wondering how long, just know that several American Presidents have served in the White House since the last time these genres thrived internationally without being injected with star power.
Temperature at the Market
Film buyers are taking a healthy amount meetings so far, but it seems like we’re still in the calm before the storm. However, I fully expect the market to be buzzing within 24-hours, so stay tuned!
I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again. Until then, I can be reached @HammadHZaidi on Twitter.
Welcome to Going Bionic, and say hello to our first of many articles focusing on the 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival. I’ve attended Cannes every year since 2002, (minus 2011, when I stayed home to make sure I witnessed the birth of my twin daughters Zoe and Lena). I’m headed to Cannes this week, so here’s a quick overview of the world’s best festival.
In the Beginning
The Cannes Film Festival was originally created as a response to the Venice Film Festival. While Cannes was supposed to launch in 1939, it waited until 1946, one year after the end of World War II, to begin its cinematic journey.
In the 1950’s, Hollywood’s fascination with Cannes ignited its popularity, which helped the festival reach previously unforeseen heights. Then, on April 15, 1986, Charlotte Spadaro, the Mayor of Beverly Hills at the time, signed a proclamation making Beverly Hills and Cannes “sister cities.” The move once again ensured Cannes would remain Hollywood’s home away from home.
Below is a small snapshot of some of the wonderful selections at the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival. Of course, there are other key sections, including “Directors Fortnight,” “Midnight Screenings,” and beyond. So, without further ado, here’s what to look out for.
The 2016 Jury
The President of this year’s jury is Australian director George Miller. Other Jury members include Rossy de Palma (Actress – Spain) Sophie Marceau (Actress, Director – France) Sienna Miller (Actress – United Kingdom) Rokia Traoré (Composer, Singer-songwriter – Mali) Guillermo del Toro (Director, Writer, Producer – Mexico) Xavier Dolan (Director, Writer, Producer, Actor – Canada) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Actor –United States).
Films in Competition
Cannes accepted 21 feature films in competition for 2016, including “I, Daniel Blake,” by Ken Loach, “American Honey,” by Andrea Arnold, “Julieta,” by Pedro Almodovar,” and “The Salesman,” by Asghar Farhadi.
Un Certain Regard
Known as the most respected selection at Cannes outside of the official competition, the Un Certain Regard boasts 18 films, including, “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki” by Juho Kuosmanen, “La Tortue Rouge” by Michael Dudok de Wit, and Voir du pays by Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin.
Un Certain Regard films should never be considered as second tier selections, because there are many reasons for them to be programmed here instead of being planted in the group of competition films. Some reasons may include previous public screenings and or distribution efforts which may disqualify the film for being in competition, but doesn’t stop Cannes from recognizing deserving slices of cinema.
Out of Competition
There are five films being shown out of competition this year, including “The BFG by Steven Spielberg and “Cafe Society” by Woody Allen.
Special Screenings and Midnight Screenings
There are seven special screenings this year, including “Chouf ” by Karim Dridi and “Hands of Stone” by Jonathan Jakubowicz.
Short Films in Competition
Out of 5,008 submissions, Cannes 2016 accepted 10 shorts. No shorts from North America were programmed and only one of the 10 selected came from English speaking counties (United Kingdom). One key fact about the Competition Short Films is they are limited to 15 minutes in length, including credits. Thus, shorter is better when it comes to getting noticed at Cannes.
Cannes is by far the most influential festival on the planet, which is why I’ll deliver key on-the-ground insight from the 69th annual edition, which runs from May 11-22.
I thank you once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next week. I can be followed on Twitter @HammadHZaidi
This time next week I’ll be struggling with jetlag as I attend the Cannes Film Festival and the Cannes Film Market. However, regardless of how painfully hectic it gets down in the trenches, I’ll remind myself “the trenches” are perched oceanfront in the South of France. Simply put, a hard day in paradise is still a day in paradise, so it’s never that bad.
Today’s article is for filmmakers who are headed to Cannes, especially those who are attending for the first time. Whether you have a film in competition (I’m jealous if you do), have one at the Marche du Film (aka film the market), the Short Film Corner, or any other division, Cannes will soon become your festival of choice for the rest of your career. I love Cannes as much as I love the Lakers, UCLA, Dr. Pepper and The Beatles, and that is one hell of a lot of love.
I’ve been to Cannes many times, so here are some insights designed to make your Cannes Film Festival experience magical, fun and productive.
Side note: even if you are not headed to Cannes next week, you should keep this column handy, for when you and your next film are headed to the world’s most significant film festival.
The Money Factor
The first thing to know about going to Cannes is how much it’s going to cost you. These days, 1 Euro = $1.15, which means everything you buy in France is 15% more expensive when converted to dollars.
Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
In addition to losing 15% on the dollar, you’re going to lose an additional 3% every time you use you credit card. That’s because most credit card company adds a 2%-3% “foreign transaction fee” to each transaction.
Stay Away From “Money Exchange” Stores
The money exchange booths that are littered around most international airports are a huge scam. The cost far too much money to use, and thus, you’ll love even more money on your conversion. The best solution is to exchange your money at bank ATMs. This is because banks give other banks the best conversion rates. Following this simple rule will surely put more money in your pocket.
Dealing With Transportation
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Once you land in the Nice Airport (NCE is the airport code), you are about 30 or 40 minutes to Cannes. However, getting there will cost you a pretty penny if you hop in the first cab you see. This is because, depending on how badly your cabbie wants to screw you on the fare, you could pay 90-150 or more Euros.
You can pay a lot less using Uber, as, hundreds of Uber drivers drive in from Paris to help handle the demands. Of course, you can also take a bus for or train for less than you’ll tip the Uber or taxi driver. The bus terminal is right there at the airport, and the train station is about 100-200 yards away.
Another smart move is to rent a car, as your weekly rental will cost about the same as taking a cab to and from the airport. Remember, if you are going to rent a car, do so online and don’t wait to rent it at the airport last-minute. Doing so will save you hundreds of Euros. Secondly, while France drives on the same side of the road that the USA does, most rental cars are manual transmissions (stick shifts). So, make sure somebody in your group knows how to drive a stick shift.
Resting Your Head Without Breaking Your Wallet
The best way to survive and enjoy your first Cannes experience is to not actually stay in Cannes. Unless you land a great last-minute deal on an apartment in Cannes, which may be possible because they usually overprice themselves until the last few weeks, at which time they lower the prices to get their place rented. Most hotels are expensive; 300 Euros to 1,000 Euros per night plus, so look at staying in small towns, which are walking distance, or only a quick train ride away. Thus, Jens Les Pins, Antibes and Cannes La Bocca are really good bets.
The Fun Stuff Getting On The Red Carpet
No experience at Cannes is complete without having tickets to a red carpet screening and walking up the most famous red carpet in the world. If your accreditation allows you to get tickets, walking the red carpet is something everyone should do at least once in a lifetime. Tickets are not easy to get, as they’re used on several factors, including your company size, the film(s) you’re involved in, and basically how important you are to the world of cinema. Thus, you may got get tickets to the red carpet premiere you want to, but trust me; you should experience it regardless of what film you ultimately see.
Warning: if you have a ticket to a red carpet screening and you don’t attend, you will be banned for at least 24 hours from getting any ticket to any film. Thus, if you pull the ticket, you must attend, or make sure somebody attends with your ticket.
Lastly, the dress code at red carpet screenings is very strict. Men must wear black tuxedos or and wear bowties, and women must be in dresses and evening gowns. While sometimes (not always) security will allow men to wear black suits that are not tuxedos), they will never allow men to attend a screening without a tie. I’m serious about this. Ticket or not, they will stop any man who doesn’t have a bowtie on, so don’t test it!
The Best Meeting Spots
The best daytime meeting spot is the terrace at the Carlton Hotel, where a Coca-Cola is 10 Euros or more, so get ready to hurt your wallet. Other spots include “Cafe Roma,” which is directly across from the Marche Du Film (Cannes Film Market) and “La Pizza,” which is by far the most famous pizza in Cannes, and by many accounts, some of the finest pizza pie on the planet. The place has been there forever and a day, so it has withstood the test of time. So, if you like good pizza, you’ve got to give La Pizza a try.
The best place to meet for an evening meeting/cocktail is the Majestic Hotel, and most fun late-night meeting spot in is the lawn of the Grand Hotel. It’s rock-concert busy at midnight, with at least 700-1,000 people jammed in the hotel’s oversized front lawn. Whether you are a late night person or not, you’ve got to check out this scene at least once. It’s magical.
Okay, everyone. That’s the insight I’ve got for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @HammadHZaidi.
And we’re baaaack. Welcome to Going Bionic #274. While we’ve been a bit incognito since Film Threat closed, we’ll be here every week for our next five years and beyond, bringing you cinematic insights from our global observations. So, just like Steve Austin, the Bionic Man from the 1970’s TV Series The Six Million Dollar Man(which Mark Wahlberg is remaking), we’re going to be a hell of a lot more bionic – bigger and stronger, than before.
Today I’d like to share a few new aspects of our reach. But first, I’d like to say “Happy Birthday” to my mom, Shamim Zaidi. Of course, my birthday present to Mom is to not publish her age. So, Mom, thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike and hence, never giving up. I love you.
Back to our regularly scheduled post…
With so many things going on with me these days, I wanted to give you a rundown on where we’re headed. So, without further ado, here’s what’s in our “new and improved” formula:
Script Magazine is pleased to announce a new podcast and YouTube series dedicated to the craft and business of screenwriting, “Development Hell and Back.” Hosted by Hammad Zaidi and John W. Kim, the highly anticipated episodes will cover a comprehensive look at screenwriters and their craft, from interviews with A-list scribes to discussions with industry producers and current development executives, agents, and managers.
John Kim and I just shot our first episode, so our podcasts should be published onScript Magazine and our YouTube channel soon!
Going Bionic in Spanish – Another new aspect of our future is some of our articles are translated in Spanish and are being utilized at CreandoCine, a Professional film conservatory in Spain! All translations are being done by the incredibly talented Tina Olivares. Here’s a note from Tina regarding her film institution in Spain:
In such a fragmented, competitive and saturated as the audiovisual production of low cost market, we will teach you to differentiate yourself. In our informative website you will see that, for free, we’ll provide advice, information, videos, diagrams and links on all aspects of production. It will be useful, diverse and compelling information that will help to clarify doubts, you will understand and master the sector and enhance your work.
Furthermore, here are links to the articles Tina has translated in Spanish thus far:
On the producing/writing, directing side, I have several film, television and feature documentary projects in development and production, as well as many produced videogames on Google Play (some of which I wrote and or co-wrote). Here’s a link to my IMDb: Hammad Zaidi on IMDb.
CineCoin, the new filmmaker friendly financing company I Co-Founded with North Carolina filmmaker Les Butchart, had some exciting news recently. The SEC approved Title III, which means filmmakers will be able to crowdfund for investors, up to $1 million within a 12-month period. So, CineCoin will soon be able to help filmmakers create new investment avenues for their projects.