Category Archives: Gear

EPILOGUE: Lessons In Microbudget Filmmaking, Part 1

 

Photo by SHARON MENDONCA

BY SHAWN WHITNEY

The experience of shooting A Brand New You was unbelievably fruitful not only as part of a process of producing a film but also as a learning experience for next time – and to share with others. I’ve read lots of excellent articles that offer “ten tips to shooting an indie” or “5 lessons” or “6 Essential Things…” etc. But in my experience there were more than 5 or 10 things to learn from shooting a feature film. But in the interest of not overwhelming you with too many points all together, I’ve broken up the things we learned into the producer, director & writer category that I’ll post over the next three or four days so that they are easier to digest. In many cases whether something is a lesson for a director, producer or writer is a bit arbitrary as responsibilities bleed into one another. So, if you think that I’ve put something in the wrong category, you may well be right. If you disagree or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail or leave a comment.

1)   We made a great decision to work with Alex Lisman as our DP – he has lots of experience doing run and gun doc work, producing “promo” videos for the union and student movements, including journalistic style shooting on demonstrations and picket lines, as well as the more measured pace of studio and location interviews. He is used to working with limited lighting and even more limited time. He’s also very good at very steady handheld shots. The pressure of our assistant directors to keep moving and Alex’s speed are (along with pro actors) the reasons we were able to always get our days even with a very heavy load. Make sure, if you have a short shoot, that you have a DP that can handle it. If you get someone who is used to leisurely shoots where they can finesse the lighting for hours on end you will spend your entire time fighting with your DP. I have done this, it sucks and is stressful.

2)   Limited lighting kit (mostly two or three lights) made it quick for us to set up our shots. And shooting on DSLR gave us flexibility with lighting – it may not be as sophisticated as a Hollywood film but three point lighting with a shallow depth of field and great composition can look damn sexy. Our main goal was to always have an ISO under 200 and to be careful of the fact that the Nikon D7000 has a very limited dynamic range. During the day we often put neutral density gels on the windows (bought cheaply off of eBay) to make sure that they didn’t look blown out while the interior room looked like it was in darkness.

3)   Paying for good sound was worth it: We never worried about sound and while it cost us about ten percent of our total budget, it’s less hassle than having to organize a day’s worth of ADR (which would also cost money – especially if we had to get to add in foley) and risk having terrible, echo-laden sound.

4)   Glad we used professional talent. Again, it cost money but we were able to get our shots more quickly. Even where we were so pressed for time that we, as directors, didn’t have much opportunity to work with the actors they gave solid performances.

5)   Related to the above two points: the point is not just to be cheap (which was a necessity) it is prioritizing what you spend money on given your available resources. If you don’t have the cash for sound or actors, don’t let that paralyze you, just know the consequences of that and adjust.

6)   Be as organized as you can be. Disorganization costs time and time is money (even if only in lunches and snacks to the crew). It also means that you are more likely going to get what it was that you wanted to get. We had a detailed shot list but we didn’t prepare detailed emotional arcs and potential variety in performances in advance for each scene. This was partly the result of our inexperience and partly a result of the face that we are also co-producing, which was quite demanding. We generally had time in the morning while the first shot was being set up to note the kinds of variety that we wanted to see but not always and often it felt rushed because were also revising our shot list in light of our experience of shooting in the actual location (as opposed to how we imagined it would be in our heads). Time pressure during the shoot also prevented us from doing more than getting a good shot and full coverage so that planning to capture a variety of performances was sometimes a bit utopian anyway but better to be prepared than not.

7)   Make the script the best that you can before you go to camera. Lyn Shelton may have made Humpday without a script but she also worked for six months with the actors to develop the characters’ relationships to each other so that they could improvise the scenes that she had worked out for the film. And, imho, while Humpday is an enjoyable film and, in many ways, a breakthrough, the dialogue leaves something to be desired with lots of awkward pauses in places where there shouldn’t be awkward pauses. Film isn’t real life and film dialogue shouldn’t try to emulate real life dialogue with all those pauses, filler words and sounds that bridge thoughts like “um” and “fuck.” In real life they’re natural. Onscreen, when they fill every scene, they’re brutal. Having a script is a subsidiary of the point above about being as organized as you can be. (I confess to being biased by the fact that my first calling is as a writer). On the other hand, to my mind, there’s no point in spending two years refining and re-working your script (but maybe that’s my thing). I feel like a script must, ultimately, be tested by the fire of production.

8)   To contradict myself a little bit: the script is an architectural drawing not the Holy Bible. Just like having a detailed shot list so that you have an idea what you want to get, your script provides a guide. But how the script sounds in your head or even read out loud by the actors sitting on your couch, isn’t the same as shooting it with the actors standing up and moving around. Stuff that seemed funny or sad will parse as on-the-nose or cringe-worthy. Plot points that soared on the wings of angels on the page will sink like a lead zeppelin in front of the camera. You can’t be precious about your script. We changed lots of scenes to work more effectively or fit changed circumstances.

9)   Write a detailed shot list. Throw out your detailed shot list. This will drive your 1st AD crazy (sorry, Elinor & Michelle) but when you’re shooting ten or eleven pages in a day (we had one day that was eleven and a half!) you’re going to have to make compromises. And sometimes you’ll find that a really important scene has been under-covered in your shotlist and you’ll want that extra angle or cutaway (like a close-up on what the actor is doing with their hands). Just know that if you lose time getting extra coverage on one scene, you’ll have to give it up on another. We had a few short scenes that ended up being single shots but mostly we made sure to get at least three.

10) Be polite. Thank everyone often. Tell them how much their work means to you and to the film. You had a vision for a story that you felt so compelled to tell that you’re making it into a feature film. All these other people who are working their butts off are helping you realize that vision and tell that story. Without them: no film. And you’re not even paying them (probably) or paying them very little. Be thankful for whatever they’re giving you, it’s more than you could do on your own.

11) Be nice to your actors. Perhaps this is as obvious as thanking your crew members frequently but I still read stories about directors who try to humiliate or intimidate their actors into good performances. Don’t roll your eyes when they are “insecure” or need a quiet place to prepare. The camera is an unforgiving, unblinking eye and if they give a bad performance, have a pimple or are shot from the wrong angle that makes it look like they have a double-chin, everyone who sees them in your movie will comment on it. They know it. You know it (how many times have you and your friends made jokes about how some actor looked in a film or photo?). I generally found that where an actor wasn’t giving me what I wanted it was because I wasn’t being clear enough.

12) Get your day.  You know what’s worse than not getting that awesome shot or beautiful lighting set-up or the perfect performance? Having a film that makes no sense because you only shot half the script. There’s just no way around it: shooting a microbudget feature on a limited schedule requires compromise. We dropped a couple of scenes – generally ones that involved a character getting from point A to point B – but I was very happy that we basically shot all the scenes on our schedule and even a couple extra ones (including live concert footage involving our two leads). Besides the awesome cast and crew, this was possible because we were willing to compromise and shift on the fly based upon where we were at. Having scene an amazing script basically ruined because the director failed to shoot more than two-thirds of the script and the editor didn’t have the material to cut together something coherent, I was cognizant of the importance of this throughout the shoot.

 

There are some other lessons that will be worth discussing after post-production but I think it’s premature to discuss them at this point. Should we have gotten more or less variety in our shots, for instance? We’ll know when we try to edit it all together. I personally don’t like a lot of “trick” shots and could only watch about fifteen minutes of Wes Anderson’s indie breakout success, Bottle Rocket. The high angle/low angle shots between the lead and his sister made me nauseous. On the other hand, we were shooting a lot in just a few rooms in one house so we did try to switch it up a bit to give us some visual variety – who knows if we did enough of this or if it will come across as contrived.

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T-Minus 4 Days: Final Details

It’s definitely the final countdown as we’re heading into the last weekend before we go to camera. We’re dealing with last minute details and starting the process of setting up!
The first thing that we had to do was pay a visit to ACTRA, go over final details, get a tutorial on the various forms that we and the actors have to fill out and submit and answer some questions about conditions on set. We also had to supply a bond with the full amount owing to pay the actors – ACTRA will then disperse pay cheques to the actors according to the time sheets that we supply. This turned out to be a bit of an issue because we discovered that we will have to pay overtime to any actors who work beyond five days without two consecutive days off – 150% on day 6 and 200% on day 7. We had submitted our “day out of days” sheet, which lists what actors are on set on which days, but the overtime had been missed. Not a big deal but there was a moment when a confused reading of the IPA (union contract) led to a belief that the actors’ rates would rise to 300% and stay there for the duration of the shoot. That would have gotten very expensive – but Indra, a senior steward, came in and cleared up the confusion and saved us a few grand in the process. Whew.

After that we had to rush back to the house to meet Len, who was there to set up the lab in our living room. You can say that Len is on top of the details: he even had screws and diodes of various types to lay in clumps on one of the work benches to make it look like Murray (our scientist/landlord) had just been working then got up and left to go make a sandwich. Len’s a fascinating guy and splits his time between designing “real” things in the world and designing and building sets. He has a contract with the Toronto Fire Dept to design a device to rescuing people injured in the subway. Generally, if someone is hurt on the tracks, four or five fire fighters/paramedics have to go into the tunnel to carry out the injured, with the danger that someone will trip on the tracks. Len designed a portable trolley that fits on the tracks so that only one paramedic is necessary to push the injured person down the tracks and out of the tunnels. Back at the station, the trolley folds up into a large suitcase that is portable and can be put back on the fire truck. Anyway, there are some final touches to add to the lab, including gear that we’re renting on Monday and which Len will deliver at that time. This set was our biggest single expense other than actors, costing us a little over $4000. An awesome deal as far as we’re concerned – the lab is very important to the story and so we wanted to make sure it looked good. We were probably thinking of the smash indie hit Bellflower from 2011, which had a budget of under $20k and, according to the filmmakers, most of that went on the fire-breathing muscle car.

Our daugher Bea explores the lab

Finally, in the evening, we had our camera and audio test meeting with Alex, our DP, Jeff (1st AC), and Zoe Mapp, our sound recordist. It was a very important chance to set up pretty much everything, test out the quality of the lights and figure out our workflow. We’d bought a copy of QRSlate ($50) from the Apple app store as an alternative to an analog, wooden slate. It got a solid review on NoFilmSchool as a way to simply organize your files to prepare them for post. Um, not so much. We’re recording sound separately and also shooting with two cameras a lot of the time, which adds another layer of complication. The beep that provides a sound mark for syncing the audio and video lasts over several frames without the benefit of a linked motion. When the sticks on a classic clapper snap, you have the motion leading up to that sharp, cracking sound to provide a guide for syncing up the sound file. With QRSlate there’s just a short flash that isn’t the same length of the sound and isn’t itself sharp enough because the screen doesn’t go instantaneously black afterwards but, rather, fades out. Jeff was not at all happy with it – Jeff works as an assistant editor at a post house in his day job. I think that we’ll have to revisit this marking and workflow again Monday morning; there may be an element of QRSlate being new and unfamiliar at play here, though dealing with multiple cameras is a bit clunky. But the important thing is that the D7000 produced some sexy images with our cheapo lighting kit on a very basic set-up without any colour correction. Manuel, our co-producer/lead actor, was at the house for a wardrobe meeting with Zuzana, our key wardrobe, and to check out the camera/audio test. HE stood in front of the camera and shared the truth about a deep and secret relationship that he’d never told the world before. Check it out below.

A Man & His Beloved Seahorse from Shawn Whitney on Vimeo.

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How Are We Lighting? Hint: Cheaply

BY SHAWN WHITNEY

My first short film, we rented a lighting kit “out of the back of a truck” – literally. A very, very sketchy dude named Scott and his rude girlfriend came by with a van load. He showed up 12 hours late (yes, 12) and almost pooched the shoot. At the end he showed up late to pick up his gear and tried to squeeze more money out of us. His gear was beat up and included (if I remember correctly) maybe 5 or 6 lights of various sorts. We had to build our own softboxes. We paid him $500 for the weekend.

So, when we thought about lighting A Brand New You, the idea of paying  several thousand dollars on lights just didn’t make sense financially. One of the bonuses of shooting with DSLR is that they are relatively flexible in terms of light and anyway, with the aperture wide open, you can get nicely textured, shallow depth of field (ie. your subject is in focus and everything else is blurred out, an ability whose lack in early indie video features was much lamented). But, of course, you still need lights and, especially, shooting with the D7000, which lacks the low light abilities of higher end cameras, like the Canon 5D MkIII.

What is our lighting kit? We have the kit you see in the photo above – daylight corrected fluorescent bulbs – a china ball that Gayle is bringing to set and we have a couple of small lights that Alex is bringing. The cost of the lighting kit? $200, including delivery. It may not be good enough to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster but it’s going to work just fine for us – check out our attempts to put it together and spark it below. If it’s not informative it is at least a bit comical (there was a longer video but Kathryn made me shut off the camera after we wrestled with the softbox for ten minutes only to realize that we had it on the wrong light! My bad:

Untitled from Shawn Whitney on Vimeo.

Untitled from Shawn Whitney on Vimeo.

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Online Shopping Makes Indie Film Easier

Maybe I’m just a shop-a-holic and haven’t quite come to accept and admit it. But I think that – besides the advances in camera gear and the potential for internet distribution and marketing – e-commerce and e-shopping are disruptive elements in microbudget indie filmmaking.

Some of the stuff is maybe obvious – you can pre-order your camera online and it will be shipped to you. We shopped for our lights, shoulder rigs and follow-focus units in China and India, bought them with paypal and then had them shipped to our door – cheaper than you would have paid to “buy locally” ten years ago. Of course this isn’t just a technical question. It has also been made possible in large measure by sweatshop conditions in developing countries. And these conditions themselves made possible by repressive political conditions that make unionization difficult and often illegal. Is there anything that have a certain amount of blood spilled on it – including indie film?

But the possibilities are truly expansive and quite niche. We needed an iPad with a broken screen for our lead character, Santiago. Sure enough, we found an iPad with a broken screen that still functioned normally otherwise on ebay. It arrived at our door today from California, less than one week after we ordered it. It also arrived at the same time as a 5′ x 25′ roll of Neutral Density gel (which will allow us to darken the windows so that they don’t look blown out in the shots – the D7000 camera doesn’t have great dynamic range so we really need this stuff). We bought that from a surplus stock that someone in Calgary had and paid about half-price what you would at a store in Toronto. Before the internet, craigslist/kijiji and ebay that stuff may well have just ended up in the trash.

Nor do we need a clapper/slate to mark scenes – those classic devices of film myth. We all know them – the 2nd Assistant Camera holds them in front of the camera and calls out the scene number, shot number and take number. Well, there’s now an app for the iPad and Mac computer that automates the video file labelling process using a QR code (not surprisingly the app is called QRSlate). We downloaded it to an iPad (another one that we borrowed from Reece, one of our awesome camera operators) and purchased it in the App Store on one of our Macbook Pros. It arrived instantly, costing less than it would to rent a clapper from a rental house.

For health and sanity reasons I don’t recommend it. But you can practically crew up, gear up and do your pre-production paperwork without ever leaving your house – and for a fraction of the price you once could. This relative ease of filmmaking ought to come with a responsibility, however, to make films that don’t simply try to mimic the Hollywood model. Not to say that every film should be a call to revolution. Just that we don’t need any longer to be slaves to the levelling effect of mass produced commodity culture demanded by high cost productions.

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T-Minus 13 Days: Breaking Logjams

BY SHAWN WHITNEY

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for our growing team of awesomeness. We had a fabulous first meeting of our art department with a great discussion of how we are going to decorate “Murray’s House”, which is our main location. All the team who were there – Joffre, Nick, Irma and Zuzana our wardrobe person – had great ideas and Joffre Silva, our production designer has done an enormous amount of work and put a lot of thought into A Brand New You (ABNY), even though he’s incredibly busy with paid work. I should also say that our production team has also been awesome, especially Dagny Thompson, our Production Manager. She is keeping track of an enormous amount of details, on top of school and a full-time job. Mind-blowing, really. This kind of sacrifice not only warms the heart it’s also a reminder that, at its root, film is an art form that is driven by passion.

The meeting – and a subsequent conversation with Joffre last night – was also an incredible reminder of just how collaborative an art form film is. Every aspect of the production process adds layers of meaning and changes the script. Just based upon some decisions we made for the décor I’ve got a better appreciation for who Murray is as a character (and I’ve been writing him over and over for 14 months) and want to add a bit of dialogue and a short scene to take advantage of this element. A similar epiphany happened with the out loud reading we did with three of our lead actors – Santiago (Manuel Rodriguez), Laura (Freya Ravensberen), and Murray (Clinton Lee Pontes). Every act of doing clarifies, refines and transforms the story. It’s hard to be anything but amazed and grateful.

And speaking of actors – we finally received approval from ACTRA to move forward. There’s still a final stage – they have to send our package to the CMPA (Canadian Media Producers Association) for approval but the hard work was with ACTRA and the CMPA is unlikely to second-guess the program, which is run out of ACTRA’s offices and really administered by them. I won’t pretend that it wasn’t a difficult and frustrating challenge, in part because ACTRA aren’t used to dealing with micro budget films as small as ours. But when we were at our wit’s end and our ACTRA-member producers approached the guild about our concerns & frustrations with the process they responded very quickly and with great empathy. There are lessons to be learned from this experience but the main thing is that the logjam has been broken and we can move forward on casting and auditions with professional actors!

Finally, last night we had a great camera team meeting with our awesome camera crew – Alex Lisman (our DP), along with Gayle Ye, Reece Crothers (camera operators) and Jeff Holmden (1st AC et al!). It was a first chance to assemble most of the gear (we still have to get the second camera on-site) and make sure we can make it work – the two shoulder rigs (one of which had to be assembled), finagling the monitor to get it to work with the Nikon D7000 (yes, we’ve resigned ourselves that Nikon won’t break their logjam with the D800 supply chain). And we tested the lighting gear and tripod. In the post-Hollywood era of filmmaking you can get all this gear (minus the cameras) for under $2000. On top of this the three 3GB hard drives plus docking station cost less than $700 (rather cheaper than film stock – and we can re-use them or sell them after the shoot to recoup a portion of costs). Is this at the same level as, I don’t know, The Avengers? No. So what? We don’t need it to be. We’re interested in telling a great story and for that, we have more than enough and more than was ever possible even five years ago.

Now we have to go through all these actor CVs & headshots, lock one final location, make some script revisions and then a full team meeting this coming Sunday. This is suddenly very real and very close!

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BNY Production Diary: T-minus 26 Days (Keep Calm & Rock On)

BY SHAWN WHITNEY
In many ways things are coming together quite smoothly, especially since we have no money to pay crew. Our 1st AD, undergoing some personal challenges with living space and the need to get freelance film work, has made an enormous effort to get us a preliminary shooting schedule under a tight deadline. We have our DP, at least one camera operator – who is also a gaffer and happy to do more than one role – and we now have a 1st AC. We met yesterday with Len Rydahl who is building our laboratory set to bat some ideas and give him a deposit to start construction. I’m particularly excited about this, not only because Len’s other work is fabulously creative and looks amazing. But, it turns out, he was one of the designers, along with Eric McMillan, of the Ontario Place Kid’s Village. The Kid’s Village was a favourite place of mine back in the day and it was a revolution in the design of playgrounds for children. You know those pits of balls kids love to play in? Ikea has them in their nursery where you can drop off your kids. Well, Len and Eric et al came up with that idea and designed the first one (apparently finding balls the right size was a real challenge). Now they are everywhere. He literally helped revolutionize playground construction. And he told a funny anecdote: they designed the playground to be sturdy enough for children AND adults to play together on it. But the parents were so out of shape, particularly when it opened in the 1970s before the fitness craze, that adults were always getting injured. So, they had to ban adults for their own good! Anyway, we’re very excited to be working with him and his ideas are fabulous – we can’t wait to show them to you.

We also had our first out-loud reading of the script in our living room. I’ve been hearing the script in my head – I suppose we all have – for the past year. So it was awesome to hear actors saying the words. It revealed some weaknesses – the dialogue in the final scene made me cringe – but overall I was quite pleased with how the whole thing flowed. Of course, there’s a lot of space between a script and a final film but a good script is an important foundation. We also had the whole thing filmed by Carlos Bolivar. He’s working as our videographer for the “extra-diegetic” material (the behind the scenes stuff) that we will use in our promo material. He did an awesome job and has a great energy. I’m looking forward to working with him some more.

It’s not like there are NO challenges. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough to give me stomach flips and anxiety. We have still to get approval from ACTRA (the actors’ union) to work with their actors through the TIP program. This is turning out to be more of a challenge than I expected. That’s not entirely bad – it has forced us to be more professional and serious. We had a meeting this morning and were given some “homework” – nothing very serious: we need more detail on our plans for post-production and to demonstrate we have money in our budget to deal with overtime that might arise. But we have to have another meeting with the program coordinator next week. This could go on and it’s holding up casting!!

And speaking of transparent and streamlined, what’s up with Nikon?!? The D800 has turned out to be wildly popular – not surprisingly. It’s a full frame camera with 36 megapixels and video capability that puts it within spitting distance – if not equal to – the Canon 5D, which has dominated the HDSLR video space since the Mark II came out. The reviews for the D800 are saying that it has the resolution of many medium format cameras that cost upwards of $15,000. No wonder they have been flying off the shelves. It probably didn’t help that a battery problem forced Nikon to recall some cameras. But the back order delays are sometimes months long. In Britain Amazon.co.uk sent out order cancellations to everyone who bought a D800 through their site because Nikon couldn’t guarantee delivery within 90 days (I’ve heard that they’ve reinstated the sales after an outcry but who knows when the camera will arrive). We’ve gotten on some waiting lists (Henry’s has 500 people on their list and only receiving a few cameras a week!) but this could force us to reconsider shooting on the D800. We have access to a pair of D7000s, which also shoot 1080HD but just don’t have the quality of the D800 and which are partial frame sensors at 16.2 megapixels, less than half the D800, and which doesn’t output raw to HDMI (which means having more image information to work from in post-production). Shooting partial frame sensors also complicates things for the DP, figuring out the conversion for lenses from a full frame sensor. Yipes.

But, we will survive this and I feel confident that we’ll get ACTRA’s approval in the end and a camera package that we can work with. Even if it’s the D7000, it will still look better than most indie films shot in the 90s and for most of the first decade of the 2000s. And if it ends up online (let’s be honest: there’s no major theatrical release in our future), it will be more than enough resolution. We just need to stay calm and continue doing what we’re doing.

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Digital Film Revolution: Opportunities & Challenges

BY SHAWN WHITNEY

Not everything that I write will be about this but the revolution in film production capabilities – as a result not only of high quality and cheap digital video recording, (in particular HDSLRs but also everything from the RED camera to smartphones) but also cheap peripheral and support gear, available directly online from China and India, things like shoulder rigs, follow focus units, lighting kits, video monitors, etc etc – is so profound to filmmaking in general and to us in particular, that it occupies a lot of my brain space.

 

However, even with the technical barriers falling quickly, film is still not a cheap medium because it is a collaborative art form and, whether you pay people or not, labour/time is expensive (the only question is who pays for it, the filmmaker/producer or the people who donate it). But, then, art was never cheap in those terms, not really. The 120-year old opera La Boheme tells a story of starving artists that still resonates today (minus the TB, of course, at least in most of the industrialized world). It’s one thing to get a few friends and colleagues together to shoot a short over a weekend with some pizza and beers as reward at the end of the day. It’s quite another to try and use professional actors and crew and/or to shoot your film over a period of two or three or four weeks. It can be done and done (financially) cheaply. Mumblecore films did it, shooting for under $20k (I believe that Humpday, which really launched Lyn Shelton’s career, was shot for around $25k). But it is a sacrifice no less valuable for those making it than the sacrifice of giving money for the (unlikely) opportunity of a return on investment. Still, the decline in technical costs and the relatively more available resource of time amongst filmmakers, has led to an explosion in indie film productions from the ubiquitous YouTube videos of LOL cats to professional and semi-pro feature films.

 

The “trade-off” is that the glut in productions – between 15,000 – 45,000 indie features globally per year – has to fight to find an audience. More film is being made than ever before but the audience isn’t expanding at the same rate. This is partly offset by the relative cheapness of the films, permitting them to survive with a smaller audience share. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus will need a few more eyeballs to recoup its costs than will A Brand New You, made for less than the cost of the coffee budget on Prometheus (that’s just a guess, depending on brand of coffee, of course). That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a challenge – in fact, the biggest challenge – and it will be one that we will be encountering and exploring as we approach post-production.

 

It’s a Wild West out there in digital streaming and distribution land. There are the big fish, like Netflix or iTunes at the broadcast end of the foodchain or big “content aggregators” (distributors) who sell to broadcasters, such as Gravitas. But there are also the more DIY models, like distrify – in which you encourage friends and supporters to place a button on their websites and blogs to sell your streamed movie and they get a 10% commission in return. There’s also the more grassroots content aggregator Distribber (recently purchased by IndieGoGo, which deserves its own article on crowdfunding!), which doesn’t take any commissions or buy rights (like traditional distributors) but instead provides a service, for which you pay a flat fee, of submitting your material to broadcasters. Tunecore, which started out with just musicians but now provides the service to filmmakers and is a bit cheaper than Distribber. Other models like advertising embedded streaming (Hulu, YouTube) vs pay streaming vs P2P – the list is long and that’s only in the area of streaming video. Then there are sites like Topspin, similar to Distribber, that allow you to market your DVDs and merch online, providing a platform, in return for a subscription fee. For the full list of 27 (!!) platforms for direct distribution, check out this article. The labyrinth of opportunities – all new (as in less than a decade old), some more effective than others – is navigated with a guide. You could do worse than to read Jon Reiss’ book Think Outside The Box Office. It has become something of a bible for indie filmmakers and he is a much in-demand speaker, describing what indie filmmakers need to do to build a relationship with an audience who will buy and watch your movie after you’ve gone to all the trouble of making it.

 

What is clear is that the digital revolution has changed the indie filmmaking world. There are enormous opportunities and new challenges in what is still largely uncharted territory, especially for first time filmmakers. We – the Brand New You production team – are also experiencing this for the first time and, thus, sharing our journey with you. But, please, if you have been along this path, we encourage you to share your experience. How has the digital revolution – in production and distribution – changed your filmmaking experience? What have you learned from your experience that could be usefully shared with others? Believe me when I say that we really want to know.

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