Archive for the ‘Distribution’ Category

Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to “Epic Fail”

October 19, 2011

Last fall, when the initial burst of energy to write the script for this movie came about (and I still had a job), I subscribed to both Script and Creative Screenwriting. The March/April 2011 issue came along in the mail. This particular issue had some articles that offered advice for new writer/directors, and I was interested in seeing how their advice lined up with the stuff that I’ve learned the past few years.

One article that really caught my eye was “Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to ‘Film By'”, penned by USC Grad Student Robert Piluso. The article is focused on the hardware and software associated with filmmaking and its uses. Of course, there’s a discussion of Final Draft (Script is owned by Final Draft), Gorilla, Movie Magic Scheduling, and Final Cut Pro. I don’t think I would’ve had as much of a problem, had Piluso kept to his main focus–software and hardware–rather than veering off into festival submission and exhibition, which is article unto itself. Piluso could’ve heeded his own advice and used his two interviewees as a jumping off point for his own research rather than designating them as authorities.

That’s not to say that Piluso doesn’t get a few things right. He manages to avoid making his article into a collection of press releases and soundbites, as Script‘s articles tend to be. He does recognize that with a smaller budget, your film will need to be more personal in nature in order to work. Having a tight script doesn’t hurt. Finally, he stays away from making hackneyed references to El Mariachi and Clerks, two broadly known microbudget classics that have no bearing on today’s indie film landscape.

As someone with a few bad specs in my past, I know that spec writers are used to taking dogmatic advice from people who have worked mainly on the periphery of screenwriting (The late Blake Snyder and J. Michael Straczynski are exceptions to this rule), and are used to tailoring scripts for a market that’s becoming increasingly narrower in taste. In turn, these gurus have very rigid ideas as to what makes a good story. The festival circuit, with its more diverse aesthetic, is more interested in personal vision than a product aimed at a demographic. As I recall overhearing filmmaker Benny Safdie saying outside of a screening at this year’s BAM Cinemafest, “These films aren’t for everybody, but they’re for anybody.”

I’ve uploaded a PDF of Piluso’s original article for you to read and judge for yourself. The article is copyright its respective owners.

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Things that have crossed my mind, #1.

March 3, 2010

I’ve been giving serious thought to starting a new blog. Not just something where I journal my life or something similar, or documenting a project like this one. A real blog. I mean, a topical blog where people would I would post an item or some commentary, and people actually respond to it. Where I would conduct a survey to determine who is my audience, and using SEO to attract more visitors. In other words, a professional blog.

Maybe I should be thinking about using SEO to attract people to see this movie, or conducting surveys about who visits this site instead.

Yes, They Will Survive

February 6, 2010

Edward Jay Epstein published a short essay at the Gawker offshoot Defamer yesterday. A few years ago, Epstein published a really good book called The Big Picture, a great analysis of the contemporary studio system.

While his description of Hollywood pulling out of Indies is spot on, I believe most indie filmmakers are beyond the point of crying Chicken Little. At least based on panels I’ve attended. I liked this quote in the comments section, though:

Don’t get me wrong. I can dig films like Old Joy, and I support seeing more films like that made. At the same time I don’t have any illusion that such films are really separate from the same studio machine that churns out dreck like Norbit. “Indie” has pretty much been just another market niche since the 90s.

Children Of Invention’s DIWO Distribution

January 21, 2010

With the help of Variance Films, director Tze Chun and producer Mynette Louie are engineering a theatrical release for their feature, Children of Invention. Even though self distribution can be cumbersome and a costly venture, here’s why they’ve opted to do this:

Yes, we might be crazy. Perhaps all of those traditional distributors who passed on our film were right–perhaps we are indeed a “tough sell” in this horrible climate for indie film (read more about this in our DIY Manifesto). And yet, why did we sell out our festival screenings in Boston, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, DC, Cleveland, Denver, Sarasota, Vancouver, Woodstock, and Sundance? And why do people come up to us after our Q&As to buy DVDs of the film they just saw? Sure, festival audiences are different, but we’re being “brave” (as Ted Hope recently called us), and betting that “regular” audiences will want to see our film on the big screen too.

And yes, a theatrical release is very hard work, but the major critics and press will not review your film unless you have a commercial theatrical release. And without this important coverage, our little film will fade away into oblivion.

Prove those distributors wrong by donating to their fundraiser. Today I donated $5. You may be able to donate more.