PRODUCTION TIPS: It’s Better to Avoid a Lawsuit Than to Win One pt. 3

From  In parts 1 and 2, we covered the reality of being sued and ways to minimize the chances of that happening (and losing) by essentially displaying common sense, taking the time out to make sure ‘things are what they seem’ and getting everything in writing.  Producers and filmmakers with money hire lawyers and others to do all that work for them so they can focus on the fun stuff like directing scenes or hobnobbing with actors and financiers. The true no-budget filmmaker can’t hire a lawyer to do the work but the work still needs to get done somehow.  This series has been an attempt to provide no-budget filmmakers, like you, some guidelines to help you organize and minimize your risk.*

  1. INTERNS.  ‘Everyone loves PA interns cuz they work for free, right?!?’ Wrong. The Blackswan case was a wake-up call for the industry; your interns are not a way to get free labor.  For far too long, interns have been used in abusive manners (even if the producers didn’t intent to abuse the interns). The clearest rule to remember regarding the use of an intern in your production is that they are there for THEIR benefit. The job they do should be something that benefits them because they learned something or gained a valuable experience.  And a big no-no is using an intern to replace someone you would actually hire.  It’s ok to use interns in your no-budget production but use common sense and provide an actual opportunity that benefits them. If you want some tips on using interns… here you go.

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Zero Budget Software Suite For Filmmakers

From Money is, by definition, always a difficult issue for the low budget filmmaker.  The challenge is in getting as much of your meagre budget up on the screen as possible.  With that being the case do you really have the money to throw around on overpriced software packages?

Luckily, by the wonders of open source development, just about every £500 software package has its freebie equivalent.

These packages give you an entire office set up for every stage of the filmmaking process, from drawing up budgets and schedules, writing your script right through to advanced editing and special effects.  All for a most reasonable price.  Free.

The Office


Open Office – Equivalent to Microsoft Office

Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking
MAC/PC/LINUXWord and Excel, absolutely essential in running your office but at an annoyingly high price.  Not to mention the need to buy it all over again to run on a Mac.  So why bother?  Open Office has all the features of the Office package in a nicely familiar layout.  As a bonus it’s compatible with Mac and PC and can work with Microsoft files.  So long Bill Gates.
Get Open Office here

Celtx – Equivalent to Final Draft

If you’re going to get anywhere as a writer then you’re going to have to make sure your scripts are properly formatted.  Final Draft’s £200+ price tag mocks the penniless writer, whereas Celtx welcomes him with open arms.  Celtx’s range of features is very impressive, functioning perfectly as an intuitive screenwriting package and also offers a complete scheduling and scene breakdown solution.
Get Celtx here

See the rest of the list, including suggestions for Editing and Graphics, Audio, Animation, Web Development and Handy Tools at Raindance.Org –>

The Top Ten Crowdfunding Sites

CrowdsUnite, a resource for the crowdfunding industry and the largest review site in the world, has ranked the top top ten crowdfunding sites based on user reviews. By Alex Leibowitz, PR and Marketing at CrowdsUnite.

How To Determine Your Day Rate

From One of the most challenging aspects with any creative endeavor is trying to figure out how to price and charge for your services. This is especially true when you are first starting out. Price yourself too low and you will not have a sustainable business model, and price yourself too high and people may laugh at the rate you are charging in comparison to your experience level and skill. The good news is that as you progress in your experience, you will get a more accurate sense of what it takes to render your services, and how to charge for them. But where and how do you begin? That’s what I want to help you figure out…

Regardless of service, product, or industry, I think that all pricing strategies can be grouped into one of two categories: they are either reactive or proactive. Reactive pricing takes a look at the market, figures out where current pricing is, and then sets a price accordingly. Proactive pricing figures out how much time, energy, and resources something takes, then adds a value added cost and sets the price based off of those numbers. Reactive pricing is the quickest way to devalue your services and/or product as you race to cut costs to be the lowest game in town. The race to the bottom is the best way to ensure that you do not get the opportunity to grow and stretch your skills as an artist. Proactive pricing, on the other hand, will ensure that you are able to not only keep a roof over your head, but it will give you the ability to develop your craft so that your work stands out from the competition. So let’s take a look at how to determine your day rate proactively.

Steps To Proactive Pricing:

1. Calculate The Hard Expenses.
The first thing you need to do is to itemize every singe expense that it takes to support yourself and the work that you do. The more detailed and specific you are, the better equipped you will be to set your pricing, as well as knowing where and when you can cut costs. This is not a complete list but it does show some of the items you will want to take into account:

  • Rent (Office/Studio Space)
  • Utilities (Phone, Water, Electricity, Internet, etc.)
  • Automotive Expenses (Repairs, maintenance, gas, insurance, etc.)
  • Continuing Education (Classes, books, seminars, etc.)
  • Insurance (Business, Equipment, etc.)
  • Healthcare
  • Professional Services (CPA’s, Attorney’s, etc.)

2. Calculate Your Equipment Costs.
Equipment costs include not only the original purchase price, but also the the maintenance, repairs, and servicing of gear. The depreciation of the equipment is also a part of this calculation. (Talking with a CPA about that depreciation is a good way to get a grasp on these numbers). The equipment you have will be dependent on the specific work you do, and the services you provide. Some of the items you will want to consider are:

  • Camera Equipment
  • Lighting Equipment
  • Audio Equipment
  • Computer Equipment
  • Software
  • Transportation (Car, Van, etc.)

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“Have you ever tried to find that perfect location for your film? Ever been on the phone for hours trying to see if a certain location is available? Have you ever been disappointed with the lack of location variety? Or, have you ever called a location scout and to find out their fees exceed your budget? If so, you know what a hassle location scouting is for filmmakers. It’s painful, expensive, and a time-killer. We’ve been through the process and recognized the need for a better way.”

Great news for independent filmmakers – location scouting just got a whole lot easier. Set Scouter, a Toronto-based company, puts independent filmmakers in touch with local property owners looking to rent out their locations. With Set Scouter, a filmmaker might be able to avoid hiring an expensive location scout, or the tedious, frustrating process of trying to secure a location on your own.

Set Scouter’s comprehensive listings feature photos, location details, potential amenities, and a navigatable price guide. The scouter can sort listings by any of these designations and can view the locations on a map. Property owners can set “house rules,” and Set Scouter will protect their identities and addresses during the process until the renter has completed booking the location. The app is new, but if it works, it could be the Airbnb of location scouting.

Check out Set Scouter, which still in a beta version but has plenty of locations listed and ready for scouting!

Is Piracy a Danger to Independent Film? Part 1: The Search – In Which I Can’t Find Much of Anything

From  Last month, Tim League and Ruth Vitale, founder of and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Executive Director of CreativeFuture respectively, released an op-ed they jointly penned. In this post that appeared on Indiewire, they argued strongly that piracy is a danger to indie film.

It’s a post that’s very impassioned. It’s also lite on articulating a definitive link between piracy and independent film.

No one can debate that piracy is inherently good or benign. While there are still no definitive studies that have demonstrated the impact illegal downloading has on box office numbers, what happened to Expendables 3 rightfully put the fear into any studio, distributor and exhibitor. The initial number of 100,000 downloads in the first 24 hours has ticked up to 250,000 and tracking firm Exicipio reports 2 million downloads of the film and growing.

Expendables 2 opened to $28 million domestic and Expendables opened to $34 million. The average price of a ticket according to Box Office Mojo is $8.15. Assuming those 2 million downloads had been planning to attend the movie and will now skip the film in theaters, that’s a healthy $16.3 million that Lionsgate may lose. Watching 50 to 60 percent of your opening weekend evaporate thanks to a single leak of a DVD should give us all pause.

Yet, the film has yet to open. Where the third installment of the franchise lands, we won’t know till Monday, August 18. Conjecture at this point would be conjecture. If the film opens north of Expendables, expect many posts arguing that piracy didn’t hurt and maybe even helped, if it does worse than 2, then the piracy hurts posts will come, if it lands in the middle, the wild all over the place posts will likely outnumber the previous two combined.

Back to independent film. League and Vitale’s piece stressed two major points: “The fact is: pirate sites don’t discriminate based on a movie’s budget. As long as they can generate revenue from advertising and credit card payments—while giving away your stolen content for free—pirate site operators have little reason to care if a film starts with an investment of $10,000 or $200 million. Whether you’re employed by a major studio or a do-it-yourself creator, if you’re involved in the making of TV or film, it’s safe to assume that piracy takes a big cut out of your business.

The first, is that independent film is not immune to piracy and we can “assume that piracy” is hurting the financial viability of indie film: “We know piracy won’t go away altogether, and we won’t always agree on the best way to go about disrupting it. But we can agree on a vision for a digital future that better serves audiences and artists alike, and that future depends on reducing piracy.

The second, reducing piracy will “better serve audiences and artists.”

Let’s start with something easy to test that first claim, we’ll do that by using Kickass Torrents to search for films that screened at Sundance this year. We’ll use the films from the U.S. Documentary (16), U.S. Dramatic (16), and Premiere (19) sections. With 51 films listed and this being six months after their initial screenings, it should give us a strong picture.

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Become A Boring Filmmaker In 10 Easy Steps

From How terribly and drippingly cool to work in the creative industries. You get to wear the coolest clothes, sport the strangest hair dye and give yourself the most glamorous sounding job description imaginable – and get away without proving any real talent or ability.

Another defining aspect of the creative industries is there is no code of conduct which means anyone can say pretty much anything about themselves without having any proof to back themselves up.

This creates a situation where filmmakers in particular have become boring.

Here, tongue firmly in cheek, are 10 ways to become a boring filmmaker:

1. Use complicated film industry slang words

Why speak clearly and sensibly when you can, in fact, roll the simplest concept into a series of complicated scenarios. Brush up on film industry definitions – both technical and financial. Sprinkle these terms liberally through each sentence that you speak or write. The more obscure the term the better.

2. Sound really important

When asked any question, respond by lowering your voice, clearing your throat slowly and meticulously – and then begin to speak. Speak in phrases that sound meaningful (but aren’t). Stab the air repeatedly for emphasis.

If you are writing, remind the reader repeatedly how fortunate they are to be able to access the high pinnacles of your ability.

Whatever you do, don’t poke fun at yourself. After all, no-one dares to approach the altar of your ego without bowing down. And that’s not ever going to be funny.

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PRODUCTION TIPS: It’s Better to Avoid a Lawsuit Than to Win One pt. 2

The second article of a 3-part series

In part 1, we looked at the reality and possibility of being sued for creating art and entertainment followed by ways to avoid legal problems with the script and other artworks used in making the film.  As we all know, the main (but not only) reason why you as a producer would hire a lawyer is to avoid lawsuits.  Although it might not seem like it when you are itemizing your production budget, it is money well-spent (provided you get a good lawyer).  However, in this day, age and economy, there are filmmakers who literally have no budget. But even without a budget, you are still vulnerable to lawsuits so you need to do what you can to protect and defend yourself.  That’s why I place so much emphasis on documenting everything you do and keeping it in a safe, accessible place.  This protects you and minimizes the risks you face.  In part 2, let’s look at what you can do when dealing with actors, crew, locations, children, music, trademarks and titles.

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5 Film Festival Survival Tips for Introverts

Film-Festival-StrategyFrom It was awards night at my first film festival in Houston, and a man introduced himself.  His appearance screamed Hollywood.  Trendy suit.  Slicked back hair.  Unwavering eye contact.  This was the type of person film festivals were made for — not me.  He held out his hand and assured me that we had so much in common because we both had made no-budget features and were based in LA.  He would most definitely call when we got back home.  Of course I never heard from him.  Guys like that are like the pickup artists of film festivals.  They go around introducing themselves to everyone they meet, pretending as if they’re best of friends.  I, on the other hand, am an introvert.  I just can’t do that.

Relax, fellow introverts.  You can still benefit from film festivals.  Sure, it may be on your own terms, but if you try, you too can walk away from the festival with a valuable experience and a new network of fellow filmmakers.  Here are some lessons I’ve learned from my own festival experience that I hope can help fellow introverts, ambiverts, and maybe even a few extroverts.

1.  Take the advice of others, but take it with a grain of salt.

We live in an extroverted world.  Particularly if you’re a filmmaker.  You will read advice that terrifies you.  You mean I’m supposed to stand in the street handing out flyers to random people walking by?  I have to collect ten business cards from other filmmakers at the meet-and-greet, and they don’t even serve alcohol??  No and no.  Sure, you can do these things if you want to, but you don’t have to.  There are other ways to build an audience and network —  ways that may be more suited to your personality and therefore more successful.  You can spread the word from the safety of your own home via the internet.  You can use your great research skills to learn about the other filmmakers so when you do talk to them, you’ll actually have something meaningful to say.  An introvert trying to follow an extrovert’s advice can feel a bit like a left-handed child trying to scratch out a sentence with his right hand.  By all means, seek out all the advice you can find before the festival.  Just know that you don’t have to actually use all of it.

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Researchers Have Developed a Way to Extract Audio From Silent Videos


This is one of those times when words like amazing and mind-blowing are not hyperbole. Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe recently joined forces to do something that seems completely impossible: they’ve been able to extract audio from visual information alone — meaning they have recovered sound from videos that have no audio whatsoever.

Here’s the video showing their process and how they achieved their incredible results:

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