New Filmmaker’s Day

This past weekend I attended New Film maker’s Day at the VIFF Forum. It was a great experience (especially because I have never attended any kind of film seminar or talk before. The talks were not just geared towards new filmmakers, and in the second half of the day I ran into one of my former instructors.

Life of a Telefilm Project
I have mixed feelings about Telefilm. I have met and spoken with Jon Dippong and Bill Hurst personally and they really are down to earth people who are looking for great films to support. At the same time, Telefilm is so limited in what and how it funds projects in Canada that it is both daunting and depressing to even think about the process of applying for production money from them.
A few pieces of information that might be of use to you, readers…
One benefit that you can get regardless of the outcome of applying is that your script will be read and you will be given reader’s notes. Getting an evaluation of your script from people whose job it is to read scripts and who owe you nothing is invaluable. They are also willing to meet with you and talk about your application.
They also discussed distributors that they have assessed and consider viable funding partners. If your total budget is more than 1.25 million then they won’t even consider your application without a distributor attached. It is recommended that you have a distributor lined up regardless of budget level because it proves that your film has a viable commercial market.
The Low Budget Feature Film Program is a Director-Driven program intended for director’s embarking on their first or second feature film. It funds projects with a maximum Production budget of 200,000 and/or up to 200,00 for Post Production.
The most important thing is the writing. Second is casting – the right cast can attract money to your project. When you apply, include everything that you feel is relevant to the application including director’s notes, short film samples and anything tangible that you have already lined up (such as cast commitments.)

Success Stories
It can be fun to hear about how people made the leap from indie to pro, and this one was pretty Hollywood-focused. Their story was both interesting and somehow disappointedly not surprising at all. Neither of them attended film school, neither of them ever made a short. They just got themselves together and made a feature, somehow got it into a festival, got it seen by the right person and got an agent right away. As they said multiple times during their talk, they were extremely lucky. And this is one of those truths that the throngs of people who go to film school don’t want to believe. I am guilty of this. I want to believe that if I am creative and hard-working and I have unique ideas that I will make it. But the reality is there are so many talented people out there and so much of it is pure luck. The right film the right festival, the right person watching… not to mention the right actor, the right script, etc. etc. So I guess… cross your fingers for me.

Webisodes with Legs
I was actually really interested in this topic. Partly because I am involved with a potential webseries ( at least it is written for a short webisode format) and partly because I am just curious how it can translate into legitimate feature film or television. The webseries ‘Riese’ had a very strategic plan as far as creating a fan base, and creating other means to make back their money for their investors. One thing they didn’t mention was how much it cost them to make it. After the talk I asked some friends if they knew. Apparently the budget for the first 5 episodes (10 minutes each) was $200,000 dollars! Although the production values looked very high in the trailer they showed, I would never have imagined that an indie filmmaker would spend that much money on a series of short episodes for the web! I am aghast.. and it’s a bit disheartening to hear because those kind of numbers are just way beyond my means. They had a lot of private investment and it just reminded me of how many young filmmakers I have met that come from wealthy families or neighborhoods. I don’t think they realize just how lucky they are that they even have access to ask people with money like that to invest in their projects.
Interesting Notes:
Sci fi seems to be a good genre for webseries. If you can create a world, then there is unlimited possibility to investigate it. Games, comics, spin offs, etc. Other revenue streams give you a way to make back your money (or the money of your investors) even with your videos being broadcast for free online. Using recognizable actors (especially those who are already have a fan base) can draw an audience to your project. They suggested making episodes 10 minutes long because that is the minimum for itunes (to sell episodes) and the max for YouTube (to stream for free.) If you are working in comedy, however, they suggested to make them “short and share-able.”

Frame by Frame
This talk was absolutely fascinating. It was given by Stephen Mirrione the editor of the 21 Grams, Babel, Good Night and Good Luck, Traffic and the Ocean’s movies. I really feel like I got a glimpse into the mind of an editor in a way I haven’t since reading ‘Conversations’ by Walter Murch. Some of the techniques he talked about using I am actually looking forward to trying out in the future when I am editing something.
Useful Notes:
Look at what you HAVE vs. getting lost in your mistakes or what you hoped to get.
Let a strong performance guide the cut.
Treat all the material like it’s a documentary.
Use your title sequence to set up the world of the movie.

Anatomy of a Scene
This was probably my favorite talk of the day, probably because it was a director talking about directing. David Slade, director of Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night and Twilight: Eclipse talked about the differences in directing small independent films and directing a large-scale production like Twilight. It was just really interesting getting to hear about someone’s directing style and the kind of research he does. His ‘method’ if you will. I have some ideas for approaching future rehearsals with actors and for how to approach my preparation and pre-production of any film, regardless of length.
Useful Notes:
Films are constantly changing. As they change, updates your skills to keep up.
Know as much as possible about every scene, piece of dialogue, shot. See it clearly in your mind.
Preparation allows you to take advantage of inspiration.
Preparation is the backbone from which you can improvise.
Be a strong leader. That is what your cast and crew are hoping you will be.

The reception was pretty small, mainly full of the attendees of the forum, not the speakers.

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