A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.
Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw
Posted in Casting, Film Crew, Film Distribution, Film Funding, Film making, Film Oxford Production Group, IndieGoGo, Legal, Location Scouting, producing, Short film
One of the things which we were keen to avoid with Emmi was a lengthy crowdfunding campaign before filming began. Crazy right? Well – yes and no!
Obviously the production aspect is the part which eats most of the money during film-making. Most turn to crowdfunding to raise funds and build an audience in advance. But this method of raising money takes a lot of time and effort. You also need something visual to show off to seperate your project from the rest (which you probably won’t have much of by this point). Crowdfunding is now mainstream and very noisy – everyone is using it, including major studios? How can you compete?
We opted to take a different route, a film evening showing off some of our previous short film efforts as a fundraiser for two Film Oxford Production Group projects. What fun this was! Below are a few photos (badly taken on my mobile) from our “Grim Shorts” event:
The main beauty of the event was:
1. It was a lot more fun than crowd-funding to organise!
2. It helped to fund more than just our project.
3. It took less time to bring it together than a full crowdfunding campaign would.
4. It used similar skills as pulling a production together. Good for experience and team bonding.
5. It acted as a local audience build. We had around 60-70 people attend, one of which (unknown to us) was a local journalist.
6. People were already getting some “benefit” from the experience.
We formed the budget around the amount we raised which was split 50/50 between the two projects. Considering all the requirements in our script, we did a phenomenal job pulling it all together on time and on budget. Would I do consider doing this over crowdfunding? Yes – definitely!
Our fundraiser is now only days away and I’m massively excited! After a short break it’s also fun to re-utilise a skill I once did as my day-job – event organising.
I can now confirm additional details for those of you coming to the event (or perhaps still sitting on the fence):
The event is invite only (if you haven’t received an invite but would like to come, please email me). We are asking for a minimum donation of £10 per person, but believe this is extremely good value for everything you will be getting. The event takes place in the following garden:
The schedule for the evening is:
||Garden party arrival cocktails with live music by Paul ‘Mudslide’ Morris. There will non-alcoholic cocktails for those who are driving.
||Food. Indian cuisine, with both meat and vegetarian options available.
||Live music by “Peter and the Wulf”.
||Film Screenings. All are short films, we’ve tried to showcase a wide-range of locally produced films alongside a few others we think are excellent examples. Not all are suitable for smaller children, but we promise not all are “grim” and there is plenty of fun mixed in.
The event will ends at 10.30pm. You will be free to mingle with others in the garden through-out the evening, the film-screenings will take place in the Coach House. We would recommend you arrive on time for the cocktails.
There will also be a raffle with prizes towards the end of the night (funny story about this – but you’ll need to turn up to hear it!). It would be great to meet some of you there and just in case you missed it, here is the original flyer.
Our team has been considering various options to help raise the budget for our short film Emmi. Running any online crowd-funding campaign so close to the production dates was always going to prove difficult, so we have decided on a different approach.
We are collaborating with another Film Oxford production to run a local fundraiser. The fundraiser showcases a number of our earlier productions in the grounds of a traditional English garden (with some food/drink). Anyone who would like to attend will need to donate a minimum of £10 prior to the event:
The fundraiser takes place on Saturday 13th September and it should prove an evening to remember (contingency in place should the weather decide to misbehave). If you would like to mingle and see a variety of local indie short films please get in touch: email@example.com.
I have to say this week got off to a fantastic start! Running late for work (with particular emphasis on the “running”) – I only just managed to catch the train in time. That elated feeling of “phew” subsided when the train pulled off and the ticket inspector arrived. Then the realisation hit: I’d left my mobile phone and wallet on the desk at home. Thankfully the ticket inspector recognised me and said “Season holder right?”. I nodded. Over the first hurdle, but more were to come – how would I get past the barriers?
After arriving and being directed from pillar to post by almost every member of station personnel on the platform – it appeared no one really had a clue what to do – least of all me. The station manager I was told was in a very important meeting. I considered taking the train back again (which would have cost me around two hours and a hefty spot fine if caught), I saw the younger “less forgiving” ticket inspector get on so I thought better of it. Drat! By now I was feeling like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.
Around this point something caught my eye – a poster which had the station manager on it. And who would this be who has just stepped out onto the opposite platform? Seizing the moment I bounded over the bridge and said “You’re the station manager right?”. His face and response were priceless – “Er, only if it’s not a complaint”. At last I found the right person, who was admittedly extremely helpful – my details were checked and through I went. Albeit one way – and without a phone or any money.
Next mission then, to blag some money for food/refreshments/train ticket home from a work colleague (thankfully a lot easier than getting out of the station). Brandishing a tenner, I carefully budgeted the rest of the day. Amazingly I was able to get teas/coffees, a three-course meal, a luxury drink and most importantly the train ticket back from this – with plenty of change to spare.
Thinking back afterwards this struck me how these are exactly the sorts of things which are all par for the course as a film producer: panic, talking to people, blagging, problem solving, seizing the moment, limited resources, asking for money, budgeting and making ends meet. So it seems I put some of these skills to good use throughout the day. And amazingly, I haven’t forgotten my wallet since.
I woke up recently to the news that Kevin Smith won’t be using kickstarter for Clerks 3. Great! Why? I’m rapidly becoming a Crowdfunding cynic.
Everything I originally loved about crowdfunding has ebbed away, which brings back memories of ebay (remember that place?). Once upon a time ebay was lovely community with purer intentions. Sadly when it became more mainstream – ebay/paypal started to take huge fees; sellers had little come-back (buyers could easily claim the item had never arrived and the liability is with the seller to reimburse – even if the item did turn up); likewise – buyers regularly get duped into buying broken, fake or knock-off products – the whole experience now feels like one big scam! Is crowdfunding heading down a similar path?
As I have primarily used crowdfunding to make or help others make films, I am basing my experiences around this although it could equally apply to other projects/products. Much like ebay, crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo, Kickstarter or Sponsorume were once a lovely place to be. Projects that would never see the light of day had the opportunity to flourish. Now it is so mainstream and everyone wants a piece!
The problems are obvious:
1. Everyone is doing it. There is an awful lot of noise now. It’s a given you’ll HAVE to do this as a film-maker (we didn’t for this project being as it’s a charity piece, but sadly I’ll be back before long). It is incredibly tough to get noticed when everyone is shouting about their project and the unique perks which once enticed are losing their lustre.
2. Too many people are getting scammed by undelivered perks, projects which fall flat/never see the light of day or worst of all were nothing more than a con in the first place – eg. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/kickstarter-scam-nearly-duped-thousands-out-of-120000/22016
3. Fees. These companies continue to cream off bigger fees (ala ebay/pay-pal) whilst leaving many dangling in a murky quagmire legally speaking. You can bet the onus will never be on them!
4. By far my biggest gripe is that playing fields are now completely uneven. Once upon a time a project just needed to be unique to stand-out from the crowd. Now this world is flooded and projects can be manipulated/dictated by the sites themselves (ie. the highest bidder). To me crowdfunding is about realising dreams. It was never about giving further finances to the more established who already have surplus resources such as film studios (eg. Veronica Mars) or celebrities (eg. Zach Braff). These people already have an unfair advantage and have access to far more resources – they just don’t want to reach into their own pockets! Of course, along comes the odd exception such as James Franco, although again – the cynic in me still thinks this is just as much about profile raising for Franco as it is for the charity fund-raising aspect itself (although I’d dearly love to be proven totally wrong about this!).
Kevin Smith “kickstarted” this mainstream film-maker trend with his Red State movie but has gone on to realise we should “leave it to people who need it“. To which I wholeheartedly agree, although sadly the damage is already done! Crowdfunding for most is now a desperate needy affair which boils down to little more than online begging or shouting over and over to the point of complete nauseum (most often both at the same time). And the grim reality is I will no-doubt find myself back here again soon enough.
Yesterday Gail Hackston and I went to the Film London offices to pitch for Cancer Hair which was shortlisted for the Eastern Edge film fund. There was only a 20% chance we would win. The other teams were all extremely strong and every project was interesting. We weren’t successful! Even so this wasn’t a wasted trip.
The process of pitching is a cross between speed-dating and a job interview. You have 5 minutes to sell the project. It is vital you can hit the key points with ease. Open inviting body language and confidence is vital. You need to know the timing perfectly. But perhaps the single most important thing is passion and the ability to be able to “sell” the project.
I spent most of the day before the pacing up and down the kitchen doing jazz hands practicing –much to the amusement of our kids (“Daddy has gone mad and he’s still talking to himself”). In the end I structured things so I could add in or drop parts out depending on how the time was progressing. This wasn’t an easy process, but I am very glad I did this. It is remarkably easy to either ramble over the allocated time nervously or clam up and forget things nervously. There are aspects I’m sure we could improve – but I don’t think we delivered a truly terrible first-ever pitch. We will be speaking to Eastern Edge to gather feedback next week.
A knock-back is usually more important than a success – you can learn more from this. I believe this is the case, plus if it wasn’t meant to be – best we know now. That what doesn’t kill us…
For me, the process wasn’t really about getting the money (it wasn’t a vast sum in the first place, although it would have sped up the production schedule). It was about further training/experience and the gravitas of being associated with Eastern Edge/Film London. However there are positives about this outcome. We no longer need to feel bound to the conditions which would have been imposed had we won – namely:
- We no-longer have to rush through and deliver a project within 3 months (but having a specified date does focus the mind)
- We are no longer tied to a particular location
- We can significantly reduce costs because of some of the conditions involved.
It also highlighted a few useful things:
- The script is original and people love it.
- The title divides people (myself included). Gail and I discussed this in detail afterwards. I have come to the conclusion that for fund-raising “Cancer hair” does what it says on the tin. However in terms of the end product – anything with “Cancer” in is too on the nose and a softer title needs to be considered. Especially considering it is actually a “feel good” film, which the title doesn’t suggest.
- We should revise the schedule in more detail now we have time.
So all in all, I see this as a thoroughly useful exercise, even if the final outcome wasn’t the intended one.