Wednesday, June 28, 2006


OK. So we're locked. At least we're locked on Act I (which is basically Reel 1, or rather, the first 17 or 18 minutes of the movie). Aaron had some notes about a sequence (which sucked) and I think I made it suck less. I'm experimenting with the Opera browser, unfortunately it just isn't supported by Gmail, or Gmail's calendar, or even Blogger (not really, at least).

But it's the only way I can read which is an excellent writing web site.

There are a number of good sites on the Internet about screenwriting. Truthfully, it's only as I've gotten some screenplays under my belt that they've REALLY started to make sense!

I can't use italics when working in Opera and trying to post on Blogger. I can't do many things. Hmm. . . I guess it's back to IE for blogger then. . . (When I'm on a Mac I use Firefox. . .)


So, we're locking picture.

Reel one (Act I of VIII) is locking today. There will be a spotting session with Aaron Paul Low, our composer, at 6pm.

Here's Blair Johnson as Glaak, showing Murnau (Daryl Boling) a picture of Harkness (Ato Essandoh) as created by John Loftus. These are our favorite graphics in the whole movie.

It's time to look at some Foley, do a dialog edit, sound effects edit, and start mixing. . .
Anthony might come by to take a look at picture. I'd love to get him to do a sound effects pass, but I bet he won't. He pretends he has a real job but I think he just plays video games all day.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hippo II

Well, maybe the hippo will work now.

It's hard to say.

Picture is nigh on locked. We shot 4 pickups today. Slithery things and an optical thingy. I think that'll be the last stuff we need to actually shoot.

Good grief. The hippo worked twice. Of course, you already know that.

Filmsins III, with hippo

Well, for some reason the picture of the hippo just isn't posting. Unless, of course, you see a hippo, in which case it did.

"Seven Deadly Sins of Filmmaking For Profit" PART III
By Ted Chalmers

Sin #6:

Your film should be at around 90 minutes and not longer than 120
minutes. 90 minutes is the ideal because it is ideal for
programming a two hour movie slot with commercial breaks.
Features sell. Not shorts and not three shorts cut together to
make a 90 minute trilogy. They want one continuous story line
that is 90 minutes. Features generally range from 81 to 120

However, in order to effectively use Sin #6 you've got to know
our last Sin...

Sin #7:

Most films that sell are in English. Even if you have a film
idea that merits another language you will be doing yourself
harm if you shoot in any language other than English. This
applies even if the territory traditional dubs into their own

Ok, so LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and AMELIE were hits and they were not
originally in the English language. How many non-English
films are actually produced every year? Well, I can tell you the
number is far higher than English language films. But, how
many of these films do YOU actually hear about beside Academy
Award(r)(tm) nominated films, or a few exceptional breakouts?
Hardly any. In fact, when I go overseas, I am amazed at how
many great movies are being made in other countries, but no one
wants to pick them up for U.S. or for International distribution
because they are too risky and have to have the hook of
cast, critical success or huge box office in their countries of
origin. These are rare exceptions, indeed .

So, there they are... The Seven Deadly Sins. The biggest thing
you have to be concerned about with your investors is whether
or not your film will get distribution. Without distribution,
no one will ever see your film and it will not make money.

Unfortunately, the gatekeepers to whether anyone buys a ticket
to your film are distributors. Distributors are ruled by
these sins for economic reasons. It is a buyers market and they
will pick and choose the films that have the best chance of
working for them. If they have a good track record with black
and white, romantic comedies, than you have a good chance. If
these kinds of films have generally done poorly for them (and
most have - fact, not opinion) then there is a chance they
won't even look at your movie at all! That can be disastrous
for you and your investors. Just something to think about.

Anyway, these "sins" should by no means be construed as
advice. I am just sharing with you what I have learned. I
think everyone should make the film that THEY truly believe in.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Letter of Intent

I have been looking for an example "Letter of Intent" for a couple years now. Never have I found one. Here's a definition of one from . (Oh, and here's a picture of me with Luca.)

"Question: What are the most important issues to have clearly stated with a letter of intent when enlisting a name actor onto project so that you can go raise capital? Who are the best individuals to speak with in regards to finding the value of an actor in terms of raising capital?

Answer: The letter of intent merely states that the actor intends to do the film if various conditions are met: the rehearsal and shoot are convenient for their schedule; you reach terms on compensation, etc. It is not a binding contract and will only impress unsophisticated investors. The best way to determine the value of an actor is to speak to distributors who sell films worldwide. You can also consult such reference sources as The Ulmer Guide."

I'm not buying that it's only for unsophisticated investors. They may base their money on your having a contract, but the LOI will get you talking and enable you to set up a deal with them.

Oh but wait! Here's an example:

Letter of Interest

_________________________ (hereinafter "Actor") hereby expresses interest in playing the role of ______________________ in the film

project of the working title ________________________________ under development by_________________, LLC (hereinafter "Producer") subject to Actor's availability and the future agreement to terms of employment between Actor and Producer. This letter does not bind either Producer or Actor to an employment contract, but grants Producer permission to use Actor's name and likeness in the pre-production development of this project and in seeking financing for this project, for a period not to exceed one year.

_____________________________ ______________________

Actor Date

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Parts 3, etc., "Sins"

Part two of the "sins" of filmmaking. For your dining and dancing pleasure. Oh, and this is a picture of Lucretia's "lair" with Olja Hrustic.

"Seven Deadly Sins of Filmmaking For Profit" Part II
By Ted Chalmers

Sin #3: CAST

While no one expects you to get a star. There are plenty of known actors that are eager to work for quality productions for the right fee. I would recommend that you look into getting at
least one recognizable name actor for one of the smaller roles of the project. To get an idea of who these actors might be, look in the market issues for Cannes Market, AFM or MIFED, to see the kinds of names that are being offered at these shows. Another good source is to peruse the local video store and look for the straight-to-video titles and see which name actors are featured.

While the proposed cast list is very standard in the business of independent filmmaking, most seasoned investors of film, including production companies, studios, distributors and even
private investors will require that your project be packaged prior to considering it for financing. A package is just like it sounds, a package of elements that are somewhat secured by
an agreement between you and the talent that should you raise your financing they are committed to the project.

This can also be a catch 22 as when you have cast attached firmly and all of a sudden you have an investor or source of money that requires that you need to replace one of these elements for some reason. If the agreement is firm you may be stuck with the package you have. In many cases, the agreement will have provisions to have an actor step aside in the event of replacement due to financing issues. This is a fee to walk away from the project.

Obviously, this is a very loose commitment. It is based on many, many factors falling into place. The agreement of terms can take months to negotiate and depending on the talent, can
include many odd requests that may be difficult to meet. The availability is also a big issue. Any good talent that you would want attached will be busy (that's why you want them).

Finding a time that agrees with their schedule and yours can be difficult. However, you can always let your investors know that your cast is subject to final negotiations and scheduling
and that if for any reason they must be replaced, you will make sure that they are replaced by talent that is of equal or greater value in the marketplace. This can be good as it is
usually a very subjective issue as to which actor would be equal or greater than the actor you have. So, long as the investor recognizes the name, it will probably be ok. But, in any event, you investor may require approval on a replaced actor on the package.

But there's still more - let's continue with Sin #4...

Sin #4:

Don't make black and white movies. I realize that in film school you get to see a lot of these classic old movies and there is sometimes the desire to pay homage to Welles or Hitchcock.
But, a B/W film will simply not sell in the overseas market and most likely will be hard to sell in the U.S., as well.

The reason Black and While does not work is because most TV channels around the world refuse to program Black and White movies. Why? Because they get phone calls from their viewers
complaining that something is wrong with the broadcast or their TVs. I am not joking! People pay a lot of money for color TVs around the world (far more than you or I) and they demand
color programming. I have a great action film that is black and white starring a well known star and I cannot sell this film for the life of me, purely on the one fact that it is in Black and White. Even in territories where he is a huge star, they get all excited, but when they find out it's Black and White .. they just laugh and shake their head. Even the Coen brothers prepared a color version of THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE for International. So, if you must go Black and White for artistic reasons, do it in post so you have a color version for economic reasons.

Sin #5:

Stay away from political or religious themes in your storylines. These are usually too controversial for many foreign territories. Other themes that are tough include alternative
sexuality. People just want to be entertained, not enlightened. So, try to keep the subject matter light.

On a similar note, filmmakers love to make movies about the thing they love the most, i.e. making movies. But, let me warn you against this. Outside of Hollywood, no one can relate to
this experience and you are better off with a story that is more universal in its appeal. I know, I loved THE PLAYER as much as the next guy, but how are they going to get it in other parts of the country or the world?

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Sins of Filmmaking Parts I and II

This is from:

Ted Chalmers
Movie Plan Software
Tel. 1-800-416-9842

It's worth reading if you're working on low-budget movies!
"Seven Deadly Sins of Filmmaking For Profit"
By Ted Chalmers

Sin #1:

Shoot on FILM - Digital technologies such as DV and HiDef are enticing because they are inexpensive. But, ultimately the buyers are looking for features shot on film, at least 16MM. No
matter how much you save with the new digital technology, you are risking much more by not being able to deliver a film quality product. This will change over time. But, for now it
is too risky. Before you come to the conclusion that HD is so cost effective, please read the following I received from my Discussion List:

"24p HD is perceived as economical to producers used to the pure film process, because of the savings in intermediate stock and lab costs. Broadcasters have the opposite view. Many indie
producers who are aiming for TV distribution find DV quite attractive, and shot correctly (lit well), it can be pretty, indeed.

The caveats with HD are many, due to the proliferation of international framing standards. There are many traps for the unwary. It is very easy to get into a world of trouble shooting
23.976p and trying to edit in 24p, for instance (yes, such nasty "gotchas" exist!). Those that observe and heed the dangers fare well shooting "d-cinema" and burning back to film.

Post-production, dailies, and approval processes all benefit from operating within the digital environment. But it is crucial to know that "cheap" is not really on the menu for any quality
production, regardless of the efficiency of the format.

Careful planning and the willingness to spend what's necessary to ensure success is the best economy."

Finally, THE BLAIR WITCH phenomena was a marketing ploy that was backed by millions and millions of dollars of advertising making sure you heard about it. The fact is that if that film
was not successful in making you believe it was scary, then you probably would not have gone to see it. But regardless of whether it was scary or not, people went to go see it because the marketing did its job. I have seen hundreds of films try to emulate this formula for a film and failed miserably. This kind of phenomenon occurs very rarely and it would be unwise (not impossible) for any filmmakers to think they can re-create it.

This is absolutely critical! In fact, I cannot stress this enough but let's continue with Sin #2...

Sin #2:

We can't tell you what to make, but we can suggest you what is an easier sell. The hardest thing to sell is a "no name drama". Yet, consistently, this is what indie filmmakers produce over and over again. The market simply can not bear these products. With the exception of a few festival winners, these are next to impossible to sell. The next genre to stay away from is comedy. Any kind of comedy... romantic comedy, dark comedy, etc. Comedy is the kiss of death not only in foreign licensing but U.S. as well. The genres that do work include action, thrillers, sci-fi, horror, family, adventure and fantasy. Soft-Erotic used to work but has dried up with the rampant availability of hardcore productions.

Yeah, there are plenty of studio produced comedies that do well. But mostly here in the U.S.. Comedies, even comedies with huge stars, are not well received internationally because the
humor simply does not translate into other cultures. But, a comedy with Julia Roberts or Jim Carrey are going to do well because of the stature of their box office appeal. They still don't do as well as SPIDERMAN, however.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Some screenwriting rules

So, as it turns out I do have readers! Now I feel all responsible to write how I feel about the World Cup and the war in Iraq. I guess I'll go into my diatribe about how the US may be creating black widows the way the Russians did in Chechnya some other time.
Meanwhile, I've compiled a bunch of information and links regarding Direct to DVD releases from another blog for your (and my) reading pleasure:

DISContent: Make Your D2DVD Script a Movie

Some interesting cost ideas:

DISContent: What's It Cost?

Direct to DVD deliverables:
DISContent: Can You Deliver? - D2DVD Film School

This is a good post on loglines:

And this paragraph contains a good amount of information:
And because these retail spaces are ordering in grand quantities they get a big discount on the cost of the DVD. That's why you see all the large "Bargain Bins" at WalMart. They've purchased the DVD for $3.99 each (as opposed to a rental place that can only order enough to get a $6.99 rate) and can blow them out the door at a "2 for $9.99" bargain. The rental store has to race to make sure that they can get enough TPC to cover the costs of the title. Again, another reason why the D2DVD titles are like tortoises - rental stores want to make sure that rentals have covered costs - then they can sell those DVDs on top of that.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Weasel Doesn't Fly

I need a big long word to put this text at the bottom. (Of course it doesn't work.) One day I'll learn how to work Blogger. Explain to me how this dumb Internet thing (blogging) isn't the most self-thing "me me me" mono thing there is. I mean, nobody reads this blog. I don't even write in the style of two sentences ago. I've designed Ed's new musical. I'm mixing it for the two weeks that it's up at Theatre Row. "A Chicken Doesn't Fly" is a song from La Gioconda. But also is mentioned: "Ceceilia and her Weasel". Referring to Da Vinci's "Lady With an Ermine". I can't hear the relative level of the vocals to the band for nuthin' here. So I'm mixing to the marks I've made on the faders.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Giocondicate me

Well, I think it's a beautiful musical. But what do I know? I'll tell ya, Donya is the best musical director I've ever worked with.
We're back to three PCC 160's along the lip of the stage. Some lady sitting in the front row thought it would be funny to sit on top of the mic on the stage before the show.
Update! Act II: she knocked the centerline mic off the stage. Now we're going to have to live with that for the rest of the show.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pleasure for La Gioconda YamahaDM1000 with Aviom card. Tonight is our "invited dress". We have an 8-channel True preamp at the stage. My JDV DI box takes care of the Chapman Stick. My pair of AKG 460 microphones take care of the percussion (I never have seen the point to a kick drum microphone unless you're doing rock 'n roll.) I've replaced the center (of three) Crown PCC 160 microphones with a big, silver, Rode NT1a. It needs some kind of scenic element to hide it from the audience but it makes one of our singers sound vastly better. I'm a bit surprised at how whiney some of the actors are, I suppose it's because they've been given "permission" to be prima-donna-ish. Argumentative. I'd just fire them. But then again, I guess I have that reputation. The Aviom has worked flawlessly. I wish we had slightly better speakers than the Radians, and I really wish I had separate control over each speaker's amplifier but I just couldn't figure out how to do it. We have no sound playback cues. That way if I fall asleep, nobody will notice.