Category Archives: Tricks of the Trade

Five Phases of Film: Distribution

The last and final stage of film production: distribution. You have your final product and its time to distribute it! But what does that mean for the producer? The producer wants a return on investment. For that to happen they need to get people to know that the movie exists. A marketing plan from the development stage (usually what you used to sell your movie to investors) should already be in the works by this time.  This should include in depth research of your target audience. Include who are they, where do they watch movies (theatres, DVD’s, online), and when are they most likely to watch this movie (Christmas, Easter). This can help with a lot of decisions such as choosing your optimal release window, or appropriate channel and timing used to distribute your film. For more options on release windows, check out our blog post on distribution. By distributing your movie according to the traits of your target audience, you are guaranteed a greater pick up for the film. This is called audience positioning.

Before the release, it is important to create a buzz around the film. A distributor’s job is very competitive as they fight for audience attention amongst hundreds of other produced movies. Some tactics could include press interviews, merchandise, trailers, and film showings at festivals. A separate print and advertising budget set apart since your pre-production would be handy at this time. This includes copies of the film (prints), distribution of prints, and advertising (radio, press, posters, TV).

Features including unique selling points about your film (be it iconic actors, an editing workshop used in your film, or a behind the scenes clip) can get the audience talking. Remember for things like behind-the-scenes it is important to film during the production phase.  As obvious as that may seem, often once we arrive at distribution we realize our need for footage. Even if it is just for documenting purposes, take pictures of your process and journal any learning moments you may have gained. Impress the audience by keeping things short and entertaining.

As the producer, it is important to stay optimistic and proud of your film no matter what the results are. This is a piece of work that you have been a part of since the beginning. You had your hand in the development stage where money was needed to turn an idea into a script and finally into a movie. You were there in the pre-production making schedules and budgets and hiring professional crews to take the baton. You were present in the production stage making sure that the clips were being processed daily and that the on-set crew was following the schedules and budgets you proposed. You supervised the post-production where the magic of the set became a full-blown movie that you no longer had to envision but is now a tangible product. Finally, you handle the distribution with hope and confidence that once your product is released the audience will see your product as you do; with love and hope that it is all that you want it to be, all that you put your hard work in for no matter what the box office numbers were. Here’s to hoping that your movie meets your expectations through every phase of this long and exciting process, both artistically and financially. Success is yours for the taking.

Five Phases of Film: Post-production

After around 60-90 days of filming, you can edit your footage to make a full blown movie. Editing is where the magic happens; be it cutting, synchronizing sound, special effects, opening titles, closing credits, adding music, or adding narratives, post-production holds just as much weight as production. To get a glimpse of editing techniques and equipment, check out Shank FX’s step by step process of editing Interstellar’s black hole. Editing takes a lot of work and time from skilled professionals.

Meanwhile, the producer continues to work behind the scenes as the editing process forms the final product, which involves regularly making visits to the editing suite. When absent from the suite, producers expect updates through this journey and may be sent glimpses of the final product to ensure that progress is maintained. The Producer then keep investors or affiliates informed about the post-production process. Hence, having an experienced editing team is key to satisfying those closer to the top of the chain of film. Reliability is huge in each step of the process. In other words, the spotlight does not always fall on the actors; you must be ready to shine when it comes your way.

Our last phase takes place next week, make sure to check out our distribution phase!

Five Phases of Film: Production

Lights, camera, action!

Finally filming begins. It’s the beginning of a shift of responsibility from producer to director. Each scene is filmed as the director deems fit.  This could involve paying great attention to detail, motivating actors to do their best, or painting the picture that the script describes. Specific locations, lights and camera angles may be necessary to bring a shot to life on screen.

Almost always, a shot involves numerous takes to get it “right”. Pre-production really pays off in this phase. Techniques such as blocking, lighting, rehearsing, tweaking and shooting are used to get a desired shot. Blocking involves Peter Marshall, film director for over 40 years, goes into detail of each step of the shooting process on his website (http://actioncutprint.com/filmmaking-articles/filmmakingarticle-05/). Once a shot is right, the Director yells, “print!” in which signifies that the final shot was achieved. The reel is taken to a dark room to be printed and developed, as well as saved in various locations and hard drives. Damage to reels is very common so it is crucial to get shots printed as soon as possible for fear of being tampered with in the future.  Having developed shots also can help motivate staff by allowing them to see a glimpse of the whole movie and recognizing that their work is paying off.

Even through this hectic process, things can still get out of control. Whether it is unexpected weather, an actor falling sick, or new ideas, the film is never static until the end. Producers manage any unforeseen changes, which could involve increasing the budget, hiring new talent or making executive decisions in order for the film to continue.  The Producer acts as a liaison between filmmakers and investors to ensure that budgetary and scheduling dilemmas are kept under control.  In essence, the Producer works behind the scenes of the scenes, and extinguishes any heated complications that may jeopardize the filmmaking process.

One week until post-production!

 

Five Phases of Film: Pre-production

It is a common misconception that because of the seamlessness of a film, that to get magic on screen is a one-take process. This is a common mistake; what you see behind the scenes is very different from what is on screen. The pre-production of a film is in a sentence all the work before filming begins. This includes money you need to film, time you need to film, people you need to film and things you need to film. The phase could be divided into four different sections:

  1. The Schedule
  2. The Budget
  3. The People
  4. The Film Prep

The Schedule

The schedule is dependent on the script. Paula Landry’s book Scheduling and Budgeting your Film describes breaking the script into scenes like a “GPS leading you toward the completed film…it is the foundation of a production” (Landry, pp. 10, 2012). To increase efficiency, once the breakdown is created organize like scenes together based on location, cast, and time of day. This allows for less shooting days.

The Budget

Sorting out your script and schedule allows you to identify the price of your film. Budgeting is basically allowing money to be “allocated to appropriate expenses” (Landry, 2012). From this budget, you can distribute the money based on above-the-line or below-the-line costs. Director Sidney Lumet of 12 Angry Men, amongst many other films, defines above-the-line costs as property, director, producer, writer, and actor costs in his book Making Movies (Lumet, 1995). The rest is for below-the-line which includes “sets, locations, trucks, studio rental, location and studio crews, catering, legal fees (which are enormous), music, editing, mixing, equipment rental, living expenses, and set dressing (furniture, curtains, plants, etc).” To acquire this funding would be a part of our previous phase, Development.

The People

Having a good team is important for you to get pre-production done efficiently. Because of possible scheduling conflicts, the more the merrier. Following is a list of department heads, each in charge of their own team:

  • Director
  • Casting Director
  • Location Manager
  • Production Manager
  • Director of Photography
  • Production designer
  • Sound Designer
  • Music Composer
  • Choreographer
  • Actors

The amount of people used in a film does not guarantee success. You may have 20 or 200, but having them rehearsed, scheduled, and insured does play into your film’s success. Behind the scenes involves countless rehearsals, coordination with actors’ schedules and location permits needed before shooting.

The Film Prep

While having talented actors is a necessity in a film, having a skilled and experienced film crew is where the magic happens. Director Sidney Lumet quotes in his book “I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport – neither of which belonged in a period movie. Only the person who’s made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work. They can be anything from budget requirements to divine inspiration. “

Stay tuned for our third phase, production!

Five Phases of Film: Development

“This phase begins with an idea, and ends with a check. The point of this phase is to convince the investors the movie can be produced financially and conceptually, and to ultimately receive the green light to Pre-Production.”

This post will explain to the independent producer or writer how to navigate the development process and receive the funding necessary to get your film made.

There are two types of people that enter this phase: the Producer with an idea (who needs a writer), or a writer with a script (who needs a producer); both of whom need to find an investor to on-board the rest of the team and start the rest of the production process.

I’s are important

Interest the investor with an idea. Think of the idea as the eye of the film. Eyes need to have clarity, want to see something aesthetically pleasing, and set the direction for the rest of the body.

Your film idea should have these properties. It is important to have clarity in your idea, make sure it is simple and to the point. Analogies are a great way to pitch to investors. For example, a current movie undergoing the development phase at Princebury Productions & Media is Latin Legends: Round 2. In our pitch deck, we ask our investors to picture our movie as a documentary version of “Remember the Titans” for Latin American boxing. This helps your investor associate it to another successful project and visualize the film in their minds. Clarity.

Aesthetically pleasing. While creating your pitch deck, graphic representations keep your investors attention while showing them visual proof of your past capabilities. It also acts as a leeway into showing them your artistic abilities as a filmmaker. But always make sure your visuals tell your story in a more efficient way than text does. Be creative!

Where the eyes go, the heart goes. Make sure your film has direction. To an investor, your film is another investment opportunity alongside many other start-ups, and you will have to convince them why your project is a better investment. Chance Barnett at Forbes describes in detail how to create a pitch deck for a start-up. After going through 11 basic slides of successful pitch decks, Barnett ends the article with the emphasis that your last slide should be for your ask, or return on investment for your financiers.

“Be sure you know your numbers, your financing, have a timeline for your round, and be clear and direct on your asks” (Barnett, 2014).

Make sure to highlight the strengths of your project. If you have additional documents, such as the script or treatment, make sure to have them ready for investors if they would like more information. Make sure you also bring whatever financial documents you need to make an investment (and have them looked over by a lawyer). Remember your presentation skills and be confident of why you need your funding. If you believe in your idea, others will too.

Next week, we will cover our second phase, pre-production!

Five Phases of Film: Introduction

Production may seem like a breeze, but this seamlessness is strung together by a myriad of operations and over a long period of time. Essentially, it is a lot of work to produce.

Princebury Productions & Media is offering a five-week series, with each week covering one phase of the production process in detail. Apart from learning life long skills in filmmaking, we will offer inside-the-industry tips for you to gain a competitive advantage and stand out like we do.

Here is a quick overview of what we will be covering in the following weeks:

  • Development: This phase begins with an idea, and ends with a check.  The point of this phase is to convince the investors the movie can be produced financially and conceptually, and to ultimately receive the green light.
  • Pre-Production: This period of time is used to prepare everything needed before filming. From budgets to storyboards to cast and crew, this phase lays out a timeline and schedule for the future.
  • Production: Time to film! Take the script from the development, and the schedule from the pre-production and turn it into raw footage.
  • Post-Production: Editing is where the magic happens. This phase is used to put on the final touches of the film, and lock it down before duplicating and distributing.
  • Distribution: Marketing, promotion, interviews, trailers and release dates all happen here; this is where you get to share the final project with the world!

Make sure to tune into our “Five-Phased Fridays” to learn more about the blood, sweat and tears that go into to producing the widely known medium of art today, film.

How To: Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding
What exactly is crowdfunding? What do you need to know to run a successful campaign?

Crowdfunding, or peer-to-peer fundraising, is a way for organizations or individuals to raise money online. It has become a platform for businesses of every nature helping companies to raise thousands, or even millions of dollars for their business.

To be successful in crowd funding, you need to have an organized blueprint and strategy before you even launch the fundraiser. Like any other effort to raise money, crowdfunding requires planning, people and a unified purpose: fundraising.

The Plan:

Prior to launching your campaign, you need to sit down with your team and set the goals for the campaign. You will need to discuss logistics such as expenses, staff support and social media. Organizational efforts that should be discussed at this time include who is currently on your email list and who your core supporters are – they are extremely important for word-of-mouth when you actually launch your campaign.

Then, you need to discuss what the marketing pitch will be. It is helpful to have an elevator pitch as well as a longer description on a portal for those who want a detailed understanding. The elevator pitch should be short, sweet, and to the point – try to limit it to 1 minute.

Once your team decides on the marketing pitch, it is time to work on the campaign design: the website, social media pages, blogs, or any other form of media you may be using for the fundraiser. Depending on your campaign, using images and videos can help to attract attention and connect with your customers. Incentives, such as a free T-shirt if you donate a certain amount of money or being entered into a raffle to win a prize, will raise awareness and interest in the fundraiser.  Be creative with your incentives, but remember, there is a lot of time and cost involved in sending out 1,000 T-shirts across the country.

The People:

People, whether they are staff members or students involved in your endeavors, are vital to any fundraising effort. You and your team need to begin recruiting supporters for the campaign. The “core” supporters of your company need special attention at this time because they are the ones that are going to give you, or get you, business. They are the ones that spread the word and raise awareness about your efforts. And who would turn down free marketing, especially from people who will talk up your company?

The Fundraising:

Now you are able to implement the plan you and your team devised during the planning stage.

Create an email to be sent to out to your email list that was created in the planning step. You should include links to your online efforts so people are able to look more in depth about the fundraiser and increase traffic to your websites. During the soliciting period, you should send various emails and be posting on your social media pages. However, do not keep adding people that do not accept your invitation. Focus your time on people interested in your fundraiser and post various things to attract their attention and support.

If you decided to use incentives, it is important that you inform people about them and how they work. Post it on your social media and add it in your email so people are aware of it. Incentives were created for a reason – make sure its common knowledge.

Throughout the whole process, you and your team should be able to be constantly adapting to people’s reactions to your campaign. If people are positively responding to videos, add more. If people love your Instagram posts, make sure the content is similar and intriguing.  Continuing to use the strategies which you are receiving positive feedback about will increase awareness and support, which leads to the most important part: your funding.

Top 5 Reasons Your Film Could Fail

The film-making business is a very tough field to enter with “Goliaths” in Hollywood dominating the industry with much larger budgets than any newcomer has access to.  However, there are niches, measures, and ways to side step Hollywood and be successful in the early stages of your film-making career (even your first film).  Awareness to the issues most newcomers have will give you a HUGE advantage towards financial success.

5.  Theatrical Release – There is a thin line when deciding whether to release your film in theaters, especially when you have a low budget.  Choosing not to strongly decreases the amount of exposure your film will get.  However, most films lose money in theaters, so on a small budget, how much can you afford to lose?  By only choosing a small amount of theaters, and rolling out into more as the film grows popularity and success, you can mitigate a large amount of theatrical release risk.  Note: Do not be afraid to pull the film the moment it starts to drop off.

4.  Lack of (Solid) Business Plan – There are two sides to every story, even film-making: Creative vs. Business.  Both sides are equally important.  It is true that without the creative side, the film would not exist, but without the business side, you will lose money.  Because most independent films are started by creative people with a vision, it is rare they want to spend their time planning the business side.  Without a clear plan of where you are going, it is very easy to lose sight, stall, and have the film fall through the cracks.  Note: Almost all investors will require not only a business plan, but a solid one.

3.  Over Spending – Hollywood, as the Goliath’s in this industry, has the access to huge budgets that most independent film-makers can’t even dream of.  High budgets allow for better quality, more marketing, and large distribution, but can often be a plague for the film’s success.  For every Avatar, there is a million John Carter‘s.  Due to the split up of profits between theaters and distributors, film-makers keep roughly 1/4 of the film’s revenue.  So for every $1 million you save, it is as if you are making $4 million.  Note: Keep the budget’s tight, we have heard to many horror stories of budgets inflating during production.

2.  The Script - The backbone of the film is the script.  It will be the first thing production companies will see, investors will want to read through, and at the early stages, is the film.  Too often, writers bring a script that has not been fully worked out to a production company, expecting it to work itself out as production takes place.  No company will green-light a film with a flawed script, and it will always be broken.  Note: Make sure it never contradicts, work through a storyboard, take it to multiple non-biased editors, make sure the Protagonist is likable and relatable, etc.

1.  Funding – Money and investors are hard to come by in the film industry.  Because they are “high risk, high reward,” most investors are weary of investing in films.  Most films are financed by a film fund, or a combination of government grants, tax shelters and incentives, and debt and equity finance.  Although there are several options, they are hard to come by and can often leave a movie stalled in production (if it can get to production).  Explore all options and be creative when financing your film.  Note: Veronica Mars met its goal of raising $2 million in less than 11 hours on kickstarter, and totaled $5,702,153 from 91,585 backers.

As you can see, film-making is difficult even with a great movie idea.  There are plenty more obstacles than have been mentioned, but being aware of these will give a HUGE advantage.

Princebury Productions & Media offers fee-based consulting. Contact us at info@princebury.com

Distribution on a Budget

Distribution, in film terms, refers to the process in making the film available to watch by the public.  In modern times, distribution is no longer restricted to the typical theatrical release and home entertainment release through DVD sales.  Several distribution options include:

  • Theatrical Release: is where the motion picture will be distributed nationwide (and AMCabroad) to all the major and minor theaters.
  • walmartDVD Sales: Retailers for DVD sales include Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, and many others.
  • iTunesElectronic Sell-Through: EST vendors include iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft Zune Store, and Xbox.
  • NetflixSVOD:  SVOD is a Subscription Video-On-Demand, the major example being the Netflix streaming content model.
  • HuluAVOD: AVOD is Advertising supported Video-On-Demand, such as seen on YouTube and Hulu.
  • DIRECTVCarrier-based TVOD:  This includes Video-On-Demand through cable or satellite with carriers such as DirecTV and Comcast.
  • appletvDigital TVODWith emerging technologies in home entertainment, Smart TVs are using Google TV, Apple TV, and Roku to utilize TVOD platforms.
  • TVguideBroadcast: Broadcast refers to the television networks distribution of TV series and movies.


Technology has made distributing a film much easier in recent years.  Although a non-theatrical release can limit the exposure of the film, it can be cost effective to avoid theatrical distribution.  The method of distribution should depend on the budget and nature of the film.

Princebury Productions & Media offers advising services on all facets of film, including distribution.  Contact us at info@princebury.com

The Budgeting Process

Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it,” but how much will it cost? Budgeting a film can be an intimidating and unappealing task to take on (especially so early in the process), but is an essential aspect of making your creative dream a reality.  Whether you want to hire a professional, or tackle it on your own, the budgeting process is worth the time. It not only keeps costs low and efficient, but also gives insight into the details people often overlook.

Whether it is a $10,000 or $300,000,000 film, the budgeting process is very similarly structured.  Break your budget down into three categories: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.  It is also crucial to account for the P&A (Print and Advertising) costs in your budget.  Understanding where and when your money is going will not only help you keep organized, but is required for almost all investors.

Pre-Production

Pre-Production is the first stage of the film making process, and typically lasts 2-3 months.  Typical costs associated with this stage are salaries, acquiring talent, forming legal documents, constructing a set, costumes and props, equipment, and transportation.  The crucial foundation of the Pre-Production stage is the script.  The script should be fully completed in this stage, fully reviewed, critiqued, and edited multiple times to ensure a solid final draft.  Before moving on to the Production stage, revise your budget and schedule.

Production

After the Pre-Production stage is complete, the backbone of the film will be in place and you will be ready to start shooting.  The Production stage typically lasts 2-3 months.  If you hired a director, cinematographer, and technical crew, this stage will be relatively simple.  Only creative input, supervision, and assistance will be necessary.  If hiring professionals is not in the budget, more creativity and skills will be required.  Make sure to budget for catering on set, transportation, lodging, location rental, repairs, and insurance.  Revise your budget and schedule before you move on to the Post-Production stage.

Post-Production

The Post Production is usually the longest stage of the film making process, typically taking 3-4 months.  After the completion of the Production process, the director, producer, and editor cut the movie to its target length and prepare the final product for the addition of sound, music and any special effects.  Make sure you have filmed more than enough material, because it can be very difficult and expensive to reshoot.  Professionals and/or equipment to edit raw footage with quality can be very expensive, but will make a massive difference in the final product.  Typical costs incurred in this stage include editing workstations, special effects software, sound mixing programs, and test screening costs.  Revise your budget once again after you have a completed product.

Print and Advertising

Print and Advertising costs depend vastly on how broadly you would like to distribute your film, but can cost even more than the entire Pre to Post-Production stages combined. There are several ways to distribute your film ranging from theatrical releases to DVD releases to Video on Demand releases.  P&A costs prepare your film to be distributed, whether it is Movie posters, putting the film on DVD and creating a cover, or a short trailer to promote the film.  Film Festival submissions are often a good way to introduce and promote a film.  Consider spending money on the P&A, because no matter how good your film is, it will not make money if no one knows about it.

It is often a good idea to budget an extra 10% to make room for unexpected costs that may arise.  It is better to have money left over, than to run out before you have finished P&A and distribution.  Another aspect to consider is negotiating salary costs by giving the people involved percentage ownership of profits to reduce up front costs.

Once you have completed your budget, and understand the entire process of making the film, you are ready to start finding investors, and start your Pre-Production stage.

Consulting and Advising services are offered by Princebury Productions & Media