Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 13

13. Film Festivals – part 1

I’ve already two blog posts on how no to be a film fest douche. They are here and here. Study them. I’ve spent a lot of time taking to the people who run film festivals. They’re usually the ones at the fests I spend most time talking to. I know of which I speak.

Ok, now the first news flash. You’re not getting into Sundance. Not unless you have a major star, a major studio behind you, a major film rep, or your parents are rich and famous. But if you have one of those things, you probably aren’t reading my blog.

But y’know what? Submit anyway. It’s like buying a Lotto ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play. And sure there’re probably 4 slots saved for the almost 5000 feature submissions. And Lady Luck might be one your side.
Submit to SlamDance, if you’re a first time director. Submit to SXSW. Likewise for Tribeca and Toronto. And of course Los Angeles. And if your film is a documentary add Hot Docs and Silver Docs to that list. Those are the no-brainers. Those are your lottery tickets. But don’t hold your breath. And you probably are not going to submit to them all. If you’ve finishing your film and it’s November . . . and you’ve missed the Sundance deadline . . . do not wait a whole ten months to start submitting. Move on, submit to the next on the calendar list, and save Sundance for the next movie. Use common sense, there is no reason to let a film sit for almost a year. Even you will forget about it. And by that point you should be knee-deep in production with your next film anyway.

Ok, those submissions are in the mail. Now let’s find the fest that is actually going to screen your film. And here you need to do homework. There are literally thousands of film festivals. You need to find the ones that are a perfect match. You need to research what they’ve played in the past, what other filmmakers say about them. If all they do is play film with known actors, and seem to promote all their red carpet parties on their website, your little no-name film is not a good match. If they like art or foreign fare, your torture porn horror film is not making the cut. Hell, I know first hand, even if they specialize in rock docs, your critically acclaimed rock doc which breaks all the rules is not getting in. Really study the films they’ve accepted.

Likewise, look for warning signs. If you read filmmaking after filmmaker complaining about their treatment, bad projection, disorganization, take that as a red flag, and do not submit. There are plenty of fests that have their shit together, and who love well-made films, even without stars. But there are also festivals that don’t even acknowledge your presence when you’ve flown a thousand or more miles to attend and do a Q&A. There are festivals that project your 16×9 feature in 2:35, or worse 4:3. Watch the brilliant film OFFICIAL REJECTION to witness one of the most offensive film festivals of all time. (Actually, watch OFFICIAL REJECTION because it’s an amazing film on the film fest world. It is a MUST SEE.)

Remember festival submission fees are not cheap. I’ve dropped between $3 to $5 thousand dollars on submission fees for past features. (That’s PER film, not what I spent on all of them.) And you’re on a tighter budget than that.

Also, if you’ve gotten into a few fests, won awards, or have amazing press, forget the fees, email the festival directors, tell them all about your film, and it’s acolaids, tell them how you feel the film would be a great fit for their festivals, send a trailer link, and finally ask for a waiver of their fees. Worst case, they say no or never answer. But after 6 months on the circuit with COLOR ME OBSESSED, I decided no more fees. And it worked. A good email, backed by packed houses and great press, and guess what, we got waivers. With my Archers of Loaf doc I decided no fees at all. So far, so good. We premiered at NXNE in Toronto last week, played another Canadian film/music fest on Monday, and are having our American premiere at the CBGB’s Festival in July.

Next up: more on life after you’ve wrapped

My filmography.

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Filed under film festivals, film producing, filmmaking

Archers of Loaf & Internet Modeling (or World Premiers & a KickStarter campaign)

The World Premiere plus upcoming screenings of my new feature-length concert documentary WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:

June 15th – NXNE Festival, Toronto, Canada (World Premiere)

June 18th – Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC (US Premiere)

July 7th – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

July 18th – The Brattle, Cambridge, MA

August 15th – Trylon, Minneapolis, MN

October 5th thru 11th – Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA

And my first narrative feature since FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS). A very dark, sensual drama that takes place in the world of internet modeling (y’know places like Model Mayhem and One Model Place with their one million members)…

Please pre-order the DVD to BROKEN SIDE OF TIME

Or at least watch the trailer:

Then visit the KickStarter page.

Thanks!

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Filed under alternative rock, archers of loaf, independent film, indie rock, kickstarter, model mayhem, one model place

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 12

12. The Sound Mix

I can’t really explain it but the mix is one of my favorite parts of the entire process. Four films in a row, beginning with YOU ARE ALONE, and up to and including WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? just a few weeks ago, I’ve done my mix at DuArt in NYC, with Matt Gundy behind the boards, manning what we jokingly (lovingly?) call the HissMaster3000. I love mixing at DuArt. (So much so that I’m pretty sure my dedication to them was one of the reasons a producer who was trying to raise millions to help me turn my first novel THE SECOND GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD into a feature walked away from the project. He said there were better places to mix. I explained DuArt had been good to me when I had no budget, and that when I finally had some money to spend, they would be getting it. We never spoke again.) It’s an old school film house that has always supported independent filmmakers. I support them back. (Yes, I am as loyal as I am difficult.)

The mix is pretty much the last step for me. Adrian Correia, the only DP I’ll work with, has already done the color correct. Please . . . if your DP worked with you, as opposed to against you (see an earlier post), let him/her color correct your film. Or at least sit in on color correction. He knew how he lit the film, and how it should look. If you don’t, you’re back in douche-ville. I trust Adrian implicitly. And usually let him have his way with the color controls.

Back to the mix. It’s like the final dressing. The audio buzz behind someone’s dialog, or the man handling of the boom poll, the horn beeping, it can all somehow disappear when you’ve got a master controlling the knobs.

Take COLOR ME OBSESSED, we ended up using about 125 interviews. That’s 125 different locations with issues ranging from street noise to air conditioning compressors. Or me going “um-huh” 500 times. (I’ve since learned to control that.) Matt Gundy makes it all disappear. Listen to the film. It has a beautiful even tone. Even when rapidly cutting from one location to the next. And this is without any score to help cover up the issues. Matt had all of 4 days to mix 123 minutes. He made it seem easy. (Though at one point Dave Foley did crash the HM3000. If you go back to the Making of Color Me Obsessed series on this very blog you can read much more about mixing.)

Make sure you put aside some cash for the mix. It will be the difference between your film sounding like some amateur YouTube video and a professional feature film. No joke. The difference will be astounding, and well worth the investment.

For WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? which really only had about 20 minutes of interviews (the music which had been mixed and produced by Brian Paulson was perfect as is), I could have easily pulled some crowd sounds lightly under the talking. Hell, the talking sounded pretty damn good as it was. I’d learned a lot since Color Me Obsessed. But still, I spent a half day at DuArt just so the film could get the Gundy touch, and it was completely worth it.

If you love your film, finish it correctly. Dress it up appropriately. It’ll love you back for it.

Next up: film festivals

My filmography.

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Filed under directing, DuArt, filmmaking, sound mixing

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 11

11. Editing-part 3

As I said in an earlier post: get the best sound you can when filming, because you won’t have the money for ADR, and even if you do, your actors probably won’t be very good at it.

When editing, make sure to checker-board your sound tracks. It’ll make your life a lot easier when it comes time to mix. Don’t go nuts trying to clean up background sounds and such, because your mixer will most likely start over from scratch. Keep effects to the bare essentials, play with volume, fade in and out. That’s in. Unless you’re a ProTools genius. In that case you probably won’t need a mix. But since I’ve never met a filmmaker who really understood sound, I doubt that’s a possibility.

As for music. First off, if you don’t have the rights to a song, DO NOT USE IT. It makes you a douche. Plain and simple, it’s stealing. And no, on your micro budget film you are never getting the rights to that Rolling Stones classic. No, someone in their camp is not going to read your script and realize they have to give you their song. That is not going to happen. That song is going to cost you $25,000, or more. And on any low budget film, it’s not worth it. (Really, you should be making music videos instead.)

And if you think you can get away with the version recorded by your brother’s band. Wrong. You still need publishing rights. That’s right, you need both publishing rights (basically, from the person who wrote the song) and master sync rights (from the person who owns the actual recording, usually the record label) for every song in your film.

Now, let’s say someone from the Rolling Stones camp actually returns your call. They are probably going to offer you something called “Festival Rights.” Do not EVER buy festival rights for a song. It’s one of the biggest rip-off in the film business.

First off, you don’t need them. No festivals check on whether or not you have clearances for the songs in your film. No one is coming after you, as you made no money from the festival screening. However, personally, as a filmmaker who always gets the rights to everything in his films, it pisses me off when a filmmaker submits a film that can never be released because he’ll never get the rights. It’s lazy, bullshit, filmmaking. It’s makes you a piece of shit in my eyes. You’re a thief. And I’ll have no problem confronting you at a festival. Or calling you out on it on a panel. (Seriously, that would be like someone just copying your film and submitting it as theirs. Might piss you off right?)

Secondly, if you were stupid enough to buy festival rights, and then lucky enough to sell your film, pretty much whatever you sell your film for is going to be the asking price for those songs you never bothered acquiring all rights to. That’s right, all the money you just made is going to music rights.

Feel like an idiot? You should.

And you now why. There are so many truly amazing indie bands out there, in the same boat as we are. Independent artists just wanting to be heard. And one of them will have a song that’s perfect for your film. Many of them will. And they will be more than happy to sell you non-exclusive rights to it for something you can afford. A hundred bucks, and maybe a ¼ of one percent of backend. Be creative. It can work. And you’ll be helping a fellow indie artist.

Look at the soundtracks to either YOU ARE ALONE or FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and you’ll hear over 30 gorgeous tracks from a variety of amazing bands from Crooked Fingers to Matthew Ryan, the Wrens, Sarge, Phosphorescent. Every one of them indie. In every case I negotiated with the artist. In every case it was something I could afford.

It’s something you can afford. Film within your means. Wanting a Rolling Stones song (and obviously I’m just using them as an example, but any major artist would charge similar fees, from Beyonce to the Shins, all the same) is the same as wanting to film a car crash on your $25K budget. It just make you look as if you haven’t a clue. Because, well, you don’t. (Correct, the Shins are not indie. I’m talking someone who releases their own music, on their own, or a very small label.)

You’re indie. Support indie. Don’t be a douche filmmaker.

Next up: the mix

My filmography.

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