Monthly Archives: November 2014

This band made $136,000 on a 28-day tour and proved they were idiots!

I’ve written many times on how 99% of filmmakers throw money away when making their features. (Or throw it in the wrong places.) My last post was on zero-budget filmmaking.  Well, filmmakers take note.  Well, here’s a perfect example of a band doing exactly the same thing.

READ THIS FIRST.

There is absolutely no reason these guys should not have walked away with a nice profit from this tour. Except for the fact that they were stupid, they over-reached, hired too many people paying them more than they could afford, paid way too much for gear rental, (they rented a fucking Mercedes van…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!), etc and so on.

It makes me angry. And their self-pity and stupid excuses makes me even angrier. Really, someone please take away their musician license. They’re too dumb to be musicians.

And the music is completely irrelevant here. I don’t care what they sound like.  I did not even listen.  I don’t need to listen to know that they didn’t need a Mercedes van (If a old Ford Econoline was good enough for The Replacements…). They didn’t need that many hotel rooms. They didn’t need such elaborate lighting if the tour couldn’t afford it. No one needed $20 per diems.  They didn’t need four extra members.  They could be making the most gorgeous sounds in the world, it doesn’t matter. Great songwriting and passion (which is what every great band has in spades) costs time and brain power, not cash. They’re idiots. It’s not about being new at this, it’s not a learning curve. It’s about wanting to go first class even when you can’t afford it, but putting it on the credit card anyway.

I don’t respect them any more than the filmmaker who wastes $500K on a film that could have been made for $50K. A filmmaker who brings on a crew of 20, when 4 talented, hard-working people could have done the job better.  It’s throwing money away, and it’s an insult to people who actually would kill to make a living performing their art.  And it looks like an expensive hobby instead of a career.  These guys could have made a profit, instead they pissed it away on vanity and ego. Their music does not deserved to be heard.

Fuck you, Pomplamoose.  And shame on you.  You give talented, struggling artists a bad name.

 

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Ten Realistic Zero-Budget Filmmaking Tips

Recently saw a list of ten zero-budget filmmaking tips on the Raindance Film Festival website.  And while I thought most of the tips were solid, I felt they needed tweaking, and a few were off base.  Here is my reworking of the list taking into account that zero budget filmmaking is what do.

1. The Story is Everything — If your script sucks your film will most likely suck.  If you don’t have some idea of the story you’re trying to tell as you begin shooting your documentary, your film will suck. And most importantly, if you don’t know how to tell a story in the editing room, if you don’t understand basic filmmaking principals like the three act structure, you film will ABSOLUTELY suck.

2. Location Location Location — you can find amazing locations for free or for very little money.  It’s why I so often shoot at the Hotel Duncan in New Haven.  Even the bare walls have character.  But a plain white wall in your dorm room is not a location for a film, any film.  Not even a film about a person stuck in a dorm room.  It will only make yours look like the product of a high school hobby.

3. Capture as Much Footage as Possible — video is free.  You can shoot for hours.  Get the extra take, then the one after that.  Get coverage.  Give your editor something to work with.  You’ve already put in so much time into this film, and you’ve only just started.  Shoot more, then shoot more after that.  (And as an addendum to that, learn how to use your lights.  You can light a scene beautifully with one light.  I’ve done it hundreds of times.  Play with shadows.  What’s unlit is just as beautiful as what you can see clearly.  Study old photographs.  Watch old films.  Do your fucking homework.

4. Sound is King — it’s more important than your image.  And no, you won’t be able to fix it in post.  ADR is really expensive.  Most unprofessional actors suck at it.  And if you’re doing a doc, well then you’re completely fucked without good sound.  Try to never shoot outside.  If the mic has to be in the frame in a doc, no one cares.  We care about what the subject is saying.

5. Great Music Can Save a Scene — there are so many cool bands out there in the same situation as you are.  Find the music that’s appropriate for your film from a great unknown, approach them nicely, and ask for permission to use it.  You might be surprised at the answer.  And you will definitely be shocked at how the right music can make a good scene great.

Matthew Ryan wrote this haunting theme song for my film BROKEN SIDE OF TIME in exchange for me creating a music video for a song from his next album.  A win-win situation no matter how you look at it.

6. Get Organized — I’ve argued that making a feature film is the single most difficult thing to do in the world.  And I do believe that.  There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and if you aren’t organized.  If you aren’t ready, well, then you’re pretty much up the proverbial creek.  You have seconds to make a decision.  And this decision making happens a hundred times per day when filming.  If you don’t have everything else under control, if you are not organized, then give it up now.  Go back to talking about making a film at the coffee shop, because that’s all you’ll ever do.  Know every shot, visualize the edit in your head, know when the street outside will be noisiest, when the sun is setting, etc. and so on.  Be an all-knowing God, because after 30 minutes on set, you’ll realize you’re not.  But you’ll at least be glad you tried.

7. Your Friends Can Not Act — Neither can your mom, your girlfriend, or your high-school play director.  Hire real actors.  Do a proper casting.  And I’m not talking union here, but people who’ve done it before.  There are tens of thousands of them out there.  Otherwise you’ll have one bad line delivery after another, and we’re back to high school project.

8. Build a Following — social media is free.  Work it.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Find like-minded people.  Tell them about what you’re doing.  Compliment what they’re doing.  Share their links.  It works both ways and takes a long time, but if you show respect, you’ll earn respect, and a retweet from someone with 100K followers can help a lot.  (And please, if you’re using KickStarter, absolutely back a bunch of projects before your ask for funds.)

9. You are a Filmmaker, a C.E.O., an Accountant, a Publicist, a Salesman — Unless you can afford to pay people to take these positions, it’s up to you.  And trust me, you can’t afford to pay anyone.  You are the only one who can guarantee the job gets done correctly.  Filmmaking doesn’t stop at the wrap party.  A film will become a two, three, maybe even four year commitment during which you wear all those hats and more.  Like I said before, the hardest job in the world.

10. There’s No Such Thing as Luck — It’s work.  A lot of hard work.  But if you truly feel there’s nothing else you were put on this earth for, and you’re willing to put in 10 to 12 hours a day, every day, for years on end (not an exaggeration, kids), then it’s also the most rewarding job in the world.  Just don’t expect to finish your film, get into Sundance, and be entertaining four-picture deal offers from the majors.  You’re more likely to win the lottery.

You’ll find more related thoughts and observations HERE and HERE.

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Filed under film producing, film school, filmmaking, independent film, low budget films, low budget movies, Uncategorized

LEFT OF THE DIAL feature film script

Back in 1995 I wrote a script called MOSH PIT which did quite well for me. It was optioned by the powers that be in Hollywood. Not one, but two major stars were attached to it (one a very recent Oscar winner), and it looked as if it were going to get made. But, as it often happens in Hollywood, the script died in development hell. That story is long and convoluted, and perhaps one day I’ll tell it. But in the end all rights reverted back to me.

Hey, I got a couple of very nice checks out of it (one for the original option, and another for the renewal). And we were even able to option it again a few years later under the new title LEFT OF THE DIAL, named of course after The Replacements song.

I think about this script often. I like it a lot and I know it’s also one of my wife’s favorites. It was in many ways inspired by her record store managing job at the time, and some off-handed comments she would make on her worse work days.

But after Columbine and Newtown, I know this is a script that probably could now never get made. But it is nonetheless a good read.

So I present it here for your pleasure. Basically anyone who’s ever worked retail and had to deal with an asshole boss and asshole customers will appreciate the very dark humor.

LEFT OF THE DIAL feature film script

Please remember it is copywritten 1995/2014 and WGA registered. All rights are reserved. No copying please. But if you have to balls to turn it into a film, please drop me an email.

Enjoy…

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Filed under filmmaking, screenplays, script writing, writing