An Education

This past weekend I attended the Los Angeles Filmmaker Forum.  Film Independent hosted it at the very cool Directors Guild of America building.  For a fee, working/aspiring filmmakers get to sit in on seminars and panels that feature a variety of industry types sharing their own unique case studies related to the indie film world.  The forum serves as a resource of information, inspiration, and cautionary tales.  Is it worth it for a struggling filmmaker to shell out a couple hundred bucks to attend?  Every penny.

Panels and Seminars and Case Studies, Oh My!

I’ve decided to list a sampling of the notes I took throughout the weekend.  Needless to say, I was an information-absorbing sponge.

Valuable tidbits (read: paraphrased/extrapolated from my chicken scratch notes) from keynote speaker Joe Drake  – COO/President of Lionsgate:

  • “It’s not only innate talent that helps achieve success, it’s intense practice to master your craft.”
  • “Learn from the ‘nos’ that you get.”
  • “It’s not okay in this business to simply have a dream.  You have to have a plan.”
  • “Does your project fit within the context of what the market tells you it wants?”
  • “Words you want to hear: Hysterical.  Heartbreaking.  I couldn’t stop talking about it.”

I couldn't stop talking about it...

Other stuff I gleaned from various panelists:

  • When evaluating state tax incentives, be true to your project.  Shoot the right movie in the right place.
  • A tax rebate is better than a tax credit.  Especially when it comes to paying back your investors.
  • You have to have so much passion to power through the rejection.  Accept that rejection is part of the process.
  • The producer’s job is helping the investor/distributor see the film’s potential.
  • Casting is insurance – distributors like “above the title” names.

Name above the title? DONE!

  • The windows (theatrical, home video, video-on-demand, etc.) are collapsing.  The new financial model will be ubiquitous distribution.  Instant cinematic gratification.
  • Don’t forget the importance of behind-the-scenes materials (especially publicity stills!) and social networking.  Generate buzz as early as possible.
  • Don’t give away the worldwide airline rights! (Weird advice but, hey, maybe my Admiral’s Club membership will give me some clout in this arena?)
  • If you’re not succeeding financially from your film, you’re not going to be able to sustain your career.
  • When deciding on a distributor, make a choice that serves your investors, but one that will also get the film out there to be seen.
  • “No” means “Yes, just not yet.”
  • Friendraising is just as important as fundraising. The friends you make along the way are the future ambassadors for your film.

Thanks, Future Ambassadors!

That last point (from Wendy Cohen at Participant Media) is one I thoroughly agree with.  So thanks for staying engaged, reader-friends-ambassadors!  You are important to me.

And another valuable take-away from the forum is that I got to shake the hand of screenwriter John August! (A link to his blog can be found screen-right.)  I gave him twenty-seconds of my best gushing.

I'm you're biggest fan! (But not in a "Misery" kind of way. I promise.)

There’s more to reflect on post-forum, but I’m a little too tired to delve into further detail.  And, oh yeah, did I mention I am no longer in escrow?  Ah, fickle home buyers…you didn’t deserve my condo anyway.

NEXT UP: Apparently, “drama” is a dirty word.  More tales from the Filmmaker Forum.

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