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Tips on how to be a successful filmmaker during the recession.


What do you do when all the news is bad news? Layoffs, bank collapses, credit constriction. Gloom is the swine flu of our media ecosystem, and it’s hard to ward off infection and hysteria. Our economy’s become a dark, frigid sea that we’re supposed to distance swim without instruction or a shore in sight. So what does that mean for us as creative individuals?

First and foremost, we need to recognize that we have unique resources. The news may be bad, but we started adapting to murky economic realities long before most people ever dreamed of a financial crisis. We’ve evolved for this extreme environment, like those crazy deep-sea fish — the glow-in-the dark ones with lamps on their heads. We may not be pretty, but we know how to survive in dark waters — and now the whole ocean’s gone dark. Everyone else is panicking. They don’t know how to live like this. But those of us used to late-night edit rooms, 20-hour days, Red Bull, ramen and shoebox apartments… we already know how to swim in these waters. We’ve already developed our weird adaptations in order to find work, food and friends, and now we’re at an advantage. While everyone else slows down or stops, we can see clearly and keep creating. While others are blind in the dark, we can be proactive and fearless, and by taking some pretty simple steps we can make major leaps in our work and our careers.


1. Commit yourself to filmmaking.

First, stop equivocating and commit to the long-term goal of being a filmmaker. You’re either in or you’re out — decide. Then recognize that living day-to-day, throwing everything into the next project without regard for what follows may not work over the long term. It’s a question of pacing. If you still want to be doing this when you’re in your forties, fifties and eighties, then you need to construct a life that functions. Committing to being a filmmaker means making all parts of your life work well.

2. Dedicate yourself to a lifetime of making inventive, rigorous work that matters.

If you’re going to do this for the rest of your life, then you must ask yourself, “What am I making?” Is what you make the best possible thing it can be? Have you done the thinking to bring real artistry to your pursuit?

Commit to rigor over fluff and meaning over flash. The world does not need more predictable fare. The world needs films that share something about our moment; something that cannot be seen in any other way. To be a great filmmaker you must be inventive and rigorous. So swear to yourself that you will be as fearless as possible in pursuit of this goal.

3. Use your creative skills to build your future, not to deny your current situation.

We’ve all heard someone (maybe even ourselves?) spin fantasies about “how it’ll all work out.” That financier, that funder and even Mom, in a pinch. Someone’s coming to make it right. They’ll fix our financial mess for us, and we can ignore life’s harsher realities till that white knight arrives. But unless there is a trust fund on your horizon, this is creative fiction. And while your ability to weave creative fiction may serve you professionally, it will hold you back in your actual life. There is no buyer, funder or producer that is going to save you. You only have yourself. So decide to use your creative skills to build your way forward through the challenges. Instead of using your creative imagination to deny that things are hard or to ignore reality, learn from past mistakes and do not repeat them. You need to be able to look at your life, banish fear and say with unshakable confidence “I’ve got a new plan.”

4. Spend with clarity and save with purpose.

Why is it that when someone says, “You can’t make that movie,” you think, “Yes, I can,” and if they say, “You should have some savings,” you say, “There is no way.” Recognize that you are skilled at making a lot happen with little money and use that skill on your work and your life. You’re a filmmaker, you know how to build real things from no resources. With planning and forethought you can both make your movie and slowly build up savings.

Be ruthless about the difference between what you want and what you need. Track your money, making sure you’re spending it well and prioritizing things that really matter. The goal is to save. Set a target savings amount. If you can, buy only what you need and barter for whatever else you want. Use eBay and Craigslist for bargains on all those weird little things you cannot live without.

For your films, be clear that big movies need big partners. If deep-pocketed partners aren’t in your future, you need to change your “at any cost” strategy. Narrative filmmakers may need to embrace the era of the small movie: small containable scripts, few locations, small crew. You also may need to deepen and wield your knowledge about local and international tax credits. Both narrative and documentary filmmakers need to really research the grant landscape and be realistic about the odds of receiving funding.

Also don’t be afraid to slow down your schedule to benefit your work and your pocketbook (remember everyone is adjusting — no one will blink at a schedule change). A slower pace means you can fit your film around your money job and use the extra time to keep on solid financial footing and deepen the work. Keeping your money job allows you to move forward without falling too far behind. However if your film is topical in a way that means it must be shot right now, then you need to really know how much cash it will take to make it happen.

So be realistic and clear about how much your film will cost and which funding sources are likely and which are not. Make a plan for what you will do if none of the funding comes through. Next, make a plan for if half comes through. Your goal is to understand how much debt you can take on. Be realistic about this part and set a limit before you start shooting. It’s important to know the answer to this in advance because during the crunch you can easily lose sight and get into trouble. You need to be honest with yourself — you may not sell this film. The debt you are accruing is yours and yours alone. Having a clear sense of this in advance can really help you make strong choices during production and post and could mean the difference between long-term debt obligations and solvency.

5. Get your credit in order.

Remember that access to capital when you need it is good but bad debt can sink you. So if you have debt, commit to eliminating it: Figure out how much you owe, figure out what your upcoming costs will be and determine how much you can realistically spend each month to pay down your debt. Three good online debt resources are Snowball down your debt,  the smart money resources, and powerpay.

For those of you with no credit, you can establish credit by joining a local or national credit union and obtaining a debit card that you can then trade up for a credit union charge card.

Either way, dedicate yourself to raising your credit/FICO score. Use resources like the Filmmaker article from Spring 2009 to assist you so you have the credit resources you need when you need them.

6. Embrace multiple income streams.

Other forms of income make your work possible. Instead of fighting this, be grateful. It’s amazing how much energy you save if you stop fighting this paradigm. If you need more money, find new sources of income based on your odd skill-set and apply No. 3. If your job is demeaning or bad, commit to finding a new job and leaving your old one. But remember that this is a recession. Don’t just up and quit your day job. You might not find another one as easily. And frankly, your day job is keeping your movie happening even though it feels counterintuitive. Sure, you may need to make adjustments to keep your second (or third or fourth) job from interfering completely with your film, but it’s likely necessary to keep you moving ahead financially in these times. By first adjusting your attitude you greatly improve your chances of making the whole thing work.

7Create strength through community.

Your friends and colleagues are your greatest resources — they have skills, equipment, intelligence and savvy. Clues to survival reside with our peers and our community of fellow filmmakers and artists. The choices they make will help us solve our own problems and make better choices. Take colleagues you admire out to coffee, lunch or dinner, and ask questions about how they make it work. Also, do things that help you enjoy your community. Too often in the single-minded pursuit of filmmaking we forget to enjoy our friends. Movies get made by groups of people. Make sure that this group brings you joy. Communal dinners, caffeinated meet-ups, tequila. These are all tools to bring folks closer together, and the better we play together, the better we work together.

8Manage your goals and chart your progress.

Set your goals in writing. Studies show that writing down your goals drastically improves your chances of meeting them. Break down the steps. Any goal, even a big one, is achievable if you break it down into the smallest steps possible. Then share your goals. Make yourself accountable publicly so that you have an incentive to follow through on things like debt reduction. Also, track and share your success. Use the discipline of goal tracking to bring order to your life. Then use the lists to remind yourself that you are making progress. It’s too easy to think you aren’t moving forward if your goals are really big, but progress is progress, so make sure you can chart yours.

9Give more and participate in making the world a better place for all people.

When you focus on your own challenges it’s easy to forget that the world is a difficult and challenging place for those less fortunate than yourself. Don’t be a selfish artist, be a good citizen. Volunteer for a cause, a campaign or a soup kitchen. Help your friend or neighbor. Give advice, give your time, give your expertise. Especially do this when you’re afraid. It will banish the fear. It will also lead you to new and unexpected opportunities. And remember, even when it’s hard, we are blessed to be able to do what we love.

10Make the decision to make your best work and be good with money and enrich the world.

Now go out there and kick some cinema booty.



Article by  Esther B. Robinson




Ira Sachs sits down with writer-director Oren Moverman to discuss his debut feature, The Messenger, a powerful look at two soldiers who bring the pain of war to your doorstep.




The two Iraq war soldiers played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson in Oren Moverman’s astonishing directorial debut, The Messenger, serve in a different kind of military theater. It’s not in the Middle East but at home, here in America, as they are dispatched by the Casualty Notification Office to tell family members that their sons, daughters, brothers or sisters have been killed in combat. As he undertakes this mission, Foster’s character is just out of a military hospital and still traumatized by battle. He’s paired with Harrelson’s character, a senior officer whose precisely delivered speeches and irreverent personal credo are his own form of armor. As the two men become friends, exposing to each other their vulnerabilities, fears and failings, Moverman depicts an America in which the violence of the war has been refracted through language, belief systems and the ways we interact with not only each other but also ourselves. But as much as this film is about words and speech, it’s also fiercely visual, with compelling compositions underscored by occasional blasts of speed metal and coiled editing rhythms. With The Messenger, Moverman has made an ambitious, compelling debut that announces his arrival as one of our major directors.

Moverman is well known to Filmmaker readers for his screenplay work. He’s carved out a unique career writing or co-writing scripts for some of today’s top auteurs, including Alison Maclean (Jesus’ Son), Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) and Ira Sachs (Married Life). He’s also got scripts in the works for Scott Free, Joel Silver and Jean-Luc Godard. (Moverman is scripting an adaptation of Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million for the legendary Swiss director.) And then there’s Interrupted, a bio-pic about the last years of Nicholas Ray’s life co-written with Susan Ray for director Philip Kaufman. To interview Moverman, we asked Sachs, a collaborator and also a friend, and they discussed the transition from writing to directing, learning from Nicholas Ray, and eyes following eyes.

Oscilloscope Laboratories will release the film October 30.

Okay. Let me ask first: How was directing? [both laugh]

How was directing? It was really a joyous experience. It was a 28-day shoot, and I enjoyed every day and felt very comfortable in that position. We put together a great cast and a great crew, and it became very collaborative. There was a lot of improvisation. It just felt alive.

Did it feel very different than writing a screenplay? Yeah, well, it’s a lot less lonely. There’s a whole other set of pressures that are different from the pressures that you have as a screenwriter. But, you know, I’ve always approached the screenplay as “the movie” — maybe because I never thought I’d get to direct.

Is that what you do when you work as a screenwriter for other directors — help them think about “the movie?” I hope so. I try to think like the director — or like a director — in order to help them with what they’re trying to do, and to tap into their vision so that I cancel myself out. I’m there in service of the project. We kind of made The Messenger that way. We were all in service of this film. We were just getting out of the way of the film, just letting it happen, letting it grow organically from what I felt was a very good script that gave us a lot of good directions.

Knowing your history a bit, and that you started off studying film, and were always interested in making your own films, it almost seems like you became a screenwriter by accident. [Screenwriting] definitely wasn’t the plan. I came to the States in 1988 with the idea of being a film director.

Did you know any other film directors? I’d never met anyone. Not only did I not know any film directors, I’d never met anyone who did anything creative. It was a whole new world to explore. I started writing first in Hebrew and then I moved to English when I got a little bit more confident. I wrote a script [for me to direct] that I was very happy with. It was called A Hiding Place, and I think I even talked about it in this magazine. It didn’t work out and I was sort of left with a writing sample that I started sending around and getting hired as a screenwriter. So in a way, yeah, I sort of fell into screenwriting. I never studied it.

I’ve been thinking about your body of work as a screenwriter and also as a director, and it seems to me, if there can be an auteur theory of screenwriters, one could make one about your work. Really? I don’t see it. [laughs]

Well, I was considering the fact if you look at Jesus’ Son, if you look at I’m Not There, even if you look at our work on Married Life, there is a consistent theme of an outsider, a person — usually a man — trying to figure out how to bridge who he is internally to who he will be in the world. Basically you’re calling me Nicholas Ray. [laughs]

Well, it’s interesting you say that, because Nicholas Ray is someone you are writing a film about. Yeah, and someone I’ve studied really closely and who in a strange way I felt was helping me while I was directing — especially [through] his book of writing, I Was Interrupted [edited by his wife, Susan Ray].

What specifically did you learn from Nicholas Ray for this film? Nicholas Ray, he was definitely an auteur, somebody who could work with other people’s screenplays and still make them his own films. And you could say that those films are about outsiders, men who are trying to figure out how to deal with their emotions, who are always feeling chased by a posse or crowd. And I remembered the careful attention of his writing about actors. I’ve worked on screenplays — some produced, some not — and there was always a concept to them, there was always a visual, conceptual approach on top of what the film was. Coming into The Messenger I actually felt that it was just going to be about the actors. I mean, obviously there’s a whole strategy of how to make the film, what the visual language is, but I kept thinking of the line of Charles Laughton’s that Nick quoted, which is, “The melody is in the eyes. Eyes find eyes.” Just look for the eyes, because there’s so much that’s going to be conveyed in the eyes. I felt that this is that kind of a movie where looking people in the eye is going to tell you a lot of the story. Of course the flip side of that, which we did a lot in the movie, is to shoot from the back, so that the eyes become even more meaningful when you finally find them. You almost search for them, are aware of them, even when you’re looking at someone’s back and just listening to them [speak].

Significantly, that concept doesn’t translate into having lots of close-ups in your film. No.

Or in Nick Ray’s films. When I wrote the Nicholas Ray script, I worked with Philip Kaufman. There was a draft that he looked at and he basically said, “Let’s just do it like Nicholas Ray. You know, we’ll just sit down, every scene, and ask, ‘What’s my action?’ Because that’s what Nick would do, right? So when we’re making a movie about Nick, we should have to do that.” It forced me to analyze [the script], kind of shape it in a way that makes it move, not necessarily in a classic “How does this feed the plot?” way, but to feed the characters’ desires and needs and ambitions. “What is the thing that I need to do in order to get what I want,” which basically was Ray’s entire approach to directing actors. So [this type of thinking] was happening automatically with me [when I was directingThe Messenger].

You get amazing performances from all your actors, but particularly Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. Were they very different, what they needed from you? Very different. Ben came to New York City nine weeks ahead of the shoot. We hung out a lot. We went through the entire script word by word. We discussed things. We rewrote things. We kind of improvised on-the-spot things and fed them into the script. He did a lot of research. We had special shoes made for him because there’s the idea that one of his legs is shorter than the other. We made these army boots for him that kind of threw him off balance. He was walking for hours at night in Manhattan, getting used to his walk, and watching documentaries and reading. There was a lot of preparation and a lot of exchange. And he would also be very fair, in a shocking way for me in the beginning, before I knew him. He would read something and say, “Oh, that’s really a great line. I think you should give it to Woody.” He really understood the silence of his character, and so he was not precious about any of it. He was just very open. With Woody, Woody was shooting another movie. He was in Romania when we started shooting. So he got a little break from his Romanian shoot, came over here for three weeks. He arrived the day before the shoot started. We had conversations in the past, and I knew he was doing preparations, mostly physical preparations, to get into the head of the soldier, because he’s never played one quite like this. But a lot of the work with him was on set, whereas with Ben a lot of the work was already done by the time we got to set. And they’re also very different roles. One, Woody’s role is so wordy. He just had to hit a lot of lines. We improvised also, but he had to get out a lot [of dialogue], whereas Ben was much limited word-wise. He had to find his way through scenes by reacting a lot.

Which movies were most influential on the very specific shooting style that you used? DefinitelySalesman, by the Maysles brothers. The Maysles were kind of like my first job in New York, so I saw all their movies when I was working there as an office PA. Salesman came to mind because it felt like The Messenger is a movie about people who come to the door. It needs a certain kind of urgency of, “This is happening right now,” which is what Salesman does so beautifully. The subject matter is very different, but, you know, Salesman is a very grim movie in many ways. There’s a certain desperation in the vibe of the movie that I felt was interestingly connected to The Messenger.

You can feel the overlap of those two movies. I was watching the zooms in Salesman and I thought, “Oh, they’re kind of interesting because it’s early usage of zoom.” It felt more like news, less like, you know, a Robert Altman movie. But it also felt alive. It felt improvisational. Albert Maysles just had these instincts of, “I’m going to go there. Now I’m going to pull closer. I’m going to milk the moment when it’s so quiet and create a moment out of nothingness in which people are standing around.” That really appealed to me. So I started looking at Altman and Hal Ashby, people were not shy about their use of zooms. I talked to [d.p.] Bobby [Bukowski] about something that I pretentiously called a “humanistic zoom.” [laughs]

As opposed to…? As opposed to a functional zoom. Just humanistic in the sense that I gave Bobby license to zoom at certain points he felt drawn into. Bobby’s a very loving person, and I thought the movie should be sort of loving. To me it is a movie about love, or the potential for love, and how it gets you through the hard stuff in life. There’d be certain scenes where we would shoot a long take and I would say to him, “Just find Ben.” Or certain scenes where I would say to him, “Feel your way through it. See what attracts you.” And then if we did it again I would point to more specific places. I really wanted that sense of moving forward, getting closer to people, trying to really see what’s in their eyes, what’s in their souls. And then sometimes pulling back when you feel like, “Oh, this is a little uncomfortable. Kind of getting too close here.”

That type of working process requires a lot of trust between you and the cinematographer. Bobby and I clicked from the very beginning. And that’s something that I had to learn about myself — what kind of a director I would be, or how I would play the role of the director. And I found that I was craving collaboration, craving the interaction with the various departments and the creative process of just coming up with stuff. But as with any type of job, once you have that trust and you give people room, they really start coming up with so many great things.

It’s like parenthood. Like parenthood, exactly. And I felt like for the most part, most of the people I was working with really were so good that I didn’t have to control it in kind of an obsessive way. There was almost no one who had to be watched over his shoulder and [asked], “What are you doing?”

I want to go back to the Oren Moverman auteur theory. You brought up that this is a film in some ways about love. I also think this film, as in your other work, is about the nature of belonging, finding a place where one fits in. Right.

And, for me, it seems directly connected to you — to the immigrant story. I think that’s true, but, you know, I’m from Israel and I felt like an immigrant in Israel [laughs] growing up. I felt like I never belonged there. Partly that’s because it is a nation of immigrants. I was born into a country that was 18 years old when I was born. Most of the population was not native — which created a lot of problems — but I always felt like an outsider. I never felt like I belonged. Living in the Middle East was so weird for me, because, you know, look at me, I’m not from the Middle East. My family is from Eastern Europe. I couldn’t stand the heat. [laughs] You know, it was just a weird existence. Not to say that I don’t feel like an Israeli, or that I don’t feel any kind of connection to Israel, because I do. It’s a very strong one. But, yeah, I’ve always felt like an immigrant. And maybe that’s why I’m so comfortable here, because here I can be officially an immigrant.

Was there one character in The Messenger that you felt particular identification with?. Yeah. Woody asked me that question, and when I told him he wanted to hit me. It’s Ben’s character. I served in Israel, but it really wasn’t until I started working with Ben that I started, with his encouragement, to put things in the movie that were from my experience. Ben forced me to tell him stories about my experiences, and more than a couple times he insisted on me putting them in the script, and they’re in the movie. I never wanted to share these experiences with anyone. I think he kind of brought me into this realization of like, “Okay, I can sort of start dealing with some things in my life through this character,” which was very rewarding. It’s interesting when I talk to American soldiers and they say they totally get the Ben character. They totally know who Woody is, too, but they totally get the Ben character because it’s much more of a kind of modern soldier version of the tough guy battling all these emotions. I think that was kind of me. I was in a male world that had particular rules of behavior and certain modes of carrying yourself in the role. You’re a soldier; you’re a tough guy; you’re in a tough military in a tough part of the world. There was room for emotion, but those things started getting very, very confusing. I was a guy who came home from the army for a two-day leave and locked himself in a room and watchedApocalypse Now over and over again — in the dark. I was that guy.

I’m sorry, what kind of guy is that? [both laugh] That’s the soldier who gets confused by seeing and doing things in the combat zone that are not normal in everyday life.

It seems to me, knowing your military background, as well as your artistic collaborations, that you are particularly comfortable in a world of men. That there is an intimacy you create in your male relationships that’s specific and that’s in this movie as well. Yeah, yeah. And that’s why I have said it’s a movie about love, because it’s not just about a love story, a potential love story with the Samantha Morton character, but it really, truly is in my mind a love story between two men. A heterosexual love story, probably not the best thing to put on a poster, but — and that’s how I talked about it. And it really helped that Woody and Ben fell completely in love with each other, and you can see it. You can see in the development of the relationship that these guys really like each other, and they do.

Talking about the movie now, it seems like an autobiography much more than I realized. And not only because of the military element, but also because of the position of Ben’s character as someone who is both active in the world he lives in but also distant from it. Yeah.

Which is in a certain way the role of both the writer and the director. Luckily for me, I wrote the script with Alessandro Camon, who brought a whole other world into it that I couldn’t conjure up if I tried. It really balanced those more personal things that I felt that were mostly [expressed] through the Ben character with a lot of great things that he did through the Woody character. We joked at one point that I’m Ben and he’s Woody. And I think it’s that balance that actually makes the film work.

That dynamic, which I think is overturned towards the end of the movie, when each character, in a way, becomes his own inverse, is also very powerful. Also, when the movie starts, Ben’s character, Will — and you don’t know this until the end of the movie, and you probably won’t even register it unless you read this article — has already made a decision to live. He’s going to grow stronger no matter what he’s going to go through. With his kind of strange determination and strange discipline, he’ll get there. Woody’s character starts the movie as his world has been set. Everything’s figured out. He’s smarter than everyone. He’s thought out a lot of issues. He’s got comeback lines for a lot of things, and he’s funny. But there’s so much that’s unresolved, and there’s so much that’s hurting. I guess at the end of the day, you know, one of my favorite elements, maybe in my life but also in what I think about, is the world of men and the world of feelings, and how they combine. How can you exist as men within a military, male-dominated world and be somebody who is aware of how he’s feeling and how he relates to other people and what’s broken?

Don’t you think that’s the challenge of being Human? [laughs]

— human, yes, but also part of the film community? Yeah.

The part of a filmmaker in an industry. An artist in an industry. That’s always been the challenge with film. It’s a business and it’s an art.
It’s a business about emotions. [pause] Well put. [both laugh]

[pause] What’s the first movie you remember seeing? Wizard of Oz. I was 7 years old, in Israel, in a gym, in a school, which also was a bomb shelter. [laughs] And it terrified me. I came home, I was sick for two weeks. I was in shock, really. So much so that I didn’t watch it again for over 30 years, until my kids forced me finally to sit down and see it. I was literally afraid of the movie, because I remember the sensation of lights going down and this thing that started happening on the screen. It was just really, really frightening. For years I had that feeling in a movie theater when the lights came down.

Are you worried about the end of cinema, like every other independent filmmaker? No, not really. I mean, I’m worried about the end of the world…. Somebody told me that line, you know, “If you worry you die, if you don’t worry you die, so why die?” [laughs] I can’t say that [the end of cinema] is something that is preoccupying my obsessions at the moment. I think it’s going somewhere, I just don’t know what the direction is anymore. But I think that once it settles, we will realize where cinema and the visual arts visual language are going, and there will be something exciting within them to explore. It will be up to the people who are invested in it to kind of find that and create those new things. Sounds very abstract, just because, who knows?

Well, you made a beautiful film. I’m proud of you. Thank you. Thank you, sir.

The kid done good. That’s it? I thought there’d be hard questions.



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If you’re like most low-budget filmmakers, the word “deliverables” probably ranks somewhere at the very bottom of your List of Major Concerns, below “Outline my next film” and above “Pay back Uncle Mort’s $1,000 loan.” And rightly so; when you’re consumed with worries about scraping together cash to buy stock or about getting through the mix before the festival screening, what’s the point of worrying about abstract future concerns like E&O Insurance, Chain of Title documentation, and internegative checkprints?

But unlike Uncle Mort, deliverables will come back to haunt the unsuspecting independent filmmaker like a hidden line item threatening to dwarf the rest of the production budget. As producer James Schamus says, “When you’ve finished your film, you’re just about halfway through.” In other words, after the rude awakening of deliverables, you might find yourself crawling back to Uncle Mort to beg him for another $30,000 to $80,000 to provide you with the means to actually sell and jrelease what used to be your miraculously produced no-budget film.

Creation of deliverables is a huge and consuming process that accompanies any film lucky enough to get any level of sales or distribution. From the distributor’s perspective, a timely and high-quality delivery is the backbone of a film’s release. But from the producer’s perspective, delivery can make the difference between a film’s profitability and further debt. And for the low and no-budget filmmaker who has already plumbed the depths of fundraising and charity, the creation of deliverables can be a desperate struggle.

“The filmmaker always expects the distributor to pay for all the delivery items, and it becomes the biggest area of friction,” says Marcus Hu from Strand Releasing, which has released the low-budget art house films Crush andGrief. “But on a borderline film, if the filmmaker balks at creating necessary delivery materials, we may decide not to distribute the film at all.”

Unfortunately, there’s no way around delivery, no El Mariachi-no-budget shortcut, but there are a few hints about how to cash flow the process and juggle the elements so that a producer can ensure that the film does get delivered, and maybe with a few bucks left over afterwards.

Deliverables Defined

Simply put, deliverables are the materials that a distributor needs in order to release a film. Without a negative of some sort, the distributor can’t create theatrical release prints. Without a color-corrected video version, the distributor can’t broadcast it on TV or release it to your local video chain. Without a legal trail proving that the producer in fact owns the film and all its elements, the distributor won’t undertake the legal risk of releasing it. And without a good many color slides, black-and- white prints and quirky anecdotes about the shoot, the distributor won’t have the means to publicize the film’s release. Deliverables fall into those three categories: print materials, legal documents, and publicity materials, and the bulk of the expense for the deliverables process lies in the first of them.

Print Materials

Print materials are the means for the distributor to create theatrical release prints, the trailer, television and video versions, soundtracks, and other methods for people to view and listen to the film. Exactly which and how many print materials are needed will depend on the scope of the film’s release, but at the very least, print delivery will include access to the original cut negative and optical negative, a number of release prints, and a color-corrected video transfer of the film. For release in a foreign country where dubbing is required, print materials will probably also include M&E tracks, which have cleanly separated music, effects and dialogue tracks. Keep in mind that the most efficient way to accomplish this is to record each character’s dialogue and location effect separately, otherwise, you will have to re-record every effect that tramples on dialogue and re-record each character separately when their dialogue tramples on the others in the production track. And for a release involving more than a small number of prints, a producer will probably choose not to endanger the original negative and will create an internegative which can travel more freely and which can strike large numbers of release prints safely. But the creation of an internegative calls for the creation of an intermediary element, the interpositive, as well as a checkprint (combined cost for the three is typically $25-30,000), and the creation of acceptable M&E tracks can involve an extra sound edit and mix which can easily run $5,000 or more. Since pretty much any territory sale will include video and television rights, a filmmaker will be required to create a D1 or D2 color corrected video transfer, which for a typical feature can take from eight to 30 hours of transfer time at anywhere from $300-800 an hour.

A filmmaker may also have to provide what’s known as a spotted dialogue list. This form lists the film’s action and dialogue in feet and frames for dubbing and subtitling purposes. Professionally done, it can cost in the thousands of dollars. Some smaller distributors without in-house editors might require the filmmaker to come up with the trailer, but for the most part this would be the limit of the major print delivery expenses. The remaining print deliverables merely involve giving the distributor access to already existing materials the filmmaker utilized to make the film: from original location sound and erstwhile useless negative cutouts, to sound mix cue sheets and copies of the original score, to the optical overlays of the credit sequences and the negative of the textless credits sequences. Everything you thought you’d never need again might return to your attention as the crucial linchpin of your distributor’s deliverables list.

Legal Materials

Like print deliverables, the amount of legal paperwork required to release a film will vary from distributor to distributor. In general, though, legal deliverables are less expensive and less complicated than print deliverables, so long as the process has been anticipated from the very beginning of the film shoot. Well-conducted production legal work will include signed releases and contracts for every cast and crew member who worked on the film, for every poster and labeled bottle appearing in the frame, and for every song played on the soundtrack, and copies of all of these licenses and deal memos and releases must eventually be delivered to the distributor.

Additionally, filmmakers should expect to provide the distributor with a Chain of Title, which is a set of documents that trace each step of ownership of the film from the original screenplay through the producer and sales agent right up to the distributor, and which include copyright certificates, title searches, and certificates of origin. Though Chain of Title documentation can be complicated enough on its own, expect it to vary from territory to territory as each country’s bureaucracy grapples with its own idea of authenticity.

However, there are two additional legal deliverables which are invariably expensive though not always required, especially by the smaller distributors. The first of these is an MPAA ratings certificate, the cost of which is pegged into the annual sales of the company submitting the film. As such, it is invariably cheaper for a small producer to submit the film for the rating than it would be for a larger distributor with sales in the millions. The cost of an MPAA screening, even if the rating is not ultimately accepted or used by the distributor, will be upwards of $2,500.

Errors & Omissions Insurance, another costly legal deliverable, is an insurance policy which protects the distributor from any potential lawsuits looming in the future. Smaller distributors may not require this until they make a video sale. but larger distributors will want this immediately. A standard policy is $3 million worth of insurance for 3 years, and this can run between $8,500 and $10,000. Most of the remaining legal deliverables are relatively simple and straightforward – short form transfers of rights, access letters for lab materials, statements of dubbing or editing restrictions, etc.

Publicity Materials

If you’ve already prepared for a festival, you probably have a good base for all the publicity materials you need: photos, slides, pressbooks, synopses, biographies of key talent and creative crew, and sometimes poster ideas and electronic press kits. Most important on this list is the photos and slides: a filmmaker should be prepared to hand over all production slides and color transparencies to the film’s largest distributor (which probably means the film’s U.S. distributor), but should remain cautious because the smaller distributors will also require a smaller, but complete selection of these materials. Generally, the best scenario is to give your U.S. distributor a chance to see everything you have, and then ask them to duplicate the materials they prefer. From their selects (60-200 color slides, 15-100 black and white photos), you choose a smaller batch for selects for all the other territories (20 color slides and 10 black-and-white photos). No matter how astute and intelligent you are when selecting slides, all the distributors will latch onto one single image that they love. Because most of your European distributors will want to follow the U.S. campaign, they will often choose the same image. The point is, don’t make 300 copies of your favorite slide; trust your distributors to know their market and your film, and supply enough materials for them to do their job.

Other publicity materials include biographies of all key crew and cast, a summary of the film, and a few pages of material about production. Any information that can help your distributor fashion a “hook” to entice publicity is helpful. If the entire process was a miserable one, invent something. Often, press will not have seen your movie before interviews and will ask questions solely based on the notes you or your distributor have provided, so make sure your notes open up platforms to speak from and address issues that are enticing and marketable. Keep in mind that the El Mariachi hook of how low the production budget was is no longer interesting. Most independent films are made on a shoestring, and moviegoers don’t plunk down $8 to see how thrifty and ingenius you are anymore.

Delivery Shortcuts

The best shortcut to inexpensive and efficient delivery is anticipating the process from the very start of the production. While some of delivery expenses are unavoidable, many of the horror stories from the front lines of delivery involve inadequate preparation during the shoot and postproduction. Other shortcuts involve ways to handle the deliverable process itself. Following are a few basic mantras:

Never use anything you haven’t cleared. The cost of reshooting a scene with a different extra or in front of a different billboard, in the few instances where it’s even possible, can be enormous. More common, but no less damaging, is the inclusion of musical tracks in the mix before obtaining proper clearances. Clearing only the right to exhibit the film at festivals could be a great way to gain a bargaining chip with the record companies, but it can also be the producer’s worst nightmare. In the best cases, having a certain song in the film may attract the distributors’ attention, and the possibility of having the band’s music in a motion picture with a committed P&A budget may appeal to the record company, too. But an easy worst-case scenario is when the distributor loves the music, the director loves the music, but the music is only cleared for the festivals and the record companies will not negotiate a rate low enough to clear all media for the distributor. The moral is anything that isn’t cleared before exhibition is a gamble.

Pay attention to what’s happening on set. Careful attention on set will save a lot of headaches when time comes to obtain an errors and omissions policy. Be wary during production of any recognizable name, and keep in mind that recognizable doesn’t always mean famous. In one case, a producer needed to track down residents of a suburban western town who had the same name as the character in a movie. The producer’s lawyer asked them to make sure that the real people could not claim harmful similarities if their story was similar to the fictional character’s story. (The irony was the writer had crafted a name hoping to be completely generic.) Other things to be wary of: casting aspersions on trademarks by associating them with unpleasant activities. For example, don’t have your serial killer eat a McDonald’s Big Mac before a killing spree or your E&O carrier may exclude that from the coverage. Remember, what you don’t notice on set, a hungry lawyer will notice at a movie theater.

Hold onto everything you can. Never throw away anything. Never lose anything. Unused shots, failed foleys, recordings of the musicians rehearsing, letters from disgruntled caterers, keep ’em all. The most unlikely materials may eventually be required by a weird and rapacious distributor. And in such a case, the cost of recreating materials will most certainly outstrip the cost of a storage facility.

Hire a professional, reliable stills photographer. Unfortunately most producers learn the hard way just how important it is for a professional still photographer to be on set. “At Strand, we ask now before the deal is signed to see the selection of stills. It’s the single most important publicity item distributors need. Creating stills after the fact is usually impossible and pulling from a frame of the film is disastrous.” Oftentimes, unit publicists working on big-budget Hollywood films will read the script before production and identify major scenes where a good still will be an evocative selling tool. The unit publicist will then identify those scenes to the producer and unit photographer. Planning, professionalism, and attentive logging and care of the materials are all incredibly important during production. Make sure your key scenes, lead actors, and shots of the director on set are all covered.

Juggle the deliverables. Plan international releases carefully so that not all items will be needed everywhere at the same time. Very often, distributors around the world will release a film around the same time; that being the case, it’s very important to coordinate the international journeys of the film’s elements so that it doesn’t become necessary to create multiple internegatives or M&E tracks. The interpositive of a film will be used to create the trailer, the video transfer (unless you make a low-con print, which some transfer houses prefer), and the film’s internegatives; these activities must therefore be spaced out well in advance. A key to successful delivery is in evaluating everyone’s needs and concerns and crafting a solution everyone can live with

Use the organic deliverable – the Director. It may not appear in any contract, but the time demands made on the director will be enormous. After you sell the film, it will take your distributor at least three to six months to prepare for release. Many independent films are platformed, meaning they open in a few major markets and then expand to a wider audience. The European markets will generally follow the American release by a few months. This means that from selling the film to putting the film to bed can take about twelve to 24 months to get the film out to all territories. The primary selling tool for an independent film is the director. Interviews, by phone and in person, will continually occur. Most distributors will want the film to participate in a festival in their territory and will want the director to attend and do press. The director should be ready, prepared, professional and pleased, even though they are being asked the same questions day after day for months on end. Distributors remember who works a film and who can’t be bothered. You’ll never know how much your visit boosted ticket sales, but when you come knocking on the distributor’s door with your next film, they will remember. It’s good for the film, and good for the director.

Be wary of distributors creating the deliverables. Larger distributors might offer to create the materials themselves, often at lower base prices than you can because of the relationship they have with their own labs. On the other hand, they will add a service fee of 20-40% to the cost, which will be subtracted from the income the distributor makes on your film. On the third hand, if your film has only been sold for a modest advance, you may want the distributor to create as many of the materials as they are willing to, the logic being that you may never see any overages beyond your minimum guarantee, anyway. On the fourth hand, if your North American distributor (who generally needs the most delivery items) creates all the materials, who will service your international distributors? Will they charge a fee to the foreign distributors for access to the interpositive and internegatives they create?

Go for a Gross Corridor deal. If your distributor can’t offer you an advance to help defray the costs of delivery, ask for a gross corrider deal with your distributor, which essentially means that a portion of money received from the box office and ancillary markets will revert directly to the filmmaker. This allows money to come back to you more quickly in order to pay for materials. The downside is that less money is going to your distributor, who may need it to publicize and distribute your film.

And if you’re feeling luckySmaller distributors may only want an initial run of four to seven prints, which is a number that seems high to run off your original negative, but not large enough to warrant the expense of an internegative. An intermediate solution would be to create an interpositive of the film and then run prints off the original cut negative. If damage occurs, the interpositive can be used to create an internegative, and additional prints can be struck. The drawback of this method is that it’s still a tremendous gamble: Without creating an internegative and a checkprint, there’s no way to make sure that the interpositive is any good.

The Myth of the Seven-Thousand-Dollar Film

“A film without delivery items isn’t quite a film yet,” says Samuel Goldwyn’s Tom Rothman, which leads one to wonder whether deliverables should be a part of every film’s production budget, just as essential to a film’s creation as actor fees, equipment costs and music licensing. While deliverables are not strictly part of the script-to-answer-print process, they are definitely a part of the equation of how and whether a film breaks even or makes a profit, and their exclusion from a production budget can be somewhat misleading to a potential investor. On the other hand, it’s wildly inaccurate to predict the extent of a film’s release at the time of budgeting, so it would be difficult to anticipate how many of which deliverables a film might need. It would probably be safest to include one full set of deliverables in a production budget, but it’s even more important for producers to be aware of the cost necessary to create delivery items and weigh those costs during production. It is, for example, crucial to recognize early on that a 16mm film is virtually impossible to release theatrically anywhere outside the United States, and as such will probably have to be blown up to 35mm (a process which involves interpositives and internegatives as well as a substantial blow-up charge). It will also keep you from cutting corners by letting your cousin Sara, who takes pictures for the high school yearbook, from being your part-time, afterschool unit photographer. It will make you insist that production sound tracks be as clean as possible. And it will make you track down that charming street musician who sold your director a homemade tape in the subway, one of whose tracks has somehow worked its way into the production track.


Article from Filmaker



The movie industry was on the cusp of a technological revolution when paying cinema-goers first donned 3D glasses, in the 1920s. But back then it wasn’t innovation in vision that was to transform the cinema experience forever, but sound. Eighty years on, and following further false dawns in the 1950s and 1960s, 3D is once again film-makers’ gimmick du jour. Are its prospects any better this time around?

First off, Buzz Hays, Sony’s executive stereoscopic 3D producer, is keen to shatter some of the myths that have built up about filming in 3D – myths he thinks have held the medium back.

One of the big myths, says Hays, is that the technology can be as stifling as it is liberating for film-makers. For instance, convention has it that the audience works so hard to focus on the action taking place at a certain depth in a 3D image that average shot length will rise to give them time to adjust, marking the end of the quick cuts between cameras that characterise most modern movies.

Eye strain

It doesn’t have to be that way, he says. The problem emerges when one 3D camera rig uses so-called negative parallax to make the principle characters appear to jump out of the screen, while another rig uses positive parallax to shift the action behind the screen (see diagram, above right).

Hays demonstrated the effect, showing several clips where the focal depth-point shifted starkly between shots – after which the sensation of eye strain was readily apparent. As Hays points out, if the important action is placed at the same apparent depth in both camera feeds, the audience can concentrate on that depth with minimal effort.

Any budding 3D directors should obey what Hays calls the “rule of three” – the depth map of any given shot must be viewed in the context of the depth maps of the shots immediately preceding and following it.

Fortunately for cinematographers, who commonly shoot scenes out of their final order, scene depth can be adjusted to some degree in post-production.

As audiences become more accustomed to the conventions of 3D, forcing them to refocus on characters at different depths may give the action additional atmosphere, says Hays. Just as shaky camera work in a 2D film like Cloverfield can provide an instant sense of unease in an audience, so placing a character in a 3D film uncomfortably close to the audience may hint at an unsavoury nature.

New noir

This subtle use of 3D as a tool to guide the story puts paid to the notion that the technology is a mere gimmick, says Hays. He points to the 2007 film Beowulf as a good example: as characters gain or lose power during the course of the film, they become respectively more or less prominent in the 3D effects.

Some conventions are unlikely to survive a transition from 2D to 3D filming. One is a tendency for cinematographers to use a shallow depth of field to ensure that only characters and objects at a certain depth in the scene are in focus, so guiding the audience’s attention.

Objects at all depths, within reason, should be in focus in 3D films, as is the case in the real world – so movie-makers need to use different techniques to guide the audience’s attention in three dimensions.

Stage plays already provide a solution through the careful use of lighting – an effect likely to be adopted in 3D film-making. So just as the talkies gave way to a period of film noir, perhaps this latest cinematographic innovation will give rise to a whole new wave of moodily lit movies.

A short video on the new 3-D camera technology developed by James Cameron and Vince Pace.

The Fusion Camera System a.k.a. Reality Camera System 1 was designed as a way to shoot features in stereoscopic 3-D. This digital high-definition camera was used on Cameron’s documentaries and movies Aliens of the Deep, Ghosts of the Abyss and Avatar.

Each lens has a different filter , which removes different part of the image as it enters each eye. This gives the brain the illusion it is seeing the picture from two different angles, creating the 3D effect.

Continuing to develop new technology as he went along, Cameron also devised a ‘virtual camera‘, a hand-held monitor that allowed him to move through a 3D terrain.

This, Cameron said, allowed him to create ‘the ultimate immersive media‘, which he anticipates will exceed any and all expectation.

In essence, this allowed Cameron to direct the film as if it was computer game. If he wanted to change the viewpoint, he could click a few buttons on a mouse and a computer would redraw the virtual world from the new perspective.  Suuuupppeeerrr  coool

“Editing is what makes film a film.”

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing is a 2004 documentary film directed by filmmaker Wendy Apple. The film is about the art of film editing. Clips are shown from many groundbreaking films with innovative editing styles.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Editing teaches the viewer how editors compile strips of film in order to create memorable movie going experiences. In addition to interviews with a variety of respected and award-winning editors, the movie offers clips form some of the most memorable films in the history of the art form.

Directed by Wendy Apple
Produced by Wendy Apple
Written by Mark Jonathan Harris
Narrated by Kathy Bates
Zach Staenberg
Jodie Foster
Michael Tronick
Anthony Minghella
Sean Penn
Martin Scorsese
Steven Spielberg
Quentin Tarantino

9 is a 2009 computer-animated science fantasy survival horror film directed by  Shane Acker and produced by  Tim Burton.

It is based on Acker’s Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film Acker made at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.

‘9’ takes place in a world parallel to our own, in which the very legacy of humanity is threaten. A group of sapient rag dolls, living a post-apocalyptic existence find one of their own, 9 (Elijah Wood), who displays leadership qualities that may help them to survive.

Shane Acker’s short:

Shane Acker studied at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture and originally set a goal of becoming an architect but instead chose a film career.

The short film took Acker four and a half years, on and off, to create. Originally, Acker wanted to make it as stop motion, but then went for CGI when realizing it would have turned out too expensive. He used Maya 1.5–5.5 for 3D modeling, Photoshop for the textures, After Effects for compositing, and Premiere for editing. There are homages to Acker’s influences like Brothers Quay and Pixar placed throughout. Most of it was rendered at 720×540 pixels on a three-computer dual-processor render farm. For distribution at film festivals like Sundance, Rhythm and Hues Studios offered to print the short film to 35mm using their film printer and image resizing techniques. The credits show that beyond Acker, there were five other animators and three other lighters that worked on the film. The music was provided by Eric Olsen and his band the Earganic.

Shane Acker is an inspiration to all artists film makers.

Documentary about the true magic behind movie making.

EDITING, the under appreciated art form.

Interviews with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Quintin Tarantino.

What makes the movie, IS THE EDITING !

Procure studios is a film and editing company located in cape town south africa.. we specialize in all multi media and filming operations