Tag Archives: Filmmaking

The vlogging journey

I’ve been all ‘heads-down, tails-up’ with my master’s studies, working 4 days a week, running the March 2016 AOTS project, running the business and doing general filmmaking stuff.  In the lead-up to the June 2016 AOTS project — two weeks away! — I’ve started vlogging.

Check out the first one below:

In one of my master’s modules (not this one, but the next one), I’m going to be developing my mentoring and training skills through vlogging. I’m starting now with promoting Action On The Side. Expect more to come.

And, click the Closed Captions button — isn’t that nifty?

Building your own website

Picture this. Someone posts on a film forum that they’re looking for a crew or cast member. They’re looking for x, and x is what you do. Your friend recommends you. It’s a professional gig — yay, you could get paid.

The first thing this potential client is going to do is check out your website. They’re going to google. They’re going to see if you have a twitter, a blog, a Vimeo or youtube channel, a facebook page. Basically they’ll check your online presence, to:

  1. see if you have one (an online presence that is);
  2. see examples of your work; and
  3. decide if they want to work with you.

(I suppose there is also 4: find your contact details.

Three of my friends have had this situation in the past two weeks. If you don’t have a website, then you could be missing out on work.

Filmmakers nowadays have to be their own brand. In every meeting, you could be meeting a potential collaborator or a potential client. You are effectively pitching and selling yourself as a commodity with every interaction. There is a lot of competition in this industry, and it is difficult to break through that noise.

Film is a relationship industry. When hiring cast or crew, producers make their decisions based on the following, in the following order:

  1. people they have worked with before (and like);
  2. people personally recommended to them (by collaborators they trust);
  3. people who look professional.

This latter point can be covered by people who have a good amount of credits, credits from reputable professional projects, and people who have a personal brand.

This could be through having a social media presence (twitter, instagram), by having a reputable blog, by having an up-to-date profile on industry pages (shooting people, filmandtvcrewpro), or, most importantly, having a professional looking website.

You need to develop a personal brand identity. I’m not going to go into that now. If you’re interested in finding out more about personal brands, check out this post from Raindance.

But what I am going to cover is the basics of setting up a website, and some of the pros and cons of different social media.

Continue reading Building your own website

London Film Communities

My most recent project for my Raindance MA was a Research Methods Report. For this, I researched the Film Communities currently available to London-based filmmakers.  This was aimed to help me place Action On The Side within the market, and to determine its USP (Unique Selling Point, or Value Proposition). My overall MA goal is to develop AOTS into a sustainable short film business model.

After doing all the research, I had a large appendix with details on film organisations. And why not share that information?

Here is a list of the London Film Communities…

Of course, since writing the report, new communities have cropped up, or I found ones I should have included. Please add a comment if you see any errors or omissions and I will amend them accordingly.


 

Continue reading London Film Communities

What is Action On The Side?

At the London Screenwriters Festival this past weekend, I met six brand new people who, when I said I run Action On The Side, knew what it was.

So, let me answer: What is Action On The Side?

In July 2013, James Doherty, a motion designer who wanted to direct, set up a project for filmmakers. Get together and make a short film in a month. This was Action On The Side.

AOTS_Avatar_Sub_Larger

The concept is simple. Get together and make a short film in a month of weekends.

  • Weekend 1 is preproduction
  • Weekend 2 is production
  • Weekend 3 is postproduction
  • Weekend 4 is the screening

It is designed for people who make films in their weekends and evenings. Those of us with day jobs or who study.

It also recognises that we need deadlines to finish projects; otherwise they will just drag on and on.

I took part in the first event. A group of 25-30 of us in the Medicinema in Westminster broke into two groups and produced two films. James produced one, I produced the other.

I got to talking with James about promoting Action On The Side (AOTS), and was invited to co-organise the project. James and I co-ran the projects until he stepped out to direct ‘Breathe‘.

AOTS has run seven projects, has entered one competition, and has produced 11 short films. Our 8th project is November 2015 — and it’s starting in 8 days!

Since I’ve been running AOTS, we’ve been developing our community.

Social Media

Our facebook page has 330+ followers, and our twitter has 480+ followers.
Every day we share links to articles, tips, tricks, and inspiration to our social media followers.
9am every Monday we share a scriptwriting challenge: write a 3-6 page short film in x genre. Include a x prop. The challenges are designed to inspire scriptwriters to write a short within a week. If they take up the challenge, they develop their writing skills (just by the act of doing), and develop scripts that they can bring to our script development meetings.

Script Development

We trialled script development meetings last year, and started running regular meetings earlier this year. The script development group has been named ‘Screenwriters On The Side‘, and now meets fortnightly. Any one can join us, and can bring their scripts or ideas for feedback.

Our February short, ‘Arms Trade‘, was developed by three regulars (James, Chris, and Josh) at our script development meetings. Our July short, ‘Drunk Dialling‘, was an idea that Rosie brought along to our first regular script development meeting. The subsequent meeting she had a first draft. The next meeting she had her second draft. And so it continued until the July project where the film was pitched, selected, and made.

So why the blog post?

I recently started my Masters degree with Raindance. The MA is negotiated learning: meaning we negotiate what our focus is going to be. My masters is designed around Action On The Side. Specifically, my learning goal is to develop AOTS into a sustainable film business model.

“How can I develop Action On The Side into a sustainable film business model?”

I’m currently working on a Learning Plan, whereby I outline the steps I’ll be taking to achieve my learning goal.

Part of this process is working out what I want to do with Action On The Side. What does it mean to me? Why do I want to develop it?

So what does AOTS mean to me?

Action On The Side is a collaborative filmmaking model. You get to make a short film with a new network of people. You see who you like working with and you work with them again. There are people I met through the project who are great friends now. There are people I will work with and recommend for jobs (and I have).

You get to try new ideas out. A lot of the ideas that get pitched are ideas that people have had percolating in their minds for a while, but have never had the chance to get out and make.

And you actually get to finish a film. You get a product out there with your name on it. Something you can show people and say “see what I can do!”

When I look at the people who take part in AOTS, they fall into three categories.

  • Filmmakers who are new to London, looking to develop their network.
  • Filmmakers who know one aspect of film but want to learn another (quite a few who want to direct, but want to learn other roles first).
  • People who are new to filmmaking but want to get into it.

That’s 2/3rds of the members using AOTS as an educational model.

Now, what do I get out of it?

I’m a Producer. I love producing films. I love getting people together and sharing a love of film. I get to produce content. I think every film is a learning opportunity – so I learn from the films we make as well. I get to learn from the people who join our group, who have different (film) backgrounds. I get to learn from others who are passionate about film.

I get to experiment, try new things out.

But also, I’m like the educational aspect. I taught film for two years, and I love sharing my passion for film. I’ve trained in many different film departments, so I get to teach people what I know. Don’t know how to use the sound kit? let me show you. Want to know how to schedule a film shoot? let me show you. Don’t know how to pitch? let me help you. And, as a producer (and writer), I get to help develop writers and their scripts. There are writers returning to the script development meetings with better and better scripts, all getting closer to being ready to be shot. I helped with that.

But what do I want out of it?

I think the AOTS model is a great opportunity for filmmakers. I want it to grow.

I want to grow AOTS in London. I want more teams taking part. I want more filmmakers taking part. I want multiple films being made during the projects so when we have the screening at the end of the month, there are more films being screened.

I want to take AOTS outside of London. I want to run AOTS in other UK cities. Hell, in other countries. Let’s get a few AOTS’ running a month. And then, when we have multiple films being made in a month, we can have screenings showing all the films that were made that month during the project. Imagine the London shorts, the Manchester shorts, the Berlin shorts all being screened on the same day!

I want it to be a training ground for filmmakers. I want the returning filmmakers to be making better films that we submit into film festivals and win competitions. I want new filmmakers to come in, learn, and develop their filmmaking talents so they grow with the organisation.

I want people to come regularly to the script development meetings and develop their writing skills so they are producing great work.

I want to run film screenings and q&as and workshops so people can learn their craft. I want to run a vlog on filmmaking, producing content regularly, which Actioners can help to produce.

I want to run our own film competitions. A 48-hour film competition. A one-minute movie competition. Cinema SoundEX.

I want to run funding for short films.

I want people to come up to me in a few years’ time and tell me they took part in AOTS in x city, and developed their craft, and now have an awesome network of filmmakers they work with all the time, and now they’re working commercially, and winning awards with their films.

So how is does the MA help me?

Over the next two years of my MA (which I’m doing part-time whilst running my business and running AOTS), I’ll be developing AOTS into a sustainable business model.

The skills that I’ll be developing are two-fold:

  • I’ll be developing my entrepreneurial and business skills
  • I’ll be developing my teaching and mentoring skills

These skills are closely related to my role as a producer and educator.

Now I don’t know exactly what will come with this business plan. I’m still working that out. But I think these skills are being developed so I can be the Executive Producer to other Producers running the project.

So here’s what I’ll be doing over the two years

  • I’m going to doing market research into other film communities within London. What are the opportunities available to London filmmakers? And from this research, defining Action On The Side’s unique selling point (USP).
  • I’m going to be running a vlog on filmmaking. I’ll be interviewing people making films, running film communities, showing what goes on behind the scenes and what every ones role is on set. I’m hoping regular content creation will be developing our audience and brand awareness, not just for AOTS but for me as a producer and educator as well.
  • I’ll be developing resources for the project, and trialling them with the projects (we’re running AOTS in London every 4 months). This will include meeting with a Media & Entertainment Lawyer and developing the project’s IP.
  • I’ll be developing a handbook, outlining how to run an AOTS project, so someone else can produce a project. This will include defining the AOTS brand and outlining its management.
  • And then, with all of these resources and research and development, my masters project will culminate in a Beta test — running AOTS in a new market, outside of London. And making sure that the development that I have done until that point results in a sustainable project (e.g. a project that gets good feedback, and that breaks even or makes a profit that we can invest in the next project).

It’s a lot to do.

So what do I need?

If you’re in London, join us for this November’s project.

Sign up here.

If you’re not in London, but have friends who will want to take part, direct them to sign up. Or at least join our mailing list.

If you don’t live in London, but like the idea of Action On The Side and think there’s a community of filmmakers near you that will want to take part, send me a message. I can bring the project to you.

Now this November is the first time we’ve asked Actioners for a fee up front to take part in the project. Previously we’ve advertised the event as free, but then, once we had selected the film and knew the budget, would ask for £30 or so to go towards catering and equipment and transport. Sometimes people would pay; often times they wouldn’t. This was fine – the Executive Producers (me and James) would pay a bit more because, hey, we were making movies.

Since quitting my job in July and going freelance, that’s impossible.

Our costs have gone up, so now the fee is up front. It’s £40 to take part in the project this November.

My MA is focused on how to make this great filmmaking project sustainable, so it can keep growing and developing and supporting filmmakers.

If you like what you’ve read, and you want to support Action On The Side and this filmmaking journey that I’m going on, then sign up to the next project and let your friends know too.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass

I spent yesterday at Regent’s College, sitting in a lecture theatre, being inspired about filmmaking by Chris Jones, scribbling pages and pages of notes. It was the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. I tried to tweet tidbits during the presentations, but my phone decided I can’t connect to the internet with it (gee, thanks, phone).

I can thoroughly recommend Chris’ workshops and his blog chrisjonesblog.com. I had previously attended a Producing Masterclass with Chris two years ago, when I had first arrived in London. He is a great speaker and comes from a position of expertise and humility.

One of the best parts of the course today was outlining the five stages of a filmmaking career. At the Producing Masterclass two years ago, the five stages of a Producer’s career were outlined as well. I can safely say that I am a Stage Two Producer. Great tips for this stage and how to advance to the next.

Chris also posited that, within the industry, there is no longer the dichotomy between Amateur and Professional, but there is now a third category: the non-professional expert. These are the filmmakers who have a day job and make films in their spare time. That’s me! It was great to look into that model and affirm that it works – albeit with years of hard work – and to recognise it as a part of the industry.

It has been great networking with fellow filmmakers. I have already made some useful connections with people with whom I would like to collaborate in future. 

I wrote pages and pages of notes. I’m looking forward to the second half of the masterclass today. Maybe I’ll even be able to tweet?

Quick Turnaround Producing

Ladies and Gents,

Yesterday was the screening of the third Action On The Side project. In February 2014 we made two short films: ‘Office Ugetsu’ and ‘Escape’. Both films were screened to a group of 30-35 at Hult House. We also screened the updated cut of ‘WhosApp’, which was made as part of the October 2013 AOTS.

Office Ugetsu is now online for your viewing pleasure. Please check it out.

The other films will be online in due time.

I am learning a lot with the course that I am lecturing at Hult (BUS 340 Practical Film Producing). As part of the course, the students are getting an on-set experience. For this, I am producing a web series. The three episode series is called ‘Skip School‘. It follows Alex, a naive 19-year-old, struggling with the time jumps of his new school. I have a very short turnaround time for this project (the script was only finalized last week), so am currently confirming cast and crew.

The series will be shot on Saturday 01, Sunday 02, and Saturday 08 March in Bloomsbury.

I’m contacting people, and am about to start advertising on all the casting and crewing websites. If you’ve stumbled across this post from one of those, and you have any questions on the project or want to suggest someone for a role, please flick me a message (asap, ideally before the end of Tuesday).

Thanks!

2013 Reflection

I thought, why don’t I make a video with my achievements for 2013. Then I could share it with my friends online. It could be a new tradition.

Then I realised I don’t have enough time!

So, here is the new tradition. The reflection on a year gone by.

Film

  • Co-Produced and 1st ADd two films with Shiftwork Productions which were shot in December but completed in 2013 (‘Now Wash Your Hands’, ‘Don’t Do It’)
  • 1st ADd & Co-Produced ‘The P.A.’ with This Big Productions
  • Started Production Managing/1st ADing/Co-Producing ‘All I Do Is Dream’
  • Had four films entered in the Virgin Media Shorts Competition (‘The P.A.’, ‘Now Wash Your Hands’, ‘Don’t Do It’, ‘Tragedia’)
  • Screened ‘Tragedia’ at Whirlygig Cinema’s Making Tracks (My first Q+A)
  • Screened ‘Tragedia’ at KinoLondon #57
  • Had a second interview with Adelaide Screenwriter published online
  • Co-Produced / 1st ADd ‘The Estate Agent’ with Shiftwork Productions
  • Produced and Directed ‘Dead Letter’ with Shiftwork Productions
  • DPd ‘The Meeting Place’
  • DPd my first feature film. Got fired from the same feature film. Learnt a lot from the experience, including who not to work with, research who you’re working with, and don’t assume that people who are making a feature have gained experience from shorts or other projects.
  • ‘Copper’ completed with an update. ‘A Party For Me’ is very very close to completion. Starting entering these into festivals.
  • Took part in the inaugural Action On The Side in July 2013. Produced ‘Elle Fatale’.
  • Started helping James to run Action On The Side. Helped run Action On The Side in November 2013. Produced and wrote ‘WhosApp’; 1st AD’d & Co-Produced ‘Facetracker’.
  • Production Managed and 1st AD’d (pick-ups) of ‘NightStrike’ with This Big Pictures
  • Worked on the London Film London Calling application for ‘
  • Attended the BAFTA New Filmmakers Market and the Screen Film Summit.
  • Attended networking events and met loads of filmmakers.
  • Started teaching (see Career below)

Dance

  • Performed with the Arab Quarterly at the Hoxton Hall (London Belly Dance Debut)
  • Took Teachers Training Workshops and Dance Performance workshops with Elis Pinheiro
  • Took weekly classes with Farah Nasri
  • Performed with Farah’s class at the Bellydance Trophies
  • Joined and performed with the London Algerian Ballet
  • Completed a Performance Development Course with Ozgen
  • Took numerous workshops and attended numerous performances

Travel

  • Went to the Global Powwow in Dubai
  • Attended the CAMS Conference in St Louis
  • Filmed a friend’s wedding in Bristol
  • Returned to New Zealand for a week. Sorted things out at the house and with films; caught up with friends and family.
  • Spent Christmas with friends in Inverness

Career

  • Attended the Global Powwow in Dubai and the CAMS Conference in St Louis
  • Scheduled the entire 2013-14 Academic Calendar before registration for FA2013
  • Promoted to Registrar of the Undergraduate Program
  • Got a new Assistant Registrar
  • Successfully implemented Online Registration for FA2013 (200+ students in September, 700+ students in November/December). Included running training sessions for students and staff, my team creating statuses and uploading worksheets for all 700+ students.
  • Started teaching: taught one Independent Study on Film Production Assisting and one Independent Study on Scriptwriting.
  • Hired to teach a course on Practical Film Producing in Winter.

Miscellaneous

So often on social media, we all promote our best times and fail to mention our worst. From the outside, our lives are awesome. But some people had a crappy 2013 and just want it to be over. I think it is important to reflect on the crappy as well. Our lives aren’t all perfect, and it is important to talk about the bad stuff too. So, a few of of the downers.

  • Got fired from my first feature: this was a major learning experience. The Producer still owes me over £600 for the days I worked. Never trust people who want you to work without giving you a contract.
  • I filmed too much stuff that I have not had the time to edit. I unfortunately still do not have the time to edit it, or the money to pay someone to edit it.
  • I picked up too many projects: I hit my limit towards the end of the year, and have been declining projects until I finish a few.
  • There are some people I will not be working with again or at least for a while.
  • Didn’t get to see enough movies. Am especially gutted for not supporting the Independent Film Industry enough by seeing Indie Films at the cinema.
  • I still haven’t worked out my work/life balance. I have had a few too many nights working till 8pm/9pm/10pm/11pm with the day job, due to short-staffing and over-work. I work long hours at the day job without a break, then do a dance class then a production meeting. The way I see it is I am building my careers.
  • I spent too much time on tumblr and not enough time exercising. Man I wish I kept up doing yoga or pilates every morning.
  • I ran late and took too long to do things too often.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2014

  • Teaching my Practical Film Producing course in WI2014. Producing a short alongside the course.
  • Running Action On The Side (next edition in February)
  • Performing at Arabesque Nights: Thursday 03 July for Strictly Egyptian and Thursday 04 September for Rock The Casbah
  • Working on and finishing ‘All I Do Is Dream
  • Submitting my films into Film Festivals – thereby increasing my IMDb page
  • Attending a large film market
  • More workshops, more dance, more film, more friends, more travel!

Wishing you the best for 2014!

-Patricia

Paying wages: is film sustainable?

I am currently prepping the course that I am teaching in Practical Film Producing in January. One of the issues that I am thinking about is the issue of paying people: cast and crew.

As a Short Film Producer, I am often working on a micro-budget. Some films may be self-funded (e.g. by the Director). Some may have a budget from a client. Some we have raised funds from crowd-funding.

The problem with a solely self-funded film is that you don’t have an external assessment. You are making the film for you rather than for the audience, and you and your decisions are not liable to an investor. For this reason, Producers should not be putting up their own funds – they must find external investment.

The Producer creates the budget. In micro-budget films, the above-the-line costs usually get waived (scriptwriters fee, director’s fee, producer’s fee). Why should you get paid if no-one else is? Then you use your script breakdown to plan the rest of the budget. You will be looking at locations (permits, transport), crew (who do you need, on how many days, catering), equipment (incl. kit fees), post-production and deliverables, marketing and distribution. In my experience, the largest costs are catering and transport(1). Many micro-budget filmmakers would rather that the money that is spent appears on-screen. They will spend money on camera and lighting equipment, and will ask their crew to work for free. Some filmmakers will pay the talent before paying the crew, because the performance will be on-screen.

How is this sustainable? At the Guerilla Filmmakers Producer’s Masterclass, Chris Jones and Stephen Follows introduced that there are five stages of Producing.

The first stage: Basic Production.
You’re learning the ropes. You’re helping out on productions.

The second stage: Practical Producer.
You’re producing your first micro-budget shorts with no commercial value. You are entering the films into film festivals and competitions. You might even make a micro-budget feature.

The third stage: The Attempt At The Summit.
You make the breakout film. You’re getting investment.

The fourth stage: The Creative Producer.
Your film company is a profitable small business. You make the game-changer film.

The fifth stage: The Prolific Producer.
You are in control

In stage one, you’re going out and making films with your friends. It is easier to ask friends to work for free. They know you and your passion and you can make it up to them in other ways. As you make more and better projects, you build your network and the amount of people who you can ask to work on your project. Crew that are asked to work for free are being approached by Stage 1 and Stage 2 Producers.

Now the (often unsaid) agreement is that the people you work with on unpaid films are the ones that you will hire as soon as you are paying.  You learn filmmaking by doing it, and filmmaking is a collaborative medium, so you do have to rely on other people to help you to gain experience. You work with people on the unpaid projects, and, if you get on and like them, you’ll hire them again.

But that means that people can go for years before getting paid, and years before earning a living wage.

Filmmaking is the only industry I know that does this.

Now, this is Independent Film. If one got a paid job in filmmaking (such as with a studio or a post-production house), then one could use their salary to pay for their Independent Films. The same issue occurs though – paying your cast and crew.

The Blue Book

In New Zealand, Film Employment Best Practices are outlined in The Blue Book. Crew are generally non-unionized contractors, so can negotiate their own fee with the Production Company/Producer. In general internationally, once crew are paid, it is a high rate in comparison to other industries.

I recently helped out with a London Calling application. Film London had a budget template for submissions. Film London had to be the controlling investor with £4,000; the film budget could go up to £8,000. Usually one would spend all of that on equipment, catering, Art Department, Deliverables etc. But as part of the application, Producers had to agree to pay their cast and crew at least National Minimum Wage. They could have students for free, and the above-the-line players could waive their fee. But the cast and crew had to be paid. And believe me, the budget was difficult. Even kit fees were hard to cover; we had to work out what we could get ‘in kind’ or, basically, for free. Paying a minimum wage should not be difficult. But Producers’ hands are tied by the amount of money that they can raise.

I attended the Screen International Film Summit on Monday. The majority of films that are being made are either microbudget (less than £1m) or high budget (£4m+). There is a dearth of medium budget films (£1m to £4m). This is the same situation internationally. Filmmakers with years of experience and a proven track record are struggling to make their medium budget films (including Gaylene Preston and Mike Leigh). No longer is there the promise that microbudget filmmakers will be able to transition to medium budget and will be able to pay their crew decent wages, because the medium budget range is dying out.

Microbudget Filmmakers, in order to get the experience they need are struggling to pay their crew, or are using free crew to make their films. This is only sustainable for crew if they work on high budget productions: but, if they are not union members, or if they don’t have recognizable credits, can they?

For the industry to be sustainable, Producers need to move away from the freebie mentality. For this to happen, there needs to be more training for microbudget producers on how to raise funds effectively, how to budget for cast and crew wages, and how to build a sustainable business model. There needs to be an aim for recognizing training earned on microbudget films, and support for crew to move to higher budget projects.

What are your thoughts?

Call for more training of microbudget filmmakers

Addition

Here’s my issue as well. I am a unionist. I have issues with minimum wage, and would rather people are paid a minimum wage. MacDonalds and Walmart pay minimum wage straight away… but the Film Industry only pays minimum wage after you’ve worked for free for a couple of years??

Also, this.

 

Footnotes

(1) More so in Wellington, where people drove to locations. We arranged car pooling to minimise transport costs. In London, more people use the tube or bus, and they tend to already have money on their Oyster card so forget to provide receipts. The transport cost in London is for a taxi for the gear.

Links

TrulyFreeFilm.com. “The Hard Truth: Filmmaking Is Not A Job“. 01 September 2010. Blog post. Accessed October 2013.