Tomorrow starts the virtual version of the American Film Market (AFM) and my third attendance. Although deals are being done, nothing can replace the in-person experience of a film market (or film festival). That being said, AFM has created a great virtual gateway to the market. In some ways, I think they’ve enhanced the experience.
The experience will consist of numerous conferences around all sorts of industry subjects. One subject of interest to me (and I know countless other filmmakers) are the ones that center on distribution, sales agents and standing out from others. I will be particularly interested to see how AFM handles the sales agent discussion. Although there are a handful of companies I’m still in communication with, there were several others that approached us with absolutely terrible deals to say nothing of nightmare reputations (after I checked references with some of their client filmmakers).
However, one positive market development is the demand for content. Brian Beckmann, CFO of Arclight Film tells Screen Daily, “There are a lot of people looking for content right now. We’ve had nine months with very few productions getting off the ground… so we’re going to run into a supply and demand issue.” A fellow filmmaker opined several months ago that the lack of product could provide an opportunity for quality films that aren’t star driven. But then the question begs to be asked, but what about next year’s film markets? When you consider the lead time for pre-production, principal photography and post-production, one could be talking 18-24 months from greenlight to delivery. Regardless, I’m glad I have several scripts already written.
These past couple of weeks have seen some wonderful developments on the festival circuit for First Signal. Paul Noonan, who plays General Reager, won a Best Actor award at the 1st Monthly Film Festival. The trailer is up for a 2020 Best Trailer award at Changing Face International Film Festival (the trailer won their monthly festival May). First Signal is also now an Official Selection at Eurovision Palermo Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival and Hollywood Gold Awards. My thanks to the festivals and their respective juries for introducing First Signal to new domestic and international audiences.
When you’re writing a screenplay you really have no idea the path your project is going to take. It could go into production in short order or could be in development for years. While we always want to do more in this industry to challenge ourselves and bring our stories to life, I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve completed two feature films (and three shorts). Only time will tell what that next feature (and adventure!) will be.
There were many times when I was in the process of making Justice Is Mind I remarked that my experience running a company helped create my first feature film. Producing a film is nothing more than project management and being able to compartmentalize numerous areas of a production. From personnel to the creative, it’s keeping everything in order, on schedule and on (or under) budget.
I can’t tell you how many times I come across filmmakers that are all excited to direct only to see a project fall off the radar in post-production or worse not promoted. When I think about it being a magazine publisher is just like being a filmmaker. Pre-production is the creation of the editorial, production is organizing the editorial around advertising with post-production creating the final product, distribution and promotion. Sounds like a familiar process doesn’t it?
When I was operating my publishing company we were financed on cash flow only after a brief round of investment capital in the first few years. I had to figure out ways to do things that saved money while producing a premium result. I’ve brought this experience to my film work. Back in the day publishing companies would over staff for even the most mundane type of work. No wonder when the financial bottom started to fall out in that industry their top heavy structure caused them to collapse. The same holds true for filmmaking.
Certainly for productions of a substantial budget (like a Star Wars), you need a sizable crew for obvious reasons. But honestly I was on a recent production and was astonished at the ridiculous number of crew they had to film a simple bar scene. First, it was clear that there was no rehearsal. Second, the production of the scene fell on its own weight when the moving of a camera position was a herculean time consuming task. This was not a science fiction production or one that was going to require any special effects in post. This was just a bar scene. I sometimes will go incognito to see how other productions execute. Sometimes I learn things that I take with me, but in the case of this production you learn what not to do (unless you don’t care about a budget).
I think the understanding of small crews came from my experience on set during those early days of publishing when I was frequently interviewed. Sometimes they would come to my office, but I usually would go to a location. Generally, there was just a camera operator, producer/director (who conducted the interview), sound operator and sometimes a gaffer (lighting). On occasion a makeup artist would be present. If there’s anything I learned about being on TV was the importance of makeup. Believe me the horror of seeing yourself on TV without makeup is something you’ll never forget! And with today’s high definition it’s just that, a makeup-less face will overly define everything.
On Friday I picked up the first three VHS tapes I had converted to digital. I have to say I think they came out pretty good. Of course things like this bring back all kinds of memories. It was a different time back then when social media didn’t exist (that wasn’t a bad thing). But when I look back we were always pushing the envelope. Creating targeted direct response commercials that ran during figure skating broadcasts, producing one of a kind themed cruise events and distributing our enthusiast magazines internationally.
If all this sounds familiar with how I produce and market my films, this is where it came from. But one does not execute alone. In all cases it’s about working with a dedicated team that sees your vision.