The Importance of Setting Goals as Filmmakers

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The Importance of Setting Goals as Filmmakers

Have you even been in this situation. Someone asks you what you do. You say “I’m a filmmaker.” “Oh, really” they reply “That’s very interesing, what films have you made.” “Well, I have a lot of projects I’m working on. I’m hoping to have my film ready sometime next year.”

A lot of people that I talk with are in this situation. They have found themselves in a giant abyss. They’re not sure what the next step is. Their screenplay is pretty much ready. They have a group of friends or know people that can help make their film. But things aren’t moving forward. There is a very important concept that I want to talk about in this post and that’s the idea of goal setting. Goals are absolutely key to getting your project from point A to point Z. It’s time to stop waiting for a sign from God or the wind to blow you in a certain direction. You need to take charge of the process of making your film and start creating goals and deadlines that will propell your film forward.

I want to image yourself in a canoe, floating down a river. The river branches off, and you just let it carry you where it wants. As you get further and futher down the stream, you realize that you’re not closer to where you want to go. In fact, not only do you have to change course, but you have to go all the way back to the beginning. That’s why it is so important to set your course early on. You need to start with sub goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So what I want to discuss very briefly are some of the main goals you will want to set as you go about putting together your project.

Let’s break down the process into 5 main goals. As long as you can keep your goal on finalizing one and beginning the next goal, you will start to move yourself forward.

Goal 1. Concept and Screenplay

If you are producing your own film, you will need to start with a concept and a screenplay. I separate these two because they are not the same. The concept that you come up will need to include things like marketing information. This includes questions like: Who is your audience? Can investors make their money back? How much will a project like this cost to film? Can I make this film using the resources I already have.

Once the concept has been thoroughly researched, you can either write or hire someone to write your screenplay. But the screenplay writing process needs to have a due date. Give yourself, or whoever is writing the screenplay, 30 days to turn in a first draft. The first draft will most likely be pretty terrible, so don’t worry too much, only that it is on the right basic track. Then, allow for 30 more days to write a second draft.

It is essential that the screenplay is locked when you begin production. There are of course stories where films begin without a full screenplay. But in order to work in your budget you need to make sure you have everything on the page and that it works.

Goal 2. Budgeting & Funding

If this is your first feature and you really haven’t dome more than a few short films, shoot for a budget you can afford on your own. Yes, it is possible to get funding, but the chances are more than likely you will not make much money off of your first feature film. If you shoot your first film for $100,000 and everyone on the film looses their money, you will have a lot more trouble raising funds in the first place. So play it cheap. Use resources you already have. Base your story on things you can aquire easily.

Don’t let funding hold you up. Keep moving forward. Find people in your community who would find it fun to work on a film and also have money. You would be amazed at how much money some people have just sitting around. Don’t take advantage, but if you really put yourself out and ask around it would not be very hard to put together $10,000 to $50,000.

Whatever you can get, make it work. You don’t need the best cameras. This is all about learning. You are going to make mistakes.

NOTE: Hire a good sound guy!!!!!!!!!!! I know this sounds crazy, but sound is more important than picture. Get as good as you can afford. The cheapest will probably be around $200 per day.

Goal 3. Completing Production

Try to shoot everything in at most 1 month.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Go through every scene. How is it going to be shot. How many set ups will you need? Can you shoot with 2 DSLR’s? Do you have access to a nicer camera for free? Can you shoot in natural light outside? You will move faster if you know all this in advance.

You don’t need an ultra expensive Director of Photography. I know, this is controversial. You definitely need someone who can take nice looking shots. But I value a DP who is creative over a strip mall videographer. Anyway, find someone who has a nice looking reel. The cost of the camera is nothing these days. Try to shoot at 4k if you can, it’s not hard. If you have friends who are photographers, ask them to shoot B-Roll of actors off camera when they look relaxed. This is something Terrence Mallick does to get that natural look.

The main point here, as I tend to go in a million directions, is don’t get hung up on the idea that you can’t afford a great DP. There are people all over the place that will shoot a movie for next to nothing just for the credit. Just get on the forums and facebook groups and find them. Hell, give me a call and I’ll shoot your movie.

Hire actors you have already seen in other small productions. That way you will know if they can act. It’s better to hire a good actor than to get a free friend who can’t act. If you waste time teaching people how to act on set, you will waste everyone’s time. Also, if you get a few good actors, they can help the less experienced ones. But nothing will sink a project quicker than unbelievable actors.

I’m going to ram this down your throat….Make sure your sound guy get’s a good recording on set. It will save you thousands!!!!! If he doesn’t get the take, do ADR on set.

Goal 4. Finalizing Post Production

Post production is often where things completely stop. Shoot for 1 Month. But make sure you have a plan. Many people wait to think about post production after they have finisshed shooting.

Make sure you don’t get bogged down in the editing bay by hiring either an editor or assistant editor. You will need someone to move things forward. Let them start editing scenes as you shoot them. That way you will know if you’re missing something before production is over. There’s nothing worse than wrapping production and needing to have your actors fly back from Los Angeles.

You will also want to make sure you have a sound designer. One thing that can really raise the level of a cheaper production is having a great sound mix. They will also make sure you get through the process instead of saying “Oh, I can do this myself.” It’s going to be difficult to find someone good with a really low budget, so if you can’t afford a mixer, try to make sure you write a film that will work with or without it.

Find someone on soundcloud who can give you some ambience. You don’t have the money to score a film, but you can do a lot with ambient emotions. This will make your film about 100 times better. But, don’t let this take longer than a couple weeks. Give the musician a rough cut and just tell them to watch it a few times and add some fill music.

Post production is done! ProRez file is in hand. Time to get the word out.

Goal 5. Promotion and Distribution

Long before you started production, you should have set up social media accounts and started promoting yourself. This isn’t an article about film marketing, I have spoken plenty about that in the past. But you need to have a strategy in place for how you’re going to sell your film. My recommendation goes like this. Start by showing your film in film festivals. See how reactions are, but if nothing really happens with that, promote a theatrical release in Los Angeles. This will allow reviewers to come and see the film. It will also allow your film to appear on Rotten Tomatoes (hopefully Fresh).

Now, let me note something. My friend Jon Reiss has pointed out that about half of your film’s budget should go towards promotion. This is very true, if it’s possible. If you’re shooting a movie for 10k, forget it. But you’re going to have to husstle. Chances are, a 10k film isn’t going to go very far. Most people who shoot a film for that little are just trying to get a film in the can so they can get an IMDB credit. But you can still get that film on VOD provided it looks and sounds good.

If you build up enough press about your film on websites, podcasts, etc. then people will start looking forward to it. That’s when you go to VOD. Premier your film on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and all the other platforms. It’s easier than ever.

 

I know the process of making a film can make you feel lost, but try to focus on each of these major goals and you’ll soon understand where you are in the process. It’s still not going to be easy, but at least you know where you need to go.

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