The 99 Recommended Steps For Making Good Movies

This is how I do it, generally speaking.

Or rather, this is how I try to do it. There really is no template; I have to adjust the plan for each project. And it doesn't always work. Sometimes I fail (at least to some degree).

And yes, I have left out the details. After all, that is where the art, experience, & innovation is. And of course as this is a collaborative endeavor, there is always -- and thankfully -- that "other" factor.

1. Maintain wonder & love for the world & most/some of the people.
2. Recognize the barriers & be empowered by my desire for change.
3. Find an inspiring idea & the correct collaborator for it.
4. Maintain love & respect for the film industry.
5. Develop script.
6. Fall in love with project.
7. Get non-financier, non-buyer industry types to give feedback on script.
8. Maintain wonder & love for the process.
9. Further develop script.
10. Maintain respect for collaborator(s).
11. Identify audience & market for project.
12. Enhance my enthusiasm for potential of the results of audience engagement with ambitious cinema.
13. Develop additional materials to properly contextualize project, like image books (aka look books), reference material, blog posts, etc.
14. Try to locate audience and key influencers for the project.
15. Develop transmedia extensions (I know I should do this earlier).
16. Encourage Filmmaker to engage with True Fans (i.e. build community).
17. Strategize production process.
18. Ballpark budget.
19. Evaluate potential cast for project.
20. Consider possible shooting locations.
21. Introduce Writer/Director to US Talent Agencies if necessary.
22. Have Director meet wide range of actors.
23. Strategize financing.
24. Strategize casting process.
25. Develop financing plan.
26. Execute casting process strategy.
27. Attach lead actor.
28. Attach another actor (or two).
29. Revise financing plan as necessary.
30. Revise script as necessary.
31. Estimate possible profit & losses.
32. Revise financing plan as necessary.
33. Approach sales agents.
34. Get foreign sales estimates & foreign sales deal terms.
35. Revise financing plan.
36. Budget, ideally in multiple variations.
37. Approach private equity.
38. Revise financing plan.
39. Revise script as necessary.
40. Get verbal commitments from private equity.
41. Determine most appropriate & then secure sales agent.
42. Continue to source additional financing.
43. Revise financing plan.
44. Revise script as necessary.
45. Develop initial outreach, engagement, awareness strategy.
46. Consider and possibly secure a presale or three.
47. Revise financing plan.
48. Revise script as necessary.
49. Revise Budget.
50. Consider and possibly secure gap & mezzanine financing if necessary.
51. Finalize financing structure & partners
52. Consider & secure key crew collaborators.
53. Scout primary location.
54. Revise script as necessary.
55. Revise Budget.
56. Secure tax credit/rebate.
57. Lock all financing.
58. Lock talent deals.
59. Lock Location.
60. Revise script as necessary.
61. Revise & Lock Budget.
62. Revise initial outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
63. Prep.
64. Revise script as necessary.
65. Initiate initial outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
66. Shoot.
67. Celebrate completion of shoot.
68. Wrap production.
69. Ponder the big picture.
70. Edit.
71. Revise outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
72. Initiate revised outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
73. Build awareness.
74. Ponder the big picture.
75. Complete "Movie".
76. Wrap post.
77. Further revise outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
78. Take to festivals.
79. Win awards.
80. Celebrate.
81. Further revise & implement outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
82. Sell & license “movie”.
83. Celebrate some more.
84. Deliver “movie” to licensors.
85. Further revise & implement outreach, engagement, & awareness strategies.
86. Market some more.
87. Screen, screen, screen.
88. Publicize.
89. Market some more.
90. Distribute.
91. Harvest, aggregate, & analyze, data.
92. Ponder the big picture.
93. Share the knowledge with the community.
94. Win more awards.
95. Collect profits.
96. Share the wealth the partners.
97. Ponder the big picture.
98. Plan the next one.
99. Do it all over again, but do it a little bit differently.

Masterlist of PMDs ("Producer" Of Marketing & Distribution)

Okay, I am not truly a fan of the term "Producer Of Marketing & Distribution", but I am even more NOT a fan of how easy we throw around the term "Producer" in general. To me the Producer of a film is the individual or team that is there from the very beginning until the very end -- there is no in between -- and ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING. If you were not involved in any aspect of either the development, financing, casting, production, post, sales, marketing, distribution, and reporting, then you are not a "producer" and should not take that credit. There: I said it. But a nickel is bigger than a dime, and we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway, so who am I to say that this world or a job title does not really make sense? And frankly, if the collaboration between a "PMD" and a film works the way I dream it can, that individual is certainly there from at the very least VERY CLOSE to the beginning and all the way to the end -- like a producer is.

Regardless of how I feel, at this moment in time we are calling those that work in DIY/DIWO films, the PMD, and the world knows they need all the incentives we can provide to do this necessary work, so who am I to quibble over semantics? But the real question really is, who are the people that do this work and where can you find them? Today I launch the Masterlist of PMDs. I will allow someone else to take it from here.

Two weeks ago I asked "Can We Create The Future Of Indie Film Marketing & Distribution -- Or Is It Already Dead?". Ultimately it was a plea for the indie world to take serious the training & utilization of people specializing in DIY/DIWO marketing and distribution. The readers of this column started a lively discussion (check out the comments). Many revealed themselves to be precisely the sort that is gaining this expertise from actual experience in the field. Jon Reiss kept the conversation going with a subsequent post.

If you are prepping a new film, you should budget to collaborate with them, and bring them aboard. Jon Reiss contributed a great post last week on the why and also another on the responsibilities of a "PMD". I wrote out a list of all the services a "PMD" could utilize (now at 31!). I thought that the excuse of why I wasn't collaborating with a "PMD" on my last production, was because I didn't know who they were. I won't let you get away with the same excuse. Nor will I use it in the future.

The important thing is to recognize that PMD's are not simply for-hire service providers. They are collaborators. They are intimate with the production and can speak with an authorial voice. Community building and audience outreach are VERY personal endeavors. To do the job, not even to do it well, but just to do it, requires a tremendous amount of earned-trust from the creative heads. It should be recognized as a job that involves creativity as well as tactics and strategy.

So... Wondering who does PMD Marketing & Distribution work? This is what I found (please add to the list by posting some comments). Many thanks to Jon Reiss who provided several of these in his recent post on the subject.

I have listed contact information when I had it and when the filmmakers okayed it. The credits have not been confirmed. It is a start though...

Michael R. Barnard- Contact: michaelrbarnard@iname.com | (917) 409-7294 | 444 E 10th St #104 New York NY 10009

Michael R. Barnard, Producer of Marketing & Distribution, brings years of experience in the production and distribution of low-budget video, broadcast TV, and films, along with experience in sales and marketing, to work with filmmakers to help make their efforts as profitable and widespread as possible. Michael is looking to partner with talented, ambitious, and exciting filmmakers. His goal is: "Bringing the audience to the film. Bringing the film to the audience."

See http://michaelrbarnard.wordpress.com

J.X. Carrera -

Bill Cunningham

I am a PMD who has created, developed and executed over 75 motion picture marketing and distribution campaigns (both international and domestic) for clients including Omega Entertainment, York Entertainment, Peace Arch Entertainment, and Artist View Entertainment.

In addition to my motion picture marketing and distribution experience:

I was the Associate Producer of .COM FOR MURDER (Starring Nastassja Kinski) I was the Producer of SCARECROW as well as its co-writer. I was the producer and co-writer for its sequel, SCARECROW SLAYER.

I have also been hired to write screenplays for several production companies here in Hollywood. In other words, I have a background that makes me useful on set, in post, and developing marketing plans to sell a producer's movie.

My specialty is high-concept, low budget movies - horror, science fiction, action, etc...

I am well-versed in setting up promotional web media, creating exceptional, compelling marketing materials and making sure a motion picture is ready for delivery to a distributor, or ready for a producer to distribute himself. I attend the AFM every year, and keep close ties with the buyers there.

Bill can be reached at this email address: cinexploits@gmail.com Or at the office:

Bill Cunningham Pulp 2.0 2908 Allesandro St. Los Angeles, CA 90039 323.662.2508 skype: madpulpbastard

Stephen Dypiangco (@Dypiangco) PMD “How to Live Forever” & Oscar winning short “God of Love” Contact: Email - Dypiangco@gmail.com Website - StephenDypiangco.com Twitter - @Dypiangco Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thepmd

As a PMD, I must serve multiple functions on a film: strategist, project manager, communicator, problem solver and entrepreneur. But first and foremost, my primary goal as a PMD is to create and execute a customized marketing and distribution strategic plan (MDSP). I created this term, MDSP, to acknowledge the need for all film productions to have a concrete document from which to work. The term, “strategy,” is just too vague. This MDSP is a concrete strategic plan, a roadmap (a real physical document) of ALL OF THE WORK that needs to be done in the coming days, months and even years, before, during and after the film’s production. By moving forward without creating this roadmap beforehand, a PMD can become sidetracked and eventually get lost. If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

Audrey Ewell - Contact :Stay tuned for the website launch, and in the meantime Audrey can be found at audrey[at]cyborgpr.com, 347-495-1476, or at Union Pool in Brooklyn.

"I position a film so that distribution is both more likely and then more successful. As a filmmaker (and one who's done all this for myself), there are nuances to the interactions between film, filmmaker and audience that I just get, a level of engagement that comes naturally and doesn't reek of marketing.

I start by helping filmmakers identify and engage their audiences. Then I tailor multi-platform digital outreach campaigns that organically amplify core audience excitement to reach new and larger audiences. I strategize and coordinate transmedia elements and game/incentive-based audience development (when desired), do website consultation with an eye toward social and new media optimization, and implement social media campaigns with an emphasis on peer to peer marketing. During festival runs, sneak peaks, premieres, launches and theatrical or semi-theatrical engagements (whether booked by me or an outside party), I consult on promotional materials, coordinate their manufacture and distribution, develop and coordinate street teams, and set up co-promotions with localized partners to cost effectively access targeted local audiences, push early ticket sales, and build awareness and excitement. I seek out new ideas and avenues of engagement and exhibition across multiple platforms.

I help the filmmaker demonstrate audience support and then leverage that visibility and fan support during the theatrical engagement. Once that infrastructure is there the filmmaker can build on it, use it to drive distribution in other markets, and help leverage their success into the next project.

Laree' Griffith Ambient Muse Production Services 310-986-0177 www.lareegriffith.com

Specializing in social media and promotional admin services for entertainment industry. Consulting with filmmakers and producers to create, implement and maintain an online presence for their productions. Other services are, email campaign maintenance, promotional material handling, and event organization.

Laura Hammer PMD @unicornsmovie http://unicornsthemovie.com/crew.html | contact: http://laurahammer.com/contact/

As Producer of Marketing and Distribution I work closely with the creative team to develop a Marketing and Distribution Strategy translating the goals of the team into a plan; identify and engage with the film’s core audience and target markets; secure brand sponsorships; assemble and supervise all necessary specialists and consultants. I believe that a successful marketing and distribution plan enhances and supports the overall vision of the film's director. I prefer to work with a film from pre-production through distribution but also offer a la carte PMD services. I have produced several narrative, experimental and documentary shorts that have screened at festivals, BAMcinématek, and the legendary Two Boots Pioneer Theater. At MUBI Garage I curate short films, produce interviews with established industry, and promote emerging filmmakers. I have set up and developed successful social media campaigns and web sites for individuals, small businesses, and feature films. I have additional experience in marketing, public relations, and audience outreach working with Broadway producers and Off-Broadway theater companies. I graduated with a B.F.A. in Drama from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and trained with Atlantic Theater Company. While an undergrad, I focused on Interdisciplinary Studies and graduate courses in Web Design at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

I am currently PMD for I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS from Student Academy Award nominated director Leah Meyerhoff (Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winning short Twitch), executive producers Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Things Behind the Sun), David Kupferberg (Magic Valley) and Robin Leland (4th and Goal) and producers Heather Rae (Oscar nominated Frozen River) and Mark G. Mathis (Oscar winning Precious, Brick). I am also PMD for GRIOT, a feature documentary in post-production from Volker Goetze, Victor Kanefsky (Style Wars), and Samuel D. Pollard (Emmy winning When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts).

http://www.unicornsthemovie.com http://www.griotmovie.com

Sally Hodgson @SallyHodgson or sally@pipocapictures.)com, also see http://www.indiegogo.com/sounditoutdoc

Joe Jestus (via Jon Reiss' post)

Michele Elizabeth Kafko - PMD “Revenge of the Electric Car”

Eddie Kahlish - "Happiness"

Jason Kohl - "Acting Like Adults"; currently 3rd Year student at UCLA.

Adam Daniel Mezei

About Adam Daniel Mezei's PMD-For-Hire:

PMD-For-Hire (www.pmdforhire.com) is a full-service, full-time, 6-days/week film marketing and distribution shop.

I serve the needs of indie documentary and features clients (mostly docs, truth be told), working intimately with production crews on a strictly embedded basis as part of a minimum 3-month introductory commitment -- or longer -- to help get projects needed audience traction and off the ground.

The overall aim of the service is to help filmmakers brand their films accordingly. I harp on the need to develop sound traditional marketing, blogging, and social media evangelism techniques -- among a dozen others -- to painstakingly replicate in "micro-version" what mini-studios devote hundreds of thousands -- millions, even -- of dollars to achieve.

My techniques are custom-designed to inculcate solid habits from the get-go for filmmakers who are deathly serious about their long-term career prospects and who wish to harness the boundless power of the newly-democratized filmmaking milieu in true DIY/DIWO-style. Moreover, the point of the exercise is to get filmmakers generating a steady cash flow from their work so they can continue to shoot films.

The techniques I employ are varied, yet standardized because they work.

While every project's ultimate marketing and distribution goals are indeed different, demanding a bespoke approach each time out after a critical evaluation of a project's current marketing assets and personnel, the methodologies I leverage are similar depending upon which stage of the production process I'm parachuted in.

Several approaches I've applied for clients in the past include: organizing themed live events from "soup to nuts" as a way to promote a project and sell product at the event. conceiving of and assembling the pieces for a comedy documentary's entire behind-the-scenes DVD Special Features section. managing a team of half a dozen editing and marketing interns as part of a film's post-production rapid rollout. representing a client at a marquee L.A.-area film festival as part of that picture's world premiere, taking potential distribution meetings in the process. providing coverage on a spec script with suggestions for possible location improvements with the aim of potentially capturing better co-branding prospects in the future. My rates are monthly, comprised of a flat fee, first and last's months paid in advance (one month is always on deposit), and I no longer accept month-to-month contracts as past experience has shown not much of impact can be achieved in just 30 days. Clients wishing to sign me for 30-day periods are throwing away perfectly good marketing budget, and I tell them so. I also tell clients I can't help projects which don't move me personally. So if I'm not "method acting" certain aspects of the production role, there's no PMD in the business who can help you.

PMD-For-Hire is proudly Toronto-based and to my knowledge I'm one of the few Canadians who does this for a living. Given how public funding bodies like Telefilm Canada have now committed to releasing grant money only to those co-produced projects with a clear audience engagement or transmedia strategy in place, the need for PMDs on indie production crews has never been more imperative.

Since I only work the projects where I think I can be of assistance, genres like soft snuff, horror, or certain types of foreign dramas are out of my league. Furthermore, I collaborate with only a limited number of projects each quarter, so once that quota is filled don't take on new clients until the current period is over.

For custom requests or to find out when the next opening is, info@pmdforhire.com, or dial 416-827-4196. I answer my phone almost always. Thank you.

And of course, client references available upon request.

Errol Nayci - PMD working in the Netherlands

John Oravec -

I worked with Jon Reiss as he was releasing his film Bomb-It, helped him with flyering, distributing merch, coordinating deliverables, updating social media sites etc. I also did the same for a USC Grad Thesis film Carpet Kingdom by Michael Rochford and also for the feature documentary Danny Greene by Tommy Reid. I am based out of Santa Monica, CA and my contact info is Johnny Oravec 323 698 6900 johnoravec@gmail.com and my website is http://www.facebook.com/l/RAQCRrkJkAQDWj7UqyQgPYCC0R8M3

Diana Iles Parker PMD on "Eat The Sun". Spoken Media Contact: 415.225.8121 (c) 415.388.8281 (o) diana@spokenmedia.com www.spokenmedia.com www.eatthesunmovie.com www.desertrunnersmovie.com

I am a PMD who partners with documentary filmmakers as early as possible in their filmmaking process so we can develop a strong, cohesive and well-supported launch for their film. I specialize particularly in hybrid models of distribution that focus on splitting rights and maximizing profits; festival strategy, publicity and marketing.

Amy Slotnick - PMD for “The Business of Being Born” (she received producer credit for her work); outreach for “Red State”; "Wake Up". Contact: aslotnick@mac.com

As a PMD I work with filmmakers to help them build, manage and optimize digital and traditional marketing and distribution, allowing them to better engage their audiences. This includes strategizing and executing marketing, publicity and distribution of independent films, often aimed to reach a niche audience or to promote a particular cause. Partnerships with organizations, brands and businesses as well as planning screenings with non-profit, student and regional groups has proved effective for raising awareness for a film. Creating and managing social networks, mobile and online promotions and overseeing online distribution, theater bookings and licensing deals are all part of the PMD position. A plan that is specific to a particular film’s subject matter and perspective can be crafted and implemented to leverage its assets and build momentum. Titles for which I have worked in this manner include Kevin Smith’s RED STATE (pre-release 15 city tour), THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN and WAKE UP.

Lila Yomtoob lila@yomtoob.com Lila Yomtoob is a Brooklyn based producer specializing in marketing in distribution. She's got 12 years in different areas of the industry, a statuette named Emmy, and has produced three features, "Hidden Battles", "Foreclosure", and "High Life," which she also directed. As an independent filmmaker in her own right, she understands and respects directors' needs, and is especially passionate about getting good films seen by their audiences.

Lynette Howell on "Producing Is Supporting New Talent Through More Than Just Production"

If you are a regular reader of this blog, or follower of mine on Twitter, I think you know that for me a Producer only deserves that credit when they truly commit to support the project from beginning to end. You also probably know how challenging I find the calling of producing these days, when we are required to do more and more, and are rewarded, at least financially, less and less. It is always inspiring for me, when a Producer steps forward, embraces the full demand of the role, and does with a great attitude and recognition of the benefits that come from the commitment. Lynette Howell has not been producing that long, but she has learned a great deal, as we all can from her generosity of a guest post today.

ON THE ICE – Supporting new talent through more than just production:

The kind of exploration into distribution that I find myself doing on my film ON THE ICE is new for me… uncharted territory and truthfully out of my comfort zone, but one that I find myself glad I am being somewhat forced into not only embracing, but championing.

As an independent Producer, I started my company with the mandate of supporting new talent. At first, this was a necessity. I didn't have any relationships with established Directors when I entered the business. Therefore the only way to begin a career producing meant that I had to find projects that other more established producers didn't want to take on - either because they were too challenging to make, or too small for a Producer to earn a living on. This necessity quickly turned into my true passion for discovering new voices and this passion then turned into an understanding of how crucial this kind of support is to the continued growth and evolution of the independent industry.

Since my first movie almost 7 years ago (Ryan Flecks HALF NELSON) I have produced many movies of all sizes and genres, ranging from Derek Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE to David Ellis’s SHARK NIGHT 3D. But it is not the size, scope or scale that draws me towards putting my energy into a project -- it is about finding stories that speak to me, and they continue to often come from new filmmakers.

As an Advisor to the Sundance Creative Producing Initiative, I continue to be a huge supporter in any way that I can of up and coming filmmakers. In 2009 I met Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, the Writer and Director of the short film SIKUMI that was the winner of the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at Sundance the prior year. He was at the Directors Lab with a script for his feature film ON THE ICE along with his producing partner Cara Marcous who was also a Lab fellow.

The script for ON THE ICE had so many built in challenges to it -- 1. LOCATION -- Set in Barrow, Alaska -- which is the Northern-most point in the United States, deep in the Arctic Circle. The only way in or out during the winter months is by plane. 2. WEATHER -- Temperatures can drop to 40 below with wind chill. All gear has to be winterized prior to shooting. And for some scenes crew cannot have any skin exposed because of the high risk of frostbite. 3. CASTING NON ACTORS -- The script featured an all Inuit cast and Andrew felt it was crucial to work with local non-actors. 4. BUDGET -- Making a movie in these extreme conditions does have a cost and so raising money for this would be extremely challenging. 5. SHOOTING SCHEDULE -- The ONLY month we could shoot in Barrow was April because of weather and light issues (Barrow has 24 hours of darkness in the winter, and 24 hours of sunlight in the summer). Therefore we had a very short window to put this movie together!

But it was such a fresh script, setting and structure for a movie that I simply had to get involved despite all the obstacles

Through 5 different equity investors, a post-production deal, numerous grants, a tax credit and tons of support in kind, Cara and I managed to raise the money necessary to make the movie.

Production was such a challenge because of the above-mentioned issues (and some I didn’t forsee, such as using a bucket for a toilet everyday on the frozen tundra). But we managed to make a very special film that feels unlike anything I have seen before. The movie premiered at Sundance in competition earlier this year and went on to win two awards at the Berlinale Film Festival (the Crystal Bear and Best First Feature Film). The awards validation proved that there was an audience for this film, but we all knew that it was going to take a creative way to reach them.

All the incredible effort from so many people pushing this unbelievably challenging movie from a short film all the way to a critically acclaimed feature film found itself with an uncertain distribution future.

Given the technological advances and through social media, there is an opportunity for my support, your support and the support of many others towards new filmmakers to now transition into distribution in a meaningful way.

I have made movies that went to festivals before and weren’t able to find a distributor willing to pay a MG, or give the movie a wide, or even aggressive platform release. I have been left selling a film for a very small amount of money and then having it released in five to ten cities and ultimately no one really hearing about it or seeing it due to lack of marketing dollars or the same level of passion and commitment from the distributor that came from the filmmaking team who struggled to make the movie. Filmmakers traditionally feel more comfortable with the idea of a “real” distributor releasing a movie, even without a viable plan to release their film because there is a stigma associated with not having this branding. I believe this stigma is potentially short sighted and want to support the idea of alternative methods of distribution, especially for movies like ON THE ICE which don’t fall into the obviously commercial slam dunk scenarios for most distributors, no matter the size – but that clearly have an audience.

Through the new Sundance Initiative and Kickstarter, we are exploring a different approach to distribution for ON THE ICE. We are trying to raise $80k which will allow us to take the movie to a much broader audience than would be possible had we gone down the traditional path of a somewhat cosmetic theatrical release or a non-theatrical route. I want this movie to be SEEN by as many people as possible. The work that our team has been doing is staggering – more care and attention to detail in how to approach this audience and really use the money raised to reach a much broader number of people is incredible. It takes a lot of effort and determination. But I want to prove it can work, so that we can continue to ensure that the new voices of tomorrow’s filmmakers have a home for their movies.

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are involved in independent film or independent art of some kind. So, you may not be in a position to pledge much money, but I hope that you will consider passing our Kickstarter link on to the friends and colleagues in your life who might be interested in what we’re trying to do. The act of forwarding this on is incredibly powerful for us and it could mean we can release our film.

To support ON THE ICE go to our kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andrewmaclean/on-the-ice-the-movie

Lynette Howell Silverwood Films

Jon Reiss on "Why A Producer of Marketing And Distribution?" Part 1

Yesterday's HFF post on the plethora of new platforms & options for truly free filmmakers should have made you leap for joy and run for the cliff simultaneously. It is wonderful that filmmakers have SO many great tools and services at their disposal. But how does anyone take advantage of this situation. The choice is overwhelming. Sure the rewards could be great -- but so is the risk. Well, the answer, my friend, is... best explained by Jon Reiss. The Producer of Marketing and Distribution and The New 50/50

On the recent discussion concerning the Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Ted’s blog recently, there was some confusion as to what are the responsibilities of the Producer of Marketing Responsibilities. I offered Ted the list of responsibilities that I wrote for the introduction of a book that I am writing on the PMD. Ted offered to post the entire introduction in three parts. This first part concerns why I think a PMD is useful to independent filmmakers. The second post concerns responsibilities of the PMD. The third post will look at how the PMD is currently being adopted and what kind of training could help not only people who want to be PMDs, but also the filmmakers who want to have them as part of their teams. Here is the introduction.

As a filmmaker myself, I am well aware of the paradigm shift that has occurred in the last several years as independent filmmakers try to get their films distributed. Through my own work – and talking to countless filmmakers - I have become a firm believer that filmmaking is a two part process. The first part is creating the film – the second part is connecting that film with an audience. There is still a strong belief in the independent film world that filmmakers are only responsible for creating the film – someone else will take care of distribution and marketing. For a very few filmmakers this might still happen. But for the vast majority of filmmakers – and all artists and media content creators – it won’t.

Loose estimates range that there are between 5,000-17,000 feature films made in North America every year and that approximately 35,000 feature films are on the international festival circuit. Most of these are looking for, hoping for, a company to give them a check in exchange for the right to distribute their films. Even in an excellent year of acquisitions – only a relative handful of films will have some form of distribution entity “take their films off their hands”. (Whether having a distributor is the best course for any film is another debate – I am also a firm believer that every film is different and each film thus needs its own unique distribution and marketing strategy and implementation – but that is for another chapter.)

So it is up to filmmakers and artists to not only own the means of production – but also to own the means of distribution and marketing.

Hence the New 50/50 is as follows:

50 percent of an artist’s time and resources should be devoted to creating a film or artistic work. 50 percent of their time and resources should be devoted to getting the film/artistic work out to its audience, aka distribution and marketing.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule. Rather, it is a guide to changing our preconceptions.

In the year and a half since I coined “the New 50/50” I feel that it creates too much of a dichotomy between creation of a film and the distribution and marketing of a film. In the best of circumstances – these two “halves” should be integrated into an organic whole. Audience engagement needs to start as close to inception as possible – and with advances in technology – mainly Internet and mobile technology, it is more possible than ever.

I believe that this integration allows for not only much better results in filmmakers achieving their goals of their releases (whatever those may be) – but also allows for the distribution and marketing process to open up to new forms of creativity as well. Distribution and marketing can be as creative as the filmmaking process – even to the point where they become indistinguishable. This should not be scoffed at, as some form of branded entertainment – rather should be embraced as a revolution of artistic possibility. (However it is actually branded entertainment in which the artis is the brand.)

The Birth of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution

I find that most filmmakers (directors and producers both) I speak to are so overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in creating “a film” –they don’t have the time to connect with audiences or create additional assets during production to aid in later marketing efforts (or as creative extensions of the project). Further, many filmmakers (especially directors) do not have the skill set or inclination to engage directly with audiences. As a filmmaker, I can relate to these feelings myself.

In addition, just like you most likely did not make the film on your own, you should not be distributing and marketing the film on your own. I would propose that from now on, every film needs one person devoted to the distribution and marketing of the film from inception, just as they have a line producer, assistant director, or DP.

Just before sending Think Outside the Box Office to print, I came up with the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or the PMD. I gave this crew position an official title of PMD because without an official position, this work will continue to not get done. I gave this position the title of producer because it is that important.

In addition, in doing the work as a PMD for my own film as well as consulting on a number of other films, (and having produced three feature films myself) I can state that this work is producorial in nature.

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement. {Note that I use “distribution and marketing” and “audience engagement” interchangeably. I do this so that filmmakers will start to view distribution and marketing (the whole process from beginning to end) as audience engagement. E.g. Audience engagement starts at awareness – and keeps going through consumption and beyond to the future. }

To continue: the purpose of the PMD derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires. It also recognizes that most split rights distribution partners and some traditional distributors will not spend adequate time or money on promotion when the film is ready for distribution. The earlier in the process this is started, the more successful it will be for everyone involved.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker and author of Think Outside the Box Office. His new book, Selling Film Without Selling Your Soul, co written with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter with social media marketer Sheri Candler, is sponsored by Prescreen, Area23a Movie Events and Dynamo Player available September 13, 2011 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, a printed edition and free ePub version.

He can be reached at:

jonreiss.com/blog

twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

facebook.com/reiss.jon

You can order Think Outside the Box Office here, or on Amazon.

It's NOT About Art: The Film Industry Is About People Keeping Their Jobs

Avenue Q reminded us: The internet is for downloading porn. Well, do you need me to remind you that the film industry is for keeping the few jobs in film development, production, sales, marketing & distribution that still remain?

Don't forget that cats bark; they only meow when people are around. All creatures say what the people want to hear, and another thing when they think the coast is clear. I have a lot of meetings with people who tell me they want to make great films. When I am sitting next to them, it sounds like they are speaking the truth. It's taken me a long time to see that many of those in the "business" speak a secret language, or at least one the creative community will never understand. The decoder ring is that it is all about the job. Jobs are precious and few, and damned if someone is going to let a movie jeopardize that.

The core principal behind why most people do what they do in the film industry, is employment. Studio execs, agents, acquisition execs, and the like all must act so that they do not lose their jobs. They are not trying to make art; that's a luxury few can afford. They are not really trying to make money for their company; how is that going to benefit them? They are not dedicated to some higher principal; the daily grind eats any space that such lofty ambitions might foster.

It is risk mitigation and a concern to cover your ass that drives most of the behavior within the corporate structure of film. The logic of most corporately-employed professionals' actions is blatantly clear if you trace the motivation to this principal. I risk stating the obvious, because not only am I asked regularly, but I also have to remind myself: "why is it so hard to make good movies in this world?" A simple recognition won't make the pursuit of great work any easier, but it may help you endure the brutality of the struggle. If you base your actions around recognizing this motivating principal of others in our field, you will probably have an easier time.

Not so long ago, some folks recently expressed dismay at the number of sequels on Hollywood's slates, or the hope for the future of film, but it all makes sense if all anyone wants to do is keep their job. In Mark Harris' GQ article, "The Day The Movies Died", my former partner James Schamus points out: "Fear has descended, and nobody in Hollywood wants to be the person who green-lit a movie that not only crashes but about which you can't protect yourself by saying, 'But at least it was based on a comic book!' "

Harris states: "Give the people what they don't know they want yet is a recipe for more terror than Hollywood can accommodate."

I have always liked Alice In Wonderland's White Rabbit quote "I like what I get" for succinctly summing up most public tastes, but if you combine that with Cultural Gatekeepers fear of unemployment, what do we get? An industry that recycles last years ideas and a public that permits them to do so. It certainly doesn't create a culture that will live for ages. Sure we get an anomaly or two every year that manages to be truly original and wonderful, but that certainly doesn't justify the enterprise or the investment. What are we doing? There is another way, and it can generate both art and profits.

I reluctantly subscribe to the notion that change only occurs when the pain of the present exceeds the fear of the future. I also have read studies that show that neglect and the minor irritation can wreck greater havoc than pure trauma. If that is the case, we can't just let things continue on. We need to identify the symptoms of this job focused industry and reach higher. Since we don't have John Carpenter's magic TheyLiveEyewear, how do we spot the symptoms?

What is it that helps people stay employed:

Hire those that are like you. Hire those that will yes you. Yes those that hire you. Do what others in your position will do. Have a defensive position worked out in advance. Base new work on other work that has somehow succeeded. Don't trust your gut, trust the numbers. Subscribe to the popular philosophy. (I am sure you can add to this list. Please do.)

Now let's do something completely different from all that. Can we change our thinking to aspire towards great work above all else, even at the risk of losing our precious job? Wouldn't that blow your mind if a studio exec told you that they wanted to make a better movie even if it made less money? What if you didn't have to direct a successful Batman episode in order to create an original idea? What can we do to help both the creators and the audience demand originality and ambition from the entertainment industry? It's both a macro and a micro issue, political and personal: I know I have a problem meeting people that are considerably different than me, yet still hold common interests and principals. How do we break out of our small social & professional circles? Isn't that what the promise of the internet was, and still is? It can be done. I need to work harder. Do you?

25+ Things I Want To Know From New Filmmakers

When I moderate a panel, I get to ask some questions that aren't the kind I often get to ask in a regular meeting. The questions are as much, and maybe perhaps more so, for the audience. Still though, I am generally trying to get at something: the how and why of creativity at this time in the world.

I learned a lot from moderating the "New Faces Of Indie Film" panel at Lincoln Center on Saturday June 11, 2011. Yes, in the future when I am involved on a panel I will insist upon diversity, and yes, I will set a limit to the number of people on the panel. But I also learned from the answers folks gave. I didn't get to ask all of them, but had I, I had the list prepared. These are those questions.

Getting Started

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?

What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

You are here at the Universe’s Grand Temple Of Cinephilia. You are here because of your work and how you do it. What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?

When I wanted to devote my life to making movies, my first decision was NY or LA. How does where you live influence how and what you make, and how do you think NY currently effects your work and process?

The Love Of Cinema

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there common qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you try to subvert or avoid or rebel against in your work?

We are all here presumably partially because we LOVE cinema. How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we -- as a community -- do to help others discover a similar pleasure?

The Process Of Creating

Generally speaking, when we want to learn about a film, we talk to the director. But those that make films, know how much they are really collaborations. What makes a fruitful collaboration? What do you do to enhance the collaborative process?

It is said that there are only six stories. Maybe twelve. It’s all been done before. And we have seen it all. What do you do to keep it fresh? Is there anything that you can do to subvert the process to keep it original?

We get noticed because of our successes – but we create them on the back of our failures. We learn best from the experiences where it doesn’t work. And yet we still only discuss the success, not the failure. What failures (of your own) have you been able to learn from? How did they change you and your process?

I often say one of the best methods of producing is “engineering serendipity.” Have you encountered serendipity in your work and do you think there is anything that you can do to bring more of it into your creative process? Why or why not, and if so, what is it that you and your team can do?

Films evolve through the creative process – sometimes most dramatically in the editing process. It’s often really hard to reconcile the difference between what we desired and what we achieved. How have you encountered this and how do you move through it?

“It all starts with the script.” Maybe not, but when do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?

Several directors have told me that most of directing is actually casting. Regardless of whether that is true, some actors have “it” and sometimes they need something to make “it” pop. You’ve spotted that “it” and captured “it”. What is “it” and how do you find “it”?

I often wonder why anyone would want to direct. Why would you want to always have 100 decisions in front of you and have over 100 people waiting on your answer?

Film, perhaps more so than any other popular art form, is the compromise between art and commerce. How has your art been shaped by both the money you have had or not had? Do you create with budget limitations in mind?

The Structure Of The Business

Is the film business fair? Why or why not? How do you make the apparatus work for you?

Is it the filmmaker’s responsibility to find and develop your audience? Why do you feel that way?How will you collaborate with your audience, and how won’t you?

What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Is it possible to sell out? What would that mean to you and would you like it to happen or not? What do you do to encourage the professional approach you want?

If I was asked what was the most important advice I could give a filmmaker starting out, it would be “Try to manage your life so that you will feel as good about the film industry in fifteen years as you do now.” In your experience, is that true, and what can filmmakers do to achieve that challenge?

What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

The Changing Film World

When I got started, if your film got into Sundance, it meant people would see it in America, and maybe the world. I used to be confident that my partners and I could get two or more major distribution slots a year. Now that control and scarcity don’t define the Entertainment Economy, but superabundance & access do, how does that change things for creators? There are 45,000 films generated globally annually, and the largest consumption market in the world – the US – currently consumes only 1% of the output. Recognizing that, are you changing the way you work, changing what you create? How? Why? Or why not?

I am a big believer in the importance of social media in many aspects of the film process. Are you on social media and do you use it in your work? Why or why not?

When I got started there were two screens: the movie screen and the television screen. Now there are also computers, tablets, and phones. And screens are everywhere: the home, the bus stop, the elevator, the taxi cab. As a creator how does this effect the stories you tell and how you tell them?

If there is one or more thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be?

Ethics of Creating

Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else? Why or why not?

A Public Discussion On THE FUTURE OF FILM With You, Me (Ted Hope), & Brian Newman

Brian Newman and I are headed towards the Czech Republic this holiday weekend in order to have a very public discussion on The Future Of Film with the filmmakers and audiences at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Yet, you too can join in even if you can't make your way to this wonderful festival. Neither Brian nor I are great fans of panel discussions these days; they fail to mine the great knowledge or passions of the community. So in contemplating how to get something done in the time we have allotted, Brian and I decided it would be good to get the conversation started a bit early. Below, Brian and I put together a focus on what we think are the key factors shaping the greatest and necessary change to the way films are made and consumed. What's your opinion?

The Future of Film - Joint Article by Brian Newman & Ted Hope
Prognostications about the future of film have been pretty easy to come by lately – it will be digital, it will be everywhere, it will be 3D, it will be expensive – but while everyone talks about the changes to come, very few people are actively addressing these changes head on. We believe “the future” is already upon us, and there are five key trends to address.

As we put our thoughts out there for you to consider, ask yourself: “are these the trends that will most effect content, production, and consumption?”. Did we leave something out? Is one not important? Is something else more important? Join the conversation and let us know below.

Similarly, these five suggestions may be the preeminent factors in shaping the next few years, but the real question is always “how?” As creators, facilitators, and consumers, what must we do to confront these issues? Are there models and best practices already emerging? Have there already been noble failures and/or arrogant efforts attempting to address these factors? What would a vision look like that might address these key elements? We all must share our thoughts, our hopes, our failures, along with what we learned from our successes if we are going to build something new, something that truly works for everyone.

1. Super-abundance: Historically, the film business has been built on the model of scarcity. It was expensive to make, distribute and exhibit (or broadcast) films, and it was equally expensive to learn the craft. Our entire business model and assumptions about what works and what doesn’t were built on this idea of scarcity, but digital has changed all of that.

We now live in a world of super-abundance. Thousands of film school students graduate annually, joining tens of thousands of self-taught others, many of whom are far better than amateurs. According to our talks with festival submission services, somewhere near 40,000 unique films are submitted to film festivals globally each year. As an audience member, we now have access not just to the films playing on television and at the theater, but to the entire history of cinema through services such as Netflix, Mubi and LoveFilm. We can experience the global cinema of 1968 better than an audience member who lived in 1968 could, and these films are now competitors for our viewing attention versus the newest films from today. 1968 was a pretty good year for film, it’s tough to decide to watch something new instead.

In a world of superabundance, you have to do a lot more to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, technology is also giving us tools to do this, engage with audiences more directly and develop new creative business practices to raise the attention level on our projects.

2. New Audience Demands: The audience didn’t use to have a lot of choice in what it saw, but now that choice is plentiful and we’ve entered an attention economy. Audiences now have access to mobile devices that connect them not just to one another, but to the content they choose, immediately and engagingly. Weened on social networks, instant messaging, gaming and touch screens, the audience now not only expects, but demands an interactive, participatory experience.

While many an audience member is content to sit back and relax in front of the television or movie screen, a significant portion of the audience expects and wants more. For some this means engagement through transmedia – using the full range of platform possibilities to interact with a story not just in film, but through games, ARG, graphic novels, webisodes or other experiences. At minimum it means being in touch with your audience, giving them the means to engage socially around a film, even if that’s just more easily sharing a link or a trailer, or engaging in a dialogue on Twitter or Facebook.

Some argue that artists shouldn’t be marketers, but this is a false dichotomy that actually only serves middle-men, distancing the artist from their most valuable asset (aside from their story-telling abilities), their fan base. Engaging one’s audience doesn’t mean just marketing. In fact, marketing doesn’t work, whereas real conversation, or meaningful exchanges does.

In addition, the audience is now global, diverse, young and niche. It demands its content to reflect these realities. Younger creators are addressing these changes, through the content they make, but the industry must do more to address these new realities and incorporate these new voices.

3. Audience Aggregation: In the past, we had to spend ridiculous amounts of money to find, build and engage an audience. And we did it, from scratch, again and again each time we had a new movie. Thousands of dollars were spent telling Lars Von Trier fans about his new film, but then we let that audience member disappear again, and spent more thousands finding them for the next film. We now have the ability to engage directly with our fan base, be it for an artist, a genre or the output of an entire country. We can aggregate this audience, keep them engaged and more easily communicate with them about what’s new or what’s next. Unfortunately, however, much of the value in this audience connection/data is accruing only to social networks and platforms and not to the industry, or more importantly, the artists. 4. Investor Realities: While public subsidy remains a vital strength of the industry outside of the US, the current economic and political climate is putting strains on such support and more producers are having to look fresh, or more strongly, to private investors. Up until now, however, it has been the rare investor who sees much of a return, and with the global market for art, foreign and indie films declining (in terms of acquisition dollars), this situation is worsening. To maintain a healthy industry we must build and support a sustainable investor class. The old model of financing one-off productions, limited rights ownership and closely guarding (or even hiding) the numbers needs to change to a system of slate financing, more horizontal ownership of the means of production and distribution and more open sharing of financial data. This is technologically easy to do now, but it will require a sea-change in our thinking about openness to ensure implementation.

5. A New model for Paradigmatic Change: All of this points to building a model for real, systemic change in the near future. Bold visions for a new model are needed, before someone from outside the film industry, in the tech community for example, launches this disruption for us. Entrepreneurial business leaders need to put forth new projects. Government agencies need to increase and shift funding to support these endeavors and traditional gatekeepers need to embrace these changes.

Experimentation requires limiting risk. Risk is usually defined in the film business by the size of budget. A devotion thus to micro-budget films should also stimulate experimentation on how they are released. Experimentation also requires an analysis of the results. Presently, the film business only likes to discuss its successes, but we need to get over the stigma of "failure" and recognize the brave and selfless qualities inherent in it so we all can learn and stop the repetition of processes that don't work. Experimentation is also a process; it is not a series of one-offs like the film business is today. We need to demystify the process from top to bottom and encourage sharing of data as well as technique. A commitment to a series of films is an experiment – one film is not. Experimentation requires opening one self up beyond a safe environment. The film business has remained a fairly hermetically sealed world. We need to collaborate with other industries, and form alliances that benefit them as well as us. New technological tools can help audiences discover work, allow artists to create work in new ways, and enable entrepreneurs to better distribute this work.

We’d like to open the discussion to others. Let us know in the comments here whether you agree with any or all of this, whether you have other ideas for addressing the future of the field, and even your strong disagreements.

If you’ll be attending the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, we invite you to also email us at industry@kviff.com to be considered for a slot during the panel. Slots will be delegated by a festival representative at their discretion. Selected responders will have three minutes to put forth their ideas, questions and/or statements during the festival panel. We’ll try to respond our best, and open it up to the audience for more input. We look forward to hearing from you.

What's The First Best Lesson You Learned About The Film Business?

In Graham Taylor's rousing cry for more entrepreneurialism in the film biz (aka LAIFF Keynote), he stated: "my 1st important lesson in Hwood: the most dangerous thing in this biz is apathy & cynicism" . That got me wondering. I tweeted: "What's the best first lesson you learned about the film business?" I got a lot of good responses. These are some of those: AlexanderBaack Alexander Baack That it's called "breaking in" for a reason.

wvfilmmaker Jason Brown whether you believe you can or you believe you can't - you're right. The people you need to support you can tell and react to that.

pedramfd Pedram F Dahl It is not your "cool" idea per se that will attract people but the hard work you're willing to put into it.

dnbrasco David Davoli Choose your partners wisely.

Sasha Waters Freyer I saw this post earlier but didn't have a chance to respond. Around 1994, one Mr. Hope gave me a excellent piece of advice: "sometimes, one of the best things that can happen is for people to say 'no' quickly." I have never forgotten it, and it's proven to be an enduring truth!

sokap1 David Geertz "what are you prepared to risk to get the risk capital? First you make a film, then you make a deal" AND via my boss in 96. "I know how and what you want to make Dave, but who's going to fund it and allow that visionary path to happen?"

Dealfatigue Peter Kaufman It's about equity (script is given)

Phillip Lefesi know what you're doing and get it in writing.

yodapoda Iris Lincoln No one knows anything :)

FilmmakerMag Scott Macaulay Best lesson? I wrote about this in the mag, and it comes from James S. in 1994: "Get people to say no and then move on."

mlmower Michelle Mower There are hundreds of people out there lining up to steal your baby. Don't let them.

jeffrichards Jeff Richards Best lesson: few will actually follow through and be genuine, so have lots of irons in the fire and be one of the few.

ScreenSlate Screen Slate eavesdrop on everything

vivesmariano Mariano Vives concentrate in the solution not in the problem, that's already happened and blaming someone is not going to take it away

im2b dl willson ok last one promise - Figgis again taught me the right way to make actors feel safe so they can fly & no one will get hurt.

im2b dl willson Tyne D. telling me "time to take filmmaker hat off." then as I settled into being her son, taking my hand-"focus on me"

gerwinters geraldine Winters talentless shit with connections get to the top

evermorefilms Andy Wright "Why should YOUR screenplay be made into a film?" bit.ly/jKBthA

Kleb28 Mitch Klebanoff Know your audience.

Baanzi Larry Long if you want to direct, then direct. Don't try to work your way up through the ranks. Make it happen! Should have listened

cassianelwes cassian elwes its about the script

im2b dl willson as a director/producer Mike Figgis "90% of the director's battle is won or lost in casting"

im2b dl willson as an actor.. Julian S. & Bill Paxton told me "learn not to blink"

im2b dl willson the first line producer on first film "1st job of PA... keep your mouth shut and ears open"

TheLoneOlive Amanda Lin Costa never expose film to light #thegoodolddays #filmschool #bolexmyfirstlove PS Martha May Marcy Marlene looks so good!

mattob34 Matthew O'Brien Love your audience, start with the script.

garyploski Gary Ploski "It's who you know."

adamstovall Adam Stovall Work hard, and know it's not up to you when you're rewarded.

David_Fulde David Fulde If you are 'on time' you are late. Show up early

mattob34 Matthew O'Brien Your movie is only going to be as good as your worst actor.

MalcolmIngram malcolm Ingram People fail upward.

1982moro Valerio don't be late! Never! even when it's late!

ngerger Nicholas J. Gerger Be able to throw out the schedule and shoot at least a 12 hour day.

convercinema convercinema What is the first best lesson you learned about the film business? <<< Collaborate with care!

shericandler Sheri Candler it is full of a lot of talk and everyone inflates everything!

mattob34 Matthew O'Brien Always have the next thing ready.

Andy Wright: "Make sure you have your walkie talkie switched on, or else you will be shouted at by the 1st A.D. in front of the entire cast and crew...

Brian Linse: "Good, Fast, Cheap - pick two."

Scribbler Jones: "Get a shark for an entertainment lawyer."

Michael Gaston: "Get it in writing."

Guest Post: Hank Blumenthal "Towards An Aesthetics Of Producing Indie Movies"

What is a Producer's "Vision"? How does she keep it all together and manage to lead all the various pursuits to a common goal? Do different approaches assure different results? Does different content require a different process? Hank Blumenthal is old school NYC production. We've known each other a long time. He's done it all. Recently he went back to school and has been focusing on new media. He's a regular commenter on this blog; his comments lead me to ask him to take the lead at times, and today he offers us his first guest post.

Ted asked me to write a post about what it means to be a creative indie producer and the aesthetics of producing an independent movie. I can’t fully answer that question but I can start to address the main elements of that creative process and aesthetic. One approach might be to organize our thinking around four aesthetic aspects of producing: vision, community, logistics, and perspective.

A producer must have aesthetic vision. He literally has to be able to see the finished film in his mind’s eye. He has to grapple with the way it will situate meaningfulness in the culture a year in the future. And he must be able to share that vision with people so that they can be inspired enough to invest time, money, or spirit in a project.

Sometimes a film’s vision comes from a producer who conceives an idea, reads a book, or experiences a gestalt; and sometimes he embraces that from another creator. In either case this becomes the aesthetic basis for a project. This is the crucible where meaning is created. This meaning is informed by an argument or dialogue we want to have about how we perceive the world and how we share that understanding. This dialogue is grounded in artistic pleasure, emotional empathy, intellectual discourse, politics and economics.

On my last project, The Ghost Club, the idea for the story and most of the particulars came in a flash of inspiration and few hours of copious scrawling in my journal. My goal was to push the boundaries of storytelling to include a new form I call a storyscape – a story that is greater than the sum of movies, games, experiences and conceived as a whole. The storyscape is the medium, like a novel, that transmedia storytelling plays out on.

I had to conceive a whole universe with rules and connections between media like augmented reality games, websites, ghostpedias, and webisodes. Certainly there were only glimpses of what some of those elements were to be but the vision of the producer is to provide that scaffolding to the other artists – writers, directors, programmers, user experience designers – and to define the map where our efforts would go. Good producing, like modern transmedia, is about leaving gaps for our collaborators to fill in.

The producer must now form the aesthetic community that enforces that vision and interpretation. The key creatives on a movie - director, writer, producer - must disseminate and encompass all the other creative visions - actors, animators, designers, musicians, etc. - to make a community of meaning. The producer must take responsibility for this community and the coordination that scales the cinematic vision to the divisions of labor in making a movie. That is how the set decorator can choose the perfect flower or the composer the amazingly perfect cue. The producer, being responsible for the creation of an aesthetic ecology, must mediate translations of core principles across the various people involved, both communicating the larger vision while still respecting the particular area of the production.

I cannot stress this point enough, the aesthetics of the community’s collaboration is owned by the producer. The producer is responsible for who and how that team comes together. Providing an environment where people can excel and collaborate is fundamental to a producer’s role. Flexibility, openness, and respect for everyone in the process are a critical aesthetic of a producer’s community.

I was fortunate enough to work as a script supervisor with Spike Lee on music videos and commercials and see how he married a clear director’s vision with a producer’s openness to his collaborators to create the best works. Often crew, any crew (occasionally myself), would step up to him and make a suggestion. He would graciously and ruthlessly compare that against his vision and accept or reject it. More often it was rejected but the joy of collaboration was when he said “yes.” Movies are a collaborative medium and the way that process is curated defines the finished work. At the level of production, great indie movies can be traced to well-coordinated aesthetic ecologies, and therefore to careful translation from the producer.

To frame the next point, aesthetics and logistics, consider what Stanley Kubrick said in Sight and Sound in 1972: “I don't think in terms of big movies, or small movies. Each movie presents problems of its own and has advantages of its own. Each movie requires everything that you have to give it, in order to overcome the artistic and logistic problems that it poses.” The aesthetics of logistics are where the producer’s collaboration with the ecology of production becomes artistic. Choices are not solely artistic but also exist within a larger economy that focuses attention and resources. This is where producing becomes artistic, and that art is not simply creative but economic. Where your resources are applied and to what aesthetic result becomes a large part of what the finished product looks like.

I still kick myself for not spending a thousand dollars (that I didn’t have anyway) on a location for “In the Soup” that was 200 ft closer to a view of Manhattan. The producer balances the artistic demands of the picture and makes hundreds of creative choices about crew, locations, props, sets and wardrobe - not to mention the actors who can have a huge artistic contribution of their own to make. The ability to translate creative vision down the line of production, then, is also the ability to translate final decisions - driven by who, where, how, and how much - to harmonize these points of production.

Finally there is perspective. When everyone else is up to their necks in the muck of production and post production it is essential that someone maintain the agreed upon artistic vision and keep their attention focused on the ultimate goal. The producer is the one who reminds the director of what the vision is as the director sinks into the serendipity of artistic creation often pulled by the brilliant thoughts of his collaborators. The producer is responsible for the direction of the picture through his aesthetic consistency.

Vision, community, logistics, and perspective can provide a beginning for how we can analyze the aesthetics of producing. I hope this can begin a deeper discussion into each of these areas and what that aesthetics entails. As to what a creative producer does, I think this touches on the many areas he must supply the aesthetics and vision. Movie making and meaning making are an ecology of aesthetic choices and the producer defines the nodes of that ecology.

---Hank Blumenthal

Hank Blumenthal is a producer and director of movies (The Ghost Club, In the Soup, Strawberry Fields) a creative director and producer for interactive television and digital media (Microsoft, Google, Viacom, R/GA, Bravo and IFC,) and a PhD student in digital media at Georgia Institute of Technology investigating transmedia storytelling and new paradigms for stories.

Get Ready For The Indie Film Investment Deluge!

Let's celebrate!  The prospects look good for a lot of smart money to be available again for appropriately budgeted indie films.  The key now being the "appropriately" part of the equation.

The days of Machiavellian moves to maximize an limited audience art film's budget seem thankfully over -- and as sad as I will be to seem some friends' films become obsolete, I smell another golden age brewing.  Filmmakers and investors seem to have both embraced the "less is more' ethos.  Expect may more films to be made in the lower than $5M bracket, and far fewer indie works in Mark Gill's former sweet spot.  The large indie finance companies of 5 years ago, had to make films at higher budget levels in order to justify their overheads and salaries.  Those companies have crashed and so did the silly models of $20M art films.

The Film Biz is coming off two consecutive extremely robust film markets.  Toronto 2010 saw almost 30 deals close during the festival.  Sundance 2011 exceeded that mark.  Surely there were quite a few deals done post market too (I have not seen any reports to track this; let me know if you know any).  Coming off of two years where the prudent would not expect anything for US rights, this an exceeding positive change.  With a well produced and well positioned films, investors can reasonably hope to recoup -- and then some.  Now the challenge for producers will be to be disciplined enough not to allow the budget creep to return.

There are other factors, beyond the sales market itself,  that heighten my optimism.  The financing model for indie films shifted over the last couple of years to be generally inclusive of additional investors.  Seasoned producers generally try to keep investors to a minimum in order to better manage the relationships -- although having more than one (but still as few as possible) is still a recommended strategy so that creative control is not beholden to another.  The increase in the number of investment partners was due to a both a reduction of available capital and new investors' tendency to look towards others to verify a project's value, and their desire to limit exposure.

With more films selling, and those films having more investors than previously, logic reveals that we have more investors out there who may have actually recouped their investments.  The best part of this is that they are now investors with experience, who hopefully have gained the knowledge on how best to collaborate.

It's interesting to look at the ROI (return on investment) for the films that sold. Although I don't have the time to do an accurate comparison, I can tell you what it feels like to me.  The highest ROIs have come from the micro budget world that delivers quality to a quantifiable audience, particularly when they have a somewhat recognizable cast.  Sundance hit, LIKE CRAZY is the posterchild of this model with three accomplished young stars and a tale of love, helmed by a director of proven ability.  Word is that it delivered ten times it's negative cost on the Sundance sale alone.

For those that want to increase the production value in order limit risk and deliver a more polished look, the low budget range of $500K - $2M did very well this year.  The multiples were not as high, but several films at Sundance seem to have doubled their negative cost by sticking to this formula.  As Kevin Smith pointed out though, the days of Happy Texas sales are long gone.  Granted the higher budgeted star-cast flicks at Sundance may have had the highest sales, but certainly not the highest ROIs, particularly when one factors in the cost of the money, both literal and opportunity-wise.

The challenge this new investor breed faces in repeating this season's success is how to afford the experienced directors and producers when working on limited budgets.  Genius does bloom every year, but that is a risky game to play.  I have produced about 25 first time feature directors, and as much as I believe that talent is a recognizable attribute, experience is a more valuable resource when navigating the rapid speed and intense volume of decision making that feature film production requires.  Budgets of $2M and less will struggle to attract directors and producers with similar track records.  Lucky for them, many of us still truly love movies and want to see great stories told!

Answering The Questions: "How do I make sure that in twenty years I will feel good about the choices I make today?"

Earlier this year I proposed what I saw as the five most critical questions for someone to answer in order to have a fulfilling and sustainable career producing films.  I went on to list out eighteen more. I think the answers to these questions don't have a right or wrong answer; they should be profoundly personal.  Yet I also think it is very hard to answer these questions on your own.  Frankly, I think the answering of these questions should be part of any film school curriculum -- but I am also not sure that film school is a necessary component for all producing careers.  Anyway, I thought it might be helpful for those considering this path to have someone try to answer these questions.  Today that someone is me. Producing benefits from having addressed certain moral and ethical challenges before they actually confront you.  Hell, what field or way of life doesn't?  I have encouraged the consideration of some of these "challenges" before in virtual party game manner, but I do think it is always worth considering.  I think it comes down to the questions of "what do you value?"  People? Money? Principles? Property?  And how much do these matter to you?

If you've set your values -- or at least have a firm handle on them--, if you then seek to make the product of your labor (i.e for a film producer, your movies) reflect your values, you will be on your way to still feeling good about what you are doing twenty years from now. Essentially this is the "Know-what-you-care-about-and-reflect-that-in-your-work" approach.  But it alone is not enough to carry you through the twenty years.  It is the content driven approach and you will have to also consider the process and the environment you inhabit to stay satisfied.

To feel as good twenty years from now as you do today (and that is assuming you feel good today of course), it is not just the destination that you must concern yourself with but also the journey.  It is the daily interactions and the small things that require as much attention as the big picture.  How do you treat the people around you?  Do you see them as just as important as you?  If you value people, maintaining their equality with you is something you won't want to ever lose sight of.  The hierarchy of a film set can chip away at this if you are not vigilant.  I've certainly seen many filmmakers whose work reflects such values but their day to day interactions reflect something quite different.  Always ask yourself: "How are your values reflected in the smaller interpersonal processes?".

I wish it was as easy as making sure that both your work and your processes reflected your values in order for you to feel as good a couple decades out as you do when you start -- but it is not going to work that way.  The next part of the equation is the one of building an environment around you that you admire.  Certainly for some in the film field, this seems simply to apply to the design and decor of the office -- which usually is meant to convey some sort of power message.  Ultimately, this is really about whom you choose to surround yourself with.

I think that it in the long run it is important to have the people who you work with reflect your values as much as your work and processes do.  It is a bit harder when it comes to people, because not only do you not control them, but they don't always know their own values, and even when they do, they are not always static.  I almost left my first company Good Machine when my partners would not dismiss a mid-level employee who could not treat those below (or really around) her decently; I ultimately wasn't going to leave the company over another person, but it was when I first knew that I would need to move on to something else if I valued my happiness.  Working with decent people who care about things in a similar fashion to you is not a privilege of the film business, but a necessity since the industry is otherwise over run with those that will stop at nothing to make a buck.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the more difficult things to achieve.

Having your values reflected in your work, your processes, and your environment, seem to me to be the three most important factors in making sure you feel as good today or tomorrow as when you started out.  I am sure there is a lot more to it though and I hope you can help me figure it out a bit more fully by your comments.

18 More Important Questions For Producers

Two weeks ago , I offered up five of the most important questions I thought producers needed to answer to get a movie made and to have a pleasing life in this crazy pursuit.  But how do you stop there at five?  I promised 18 more, and well, how's this for a list? 6. How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?

7. How do I determine if someone is truly worth collaborating with?

8. Why will someone choose to collaborate on a project?

9. Why will someone choose to collaborate with me?

10. What do I want from a partner?

11. How do I make people want to see my movie?

12. How do you encourage people and processes to achieve the best?

13. How do you engineer to take advantage of serendipity?

14. How do you not waste time? AKA how do you get everything you need to get done, done?

15. How do you encourage people and processes to move faster?

16. Why will someone invest in a film?

17. How do I estimate the value of any given film?

18. What is money well spent (and what isn’t)?

19. With so many factors shaping a film’s success or failure, and so much required to go into a film just to make it, and even more to make it well, what can be done so it does not ever feel not worth the effort?

20. How do I not shoot materials that won’t end up in the film?

21. How do I make sure we don’t need more material after we finish principal photography?

22. In doing work in this industry, how do I not grow jaded and make sure I maintain a sense of wonder, a joy of discovery, an appreciation of mystery, and love of simply doing?

23. What won’t I do or ask others to do?

If I ran a film school, I would want to make sure that graduates were at the very least confident of their answers to these questions. I deliberately don’t have questions like “how do I make a good movie?” on this list as I feel that question is both subjective & personal, it is also the kind of question that everyone asks naturally if they are in the film business.  Making movies can not be taken lightly.  We need to think hard before we act.  Helping each other to find the answers will only lead to better movies.  And after all, why not make better films?

The 5 Most Important Questions For Producers

What do we need to know before we make movies?  What do we need to know to make movies well?  Are there questions that we can answer so that we have a sustainable and rewarding career?  Answers are hard to find, but so are the questions.When we identify the questions, whose responsibility is it to declare the answers?

I have a list.  I am sure it will continue to evolve.  Let's start it off with the top five, and move on to more in the days ahead.  I look forward to your contributions.

1. How do I make sure that in twenty years I will feel good about the choices I make today?

2. What are the qualities of better films?

3. How do you establish trust & confidence?

4. How do you make a project seem inevitable?

5. How do I make sure all the collaborators all want the same thing, all have the same agenda, and are trying to make the same movie?

On Feb 2nd, I promise to have another 18 questions (at least)for you, but I thought these were the most important.  I would be happy to publish the answers here.

What Makes A Good Partnership?

The NYTimes Sunday Magazine has a must-read article on my former Good Machine partner James Schamus. The author, Carlo Rotello, does a thorough job on the difficult task of capturing most of the complexity that makes James someone that is fun to collaborate with: he is not easily defined, has many interests (sometimes conflicting), and enjoys deeply both the process and the product.  People so often look for people they get along with to collaborate with; I think that is is mistake.  Harmony may work in other types of relationships, but in a creative one, it is a formula for mediocrity.   If you truly care about the end result of your work, you should look for someone you enjoy arguing with to partner with.

Rotello sums up our Good Machine partnership by defining David Linde as the business mind, Schamus the intellectual, and me "Hope, an advocate of radically decentralized media democracy, was the revolutionary;".  I like how that sounds, but what really worked at Good Machine, and in other creative relationships, is when people can argue clearly and without ego for what they feel will make a story work best.  Trust is the next most required ingredient in a successful partnership, quickly followed by a willingness to accept that you may not be right (that non-ego thing again).

Good Machine had a great number of really smart and passionate people working together who realized that if they spoke up and advocated clearly for what they believed in, they could get things done if they were able to work REALLY hard.  Everyone spoke up, but also learned how to listen.

Arguing about creative choices should be a fun process, because you are chasing a truth and an ideal.  The challenge is making sure the participants are all chasing the same thing.  When partners start chasing different outcomes is one of the ways things go wrong.

Collaborating among producers though is different from the collaboration between a producer and a director, or a producer and a writer.  I have had the good fortune of collaborating with A LOT of producers.  When producers collaborate and recognize that they lifted the project up and made it better, you know you'd always like to do it again together.  That result does not always bring the same result with other categories of collaborators.

What is the hardest thing about being an indie film producer today?

I get asked this question a lot: "What is the hardest thing about being an indie film producer today?" It is worth doing a much longer post on, listing all of the problems we all face.  But as I said, I get asked this a lot, and I don't think they are looking for 75 or more answers (I have those up here and here).  Usually folks are looking for the short answer.  This is that answer, or rather at least, how I answered it today. The pay has dropped significantly while the job description has increased ten fold, and the demand for both services and advice have increased even more. We producers are expected to (and must) source and develop new material, package it with talent, put together a production plan, and then find a way to finance it. Of course we have to execute those plans at the highest level possible, all the while dealing with the unique personalities that flock to indie film production, but we are also expected to then put together a marketing plan, distribution strategy, social media outreach organization, and festival plan – and probably raise the funds for all of that (or figure out how to do it without funding).  We need our own community built from the start and we have to provide them with meaningful contact, satisfying information and content, and the opportunity to collaborate together.  On top of all of that, most of this is not a science and the workable business model for indie film in this day and age has not yet evolved and certainly has not been shared. To just discover the tools for this requires more hours than there are in a day. Oh yeah, and we don’t get paid for any of these endeavors until the full film is financed – and then we are asked to reduce our fees regularly. The only way to survive is too work on some many projects simultaneously, you are unable to give each project the attention you want. And I did mention that most of the folks that you collaborate with along the way adopt an approach that they must be your top priority at all times?

Not that I am complaining.  It is a good life (just not a good job).  I am not building widgets (well, okay I am building widgets to help, but I am not JUST building widgets).

That's the short answer.  For today.  And check out the replies to this question on my Twitter feed & FaceBook page(s).  A lot of good conversation out there.  We can build it better together.

Christine Vachon on the State Of The Indie Film Union

Okay, so the traffic is sometimes louder than the dialogue, but hey, this is Indie!  I had wanted to partake in this interview that David Poland did at TIFF this year.  There was only one hour when Christine and I were both in Toronto though, and it took a bit longer to close the SUPER deal than I had anticipated.  Christine and David paint a pretty good picture of what things are like for  indie producers these days.

9/21 Update:  Seems like the link I found for this kind of jumped the gun.  It came down as I was watching it.  I assume David Poland will post soon on the MCN website.  And hopefully the video will work again.  Hope hoping here...

Update 9/21 #2: It's up on MCN, but I can't embed it for some reason

The Hard Truth: Filmmaking Is Not A Job

Unfortunately if I sought to get compensated for the work I do, my movies would not get made. If I sought to get paid like normal people are, I never would have been able to produce any of my films. I have been fortunate enough to have made about sixty films in about twenty years. I am not foolish enough to think I was the deciding factor in bringing good ideas into cinematic being, but I do know that certain practices of mine, have helped significantly.  Yes, it is also true that good work begets other good work, and a track record certainly helps -- particularly a track record of profitability -- but generally all of my films depend on two things to get made: 1) superior quality of the material, and 2) the willingness of the collaborators to make great sacrifices.

There's more though on why these films have happened; there have been commonalities amongst all the films that have helped significantly in their getting made.  I have to repeatedly go out on the limb, believing in the film and the filmmaker for years on end, with no remuneration, pushing to make the project better, figuring out how in the hell to bring more "value" to it, shopping it, strategizing and the like.

I am highly selective in my choices to get involved with a project and as a result some of my movies get made and it usually only takes 3 years of my unpaid labor to do so. And then generally after we get the films financed, and the budget locked, I far too often have to make further sacrifices with my fees and "perqs".  I am not complaining; these are my choices.  My eyes are open.  But when I talk to other producers, particularly new ones, often they don't believe it.  Being a film producer requires abandoning the concept that you work for a living.

My first five or six years in the business I had jobs.  I exchanged my labor, ideas, and relationships for the ability to survive.  I came from very modest means, put myself through film school, and sacrificed most things so I could get the movies I wanted to see done (cue violins please). And yes, occasionally along the way, I did some things generally to pay the bills or support my company.  If I had pursued a job or security initially though, none of it would not have gotten done.  If I had pursued money over responsibility and knowledge, my life would have taken a much different path.

We live to work, we should not have to work to live -- but we do & maybe it is because most don't realize part one.  Reading in The New York Times how 37% of Americans between the ages of 18 -29 are not in the work force, makes me wonder if they are all becoming producers.  I have not had the guarantee of a salary since generous overhead deals for producers went by the wayside.  This is also not a complaint.  This is my choice to use my labor to build the culture that I want.

I state all of this now because filmmakers of different sorts have also stated to me that they don't want to do certain things when they are not getting paid for it.  Unfortunately I think that means, at least in terms of today, that their movies will not be getting made.  Well, maybe not so for those few true geniuses out there, but what are the rest of us to do?  Stop making movies?  I have watched movies not happen because of small budget discrepancies.  I have made errors seeking too much money for my films, and witnessed their death as a result.

I am not endorsing the practice of exploiting people for their labor.  Yet, I support people making the choice of using their labor, albeit not at it's proper value, to deliver the culture they want.

Yes it would be great if there were some support structures in America beyond academic institutions that helped those that did not dabble in the most commercial of creative choices to support themselves.  Although, when I get to travel to the different countries, some of which have had film cultures benefit greatly, from the subsidies to the arts, I often find cultures with more rigid rules than ours as to what is "finance-able" film.  I have seen how subsidies may provide for employment across all categories, but also how they diminish the will for many to invest their labor for the sake of  growth or supporting an artist they believe in.

Still though it would be nice to get a little help or acknowledgement beyond the marketplace that your work matters.  Maybe first though, all of us need to demonstrate that we value and want a diverse and dynamic culture.  Maybe we need to work a little harder letting those values be known.  We need to show that there are communities throughout this land that love ambitious film and will vote with their time, labor, and dollars to bring it to their friends and neighbors.  Paying artists directly for their work will go a long way to making filmmaking a legitimate option when it comes to choosing how to earn a living in this country.

And in the meantime, we all have to continue to make real sacrifices to get our work done.  Either that or take a real job.

Why Producers Are Valued

Ages ago, I wrote a post about why Producers matter. All of that hold's true, but none of it is why we get hired. In these days when jobs are scarce and many a long time cohort is looking at new enterprises or a new career, I find myself often reminding my brethren of the simple truths of what "they" want from us. Producers are respected for six things I figure:

  • Validation - Your support of them means that the project is real (or at least they think it will mean that for others).  It may be it's own category, but I think the "Cover Your Ass" criteria is a subset of this; those that are in the employ by others, need to make sure they have someone else to blame or deflect off when SHTF.  That someone is often you.
  • Taste - Whether it's picking or crafting; be it a slant towards commercial or critical success; and whether it is the financiers or the creators doing the selecting, your work matters, and should be protected where ever possible.  Your past represents where you want to go in the future.  What you've done won't go away and it speaks about what is NEXT for you.
  • Access & Relationships - Its not just who you know, but also how much they want to pick up the phone when you call.  People pay for contact and efficiency.  In getting things done, you want to make sure you are also working to make it all go smoother, faster, better in the future.  Work not just for the now but for the later too.
  • Integrity & Trust - As both keeper of the purse and warrior at the front lines, you are asked to manage both the art and the financial.  Both require leaps of faith by those who say yes, and we can expect that to be  followed by constant careful consideration - what have you done both before and during is how you get to earn  and maintain their support and commitment.
  • Cost Control Skills - maybe in times of wealth and growth, execution takes precedent, but I think I have lived through such times (and we certainly are not in them now!), and granted I may be corrupted by the prism I look through, but first and foremost those that surrender the capital want to know you can turn off the spigot.  More for less is what people always want and it is the producer's responsibility to give it to them.
  • Experience - Everyone's looking for the shorter path.  They need a guide.  That is the producer, and you must learn the way.

I don't know if there is really anything else. And I certainly don't mean that these six reasons are WHY we should be valued -- just that this is why we are.  Whenever I say this sort of stuff though,  I am surprised I don't get more arguments. I wish we were valued for our storytelling skills and our dramaturgy know-how.  I am confident that I make scripts, movies, and campaigns better, but it is very rare that this is raised as the reason that people bring projects or money to me.  I wish that would change...

I am also very proud of the overall financial record of my films.  I feel that I have learned at what price point projects must be produced at to deliver a positive return.  Yet again, people generally prefer that films are delivered on time and on budget (as opposed to make more money than they cost).  I hear people often state that at the end of the day no one will ask if it came in on budget or schedule, just that it if it made money -- but that has never been the case for me.  And you would think that in this world where everyone appears to be profit motivated that they would care more if one's work was profitable than if it was any good, but it doesn't seem to be that way at the end of the day.  I make movies that are both good and structured to make money -- but that isn't what drives new work or funding my way.   Maybe profits matter when someone is making the commitment, but on initial meetings when people speak about the reason they came through the door, it seems to still be about quality only.  Maybe it is that only big profits matter?  Is it all size and not ROI when it comes to returns?

Why Can't Producers Get Along & Work Well Together?

Today's guest post is from NYC-based feature film producer Adam Brightman. Recently I was asked by a couple of smart but fairly inexperienced producers some good questions about how producing teams can work well together (and not so well).  For better or worse, in my career, which is now in its third decade (ouch), I have averaged about 70/30 good to bad.  Maybe that is par for the course.  Maybe it is reflective of how much of my film work has been on non-studio, extremely challenging films.  In any case, since they asked, and since it is a crucial and, perhaps, unappreciated part of the filmmaking process, here are my thoughts.

1.  Everybody counts.  All producers on films today are important, and unless they are clearly dead weight or baggage (a star's manager, an executive's friend, what have you) then every producer makes a valuable contribution.  And whatever the credit one gets on a movie, if you are part of the producing team then you are a producer.  Plain and simple.  So as I said, everybody counts, and the producing teams that recognize and acknowledge that fact work well.  The ones that feel a need, for whatever reason, to undermine and minimize each other's contributions do not work well.2.  Communication.  That's the business we're all in, yet some people are better at it then others.  I have worked with some producers who can barely articulate a thought, much less effectively communicate an agenda, a plan of action, an argument.  If you cannot communicate, you are in the wrong business.  If you have other skills that lend themselves to being a producer but have trouble communicating, then, in my opinion, you should let other people be the communicators and confine yourself to the role you are best suited for.  Which leads me to...

3.  Define the work.  Movies are complicated to make, and only get more complicated, which is really why we do in fact need bigger producing teams (that and the practical fact that there are very few people around anymore who are the great 'all around' producers of the past.  It really was simpler then.)  The producing teams that work best are ones where everyone understands their role and does what they do best.  This is not to say that a good team does not share and overlap duties.  The best teams feel free to advise each other, and support each other, but also trust each other to do what they do without being second-guessed.  Which leads me to the most important and admittedly cliche part of this little essay...

4.  Trust and Respect.  Easier said then done, sometimes, but a little bit of the latter goes a long way, and if you don't have the former, why are you on the team?  Of course, there are many answers to that question, since movies come together in so many ways and with so many combinations of people.  But if there is one thing I have seen over my many movies that really made the difference between a good team and a bad one, it would be trust, or lack of it.  Making movies is a frightening enterprise.  There is generally a lot at stake.  Money. Career.  Relationships.  Success!  Failure!  This pressure can bring out the worst in people.  But I say, if it is so hard, and so much is on the line, then all the MORE reason to depend on each other and work together to make it a success.

Adam Brightman has worked in film production since 1982. He has been a part of the producing team on many movies, including "Two Family House", "Funny Games", and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist". He is currently producing the Amy Heckerling comedy "Vamps".

Remember To Never Forget: Communication For Producers

I have a lecture coming up on Communication For Producers. Seems to me before one can communicate they need to know what needs to be expressed. This is that list.

Why do you love this movie?

You are making the director’s movie. (which isn’t the same as doing everything the director wants).

You are trying to make the best movie possible.

You will make the movie profitable.

You will get the movie seen. You will find the film's audiences.

The producer works to create the right environment for all.

You appreciate people’s good work & hard work.

You have chosen to be here and know others have chosen that too.

People like to be led. You are here to provide leadership.

People like to participate. Provide opportunities.

Anyone can follow a plan. What can you do to provide inspiration?

Calm = clarity What do you need to do to reduce stress so all see clearly?

Why will they believe you? How will they follow you?