Groove Soldier Productions Sharlene Millang is featured on Sonic 102.9 radio show. Hear the show now!
If you are a filmmaker, especially an independent filmmaker who edits your own films, you know getting your film from the end of production to the big screen can be a bit of a challenge. There is a saying that “Post is where films go to die”. This can potentially be the most dangerous part of your film’s life…It can go into post production and never come out.
There are a few reasons this happens. One is that post takes SO LONG and it can be quite challenging finding the time to see it to the end. The second reason, and probably more obvious, is that suddenly you only have one person to worry about…usually you. During pre-production and production there are many talented people being coordinated and a lot of energy, commitment and accountability behind your film. Then….suddenly it is time for post and it is just you and your computer. It can be hard to keep that energy and enthusiasm flying.
Here are a few tips to help you get over that hump and avoid having your film falling into the dreaded “Post void”.
- SET DEADLINES AND INCLUDE YOUR RELEASE DATE
This might seem like a no brainer but just because you think about it does not mean you are actively doing it. A film is far, far, far more likely to be completed if it has a deadline to meet. So if you don’t have one MAKE ONE! Go and look at festivals you would like to submit your film to. When is their next submission deadline? Make that your deadline for your film being completed. It can be tempting to say “my film will be done when it is done”…but that can easily translate to “my film will finally be done in 2030”.
Set goals within your post production schedule so you know if you are staying on track. When is your rough cut going to be done? When is the Picture Lock? When will your composer get the music to you? These are important targets to meet as they help you keep the momentum from production moving forward. Think about all the work that went into planning and organizing your shoot! Speaking of….
- GET YOURSELF A POST AE
What? Now we are making up positions but this can really help you out if you are editing alone. This person doesn’t really need to have a specific skill set except to check in every now and then. This person can be your mom, your AD from the shoot, an actor waiting on demo reel footage, etc. Tell this person all your deadlines and give them permission to check in and help you stay focused. This will make you accountable to another person other than yourself. Here is the fun part, when you meet your deadlines they will be all happy and proud of you…they may even buy you a beer or make you buy them one for helping out! Those warm fuzzies should help you carry on!
- FINISH FOR THE DAY BEFORE EDITING THE BEST PART!
You’re on a roll because you are just about to edit that awesome fight scene that you can’t wait to finish. Okay, stop! It sounds crazy but taking a break right before you polish the part you have been waiting for will make sure you come back! On the flip side of this coin, try not to stop right before that scene you are worried about and don’t know how to edit. Instead do something, even if it is not so good. At least you got it started and have a jumping off point when you get to that scene again.
- FORGET PERFECTION
You are not going to achieve it. At this point in your career you may not have the film equipment, cash, time or the training to get there. On a side note, neither does Spielberg. At some point you need to admit that you will get there on the next film instead and then improve your editing skills on that one. There will come a time in the making of your film when you are beating a dead horse. At that point you will want to re-edit the sound for the 8th time. You may want to adjust the color just to add a hair more blue. When this starts happening check yourself. All you are doing at that point is delaying the release of your film. Take the risk and put it out there. Your film is like a child that must be born into the world. It will not be perfect but it will be loved…by you at least.
- BEWARE THE 6 MONTH MARK
We say six months…this is kind of just an arbitrary number, however it seems pretty accurate. If your film has not been touched in six months it probably got swallowed by the post monster. We know, we know, your film is different. You are just taking a break, right? Your life is crazy; you just celebrated your girlfriend’s graduation, you painted your kitchen, the dog just came back from the neighbours BUT you will come back to it. You and 8 other filmmakers have the same story. Sorry, but this is the hard truth. Don’t let your film sit for a long time untouched. A few things happen when you do this. Your train of thought goes bye-bye and your cast and crew stop caring. All those people that worked so hard and invested so much in the film have now forgotten why they gave their time to it. And honestly, you may have as well. Why else have you not touched it in 6 months? Beware! Go ahead and prove us wrong… and guard against this.
And there you have it. By following these few tips you can help get your movie completed on time and on budget . Now get back to your editing suite, the render break is just about over.
As creatives, we are all too often asked to volunteer our time and resources for free. Film and music people are notoriously known for being expected to give their time for nothing more than recognition and a thank you. As a musician and a filmmaker I have worked at no charge in order to practice my art, be recognized and network with some fantastic people. I love making music and film and usually jump at the opportunity in whatever manner it may present itself. For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on the music end of things but this is applicable to any creative endeavor.
Many bar and restaurant owners know that a lot of musicians are dying to get a break and will play for free. You can’t blame them for using this as leverage while they make money off the efforts of these artists usually with little or no promotion. Not only do the bar owners expect you to play for free, they also expect you to promote the shows, fill the seats and help sell liquor and food with your music.
While some establishments will split the door with you, most will ask you to sell tickets and that is the only money you make. If you are lucky (and smart) you can negotiate door sales and a base rate. While this works great in theory, some unscrupulous owners will lie about what they made at the door and in some cases renege on what they agreed to pay the band. Your business skills will improve the more you play, although it will probably come with hard lessons. Sounds like fun, eh?
My story begins with the seminal 1990’s heavy metal band Centrafuge where I played bass and was the unofficial band leader. We had some success on local radio, won a few Battle of The Bands, put out a decent selling ( 1000+ copies) of our debut album and were the local house band at one of the big bars in town, “Rock Central Station”. Our manager at the time had toured North America extensively with some successful bands and had an “in” at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? Go to Hollywood and be discovered. The big catch was that most of the bars on Sunset Strip at that time were “Pay to Play”, which meant we had to buy $250 worth of tickets and then sell them to people on the street but we couldn’t sell them in front of the bar or on the same block as the bar.
This was much more serious than just playing for free, we had to PAY to PLAY!!! Adding insult to injury, there were flights, hotel rooms, car rental, food … and we had to rent amps and drums when we got there. It was a major expense to get down there to possibly be seen by someone important who may or may not like us. In the end we pooled our nickels and dimes and made it happen, however, our manager did not disclose all the details for our gig….
We arrived on Sunset Strip and checked into our hotel. We ran into a stagette about an hour in and that’s how the trip started:)
It was a wild one as we explored Hollywood, The Sunset Strip, Universal Studios and the magic that is Los Angeles. We saw Dennis Hopper on a chopper and ran into Dan Aykroyd at the House of Blues on Sunset; it was a grand time.
Our manager promised great things for our gig on Sunday but failed to mention we would be playing after Gospel night. As a non-promoted Canadian metal band it was not the best fit to put it mildly. We put on our best show that we had played to date; we were pumped for this regardless of the circumstances! It was fantastic and I paid some extra cash to record the show for prosperity.
It was one of the best experiences of our young lives as a band and as individuals. Was it worth it to go beyond playing for free and paying to play, HELL YES!
Now every situation is different and I am not promoting the “Pay to Play”model or playing for free but you have to ask yourself if the rewards are worth taking a chance regardless if there is a payday at the end. Life is too short for the “what-ifs” and “should-haves.” I recommend weighing the risks and taking chances if you feel you can move and grow towards your goals and the person you want to become creatively. Get out there, have fun and follow your passion!
One of the challenges I face as a producer is the fear of rejection. Being afraid to ask for something because someone might say “no” is probably not high on the list of desirable things you want in a top-notch producer! So how do I deal with this part of my psyche?
First I consider my goals. What do I need? What do I want? Then I prioritize my goals. How important is this to meet my goal? What am I willing to give up for this? Finally, I give myself a little encouraging talk … you’ve probably heard phrases like “you don’t get 100% of the jobs that you don’t apply for”. It’s kind of the same when I need something. I tell myself … “if they say no, where does that leave me?” The answer is “in the same place I am now … “ I may not be better off, but I won’t be worse off either. What is the best thing that could happen? They say yes! What other outcomes might be possible? They might refer me to someone else or they might say “not now, but try again later”. Those are all GOOD outcomes!
Another note of encouragement is that by asking for something, I have opened the door for later connections and I have introduced myself as a filmmaker. That alone has opened a lot of doors.
Let me share some stories about asking …
Some of you know that I am also connected with the Edmonton Short Film Festival (ESFF). Last year, the festival featured a panel event for filmmakers and we featured some hardworking and knowledgeable local industry, educational and government representatives to present to our filmmakers. I was SO afraid to approach all these people, thinking they would all be too busy or not interested … but I asked anyway. And we ended up with a phenomenal panel of 10 leaders from Edmonton’s/Alberta’s film community! This year, I was reading an awesome book: “Filmmaking for Dummies”. This book is filled with so many great hints, advice and information about creating film projects and I was inspired. So I thought it would be fabulous to invite the author, Bryan Michael Stoller, to be our special guest for the Filmmakers’ event at the 2015 ESFF. The little voice in my head said “yeah, right … he’s a Hollywood filmmaker … look at the work he’s done and who he has worked with! You’ll NEVER get him!” I told that voice to hush up and sent Mr. Stoller an email. Within DAYS, he enthusiastically said YES! (Okay, now we have the problem of raising enough money to cover the cost to bring him in, but one problem at a time, eh!).
I have never paid for a filming location and we have always had GREAT locations that have been ideal for our projects … everything from a mansion on Ada Boulevard to a University to a private lake resort to a former hospital. For each of the locations I made personal visits to the property owners/managers and introduced myself. Then I talked about what I was filming and finally asked if they would be open to allowing us to use their space. Even for the occasional “no” I get when I ask to film somewhere, the “no” is often accompanied by an invitation to connect at another time, or an offer to help in other ways.
Even in requesting funds, I have approached funders “out of the blue” with well-crafted and detailed proposals, stating exactly what I want, why I want it, when I need it, and how I can acknowledge their contribution.
So, again, to paraphrase … “you don’t get 100% of the things you don’t ask for”. I encourage you to take that scary first step, face down your fear of rejection, and ask for what you want or need.