After I was divorced in the early 1990s, I ended up living in a small apartment in Hollywood, near La Brea and Franklin, three blocks from the Chinese Theater. I scrambled to make a living, to be creative, to make movies.Continue reading
Above the common question “How long is a short film?*” should be the more significant question, “Why a short film?”
Good short films are enjoyable and moving, with stories that can have an impact as strong as good feature-length films or powerful TV series. You can laugh, cry, and be inspired watching a good short film.
But, why a short film? Long considered a sad attempt to mimic the more robust and legitimate feature length film, shorts have often been given … well … short shrift.
Those were the old days.
Today, the entire environment of content, what I term “The Blended Screens,” is changing.
[UPDATE: This was our goal, but it didn’t work.]
We are filmmakers; actors, director, cinematographer, crew members, producers. We are coming together from across the country – New York City, Fresno, Los Angeles – to make a smart, entertaining short film that you and Hollywood will enjoy. Join us on Indiegogo at https://igg.me/at/TheMURDERofJamesDean
My favorite show on Netflix is BoJack Horseman, which reveals a lot about me, since it’s a show about an emotionally dysfunctional has-been in Hollywood. So, back in January 2018, I was motivated to write a spec script for the show. I thought maybe I could replay the events decades earlier, described in “My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” – There once was MOONLIGHTING“, but hoping for a better result this time.
About a quarter century ago – my, how time flies! – I worked on a Paramount Television production from the team responsible for the hit 1980s series MIAMI VICE. It was a pilot starring Edward James Olmos for a proposed TV series called “Hollywood Confidential.” Olmos played a former L.A. cop who now runs a top-flight private detective agency catering to spoiled Hollywood types. (This pilot helped launched the acting career of Charlize Theron.)
As I wander through Hollywood throughout my life, I occasionally work as a background actor, also known as an “extra.” Here is a story about my experience lately when I was a “featured extra” on an NBC mini-series.
This is my stream-of-consciousness report about production experience these days.
The TV mini-series “Law & Order True Crime: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS” was in production in September and October of 2017 and aired as eight hour-long episodes on NBC on Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm from September 26 to November 14. It was produced by prolific producer Dick Wolf’s Wolf Films, based at Comcast’s NBC/Universal lot in Universal City, California. NBC, the “National Broadcasting Company,” is a prominent broadcast network that was one of the original television broadcasting companies.
Since Middle School, I have been a writer, and was the editor of my school paper in Ninth Grade.
I began in television in high school and became producer and writer for the New Year’s Eve variety program “CELEBRATION” which aired on network affiliate TV stations in Minneapolis for several years. I then helped build and put on the air a new broadcast TV station, Channel 29, and became its Operations Manager as well as Writer, Producer, and Director for in-house programs and clients’ productions. I went on to work for several production companies, including TV production trucks, and went out on my own as an independent Writer, Producer, and Director. My productions included live and taped talk shows, variety programs, holiday specials, sports broadcasts, interstitial segments, concerts, conventions, commercials, and industrials. Minneapolis is a major market area, which Nielson ranks as 15th largest.
I became friends with Prince and helped open his Paisley Park Studios. I marketed PPS around the world for productions and rehearsals, and produced some of Prince’s video projects, including his “ALPHABET STREET” music video and his “BENEFIT CONCERT FOR THE HOMELESS.” I also wrote, produced, and directed my own projects, including “THE BERENGUER BOOGIE” which celebrated the Minnesota Twins’ first World Series win.
I pulled together a list of contacts for various acting schools and teachers in “Hollywood”. It’s a list of about 80 contacts, and none have been vetted or verified. I do not vouch for or know the quality of any of these.
The list is for YOU to start looking into, to discover who might be valuable for you as you move your career forward. All actors have different needs for training, so this is for you to figure out which opportunities might be valuable for your career. Continue reading
I said to myself, for quite some time now, “I gotta do SOMETHING.” Tired of projects failing, hating the junior high cliquishness of crowdfunding, realizing it’s been too many years. I sought the Holy Grail of indie filmmaking: two people, one room, one day.
How Is a Filmmaker Consumed by a Passion Project?
The following is a guest post from Michael R. Barnard, who is in the final days of an Indiegogo campaign for his film, Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son.
For many years, I have been chasing a motion picture project that has completely consumed me. It’s called Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son, and I first began writing the screenplay in 1998. Having come so close to making the movie a few times, I keep referring to this project as “a fish-hook in the eye” because it’s impossible for me to ignore and walk away from.
[UPDATE: This was written long before my friend Prince passed away. I still miss him and am still shocked.]
A friend just now found and sent to me this post from Prince.org, the Prince fan site that described how I pulled off the production of Prince’s ALPHABET STREET video on impossible notice! It is from the book, Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince by Alex Hahn. Funny that I’ve never seen this before.
If you remember that there once was a glimmer of hope for more sustainable financing for innovative small business (and, for my concern, an indie film industry) through “Equity Crowdfunding” as demanded by the JOBS Act of 2012, the fact is that it’s not going to happen. It’s already far past the Act’s imposed deadlines because the concept is anathema to the entrenched and self-interested bureaucracy.
The merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable is a powerful situation that has broad negative implications for society and for filmmakers specifically. It’s not simply a business issue, it’s a democracy issue.
The merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable is another deliberate attack on Net Neutrality.
On my way to Sundance Film Festival 2014, news broke (see “Federal appeals court strikes down rules protecting net neutrality” at http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-net-neutrality-federal-appeals-court-20140114,0,2138188.story#ixzz2qlsuWDSC) that made two problems painfully clear, and they will have a huge impact on filmmakers:
Prolific indie film producer Ted Hope, who spent the past year as Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society (as of June 2015, a Production Executive at AMAZON STUDIOS), recently posted “Towards A Sustainable Investor Class: Accessing Quality Projects” as a call to build a healthy independent filmmaking industry. As always, he makes an astute and excellent comment about the big picture of indie filmmaking. We engaged in a conversation, and here’s my comment about the industry and investors: Continue reading
In the past two days, I’ve had some conversations that remind me that there is no “fun” in crowdfund. It is a necessary evil, borne of the collapse of the economy, possibly the only chance for the art of filmmaking to continue. That’s versus the marketing channel that is the current Hollywood studio approach, where a “movie” is whatever can be marketed.
A crowdfund campaign is all work, a harsh referendum on the person, spiritually debilitating and, of course, a death knell for a movie project more often than enabling. (Literally.) There is no fun in crowdfunding. It overtakes one’s life for a month or two.
Story-makers, the shift in the independent film industry includes new opportunities in what is commonly called “television.” The new creative opportunities are exciting. Here’s the second of two discussions about these new opportunities.
Arrested Development and House of Cards aren’t designed to deliver the metrics Wall Street expects, and this means a lot about how Netflix views its future.
May 26th was a uniquely exciting (and perhaps exhausting) day for TV lovers. At midnight, Netflix released a brand new season of Arrested Development – more than seven years after the show was cancelled by Fox. The show’s return represents a key component of Netflix’s emerging original content strategy and is the fourth show released by the over-the-top streaming service this year (at a total cost of more than $150M). As such, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pause and evaluate the economics of this strategy and hypothesize what success might look like. In doing so, we can also better understand the role of original content (is it intended to drive net adds, reduce churn, stabilize content costs etc.) and the impact of their controversial decision to release entire seasons at once. This will also tell us about Netflix’s future and management’s POV on this future.
The Value of Netflix to the Consumer
Though inexpensive on the whole, Netflix’s service does not offer materially cheaper entertainment than that of traditional cable TV, costing approximately $0.0024/minute versus cable’s $0.0035/minute.
This is interesting for two reasons
1. Despite being commercial-free and infinitely more flexible than live linear TV (in terms of time, content and screen), Netflix is unable to command a price premium for its entertainment service
2. Average time spent watching Netflix per user is up more than 10% year-over-year. However, with prices still $7.99 a month, Netflix has not benefited from this increase in customer value (directly, at least, as it would improve word-of-mouth and perceived value). Increases in both the quality and size of its content library content quality is no doubt a major driver for increased usage, but this has contributed to a 16% increase in quarterly licensing costs ($1.355B in Q1 2013).
This matters because it means Netflix may have limited means to raise prices – and when it does, they will still lag customer value growth. As the instant decapitation of Qwickster demonstrated (among many other lessons), Netflix’s customers really do control the relationship.
Story-makers, the shift in the independent film industry includes new opportunities in what is commonly called “television.” The new creative opportunities are exciting. Here’s the first of two discussions about these new opportunities.
Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon see original TV series as the path to success. It’s not. But consumers win.
It is a great time to be a lover of television. Content, for one, has never been better. Not only have many declared today the “New Golden Age of Television”, some such as Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott, have gone as far to ask questions such as if “anyone thinks The Artist (which had recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture) is better than Mad Men?”. The rise of digital distribution and portable, media-focused devices has also fundamentally increased potential “demand” for this content. The ability to watch content whenever (and wherever) we want means that we can watch more shows than was realistically possible when we were tethered to 2-3 hours of “appointment TV” per night (and we could watch only one show per primetime slot). Not only does this save older shows, such as The Sopranos, from irrelevancy after airing, it opens up the creative medium. Hyper-serialized shows such as LOST and Game of Thrones would not be possible without the ability for viewers to easily catch-up on a missed episode (or “marathon” past seasons). Digital-only distribution (such as Netflix’s House of Cards) has further freed creatives to pick scene lengths or runtimes based on the needs of the story, rather than the need to cut to a commercial break every 4-7 minutes or fill out an hour-long timeslot.
Market behavior clearly illustrates the New Golden Age hypothesis. Movie stars are increasingly moving to the TV screen (from Ewan McGregor or Zooey Deschanel) and many TV stars are bigger celebrities than most movie actors (such as Kim Kardashian, regrettably). TV budgets have also exploded. Game of Thrones costs upwards of $60 million for a 10-episode season and many hour-long dramas at the Big Four broadcasters can cost $40-75 million per season ($2-4M/episode). Content has also become an increasingly important differentiator for cable networks such as HBO and AMC, which traditionally focused on films and one-off specials, but are now defined by and dependent on hits such as Girls and The Walking Dead.
There has been a battle going on in Hollywood for a while now that threatens to upset one of the premises of the entire film industry. You might think it must be about digital disruption, but it’s not. Is it about 3D? No. Maybe it’s about lack of creativity in an industry swollen with sequels, prequels, and comic book heroes. Nope. Is it about Steven Spielberg’s prediction that a few mega-flops will likely destroy Hollywood? Nope.
It’s all about who will get coffee for the producers. The unpaid intern.
If you have a driving passion to break into the industry (and who doesn’t? You wouldn’t be reading my blog if you didn’t.), there are few ways to do it. The Number One best, most reliable, undeniably greatest way to break into Hollywood? Become an unpaid intern.
(It used to be “work in the mailroom at an agency,” but that’s no longer true. Who sends MAIL anymore??) Continue reading
This is very important information for filmmakers seeking funds for their movie projects, and explains the approach that has been surprising and frustrating for those indie filmmakers who are not interested in ROI (“Return on Investment”) or the investment aspect of filmmaking. (See my earlier blog, “Crowdfunding and ‘Hey Zach Braff STFU and pay for your own movie’“)
This article, “The new ‘soft’ money,” is from the investment funding site (not crowdfunding site) http://Slated.com, a closed environment for experienced filmmakers and investors interested in filmmaking.
The new “soft” money
They may not have realized this but more than forty-six thousand individuals – many of them ordinary Americans with no prior film industry knowledge – had a direct bearing on what has been happening this past week thousands of miles away at the Cannes Film Festival. Not so much on the rain-sodden red carpet action, as on the business dealings that went on in the makeshift offices of the French film sales company Wild Bunch just a short distance away from that nightly fusillade of flashbulbs. For it is here that Zach Braff’s WISH I WAS HERE, a project only made viable by the $3.1 million that this multitude of individuals have pledged towards his total production costs, was being pitched to territorial distributors from around the world.
Without that Kickstarter-enabled contribution, Braff’s long-gestating project would have remained stunted by the same market forces that have conspired to prevent him from directing a follow-up to his 2004 indie darling GARDEN STATE for close to a decade. “I have almost no foreign value,” he explained recently to the L.A. radio station KCRW. “I had done a TV show for ten years that doesn’t count. Garden State did well overseas. But not numbers that are going to show up on their algorithm.”
But throw in $3.1 million of non-recoupable crowd donations and the business calculus becomes so much more attractive. What would have been a reported $5.5 million package requiring quantifiable box office stars to make the numbers work, is now transformed into one costing less than half that amount and with a cast of characters played by actors Kate Hudson, Anna Kendrick, Josh Gad and Mandy Patinkin that could be chosen on creative grounds, rather than their overseas economic values. A ten-year lost cause has, in the space of just 31 crowdfunding days, flowered into one of the hotter projects pitched on the Croisette – a feat made all the more astonishing when you consider there were a total of 3,340 new projects unveiled for the first time at this year’s Cannes film market.
JOB LISTING PERIODICALS
BASELINE Studio System / $1,500 per year (discounted rate)
BTL News’ Find Film Work / $10.00 per month
Mercury Report / $52.00 per month
Producton Alert / $130.00 per quarter
Production Leads / $299.00 per quarter
Production Weekly / $59.95 per month
Worldwide Production News / $50.00 per month
ENTERTAINMENT JOBS WEBSITES
The following list of websites may help you with job searching.
The surge in Perks-based Donor Crowdfunding over the past few years was primarily built on the concept that creative projects dreamed up by common folks with more ideas than money could go to each other rather than impenetrable banks or brokerages. The popular site Kickstarter (one of many) started in 2009 with the premise that such ideas, ones that were still good ideas even though they didn’t have a promise of likely profitability, could be brought to the public to allow the average person to help make the ideas into reality by donating money. This is a broad concept akin to what wealthy benefactors would do in ages past, when they became “patrons of the arts” by providing money so artists could create works of art.
When looking at what I’ve termed “The Blended Screens” — the destruction of all the different ways that used to define what we were watching (it was a “movie” because it was shot on film and shown in a movie theater; it was a “TV Show” because it was shot on tape and broadcast by a TV station; it was “Home Video” because it was burned to VHS tape or DVD or Blu-Ray and shown on a machine in the living room; it was a “Web Series” because it was carried over the Internet and watched on a computer; etc., etc., etc.) — it becomes clear to me that THIS IS THE SECOND ‘GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION.’ Continue reading
Production is morphing into … what? Is it “filmmaking” if there’s no film? Are we “taping” a program if there’s no tape? Are they “films” or “movies” it they are viewed on a smartphone? Is it “Television” if it’s streaming online on demand?
The technology of production and the delivery methods are no longer pertinent to defining what creators do. We create. We no longer create things clearly defined as “TV shows” or “Movies” or “Web Series.” What we create is now going out on all of “The Blended Screens.” Some have called it “content” but I think that term is weak and too broad.
For me, I’ve decided it’s all “story-making” and that’s what I choose from now on.