Dementia, Domestic Abuse and 3 Things I Have Learned About Film Making

download (49)My story starts about nine years ago, when I had come out of a `difficult` relationship and was enjoying life again. I was determined not to have wasted fifteen years of my life and so wrote a short story about my experiences. I can tell you that it didn`t make for an easy read, but I found the writing process kind of cathartic and when I`d finished, I put my story away and forgot about it.

Fast forward eight years and to an elderly friend who I had known for some time and who was just the sweetest lady.

When she started to forget names of people and places she had been to, her husband took her to the doctors and she was diagnosed with dementia.

Her deterioration was hard to witness and when her husband died suddenly, she went into a care home and then a nursing home. Eventually she recognised no one and completely lost touch with reality, although she seemed content and rocked a doll as though it were her child.

I had a lot of emotion that I needed to express and so out came my pen again and I wrote a story about old age and dementia. My friend`s experience was still very raw in my mind and so I changed my main character to a man – which helped me write from a more detached perspective.

I also wanted to give the elderly a voice. I watched how my Mother was often ignored or spoken down to and she said that since she had gotten old, she felt invisible.

When I had finished writing, I mentioned the stories to a friend of mine, who is a film director and he asked to read the scripts.

He suggested finding a well known person to play the lead role and thought that Bobby Ball would be ideal. At the time I recall thinking “Fat chance somebody famous would ever agree to be in my film”. Horrible, negative attitude, I know, but I still struggle with self esteem issues.

This could have been the end of the story, as it`s so easy to get demoralised and give up on your dreams. Sometimes it just feels as though everything is conspiring against you and the easiest thing is just to give up and find something else to do. I don`t think my years in an abusive relationship helped, as I still carried the mental scars and it takes a long time to rebuild self esteem when it has been shattered so many times.

It really was an effort, but I decided that whatever had happened in the past wasn`t going to affect my future and if ever I paid heed to those little voices – you know the ones that are always telling you that you can`t do something or you`ll never be good enough – if I ever caught myself listening to them, I`d give myself a good talking to and tell myself how great I was. I didn`t always believe it, but it`s better than criticising yourself all the time.

So, these are the 3 things I have learned from this experience, but they apply to pretty much anything that you want to achieve.

1. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
It`s so hard when you`re working on your own and it`s something you`ve never done before. If your confidence is shaky to start with, the first knock back is likely to send you scurrying in the opposite direction. But don`t. Have faith in yourself – everyone has to start somewhere and you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

2. DON`T GIVE UP
Oh, it`s so easy to make excuses as to why you should just give up – and yes, it would be easier. But, I`m telling you, the sense of achievement you get with each step forward and with each bridge you cross, is just amazing. Keep going, no matter how tough it gets and you will have an advantage over thousands of people who try, but give up too easily.

3. MAKE FRIENDS
It`s when you need help and when you reach out to people, that you realise how many friends you`ve got – or haven`t got in my case. I should have networked like mad to get the word out, but I didn`t and I had to work so much harder to catch up. Make new friends and get in touch with people you haven`t spoken to in a while.

Surround yourself with only people who have a positive outlook on life as negative folks will bring you down and you will start to doubt yourself.

9 Tips For Choosing a Video Production Company

download (48)Unfortunately, many businesses rush into video production without thinking it through. But a rash decision without a clear plan or set goal will lead to disappointment, and waste your time and money.

How can you avoid this outcome and be happy with your next video project? These 9 strategies can help you produce an effective video without a lot of headaches.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Don’t just make a video because it’s the trend right now. Instead, think about what you want your video to accomplish for your business. Is your goal to increase business? Educate your viewer? Train your employees? Determine your goal first, then work with a company that understands the scope of your needs and can consult with you to achieve your goals.

2. Cheap video comes at a premium.

Be wary when a production company offers its services at a rate that seems too good to be true the production team may just shoot from the back of the room on a tripod and call it a day. But it’s more expensive to do it wrong the first time and have to redo it. So find out what’s included in the total package: Are edits included? What about music licensing? Or travel expenses? Watch out for those additional costs that can be thrown in at the end and bust your budget.

3. Value accountability and reliability.

Some companies will over-promise to land a client then under-deliver when it comes to the end product. Can the company ensure on-time delivery? Does it have the resources to do so? If you don’t receive the final version until a month or more after filming, will the content still be valuable? Get a guarantee that you’ll have a team dedicated to your project that won’t quit until your video is the embodiment of your vision.

4. Consider your audience.

Prospects and customers who see your video will immediately form an opinion about your business-it affects their perception of your brand. And what could be more important than how potential clients perceive you before they meet you? Think about your target audience and what elements are important to them, then be sure to create a video that reflects that. If you’re including testimonials from clients, be sure they’re reflective of your target audience. Otherwise, you risk alienating your current client-base.

5. Work with experts in your industry.

When choosing a production company, work with someone who already knows what works and what doesn’t by looking to those who specialize in video content for your industry. Experienced vendors have an eye for details you may miss. Don’t forget to get references and sample videos before signing a contract.

6. Consider the value of your time.

How much is your time worth? For example, a retail store owner should be concerned with store sales, not managing a video project. Work with a company that doesn’t require any micro-managing on your part.

7. Choose someone who’s up on video industry standards.

This includes optimizing videos for HD and mobile devices. Make sure your partner creates videos that can be readily accessed in social media, on your website, and anywhere your video might be viewed.

8. Be careful when hiring friends or family.

It may seem convenient to hire Uncle Bob or a longtime client, but it might be more costly to your relationship if the quality of their work doesn’t add up and, in the end, you have to do the job again.

9. Expect stewardship.

Your relationship with the production company shouldn’t end after filming. Choose a production team who can advise you on future projects and provide ongoing, fresh content for your business year after year.

Video is increasingly present in strong marketing strategies. It’s time to add it to yours.

How to Create a Low Budget Movie Soundtrack

download (46)I bet if you think of your favorite movie, you can hum the theme song or some of the music from that film. Music is an important part of a great movie- so important that Hollywood pays top composers huge amounts of money to create the perfect, catchy score.

If you’re needing music for your new movie, you can hire a composer to custom write music for each and every scene but that may strain your already tight budget. Don’t worry, you can find great, original music on the web and much of it is free or available for a very low price.

I’m talking about Royalty-free music. If you Google ‘royalty free alternative music’ for instance, you will find pages of websites that offer alternative rock music for free or for a small licensing fee. That’s the good news. The bad news is – you’re going to have to do a lot of digging to find the music that fits the mood of your movie.

The best way to start off is to create a rough list of the songs you will need. Perhaps you want a quick uptempo rock song for the opening credits or maybe you have a few steamy scenes where a slow blues number will work nicely. Once you have the basic ‘music outline’, you can start your search for royalty free music that will fit your movie. The same goes for short films or even personal YouTube videos. Make a plan.

I suggest looking for royalty free music sites that have their music categorized and are easy to navigate. You don’t want to waste hours of your time clicking on song titles, wondering what you’re going to hear next. Oh great it’s some cheesy accordion song!

The best royalty free music sites will have easy to navigate categories such as Progressive Rock, Symphony, Blues or Country Music. This makes it much easier to find the music you are looking for.

One feature that I find extremely valuable is the vocal and non-vocal versions of a particular song. This helps develop a ‘theme’ that can be recurring throughout your movie. (Think ‘Titanic’). A lot of soundtracks use the non-vocal version of the song to create a recurring mood for a few scenes and then hit the audience with the vocal version during the closing credits. Don’t be afraid to use the same song in a number of scenes. Think about the theme song for ‘the Godfather’ and how many times the same melody was used over and over to great effect.

An important thing to remember is to protect your work by using a standard or creative commons license. Even though the music may be royalty free, you will still need to credit the owner by using a creative commons license or purchase a license that gives you the right to use the music for a commercial application. Most royalty free sites offer a creative commons license for free and a standard license for $25 to $100.

Be sure the music has a clean, professional sound. It won’t be too hard to tell whether it was recorded in a professional studio or straight from a Casio keyboard. Test the music out on a quality sound system where you can hear the dynamics of the music. It may sound acceptable coming out of your $10 computer speaker but you better test it on a good sound system just to be sure.

After finding the songs you like, you will need to customize the soundtrack to fit your scenes. There are plenty of sound editing software programs out there like Avid Pro Tools or Logic Pro X that enable you to properly fade in, fade out, alter the timing and manipulate the music. Some video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere now include the same sound editing features, just not at the same level of quality.

If the music you need is not available from a royalty free site, you may consider a ‘discount’ composer. It’s a gamble, but the rewards can be great. Many royalty free music sites offer custom soundtrack composing at very reasonable rates. In most cases, the composer is the same guy who wrote the songs on the site so you can feel confident that the quality of the music will be similar.

I know of one composer who has some pretty impressive credits including first run movies and Producer credits on A-list artists’ albums. Today he’s a ‘starving artist’ looking for the next project. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

In summation – create a ‘music outline’ for your movie or video project and try royalty free music sites to find quality music for free or next to nothing.

Ten Important Things to Look for in Choosing a Royalty Free Music Website

images (23)Looking for some great music for your newest film but don’t have the budget for hiring a composer? You’re in luck because there’s actually a lot of great music out there that is royalty free or in the public domain that may work perfectly for your next film. Whether you’re a pro filmmaker or a novice YouTube video creator, having a quality soundtrack behind your visual masterpiece is going to make a huge difference.

There’s nothing more frustrating than selecting link after link of MPEG or WAV files in search of a good, moody piece of music, only to find some crappy, poorly recorded junk. The good news is, there are a few sites that offer superb songs with quality arrangements that were recorded in a professional studio. These sites have their music categorized by genre to help you weed through the stuff you’re not interested in, so you can get to the gems.

I’ve compiled a list of the key things to look for when choosing a royalty free music website. I believe these suggestions will help you find the music you’re looking for. Keep in mind, most of the time the hardest part of finding good music is sorting through the junk once you’ve found a site. You’ll be looking for sites that offer the best music and are easy to navigate. Also look for sites that are professionally built and equipped with real time players to sample the songs. You’ll want an instant download button to copy the songs directly to your computer. The most important things are finding a site that is safe and that offers their music for free.

Remember, if you are using the music for something other than personal, let’s say uploading a video to YouTube, you will still need to place an attribute on your finished work. In some commercial cases you will need to pay a one-time licensing fee of perhaps 25 or 50 bucks, but that’s it.

Here’s my list of the ten key things to look for in royalty free music websites:

1. Free downloads

Look for sites that offer free downloads of their music. If they’re asking for money up front, move on to the next site.

2. Real time player

A good site will have a built-in music player so you can easily sample a song with one click. You would think this is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised.

3. Easy to navigate pages

You want to look for a site that has their music categorized by genres or music styles.

4. Quality sound

What good are a thousand songs if they all sound like crap? Listen to a few selections and you’ll know right away if the music was recorded in a professional studio or someone’s bathroom.

5. Licensing options

The best sites offer their music to the public for free but for those who want to use the music for YouTube videos or Facebook postings, you’ll need a Creative Commons license. Also a quality site will offer a standard license for filmmakers and other commercial applications.

6. Vocal and non-vocal mixes of each song

Being able to mix up your soundtrack by introducing a recurring theme is a great option. Perhaps you want to start with the instrumental version of a song, then use the vocal version during your film’s closing credits. It’s a classy Hollywood trick used by the best filmmakers. Remember Titanic?

7. Visual Representation for each song

Some sites offer a photo or picture as a representation of how the song is going to ‘feel’. It’s a great tool for quickly perusing through song titles.

8. Limited Quantity

Bigger is not always better. Some sites offer an overwhelming selection of music. Sometimes less is more. Who wants to search through 10,000 songs?

9. Search Feature

Some sites offer a search feature to narrow your results. For instance, you can type in a particular mood or other key characteristic to find the songs that interests you.

10. Custom Music Services

Some sites have music producers for hire who can create a song or entire soundtrack for those movies or commercial projects that want unique and original music.

Talking about originality, how can you know if the song you want has been used many times before? Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how many thousands of people have used the same song you may want to use. Perhaps it’s better to take the road less traveled and pick from smaller, lesser known websites. There’s plenty of great royalty free music out there if you do a little digging.