2 Top Mistakes That Will Tank Your Film Overnight

download (51)There are many ways to look at saving money and sometimes you have to spend more in the beginning to save more in the end. This is true for the two top things that will tank your film overnight.

Mistake #1- FOOD. Have you ever been at work and starving? When you’re hungry its all you can think about. As a resourceful filmmaker you’ve probably made deals with people to work for very cheap, if not free, to help achieve your creative vision. After a couple 16-hour days people start losing steam. The one thing that keeps people going and also lets them know you care about their well-being is food. DON’T go cheap. Little bags of chips for snacks and pizza or subs for lunch every day is NOT cool! It sends a message that you want favors from people but you don’t care enough to feed them well. Take some of the money you saved on hiring cheap crew and allocate it to food. There are a million caterers and restaurants and if you take the time to plead with them for deal, most likely someone will come through with something affordable and you will look like the hero. My partner and I just wrapped a low budget movie filming on a mountain in Topanga, Canyon, California. To drive down the mountain was a half hour so losing someone for over an hour a day to handle lunch was not cost effective for us as we were already short staffed. In pre-production we asked some of our key crew if they could refer a caterer who they like. Catering for film is not cheap but we figured “what the heck” doesn’t hurt to ask someone to work with us on our tight budget. I called a caterer who was known for gourmet, healthy food and explained our low budget situation but said I want to establish the relationship as our film budgets get higher and higher. Would they be willing to work with us on the numbers for the first film? They agreed, and we were heroes every day at lunch with our crew who continuously thanked us for having good snacks and meals. For $10 a person, they delivered and setup the food. They brought two hot meats and one hot vegetarian option that changed every day as well as a hot side and fresh salad with toppings and homemade dressings. The meal included a dessert, coffee with the fixings and a gourmet lemonade or ice tea. With all of that food, it reduced what we spent in snacks and drinks as well as saved on gas for sending someone out to pick up lunch and losing a production assistant. Our crew moved so much faster and efficient knowing that we also cared enough about them to plan good meals. One of our celebrity actors walked over to the caterer and asked for a business card. He was a vegetarian and said most films forget about the non-carnivores and he usually has to pick through the side dishes to try and create a meal. He then walked over and thanked the producers.

Mistake #2- PRIVATELY OWNED EQUIPMENT- It’s very tempting to make a deal with someone to lower their rate and in return you will rent their equipment. We’ve done this deal many times on low-budget sets and sometimes it works out. BUT, when it doesn’t work out, this initial savings in money could cost you THOUSANDS. We were shooting in the middle of the night for exterior scenes and had rented a generator from our gaffer to power all of the extra lighting. About 3AM the generator stopped working and all the lights went out. Since we rented the genny from an individual, he did not have an emergency help line and tech people on stand-by to come out and fix or replace the genny. We were screwed and literally shut down for the night since this was our last day of shooting and didn’t need anymore scenes. We had made specific deals with actors on how many days they would work and now had to go back to their agents to try and get them for another night shoot and work out all the schedule conflicts. Since we had SAG actors, we still had to pay them for the whole night. It was a nightmare and in the end we did NOT save money on our cheap genny.

Budget, Schedule and Finance Independent Films – Demystifying the Process – 10 Things YOU Must Know

download (50)Insiders Secret #1. You must understand how to read and navigate a budget from the top sheet to detail page. The industry standard is movie magic budgeting. This is a program designed to enter in categories, budget for each category and create cost reports.

Insiders Secret #2. Break down a film script into elements within scenes that will cost money. Elements costing money include locations, cast, props, special equipment, etc.

Insiders Secret #3. Input the elements into a breakdown sheet by scene. The industry standard is movie magic scheduling. It has user-friendly pages for you to enter in elements and once everything has been input by scene, its time to make a schedule.

Insiders Secret #4. Now that you have your scenes broken down by locations, you can move them onto days and create a strip-board shooting schedule, so you can see how many scenes you need to shoot on a day to stay within your budget. You are paying for crew, equipment and locations daily so you will want to keep your days to a minimum.

Insiders Secret #5. In your movie magic budget, set up budget accounts for items like cast, locations, various production departments, etc.

Insiders Secret #6. Now that you know the elements in each scene, you can determine how much money you will need in each category.

Insiders Secret #7. You will need to determine the labor needed to complete your film. If you have a day with a lot of night exteriors, you will probably need extra lighting. With extra lighting, you may decide to save time by having more crew to setup these scenes and will have to rent extra lighting equipment. If you have a lot of locations, you will need extra transportation crew to move your production base from place to place. The art department labor may increase if you have a lot of builds and props.

Insiders Secret #8. Should you make your film union? If you are a low budget film, every dollar counts. You may choose to be associated with a union to get access to get better actors and crew. There will be a significant cost associated with each union and you will have to make an agreement with each one. Some below the line crew, like location managers, art directors, script supervisors, etc., can work non-union films. Please note that if you hire union crew, you will run the risk of being “flipped” by the union. Most of the time this happens when a crewmember contacts the union and says a non-union film has hired union workers. This crew member may want the film to filp so they can get more hours toward their pension, health and welfare. The union may decide to show up and force a strike with all the union crew. The filmmaker will be left with the decision to replace all of the union workers with non-union, make an agreement with the union or shut down production. If the film turns union, there will be a significant increase in budget now that you are paying overtime, union rates, pension, health and welfare.

Insiders Secret #9. Insurance will be a big expense; especially if you have a lot of stunts, pyro and/or things the insurance company considers high risk. If you are a low budget movie, you may choose to delete some scenes that are too expensive if it doesn’t hurt the overall story.

Insiders Secret #10. What rates should you pay crew? Everything is negotiable and it’s strategic to schedule your movie during times when the movie business is slow. An out of work crewmember is often willing to take less pay rather than be unemployed. You can also make deals to rent their gear, pay for gas to set, schedule less days, etc.

People who work within the film business are the best guides for advice when making your movie. This month, Studio & Indie Finance Executive Michael Shapiro, known for “Star Wars”, M*A*S*H, “Great Balls of Fire”, and more, reveals the secrets of raising money for independent films. Special Effects Supervisor John Palmer known for “The Day After Tomorrow”, Back to the Future Part II”, “Armageddon”, and more will teach you how to make your movie look like a big budget studio movie for an independent price. Special Makeup Effects Gary Tunnicliffe, known for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Gone Girl”, “Hellraiser: Revelations”, and more will show you how to commit murder and mayhem… on a budget. Visual FX Supervisor Greg Liegey known for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, “Fast & Furious”, “Time Toys”, and more will personally advise you how to budget and plan visual effects! Stunt Coordinator Tony Snegoff known for “24”, “Batman Forever”, “Malcolm in the Middle”, will share tips and tricks on how to plan for stunts! Supervising Producer & Seminar Producer Jennifer Hutchins known for the “Criss Angel Mindfreak” series on A&E, “Ghost Hunters International” on Syfy, “The Car Show” starring Adam Carolla will facilitate networking and strategic partnerships with film finance.


5 Reasons We Love Goodfellas

images (24)1. The treatment of the film, some of which include the brisk dialogues, the sharp editing, the first person narration scenes, and last but not the least, the perfectly blended background music, makes Goodfellas a near perfect directorial effort.

2. The realism infused in the movie, such as the realistic interactions between the gangster brood, the grand scale of the sets (the prison sequence, the roads and traffic of the 60’s, and most importantly, the frequently visited bars and pubs).

3. The characterization of Joe Pesci as a cold blooded and dim witted mafia Tommy DeVito. His Academy award winning performance showcased Pesci at his histrionic best, with as much volatility of temper as a Kodiak bear. His cold blooded murders and his occasional dark humour lent a unique quality to the movie, as Pesci’s character effectively broke the mafia stereotypes as portrayed in Hollywood. His character is summed up when he says to Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta “I’ll take the shovel from my mother’s house” (after killing a rival at a bar and planning on burying him).

4. The long shot where Henry (Liotta) takes Karen (Lorraine Bracco) for dinner, and they get off the car, pass in through the backdoor of the hotel, cross the restaurant kitchen and then enter the restaurant, It was a single shot and it was immaculate.

5. The gradual transformation of Karen, from the fashionable young girl who initially falls for the glamorous lifestyle of Henry to a partner in crime. The unprecedented events such as the late night-outs of her husband with reckless friends, the parties where the wives talk about subjects which are deplorable by normal moral standards, the stashes of money, pistols and drugs moving around in the house.

Goodfellas is the movie which had a gritty substance to it akin to how gangster movies should be made. One of the crowning achievements for the movie was definitely the way in which Scorcese avoided the huge shadow cast by the Godfather series on the Hollywood landscape. Moreover, at some aspects, Goodfellas did outshine the masterpiece by Coppola,especially in the areas of music editing and long single shots.

Manmohan Desai (Making The Impossible Possible)

download (47)It was on this day 26 February 1937 a child was born in the family to Kalavati and Kikubhai Desai. I pay tribute to this prolific producer and director none other than the genius Manmohan Desai. Let me take this opportunity to share some interesting anecdotes of this legend who believed, “Anhonee Ko Honee Karna Hamara Kaam Hai” (Making the impossible possible is our job).

Early Years

Born on the 26th day of February Manmohan Ji was four years old from the time he started living in Khetwadi in Mumbai. Born in Gujarati family but his love and home had always been the city of dream and dream merchants namely Mumbai. The love for the city Mumbai was often portrayed on the screen in his movies.

There was a time when neither Khetwadi nor Manmohan Ji address was reflected on the maps of the city. Not many had heard of Khetwadi then in the early 80’s. No doubt the taxi drivers gave blank look when asked for the address for MKD Films.

His father was a film producer who owned Paramount Studios (later Filmalaya) and made films between 1931 and 1941. His father died at young age on 39 due to ruptured appendix. The family also owned massive bungalow in Versova then but the sudden death of his father left behind heavy liabilities and debts.

Manmohan Ji mother was pretty clear, “No, I don’t want to live with debts”. She sold off the bungalow and cars owned by them to repay the debts. Only thing that she did not sell was the studio as it was their monthly income then.

Making the Impossible Possible

Manmohan Ji first directorial film had been “Chhalia” with actor Raj Kapoor in the lead role. The movie was shot in black-and-white and not to forget the title song “Chhalia Mere Naam”. It’s learnt that the creative thoughts and inputs regarding the plot or storyline were mostly amplified by him below the famous landmark restaurant CafĂ© Naaz on the slopes at Malabar Hill.

He did not appreciate the idea where the movie ended on sad note. He always believed in happy ending even if it does mean making the impossible possible. No doubt he was regarded as the master entertainer whose passion was to please the masses watching his movies with happy ending always. His career graph became more popular between the years from 1960 to 1988.

The characters that depicted in his movies were mostly the common masses be it the person on the railway platform Coolie, the waiter in Naseeb or Anglo Indian from the streets of Bandra in Amar Akbar Anthony. The confidence he exhibited in each of these characters which later tasted success is indeed highly respected that came from this master entertainer and genius Manmohan Desai.

He was middle class man. Be it at the shooting location or otherwise Manmohan Ji was known for his hour’s afternoon nap. He always used to feel fresh and recharged after his short nap. After the success of his movie Amar Akbar Anthony he bought an aristocratic apartment designed with modern amenities in one of the most expensive place in Mumbai then. But, his heart was always in Khetwadi the colony that belonged to the middle class people of Central Mumbai.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Story Line)

While Manmohan Ji gave many hit movies in his career span but one of his movie that appeals to many even today is “Amar Akbar Anthony”. I would like to share some interesting anecdotes about this evergreen entertainer which has captivated millions of audiences even post thirty five years after its release.

Director Manmohan Desai got the idea for the movie “Amar Akbar Anthony” from a news item he read in an evening newspaper. An alcoholic man named Jackson was fed up with his life and one day he packed his three children in a car and decided to drop them off in the park. It can be rightly said where the news items ends director Manmohan Desai’s story begins. He twisted the story a bit by forgetting the alcoholic part and ensured that when the father returns he finds that all his three children have gone missing. In the story, the eldest kid is adopted by Hindu police officer and the other two by a Muslim tailor and a Catholic priest.

My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

The inspiration for Anthony came to Desai from the real life character Antav, a bootlegger who was staying closer to his home in Khetwadi. He used to wear a funny hat and used to converse with Desai in his lingo, “Desai Kaisa Hai Dikhtaich Nahin”. Director Desai was very much fascinated by his character and decided to showcase him on the screen.

In the song ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ (You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity) spoken by Anthony when he emerges from the Easter egg, is an almost exact quotation from a speech in the Parliament of the United Kingdom given by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878. Disraeli (who was referring to William Ewart Gladstone) used the word “inebriated” rather than “intoxicated.”

Medical Disaster

As said by superstar Mr. Amitabh Bachchan: “He (Desai) would first design the `items’ that he wanted in the film then he would shoot them and then write the (screenplay) to link them up.” He was known to do some of the craziest stuff but it always worked for him.

If we were to talk about the famous `blood donation’ scene (where three sons of a mother give her blood at once). “It was a medical disaster. Where in the world you have three people lying in the same room giving transfusion from one bottle?” Three separate tubes carry the men’s blood to a suspended bottle from where only one tube relays blood to the mother Bharti. The credits end and then the main story begins.

“It was a medical impossibility. But Desai did it, and it worked. When the (scene) opened, there was unbelievable applause in the theatre.” That’s the creativity director Manmohan Desai exhibited.

The Man Himself

In most of the films of Manmohan Desai, one thing was evident; he always showcased his profound respect for Mother figure. He said: In my films I always talk about “Ma Sherovali”. I feel a woman is a supreme creation. It is she who conceives, she who bears the child after nine months, she who takes care through hardship. She brings into the world a new life. I rate them very high. I am a great believer in Durga, Amba and Lakshmi. His work includes movies Naseeb, Suhaag, Parvarish, Coolie, Mard, Desh Premee and Amar Akbar Anthony to name a few.

Desai always believed that parents came above God and of course, above self. Hurt them and you hurt yourself, was his simple belief which continues to echo even today in the world of cinema.