How To Write A Short Film Script

images (28)Short scripts are a good way to cut your teeth in the world of scriptwriting and make good practise for writing future features. The principles of writing a short script are much the same as that of writing a feature length script. If anything writing a short can be much more challenging than writing a feature as you have less time to get a clear, concise idea over to your reader or audience in a way that’s entertaining.

However, with the advent of social media getting your film out there has become much easier and short films work well as potential ‘calling cards’. The following article is a guide to writing a short narrative-based screenplay.


The first thing you’re going to need is an idea or premise that you can develop into a story. Your idea may be a specific scene, a snippet of dialogue or a particular place for example. Whatever your idea it is this that has motivated you to write this script and from this idea you will need to develop it (through conflict and drama) into a fully realised story that will entertain and engage your reader and potential audience.


In order to develop your idea into a story you will need structure. Structure is the foundation of any story and usually comes in the form of a beginning, middle and end. If there is a problem with your structure there will be a problem with your story as the two go hand-in-hand and are not mutually exclusive so it is imperative you get your structure right. The following is an example of an idea developed and broken down into these three components:


Estranged couple invent a series of dark games to spice up their non-existent love life only to be thwarted by interruptions and apathy.


Frustrated, the ‘games’ soon become reality as the couple verbally taunt each other with hurtful home-truths which escalate into a physical fight.


Out of the fight some spark of passion is at last ignited and the couple end up on the floor in a passionate embrace.

Using this structure as a foundation to develop the story further we can now move on to the next step.

Plot points:

Any story is about conflict and how that conflict is resolved. Through conflict you create characters who in turn create the story. You introduce conflict by way of obstacles and it is how your characters overcome these obstacles that makes them who they are and the story what it is. Through obstacles and conflict we now expand each component step by step using plot points:


  • A woman relaxes in front of a movie only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of an intruder who demands she take her clothes off.
  • Exerting her control the woman orders the intruder to leave and threatens to call the police only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of the man overpowering her.
  • Turned on by his show of power the woman succumbs to her passion only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of a telephone call thus revealing the game they are playing.
  • The woman begins a different game only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of the man’s lack of enthusiasm.
  • The woman tries again only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of the man’s flat refusal.


  • Appealing for help, the woman asks what he suggests they do only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of the man demeaning her by suggesting she make dinner.
  • Retaliating, the woman attempts to humiliate the man by questioning his sexuality only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of him blaming her lack of sex appeal.
  • Testing his love, she declares she’s leaving only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of his apathy.


  • Seizing his attention by force she physically attacks him only to be thwarted by an obstacle in the form of him physically overpowering her.
  • Turned on by his sudden show of action/attention she kisses him who turned on her by her show of affection/love kisses her back.
  • Weary of yet another one-of-many, similar-type rituals they have to go through in order to express their feelings she half-jokingly tells him she hates him to which he replies in kind.

Through conflict we are able to plot a rough story from beginning to end and at the same time give ourselves a clearer idea about who these characters are. We are now ready to go into more detail as we move onto the next step.


Screenwriting by its very definition is a very restricted form of writing as you are basically creating a technical document for a film crew and actors to work from. However, the outline stage of screenwriting is where you can get to let it all hang out and let your inner ‘artist’ roam free. There are no rules here. Using your step outline and story structure as your foundation to flesh out your story in more detail you can give your unconscious free reign to do and say what it wants in the form of a short story albeit with little to no dialogue (you want to save the best till last). Here your story is expanded and becomes more detailed. Descriptions of characters, the house they live in, the clothes they wear, who they are, where they’re from, their state of mind, inner feelings – anything goes. Pour it all out. No inhibitions. Let your free flowing, stream-of-consciousness all out within the parameters of your outline until you have nothing left to say and everything that’s in your head is down on paper or on your computer screen. Once your artistic spirit has been exhausted and satisfied you can move on to the next step.


Out of that morass of free-writing you can now at last edit your work down into something resembling a screenplay as you separate your prose into blocks of individual scenes. Each scene heading indicating whether the action takes place inside or outside (INT or EXT), the location

(E.G. LIVING ROOM) and time of day (DAY or NIGHT). Various formatting software are available such as Final Draft or Celtx which will automatically format your screenplay as you go along thus saving you much time in the process. The descriptive text and action should be terse, to the point and written with an idea of what the camera is going to see and how you want the film to be played to the reader/audience.


A beautiful WOMAN relaxes on a sofa completely entranced by an erotic movie.

Behind her a door opens slowly and a MAN silently enters the room.

Unaware, the Woman continues watching the movie as the Man quietly closes the door.

Totally engrossed in the movie, the Woman remains oblivious to the Man standing ominously behind her.

The door handle CLICKS shut.

The Woman suddenly snaps to attention as she springs round to face the intruder.

Once you have written your formatted screenplay from beginning to end, step by step, outlining each character’s inner motivation you are ready for the final and arguably most fun stage.


There is a reason why I save dialogue writing until the very end of the screenwriting process and that is to avoid ‘on-the-nose’ dialogue. ‘On-the-nose’ dialogue is dialogue spoken by the characters to further the story or to express how they are feeling when it is action through conflict that ought to further your story and express how your characters are feeling. It is also a lot easier to come up with convincing dialogue when you know your character’s inner motivation then it is when you don’t. When you are upset do you tell someone you are upset or do you cry quietly to yourself when nobody is looking? When you are angry do you verbally express your state of anger or do you storm out of the room in a fit of expletives? When in love do you tell your lover how much you love them or do you show them your love through action in the bedroom? Dialogue is your character’s ammunition. It enhances the things that they do. Know your characters from the inside first through action and conflict and you will find you won’t even have to come up with clever lines to put in their mouths because they’ll start speaking for themselves.


The rewrite and editing stage of the writing process is probably the most important stage. Having spent so much time on it you might find it hard to view your script with objective eyes. Once you’ve completed a draft leave your script alone and forget about it for a few days or even weeks. This is to ensure that when you return to it you can view it with objective eyes. You want your script to be as tight as possible, moving through the action from beginning to end as economically and smoothly as possible. Cut out any superfluous words in the directions or dialogue that doesn’t need to be there. Less is more. If your characters can say something with one word rather than a paragraph cut it out. Be ruthless in your editing until you feel there is nothing unnecessary left to cut.

Ultimately scriptwriting is a craft that takes years of practise and dozens of scripts to master. I don’t offer this article as the definitive guide to screenwriting but merely as an example of my own personal method.


Behind the Lens

download (53)The making of a film is a collaborative process involving many people. The cinematographer or director of photography is responsible, with his gaffer for the visuals, lighting the set and creating the right atmosphere. Operating the camera is usually done by a camera operator but sometimes the director of photography (DP) will do both jobs. There is also a focus puller that keeps track of the focus, a very responsible job. Before sound came along cameras were hand cranked between sixteen and eighteen frames per second. When sound arrived the 35mm cameras had to be motorised and the film went through at 24 frames per second. In the early days cameras weren’t blimped (sound proofed) so the camera was placed in a glass booth, restricting the movement of the camera. Eventually the blimp arrived and filming became unrestricted. Because of very slow film stock a lot of light was required. Carbon arcs were used and were attended to by electricians. Cinematographer Oswald Morris told me that carbon dust was a problem and because of the heat generated, sets had to be air conditioned.

In the 1930s Technicolor arrived and the camera was extremely heavy in the blimp, requiring several people to move it. One reason for its bulkiness was that the camera ran three rolls of film. This was black and white. Colour filters were used and the film was processed using a dye transfer process. The Technicolor camera had to be returned to Technicolor each night for servicing. Later, other colour processes came on board using a single role of film. These included stocks from Kodak, Agfa and Fuji. Film stocks started to improve and lighting could be reduced.

There were a number of film cameras available to the DP. These included The Newman Sinclair, Debrie Parvo, Bell and Howell Eyemo, Mitchell, Panavision, Newall and Arriflex, now just known as Arri.

In the 1950s several epic films were shot using a 65mm Panavision camera. In cinemas it was shown in 70mm, carrying six magnetic soundtracks for stereo sound. A camera that proved unpopular was the heavy Vistavision camera. According to the late DP Chris Challis it was heavy and badly designed. The film ran horizontally and Challis was glad to see the back of it. Cinerama employed a camera that carried three rolls of film and the film was originally projected using three projectors. Later, 70mm Cinerama came on board, which wasn’t as good. Imax, having fifteen perforations to the frame and running horizontally was another attraction, now we have digital Imax.

Today we have digital cinematography but many productions are still shot on film. Some of today’s producers still prefer the film look. Films that are shot on film still go through a digital post production process. Some films are shot using both technologies, half digital, half film. One of the plus sides of shooting digitally is that results can be seen immediately. DPs using digital usually use a monitor and not a light meter to measure light. Also with digital much more material can be shot cheaply. With film there is always an awareness of the cost.

There were many studios for the technician to work in and studios used to employ them on a wage. Now they are all freelance, this was called going four waller. Studios included Walton, Beaconsfield, now the national film school, Rock studios in Elstree, which was by the station and MGM in Elstree, which is now a housing estate. Studios still in existence include Pinewood, Elstree and Ealing, which is back on features have been used by the BBC film department for many years. Years ago many films were totally made in the studio due to cost and other reasons.

In the 1930s there was the quota quickies. A number of British films were made to keep the British film industry going and keep British technicians employed. Films were made fast and cheap and locations were out of the question. A street would be built in the studio and would be used on almost every picture. The quota quickies came along because until then the American film industry was dominating. Most films were American. The quota quickies provided a fair share of both.

Today nearly every film is shot using locations, some totally, others a mixture of studio and location. Cameras are smaller, lights are smaller and generally films are shot quicker. Apart from the quota quickies that were shot in a couple of weeks, many films would take many months or over a year to complete, some epics taking two. Many camera people love the job and think of it as more of a hobby than an occupation.


8 Terms to Know About Internet Video Production

download (55)The best Internet marketing videos can generate long-lasting and profitable traffic to your online store or website. On the other hand, a bad video could tarnish your reputation and alienate your target audience. No matter your reason for creating an Internet video production, in order to make a video that people actually want to watch, you need to have a baseline level of knowledge. Here are a few terms you should know in order to create the best Internet videos.

1. The 180-Degree Rule – This refers to a commonly accepted standard among camera technicians on film and television sets, and refers to keeping all camera angles on one side of an imaginary line running through the set, parallel to the backdrop. Crossing this line can cause confusion and discontinuity in a video.

2. Broadcast Quality – This term refers to standards set by the National Association of Broadcasters that determine the quality of audio and video that is put on the airwaves or Internet. It can also refer to a type of camera that is used to record in broadcast quality video and audio.

3. Concept – The concept refers to the first formal document created in the process of coming up with a script. It does not always have the same format, sometimes it is an outline, sometimes it is just the main idea of the video. Either way, it is the fundamental idea of the video from which all other details will emerge.

4. Dirty Track – The dirty track is an audio file of low quality that will not be used in the final deliverable project, but is recorded while filming solely for the sake of synching better quality audio with the video track in post-production.

5. Editing – Easily the most important part of any type of video production, editing is what takes all of your loose clips of video, and brings them together in a comprehensible and engaging segment.

6. Frame Rate – The number of frames of video you record per second refers to the frame rate. This is usually shown in camera specifications, followed by a designation of progressive or ‘p’ and interlaced or ‘I’. Some common frame rates include 24p, 30p, and 60i.

7. SERP or Search Engine Results Page – The SERP is where your results show up after you search for something on Google, Bing, or one of the major search engines. The quality of your video and the amount of people like and share your video, determine where it shows up on the SERP.

8. Lavalier (Lav) – A lavalier is a small microphone, about the size of a pencil eraser, that can be worn on someone’s person. It is small enough not to be noticeable on camera, but effective in recording someone’s voice, whether they are acting, speaking, or being interviewed on camera.

5 Tips for Tight Turnaround Creative Video Production

download (54)As a freelancer in creative video production, your reputation is everything to you. Without it, your business would certainly fail. Luckily, your reputation is generally built on two things that are already within your control, the quality of work that you produce, and your ability to meet deadlines. If you have ever struggled with the latter component, then this post is for you. Here are five tips for achieving a tight turn around on your video production projects.

1. Stay Focused on The Deadline

The first step in making sure you meet your client’s deadlines is to simply care about your performance in completing work under deadline. Once your deadline is a priority, you will be more likely to make a serious effort to meet them. To make sure you meet your deadlines, consider missing one a cardinal sin. After you have established this habit, the rest is just a matter of logistics.

2. Keep a Running List of Projects & Deadlines

One way to make sure you never miss a stated project end date is to keep a list or spreadsheet of all your current projects, their status to date, and their expected deadline. Depending on your organization skills, you can even color coordinate this list to show what stage of development each project is currently in. Alternatively, this could be an online list or spreadsheet, or just a list on paper. The tool you use does not matter, so long as you are keeping track.

3. Communicate Clearly

One reason many freelancers lapse on their deadlines is that they do not communicate their expectations clearly with the client. When the deadline is fuzzy, you will have a much harder time reaching it. Instead, be clear in setting your deadline and explaining your process. If the client fails to mention a deadline, do not forget to ask for one.

4. Give Yourself a Cushion

Yet another way to make sure you are completing and submitting your work on time is to build in a cushion. Essentially this means you give yourself a deadline that is a few days earlier than the one the client stated. This way, should anything go awry, you still have a few days to tie up loose ends. To do this, break your project down into smaller pieces, and estimate how long each piece will take, giving yourself about 15% more time than you think it will realistically take. This way, you can accommodate any delays, or finish early to the delight of your clients.

5. Have a Clear Outcome

Lastly, you and your client should agree on what exactly the end deliverable will be. This way there are no disagreements about what you are supposed to have accomplished when. When you turn in a project the client did not ask for, you will have to go back and do extra work to correct the mistake, necessitating more time spent on the project.

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

images (26)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.

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.

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.

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

images (27)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.


Corporate Film Production Services Company – How to Choose

images (25)Corporate Film production services can be a great source of help to you if you want a film done for low costs and within a short period of time. Making a corporate film is really a dream for thousands. A number of video production companies one will find on the Internet which will offer you the best services. Compare one company against another and be sure to way each of their strengths against their weaknesses. The independent corporate film requires specific preparations in order to achieve the best results for your business presentation, corporate filming, marketing project, advertising. The best way to tell whether the company is capable enough to shoot your corporate film. Video is the most powerful medium to pass on your message for your company. Thus it is very important that you get the right corporate film production service for your video.

For video production, you must need a video production company which will make a video as the way you want. There are five major steps to follow in film production:-

• Development

• Pre-production

• Production

• Post-production

• Distribution

The five phases of video will differ depending on the type of project that you want. The pre-production stage includes processes like concept and idealizing the video to be created and planning and scheduling the recording process of the corporate film. The production stage is the stage in which actual recording of the video takes place and the video to be created comes into being. The post production phase is the stage in which the video is edited and corrected to make it more perfect and various visual effects are added to it to make it look more realistic and good-looking. All of these stages in the corporate film making process require the services of different individuals with quite diverse skills. For every minute of a finished video, between scripting, shooting, editing, graphics, animations, and choosing and inserting exact music, a video production company might spend 20 hours or more of work effort. A production company will work with you in the pre-production stage to help you deliver your message, which we then apply to the production and post-production

When it comes to video, it is important to not simply speak from a script. Video editing can be a very long process and requires much patience while putting the clips together. But a good video production company will try to make the experience pleasant for you. They will be helpful and work at making you happy. If you sense personality attribute, conflicts or lack of concern for your needs, these will be intensifying as the project progresses. Now a days in many bloggers they cover everything from lifestyle to food and fashion, and local events, but a good corporate movie production still commands the attention, as the industry carries on making big budget corporate movies with best quality and satisfaction.

I hope this article will help you find quality corporate film production services. Also be sure not settle for nothing less than perfect as this is your project and perfection is key in film production.


Pitching At AFM – Don’t Be Shutout

download (52)The American Film Market was founded in 1981 as a way to circumvent the strangle hold big studios had on marketing and distribution, especially in foreign markets. The answer has been to sell distribution rights directly to independent sales agents, brokers and distributors. The market also facilitates financing by bringing together filmmakers, product, and financial sources.

Held in early November, nearly a billion dollars of production and distribution deals are sealed every year on films in every stage of development, pre-production and production. The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is converted into a busy market place. Some 700 screenings are held at various theatres on the Santa Monica Promenade and at nearby hotel screening rooms. With 8,000 attendees and the industry’s largest conferences, AFM is the must destination for independent filmmakers and industry people.

Last year’s AFM Conference Series included discussions on financing, pitching, production, and marketing and distribution. They also focused on crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing audiences, film festivals, and video on demand. In this article, I am going to focus on the pitch conference and pitch sessions. Pitching your project is the initial step in getting a project rolling, to obtaining finance, gathering a production team, and marketing and selling the film to sales agents, brokers, and distributors. All these steps require some sort of pitching activity. Thus, knowing and perfecting solid techniques is vital to the success of any project.

Getting your script read in Hollywood is difficult. Most agents, producers, and studios will not accept unsolicited work. One must stir up enough buzz to wake up the industry and by doing pitches to anyone and everyone you create awareness. In this way, you create a water-cooler talk-ability that gets you referrals, opens doors and obtains those face-to-face meetings. Screenwriting is a very competitive profession and being able to pitch your script effectively places you above the rank and file. It’s estimated that the Writers Guild of America registered over 100,000 entities and the MPPA rated 708 movies in 2014. Thus being able to rise above the competition and mingle with the 1,670 AFM buyers from 70 counties greatly ups your odds.

A pitch conference is a good place to learn about this process. They say a good pitch can get a bad film made and a bad pitch can leave a terrific project languishing on the shelf. At this conference, attendees learn the essential rules and tools of pitching from experts. These experts included Stephanie Palmer, former head of creative affairs at MGM, Tobin Armbrust, producer of “Begin Again” and Cassian Elwes, producer of “Dallas Buyers Club.”

I’ve included suggestions and tips provided by these experts, along with those referenced in articles they wrote. The goal of your pitch is to generate enough interest to entice further development or to have them read your script. Thus, your pitch is much like a movie trailer, providing the essence of the movie to create further involvement.

Open your presentation with some small talk that establishes a common ground and builds rapport. By doing so, this can be a major factor in selling your script. It cleanses the palate and you began on a clean slate with no carry over from previous presentations. Before you begin your pitch, provide context by defining the genre of your script or give a brief background of your story before you begin your detailed pitch. For instance, this is a comedy that takes place at an all girl boarding school outside of Boston.

Make the experience as if they were watching a trailer of your completed movie. Pitches in the comedy mode should be funny and those in the thriller genre should have moments of surprise and suspense. Use precise words to create a vivid visualization and avoid abstract themes and generalizations. Likewise, provide markers where you are in the script such as, “Moving into act two,” or “In the final scene.” This helps the listener know where they are in the story and where the plot points and twists are located.

Use suspense to up interest. Instead of telling the listener how the story evolves, plant the seeds for the twists and surprising revelations to come. By using these set-ups and pay-offs to your advantage, it illustrates your storytelling skills; a point often overlooked when promoting your abilities as a screenwriter.

Expect to be interrupted. Most meetings are conversational and interactive. So be ready to expand on your pitch and provide more details. Being too detailed and describing every scene, character, or location bogs down the process. The more you say, the less they hear. Find descriptive and active words that quickly bring life to the story. Being animated and emotional likewise enlivens your pitch as it lets your enthusiasm shine. It shows you believe in your project.

Using too many names also confuses the presentation. While it’s okay for main characters, it’s best to identify supporting characters by their function or descriptive handle. In addition, don’t be afraid of clarifying your pitch. Interact and ask if they have any questions at this point. Respond to their questions and suggestions in a positive way. Disagreeing with them shows a lack of respect for their input. Consider their suggestions and then get back to them.

Besides the conference with experts, the market also sponsors a pitch session. Here ten participants selected based on their submitted video and get two minutes to pitch their idea. Another ten are selected from the audience and from these two groups judges select a winner. A modest cash prize goes to the winner along with industry awareness.

These pitching sessions are not for the weak. Critiques tend to be on the caustic side of constructive. If it’s boring, you’ll likely hear that assessment. Likewise, you will hear questions about casting, budget, and marketability. Be ready with answers and comparisons to other pictures with similar budgets that have done well.

Beside the pitch sessions, there are many opportunities to pitch your script or project to people attending the market, people such as producers, production companies, distributors, and sales agents. These people and their contact information are listed in the market’s catalog. You can also mingle with these people in the large hotel lobby or at screenings, events and parties held during the market.

What you learn at this market will help improve your pitching abilities. The networking possibilities are endless and provide ample opportunities to connect. In addition, thank you notes, query letters, and follow-up meetings will help strengthen these relationships. One should likewise consider pitching at other venues, such as film festivals, writer conferences, and pitch fests. Links to these events are available online. Each time you do a pitch session, you learn what grabs people’s attention. You become better at describing and promoting your film.

Moreover, if you keep practicing your craft, it won’t be a strikeout, but a home run deal.


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.