October 16, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Shooting a Feature Film on the weekend – Making your dream feature film now.
Today, I would like to talk about the holy grail of Film Making, The Feature Film.
Some of you may feel like the Feature Film Production is an impossible task, only for the lucky determined few who can navigate the funding bodies and Distributors. Today, I would like to talk about the possibility of making your feature film as soon as you can.
Of course, one should always learn film making via making short films first. The reason for this is that it is an inexpensive way to learn from your mistakes and gain the valuable experience to make an idependent feature film when you have the experience of making successful short films.
However, when you are ready to make a feature film, it can seem like an impossible task. I would like to talk about the Weekend Feature Film. Many film makers have used this approach in the past. The reason is that it is a very inexpensive way to make a long format film.
In 2007, we decided to take that approach and make a feature film on the weekend with no budget raised. Instead, we cash flowed the film as we made it. We made this a very enjoyable challenge.
Over 14 months, we shot our 95 minute feature film, “The Makeover”. It took ten weekends with an average of three shooting days per shooting weekend. Therefore, we shot on thirty days over 14 months which was the equivalent of 30 Shooting Days or a six week shoot on a normal feature film. This shooting schedule is adequate to make a professional feature film. We started at Easter, 2007, and completed it in May, 2008.
I did not complete post production till mid 2009 and then hit the festival circuit and promoted the film. It was tremendous fun and in the end we had a saleable product. However, the best part was the cost.
Each three day weekend Shoot cost, on average, $3000 which was saved and cash flowed on every weekend. The total shoot cost was $30,000 spread over 14 months. Most Indie feature films have budgets ranging from $1million – $20 million. The Australian feature film, “The Sapphires”, cost $10million. So how would you like to shoot a film for $30,000?
Yes, one has to be clever and get most locations for a contra promotion and for Zero cost. We owned our own film equipment to the value of $20,000. All our crew were co- owners of the film and therefore contributed their time and effort to the film they part-owned. Yes, one had to be clever and determined. However, money was not the barrier.
The point is that it is far better to be making a film than talking about it. One can make a micro budget feature on the weekend while raising a budget for the $1 million dollar film and have two projects on the go.
Once again, I must add that we shot ”The Makeover” for $30,000. However, Post Production did cost a considerable amount after the shoot and had to be cash-flowed.
- I edited the film myself (Free)
- I paid my composer $5,000
- I paid my Sound Post person $5,000
- Colouring cost $5,000
- Final Post and Deliverables were $10,000
Yes, the above five elements cost another $25,000.
Now let’ s mention the promotion and sales over two years.
- Film Marketing Materials cost $5,000
- Film Festival Entries were $7,000
- Film Markets and Promotions cost $25,000
This totals another $37,000. Other expenses relating to the film included Censor Rating and other issues to the value of $15,000.
The Total Budget in the end was $103,000 cash flowed over four years.
This is still very inexpensive. If I was to make the film again on the weekends I could do this slightly cheaper, knowing what I know now. But not by much. Here is what I estimate it would cost now if one owns their own film equipment.
1. Shoot $30,000
2. Post $30,000
3. Marketing and Promotions $30,000
How did “The Makeover” fare in the world market?
Film Festival Screenings
1. Cannes Independent Film Festival 2010
2. New York Film Festival Best Comedy Drama 2010
3. Screening American Film Market, Los Angeles 2010
- Australia: DVD Release in Australia and New Zealand in all DVD Blockbusters and shops
- Europe: Pay TV
- America: Pay Per View Cable
- ITUNES Movie Release 2011 US only
- VOD available on many different VOD Platforms
In my opinion, this is not that bad for a film that was shot on $30,000. In 2007, one had to shoot on the most basic of cameras, if one was shooting on a low budget.
Today, one could shoot their film on a Cannon C300 or if one can on the Red Epic or Scarlet and shoot a film that looks like a big budget film. If you want to learn how to shoot a your film professionally and make a film for a very low budget, please enrol on the 4 Month Film School.
In any case, I am looking forward to shooting my next film “Absolute Freedom” on close to a million dollars in the outback with the Red Camera. Please follow the adventure via this blog.
If you made it this far, please watch the trailer for “The Makeover”.
“The Makeover Trailers – 100 minutes Feature Film
The Makeover won Best Comedy Drama at the New York Downtown Film Festival. The film was also sold to Pay TV in Europe and has come a viral success on the net.
September 25, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on 29 Days to Screenplay Heaven.
Its taken 29 days exactly to complete the first draft of ’Absolute Freedom’. In the hope of helping you with your own projects, I would like to share my own experience writing the screenplay.
Before ‘Absolute Freedom’, I have written 7 full length feature screenplays, two of which have been made into movies. My third will be ‘Absolute Freedom’ which will be produced in 2014. Here are my observations on my experiences writing the first draft of the screenplay ‘Absolute Freedom’.
1. It was so much fun this time.
Yes, I cut off the phones and did not look at an email on every single morning that I wrote. The hardest part was when I had to stop. This time it was very exciting. In fact, it was the first time I felt nervous about the day’s writing at the start.
2. The importance of a really good screenplay.
I am very aware that every scene that I write effects a full on crew and cast shooting the scenes in March-April, 2014. I am also aware that millions of people around the world will see the film. The creations on the page now are what they will spend part of their life watching as a movie in late 2014 to 2015 and beyond. I must emphasise that creating an outstanding screenplay affects the whole production process down the line. If the script is hot, the crew and cast are excited and into the film. Likewise the opposite is true when the script is lame.
2. Writing pace and stats.
I started on Thursday, August 22nd, and finished the last page on Thursday, August 19th. Each writing session was about 2-3 hours long. So you could say that I wrote the screenplay in four weeks. However, on closer inspection, I averaged about 4-5 pages per day and wrote on average 4-5 days per week. I took Saturdays and Sundays off. The total screenplay is 96 pages long so in the the 29 day period I wrote for 21 dDays.
3. The writing zone.
The most challenging draft is the first draft of the screenplay. The writer faces blank
white emptiness when one sits down in the morning. The Director has a screenplay to work off. The Editor has the shots covering the scenes to work off. The Writer only has his or her creativity. I believe the writer needs a creative zone seperated from other people and interuptions. To write well, one needs to dive deeply. David Lynch expressed his thoughts about the writer’s zone in his recent book. He compared screenwriting to diving for fish. In the shallow waters, one only finds small fish. One needs to go deep, to find the big fish.
I personally wrote only in the morning. Normal work happened in the afternoon. When I concluded writing at 12.30pm and had to go to work at International Film Base in the afternoon, I found it hard to seperate from my story. I personally found that I suffered Left Brain Syndrome where your mind wanted to stay in the very pleasant world of creativity and resisted the drag to Right Brain Reality of logic and organization.
I assume this is why so many writers will cut themselves off from all distractions and find a cottage in the middle of some mountainous valley. They need to access the zone.
I started the 2nd draft on Monday, 22nd September, and I should have the 2nd draft completed by the end of this week. All the people who I have promised the script to by the end of the month, shall read ‘Absolute Freedom’ early next week.
To conclude, all the preparation before I wrote the first draft paid off handsomely. Having my 30 page Story Event Document meant that I always knew where I was going with the story. Spending time on my intensive preparation was so essential to the writing process on the First Draft of ‘Absolute Freedom’.
I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the writing process.
September 11, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Should I hire a professional DOP or shoot from the hip?
I believe that if you do not intend to earn a living from shooting films, hiring a professional DOP is the best option. This means you can focus on the job at hand - producing and directing your film.
Most Film Directors have never trained as DOPs. The Film Directors who make Hollywood films and big budget independent films, always hire a Director of Photography who takes care of the technical aspects of shooting the film. The DOP in turn will then hire their camera operators on a big budget film. This is how it has happened since the early days of Hollywood and how it happens today at the top end of Film Making.
In small independent films, the lines between DOP, Camera Operator and Director are more blurred. One extreme example is El Mariachi where Robert Rodrigos was an all up one man crew directing the film and shooting the film as best as he could. The book “Rebel without a Crew” is a great read and talks about Robert’s adventure shooting El Mariachi with a crew of only one.
My feeling is this. As a Film Director, you want to be like the General looking at every aspect of the film. You want to be like Steve Jobs and have the vision for the project and imbue your vision through to your creative crew. Hiring an expert DOP will improve the quality of your film dramatically.
Matt Smith hired me as his DOP on “Repressed” (please have a look). This meant that he could add his vision to my cinematography skills and get the film that he wanted. I was able to help him get the visual look that was needed for the film. I spent a full day on the various locations in pre-production planning the shot list. Matt also had ideas visually for the film and as a result a wonderful collaboration happened with a great result, a short film that looks awesome. Matt actually edited “Repressed”. What a great job!
Hiring professionals will increase the success of your film. Remember the Director in the indie film world will usually get the credit for the successful film and not the DOP or the Editor. So why make life hard for yourself?
If you shoot the film yourself, it might be a lot of fun. However, if you are inexperienced, it is likely that you will make many mistakes and shoot films with lack of coverage, ultimately ending in a poor film.
If your goal is to use several films learning via mistakes and you are not worried by the results of your film, well this might be a fun way to go. If your goal is to earn money as a gun for hire DOP, it is important to learn how to be an expert DOP via shooting as many films.
However, if your goal is to become a successful film director as quick as possible, shooting your own films is not a great way to proceed. Hiring a professional DOP is the way forward and should be part of your production plan for your film productions.
Pros for hiring a DOP:
- You get great shots and coverage for your edit
- The Film looks much better and has the professional sheen
- You can find a collaborator in the DOP you choose that will stay with you on many future films
- It is much less stress
Cons for hiring a DOP:
- You might have creative clashes with your DOP
- You might feel that your vision for the look of the film is not adhered to
- You might choose the wrong DOP
- Good DOPs cost money; all good professionals do
Most of the above cons can be alleviated if you check out your DOP. Check how you feel intuitively with the DOP when you first meet him or her.
See the films that he or she has shot before. Do not look at showreels. See the full film. Make sure their previous work is exceptional as that is exactly what you will get. A great way to get value when you hire a DOP is to ask them to throw in all the cameras and lights equipment with their labor in a daily capped fee. This way you can get the equipment as part of the deal.
- Look at our Services page
- Place in Google Search one or all of the following Keywords: DOPs, DOP Agents, Cinematographers
- Star Now
However, I highly recommend that you learn as much as you can about cinematography and shot listing for a scene when you are learning film making craft. This way you will be able to communicate with your DOP and get the result you are after. One way, of course, of learning about cinematography is to book on to a film school that teaches you all the technical side of film making. Make sure you get to do all the crew roles. That is the why we created the ’4 Month Film School’ so you get to sample all the crew roles. This will ultimately make you a better Film Director in the long run.
Colm O’Murchu Director
August 31, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Screenplay Report Week one
Screenplay Update on Absolute Freedom – Week 1 of a 5 Week writing Process.
Once again I am sharing my experiences in creating the 110 minute feature film, ‘Absolute Freedom’. I am not saying that my writing process is for everyone but maybe you can try some of these processes and see if they work for you.
I started to write the screenplay for ‘Absolute Freedom’ one week ago. Today is Saturday, 31st August, 2013 and it is the end of Week One. The Screenplay will be 110 pages long and I am currently at Page 25 with 85 pages still to write. At an average of about 25 pages per week, I will complete and polish the script by the end of September, 2013.
I am finding the process very enjoyable as I have a 30 page plan called a Story Pillar Map. Every story event has been worked out in advanced. Therefore, the process of now expanding to a 110 page screenplay is exceptionally enjoyable. I find it hard to stop writing at midday and would like nothing more than to continue writing the screenplay. This detailed preparation has now made all the difference to the writing enjoyment.
The great thing about having the 30 page Story Pillar Map is that there is zero chance of getting writer’s block. The reason for this is that all the story issues have already been worked out and resolved. That part of the process took about three months working on it part time, before writing the first page of screenplay last week.
Why am I not writing more than five pages per day? Firstly, there are corrections at the start of the morning on the material from the previous day. This also helps me to get zoned into writing the scenes for today. Four to five pages takes me about 90 minutes – two hours to write.
Yes, if I wrote six hours per day, I would write 16 pages per day making the writing process only 10 days. And yes, its tempting to get the script written fast.
However, I still have to look after Sydney Film Base, Australian Film Base and International Film Base and oversee our 4 Month Film Schools and write the blog. There is something productive anyway about writing five pages per day in that one can detail, take time and put everything into the morning session.
I am also very conscious and mindful that every scene is creating work for our crew and cast in March-April, 2014. Every car explosion, shootout and 100 extras is easy to write and rather challenging to produce. Therefore, I want to make sure that every scene is quality.
We all find our own different processes. When I am writing the screenplay, the scenes that work always make me feel elated and excited. On the contrary, the scenes that are not working make me feel listless and frustrated. This has only happened to me on one scene out of the 45 scenes I have written last week. I believe that this is due to the intense preparation in advance of writing the screenplay. When multiple scenes do not work, it is very frustrating and ultimately leads to writer’s block and a depressed mood and trip to the pub to medicate.
I believe the best way to avoid problematic writer’s block is to work on your story Creation and Story Pillars in detail till you feel 100%. Work with a team of people or one other person that you click with. Work together on the story. Question every story event till you have found gold. Then place it as a Story Event in your 30 page treatment.
When we were creating the story for ‘Absolute Freedom’, a story event could sit on top of 5 other ideas for that story event. That’s five ideas that we dished and excluded from the final story. Over many a long country drive, walk in the country, Valeska Madrid and I worked tirelessly on the story creation from May-July this year.
One other technique I use regularly is this. I recruit the actors to workshop a Story Event. I describe the scene and then the actors improvise the scene. I workshop the scene till I think it is right. I then record the scene on my IPHONE recorder. Then when I write the next scenes, I have a feel for the scene that I am writing. I can even play back the impros and hear the scene. I may even use some of the dialogue from the impros.
Also, I can check scenes that I have written and workshop them with actors. Having actors working alongside the screenwriting process is invaluable for me.
My writing process may help you with yours. Find what works for you. In the end the goal is the same: a Great Screenplay that attracts finance and excitement and the very best cast.
To summarise my process.
1. Spend time with your creative team creating the story.
2. Story comprises story events and pillars and for a feature film will be approximately 30 pages. This document is called a Treatment or Story Events Document.
3. Write at least 25 pages per week and your screenplay will be completed and polished in five weeks.
4. Recruit actors to workshop your story events in advance of writing the screenplay.
5. Also, actors can help you with your next draft as you perfect you screenplay. The actors can workshop your scenes so you can actually see the scenes working.
6. You need an awesome screenplay to make a great movie, so put time and effort into creating one.
August 27, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Now You See Me – Very enjoyable Film
My Score 8 out of 10 – Critics 5 out of 10 – Average Audience 7 out of 10.
Many Critics did not like this film. Audiences responded much better as you see from the score. I very much enjoyed the film and personally found the film very entertaining and compelling. The film had exceptional Film Sets and the cinematography and the editing was at a 10 out of 10 standard. Very enjoyable
August 22, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Financing Feature Films
It has been a big decision to make. The decision is this. Do I share all our confidental information about the financing of our film, ‘Absolute Freedom’? Do I publish to the world exactly how we are going about making our next film? Many film industry people have advised me not to share. I am going against their advise and sharing.
Why is this?
I believe that the internet has so dramatically changed the world and sharing what you know is part of that process. Yes, I hope you become fans of the blog. Yes, I hope you tell others about this blog who then gain education from my experiences. Yes, I hope that you are all primed for the release of ‘Absolute Freedom’ in late 2014.
I have to say I am very excited about our next feature film, ‘Absolute Freedom’, which at the moment, is well on the way to being completely financed. With about 60% of the $710,000 budget reached, the ease at which this film is attracting financiers is breathtaking. We have had two investors commit $100,000 each and there are multiple $15,000 investments. Also, IFB has invested facilities and time to the value of $120,000.
I believe that the main reasons for this is the quality of the story.
Also, we have our deadline. The fact is this: no matter what, International Film Base will be shooting in the first half of 2014. The Shoot is currently scheduled for March and April 2014. I have that certainty everytime I pitch a high net investor about the film. We are on the move towards that date.
Another reason is our great Business Plan.
You may notice I am setting up links to our Business Plan and that is to show you an example of what you can set up for your business plan for your future films. Also, maybe some of you will get excited and decide to partner me in the great adventure of making my next film.
Today in this post, I would like to outline the different ways of attracting finance.
- Government Direct Finance
- Market Attachments – Film Distributor Attachment.
- Soft Money borrowed against the Producer Offset.
What we are using in our financial plan is the following and none of the above:
- Producer Offset
- Private Investments
- Associate Producer Partnership
- Finder’s Fee with Finders finding finance
- Attracting an international name Actor that audiences will recognise
- International Sales Agent
Each finance area requires a post in itself. Lets break down the six areas that I am using.
Australian Producer’s Offset: (Only in Australia). I am going to write a post on this area very soon. In a nutshell, the offset produces a 20 – 40% guaranteed return of your approved production budget called the QAPE (Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure. That means that your investors are guaranteed that before any sales of your film. This means that your bottom line is here. Sales of the film will then recoup the rest of the budget and move you towards blue sky profit. This is different to the Soft Money option outlined above.
Private Investments: Investors invest as limited partners in your film production. They have no creative control or input outside of financing your film. They want you to look after their investment. The more you do, the better for your next film.
Associate Producer Partnership: We already have several people who have invested as Associate Producers. For details, go to our Amazing Opportunity Page and you can see all the benefits for the Producer. This is great for investors who also want to be Film Producers and get their first producing credit. These opportunities only come once in a blue moon so the smart emerging film maker will grab this one.
Donation: This is usually for the small amounts of investment. We have a donation page on indiegogo.com. This is for people who would like to donate $5 to $2 000. Everything helps. We have as of yet not bothered too much with this area. But it’s there for people who want to donate.
Finder’s Fee: I need to write a post on this. The Finder’s Fee is very exciting and some of you may want to play Finance Finder for us.
A Finder’s Fee is 15% Commission on any money raised. This is great for money motivated people who want to make some extra money. Generally these people know wealthy people and they persuade them to invest in your film. This one is really working for us. More detail on this one in the future.
Attracting International Named Actors (INA) into your film: This is a major asset for your film and I believe every serious indie film maker who is making their feature film should look at attracting a named actor. Yes, we are looking at this for our film. With an international name actor, you will attract international sales for your film. This is so important. I will write a post on this later.
International Sales Agent (another post later…. Phew): Having a reputable sales agent attached in advance is of great advantage and will help attract a named actor.
Finance is energy and belief in your film. Make sure you have made three successful short films of your own, learn off the experience of feature films like mine and go for your own feature film as soon as possible. Indie Feature Films make your career.
Indie Film Making Passion from Colm O’Murchu – Director International Film Base
Colm O’Murchu is an indie film maker who loves making films. You can find out more on this page: http://internationalfilmbase.com/colm-omurchu-director. Please spread the word for this indie filmmaking blog.
August 13, 2013 by colm07 · Comments Off on Story Creation first- Writing the Screenplay second. This is what we are doing on Absolute Freedom
One of the main reasons I have decided to keep a regular blog is to highlight the process
of creating our next feature film, Absolute Freedom. I want to include what works for the film production. I also want to include what does not work. The challenges are one of the fun parts of making a film and I am sure we will have many on our road to completing the film in late 2014.
So where are we at now in the development process? We have completed the story creation and are about to start on the 2nd draft of the screenplay. Up to recently, my main focus was creating the story for the film Absolute Freedom. We have finally completed the process after months of diligent work.
Creating a story for a 120 minute film is an exceptionally challenging process and many film makers fall down at this very important part of the process.
Its very important to recognise the difference between creating a filmic story and writing a screenplay. There are big differences between the two.
Some writers take on the challenge of writing the screenplay as they are making up the story. This is exceptionally challenging and generally the writer will end up with a very weak story or even worse, end up with writer’s block.
With Absolute Freedom our new 120 minute film, we have spent many a day working on the story. We have what I call Story Pillars. These are story events that move the story forward.
This is how we train our students to write: breaking the Sreenwriting process in two:
1 Create the story first, story event by story event. In other words, create your characters and the story plot and movement. Make sure there is strong objective and create extreme obstacles and blocks in the way of the success of the character.
2 Then, after you have spent an exceptionally long time preparing your story, only then write the screenplay.
For example on Absolute Freedom, we have 28 pages with 93 Story Events. When we start to write the second draft of the screenplay, the 93 Story Events will expand to a 115 page Screenplay. Working on the Story first and writing the Screenplay second is an efficient way of working on the story.
When I start to write the screenplay, one of the ways I work is that we cast actors in the roles and then improvise the scenes. We actually record the scenes and then write the scenes and the dialogue from the improvisations. This is a very effective process and really guides the writer to write scenes that work.
This is the process that we are working on at the moment with our script. I have just placed a casting in Star Now and with the help of the very best actors we will now workshop and write our screenplay over the next five weeks.
This process saves a dramatic amount of re-writing and creates exceptionally real screenplays.
Everyone has a different process for writing their screenplay. There are no rules or guaranteed formulas to make the screenplay work. However, it is advisable to work on your story first before actually writing a 120 page screenplay.