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Old August 14th, 2006, 01:50 PM   #1
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My unreasonable demand....

Here's the project.....

I'm trying to put together a feature film dealing with domestic abuse. Its narrative fiction, based on an actual case, with the names changed. The scriptwriter (who is not me) has been involved in the subject for several years.

Of course, the issue is raising money. I agree it's not fair to ask talented people to work long, hard hours for nothing. Even if the subject matter has redeeming value.

Here's one idea.... We are putting together a short documentary of interviews with victims and (we hope) perpetrators of domestic abuse. That part, I feel I can do that with a small group of people I've worked with before. Then I would cast some of the lead parts, and do a teaser/trailer for the film.

The short doc and teaser would then be used as fundraising materials - here's our take on the subject, and a bit of what the final feature would look like. Then we go to every funding source/charity/philanthropist we can get to.

I'm proposing they work on the teaser - essentially doing a short film for free. They get food, of course. If the fundraising goals are met, we do the feature and they are paid. I have a pretty good idea in my market of what the payrates usually are, so I'm budgeting a reasonable amount.

I've done a couple of short films, I know how much work they are. I'd love to pay them all. But the fact is people often work on shorts without pay, it's not wholly unreasonable for a good project. Plus the idea is we are raising funds so people get a reasonable compensation for a larger project.

Does this sound at all reasonable? Am I automatically amongst the ranks of cheapo craigslist s***heads?
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Old August 14th, 2006, 04:06 PM   #2
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As long as they get paid in the end for helping completing the feature, it shouldn't be too much of a demand. I can see your situation working if everyone is on the same page and agrees with the same mind set of, 'look, we need money before we can do anything, to jump start our funds we need some work to be done free, but once enough funds are raised, we will complete the feature and everyone will be paid fairly'.

Just you must make sure that in the end, the feature will be completed and enough money is made off of it to pay everyone including youself, otherwise everyone is screwed and may not want to work with you again.

You could pay everyone at the end, assuming everyone has stable jobs and won't depend on the creation of the feature to pay their bills etc. I think the main thing is, everyone should agree that they are in this together, and once they get through the hard part it should turn out for the good in the end.

Last edited by Justin Tomchuk; August 14th, 2006 at 06:44 PM.
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Old August 14th, 2006, 05:04 PM   #3
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Thanks. Definitely all details will be put in writing, including how much needs to be raised.
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Old August 14th, 2006, 05:13 PM   #4
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from my experience !!
i've seen many, very many teaser made for projects bidget in the 60-400k range over past 20years .. can't remember a one that ever rasied the $$ - most teasers just go on directors, DP , editors reel ....

i've seen many , very many persons just shop their scripts around with passion and have raised the funding for their projects- 60-400k projects..
IMO use the documentary as a show case for the subject and have passion when you speak about it & the script ...

it's the script .. it's the director ( they show past work ) , producer ( what they done in past) ..

what is your budget ?
you planning to cast local actors ? SAG actors ? any name actor?

if you are looking for "investors" .. remember investors look at it as strickly busness - Risk vs. Reward ...

if you are looking for donations ? then form a non - profit so donations would be tax deductable ...

then there are family , friends , credit cards ...

if you do the teaser .. IMO having persons work for free can work - just make sure you feed them very good thru-out the day-night ...
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Old August 15th, 2006, 07:46 AM   #5
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It's all unknowns... I'm the director, so unless you've heard of me, no famous director. All local talent.

The writer is unknown as a writer, but is familiar with all the shelters in the area. She's been in contact with them - she's basically the producer as well. Our strategy is to pursue any arts grants that are available, plus look to individuals who frequently donate to that cause. Hence the documentary and the trailer. So far, at least on the phone, people are very enthusiastic and willing to help. They apparently also feel the real story has never been told. Even the Boston police said they would furnish a spokesperson for the documentary. They have a new task force on the subject and want to get the word out.

We are very passionate about our project.... the script is tremendous. Basically the first part is a beautiful love story. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, and it's all lushly romantic and steamy . When we get to the abuse part it's absolutely brutal. I mean he just pounds her. Reading it made me wince.

So the story is very powerful and real. We have some articulate well spoken people with connections in the social work world, and a sort of 'built-in' audience, people who are interested in the subject matter.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 08:12 AM   #6
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The Coen brothers actually secured funding for their first feature, Blood Simple, by making a teaser trailer. They basically shot the scene on the highway with the guy crawling away from the car and used that. It worked for them, but they also admit that they were spinning it a bit more as a horror film than it actually was because the money was easier to recover in that genre.

Good luck.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 08:38 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Barry Gribble
The Coen brothers actually secured funding for their first feature, Blood Simple, by making a teaser trailer. Good luck.
Thanks. Yeah, I'd heard about that, so that's one thing that made me want to do it. Plus, if the trailer looks good, perhaps it's a shield against someone saying 'Great story, but you yahoos with your digital cameras can't make a decent looking shot!'

I keep a diary of what we do each day, I plan to post regularly (as much as decency allows) so others can learn from our experience.

I also bought the dvd of 'Broken' a short action film shot on a DVX100A. I think he spent $8,000, mostly on special effects. It looked tremendous, I believe he recouped a lot of money with his 'How I did it' dvd.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 12:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Stevens
Here's the project.....

I'm trying to put together a feature film dealing with domestic abuse. Its narrative fiction, based on an actual case, with the names changed. The scriptwriter (who is not me) has been involved in the subject for several years.

Of course, the issue is raising money. I agree it's not fair to ask talented people to work long, hard hours for nothing. Even if the subject matter has redeeming value.

Here's one idea.... We are putting together a short documentary of interviews with victims and (we hope) perpetrators of domestic abuse. That part, I feel I can do that with a small group of people I've worked with before. Then I would cast some of the lead parts, and do a teaser/trailer for the film.

The short doc and teaser would then be used as fundraising materials - here's our take on the subject, and a bit of what the final feature would look like. Then we go to every funding source/charity/philanthropist we can get to.

I'm proposing they work on the teaser - essentially doing a short film for free. They get food, of course. If the fundraising goals are met, we do the feature and they are paid. I have a pretty good idea in my market of what the payrates usually are, so I'm budgeting a reasonable amount.

I've done a couple of short films, I know how much work they are. I'd love to pay them all. But the fact is people often work on shorts without pay, it's not wholly unreasonable for a good project. Plus the idea is we are raising funds so people get a reasonable compensation for a larger project.

Does this sound at all reasonable? Am I automatically amongst the ranks of cheapo craigslist s***heads?
Personally, I don't think its a matter of whether or not you are asking people to work for free. What makes those posts rediculous are just what they are asking for, and the context that they ask it in. Such as

1. Rediculous requests: They aren't just asking for crew, but for entire production packages such as lights, cameras, sound, etc. People pay lots of money for these things, and every hour that its used costs them money. So its more like saying "Pay me to make my movie" than it is asking just for free help.

2. Rediculous experience requirements: Alot of the posts ask for someone with 3+years experience shooting HD or other crazy things like that. If you are asking people to work for free then you will get college students and should appreciate the fact that you do.

3. Pie in the sky promises: This is the only place I would worry about your request sounding like one of "those guys", since you are promising positions on the feature. Most of the posts claim to have all these crazy connections, or that they are almost guarenteed to recoup, guarenteed to be able to pay deferred etc. If it was so guarenteed then why wouldn't they pay in the first place.

Personally, I wouldn't promise paid positions on a feature...I've seen jobs like this and I tend to turn them down...because in all honesty I tend to believe it won't end up happening. Secondly, what if you get someone on your team for the short who is lazy and unskilled...do you really want to promise them a position?

I would recommend instead offering alternative compensation, such as your services as an editor, or letting them borrow some of your lighting equipment or something of that nature. I would take a job like that in a second, because it makes me take the person seriously. If they will work for free for me, then I will work for free for them.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Champagne
Personally, I don't think its a matter of whether or not you are asking people to work for free. What makes those posts ridiculous are just what they are asking for, and the context that they ask it in.
Yeah, I hear you. Everyone wants the world, but not pay for the world. I didn't want to be one of those guys.

I have a couple young film school grads that I've worked with on shorts and event videography. They have regular PA jobs on commercials and the few features that shoot out here. It's real world experience, but I figure on my production they are now DPs, doing what they studied to do.

I tell them I know you're inexperienced, but I believe in your talent. Whatever happens, I know you did your best, and you've had valuable experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Champagne
Personally, I wouldn't promise paid positions on a feature...I've seen jobs like this and I tend to turn them down...because in all honesty I tend to believe it won't end up happening. Secondly, what if you get someone on your team for the short who is lazy and unskilled...do you really want to promise them a position?
For the crew, this job is largely such an arrangement, I was working on another guy's feature. He had to put it on hold (for $ reasons, go figure). He had already bought a bunch of equipment and is letting me borrow it. Much of the crew is also helping me out for the same reason.

A lot of my proposition is for actors, which I don't have. Definitely I think there would be an 'employment at will' clause where they can decline to be in the feature, and I can decline to ask them to participate.

Offering services in kind (I own a lot of my own equipment) is a good idea.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 01:18 PM   #10
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unknowns can raise $$ ..

if you are doing a Doc and a teaser then you have 2 projects that you are going to be judged by and one can detract from the other
IE: say the Doc is GREAT .. and the teaser is so-so = ?
the Doc is so-so and the teaser is great = ?
the Doc is great and the teaser is Great = ?

so the questions is why do you need to do 2 projects on the same subject?
i know one is a doc and one a drama ...
it seems ( could be wrong) you already feel that the dramatic project will be more powerful then the DOC ? which could be but may not be the case .. i'm not so sure the Doc will get 110% thought/labor/attention it deserves if you're already attaching a dramatic project to it ???
has any thought been given to a Doc with sections of Docu-drama attached in it ( like the project on the 3 british men that were held over in cuba for 2 years) ???

"Our strategy is to pursue any arts grants that are available"

whats not clear to me - do you have $$ for the Doc? or does that need to be raised too ? is the art grants for the doc or trailer or feature or all of em?
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Old August 15th, 2006, 01:56 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Don Donatello
whats not clear to me - do you have $$ for the Doc? or does that need to be raised too ? is the art grants for the doc or trailer or feature or all of em?
I have the resources for the Doc - which will be a short one, perhaps 20 minutes. All the money is for the feature. That's the heart of the project really.

The project started as simply the feature. I've been working on other people's projects to network and build up allies.

What we're really trying to do is build up a marketing campaign for the film - I never thought wife beating was a commercially viable genre. But obviously lots of people volunteer/donate/are concerned with domestic violence.

We did think of interspersing interviews with actual victims within the feature. We will probably still do that.

But then we thought of putting those interviews in a mini-doc which would be part of a presentation to raise funds. I call them funders, not investors. If the feature becomes an indie darling and the Weinsteins want to pay me for it great, but I'm not planning on it.

It's obviously a long term project. The mini doc is first, I'm devoting the time to making it good. The teaser is for future, that's why I'm throwing out ideas now.

How will I react to different reactions to the min-doc v. teaser? That depends on just what it is. If I think I can get funds to expand the mini-doc, maybe I would do that, then make the feature the next project. If the doc is hated and the teaser is well received, well I'm trying to get the feature done.

Whatever happens, I'm committed. If my producer and I make it in my living room with the 2 of us playing every part, by Gum I'll do that!!
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Old August 15th, 2006, 09:45 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dennis Stevens
I call them funders, not investors.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute.

What do you mean by "Funders"? There are exactly two kinds of people from whom you can legally get money with which to make a movie: investors (i.e. people who want to make a profit on their investment) and donors (i.e. charitable givers). No one is going to invest money in your production unless you incorporate, put together a business plan, etc. And if you take donations without non-profit status behind you, you're asking for all kinds of legal and tax troubles.

Unless you're extremely confident that you'll make money on this project, non-profit is the way to go. Since your cast and crew consist of local unknowns, I'd pretty much bet on operating at a loss if I were you... I mean no offense, that's just the reality. If the stars align for you just right and the project ends up in the black, maybe you can try to go the other route next time.

Someone mentioned filing for non-profit status. The only trouble with that is that you'll have to hire a lawyer, fill out a bajillion forms in triplicate, pay all kinds of fees, elect a board of directors, write by-laws and a charter... the list goes on and on. All this costs a fair amount of money, and can take a very long time.

So here's what you do: approach an existing non-profit in your area, either an Arts agency, or perhaps preferably, one whose social goals are somewhere in the ballpark of your subject matter. Since your film is about domestic violence, maybe there's a women's shelter or charity organization in your area? You'll approach them and ask them if they might consider serving as a "fiscal sponsor," which means basically that they will let you raise money in their name (it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll put up any money themselves). Once you've worked out a partnership with a non-profit, then you can go out to the public and solicit donations, which will be considered tax-exempt charitable donations for tax purposes. This means that donors will be able to write-off their donations on their next tax return. If you're courting donations from well-to-do individuals or companies, tax-deductibility can be a pretty sweet incentive. These folks donate their money to your allied non-profit, and the non-profit then awards the money to you for production purposes, usually taking 5% or 10% off the top.

Non-profit status will also allow you to apply for a ton more grants than you could ever get as an individual, because then it's the non-profit org who's applying for them... there are WAY more grants in this category than there are for individuals.

Just make sure you do your homework and be very, very prepared when you go to meet with the non-profit. You'll want to be as close to finished with pre-production as you can get. Homework makes them take you seriously.

Trust me on all this. I'm on the board of a non-profit that does this stuff for filmmakers on a pretty regular basis. I'd post a link to a book that might help you quite a bit with this process, but I'm not sure if it would be kosher to post a non-sponsored commercial link here. PM me or email me if you're interested, and I'll shoot you a link.
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Old August 16th, 2006, 07:10 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute.
Whoa. Yes, I totally hear what you're saying. Strike the word funder, I was definitely avoiding 'investor'

Given that, I shall definitely send you a message, I'm grateful for any help/advice from any quarter.
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Old August 16th, 2006, 07:58 AM   #14
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I did a quick search for 'fiscal sponsorship'. Certainly looks like the way to go...

I have some questions I didn't get out of my search.... At the risk of redundant questions, I wonder if anyone can tell me if....

If I do the film under fiscal sponsorship and - I'll wait til you stop laughing - somebody at a film festival sees it, and decides to buy for the Lifetime Channel. About a million to one against, I know, but for giggles say it happens. Can I do that? Do I split the money with the fiscal sponsor?

Do you get micromanaged by the fiscal sponsor? I mean they are lending themselves to the project, it's not unfair for them to want that.

I have a feeling these questions depend on each fiscal sponsor, but I don't know. If there's a quick response Jarrod or someone can post, great.

If I haven't said it enough already, thanks to everyone reading/responding to my posts.
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Old August 16th, 2006, 10:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Stevens
If I do the film under fiscal sponsorship and - I'll wait til you stop laughing - somebody at a film festival sees it, and decides to buy for the Lifetime Channel. About a million to one against, I know, but for giggles say it happens. Can I do that? Do I split the money with the fiscal sponsor?
Assuming that happens, your last question should answer itself if you are an ethical person and I would hope that you are. ;-)

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