I want to make a film, but don't want to write a script...where can I get one? - Page 2 at DVinfo.net

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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old January 8th, 2009, 11:19 PM   #16
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I did this for a living for a few years.

Finding scripts for directors, I mean.

It's actually fairly simple. You want to start by taking an inventory of locations that are available to you for free or that would be inexpensive. Seriously - this will make your job a lot easier. Some locations, like schools and courtrooms, are just outrageously expensive unless you have an in - schools frequently run over $3k a day. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask your family's friends if you can shoot in the house/garage/business, etc. Familiarize your self with the local permit process and with how much city/county/state facilities are in your region. Double check the requirements. LA used to make a big deal about how you could shoot on county property for free but then would hit you with needing to have electricians, fire marshal and security officers that would cost you hundreds per hour. Don't get caught off guard.

Then, put an ad on Craig's List Writing Gigs LA for a screenplay with only a handful of characters and locations. Leave out your budget because some writers have bizarre ideas about how much their script would cost to produce. If you have a particularly spectacular location that you are dying to shoot in, list that. This is important - state that the script must be WGA registered, and that you only want a 3 sentence pitch. Good writers will send you well-written letters (either formally or informally so) with three sentence pitches. Bad writers will send you badly written letters and will not be able to restrict themselves to three sentences. If someone's pitch letter is badly written or they do not stick to the three sentences, skip it. Their script sucks - trust me. For payment, write "negotiable". If someone writes demanding to know what your budget is, or who you are (if you don't identify yourself), ignore them. I've indulged some of these people and they remain a pain in the ass. One of my all time favorite scripts, came with a one sentence pitch that had nothing to do with the script - it was something about how sexy the writer was - but made me laugh out loud. That was a great script. So, if someone sends you a pitch actually unrelated to their script, but it's engaging, take a chance on it.

Then just start reading. Set a goal of reading 100 scripts. It's easy to settle for the first lovely one that comes along, but don't do it. Read. Read. Read. Read online, if it doesn't drive you nuts, because that way the writers don't have to spend money mailing you the script and you don't have stacks of scripts sitting around your house that you're too guilty to throw out.

When you find the one you like best, talk to the writer. See if you two click because you aren't going to be writing him/her a big check to walk away. This is their baby, and they'll wind up being involved. Tell them it's ultra low-budget project and tell them how you intend to produce it. See what they say. Most of the writers who respond will be eager to get something produced and they will work with you. If they are a WGA writer, you won't be able to afford them, but call them and see what they say. But trust me, there are so many beautifully written scripts out there, that you don't need to buy one from a union writer for your first time out. And the quality of the writing can be just as high. Then option it for $5 while you put your money together. Agree on an affordable sum either when you go into production or when the feature sells. If they are an unproduced writer, they will likely be content going for the latter if they don't think that everyone else is going to be racking up big paychecks. Most indie directors who produce their films don't get paid upfront either because the money isn't there for them to do so. Make clear that if you won't get paid either until they do.

Craig's List is great. I've had Academy Award winning writers respond to me from my ads. You will get flooded with responses so figure out a way to organize what it is you're doing.

My last piece of advice is this - look for a perfect script. You should be able to find something that you don't need to change anything on. Most projects go awry when either the producers or the director decide to tinker with script. Don't do it. Most scripts that Hollywood buys are beautifully written, and then fall apart during development. Until you have a lot of experience as a story teller and a director, leave the screenplay alone. On our last feature, we changed one word of dialogue - adamant to adamantine. It was just funnier. Brad staged things differently than the writer envisioned, but the story remained absolutely intact. And Brad is a professional writer with a dozen for-hire scripts to his name, who has done an enormous amount of directing. And that's one of the things I've seen over and over again - experienced indie professionals are much more likely to be horrified by the development. Newbies are much more likely to think they can make the script better. The truth of the matter is that people who have the talent for making scripts better, rarely need to buy a script from someone else.

Best of luck. I am happy to be of assistance in any way.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 12:23 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
That's why practical experience is so valued. Studying basketball isn't going to get you in the NBA until you've actually played.



Funny thing is, even the makers of crappy films have lots of experience - and that wasn't enough.

Screenwriters who write good scripts and decent actors want to work for someone with a proven track record, unless they get paid. And investors won't finance a movie unless experienced people are on board.

Kind of a catch-22.



I guess you could always be the first one in the history of the world to prove everyone else wrong...


J.
I'm not sure what bar you are determining "crappy" to be... but I've seen people who have made pretty decent films on their first attempt, in my opinion. Thanks for the feedback though.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 01:04 AM   #18
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Wasn't Sex, Lies and Videotape Soderburgh's first feature?
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Old January 9th, 2009, 01:37 AM   #19
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Yeah, Sex was his first feature, after making a couple of docs and a short specifically to raise money and potential investors in Sex Lies and Videotape.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 10:18 AM   #20
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And speaking of Soderburgh, editing a few feature films for other directors will teach you an enormous amount about what to do and not do when directing your own feature. You will be a fundamentally different and better filmmaker just for the experience of the editing.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:25 AM   #21
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I, like Douglas, have the equipment and the experience of doing shorts, local commercials, business videos and the like. I have actually written quite a few scripts, a couple of which have gotten great reviews, coverage, and placement in high end competitions. My issue is always with money. Finding financing. It would be nice to find a producing partner that could help hunt these out, but my networking skills have proven to be, um, lacking. :)

I need to work on those more if I really want to get somewhere.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:26 AM   #22
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Lori - Right you are.

Douglas, I think you SHOULD make a feature if that is where your primary interest lies, and apparently it does. I think most people here are just trying to warn you off the pitfalls of taking on the project without knowing the dangers.

Since making money off this project is your primary goal - you're not interested in making a self-indulgent piece of crapola... Then you have to approach the project with a cold, business accumen. You can't affort to make mistakes. "Cutting Corners" in the wrong areas can cost you much more than you think.

With 'volunteer' cast, crew and locations - you can manage to get enough footage on tape to cut together a ninety minute 'film'. Your challenge is to make those ninety minutes shine far and above the other thousand or so 'ninety minute wonders' being shot in garage's and back-lots across the nation this year.

So, what is going to make your movie special? That's your challenge. What is going to make you want to spend all your hard earned cash on feeding a cast and crew for 20+ days, renting the gear you need but don't have, paying for unexpected costs and permits and the cash you'll need to enter festivals.

That script had better be AWESOME - and the Actors had better be AMAZING - or the approach has to be totally NEW (No one wants another "Blair Witch")

(Side Note: For another amazing 'first feature' - check out Ridley Scotts "The DUELISTS" - Of course, he had been shooting and directing commercials for years too. )
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Old January 9th, 2009, 02:01 PM   #23
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Richard,

I have produced six low budget features, and what I like about it is that you are free to have a great, intact script, great acting, and great directing without interference from people who have money at stake. I can cast a film better when there is little risk than when there is a lot at risk.

As for Heath's concerns about raising money, shoot your first feature on your own dime - seriously. It's incredibly important that you not burn through exterior financial resources first time out. Making the first feature is easy. It's getting the money for the second one that is tough. So, get a second job and save up $10k. Make the movie and get it into festivals. Don't write the script yourself - find a beautifully written one from some writer who really wants a movie made. Get it through post and into festivals - then you will have something to show investors. Don't even take money from your parents because you'll learn a lot more on your own dime. Then you hit your friends and family up for $5k to $10k each - and you string a bunch of those people together. A series of $1500 checks saved my butt on my last feature and the crew got paid.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 02:08 PM   #24
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Lori

What was the average budget expenditure on each of those features, and the average ROI? They all turned a profit I assume? Douglas is mostly concerned with making money on his first feature.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:14 PM   #25
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Richard,

LOL - When you're writing me a check to finance a feature, we can talk ROI.

At no budget level is anyone even close to guaranteed to make money on a feature film - whether you have millions and lots of celebrities or thousands and none. There are no guarantees. Along this line, a friend of mine bailed out Orion years ago. They led her to the film vault where they had finished films they'd never released. Her job was to watch all of them and figure out which one to market. She picked Blue Sky and Jessica Lange won an Academy Award. The rest of the films stayed on the shelf - several of which were never released.

If someone really wants to make money on a feature, then there best shot is doing cheesy horror and direct-to-video action films. Other than that, there are no guarantees. Until then, to satisfy your soul, buckle in and make the best film you can.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:29 PM   #26
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I am asking specifically what the return on investment was on the features you mentioned you produced. I think it's insightful real-world experience like yours that makes this forum so valuable to its members.

Sure, 'money can be made' from low-budget features - as a generic statement, one needs only point to the success of "Blair Witch". What's really valuable is knowing how it works MOST of the time. You've produced six low-budget features. I'm asking what the average (ball-park) budget was for each of these features, and how much of a return on investment it provided the investors - again, ball-park is close enough.

Douglas is interested in producing his first feature film. He's asked for advice on how to go about finding scripts. Members have chimed in to give their real-world practical advice on exactly where to go to find scripts. They've also endeavored to point out some obstacles, and offer encouragemnet to make shorts first. He's pointed out that he's really not interested in shorts, as no one makes much money off of them. It is very important to him that this feature, his first ever, MAKES money.

Odds are, he'll be spending his own money, probably some friends. He doesn't have a slate of award-winning shorts to show them he can do it. He doesn't have the first ten minutes of the film already done - or a trailer shot as a 'proof of concept' to raise money. He'll have to figure out how to set up an LLC or a Limited Partnership at the very least, if he's got other peoples money involved. (This is really true with friends and family, if you want to be able to sit across the table at Thanksgiving).

He understands he has to find a script that is 'limited' in locations, actors, effects - etc. He is going to have to rely on the INCREDIBLE script and KNOCK OUT performances of his volunteer actors, in order to make money.

I'm asking you how your six features made money utilising GREAT scripts, small casts and low/no pay crew. It CAN be done... that's the point right? That's the point of this thread.
WHat was their budget? What was their ROI? What script elements made them successful and attractive to INVESTORS and DISTRIBUTORS? These are the numbers and facts that are going to illustrate to Douglas, exactly what he's up against. How much he can realistically be expected to spend, and how much he can realistically be expected to make - based on your experience producing six successfull low-budget features.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:33 PM   #27
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Lori, I would like to know the answer to that question.

One issue I see with searching for a script, is finding my particular genre. I want to make an urban film... something along the lines of Hustle & Flow, Friday, Baby Boy or She's Gotta Have it....but it there doesn't appear to be many scripts along those lines in the links you guys listed.

The one fear I have as far as getting a writer to make one....what if I don't like their script? I was on the newspaper staff in school and was considered a pretty good writer, but I'm not really crazy about writing my own script right now....but I may have to go down that road.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:59 PM   #28
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Douglas,

Put the ad on Craig's List Los Angeles Writing Gigs. It will cost you nothing and you will have, easily, 150 responses and maybe far more. As I said before, I have had Academy Award winning writers respond to my queries. Specify that you want an urban script - there are hundreds and hundreds of them floating around Los Angeles and New York. Read the query letters that you get and only reveal yourself to the writers whose pitches interest you. Set a goal of reading 100 scripts. That's going to take some doing (which is how I wound up getting hired repeatedly to do it), but it's worth it - you'll learn a lot about what you're looking for in that journey. Most of them we'll be mediocre. Several of them will be good. And a few will be knock outs. Compare the knock outs to your resources. Talk to the writer and see if you click. Reread my post above because the details of what goes in the ad will help you weed out badly written scripts from the get go.

Honestly, no one is going to talk about budgets and ROI on an open board. I'm stunned that I'm even being asked. That's information that goes into business plans with an NDA.

This is my best work here:
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Old January 9th, 2009, 04:00 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Douglas Wright View Post
Lori, I would like to know the answer to that question.

One issue I see with searching for a script, is finding my particular genre. I want to make an urban film... something along the lines of Hustle & Flow, Friday, Baby Boy or She's Gotta Have it....but it there doesn't appear to be many scripts along those lines in the links you guys listed.

The one fear I have as far as getting a writer to make one....what if I don't like their script? I was on the newspaper staff in school and was considered a pretty good writer, but I'm not really crazy about writing my own script right now....but I may have to go down that road.
Douglas.
I got your email today about the urban story you wanted, but as you've found already, there are not a lot of those types of stories out there.

I'm not a pro, and maybe Lori can chime in here. If money is the ultimate goal, maybe finding something in a commercially viable genre is the answer. Find a script in a genre you know does well. Get the best script you can and shoot that. Then maybe once you have that under your belt, you can find the perfect urban story and have that as your next project.

Just a thought.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 04:06 PM   #30
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If numbers are what you're looking for, just scroll down the list here: The Numbers - Movie Budgets

The numbers won't help you, really. In the end it is the finished product that has to 'earn' the return and that may well depend on far more than the content. Comparisons between different productions are fickle at best.

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