Sunday, May 20, 2007

What kind of producer are you looking for?

I'm a producer. I can produce your film. There are thousands more just like me looking for a good script.

Here's the catch. We're not Hollywood studios. We can't give you a $10K payment upfront, can't option your script for more than a cup of coffee, can't work with a budget over six figures, sometimes only five figures, sometimes four, sometimes three, sometimes two. We need scripts with easy locations, no extras, just a few major roles. Well, not always. It is fairly easy to find all kinds of actors looking for any kind of work. By the way, I fit into the two figures category. But then you can buy four hours of DV tape for $20 bucks. It's simply a matter of who you point it at. Then you never know. With the right script I could just find a good backer out there.

Here's another catch. Most of us are writer-producer-directors. That means we'd just as soon write and produce our own stuff. A lot less argument, less negotiation. A lot easier to know the story when you write it yourself. Then again, we get writer's block like anyone else. So, anything could work.

What we can do is produce your script. Given the right script we'll make it into a film, maybe get it distributed, shop it at the festivals, maybe even find a studio backer to pump it up into a big Hollywood studio production. Maybe not. But, you run the same exact gamble with the big studios. Where do you think the phrase "development hell" comes from?

The question is, what are you willing to settle for? You can make a deal to have your script done on a limited non-profit basis with an indie like me. Look up the WGA low budget agreements. You can make your demands. Take your money on the back end, if there ever is a back end. If the film makes it to one festival or is shown in one theater, you can have it listed on IMDB. Not a big deal to some, but one credit there is certainly better than none.

You have to walk before you can run. Don't have any big time Hollywood producers knocking at your door? Haven't won any prestigious festivals? Well, here's your chance. Find a producer in the same boat you're in. Collaborate. You think you have what it takes, then show your stuff. Put your money where your mouth is.

One note of caution. Indie producers are looking for even better quality in a script than most Hollywood producers are. The indie circuit works with original, meaningful, poignant, touching stories. Sometimes just original with no story at all. No genre trite formulas. No zany bathroom humor. Not unless it's also very original.  Originality is the key. It's like location in the real estate market. Originality, originality, originality.

Even indie producers will ignore you, not take your calls, not get back to you, not want your script. After all they have the same few hundred thousands of scripts to choose from as the big boys do.

Another note of caution. Not all indie producers are interested in quality work. There are some not worth your time. You're out in the street here. Any joe with a few bucks can claim to be a producer and even shoot a film. The producer might be unscrupulous, dangerous even. But, the same applies to the big players. So, do your homework. Copyright your work. Get an agreement of some kind up front before you even submit a script. This is standard legal stuff. Know your target producer, what they've done, what potential they show, if they've been in jail lately. Then again, some good people have been in jail. Have they won a festival? Big plus! However, if any producer is willing to spend a year or so of their life on your film they must at least believe in themself. That can't be bad.

Anyway, it is another market to consider; one with very high standards where to see any kind of success only the very talented need apply, and even then it probably won't happen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mental Exercise

I sometimes hang out virtually on a writer's board and invariably the subject of writer's block crops up. What's the big problem with writer's block? Creativity, imagination, ability to think up a story. So, how can you improve these skills?

You can exercise your brain, which would logically increase your ability to imagine. One way to do it is to play video games, another might be fencing or other sports. But, sports are also very physical. Video games focus on the mental reflex.

The only physical part is in pushing a button or moving a joystick. I've successfully used this as a warm up for important tests. Taking a test in school or on the job for a promotion is always very stressful. The key to testing well is to react fast to questions and not mull over them or procrastinate. You have to go with your first instinct and it has to be right. To do that you need mental acuity which can be developed with mental exercise like playing video games. Don't study the night before a big test. Don't rest all day. Play video games. Though, being well rested is important, too.

Will this help your imagination? Maybe not. Imagination is more the right brain creative side. But, still, mental exercise is mental exercise. I would think reacting in video games requires some creativity in choosing the right path to take. There are probably some games that are better suited for creative exercise.

Then there's always doing other things creative, like painting or building or even fixing a car.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Heaven: film review

Cate Blanchett was awesome in this film, playing off of Giovanni Ribisi, who ain't chopped liver. You may remember him as the medic in Saving Private Ryan, or Charlotte's ignorant husband, John, in Lost in Translation.

Blanchett is one of those rare actors that become their character and you forget they're acting, which has to be the ultimate success for a actor. I can barely think of any others that pull this off; Nicole Kidman, Gary Oldman. Yes, Ribisi also. There are others. For Gary Oldman, at least, I think it may have worked against him if you consider fame a measure of success. He's so good you seldom recognize him as Gary Oldman. He's always his character. Come to think of it, considering Ribisi in his roles he's in the same boat.

Heaven was a great film. It's an incredible story and goes uphill from there. It's one of films you'll only find on late night cable or an indie channel. Incredibly underrated. It's a very touching and powerful story. It's timely in dealing with the official law enforcement paranoia over terrorism and the propensity to call someone a terrorist as a means to quickly legitimate brutal obtuse disregard for the human soul.

The film is a superb story by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz; directed by Tom Tykwer. Heaven was the first of a trilogy, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. But, Kieslowski unfortunately died before completing the last of them. Hell or L'Enfer as it's titled, is highly rated and apparently as touching a story as Heaven.

Heaven takes place in Italy but quickly reverts to English dialog making it an interestingly international piece.

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