SNEAK PREVIEW of IFH Book’s release of What You Don’t Learn In Film School by Shane Stanley.
The book is an especially invaluable tool for anyone thinking of going to film school. It is an in-depth, no-holds-barred look at making movies from ‘concept to delivery in today’s ever-evolving climate while breaking down the dos and don’ts of (independent) filmmaking.
Multi Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Shane Stanley writes a book anyone and everyone should read if they want an entertainment industry insider’s professional guidance on how to create a movie. This book is an especially invaluable tool to those who have, or plan to, attend a college or university film school. Your Complete Guide To (Independent) Filmmaking.
An in-depth, no holds barred look at making movies from ‘concept to delivery’ in today’s ever-evolving climate while breaking down the dos and don’ts of (independent) filmmaking. Learn invaluable industry secrets from top to bottom and discover the truth about independent film distribution as the lid is torn off the many myths surrounding sales agents and today’s release platforms that are certain to open reader’s eyes – and ruffle a few feathers!
If you are a filmmaker do yourself a favor and pick up his book What You Don’t Learn In Film School: A Complete Guide To (Independent) Filmmaking, it is a GREAT companion book to Rise of the Filmtrepreneur: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business.
READ THE REVIEWS AND WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
“Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented…an iconoclastic and invaluable course of ‘real world practical’ instruction and directly usable information that is unreservedly recommended as a film school curriculum textbook, as well as professional, community, and academic library Cinema Technology collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists of film students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.” – MIDWESTERN BOOK REVIEW
“Hollywood filmmaker Shane Stanley writes a book anyone and everyone should read if they want an entertainment industry insider’s professional guidance on how to create a movie.
This book is an especially invaluable tool to those who have, or plan to, attend a college or university film school.” – ABC NEWS, CROSSROADS TODAY
“Stanley illuminates the world of movie-making in detail in his fast-paced book, speaking from his own sometimes-agonized experience in the film realm. His book gets down into the nitty-gritty, touching upon real-life topics…” – STACY JENEL SMITH, BECK/SMITH THE HOLLYWOOD EXCLUSIVE
“A unique and personal perspective from a well-rounded, solid vantage point. A quality reference for anyone interested in independent filmmaking. Film school curriculums would do students a services to include Stanley’s book on a required reading list. A very valuable resource which needs to be in everyone’s bookshelf from the beginning actor to the accomplished director/producer.” – PACIFIC BOOK REVIEW
“A no holds barred, transparent look at making movies from concept to delivery. This book isn’t just for students – it’s for anyone trying to carve out a career in the film or television industry and evident that Stanley is trying to help bridge the gap between the classroom and real life by giving the next generation of filmmakers as much ammunition as possible before they venture out into Hollywood.” – www.businessinsider.com
‘Pulls no punches. It’s one of the most insightful and accurate books ever written on the subject. A master class bridging the gap between school and real life experience that will save you years of heartache. A must-read for anyone interested in pursuing a career in film.’ – Neal H. Moritz, Producer (Fast & Furious, S.W.A.T., 21 and 22 Jump Street)
‘Shane Stanley takes you to a Film School that only years of practical experience can teach. He covers both the business of independent filmmaking as well as the hard earned secrets of a successful production. A must-read for anyone who wants to produce.’ – Jeff Sagansky, Former President of Sony Entertainment and CBS Entertainment
‘An incredibly practical guide to making indie films in the current marketplace. Film schools should be teaching this stuff
in addition to everything else they teach about the art of film, because it’s all essential to actually getting something done and getting it seen. The advice in this book obviously comes from real experience!’ – Chris Hansen, Professor and Chairman, Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media
Alex Ferrari 0:00
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur. How to turn your independent film into a money making business? Learn more at filmbizbook.com Well guys, today you are in for a treat. I am doing another audio book preview from IFH books. And one of our best selling books is by a very popular guest here on the show Shane Stanley who's just on a few weeks ago, and his best selling book, What you don't learn in film school, a complete guide to independent filmmaking is plumb full of golden nuggets for filmmakers on how to actually put together an independent film in today's world. And I'm going to be giving you the first three chapters in this episode for FREE. Now if you want to pick up a copy of the audiobook version of Shane's book, and if you want it for free, all you need to do is go to freefilmbook.com Sign up for a free account on Audible. Choose Shane's book as your first book and it's free. And after 30 days, you can cancel if you like or stick around, it's up to you. But that way you get a free copy of the book. But if you already have an Audible account, you could still pick up the book there just type in IFH books in the search and all of our books will pop up there. So without any further ado, enjoy this free audio book preview of Shane Stanley's What you don't learn in film school.
Shane Stanley 1:37
What you don't learn in film school, a complete guide to independent filmmaking by Shane Stanley. Forward, you've decided to follow your heart into the world of filmmaking. Do what you love, love what you do, what could possibly go wrong? I'll skip the laundry list of possibilities and begin with rule number one. Don't let the bastards get you down. If you're easily discouraged, the entertainment industry is probably not a good fit for you. A positive attitude friendly and lacking and arrogance. No matter how talented you are, is the appropriate dress of the day. There will be what now make or break moments requiring skills you cannot learn in film school and probably couldn't imagine how to prepare. There is a solution. Find someone experienced, passionate about the art and craft of filmmaking. A natural born teacher who successfully navigated big budget filmmaking and nickel and dime production. Find someone patient and eager to share his wealth of knowledge with you. Someone who spent 30 plus years on a set in every capacity from golfer to writer, producer and director, someone with real character who's willing to share. Wait. I found someone for you. Meet Shane Stanley. Perfect. You're in really good hands. Paul Williams, Oscar Golden Globe and Grammy award winner, actor and Hall of Fame songwriter. Introduction. If you picked up this book, you're wanting more. You're a writer, a poet, a photographer, a painter, a performer, an editor, a director, you're a producer, an entrepreneur, a hustler, a dealmaker, a business person, and a visionary. You're someone with an idea, and you want to share it with the whole world. You're an independent filmmaker. Congratulations. You're probably also a rebel. And if you think you're not, go to the closest mirror, and look again, you'll need to find your inner rebel to succeed in this competitive, cutthroat, fulfilling, rewarding roller coaster of a ride business of entertainment. Shane Stanley embodies all these traits. He's a bright light of optimism. When you speak with Shane, you feel as if anything and everything is possible. And no matter what walk of life you come from, you will need to nurture and develop the skill sets of selling your humility, confidence, passion and enthusiasm in order to get your idea made. Some of you may be saying, Why do I have to sell I'm a writer or a director or a performer or fill in the blank. That's a producer's job. But the truth is, and they don't teach you this in film school. In order to get your idea made. You always have to be selling. You always have to be gaining people's confidence and trust. You always have to be proving yourself no matter how many credits you amass in your career. After all, you're asking for other people to put their faith and a lot of their money into your trust, aren't you? When I was a young filmmaker, I had no idea what I was doing. I was an artist with a hunger and drive, but no tools on how to get where I wanted to go. I wanted to tell stories to make movies Have people give me money to make the films that interested me, and along the way to my success, I was rejected, shut down, fired and told I would never work in this town again, true story. I picked myself back up, dusted off the demoralizing setbacks, and chose to learn the much needed lessons I took with me as I stepped back up to the plate and took another swing at bat. If you don't play the game, you can't possibly win. And you know what? I eventually made my way through the system. I learned. This is a business that's built on resilience, stamina, and attrition. If you stick around long enough, and last through the tough times, you will find your own success. What I would have given have Shane Stanley's knowledge at my fingertips to help me from stepping on the landmines of this industry. Shane's knowledge and experience in this book will give you what no film school can a practical guide towards achieving the dream of having your idea reach the rest of the world. I invite you to dive in, find your humility, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Adam Kane, director and producer before we begin, I don't know what it is about this godforsaken industry that makes people so crazy. Actually, maybe I do. Think about it. If you encounter someone who's striving to be a mechanical engineer, a biologist or an architect, chances are they're pretty grounded and seem to have a realistic yet solid game plan when it comes to achieving their career goals.
Now, do you ever notice the difference when you speak to an artist with or without a career plan? Maybe it's the passion that comes within creativity, or perhaps their attempt to bury deep seated doubt with rays of hope. However, if you ask me, I think we're all nuts. In our own way. It seems this business can bring out the worst or the crazy in some of the most level headed people. And I don't think that diminishes when someone becomes successful. It only gets worse. Can you think of any other industry in the world where being deemed successful is essentially the equivalent of winning the lottery. You could be working as a dishwasher who is writing a script in your spare time, when it falls into the right hands. Then suddenly, you're the next Shane Black or Eli Roth. Maybe you're crashing on your friend's couch, technically homeless, then you get that one audition, and you're co starring alongside gal, Godot. I guess those ads can make anyone crazy, living this way on a day to day basis. But it's not just the artists, as we've seen recently, the upper echelon of hoho would have their own problems in which how they behave, thanks to the media frenzy of late. And I don't think I need to elaborate on that. Too much more. However, I do hope this time there is a lasting change in the behavior on set. And behind the golden gates. It's long overdue. So yes, I believe you have to possess some kind of crazy to want to be in this industry. And I accept the fact that I too am guilty of being a little south of sanity. I mean, aren't we all just a bunch of torture geniuses anyway? We have to remember this is a business, the entertainment business, and boy, is it entertaining. But every step must be crafted with a purpose and a plan so you're not running amok, like an unsupervised inbreed in a Walmart. Having a strategy in place is key while surrounding yourself with people who support your goals. Not handlers are enablers, but others who better you who better the project plus have your best interest in mind. There's a huge difference between those right? This guide is designed for the filmmaker regardless of what part of the equation you make up. What qualifies me to spill this information? fair question. I have amassed what you're about to read through my hits and misses spanning back from 1986. Until now. In over 30 years, I've produced everything from industrial spots to number one box office hits, and anything you can imagine in between. And I do mean anything. I founded and operated a successful film company that's approaching its 20th year in business. Yay, us. And with the exception of a two year hiatus I took to go find myself. It has said filmmaker on my tax returns ever since I can remember. And it's been an adventure to say the least. I've been rich. I've been poor. I like rich better if I'm being honest. I've been embraced. I've been shunned. Well, yes, it's nice to be welcomed to red carpet events and private parties and Bel Air. Being an outcast has its perks as well. I believe if you're not pissing someone On Off, you're not being heard. Okay, I admit, that's the spin I've chosen to use while going through low phases of my career. When I've been neglected by my peers. I don't claim to know it all because I discover something new each day. It amazes me how much has changed, and yet things still remain the same. I also understand and respect that different tools work for different people. So I will do my best to keep this on point yet entertaining, while attempting to cover as many bases as I can, and appeal to as many of you as possible. Over the years, I have been very fortunate to make a cross section of films ranging in different budgets for various outlets. I'd be lying if I didn't confess working above the line on a 20 or $30 million film didn't have a tremendous upside. But I'm happy where I've landed. Although it might not be as sexy or noticed by the general public, I tend to sleep much better making films for a dime, which I am confident will make back $1. And sleep is good, especially when it's been documented that 80% of studio films lose money. If the indie game is so good, then why aren't more people doing it? I'm here to tell you, it's not and more people are doing it than you realize. But it's becoming much more difficult to turn profits in this era of VOD Video on Demand deals being the lion's share of sales for little movies.
The returns can be a lot less. So making films that look good on the cheap are more important than ever, particularly was such an oversaturation in the marketplace. All of this while the bar continues to be set higher and higher with every new gadget that comes out. Drones gimbals. And sliders have given us indie rats the ability and confidence to boost our production value. But like with everything else, they're becoming old hat and filmmakers at the low level are constantly reinventing ways to up the ante. I hope most of this will be a fun read while educating you or reaffirming what you already know. For me, it will be cathartic in some ways, as well as painful at times. But I promise to remain transparent. Since I've produced a handful of films with respectable budgets and distribution, I am often asked why I prefer to play in low budget bill. It's simple. I like to work. For a guy like me, I'm lucky if a biggie comes around once every 10 years, life is short. And I'm too passionate about telling stories, regardless of where they'll end up, or how much of a splash they'll make in the marketplace. To me, work is the same whether I'm getting paid or writing a check to do it. Which is more often than I care to admit. But every day that I'm able to wake up, look in the mirror and say, Good morning filmmaker. Life is good. Yes, sometimes I have wondered where the next paycheck will come from, or if anyone still gives a damn. My knowledge of this business paired with my talent to create means I'm still capable of making movies, that somehow I have always found a way to survive. I believe it derives from my ability to improvise and think outside my comfort zone. For example, there was a time I had never made a music video, until my good friend Bret Michaels gave me the opportunity and I seized it to date. I've done countless videos, and several have crashed landed on BH ones top 20 video countdown, two were actually on there simultaneously. The same went for commercials and PSAs which had similar success. I fell forward and trusted there would be enough water in the pool once I jumped in. So when I kicked my little feet, I managed to stay afloat. Let's face it. Today, you're either working on $100 million studio picture cranking out remakes, sequels and prequels, or you're like me, trying to make independent pictures that most people will never even know exist. Your films are usually about everyday people in real life circumstances that we attempt to mold into something worthy of holding one's attention for 90 minutes. While it's admittedly getting harder to survive in this business and get our Freshy fresh ideas produced, we have to realize the competition is overwhelming and occasionally can put us to shame. What do I mean by that? Well, if you choose the path of an independent filmmaker and hoped to make a living as such, you must be able to crank out low budget high concept films and regularly while navigating the sales, marketing and distribution of your product. Otherwise, you should just consider making movies as a hobby and get a regular job. I have fortunately been invited to teach at film schools within some of the most respected institutions of our great nation. And one thing that is shockingly consistent is how little students are taught about the day to day realities of Our business, it's not poor curriculum. rather simply the fact that you cannot emulate real life circumstances in a classroom, the grip and spit that can only occur in a workplace. Over the course of this read, we'll go through different phases of the independent filmmaking process, from concept to delivery, and cover a lot of things they don't teach you in film school. I have always been a concept delivery kind of guy. If you don't know what this means, I will break it down for you in layman's terms. And ideas hatched, I alone or with a co writer sit in front of a computer and type the words fade in onto a blank screen. Over the course of a few months, we'll continue typing, filling 90 to 100 pages with words that contain screen direction and dialogue, creating an original and hopefully interesting screenplay. Then I head out and try to raise money to get the screenplay produced into a motion picture. If I am fortunate enough to get the financing. We spend the next three months getting locations and attaching talent to the film, both in front of and behind the camera. Over a 20 to 30 day period, the movie is filmed where we capture images of actors saying the words and depicting the action written in the screenplay. After the filming process is complete. I sit in a dark room for several months and piece together over 140 hours of footage, shaping it into a condensed motion picture once everyone is happy, or pretends to be with what's been edited, so begins the music scoring, the color correcting and visual effects phase along with the sound mix and all the other details that in the end, bring you 90 minutes of Glee if I did my job well, or if I failed, an hour and a half you'll be begging to get back on your deathbed. That's what I do. So what's the secret to getting an independent film produced? Some will say it's dumb luck, while others swear its connections or the ability to simply sell ice to Eskimos. Those factors certainly can weigh in. But eventually luck runs out and ice melts, especially in this climate. I believe it comes down to how hard you're willing to work and the passion you have for your project that drives you to see it to fruition. Hard work pays off and passion is contagious. And yes, even a blind squirrel bumps into a nut once in a while. So we're going to talk in simple terms in the realm of the real world, as I like to call it not fantasyland. So you the average individual with the desire to get a movie made can acquire the tools necessary to help become success in the world of independent filmmaking. I have decided to write this because I feel much like the middle class in our country, the true independent filmmaker is rapidly becoming extinct. And I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I can only hope this will encourage to inspire you to move deeper into an arena that can be quite rewarding, both financially and emotionally. If you go into it armed with the knowledge and tools necessary to survive, I'm handing you a map my map to help make this journey along the highway to hell a little easier on your feet. I will do my best so you can avoid some of the blisters and twisted ankles I suffered over the last 30 years. So here it goes. My unbridled insight on the good, the bad and the ugly on the business of making independent movies. What is key to your career path or what tools you have and can take advantage of early on. It's what shapes you as a filmmaker. And more importantly, as a human being. I hate to sound like a curmudgeon bitching about the youngsters coming up. But if you're reading this, there's a good chance you are part of Gen Z, the instant gratification generation. If you need information, it's at your fingertips. You need something you can't afford. You can launch a GoFundMe campaign so friends and strangers alike can buy it for you. Don't shake your head. I tracked a whole group of wannabe hipster filmmakers who raised $12,000 In four weeks, so they could buy lights, cameras, gimbals and a laptop to get kick started into the business. I heard later they successfully raised another 50k to go make a movie. I guess everyone who paid for their equipment felt as if they hadn't done enough and really wanted to show their continued support. So much for working to appreciate what you have annoying. That being said, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone. That doesn't mean if you'd like to write thrillers you should start cranking out romantic comedies. It means dig ditches, get blisters on your hands and get yelled at by a boss who isn't afraid of getting sued for telling you like it is you suck at your job. You are never too good or too talented to put in the work. You were never above anything or anyone else. If you think you are do society a solid and call it helping the minions All around you to elevate their game so you can justify it in your self centered mind. But I promise you will learn something in the process, and you'll be better because of it.
Now you might be thinking, chillax, you old curmudgeon, I've got this, I went to film school. Look, I don't mean to bruise your fragile feelings. But I have found that for many going to film school guarantees two things, you required an unnerving obsession for obscure French cinema. And you spent four years learning what many of your future employers will try like hell to undo. You've been raised in a safe environment without phones getting ripped out of the wall and thrown at your head. And by not being fired for consistent incompetence. Face it, Mommy and Daddy made sure you were surrounded in bubble wrap and were provided three hots and a cot. While you were trying to find your way guided by an instructor who probably hasn't been on a film set since 1996. If ever. In Toronto, before you can join the IA TSE 873 permittee list, you must take a mandated two day course that was created by Kelly Graham sharer. Now based in LA repping, the Ontario Film Office, who saw a common problem when hiring fresh faces, who knew it all, but in reality had little to no experience. I'm talking about graduates who had loved four years of film school, and some of the finest institutions on the planet. And upon getting hired would sit in the director's chair, couldn't read a call sheet or worse, didn't know the difference between a gaffer and a grip. I didn't go to college. Before I made it to above the line status. I was fortunate to work with My Father on most of his projects that had me doing everything from working the movie alone at six years old, to performing on camera until I left high school. And when I wasn't working with my family's film company, I was hustling to make ends meet. online job boards didn't exist, the horror. So you got worked through word of mouth because you were good at your job, or believe it or not, had to actually talk to people in real life in order to build relationships. Or you found work by faxing in your resume before sunrise Sunday through Thursday, to services like crew call a pay to join employment agency that assisted you in landing part time work. Not to mention you are tons of different hats. On any given day, I'd go from being a grip to wrangling cable, or getting some ungrateful prick his phone latte because he was too lazy to get out of his chair and get it for himself. In this business, you're either chasing it or it's chasing you. And the unfortunate fact is, if someone quit tomorrow, they wouldn't be missed. Actors, producers and writers have died off and great directors like Tom Shadyac have thrown in the towel and turn their back on the industry. Yet it keeps marching on without missing a beat. We're all just a blink in the eye of time, especially when it comes to hoho wood. And being a big wig only means that you're just blinking more often than the rest of us. Of course, having a number one hit is a great feeling. And I can attest to that. But you have to keep it in balance, insert a reality check. There are 52 different numero uno is in the US box office each year unless one repeats. And considering the box office started back in the early 1900s. That's conceivably 5668 films that have held the top spot. To put it in perspective, there have been roughly 30 world heavyweight boxing champions and only 19 US presidents in that timespan. What's going to be your staying power. For me, it could only be hard work. As I accepted the fact I wasn't going to set the world ablaze like George Roy Hill. So I knew I had to work that much harder to become relevant and stayed employed. I'll pause while you Google George Roy Hill. I knew that I was investing in my future. Often I didn't get paid and was packing my own meals before heading out to pound the pavement. People today just don't invest in themselves like they once did. All too often. It seems one's definition of self investment is more about their willingness to take a pay cut on a fabricated rate they've set as a value for themselves, while making sure they're fed well and don't work more than 10 hours a day. Personally, I'd rather be on set making connections and honing my craft than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Even if it's for no pay, and the day exceeds 17 hours. My point of all this storytelling, do your time and earn your stripes. Trust me when I tell you that you will thank me later.
At 23 I had the opportunity to meet with one of Hollywood's most respected producers. Neil Moritz. Yes, the same Neil Moritz. We made great iron gang with over a dozen years later. And he was kind of enough to give me some insight on the business and what he thought a producer's role should be outside of the obvious. Neil was a huge help, and encouraged me to absorb as much knowledge as I could. During our meeting, he handed me the production budget to a film he was producing. To be the best producer, you can start by learning what every job in this budget does and what role they play in making a movie. While I absorbed his advice, I couldn't help but wonder, isn't that easier said than done. I knew I wanted to be a complete filmmaker. But I felt telling him that at the time would have been the most ridiculous thing I could have ever said. I took Neil's advice and use the ammunition he gave me. I continued faxing my resume to crew call and phoned everyone I could who was working simply offering to volunteer if they weren't hiring, as in work for free, at whatever position I could fill. I knew I wanted to press forward at full speed until I checked off every job in that budget, Neil slipped me. I'd be darned if anyone could accuse me of not knowing what a specific job entailed. Nor would I ever want to ask someone to do something I hadn't already done myself at some point in my career. My biggest problem was that I became a jack of all trades and a master of none. I still suffer from that. But if you want to survive as an indie rat, you have to learn as many facets of filmmaking as you can. This brings me to when I first met the late great Zalman king. He was at the top of his game with a hit series called Red Shoe Diaries, which launched David to company's career. I had done some Mickey Mouse coordinating for a film that rented out a soundstage in Canoga Park, owned by Solomon's company, 10 DB Inc. Z, as we affectionately called him, was gearing up to shoot a movie in Bali called in God's hands for Sony Pictures, and asked if I wanted to tag along. I didn't ask what my rate would be, what screen credit I'd receive or any other nonsense, I'm sure 90% of you would ask if this opportunity presented itself. Instead, I accepted the invitation sight unseen, not knowing if I'd be hauling equipment, getting lattes, or washing the natives feet. To me, it didn't matter what I was doing, as long as I was simply there doing something. I ran around for about a week getting my passport, typhoid shots and other necessities for my first international trip. Upon arriving at LAX, I discovered I was being flown to Bali first class. After a flawless 16 hour flight in the lap of luxury. I was driven to the most beautiful five star resort I had ever seen. Zi welcomed me as if I were the star of the show. He asked me to sit next to him for the cast buffet. As soon as I got unpacked, I wasn't given a room at the resort. I was given my own private bungalow. Early into the meals, he leaned over and said, Shane, I brought you out here because I want you to learn everything you can about making movies. I've watched you hustle your ass off. Your work ethic is unbelievable. But you don't possess key fundamentals that you can build a career on stuff that can really separate you from the pack. We're going to change that by the time you go home next month. Friends, you realize I was not only getting a crash course hands on experience shadowing Zalman F and King but did it on Sony's diamond one of the most beautiful places on earth. Why? Because Z summit desire to work and realize I was willing to invest in myself. I got a front row center seat watching this Maestro work with department heads direct dozens of actors as they stormed the beach, and witnessed him choreograph his trademark love scenes, he's so tastefully filmed between two lovers discovering one another for the first time. That month in Indonesia was my four years of film school. Z didn't want anything from me in return. In fact, we remain dear friends and collaborators until his passing on February 3 2012. But he invested in someone who was willing to put in the grunt work, and didn't mind investing in himself in order to learn and advance when opportunity knocks, even at what can be seen as an inopportune time. Take a moment, then take another one before you decide to open the door or not. You never know what's really on the other side.
When I was invited to go to Bali, sure. I had reservations. It would be a month I'd be out of the workforce and feared what I could miss out on. But that experience changed my life and created more opportunity for my career as a filmmaker than I could possibly squeeze into this book. At Z's memorial service, there were a lot of people in the attendance this man took a chance on and presented opportunities. He appreciated the gifts he had and his greatest joy was to give others a platform to succeed every chance he could. My philosophy has always been to do something eat Stay before your head hits the pillow that will get you closer to reaching your goal. I don't care what it is, write, study great films, collaborate with others, edit, grow. No one is going to give it to you. And I promise Ed McMahon isn't going to knock on your door and hand you a million dollar check to get you kick started. For this reason, I have always admired true filmmakers, the ones who know their craft and do whatever it takes to put it all together. Alexander Payne, Kathryn Bigelow and Robert Rodriguez are a few complete filmmakers who really inspire me. Sometimes their work fizzles without a pop, and sometimes they knock it out of the park, but it doesn't matter. With every project, they get better. honing their skills like a craftsman shapes a sword, and they do things their way. You have to earn every piece of real estate you can get your mitts on, and when you do, don't let go of it because there are countless people ready to rip it away in a split second. Make no mistake, surviving as a filmmaker who chooses to wear the boss hat is hard. damn hard. Be prepared and know everything you're getting into before signing up for the job. So you're not setting yourself up for failure. Too many talented people quit after failing as all encompassing filmmakers, usually because of pride, and lots of great talent gets left at the doorstep or worse. The bus stop. If I may dip into a quick sports reference. Just look at Wade Phillips Rod Marinelli and Todd Haley. These are all examples of successful NFL coordinators who turned into head coaches, but failed and quite miserably. As such before doing an about face and returning to their roles as coordinators again, only on the second time around more successful ones. Each worked his way up the ranks to achieve the role as boss. But for one reason or another, things didn't work out. That failure was actually a blessing in disguise. Think about it. If you fail as boss, remember, you did something right to become won in the first place. This is the reason you must allow yourself to learn from the experience to go back and continue on your path to greatness. Every opportunity will present a new one, or at least shaped you into what you will ultimately become. As you step out, wanting to venture off on your own and run the show by raising money to make movies you believe in. Be sure you're truly ready to accept the challenge and take on the responsibility as it's quite colossal. It comes with a lot of hits and misses. And the hits will often leave you black and blue. Success or failure isn't based solely on your ability to recoup and investors capital, but also how you conduct yourself during the entire process. There is an endless funnel of wonderful and talented people who are incapable of leadership. But it doesn't mean they cannot be a huge asset or contribute greatly to our industry. Being a leader is tough. It's not just taking headship over 30 to 50 people and keeping them on schedule. Rather carefully maneuvering with grace under pressure, all while keeping the morale high, and showing sensitivity in order to get an actor to perform to the best of their ability. It's being able to negotiate fairly and call BS when someone is taking advantage of you and learning when to cut off a dead limb or do everything in your power to revitalize it. So you've read this far, and still might be wondering, who the hell is Shane Stanley anyway? Good question. And you're not alone. As I too am still trying to figure that out. But all you need to know for now is that I'm just the guy with some experience under his belt that's here to help. Someone who started in this business when he was literally in diapers and move 45 years later is still chugging along. I want to give future filmmakers the ammunition needed to succeed as they head out into the real world to tell their stories. Ammunition that only comes from hands on experience.
Chapter one fade in. So you've got a screenplay. We're starting here because this isn't a lesson in writing, rather one in filmmaking, you know, the part that comes once you actually have a script to produce. Now let's talk about this script. This script is either one you've written or acquired, and you're convinced it's the masterpiece that will not only win Sundance, but launch the quest to one day reserve your place on the Mount Rushmore of filmmakers. you fantasize how if only Jennifer Lawrence or Ryan Gosling got their mitts on it? Surely they'd proclaim your 96 pages of perfection, the next Slingblade and have to attach themselves whether they're wranglers were supportive. are not. Okay, I know this makes your heart skip a beat and gets your knickers in a twist. But I'm going to splash some ice cold water on you now and often to keep things in perspective and save you a lot of valuable time. Unfortunately, you probably already discovered that after getting Jennifer and Ryan's contact info on IMDb Pro didn't get you a darn thing. You have left countless messages at CAA for the representatives, even the assistants know you by first name, but you just can't get a call returned. Well, you're not going to before you can turn Hollywood upside down, you have to back up to before you had this little gem of a read converted into a PDF. And start with the basics. The basics of filmmaking as a business the ability to function in this arena, regardless of how much nerves someone might have comes in all shapes and sizes, and levels of sanity. Hopefully by now you've accepted agents Jeremy Pledger and Brian Lord aren't going to call on Jennifer Ryan's behalf, and you're gonna have to slim it with the rest of us. Face it. There's a big difference between what a person dreams he can do, what he's actually capable of doing, and what people will permit him to do. It's time to go back to the drawing board and cut your budget by 90%. retool your thinking and accept the fact in order to get it done. You're gonna have to become one of us. An independent filmmaker. When Waterworld starring Kevin Costner came out back in 95. Universal Pictures authorize the film's budget at a then record $100 million, which set a new benchmark for studio tentpoles. During production, the project was plagued by a series of overruns and setbacks, which large impart were due to being ill prepared during pre production. Producers hadn't planned or even researched weather patterns off the Hawaiian Islands de where they filmed or realized they'd be shooting during hurricane season doubled up, which shut down production while simultaneously destroying several of the sets. When they were done, the film ended up costing in the ballpark of 235 million once marketing and distribution costs were added. To give you an idea of how bad it got. I remember watching them shoot pickup shots or retakes on the backside of Catalina Island days before the film's release. What I always found fascinating about Waterworld wasn't what made it so infamous. But the project's history years before it arrived at the doorstep of Universal Studios. People forget or don't know that in the 1980s legendary B movie producer Roger Corman had commissioned the script which was penned by Peter Reiter. Yes, the same guy who was known for directing the dog whisperer with Cesar Milan corpsman who had carved out quite a career and reputation for low budget and often can't be films had come to realize it could not be produced for under 3 million and eventually sold the script washing his hands of the project. That should have been a telltale sign if there ever was one. The script ultimately went through 36 different drafts by six different writers and the film unceremoniously replaced Ishtar as the go to reference when discussing a major studio flop. Personally, I believe with the ability to do low cost CGI, having access to drones and all the other slick tools available to us on the cheap. This script could be produced today for under 650k with a half decent cast. Just get me my uncle Ricky's dirty old try Moran, and a couple of dozen early model jet skis and we're good to go. So are you ready to learn some tricks to making low budget high output movies? Good. Let's begin. Look, I have seen some of the best ideas with big name talent attached, shut down in favor of junk filled with nobodies simply because the business plan was in order for one and not the other. It does seem lately more often than not, it's been a race to the bottom, and Styrofoam floats. But when the rubber meets the road, all you can do is prepare whether you're a writer, a producer or director, and make sure you do everything in your power to check all of the boxes so your presentation can appeal to the people with money. In my opinion, every person on the team is equally important regardless of pay grade, or where their name winds up in the credits. Without everyone doing their part, you will have a failure on your hands. Think of a car, the body, the interior, motor and wheels all appear to be the meat and potatoes of its design and purpose. But if you don't have synchronicity underneath the hood or in the chassis, you don't have a finely tuned machine that will be formed at the best of its ability. Before the car hits the showroom. The manufacturing company will go through countless designs, hours of testing and research and development before it finally made available to the general Public, the same should go for making a movie. Let's take a moment and think about in what genre you're going to create. Will it be tried and true horror with a fresh angle following the more recent paths blazed by James Juan or Jason Blum? Or will you go with the Lisa Cholodenko wrote an attempt to woo us with a left of left romance that provokes four out of five senses pending on the temperature of the room. decisions decisions. I truly don't think there's a right or wrong answer here. But I do believe there's an appetite for every kind of film. Even the awful ones most people would deem unwatchable. Audiences have kept that niches plates spinning for decades, and I do not judge taste. Although I don't believe anyone actually sets out to make a bad film. It just happens due to a myriad of reasons. But if your film ends up being so bad, it's good. It'll most likely get tossed into a bulk acquisition for about $2,500 all in and end up airing on Cinemax at 3am. Trust me, I too am guilty of creating my fair share of stinkers, and people's taste, or lack thereof, has kept me in the game more often than I care to admit. So figure out what you want to do and do it with all your heart. If all else fails, at the very least, your mother will hopefully pretend to like it. And maybe some insomniacs will catch it on cable when spinning through the channels as they wait for the sun to come up. Like the car manufacturing I previously mentioned, a studio doesn't sink a dime into a movie before they know who they're playing to. Even though their formulas aren't always perfect. They do exhaustive due diligence before greenlighting a movie. And so should you just because you love a script or a topic and believe in it does not mean anyone else will. All of us are guilty, even myself of when we receive encouraging feedback from people who read our scripts or see our work. We start convincing ourselves we have the foundation of a hit on our hands. Big mistake. Why? Well first consider who are these people? I mean, I have plenty of writer friends who tell me all the time how much everyone loves their scripts. Sure, everyone may love the scripts. But what about anyone who's in the business and are willing to write a check to get it produced? I promise your friends, lovers and co workers will praise a large portion of what you write or show them. They'll fill your delicate ego with more fluff than you can handle. Mostly because you have done what mostly only dream about and never accomplish. Taking an idea, turning it into a screenplay and ultimately a movie. Besides, that's what friends are for right? Consider who within your circle would admire your passion for the arts, and then turn around and stomp on your efforts when you present it to them like a cat that just captured a mouse and brought it to its master. Let's face it, most of them wouldn't know the difference between William Shakespeare and Shel Silverstein, if their lives depended on it. To me, that equates to their opinions not really meaning much other than the ego stroke we gained, which works as a motivator or worse, gives us an argument when defending our work to someone who actually does matter. God if I had a nickel for every time I heard, my wife liked it, or my boyfriend said it was great. I would have more money than Bill Gates. Seriously the untrained eye sees a script differently than a train one. Let me break it down for you in a different kind of way. Imagine a scientist handed you his formula to change the world and how we process natural energy. Chances are you would find it fascinating and incomprehensible at the same time. Why? Well, because it's not what you do. Although you would still marvel at the science and time that went into it. That is often what the untrained eye is seeing when it reads the script. Just because the reader likes movies and knows how to read doesn't mean you will get much out of it other than a pat on the back. And if you're lucky, maybe some typos will be pointed out. On the flip side, giving your script out of work actors can be a false positive as well. As one actor who I really admire once told me we'll admit the sky is green if we believe telling you it is will get us apart. Smart ones will play you like a fiddle to see if they can get in at the ground floor before you're off and running. The actor who is stockpiling screen credits for their IMDB page isn't focusing their concern on if the movie is any good or not. They're more worried about landing work and as often as possible, so they can continue reaching their goals. Step back and request the opinions from people who at least know what the decision makers are buying and selling. Enquire with those who have nothing to lose or gain by telling you like it is so you don't spin your wheels or ultimately end up with a six figure coaster on your table in the form of a DVD. If you're lucky enough to get it for Who's into a movie. People who work at literary agencies are often great at giving feedback as our reputable sales agents who are often good to heed the advice of as they know what is and what isn't selling in the worldwide marketplace. Speaking of our lovely planet and a worldwide scope, it's imperative to think globally when producing an independent film. certain genres are just a hard sell. For example, indie comedies are tough to place overseas, I can only assume this is probably because of the translation issues. For example, Napoleon Dynamite did over 45 million in the domestic box office, while only grossing 1.5 million abroad, dramas tend to struggle worldwide too. So if you're hell bent on doing one, add some spark and get a star with some international appeal. Don't be afraid to sprinkle in some edge of your seat moments. Because drama drama overseas, it's tough to move without a big name attached, or elements that might get the heart rate elevated. Lovely and amazing that over 4 million in the United States will taking in only 10% of that outside North America. On the total flip side, films like The Blade Runner remake, and American made didn't fare well here in the States, but overseas should make back significant money. The Indie Game is a different one, and you'll really need to find the right story and cast your film wisely in order to gain the most traction globally. Trust me, there are plenty of actors you've never heard of that make a nice dent in the foreign market. You just need to dig a little and do your research. I suggest you don't make my mistake and produce little films about the movie business. Sure, we've seen our share of behind the curtain romps ranging from the making of and God spoke and Living in Oblivion. Yes, although they've landed on several people's must see lists. That was 25 years ago, and they didn't make much money. However, I am hopeful James Franco's the disaster artist changes that, as I'm a sucker for films in that genre. Another thing you need to keep in mind is that here in North America, violence is popular, but sex is still often covered up in a way when it comes to how it's portrayed on our televisions, and in movie theaters. In Europe, sex is out in the open, but violence is not something like to exploit. mixing the two is very risky. You can however, turn a profit on thrillers, action flicks and family films. I would lean away from horror as the market is ridiculously oversaturated unless it's smart, and you can crank it out with a well known scream queen for less than 50k. A clever edge of your seat thriller could be lucrative if you can pull it off. And if you can tolerate it, anything was snow on the ground, a dog, a cat dressed and obnoxious holiday sweaters while drinking hot chocolate is all the rage. Everybody loves Christmas. There's also a strong market for women in peril films out there. But be very careful what your view of imperil is, trust me. No one is clamoring for films about sexual assault, especially now.
Another thing to think about when settling on content is what actors you're hoping to attach to your movie. Consider if your content is going to be welcomed or if it's so out there. You're going to risk offending the reader or your audience. I acknowledge we live in a pretty loose and liberal age where shows like The deuce portray Maggie Gyllenhaal doing unmentionable things in a roach infested motel, or the great Jon Voight dealing with endless over the top issues, including his most recent conundrum of taking too many little blue pills during a drug fueled orgy on Ray Donovan. Remember, these are solid programs on major networks. The stars are beyond well compensated for their work, and are also often producers on the show. Sometimes during the early discussion phases of a film, there's a level of comfort and trust that is developed between actors and filmmakers that makes this easier. Otherwise, the project filmmakers have nothing to prove due to their successful track record. Moving forward, the director can only break that trust versus someone new that has to build that trust. Think about it. There's a huge difference in the two. If you think your dark and twisted piece about a nun turn serial killer is going to get Jessica Alba to drop everything. Leave her kids at home with a nanny and sign up to make a modified low budget film for skill. Plus, I've got news for you. You're going to be very disappointed. The gritty indie that a respectable star attaches to is usually a lot less of an indie than you realize. Take monster for example, you had a respected Golden Globe winning actor, turn producer and Mark Damon add to that it was a perfect storm for Charlize Theron, who had really only done polished and glamorous films to put on 30 pounds, play in the mud and have the role of a lifetime killing men. But the surroundings for her was still safe, and she was made a producer on the film.
I'm often asked how we got Jane Seymour for Miss trust, where she not only plays a mistress to different men, but the film includes love scenes between her character and to other characters. Timing is everything when presenting a project to talent. The script Tiffany Johnson and I wrote was tasteful, and we had a good rapport with her agency. From there, it was up to us to gain Jane's trust and making her feel comfortable enough to sign on. As you'll discover, in reading through this book, relationships are the skeleton key to opening the right doors and closing deals. Without relationships and a good reputation. You don't get much in this town unless you have endless financial resources. And in reality, that will only get you so far. Any actor, particularly one who has self worth, needs to feel a level of trust with a filmmaker to do what they're asked, especially when entering into content that is dark or sexual in nature. It's important to both gain and keep their confidence before assuming that you already have it. Plus, your crew needs to understand the level of respect they need to emit at all times. I have seen temperaments on set make a radical 180 Because the director skipped over making the actor feel comfortable when needing them to do something that might push the envelope that doesn't just go for sexual situations, but also pertains when asking them to go to a deep or dark emotional place. The actor is a sensitive being, and sometimes things you would never think twice about in a regular day to day life or conversation can set them off the handle. Years ago, I was preparing to shoot a semi sensual scene with a couple in bed. They weren't going to be having sex, but the scene direction stated they were holding one another and just enjoying the silence. The cast was in makeup and the crew was getting set ready when my producing partner came to me with that look that tells you something's wrong. We have a problem. He said as he pulled me aside, the actor doesn't know why the actress is wearing flesh tone undergarments. He said Well gritting his teeth. flesh toned undergarments are often used when filming simulated nudity. You better go talk to him, he's pretty upset. Understand, these two actors have already filmed love scenes that were fairly graphic in nature. And now he had an issue because they were to be under the covers simply holding one another in silence. While all you would see her his bare shoulders as she rested her head on his chest. When I walked into his dressing room, he was as red as a turnip and steam was actually coming out of his ears. Why in the hell is she preparing for a scene that would portray us as post coitus? He said in suppressed rage. I was dumbfounded. You'd think I had granted him with the script changes that asked him to drop his pants and go running up and down the neighborhood buck naked in broad daylight, as if he was high on bath salts. I couldn't figure out what set him off. But the reality was, it didn't matter. Why? Because I am the one who failed that day. I never discussed with my actors ahead of time, what wasn't on the page in that scene. And what I wanted to show in this phase of the couple's relationship during the small window of time that would play out on screen. In reality, it was just a simple moment during a montage of their concise, yet deep relationship. But I got comfortable, careless, if you will, by assuming what we had already filmed and where we were after three weeks of shooting. To me, it seemed like a no brainer. The actress was on par with me. But clearly he was not. And it caused the divide between us that was never fully mended. Was he being oversensitive? I think so. But it doesn't matter. That's what actors are. And I was in the wrong. Who knows what was going on in his life that morning that could have set him off. But I wasn't in tune and believe we lost something that day. We never fully got back. Nothing that the audience noticed. But you know, when you know, you know.
Speaking of the blueprint of Thespians, one thing I did years ago, which was probably the best investment I ever made, was sign up for acting lessons. If you want to be a director, or perhaps anything on set, I think this is a good idea that let's face it, it's all about the actors. Understanding the process they go through when they audition when they prepare, and the manner in which they studied to portray a role in something more complex than you might think. Being able to speak their language and understand the beast is key, and is something I have used as a valuable tool in collaborating and communicating with my on screen talent during several phases of filmmaking. My initial plan was to sign up for a quick month and take what I learned and move on. Before I knew it. I had been in the class for over a year and found myself looking forward to it. I never told anyone my reason for being there. And in fact, I think this is the first I've ever mentioned it. I became one of them. After class we go hang out at Jerry's deli or go to some dive bar between SunSun God knows what where I attended the plays of fellow classmates to show my support, and even would make time to help them prepare for auditions when no one else was available. I don't think I ever was around a more committed group that banded together to help push one another to succeed. Of course, once one of them makes it, they'll never talk to the rest of the class again. But I tell you, the time I spent around them, when they were still striving to make it was contagious. I even landed an agent and went out on auditions with my only intention being to see what it was like on the other side. Like I mentioned before, actors are fragile beings, which is one of the many things we love about them, right? Their sensitivity and sensibility are high, and their antennas are usually fully extended, capturing every nuance that surrounds the set, which in turn allows them deliver the key ingredients needed to tell our story. Don't you think you owe it to them to learn that process? Again, invest in yourself and take an acting class, even go out on some auditions as actors trying to get a role. I bet it not only humbles you, but will also teach you a new appreciation for them and change the way you hold your auditions for the better. A quick side note to casting as a filmmaker, I take those sessions very seriously. Trust me, we have a lot of fun, as does the talent when they walk through our doors. However, everyone who auditions for us is treated with the utmost respect. Yes, there will be people who won't look at all like their headshots and some of them will be flat out horrible actors. I don't care. You call them in so give everyone the opportunity to read for you and make sure they feel better about themselves because they did. I bet they deal with much more rejection and heartache than you'll ever experience. They cared enough to study and memorize your scene, or at least try to get dressed up skipped work, drove through traffic found a parking spot and hustled there asked of God knows how many flights of stairs to do a tap dance for you and your cronies. Don't you dare brush someone aside who was there in hopes of being a part of your project? Or treat them any less than you would if Olivia Munn happened to show up on a whim and crash your audition. Everyone deserves encouragement, common courtesy and a good solid read. Imagine how you'd want your mother sister or brother treated if they were standing there trembling in front of a roomful of strangers while the video camera was rolling. It's heartbreaking to think how badly some people can treat actors during an audition. When they don't feel they're up to a certain standard. Advertising Agencies are usually the worst, believe me. I've had to use great restraint not to bitch slap a few marketing monkeys during casting Sessions, who discarded models and actors that weren't up perfect 10 by their standards, human beings who were only hoping to be cast in some ridiculous regional spot that in all honesty was about as significant as a fart in a windstorm once it hits the airwaves and slipped through Idaho at 2am. Often actors will lean on you for input and guidance throughout the creative process. So it is important to show them you're available and easy to approach. Get in the habit early and practice patience and kindness. Life is good. You have dozens if not hundreds of wonderful people outside in the hallway who have gotten all gussied up, memorize lines and are excited to show you what they can do. It's one of the easiest and most fun parts of moviemaking in my opinion, and should be a happy time for us all, especially the actors. One of the best director actor relationships I have ever had came from a casting session for a film we never made. Imagine that. Kim Touka, the casting director and one of my all time favorite people on the planet, put together two days of auditions with some of the finest talent I ever had the privilege of reading. An actor by the name of Jason pace came in and read for the lead. He knocked it out of the park. I was moved by his audition and so enjoyed our interaction. I just knew I had to work with this guy. Once it was determined the project was DOA. Due to a headcase of a first time screenwriter. All I could think about was how cool it would have been to collaborate with Jason. A few days later, I called him and asked if I could have his information because I wanted to offer him a part. I thought the movie was dead, said Kim matter of factly Oh, it's as dead as a doornail. I assured her with a hint of overconfidence before explaining. I had come up with my own idea and one adjacent to be the star. Kim obliged and put me in touch with him right away. As soon as my conversation with Jason was over, my trip to the dark side was hatched and we were rolling cameras in a few short months. Your relationship with talent begins in casting and we tell your actors and anyone else who is present more about your character than you will ever realize. set the tone early. Show them respect and give them the peace of mind that they can come to you for anything. Chapter Two, getting down to business. I have lived for until you make it like a pro for more years than I can count. I knew how to write, produce and edit films, but remain completely clueless about the business of actually making movies, let alone how to run a company. That is, until I finally decided to do it. Now that you've settled on a script, an important consideration is how much money to seek in order to get it produced. If your parents won the Powerball, or you're sitting on a trust fund of sorts, please stop reading now. Why? Because you're accustomed to things being handed to you, and you're going to do things your way. Again, this is for those of us who live in the real world. And I think anyone should know the thrill of accomplishment that raising whatever money they can, especially for their first feature brings. Heck, I only had 20k for mine. But I don't want anyone having a hissy fit and feeling as if I undercut your potential and fundraising. So I will reluctantly use 500,000 as our magic number, you will eventually discover why I'm so reluctant. But for argument's sake, we will. 500,000 is more than enough to make a salad film with a respectable cast, and include all of the accoutrements necessary to produce a product that should have some appeal in the marketplace. Besides, if it turns out to be a turkey, there's a slimmer chance, you'll end up wearing a pair of cement shoes at the bottom of the bay than if you went out and got a cool meal from someone. I suggest first forming an entity and establishing a company name before you plant a flag and start peddling your wares. There are several different ways to do this, even if it's just a DBA. Doing business as a fictitious name early on, talk to a CPA or business manager and get the proper counsel as rules and regulations. And every state can be wildly different. Call your business something that represents you and isn't offensive. Because when presenting a company name like but nugget productions, or I like booze entertainment to potential investors, it might come with a bit of an I don't know, stigma, think down the road years down the road, like you should have when you got that silly tattoo on your ankle. And hopefully it will be a name you can carry proudly for a lifetime.
In my opinion, obtaining a mailbox at a service center isn't a bad idea, either. When you hand out your business cards or proposals, your home or apartment address just doesn't scream successful, or is as welcoming in business regardless of what you might think. Yes, it's cheap to work from home and I realized many do, but people will Google map the address you give out. So my question is, do you want everyone you tell about your business to know where you live? I'm guessing the answer to that is no as I never did. So make sure your address presents well and is in a nice enough area so that the people you're trying to woo for your funding. Don't look it up and turn their noses at you. Yes, people can be that shallow, especially in an industry that lives by the mantra Perception is everything. You can muster up a couple of $100 bills a year to have a mailbox someplace nice one without graffiti on the walls, or homeless boozers hanging around out front. I am only mentioning this because it has been a snag for some people. I am trying to help alleviate those blisters on your feet. Remember, make sure when you give out or print up your address, call it a suite number. Box number looks as if you're running a dirty underground telemarketing outfit that's not on the up and up or prep for success. You might as well just include a note on your letterhead that tells people you live in your car and run your organization from your trunk, you know, underneath the jacket spare tire. Early in my career, I wrapped a Studio City address and whenever I set up a meeting, it was common for someone to say, let's meet near your office for lunch Studio City is great. You'll get to the point in your life where you don't care what people think. And if you run your business out of a hat, that's cool because you've made a mark. But when establishing yourself, you want to look solid, and that's so ragtag, show people, you're serious, your investors will appreciate it and feel as if they're getting involved with legitimate outfit. If you feel like getting some business cards made up, it certainly can't hurt. I personally never went that route, but the each zone we'll cover business and how to run production through a company and an LLC further down in this read. But your overall plan is to launch an LLC once your financing is committed. And each failure makes should have its own limited liability company without a financial track record. I suggest you march into your financial institution and get to know your small business manager. Tell them your realistic short and long term goals for funding. Let them know you're going to need their help once you start raising money. Notice I said once you start raising money, as fundraising can be a fickle mistress. There is nothing more obnoxious than a filmmaker running around town telling everyone they're getting a movie made, who hasn't raised a dime. Your banking relationships are key and you should expect to allow them to develop over the years, there will be so many things down the line your banker can help with. Ranging from accounts setups, money, wires, as well as any needed lines of credit for vendors or payroll. Bottom line, get to know your banker and make sure to give them a screen credit. You'll be a rock star at your local branch. Whether you have nine bucks in your account or 9 million. Plus, they'll be thrilled to be a part of what you're doing. In a perfect world. Your accountant or business manager can align you up with some good bankers who play in industry finance, it may be hard to crack that veil until you become a player. However, relationships are key. And the more good people in your corner who can introduce you to more good people is always beneficial. As I hinted to before, when you get your Go make your movie money, do not run production in your name or through a permanent Company Entity. Limited Liability Companies were created for a reason and it's simple to start one. For example, Visual Arts Entertainment is an incorporated production company that was established almost 20 years ago. When we make a film Take the untold story. For example, we created a limited liability company called Model A productions. When we formed the LLC, we made sure the ownership copyrights and all that mattered reverted back to Visual Arts Entertainment, which was clearly laid out in our operating agreements and documents in the chain of title. However, day to day operations from the film's financing to its delivery, were done through the model eight productions. Finally, costs for lacs vary from state to state. But assuming you're in California, it'll run you $70. Put together a basic agreement Articles of Organization and get yourself an LLC. There are some boilerplates out there, but these are all things and attorneys should put together for you as you get started. Once you have the necessary documents, you can reuse a lot of them each time you start a new project simply by updating them. So you only have to pay for those papers to be drawn up once.
There are a couple of things you should know, which bid me in the ass early. So listen up. In California, the Annual LLC minimum taxes cost $800 per calendar year, regardless of what month you start your entity. Now, if you run into January 1 of a new year, even if it's just for one day before you plan to close up shop, another $800 will be due to the Franchise Tax Board. So when it comes to time to cancel an LLC, do it early and allow at least 45 days for the paperwork to process within the Secretary of State. When I budgeted film, I set aside $1,600 for the LLC allowing it roughly a two year run. Within 90 days of forming your new entity, you will need to send in $20 along with your Statement of Information. In addition, if you run 250,000 or more through an LLC, there will be a fee to the Franchise Tax Board $900 In California, if you don't pay it early, look for a bill with another 10% tacked on to it. The IRS will assume you know that you need to pay this ahead of time. Keep in mind, if you don't budget for these fees, you'll be paying out of your own pocket down the line. So plan and budget accordingly. I think allowing 5000 in legal expenses for your first film is a good estimate. Make it a habit to pay people immediately when they send you a bill. You needed everyone to drop whatever he or she was doing and jump on your business in a hurry. So have respect enough to pay them in a timely fashion. Keep every receipt and transaction record LLCs that open and close quickly can be red flags for audits. So keep all your papers together. It's unlikely you'll get audited. But having proper paperwork and all your documents is paramount. Especially if your investor decides to audit you and where you spent their money. They'll most likely have the right to do so. So be aboveboard on your accounting. Go into every film assuming your investor will want to see the books and the IRS will conduct an audit. So if you treat your records as such, you'll never be caught with your pants down or looking like a deceptive crook. You know, it always amazes me that companies can justify charging around $1,500 to run script clearance. And if you ever really go through the report, it can seem like a bunch of nonsense that someone just threw together by googling everything in your screenplay and wrote out for you in great detail. I think it's something you should get in the habit of doing for each film you make as we are producers, not lawyers, and you want to check the script for potential legal issues before you start rolling camera. I've had a good experience dealing with the clearance lab in Los Angeles. Their prices are right and the turnaround time is fairly quick, even quicker if you pay more but $1,000 should get you what you need in a timely manner. Also get your chain of title in order and quickly. A chain of title is a series of documents or agreements that establish ownership rights of a film and all of its parts. It's the collection of all the documents that relate to the creation of and transfers of title to any property used in the making of your film. For some reason, registering your script with the WGA Writers Guild of America doesn't do anything for the chain of title, it's virtually useless. So register your screenplay with the United States Library of Congress. We'll cover chain of title and its importance when getting clearance from sag AFTRA as well your distributor, but it's a huge time sucker that needs to be addressed early. Like many others, I have made the mistake of paying other entities too much money to handle this for me. So if you're lazy or inept, it's quite easy to overspend in search of the documents necessary to complete your chain of title. John W. Combs a securities and entertainment attorney, who has written several books on the motion picture business has a website that is quite helpful. You can download all sorts of boilerplates there including useful guides explaining in detail what you will need when putting your chain of title documents together. I always advise new filmmakers to play in an arena they're not only passionate about but also comfortable in. As you find your legs. I think it's wise to have all the bases covered of your chosen genre, which will aid when executing creative discussions with your filmmaking team and on screen talent. But more so when pitching your project to potential investors. They'll appreciate your expertise on the subject and since the passion you possess as the gibberish naturally rolls off your tongue.
Remember, when you pitch an investor to finance a film, you're selling something different. You're selling the magic and the sizzle of Hollywood and most importantly, you're selling yourself along with the upside or fallacy of what their investment might return. If someone is really in the position to write a check to finance a film, they're probably pretty savvy. Trust me. They have been pitched everything from financing movies, to nightclubs, clothing, lines and widgets by someone a lot slicker and more qualified than new investors know they hold the key to unlocking the door to the dreams that can change your life. So go deep in thought when creating a presentation, because you're pitching them on a fantasy, smoke and mirrors, not real estate or something they can look, touch or feel at the moment. Something else to consider when pitching your project to an investor is what will they think of the film subject matter if your investors are far right, ultra conservative folk, elders of the church and pillars of the community. I'm guessing a flick based on a cult who feasts on hallucinogenic drugs and endless violence is probably not going to be their cup of tea. You laugh, but I cannot tell you how often filmmakers waste that coveted magic bullet of an opportunity to pitch something that's unappealing when it comes to the morals, values and ethics of the purse strings they're presenting to. Also, if you don't personally know your potential investor, I suggest you find out as much as you can before you waste everyone's time, or embarrass yourself. Google is a wonderful thing. So do your homework and research them. Nothing worse than going into a pitch meeting to talk about a film where a young girl runs away from home then goes missing in the woods, only to learn daddy roebucks had a falling out with his daughter who took off into the woods and got eaten by a bear. If you think because their tragic background somehow runs parallel with your script. Trust me, your storyline isn't going to suddenly become their passion piece in hopes of saving millions of girls in the woods for meeting the same fate. Unless you know them personally and discuss way ahead of time, the idea of collaborating on something that's important to them they can be involved with, it ain't going to fly. Your script littered with painful memories dropping on their lap is only going to hurt or offend them, which will make the meeting and quick and leave a terrible taste in their mouth. I only reiterate this because I cannot tell you how often this actually happens. What to put in your film finance package is key. I offer things to be short and sweet with the less is more mentality. Keep paperweight to a minimum and realize the investor you're reaching out to probably has more stuff than they wish they already did cluttering his or her desk don't just add more to a bottomless pile they're loathing to get through anyway. Years ago, I walked into a potential investors place of business and so several three foot high piles of binders all around them, along with countless proposals stacked on their desk. When I handed over mine he gestured to the paper piles and said with a soft smile, Shane, pitch me verbally. If you don't, this will end up with the rest of these proposals which have been sitting here untouched for as long as I can remember. People with real money are presented opportunity all the time. And you have to think on your feet and always be prepared for an audible. Know your presentation backward and forward. And never be afraid to say, I don't know, when asked something you don't know the answer to one of the best business relationships I ever had was launched on. I don't know, my answer to a question they asked in our first meeting. Those three words told them the truth. I didn't know. And I had the confidence to admit it. I kept it with, I will find out for you, which gave the investor a sense of security, I wasn't going to tap dance, or create some line just to appease him right then in there. It also gave me a great excuse to reach out the next day and get him the answer he was looking for ultimately allowing me to close the deal. I don't think you need too much weight in the room. A simple proposal can include a summary about your film, your bio, the target audience for your end product, plus a distribution plan, including similar films and how they did in the marketplace. You might want to bring a copy of your script so they can see it in person, but offer to email it to them later if they'd prefer. Again, a great excuse for a follow up unless they've already read your script before the meeting. I don't recommend putting pictures of famous actors, you may never get your proposal. It just sets you up for failure and ultimately their disappointment. They might ask, Who do you see starring in this picture? That answer can be met with I'd like to spread the cast budget over three or four well known actors to better the odds of our film success in the worldwide marketplace. Almost like an ensemble.
Trust me, they'll appreciate that. Everyone knows even Tom Cruise has a dud from time to time. And that can happen to any actor on any given film. Notice I use the words, our film in there. It's the little things in your pitch that will help give you a snowball's chance in hell to getting that elusive. Yes. Think outside the box and keep things in the real world when giving investors comparables. I've used films in my presentations like once lovely and amazing, and like crazy. films that cost under a million to produce and turn to huge profits more realistic to obtain. Don't use examples like Juno and paranormal activity that made hundreds of millions of dollars, but also had major studios behind the release. Dig deeper than the obvious when listing comps and return on investment potential. Trust me, they'll sniff through the hype immediately. This is what they do all day, every single day. Imagine if you were pitched a real estate investment. You'd feel hustled if you heard about the investor who put up 50k and flipped it for 7 million a year later. But the story about a person who invested 200,000 and turned it into 250,000 seems more realistic base hits and doubles makes sense to investors. And they'll be more apt to develop a sense of trust with you early on. The big difference between you and them. Besides they have money and you don't is you're looking at what's right in front of you, and they're looking way ahead. You need money now in order to get your dream off the ground. But they're envisioning the conversation the two of you will be having a year from now. I promise your thinking is light years apart, no matter how often they smile and nod their head during your pitch. So speak carefully and clearly, always under promise. So you have a chance to one day over deliver. If your investor turns a profit and makes their money back plus 15%. That's an attractive investment. But if they are anticipating making five times their money because you said they could. They will only be disappointed when things fall short. Always keep things in perspective so that any return can be seen as a victory and you haven't set yourself up for failure. About that presentation. What's the appropriate amount of time to give an investor to respond? I have found no to investors will respond to like or in the same amount of time. I could easily fill these pages with what not to do during the waiting game. I will say investors answers will vary and the time they take can be surprisingly quick or remarkably slow. I believe the best way to help avoid this uncomfortable phase of the game can be done upon the close of your pitch meeting. When wrapping up kindly ask when do you think you might make a decision? This does two things. First, it subconsciously put some justifiable accountability on them. And second, it gives you a timetable as to when you can expect to hear something and if not, you have reason to reach out. Now I have had the I'll get back to you in a couple of weeks turn into several months before getting an answer. I believe you have to look at every situation individually. I never once thought I was getting the brush off and every time we spoke, it was usually them calling me before their next deadline to reply. I will also say this particular investor has been the most fruitful partnership of my career. So delay doesn't always equal failure. But don't be the victim of someone blowing you off either. The more I think about this topic, the more I fear, I may need to write a separate book about it. Or maybe we'll just need to schedule an open online chat one day.
Remember, you never want a potential investor to feel rushed into making a decision. And you certainly never want to come off sour if they pass several investors who have turned me down, I've circled back and funded my projects. Why? I think largely because of the respect I showed them when they said no, rejection is hard. And if you burn a bridge, rebuilding, it is much harder if even possible at all. Take rejection gracefully. If it feels right, ask them why they elected to pass if they don't offer their reason. But most importantly, thank them for taking the time to listen to your presentation and consider backing your project. Make sure to let them know you hope to keep the door open for the future. I bet nine times out of 10 they will welcome you to make another presentation down the road. After all, people pass for so many different reasons. And I promise you, I'd wear out the keys on this computer writing half of them. You never know what makes people pull the trigger on things. But life is a long time and people's circumstances and minds are always changing. On the flip side, people will do business with you because they like you and feel a sense of comfort and how you conduct yourself. I once had an investor reject me after asking for a couple of weeks to consider a proposal. After I thanked him for his consideration and explained I respectfully understood his decision. He did a 180 right there on the phone and agreed to finance the project, as he only wanted to test my personality by giving me a false No. He explained how he often does that when he invests in people and makes a final decision based on the response to rejection. Something about true colors coming out or something I don't know. To each his own. You have to learn to be well versed in what the opposition is thinking. Any army general or sports coach will tell you that's the key to a successful battle plan. There have been countless articles written to help save potential investors from getting hosed by bad investments and scams surrounding the entertainment business, especially after people like Joseph Medawar have done so much damage. business, business managers and CPAs strongly discourage their clients from investing in film and stay employed by guiding them to keep their money where it's safe and sound. pitching to investors is its own kind of game. Not a deceptive game, but the slightest wrong move can turn them off entirely. You have to be smooth, calculated and debonair, all while taking your time and not looking at all desperate. If an investor is led to think they're the only option you have, they will quickly gain the upper hand but at the same time, they need to feel like they're the only person you know with money. To say you're tap dancing on landmines and walking the razor's edge when courting a potential investor is a severe understatement. Chapter Three, keeping secrets. I come from a time when keeping a secret was part of everyday life and not difficult to achieve. I discovered this at the tender age of five when I inherited two older stepbrothers and quickly learned what it meant to keep things under wraps. If I witnessed one smoking a cigarette at the bus stop or the other making out with his girlfriend during Sunday school, gasp there were severe consequences for telling anyone. I wish it were still that way. Trust is all we have. It seems since the emergence of social media, nothing is no longer private. Maybe that's because everyone shares what he or she is having for breakfast, or how many times they reached climax on Valentine's Day. But I find nothing is truer when dealing with the elements of independent film. People just can't keep their mouths shut. studios and networks are smart. Everything you get as watermarks are coated with your name on it. And if you share it with anyone, you'll notice clumps of your hair will start falling out. You'll develop red blotches all over your skin, and your heart will just flat out stop. Kidding. But if they did find out, they could take back your pay with outrageous penalties, and most likely sue you for irreparable damages before tossing your ass on the blacklist. And I don't mean the one on NBC starring James Spader and that girl with the silly wig. It's unbelievable how badly everyone wants to pass around a script they're involved with, or share the rough edit of an unfinished film. They're cutting or worse. Spill information that just isn't anyone else's business. You might be sensing I am upset. And that would mean you're intuitive. But when you've had your ideas ripped off, or a studio takes your screenplay and produces it without even changing In the title or characters names, or your film is pirated and blasted on over 750 websites three weeks before its release, you'd understand my anger on the issue.
No, this isn't a platform for me to piss or moan about how I've been wronged. This is an opportunity for you to learn from my mistakes, mistakes that were very painful but avoidable. One big consistent chink in the armor of the fortress is the need for people to share when it's completely unnecessary. It's like they can't help themselves. I find people who are desperate to get traction in their careers, were simply a need to be the center of attention. Have this Tourette Leg Syndrome desire to share every bright idea they've managed to formulate with anyone who will listen, and it's usually people who don't need to know. One of the greatest accidental tips I ever got was from a powerful manager in the music business. While at lunch together in a posh Los Angeles Hangout, a well known rock star approached our table and did everything short of getting on his knees while begging her to be his manager, after he was through trying to convince her to sign his band, he kept it with. So how do I get in touch with you? Her reply was Curt but simple. If you don't know, you don't need to know. She said before turning back towards me and continuing with our conversation where it left off prior to being interrupted by the multi platinum selling artist. Of course, I would never suggest anyone be brash or even rude to someone. But we all know nine times out of nine information people spill about their business is completely unnecessary. Can you imagine running into Brian Grazer? Or Paula Wagner and then spending five minutes telling you all the things they're up to or might have in the development hopper? I'll save you the energy and tell you I have run into them. And trust me, they don't. So I beg you to ask yourself before opening your mouth? Can? Or will this person changed the outcome of my career and get this project jump started for me? Or if I share this information, could they steal my idea and get it made somewhere without me. Bottom line, keep your battle plans private, you'll be glad you did, especially when you discover someone you shared them with is actually getting them done thanks to someone's big mouth. When you're working with limited manpower and skinny resources, you don't have time to develop and spend years tweaking something before you commit to making it. You have to work at a much faster pace that can become reckless. And while doing so you must be careful whom you share your ideas with. I suggest keeping copious notes and a timeline on every communication or intellectual property you send out to people in regard to a project you're developing, or trying to bring to fruition. I actually can remember deleting important emails and correspondences linking people or companies to some of the biggest heist of my career. Then looking back and realizing that if I had kept better records of what meetings I had, or who got what script, I could have 100% avoided droves of heartaches, and those situations would have had a much different outcome than me just punching a hole in the wall. Treat your materials like gold, being the hotshot at the local bar or coffee house really means zero. And it's the carelessness in that immediate need to feel important by sharing too much that can cost you everything. Speaking of unnecessarily spreading the word, if you say you've never sought the spotlight, but you have a dedicated publicist, you're either into wasting money, or full of bull. When I hired my first publicist, they informed me 80% of what you read in the trades is fabricated or greatly embellished. They're usually just fluff pieces to draw attention to a filmmaker, actor accompany or studio. If you take any outdated Hollywood rag and research what happened to all of the projects that were announced or optioned and what stars were attached to them, you would see the ratio of films mentioned versus the ones actually produced is quite surprising. It's important for some of us to feel in demand or relevant. Ego will do that to you. After all, Perception is everything. And some people don't think twice about spending between 3000 to 5000 a month to stay on the radar. My attempt to get hoho would to give a damn started out costing only 1500 per month. I was very busy but wasn't getting the kind of publicity I thought I needed. So I kicked it up a notch and hired one of the top firms in Los Angeles at the discounted rate of $4,250 a month. After a while. Even I got sick of reading about Shane Stanley. It was ridiculous. It's human nature. Sure to want to spill the beans share the news, or seem like a player amongst your peers.
Question is, can you afford to keep it up long enough to make the world think you really are the next best thing? Or worse? By doing so are you alienating the people who would normally work with you? I had that problem. There was a very dear man who would reach out to me a few times a year and overpay me to shoot and edit some projects for a foreign output daily head. He put a lot of groceries in my cupboards over the years if you get my drift. A year or two went by where I didn't hear from him. So I reached out to touch base. I learned he was busier and more successful than ever. And although I was giving people that same impression on a grand scale, about my career, that couldn't be further from the truth. When I asked why he hadn't called me to work together, his answer was simple. Shane, I can't remember reading about a producer more since Robert Evans. Every time I cracked the trades, you're busy with a new project. And clearly, you don't have time for me anymore. That was like a kick in the teeth. The truth was, I thought by spending all that money, I would get more work. And it backfired. Big time. I needed guys like him to keep calling me. But he had moved on. It was certainly a self inflicted casualty on my part to say the least. us mortals can never compete with the folks or the machine who can afford to have top publicists on retainer. You'll break the bank to get a mansion and trust me, the only people who will notice or care about your press releases will be the people you email them to are the ones who wish never saw them in the first place. Don't talk about it, be about it. Put your head down and let your work speak for itself. All the fluff in the world won't sell you or your films, especially if they're not any good. One thing I try to drive home when speaking at film, schools or mentoring graduates is the importance of remaining relevant and on someone's radar. I am not much a proponent of the squeaky wheel gets the oil mentality, particularly in this business. However, I think there's a smart way to stay in touch and employed, which doesn't require very much effort. As you grow in the industry, you will make important contacts. I don't suggest blasting people every 30 days or so and bugging them for jobs or sending out emails every time you upload a clip to YouTube. That gets annoying, especially when you're shooting skits in the living room on your iPhone co starring your cat. In addition to wishing someone a happy birthday or holiday cheer, take two days, maybe one in March and one in September. And reach out to those in your contact list for no other reason than to say hello. See how they're doing. Don't try and sell yourself. Don't Pitch Anything. And for goodness sakes, don't ask if they have any work for you on the horizon. By doing this, you're nurturing relationships that aren't just centered on what can you do for me? Face it. genuine human interaction is becoming more endangered these days than the whooping crane. For me, it wasn't uncommon for these discussions to turn into Shane. I'm so glad you reached out. Are you available next month for a shoot? Or can you send over your latest reel, I have something in the works you might be perfect for those calls or emails won't cost a dime, and will probably generate more opportunity than spending 1000s of dollars on a publicist ever could. Of course, there might be times you could need something from them. And that biannual correspondence can make getting a script read a pitch meeting scheduled or a favor for a friend who needs an introduction that much easier. I have found when you reach out to people when you don't need something sure makes it a heck of a lot easier to reach out when you do. I know this might seem trivial, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being kind and courteous to assistants. Never forget they are the gatekeepers. When you're polite and friendly to the assistant. You'll be surprised how much quicker your calls get returned and meetings get on the books. After an assistant sets of a meeting or a phone or for you make the time to call or drop them a note of thanks for arranging everything. They're busy and deserve respect as much so as the person you're hoping to connect with people usually treat assistants like crap. And remember, in this industry, the assistant who's jacking phones today can become very important to you in the future. I remember when David Levine was an assistant at Mandalay. Today he is the Senior Vice President of programming at HBO.
Yeah, David's done all right for himself. If ever someone in this business advanced because of his or her knowledge, work ethic and communication skills, it's David. Anyone who knows him will attest to that. I've never hesitated reaching out to David once he achieved a success, because I'd like to think I treated him with respect and appreciation when he was the one answering phones for his boss. People will want to work with you if they like you. I know this seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often a less talented individual is hired simply because decision makers prefer being around them more than the other choices available. We all have opinions and are entitled to them. However, your religious or political views are usually the first red flags that can cause people to keep away, especially if you're dogmatic about either of them. You know, the old rule of thumb when a family gathers don't talk about religion or politics. I believe that applies even more so on a film set. Of course normal discussion about either topic or healthy and can form some great relationships. However, know the time and the place as well as your place to determine whether or not it's something you need to discuss. If onset a news breaks, which it will, about a tragic event, a social issue or something significant, don't race to be the first one to blurt out a tasteless joke or an opinion in hope of getting a laugh. Be sensitive to the feelings of those around you, and how the news might impact them. It's not only common decency, but on the flip side, your poor judgment will get back to the people who sign your checks. After all, you wouldn't want to come off like Michael Flynn, trying to lead everyone and lock her up chant while in a room full of Well, anyone really, you get my point? There's a time and a place for your opinion. And unless you're the one in charge, be extra mindful. actually be mindful no matter what. Quick story. When I was producing Zalman kings final movie, news broke between takes that Steve Jobs had died. Within seconds, everyone had an opinion or a comment about the tech giants passing. Most were genuine with heartfelt sorrow, while others were not see, only a few of us knew at that time, Zalman was fighting terminal cancer, and that he too would most likely be dead in a few short months. The comments that came from a couple of unknowing and careless crew members were beyond tasteless. And for the first time since I was aware of Z's illness, so I'll look on his face that I hadn't seen before. He was having a sudden realization about his own mortality. Needless to say, those insensitive people on the crew were replaced and never welcomed back to set. Another clever idea might be to use common sense before holding court and telling stories on set are in the production office. I cannot tell you how many times I come across someone captivating an audience with gross or inappropriate discussion. There's someone like that on every set, and they can be cancerous. Not only do they keep others from doing their job, but also their point of views can be offensive, in particular to someone you don't want to offend it. It could be the star of your film, or even worse, your investor. There's just a use of couth that needs to be implemented, and when it isn't, can cause a great division and unwarranted tension within the team. Even worse, someone's thoughtless mouth can become a huge legal headache for the production company down the road. Look, I am one of the biggest proponents of our First Amendment. But this chapter isn't about civil rights. It's about keeping your keister employed and on the must hire list. All I can do is offer some tools to assist you in doing so. If I offended you or make you feel stifled with my opinions, tough totems. Go start your own outfit and run it any way you'd like. Just be sure everyone shares your views, or you'll be a one man band a lot quicker than you think.
Alex Ferrari 1:39:09
I hope you guys enjoyed that free sneak peek of Shane's amazing book What you don't learn in film school. Again, if you want to pick up a copy of it, all you need to do is go to audible.com and type in IFH books, it'll pop right up. Or if you want a free copy, head over to freefilmbook.com Subscribe to Audible and choose Shane's book as your first free book. And if you want to get links to all of this all you have to do is go over to indiefilmhustle.com/598 We're closing in on episode 600. Guys, I'm so excited to let you know who we're going to have but I can't let you know now you're just gonna have to hold on, but it is coming. Thank you again so much for listening guys, as always keep that also going. keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.
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