Archive for the 'the present' Category

What are you most proud of?

Lately I have been taking a lot of meetings and it feels like during each one someone says to me, “send me links to content you produced that you are proud of.” I feel like that is sort of stupid and here is why. Even if creatively I have not been on board with everything I have produced, I am certainly still proud of the piece or my involvement in it. Sometimes your original idea gets watered down by a brand or perhaps you had to take something out in post for time.  As a producer, there isn’t anything I have created that I am simply hands down not proud of on some level so to ask me to send me something I am proud of is not really what I should be sending.  Maybe ask me, “what is a piece you produced that is completely your vision; what is something you produced that you enjoyed making and why or even send me a link of some of your latest work.”  As a producer, if you are not proud of the work you are doing, then what are you doing exactly?

This dove tails onto another topic of discussion I wanted to bring up on this blog… what does a producer do anyway? Here is the thing I have worked many years as a producer wearing about a million hats because that is what we as producers do whether in TV, film or digital.  We are idea crafters, deal makers, wranglers, thought provokers, schedulers, budgeters, managers, contract negotiators… we shoot, we write, we edit,  we craft story, we find great places to eat and drink (connoisseurs of food and drink if you will).  We interview, we connect, we drive long distances to find the best place to shoot, we find great deals, we make great deals, we make not so great deals just to get something we believe in seen, we hustle and we hustle and we hustle every single day.

Yesterday I shot a spot with a brand. I brought in my crew, and I gave my feedback on what I thought the brand would need in order to get what they wanted for the piece they ultimately decided to create in house.  I have been working for months to try and work with this brand and I brought in people that I have worked with for years, who I trust would deliver a great product. I directed the shoot, crafting out the best shots with my DP based on the vision the brand had. The brand ultimately did some of the heavy lifting I would normally do and it showed. Brands are not producers.  They are marketers, they are financiers and have an idea of what they want. Sometimes they have people internally to execute and sometimes they do not, most of the time they have an agency of record. I was hoping to be the person to help execute the brand’s vision, but ultimately they brought me on to shoot content for a day, content they decided to craft internally with their own post-production team.  I was a little disappointed as my role began to shrink and shrink, but was happy for the work. Then at the end of the shoot, the brand team thanked me for my work and asked if they could get my crew’s information.  My heart sank. After months of tirelessly contacting the brand for an opportunity to work on what I thought could be an amazing and smart campaign, to then work and develop on a one off video concept to then at the very end be told nice job we want to rip off your team, I was disappointed.  Producers put the pieces in place, they execute soup to nuts and make sure that everything that could go wrong… doesn’t.  It is no easy task… sometimes brands have great teams in place and sometimes that don’t. So to all brands think about the stories you want to tell and who you have in place to execute. Find the right people, the right team to tell the right stories and don’t ask us as producers if you can steal the team we worked hard to put together=).

So what does all of this have in common… what am I most proud of? I am most proud of not backing down, telling good stories and having the balls to fight hard whether it is with brands, other producers or people in the entertainment industry in general…I work hard not to get screwed, and to be compensated fairly for my work… what is the one thing I am most proud of as a producer, what’s my proudest work… staying in it and moving forward in my career… I think that is what all of us as producers should be most proud of!

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LONG time and what am I doing now

Just a quick update… I have not written a post on here since October 2010. A LOT has changed in that time and thought it would be good to update here just in case anyone still reads or wants to. I had started this blog in ’08/ ’09 with the hope that I would be producing a feature film within a year or two. Well that never happened. What did happen was the explosion of the web and web content and have since ventured into an Executive Producer role on several successful web projects working with such brands as Unilever, Kraft and Clorox to name a few big ones.  I am creating brandertainment if you will and proud of the work I have done. Like all producers, there are ebs and flows, ups and downs and after hitting several downs in film and television, I seemed to have hit my stride in web content. The interesting thing is for some reason there still aren’t a lot of us out there in the world so if you yourself produce interactive branded web content would love to hear from you and have you share your experiences.

Perhaps I should start this blog back up again… I do miss talking about my producing experiences and though I have never cracked the film/ tv code… I am certainly doing an ok job in the wonderful world of web…

 

It’s almost a wrap!

Today is our last full day of shooting the pilot, but the work on it has only really just begun. I broke it to the writer/ director that if he wants this to go somewhere there is a lot more work to be done. So what does one do with a pilot anyway? Well here is my take on an answer…

So you want to film your own pilot eh? Well know that the likelihood of you getting picked up for network tv is bleak at best. The fact is I consider a pilot or trailer simply the icing on a very well made, delicious cake. In order for you to think you can take any meetings on your pilot you need some key ingredients. First make sure you have several scripts ready to go. It’s great that you shot something, but do you have any additional scripts in place?  You should! Second make sure you know where you want the series to go creatively, ideally put together a treatment for at least two seasons so you can show the arc of the show. Third toss in some really great poster art and graphic design work. Basically make the treatment look pretty. Fourth have some people in mind that could help you move the series along. Whether an agent or manager who believes in your project and can help you take meetings or partnering with well established writer or show runner; make sure someone in the industry is in your corner! For our project we have a few series creators/ show runners who have some interest as well as a few VP’s of production at big name companies that are open to having us pitch.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Know the trends in cable and broadcast tv! What are people looking for? What is selling? Know the people, the players who you need to talk to and understand that television is a different world than feature film. Essentially just know that many people will shoot projects that they believe in every day, but before you sink a whole lot of money and self-finance your own pilot, make sure you know if there is a home for the project whether you think it fits cable or if your home is on the Internet, think about the big picture on your project. I am all about doing something for simply the sake of doing it as long as your expectations are in check and you know what you are getting yourself into!

So what am I DOING anyway?

Good question so I shall tell you. I am currently working on a pilot that is being independently financed. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought it was a smart move I would have told you no. In fact I probably would have said, “Are you fucking stupid? There is no way in hell spending money on a pilot whose likelihood of getting picked up is practically none is a good idea.” Yea I actually think I said that at some point in ’08=) Well lucky for me it’s the end of ’09 and my tune has changed, albeit only slightly. I still don’t think shooting a pilot nowadays is a wise investment. I’d still tell you that the chance someone picks it up (network is a joke, cable is a small joke and internet well I guess you could put it on youtube) is about -200. The only difference I would add now is that I would say,  “Hey if you want to just do something, well gosh darn it DO IT and don’t let anyone tell you not to!”

Here’s how it happened. Two features film projects lost financing and a tv project that had traction couldn’t land a showrunner. This summer I worked on someone else’s web project as a line producer and I thought ok I have to DO something that I can control. A colleague of mine approached me and asked if I wanted to produce a TV pilot he had written and so I said, “sure why not.” Well it wasn’t that simple. First I read the script, and then gave the writer some extensive notes. He had a bunch of staged readings, and had him do some development, and then I said, “sure why not.” Beyond just the pilot itself I have asked the writer/ director to write at least three more scripts as well as have a soundtrack in place (did I mention it’s a musical?) and have a solid press and marketing packet in place prior to any pitch. I still think there is a snowballs chance in hell that it will get picked up, but hey I guess you never really know! Besides it is a project I believe in and think could land somewhere… perhaps Epix or Starz or Direct TV… the list of cable entities that need content nowadays is growing. It won’t land at a network (and frankly who would want it to!) However, it could land so we shall see…

Part of my change of heart has to do with these guys…

Big Fantastic

I heard about them three years ago when my roommate auditioned for this

Essentially four friends got together and made the above series on their own dime. This in turn led to several more series and deals with Mike Eisner’s Vuguru (check them out here: Tubefilter) The WB, and Generate. I got a chance to interview one of the founders of Big Fantastic, Chris Hampel for a site called eguiders (who never published my article so I am not linking them… so there!) Anyway, long story short… too late… these guys sort of inspired me to say fuck the system. Go create something you believe in and maybe just maybe you too will get a sweet deal with someone whether it be web or cable or mobile or well anything…

So here is the point and a point that I seem to come back to time and again… you want to do something go do it… go create, go make something. GO GO GO! If it is good, it WILL find a home. Now only a small handful of webseries have actually gotten picked up by a network for development, and so far only one has gotten to air… BUT this does not mean you should not go and make a web series or a series period. You may not make a million dollars, but your content will be seen! I don’t necessarily recommend shooting a pilot on your own dime, but frankly why the hell not… and don’t let me or anyone tell you not to do something=)

The 7 Year Itch

When I was a kid I saw this movie and now that I am much older and a tad bit wiser I understand the phrase 7 year itch more than I ever thought possible.

I typically shy away from getting too personal on this blog as I want to keep it business as usual, but wanted to take a moment and celebrate the fact that I have been in Los Angeles for 7 years. What a ride it has been. Reflecting back, I have had my fair share of ups and downs like the next person and I see very clearly the mistakes as well as successes I had along the way. The past couple months have been challenging to put it mildly, my business partner fell ill and moved away, financing fell through for our film and I was here alone to pick up the pieces of two years of trying to get it right and two more years of coming so close we could smell the paint dry on set. So four years of hard work and all I got was a plaque with my company name on it and a storage unit of office equipment. I packed up, moved into a home office complete with phone line, internet connection and close to my bed in case I need to bury my head under the covers.

One of the reasons I chose to come out to LA to try my hand at Producing film and tv (and now new media) was because of this man:

John Hughes 01

I was only about ten years old when I saw Sixteen Candles, the first film I saw by John Hughes. To this day it is still one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, four of my favorite movies ever are Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful and of course Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I have even posted a blog about the music of Sixteen Candles being an inspiration to me growing up and how important music is to film. The Muse In Music So of course when I heard John Hughes died two days ago I began to reflect quite a bit on what brought me out here to begin with.

For anyone that knows me in life, they know I have an incredible affinity to coming of age stories, of all age ranges. Whether you are ten, twenty-one, thirty or fifty-seven, I believe we all have our time to come of age.  It has been a goal to find a coming of age script for years now.  When I was a CE five years ago and then head of development I tried desperately to find a script that reminded me of the films of John Hughes.  I remember reading a very AMERICAN PIE like script (several in fact) and I kept asking the agents and managers I knew, “We want to find a great coming of age story, like John Hughes’ movies” The agent or manager would say to me, “Oh that would be great, but we just don’t have anything like that right now.” Every single person I talked to at the time would have loved to find that script too, a great coming of age story that touched the hearts of the young who could relate to it in the moment as well as touched the hearts of those who were older who had already been through it.  It was and still is something that alludes me, finding the perfect coming of age story, a teen comedy that is funny yet poignant, smart yet stupid, and something someone of any age could enjoy. I want the next Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink or Breakfast Club and maybe some day I will find it…or write it…

This touched me! It is a blog by a woman who wrote to John Hughes, became his pen pal. Many of you I am sure have already seen it, but I want to share it here because it reminded me of when I wrote a letter to Robert Altman six months before he passed away, thanking him for making movies. He is another talented filmmaker who inspired me to want to make movies. To this day THE WEDDING is still one of the first memories of watching a movie and thinking WOW I want to make films like that (and if anyone has a copy or knows where I can get one let me know…I have yet to find it even on VHS). Anyway, so this woman, Alison is her name, wrote to John Hughes for two years and then again in 1997.  It is a wonderful glimpse into the reasons why John Hughes made the movies he did and why he ultimately walked away from his career.  This is the NPR story as well as Alison’s blog. Alison and The blog post that made me cry

Last night I attended the Topanga Film Festival and saw this movie: What About Me WOW. I heard ONE GIANT LEAP before I saw it and it still is one of my favorite film soundtracks to date. It truly was a magical night under the stars watching a film that was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Check it out!

After some pretty deep philosophical conversation with my friends and some local Topanga residents regarding the film, I went over to the Dolores on Santa Monica Blvd just east of Bundy, on Purdue to grab some tea and dessert. The Dolores holds some fond memories for me.  I have done a lot of work with my business partner there, brainstorming, e-mailing investors, taking calls, for awhile it was my office before I had my office and now my home office.  I walked in and recalled how we came up with dialogue on our projects and created a treatment for the tv show we hope will get picked up one day. I also remembered the first time I had come to this diner, it was the day before Halloween, my then boss was trying to decide if he wanted to open a film and tv division and have me and my now business partner head it up. I was frustrated and so we went over to the Dolores where I had some fries and watched THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN and knew it was all going to be ok.

Being in LA for this long it’s easy to begin to get jaded, and if you are not careful, it’s easy to lose sight of why you came out here to begin with. I have not given up the fight; in fact after crawling into bed last night feeling somewhat defeated, this morning I got up, and began to write what could be the next great American novel as well as finished up my business proposal for a pilot I am producing this fall.  I may get down, I may have my days where I feel like packing it in and moving to Montana, but then something happens that makes me realize why I am here and what I set out to do…THANK YOU to those that have read this, one of my lengthier posts, and thanks for John Hughes… you will live on in your films for generations to come!

wheeeeeeeeee

My colleague Jane (http://allaboutindiefilmmaking.blogspot.com/) wrote a fabulous post about how one makes a living as an indie producer and that a lot of times we need to do other gigs to survive while trying to make our projects happen. Well a gig that I have been doing is Production Managing a web series being sponsored by Palm technology.  It’s really an interesting gig and doing a lot of creative maneuvering that keeps me on my toes.

One of my responsibilities this time around was locking in a location for our interview portion of our shoot.  We were informed that it was very likely the location we wanted would be unavailable, but we needed a place that was right next door to where we were going to shoot. A bunch of phone calls later I was very fortunate to find not one, but two locations willing to let us shoot our segment at no cost. I was shocked. First everyone is hurting for business and second well this is typically unheard of, or so I thought. Come to find out one of my friend’s who is a production manager for reality television (I won’t tell you what he works on…I chastise him enough, he doesn’t need my readers chastising him also), well he is able to get free locations all the time. The only catch is the location wants to be recognized in the segment, a shout out if you will. Maybe that is a quick cut away to the locations signage or a verbal mention during the segment or a special thanks at the end of the episode.

The lesson I learned here is you never know until you ask. You may be surprised at what you can get for no financial cost to you, though you could have to pay in other ways. I want to thank Chaya Downtown and Remedy Lounge here in this little old blog for being FABULOUS and incredibly accommodating and flexible! Now I am off to the shoot!

Knee deep in business plan

SO as the heading says I am knee deep in a business plan for our next film. It’s a beautiful script and a project that could be easily shot for $500,000 set in the south.  Doing business plans is one of the most tedious things I have done as a producer… ok that is not necessarily completely accurate.  However, it is a process that I don’t love, but is necessary when approaching investors.  The tricky thing for me is always the ROI, return on investment.  It is such a fickle industry and frankly you could do everything and anything to sell your film to the right distributor, get all the tax breaks possible and still not get a return on the investment. Someone said any smart business person would not invest in a feature film. I agree to an extent.  Filmmaking is a very tricky venture.  All you can do as a producer is cover every base possible and make sure you think about distribution while you are developing your script…yes THAT early.

Anyway I actually wanted to take a break about the business for a second and talk about inspiration.  I saw this website and wanted to share.  I have decided that once a week I am going to try and pick one thing that really inspires me and share it with you the blog reading community.  It might be a phrase or a short story, it could be a photograph, a url or a web series.  It is simply a way for me to stay creative and share something creative with anyone who is reading.  Today more than ever I think it is crucial to stay inspired, to find something that fulfills you creatively.  There is so much doom and gloom about $ dwindling especially in the independent market that it is hard sometimes to really stay in it and focus on getting your projects made…so today the day before our nations birthday I bring you De-Classified.  My friend Ross turned me onto this web site. It is a photographic journey into the lives of people that have posted classified ads as a way to de-mystify these individuals.  Check it out, it’s a creative masterpiece in my humble opinion.

De-Classified

Ok now back to work for me. Enjoy the holiday!