Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

MacHeist: Indy Mac Software + Good Cause = Insane Deal

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

If you use a Mac, you absolutely must check out the insane deal that MacHeist — an alliance of independent Mac software developers — is offering.

For $49.95, MacHeist is selling $428 worth of fully-featured (i.e., not demo mode) Mac software. And to make the offer that much sweeter, a good chunk of the proceeds go to charity. As of this writing, $227,000+ has been raised so far.

Plus, the software is good. I would recommend all three of the twelve titles that I’ve previously used:

SnapzProX – a screencapture utility that’s GREAT for creating screencasts
iStopMotion – a great program for shooting stop motion animation
1Password – a browser extension that saves all your passwords in one place, and generates secure passwords

I’m an especially big fan of SnapzProX. Last fall I used it (in demo mode) to create a screencast for some of my students. I found it to be the best application of its kind on the Mac. It normally sells for $69, but for the next four days people can get it, plus 11 other applications, for $20 less. And it goes to charity. So I’m getting out my credit card now.

As for the charities represented, according to the MacHeist wiki:

Purchasers can choose from the following list of ten charities, or opt to split the donation from their purchase evenly among the choices.

* Action Against Hunger
* AIDS Research Alliance
* Alliance for Climate Protection
* Direct Relief International
* Humane Society International
* The Nature Conservancy
* Save the Children
* Save Darfur
* Prevent Cancer Foundation
* World Wildlife Fund

From Here to Awesome

Friday, January 11th, 2008

For filmmakers it is the best of times and worst of times. The tools are more accessible but the market has become saturated….From Here to Awesome is an attempt to answer some of the largest issues facing filmmakers today – discovery, distribution and sustainability.

– From Here to Awesome festival co-founder Lance Weiler

From Here to Awesome is a “new” film festival — both in the sense that it has just launched and in its aims and approach. I encourage all filmmakers using film festivals as a gateway to larger distribution efforts (theatrical, DVD release, etc) to check it out.

Billed as a discovery and distribution festival, FHTA has been dreamt up by three filmmakers with unassailable DIY credibility: Lance Weiler (Head Trauma, The Last Broadcast), Arin Crumley (Four-Eyed Monsters) and M dot Strange (We Are the Strange). Their ethos and aesthetic run through the festival, from the way that they plan to use existing web community portals (YouTube, MySpace, etc) to conduct the submission and selection process, to the festival’s filmmaker-friendly guidelines (e.g., no entry fee, all rights remain with filmmakers, etc).

Submissions are open (as of yesterday); the deadline for submissions is March 7.

In all, it’s an ambitious undertaking, one that seems to be nothing less than a reinvention of the film festival. Here’s wishing them — and the filmmakers that submit — the best of luck.

Check it out for yourself.

An Oscar Antidote for Documentaries

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Today, Thom Powers, Documentary Programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival, and AJ Schnack (filmmaker of Kurt Cobain: About a Son and blogger of All These Wonderful Things) announced the launch a new award for nonfiction filmmaking, to be held in March at the IFC Center in New York.

Nominees in eight categories will be announced in Park City on January 20.

The new awards are a direct response to the Oscars. From recent debates over confusing (and shifting) eligibility guidelines, to its long history of jaw-dropping omissions (e.g., neither Hoop Dreams nor The Thin Blue Line were even nominated their respective years), the Academy’s treatment of the genre has long been a source of consternation and disappointment for many within the documentary community. That’s not to say that many worthy films haven’t been nominated and awarded over the years… but clearly the AMPAS doesn’t give documentary the attention that it does to fictional feature films.

Hats off to AJ and the others behind this initiative.

indieWIRE has the first report.

Fundraising Tips: Money Trees and House Parties

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

I was speaking with a fellow filmmaker the other day who was asking me for tips on finding grants for fiction films. I’ve been successful at finding grant-based funding for my work (“Gina, An Actress, Age 29” was supported by the sadly now-defunct Aperture Film Grant), but I had to break the disappointing news that those sources are few and far between for fiction work these days.

Having said that, if you’re developing a not-for-profit film/video project — say, a social-issue documentary or a youth video project — there is money out there. A great introduction to finding money is Morrie Warshawski’s Shaking The Money Tree, 2nd Edition.

I read Shaking the Money Tree years ago when it was still in its first edition. Since then I’ve probably raised close to $100,000 in grant monies for various projects (my own and others’) since reading it. Documentarians will probably benefit from it the most, but I strongly recommend it to filmmakers that need help raising funds for their films, or fund-raisers new to film and video production, regardless of film genre.

One fundraising strategy that’s discussed briefly in Shaking The Money Tree is given its own extended treatment in Warshawski’s newly revised The Fundraising Houseparty, 2nd Edition.

As Warshawski points out in this slim volume’s introduction, individual donors account for 87% of all non-profit endeavors. Fundraising houseparties are a way to bring such individuals together and introduce them to a project that might deserve their support.

I’ve never hosted a houseparty (nor had one hosted for my work), but I have attended a couple, so I have a decent grasp of what works and what doesn’t. Warshawski’s guide is the best I’ve seen on what can be an intimidating process for the uninitiated. The basics are spelled out in easy-to-read prose, with straightforward diagrams and illustrations helping to walk you through the process. The appendix even includes sample invitation letters and a worksheet. Yes, some of this stuff is common sense (“Thank People as They Leave” states one heading), but other topics aren’t (“taxes”).

As the saying goes, you gotta spend money to make money. At $20 (or less) each, these books are a pretty good investment for anyone considering or pursuing the not-for-profit realm of moviemaking. If you have other tips or reading suggestions, share them in the comments below.

Gels, and their Proper Care

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Gels are useful, but pricey. Any budget-minded filmmaker should take good care of them. Here’s a helpful post from David Tames at Kino-Eye that details some simple ways to organize your gels so that they last longer.