Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Panasonic HVX-200 for sale…

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I’m selling my venerable Panasonic HVX-200 and its 8GB P2 card. No, I’m not giving up filmmaking; I just don’t need the camera. I was looking to rent an HVX this summer for a few weeks to do some shooting in Knoxville and Roanoke. For the few weeks I needed it, a rental wasn’t really cost-effective, so I just bit the bullet and bought the camera. Now that we’ve got a few HVX’s at Virginia Tech, I don’t need to hang on to this one. As many people who read this blog would probably testify, it is an awesome camera. The DVCPro HD codec at 24P is totally impressive.

Anyway, if you’re interested, email me personally [ pharrill AT you-know-what DOT com ]. You can ask me all about it and I can let you know all the details, accessories, etc. I’d rather sell it to a reader of SRF than put it up on Ebay, so I’ll entertain any reasonable, sincere offer.

UPDATE: Looks like it’s sold folks. Thanks for your interest!

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.

IFP Rough Cut Lab

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Tom Quinn, who I got to know during my stint as a visiting professor at Temple, has an interesting write-up of his experiences at the IFP Rough Cut lab over at Workbook Project.

The clips I’ve seen of Tom’s work-in-progress The New Year Parade have all been very promising. Like a lot of truly independent works, it’s had a long birthing process, which has just amped up my anticipation of it. Happily, it sounds like the Lab may be that last little push Tom needed to complete the film and get it out to audiences.

In the meantime, read Tom’s take on the Lab here.

Caffeine, Sequels, and Remakes…

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

When I realized that caffeine could be attributed to at least a few of the several headaches I get on a monthly basis, I gave it up. I’ve been off caffeine for over 15 years now. In addition to it helping with the headaches, I learned early on in the process how good it felt to just deny something to yourself. To echo one of the legends of self-reliance, denial helps one live deliberately.

It’s been so long since I had a caffeinated beverage that I take it for granted now, but I was thinking about it today when reading Matthew Jeppsen’s post at FresHDV in which he quotes a recent interview with Ridley Scott.

Scott says:

I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it’s 3% good, 97% stupid. [The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford] is one of those rarities that does get made, thank God, and has serious characterisation and serious things to say. Altogether it’s a wonderful, dramatic and historic piece. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to get films like this made.

I’ve sometimes found Ridley Scott’s work to be an example of (admittedly great) style over substance, but am I ever in agreement here.

In an effort to quantify the dumbness, what follows is a list of the top 20 grossing movies of 2007 to-date, in order. Films in bold are not sequels or based on previously existing franchises (i.e., a comic book or television series).

Spider-Man 3 – sequel (#3) / comic book franchise
Shrek the Third – sequel (#3)
Transformers – based on TV show
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – sequel (#3)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – sequel / book franchise
The Bourne Ultimatum – sequel (#3) / based on book franchise
300
Ratatouille
The Simpsons Movie – based on 17 year-old TV series
Wild Hogs
Knocked Up
Live Free or Die Hard – sequel (#4)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – sequel (#2) / based on comic book franchise
Rush Hour 3 – sequel (#3)
Blades of Glory
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Ocean’s Thirteen – second sequel to a remake
Ghost Rider – debatable: based on comic book franchise….
Hairspray – based on broadway show, which was based on movie
Superbad

Out of 20 films, seven or eight are “original”, if you can call Wild Hogs and Blades of Glory “original.” [Addendum: Adaptations of non-franchise literature, etc. count as original works. See discussion in comments below.]

If that doesn’t get you down, look at the all-time top grossing movies in the USA, where you’ll see that 13 of the 20 were released in the last seven years. Of those 13, two (The Passion of the Christ and Finding Nemo) aren’t sequels, remakes, or based on pre-existing franchises.

Shutting myself in a dark room isn’t going to make the headache that is this list of movies go away, but I am going to give up watching any new sequels and remakes. Even if some of these movies are ok, I’m sick of the practice in general principle. Why encourage Hollywood to do it any longer? Like caffeine, I’m going cold turkey, giving this stuff up in toto.

Sure, I might miss something like Cronenberg’s The Fly or Sirk’s Imitation of Life (two of my favorite remakes), but something tells me the withdrawal period will last shorter than when I gave up caffeine.

UPDATE 9/23/07: Alert reader AJ Broadbent has sent word of even more dissenting opinions. Click here for the full story!!

No Budget Film School

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Back in January, I participated in a conversation on DIY filmmaking with Workbook Project founder Lance Weiler (Head Trauma) and Mark Stolaroff (producer and founder of the No Budget Film School). I enjoyed the discussion and certainly learned a few things myself.

Mark recently notified me that his No Budget Film School is holding a two-day immersion workshop entitled, “The Art & Science of No-Budget Filmmaking” in Los Angeles next weekend (8/25 & 8/26), so I thought I’d pass the word along.

I haven’t attended one of these workshops myself, so I can’t directly endorse it. I will say, though, that the list of confirmed Guest Speakers — which includes Peter Broderick (President, Paradigm Consulting; former President, Next Wave Films), Craig Zobel (Director, Great World Of Sound – 2007 Sundance), and Ti West (Director, The Roost; Trigger Man) looks promising.

And it’s not terribly expensive as far as these things go. The two-day workshop is $275 in advance; $200 if you’re a college student with ID. When you consider that all paid attendees of the workshop receive Axium Scheduling and Axium Budgeting software for free (reportedly a $400 value) it might end up being a pretty good bargain.

If you’re in L.A. and you’re debating whether or not to go, you might give that conference between Lance, Mark, and me a listen. If you like what Mark has to say, check out the workshop.