Tailor Your Film to Your Budget: "Scale Back!"

Tip of the week from our podcast: "Scale Back!" (download episode on iTunes)

So you have an idea for a single-shot, 3D reinvention of "Blade Runner" and you believe it's gonna be the next big thing. There is a slight problem though. You have a producer willing to bank roll this (your mom), but you will have to shoot it all on a flip cam to afford the giant exploding zeppelin and mutant turtle costumes. (Hey, it's not a LITERAL re telling.)

So what are you going to do to make this work? If you are making your first (or fifteenth) film, whether it is a short or a feature, one of the most important steps is budgeting. And no matter your ambitions you are most likely going to have less money and zeppelins in real life than your script seems to need. When this happens you must learn to scale back your vision, to match your budget and resources.

Here are a few practical questions to consider as you rethink your audacious new script:

1) Can I REALLY pull favors?

There are things you can do for cheap with the right connections, like getting free catering through a friend who owns a local restaurant. You may even be able to pull favors for awesome locations, and find crew that will work for free! But be sure you don't skimp on surrounding yourself with people who know how to work hard and are dedicated to your film, whether you can pay them or not. Your vision depends on your relationship with your cast and crew. Make sure it doesn't suffer as you slash the budget and increase the hours. You may even have to schedule your shooting around their schedules. That's OK for a small budget film.

2) Can this story be told more simply?

Make tough decisions to cut scenes you love if they don't move the story forward, or if there is a more simple way to accomplish the same goals. It has been said that the best way to accomplish a goal is usually the simplist, and that is often very true indeed in the film world.

3) Am I being realistic about my experience (or resource) level?

Don't set out to do something you know you can't do successfully. For example: don't attempt using a green screen for the first time on a feature film if you have never successfully pulled it off.  It is a great idea to be ambitious, but set realistic goals for yourself and work your butt off to accomplish them.

Most importantly you should love the process. If you are hating your life while making your movie, other people will too and nobody will want to work with you again... so have fun!




Episode 5: Tailor Your Film To Match Your Budget

Big ideas are great! That is, until you run up against the limits of your resources and budget. Do you have grand visions of a 50 car pile up on a 12 lane bridge... but can only afford a bike wreck in your parents driveway? If this diagnosis fits you or someone you know, LISTEN TO THIS. It's time to come up with creative, story based solutions that will ultimately make for a much better film and make you into a better filmmaker.


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Episode 4: How To Ruin Your Film and Make a Great One

"There's another example! See, here I am now, by myself, talking to myself. That's Chaos Theory!" —Ian Malcom

So you have your talking whale lined up and you are ready to make an 8 part mini series based on Moby Dick. Unlucky for you, there is no way NOTHING will go wrong. Chaos theory is on it's finest display in the filmmaking process and the sooner you learn to roll with the punches and allow your creative vision to change as you go the better the results will be.


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Walter Cronkite: "Find Your Voice"

Tip of the week from our podcast: "Find Your Voice" (download episode on iTunes)

If you are going to begin writing, speaking or directing film, or even just building relationships socially... the way you communicate is the primary key to gaining an audience, large or small. It can be tempting as young artists to see other filmmakers who are successful and to attempt to copy them. But as Michael Hartnett says in our podcast: "I don't want to be the RC Cola of filmmaking".

So if you want to tell stories (and we assume you do), and you are in a place of writing down your ideas, or wearing yourself out doing 48 hour filmmaking marathons with your friends, or even if you're an established professional looking to grow creatively; ask yourself this: "Am I being honest?"

If the stories you are trying to tell are shaping themselves into wannabe versions of "The Social Network" (but it's about the origins of Grooveshark!) maybe it's time to go deeper for inspiration. What can you do to find your unique voice, even as you expand your universe of influence?

A few starting points:

1) Don't be intimidated.

Take your favorite films, and go beyond infatuation. Get to know what the director's inspirations were, and read the earliest version of the script you can find. Chances are it wasn't spit onto paper quite as awesome as the cinematic masterpiece you just fell for.

2) Broaden your influences.

If you haven't watched a variety of types of films you are going to be narrow in your style and won't have a lot to pull from when attempting to solve problems with your script. You are still lean if you haven't surrounded yourself with stories and life experiences that give you a connection to what you want to communicate. Read classic literature. (And listen to our podcast, duh!)

3) Do what YOU like, or you will hate what you do.

The biggest setback in the creative process comes when you no longer like the story you are writing. That can happen for a variety of reasons, but the BIGGEST buzz kill for a creative comes when he/she tries to do something that isn't them. If you are trying to be exactly like someone else, no matter how inspired you are by their work you will only set yourself up to fail (or become a hack!) if you aren't being true to your own unique voice.



Episode 3: The World Doesn't Need Another Walter Cronkite

"Can't figure it out. Do you want to be like me or do you want to BE me?" — Jessie James

It's easy to envy, and feel intimidated by the success of great storytellers. This leads to some different responses: paralysis or absolute emulation are on the negative end of the spectrum, while inspiration allows for your unique voice to emerge.


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Don't Be Afraid Of Failure: "Fail on!"

Tip of the week from our podcast: "Fail on!" (download episode on iTunes)

Many of you are already super familiar with Thomas Alva Edison. If it wasn't for this guy our podcast would be rather pointless. It was primarily his efforts in the early days of technology that brought about the invention of the motion picture. He is not just the light bulb guy. He holds a whopping 1,093 patents. That's a lot of tinkering in the garage.

There is a time in childhood when every kid wishes to become an inventor of cool gadgets that redefine the world, and for me that invention bug was centered on Edison (and Doc Brown). And just like every childhood fantasy, it eventually comes crashing down under the enormous weight of reality. Namely the rather frightening reality of the biggest monster that lives under the bed of every creative: YOU WILL FAIL.

What we are asking you to do in this podcast is one of the most counter intuitive things you will ever do: make friends with failure. He isn't really so bad. Yes people will look down on you for doing it. You will feel stupid. He makes bad jokes that nobody even politely laughs at, and your family may start talking about how much time you two are spending together in hushed, concerned tones that cease suddenly when you walk into the room.

But failure is really success in disguise. It is the best twist of any good mystery movie. The guy everyone thinks is the villain is actually the hero all along.

So back to Edison, that guy who fathered the spirit of modern invention? He was not an overnight success, at all. In fact one of his first patents, an electronic voting machine was a commercial flop. At 21 he moved to New York with no money and no real success, but he continued to innovate, and eventually said this to a reporter: "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work."

Because Edison faced his fear and became friends with failure, he met success. And lest you think failing ends once you make your big break, many of Edison's efforts in invention and industry AFTER he figured out the filament issue were failures.

This week we want you to try something you have been wanting to do for a long time, that you know may fail. If you succeed, awesome! If you fail? Awesome! Really internalize the results, and make the tough decision to try it again, and again, and again.

Just do it.



New & Noteworthy on iTunes!

This is pretty rad gang!  Check out the "New & Noteworthy" Section in the iTunes store podcast directory and you'll see the New American Storytellers! Thanks for making this happen kids!  Keep on listening!

And if you haven't subscribed on can do it HERE

— David