Tag Archives: time

how to turn a script into a product

25 May

during the early stages of script development, I started to realise we weren’t going to be able to shoot this film on the kind of budget myself and the director could raise ourselves (eg, under the £30,000 mark). the original script was the director’s baby: he’d first written it when he was 15, and didn’t want to compromise it any way.

so we decided to set out to film it for around the £600,000 mark.  this meant we would have to have experienced crew and investors on board, and therefore that we had to create a product around the script which they would want to back.

we pooled all the money we could get our hands on, and created:

1.  a very funky website, which was designed in a way that made it double up as concept art too.  people could visit the site and understand what the tone of the film would be.  we went to great lengths to ensure it looked as good as, if not better than, major budget film websites.  every potential crew member, every investor, every sales agent has been sent to the website as a way of being introduced to the film, so it was worth the money and the effort in having it look bang-on.

we were fortunate that one of our close friends from uni is a graphic designer…the site would have cost upwards from £5,000 to make had we gone to a web design agency.  as it was, it cost us £800 up front, and £2,000 in deferred pay providing we sell the film.  if you don’t have a friend who you believe is up to the job, then go to exhibitions held by third year graphics students at a uni near you, find a student whose work you like, and offer them a similar deal.  they might even do it for free, as portfolio work, and you’ll know that their ideas and style are fresh and innovative.

2. next, we filmed a concept art teaser trailer.  60-seconds long, it encapsulated the tone of the film (gory, with tongue-in-cheek humour) and the visual style we wanted to achieve (browns and greens, dark bloods, dirty).  it proved to potential crew and investors that myself and the director could film something that looked completely professional, and that had heart.  in a way, it also showed that I would be able to bring the feature film itself in on a tiny budget (given the nature of some of the scenes in the script): the trailer cost just £1,200, despite having a 15 second CGI sequence, 30 cast members, and 6 prosthetic “set pieces”.

the trailer has been used as a marketing tool, to drum up interest and exposure on youtube, facebook, film forums, and other internet sites.  sales agents have been excited at how we have started this online marketing from the very beginning of script development, as it gives them a levering tool to persuade distributors that the premise of the film is already going down well with audiences.

3.  next, we organised some photography shoots, again as concept art.  our film is being made for the 16 – 30 year old market, and so some of the character types and language was a little alien for older investors.  the concept art featured the main characters in the script, how we envisaged them looking, and illustrated the differences between the two gangs of youths.

this concept art has been great as content for the website, and for production packs.

4.  we wanted our production packs to stand out from the many others that actors, investors, sales agents, etc receive on a day-to-day basis…so, we designed and had printed full-colour, glossy folders to put everything in.  this gave our packs colour and design which could be used no matter if the treatment, script, budget etc changed.  the folder was printed out in landscape, widescreen, partly to make it stand out from the standard portrait packs, and partly because we liked how it looked. all the content to go inside the folder was designed so it would look good printed out on our printers (in black and white) and formatted in landscape to match the folders.

5.  the last major step we took was to attach an established executive producer, in a mentor role.  this was undoubtably the best decision we made, and also the cheapest: they agreed to mentor us for no upfront fee.  it meant we could include their name in information about the production, so adding weight and security to it, and also that we could run ideas or questions by them.  we have also been introduced to many hugely talented and well known crew members through our exec producer, and have been able to attach a few of them as our heads of department – something very important in sales agents and investors eyes, as they increase the likelihood of the production being completed to a high standard.

of course, the main selling point about our production is the script.  but the above five points help it to get noticed amongst all the other brilliant scripts out there.  hope this helps someone – does anyone have any other suggestions to add?

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top ten most successful first time producer films

19 May

a list of the most successful films made by first time producer and director teams (based on return of investment):

1. paranormal activity (made for $15,000, grossed $193,770,45).  pretty good going considering it was Oren Peli’s first time directing, writing and producing.

2. tarnation (made for $218, grossed $1,162,014). Jonathan Caouette’s debut film about growing up with a schizophrenic mother.

3. mad max (made for $200,000, grossed $99,750,000).  it was Byron Kennedy’s first time producing, and George Miller’s first time directing.

4. super size me (made for $65,000, grossed $29,529,368).  previous to this, director / producer / writer Morgan Spurlock had only production assisted on films.

5. the blair witch project (made for $600,000, grossed $248,300,000).  arguably the most famous “zero to hero” film of them all, it’s surprising that this comes 5th on the list.  first times all round for producing team Robin Cowie and Gregg Hale, and for director / writer team Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez

6. night of the living dead (made for $114,000, grossed $30,000,000).  a first film for legend George A. Romero, and for producers Russell Streiner and Karl Hardman.

7. the stewardesses (made for $200,000, grossed $25,000,000). director / writer / producer Al Silliman had no film credits at all before making the stewardesses.

8. napoleon dynamite (made for $400,000, grossed $46,140,956). first director credit for Jerad Hess, who had previously only worked as a camera assistant. similarly, first feature producer credits for Jeremy Coon (he’d produced one short before Napoleon Dynamite), Sean Covel and Chris Wyatt.

9. open water (made for $500,000, grossed $52,100,882). only just made it on the list, because director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau had produced and directed grind 6 years before. but it’s practically a first film…

10. the evil dead (made for $375,000, grossed $29,400,000). producer Robert G. Tapert had made a couple of shorts before this, but it was his first feature film credit…same for director Sam Raimi.

it’s interesting to note the average budget of all these films is $246,922. although inflation means that this figure would be higher if these films were made today, perhaps this suggests to first time filmmakers that the closer they can get their budgets to the $400,000 mark, the better, in terms of likelihood of profit vs likelihood of actually getting the film made?

my personal favourite…napolean dynamite. amazing that the producer / director team made such an original, groundbreaking film (whose style of comedy has heavily influenced US comedies since) with no previous film credits.

other people’s favorites? what other films do people consider “successful” first timers, creatively rather than just by return of investment?

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