Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tip #31: Dealing with actor's agents

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer)

It’s true that your first time dealing with an agency can be a little intimidating, even more so if it is a rather large, well established and highly respected agency that manages a lot of artists. It’s important to do your homework on the agency and know who exactly you are dealing with.

From experience having your named actor agree to come on board your project is one thing. But ultimately it’s then dealing with their agent/agency that is then going to make or break that agreement. So be really professional, honest and transparent about your project and your intentions.

Having sent the usual information, script, film synopsis and the character breakdown it is only then you engage in real communication. For me it involved countless phone calls and emails. It is imperative that not only are you passionate about your project but that you know your project inside and out. It’s also just as important to know your stuff regarding contracts and PACT/Equity. Trust me, you will be quizzed on everything, remember you are dealing with a professional and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, your capabilities as a producer will be called into question. How you communicate and deal with the actor’s agent/agency is a reflection of how you intend dealing with their client and the project as a whole. So don’t cause them to have any reasons to doubt you or your film.

It’s then down to negotiation including fees, the contract itself (if you are using your own, ensure it meets the standards of a PACT/ Equity agreement) finalising filming dates (though this will most likely have been discussed in one of your first conversations) then there is the billing of the star, if they will be required to do ADR and the list goes on and on. Don’t second guess anything. From the get go I laid my cards on the table and cut to the chase, aware that I was dealing with someone who was very busy. Not wanting to waste either of our precious time, I was clear, concise and direct in my communication, while always remaining courteous and polite of course.

After speaking to each other a couple of times and getting to know each other a little better, I encouraged suggestions from her. Ultimately while always remaining completely professional, she proved to be very helpful . If you do have to negotiate be aware that you probably have limited powers in this instance, however that is not to say it’s impossible. I had at least one incident that I was very reluctant to agree to, as you have to keep the project as a whole always at the forefront of your mind. However, it was my approach and the manner in which I negotiated, that eventually resulted in my success.

Friday, 23 April 2010

VIDEO: BLOG: Bonus Episode!

To celebrate the picking up of our Best Film award at the British Independent Film Festival tomorrow (Saturday April 24th) we are releasing a bonus video blog... complete with bloopers, outtakes, interesting experiences and .... monkey impressions? Cast and crew reveal all in the final episode of How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film. Our lawyers are standing by....

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tip #30: Never forget about contracts

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer)

This might seem like a rather dull part of the film making process, but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to document all the relationships and deals you enter into regarding your film. Contracts are legally binding agreements, spelling out the terms and clarifying all details expected by both parties. Consider them your best friend as they ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings down the road. They also provide the necessary paper trail you need when securing distribution deals.

Each one of course varies depending on the role or job in your film, but they should all detail the terms of payment and the situation regarding expenses. There are many free contract templates available on line that you can tailor to suit your project. Equity contracts are great and cover everything so where possible, it’s a good idea to base your contracts on theirs. Keep them simple though and if possible get a solicitor to give them the once over. Also when sending contracts always include a SAE to ensure prompt returns.

Here are some important excerpts from our Actor contract:
  • This contract confirms our agreement that you will take the part of ............... in the film "Ambleton Delight” a joint production of Parkes Productions and Sinéad Ferguson (henceforth referred to as the ‘Film’). We are letting you know in advance that the title of the film may change, but if it does, we will let you know by sending a letter to this address, making clear that the name change will not affect our agreement.
  • I, ................ will make myself available for the rehearsal dates when confirmed and the shoot dates ............... (night/morning)............. I will also make myself available on the following dates should I be required to do so.
  • I, ....................... will attend the following locations for the shoot....
  • I, ................. hereby grant Parkes Productions Ltd and Sinéad Ferguson the right to photograph me and to record my voice, performances, poses, actions, plays and appearances, and use my picture, photograph, silhouette and other reproductions of my physical likeness in connection with the Film. I also hereby grant Parkes Productions Ltd and Sinéad Ferguson, its successors, assigns and licensees the perpetual right to use all still and motion pictures and sound track recordings and records which may be made of me or of my voice, and the right to use my name or likeness in or in connection with the exhibition, advertising, exploiting and/or publicizing of the Film. I further grant the right to reproduce in any manner whatsoever any recordings including all instrumental, musical, or other sound effects produced by me, in connection with the production and/or postproduction of the Film.
  • Additionally, I agree, to the best of my ability, to make myself available should it be necessary, to rerecord my image/voice and/or record voice-overs and otherwise perform any necessary sound work required after the end of filming.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

VIDEO BLOG: Episode 7

The final installment in the series covers CG effects that don't look CG, all-important product and logo clearance, free marketing ideas and tools, holding a successful premiere, and a concise summary of key ingredients and qualities in a successful next-to-nothing budget feature film.

All this and more in the seventh episode of the seven part series 'How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film' exclusively on YouTube...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tip #29: The importance of rehearsals

By Dan Parkes (Director)

The quicker you can shoot the more money you will save. Feature films such as Phone Booth -shot in just 10 days- are a good example. And one of the keys to achieving this is to rehearse important scenes with your actors prior to filming. Here are 12 tips:
  1. Professional actors should be more than happy and in fact want to rehearse, but make sure that you have already discussed this and have worked out the situation regarding expenses etc
  2. Select scenes that are critical to the story narrative and that actors may have difficulty with, due to the amount of dialogue, or subtle character development.
  3. Make sure both you and the cast involved have copies of the most recent shooting script and are familiar with what scenes are to be rehearsed.
  4. Choose an appropriate location with furniture and layout that will assist the rehearsal -ideally the actual shoot location.
  5. Use the rehearsal as a time to also check wardrobe choices, to sign contracts and to check schedules for the shoot.
  6. At the beginning of the rehearsal firstly check with the cast if they have any questions regarding the scene or their character.
  7. Start with a read-through of the script -depending on the nature of the scene some may want to by-pass this step.
  8. Once you are happy with the read-through, try the scene in its entirety, progressing on to blocking options, body language and pronunciation if necessary.
  9. If a scene is not working, tell the actors to forget the script and to improvise. This will help identify the main dynamics of the scene and more natural lines of dialogue may result.
  10. Use rehearsals to explore creative options; be ready to change the script based on what happens.
  11. Always film the rehearsal so you can start exploring camera angles (make sure this is covered in the contract!).
  12. Have possible 'boot camp' options -for example our lead actor Jos Lawton spent some time working in a restaurant kitchen so that he would look authentic in his role of a restaurant chief.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

VIDEO BLOG: Episode 6

Explore the post-production workflow including editing using the Cineform HD intermediate codec, sound effects, and most importantly having a tailor-made score written and how to get high quality band music, even for free!

All this and more in the sixth episode of the seven part series 'How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film' exclusively on YouTube..

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Three things I learned this week...

By Dan Parkes (Director)

At the beginning of our Video Blog series the presenter Kieron James makes an interesting point when he says that 'there are as many ways to make a film as there are films' a truism that was reinforced this week when I learned 3 important new things as a filmmaker:

1. Yesterday, I was asked in my capacity as a producer to fill out a survey which, for the first time I have seen in print, detailed the exact definition of current film budgets, something I have always wondered about, and certainly up for debate:
  • ‘No Budget’ feature (under £50k)
  • ‘Micro Budget’ feature (£50k - £250k)
  • ‘Low Budget’ feature (£250k - £1 million)
2. Today I attended a producers masterclass during which an experienced consultant made an extremely important and valid point that I had always known to be instinctively true but yet had never, until now, received as firm advice: Get a sales agent before releasing a film onto the festival circuit. How many filmmakers enter films into festivals thinking this is the best way to get exposure, to get it into the market, but then wonder why they hardly ever hear back from the 'big festivals' or even many of the smaller ones? Ultimately it's all a waste of time. Filmmakers don't enter festivals. Sales agents do. Get a sales agent, and they will do the rest...

3. Today Phillips have released five short films all based on the same lines of dialogue regarding a unicorn of all things, which is interesting in itself. But far more interesting is that it is to promote their new product...a 21:9 television set. We all know of 16:9, the widescreen format. But 21:9?... That got me to go back to my aspect ratio references and sure enough 21:9 is equivalient to 2:35:1, the full cinematic aspect ratio (16:9 is technically 1:78:1, while the old square TV format, 4:3 is 1:33:1). This is great news -a TV that can finally show films -such as Ambleton Delight- as they were originally intended, in full cinematic proportions! Check it out here:

Friday, 2 April 2010

VIDEO BLOG: Episode 5

This latest episode is jam packed with on-set advice regarding extras, catering, continuity, shot lists, and filming guerilla style, plus some tips on surviving night shoots, filming rain and building sets.

All this and more in the fifth episode of the seven part series 'How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film' exclusively on YouTube..