Stills from the film 'Drowning'
Does anyone have any advice on blatant self-promotion? I know that nowadays self-promotion is as common as breathing, but I’m still not comfortable with it. After about six years of work on two separate projects, they are both done at around the same time and now I’m required to promote and pitch new projects, which is something I’ve never come to terms with. I used to believe you put your project out there and people will see it, and if it’s good enough you’ll get more work. The rules of the game have shifted and it kind of feels that everyone in the world is screaming ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ and no one is listening. It’s a strange time indeed.
I need to get over myself, my shyness, my self-esteem issues, my self-doubt, and yell and scream ‘Look at me!’ just like everyone else is, but maybe there’s another way. I’m much more comfortable with saying ‘Look over here, if you feel like it…’ so maybe that’s what I’ll have to do. I’ll start posting more often as the release dates get closer. I’m also going to reach out to friends who are good at self-promotion and use their advice to create a path forward. If you’re good at marketing and promotion please send me some words of wisdom. How do you promote yourself without burning out your network? How do you build new networks outside your bubble and move on to the next stage of your work? I’m still afraid of selfies and blatant self-promotion but maybe I can find a way to promote others who worked on the projects instead of myself. Perhaps the best way to promote yourself is to promote the people who make it possible for you to do your thing. Hopefully that might be a better way forward.
I’ve spent most of my life blocking my face in group shots and selfies. Maybe it’s time to just look towards the camera and smile.
Special thanks to the cast and crew of Drowning. The film is now finished. We’re looking to have screenings early next year with an online digital release sometime in spring 2019.
The hardest and easiest thing to do is to let go of a project once it’s finally done. There will always be the year or two of blatant promotion once a film is finished but mentally it’s time to focus on blank pages again and hit the restart button. I plan to spend six months to a year thanking people. When I was checking all the names in the credits of the film I became overwhelmed by the amount of names. Over a hundred people where involved in the creation of the film ‘Drowning.’ How do you thank everyone properly? How to make sure everyone knows you’re grateful? Thanking one crew member at a time is the best way to make sure they know.
There is a moment that I used to live for. A moment that can take several years to reach depending on the project. When the film is finally finished; colour corrected with the final sound mix. That one moment where you see the final film, where the project becomes bigger than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a moment of awe where you watch the film and wonder, How did we do that? How did all these people work together and finish this film? One moment of wonder followed by the desperate need to never see the film again. It’s only natural; you’ve worked on something for so long that you only see the mistakes and the might-have-beens, that you can’t help but want to put it on the shelf and move on. That one moment though, the final viewing of the completed film where you forget all the mistakes and problems and soak in the sense of an ending. It’s worth the wait. Then you let go and run away screaming to the next project.
A blank page looks at me now. It stares at me and smiles. Letting go of a completed project used to be hard. It used to leave an empty space that needs to be filled. A blank page is the new moment I wait for. A flashing curser surrounded by an empty white screen. At this moment anything is possible and no mistakes have been made yet. I’ll hold on to the blank pages for a few more days and then eventually I’ll have to let go of that too. Finish, let go and move on. Finish, let go and move on. The more you let go of, the easier it is to move on.
Stills from the film ‘Drowning’:
One of the most exciting parts of writing is character design. Once the characters are created, they begin to speak to you and the story begins. A long time can be spent just writing down character traits, character flaws and creating character goals. Having a rough visual image of what a character might look like helps make a story come to life as you’re writing. If you can create environments for the characters to live in, those environments can provide the final push you need to define goals and dreams of a character. Stories grow and change over time, as you bring in new artists to finalize the character designs the characters take on a life of their own.
Below are samples from the character designs that have been done over the last few years for Painting My Life.
Link to Measuring Tape Girl:
A dark film noir style lighting will be used to help separate Anna’s imagined world from the real one. In each scene the lead character will move from darkness to light. The movement from darkness to light will be used as a visual metaphor for change. Within scenes, light will be an active participant in the story. Every scene in Anna’s dark world will use side lighting that allows for light to wrap around the characters, giving their faces both a dark and light side. The characters will live in a world where in every scene they can choose to move from the darkness of their old life into the light of a new life. Light will bleed into rooms from the outside creating environments where the characters can walk in and out of shadows during the daytime. Light that wraps around the character but still leaves their face in shadow. Compositions will challenge the frame as light moves across the characters in an active way. The main lighting influences will stem from the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi, Jack Vettriano, Edward Hopper and the film noir style of the 1940s.
When working on a psychological thriller that’s actually a character study following the structure of a European art film, you can be left with a lot of explaining to do. I created the graph below as a guide to help clarify questions I was facing about the story. The best part of the exercise was how much it helped me clarify what I was doing to myself.
The main anchoring scene of the film occurs in one room and other scenes exist in the lead character’s memory or within her wish fulfillment. In the end it’s up to audience to decide which version of Anna’s life they want to make real.
June Crowdfunding Update:
Way back in 2007 I ran a marathon and ½ marathons with my Digital SLR camera and took pictures. Marathons take a lot of training and hard work. The goal is to finish the race. Running a marathon is not about speed but about not giving up. Filmmaking is a marathon and it always takes longer than you think. We had a lot of targets and deadlines that we’ve missed due to do lack of funds, but just because we’re behind doesn’t mean we’re giving up We’re still working on grants and applications for funding.
Without or without funding we’re still pushing towards a short version of the film late fall or early 2017. There’s two sides to filmmaking; sometimes you’re blasting off like a rocket with no time to sleep, and other times you’re slowly putting the pieces together waiting for things to be ready. In filmmaking it’s referred to “hurry up and wait.” I know most of you don’t run marathons and you’re not used to the amount of time filmmaking can take. We are still offering refunds for anyone who would like one. As always, all we can do is keep going. We continue to be thankful for all your help and support and hope you have a great summer.
One of the hardest lessons for those of us who are not salespeople is that everything you do, every conversation you have and every time you meet someone new, you’re in a sales meeting. You’re constantly pitching yourself and what you want to do. Life becomes a never-ending pitch and everything is for sale.
You continue to pitch yourself and your project until it succeeds or until it becomes clear it time to move on and put things on the shelf. While I have several projects that have made it all the way to finish line, I also have about 10 to 11 projects on my shelf. Knowing when to give up and walk away can’t be taught. If you spend too much time pitching a project that has little to no chance of succeeding, you may miss the opportunity for another project to thrive.
When you’re not a born salesperson, this never-ending pitch can be difficult. In can often feel like you’re in situation where everyone is selling and no one is buying. So here are a few tips to get through the tough spots:
- Know who’s in the room; not everyone can help move your project forward, but knowing the people who can will help focus your pitch.
- Know when to bring up your work and when not to; it’s best to always be ready to pitch but not to pitch unless it seems appropriate.
- Re-introduce yourself if you’re meeting someone for the second or third time. They may remember what you’re pitching but they may not remember you.
- Have your elevator pitch and the set pieces of your stories ready, but there’s a time and place for everything. A follow up email is usually a better place for explanations and details than a chance meeting in a hallway.
If you work hard and keep going, sometimes the opportunity comes to you. Life is a never-ending pitch and all you can do is keep working and be ready.
Where’s my Sister is a film about a young First Nations girl struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of her sister. Unable to accept the loss of her loved one, she continues to search her hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan for any sign of her sister. The film stars First Nations actor, Patsy Tuba, and was filmed on location in Regina, Canada. Where’s my Sister is a poignant film highlighting the anguish that families experience when losing their mothers, daughters and aunts in what Amnesty International is calling a national human rights crisis.
Lead actor Patsy Tuba explained the importance of the story to the ongoing human rights crisis in Canada, “It is an important issue because each name on that list is important. It’s someone’s sister or a daughter, a mother or an aunt. Behind each name on that list, there is a story of not only sadness, but of hope and strength. The importance of each story should be shared and be heard. I wanted to make sure I was invested emotionally throughout the film. As it begins to open awareness to the ongoing tragedy of this important issue and for the families to heal”.
Director Pasquale Marco Veltri explains why he made the film, “We all live on the same land and we are all connected. We are all human beings. There are 1200 indigenous women that have gone missing or have been murdered in Canada. I’m a human being that would like all human beings to see this as an issue that affects all of us, because it does”.
The trailer is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/wdivYpol5f8. The 12 minute film will be released on October 4, 2016 online and through local screenings.
We wanted to give everyone an update as we push through the holidays and get ready for next year. Here’s a chart of how we’ve used the crowdfunding contributions so far and how much is left.
Our plan for next year is to apply for more funding and continue meetings with possible funders mid-January to March. We then hope to divide the film into pieces and start shooting it as a series of chapters or short films that we can combine into a feature film. This will stretch out the length of the shoot but will make things more manageable. First up will be shooting a 20-30 minute version of the film in the Spring/Summer of 2016. We know this process will take a long time but filming often does when working with a limited budget. As always, all we can do is keep going.
You might have seen a lot of shameless self promotion for Drowning on social media recently. To explain why this plugging probably isn’t gong to stop for the next month, my care bear friends would like to explain to you the “gogofactor”.
The gogofactor is an algorithm that tracks activity on campaigns – everything from the total funds contributed on your campaign page to how many times your campaign page is viewed. This means that the more your project gets shared on social media the higher its gogofactor, and the more your campaign is promoted on Indiegogo. A higher profile on Indiegogo will lead to a wider reach for the campaign.
To get a higher gogofactor factor you need frequent campaign updates, a large crowd that signed up to be a part of your Indiegogo campaign, page views for your campaign, and % of goal completed. The more people share and contribute early in a campaign the higher your gogofactor rises, and that determines how often you get featured in Indiegogo’s networks and on their main web page.
So please be a care bear and share our campaign. Literally every like, favourite, and share is a contribution to our gogofactor.
Crowdfunding is amazing way to get the word out about your project. Even if you don’t raise any money, it’s a great marketing tool. It connects networks and fosters an interested base for your project before you even start filming. If the crowdfunding actually works, you raise the funds you need to produce your film. If it does all these great things, then why am I afraid of it?
There are several things I’ve been uncomfortable with for years; my self-image, speaking in public, portraits and appearing on camera in any way. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life was to overcome my self-image issues and build the confidence required not to care what I looked like. The process of overcoming this took more than a decade and involved making a film about it called ‘Measuring Tape Girl’. As time passed, I slowly started feeling more comfortable in front of the camera. I’ve reached a point now that I can do an interview without feeling like I was going to throw up. I’m still sweating throughout the whole process and I’m always a little afraid but I no longer feel like I’m going to have to pass out.
When I had to shoot my first crowdfunding video, that all changed. There’s something about staring directly at a camera that brought back all my insecurities very quickly. When you do an interview, there’s someone to talk to. Having a person to interact with makes a world of difference. Looking straight at the camera and trying to form sentences was a very difficult experience. I have no idea how actors do this or, more specifically, why they want to do this. I’ve spent my life behind the camera and when the camera and lights are pointed and me it feels like the gravity has been turned off and I’m floating in space. It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but for me it’s like holding your breath underwater; I can only do it for so long and then I have to come up for some air.
Now that the videos are done, what crowdfunding represents for me is a chance to fail publicly. I fail every day and I try to learn from it and move on, but putting myself in a position to fail publicly is something I usually try to avoid. It feels like I’m running towards a chance at failure. If I run fast enough maybe I won’t notice. It is the things that we are afraid of that we must run towards. The main goal of the crowdfunding campaign is of course to raise funds, but I think raising awareness about the film we’re trying to make is more important. I’m going to try to let go of my self-esteem and images issues for 45 days and see what happens. Embracing the things that you’re afraid of can lead to you understand why you were afraid to begin with, and eventually to let that fear go. Indiegogo
So you’ve made a few films, got into a few film festivals and managed to get some press. Now what? You have to learn how to give an interview. I’ve never been comfortable on camera; as a filmmaker you’re always behind the camera, and an interview puts the camera and lights on you. It makes me feel like the world is upside-down, like I don’t belong there. What can I do to make this better? The only thing I can do is practice.
Practice: Come up with a list of possible questions you might be asked and create answers. What is your film about? What inspires you? Why did you pick this story to tell? Practice saying those answers aloud to yourself or to someone you know. Like a politician, you can prepare talking points and stick to them. No matter what question you are asked loop your response into one of the answers you’ve prepared. And whenever possible promote your next project.
Have a story to tell: When you are being interviewed, you should focus on telling a story. What is your story? What is your brand? If you’re working with a PR team, you should help create your story to tell. Don’t expect other people, even those you hire, to tell your story, because it might not be the story you want to share.
‘On Camera’ rules: Look at the person asking you questions; don’t look in different directions and don’t look directly towards the camera, unless you are told to do so. Do not, under any circumstances, touch your face during an interview. (Don’t touch your clothes or adjust your blazer either...see photo below.) It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the interviewer before hand. Always thank everyone.
Ask for help: If you ever feel shy and awkward when giving an interview, be honest about it to the interviewer before hand and they’ll help you out. If your budget allows it, consider a media training class or enlisting the help of a PR professional to prepare you. And when in doubt and short on cash, a good Google search will always result in plenty of advice.
‘Don’t let your children grow up to be Filmmakers’ is the title of a presentation I’ve given about five times now, and it tends to get me in a little trouble with people who take it too seriously. Filmmaking, as we know it today, will eventually be rebranded as ‘Content Creation’, and in most cases it will be digital instead of film. A content creator is a storyteller who makes products for many different formats; the story you’re telling could go straight to YouTube, it could find a home on Netflix, it could take the form of a video game, and so on. Very few of us create content that originates on film and stays on film for projection in a theater. My presentation has been mostly for a younger audience with the intent to encourage the next generation of filmmakers to see that storytelling exists in countless forms and that they should keep their options open.
Another statement that gets me in trouble and always leads to questions is the reality every artist must face; ‘You are a Product’. You are for sale and so is your art. Every artist, filmmaker, content creator, and so on, is a business and because you are a business you are for sale. It’s a reality we all need to face. You are a product and as a product you have a brand. The marketing of ‘You’, your product, is just as important (if not more so) than what you create. As a filmmaker I have been forced to accept that I am a digital content creator who must market myself and my product to the world. And this is why I start my presentations with the simple statement, Don’t let your children grow up to be Filmmakers. Hopefully they’ll be filmmakers, and also so much more.
Redefining ‘Dinner and a Movie’, MISE combines your favourite movie with a gourmet meal inspired by the film. Cook Jenny Chan and host Alvin Campana craft an evening of entertainment and a riveting meal for you and your guests to accompany a film of your selection.
When attending a Surprise MISE, the only hint at the movie you are about to see is the logo projected onto the wall and a chance to peek at the menu before the evening begins.
At the most recent Surprise MISE, the movie is revealed to be Jurassic Park. As it starts, the guests giggle as drinks are poured. About 15 minutes in the first course is served, timed to match a reference on screen to the turkey in the salad. The menu matches the topics and images in the movie, creating an immersive experience for your brain and stomach.
The combination of a gourmet meal and film creates a new experience that introduces you to aspects of the film you may have never noticed. Having a goat curry with house roti and coconut rice as a T-Rex runs across the screen chasing a Jeep creates a sensory experience that completely envelops you in the film.
I highly recommend MISE for your next special event. MISE will provide a dining experience you and your guests will remember for years to come. You can visit their webpage for more information. www.misetoronto.com
My ‘Music Video Camera Testing Theory’ is related to my ‘Crew of One Theory’ in testing how many locations can I get to one day, how many shots can I get and how many days I can shoot in a row without getting sick. Right now, results indicate that a 3-4 day shoot week can work with the limitation of one location per day. This will only continue to work if I stay healthy and avoid more back injuries, so we’ll see if I can manage that.
Whenever a camera test can be turned into something, it’s a good idea. Lately I’ve been disguising camera tests as music videos (or was it the other way around?). I’ve grown accustom to the Canon C300 work flow but I’ve never really been able to push it till now. In my most recent camera tests, I wanted to find the limitations of the latitude of the C300. How dark could the shadows be? How does the camera handle highlights? I wanted to check different light levels to see how the camera responded to darker areas and shadows. To test this, I set up even lighting with a strong base level of light in the first video I shot. In the second, I went with darker side lighting so I could compare results and see how much darkness I could get away with.
Still 1: Bright image
Still 2: Dark image
The range of stops is great compared to most digital camera, but highlights still burn out pretty quick. There’s a new look digital films have now where we are supposed to just accept that we don’t have the same amount of highlight detail anymore. We have a latitude range we have to work within. You have to decide; do I want detail in my highlights or do I want details in my shadows? You can’t have both. I want both but without bigger budgets for cameras that can handle that kind of latitude I’m stuck lighting to the limitations of the camera. The trick is to work within those limitations in such a way that makes it look like you didn’t have any limitations to begin with... easier said than done.
I’ve been experimenting with my ‘crew of one’ theory a little too often in the last few months. Due to low budgets, micro budgets or no budget I seem to find myself shooting without a crew. It’s not always a choice, but something that has been forced upon me by the realities of low budget filmmaking. And in the moment, it usually seems like a good idea.
I’ve been running tests to see which scenes I can shoot with a crew of one. Surprisingly, you can shoot almost anything on your own; you just have to shoot it slowly. Here are two key things I’ve learned so far from these tests:
- You need to have a plan. Don’t make things up out of thin air on the day of the shoot. Prepare a clear shot list and a (flexible) schedule that limits what you’re going to do to twenty shots or less. And don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time for set up and preparations.
- The main issue you will run into is the focus pull. You can add more light and keep the ISO a little higher than you’d like to keep things sharp, but even then you have to limit your movement. It’s a small price to pay.
Due to a recent back injury I’ve been forced to rethink ‘my crew of one’ experiments. For situations where I just can’t do it on my own, I think the trick will be in dividing up the scenes of future projects in such a way that clearly defines which scenes can be handled solo and which scenes need all hands on deck. It comes down to, how much more time can be added to the production? A crew of one leads to a slower shoot, but is faster always better? When I can, I’m going to keep rehearsing my ‘crew of one’ until I can get things as smooth and efficient as possible.
Looking back I've learned the the crew of one is a myth. It only works for very small shoots. It was an experiment that can only be pushed so far. Use the number of people needed for each shoot. Find a good team of people and build from there.