Sunday, October 25, 2009

Austin Film Festival -- Day 4

or, The Producers Pontificate

I sat in on several panels today made up of People Who Make Movies (as opposed to those of us who merely write screenplays...). These included producers Richard Bever, Curtis Burch, Steven Puri, Victor Moyers, and attorney / producer Sally Helppie.

Some quotes from the panels that you can take to the bank:

"What gets producers excited is something that can get made. Market your story in the right way so I can see the dollar signs. Make it easy for us to pitch."

"You can probably get most films made, given enough time and enough willpower."

"I get excited when I read scripts that the writer loved writing. I look for a pure quality of craft and originality of idea or character."

"I started [my production company] with a Utopian vision. I thought, 'I'm going to create this writer's dream...' Reality is very, very different."

"You must be aware whether or not the budget fits the genre."

"Comic books are the new 'spec script.' You can talk about 'art' all you want, but this is absolutely true."

"Not all scripts lend themselves to a single-sentence logline. If that is the case, develop a log or pitch that can provide a way into your story that isn't necessarily linear."

"I prefer a two sentence pitch. The first sets up the character and the conflict. The second clarifies the story's tone."

"A real writer doesn't think about the marketing. When a writer begins talking about marketing, that's a tip off that the writer probably isn't any good."

"The most important thing to figure out is how to break through the noise."

"Identify the various support / niche markets that could be built into your distribution plan."

(Hmmm... I'll leave it to brighter minds than mine to figure out how to fit those last three comments into a cohesive world-view.)

A final piece of advice to independent filmmakers from the Money People:

"Don't waste time or money shooting a trailer to show potential investors. Instead, invest the time and the money to shoot a key, pivotal scene that shows the kind of production values they can expect if they fund the entire project. Show them that."

As you can see, it was a very mercenary day. Which is kind of a letdown after hearing so much about the artistic process for the past few days. The harsh reality, however, is that making movies costs money. It behooves those of us who want to see our words come to life on the screen to listen to those who know how to make that happen...

Heading home bright and early tomorrow (a 6:00 CST wake-up call -- bleah). Though the Austin Film Festival will be over for me, I still have a few more little tidbits to share.

Tune in for tomorrow's installment: Contemplating Karma.