Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Independent Film Master Class

On August 1st I'll be speaking as part of an "Independent Film Master Class." The day long live web-interactive event covers everything from idea and screenplay (my hour), all the way through marketing and distribution. I'm not getting any sort of fee for speaking and participating, and I'm promoting the event here on my blog because I think it will be an extremely valuable and inspiring day for anyone looking to make their first film.

If you decide to sign up, to attend in person or to watch the webcast, be sure to use the discount code "genrehacks." Read the details below and follow this LINK.

Filmmakers Alliance's

When:     August 1, 2010 - 9 am to 6 pm
Where:    The Downtown Independent Film Theater
                251 S. Main St.
                Los Angeles, CA 90012 (map)

IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND IN PERSON, register now for the Live Interactive Webcast. It is discounted 50% to only $25 for only the next seven days: http://masterclass.payperlive.com/event/view/10167

Filmmakers Alliance's INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is the complete, all-in-one package - a definitive, step-by-step, one-day seminar for independent filmmakers offering all the information you need to get your film MADE and SEEN. The INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is a clean, clear, concise and complete independent filmmaking blueprint for your film project that will allow you to sustain your life as a filmmaker!!
  • Concept, Story and Script Development - Developing ideas and concepts that work! Then, writing that script in a way that will get your film made without compromising your vision.
  • Film Financing, Crowdfunding and Beyond - Where to find the money and what you need to do to get it. Also, exploring new strategies in raising money for your film.
  • Pre-production and Production - How to get the most filmmaking bang from your budget - creatively and cost-efficiently managing your project. Also, how best to work with actors, crew, locations, unions, guilds, crafts to ensure your film not only gets made, but looks exponentially more than its cost.
  • Filmmaking Tech Tools and Online Filmmaking Support - Make your production easier to manage and giving yourself tighter control of your project by turning your computer into a portable production office (and saving the cost of overhead). There are amazing new tools online and beyond to help filmmakers - at every stage of the filmmaking process -manage the once overwhelming task of creating, shooting, finishing, promoting and distributing a film. Find out what they are and how best to use them.
  • Post-Production - New technologies, tools and methodologies are making it easier to high end work with a low end budget. Find out what they are and what you need to do give a stunning, world-class finish to your film and how to prepare for it long before you reach post.
  • Festivals and Distribution - Understanding the festival circuit and how to use it to your film’s greatest advantage. And devising and executing a distribution plan that will give your film it’s best shot at success and sustain your filmmaking life!

Speakers include no-budget filmmaking specialist Mark Stolaroff (http://www.nobudgetfilmschool.com), post-production expert, Michael Cioni (http://www.lightirondigital.com), Colleen Nystedt founder of the innovative web tool MovieSet (http://www.movieset.com), self-distribution guru Marc Rosenbush (http://www.internetmarketingforfilmmakers.com), writer-director Sean Hood (http://genrehacks.blogspot.com) discussing concept/story development and screenwriting for Indie features, writer-director Liam Finn serving up war stories on his no-budget first feature "Rejouer", filmmakers Diane Bell and Chris Byrne talking about financing and other issues putting together their award-winning Sundance fave "Obselidia", JC Chang (http://www.neoflix.com) speaking on new distribution models, tools, and trends, Saskia Wilson-Brown (http://www.IndieGoGo.com) speaking about DIY funding strategies with a nod to more traditional ways of raising money -

The seminar also includes filmmaker case-studies and open Q&A; periods, so come prepared with your specific filmmaking questions - the ones that most have you stumped - so that we can take you to the next level.

- 10 filmmakers will be selected from the attendees for a FREE 6-session series of consultations. You MUST submit your project to masterclass@filmmakersalliance.org no later than June 30th for consideration. Please submit no longer than a single page synopsis, a filmmaking resume and links to any previous work. Please DO NOT send video files or full scripts.



Ticket Prices:
$175* - Includes seminar fee plus one year of Filmmakers Alliance membership.
$125* - General seminar fee only.
$75* -  Seminar fee for FA members only (with special discount code)
$50 - Live Interactive Webcast - REGISTER NOW: http://masterclass.payperlive.com/event/view/10167

*Fee includes lunch and parking.

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These days, a smart filmmaker can make her first feature for two hundred thousand dollars. 200 k is a lot easier to raise than 20 million, but its still no easy task.

Take some tips from the guru at the link below...


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Genre: Good Movies, Bad Movies

Richard Walter, a celebrated storytelling guru and longtime chairman of UCLA’s graduate program in screenwriting, has graciously written a guest article for Genre Hacks. His lectures have become legendary among screenwriting professionals, and his advice to genre writers is both humorous and perceptive. His latest book, Essentials of Screenwriting, is available in stores now .

By Richard Walter

Not quite twenty years ago my wife and I set off to a multiplex to see the then-latest Woody Allen picture. Upon arriving at the theaters, alas, we realized we had come to the wrong location: the Woody Allen picture wasn’t playing there. (I blamed my wife for making the mistake, but may I confess here and now that the error was mine? Can we keep this among ourselves, dear readers of Sean Hood’s blog?)

There wasn’t sufficient time to get to the proper multiplex in time for the Woody Allen, so we decided to see the least dreadful movie playing at the theaters at hand. That seemed to be The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank… could be said to be something of a genre picture, couldn’t it? Isn’t it a prison picture? If a genre picture is a certain kind of picture, a particular category, isn’t a prison picture just another genre?

The last thing we wanted to see was a prison picture. For one thing, there were likely to be no women in the picture. My wife was cool with that but not I. For another, there would surely be a lot of the usual prison fare: surly cons, vindictive guards, bars, concrete, shadows, a venal warden, the James Cagne actor de jour growling and spitting, vowing through clenched teeth, “I’m gonna break outta this joint!”

Reluctantly we slipped into the theater playing Shawshank….

We loved it!

Notwithstanding Tim Robbins’ low-volume mumbling--For the fees he’s paid can’t he at least speak up? Does he think he’s the ‘B’ Brando?--The Shawshank Redemption is really rather a splendid film. Somewhat overlong (doesn’t it seem too many movies are too long?) the film nevertheless creates characters worth caring about, sites them in scenes and settings and situations that are saturated with the sweet and subtle stress that is essential to sizzling, scintillating, successful dramatic narratives. There is a well wrought through line, a spine for the story that unifies and integrates all the elements, that intrigues and worries the viewer in the best way and ultimately engenders satisfaction.

I was reminded of one of my own central screenwriting principles: There are only two genres: good movies and bad movies.

I read a book recently treating ‘genre screenwriting.’ Here is some advice the author provides for screenwriters working on Thrillers. Use cliffhangers, exploit secrets, invent twists and turns. Here is advice for the writers of Action-Adventure scripts: give your protagonist a clear goal, make your antagonist three dimensional, give the antagonist a strong goal too. Here’s advice for the writers of Horror-Fantasy: give your protagonist a clear goal, give your antagonist a clear goal Isn’t it clear that all genres have the same rules?

Instead of focusing upon those aspects of so-called genres that are on the surface unique, writers should concentrate upon the commonalities, the shared requirements that confront all writers of all scripts. There needs to be a solid story with a beginning, a middle, and end. There must be characters who are complex and, above all else, human. These characters must speak dialogue that is peppy and precious and perky and punchy and poetic and poignant--and those are just the P’s. The dialogue must be worth listening to all for its own sake, but it cannot be there just for its own sake. It also has to move the story forward and provide for the audience a wider appreciation of the characters. Big budget, little budget, horror-fantasy or romantic comedy, the only thing that really counts is a great story. That’s not where writers should end up but where they should start. Genre writers should forget about genre and think about story. They should set themselves to the task not of fulfilling the purported requirements of a particular genre but struggle instead simply to write a compelling story.

Create a solid story and everything else will more or less fall into line.

When you think about the truly brilliant movies, they seem often to mix genres, don’t they? There is plenty of humor, for example, in Hitchcock’s darkest pictures, like Rear Window and Psycho, and certainly North by Northwest. Isn’t Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove both a bite-your-nails thriller involving nuclear annihilation on one hand and a slapstick, fall-down, pie-in-your-face comedy on the other?

Writers should stop thinking genre and, as I have said, start thinking story. They should stay open to the surprises. Instead of satisfying an audience’s expectations, they should exceed One of my favorite films of the past twenty five years is Terminator II. It has more to say about the nature of life and death, of humanity, of identity, of justice and retribution and more. It achieves this all in the context of a futuristic fantasy action-adventure thriller.

I prefer to think of it as just a really good movie.  

Is your screenplay ready to sell? Enter the Richard Walter Online Review Program to win a chance to find out! 

UCLA Professor Richard Walter asserts that one of the biggest mistakes writers make is to market their scripts before they’re truly ready. If you read Richard’s new book, Essentials of Screenwriting, and post an online review of it on Amazon.com, your own blog, Facebook page or favorite user review site (and send the full review and the link to where it appears online to richardwalterreviews@yahoo.com ), you will be entered into a weekly drawing to win a free read of your script by Richard. If he deems it ready, he’ll refer it to a potential representative or directly to a production company. If he feels it is not ready, he’ll send you a letter in which he cites its essential strengths and identifies those issues that in his view require further consideration.