Film Maker's Forum - A Phleora Of Information On Film Making

You’ve always dreamed of making a film, of having a studio give you big bucks for your work and creating fame for you.  Unfortunately, times have changed.  The recession has impacted the film industry drastically.  No longer are studios picking up films the way they once did.  At the 2010 Filmmaker’s Forum presented held October 29-31st, at the DGA by Film Independent, writers, directors and producers were urged to go the independent route. 



The weekend long event opened with Doug Lirman’s Fair Game.  With the Q and A moderated by John August, we learned the exhausting process that even an established producer like Doug had to travel.  The political thriller script by Jaz and John Henry Butterworth is based on the true story Valerie Plame, ousted CIA operative ( Naomi Watts) and her husband Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) as they fought the White House’s claim of nuclear weapons in Iraq.  The point of view (POV) of the story was a crucial one for Doug to perfect as he developed the story.  

Despite Doug’s notoriety, Fox seems to have dropped the ball on the print and advertising and Doug, like many other independent producers, has to encourage the audience attendance by social network and word of mouth.  

Joe Drake, president of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group, gave the Saturday keynote address urging filmmakers to find their passions and to hook up with those who could do what you could not.  He instructed writers to find producers and producers to locate writers.

Two tracks ran for Saturday and Sunday.  Those who wanted to do documentaries were urged to take classes on Budgeting Your Documentary by Robert Bahar.  While independent film makers were taught about Evaluating Your Project for Today’s Marketplace.  Moderating the panel was Dan Cogan of Impact Partners.  Speakers Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), joined Celine Rattray (The Kids Are All Right) , Michael Costigan (Cyrus) and Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Easier With Practice) educated us on both technical and practical aspects of film making.  Even though you are passionate about your film project, it’s important to ask, “Who will want to see this?”  “Why would they spend the money to see it?”

FilmMaker's Forum: Doug Lirman and John August


Sometimes the name actor is the hook.  Talent can be obtained cheaper than you think since many actors are looking for scripts and are willing to go to baseline pay. 

Another aspect to consider in marketing your film is foreign rights.  These days the sale to territories as Asia, Russia, Central America can be enough to fund your film.  The key there is to get an actor who is popular in those countries.  

It’s crucial that you align with someone.  Be nice to assistants as they can often help you the most.  With Crazy Heart, Scott managed to get Robert Duvall to fall in love with the script and escort it around.  He warned about the problems of overproducing one’s movie and aiming for too high a budget.  

Film Maker's Forum: Effie Brown (The Inheritance), Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) and Ti West (House of the Devil


Location is another big issue for the independent producer.  Many states, as North Carolina, Michigan, New York and Montana have special programs to assist film makers but we were warned that you have to look beyond the immediate per centage you are quoted and not count on that money to fund your film.  Like with tax refunds, you got to spend it before you can get it back.  Significant countries as Canada, Columbia and the UK have co-production treaties, which can also get you rewards for your film.  Moderated by AFCI’s executive director Larry Brownell, the panel included Aaron Syrett (North Carolina) Sten Iversen (Montana), Hans Frikin (Quebec), Silvia Echeverri (Columbia) and independent producer Ted Kroeber.  The film commissions can do more than just help locations, they can help you find competent local crew, and many offer other services, as well, but make sure that the location is the right one for your project.  

Finding the Money for Your Documentary taught who were the major distributors and purchasers of these films.  Representatives gave specific advice on how to get needed monies.  Moderated by Caroline Libresco from Sundance, the panel was completed with Karim Ahmad (ITVS), Dan Cogan (Impact Partners), Jeff Meier (Oprah Winfrey Network), Dina Kuperstock (CAA) , and Stephen Nemth (Climate Refugees.)

Also being instructing on Realizing Your Vision On A Budget, the filmmakers were moderator Shelby Stone (Flavor Unit), Dean Zanuck (Get Low) and Alpita Patel (La Mission.)  Again it was stressed the importance of having some name talent attached to your story.  

Film Maker's ForumCeline Rattray (The Kids Are All Right) , Michael Costigan (Cyrus) and Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Easier With Practice


Being that it was Halloween, it was only fitting the Genre Films talked about horror features.  One of the few genres that can get away with unknowns, the moderator Doug Jones (LA Film Festival) and panelists Effie Brown (The Inheritance), Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) and Ti West (House of the Devil) pointed out how important social networking was to accomplish the word of mouth that so many films need.  Even with horror, it’s important, says Ti West, to understand what the audience expectation is and how the trailer moments fit into the movie, itself.  

Case Studies were also provided for the Documentary crowd.  Led by L isa Leeman (One Lucky Elephant), the filmmakers Jen Arnold (A Small Act), Keith Calder (Thunder Soul), Mark Landsman (Thunder Soul) and Patti Lee (A Small Act) shared their wisdom on keeping the budget and vision on the same track.  

Lucky participants got to pitch their films to the packaging and financing clinc.  Led by Paula Schmidt (Film Finances), and joined by Ronna Kress (Cold Mountain), Stephen Clark (Lichter Grossman, Nichols, Adler &Feldman), Bec Smith (UTA) and Micael Nozik (The Next Three Days), the panel gave advice on how to leverage project elements into an attractive package for financiers, investors, and fans.  

Film Maker's Forum: Aaron Syrett (North Carolina) Sten Iversen (Montana), Hans Frikin (Quebec), Silvia Echeverri (Columbia) and independent producer Ted Kroeber


Documentary filmmakers got an update on legal issues with Michael Donaldson (Donaldson& Callif), Jack Lerner (Assistant Professor of Law USC), Eddie Schmidt (International Documentary Association) and Marina Zenovich (Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.)

David Linde highlighted Sunday morning One of the film industry’s most experienced executives, he recently served as chairman for Universal Pictures and greenlit some of the best movies in history.  A lively Q and A was moderated by Stephen Galloway of the Hollywood Reporter.  

Robert Baruc of Screen Media Films discussed the new distribution lexicon while Steve Peters, Mark Essen and Borut Pfeifer transformed your view of alternate reality games and transmedia.  

Filmmakers Peter Broderick (Paradigm Consulting), Aron Gaudet (The Way We Get By), Gita Pullapilly (The Way We Get By) and Celine Rattray (The Kids Are All Right) discussed what worked and what didn’t for distribution while Robert O Green (Another Green World Productions), Mike Farah (Funny or Die) David Green (Zoombie Roadkill) Aaron Lam (Zoobie Roadkill) and Jordan Ruden (Good) discussed the pioneering new media of webisodes and other short form content.  

Film Maker's Forum: Alpita Patel (La Mission


The question of when to release your film and if you should do it individually or simultaneously was discussed by Mitch Levine (Film Festival Group), Michael Roiff (Serious Moonlight), Jac Schaeffer (Timer) and Thomas Woodrow (Boss Ackwards) in one room.  In the opposite hall, Your Marketing Tool Kit was moderated by Jon Reiss, Robert Bahar(Made in LA), Wendy Cohen (Participant Media), Eric d’Arbeloff (Roadside Attractions), Jenny Deller (Future Weather), Kristen Fairweather (Future Weather) and Chris Libby ( Ginsberg/Libby) and taught us that there is much more to releasing a film than simply making it.  We found out it’s all about the team you chose because getting the movie to an audience requires more than a great story.  

The cost of piracy closed the conference as Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood), Cotty Chubb (Chubb Film Co), Matt Dentler (Cinetic Rights Management), Mike Masnick (Floor 62) and Kevin Suh  (MPAA) spoke about the prevention of illegal downloads while still giving value in this digital age.  

Sponsors for the weekend included IndieWire, Kodak, SagIndie, Withoutabox, DGA, Universal, Rovi, Montana Film Office, and Studio 406.

In addition to all this wonderful information, individual 1:1 sessions were available for the Alaska Film Office, Brant Rose Agency, Catch 22 Entertainment, Kodak, Mississippi Film Office, Roadside Attractions, Summit Entertainment, Sundance, UTA, Universal Studios, Withoutabox, Blumhouse Productions, Canon USA, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Emily Schweber Casting, Featured Artists Agency, Funny of Die, Ginsberg/Libby. Konsonant, Los Angeles Film Festival, Peter Broderick, Rovi, and SAGindie.

Film Independent offers networking meetings, screenings and numerous discounts for writers, directors, and producers and is presenter of the well known Spirit Awards.  For more information about joining go to www.filmindependent.org .  I learned so much this weekend, I can’t wait for next year’s event.  



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