In this week’s FilmWorks masterclass one of the speakers mentioned a filmmaker whose work was the subject of repeated YouTube mash-ups. She was faced with a choice: invoke her rights and request YouTube take them down, or embrace these creative responses and re-interpretations of her work. She chose the latter, engaging with the mashers(?) and nurturing her fan community.
Following the DVD release of my 2005 feature film Soul Searcher, I became aware of numerous pirate copies floating about on the internet. My feelings were mixed. On the one hand, given the years of my life and the thousands of pounds I’d put into making the film, I was furious that people were ripping it off. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but be flattered that people had thought it worth pirating. One Russian pirate (arrrrrsky!) had even gone to the trouble of dubbing it into his language, albeit doing all the voices himself without any attempt to differentiate them or act in any way.
Having spent the last year crowd-funding Stop/Eject, I am all too aware of the importance of posting free content online – like this blog, or Stop/Eject’s behind-the-scenes videos – in order to promote myself and my current projects. But promote myself to what end? Like many filmmakers, my ultimate goal is to make feature films for a living, but how can I or anyone else make a living in a world where almost all media content ever produced can be obtained, free of charge, at the click of a mouse? In the last few years I’ve already witnessed the specific type of filmmaking it’s always been my dream to work in – the kind where movies are shot on real sets with real actors on real celluloid and exhibited on real celluloid – start to disappear. But is the industry as a whole doomed to oblivion by piracy?
Maybe not. Perhaps crowd-funding demonstrates a glimmer of hope. Even though some people would rather pirate Hollywood blockbusters than pay for them, some other people will pay for independent films that haven’t even been made yet. How can we account for this dichomoty? Community engagement. Sponsors of a crowd-funded film feel part of the project in a way that they never could with the latest Tom Cruise juggernaut. Perhaps if I could have talked to that Russian pirate (arrrsky! That will never get old.) while Soul Searcher was still in production I could have involved him in the project, making him the official translator or the online publicist for Asia or something. Co-operation rather than competition. Perhaps that is the way forward.
I’ll leave you with some highlights from the Russian bootleg of Soul Searcher.
This post has been created and published because the total raised in Stop/Eject‘s post-production crowd-funding campaign has passed the £1,100 mark. I’m going to look at how the money you all contributed in pre-production was spent in order to get Stop/Eject in the can.
Stop/Eject was originally meant to be filmed in autumn 2011 under the auspices of another production company. Prior to the project’s postponement and subsequent resurrection as a crowd-funded movie, Sophie and I spent some money on set dressing (£149.76), costumes (£206.20) and travel (£60). We absorbed these costs personally and they’re not included in the budget.
Moving onto the expenditure, the first thing you have to do with any type of fundraising is deduct the costs involved in that fundraising process – in this case crowdfunder.co.uk’s fee and the production and postage of the rewards/perks for sponsors. These costs represent less than 8% of the budget, which I think is pretty good value.
Under pre-production you can see that more props and costumes were purchased in 2012, in addition to those we’d already bought in 2011. The total costumes outlay across the two years was £407.94, making it one of the largest costs of the production. This was due to the high number of story days in the script (eleven), each of which required a new outfit. A significant chunk of the props budget went on 400 cassette cases for the scene in the Tape Archive, while the construction materials included the wood and antique doors which the alcove set was made from. Auditions were held at Conway Hall in Holborn, London, owned by the very strange but pleasingly cheap South Place Ethical Society.
Travel is the biggest expense under production and indeed for the entire project, totalling £1,049.49 if you include the van costs and the pre-production and 2011 costs, even though some of the local crew waived their mileage and parking expenses. The high travel expenditure was partly due to many key cast and crew members living at least a two hour journey away from where we were filming, but even on more local projects I’ve often found that travel can be the most expensive element (assuming you’re not paying anyone fees). Hiring the van was relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, and was worth every penny and more. Without it we couldn’t have moved the alcove set or some of the larger props around, and squeezing all the equipment into cars would have been a nightmare.
I was very surprised how little we spent on food and catering. £248.33 fed about ten people for five and a half days. Many of the meals were cooked in advance, frozen and reheated on set or cooked from scratch on set by Katie or Debs, but we bought takeaways for everyone on at least two occasions. That figure also includes supplies like plastic beakers, disposable plates, bowls and cutlery and a thermos flask. We borrowed a fridge and a hotplate and brought our own microwave along.
When drawing up a new budget for Stop/Eject after its initial postponement, accommodation seemed like a killer cost that might prevent the film from ever being made. Research indicated that I could expect to pay around £2,000 to hire a holiday cottage large enough to house everyone for a week. As it turned out, we found Magpie, not only a brilliant location for the shop and many other settings, but also a place where some of us could stay (albeit in less than ideal conditions). The owner asked just for a token amount to cover the utilities costs, and with Sophie’s spare room also put to good use we only had to hire one hotel room for one night.
If you’re wondering where I got the public and employers’ liability insurance from, the answer is Essex Insurance Brokers. They specialise in short-term policies for low-budget filmmakers and you can get a quote and activate a policy in just a few minutes using their web form. If that sounds like a blatant advert, let me counter it by saying they were utterly unhelpful and a bit rude when I tried to get insurance for The Dark Side of the Earth‘s pilot from them.
Finally, a word on the stuff we didn’t spend money on. None of the cast and crew were paid, which caused lots of stress and hassle in the month leading up to the shoot as several crew and both lead actors pulled out in order to do paying work that clashed. As a result I’ve sworn never to do anything again but simple little one-day shoots unless I can afford to pay people. Feel free to remind me of this if I ever seem to be going astray. We also spent nothing on equipment hire. Most of it (camera, lenses, tripod, dolly, shoulder rig, smoke machine) was mine and the rest of it was borrowed. Thanks to Steve Lawson for loan of the jib, Colin Smith for the Glidecam and additional lights, The Rural Media Company for an additional light and some sound kit, and Ian Preece for the sound recorder.
When all the figures were totted up, I was as shocked as anyone to see we’d come in more than £400 under budget. This meant we were able to set our post-production crowd-funding target at £1,500 rather than the £2,000 we had planned. We’re now less than £400 away from that target, so please help us get there by toddling over to stopejectmovie.com and hitting Donate. And if you’re curious to know how the budget of a indie feature film breaks down, choose the £10 “Line Producer” reward and you’ll get a full and detailed analysis of Soul Searcher’s monetary ins and outs.
Tonight we’ve launched a brand new collection of Stop/Eject rewards. These unique and exclusive Stop/Eject-themed accessories have been handmade by our production designer and co-producer Sophie Black. They’re available in very limited numbers and for one week only. Visit stopejectmovie.com/collection to donate and claim your gift. All the money goes towards post-production and distribution of our magical and moving little fantasy-drama.
I can now confirm the details of my Stop/Eject talk at the Hay Festival of British Film this Saturday, September 22nd. In the session, which will take place at Booth’s Bookshop Cinema at 3:30pm, I’ll show clips from Stop/Eject and discuss my experiences of using crowd-funding to finance the project.
This is an exclusive opportunity to get a sneak peek at some footage from the film and some segments of the behind-the-scenes documentary, Record & Play. For anyone considering crowd-funding their next film, this is an unparalleled chance to hear all the mistakes and successes of a filmmaker who’s been through the process. There’s more information on the Hay Film School website.
The festival takes place in the lovely Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, famous for its bookshops and its literary festival. Call the cinema’s festival box office on 01497 822629 to book your tickets.
Also screening are a trio of local short films, plus some great feature films old and new, including Dr Strangelove, Oliver Twist (1948), Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Hot Fuzz, Tyrannosaur, An American Werewolf in London and Pirates! In Adventure with Scientists. There’s more info on the festival’s website (although my event for some reason isn’t on there).
Here’s a video blog I recorded last year at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s an interview with Quay Chu, who served as script editor on my in-development fantasy feature The Dark Side of the Earth for several months. He talks about his role and gives some examples of how he helped me to shape the script.
Remember that you can get feedback on your own short screenplay, and help me to finish my current short film Stop/Eject, by visiting stopejectmovie.com/donate and selecting the £20 “Script Editor” reward.
When we created the range of rewards available to people who sponsor our short fantasy-drama Stop/Eject, we wanted to offer collaboration – we wanted to share our skills. One such reward is Script Editor. In return for a £20 donation you can have your short screenplay (up to 15 pages) read by Tommy Draper, Stop/Eject’s co-writer, with constructive critical feedback. Just click the button below to make your contribution and claim this reward.
I recently interviewed Tommy about his current projects and his thoughts on writing.
How did you get into screenwriting?
Tommy: I got into screenwriting quite a few years ago after posting my first short screenplay online on the website SimplyScripts.com. The screenplay was called ‘Same Room Same Time’ and it was read by Miguel Gaudêncio who wanted to make it (at the time he was looking to take the step from commercials and music videos into movies). It took several years but the movie was released into film festivals in 2008 and from there more contacts were made and more movies (shorts and features) have been produced.
What are you working on at the moment?
Tommy: At the moment I have 2 short films in pre-production with Hamburg based director Sascha Zimmermann. I have been working with Sascha since 2009 and over the last few years we have ended up with a backlog of screenplays we want to make. We are starting with two that are ready to go and I am about to work on new drafts of three other screenplays so these can be made in 2013 (and 2014 if necessary). My zombie feature film Wasteland is a day or two away from finishing filming by Derby based Light Films Ltd, when this is complete I will be talking to the Producer and Director about what project we want to work on next. I am talking to Stop/Eject producer Sophie Black about a feature film screenplay that she has written and would like me to come on board to rewrite, this project is in its infancy and will be worked on during 2013. In addition to all of this I have a feature film script of mine called ‘Rock n Roll Romantics’ which I have been planning on writing for quite some time and I am getting the script ready in-between projects.
Why is it important to for a writer to get impartial feedback?
Tommy: Feedback for a writer on their screenplay is very very important, a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. Everyone sees the story and characters in a different way so the feedback you get can identify faults or create new and interesting paths that can take your story from good to great. Getting feedback that is totally impartial is also very tough. A lot of people, especially if they know you, won’t tell you exactly what they think. A lot of the time it is more important for someone to point to out what doesn’t work more than point out what does and the best people to give you this kind of honest feedback is someone who doesn’t know you at all.
What is the most useful feedback you’ve ever received on one of your scripts?
Tommy: The most useful feedback I’ve ever received was on an old screenplay I wrote for Miguel Gaudêncio. The screenplay was written prior to Same Room Same Time getting made and after a few drafts Miguel got an established writer friend of his to take a look at it. I received a fair share of positives and negatives about the script but it was the negatives about the first act not working that helped the most. It was too long, gave away too much and made the screenplay drag. I took the suggestions and chopped out lots of scenes from the opening section (at the time I was reluctant to do this not seeing the issues) and the screenplay really took shape. I then went through the rest of the screenplay looking for cuts to make and a much leaner screenplay evolved which worked a lot better.
In your opinion, what is the best-written movie ever and why?
Tommy: Tough question this as there are so many brilliant screenplays out there. If I had to pick one movie then it has to be Reservoir Dogs. I think the script is extremely clever, the structure of the story with its flashbacks to give the characters depth is amazing. I also love that the you never see the robbery but you know exactly what happened and what went wrong. The best thing about it are the characters themselves, each one rich and totally individual. You understand their motivation and once wound up they play out their role in an honest, unforced way, which is hard skill but Tarantino masters that in all his movies. Reservoir Dogs was the first time I had seen a movie and then read the screenplay, it has been a massive inspiration on me ever since.
Last night we launched a special collection of new rewards for Stop/Eject sponsors. Available only until midnight next Friday, these rewards are already going fast, so grab yours quickly before they’re all gone. At the time of writing, a screen-used poster, one personalised cassette and four t-shirts are still available.
In the top right is the genuine poster seen behind Georgina Sherrington (Kate) and Oliver Park (Dan) in the living room scenes of Stop/Eject, signed on the back by yours truly. At bottom left is a unique opportunity to have one of the screen-used cassettes from the film relabelled and beautifully calligraphed by Sophie Black with a date and 90 minute time segment of your choice (though please note the tape is actually only sixty minutes long). There’s only one poster and one personalised tape available, so don’t miss your opportunity to scoop them up.
Bottom right is a Stop/Eject t-shirt featuring Alain Bossuyt’s competition-winning poster design. These are printed to order in your size, and we only have four more available at the time of writing. Thanks to Sam Tansley for modelling this.
There’s been quite a bit of interest in the lighting sandbags Katie made in the last Stop/Eject podcast. Some people who have not mastered the art of sewing have nonetheless expressed an interest in getting their hands on such a sandbag.
Simultaneously, I find myself with a number of unclaimed DVD copies of The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot sitting on my shelf. (That’s another thing I’ve learnt about crowd-funding which I forgot to put in my evaluation blogs: lots of sponsors don’t claim their rewards.)
So I thought, why not offer these two lovely items to the general public? Note: the following offer is no longer available.
For a limited time only, donate £10 to Stop/Eject using the Paypal button below or in the righthand sidebar and you’ll receive either a sandbag or a Making the Pilot DVD – your choice. (Note: these items will ONLY be sent to a mainland UK address.) You’ll also get the usual rewards: a thank you in the credits, an invite to the premiere, and a download of my unprecedented indie budget exposé, How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie for £28,000. All for just ten squid!
The sandbags are saddle style, consisting of two zipped pouches, each capable of holding around half a stone (3.18kg) of sand (not included), and a sturdy handle. They’re handmade, upcycled and eco-friendly. Zip and handle colours may vary.
Making the Pilot is a 23 minute documentary going behind the scenes of the demo sequence I shot for The Dark Side of the Earth in 2008 with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kate Burdette. All aspects of the production are covered, from building the puppet, costumes and set, through casting, swordfight choreography and 35mm cinematography to miniature effects and digital rotoscoping. Bonus features include a guided tour of the art department workshop, nine video blogs from the Cannes Film Festival, several videomatics providing low-tech glimpses of some of The Dark Side of the Earth’s biggest sequences, and extensive galleries of storyboards and concept art. This will probably be your last opportunity to get your hands on this rare DVD. Only a few copies remain and when they’re gone they’re gone.
Note: the offers outlined this post are no longer available.
This blog is intended to be an honest and (as far as reasonably possible) transparent record of the high and lows of filmmaking. This entry is unfortunately about a low.
Sometimes stuff doesn’t work out, despite your best efforts. This photo shows how many people turned up for Tuesday night’s Soul Searcher lecture in aid of Stop/Eject:
Was it not promoted well enough? Did the fact that it was free make people think it would be rubbish? Are there just not enough filmmakers in Hereford? Was Pancake Day a bad choice of date? Did everyone stay home to watch the Brit Awards? Who knows?
Whatever the reason, the donations bucket remained empty.
Okay, technically a couple of people did turn up. Nathan, the Rural Media employee who was responsible for the projector and other equipment, and my friend Johnny from The Picnic. So we went back to our flat for coffee and a chat about Soul Searcher.
The Derby lecture, as part of Five Lamps’ Film Night on March 27th, is still going ahead, and should have no trouble attracting an audience as Five Lamps is well established.
But it’s back to the drawing board for fundraising ideas to close the gap of a few hundred pounds that will remain before we can shoot.
You can say what you like about digital distribution, but nothing beats the feeling of opening a box of DVDs fresh from the duplicators, all packaged with lovely covers and on-disc artwork. The download generation will really miss out on an experience there.
Yes, today the DVD dupes of Video8 and The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot arrived, so I spent the morning signing them, parcelling them up along with thank you notes and posting them to the Stop/Eject sponsors. If you contributed £50 or more and you haven’t given Sophie your address yet, then please do so because you’re missing out on your well-earned rewards otherwise.
The other thing that happened today is that Soul Searcher‘s five year distribution deal expired. If you’re interested to know how that worked out for me financially, just click on the donate button to the right and you’ll get access to an in-depth video on the subject.
As for the film’s future, I can now reveal that Soul Searcher will be online to view in full for free from next Monday Februrary 6th. Watch this space for the link.
In the mean time, here’s another DVD extra that never made it to the disc…