Posts Tagged 'creativity'

6 Steps into Successful Crowdfunding

If you’re writing a short film, often it means you’re accumulating several other functions in the later stages of the production. You might be directing, producing, casting, acting, editing, holding cables, all of them or even something else. That’s because it is hard to make a short film, specially due to the lack of cash. This means you have a small group, doing a lot, for little to none money at the end of the job.

Crowdfunding, is a collective effort by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to invest in and support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.

This resource usually gives a sensation of excitement. an eureka feeling, however it is not that simple. Crowdfunding gives the viability for any project to place itself out there and as any of these, it most be carefully planned to make most of it. Crowdfunding is not a certain solution, it is as intricate as regular funding and doesn’t make your job any easier, just possible.

1. Have a damn nice concept

Concept, story, those are the things that sell. If you have no idea what pitching is, go out and learn. Practice the hell out of it. If you’re checking this blog for the first time because you googled “crowd funding short film”, check the previous posts for an insight in how to develop a great short film script. The first step for your project is having a great starting point, this is basic market: it’s easier to sell a good product, or in this case, a product with clear potential to be good. Stop listening to your family when they say you should film that script, put the critic/bastard mask and knock your project down. Would you put money on this? Regardless of how grumpy you are, your project must be THAT good.

2. Do your budget

I hate doing budgets, that’s why i got a girl whom loves executive production. If you’re not as lucky as i am, grab your spreadsheet software and get things going. Budgeting is getting EVERYTHING you need to make your project turn into reality. Collect prices from at least three different places per product, not only important to get the cheapest around town, but also to have the sense that you’re doing it the best way. Place everything into a gorgeous, organized table. Separate it under stages of development and departments. Expect to spend money on office material and all these little things. Keep in mind that well fed crowd works better. Gas costs money too. You gotta hold tight and keep everything under control from this point on.

After budgeting is done, do the sum. Don’t freak out. That was possibly your ideal budget, start cutting what you feel as not urgent. Total is going down. Save as a different spreadsheet. Now you have your ideal budget and your risky budget. The situation here is that you have the budget you’ll look for and the budget you may expect. Still, don’t make your project on kickstarter yet. Or you expect that crowd funding is giving the value you want and see what happens? Don’t hold your breath, it’s a long road.

3. Decide your rewards

Seems really soon to do so, but it is time to decide what rewards you’re given away for your investors. I recommend you to start with digital things, stuff you may offer and which won’t cost you anything. Start low as well, don’t expect people to back you up if you begin by asking them to give away $25 at first instance. $5 is a good number. Commonly the first thing to offer is a “special thanks” credit in your film. Digital download of the film for $10? Good call. This is also the moment in which you start recalling all you may get by yourself. Is there a friend of you a great designer? Ask him to make a cool movie poster. $20 perhaps? Is your brother a tour guide? Ask him if you may offer a limited number of free tours around town. The rewards don’t need to be specifically movie related, so don’t fight against it. Know what you may afford.

Physical copies of the DVD is a must. But there’s a cost relevant to the budgeting. So does printing. Everything you decide here must go to your spreadsheet. Invite your investor to a lunch, a visit to the set, send a post card. T-shirts? Damn nice. IMDB Credits? That’s something to look for as well. Be creative, offer something symbolic from your film, an object. Wildplume offered bullet cases; Fishbowl had a limited sale for the fishbowls used in the movie. As you raise the prices, you must remember to make things more intimate, exclusive or appealing. Create rewards that only your crowd funding donors will be able to get. Give yourself the work to write some nice things in a postcard. As in a movie set, everyone there is necessary and important to keep things going, so are your donations: don’t make your attention exclusive to top offers, this will break your legs as most projects receive by small amounts. Each backer is important for your project to go on.

There are infinite possibilities, so you must use your surroundings and skills to create cool stuff for your backers. Also remember to never be cheap, always fair. Check successful projects in order to see what worked previously. This will give you a marketing perspective. Include EVERYTHING on your budget.

4. Search for local sponsoring

If you’ve never done any kind of financing for an artistic project, this will be a great experience. You’ll hate it, of course, but you’ll carry it forever. This will be the first moment where you’ll realize how hard it is to sell something people aren’t looking for. It will also tell you the weaknesses of your pitching. Time to break your face. Check on your budget what can you get from local stores. Does your uncle have a restaurant? You may ask him to sponsor the meals for your short film. Did you decide to give away a movie poster of the film for your backers? You need a good quality paper and good printing, so it might be a great idea to see if a Printer company doesn’t want to help you out. Be aware that your film might need furniture, so it is a good time to prospect for stores which you could borrow from. The objective here is lowering down your financial needs, so you’ll demand only the essential for your crowd funding project. Always remember to offer something in exchange of the sponsoring, it often is a placement of the logo in the project. Major sponsors get a logo in the beginning of the film, minor in the ending credits. Don’t sell yourself so easily, you must talk to the manager with everything structured, but with the flexibility to change if requested and negotiate properly. You can’t clutter your film with logos in the beginning of it.

5. Prepare yourself for the project

It’s about time to start developing the content of your crowd funding presentation. Always keep in mind that you’re selling something. Call it pitching as it looks less capitalist until you lose your naivety. Usually the sites offer you plenty of space to include text, pictures and video, so it’s not time to be lazy. You must make people fall in love for your project and, much more important, make clear that you’re passionate about it. The first questions to answer are:

  • What is this all about?
  • How important is this to the world?
  • Why should i help you funding this project?
  • What makes this short film unique?

Crowdfunding is not about charity, is about making people believe that you have something great in hands. Is convincing them that YOUR project is what is missing on their lives. What you have right now? Is there a cool location you’ll shoot at? A storyboard? Some graphic design? Is it based on a real story? Is there a social influence on your project? Take the time to make a great video to introduce your idea, there are better odds people will watch the video instead of reading your description (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put effort on the writing, don’t be lazy). Be creative, effective and simple. Sharp as a brand-new paper sheet. Make a micro-documentary of what inspired you to develop this story or a testimonial of your reasons. Remember that sincerity is the best call, ALWAYS. You must declare yourself, drag from the bottom of your careless heart, that this is something to commit for. Showing people what made you interested in this project is always the most effective way to make them interested too.

Cutting the emotional crap, you must also organize yourself. Based on your budget, you must draw your crowd funding goal. Thanks to your local sponsoring, your expenditures dropped, yet you’re never comfortable to ask for the full budget. Trace a value you’re cool with. Thinking about the midpoint between your minimal-budget and your maximum-budget is commonly the way to goal. Keep both feet on the ground.

Your backers will spread the word to their friends, whom might back you up and increase your network. So you must keep in check that they have the maximum amount of information available for them to sell your project. All the informations about it; Pictures, anything people may visualize; What’s your financial goal? How is your schedule? How will you spend the money? Everyone whom support your project must know these things. As Maxime Leroy says:

What crowdfunding offers is to see your project supported by individuals who really believe in it. Who are ready to pledge anywhere from a symbolic to a substantial amount of their own money to make your idea happen. They all have a reason to do it: they will get a nice example of your product, they will brag about it to their friends, you blackmailed them, or it is your mom. Their common goal is to get your project crowdfunded or their investment will have had no impact, even if they get their money back. So they are not just backers, they are ambassadors. They will talk about your project, share it through their networks, and in the end, convince their friends to support it too. What you should be working on is helping your first backers, giving them the tools and materials (information, visuals, goal, agenda) to efficiently convince their friends. They will reach them better than you will with your random, send-to-all tweets.

6. Develop your network

After making your crowd funding project, you must review your environment. You need a crowd to fund your project, anyway. It’s time to inspect your project and your connections to make the best of them into your project. Use your social network to spread the word, still, you need closer contact to get all the support you need and you may not manage to do all of that by yourself. Make your best friends aware of your idea, they can’t be short of information as they’ll be selling your project to their closer friends. Tell everything to your family, they’ll talk about your venture to their friends at the bar or yoga class. A network you possibly wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

Improving your network is the work you must keep after releasing your project. Dedicate a few hours of your day to update your project with pre-production status. Keep your hypothetical supporters posted. This will make clear that you’re really dedicated to this project, as your crowd funding platform is the place where they’ll find you mostly. And don’t give up, as said here:

Many people, including in your close circle, will wait ‘till the end of your campaign to support your project. They will wait until you have reached 50%, or will only seize the opportunity to support you because there’s only 2 days left before the deadline…we continually see projects take off like a rocket, then enter into a slow phase, and then pick up again at the last minute, until finally reaching the target.

As shown by Leroy’s article, particularly using Kiss Kiss Bank Bank as subject, there’s no linear fundraising, this means that even if things are running low, you must not give up, because these tiny amount you get at midpoint will make the difference later.

Gap crowdfunding

Read other articles:

Crowdfunding sites:

Hope you enjoyed and best of luck with your projects. See you next time!

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Short of Stories returns!

Almost four months away from these lands i adore. But for good reasons: 1) i was too busy working; 2) there wasn’t much left to talk. There’s nothing to talk about the first, yet the latter demands some sort of attention. Short of Stories has a theme, but wasn’t planned, there was no schedule and soon the well went dry. Writing about the craft of screenwriting is hard, when you reduce the niche to short films it gets even harder. There are several great screenwriting blogs around, yet they don’t DISCUSS the craft all the time, most of them post news about the screenwriting business scenario, inspiring quotes. It’s talking ON screenwriting, not ABOUT. I’m certainly not criticizing this way to build a screenwriting blog, sincerely it’s the way it has to be in order to keep a regular flux of posts, however it doesn’t mean that i’m going for it.

After all these months, i’ve prepared some sort of schedule to keep Short of Stories going. What follows is a list of subjects i’m willing to approach in the upcoming weeks:

  1. Successful short films: this will be our regular posting, covering great shorts films and what we can extract from them. Expect Pixar;
  2. Short Formats – Web Series: returning to my series to fix this huge mistake. How could i miss web series?
  3. Feedback: what it REALLY is and how to get the proper one;
  4. Funding: How to get the money to produce the short film. Crowdfunding anyone?
  5. Apps to help you develop your story: Covering some applications to make your life easier (unfortunately this will be mac only).

Remember that i’m really open to dialogue. I would love to review reader’s scripts or watch their short films. And write about it, obviously. Use the contact form or the comments’ section to send suggestions and whatever you feel that this blog is missing.

Overall, i hope this is a good pick-up point. Stay tuned.

Short films we don’t want to see anymore

This is a list of short film archetypes we often see around social medias. These models usually result into bad short films or we’re simply way too tired to give them any support any longer.

1. Surrealist

This is like film school fresh-year. There’s ALWAYS a student thinking he’s superior or that he has a übermensch creativity and inner depth, whom decides that this kind of structure is the only one possible to organize his confused mind. We don’t care about your mind, we want a story. A film won’t set a truce between you and the world. There must be a reason why Buñuel haven’t explored this format so directly after L’Age d’Or achieving success. Tiny bits of surrealism are welcome, i can’t struggle how much i adore Svankmajer‘s work, which is certainly surrealistic, but the thing newcomers don’t realize is that the actual big guns work out with the external absurdity surrealism proposes, meanwhile, what we must repudiate are these surreal short films with inner developments, which will be written by someone whom possibly has never even read Freud, using a visual language only himself will find attractive and understandable.

2. Visual Masturbation or Poetic

Cinematography is a pillar of the structure, not the roof which shelters you from rain. It can’t hold the film by itself. These hipothetically poetic films, loaded with slow shots, cheap voice-over are all over the place. That’s another freshmen statement. You can determine what is a poem, since it is a predefined structure, yet you can’t define what is poetic, since it is not up to you. It’s up to the viewer. So trying to force the poetry into your spectator’s throat is not only unnecessary and rude, but you’re also limiting yourself into the wrong path for the right call. You can (and will, with dedication) achieve the same depth using the story. Also, several of these poetic short films come out after the student first contact to directors like Tarkovksy, which i admire truly, reason that bores me even further when i see these frustrated attempts. Have you seen that scene in Zerkalo, with the lady sitten in the fence and the wind creating a wave of grass in the background? He hired a helicopter to do that crap, how do you expect to place your camera in front of a tree and expect the same result? It’s so presumptuous it is offensive. You as a filmmaker must realize that, different than painting or photography, the film moves. The image is always in motion even standing still, the clock doesn’t stop counting until it is over. This makes movement an extremely important resource for a filmmaker which relies on years of experience to master. Poetic short films are like attempting to rape the spectator.

3. Powerpoint presentations

You know when your mother gives your email to that distant aunt and she daily spams your inbox with those cute ppts? Those messages that “God will serve us all”, “there is still kindness in the world”, “you must believe in yourself”. The public for this kind of film is exactly your distant aunt. Seems touchy in the first view doesn’t it? Yet, so did that bitch/jerk whom dumped you in high school. They’re cheap, this “today is gonna be the best day” atmosphere sounds good to kick off the day, however it is as deep as my cutting board. It doesn’t justify kindness, the guy in a suit is simply the Messiah. You can find good people at films, people whom inspire you, still they also have flaws and we will never identify with the qualities. NEVER. We want the flaws, we need the inner gangrene that consumes the good men’s life day by day. We all have our inner demons and we’re not looking after perfection, but solemnity. If this didn’t convince you, just keep your aunt in mind.

So, please, please, start a new work if you’re going through any of these archetypes, as they won’t develop you as a screenwriter. They’re short cuts to an end we all pursuit, the problem is that we’re watching a film to appreciate the road.

The value of a strong image

There are rules valid for either shorts or feature films and i believe that a strong image is the thing that divides good films from bad films.

Check the feature film business, possibly thousands screenplays are read and evaluated, yet only a few, like 1%, actually get bought. Being filmed is a totally different story. Hollywood has no reason to film bad screenplays, you may expect them to be at least well-rounded. However you still have bad films. Can we blame the screenwriter?

Perhaps. Even a screenplay with all the elements necessary to achieve a decent project might not be all it needs to score the jackpot, and i’m not only talking about selling a screenplay, but regarding the filmmaking of a remarkable picture.

After all, what’s the difference between a remarkable film and a forgettable one? I believe it resides in a strong image.

Viewers need something when they leave the theater, that thing that sticks to the person and knocks his mind before going to bed. Quick! Tell me one scene from Cimino’s The Deer Hunter! Russian roulette scene, right? Sometimes your story needs a single scene and don’t fuck up with the rest, yet, the Oscar-winner is quite a great picture besides the Vietnam War setup.

So don’t get me wrong, a blessed scene won’t make a whole picture, although it is part of the process. Sometimes the ‘remarkable’ aspect is in a character, pick for example the TV series House M.D. and its main character.

The most important and the objective you should strive for starts in the concept. The first stage of your film idea. That’s the place to find your strong image. You have possibly seem L.A. Confidential, written by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland. Here’s the IMDB logline:

As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – the straight-laced, the brutal, and the sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice.

10 years later, Curtis shows up with a new screenplay, with Eric Roth as a partner. Two badass screenwriters. Lucky you. Here the IMDB logline:

A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.

Let’s pretend you haven’t watched both movies. Tell me by the loglines which one is better. Do we all agree that L.A. Confidential has a better concept altogether?

This is like the magic of the film art, i can’t tell you for sure what is the formula for a remarkable movie, you won’t manage to tell yourself, though whenever you face any of those you’ll know. It’s the coffin Django carries along with him. That’s a strong image.

So it is not all about write by the book and input some heart into the story, to be remarkable there’s more in stakes. A good film is the one people talk about after the session. A scene. A character. A twist. A leitmotif. Whatever. Don’t bet on eternity at first, bet in the theater exit.

Forever is a consequence.

Objects are your best friends

Along the almost three months of Short of Stories, we presented several short films in which OBJECTS are the main characters.

In the article for the Short Formats series on Narrative Film, i’ve pointed out how Spider, by Nash Edgerton, revolves around the events triggered by this toy spider. Then we have an entire discussion while i reviewed Dave Green’s Ham Sandwich on magical amulets.

Other short films like Plot Device and The Black Hole also use objects as plot defining elements. The later three examples use magical amulets, which means that these objects are the core of the plot and they have superpowers, inserting something fantastical to the narrative. Most important is that these films develop under the complications lead by the use of this magical amulet. Meanwhile, Spider is different and suits us best because it uses a mundane object.

The point about objects is that they don’t need further explanation. A chair is a chair.  A toy spider is a toy spider. Unlike human characters as they demand explanation, empathy, depth. Spider works as a dark comedy because the actions derived from the object are completely unexpected from a toy spider.

Objects are tools, they don’t change, they just do. They don’t ask for a line of dialogue, neither for a conflict. But we must realize that as characters, main objects also put them into a change of values. All the example listed above make the objects turn from good/innocent to bad/guilty. Yet the objects don’t change, is just the way we see them after the incidents caused by them.

The friendship lasts even longer when we recall how good objects are as signs. They explain flashbacks and ellipses. What if you have a meeting of two characters whom used to know each other when children, but they don’t remember. Is a common object that will expose this recognition whenever it comes to the story.

You might have heard of the term MacGuffin, which is also a great device to abuse of objects, but there’s only a MacGuffin because there’s no need to explain objects. When you have a film in which the story surrounds on an unknown person, usually the entire movie is about it, as Carol Reed’s The Third Man and Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects.

Objects are portable symbols, so there’s unlimited possibilities, actually. Your main character received an object from his brother in the beginning of the film, but further revelations show some dirty skeletons at the brother’s closet and your main character must make a decision regarding him. That object can be the key to illustrate this turning point in the character.

Easily introduced, extremely malleable, objects are the duck tape for narrative issues. Keep them close, if you need an amulet to build something, make a list of  candidates. Array your options. If you use them properly you’ll achieve a great solution for your screenplay.

What Short of Stories is all about?

This blog has no intention to be a vehicle to review short films, Short of the Week is a much more stable place, with several shorts listed. Simply top-notch. Most (if not all) films you have seen around here were already posted and reviewed at SOTW earlier.

Short of Stories is all about storytelling, the title sort of implies that. It is willing to cover one of the biggest gaps of the short film world: screenwriting. Often short films discussions circumscribe at budget. Make it the cheapest. As an amateur you freeze and lock your idea to the ground, unable to let it flow because the higher, the pricier.

The narrative breakthrough is the babystep for a good film. Is not the money. There are one million and one hundred dollars ideas, what you can’t do is film the one million idea with one hundred. Is like trying to fit in that pullover given by your grandma when you were five. Yet if we cut the one million idea until you reach the budget you need, you won’t have the idea anymore and you will live over the assumption of what it could be. Pushing our pullover forward, you’d keep only the label.

We don’t see budget. We don’t discern by cost. We want to watch a great story. And this blog aspires to be the place to discuss narrative. The main pillar for a good film.

About this blog, we don’t mind to befriend you at our Google Plus’ page and we also invite you to follow us on Twitter. And we’re also intending to expand it further along the road, because this is an unique blog.

We know that we have visitors from the entire globe and my biggest desire is to keep it that way. I don’t expect you to bookmark us, however i’d appreciate if you came back, as i can guarantee that there will be something interesting waiting for you.

For the following week you can expect more articles on the nature of screenwriting for short films and a very interesting interview by the week. That’s all i can say.

Stick around, it’ll be pleasant.

Allowing the story to talk.

This has been a good week to check some famous screenwriting blogs. I’d strongly recommend for you to check Carson Reeves’ article on the SOUL of a screenplay. You know, that thing that makes it truly tick. Other place to go would be Scott Myers new article series, Spirit of the Spec, in which he daily goes through the creation process. Baby steps.

What we have been talking so far and what these two references also is that the beginning of a script is more creativity and less technique. A good story begins in the guts.

We’ve been talking about ideas and how to pick the best one and i can only hope that you’ve made the right choice, because now it’s the time to let it grow on it. An idea is an opportunity, a risky chance, you don’t know what it is going to be, but you know that the shape it gains is your responsibility. You just became a father.

In the first post of this blog i said that the story picks its format. You can’t force it to become the short film that you want, sometimes it fits better someplace else, what if it would be a great ad campaign? A documentary? Perhaps even a feature film? Your concept is a grenade and your job now is to see where those shrapnels could go.

Honestly, there’s not much you can do right now other than let it loose. Seriously, let your idea talk to you, it surely has a lot to say.

If you want to know if your idea belongs to the narrative film niche, you must look for a few elements: a LIFE CHANGING EVENT, an OBSTACLE, a GOAL. If you’re having difficulties find those three elements, perhaps answering to these little questions will help you out:

Why now?
What’s next?
What for?

Those are the first steps to develop a narrative structure, still, short films are like a cheap western, they can be literally anything and these questions solely apply to concepts on classical film storytelling, however, some short mockumentaries might skip that class, nevertheless, they’re fiction. No better example than Alive in Joburg, short film by Neill Blomkamp, which originated the feature film District 9.

Alive in Joburg is an exposition of the What if? It’s just an overall view, but a really good one. You can’t evaluate it as a plot, because there’s none. Here we’re going to work on narrative short films most of the time, but if your idea doesn’t fit in that box, don’t panic, if it is any good there’s a place for it in another format. To help out these lost causes, we’re going to talk about the types of short film in the next article.



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