Angelo Bell: Fore-thoughts and after-thoughts (I screwed up…but I did good!)

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by Angelo Bell

I’ve been trying to avoid it, but it’s no use. I screwed up. I screwed up and now I’m paying for it.

Back during pre-production of BROKEN HEARTS CLUB  I should have spent more time with the schedule and location prep. I should have hired a 1st AD to take care of those things for me. I didn’t. Now I’m paying for it.

As a result of not properly preparing for our grueling 16-day shoot, we lost 2 1/2 days of shooting, equal to over five scenes. Five VERY important scenes. Now, as opposed to shooting reshoots and exteriors I’ve got to do pickups of scenes we missed. These scenes are pivotal to the development of three of the man characters.

And as a result of not planning properly I’m spending an extra $15,000 for these pickups. This money could have been used for a post sound mix, ADR, and sound design. Instead I’m spending more money on that.

So — that’s al the afterthought shit. All the hindsight that makes me want to kick my own butt. But — you live, you learn and you keep making films.

The thing I did exponentially well was hire my composer, Rob Gokee, before a page of the script was ever finalized. This is something I did much better than many indie filmmakers out there. For many folks, the score for their film is an afterthought. I am not saying this is the case for everyone, so don’t misquote me. But I know what I’ve seen and heard. Too many filmmakers budget for everything — except the music for their film. Then they are left to beg, borrow and steal, or accept substandard music. Their dilemma often gives them the chutzpah to ask a professional composer to do the work for free (see many-a-craigslist ad to verify).  What they are missing out on is a personal relationship with people like a Rob Gokee, who’s willing to work with them and their budget (as long as it’s fair).

The filmmaker/composer relationship should be a win/win situation. The composer gets paid to do what he/she does best while perhaps securing future work, and the filmmaker gets an original score for his/her film. Details can be negotiated. I was lucky because two years ago when we met Rob believed that I’d continue making films. He believed that there were other opportunities for us to work together so he was very flexible with pricing. We ended up working together on six films. He created 86 minutes of distinct original music for Broken Hearts Club. And more than that, he’s also now a good friend.

So while I screwed up in the production planning phase, I hit a home run in hiring a composer to create an original score for my film. But you filmmakers reading this can learn from my mistake and my good luck.  If your cousin isn’t a film composer don’t let him write music for your film. Treat your film professionally. Hire a composer. Don’t let music for your film be an afterthought.

Angelo Bell: How to conduct proper research for your indie film

Good tips from a good guy:

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by Angelo Bell

The trouble with showbiz research is… everyone tosses around that word, “research” but many don’t tell you where to go to conduct that research. Too often I go to websites or read books that say stuff like this:

You must research film festivals that screen films like yours…

You must research what distributors buy you kind of film…

You must research the right acting coach…

You must research what talent agencies are hiring of looking for your type…

Well, sir/madam, the fact is, I was doing research. That’s what led me to your so-called expert website. I put in a few search words in Google and DogPile and found your link. You said you had tips. Now you’re telling me that you actually don’t have the answer. Just vague direction. Even in your blog you seem to be hoarding information from me.

Yes, I get it. There is tremendous value in discovering things for yourself. The journey of discovery often leads to other peripheral tidbits of information that will help one’s quest. But come on! You said you had real information for me, but instead you’re just sending me back into the information jungle, fending for myself against a sea of inaccurate information.

So ladies and gents reading this blog who happen to be interested in showbiz. You are in luck. I am about to share with you my “research tlinks” and books to start you on your way. During my travels many folks have come to ask me “how do I get started [writing, acting, producing,etc].” While many of them were merely trying to get an ‘in’ with me, thinking I was some high-falootin’ producer with money and power (go figure!), many were earnest in their quest for info.

SCRIPTS- Wanna find out who’s selling and buying scripts? Go to http://www.donedealpro.com. It costs $24/year for the info but it is one of the best sites for this info. Often you’ll get the names of the studio/prodco, agencies involved and of course, the writer.

FILM FESTIVALS – there is no better book (I’ve found) then Chris Gore’s “Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.” Here you’ll learn about Tier 1 and Tier 2 festivals, festival politics, finances, etc. I kick myself in the ass for not buying this book years ago. It is truly invaluable to the filmmaker with a feature (or a short) that’s ready to be seen. Oh, and read the personal interviews with filmmakers!

TV WRITING – wanna be on the boob tube. Then check out TVWriter.com. Managed by the famously infamous Larry Brody (who wrote for the Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy). The site manages three contests including a contest for a TV series proposal and MOW (Movie of the Week). The user bulletin board has tons of answers to your every question. I personally know a woman who won the contest, got an agent and now writes for TV.

AGENTS, MANAGERS & ACTORS – there is none better than IMDB Pro. http://pro.imdb.com. This is the professional version of the fan database IMDB.com. Cost is $100+ per year. I’ve gotten A-list actor’s agents names, their lawyers, publicists, managers, etc. By the way, the gatekeepers (agents) are harder to get through than managers. Always go to the manager first if you’re trying to attach A-list talent to your film. I’ve had their service for five years.

SCREENPLAYS – wanna write one, then you better learn how. You have to learn the rules first, before you decide what rules you can break. Second to none is the foundation of all screenplay books, Syd Field’s “Screenplay” and the introduction of the plot point. Read it. Know it. Live it. Get it on Amazon.com or go to my inks page, http://www.angelobell.com/filmmaking_tools.htm GROUPS – IFP.com and FilmIndependent.com are great groups to join. A membership perk is getting access to low-cost equipment rentals, networking events, free film screenings, seminars, other vital resources– and people! Find actors and crew for your film.

ACTING COACHES – If you’re in LA acting coaches are everywhere. Some better than others, of course. And the well-known ones have waiting lists. What technique works for you? Meisner? Ivana Chubbick? Stanislav? Method?

FILM REVIEWS – need a third-party review for your film? Send it to http://www.filmthreat.com. But be prepared to wait a while. However, if you send a cool little gift with your screener you might get moved to the top of the list Tip: cool and elaborate packaging does wonders!!

INDUSTRY NEWS – http://www.variety.com and http://www.hollywoodreporter.com ‘Nuff said

FREE PRESS RELEASES – http://www.prweb.com. Submit your press release to Yahoo! news, Google and tons of other outlets and local markets…for free. Or pay a small fee and go national.

ScriptPIMP – http://www.scriptpimp.com a writer’s database of people looking for scripts. $99/year

InkTip – a online screenplay warehouse that gives access to professionals looking for scripts. Upload your new script and watch the studios come to you!! http://www.inktip.com

And there’s more coming in a later blog so stay tuned!

Angelo Bell: The Original Ride or Die Chick

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by Angelo Bell

Harriet Tubman, the original “ride or die” chick, coming to a low-budget film screening near you. Boom!

Harriet is the star of my next micro-budget script

As a screenwriter, the here and now is very important. You have to finish what you started. You must complete the tasks given to you. Deadlines must be met. But the future is equally important. the question, “What else are you working on?” comes to mind.

I try to look ahead to what my next screenwriting projects might be. I have a ton of project concepts that have been developed over the course of  the last two years. Should I write a thriller? Another tentpole project? An action joint? Most importantly is what script will be the best use of my time considering the state of the industry.

So why Harriet Tubman? There’s been some recent controversy over the actresses chosen by “Hollywood” to play the African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Harriet was a dark-skinned woman, yet Hollywood decision-makers have consistently chosen lighter-skinned African-American women to play the role. These actions tend to solidify the pervasive feelings within the African-American community that “Hollywood only tolerated Blacks who are lighter skinned.”  In the absurd film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the woman chosen to play Harriet Tubman has a notably lighter complexion than any known photograph of the actual woman. But that’s not why I chose Harriet Tubman as the center of my next low-budget project.

Actually, in discussing a possible storyline I came up with a brilliant connection to the film, “Glory,” an ugly piece of American history and a piece of Canadian history that isn’t often told. And, in true indie fashion, this film can be told in micro-budget fashion at a low six-figure budget.

So, that’s my new project: a low-budget alternate history tale of Harriet Tubman. Oh, and she kicks ass too.

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Bruce Reisman: “Give Us Your Money, Dammit!”

Okay, so he didn’t really say this. Cuz if he had, he would’ve said it funnier. Here then, are Bruce Reisman’s own words on a certain indie project he’s involved in.

Oh, and yeppers, Bruce is a guy you really should know. (Or at least have heard of!)

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by Bruce Reisman

With a professional resume that, in any other business, would put me at the top of virtually every list, I should be relaxed and comfortable. But, like most of us over 50 (which is probably more like over 26 these days), getting “it” up on the screen in a “real” way is also virtually impossible.

So, I, Bruce Reisman, became an “indie” producer (another way of saying “no experience” or “way too much experience). I hooked up with a kid named Kris Black, (who would be the love-child of Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell if men could mate), and produced his movie, BLOOD EFFECTS.

Turned out pretty damn good. Renegade film-making. Tiny budget. Less than 2 weeks to shoot 88 pages, and a skeleton crew (some literally skeletons so I had to feed them well).

Now we’re close to the finish line, which means for BLOOD EFFECTS, it’s edited and ready for release… well, not really, unless we want to throw it on YouTube and suck it up for vanity. But there’s no money in vanity, and the film turned out too good. It’s slick and scary and inventive. So, we need $35,000.00 to get it into “deliverable” shape for “real” distribution worldwide.

That’s where Kickstarter comes in. It’s a crowd-funding site (in association with Amazon) that allows friends, lovers, cousins, wives, ex-wives who don’t hate us, et al, the opportunity to help us finish the movie. By pledging any amount from $25.00 and up, BLOOD EFFECTS gets a real shot at a real release. Take a look at the link:

It can be very effective. But we only have 30 days (our deadline is April 8) to raise all the money of our goal. Amazon will not release a nickel less. Thus, “reaching out” is putting it mildly. Some of us involved in BLOOD EFFECTS are going to “beg”. I won’t do that. I’m a seasoned pro, right?

However, my forever young mentor Larry Brody (my first staff job was under him on “The Fall Guy”), asked me to write something “funny” that he would share with his cronies, hoping to get them to kick in a few bucks for BLOOD EFFECTS.

Now, let me tell you a great Larry Brody memory from the early 80;s. He was producing an episode of “The Fall Guy”. I was in on the casting of the “guest girl” for that week. Larry had seen a young actress named Catherine Hearne in a play that I had happened to write and direct. He thought she was terrific, and “had her in” to read for the “guest girl” part, usually a big-titted hottie that Lee Majors would want to bang. Catherine came in, read for the roomful of Glen Larson “league of mavens”, and blew everyone away. Catherine was the girl that Larry had written. She was the real thing, trained, “another Sissy Spacek” is how Larry described her.

Then, decision time. Larry had the final word, but had the saddest look on his face after Catherine left the room. I remember it like it was yesterday… Larry shaking his head in frustration. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “She’s way too good. How the fuck am I going to put her in a two-shot with Lee Majors?”. He was right, of course.

Larry felt terrible about not hiring Catherine for “The Fall Guy”. But this is what really got me: He personally called the actress, and told her she didn’t get the part, despite being so talented. Then, a few weeks later, he wrote a part especially for her in a pilot he was writing for Larson. The pilot didn’t get shot, for whatever reason, but he sent Catherine the script and said… “If we’d have done this show, you’d have been in it.”

A mench. Beyond menchy. What producer would do that today?

So, after all these years, Larry found me on Linked In after I did a mass mailing for BLOOD EFFECTS. And true to form, after not speaking for a thousand years, Larry contacted me and told me he’d like to help me with finding a bunch of fellow menches, who might pledge the money to finish my movie.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Sometimes, that’s a good thing!

So go the link below and take a look. Pitch in, mates!

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Click the pick above for the Kickstarter page. (And do it now, okay?)

EDITED BY LB TO ADD: Bruce’s praise would embarrass the hell out of me, except that I have no memory whatsoever of the incident and the actress in question. Therefore, I accept what he’s written here as a good story, well worth hearing…just as I think we all should accept, you know, BLOOD EFFECTS.

God, I love the smell of blood spatter in the morning! (Has anyone mentioned that this movie is a mockumentary?)

Indie Film: JO JO IN THE STARS

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What can we say? This little gem has haunted us since we first saw it. Sooo creepy…and yet so filled with love:

The BAFTA winning debut film from AKA Director Marc Craste – JO JO IN THE STARS is a 12 minute story of love, self-sacrifice, and jealousy played out against a black and white world that is both nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful.

Director Marc Craste
Producer Sue Goffe
Produced by Studio AKA

AWARDS
BAFTA 2004 Winner, Best Short Animated Film
Cartoon D’or 2005 Winner of Cartoon D’Or 2005
Clermont Ferrand 2004 2004 Best Short Animated film
Sicaf 2004 2004 Short Film Grand Prize
Bradford Animation Festival 2004 Grand Prix
Brief Encounters – Bristol 2004 Best of British
Aspen Shortsfest 2004 Special Jury Prize
IFCT 2007 Award for Most Innovative Animation