Video: Getting Into Screenwriting, Part 2 – Promoting Yourself

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Screenwriter Danny Stack continues his four-part video series, Getting Into Screenwriting, by discussing the benefits of getting online, promoting yourself, time management, and using your hustle.

 

 

Danny Stack has been a screenwriter/consultant since 2001. His television writing credits include EastEnders, Doctors and high-profile children’s shows such as Octonauts, Fleabag Monkeyface, Roy, and the new Thunderbirds for CiTV. Danny also writes/directs (his supernatural thriller, Origin, won Best Horror at the London Independent Film Festival 2012), and he has co-written/directed the live-action children’s film Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? with Tim Clague.

Danny blogs at http://dannystack.com/

 

You can watch part 1 here

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Video: Getting Into Screenwriting, Part 1

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Screenwriter Danny Stack kicks off his four-part video series, Getting Into Screenwriting, by explaining how he started, building your portfolio, his two top tips for reading scripts, and the importance of professional feedback.
 
 

 
 

Danny Stack has been a screenwriter/consultant since 2001. His television writing credits include EastEnders, Doctors and high-profile children’s shows such as Octonauts, Fleabag Monkeyface, Roy, and the new Thunderbirds for CiTV. Danny also writes/directs (his supernatural thriller, Origin, won Best Horror at the London Independent Film Festival 2012), and he has co-written/directed the live-action children’s film Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? with Tim Clague.
 
Danny blogs at http://dannystack.com/

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Interview: Paul Young, Producer of ‘Song of the Sea’

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Paul Young is co-founder and CEO of Cartoon Saloon and Producer of the Oscar-nominated animated feature Song of the Sea.  Lynn O’Reilly, an animation student at BCFE, caught up with him at the recent Irish VFX + Animation Summit to ask for advice on breaking into the animation industry and the role of the Producer of an animated feature film.

 

Do you have any advice for any animation students who are trying to decide what they want to do when they leave college?

 

It can be hard when you’re young. I was lucky because I went to study in Belfast first and went through lots of different art and design disciplines before I settled on illustration and then on to animation. The best advice I can give is whatever part of it you enjoy most, like you if you enjoy the drawing or the writing the most, just try to draw as much as you can, or write as much as you can. Then get out and about and meet the studios. Try and call in and talk to people who work in those studios. Talk to past students. Try to get to places like Annecy [the International Animation Film Festival] and you’ll meet so many more people from other places and other colleges. And then you suss out more from them. The most important part of the college experience is the people you’re with, the people in your class. Obviously you learn from your tutors and your classes, but you learn more from each other.

 

You’re Producer on Song of the Sea, and the role of Producer is not something people get much of an insight into compared to other roles in the filmmaking process. Would you be able to shed a bit of light on this? What’s involved in being the Producer of an animated feature film?

 

It varies. For big studio films a Producer is more like what we would consider a Line Producer or a Production Manager, and that’s the only thing they do, that’s their one focus. Whereas with smaller studios, as a Producer I’m doing lots of things. I’m not really as hands-on with the day-to-day production like a Line Producer or a Production Manager. I’m trying to get money for the next film, like a Business Director or a Company Director.

Studios do need a lot more Production Managers, because there is a lot of people interested in animation. We’ve hired fantastic people from colleges like Gobelins and colleges in Denmark, who, in their final year, just focused on Production Management and learned how to be producers. Maybe after spending some time studying animation they realized it’s not for them or they’re not getting the skills, and for them there’s a great career to be had in Production Management.

The best people you can find are from colleges who have been through the production process, who know what it’s like to make something themselves, then they’ll understand what it takes. I studied animation and illustration and I never really thought I’d be a Producer. I just kind of fell into it, because we had to find money to fund our projects. I never really got any training. So what I had to do was hire a Production Manager who’d worked on a TV series or hire a Line Producer who’d done a feature film –I’d try and bring them in and at least they might know more about the pitfalls. And now I’ve learned a lot after making a number of films. So really, it’s just about doing it.

 

 

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The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide: Grow Your Social Media Fanbase The Right Way

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Christopher Brennan continues The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide series by looking at how filmmakers can make the most out of their social media pages.

Okay, so you’ve decided to set up a Facebook and a Twitter page for your feature film. You’re looking to gather a community of like-minded individuals together that you believe will be interested in what your film has to say. So far, so good…

You start putting up photos of cast, updates on pre-production and maybe some spec posters. However, once your family, friends and colleagues have all agreed to Like & Follow your pages, it all seems to plateau, right?

This is basically where 95% of independent filmmakers’ social media pages end up: A stagnant page floating around the 100/200 fan area.

I bet you’re looking for more fans right? Well, why should you just wait for them to find you? How about we take a couple of the basic tricks from digital marketing specialists and start to grow those film pages. Obviously this is just an overview. For further insight, it is best to contact Facebook or Twitter reps. They are really helpful.

Let’s start with Facebook first shall we?

Digital Film Marketing – Facebook

Let’s assume that you have set up a business page for your film and not a friends page (if not, then go ahead and set it up now). And you have already invited your Friends list to start liking your page.

Now what do you do? How about a little Facebook advertising? It’s actually really simple to do. And it doesn’t take much money to start seeing real results for your film page.

Promote Page: Did you know that by only spending €4 per day to promote your page, Facebook will pretty much guarantee that you receive between 13-50 new Likes daily! Now it’s up to you to target the correct audience. For instance, if you were making a horror film, then make sure that you put all things horror film-related into the ‘Interests’ area of your Audience section. I’d recommend targeting filmmakers as well.

You can also target by area. So if you want to just focus on your city or country, then that is where Facebook will promote your page (For €8 per day, you should be receiving 25-100 new Likes per day).

You see, by even doing a one week promotion of your new Facebook page, you will already see significant results.

Boost Your Post: You can also boost your individual posts as well. And you can decide on what objective it is that you want to achieve:

If you want people to click through to your KickStarter page, then go with ‘Clicks to Website,’ if you want more people to see your promo video, then aim for ‘Video Views.’

It’s amazing that when people go to all the trouble of setting up a crowdfunding page, they don’t even think about boosting their Facebook post to have it reach more people. By only spending a couple of Euro, your post can reach a couple thousand potential fans (whether or not they fund you is another matter – see crowdfunding Incentives blog)

Now, because I’m starting to sound way too much like a Facebook employee, let’s look at Twitter shall we?

Digital Film Marketing – Twitter

Many filmmakers think it’s best to use either Facebook or Twitter, thinking that they are really one in the same. So they set up a Twitter account, get 50 followers and then forget about it.

But by using Twitter correctly, you can build a fantastic, engaged community of followers for your film account. And what is one of the absolute best ways to get Twitter Followers? By Following other people.

Some may think that this is a bit of a sly tactic. But it’s absolutely honest. Think of Twitter as a giant party where you don’t know anybody. And by Following people, you are merely introducing yourself to individuals who like the same things as you. Makes sense, right?

One of the best ways to do this is to sign up to Tweepi (it’s free and you can log in using your Twitter handle). When you’ve signed in, the first thing you do is find some similar accounts to yours that have a large following (So if you have a documentary about Skateboarding, then search for popular skateboarding oriented accounts).

Next thing you do is start to Follow their Followers. And I mean fifty to one hundred at a time. Do this each day for a week straight (Keep going after that, obviously). As long as your Twitter account properly shows what your film is about, and you have targeted the appropriate accounts for your specified area, then you should start seeing your Followers list grow.

Oh, the cool thing about this tactic is: It’s Free!

So there it is. I’m going stop writing now, since this has turned into a pretty big-ass article. Hope you find these tips helpful. But I must tell you again, that this is merely an overview. If you are looking for more in-depth insight into social media marketing, there are excellent sites such as the Social Media Examiner that will go much deeper into specifics.

Anyway, that’s all from me. Good luck with your social media accounts. Any questions, just drop them in the comments box or Tweet me at @ChrisBrennan_1

Thanks for reading.

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The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide: Make Your Own Film Promo

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Christopher Brennan continues The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide series with 6 reasons why you should be making your own film promo.

Times have most certainly changed. Back in the day, equipment was expensive. Film stock was delicate. And the post-production process was cumbersome. The idea of making a short promotional video for your film project was just too far-fetched.

But not anymore. Nowadays, if you want your project to reach production, it is not just an advantage to have a film promo… It has become a necessity.

So, You Think You Can Make This Film… Prove It!

There’s that old expression: ‘Talk is cheap.’ And that may actually be true in this circumstance.While some filmmakers can still get financing through the delicate art of pitching, it really is a tough sell.

If you really feel like your story is a story that needs to be told… And you are the best person to tell this story… Then you have to convince the right people that this is true.

One thing that is better than simply telling producers, film boards and distributors that this story is indeed worthy of their time, is to actually show it.

Get out there and put together a promo that really captures exactly what your story is all about.

Why should you do this, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked me!

1.        Just like screenwriting: ‘Show, Don’t Tell.’

Don’t ask them to imagine the look of a film or the mood of a story. Go out, make it and show them. That way, there is no confusion over what you are trying to do.

2.        Show them your dedication and commitment.

By creating this promo, you are showing people that you are dedicated and willing to go all the way. There is something universally attractive about an individual who conveys confidence and determination. By making this promo, you are exhibiting these qualities.

3.        Equipment is readily available.

These days, a lot of people have quality, professional equipment that will make your promo look amazing. With this equipment at your fingertips, why wouldn’t you go out and put your promo together?

4.        Your script will be better because of it.

I know this by experience. By getting out there and cutting a promo together, you are testing the strength of your own idea. It’s amazing how this will influence your story for the better. For the first time, you get a chance to catch a glimpse of what it could be.

5.        You will meet collaborators that may just help get it made.

By simply going through the act of putting a film promo together, you are going to meet cast and crew that might just help you get the whole project into production. These creative, hardworking individuals took the time to collaborate with you in order to make this film promo a reality. Unless the experience was truly horrible, there is a good chance that they will be there by your side when it comes to making the whole shebang!

6.        Other filmmakers are making promos as you read this.

I don’t like to talk about competition too much in this series. But sometimes other people’s initiative can really spur you on to get going. If they can make a promo, then what’s the reason that you can’t?

So there it is. Let’s face it… There’s always a reason not to make a film promo. Let’s just ignore them this month. Instead, why don’t we see if we can get your latest project to the next stage?

Simply drop a couple of people some polite emails and see if they are willing to help you make your promo today. You will be amazed at how much time people will actually have for your project, once they realise that this is important to you.

 

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

 

@chrisbrennan_1

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5 Things I Learned Making ‘Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story’

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Ross Whitaker’s latest film, Unbreakable, tells the story of Mark Pollack’s rehabilitation from an accident that left him paralysed from the waist down, his search for groundbreaking cures in the worlds of robotics and science, and his unbreakable spirit.

 

Here Ross shares with Film Ireland some lessons he learned making the incredible film.

 

Taking this film from start to finish was a six-year struggle and I learned a lot of things along the way:

 

Love Rejection
I’m going to call bullshit on this straightaway. Rejection is horrible and who could ever love it? But in this game there is plenty of it. This film was rejected by funders a number of times before it was financed. It has been rejected by festivals and left unreviewed by newspaper critics. It’s a punch to the gut every time you don’t get what you need to make your film work out and it’s extra work to figure out what to do next. So, you must accept rejection and keep going and don’t let it drown you. Stay creative and stay committed to making your film as good as you can because…

 

The Audience is Everything
The response to this film from audiences has been overwhelming and surprising. I think it might be because the audience is maybe starved of real, truthful experiences at the cinema. Maybe filmmaking has got a little too slick. Maybe that’s why Ken Wardrop’s His & Hers was such a giant and deserved hit – simple, beautiful storytelling. We’re finding that audiences are really connecting to this story. The most important relationship is between the audience and the film and if you make something real and truthful then audiences will react positively. And the amazing thing is that an engaged audience will tell their friends and act as your best publicity. The boundary between audience and filmmaker is smaller than ever because…

 

The Internet has Changed Everything
My first feature – Saviours – was released in 2008 and back then Facebook was still really in its infancy and Twitter didn’t exist. The world has changed immeasurably since then and the fact that you can speak directly to your audience makes a big difference. Also, your audience can talk directly to each other and recommendations on Facebook, Twitter and through email are very helpful. In addition, if you’re not getting the newspaper coverage you want, maybe it’s time to start thinking a little differently. Online publishers like The Journal and RTE Ten actually have a massive audience and can be extremely useful in getting the word out. It’s important to have a strategy and to go as wide as you can. When we released our trailer we had a call to action for people to go ahead and buy a ticket and we put it out as far and as wide as we could. Within a few days our opening night was pretty much sold out, which in itself created buzz.

 

Hold On To Your Kitchen Sink
Watching the film now on the big screen, I’m glad to have had such a good editor in Andrew Hearne. There were times in the edit when I wanted to throw the kitchen sink at it, hire copter cams and do timelapse shots but Andrew felt it was better to keep things more focused on the story and not distract the audience with unnecessary visual flourishes. There’s a constant pressure to ‘be cinematic’ but there’s nothing more cinematic than a good story that sustains the duration of the film and keeps you engaged. So, sometimes it’s best if you don’t throw everything at it.

 

The End is Just the Start
“The end is just the start” is a line from the film but it could also describe the process of finishing the film and then beginning the new job of getting it out there into the world! It’s not easy and we’re learning a lot but I think the big thing is having a plan and implementing it. Our plan was to really get out there and meet people and hope to create enthusiasm around the experience so that the audience would get involved and recommend it to their friends. We are touring the country and doing Q&As almost every night. We’re meeting people and talking to them about their experiences and their lives. And we’re being extremely open with people about our experiences and the background to the film, giving them a unique understanding of the story and our motivations. It seems to be going well and it provides audiences with a real, tangible experience. At a later date we’ll reflect on what we’ve done right and wrong but for now we’ll just keep moving on to the next screening and Q&A. Maybe we’ll meet you somewhere along the way.

 

Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story is currently screening in the Light House Cinema in Dublin and touring the country. Screening information at www.markpollockfilm.com/screenings

 

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The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide: How To Get People To Read Your Goddamn Script!

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Christopher Brennan continues The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide series with a look at getting your script read.

So you’ve spent months developing your idea, another few months writing your script. Now, as you fine tune the story, dialogue and characters you might want notes and opinions on your project, right? See what other people think of your work.

This can be a very tricky process. A lot of times you can send out scripts for review only to spend the next few months simply waiting for people to finally get around to it.

With that in mind, today we are going to look at 5 effective ways to finally get people to Read Your Goddamn Script!

• Print Your Script

This day and age, it’s so quick and handy to simply send off a digital copy of your script. But there is a big difference between dropping your screenplay to someone in an email attachment and actually handing them the hard copy. For one thing, it shows that you took the time to print off a copy just for them. Also, it’s harder for that person to ignore the pile of pages sitting in the corner of their living room.

• Read Their Script

I mean think about it… Simply offer to read and analyse their script at the same time. Set a delivery date for when both reviews should be turned in, that way both readers will be on a deadline. This deadline will be motivated by the fact that each party wants feedback from their own script.

• Bribery Works

Another way to get your script read is by adding a little incentive. This doesn’t have to be too much. Even just giving the person a bottle of wine can be a really nice gesture. Something that shows that you understand and appreciate the time you are requesting from your reader.

• Provide a Synopsis First

Think of it from their point-of-view. It’s really hard to commit a couple of hours of your evening to reading a script. It really is. Especially if you don’t have any clue what it’s about. Another way to look at it is: when would you pick a film on Netflix without knowing anything about it? Usually you read the synopsis, watch the trailer, see who’s in it or check out reviews, then decide to watch it. By providing that kind material for your readers, it makes it easier for them to carve out the time to read your work.

• Create Promotional Material

This doesn’t have to stop at just the synopsis by the way. What about having a poster done up? How about shooting a little promo of the script? These things will help sell the film in the future anyway, so why not prepare them early to help get your script read?

So what do you think? Do you believe that these tactics might work? Why don’t we put it to the test. This week, offer to read a colleague’s script. And in return ask them to read yours.

By next week, you should have some really positive feedback that will help strengthen your story. And please, let me know how you get on by dropping a comment below or tweeting @chrisbrennan_1

Thanks for reading and good luck with your script!

 

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The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide: Pitching

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Christopher Brennan continues The New Digital Filmmaker’s Guide series with a look at pitching your project.

I know it’s not nice to hear it. But these days, knowing how to make a film sometimes isn’t enough. With the competition heavier than ever before, more and more filmmakers are quickly learning that in order to get your film into production, you are going to have to master the art of The Pitch.

But I do have good news as well… It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. That’s why I’ve put together a couple of pointers to help you on your next opportunity to get your project off the ground.

The 9 Essentials Of Pitching

  1. Tell a story– When it comes to pitching, a lot of people get tied up on where to start. Not knowing what to lead with or where to go. First thing to remember is that you are a storyteller. So, simply tell a story. Think about when you tell anecdotes to your friends and colleagues. Well, why not take inspiration from that?
  2. But don’t tell the plot – One of the biggest problems filmmakers have when it comes to pitching is to start from the beginning and explain scene by scene what happens in the film. Don’t Do That! This really is the most common way to lose your audience. Your script will take care of those details. Now is the time to sell the concept, idea and heart of your story.
  3. Learn To Summarise – Learn how to synopsise your film.
    What’s the themes?
    What are the characters’ goals?
    What are the characters’ wants and needs?
    Once you know this, then learn how to sum up your film in 3 minutes. Then 2. Then 1.
    Do you have a Log Line?
    Can you summarise everything in a sentence?
    What is the one word that best describes your film?
    Get to know these things. They will help you construct your pitch into some worth listening to.
  4. Know your audience – And I don’t mean the audience of the film. I mean the person you are pitching it to. Whether it’s a formal interview or a networking event, knowing some background on the other person will definitely make the process go much smoother.
    What is their job? What are they interested in? Where have they previously worked?
    There is nothing wrong with doing a bit of a research on the person you’re expecting to impress… In many circumstances, they would’ve checked out your background anyway.
  5. Practice – Don’t think that you can just roll right up to someone and instinctively nail a pitch every time. Pitches that are well conceived and constructed have a better chance of suceeding. So, rehearse with a colleague. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Rehearse wherever you can to make sure that when your 2 minutes are here, you will be prepared.
  6. Eye Contact – Don’t pitch with your face in a notebook, looking down at your shoes or staring out the window. This person deserves to be treated with respect. Looking them straight in the eye is one of the best ways to show it.
  7. Are there any comparable films? – One way to get your point across is to understand the arena that your story is in. What kind of films would you compare yours to? Highlighting some successful films that relate to yours will not only put your project in good company, but will show that your idea is not only good, but bankable as well.
  8. Have A Backup Project – Sometimes the person in the room is simply not going to be interested in your idea. And that’s fair enough. Maybe you’re pitching a comedy, and they are on the look out for a thriller. If you can, try to have a backup project just in case. You wouldn’t believe the number of filmmakers that ended up getting a deal based on their second project. And if it is possible, try to have two separate genres.
  9. Enjoy yourself! – I know this one may be a bit harder to do than the rest. But it honestly is the key. Pitching is all about engaging the other person. How do you expect your potential investor to be entertained or engaged if you’re not enjoying it either? Most likely, if you’ve scouted it right, this person wants to find the right project. It’s your job to prove to them that your idea is the one that fills their remit.

So there it is. Hopefully some of these points may help you when your next moment arrives. But let’s not leave this list at only 9 points. If you have any other advice when it comes to pitching, let us know. Drop a comment down below, or Tweet me @chrisbrennan_1, and let’s get your next project off the ground.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your next pitch.

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