Sal’s Guide to Being An Independent Producer

Sal Irizarry is making a splash with his debut comedy feature film, Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship. Sal met his producing partners, Jane Basina and Waj Arshad, while attending NYFA. After graduation, they decided to work together under Sal’s company banner, Justified Ends Entertainment.  From there, they ran a nation wide script contest through, raised private equity, and produced the film in 2011.

So, where did his passion for the industry begin?

“I was looking to go to film school and I didn’t want to spend three years on theory before learning the process hands-on. After looking into several programs and seeking the advice of several of my friends who were already in the industry, I decided to attend NYFA because of its intensive, hands-on program, from day one.  Just as I had hoped, in the first week of school we were working on our first short film. The Producing Program taught me real world skills and industry practices that were relevant throughout the entire process of production; from development to festival screenings and everything in between.  Let’s be clear though, there are some things you can’t learn in a classroom, but the education I received at NYFA was the perfect foundation to get me through the process.”

What drives you as an artist?

“As a creative producer, I enjoy the process of finding a story worth telling as much as I enjoy the wheeling and dealing side of the business.  Though my primary responsibility on set is to support the director, I have a responsibility to my investors to finish the movie on time, on budget and to get it out for the world to see.  Maintaining the balance between art and commerce, managing expectations, finding creative solutions to problems that will come up both on and off set is just the beginning.  After all, if your investors don’t recoup, you don’t get to keep making movies!”

What is your perspective on screening at film festivals? Advice on the process?

“You feel this sense of validation for all your hard work when you get into a fest and yet you can’t help but feel disappointed when you’re not accepted.  The fact of the matter is that navigating the festival circuit takes a lot of time and energy.  What I mean is, not every festival is a good fit for every movie and submitting to every upcoming fest can get really expensive really fast.  I’ll research what movies played in a particular festival the prior year to get an idea if they’re truly indie friendly and support first time and up and coming filmmakers, or if it’s geared towards screening Hollywood Tentpoles.

At the end of the day, film festivals are great for exposure and buzz, but the ultimate goal for a producer is to get the movie sold.  Have a web presence.  Make sure your press kit and marketing materials are in order.  Lastly, don’t forget about the deliverables you’ll need in order to get a distribution deal! If your plan is to DIY your film’s release, make sure you’ve built a community around your movie that you’ve cultivated and nurtured throughout the process.  Keeping your fans updated as well as supporting other filmmakers in their efforts as best you can, will go a long way in this day and age.”

Final words of advice to  NYFA students dreaming to succeed?

“Persistence, patience, 100% dedication, tons of hard work, long hours and a lot of luck.  I cannot tell you how much I have sacrificed to realize my dream of being a producer.  The commitment necessary to see a project through to the end is not for everyone.  But hey, somebody’s gotta do it and I figure, why not me!”

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