Producing

Q&A With NYFA Filmmaking Alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri on Becoming a Filmmaker, Working With His Wife, and Producing “Freddie’s Piano”

In 2018, Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri decided to leave his job and pursue his dream of finally becoming a filmmaker. With a younger son in Berklee College of Music in Boston, Kovvuri, encouraged by his family, was also back in school at NYFA’s New York campus to study the filmmaking craft. 

NYFA caught up with one of its own just as Kovvuri is in the middle of screening his latest film Freddie’s Piano at the Scottsdale International Film Festival to discuss his film and what the director has been up to since attending NYFA. 

NYFA filmmaking alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Som! For those who may not know, can you share more about your film Freddie’s Piano?

Somasekhar Kovvuri (SK): Freddie’s Piano is about two recently orphaned brothers trying to make sacrifices to fulfill each other’s perceived needs but finally realizing all they need is each other. As time progresses the film depicts how they balance their grief, their responsibilities, and life’s normal activities in their unique ways.

NYFA: How did you get involved as a producer? What was it like working alongside your wife for this project?

SK: Being our first film, it was a great learning experience being involved as a producer.  My work experience in the corporate world fortified my belief that if you get a good team together, give them independence, and remove obstacles it results in success.  Lisa and I followed the same principle with this film. I also stepped into the role of casting director. I was truly fortunate in connecting with KM Music Conservatory in Chennai and finding Pranav to play the role of Freddie.

Film poster for “Freddie’s Piano” (Poster art by Lisa Kovvuri)

On the set, Lisa (my wife) and I were mostly behind the monitor. Being a portrait painter, she could appreciate the intent of our art director and cinematographer and helped me understand them better. It was great working alongside her and I am happy with the painting she did of Freddie and Aden in their piano ties for our poster. 

NYFA: How do you feel now that your first feature film has been accepted into the Scottsdale International Film Festival?

SK: I was happy with how the film turned out but was not sure how objective I could be, so I feel extremely glad that the film got accepted into the Scottsdale International Film Festival. It validates my initial thought that we made a good film. Oscar-winning composer, Mr. A.R Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), even tweeted our trailer with congratulations.

NYFA: After initially completing your course at NYFA and before completing Freddie’s Piano, what did you work on?

SK: Just one project. During the course, a fellow student, Aakash Prabhakar (also director of Freddie’s Piano), pitched his idea for a film about two brothers. I liked it and agreed that I and my wife Lisa would produce the film. After the course, we started working on the script for Freddie’s Piano, then location hunting, casting, acting workshops, and producing. This year we began submitting to film festivals and now looking for a buyer.  While he was finishing the post his film, Aakash juggled a few plays including Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron in different cities in India. Incidentally, M.K. Raina who plays the lead role in this play was also the lead in the film 27 Down, a film by Awtar Krishna Kaul that initially revealed to me the powerful nature of film when I was a teenager. 

Behind the scenes shooting “Freddie’s Piano”

NYFA: What kinds of projects do you want to get involved with in the future?  

SK: I would like to get involved with feature films with a good story to tell.  Hailing from a village in India and living in many cities around the world puts me in the fortunate position of having understanding and access to a wide range of locales, stories, talent,  and languages that I can choose from.   

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects? 

SK: I am currently focused on the distribution of Freddie’s Piano, Aakash is working on writing his next film, and my two sons are excellent musicians from the Berklee College of Music. The thought of a film with creative use of music has crossed my mind but nothing concrete yet.

Lisa Kuvvari on set of “Freddie’s Piano” (Courtesy of Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri)

NYFA: Is there anything else you would like us to know? 

SK: I must say that the NYFA filmmaking course gave me a lot of confidence. The projects simulated real movie-making conditions (as I found out during the filming of Freddie’s Piano) and it was immensely helpful. The instructors are experts in their crafts too. While I benefited from many, I would like to thank the following teachers in particular: Andi Deliano, Ben Cohen, Austin Smoak, Till Neumann, Moebius Simmons, Shiek Bey, Kris Kato, Heng-Tatt Lim, and Davide Berardi.

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri on Freddie’s Piano being selected to be part of the Scottsdale International Film Festival and looks forward to news on distribution and what’s next from the Filmmaking alum.

Q&A With NYFA Producing Alum Max Peltz on the Role of a Producer and His Recent Documentary Releases 'In The Cold Dark Night' and 'Bad Hombres'

UK native and co-founder of Lone Wolf Studios Max Peltz has had a bustling career since he finished his 1-Year Producing program at NYFA in 2013. From learning about what it meant to even become a producer to starting his own company, Peltz has become a prolific producer and writer in his own right working with distributors like ABC, Hulu, and Showtime to name a few.

Ahead of the release of his latest project Bad Hombres (for Showtime), New York Film Academy caught up with the Producing alum to learn more about his recent projects, his time at NYFA, and what it means to be a producer.

NYFA Producing alum Max Peltz

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What made you decide to pursue a career in producing?

Max Peltz (MP): I’ve always loved watching films, but I was also incredibly curious about the work and team effort that went into actually making a film. Two of my cousins were film producers, and I would spend hours talking to them about their craft. By the time I started university in the UK, I knew I wanted to be a producer.

NYFA: What made you decide to come to New York Film Academy?

MP: After studying Business and Marketing at university, I knew that I had to become a producer. First, I first needed to learn what the job entailed and the various roles that come together to make a film. I found the New York Film Academy through online research and was impressed by the diverse number of courses and the producing curriculum. I made the right choice! In particular, Neal Weisman, Nick Yellen, and Lanre Olabisi taught me a huge amount about the art of producing. Neal and Nick put a lot of care and time into their curriculum and students, while Lanre gave me my first opportunity in production. I’m so grateful to them for this.

NYFA: What advice would you give to any incoming students?

MP: Three things I would say to any incoming student are:

  1. Listen
  2. Take notes
  3. Take every opportunity that comes your way. Attention and hard work are the key ingredients to success in any career. Opportunities are the only variable you can’t control, so always take them on.

Poster for ‘In The Cold Dark Night’

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your documentary In The Cold Dark Night and where people can watch it?

MP: Yes! In The Cold Dark Night examines both the 1983 and 2018 investigations into the murder of African-American man Timothy Coggins. The film highlights how one era enabled this crime to go without punishment and how the other attempts to bring justice decades later. It features a 360-degree view of all people involved within the case, conveying themes of hope and resilience. It’s available to watch on ABC/Hulu in North America and on Sky Documentaries in the UK.

NYFA: How did you get involved on the project? What inspired you to write/produce it?

MP: Almost three years ago in October 2017, I was watching a football match when my iPhone suddenly lit up with the CNN headline: “Cold case no more: Police arrest 5 in ‘torturous’ 1983 slaying.” At the time, I was unemployed, I had just finished a short film, and I was looking for stories that interested me both on a personal level and ones where I could also make a difference on a broader, societal and cultural level. As anyone will and should know, race relations is such a painful subject in the world right now. Its history in the South, in particular, is frightening. As the nights passed on and on, I kept thinking of the article I had read. So I decided to do something about it. I contacted the key contributors and, later that month, I flew out to Griffin, Georgia, where I met the key contributors in the story from the Sheriff, District Attorney, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and Timothy Coggins’ family. The rest is history. We filmed for the whole of 2018 and initially thought of it as a four-part series, but once we got into the edit, we eventually decided to structure it as a feature film. It’s essential to always be adaptable in this industry as trends and formats are ever-changing.

Still from ‘In The Cold Dark Night’

NYFA: With so much discourse right now and momentum surrounding systemic racism, why was it important that people see this project?

MP: It is important for precisely the reason you mention. The message, which most resonated with me from the Black Lives Matter movement, is the one of education. Making this project educated me on the history of racism in the United States—in particular the South—and I feel that everyone should be aware of this history and how it is still very much widespread in the present day. Being aware of systemic racism is the start of making a difference. Then the hard work begins.

NYFA: What other projects have you worked on?

MP: After finishing the NYFA producing program, I worked on a feature film, Somewhere in The Middle, directed by Lanre Olabisi and then interned at A24 and Jean Doumanian Productions. 

In 2014, I moved back to London, which is where I fell into the documentary space. I worked on several documentary films for the BBC including, Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party (2016), Unknown Male Number 1 (2017), and Oink! (2017). 

Following this, I decided to start producing freelance, my first project being the docuseries Hacker: Hunter (2019), available on tomorrowunlocked.com. Now, my business partner Stephen Robert Morse and I run Lone Wolf Studios in the UK, and we are developing several unscripted and scripted projects.

NYFA: For those who may not quite understand the role of a producer – what would you tell them a producer does, in your own words?

MP: It’s a great question. A producer is a person who has to anticipate problems before they happen, as well as solve them when they do happen. They have to support their director to realise their vision; that can be creative support as well as organisational support. They’re responsible for the hiring and firing, the fundraising and budget, the pitching and shopping. Simply put, a producer is involved in every step of the way and every single area of the project. A producer makes sure that there is a working system in place, from the inception of a project to delivery.

NYFA: What makes you excited about a project?

MP: Stephen and I founded Lone Wolf Studios with the principal aim to tell commercial, hard-hitting, and character-driven stories that create lasting social and cultural impact. All of the films we eventually decide to work on must be smart, entertaining, and impactful. They have to be stories which we are passionate about.

Still from ‘Bad Hombres’ (Photo credit: Courtesy of SHOWTIME)

NYFA: Can you tell us about your latest project Bad Hombres for Showtime and any other upcoming projects you may be working on?

MP: Yes! Our documentary Bad Hombres airs Friday, October 16 on Showtime. The film looks at a professional Mexican baseball team who play half their home games in Laredo TX and half their home games in Nuevo Laredo Mexico. They have to cross the border by foot each time they play in the US. Our amazing director, Andrew Glazer, presented this project to us back in January 2019. We instantly fell in love with the story and the characters, and asked our team at CAA to start setting meetings. Showtime was the first meeting we had and, fortunately, they commissioned it a few months later. I produced with Stephen and Andrew.

The story has so much heart coupled with the overarching political issues between the USA and Mexico. Tune in tonight! It’s also available on-demand thereafter.

We also have a scripted limited series set up with Fuqua Films, Propagate, and CBS Studios, based on a book we optioned last year, and lots of projects in development! It’s essential to always have a pipeline of projects.

NYFA: Any advice you’d like to share for working in the industry?

MP: I would encourage any aspiring filmmaker/producer never to get too beat up by criticism. It’s an incredibly difficult industry to break into, but you have to work hard, stick to your convictions, and you will be fine. Consider it a journey rather than a career.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Max Peltz for taking the time to share about his experience at NYFA, his career as a producer, and his recent projects. Peltz’s upcoming documentary Bad Hombres premieres on Showtime on October 16, 2020 at 9 PM ET/PT.

https://youtu.be/BI8-GZ1YoFk

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Emilia D’Agata

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Emilia D’Agata has come a long way from her hometown of Rome, Italy, where she first attended an arts and entertainment high school and thought about becoming a professional actress.

It wasn’t long before D’Agata found her true calling though, and enrolled in the 1-Year Producing Conservatory at NYFA’s New York campus. Since graduating, she’s found work with production companies, as well producing the LGBTQIA+ drama Sunrise Stars, a film by NYFA student Ximena Montes de Oca.

New York Film Academy spoke with Producing alum Emilia D’Agata about Sunrise Stars, her time at the Academy, and her advice for new students:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Emilia D’Agata (ED): I was born and grew up in Rome. Since I was a child I’ve been interested in cinema—initially I wanted to be an actress. So I attended a high school in Rome with a specialization in arts and entertainment, so in addition to “normal” classes like history, geography, etc., we had lessons of music, dance, and acting. After high school I gave up the idea of wanting to be an actress because luckily for me I realized that it was something that I enjoyed but I didn’t want it to become my job. 

So I went to film university in Rome and during my studies I became passionate about movie trailers, so much that my thesis focused on the difference between Italian and American movie trailers. Until now I thought I wanted to become a trailer editor, but during the writing of my thesis I got to know the world of production and distribution, and so I realized that the sector that was most interesting for me was producing.

I did a one-year master’s degree in cinema, where every month the professors taught us more or less all areas, from screenwriting to post-production. During and after the master’s program, I started working on sets for short and feature low-budget films as assistant director and producer. I realized that wasn’t enough for me and I always had the desire to go to America—the famous ” American Dream.” So I got information about New York Film Academy (it’s famous all over the world, especially in Italy), I completed the application, and to my surprise I was admitted!

NYFA Producing Alum Emilia D'Agata

NYFA Producing Alum Emilia D’Agata

NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on Producing? 

ED: Many people think that the producing job is the less creative in this business, because you work with contracts, agreements, budgets, etc. But it’s absolutely not, or rather it’s not just that. I like producing because it’s a job that is never the same, it’s always different. 

For each project, there are different strategies: how to raise funds, how to find the cast and crew, the different deals, the different marketing and distribution strategies etc. I mean, you never get bored and you always have to reinvent yourself. And when a project is completed and you know that you have contributed to its realization from beginning to end, it gives you an incredible satisfaction.

NYFA: Can you tell us about your work at BAWARAO LLC? What were your day-to-day duties?

ED: I worked with BAWARAO LLC for the low-budget film Black and White and Red All Over. I contacted Davide Berardi (instructor of sound engineering at NYFA) after the graduation to tell him that if anyone needed a hand on set, I was more than available. He connected me with NYFA alum Anthony Faure, who was the line producer on this project. We met and he told me that he needed a production assistant for this project and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to accept the proposal. 

From the very beginning there was a good feeling, and now I can say that I found not only a great professional but a friend. As you know, there are several things that a production assistant can and has to do. I was responsible for unloading the equipment of the various departments, for the catering, and anything you can think is always needed on set. 

My responsibility was also to make sure that everyone had the sides of the day, and of course if you noticed that something was missing on set, I ran to retrieve it. Another assignment, which sounds easy but isn’t, was to make sure the actors had everything they needed. And when the assistant director, through the walkie talkie, told me which actor he needed at that moment on the set, I would accompany the actor(s) from the holding to the location. I mean, the production assistant’s job is a bit like a handyman.

NYFA: Can you tell us about the film Sunrise Stars? 

ED: Sunrise Stars is the final project of Ximena Montes de Oca, an 8-Week Filmmaking workshop student at NYFA. The story is set during a house party. The protagonist goes to this party to meet her boyfriend. When she arrives, he hasn’t arrived yet, and she notices a girl on the dance floor and is immediately attracted to her. The evening continues and the protagonist sees at one point the girl approaching another girl and start kissing. Shortly after the boyfriend of our protagonist arrives, but he is already drunk and has rude/violent ways towards her, so the two fight and she moves away from him. She approaches the two girls on the dance floor and all three of them decide, after kissing each other, to go to the rooftop to have some privacy. The story ends with the three of them watching the sunrise. We don’t know if this story between them will develop into a real polyamorous relationship or if it will be just a one-night story.

NYFA: What inspired you to produce Sunrise Stars?

ED: Honestly, the first thing that convinced me to be a part of this project was my friendship with Ximena. I met her at school, she was in acting class at that time. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to work with her during that period. When she started the Filmmaking program I had just finished the Producing program and I was just looking for some interesting projects to work on to keep learning. Then of course I was immediately fascinated by the story! I’ve never seen or read anything about a threesome between girls, it’s still unfortunately a taboo topic in these days. And above all I think it’s more and more difficult to be able to work on projects where the story is really new, not ordinary in other words. At last I was really curious to see how Ximena, who came from the Acting for Film program, worked behind the camera. I was very surprised, she was very good and very professional. Of course, the fact that we were friends also really helped our professional relationship.

NYFA Producing Emilia D'Agata

NYFA Producing Alum Emilia D’Agata

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

ED: Right now I am working part time for a PR company, Sally Fischer Public Relations, and part time as an assistant to an Israeli independent film producer, Roy Wol. The first job is very useful for me to create connections with people from New York and people from Italy, as we are involved in events for Italian brands in different sectors: cinema, fashion, food, business, etc. In the film industry it is fundamental to create connections and unfortunately many people undervalue this aspect. With Roy, we are involved in reading scripts and evaluating whether it is worth producing these projects—it is very interesting. I’m grateful to him, he became my mentor. So for now, unfortunately, I don’t have the time to look for and find a project to produce on my own… but who knows in the future?

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly your work?

ED: I learned a lot of useful and interesting things at NYFA. I recommend everyone to attend the Producing program, because whether you want to become a producer or something else, it allows you to have a complete overview of all sectors of the film world. The first thing [NYFA-NY Producing Chair] Neal Weisman told us is that if you want to become a producer, you have to learn in a general way, all the requirements of the different departments. Because as a producer, you have to be able to give everybody what they need in order to work at their best. So before each set, I make sure that everything is in order, that everyone has all the material they need. Cinema is a teamwork. 

Then, thanks to NYFA Instructor Richard D’Angelo, I learned to use Movie Magic, a very useful program for budgeting, scheduling, script breakdown etc. Let’s not forget about the Call Sheet, a fundamental part of every day on set. In addition to these more “technical,” the instructors taught us that it is essential to define the roles on a production—only in this way the “film machine” can work. But at the same time, again, it’s a teamwork so you always have to help each other because everyone has the same goal: to complete the project.

Moreover, to safeguard our work as producers and also the work of others, the contracts and agreements are fundamental to be as clear as possible between the various departments. Before each set, I make sure to create all the contracts for each person on the set, including the actors. Speaking of which, the teachers taught us how to do auditions and I have to thank NYFA instructor Paul Warner for that. I don’t know why before school I always underestimated this aspect, which is fundamental! so thanks to him I am now much more able to find the right actors for my projects. Because honestly, you can make the best movie ever, with a fantastic set design, poetic shots, breathtaking photography… but if the actors don’t work, it doesn’t make sense. I’m grateful to NYFA—it’s been much more useful to me than anything I’ve studied and done before.

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

ED: My advice to new students is not to get demoralized at first. Honestly, it’s going to be hard to pick up the rhythm at the beginning because you’re going to have to do a lot of things at once and you’ll have to stay in school practically all day and that will make you tired. But don’t give up! I was probably one of the worst students in my class in the first months, but then I got my satisfaction: for the commercial project my classmates chose my idea, I passed the Producing Craft test with a good grade, I got a great result for my final thesis project. So again, don’t give up and don’t worry about the moments of discouragement… we all have moments of discomfort! And above all don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, the teachers are always very helpful and asking for help doesn’t make you stupid or anything like that. Also don’t “isolate yourself”, try to create a good relationship with your classmates! I was very lucky, I found some beautiful people with whom I sometimes work but who have become very good friends! 

Enjoy this experience to the maximum, with all its ups and downs—it will be one of the best things that will happen in your life!

New York Film Academy thanks Producing alum Emilia D’Agata for taking the time to speak with us and we wish her the best of luck as her career continues to grow! 

Mastering the 7 Stages of Film Production

A film is a living, breathing thing, and like all living things, from plants to humans, they start from something small before growing into its final form. If you’re struggling to figure out where to begin when making your movie, or what to do after that, or what to do after that, take a breath and look over this basic map of the 7 Stages of Film Production:

Development

The development period belongs to the project producer, who starts gathering the ideas of the film–rights from books, plays etc., if needed–until the final draft of the screenplay is completed. During this time, a first synopsis is done which will help the lead producer sell the idea and raise funds. Often storyboards other visual aids will be drafted to accompany the script and help the producer communicate the essence of the film.

Financing

Networking and making meetings, often in Los Angeles and to a lesser extent New York, is how many producers will meet with possible financiers. Additionally, a lot of producers travel to festivals, both domestic and international to show the project materials to possible investors.

Pre-production

With enough funding in hand, pre-production can begin, starting with the selection of the cast, crew, locations of the shoot, building of sets and props etc. Shot lists and put together and the producer starts working on a schedule for the entire shoot, starting broad and getting more specific as production begins to ramp up.

Production

The assistant director (AD) shines during production as the actual footage is filmed by coordinating all the different teams at once. Actors, possibly after days or weeks of rehearsing, finally shoot their scenes as the production crew–grips, lighting, sound, camera, etc. work hard to make every second count and shot look as great as possible. Writers and producers may be on set but it’s the director who is calling all the shots creatively–with their AD making sure they’re sticking to the schedule and getting the footage they need before it’s time to move on.

Post-production

This where the editor comes into play, and if the budget is big enough, visual effects teams.

In collaboration with the director, editors begin to assemble takes and shots and create a linear film based out hours of footage. For bigger productions, teasers can be done during this time in order to start marketing. A music composer comes in to orchestrate the score of the movie as final cut begins to loom. Sound design and color direction are important elements during this time as well, and culminate in picture lock–the final edit of the film.

Marketing

In the case of a major production company, teasers are already out to promote the release date of the film. In other scenarios, promotional posters, festivals screenings, and social media are best to help generate buzz for the film. If the production is small, the creatives involved with the film may have to wear this hat whether they like it or not, though it’s possible for producers to outsource to small marketing companies that do this for a living.

Cannes Red Carpet


Distribution

Theatrical distribution is typically divided between domestic and international and involves agreements with production companies to pay for the film to screen at physical theatres. Previously, producers would also concentrate their efforts on how the films would be made into physical copies of VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray and make deals with video rental chains, but nowadays streaming is king. While smaller filmmakers may try to get on as many platforms as possible–Amazon Video, Hulu, Netflix, etc.–getting an exclusive deal with a single platform may be more lucrative, especially if it comes with promotion on the platform’s end. Hand in hand with marketing, promotion for the film during its release is also key, including press interviews, red carpet premieres, and other launch parties.

After all of this, it’s time to get started on your next film!

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

From Book to Screen: Adapting Philip Roth's 'Indignation'

On Thursday, December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by producer, production attorney, and NYFA board member, Avy Eschenasy. Eschenasy is the principal of Eschenasy Consulting, which provides advisory services in connection with all business aspects of motion picture production, financing, and distribution.

Previously, Eschenasy was a senior executive at Focus Features from 2002 until 2013, where he was Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions. Eschenasy is known for producing Indignation (2016), Casting JonBenét (2017), and A Prayer Before Dawn (2017).

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy began the lecture by discussing how the book Indignation by Philip Roth, was optioned to be produced as a feature film. In order for a producer to option a book, they must pay the publisher an “option fee.”

“That fee entitles [producers] to exclusively have the opportunity to buy the rights [to produce the book as a film]” said Eschenasy, “for a limited time period, usually 12 to 18 months” if the producer can find a production company or movie studio that wants to produce the optioned book as a film.

If the producer can find a production company or movie studio that is interested in producing the book as a film, then they would pay the publisher an additional fee for the exclusive opportunity to produce the book as a film. That means that once Eschenasy purchased the rights to produce Roth’s Indignation, Roth’s publishing company was not allowed to sell the option or production rights to any other producers.

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy went on to discuss turning the book into a screenplay. In order to get a book adapted to a screenplay, the producer must negotiate with a screenwriter, usually a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

In the contract with the screenwriter, the producer outlines fees paid for the first couple drafts of the script and many times will pay an additional fee if the film makes it all the way to production and distribution. The fees paid to a writer also depend on how they are credited: for example, a writer that has written a script alone would be paid more than a writer that co-wrote a script with one or more partners.

Once the script is finalized, it is time to focus on production. The producer needs to have a “package” ready to prepare for launching production, said Eschenasy. “The script, cast, the director, and the budget.”

Avy Eschenasy

The budget is put together by a line producer and then the producer must try to raise that amount of money to make the film; with independent films like Indignation, this money is typically raised with “pre-sales” to distributors. A “pre-sale” is a contract between the production team and distributors that outlines stipulations that the production team must follow in order to secure financing from the distributor; usually the distributor’s agreement is contingent upon the producer promising a script and a known actor. A way to save money during production is to shoot in a state or a country with tax credits for film and television productions; because of this and a few other reasons, Indignation was shot in New York.

For Indignation, a big part of the production “package” was the actor, Logan Lerman, best known for starring in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Eschenasy needed a name like Lerman to get distributors interested, but he also needed to make Lerman and his representatives feel confident in Indignation as a production; producers get actors and their representatives to trust their productions with contracts. The contract outlines the shoot schedule, the actor’s “billing” (much like the writer’s “credit” discussed earlier), the fee paid to the actor (including bonuses if the actor wins awards for the role), and perks if applicable.

After all the negotiations and contracts were completed and all of the necessary funds were raised, Indignation went into production. Everything went well during the production phase and then it moved to post-production. Once the final cut of the film was finished, Indignation was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received very well by critics. Lionsgate Entertainment made an offer to distribute the film in the United States and Sony Pictures Entertainment made and offer to distribute the film to the majority of the international market. After all of their hard work, the Indignation production team got the film made, critically acclaimed, and distributed all over the world.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Avy Eschenasy for sharing his industry expertise and experiences getting Indignation produced with our students!

2019 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of six Western-themed vignettes, adapted from a variety of sources, including original short stories the Coen brothers had been developing themselves over the past couple decades. One vignette is based on the Jack London story All Gold Canyon while another is adapted from The Gal Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White. The Coen brothers previously won in this category for No Country for Old Men, and have won and been nominated for several Academy Awards in their careers, including a win for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.

BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee

BlacKkKlansman tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, an NYPD detective who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz adapted Stallworth’s own memoir into a screenplay along with details they gleaned from interviewing him. Director Spike Lee and collaborator Kevin Willmott worked on the script as well before shooting. This is the first Oscar nomination for Watchel, Rabinowitz, and Willmott. Lee has five nominations in total, including one for his Do the Right Thing screenplay, as well as an Honorary Oscar awarded in 2016.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is adapted from the 2008 memoir of the same name by Lee Israel, and chronicles Israel’s time forging letters from dead authors and playwrights, which eventually led to her being sentenced to probation and house arrest. This is the only screenplay credit for Jeff Whitty, who co-wrote Tony-winning Avenue Q. Nicole Holofcener has previously written Lovely & Amazing, Friends With Money, Please Give, and Enough Said. This is the first Oscar nomination for both writers.

If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins

If Beale Street Could Talk was adapted from the 1974 novel by renowned author James Baldwin, a love story set in Harlem. Barry Jenkins wrote and directed the film, following up his 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight. For Moonlight, Jenkins was nominated by the Academy for Best Directing and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the latter.

A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

A Star is Born is adapted from the original 1937 film of the same name and its two remakes. This is the first Oscar nomination for Will Fetters, who previously wrote Remember Me. It’s the seventh nomination for director and star Bradley Cooper, who has four acting nominations and two Best Picture nods. Eric Roth is a veteran screenwriter with five total nominations for his work—all adaptations—including a win in 1995 for Forrest Gump. Roth’s other credits include The Insider, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Horse Whisperer, and Ali, among many others.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

2019 Oscars: The Best Original Screenplay Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Original Screenplay:

The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

Deborah Davis started the screenplay for The Favourite in 1998, using actual letters written by the film’s lead characters—Queen Anne, Sarah, and Abigail. It was Davis’ first script; she went to night school to learn how to turn the story into a film. After Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos became attached to the project, Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara (Doctor, Doctor; The Rage in Placid Lake) updated the draft. This is the first Oscar nomination for both writers.

First Reformed, Paul Schrader

Despite having written Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, The Mosquito Coast, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Affliction, among several others, this is the first Oscar nomination for Hollywood veteran Paul Schrader. Schrader has also directed many films, including First Reformed, a drama concerning a small congregation in upstate New York that includes a much buzzed-about performance by Ethan Hawke.

Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly

All three writers are also Oscar-nominated producers of the Best Picture contender. Green Book is one of the first screenplays written by actor Brian Currie, while Nick Vallelonga is a writer, actor, and director whose father, Tony, is played by Viggo Mortensen in the film. Farrelly has co-written several comedies with his brother Bobby, including Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene.

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón has written several of his directorial efforts, including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity. Roma is a very personal film for the artist, and he is nominated for Oscars for directing, shooting, and producing the film as well. He’s been nominated by the Academy ten times overall and won twice for Gravity, for Directing and Editing.

Vice, Adam McKay

Adam McKay made his name as a comedy writer, having been head writer for Saturday Night Live before moving on to feature films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. In 2016, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short, which he also received a nomination in Directing for. This year he is up for three Academy Awards in total for Vice, including Best Directing and Best Picture.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

How Does 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Fit the Biopic Mold?

Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of rock band Queen and iconic frontman Freddie Mercury, has already won Best Drama at the Golden Globes and is a contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s also the latest in a long line of biopics about famous 20th century musicians, including Ray, Walk the Line, La Vie en Rose, Get on Up, and Straight Outta Compton.

How does Bohemian Rhapsody fit the mold? Here are some of the most important ingredients to gather into making a successful biopic:

The Roots

Many biopics start with at least a scene from the subject’s childhood, and if they don’t, they usually at least include flashbacks. Bohemian Rhapsody is no different, giving us a look where Mercury is originally from.

The Love Interest

Biopics tend to distill the love life of their subject to one or two key relationships that define and drive the character’s motivations and keep them grounded as their fame and world explode. The focus around Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin is prominent among the rest of Mercury’s several romantic partnerships, men and women alike. The real-life Austin approved the script but didn’t want to be involved in interviews or in any promotion of the film whatsoever.

The Music

While some biopics avoid playing the hits of their subject due to expensive or inaccessible music rights, many rely on their iconic soundtracks as a huge selling point for the film. Queen’s hits are numerous, catchy, and famous, so of course Bohemian Rhapsody includes as many as it can. Indeed, much of the film is shot as if it were concert footage to mimic what it was like to be at an actual Queen show.

Lookalike Stars

Hollywood has no shortage of talented stars, so often casting a biopic depends heavily on physical looks–to help sell the idea that audiences are watching true events unfold. Rami Malek not only physically transforms into Freddie Mercury, but is a strong talented actor–it’s no surprise he’s nominated for Best Lead Actor at this year’s Academy Awards, especially after winning the Golden GLobe for his performance.

The Title

Most biopics avoid naming themselves after their subject–that would be too on the nose. Instead, most go with a song title from the artist, often one of their bigger hits. This includes Beyond the Sea, Walk the Line, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Get on Up, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and of course, Bohemian Rhapsody.

So what’s next for the Hollywood biopic? Well for one, later this year in theaters we’ll see an Elton John biopic titled, naturally, Rocketman. In the meantime, we’ll find out soon if Bohemian Rhapsody is not only a hit biopic, but also this year’s Best Picture!

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Picture Nominees

2019 Best Picture nominees
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

The final award of the night, Best Motion Picture of the Year, is handed out to the eligible producers of the film. Since 2009, the number of nominations has increased from five to a maximum of ten, based on a more complicated voting system that uses a modified preferential ranking process.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture:

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and is notable for its themes of race and diverse cast and role models for children of color used to typically seeing white male heroes in Hollywood blockbusters. It was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, while the sole producer eligible for the Best Picture Oscar is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and mastermind of the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards total.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is the latest film from Spike Lee and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Directing. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee is also one of the five producers eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, including Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, and Jordan Peele, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar last year for 2018 Best Picture nominee Get Out. BlacKkKlansman is up for six Academy Awards total.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is the latest Hollywood musical biopic to gain a groundswell of awards season buzz, focusing on legendary rock group Queen, with Rami Malek giving an Oscar-nominated turn as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury. The sole producer eligible for Best Picture is Graham King, who previously won the award for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed, and was nominated in the category for two additional Scorsese films, Hugo and The Aviator. Bohemian Rhapsody is up for five Academy Awards total.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest critically-acclaimed art house film from Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). The period dramedy depicts the rivalry between two cousins vying for the favor of 18th century British Queen Anne. Lanthimos is one of four producers eligible for the Academy Award, along with Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, and Lee Magiday. This is the first Oscar nomination for Dempsey and Magiday, while Guiney was previously nominated in the category for Room in 2015. The Favourite is up for ten Academy Awards total.

Green Book

Green Book is a dramedy set in the 1950s Deep South, based on a real life concert tour of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Five producers are eligible in the category, including director and co-writer Peter Farrelly, who made a name with his brother for slapstick comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. He shares the nomination with Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Hayes Currie, and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, who is also co-nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Green Book is up for five Academy Awards total.

Roma

Roma is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and shot beautifully in black-and-white. In addition to sharing the Best Picture nomination with Gabriela Rodriguez, Cuarón also wrote, shot, and directed the film, for which he received additional Oscar nods. This is the first nomination for Rodriguez, and the first nomination in the category ever for a Latinx woman. Along with the The Favourite, Roma has the most Academy Award nominations this year, with a total of ten.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film, updated by director and star Bradley Cooper after years of development hell with several filmmakers attached. Cooper shares the Best Picture nod with Bill Gerber and Lynette Howell Taylor. This is Cooper’s second nomination in the category (the first was for American Sniper) and seventh overall; it’s the first nomination for both Gerber and Taylor. A Star is Born is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Vice

Vice is a dramedy biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in heavy, lifelike prosthetics. The film is writer and director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short, which similarly took a quasi-comedic look at the lead-up to the 2008 Great Recession, and which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay is eligible for Best Picture along with Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Kevin J. Messick. Gardner has been nominated for Best Picture six times in the last seven years, winning twice, for 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight; Kleiner has been nominated five times, sharing both Oscars with Gardner. This is the first nomination for Messick. Vice is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Ten Iconic Films Written by Screenwriting Legend William Goldman 

William Goldman, one of Hollywood’s most influential screenwriters for several decades, passed away early November 16, at the age of 87. 

In addition to writing several famous (and infamous) major motion pictures across a wide variety of genres, Goldman cemented himself as an authority of Hollywood screenwriting when he published Adventures in the Screen Trade in 1983. In the book, Goldman not only shared with readers his mastery of all things writing — story, dialogue, character — but his incisive, honest look at Hollywood’s modern studio system in the 60s and 70s, and what it would eventually evolve into over the next few decades. 

His rounded, honest view of the system that gave him great success was both cynical and appreciative, from the ground level as well as a bird’s eye view from the top, where he laid out and accepted both the good and the bad of the massive and powerful industry that produced an artistic medium he very much loved. 

Here are just some of the films he contributed to the Hollywood canon:

Misery

Director Rob Reiner and producers of the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery, in which a psychotic fan ties her favorite author to her bed and forces him to keep writing, felt like they needed to dial back the horror of the book to make the film more palatable for mainstream audiences. In the novel, the character played by Kathy Bates severs the foot of the author played by James Caan, rendering him unable to escape.

What screenwriter William Goldman came up with as a solution was perfect, and became an iconic Hollywood moment. Rather than sever his foot, Goldman had Bates smash Caan’s ankles with a sledgehammer – less bloody and less gory, but somehow in its specificity, even more brutal to watch. Goldman was proving a valuable lesson in screenwriting: sometimes less is more.

Harper

Goldman had already finished the script to the hardboiled detective movie Harper, starring Paul Newman, but producers needed a scene to play over the opening credits. Goldman quickly came up with a simple, but poignant moment — the disgruntled PI getting ready in the morning, realizing he was out of coffee, and reusing an old filter from the trashcan. In one quick dialogue-less moment, Goldman established the get-it-done character of his protagonist before the opening credits had even finished rolling.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Goldman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work on this seminal western that paired together two of Hollywood’s most charismatic and popular leading men — Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film highlights the genre-bending abilities Goldman seemingly wielded without breaking a sweat, going from comedy to thriller to drama to even musical from scene to scene without ever missing a beat. 

Chaplin

Chaplin was a star-studded biopic in 1992 that portrayed the life and career of silent film megastar Charlie Chaplin, and was one of that year’s most prestigious films, with a talented cast, incredibly high production values, and direction by Richard Attenborough. While it received mixed reviews, it was one of the first major dramatic roles for the young comic actor Robert Downey, Jr., who was nominated for his first Academy Award for his work.

A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far was also directed by Richard Attenborough, and was an epic World War II film with a large-for-its-time budget and loaded cast that featured stars from other Goldman films like James Caan and Robert Redford. In a genre overstuffed with classics, A Bridge Too Far managed to make a name for itself for its wide scope and intense battle sequences, especially since, unlike many of its brethren, it focused on a major historical loss for the Allied Forces.

Marathon Man

Marathon Man, like some of Goldman’s other screenplays, was adapted from a novel he wrote himself. As a book, and later as a film, it attracted the attention of producers and critics alike for its stark violence and themes of Nazi war criminals still existing in society decades after the end of World War II. A major casting coup for the gritty thriller was Sir Laurence Olivier as the antagonist, who earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

Maverick

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Marathon Man is Maverick, a big-budget western comedy adapted from the 50s television series of the same name. The film reunites Lethal Weapon’s director Richard Donner and star Mel Gibson (and a cameo from Danny Glover) at the height of their Hollywood powers and proved to be a definitive audience-pleasing popcorn movie in a year full of tough competition. 

The Stepford Wives

The science-fiction horror film The Stepford Wives challenged the norms of gender dynamics between husbands and wives and, when it was released in 1975, received only moderate success. It has however gained a solid cult status over the decades, and was even eventually given a big budget remake starring Nicole Kidman in 2004. The term “Stepford Wife” itself has now become slang for the type of doting, robotic homemaker featured in Goldman’s script.

The Princess Bride

“Anybody want a peanut?” 

That’s just one line out of dozens from the eminently quotable screenplay Goldman wrote for The Princess Bride, itself an adaptation of a novel he wrote with the same name. Ostensibly a comedy, the film also plays with genre, and has firmly rooted itself in the hearts of multiple generations of film and adventure lovers. Can you imagine a world without the line, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”??? 

Of course you can’t… it’s “”inconceivable!!!”

All the President’s Men

Goldman won his second Academy Award for the screenplay adapted from the book All the President’s Men, written by the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. The film, which is still regarded by many as one of the greatest of all time, takes the real-life investigation of newspaper journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they run up directly against a Nixon administration fighting to stay in power. Who would’ve thought its themes and even plot points of cover-ups and political corruption would be more resonant than ever forty years later? 

There are several other fantastic films written by William Goldman in his decades-spanning career, too many to list. Watching them all would not only be a great source of entertainment, but a Master Class in screenwriting from the man himself. 

RIP William Goldman – your contributions to cinema will not be forgotten.

 

How Does a Producer Get Paid?

The film industry is brimming with roles that contribute to the creation of fun, unforgettable experiences. While a typical moviegoer is well aware of what writers, actors, and directors do, if there’s one position that often gets overlooked, it’s that of producer.

Producers are there from start to finish, overseeing the film’s production while usually filling a number of roles. From budgets and schedules to helping to cast the right actors, they are expected to make big decisions during every stage of filmmaking. Producers are also one of the main creative forces in production, often seeing their own vision and ideas come to life on the big screen for many to view.

But with a complex role comes a variety of compensation options that aren’t always as straightforward or risk-free as other jobs in the industry:

Development Fee


A development fee is what a producer might get paid for their pitch and thoughts during the time that the studio is filling other key roles, such as screenwriters, and figuring out if the project is worth greenlighting at all. As mentioned, many
project pitches are abandoned by studios before they can move from development to production, which means producers will need to take their project elsewhere.

Development fees are up to the studio and vary. Where one producer is getting $15,000 for their input during development, another may receive up to $60,000 or more. At the end of the day, the amount of cash a producer makes across an entire film production — starting with this development fee — relies heavily on both the producer’s participation and previous experience.

Production Fee

If a studio does decide to move forward with a film, producers can expect to receive a guaranteed fee. This payment is also up to the studio and thus can also range widely — a normal estimate is somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000. The power a producer has when it comes to negotiating their production fee relies on a number of factors, but perhaps the most important is how impressive their resume is.

The more box office hits and critically acclaimed films a producer has been a part of, the more leverage she or he has for getting a good deal. Also important is how involved the producer plans to be during productions — performing more services means you should get more money. This payment is also not usually given all at once and is instead divided throughout a film’s production. For example, a producer may receive 20% of the total production fee before principal photography, 50% during photography, and then the rest after.

Film Profits

Most producers are also promised a cut of the film’s profits. Again, how high of a percent you get usually depends on your reputation and level of success. The truth is, the average producer doesn’t expect to make a lot of money from profits considering how much of it gets divided up among other players who were involved in the process.

For example, movie theaters usually get to keep about fifty percent of gross revenues. What’s left is often used to repay the costs of making the film in the first place, including added interest since the money was likely borrowed years ago. In short, producers may obtain back-end points (i.e. percentage on profits) on net profits, at the most. However, some post-release profits to look forward to — if the producer has a share in the copyright of the film —  are things like DVD and rights to streaming services like Netflix.

Bridge Between Art & Business

A common misconception in the film industry is seeing producers as these high-stakes gamblers who often bet all their chips on ideas, either earning nothing or become millionaires. The truth is, being a producer is all about using your knowledge and experience to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. As the bridge that connects the artistic vision with the business goals of the film, it’s on you to help foster creativity and build relationships while making sure the project stays on a promising financial course.

If you want a role that requires both imagination and strategic thinking while letting you work closely with people trying to impact audience’s lives with memorable films, look no further. It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll likely make very good money if you know what you’re doing.

Interested in taking classes at the producing school at New York Film Academy? Check out more information here.

5 Ways to Write a Convincing Crowdfunding Pitch for Your Film

By NYFA Guest Contributor Grace Carter

Crowdfunding is a competitive arena; there are a lot of people out there trying to get their film funded by online backers. To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to believe in your talent and ability to make the project happen — and prove to people that you’re worth their investment.

Here are five tips to help you write a convincing crowdfunding pitch for your film.

Pick the Right Platform

Before you get writing that crowdfunding pitch, you need to decide what platform is best for your campaign. Established sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo will give you the benefit of high visibility, but will charge you higher fees than a smaller site. If you choose Kickstarter, keep in mind that their campaigns are an all-or-nothing deal; if you don’t reach your goal, you will not get any of the funding you raised. Indiegogo allows you to choose between the all-or-nothing deal or a situation where you receive your funds regardless of whether your goal was met.

Write a Compelling Story

This is your pitch: your chance to convince would-be backers why your film is worthy of their money. Answer the important questions of who, what, when, where, and why. People often forget to answer the why question, but don’t make that mistake. Talk about yourself and your story, and why you’re making this film. What is your film about, what is its message? What’s your timeframe for filming, and when do you expect to have it completed and ready for viewing? How will be people be able to view it? It’s great to show some passion, just make sure you can deliver on the expectations you create with that passion. 

Build up some credibility by talking about past filmmaking success and any relevant experience you have. Don’t forget to include your call to action, by directing people in how they can support your work. You’ll get better results if you use words like “receive” and “offer” instead of “help” and “support.” 

You may also want to go the extra mile to make sure your pitch is well written by using professional grammar, proofreading, and editing services. Be sure to check your pitch’s grammar with sites like ViaWriting or Simplegrad.

Use Lots of Visuals

Since you’re trying to fund a film, you’ll want to include as many visuals as you can. If you’ve started filming, consider including a short clip so people can see what you’re doing. Don’t worry if you’re still in pre-production, you can film a short video in which you explain what you’re doing and what your vision is for your film. You can put together a very clever and low-budget video pitch, like the one made by the makers of I am I.

Ideally, your video should only be a few minutes long, and the first 10 seconds are critical. If you don’t grab your viewer’s attention in those first 10 seconds, they’ll lose interest and click away before you can even get into your pitch. The last 10 seconds are just as critical, and it’s important to leave your viewers with a clear takeaway and call to action.

“Be sure to rehearse your script quite a bit before you get on camera, so you don’t look like an amateur. A few awkward pauses or stuttering are all it takes for a would-be backer to lose faith. Spend some time crafting your pitch script and practice, practice, practice,” advises Roland Ainsworth, writer at State of Writing.

Include Some Nice Perks

Backer rewards are bonuses you hand out to people who support your campaign, usually on a scale depending on the level of funding. Some perk ideas for a film crowdfunding campaign include a thank you shoutout on the film website; access to an online production diary; access to an inspirational playlist used and curated by the director; a download of the film pre-release; and a DVD and thank you in film credits.

It’s important not to overcommit. Put some thought into how much you can actually deliver on should you receive a lot of support. It would be a shame to ruin your credibility and anger your backers by being unable to deliver on your backer perk promises.

Promotion

Once you’ve got a solid pitch and some nice rewards planned, it’s time to get the world watching.

“Start by letting your friends and family know. It’s a good strategy to try and get 30 percent of your funding with a soft launch targeted at people your group knows, before going ahead with the hard launch on a platform,” recommends Doris Crawford, editor at UKWritings.

Make sure you put together your mailing list and send private emails and phone calls at least a month prior to launching the crowdfunding campaign. If you don’t raise at least 5-10 percent of your target goal, it is probably best to postpone the launch.

Post regular updates on your film’s social media accounts to remind your community of how things are progressing. You might want to build up some hype before you launch your campaign, just don’t overdo it and turn people off. Reach out to friends of friends, bloggers, and influencers. Over time you’ll get people tweeting and organically promoting your campaign. Email might seem old fashioned, but a targeted email campaign can still be very effective.

Conclusion

Writing a convincing crowdfunding pitch can be tough. You’re competing with a lot of other people and a lot of other films. You need to make yours stand out and is backed by a solid plan. Write a compelling story, for what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Use lots of visuals, giving your backers a taste of your filmmaking talent. Follow these five ways to write a convincing crowdfunding pitch for your film.

Ready to learn more about film and media production? Check out our Producing School programs at the New York Film Academy.

Grace Carter is a writer and storyteller at Essayroo and Boom Essays service. She edits, proofreads, writes various types of papers, and helps the content marketing team. Also, Grace is a tutor at Academized educational website. 

4 Online Organizational Tools Every Producer Needs

As wonderful as it is to watch a masterful film play out in the theatre or comfort of your home, rarely do audiences consider the weeks, months, and years of elaborate work it takes to produce. Usually, in the lengthy timeline of a film’s cycle from the final screenplay draft to the big screens, the person with the longest-running responsibility is the producer. It’s a widely known fact that producers play a vital role in bringing screenplays to fruition, but that’s not all; even after a film’s release, producers must keep on top of contract negotiations, revenue, and residuals, among other things. With so many responsibilities, it’s imperative for producers to stay organized, as they are essentially the highest-ranking project manager on a film. To support that all-important project management aspect of producing, here is a list of the best online organizational tools every producer needs:

StudioBinder

Cost: Scheduler – $19/month, Indie – $29/month, Professional – $49/month, Studio – $85/month

This software was made for the 21st century producer and filmmaker. It allows you to streamline your production management with an array of clever features, including contact management, stripboards, call sheet builder and monitoring, shooting schedules, and cloud storage. As well as providing interactive access for any team member to contribute — which is vital given that each film has so many contributors, many who are likely to be scattered around the world at different times — StudioBinder provides a modern, user-friendly interface that every beginner can navigate through with ease.

Yamdu

Cost: Development – $5/month, Academic – $9/month, Advanced – $49/month

A direct competitor of StudioBinder, this software has also tailored its features to suit the producer and filmmaker, also offers a financing and deliverables feature. Having the dedicated role of working out a budget and getting the film financed, every producer will need a budgeting and financing program at one point or another. Usually done on Excel spreadsheets, having an integrated program within Yamdu for your budget will make your life a whole lot easier.

Evernote

Cost: Basic – Free, Plus – $24.99/year, Premium – $49.99/year

Unlike the previous programs, Evernote isn’t targeted specifically to producers and filmmakers, but still offers some fantastic organizational tools. Some of its features include brainstorming whiteboards, checklists, meeting notes, reminders, and project-tracking timelines, to name a few. There’s more, too. Say you’ve just had a lunch meeting with the director — a creative, visually-driven individual, who likes to jot or draw things down on a napkin. With its multi-device syncing ability, Evernote allows you to take a photo of any notes or doodles and upload them right away on your smartphone. You can also record and upload audio and video for those great ideas that pop up at obscure moments.

Trello

Cost: Basic – Free, Business Class – $8.33/month/user, Enterprise – $20.83/year/user

This software is made for those who prefer visualizing the progress of a project. It uses a card-based layout for every idea, to which you can then make any changes or adjustments as you go, like adding notes or attaching files, categorizing, color-coding, or creating a task list. The simple, left-to-right format of the cards allows for a visual timeline to track the production process whilst also giving you the ability to sync other platforms like Google Drive into the app. It’s also collaborative and can sync to any device.

Learn more about film, television, and media production at the New York Film Academy.

How to Network in the Film Production World

In reference to leaving his day job and surrounding himself with other filmmakers to perfect his craft, the great Tarantino once said, “if you run the hundred-yard dash with people much faster than you, yeah you might come last, but your time will be better than winning against slower competition.” Producing a film is far from a solitary feat and the ability to learn from others is a basic, albeit critical, part of improvement. So, what better way to increase your chances of success in an industry that practically invented the saying “it’s all about who you know”, than networking?

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

Social Media

Just as instinctive as it may be to utilize a dance studio to learn how to dance, one should similarly consider social networking sites for – as the name suggests – networking. When even the most introverted of all introverts is merely a click, swipe, and/or double-tap away from deep-diving into the biggest room full of people: otherwise known as the Internet, ‘tis indeed a great time to be alive.

Sites like LinkedIn are a sure-fire way to get connected to those who share your professional interests, but there are some other lesser-known networking sites specifically catered to professionals in film and media. Sites like Shooting People share similarities with LinkedIn, whereby users’ profiles are more like extensive portfolios; but unlike the latter, they have a strong emphasis on collaboration and allow users to work on one another’s projects. Similarly, Movidiam and Mandy.com cater specifically to those in film and media and also provide a great platform for finding work.

That said, don’t underestimate the connective power of mainstream sites like Facebook. Joining industry-specific groups is key. Not only will these groups give you access to a supportive community of fellow producers and filmmakers to learn from, but once you turn your event notifications on, it’s on!

Events

Social media might allow for reach and immediacy, but there’s a real gravitas in the connection between human beings in the flesh that cannot possibly be translated or outweighed by virtual alternatives. However, using social media to get you these face-to-face meetings is crucial. Once you’re following key industry people and are part of several online communities, invitations to industry events are going to be commonplace. Use this! Do as successful producer Jane Applegate does and “…attend as many mixers and workshops as possible” – something she swears by when prompted on the value of networking.

Intern, Volunteer, and Gain Experience

Find production companies, film festivals, and film shoots that will accept interns or volunteers. Do what you can — run errands, grab coffee, anything. Exposing yourself to every bit of the filmmaking process in live action will only increase your knowledge on producing films in the real world; whilst offering valuable industry connections and great career prospects.

Make Friends

Networking differs from the act of making friends in that its main purpose is to increase your arsenal for career advancement. The act of making friends, however, has a genuine intention behind it and something rarely synonymous with the entertainment industry – longevity. Authentic connections between likeminded people can stand the test of time and be of great benefit to all parties involved. Take advantage of being a student at NYFA where you’re constantly surrounded by others who share your passion for film and reach out to classmates. You never know, the friends you make in class may just be the same ones standing beside you on the stage as you give your Oscars speech.

Listen. Be Humble. Be Kind.

None of the aforementioned strategies will ever be of use to you without practicing these throughout:

Listen – people are most susceptible to giving their best if they feel they’re being heard. Listening to others will only ever open your mind up to more opportunities.

Be humble – as Socrates says, “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Everyone can teach you something if you’re open to it.

Be kind – positivity breeds positivity and people react accordingly. The best way to create an atmosphere you can prosper in is to give what you wish to receive. Plus, it just feels good to be kind!

So, go forth with these in mind and you’re bound for success. Happy networking!

8 Tips for Getting 1K Instagram Followers in One Month

From ambitious models and actors to small businesses across the globe, everyone is discovering Instagram’s tremendous usefulness in today’s competitive world. The popular social media platform boasts millions of active monthly users and has numerous features that benefit marketers, including the ability to show off your brand and talk to your audience.

There are tried-and-true tips all over the net that can help you find more success on Instagram. If your goal is to earn at least 1,000 more followers in a month, give this a try:

  1. Follow and study the competition.

There’s nothing wrong with checking out other accounts in your industry to see what they’re doing. This includes looking at how often they post, the hashtags they use, what kind of content they post, etc. The goal isn’t to completely copy their strategy, but to jot down what’s working for them and apply the best of it to your own plans.

  1. Become a hashtag master.

A great way to catch people’s attention is by being fun and creative with your hashtag use. You’ll also get more people to see you if you join in on trending hashtags that are receiving tons of attention at the time.

But most important of all, make sure you use hashtags that apply to you and what you’re about. If musical theater is your thing, make sure videos of you singing have hashtags that will draw others interested in the same things.

  1. Network, Instagram style.

Although things like college degrees and experience are important, a lot of people believe there’s nothing like a good connection to land a job. In a way, this idea can also apply when going for more Instagram followers quickly.

The trick is to frequently interact with the most popular influencers in your industry in hopes that you become one of their favorite followers. Make sure to activate your “Turn On Post Notifications” feature so you’re always among the first to post.

  1. Cross-promote on other platforms.

From Facebook and Pinterest to Twitter and YouTube, perhaps there’s a chance you already have another social media account with a few or more follows. Drive traffic from those accounts to your Instagram by frequently sharing your best posts in order to catch their attention. Chances are the people who follow you on other platforms also have an Instagram account as well.

  1. Go viral via Instagram Stories.

The Explore page on Instagram is an awesome feature that can earn you an unexpected level of likes and follows. This is because your stories have the possibility of being show on other accounts based on what kinds of posts and accounts you like/follow. For this to happen you have to create fun, engaging Stories that usually target a specific space.

  1. Make your profile stand out.

Recognition is all about infusing your Instagram with your own personality and visual style. Your profile theme and bio should be unique enough to stand out from the crowd while also doing a good job of representing who you are and what kind of content you like sharing. Although short, your bio will give readers a clear impression of what you’re about and hopefully convince them to follow you.

  1. Run contests and giveaways.

If there’s one thing everyone looks to get, it’s free goodies. Running a giveaway that lasts a few days and requires interacting with your account is a solid way to gain exposure and earn more followers.

A popular strategy is to run a contest in partnership with another influencer, setting up the rules so that people need to follow both accounts in order to be entered to win. It also helps if the gifts are related to your industry, such as giving away a free game or Gamestop gift card if you’re trying to create hype for your own upcoming title.

  1. Don’t skip out on videos.

Photo posts are a powerful tool when it comes to growing your Instagram following — actors should definitely post new headshots or production photos often, and with the right hashtags.

However, it’s hard to argue with all the stats out there pointing to videos as being the best type of content for earning more followers. This makes sense considering that a static image will rarely be as attention-grabbing as moving video with sound and voice, so make sure to mix up your images with videos.

What’s your best advice for growing your Instagram followers? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about the visual and performing arts at the New York Film Academy.

7 Awesome Women in Film You Should Be Following Now

From directing to cinematography, writing to producing, women in Hollywood are working hard to have an equal voice and share of power in the movies being made … but we have a long way to go. According to the Annual Celluloid Ceiling Report, “In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.”

Here, we present seven women who defy those numbers and stand as role models for generations of women to come. We couldn’t possibly decide which one of these women was more awesome than the next, so we put them in alphabetical order.

Ava DuVernay

  1. Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Selma. Recently, she became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million — a staggering sum for any director — for Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.

Nina Jacobson

  1. Nina Jacobson is a producer who, in her time heading up Disney, brought such films as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean to life. After being fired from Disney, she created her own production company, Color Force, which produced the wildly successful Hunger Games movies. She is also openly gay, and has helped to create a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood by creating Out There with fellow producer Bruce Cohen.

Patty Jenkins

  1. Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of 2017. It gave her the biggest domestic opening for any female director. Before that, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, another, darker, woman-centric film that garnered critical acclaim and the academy award for its star, Charlize Theron, whom we will meet below…

Kathleen Kennedy

  1. Kathleen Kennedy started out her career as Spielberg’s secretary and, as we mentioned in this article celebrating women film producers, rose to become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She heads up Lucasfilm, and is hence responsible for the Star Wars franchise and the highest grossing movies of the past few years, including The Last Jedi.

Reed Morano

  1. Reed Morano is a cinematographer, known for Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings” and The Skeleton Twins. More recently, she picked up critical acclaim for directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2013, she became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and, according to Wikipedia, is one of only 14 women in this prestigious organization of approximately 345 active members.

Mina Shum

  1. Mina Shum is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who prefers to be known simply as an independent filmmaker. Her feature films, Double Happiness and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, premiered at Sundance. Her most recent film, Meditation Park, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh, will hit theaters March 2018.

Charlize Theron

  1. Charlize Theron is a South African-American who has established her career beyond her acting talent and beauty by founding her own production company, Denver and Delilah, named for her two dogs. Its first production was Monster, and its latest was Atomic Blonde.

For more on the usefulness of turning actor cred into producer cred, check out this article on why so many actors turn to producing, where you’ll find more awesome women like Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Drew Barrymore, who all started production companies of their own.

 

 

 

9 Stages of Pre-Production

The first day of shooting on a movie set is never the first day that film is being produced. Days, and sometimes weeks, months, years, or—in the case of James Cameron’s “Avatar” or Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”—decades can go by from the beginning of a film’s inception to when cameras just start rolling. The production and subsequent post-production processes of a movie can be shorter, longer, or about the same, but neither can exist without pre-production—the work that goes into a film before any images are recorded.

Pre-production, like the filmmaking as a process as a whole, is complicated and can be daunting for independent filmmakers. Here are nine stages—each with their own subdivisions of tasks and labor—that should be included in your pre-production process if you want to ensure a steady, fruitful film shoot from day one.

Finalize a Shooting Script

While movies are magical, they don’t come out of thin air. Even before the pre-production process starts, you need an idea, and often a fairly polished screenplay to work off of. But when it’s crunch time, you need to finalize that screenplay and convert it to a shooting script—one that reads for the director, cinematographer, and camera crew as well as it does for the actors. Tweaks and whole scenes may be edited, added, or deleted at anytime (sometimes even in post-production!) but for the most part your shooting script should be ready to shoot by the time the director first calls action.

Storyboards & Shot Lists

Storyboards & shot lists go hand-in-hand with shooting scripts—creating a visual interpretation of the screenplay for the director and cinematographer to reference and prepare for. While some directors know exactly what they want in their hand and can draw it themselves, usually storyboard artists are hired to bring the story to life. Once a film is seen—even in black-and-white sketches—it comes alive in a way that the entire crew can see and gives them a concrete vision to strive for.

Find the Right Crew

While some crew positions might already be attached or recommended for a project, and other positions, like your writer and storyboard artist, could be hired very early in the process—you should work to get the entire team rounded out before pre-production gets too involved. After all, these are the women & men who will be carrying out a lot of these tasks, and the sooner they are involved in the creative process, the more valuable their input will be. All of filmmaking is a collaboration—not just the shooting!

Location Scouting

You may need to tailor your storyboards to your location or vice-versa, so finding them early is key. Many hands-on producers & directors may want to do this themselves, but often the smartest thing to do is hire a professional location scout who already has locales in mind or knows how to find original ones perfect for your script. If you’re shooting in a studio or soundstage, you’ll want to find the right one early and make sure it’s not booked before you can lock it in—treat them as you would reception halls for your own wedding! Finding real world locations early is just as important because you’ll want enough time to process the necessary permits & paperwork.

Create a Proper Budget (and Stick to It!)

By now you should be finalizing your budget, to make sure you can find the gear and afford the locations you want to use. Sometimes this is the professional thing to do; sometimes it’s the necessary thing to do because you’re not working with any credit or financial backers willing to give any more than they already promised. This is never the most fun part of pre-production, but very often it’s the most important.

Choose Your Gear

Are you shooting digitally or going old school with some 16mm film? Or are you saving money and shooting the entire film on your iPhone? Once you have the answers to these questions you can acquire your gear—often from a rental house. After your first film you may establish a relationship with a particular rental house and can negotiate discounts and figure out just exactly what your budget will allow when it comes to peripheral equipment. Maybe you can afford that ultracool fog machine after all!

Clear That Red Tape

Once you know what gear and locations you want, you’re going have to get into the paperwork—namely, permits and insurance. Permits are required from municipal governments to shoot on public property and location agreements are typically needed for use of private homes—especially if you’ll need to move furniture or equipment around or repaint the walls after the shoot, etc. You’ll also need insurance to protect yourself in the event you or one of your crew members accidentally do damage to the location or your rented film equipment. Finally you may need to cover your crew and cast as well—better safe than sorry!

Find the Right Cast

With your dominos falling in place you’re going to need to finally decide on your cast—this could feel impossible, no matter how many actors your audition. You might be frustrated you can’t find the perfect person for the role you envisioned in your head, or maybe you found two equally brilliant performers and you’re pulling your hair out trying to decide between the two. Either way, auditioning early and often and even employing a casting agent to find even more performers, possibly from outside your locality, will go a long way towards giving your movie the perfect cast.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Sometimes finding the perfect cast could make a filmmaker overconfident, leading them to put too much responsibility on their cast to be self-sufficient. Actors need their director just as much as the crew does, and working with them both one-on-one and as an ensemble is a vital part of the pre-production process. Holding table reads and rehearsals weeks before shooting will ensure that when the camera is ready to the roll, your cast will be giving the performance your movie truly needs. This extra time before the shoot also allows the cast to develop a genuine chemistry that will not go unnoticed by your audience.

These are just nine simplified stages of a complex, multifaceted pre-production process. Often these steps will be done simultaneously and in any variety of orders. Just remember that if you’re confident and prepared you can get through any hurdle and tell the story you’ve always wanted to tell. New York Film Academy offers courses in production and filmmaking with the overall philosophy of learning by doing—so the best way to get through pre-production is to learn the skills first and then master them with experience and resolve.

The Impact of a Good Producer on Your Student Film

People often think that a producer simply puts up the money for a film and walks away. Though raising funds is certainly part of what a producer — especially an executive producer — does, they also do a lot more.

As this NYFA article demonstrates, there are a lot of disparate skills, artistic and entrepreneurial, that go into being a good producer. From spotting good material and  overseeing script development and bringing on directors, to overseeing casting and editing, producers are often in the unique position of being with a project from inception to distribution.

Too small for a producer?

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“All very interesting,” you say, “but I’m just making a student film on a micro/nonexistent budget! Why do I need a producer?”

The answer is that, even for the smallest films, production can easily get complicated and overwhelming.

For small films, producers may be tasked with day-to-day duties — typically the duties of a line producer on bigger films — such as setting up daily schedules and making sure cast, crew and extras know where to be and when, securing locations and clearing them, and organizing craft services. As we mentioned in this article, you might not be able to pay the people that are making your film dreams come true, but you should at least try to feed them!

There is also the matter of securing rights for any music you might want to use as discussed in this article, which is rarely easy or cheap. And don’t forget dealing with the inevitable paperwork: NDAs, contracts, invoices, W-9s, etc.

If you’re starting to think that maybe there’s more to this filmmaking thing than screenplays and storyboards, then you might start realizing just how important a producer is on even the tiniest of projects.

Pushing your film to the next level.

If you love your student film and want to expand it into something bigger and better, or if you want to get it into shape to enter into festivals, or pitch to studios as a feature or television series, or any of the many other ways a student film can turn into a career-starter, then having a producer already invested in the project will be an immense help for your cause.

With their skills in pitching, business, and human resources, as well as their big picture view of your overall concept, and an ability to work from pre-production to distribution, a producer will serve your project well as it grows and gains an audience. Having a producer onboard will also allow you as a director to move onto your next project without leaving the last one to molder in a hard drive or at the bottom of the YouTube dustbin.

Ready to learn more about film and TV production? Study producing at the New York Film Academy.

 

Film Producing: How to Cast the Right Actors in Your Film

Being a producer can have its ups and downs–after all, producers play a part in every creative, technical, and financial aspect of a film or television show. Often they help oversee the hiring of writers and the development of the script, as well as supervise the casting, hiring of the crew, and location scouting of a project.

The New York Film Academy teaches students what it truly means to be a producer–simply put, a project doesn’t exist without one. Producers are the most involved, following a project from pre- to post-production and beyond.

A major part of film producing includes having to cast the right actors for your project. But how do you know when you are casting the right people for the part? Here’s some advice for students and aspiring producers to help you pick the perfect cast!

Don’t wear out the material.

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Don’t overuse the script during the audition process. Do you really want to hear 50 people read the same lines over and over again? You may love the scene at the beginning of the audition process, but there’s a good chance you’ll hate it by the end.

Instead, you may consider choosing material from a different project that is spiritually similar and use that during the audition process. You won’t end up tired of your own script, plus you can save the real material for people you are serious about during callbacks.

The chemistry.

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It’s understandable to want an actor who is specifically right for the part, but it’s also important they have chemistry between your leads, as well as chemistry with the director and the cast. Chemistry between actors is often what makes a film successful, because it’s so exciting to watch.

Be specific.

As a producer, it is imperative to have a clear picture of your needs and priorities. It’s important to know what characteristics you want in the actors for your project. Be specific when working with casting directors and you’ll find being upfront about what you want will help them plan and be more strategic in the casting process.

In Film Independent’s article, “’We’re A Family’: Casting Directors on Putting the Right Actor in the Role,” Julie Hutchinson, former 20th Century Fox’s vice president of Feature Casting and senior vice president of Casting at Universal Pictures, said, “We’re a family. We’re all in it together.”

Don’t rush.

Don’t make the rookie producing mistake of rushing through the casting process. It’s not just another part of pre-production you should just check off of your to-do list. Of course the casting process can be frustrating and tedious. Remember, there is almost never a perfect fit for your role. The person auditioning for the part may have the talent, but not the look you want. Or, they may have the look you want, but not the right aura.

It can be a bad idea to bring in an absurdly large group of people for auditions, especially if you haven’t had the time to look at all of their headshots and resumes. Instead, take the time to read over some submissions, select a few actors, and bring them in for auditions. Being selective early on in the process will increase your chances of finding suitable talent for your project.

Remember: don’t settle for actors you’re not happy with, because this could lead to some major issues on set later on down the road when it will be too late (and too expensive) to recast.

Do you have any tips on how to select the right actor for a role? Let us know below!

 

How to Craft the Perfect Movie Pitch

A moving, persuasive pitch can be the difference between seeing your story idea come to life on the big screen or leaving it in your mind to be forgotten. There are few industries as competitive as film, which means your movie pitch needs to impact the listener and stand out from the thousands of others. The following are a number of ways you can bring that pitch of yours as close to perfection as possible.

1. Use the power of emotion.

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Just like every novel ever written or song ever recorded, the purpose of a film is to elicit emotion. People want to play games, watch movies, and read books that will make them feel something that they can’t or normally don’t feel as powerfully in their own lives. Similarly, a successful story pitch is one where you give the listener a positive emotional experience by convincing them that your idea will either be a hit or something they’d enjoy watching. Instead of saying that you’re passionate about the project, let it show in the way you describe your story.

2. Show your personal connection with the film.

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Sometimes even the best ideas can fall flat if those at the helm of the project are driven only by money or fame. Film is arguably one of the most powerful storytelling mediums out there, and some of the most iconic films of all time were made by people with tremendous passion toward the idea or emotion they wanted to share. In other words, a movie pitch is the perfect time to show your personal connection to the story and its themes. Make it clear why this story needs to be told and why you’re the filmmaker destined to help tell it.

3. Make it clear why your film is unique yet bound for success

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While agents and offices do look out for film ideas that are creative and special, it’s not always enough. You have to make sure your unique pitch is also something that will most likely attract diverse groups of people and thus, be a success. A good exercise to prepare you for this is to write down why your film is unique along with a second list of reasons why your film would be a hit in today’s market.

4. Comparisons are OK, but don’t over do it.

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A lot of people are afraid to compare their film idea to similar existing films for fear of sounding unoriginal. However, comparisons can be a powerful way of giving your listener a clearer image of what your movie is all about. The trick is to not overdo it or confuse your listener by saying your film is a mix of “The Fellowship of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” without explaining how or why.

5. Avoid telling your whole story.

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When pitching your idea to an office or agent, you’ll rarely get more than a few minutes of time. A common mistake is to waste most of your time by trying to tell your entire story as quickly as possible from start to finish. For one, trying to do so only leaves you with less time to convey why the idea is good. But more importantly, if your story can actually be told in as little as five minutes then it’s probably not a great story. Do your best to give the important plot points and details without boring the listener while misusing your time.

6. When you think your pitch is done, forget it and come back later.

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A movie pitch isn’t something you prepare in one night. Just like Stephen King would put away a rough draft for weeks before rereading and improving it, you should step away from your pitch for a while to get it out of your head. Coming back to it with a fresh mind will help you trim off the unnecessary while improving the stronger points. There’s nothing wrong with rinsing and repeating this process until you feel satisfied.

7. Happy with your latest pitch? Now record and practice it.

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Recording your own pitch and listening to it is one of the best ways of figuring out what needs to go and what can be said better. It may seem awkward listening to yourself but doing so will give you a good idea of how you’re presenting your idea. Do video recording if you’ll be pitching in person to make sure you have the right expressions and look when convincing the listener to consider your project.