Raindance MA in Filmmaking: Part 4 - NM2 "The Pitch"
NM2 Reflective Report
Considering my background in music business and acting, what skills do I need in order to create a development process as a producer, creating and marketing my own film projects?
Student nr: P2618742
Word Count: 8183
MA in Filmmaking with Raindance, De Montfort University
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Learning Outcomes 6
Learning Outcome 1……………..………..…………………....6
Research and Methodology………..…………………………..6
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application.....……………….6
Learning and Reflection……………..………………..............10
Learning Outcome 2……………………………....…..……….12
Research and Methodology………..………………………….12
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application…..……………...12
Learning and Reflection……………..………………..............17
1) Skills Audit……………………………………………...……..21
2) SWOT Analysis………………………………………...……..21
3) Writer’s Brief…………………………………………………..22
4) Parts of a Contract…………………………………………...23
5) Writer’s Agreement…………………………………………..24
6) Script “The Gig”……………………………………………....34
7) Assistant Producer’s Agreement…………………………...50
8) Director of Photography’s Moodboard……..……………...56
9) Concept Artist’s Agreement………………………………...57
10) Development Process Interview Transcript: Louise Salter…61
11) Development Process Interview Transcript: Julia Verdin..….87
12) Parts of a Pitch Deck……………………………………..106
13) Pitch Deck “The Gig”.....................................................109
14) Pitch Deck Feedback……………………………………..121
I began my career within the entertainment industry as a musician, writing songs, coming up with music video concepts and performing for audiences around the world. I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset and when my music career began to take off I was the one who took control over the direction I wanted to take my band, Our Untold Story. It was through the journey of producing our records, negotiating our deals, starting my record label to be able to self release our music, and then starting my production company to create our music videos, that I found my way into acting and filmmaking. It was just a small jump to add sound to start creating films.
After co-producing my first feature-film, Sargad, in 2016, I went on to direct my own short-film. I decided to apply the same techniques I had when I produced the first demo with my band a few years earlier. That demo became our debut EP, which I then managed to package in such a way that it has since sold and streamed over one million times across the world. My idea was to create a micro-budget film that looked good, contained a great soundtrack and then market it to the best of my abilities. This is exactly what I did and Rotten Love went on to receive 22 nominations and 17 awards over the course of its 2-year festival run. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6791446/)
My goal when starting the MA program at Raindance was to take the skills I have acquired over the years and combine them with my love for action and stunts by developing a strong, character-driven action short containing fight scenes written specifically for me to produce and act in.
In my research module, I looked into directors who debuted with low budget action films and later went on to have fruitful careers. My goal was formulated from that research; to write a screenplay based on action set pieces that I would design. Due to the restrictions that were put into place in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020, I was unable to follow through with my plans of working with stunt coordinators and fight choreographers to plan and design my action sequences, so I had to change my area of focus midway through NM1. This led me to focus on the inquiry; How can I, as an actor and creative producer, work with a screenwriter to create a strong treatment for a character-driven short film for me to act in? At the time the change felt like a burden and caused me a lot of stress, but in hindsight, has given me the opportunity to reconsider my trajectory and focus on producing and acting in a much more active and exciting manner.
As a person who thrives on having multiple projects in the works, I happened to already be working with a writer on some ideas.So, we decided to use the opportunity and resources made available to us through Raindance to focus on developing that idea as a strong, festival-worthy calling card short film.
My overall MA goal became:
Building on my current experience as an actor and a filmmaker, what producing and
acting skills do I need to develop in order to produce a calling card short film in which I will be playing the leading role, that I can submit to A-list film festivals?
During NM1 my writer, Niklas, and I managed to create an outline and treatment for our idea which had an incredibly strong role for me to play.The role would both challenge me as an actor and play to my character type. I also delivered a One Page Pitch, following the SEAM method, which was a great exercise for me as a producer, teaching me how to put my story into a short, sellable synopsis and logline.
Moving on from that module, I learned a hard lesson on the importance of contracts and rights. Despite having studied copyright and contract law during my music business degree, I did not create any formal agreements with Niklas regarding the rights and expectations surrounding our project. We both believed we were in agreement with regards to who was producing the film, but during the process Niklas told me he wished to have more input in the final outcome and that he wanted to be the director.
Following discussions with both my academic advisor and industry mentor, I came to the conclusion that it would be more beneficial to my personal development as a producer if I were to focus my efforts on hiring a new writer and work on a fresh project. This would allow me to maintain creative control and have the opportunity to design a process which I could then use throughout my career. Therefore in this module I shall be focusing on the following inquiry:
Considering my background in music business and acting, what skills do I need in order to create a development process as a producer, creating and marketing my own film projects?
My deliverables for this module will be:
Pitch Package for my short film
Learning from my experience over the past six months with Niklas I know that I wish to maintain creative control over my projects and have therefore identified through my skills audit (Appendix 1) and SWOT analysis (Appendix 2) some key weaknesses that have been holding me back.
Issues with taking on more than I can handle alone due to the mindset of, “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself”, which has then gotten in the way of me achieving the results that I strive for.
Not being clear with my objectives and desired results, resulting in miscommunication and too much room for interpretation, leading to undesired results and loss of control over my own project.
The lack of a strong team of trustworthy individuals - required by such projects - whom I can have an open and clear dialogue with regarding my vision, and to whom I can comfortably delegate.
The need to learn to avoid micromanaging and allow that team to solve problems using their own initiative and solutions.
The lack of legal contracts, properly outlining the agreed terms.
The lack of materials that properly communicate my vision for the project. (Script, Concept Art, Pitch Package, Mood Boards, Lookbook)
By creating the foundation for my own personal development process I will hopefully have gained credibility as a producer, increased my confidence as a team leader and visionary, built a strong team who I trust and can continue working with on future projects, and acquired the knowledge I need to take the next step towards my goal of having an A-list festival worthy film. To help me achieve this I have created four sub-headings that I will be focusing on in this paper:
Communication my Vision
Building My Team
The Story/Pitch Package
Communicating my vision
Producer and Author of Success in Film, Julia Verdin (2015) states that “there is a simple question any filmmaker should ask before beginning the difficult task of developing a picture: Why do I want to make this film?” Author and inspirational speaker, Simon Sinek (2009) believes that “Why is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us”. Therefore if I am to properly communicate my vision and desired objectives for a project then I must start by posing myself the question; Why do I want to make this film?
In her book, Julia (2015) outlines a few common reasons why producers choose to make a film, these include: Entertaining an Audience, Self Promotion, Promoting an Important Idea or Topic, Making Money and Winning Awards and/or Getting Festival Play. In his book Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking, Elliot Grove (2013) agrees and outlines similar subheadings under his posed question; Why Do You Want to Make a Movie?
Building my team
“A producer's job is to discover and nurture talent. A good producer looks everywhere for it: at the theatre, at concerts, in art galleries - anywhere something new is tried that might work in the cinema with a little guidance” - Elliot Grove (2013)
Julia Verdin (2015) writes in her chapter titled Assembling the Key Team that “there are two important questions to ask when assembling your team: What do you need help with and what can you afford?”. In his book From Reel to Deal, Dov Simens (2003) puts forward the notion that; “Procuring an excellent crew is not difficult. To hire a superb crew, all you need to do is hire four department heads. They, in turn, hire the remaining...crew members. Concern yourself only with hiring the four key people”. He continues by listing the four department heads as: 1. Director of Photography, 2. Production Manager, 3. Assistant Director, and 4. Production Designer.
As I am no longer working with Niklas, I will also need to find a new script to work with. Elliot Grove (2013) says that “a great script is gold dust in the film industry. Finding it can be like finding a needle in a haystack”. Continuing in a similar vein, Julia Verdin (2015) writes that “development begins by finding a great story. Rarely is a good film made from a bad script. So how do you know when you find it?”. On this topic, Dov Simens (2003) writes that “other than writing the screenplay yourself, there are only two other ways to obtain a great script. One is to purchase (i.e. option) an already written one. And the other to hire someone (a writer-for-hire) to write one for you”. Therefore I will be looking into both options in the hope that I find a script that fits my Why.
To assist in the search for my great script Julia Verdin (2013) shares how she decides which films she wants to produce by posing a few questions to see if the script meets her criteria (these questions are for feature films, and may vary for shorts):
Are you passionate about this story?
Is there an audience for this film?
Does the story have a leading role that will attract an A-list actor?
Is the script strong enough to attract a good director?
How marketable is the genre?
Does the story have great “trailer” moments?
Does the story fit with your idea of success for this picture?
“A finished film is generally a collaborative work that relies on numerous contributions and a variety of content, and which also comprises a collection of ‘rights’. The term ‘rights’ is used to denote a mix of legal entitlements. There are various species of intellectual property rights recognised and codified by statute such as copyright and trademarks, as well as permissions or licences that are bolted together with a series of contracts. There are rights that are created by filmmaker's, rights that are acquired by filmmaker's from third parties and rights that are granted by filmmaker's - perhaps via distributors - to those who exhibit or otherwise make films available to the public. In order to see the whole, each of these component parts is examined separately, The substance of the contracts that are employed to bolt these rights together is critical”. In this passage of his book The Filmmakers Legal Guide: Second Edition, Tony Morris (2019) makes it clear that there are a whole multitude of rights to consider when making a film.
On the topic of copyright, he continues by stating “by way of example, if a filmmaker commissions a screenwriter to write a script for a film, unless there is a written assignment of the screenplay from the screenwriter to the filmmaker, ownership of the copyright will remain with the screenwriter”. This was the mistake that I made when working with Niklas which prevented the project from being made and going any further and for which I am now paying the price.
If I am to look at the two choices for obtaining a good script; either optioning an already written piece of work or hiring someone to write one for me, then according to the writings of Elliot Grove, Dov Simons and Julia Verdin, I must either have an option agreement or a writer-for-hire agreement.
Tony Morris (2019) breaks down the required elements needed when constructing a contract in chapter 25 of The Filmmaker's Legal Guide: Second Edition (Appendix 4).
In his chapter titled Optioning and Hiring: “Purchase the Great Story” Dov Simons (2003) outlines seven major deal memo points for an option agreement before making clear that “the bottom line is that unless you have a binding contract (option agreement) that secures that script/book/story in your name, you have nothing”. The seven memo points are as follows:
Tony Morris (2019) continues on the topic of what may be included in a writer’s agreement as well as the basic points required when constructing a contract (Appendix 4).
The Pitch Package
During my interviews with Louise Salter and Julia Verdin (Appendix 10-11), both discussed the importance of using Pitch Packages in their development process. According to Nick Sadler “The pitch deck is becoming an essential tool for Film and Television Writers”. In his article: What is a Pitch Deck and Why Should You Create One? (2018), Nick states that pitch decks are becoming more popular due to their ease of quickly communicating the story and vision of a writer or director. In another, earlier article with the title: The Importance of a Pitch Deck (2013), Martin Shapiro discusses the history of the pitch deck with its seeds in tech firms in Silicon Valley and how they were used to share an idea that did not yet exist. The idea being that a film is the same as a business idea and; “To stand out from the crowd of wannabes and make your project really shine, you need to spend the extra time and effort to create a visually engaging pitch deck that will excite a potential investor or producer”.
Learning Outcome 1 - Finding my personal development process
What skills and tools must I identify in order to create my process for project development as a producer?
Research and Methodology
Regular tutorials with my academic advisor, Stéphanie Joalland and my industry mentor, Louise Salter
Attend Raindance courses: Producers Foundation, Filmmaker's Legal Guide, Filmmaker's Foundation, Lockdown Sessions: Unlocking the Potential of Your Screenplay.
Read Core Texts. (Bibliography)
Find my WHY. Why do I want to make this film?
Hire a new writer based on a brief I created following the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, BAFTA and BFI guidelines. (Appendix 3)
Understand the chain of rights and create a Writers’ Agreement based on the guidelines outlined in The Filmmaker's’ Legal Guide: Second Edition (2019). (Appendix 4 & 5)
Watch the short film How To Be Human and discuss the process of producer Louise Salter. (Appendix 10)
Watch the short film Lost Girls and discuss the process of producer Julia Verdin. (Appendix 11)
Research, interview and hire my key team members: DOP, Assistant Director, Assistant Producer and Production Designer
Work with my writer, provide them with exercises, and develop a script based on collaboration within my set guidelines and provided within the terms of the writer’s agreement. (Appendix 6)
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application
Communicating my vision
The biggest mistake I had made when beginning work with my first writer, Niklas, was that I presumed that I was making myself clear on what my goals were and that we were on the same page regarding the goals for the film we were working on. What I came to realise was that I should have clearly defined my personal goals and the desired results I wished to achieve. I should have communicated my precise vision with clarity, leaving no room for doubt, to anybody that I brought onboard. I concluded that I needed to end my partnership with Niklas, and when the initial panic subsided, I was able to take a step back to reflect on what it was that I indeed wished to achieve.
The first step that I took was asking myself the question Julia Verdin poses in the first chapter of her book Success in Film (2015), Why do I want to make this film?
During my Music Business degree we read Simon Sinek’s book; Start with Why (2009), and had to define our personal Why in life. I defined mine as: My ‘WHY’ in life is to inspire and help others to achieve their fullest potential, becoming their true selves. I do this by continuously striving for personal growth, aiming to become the best version of me. Using this as a starting point I began to work backwards from where I see myself at the end of my life. I see myself as an expert within the entertainment industry, a person who is called upon to consult and provide insight into the latest industry trends and best practices. I achieve this through my long standing career, filled with accolades attesting to the quality of my work, as well as the achievements of those whose talent I have discovered and nurtured along the way.
Using this vision of my future, I began to map out a vision statement for why I want to make this film.
I want to make a film that has the potential to play at academy award qualifying festivals, in which I can play the leading role. I must be able to produce it to a high standard with the resources I have available, or am able to obtain due to the merits of the script and my pitch, and it must have a strong and intriguing story that attracts high quality talent to my cast and crew.
Armed with an understanding of what I plan to achieve I set out with the next step in my plan.
Building my team
Using the map I had created outlining my vision, I was able to deduce that in order to reach my goals of attracting quality talent to my project and have a film that would not only be accepted to, but would also perform well at an A-list film festival, I needed to start with finding my story.
To find my great story I needed to find a screenwriter and either option something already written, or work with them on a writer-for-hire basis. Knowing that I want a film that could potentially be screened at Oscar and/or BAFTA qualifying festivals, I began by looking at the entry criteria of those awards for short films. Both academies have very similar guidelines which made the process easier, leading me to try and narrow down my criteria further. As I plan to establish myself as an industry professional in the UK, I thought that a good place to look next for advice was the British Film Institute and their short film fund guidelines. Using the three guidelines I cross checked them to see where they overlapped and not. The BFI guidelines are the strictest, offering funding to films under 15 minutes in length, whereas both the Oscars and BAFTA guidelines allow for films with a running time of upto 40 minutes including end credits. Therefore it made sense for me to set my parameters at under 15 pages, in line with the BFI guide when seeking a script to develop. Both the BAFTA and BFI Guidelines specify that the Director, Producer and Writer must be British residents, which narrowed down my search further.
Using these criteria in conjunction with my vision statement I created a brief (Appendix 3) which I posted in the Raindance forums, on ShootingPeople.org, and in several UK based screenwriting and filmmaking groups online.I also sent it to screenwriting programs at British universities.
Within the first two days I received over two hundred submissions. I had not anticipated such a high volume of scripts to go through and felt instantly overwhelmed. I spent the following week going through each email, reading the attached pitches and scripts. The process was tedious as I realise now that I could have been even more specific in my brief in regards to genre, theme or character types, rather than the broad net which I had cast. When asked the question, what is it you are looking for? I was only able to reply that I would know it when I saw it and that I could only say for certain what I wasn’t looking for.
Reading all of those scripts was a great exercise for me in both learning what I like and don’t like in a story, as well as what constitutes good, mediocre and quite frankly, more often than not, terrible writing. It also became clear to me the importance of having a process for filtering and sifting through submissions. Many of the scripts did not, in fact, fit the basic criteria of my brief, and initially I had decided to read them anyway in the off chance that I found a gem in the rough. However, this became an inefficient use of my time. In the future, when seeking a script to option or writer to hire, I would change my approach by being even clearer in my brief, requesting summaries and a statement from the writer explaining why they believe their story fits my criteria and why I should read it, and perhaps even outsource the grunt work of going through the submissions before reading the shortlisted options myself.
Having waded through all of the submissions I was able to shortlist about 10 scripts and writers that I felt some sort of draw to. To narrow it down further I decided that an important criteria for me when working with someone new would be to hire a writer who I can easily communicate with and who has similar goals and aspirations. I did not want to repeat the same mistakes I had made when working with Niklas and felt it vital to my continued development and the ultimate success of my project. To achieve this, I thought the easiest way would be to open up a dialogue with each of the writers and ask them a series of questions. I would gauge their responses, see how well they took critique, how quickly they responded, and if they were able to stick to feedback and deadlines. Through this process I was able to narrow it down further to just two writers which I then booked Zoom calls with for a more personal and direct conversation. I wanted to get a sense of our compatibility, both personality and work wise.I wanted to share my vision and goals with them on a deeper level and also give them the opportunity to ask questions and share their goals and aspirations.
What I have learned from past mistakes when I work with others on projects that I am leading, is that I easily allow my ego to get in the way of collaboration. This is one of the biggest challenges that I outlined in my skills audit (Appendix 1), and in anticipation of this becoming a problem I spoke with my industry mentor as well as one of my acting mentors, who is also a life coach that I have worked with since 2018. The advice I was given was to listen with the intent to understand, motivate and provide space for creativity, while also being clear and upfront about my hopes and expectations from the collaboration. With this in mind I felt confident when chatting with both Endija and Rhys, the writers I had shortlisted.
The way I approached each call was to first provide some background information on myself, the MA program at Raindance, my goals and criteria that I wish to achieve with the film in the long term, and how I would like the work process to look. I then passed the word over to the other person and allowed them to discuss freely their thoughts, ideas, concerns and their preferred work process. Following these meetings I felt both passionate and confident in both writers and decided that I wished to test out each of them in an initial two week development option period to see how well we actually worked together. Each of them agreed and, to make sure everything was clear and that I did not repeat old mistakes, I went on to create a writer's agreement (Appendix 5).
Following the development period I decided to focus on working with Rhys on a film which I have titled “The Gig”.
With my writer in place and the story under way I continued on to hire my H.O.D’s following the guidelines in From Reel to Deal (2003). The first person I brought in was an Assistant Producer/Line Producer whom I could delegate practical tasks to, freeing up time for me to keep working on the big picture vision of the film. The person I chose was a producer on a MetFilm School project I acted in and which was one of the most professionally run student films I have ever worked on. Keefer is a dedicated and hard working individual with a drive to learn and who saw potential in my film idea and my experiences. I offered him the opportunity, asked him what his personal goals and ambitions were, and we formed his duties based on what he told me. He has since helped me to find our location which we will scout in June, set up meetings and will assist in the casting process which I plan to focus on in my next module.
After hiring Keefer as my AP, I hired my Director of Photography, Chantal Richardson. Chantal was the DP for my girlfriend's debut short film and I loved the shots that she created. Her style and work process was something that I felt would work really well with how I work and what I want to achieve visually. I pitched the idea of the film to her and asked her to create a mood board with her ideas for me (Appendix 8).
My girlfriend, Johanna, works professionally as an Assistant Director and is currently attending MetFilm Schools BA program, therefore she was a clear choice for my AD.
I have yet to hire a Production Designer. I have identified and interviewed several but have yet to hire someone. I have one person who I have spoken with that I feel would be perfect for the project, but she has recently been overwhelmed and burned out from another project and is not sure if she can handle it. I have however hired a Concept Artist who is creating artwork for my pitch deck and after this module will work with me and my DP on creating the storyboards.
Creating contracts is something that I learned when I entered the music industry professionally in 2012. However, it wasn’t until the incident with Niklas that I truly understood the gravitas of having solid agreements in place before any work takes place.
As part of my methodology, I attended the Raindance Producers Foundation course, with Tony Morris, an entertainment lawyer who held a class on the topic of contracts and rights. After that class I signed up for his Filmmaker's’ Legal Guide 5 week course and read his book with the same title. Tony mentioned that Raindance had some contract templates available in the members area and I thought that to be a good place to start. I used the writer’s agreement template from Raindance as my base document, making adjustments based on the discussions I had with my writer to make the contract fit our exact needs (Appendix 5).
Creating that first contract was the hardest part, as I first needed to make sure I understood each element of what was contained within the agreement. It was then just a matter of reading the contract carefully and adjusting the points to fit my needs, without changing the legal meaning of the phrasing or creating any inaccuracies. Once I had completed the Writer’s Agreement and double checked all of the elements on the checklist in The Filmmaker's Legal Guide (2019) - (Appendix 4) I sent it to my manager as well as my Entertainment Law professor from my Music Business Degree to request industry feedback, before sending it to my writer to read, discuss and sign.
Creating the contracts for the rest of my team then became slightly easier as I had already gone through the process once. I started with a template, adjusted it to my needs and had it checked before sending it to be signed. The most challenging agreements to create were for my Assistant Producer (Appendix 7) as it meant clarifying that he did not have the same rights as a producer as I do, and also the agreement for my Concept Artist (Appendix 9) as I needed to clarify exactly how I could use her artwork in marketing purposes and because I wished for the rights to revert back to her after the films festival run so she can potentially sell her art and make some money in the future. The easiest agreements were the DP and AD agreements as they were standard work-for-hire agreements stating their roles and responsibilities.
One of the main reasons I decided on proceeding with Rhys as my writer was that he also has a background in music. One of the ideas he originally pitched to me was about a band backstage before the biggest show of their lives, and right before they are called to go on stage they have a conflict. During my years as a touring musician, I have been faced with this reality many times.
During our first meeting, Rhys and I discussed our experiences playing in bands and shared stories and anecdotes. Based on our conversation he created a treatment which became our base for development. I decided early on in the process that it would be a fun idea if we made it about my band, Our Untold Story. That way I would have the possibility to use our music as the film soundtrack and tap into our existing fanbase when it comes to marketing and crowdfunding. This also made it easier to map out my character’s arch as we used me and a handful of my personal experiences and pieced them together to create a plot containing these moments in a confined space of time.
As this was the first time I was working with a writer in a way where I owned all of the rights to the material, I wanted to put in place some working guidelines. Because we are creating a short film it made sense to use Linda Cowgill’s book Writing Short Films 2nd edition (2005). At the end of each chapter she provides exercises which I assigned to Rhys. I decided I wanted to focus on the characters, so I asked Rhys to create character bios and diary entries from each character's perspective during the days leading up to the event and the day after the concert. I believed that this would help us to find each character's individual voice.
Implementing Cowgill’s exercises, at the start of each week I would assign Rhys a new exercise which he would send to me on Wednesday. I would then send him my notes and we would have a quick chat before he went off and wrote a draft. He would send me the draft on Saturday evening, allowing me Sunday to read and digest it before our new meeting again on Monday morning. We both found this process creative, collaborative and incredibly enjoyable.
As we began to carve out the structure of the film I was able to see it more clearly in my mind's-eye, eventually leading to the idea of shooting it in the style of a Oneshot, similar to Birdman (2014).
We are now on draft 7 of the screenplay (Appendix 6) and I feel very confident and passionate about this film. It is a 15 page script that will take place during the final 15 minutes before a band is about to go on stage. Each member has a different opinion on the band’s future, leading to a conflict backstage.
My writer and I tested drafts by submitting to the RD Writer’s Cluster and to friends for feedback. We also discussed structure and influences across the team to find our style. This approach led to the merging of Birdman and Whiplash. Feedback was also provided by my academic advisor and industry mentor who gave suggestions on the format and further development of characters and the stakes which we will begin to implement in the next module as we begin the casting and rehearsal process.
Learning and Reflection
At the start of this module I felt extremely pressured by the position I was in following the previous module and was overwhelmed with the prospect of having to start the process of seeking out a new writer and begin a new project yet again. In hindsight, I realise now that I spent far too long grasping at the hope of making my collaboration with Niklas work rather than cutting my losses and focusing my time and energy on a new project that fit my criteria.By doing so, I was constantly compromising myself and my personal vision to fit into the situation at hand. I believe that I allowed this to happen partly due to my mindset of seeing things through and also in part due to me wanting to prove that I could let go of my ego and work around someone else’s process and way of working. What I have now come to understand is that there must be a balance between the two, where I both allow myself to work with others without letting my ego take over and also trust in my vision and not lose myself along the way. By clearly identifying my Why and defining my personal goals and the vision of what I aim to achieve with this and any future projects, I now feel confident that I can maintain this balance and will attract more like minded people to my projects. This has already been substantiated when looking at the people I am currently working with on “The Gig”.
Through the process of seeking out and hiring my team, I have found that my vision has grown clearer as I practice communicating it to each person. Simultaneously, my understanding has grown based on feedback and input from those people. By being clear of my intent and in my communication of that intent from the start, I have managed to filter out people with differing goals and been able to attract people that I have fun creating with. The stress and pressure I felt previously is no longer present. The use of contracts that clearly define our working relationships, and the obligations and expectations from each side, have also been a large contributor to the relief of the stress I was carrying. I believe that this is because I now know that, if we were to ever have any disputes or discussions, we can always refer back to the agreements. Should any issues occur, I am protected and will maintain the rights to my story and project.This means I will not need to start over again from scratch, but can instead simply hire a replacement and continue from where I left off.
I have yet to get into a full state of pre-production yet and have therefore not been able to practice delegation in that capacity yet.However, through the process of setting writing exercises with deadlines and feedback to Rhys, I have had the chance to test out task delegation, and as such am learning how delegation might work as the project progresses. I have also managed to have a similar process with my Concept Artist, Emma, who I hired to do the artwork for my pitch package. My biggest learning curve was understanding how to deal with other people's stress, without it adding to my stress. I found that by remaining calm and listening to their worries, taking a breathe and thinking for a moment before reacting, I was able to understand, reflect and provide solutions and compromises.This approach prevented me becoming more overwhelmed, shouting or punishing the other person, ultimately causing them more stress and pushing them to potentially leave the project, as had happened in early projects when I was younger.
Time management has been a huge factor for me throughout my entire life and especially during this MA. I work part-time nights, run my own business, do acting work and have music projects with my band alongside my studies and this film project. One of the biggest challenges I faced during this module was when the lockdown started easing up and I was receiving more acting work again. In March, I had a two week period where in one of the weeks I was working 12hour night shifts and leaving work to go and film for a tv show. As a result, I ended up being awake from Sunday to Wednesday. After that period I broke down completely, which I now see as a blessing as it caused me to properly reflect and rethink my focus. I caught myself having the thought of wishing I was done with my MA. This made me realise I had to stop and remind myself that I have chosen this as it is my passion and the thing I want to spend my time on. Once it's over I will never have this time back again.
What I did next was to ask myself why am I feeling this way? The reasons - of course - were stress, lack of sleep and lack of time. After much back and forth I decided to contact my agent and manager and tell them I would be taking a break from acting for one year while I focus on completing my Masters degree. I explained that I believed producing this film with myself in the leading role would ultimately be more beneficial to my career in the long term, than all of the auditioning and potential walk on and supporting roles I am currently booking. The second thing I did was to speak to my manager at my part-time job and discuss quitting. I looked over my finances and although I would prefer not to eat into my savings. I believe that my Masters is a better investment in myself than the money I save by working a night job. To compromise I have started working half the hours in my contract to see if that works for me. If it doesn’t, I plan to leave fully over the summer before my final module so that I can give that my full attention.
Learning Outcome 2 - Creating The Pitch Package
How can I best combine the creative vision of the writer, director and myself into a unified pitch package?
Research and Methodology
Pitch Package tutorial with Louise Salter and Julia Verdin (Appendix 12)
Look at other pitch packages that have been successfully funded, what do they have in common? How do they differ from one another? What is it about them that I like/dislike? Why? How can I apply that to my own pitch package?
Core literary texts: Success in Film by Julia Verdin, Lo-to-No budget filmmaking, a guide to producing by Elliot Grove and From Reel to Deal By Dov S. Simons. What can I learn from these books? What similarities do they have? Do they agree or disagree on any points?
Attend the Raindance Producers, Directors, Screenwriters and Filmmakers Foundation Certificates, Filmmaker's Legal Guide, Filmmaker Intensives: The Hows and Whys of the Pitch Deck, script coach series and Pitching workshop(s). What can I learn from these classes? How can I apply the lessons learned?
Reach out to tutors, other filmmakers and film commissioners at the BFI for tips, advice and guidance.
Work with my writer, director and DP on creating the visual language of the film.
Discuss the vision with my Concept Artist and have them create Artwork and Storyboards.
Create my pitch package using the guidelines given during the Pitch Package Tutorial and apply the lessons learned from my research, as well as the visuals and texts created together with my team. (Appendix 13)
Send my pitch package to industry professionals and everyday film viewers for feedback. What stands out? What do you like/dislike with the package? Does the package answer all of your questions about the project? If not, what else would you like it to contain?
Reflect on and apply the feedback where appropriate.
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application
The first step that I took in regards to my pitch package was to have tutorials with Louise Salter and Julia Verdin (Appendix 12) and read Louise’s research paper that she wrote during her MA on the subject. I also read Julia’s book Success in Film. Both Louise and Julia also provided me with the pitch packages for their films (How to be Human (2017) and Lost Girls (2016) respectively), to review and compare.These gave me an understanding of what a pitch deck should contain and how they can be beneficial to communicating my vision to potential cast, crew and investors.
I decided to create a one page pitch for “The Gig” using the SEAM method, as I had in NM1 for “Contrasts”. This became the first two pages of my pitch deck. Next I assigned an exercise to Rhys to write small character bios as well as his writer’s bio and statement. I placed these texts in the correct place in my pitch document and proceeded through the list of gathering the text materials from my AD and DP, as well as my DP’s moodboard.
Both Louise and Julia agreed that strong visuals are essential to a good pitch and I wanted to create something unique with mine, so I hired a Concept Artist (Appendix 9) to create artwork for the deck. My idea was to have an image for each dramatic highpoint within each scene, to use on every page and show the story through imagery. Emma Vukman and I discussed my vision and the story in detail and created a timeline where she would create two pieces of art per week for five weeks, giving me ten pieces of unique art to work with. The first two weeks resulted in no artwork as Emma was trying to find her style and knowing that she was missing her deadlines began to cause her anxiety. We had another long talk and I told her that a simple sketch would suffice and that it was more important for me to have something to work with, rather than wait for perfection at this stage. I also pointed out that we could potentially continue working on the artwork after I get feedback on this report. Following this conversation, we finally settled on a style and Emma got to work creating the backstage area where the main action and climax of the film take part.
Emma Vukman (2021) The Gig First Look Style Concept Art
The next step was character design and staging each scene. As Emma was working on the characters she was given the details of an assignment at her university course and realised that it was going to take up more of her time than she had anticipated. She called me up and was very upset as she felt dedicated to me and my project and did not want to disappoint me or go against our agreement. I was able to calm her down and we went over what was required for her uni project and what the timeline for that would be. She told me she would be 100% free during her summer vacation which starts in June and, as I have to hand in this report in May, we decided to focus on creating just one piece of artwork that would capture the essence of the film in one image. I selected the film's climax where the three band members have been told by the stage manager that my character has decided to play alone, causing the conflict to break out. I feel that this is the most powerful scene in the script and shows all of the characters and the main location at the same time.
Emma began by roughly sketching the new scene for my approval. After that we went step by step in staging the scene, placing props and characters. As I am not a sketch artist myself, I was unsure as to what constitutes easy adjustments and what would be more complicated changes. So I just voiced my thoughts and ideas out loud, while giving Emma full autonomy to interpret and create freely. The process was mesmerizing to follow as she rather quickly over two days went from a rough sketch to the final concept artwork for the scene.
Emma Vukman (2021) The Gig Concept Art Journey
In order to communicate what I had in mind visually before I had started working with Emma, I was collecting reference images using Pinterest and ShotDeck. So, when I found out I wouldn’t get as many concept art images as planned I began to use my favourite images from my deck in their place (https://shotdeck.com/browse/stills#/deck/192807).
Learning and Reflection
When it comes to my pitch package, my biggest lesson is that it takes time and in future I would not start until I had my story developed more and my key team members in place. Because of the struggles I had with those points and the fact that my team are also primarily students with deadlines of their own, I struggled to get all of the materials I needed and wanted in time to create the deck exactly as I saw in my head.
The process was creative and fun, but I wish I had been able to spend more time focusing on it and I will probably continue to work on it after this module ends and am able to implement more of the feedback (Appendix 14) before I send it to potential investors.
I will also add more information about my team and their previous accomplishments as well as a budget topsheet for the film after a full team production meeting when they start their summer holidays in June.
Regaining control of my project has given me both the confidence and clarity needed to move forwards. I feel that I now have the foundation of what will become a strong developmental process. I hope to continue to perfect that process throughout the rest of this project so I can use it on all of my future projects, both as a producer of film, and also in other projects with my band, coaching clients and even other areas of my life.
Being able to take a step back and review my options, before just steaming ahead, gave me the space I needed to find my footing and regain the joy and passion in my work again. The past few months have been really tough and stressful, but I now feel as though I am back on track towards my goals.
The next steps that I plan to take include bringing all of my team members together for a first production meeting where I plan to discuss my vision more deeply and begin the process of creating budgets for each department. I also plan to go and scout my chosen location for the film which is The Clapham Grand in central London. I want to see if we can film all of the scenes there, or if we need to set up some studio shots and map them together.I also need to negotiate prices and plan the shooting schedule.
The casting process will also need to be started during my next module, along with work on acting techniques and rehearsals while my team prepares for production. I hope to be able to begin production during my final Masters module in September.
If all goes to plan, I will launch a pre-campaign for crowdfunding in the early summer and then have a 30 day campaign running up to the shoot.
I was originally looking into funding during this module, but realised it was too big of a topic to cover as well as everything else. However, the research I did on the subject has led me to apply for a few grants including the London Arts Council and the BFI Short Film Fund. The research also gave me several ideas for how I can run a (hopefully) successful crowdfunding campaign to raise the projected £15,000 needed to make the film as envisioned.
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Grove, Elliot (2013) Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking, Focal Press
Morris, Tony (2019) The Filmmaker's’ Legal Guide: Second Edition, Brown Dog Books
Simens, Dov S-S (2003) From Reel To Deal, Warner Books
Sinek, Simon (2009) Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Penguin
Verdin, Julia & Dean, Matt (2015) Success in Film: A guide to funding, filming and finishing independent films, Matthew William Dean
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bfi.org.uk. 2021. BFI Network Short Film Funding Guide. [online] Available at: https://www2.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org.uk/files/downloads/bfi-network-short-film-funding-guidelines-2019-09.pdf
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Sadler, N., 2018. What is a Pitch Deck and Why Should You Create One?.
[online] Script Magazine. Available at: https://scriptmag.com/features/what-is-a-pitch-deck-and-why-should-you-create-one
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[online] Script Magazine. Available at:https://scriptmag.com/features/guerrilla-screenwriting-the-importance-of-a-pitch-deck
Shotdeck “The Gig” Reference Deck 2021 by Xander Turian - https://shotdeck.com/browse/stills#/deck/192807
Centofanti, Bruno (2017) How to Be Human, Louise Salter
Chazelle, Damien (2013) Whiplash [Short POC], Right of Way Films & Blumhouse Productions
Cleary, Ben (2015) Stutterer, Serina Armitage
Verdin, Julia (2106) Lost Girls, Julia Verdin
Chazelle, Damien (2014) Whiplash, Bold Films & Blumhouse Productions
Iñárritu, Alejandro G. (2015) Birdman, Regency Enterprises
The Lockdown Sessions: Unlocking the Potential of Your Screenplay. 2021. [video] R. Harvey. Raindance