Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making your killer short film in a recession...

I’ve always meant to go to the Waterford Film Festival but something always seemed to crop up that weekend (4-6 November). This year, however, I had to go because my short script Tiger was one of 12 scripts shortlisted for the short script competition. With 500 euro as the prize!

Sadly, I didn’t win (although well done to Barry Grant, who did!). Waterford concentrated on shorts this year and had a really good programme of Irish and international short films.

Anyway, the whole experience gave me a real yen to see Tiger up on the big screen. It’s a snappy little thriller about a battle of wits during a tiger kidnapping between one of the kidnappers and one of the victims, a well-off bank manager’s wife.

So what I’ve been thinking about all this week is: what’s the best way to get it made? What’s the fastest and most efficient way to get your baby short from page to celluloid?

1. It all starts with the script. Right? You need a decent script that tells a compelling story in a short amount of time, preferably one that can be shot quickly and cheaply. For example, Tiger is ten pages long, but it all takes place in one location and has only five parts for actors (only three of which are speaking roles). It has no special effects and doesn’t need any fancy costumes or props.

2. Based on your script, calculate the man hours needed to prep and shoot it. I’m not an expert on this by any means, but I did co-produce a short for a friend last year. It was fifteen minutes long, involved a lot of camera moves, and took four (frenetic) days to shoot. Tiger, to give you an idea, would probably take two days to shoot. The only complicated bit would be a long tracking shot at the start. There are shorts out there that were shot in a day. Working all this out will help you form a budget.

3. The budget – are you planning to pay everyone, or is this going to be an experience-generating exercise for all concerned? If the answer is the latter, try and keep the shoot as brief as possible and make sure to at least feed them all well. What you will have to shell out for, unless you can borrow them, are cameras, lighting and sound equipment. Also, you’ll need insurance (Filmbase can do you a deal on this), and editing and post always eat up a chunk of money. I know NOTHING about editing and post, so I won’t even get into this except to say: if it’s as clear and uncomplicated a movie as possible and if you can shoot it efficiently and quickly, so much the better. In the case of Tiger, I would also need a fairly fancy house as my main location, so I’d have to rent or borrow this.

4. So you now have a fairly good idea of how much it will cost to make. Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to fund it.

There are three options: public funding (IFB, Filmbase etc), crowd-funding and self-funding. I’ll deal with them in turn: approaching the Film Board or Filmbase can yield a decent budget. Everyone will get paid AND fed. Yay! BUT – the process is competitive, you must have a producer and director on board, and if you’ve missed all the deadlines, it can mean a long wait until the next one.

5. Crowd-funding – Allegra Huston (daughter of John, sister of Angelica), recently funded a short movie through selling cakes, holding quizzes and raffles and asking for donations in person and online. When John Huston’s daughter is taking this step, you know crowd-funding has gone mainstream. But be prepared to produce a very decent-looking trailer (probably funded entirely by you), and to hear a lot of no’s on your way to success.

6. Funding your movie from script to post is the last option, and I really recommend exhausting every other step before doing this. The chances are that you will never see this money again. If you do take this step, raid the piggy bank and put down the bank loan application form. I know, Kevin Smith funded Clerks through credit cards. But APR can be cruel, and so is paying off five grand during a recession.

That’s my ten cents on getting started with making your short film. I’ll be taking a bold step tomorrow and posting Tiger on this site for illustration purposes only. Be kind!

If you have questions, criticism or comments, please post them here or on Twitter!

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