May 192015
 
Alan Donohoe & Jamie Williamson

Alan Donohoe & Jamie Williamson

I first met Alan 3 years ago at a fundraiser night for his Star Wars-spinoff feature film   –    I Have a Bad Feeling About This’. Alan and his team (Haphazard Productions) where just about to launch a crowdfunding campaign online to acquire their films budget.

$16K was the overall budget raised from the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo:

ALAN: It looked good until we converted it to pounds (£10K). That was bad for us, it looked like it was a lot more in dollars. We done three campaigns in total. Our first one failed we only raised $7K, we knew it would be a waste of people’s money if we only got £5K, I didn’t want to make a short I wanted to make a feature. So we made it a deadline campaign.

Online Crowdfunding sites have the option for you to have a deadline campaign- and only get hold of the raised money if you make it to your total desired budget.

ALAN: The great thing was that during our second campaign Indiegogo raised the deadline days – they extended the deadline possible from 30 days to 60 days. Everyone who donated for the first campaign, donated for the second one too.

On the films promotion to raise the funding:

AlAN: We did an event night in a local bar – at Mello Mello ‘rest in peace’ then we did a lot of online promotion also The Echo , Northwest tonight, radio Merseyside (local news and TV shows) they were the three that really helped us, and we went to bloggers – Nerdist podcaster – Mindy Holahan. Off the back her – she tweeted us and Mindy put us in touch with many twitter users.

A friend of ours militant about twittering every single day – she got Mark Hamill to tweet about us and Mark Miller (writer of Kick Ass) and also we got a tweet from Russell Crowe it says ‘Good Luck Guys!’ – he WAS the real Russell Crowe too – he had the little tick next to his name and everything.

I’ve always liked Russell Crowe so I was made up!

The Star Wars thing behind us helped us with the impact too. In fact we probably would have had a better job of it now, because at the time they weren’t going to make anymore Star Wars movies, so we were a year out with that.

The Campaign was 3 years ago. What I think happened was we got in just in the nick of time. Kickstarter was not available in the UK at the time. I did a talk with a guy closer to the time and this guy was talking about how it was the future – user generated content which at the time I think he was right. But now you have people like the Veronica Mars franchise.

Think of it like a trampoline and all of these big fat heavy weights get on the trampoline and eventually the bounce goes out and it’s just the same as if  you were pitching scripts to the big studios again.

Of course it still more accessible, we wouldn’t have stood a chance to make our film otherwise.

The idea behind the movie:

ALAN: The story of the film basically is this – I made it as a student film, when I was 20 and its me and my friends, I am acting in it, its 7-8mins long, it’s a film with so many plot points, its like a condensed feature. I made that and I got a good response from it, it was a cool little idea even if the execution of it was not great. I left uni, I got some jobs and then I hit rock bottom.

I did all of these runner jobs, I really liked them but knew it was not for me.

So I had these crappy runner jobs, and I was out of work, on the dole, and so was my friend Jamie and so we wrote scripts together and I was watching Clerks one night and im thinking Kevin Smith then it clicked, technically its not that good a movie but it works. lots of movies inspired me and weirdly ET made me call Jamie at 2am in the morning and say ‘we should do this ‘ tears down my face and everything (id just finished ET) ‘We should just make a movie!’

We would go to each others houses twice a week and write the script. We made a trailer of the film and saved up £300 ourselves to make it.

We had a series of videos leading up the campaign online and I think if anyone wants to campaign that’s the key – people aren’t going to read pages of info – they want to know what they are backing straight away so our cool little trailer was it. I think the trailer was a lot of it, and backing from friends and family, we got lots of donations from being promoted on Northwest tonight (local news).

In 2011 we started writing the script and in 2012 we shot it.

On making the film:

ALAN:It was a month of principle photography and 2 weeks the following year of pick ups.

I let everyone know what we were in for, we simply couldn’t raise any more money than this. Most of the crew where friends and people I went to college with. Everyone was covered for expenses, nobody went out of pocket.

We struggled with the post production most of all- we had a catastrophe with the sound edit, we knew it would be bad because of the guerrilla style locations, we knew there would be some a degree of ADR. However somewhere during logging from camera to sound we lost 4 days worth of audio at various points within the film. We had two issues that put us behind 2 years – the edit and the ADR.

Bare in mind it cost us a lot of money to get our cast and ADR team together to pay for them to come over – we done the ADR in my loft. So when it rained we had to stop recording.

And then there was a moment when I thought ‘I don’t know how I’m going to finish this film’  and I put an ad up on Mandy.com looking for a sound designer and we found a guy John, he done it all for us, the entire mix of the film and he has been the white knight of the movie and he came in for me at the lowest point of the movie and he saved the day.

On crowdfunding online:

ALAN: I think it’s harder to do it now. I personally would not do it again, I want to use this project to show what we made in movie terms for 10 pence. I’m writing a script at the moment, I’m starting to get the will power back  -getting myself ready to do it all over again.

On writing a screenplay:

ALAN: I’m the type of person – even though we done 12 drafts – I thought hey it’s done now by the first. But luckily I had a co-writer Jamie and he was like – what if we done it this way and that way – and that was great to have. I’m too rigid and he’s too loose, together make a good balanced writing team.

A script editor is  a great idea, someone who is not that close to the script to come and rip it shreds for a bit  and bruise the old ego. Which is something you need to write with.

I stop thinking as a director when I’m writing. Every now and then I put my producer head on and I would go – ‘No we can’t afford that’ ‘we can’t put that in its too controversial’ – we’ve taken out some drug references in the final film. And it is a mature film, there is  swearing but the storyline itself is quite child friendly.

On what’s next for the film:

ALAN: It’s not for profit, it was never to make money – it’s a calling card not just for me but for everyone who worked on it.

There is definitely a plan for me and Laura our producer to go to festivals – I had a crazy idea to put it out for free on YouTube but everyone said I’m crazy, that’s crazy, – I’m thinking for after the festivals though. My plan was to use it as a showcase. I think we need to go viral, and find an audience online because its pulp, I wanted to make a big silly film. I definitely will make another film.

And I definitely want to be in it, I grew up watching Woody Allen, he’s an idol to me and he’s in his films and he writes them too. I look at him and go well- I might end up directing, writing, producing and acting in my next film all over again, – I haven’t learnt my lesson have I!

Yes we made it for only £10K and I say it  looks more like £50K and part of that’s down to the technology now, the camera we shot on (Canon C300), and we got the lights luckily from our old university. I think I would like a bigger budget next time, I can make a film for 50K with ease but 100K is better you can pay everyone – then it would be a proper job wouldn’t it.

For anyone who wants to go out and do it – I would say just go out and do it – it’s stressful but just make it about a guy in a room  –  its all about dialogue, dialogue is free, write good dialogue…

Alan and his team are currently putting their film out into film festivals. Keep in touch with their project via their FB page & TW. The first trailer for their film can watched here  -

 May 19, 2015  No Responses »
May 122015
 

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One thing I have learnt from working in the film industry –

Everyone wants to be a film director.

Those actors, runners, that guy over there holding a prop – they all have at one point dreamt of being the big guy, the captain of the ship, the driving force behind every production, the director. I’ve made the mistake of telling people before on set that I want to be a director  – you will send a crowd silent if you say that (I mentioned my big ambitions to a group of friends during set lunch – a producer, a grip, a camera assistant – they all went silent when I told them my dreams, bit their lips – maybe they were embarrassed for me, maybe it’s just something you don’t talk about whilst working in the business?).

Oky, so you’ve made a few short films, maybe you are planning to make a feature film, perhaps you’ve already made one, you exist as a  beginner director. You even have a twitter page saying just that – your name/film director –and below a link to your personal site. It’s great you’ve made the first step towards your dreams but there is a problem – there are thousands of people like you out there at this level and you want to be the best. Just how do you stand out. Here are some ideas:

The Right Platform

I have had my own films screen at film festivals before.  However they were not big film festivals –  they are not the likes of Raindance, SXSW, Canne or Berlin. Saying you won millions of awards at an unknown film festival is worthless compared to the guy with a single screening at Canne. I have observed an unknown director suddenly gaining tons of exposure and flocks of new followers online because they have had their debut feature film show at the Raindance film festival. Getting taken in by a well known festival is a good step to take.

Acting Serious

How do you get a named actor to be within your film or why would a famous actor want to work with you? They must be getting something out of it for themselves. It must be a great film script, it must provide them with something that they want. Perhaps the chance to try something new (such as an action stereotyped actor trying drama for the first time ), story is everything over money. I truly believe that a great film script counts an awful lot. Get the story right and you can’t go wrong.

Show Business

Making a feature film is important. I believe it puts you a step ahead by showing how serious you are. Most directors are afraid of  failing with their debut feature films. There are huge awards out there celebrating directors debuts (BAFTAs – Outstanding debut by a British director award for instance) however MOST directors don’t have successful debuts. Werner Herzog  had nobody show up to the festival screening of his first feature film. Park Chan Wook also made several features before his success.

Devotion

I think you have to observe and criticize yourself. I think with many amateur directors we keep going in the same direction and hoping for different results. You are past the first step of trying and now is the time for some serious improvement. How about making sure your next short film is good enough to be nominated at a known film festival. Try working with professional actors and crew, get a little funding together, spend the time quality over quantity.

This is food for thought. I don’t know what is guaranteed to work but you can tell through observing those who have been successful before that you just have keep going. At 24yrs old Sylvester Stallone was homeless, he had several small roles in unknown films, then at 29 he wrote Rocky  (he knew it was good) and so he clung to that script refusing to let it go even for $300K until he was allowed to play the lead.

Keep going and you will break past the wall that separates the dreamers and the professionals. Perhaps not think of it as a wall but more of a gradual step, I think overnight success is far too unlikely to hope for. For myself my next step would be to make a good short film that reflects my style and have it nominated in a well known UK festival such as Raindance, Edinburgh, London, Encounters.

What would your next steps  be -

 May 12, 2015  No Responses »
May 052015
 

amy on Film sets

After 8 years of working and educating myself on filmmaking I decided that I didn’t want to work on film sets anymore. –  More honestly I couldn’t bare to work on film sets anymore. My last set was 2 years ago and I left it on my first day after having an anxiety attack.

I have been talking about my filmmaking dreams since I was 15. Ever since I  stopped working on film sets I been bombarded with questions –  ‘When are going back to film?  Why are you not working on film sets anymore? Have you given up on your dreams?’

The truth has been difficult to put into words these past few years. I didn’t quite understand it myself, I thought film was something I wanted to do and then a switch went off in my head and I made an assertive decision that it was not for me.

Last week I was working on my supermarket till when I served a lad who went to my university. He also pursued film and I knew he had been on some well known TV sets last year as a runner. Then he told he had recently quit film and ‘Turned down Star Wars’ it is quite a statement to make but one I understand. You could ask me to work on the biggest film sets right now and as I stand I would say no. I would turn down Star Wars. It’s not worth it.  I will try to give my reasons:

First off being a freelancer is hard. I said in a previous post that I worked for a year as script supervisor and only made £10,000. Sometimes I would work months on end (75hr, 6 day weeks), sometimes I would have no work on for up to a month before I could find the next job. Finding work for yourself is hard, there is no guarantee you will find work. On my worst month I made £450 on my best £4000 but still I only made £10K that year. Take off all of the additional travel costs and gear I needed to buy and I just scraped through living that year.

Second off being a freelancer is hard. You have no idea when the next job will be and so you take any job you get. I was working with a professional sound team on one shoot who like me (regardless of their gear costing thousands) were working for less than minimum wage (£3.50 an hr). I met camera assistants living out of cars and runners working for free. At the end of one shoot I asked a runner if he enjoyed the experience and he replied ‘No, its not for me, I don’t ever want work on a film sets again”.

Third off bullshit and show-business. Me to producer ‘I’m only getting £40 a day?’ Producer to me ‘Yes but I promise you will be hired on the next shoot and get paid industry rates’ I was a sucker to fall for that one. More producer bullshit – lying to investors by saying that everyone was getting paid on their set, having crew get a 4hr. turnover for the next day (causing many people to drive exhausted back home at night), terrible food (so bad the director refuses to eat it and eats at a restaurant instead whilst the crew are left picking at cold sandwiches or having to take out money from their miserable wage of £3 an hr – on a set that has the funding for well known actors).

Fourth the job is boring. Yes working on film sets for 12hrs a day is boring. My first experiences of film sets was as a runner (where people really do treat you like the dirt off their shoes). Moving up the line to Script Supervisor did help, you are treated better when you have a set job to do. Continuity however is a tedious and lonely job. I might save the day a million times but lose all respect from everyone for making one mistake. Often directors do not know what a script supervisor does, which brings me to my anxiety attack on my final set when a director told me to join  the art department because he had no idea what my job was and wasn’t willing to learn. I wasn’t going to stay on that set after being tossed aside like that- so after an argument I left and I’ve never been back on a film set since.

Working days are too long. I could only find one hour at the end of each day to have to myself (it cuts into your sleep but as an introvert human I need some time alone every day). For me I hated working on films with bad scripts, there were a few good films I worked on but mostly the scripts were truly awful (and everyone knows it but you have to pretend the film is going to be good because producers and directors are deluded on what makes a good film).

I have not quit film but I have quit film sets. Or more honestly I have quit working for other people. I believe in a film industry where 8-10hr shooting days are the usual, where everyone is paid fairly depending on the budget, where the film industry strives towards making great work that will stand the test of time. Have patience the story should be the most important element  of a film- a bad script will produce a bad film regardless of how much CGI and named actors you throw at it.

Perhaps we all need to be aware of what is happening on film sets. I understand that by having a known actor in a film the film will sell better and be more likely to get noticed – but I am uncertain that your camera team should be sleeping in their cars because all of the funding has went on the actors wage and their hotel room. I like the phrase ‘If I’m getting paid, then your getting paid’. I disagree with unpaid internships – especially on films will budgets in the millions. A set run well, is a happy set and the story will get round that you are good to work with.

I have not given up working in film. I will work within film again in the future.

 May 5, 2015  5 Responses »