29 November 2010

thinning out a DIY to-do list

The versatility aspect of typical Gemini traits means that people born under this sign are usually adept at multi-tasking. They thrive on juggling numerous priorities and projects, and they really aren't happy unless they're working on several things simultaneously. --Gemini Traits
Well that explains it.

One thing about being a DIY filmmaker, working minus a budget, is that more often than not, you start out by doing everything. Or, as I put it: writer/director/producer/editor/craft services. It's an essential starting point, often born out of necessity. But, as you progress, you start to learn to let go, which can be harder than it sounds. When you're used to controlling every aspect of a production, putting something like the cinematography in someone else's hands can be frightening. Of course, it's also liberating. It allows you to focus your efforts elsewhere and, let's face it, the cinematographer you bring on is probably better at it than you are.

Still, these steps take time, and when you're a Gemini DIY filmmaker, your to-do list gets long. Here's mine, for December:
  • Blanc de Blanc
    • Get DVDs authored
      • compile extras (interactive script?)
    • Make payments on website easier
    • Figure out where to put film online for easy streaming/rental/download
    • Work with Ryan Davis to tweak the DVD artwork
    • Order, etc.
    • Finish the Tripline writeup
  • Year Without Rent
    • Finish setting up the Kickstarter stuff (pitch video)
    • Figure out web home for project
      • Web layout. What can/should the webpage do? How to do that?
    • Work w/ Nina to get sponsorship stuff under way
    • Partners?
    • Projects?
    • Work with Heather on logistics
  • Up Country
    • finish the novella
    • finish teaser
    • start figuring out the music
    • finish the Assembly Edit
    • Set up the webpage

That's not everything, of course. That's just the big stuff.

What I need to do is at the top of the list make the item "Figure out what below I have to do and what I can outsource". There's just too much on that list for me to handle. I don't say this to brag. I get the impression that every other DIY filmmaker out there has a similar list. It's the nature of the beast. But I think maybe we'd all be better served by looking around and seeing what on the list we maybe aren't so good at. Me, I'm passable with web stuff, but there's scores of people who are much, much better than I am. Is it worth it to outsource that stuff? Absolutely. But that involves letting go of some of the control, and that's scary.

But, it's also essential.

27 November 2010

BLANC DE BLANC on Tripline

If you've been paying attention, you'll notice there's been an uptick in activity around my first feature, Blanc de Blanc. Part of this is just the natural cycle of things, but a big reason is that we've (finally) got the audio commentary done, which was the big hurdle in getting the DVDs made and out the door. It involved getting several people in the same room, all of whom are currently based in different cities. We're hoping, fingers crossed, to have the DVD done by the end of the year.

But, also we got a nice bit of news when Pittsburgh/LA producer Jess Pollack of Bridge City Films was nice enough to tweet that Blanc was the "best pic of 2010". We think maybe she was drunk, but we'll take it.

Also, we're working on this still, but take a minute and check it out. The great folks at Tripline have made this super cool map tool, which we're using to give audiences an opportunity to explore the world of our film. Plus, now you can see where those cool locations actually are.

The benefits for filmmakers are, well, obvious.

Hint: you might want to make it bigger

26 November 2010

UP COUNTRY: Getting dirty

Remember when we were posting videos from the set? No? Well we were, and they were awesome.

Up next, we're shooting the final scenes so Kieran needs to look as if he's been in the woods for days and days. Except, this is Day 2, so some mud is needed. I've already managed to get a pair of shoes wet, and so I'm wearing flip flops (I'll end up wearing them a lot, it turns out).

I'm not sure why I'm not wearing my glasses.

16 November 2010


View Larger Map

Here's what I'm trying to do:

1. A dynamic map with photos, also videos, geo tagged
2. ditto, but with the date the photo was taken
3. I'd like to be able to filter by dates, see how the photos move through time and whatnot

I'd also like this to be somewhat, um, easy. I'd rather not spend 5 hours a day adding metadata and tags to every photo 15 times. Because, you know, I have better things to do.

14 November 2010


One service we're probably going to use for A Year Without Rent is Shuttercal, a new photography site out of California that, well, I'll let their webpage do the talking:
The image and subject matter are up to you, but the idea is clear — documenting one daily image will leave you with an impressive visual history of your life. As time passes, you will have an interesting window into the happenings of every single day. You will remember people you have met, and places you have been.
The application for artists trying to grow an audience seems like it has a lot of potential.

Anyway, it's pretty cool. Check it out. Below is a widget that will show my most recent photo.

09 November 2010

A Year Without Rent

This summer, I shot a feature film in the northern wilds of Maine. It was the middle of nowhere (literally...the town doesn't have a name), so the biggest single expense/obstacle was getting people there. As you might guess, there's not a whole lot of filmmakers who live in the middle of nowhere. The people with super-flexible schedules suddenly became ridiculously valuable, even more so if they could get themselves within shouting distance of location.

At the same time, there were other filmmaker friends of mine around the country working on various projects, and trying to do much of the same thing, either working with what they had in that location or trying to find the budget to bring people in. I suspect this happens quite a bit.

With the film now wrapped and the editing underway, I've started considering my next move, both professionally and personally. I've been in Maine for a couple of months and, well, it's time to move on. There's a list of places I could move, but it's a daunting one. Who's to tell what city is a better fit for me? Where do I want to spend the next year of my life? For a while now, the location field in my social media status has been blank. What do I want to put there?

Then one day, it hit me: I don't want to live anywhere. I want to live everywhere. I don't want where I work to be defined by where I live. I've tried that. It failed.

So here's my proposal: a transmedia project titled A Year Without Rent in which yours truly will spend a year living completely mobile, traveling around the country working on indie film projects. I'll explore the idea of mobility in a creative professional. Just how mobile does our digital lifestyle make us? Does it even matter where we live anymore? Can a creative professional thrive outside of NYC and LA?

The plan at the moment is to turn the year into a multimedia ebook, which would contain:

+ video: a daily video diary and/or web series documenting the day to day. In addition, more "cinematic" vignettes, which would be less frequent (obviously).

+ photos. The plan is to have a big map of the country on the webpage with photos geo-tagged. A view of where we've been, if you will.

+ words: blog posts. stories. articles. The plan is to do one a week.

Really the goal of all of this is to shine a light on the filmmakers and projects I work on along the way. It's more interesting to see who I'm talking to and helping. I want to go to Brainerd to work with Phil Holbrook, to Boise to work with Gregory Bayne, to NYC to work with Gary King, to Austin (or wherever) to work with David Lowery.

I'll use Google Latitude and foursquare and Facebook Places to be "on the map". I'll hit film festivals and stuff like DIY Days and the Annapolis Pretentious Film Society. I'll bring you with me to Philadelphia to sound mix Up Country. It'll be tons of fun.

What do we need?

+ Obviously, this project hinges on the film community getting involved in a pretty simple (and extensive) way. Are you working on a film project that could use an extra set of hands and some extra publicity? Of course you are. Email us (ayearwithoutrent [at] gmail [dot] com). Introduce yourself. What are you shooting? Where are you shooting? When? Pitch us on your project. We probably won't be able to go everywhere, based simply on logistics. But no project is too far away, provided we know far enough in advance.

+ Similarly, if you're a festival, we'll go there too. Just let us know. We want to get a full range of the indie film experience, so festivals are always helpful. Again, that email address: ayearwithoutrent [at] gmail [dot] com

+ Hospitality. Kind of a no-brainer. If you've got a spare couch I can crash on, that'd be great. Hot meals are awesome. Etc.

+ Backers. we're putting together a pretty good list of perks for backers. The big question at the moment is whether we use a site like Kickstarter or just host it ourselves. My guess is the former. Some of the rewards are one of a kind items that you won't be able to get elsewhere. And, contrary to popular opinion, it isn't about the funding. It's about the crowd. The funding is secondary.

+ Sponsors. We need to raise money to stay on the road. You may have noticed, but gas isn't cheap these days. Advertising and sponsorship is available, both on the website and the vehicle. You can also sponsor one of the daily video blogs and/or have me wear your company's tshirt. We can tweak your involvement to our location. Say you're a coffee shop in Pittsburgh. We can give you a range of dates that we'll be in the greater Pittsburgh area, and tailor a sponsorship that'll give you the best value for your money. Again, that email address: ayearwithoutrent [at] gmail [dot] com

+ Pay attention. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Are we near you? Come say hi. We have a special treat for people who find us in real life that we'll unveil in the near future.

+ Resources. We can use all sorts of travel stuff. Does someone have a GPS they aren't using anymore? A MiFi? A case of Red Bull? A Starbucks card with $3 left on it? Small travel stuff like that can add up. We have some large scale needs, as well. A larger vehicle being chief among them (for the extra room and/or reliability). It's hard to sleep in a mid-sized.

+ Music. Indie bands, put your music in our videos. Easy, fun, and FREE!

+ Media. Help us get the word out. Print. TV. Radio. Web. Whatever. Email us: ayearwithoutrent [at] gmail [dot] com

So that's the idea. What do we think?

03 November 2010


America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?


America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?

-- Allen Ginsberg

02 November 2010

Is the well dry?

Over at Microfilmmaker Magazine, Mike Flanagan has an overview of his recent, very successful Kickstarter campaign.

As you can see, he went way over his goal (congrats!) and has some good advice on how to get there. You should read the article, especially if you're thinking of starting your first campaign.

There is one thing I want to talk about, though. Near the end, Mike has this to say:
A few people got in touch for advice based on our campaign, which they viewed as very successful. Someone else wondered if we would put up another project, and the answer was a definitive "no." The thing about these campaigns, because they target your social network, is that you really only get one shot at them. Choose your project wisely, because once that pool is exhausted, that's that. People will resent you coming to them again for money. Choose your project and timing as carefully as possible, because there's really only one bullet in the crowd-funding chamber, and once you pull that trigger you don't get another shot.

As we moved into post-production, a producer (who had joined the project after the days of the Five Drive) suggested putting it up on Indie Go-Go to try to raise finishing funds. The core group of us were unanimously against this idea, as we'd already exhausted our social networks and felt that attempting to double dip in this way was not only rude, it was doomed.

He couldn't be dissuaded, and we allowed him to post the project with the understanding that not one of the people involved in The Five Drive would ever use their social networks to support it. He put $125 of his own dollars into the Indie Go-Go project to get the ball moving. As I write this, months later, $125 is all the project ever received, proving my feelings that it isn't the website themselves that attract funding, but how you engage your own social network. We did not engage it one bit for Indie Go-Go, and we did not raise one single dollar.
Couple of things. Obviously, you don't want to go right back to the same people with the same pitch, looking for more money. It basically just sounds like you didn't do your homework the first time around. But, is there only one bullet in the crowdfunding gun?

I don't think so. Granted, you don't want to bleed it dry, but Gregory Bayne has found success going back to Kickstarter for his Person of Interest campaign, and I imagine there will be others.

I think where I disagree with Mike is in focus. He talks of the campaign as one that targets an existing social network, as opposed to expanding your social network. There's no finite amount of fans. You just have to find different ways to reach them.

Over the last couple of weeks I've spoken to a number of the Up Country backers about their experience with the process thus far, trying to gauge exactly whether or not the well was now dry. Without exception they've said that they would be more willing to back the next project, since they now see how it all works (a.k.a. there's none of the previous "what the hell is this?" trepidation), provided the focus was different (or the project was different). Now granted, these are people who I know personally and I'd consider them all pretty good friends, but I think the insight is valid.

You can probably go back again, provided you've spent your time building more bridges and not burning your existing ones down.

It'd be interesting to get more range, though. If you've given once, is that it? What would bring you back for another go-round?