Archive for film

Dealing with Current Realities Or Am I Related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies, Non-profit filmmaking, reelheart with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Filmmaking has been a passion of mine for many years, supported financially by me through my corporate employment. When I was at the 2008 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) with my short film two julias, I received a phone call from my employer of 6 years letting me know they were laying off several people in my department and that I was one of them.  The ironic timing of the call did not go unnoticed since I had made my first film as part of an employee filmmaking contest there. They let me go while I was on vacation at the first film festival to show one of my films in competition.

RHIFF is a great filmmaker-friendly festival and definitely worth the submission fee – I have entered again for 2010. However my overall festival submission strategy has definitely changed since then. I tended to take a shotgun approach before.  I research the festivals more and take advantage of early bird submission rates where I can to save money. If you use withoutabox.com, use their search and watch list functions rather than waiting for their e-mail notifications. Most of the e-mail notifications are for the higher fee late or final deadlines. More money for WAB and the festival but not the best use of limited filmmaker bucks.

I took a leap of faith and used my severance to fund Greenspoke, a project that was already in pre-production before my layoff.   I do not regret making that decision – that project kept me sane through what I thought would be a couple of months seeking employment. Greenspoke has done well so far, showing in four festivals and getting a good review in The Seattle Weekly. Oddly my layoff from a high profile employer and continued filmmaking also led to a small piece in The Seattle Times as well. Unfortunately the article makes it sound like the layoff somehow helped my filmmaking career – that is not the case. That story came up in a job interview I had shortly after the article came out.

As I have been searching for a web editor job over the last 15 months, I have had to adjust my expectations as a filmmaker to line up with current realities. Before I would have gone ahead with a project even if funding was iffy — that just isn’t possible anymore.  I can’t proceed with any production activities until firm money in place. I set up non-profit Smiling Z Studios as a means of soliciting tax-deductible donations. When many of your previous supporters are also out of work or worried about losing their jobs, it is tough to make the pitch that a non-profit  independent film production is a great place to make their charitable donations. We do pay all of our cast and crew, many of whom are struggling financially, as part of the studio’s mission. However,  if a potential donor is on the fence between supporting our projects vs making a donation to a food bank or the Red Cross, I would not want them to choose the studio.

Most of us wonder what we would do if we won the lottery. I often think about what it would be like to make that transition from mostly self-funded director/producer to working as a director with full production support and investors who believe in me and my abilities enough to finance my projects. While that is not out of the realm of possibility, I do believe the odds are better to win the lottery and give these feelings the same kind of weight. I think most artists sans trust fund or those who lack a family connection to Francis Ford Coppolla struggle with how they are going to pay for their art.

So what do I do while I’m sorting this all out? Work on the things I can. Besides checking in with friends and former co-workers (again) who may be able to help me find work, I’ve redoubled my efforts to seek gainful employment. There do seem to be more jobs out there in my field and I’ve even had a couple of promising interviews.  I’ve also started working on storyboards for my feature length screenplay The Smiling Zombie, which was a finalist in the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival Screenplay Competition. The Smiling Zombie is about Jack, a successful musical theatre performer whose career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, Jack attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. Making the best out of a bad situation seems to be a theme here?

Paper and pens I got, and storyboards help me to really think through the script, its problems and strengths, and what the overall look and feel will be. If I work on the things I can, I’ll be ready with a new job and a solid script and storyboards when things turn around. And who knows, maybe I am related to Francis Ford Coppolla?

Filmmaker or not, what are you doing to keep your passions going during these tough times?

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Greenspoke screenings in the Seattle/Tacoma area in Sept-Oct

Posted in festivals, Greenspoke, Making Movies, Seattle events with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Tom McIntire

GreenspokeTom McIntire’s award-winning short Greenspoke will be screening in several Seattle-area festivals in Sept and Oct. Check it out!

Upcoming Seattle/Tacoma screenings:

Greenspoke premieres at Bumbershoot
Monday Sept 7 at 8pm
SIFF Cinema.

International Film Festival Ireland (Clonmel) – Sept 9

Maelstrom International Festival of Fantastic Films (Seattle) – Sept 18-20 (also at SIFF Cinema)

Tacoma Film Festival – Oct 6 at 9:30pm at the Grand Cinema

Other upcoming screenings:

Greenspoke will also be screening at the International Film Festival Ireland on Wed Sept 9 in Clonmel, Tiperarry.

Thanks again to all of you who came out for the Aug 4th preview!

P.S. We have all kinds of fun Greenspoke merchandise available on the official site:
http://greenspokethemovie.com

Withoutabox and Sundance – Pay Attention Filmmakers!

Posted in festivals, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

If you’re like me on Withoutabox, you crank in several festival entries, print out the instructions and mail off one or two DVDs to the festivals of your choice. Easy peasy. But read the instructions! Usually I just check to see how many DVDs they want, burn ’em, label ’em and stuff them in hopefully the right envelope before cycling off to the post office. I noticed that Sundance had lots more instructobabble than the others. I see my chances of getting into Sundance on a par with winning the lottery but you can’t win if you don’t play. The worst thing to do when entering any festival (or submitting your work to an agent, grant agency, production company or management team) is to give them an excuse to toss your entry in the trash. They are getting swamped with entries – your musical version of Citizen Kane may be the next big thing but it won’t be if you don’t follow their instructions. No one will see it except the guys at the landfill. I wound up tearing open my entry and redoing it to meet their standards. Now at least I know that I didn’t just toss that entry fee into the fire.

I’m not going to tell you how Sundance is different because you should read the most up-to-date instructions when you submit your project. What I will say is they use received dates rather than postmark dates AND it is much cheaper to enter now than later – but there’s more that you need to watch. Spend your entry fee money wisely.

Greenspoke an Official Selection at International Film Festival Ireland – Galway

Posted in festivals, Greenspoke, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Good news – Greenspoke is an official selection of the International Film Festival Ireland (IFFI). The fest runs from Sept 8-12 2009 in beautiful Galway, Ireland.

What’s next? Check out our new nonprofit film studio, Smiling Z Studios.

The Trivialization of IMDB.com

Posted in Making Movies, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Amazon owns IMDB.com and recently purchased withoutabox.com, a great site for managing and submitting your scripts and films to film festivals. Amazon also owns createspace.com, an easy-to-use self-publishing site for books, CDs and DVDs. Like many filmmakers starting out, I cussed and complained about how difficult it was to get my short film projects onto the go-to source for all things film, IMDB.com. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) had very selective criteria for adding a title. The eligibility rules are still the same but a few new loopholes have been added to help synchronize the corporate synergies and to help you get your film out there.

As I was working on my festival submissions for Greenspoke on withoutabox.com, I noticed some new options popping up after the Amazon purchase of the site. You could set up a createspace DVD print-on demand account that was tied to your withoutabox account. Cool. If you’re not into burning a DVD yourself for every festival submission, you can pay a bit and have them do it for you. This also makes your title available on Amazon.com. Because of the fees that createspace and Amazon take from your DVD sales, it is extremely difficult to set a realistic price point for a short film DVD. Your 10 minute short is going to run close to $10 and you won’t see a dime of that. Jack up the price and you are pricing your product higher than what people expect to pay. It is still nice to have your film on Amazon as a promotional aid. You also meet one of the eligibility criteria for inclusion in IMDB by making your title available on Amazon.com. Your film could be 10 minutes of your cat sleeping, never show in any theatre or on television, not include any known actors or actresses, and it would be eligible for inclusion in what is supposed the definitive internet movie reference.

But wait – there really is more. Withoutabox recently added a group of partner festivals that make your film eligible for inclusion on IMDB. Sounds great except all you have to do is submit your film and pay the fee. You don’t have to be accepted to the festival or meet any other criteria. As long as you take the time out to fill in the confusing submission form on IMDB and enter the code you get from withoutbox, you’re good to go. Again, your 10 minutes of kitty zz’s is listed alongside Citizen Kane, Sunrise and Watchmen. I received at least 5 e-mails from withoutabox about getting Greenspoke on IMDB, most after I already had a page, because I had submitted to one of their partner festivals. While I hope to be accepted at all of them, that doesn’t seem to matter to IMDB.

Why am I complaining about this when it is working to my advantage? Because it is a short-term advantage. IMDB will lose its cachet as an authoritative reference if it gets clogged with titles that never were or never will be seen or sold. The internet is already a jungle of unreliable and misleading information for the intrepid entertainment traveler. Audiences drive our creative activities regardless of whether we create arthouse or megaplex fare.  Tools like IMDB help us reach our audience. I’d like to keep it as an authoritative reference for them and for us.

The Smiling Zombie AND The Karma Stone Made the Finals at RHIFF

Posted in Making Movies, reelheart, screenwriting, Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Two of my feature length screenplays have made it into the finals of the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) Screenplay Competition. I’m still processing this information but I can say that I am thrilled.  These scripts also were semi-finalists in the WriteMovies International Writing Competition. At a time when I am struggling to find another day job (I was laid off from my job at Washington Mutual last June), it’s great to get this encouragement and recognition. Like most artists out there of all stripes and sensibilities, I am trying to figure out how to make my way in the world and still feed my passion. Finding that elusive mix where they are one and the same is what keeps me submitting films and scripts to festivals and writing competitions.

What are your secrets to reaching the next level? What challenges are you facing?

two julias wins a Star Award at Cleveland Indie Gathering

Posted in Cleveland, two julias with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2008 by Tom McIntire

This is exciting and a little odd – two julias won a Star Award in the horror category at the Indie Gathering in Cleveland. I don’t think of it as a horror film but I’ll take it. Waiting to see that it is part of the published schedule before buying a plane ticket…