Every Thursday, I look forward to receiving the latest e-newsletter from Filmmaker Magazine. They’re kind enough to offer a fantastic micro-version of the print magazine to indies everywhere for free (print edition is $18, digital is $9). Each week, the newsletter never fails to educate readers like myself about the current state of the independent film community. I especially look forward to the letter from the editor, Scott Macaulay.
If you aren’t subscribed yet, you missed out a post by Scott that was shared by writers everywhere across the blogosphere. With the catchy title of “15 STEPS TO TAKE AFTER YOU FINISH YOUR SCRIPT”, the original blog article was a response to an individual reader’s question but actually speaks to a very common screenwriting dilemma. What should I do after I finish my script?
The list features some tips that well-known while others were things I had necessarily thought to do before such as:
5. Hire the right person to schedule and budget the script. Take particular note of the third and fourth words of the preceding sentence. Whatever you imagine the budget to be, hire a line producer or UPM familiar with that budget range and, if it’s a seven or eight-figure budget, one that’s acceptable to the completion bond company you’ll ultimately need. If you don’t know how to identify this person, ask a producer you do know or even a bond company for a recommendation. If you think your film will be made on a micro budget, hire someone who has actually made a film for that budget. And if you do the latter, don’t just say thanks once you get the budget back. Sit down with that person and find out what you need to do and what connections you’ll have to make to reel in the people and gear budgeted for at below-market rates.
6. If you don’t know someone who can budget it or can’t afford to hire someone, learn to budget it yourself. Two books I can recommend are Film and Video Budgets and Maureen Ryan’s Producer to Producer (not strictly a budgeting book, but with budgets and much useful information).
7. Rewrite the script based on the budget and schedule you receive. Is there a 1/8″ page scene that drives the budget up significantly —— and that you don’t really need? Are the project’s budgetary needs, the marketplace, and the final budget number in alignment? If you’re directing this script, is it appropriately scaled for what you’ll be able to command as attached talent?
12. Make what’s known as a “mood reel.” I used to dismiss these, but they are increasingly in vogue these days. They can be called other things — “visual look books,” for example — and are short reels of scenes from other films (or perhaps your own test footage) edited to suggest the tone of your movie. In Britain, the funding agencies are beginning to fund these as part of development grants. For an example, check out the one on Ryan Koo’s Kickstarter page.
15. If you’re not getting traction (*on getting the script made), ask yourself why. What’s not working? Why aren’t people falling in love with it? And then, put the script down for a month. When those 30 days are over, reread it, think about how to make it better, and get to work.
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