Friday, April 2, 2010

Indie Film Boot Camp Recap

The Place

Saturday, March 27, 2010 - Our first-ever Indie Film Boot Camp was a huge success! Tickets sold out and we played to a packed house at DCTV's 3rd floor studio.

There was a wide representation of the filmmaking community with all ages, races, sexes, and experience levels represented. Our youngest attendee was 14 and oldest was 60+ years and people came from as far away as Colorado, Ohio, and even Jamaica to hear the guerrilla film gospel...and they were not disappointed.

I really wanted to have the event at DCTV, because it's a non-profit filmmaking co-op in a beautiful building and an incubator for documentary filmmaking in New York City. I was barely out of diapers when this place was founded way back in 1972 by Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno. They have classes, lecture series, teach production and post-production, plus they are the most affordable rental house in town. So I like to show love to those that show it to fellow filmmakers.

Here's a few pix and attendee feedback from the event. For those of you that missed this inspiring day of learning, stay tuned for the Indie Film Boot Camp DVD release in about a month. (Discounted DVD pre-order offer coming soon!)

"Learned a lot of things, was reminded of others...I definitely appreciate the filmmaking camaraderie that was--and is--in the air. " - George S.

The rhythmic and world-famous Down and Dirty DV Guerrilla Film Drill Team started things off with some step-dancing and a guerrilla cadence and demonstration. This was a rare public appearance just to let you know that this is not ya mama's filmmaking seminar! (Much thanx to The Movement Theatre Company for putting it down.)

The Seminars

"I want to shout out and say I have mad respect and I learned so much actionable stuff...I practice a lot of the material you presented but it's priceless to get a new framework to work within. I hope to be in your presence again. You, are a hustler baby." - Vivek K.

I lead things off with my most popular seminar, Down and Dirty Filmmaking: Guerrilla Tactics for Professional Results (Get the DVD HERE!). This is basically a full primer in the mindset, techniques and tactics of modern guerrilla filmmaking. A lot people see the word, "guerrilla" and think that it somehow implies doing things half-assed. To the contrary, it's really all about the fine art of doing more with less.

"It was great to meet you and your team. You all really "made the day," and then some... Now I know more clearly what I have to work on. So, thanks for sharing your tools with us." - Maud D.

Next up, Benjamin Ahr Harrison (aka "The Video Whiz Kid") broke down for the crowd step-by-step his entire process for creating dazzling music videos and new media projects. From concept to production to post and getting it on-air, Ben shared some of his most coveted secrets and gave the crowd a rare glimpse into a music video director's methodology and mentality. Many attendees later commented that it was info that had never been shared with them before.

"I thought the event was extremely useful and the presenters were not only intelligent and knowledgeable, they had great energy and enthusiasm. I learned a lot more in one day than I've learned in any other class or seminar." - Survey Response

After that, I gave my Documentary Interview Boot Camp presentation. Which was a crash course in just about every relevant aspect of producing and shooting interviews that I could think of, from the lighting, to questions, to eye lines and make-up, I gave the attendees all the info anyone would need to go out and shoot better interviews with any subject.

Plus, I threw in some insider tactics, like How to Work a Press Conference and How to Get the Most Out of a Celebrity Interview. There's no one trick to good interviews, but a hundred little details...and I outline a whole lot of them.

I'm pretty sure some attendees brains were hurting after taking in so much info, so we gave them a break. (But for the record, I LOVE teaching classes like this and I could've kept going ALL night long without a break, if I thought the crowd wouldn't glaze over!)

After lunch my Double Down Film Show co-host, Premium director, Pete Chatmon, took the stage to school the crowd in The Psychology and Technique of Directing. I'm pretty sure every pen in the house was busy taking notes, cause I got 2 pages myself on everything from finding the moment in a scene to how to manage (and not manage) star actors as a first-time director.

Next up, Pete gave another note-worthy presentation about the #1 indie film mystery- How to raise all the money? In his seminar, Raising Funds and Pitching...Effectively , Pete broke down tactics, approach, and even numbers on how he put together a plan and raised the money for his feature film Premium.

He answered: Which comes first - the stars or the money? What do you need to show to investors? What's the difference between a film Business Plan and an Investor's Offering? (Hint: One can land you in jail if executed incorrectly.) The audience had a number of questions and Pete fielded every one with candor and wise advice.

Lastly, I closed out the show with my favorite seminar How to Break Into the Industry (Available on DVD - May 1st!). Between seminars I did a little costume change to make a visual point about appearances and perceptions in the industry. (I'd always rather show you, than tell you.)

If it was not already apparent to attendees why American Cinematographer magazine referred to me as a "DV Evangelist", it was definitely clear by the end of this seminar. I was in rare form and inspired to inspire the attendees with the most candid real-world no-B.S. advice I have ever given to would-be filmmakers. Specifically would-be filmmakers who aspire to be move up in larger companies and organizations. The presentation covers the 3 phases of entering the business - 1) Learning, 2) Breaking In and 3) Rising Up and I think it's the single most candid and valuable advice I've ever shared in public.

In the latter part of this seminar and give a simple, but effective 5-phase strategy for infiltrating and getting noticed and promoted at any company (filmmaking or otherwise) that I and others have applied successfully through the years- all with excellent end results. - Which as anyone who's attended any of my seminars, knows is what counts most in my book. If anybody, left before this seminar, I think you missed one of the best parts!

The After Party

Of course after the show was the Networking After Party. We walked 2 short blocks over to The Whiskey Tavern where the co-owner, Rob, and his team of bartenders (shout out to Ellie) took excellent care of boot camp attendees with great food, cold beer and even a free round of shots for everybody. The Whiskey Tavern is a fun unpretentious place that really knows how to treat it's patrons. I highly recommend it for a great Buffalo Chicken sandwich or an ice cold beer...Why not have both? I did. ; )

A good time was had by all. New friendships were formed and old ones strengthened. Many business cards and war stories were traded. All-in-all, Indie Film Boot Camp was a success to me not just because of the numbers, but most importantly, because of all the people that left more prepared, knowledgeable and inspired to pursue their craft and forge a successful career in filmmaking.

We'll be dropping a new and improved Indie Film Boot Camp this Fall and incorporating many of your suggestions for more networking and a less intense schedule. And if you got shut out of tickets, don't wait until the last minute.

Pre-order DVD's of all 6 Indie Film Boot Camp Seminars - Coming Soon!

Stay tuned to this blog for a special kick-off sale.

The Intersection of Filmmaking and Video Games: Part II

Back in January I posted a brief historical examination of the relationship between film and video game production. This post illustrated the film industry's early (unsuccessful) forays into the field. These attempts failed many because production companies underestimated the ontological differences between the two forms, such as narrative structure and interactivity; a good film concept, in other words, does not translate directly into a good game. Furthermore, film companies underestimated the intense amount of time and resources required to create a successful gaming experience.

So have film companies learned from their past experiences? Have major studios improved on their work? And, more importantly for our readers, is there a place within video game production for the indie filmmaker?

The Current State of Things
Hollywood seems to be wiser and more cautious this time around. Many of today's producers have grown up playing video games, and thus have a better understanding of the difference between film and video game structures. Producers who (like Jerry Bruckheimer) admit they don't know much about gaming have been wise enough to seek outside help. In an article in the Los Angeles Times last year, Gore Verbinski (director of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise) was wise enough to remark: "Hollywood made a mistake to think it can enter the video game space and somehow provide better storytelling. Not only is that arrogant, but it hasn't worked."

Despite this new understanding of video games, film-based video games can still strike out with fans. The 2005 theatrical release of Batman Begins was preempted by the release of a multi-platform video game. While the film was a blockbuster, the video game received generally poor reviews. The game's narrative was pulled directly from the film, and feature the voices and likenesses of the film's stars. Unfortunately, as a reviewer on noted, the games similarity to the film is laudable but :the gameplay feels too much like a mishmash of several other well-known gaming franchises and ends up overly simplistic." In other words, the game looked like the movie--but wasn't nearly as entertaining.

What About the Indies?
"The rise of the Web and digital downloads, both on PC and console, has unlocked a hive of creativity from independent game creators - leading to innovation in a multitude of game genres, the revitalization of classic game styles and the creation of entirely new blends of art and playability.", "The Indie Game Movement"
Today's indie video gamers represent the vanguard--experimenting with new and forgotten video game genres and styles. They are able to do this because "Over the last couple of years, the cost of developing games with lush graphics and soundtracks has plummeted—and since the major gaming consoles are all connected to the Internet, distribution and advertising expenses are nearly nonexistent." Indie games are the new visual frontier, and its cheaper than ever to break into it.

What About Support? hosts the Independent Games Festival, the "Sundance for independent game developers," which seeks to encourage gaming innovation through a series of panels, festival prizes, and exhibitions. The site is also a great resource for newbies to the field seeking knowledge on the history of indie gaming. For the latest news you can check out their weblog here. If you're looking to fund your own indie you should also check out this article featured on arstechnica.