Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pre-Production: What's It Really Like?

I used to get really annoyed with other blogging filmmakers who left out important posts, like what it's really like in pre-production, how you know when "pre-production" starts as opposed to planning your movie for months on end, what you actually have to do in pre-production...

Until I entered pre-pro madness myself. Now I understand why they don't blog about it. It's not that they don't want to. It's that they're just too busy, and way too stressed to stop, reflect and write it all down.

So here I am. A few days before rehearsals and one week before the cameras roll. Time to talk about pre-production and just get it out and onto the screen.

Let's start with a few questions I had before starting this first feature film.

What's It Really Like in Pre-Production?
A whole lot of anticipation. Like having a crush on someone for months and months and months and then...well, I hope it's like going on the first date but I really don't know yet, because we're still in the anticipation stage. It's scary, and exciting, and nerve-wracking, and overwhelming, and a roller coaster ride.

I've never planned so much in my entire life. I was an inner city school teacher in Hackney & Brixton (2 of London's toughest neighbourhoods) for grades 5 & 6. I know how to plan. But this is so much more. It requires thinking through so many more details than I've ever imagined possible.

But it's also really sexy. Like a first date - this could be the real deal right? This could be the ONE! Oh God, what if it's not the one? There's a bit more on the line here than just a bad date, but I'm sure you'll know what I mean about the anticipation factor anyway.

When does pre-production actually start?

This is a question you have to answer for grant applications like Telefilm in Canada and one that I still can't quite figure out. Does it start from when you first come up with the idea for the movie and register the domain name? Or does it start a few weeks before when you're accumulating the props? Or when you're casting?

I've decided the answer is this: Pre-Production officially starts when you eat, sleep, and dream your movie. You work 14-16 hours/day to prepare. You create budgets - the one you dream of having the money for, and the one you actually have, and then another one somewhere in between. You get your cast (for us, we hired Kristina Agosti - the world's greatest first-time Casting Director and friend, thanks K), your crew, your props, your investments.

I know this is a vague answer, and won't be good enough for a grant application, but really - that's the honest answer. I hear we're in pre-production until the cameras arrive and start rolling. Makes sense to me.

What Actually Happens in Pre-Production?

Everything. Virtually every little thing. Jen (our writer/director and my sister) finalized the script, the story boards and the shot lists. Our Story Consultant worked for about 3 months helping Jen make it the best script possible.

Our Line Producer/Production Manager, Emily Silver, organized a tonne of spreadsheets that we've shared on google docs (thank you google - those things have saved us hours of meetings!), including: the cast & crew list, cast sizes, cast allergies, crew allergies, production placement attempts, product placement successes, locations, maps to the locations (thanks to Amanda Verhagen, our second Production Manager), call sheets, budgets, contracts, release forms. The virtual paper-work is endless.

Speaking of paperwork, 2 books became the best resources we could ever ask for in pre-pro:

Film Production Management 101 by Deborah Patz

Variety's The Complete Film Production Handbook by Eve Light Honthaner

Almost all of our contracts have come from the second book above (and editted by our lawyer to make them suit our needs & for Canada rather than the USA) and the first book is just really great for figuring out who does what, when and how. I don't know why I said that in reverse order. Guess I have contracts on the brain.

What Else Do You Do In Pre-Pro?

For me, the big focus has been on how to get this thing not only made, but also sold. So I read a lot about distribution, film festival secrets, social media marketing - all things that we'll start planning in post-production, but are great for me to know about now. We have a distributor reading the script now, and we're applying for post-production funding help from Telefilm so I've had to be a bit more organized than a typical indie-film producer.

It means I have to really focus on the "chain of title", the releases, the product placements - all things that a lot of people don't think about until they're in post-production. I drive my sister absolutely insane with my relentless persistence that we need permission to use every single little logo or product in the film. But that's why she's the creative side of our team and I'm the business side - for me, this isn't just an art. It's also a way to make a movie that people will hopefully get to see in the theatres. At least, I really hope they will. I plan for it. I dream it.

Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Advice? Please share below!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Movies That Make Me Really Nervous to be a Filmmaker

Yesterday I asked the fans of Locked in a Garage Band on facebook and my followers on twitter which movies they'd recommend for their soundtracks. Now I have an incredible list of movies to see, some for the first time and some to watch again but this time with an ear to the music.

BellaNikki85 (Nikki Alonso of HardCoreIndie fame) suggested Kick-Ass, which was perfect for my research into coming of age teenage comedies with awesome music that I still hadn't seen.

Too perfect in fact. I just finished watching it now, and have already hit "play" with the directors commentary.

I'm scared.

This movie really does kick-ass.

The director, Matthew Vaughn, keeps talking about how they had such a small budget, and uses the term "no money" so many times that it makes me dream of the days when I can say such things about my own $30 million dollar movie.

One day right?

In the meantime, I'm reminded that every great movie has a really great script. It's all about the story after all. And that, we have. Thank frakk my sister can write a kick-ass script. How she does it, I have no idea. But me, I just work on the money. And getting more. I have a bunch of awesome meetings lined up this week with potential sponsors for product placements. Love those! Especially over wine. Lucky me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Show me the Money! Crowdfunding Your Indie Film with Victoria Westcott - that's me!

Woohoo! So excited that this workshop is almost sold out already!

Crowd Funding your Indie Film with
Victoria Westcott

Victoria, BC, March 17th , 2011 -

This will be a hands-on, interactive workshop to help filmmakers learn the ropes of crowd funding from the first idea to the final two minutes. Victoria will focus on what lessons she learned in her own crowd funding campaign (she raised $20,000 for her feature film Locked in a Garage Band) and will use examples from other recently successful campaigns.

“As a group, we will examine what works, what doesn't, and what we can do for our own projects,” says Westcott.

The workshop will be a hands on opportunity to look at what will work for individual projects.

“Whether you're in pre-production, production or post-production - all types of projects can use crowd funding so let's help each other with planning different fundraising campaigns,” says Westcott.

Victoria Westcott - Producer

When she was sixteen-years-old, Victoria convinced the good people of Nepean, Ontario to give her enough money to fund an eco-trail building excursion through the jungles of Costa Rica. Sheʼs been convincing people to give her money for her intrepid endeavors ever since. From volunteering for a cataract surgery in Bangladesh to working in an English school in Guatamala, Victoriaʼs ability to put words (and dollars) into action knows no bounds. And since she already owns and operates a successful recruitment company, what better career path than independent movie producer?

Her vast experiences in both the cuddly world of volunteerism and the cutthroat world of business have proven to be the ideal preparation for writing (and sticking to!) budgets, hiring great cast & crew and getting through all the legal aspects of filmmaking.

Most recently, Victoria & her writer/director sister, Jennifer Westcott, managed to "crowdfund" $20101 for their upcoming feature film, Locked in a Garage Band. 68% of those funds were raised on the final day - in the last 10 hours mostly through Twitter & Facebook.

The Details:
Date: April 2nd, 2011
Time: noon-5pm
Place: CineVic 1039 Lee Ave. Suite #1931
Price: $20 CV/MN/VIFPA members $25 non-members

For Information Contact:
Krista Loughton 250-389-1590
Link to the event on Facebook:


About CineVic
Cinevic is an artist run cooperative facilitating the expression of unique, innovative voices in the ever-evolving language of film.
We are located in Victoria, BC, Canada at 1939 Lee Ave. Suite #1931 -- office hours are Mon-Fri 9:00am to 1:00pm.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kickstarter Update #16: Press, Auditions, Fundraising Part 2, Workshop Love & a Picture of me with Don McKellar

I just wrote a ridiculously long kickstarter update which you should go check out, so I don't have to write it all out again. It's here.

I included the above photo of me with Canadian actor/screenwriter/filmmaker/superstar Don McKellar, who I met at the Victoria Film Festival. Figured I could add whatever photo I wanted, and today was as good a day as any to post this one. I lurve him.

Okay, off you go. Over to the kickstarter update. Nothing else to see here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Casting & Talent Agents - How to use Breakdown Services

Last night, we submitted the script for Locked in a Garage Band to Breakdown Services. We did one round of auditions way back in October and cast 3 of our characters so we could have just re-run the same ad and posted the other character breakdowns on the same sites (like Mandy, Backstage, Craigslist, etc).

But we remembered hearing that Breakdown Services was free service for filmmakers to use, and that they read your script and write the character breakdowns accordingly. That intriqued me. I always like someone else doing work that I then don't have to do. Awesome!

That's not all though. These guys are fast! We only sent the script last night, and received the breakdowns this morning. Love that.

Then, after you've approved their breakdowns & story line, they submit the details to all the talent agents in your desired area.

In the past 3 hours we've received 351 headshots & resumes.

I have to stop myself from logging in every five minutes to see what other actors are in the pile. Luckily, that is our Casting Director's job - the beautiful & talented Kristina Agosti. Otherwise, I'd waste days on there oooohing and ahhhhing. I'm a sucker for a good headshot, and get horribly irritated when actors show up & look nothing like their pictures, so it really is best that our CD does the weeding out (based on experience, skills, etc).

The main reason to submit to Breakdown Services is actually to get your script into all the agents hands in one go. If your script is as good as you think it is, then the first hurdle is accomplished just in getting it to the right agents. They pay attention to the breakdowns, rather than scouring websites (that actors are on, but not necessarily their agents).

I'll keep you posted on how it goes for us, but right now I'm feeling pretty confident.

Anyone else out there have experience with this kind of thing? Please share your thoughts below. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Last Man on Earth

My sister filmed this short with her kids during a snow day a couple of weeks ago. Our brother, Garett Westcott, did the music. He's also doing the music for our feature film.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unique Film Funding

That's me! On the A Channel yesterday. That was fun. Thanks guys. Ya'll ROCK our socks.

If you missed the kickstarter campaign, you can still donate here: