Category Archives: Industry News

Content Drives at the PGA’s Produced by Conference

Story by W. H. Bourne • Photos by W. H. Bourne and Odin Lindblom

The Producers Guild of America (PGA), the non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media, held their fourth annual Produced By Conference June 9 and 10 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California.

An intimate and sold-out event, over 1,400 attended the educational program, which covered aspects of producing for film, television and new media industries. Entertainment luminaries such as Christopher Nolan, Peter Berg, Lawrence Gordon, Nina Jacobson, Mark Cuban, Mark Gordon, Shonda Rhimes and Brian Grazer joined more than 100 of Hollywood and digital media’s top producers and business leaders to share their insights, expertise and vision to inspire and inform attendees throughout the two-day conference. Topics covered included global finance and production, distribution, independent film, scripted and reality television, digital content, marketing innovation, visual effects, sustainable green production and much more.

“The definition of ‘producer’ is friend of writer,” said producer Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan, Source Code). “If you can get into a room with a writer that really excites you, then eventually you’ll create something good.”

Brian Grazer and Peter Berg

Brian Grazer (Splash, Da Vinci Code, J. Edgar) and Peter Berg (Hancock, Battleship) talked about the producing challenges of packaging a story and getting the studio to greenlight the production.

“You have to be a closer to penetrate the skin of a studio,” said Grazer. “You have to be a sociopath with the ability to be crazy, be committed, and be connected to the source.”

Distribution was also a hot topic at the conference. Producer Lynette Howell (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson) talked about creative distribution when she couldn’t get a good offer for her festival award-winner On the Ice.

“I wasn’t happy with any of the deals we were offered and I really wanted it to play on the big screen,” she said. “I realized that the only way to do this was to distribute it myself, but I didn’t want to be selling DVDs either. Elisabeth Holm was working for me at the time and she suggested we create a Kickstarter campaign. We used Kickstarter to distribute the DVD (as an incentive for a $25 contribution), while raising $88,000 to four-wall the movie in theaters. It was very successful—so successful that Elisabeth is now head of films at Kickstarter.”

Sarah Green (Tree of Life, Frida) talked about the new start-up Tugg as a way to launch a film or extend the theatrical life of a film.

“Tugg was integral in extending the run of Tree of Life and bringing it to markets where it never had a chance to play. More people are going to see your indie film on a premium channel than on a big screen,” said Green, as she stressed the importance of Tugg and getting more movies seen in theaters. Similar to Paramount’s marketing concept of “demanding” Paranormal Activity, Tugg licenses movies into their library and works with theater owners. An organizer chooses a movie from the library and then works to sell enough tickets to have a screening at their local theater.

At most sessions, the audience asked questions about financing films. Joe Chianese (EP Financial Solutions) led a panel discussion specifically addressing that topic, as he talked about how producers utilize production incentives to subsidize their costs and finance their projects. Louisiana’s incentives were a high point of the discussion. After that session, producers were shopping the vendors on hand, matching up services with tax incentives. Quixote pitched attendees about their expendables store and lighting and grip equipment now available in New Orleans.

Patrick Mulhearn

Raleigh Studios/Celtic Media exec Patrick Mulhearn was on hand to discuss Louisiana’s incentives and studio availability at Raleigh’s Baton Rouge facility.

“We’ve been really busy this year,” said Mulhearn. “Oblivion with Tom Cruise just wrapped, but we still have a few holes in the schedule that we can fill.”

The new media sessions focused less on finance and more on doing. Allen DeBevoise (Machinima), Michelle Phan (MyGlam.com), and Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) talked about the freedom of YouTube for producers, as far as getting your work out there quickly, as well as monetizing your work on the Web. Robert Kynci, Global Head of Content Partnerships for Google and YouTube, stressed the accessibility of YouTube. “Just put your content up,” he said. “If you get enough hits, we’ll come looking for you.”

Chris Hardwick was a wealth of information for individuals looking to venture into producing for the Web.

“YouTube thrives at being shared. Create one-offs or a maximum of five episodes before you do more. Then look at the metrics. You need to figure out what’s going to build your brand as a whole,” said Hardwick. “You must think of SEOs when creating titles for your videos and take care in creating thumbnails for your videos; they’re just as important as album covers. Remember that programming is only as long as it needs to be. You need to grab the viewer in the first eight seconds. But in the end, it’s all about story.”

Hardwick’s words seemed to echo the sentiment of most producers.

“Content drives,” said Gordon. “You have to believe in what you’re selling.”

Louisiana International Film Festival Basics

Interview with Chesley Heymsfield, founder and executive director of LIFF

The inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF) will be held April 18-21, 2013 in Baton Rouge. We spoke with the festival’s founder and executive director, Chesley Heymsfield, to find out more about this exciting new event.

Chesley Heymsfield

Louisiana Film & Video Magazine: How did the idea for the festival begin?

Chesley Heymsfield: The festival started out of pure curiosity. After helping my parents move to Louisiana, I had heard that Louisiana was a high production state, so I went on a bit of a walkabout around the state, talking to all kinds of people directly and indirectly affiliated with filmmaking. The festival was borne out of us wanting to act as a crossroads and encourage local talent to interact with non-local talent.

LFVM: What does the festival hope to achieve?

CH: The Louisiana International Film Festival aims to provide a forum of discussion where people may build lifelong relationships and develop skills that enable them to play a central role in the industry.

In general, established filmmakers enjoy contributing to the mentorship of new filmmakers—everyone remembers people who helped them when they were just starting out. These are amazing local opportunities where we can serve as a facilitator for natural networking and interaction.

LFVM: What is your focus right now?

CH: Our focus now is to get people on board with the festival. There is already a natural movement here, and we just happen to be a part of it. We are excited and fortunate to be surrounded by visionary leaders and have support from both the public and private sectors in Louisiana. We are very appreciative of support from the Office of Lt. Governor, Louisiana Technology Park, Noesis Data, Manship Theater, and others. We are reaching across Louisiana to reflect all of the state’s interesting and diverse cultures, traditions and people.

LFVM: How would you describe your overall vision?

CH: Our vision is to bring all the pieces together under one roof, where prospective and recurring productions may travel to one location to receive the latest updates about filming in and across the state.

LFVM: What do you see in the future?

CH: All major film festivals take time to grow naturally from the ground up with effort from many people, and so you have your short-term and long-term vision. Many of the festivals, such as Cannes, were even founded during difficult times, and the people gathered together to ensure the festival’s survival and prosperity. With any major community-driven endeavor, it’s the people who are going to make this possible. The people of Louisiana are our backbone.

LFVM: What kinds of events will the festival hold?

CH: The festival will have a yearlong presence with events, such as premiere film screenings, filmmaker discussions, and other interactive opportunities. And we will have our annual festival each year in the spring. Our inaugural festival will be held April 18-21, 2013 in Baton Rouge, where we will host a competitive juried film festival with the year’s best in celebrated independent film from around the world.

LFVM: How can filmmakers get involved?

CH: If you are a filmmaker interested in submission, you may check our Facebook page (Louisiana International Film Festival) and our Web site (www.lifilmfest.org) shortly for our submission guidelines.

LFVM: Anything else you’d like to share about LIFF?

CH: LIFF was created with the purpose of promoting the film industry’s indigenous growth, along with its international reputation as an artistic and financial force in the global film market. By virtue of acting as a hub for congregation and commerce, who knows how many opportunities people can create? That’s the exciting part; it’s unlimited.

Cooperative Filming: Music to Indie Ears

Story by Andrew Vogel Guest Columnist

“We are evolving into providing services at the Co-Op for almost no cost. For us to make these services available and cost-effective for filmmakers in New Orleans is a really big deal,” said David Cole, IT support for the Tipitina’s Foundation and program enthusiast.

The Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Op reveals itself as not only a wonderful resource for local musicians, but also a gold mine for independent filmmakers. Through the efforts of the Tipitina’s Foundation, there is now a place where filmmakers and musicians alike can work collaboratively with each other to accomplish their artistic goals in an efficient and inexpensive way.

“If you need some cost-effective music for your script, there will be someone within the Co-Op who can write a score,” said Cole. “Now you have some terrific local music for your film, and you’ve helped a local musician feed his family. It’s a win-win situation.”

Although the Co-Op is not an established filmmaking group or collaborative, it is certainly fertile ground for one. A film collaborative could provide an amazing way to kick-start any individual career by allowing an artist to be involved, in some way, on virtually every film being made. With such a large pool of skill and talent, a group would produce a higher volume of high-quality films than any individual.

“We all drift from set to set and from group to group. There is no one collective place where filmmakers can all get together, except maybe Facebook. There has to be a cooperative thought process for indie filmmakers,” said Cole, expressing the need for a more collaborative film community.

David Cole and Mark Fowler

The Co-Op is a way for local independent filmmakers to put their talents and resources together to build the ever-growing film empire in Louisiana. Cole describes the near future of this organization as a place where collaborative auditions could be held for multiple independent films and a place where film crews are community cultivated and readily available.

“We offer free legal assistance for contracts, release forms, property trademark, LLC formation, and things of that nature. That alone is invaluable,” stated Mark Fowler, manager of the New Orleans Co-Op. “Ashlye Keaton [her practice] focuses specifically on entertainment and intellectual property law. She donates her time and expertise to help members on a weekly basis.”

This is an organization designed to help local artists succeed. The small fees that members do pay are largely to maintain the community and allow artists to feel invested in their work.

“The people who run the Co-Ops are very gifted and talented individuals. Part of their idea for this unique program is to give back. So they host classes on everything from recording to playing an instrument to editing,” said Cole. “You can request assistance from members as well as staff, and they will do what they can to help you. That’s what you are joining when you become a member of the Co-Op.”

The Co-Op provides digital and audio recording tools, computers equipped with high-speed Internet and editing software, Web design tools, business plan resources, legal consultation, tutorials, workshops, and of course, community.

“You might have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have access to resources and people to work with, then the idea doesn’t become a reality. This is a place that helps turn your idea into a reality,” said Fowler.

With such an incredible resource at the fingertips of local filmmakers, the sky is the limit here in Louisiana. The Co-Op now has branches in New Orleans, Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge. Please visit  www.musicofficecoop.com for more information.

The Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Op is just one of the wonderful ways that the Tipitina’s Foundation is contributing to the vibrant artistic culture in Louisiana.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Free Screening Next Week!

The Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF) will host an exclusive complimentary red carpet pre-release screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild in Baton Rouge on Thursday, July 19.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, the Louisiana-shot film that won awards at Sundance and Cannes this year as a festival sensation, is now headed for general release in theaters.  Although it was Benh Zeitlin’s feature film directorial debut, it received rave reviews from the critics, and is highly anticipated by filmgoers.

The film was shot on a limited budget with untrained actors in a remote part of South Louisiana, and features an unlikely hero, a little girl called “Hushpuppy.” The film resonates with many people as an allegory for Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast a few years ago, but it blends the real and imaginary in a mystical story about love, hope and survival.

The screening will begin at 7pm on Thursday, July 19, at the Cinemark Perkins Rowe Theater located at 10000 Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge.

See RSVP details below:

‘Haunted’ Cast to Host 2012 Fear Fête Horror Film Festival

Fear Fête Horror Film Festival, Louisiana’s premier annual event for showcasing independent horror films, announced that the cast of the television show Haunted will be this year’s host. The festival will take place October 5-7 at Rave Motion Pictures 15 at the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.

Haunted covers some of the South’s spookiest landmarks with intriguing reality-style filming. Notable paranormal investigations by the group have included the Myrtles Plantation, historic Baton Rouge bar the Spanish Moon, and more.

“We are very excited to be working with the cast of Haunted for the 2012 festival. The show Haunted, like our festival, is growing rapidly in our state and we couldn’t think of better guests to host this year’s film festival,” commented Derek Morris, Fear Fête’s executive director.

The new season will premiere this fall and one episode will cover mysterious activity occurring at Fear Fête’s own headquarters.

Cast members of Haunted who will present Fear Fête include show hosts Meghan Reiners and Beau Vorhoff along with videographer Kelli Rodriguez. Also on hand will be Haunted production assistant Jennifer Kennedy and videographer James Peck.

To celebrate the premier of Fear Fête 2012, horror film enthusiasts and filmmakers will have a chance to network on October 4 at the VIP Dead Carpet Party, held at the Spanish Moon. Haunted’s hosts will also be on hand then to present awards to the filmmakers.

For more information, visit www.fearfete.com or contact fearfete@gmail.com.