Today's guest blog comes from Sundance award winning producer, director, screenwriter, entertainment attorney, author, and my dear friend, Dean Silvers.
From helping launch the careers of David O. Russell to recently writing a best selling book on how to break in to the film and television business, Dean has seen and experienced much in his 20 year plus career.
In this post, Dean shares his thoughts on the new revolution in filmmaking and how you can use the advances in technology to take matters into your own hands in launching your career.
As a reminder, Dean is also hosting our first Stage 32 LIVE! events: How to Break Into the Film and TV Business. The first 3 hour session is in New York City this Saturday from 1-4PM. Our second session will be in Los Angeles on June 28th. More information about both sessions can be found here.
I'd like to thank Dean for taking the time from his book tour to contribute to the Stage 32 Blog.
When I was first asked to do a blog entre for Stage 32 I thought, easy, I’ll get this done in no time, I’ll get this out before they can even release the next Marvel Superhero movie (it’s another Daredevil, right?)
But then I realized, I have to give the awesome members of the Stage32 commuity something good. They deserve to hear some real-life experience, not one of your (insert Ben Stein impression here), “The state of film today is blah blah, tent-pole, blah blah, overseas markets, blah blah, is 3D really worth it, blah blah, etc.” Because what does that really do for anyone anyway? I needed to give them something they could grab onto, something LIFE CHANGING, or at least something that makes them tell their friends “hey, I read this guy’s blogpost and it actually had some pretty good stuff in it” -- so maybe instead of LIFE CHANGING, I’ll shoot for HOUR CHANGING! …. Hour Changing’s good.
So yes, I’ve made films, and I’m also in the middle of making films, not only as a filmmaker, but as a dealmaker, marketer, entertainment lawyer, producer, facilitator, distributor, talent evaluator, and more. Now I assume the question that must be on your mind is, “Well, how do you get there?” and to that I say, “Well, I’m glad your inner monologue asked.”
I still remember what it’s like to be a beginner; I have not taken anything in my career for granted. Right now many of you have lots questions, you feel uncertain of what’s the “right” move to make.
And there are many naysayers out there who will tell you that it’s never been more difficult to break into the Film & TV industry, that the odds are too stacked against you unless you went to the right school, or know the right people.Well I’m here to tell you that those people are one hundred per cent wrong. As a matter of fact, due what I call the Three Building Blocks (“the Internet,” “New Media Technology,” and the “New Social-Media Environment”), it has never been easier to break into the Film & TV industry! But I have jumped ahead of myself. First, let me tell you how I got started:
It was July 8, in the middle of a hot summer. My wife and kids have long since gone to sleep, but I’m pacing the floors of my New York City apartment. It’s about 3:45 . . . a.m. It’s late—very late. Or rather very early . . .
I’m about to start the first day of shooting a feature film. I’m the producer. And I’m rehashing the disastrous position I’ve gotten myself into. You see, until now, I’d spent 100 percent of my life nowhere near the film industry. At this point in my career the only thing close to a film that had my name on it was my Blockbuster Rewards card (which was laminated, so I knew at least someone in the “Biz” appreciated my movie taste, even if it is now a defunct video chain store). I’m a former religious studies / comparative literature major (and let me tell you, there aren’t a whole lot of jobs in that field). I’ve got a PhD, a law degree, and a Master’s degree. But I have never been on the set of a feature film. And yet, come sunrise, that’s where I’ll be, as the sole producer of a full-length, narrative feature film.
The writer and director—the person everything hinges on—has never written or directed a feature film before. He’s a copywriter for a Public Relations Organization . In his midthirties, he’s ancient for the industry and antediluvian for someone just starting his feature-film career. He’s made a couple of shorts, but he doesn’t even know the things he doesn’t know about making full-length movies.
I have a ridiculously small budget of $75,000, and we’re shooting with expensive 35-millimeter film—the kind they use for big Hollywood movies. Everyone is working for free, we’re begging equipment houses to let us borrow what we need for the shoot, and my line producer (who runs the logistics of the entire production) abruptly left the project one day ago.
If I had the slightest connection to anyone in the film business, I would have known this script had been passed on by everyone. For years. It’s a dark comedy about incest. A dead project. Unmakable. I have no mentor, no guide, no one to call if things go south. But I saw some real potential in what the script could be.
And that’s how I started my career in film.
The film was Spanking the Monkey, and, fortunately for me, those early-hour voices of doom were entirely wrong. Spanking went on to be a significant success, winning the Audience Award at Sundance, garnering career-making reviews, gaining theatrical distribution through Fine Line Features, and selling well overseas. The neophyte director was David O. Russell, who would go on to have some impressive hits with films like Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.
Now that was a while ago, and yes, things have changed. But they have changed for the better. . . for the much better. Right now everyone is stuck using an outdated “Traditional Model.” It’s time to change.
More specifically, three recent occurrences have “revolutionized the game,” the Three Building Blocks. Briefly put they are:
The Three Building Blocks
1. The Internet—Film Theory/Education
2. New-Media Technology—Equipment
3. The New Social-Media Environment—Marketing and Distribution
The internet has truly leveled the playing field in terms of learning how to become a filmmaker. Whether you go to film school or not, you can learn everything you need to know about filmmaking and creating your own film by searching through the internet. It’s all there - film courses, blogs, experiences, conversations, notions of creativity and writing, the list goes on and on. The excuse that I didn’t go to film school so I wouldn’t know where is begin is no longer acceptable in the age of the internet.
In our digital Age, the cost of renting filmmaking equipment has radically come down. Here too, no excuses. Search the web (see #1 above), and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
The New Social Media:
This one is a great double-edged sword - 1) The new social media (Hello Stage 32!) is a wonderful tool to find creative ways to get noticed once you have completed your project, AND simultaneously, 2) it has created an infinite end-user environment that has never been more thirsty for product. “If you make it, they will come” (yes, I quoted it, but only because it is in honor of this being the 25th year anniversary of that film).
And I am not talking about solely making a feature film. Start small - you can start making shorts. Start out hitting singles or doubles, you don’t always have to aim for the fences when you begin. Within the Three Building Blocks Universe it is much more important that your product and you become seen and marketed as you take the steps onward toward the journey of building your career.
So whether you read my book, take my seminar, or just start researching and figuring it yourself, you’ll soon see that it is all out there, like its never been out there, making it more accessible to jumpstart your career than ever before.
So, no excuses (hey, it worked for Nike, so why not for you?).
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Dean is available for remarks and questions in the Comments section below...
Dean will be hosting two sessions of our Stage 32 LIVE! event - How to Break Into the Film and TV Business:
***Space is limited***
For more information and to register, please click here: How to Break Into the Film and TV Business