Producing : Shot a trailer for a feature film. Good idea? Bad idea? Need some advice. by Matthew Campbell

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Matthew Campbell

Shot a trailer for a feature film. Good idea? Bad idea? Need some advice.

I'm a young filmmaker from Vancouver, BC who works in the film industry. I direct and produce my own projects on the side. They are gathering steam in the local industry because of the talent I've been able to pull from local talent pools to help out on my passion projects, such as as Peter Wilke (Planet of the Apes, A-Team, Warcraft, who was the DOP for my first short film (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3oYQBivk1o) I've got a fantastic concept for a feature film. The script is in it's 3rd draft and we've shot a trailer over 5 days with some fantastic stunts and great production values. We also have a very talented actor with a steadily growing fanbase attached to the project. There's some trailer footage in this quick pitch I did (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_5unDY1PD4&list=UUYvMsP3s_7huWoJi-RAcpBA) I've got a first cut of the FULL trailer available online (please PM me for a link) if anyone would like to check it out, I guarantee you'd be surprised by what we pulled off in 5 days. I'm looking for feedback on the best way to cut it for investors. We are aiming at having this first cut be a lengthier version for investors, to try and sell our concept, story, and myself as a director. Once it's cut, I'm a little unsure of the best way to approach people with it. I've managed to make some friends in the industry who work on large TV shows (Arrow, The Returned, Warcraft) who are all interested in seeing more of the project. At some point I need to start pitching it, but as everything else I've shot has been produced by me, this is a whole new game. I could use any advice you folks might be willing to have to getting my trailer seen and getting the attention of investors. Thanks in advance!

Barry Kneller

Youre work is great! I would cut a 1-2 minute trailer of the footage you shot and use that to send out to potential investors in addition to just keep doing what you have been doing. Great stuff! Good luck!

Ami Brown

Looks like an interesting film. I can't get the whole idea of the movie - but if you can do some creative editing, and can convey more of the overall theme, you could have a nice trailer. Good job with the film though. You may can use a voice over to help with the story.

Sonaal Pannu

I loved your short film, "To Save One's Self", the efforts towards making one is definitely worthy of praise! Keep it up! Now as for your feature film, I am just bouncing off a few ideas imagining that if I had a concept at hand and would want to pitch it to potential investors, how would I go about it... a. Firstly, I must have a story that's never been told before. After all, film making is about story and story-telling! b. Now, that said and done I would then create a series of teasers to generate curiosity, something that the investors look forward to. And perhaps getting a reply from them on your teasers saying that they wish to see more of it would be a step in the right direction. c. Once I observe that my teasers are generating the kind of buzz/curiosity among investors, I would then show them the trailer of the film to give them an even clearer picture. The trailer should be bang on! d. Any potential investor who sees promise in your teasers/trailers should definitely in my view have a series of meetings to discuss the prospects of turning a script into a film vis-a-vis revisions on the working draft of the script if necessary, commissioning the script then drawing up a production design and getting on with the casting etc. All the best, Matthew! And yep, I'd love to see your trailer.

Matthew Campbell

@Alle I realize why your a bit confused. I said we'd shot 5 days, but neglected to say that it was only for a trailer, our feature film is not underway. It is not final product footage. The short film is what I linked to first, a seperate project. My apologies for not being clear enough. I would be very interested in your thoughts on the trailer, if you'd like I can send you a link. We are leaving this trailer longer with as much story in there as possible to tell the investors what makes this story unique, hoping it will get them interested in reading our screenplay. We are aiming around 3 minutes for the investory trailer. We will cut a shorter 1.5 minute version thats a bit less story and more flashy images for the public when we go public with our trailer.

Matthew Campbell

@Sonaal Thanks for the kind words about my short film. Much appreciated. On that note, we definitely had a different kind of story here, this one breaks genre cliches and goes in a direction very opposite the genre standard. I really like the idea of some smaller teasers to get investors interested. Obviously our trailer will be 100% before we send it to them. We are fortunate enough to have ILM doing some of our VFX work which should give us a bit of a publicity boost when promoting it. My biggest issue is getting to the investors, and getting them to trust me that I can nail this thing. I've been lucky to receive incredible support from talented highly respected names here in Vancouver, but they aren't the ones with the money. I will send you the rough cut of the trailer to take a peek at. No sound FX, CGI, color correction, or real music is in there yet but it should give you enough of an idea. Cheers, and thanks!

Matthew Campbell

@Barry All the footage that we've actually shot was for our trailer, sorry, I should've clarified that. We are looking at 3 minutes for the investor trailer, but might be able to trim it down a bit more. Thanks for the great feedback, love it!

Sonaal Pannu

Matthew, why don't you try crowd funding your idea on Indiegogo or other such portals? The crowd could be your potential investors. There are many success stories that I've read (I may not have given it a shot though) but you could script yet another success story! You could first have a look at how others have gone about raising the sum of money for their projects before you decide to put up your idea to the crowd. All the best!

Jon Bonnell

Matthew, you are on track. The whole point to a trailer is to get your audience excited about your film. Whether that audience is potential investors, distributors, or consumers. So make it sell. Make it pop! Show the audience what they will be getting. Show your investors and buyers how they are going to get their money back and show your potential clients why they are going to give it to you. Definitely highlight your stunts/action. It shows production value and excitement. That said, if the movie is a drama then you better show your best scene; if its an action movie, show some stunts, etc. You are selling your project and you in 2 minutes. Get them excited about it. Let them ask for the script because they are excited about what they've just seen. As to all the comment about story, that's trickier. In a trailer you don't always convey the story, you convey the story that sells. In your case you don't want to mislead your potential investors, but be brief. Its not about a beat for beat presentation of your story, its just your elevator pitch. I can't stress enough that the trailer is about showcasing YOUR POTENTIAL: "I did this on my own, think of what we can do together" or "See, I can execute on my vision, back me on this great project." Because, you are asking them to give you a shot with their money so prove you won't waste their time and money. BTW, would love to see the trailer you've shot.

Jon Bonnell

BTW, as to Swinging With the Finkels, it was a short film (Sex With The Finkels) that won a contest on Filmaka.com and went from there. You've already got the contacts and connections with people you currently are working with. There's no need to go that route.

Barry Kneller

Excellent advice Jon. I agree with all of it.

Matthew Campbell

@Sonaal We are definitely thinking of the crowdfunding route, but due to some of the stunts and road work required for this, I couldn't see us shooting this for under a 1m. Unless I get some some A-list talent on board, which we are aiming for if our script gets as good as we'd like, it would be hard to get a strong enough audience base to actually raise anywhere even close to 100k. It's something we are contemplating, but more of as last resort.

Matthew Campbell

@Jon I will send you the trailer link via PM once you accept my friend request. The trailer I'm going to send you is our slightly longer investor trailer, giving a lot of production value with our stunts and action while still telling what makes the dramatic elements unique. As this trailer is our first rough cut, there's no sound fx, sound mixing, color correction, or VFX (which ILM will be doing for me as a favour from past work together), so please bear that in mind when watching. Fantastic advice Jon, that's definitely the route that I am aiming for, but I know the first question out of potential investors mouths will be "have you done a feature yet?". It's quite an ambitious first time feature to start with.

Jon Bonnell

It takes a team. Surround yourself with people that have done a feature. Boost your credibility through them. Besides, you've worked on long form, right? Maybe not as director but in other roles. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Barry Kneller

Good point Matt. If this is your first feature it might be best to have a producer and director with some experience on board. I wouldn't give someone 1 million dollars to do a film, regardless of the attached cast and how good the script is that has no track record with features. If you at least have a producer and or director on board that has features under their belt that will help to give a potential investor more confidence in you and the project.

Matthew Campbell

@Jon I work full time in the industry (Warcraft, The Grey, Godzilla), just not as a director. I've completed 2 short films before I started aiming at the feature route. @Barry The problem is that I wouldn't have put all this work, time, and money into the feature script and trailer just to hand it off to someone else to direct and take a paycheque. It's not about the money from selling it, it's about directing it myself, so I will have to do wahtever it takes to get someone to recognize that I am fully competent to do a feature. My producers will have definitely done them before and have my back.

Jon Bonnell

1M to do a feature if your team is solid and experienced should be not that big deal. The stunt work you guys did in the trailer alone is spectacular. People will think "Wow, what could this team do with some money." Make sure your UPM, LP, AD, PD, DP, etc all have feature or long form experience (television series work which is all over the place up there) and then it all becomes about the director's vision and the team that will support him in that... and I'll say that vision seems to be there in the trailer. Add to that you are due a SLEW of incentives in the Vancouver area and you can push this film as Canadian content (still more incentives) and you've got a no brainer investment because somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-75% of that 1M budget is already accounted for.

Barry Kneller

I said director OR producers, Matt. If you plan on directing it then make sure your producers have solid feature work under their belt. Also, I think it is great that you have directed two short films and have a lot of drive and passion, but that doesn't matter most of the time to investors. What matters to them is getting their money back and with a return on investment. When people do short films they don't become experienced with things like distribution (a whole different and important world) and feature film sales in general. Not to mention you have no room for error on your first feature film. Remember, a million dollars is at stake. This is why at the least you will need experienced producers and certainly an experienced DP helping to make sure things get done the right way. AND you are speculating that your producers will have already done them before. Most producers with the experience that you need for your film will not even talk to you until at least 20-30% of your budget is raised (minimum). I know this from experience and have been in your shoes many a time. It is VERY difficult to get that type of money from an investor without a proven track record and even with that it's still very tough.

Barry Kneller

Also I admire that its not about the money or paycheck for you, but it is for the people that will be putting up the money. You are a passionate, talented and driven filmmaker. But what separates you from the other inexperienced but talented and hardworking filmmakers looking for a million for their project to get produced? I'm just giving you some things to think about here and strengthen your marketing package. As a person that has directed a bunch of shorts myself and produced a feature, I look to work with people way more experienced than myself on projects both on the artistic and distribution/marketing ends. In today's world a filmmaker has to dazzle investors both artistically and on the business side...

Jonathan Lacocque

Hi Matthew, there's a lot of killer feedback here. And I'll add that the little footage you used in your pitch video looks excellent (although I felt like you were rushing through the pitch, personally). Connect with a great producer and you'll find a lot of success. I wouldn't be afraid to reach out to notable production companies as well - companies with track records, as they will have the connections you need. And I've had friends get TV & feature deals from just posting completely projects on Youtube and Vimeo. One friend got an animated short noticed by Nickelodeon and is now putting together a TV show with them. It's a rare opportunity, but I'd keep doing what you're doing, reaching out to folks, and also complete your 'trailer' as a 'short' and get it out there for people to see and share. Good luck and feel free to reach out if you need something (my focus these days is post).

Matthew Campbell

Thanks for the great feedback Jonathan. I was definitely rushing through the pitch, it was for a website and it needed to be under 60 seconds. :P I've been looking for great producers in town, but mostly just on the various sets I've been working on. Once I have the trailer done along with a proper business package I think I will be able to attract some talented producers. I've been putting together a list of Canadian indie film production companies to approach, but I think I'm going to start making a list of American companies as well, because honestly that's where the money is. I just hope I've got enough story in the trailer to keep it different, because I know we've got the production value down pat with our stunts and action. Looking forward to showing anyone interested the new and updated trailer.

Jonathan Lacocque

Matthew, please feel free to send me the new trailer. I'd be interested to check it out, and will focus on the story side for you.

Barry Kneller

Id like to see the new trailer.

Mike Chinea

Awesome production values, talent shines through. Who's your target audience? If you're hitting up your dentist for money and she's into the genre, leave as is but a distributor would have turn it off after 20 seconds. For the industry and sophisticated investors it is best to have a reel with 2 or 3 good solid scenes that best describes the movie. Hype doesn't sell for those who make a living out of hype. Wishing you much success with your project.

Barry Kneller

"For the industry and sophisticated investors it is best to have a reel with 2 or 3 good solid scenes that best describes the movie." IMO, unless those scenes are performed by known and "bankable" actors than I think an investor trailer for an action movie should mostly include and is best served with high production value/ heavy action shots and include as much "hype" as it can. For example, Mathew's trailer showed me a few things. 1, He was willing to invest in putting together a higher impact action trailer with some greater expense bells and whistles in addition to the demonstrating of his ability to artistically direct (some of his shots really blew my mind that he was able to get with no to little money). 2. His trailer showed me that he is resourceful, strategic, skilled and talented. If his trailer just had scene work, I would have lumped him in the mix of the majority of independent filmmakers aiming to get an action film done. Bottom line, he's doing an action movie. Investors will want to see, ACTION. That's what they are investing in. Showing good scene work at his stage will be less enticing to investors, especially sophisticated ones.

Mike Chinea

Very good points. Sell the sizzler not the steak still works in many arenas. I should have prefaced with that with that I invest in 3 to 5 movies a year and those were my preferences and that of the distributors I work with. Different investors look for different things.

Matthew Campbell

Fantastic points all around! Barry, you made me blush a little, thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad that my passion shines through in my trailer. It means a lot to be so well received by so many industry professionals.

Mehernosh Kapadia

send me the link at my email id mkfilms7@gmail.com

Shaun O'Banion

Some serious production value in those stunt sequences, and based on that, I don't think there's any question you can pull of 2nd Unit-type action stuff.... but you also state it's a story about "love, loss and redemption," so, while the hook of the movie is flash, the key to the whole thing working and not just being another schlocky low-budget action film will be the performances and the story. Will an audience care about this soldier with a wounded psyche coming home? Will they be invested in him and fear for his family? This is tricky stuff. TAKEN (a rather sloppy, half-baked actioner in my opinion) gets a lot of the way down that road by having Liam Neeson as Brian Mills - in other words, we (as audience members) already, with rare exception, really like Neeson as a performer... consequently, we bring that fondness into the theater with us and we WANT him to win, save his daughter and blow some sh*t up along the way... we forgive the B movie nature of the film (despite its budget it's still a B movie), because of Liam and Famke and what's-her-name from Lost... The guns and explosions and revenge plot are fun escapism, but without Liam, it's just a goofy action flick. Would TAKEN be TAKEN if they'd have only gotten, like, C. Thomas Howell and the latest Playboy centerfold as the wife? No. Not in a million years. Would never see the inside of a theater. So, I would ask, can you really do your film for a million bucks? Let's say you get a B-Level actor to play your soldier... maybe a TV guy who really wants to jump to features and sees your indie action film as a way to do it... not a shitty actor, mind you, but a really solid character actor who has just never been a lead... well, if he's somewhat well-known, he's likely going to want SAG Schedule F, and that's $65k. Now you can't make your film for a million anymore. NOW it's at least $2.5-$3. Ok. Fine. If you can raise that, great... and maybe his name gets you that bump... The truth is, you're better off being taken seriously at that level anyway. Anything less and they'll be thinking "straight to VOD." But now you need the wife, too. Can you get the guy from that TV show everyone likes and not have a recognizable wife? What about the villain? You need faces for the poster. People recognizable in international markets. Now your budget is going up again. Point is, investors will look at your sizzle reel and go, "wow, he can shoot the shit out of action on a low-budget," and that's great... but you also need to show you can tell a story... otherwise it just looks like a stunt reel. And you need a cast. Casting is like 98% of the success of the piece. Look at JOHN WICK. Directed by two stuntmen. Reeves. Dafoe. Palicki. The guy who played Swearingen on Deadwood whose name I can't recall. The bad guy from GHOST PROTOCOL - Nyqvist... Granted, WICK is way more expensive than your film should be or needs to be, but... you need cast to make yours work. Of course, I'm assuming you aspire to a theatrical release... and to getting your investors their ROI. Regardless, I wish you the best. I'd be curious to see the whole trailer if you care to share the link... You come across as genuine and talented, and from your footage you CLEARLY have the belief of the local filmmaking community - some of them literally willing to risk life and limb for you. That alone is impressive as hell. Hope you get to make your film. Sorry for the novel.

Matthew Campbell

Hey Shaun, Thanks for the amazing post. We know that we could never make this for a 1million bucks, we're hoping to maybe do it for around 3-5million. We have some talent attached who has a bit of a name to himself (that is growing as the TV show he's on continues to air). I've got a couple people in mind that I'd love to have play our lead hero, but they could very well be out of our budget range. Our plan is to have such a solid script with a great story that actors would be willing to come on board for a lower rate than normal, because they believe in the story and think it's a great character to play and show some depth to. Obviously, this is a long stretch but there is a small shot. Cast is incredibly important to us. Originally, this was more action, less story, and was something that I could probably pitch to the WWE film companies akin to 12 Rounds, etc. but I realized I'd rather tell a story that lasts, and makes people think when they walk out, with smaller segments of intense, but well done action (a la DRIVE). I can talk a bit more about our cast, and hopeful cast via PM if you'd like to hear more. In that pitch video, I figured with such little time the sizzle would help us out, but action is definitely not the heart of our story. I'd love to send you our current draft of the trailer. It's more of an investors trailer, so it's a bit long running around 3 minutes, but it will give you a larger sense of the conflict at hand. There is currently no VFX, color correction, sound fx, only temp music, etc. but we are hoping to have it finalized for June/July. We just picture locked the trailer and are waiting for ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) to get started on the VFX in April. It's true, I could never have done anything like this without the help of so many talented people that I'm lucky enough to work with on set on a day-to-day basis. I invested a ton of money into this thing, and while I'm now looking at a major re-write of the script to get in more in line with the story that needs to be told, I'm looking forward to hopefully sharing a final trailer to everyone along with a proper pitch package. I'll send you that trailer via PM once you accept my friend request, or just drop your e-mail in here. Thanks again Shaun, it means a hell of a lot to get such great insight into creating a low budget film such as mine. Cheers!

Matthew Campbell

So, finally I've got a trailer that I can show the public! We rushed our 1 minute trailer out for the Cinecoup contest, where we have a chance of winning $1m and a guaranteed theatrical release here in Canada. "This modern dramatic thriller is about an Afghan father who comes to North America seeking revenge on the soldier who accidentally killed his child. But is it revenge that will satisfy his hunger for justice? Can the soldier turn off the kill switch inside him in order to save himself and ultimate his family?" If you like the trailer, please do sign up (its quick!), rate our video, follow us, and share!. Being the sole producer at this time I really don't have a great social media impact at this time, so I will take any help I can get. http://www.thewoundedmovie.com

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