How to Make a Movie: the budget

I can’t believe how much has happened in the last few weeks! We have an all-star cast for Lily + Mara (more on this soon), an uber-talented crew, a location in Staten Island, and now an IndieGoGo campaign.

While I’ve had a lot of experience writing screenplays, I’ve never been on the production end of a film and it’s been eye-opening to watch the budget come together. Here is the general overview of the costs:

  • filming and location permits
  • transportation for cast and crew
  • props and costumes
  • feeding the cast and crew
  • paying the crew and talent
  • equipment rentals; camera, lighting and sound
  • insurance – so much insurance!
  • post production: film and sound editing, color correction, prints
  • festival fees!

If you want to support a couple of passionate dreamers, if you think there needs to be more women making films, if you want to see a beautiful film about the bond of sisterhood, or if you’re just an awesome generous person, please consider donating to our campaign.

Please spread the word, and stay updated by liking the Lily + Mara facebook page.

Behind The Laptop (Aussie edition)

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going up to strangers in coffee shops and asking them what they are working on. Recently, I met a writer on Twitter who loves writing in coffee shops and we decided to do a special international edition.

Lee Kofman is the author of four booksincluding the memoir, The Dangerous Bride 
(Melbourne University Press), and co-editor of Rebellious Daughters (Ventura Press), an 
anthology of memoirs by prominent Australian writers. Her short works have been 
published in Australia, UK, Scotland, Israel, Canada and the US
 

Meet Lee Kofman

Below are her answers to the three questions I’ve been asking writers in coffee shops.

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Me: What are you working on?

Lee: “In the last two years I’ve been greatly enjoying writing short pieces: essays, memoirs and short stories.Right now I’m translating into English and revising a short story about a female suicide bomber which I wrote a long time ago, way before women committed such atrocities. At the same time I’m working on a new essay which explores – surprise, surprise – my lifelong obsession with cafés (and not only as a writer who loves writing there).”

M: What’s your next stage and what do you need to get there?

L: “I want to make a start on a new book/long manuscript. I’m hoping to do this later in the year. To get there, I first need to decide what I’m going to write next. I’ve got at least three or four quite firm ideas for books and this confuses me immensely. One is for a novel and the others for my currently favorite genre, creative nonfiction.
Once I make a choice, I need to also decide that I truly want to go back into the ‘seriously-commited-writing-mode’ and declutter my life a bit by doing less paid work (I teach writing and mentor writers for a living). Lastly, I need good coffee and quiet cafe nearby.

M: What does a writer need?

L: “I think it’s crucial for writers to get to know how their creative processes work, what is most effective for them. Are they the kind of writers who need to plot their first draft before the actual writing begins, or write spontaneously? When is the optimal time for them to start seeking external feedback, if at all? And even, are they comfortable writing at their desk, in bed or perhaps on trains? Another crucial aspect of creative growth, in my view, is learning to read like a writer, critically analyzing other books in order to learn tricks that other writers use. As Picasso said, ‘all art is theft’. Following on this, reading obsessively and adventurously is the most important thing one can do to keep improving as a writer.”  

You can follow Lee on TwitterFacebook, and her website.

These conversations with writers are such great affirmation of the effort I’ve put into  Writers Work. I’m proud to be creating a supportive community to help writers develop their craft, career, and community. I’m hosting my FIFTH conference on Saturday, April 9 and it’s going to be a great place to find a community as well as get inspired and informed. I hope you can come and spread the word.

*** As a side note, I’m still working on the film. We’ve finalized our cinematographer. I will be writing about it soon, but in the meantime you can get more updates by liking the Lily and Mara facebook page.***

Behind the Laptop 2

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going up to strangers in coffee shops and asking them what they are working on.

It was pretty intimidating to go up to strangers, but it was a great experience. I learned that people really like talking about their work and that they are aching for a connection with other creative people.

Meet George Anagnostakos

Below are his answers to the three questions I’ve been asking writers in coffee shops.

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Me: What are you working on?

George: “I’m working on some pitches for show ideas. I’m hoping they get developed into tv shows.”

M: What’s your next stage and what do you need to get there?

G: “I’d like pitch my own idea and have a team of writers. I love being in a writer’s room. There’s a hive mentality where you’re with people you respect and everyone’s building up each other’s ideas. At this point, I just need a good idea. I have a lot of half-baked ideas, but nothing that really excites me.”

M: What does a writer need?

G: “ Time. I need to make myself sit and focus and flush out an idea. I love writing in coffee shops because I can turn off the internet and really focus.”

This conversation was such a great affirmation of what I’m doing with my organization, Writers Work. I’m proud to be creating a supportive community to help writers develop their craft, career, and community. I’m hosting my FIFTH conference on Saturday, April 9 and it’s going to be a great place to find a community as well as get inspired and informed. I hope you can come and spread the word.

*** As a side note, I’m still working on the film. We’re in the audition process for cinematographers and actors. I will be writing about it soon, but in the mean time you can get more updates by liking the Lily and Mara facebook page.***

Behind the laptop

Sometimes you walk into a coffee shop and there are so many laptops it looks like a computer store. Have you ever wondered what all these people are working on? I always think, “Maybe my new favorite book is being written in this room right now!”

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going up to strangers in coffee shops and asking them what they are working on. It was pretty intimidating at first. I didn’t want to interrupt their work, I’m not used to starting conversations with strangers, and strangers don’t look very inviting when they’re staring at their computers. But it was a great experience. I learned that people really like talking about their work and that they are aching for a connection with other creative people.

Meet Tricia Alexandro

Below are her answers to the three questions I’ve been asking writers in coffee shops.

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Tricia Alexandra writing at The Queens Kickshaw.

Me: What are you working on?

Tricia: “A short film about a couple taking a trip to Paris. It’s one of those trips you take thinking it’s going to solidify your relationship but instead it reveals all the cracks.”

M: What’s your next stage and what do you need to get there?

T: “I want to be paid for my work. I want more exposure and a writing community. I find that kind of support is imperative for getting to the next level because those kinds of people inspire you and also hold you accountable. When you see the consistency of other people, and the fact that they’re making a go at it on a daily basis, that encourages me. And you also share resources when you have a community.”

M: What does a writer need?

T: “I think self-compassion is probably the best thing to have as a writer because most of your first drafts and even fifth drafts are going to be shitty. Also curiosity about what’s going on around you. Be gentle on yourself and persevere.”

This conversation was such a great affirmation of what I’m doing with my organization, Writers Work. I’m proud to be creating a supportive community to help writers develop their craft, career, and community. I’m hosting my FIFTH conference on Saturday, April 9 and it’s going to be a great place to find a community as well as get inspired and informed. I hope you can come and spread the word.

*** As a side note, I’m still working on the film. We’re in the audition process for cinematographers and actors. I will be writing about it soon, but in the meantime you can get more updates by liking the Lily and Mara facebook page.***

How to Make a Movie: Letting Go

It’s funny how what you want the most can also be what scares you the most.

Coming from a novel-writing background, I’m used to generating ideas, finessing them, and then presenting them as a finished product. In the end, I can stand by my story, confident I did everything I could to represent my initial idea.

But this way of working is very lonely and there is hardly any room to grow and challenge your ideas.

When I first met with Caroline, I told her that I was attracted to filmmaking because of its collaborative nature. I was excited by the prospect of writing a script with someone else, sharing ideas and coming up with something greater than either of our initial proposals. It was even more exciting to imagine how a director and actors would interpret our words. Beyond that, a cinematographer, editor, costume director, composer and so many more people would each have their input. I loved the idea of having so many creative brains tackling and developing one idea.

But once I got started, it scared the sh*t out of me.

I must admit I’m a control freak. In writing a novel, I get to control every last detail. When hosting my conferences,  I handle everything from the venue to booking the speakers to making the name cards. It’s taxing and stressful, but stress is my comfort zone. I have a deep belief that when I’m stressed, everything is being handled.

Filmmaking made me challenge this belief. It’s impossible for me to control everything and that’s scary. I spent hours scouring the internet, studying up on how to film in a car, the pay scale for SAG actors, and permits for location shoots. Each time I brought this information up to Caroline, she calmly said, “Dude, I love your enthusiasm, but I want you available to make creative decisions. These are all issues our line producer/casting director/so and so will handle.” And she was right.

 

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Caroline, Monica and me at our first production meeting. 

For the first time, I’m working with a team, and I don’t need to do everything. It’s extremely difficult to resist the urge to research one more thing, but I’m forcing myself to let go, and trust that others will not only handle it but do it better than I would. I am allowing myself to collaborate and not let fear get in the way of what I want.

 

Please take a moment to like our facebook page for the film and leave a comment of support. It makes a big difference to know you care.

How to Make a Movie: Location location location

Last week, Caroline and I visited Long Beach, NY as a possible site for our short film. This was such an exciting part of the filmmaking process. After finishing the script, it was so much fun to imagine the characters we created in a real space.

Please enjoy our recap of the location, and ignore my awkward joke:

We spent several hours walking around the beach, pinpointing specific angles we liked and possible settings for different shots. It was a great way for us to talk about how we envisioned the movie.

We still have a few more locations to scout, but progress is being made! More to come on our first production meeting, and the audition process.

In the meantime, please like our official facebook page, and follow our new twitter acount for the film. We’ve been blown away by how supportive and encouraging everyone has been so far. Every like, comment and follow goes a long way in making this crazy dream feel more attainable.

How to Make A Movie: Write

As I mentioned in the past posts, I’m making a movie with my friend Caroline! So far I’ve talked about how important it is to be committed and have the right attitude. The next step was all about the work.

Once Caroline and I decided on the story, an idea she had about what we do for the people we love, we sat down with index cards. Each card represented a concept that we wanted to address in our film. We brainstormed each of these concepts, filling the index cards with notes. For homework, we decided to each write a version of the story and send it to each other.

From there, we came up with a script we liked. We then asked some of our actor friends to do a reading for us to hear how it sounded. It was amazing to hear our words read with so much emotion. The actors, who are trained to understand character, were so helpful in pointing out inconsistencies and weak spots. A huge thanks to Laura Hankin, Katrina Medoff and Ashley Harrell for their time and expertise. Sorry about the blurry pictures below:

After that reading, we decided that we wanted to try a different approach to the story because a lot of it took place in a car and we thought that would be too difficult to film/boring to watch. We tried out thirteen different versions without a car. We decided on a version we liked, and then the next day we decided we didn’t like it. At that point, it was starting to get overwhelming. It was looking like we’d never agree on a final script

Over a fantastic dinner of pizza and wine, Caroline and I realized that every version we wrote was really good and that we both had high standards for the project. The truth was, we could go out and film any of the scripts we wrote and make a  beautiful film. This realization was a huge relief. It meant that we weren’t stuck, we were still climbing.

We both agreed that this was the only stage where we could play around with the movie as much as we wanted to. Fortunately, Caroline and I are both great with letting go of our writing for the sake of trying something new. This approach can be scary, deleting pages that you love, but it leads to fresh ideas.

After that dinner, we tried out six very different ideas. We settled on one that incorporated a lot of the different ideas we had while remaining simple. Then we sent that version back and forth, fine-tuning it.

Finally, we sent it out to people we trust to get their feedback. The response was incredible. While we got some minor notes to make things clearer, overall everyone loved it!

Now that we are busy finding the cast and crew, we still tweak the script every few days. All in all, for a ten-minute film, we probably wrote close to 200 pages of script. What we have no is excellent and I’m excited to turn it into a film!

If you are working on your first movie, remember that the writing is the cheapest stage. This is the time to experiment and make the leanest, strongest, most compelling story. During filming, if something isn’t working right with the story, you waste hours with the actors and crew. That’s thousands of dollars in equipment and hourly wages. Spending an hour or even a day to fix something while it’s on your computer will save thousands of dollars.

Next up, more on the challenges of making a film, how to come up with the money, and location scouting!

How to Make A Movie: Right Attitude

2014-03-23 15.58.32Practice saying this out loud: “why the hell not!” I promise this attitude will take you far in life.

As I recounted in my past posts about making a movie, I had a great first meeting with Caroline. I was taken with her enthusiasm and ambition. It was clear that we both had great ideas and we were both looking for an opportunity to showcase our talents.

A week after our first meeting I wrote to her, “I think we should just jump for it and make a short :)” That simple statement got the ball rolling. In a matter of weeks, we had a script ready and a crew forming.

It’s so easy to make excuses and convince yourself that you’re not ready, but it’s just as easy to say “why the hell not!” That attitude evokes a playfulness with your life. It makes you realize how pointless it is to resist your curiosity and excitement.

I’ve learned that once you commit to a project, the details take care of themselves. You can tackle the problems as they come. However, if you try to consider and tackle all of the intimidating details before you even start, you probably won’t get past that phase. Take the plunge because…why the hell not!?!

What would you do with a “why the hell not” attitude?

How to make a movie: Show up

As I said in the last post, I’m making a movie with my friend Caroline!

While it’s easy to research how to make a movie online, I’m addressing some of the crucial, universal steps that often get overlooked with any major project.

This step is so simple and so obvious, but, yet, so many people fail to do it.

Step 2: Show up

This simple step is two-fold. One, make concrete plans. Two, follow them.

Here’s an example of the infuriating email exchange I have way too often:

Them: … I’d love to meet up and talk further …

Me: … I’m free for coffee the next two Sundays, or I can work around your schedule if Sunday’s not possible. Just let me know!

Them: Yay! I’d love to catch up.

Me: Great! What is your schedule like?

Them: (three months later) Sooo Sorry, my schedule got super busy. Can we still meet up?

Me: … I’m available after 6pm any day next week.

Them: no response.

If you want to make things happen, you have to commit to a date. Be proactive and offer concrete options, not vague plans. Yes, you might end up having to say no to another event that sounds cooler, but it’s worth it.

Now for the second part of this step. Sometimes you can’t show up no matter how hard you try. Last week, my back was killing me and I had to cancel lots of plans. But in general, make every effort to keep your word. If you plan to meet at 7pm on a Tuesday, show up at 6:50 on a Tuesday. This will get you far in life.

I knew Caroline and I were going to hit off before we even met because in our first email exchange, we made concrete plans, and then we both showed up. Seems simple, but somehow it’s still rare.

Stay tuned for more steps! A lot’s happening and I can’t wait to share it with you🙂