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.

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.



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: Announce yourself

It’s official, my friend and I are making a short film! If you asked me a year ago what I thought I would be doing now, I never would have guessed this. Life takes you on a bizarre and awesome path when you follow your interests.

making a movieIn my continuing effort to share what I’m working on while still keeping my posts helpful and accessible, I now introduce a series of broad lessons I’ve learned from the process of making a movie. These lessons are helpful to anyone who’s trying to make something bigger than themselves.

Step one: Announce yourself

During the last writer’s conference, I asked my audience if they consider themselves to be writers. I was surprised that most of them said no. They believed they needed the external validation of an MFA or a publishing career in order to use that title. I shared with them that my life was never the same after I started describing myself as a writer.

  1. I felt encouraged to write every day because I wanted to live up to my title.
  2. It was easier to invest in my writing career once I was a self-proclaimed writer. It seems crazy to spend $400 on a writing class if I’m a web designer with an interest in writing, but it makes perfect sense if I’m a writer with a side job.
  3. People started connecting me with other writers because they know me as the writer. This helped me make connections for my conferences as well as the movie project that I’m about to get into.

So, yes, first things first, let everyone know what you consider yourself to be and what you hope to do. I made it very clear to everyone I know that I’m a writer. For the last few months I’ve been letting people know how much I enjoy writing screenplays and that I hope to develop a project.


That brings us to the lovely Ashley H., who you might remember from when I dyed my hair purple. Ashley knew that I was interested in screenwriting. She also knew that her friend, Caroline, was interested in screenwriting. With this simple email from Ashley: “I really think the two of you should meet and discuss things!” we were off!  It was a match made in movie-making heaven.

Do you see how important it is for your friends to know what you are interested in doing? If I had kept my ambitions a secret, if I was too embarrassed to say what I wanted, Ashley never would have thought of introducing us. If you want to start an ice cream company, start telling everyone you know. If you want to put on a one-woman show, start talking about it now. After you share what you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazed at the connections that start popping up!

So what is your dream? What do you want to do that is bigger than yourself? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below!

Stay tuned for the next step in making a movie!