[Filmmaking A to Z by Vic Alexander]

Now you can buy the book

signed by the filmmaker.

FILMMAKING A TO Z is the best how-to film on the Internet. It is written by true indie filmmaker Vic Alexander based on his experience of four decades in independent filmmaking worldwide. It covers five areas of filmmaking: script writing, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. It takes the potential filmmaker or student of film through all the details of filmmaking: the aesthetics, camera work, crew selection, casting, legal matters, business considerations, marketing, distribution and exhibition. ($25 includes shipping)

(This is an excerpt from my book on filmmaking.)

In film making there is always a Producer, it's the producer who gets the ball rolling. That Producer may be you, the film maker or the director -- whatever you like to call yourself. A film maker can be his or her own Producer, but somebody has to come up with the money, and thatís what a Producer is, the money person!

Of course, a Producer is more than that. A Producer is a highly dedicated individual for whom communicating to the world some vital idea or message about life is the most noble impulse a human being can have, or a Producer is a megalomaniac who thinks that his or her idea is of such importance that millions must suffer (financially of course) just to get a glimpse of what life might be like if that idea or vision becomes a reality. Of course, this is a dichotomy! (I finally got to use that word since I learned to spell it three decades ago. Unfortunately, I donít know what it means anymore.)

Which brings me to why someone wants to make a film. A Producer is after all someone who wants to make a movie and also has the money.

There are many bad reasons to start a production, but there are very few good ones. This is statistical of course, because most movies turn out badly for one reason or another. Some become that way because they shouldíve never been made, most become bad because they are botched.

You should make movies when youíre a seasoned film maker and youíve had proper training, one way or another, film school not being the only way, and you've had extensive experience in the "film world." That means you won't run to mommy the first time your nose gets bloodied, in a manner of speaking of course!

Film making is a brutal business, but a fulfilling art-form -- if you keep it that way. The business aspect of it is not the heart and soul of the activity, it's the necessary evil part. And as with all life's activities, that evil part is ever present, but if you're a film maker you know that the analogy stops there.

You need money to have a shelter when you sleep at night, whether you pay rent, pay a mortgage or taxes on a property you own "free and clear" (there's nothing free and clear, you soon find out when you do come to own something which is paid for!) But you don't need to have money to make a movie, not your own anyway!

You're a Producer regardless of where you get the money. After you're a successful film maker, the major studios will give you a negative pick-up deal and any major bank will advance you the money to make the picture (about that later).

Let's say you have the money and you've got a script. The first thing you do, if you're not a director, is hire a director. Then you discuss the story and the project thoroughly. Can a movie be made out of it successfully? We won't go into the meaning of the word "successfully" at this point. This whole website is about that!

If you agree, then you hire the production manager and the rest of the cast and crew. This sounds easy, but it isn't.

You also negotiate all the contracts, with cast, crew and every aspect of the production.

Then during production, you supervise all expenditures and financial matters. You must keep the director (even if it's you) as free as possible from all financial worries. On a low budget picture it's real easy to get embroiled in financial problems, and there are thousands of them. You have to learn to wear different hats and switch instantly and cleanly between financial considerations and artistic demands. The quality of your film will suffer if you can't do that.

For example, a last minute replacement of an actor causes you to inadvertently pay a few more dollars per day for the new actor than to your lead actor (starring role). The news gets out, the shit hits the fan. You're in the middle of directing a scene with the two actors and tempers flare. You can see how things can come to a screeching halt, right?

You have to quickly re-negotiate with your lead actor an alternative way of equalizing the pay scale. You pay a bonus at the end of production or whatever, but you must quickly diffuse the situation. You must apologize for the error and rectify it in an acceptable way. If you can you should really raise the pay scale of your leads. The most important thing is to move quickly! Otherwise the situation will deteriorate, the wounds will fester and you'll end up with all kinds of problems with the performances. The whole movie project could be shot to hell!

If you're directing and you have a Producer on the project, the job becomes much easier. Leave it to the Producer whenever there's an incident like this.

Take on a "hurt" attitude yourself. Sulk, hang your head down and walk off the set. "Poor guy, his Producer screwed everything up for him, he's got the hots for that actress, overpaid her and now he's got the leading man sore at the Director--why did he have to do that, when everything was going so well?"

The whole cast and crew come to your rescue. It's the Producer's fault!

Blame it on him, that's his job! Now when the situation is rectified and the actors return, you as the director can smile and rub your hands, "Let's get started -- everything okay?"

Sure. "You just gotta grease 'em!" That's what one of my Producer friends always says. Sometimes it's a problem with a vendor, the catering, a location owner or the lab -- the Producer handles all such matters.

If you're a film maker and putting up your own money, don't let it be generally known. Hire a line Producer (production-phase-only "Producer") for the project. You can then still make all the financial decisions privately and communicate them to the line producer discreetly.

The Producer sees the film all the way through production and distribution.

Finally, the Producer is responsible for the distribution of all appropriate revenues on the picture and the repayment of all loans and financial obligations of the film.

But then the Producer owns the picture!

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