A Good Story Well Told

A reader of my short blog yesterday about the pitching contest I have been invited to, wrote this comment: «These seems like a traditional “soldier-returns-home-with-problems-film”, with a woman instead of a man. What other things do you think this will bring to the table that we haven’t seen before?»

I had not disclosed more than two sentences about my film idea «Fallen», and already this question was posed. What is actually says is, «We’ve heard it before…». Yawn.

Mark Twain said, «I like a good story well told.» I could not agree more.

This summer I saw a remake of Jane Eyre. I read the book decades ago and since then have seen countless dramatizations of it. Even though I knew the story off by heart, I found myself wanting to cry out to on-the-screen Jane to warn her. To tell her not to run off after finding out the deep dark secret of the love of her life. I even cried a litte.

If the criteria for creative expression, be it literature or film, is something we haven’t seen before, most of all that we read or see on film is without value. The first dramatization of Jane Eyre should never have taken place. Because anyone who could bother to read, had «seen» it with their inner eyes, while reading the novel. Not to mention every single remake since the first dramatization.

Taking it one step further, perhaps Charlotte Brontë failed by even writing the novel, according to the standards of «what we haven’t seen before.»? The story is about two people in love who cannot have each other because of the conventions of society.

Where have I heard that one before? Hadn’t Shakespeare already exausted that topic to the t in Romeo and Juliet?

Look aside from every theatre that Romeo and Juliet has been staged on and all the films made of it, is the basic storyline of Romeo and Juliet packed in other novels and films? The first film I spotted in my bookcase of dvds in search of Romeo and Juliet-look-alikes was Pretty Woman. I gave up searching for more films after finding the first couple of dozen that actually were Romeo and Juliet rip offs.

Some of these films are «yawn» material for sure. Others absolutely not.

It is not that they show us something we haven’t seen before that sets them apart, it is about how the story is told.

Love is universal. It can be told in a story as a cliché or it can be told in a way that makes our hearts break or makes us believe in love again.

Boiled down, most stories have been told before. Another example besides boy-meets-girl, is the Hero’s Journey. Need I list any films that are about the Hero out to save the world and on his quest also has an inner journey?

Again, what sets them apart are not what we haven’t seen before (because we have pretty much seen it all and this has been the case since the ancient world), but how it is told.

I guess that is why we already as children love to hear the same stories over and over again.

As long as a story tells us a little of who we are and is well told, it makes an impact.

Back to «Fallen», which is not even written yet and the first critical voice is happy to join the arena. I have a basic storyline in place. A character I am developing. These are my road maps, but I might end up taking a completely different route than the one I have defined for myself today. In part, because I trust the creative process which all of a sudden can lead to magic. In part, because I am allowing myself time to do proper research. I spend hours listening to veterans tell their stories. Mind you, after a while, the stories blend into each other. They are basically the same, with small individual nuances. If I follow the train of thought of my critic I should just tell them, «Heard it before. What can you bring to the table that I have not?» Yawn.

Believe me, that is the furtherst reaction I have when faced with real people and their stories. Yes, I have heard it before. That doesn’t mean I am indifferent. I am deeply moved. And I leave each meeting a little different person.

My aim for «Fallen» as for all my stories is a good story, well told. I trust that this is what will move the audience at a deep emotional level, because it tells us a little about who we are as humans.

If I manage that, I doubt very much that people seeing the film will yawn at having seen it before.

 


Off to Pitch Again

Movies on War (www.moviesonwar.no)  is a new film festival. Not surprizingly dedicated to movies on war. It starts on Thursday. Saturday there is a pitching contest, which I am headed for.

Some while ago the festival posted a contest: submit a synopis or film idea on the topic war and conflict. The best ideas would be invited to be pitched for a jury during the Movies on War festival. I had been thinking for quite some time about an idea to a film about a female soldiar returning home. Not all the causalities of war are those who do not make it home alive. Some return, yet with not much life left in them.

I have enough projects on my desk now. A new «bread job» that is very demanding, made me hesitate about writing the synopsis. After giving it some thought, I started some serious research. I met some veterans, and could no longer harbor any doubt. I have a great story that needs to be told. Also, all of my other projects are far more developed. It was time for me to start my next project. So I submitted my one page synopsis.

The film idea has the working title «Fallen». I am going to write this screenplay, regardless of what happens next Saturday. I am just grateful for the push for me to start the process now, and of course, to be among those invited to pitch.

During the course of the coming months, I will be meeting more veterans who have agreed to talk to me.

Be prepared to hear more about «Fallen». At least if you follow this blog.

Fingers crossed for next Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


To Chicago

«Shadows of a Midsummer’s Night» that I co-wrote with director Stian Einar Forgaard, is one of 10 Norwegian movies (3 features and 7 shorts), that is accepted to the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF). 

This festival is the only children’s festival that is Oscar qualifying. The seven Norwegian shorts screened at the CICFF in the end of October has a chance at an Oscar nomination. A long shot, I’m sure, but fun all the same.

The CICFF is the largest film festival in the world that is dedicated to children’s films with 25.000 visitors annually. What I especially like about the festival is that there is a program for underprivileged children in the Chicago-area who get to go see these movies for free.

This will be the first international screening for our film. Apparently this film festival is often the first step towards other important festivals in the USA, especially for shorts. Perhaps there can be more US festivals in the future?

«Shadows»  and the other films from Norway are a part of the International program and compete for a number of awards.

It’s fun seeing the film come to life and following from the sidelines as the film is screened in different venues.

The film is produced by Phantom film.


Producer’s Hat: Part 2

Producer’s Hat: A Room With No View, Part 2

(part 1: https://lindamay.montages.no/2011/08/19/producers-hat-part-1/ )

During the month that has past since I wrote the part 1, I have to admit I have been a little sidetracked working in my bread job. The hard reality of this business, as many know, is that the income from it fluxuates. Since I started a new job, my focus on producing and writing has been constricted to a minimum.

All the same, there is a little progress to be reported.

As I mentioned earlier, as producer, there are two tasks I feel are essential for the success of this project. The first and most crucial is, of course, securing financing to start production. When it comes to the second – distribution – there is a choice of either postponing dealing with this until the film is in (post)production OR to consider it to be the other side of the financing coin. I choose the latter.

Not only do I need the finances to be in order to make the film a reality, I feel it is equally important to get it to an audience. An audience larger than that of the festival circuit. Actually, distribution may also be the route to financing the production itself.

My strategy for financing is closely related to distribution. For now, there are two main routes I am following:

1) Crowd funding

2) Pre-sales of screening

 

Crowd Funding

We have initiated a «Donation Race» where we are searching for 1000 individuals who can donate kr 50 (or more) and 200 companies who can donate kr 500 (or more). If we manage to find these and they donate on the nose, we are only less than half way of our budget.

Up until now, a handful of people have donated. The minority has donated the kr 50, most donate more. (I am happy to accept the 50-kroner notes. A thousand of them equals 50.000…) And as of today, one company has donated the kr 500. (To check out how we are doing and what the donation race has brought in so far, check out: https://www.wix.com/lindamayk/a-room-with-no-view – look at the «Donation Race» tab. I usually update every Monday, so the donations are probably higher than what is on the site.) Donations trickle in on a regular basis.

We are using social media, but also word-of-mouth. I am working on some flyers that our supporters can use to spread around, both paper copies and e-versions that can posted on social media or sent via e-mails. (A copy of one of them in Norwegian is posted below.)

As a part of the crowd funding strategy, I have sent invitations to numerous local clubs that work with issues concerning mental health and also clubs such as Lions and Rotary. The first invitation I sent out during the summer came back with a «yes» and a nice donation. All the other invitations have been sent out this past week, so it is too early to tell how they will do. Many of these clubs only have monthly meetings, so it might take a couple of months before we hear back from most of them.

Since bullying is a central topic, I am also trying to find companies that sell products or services towards children and families. It might be of interest for them to take a stand against bullying. Again, these invitations have just been sent out, so it is too early to see if they will be coming back with any donations. As far as I am concerned, it’s worth a shot. I am only asking for a small amount, so I am hoping that it will seem so low that they feel it acceptable to chip in.

 

Pre-sales

Earlier this year, the Norwegian government sent an invitation to all the mayors in all the municipalities to sign a Manifest Against Bullying. A little over 280 have signed it. Some of these municipalities take this seriously and have programs and strategies in place, while others have signed it without giving much thought on how to put it in action.

Every one of these municipalities has now received a personal invitation via their mayors and administrative leaders and those in charge, both politically and administrative for schools from us. The invitation is to screeen the film in all their schools around the World Day for Mental Health in October 2012 and they are requested a small fee to do so. A small fee for them, but it could be a substantial part of our production cost.

It has taken the better time of this past month (in between the bread job hours) to get the information on who to send these invitations/applications to. So far 8 have replied. Five have said no (four due to financial reasons) and three have said yes! (Those who blame the financial situation will be getting new invitations as soon as we hit the fresh budget year in 2012….) I am now eagerly awaiting the reply from the rest 270-and-some who are probably reviewing this as we speak.

When the municipalities say yes, I send a press release to their local newspapers, so they receive positive feedback for their commitment in combatting bullying.

AND I have send press releases, information on the film AND an invitation to all the 250 plus plus local newspapers across Norway. I have informed them about the government’s Manifest Against Bullying and requested that they check if their muncipality has joined in. I have also suggested they follow up on what is being done where. As well as inviting them to participate in our Donation Race and invite their local businesses to take a stand. The first article was online a few days ago: https://www.fosna-folket.no/incoming/article1273768.ece (If there are articles in paper versions without a net-copy, I have no way of knowing what is covered where….)

I am hoping that keeping the press involved will be a positive factor for the entire cause.

There are other pre-sale strategies on my list, but since I have barely scraped the surface of them, I will tell more about these when I have set the wheels in motion.

 

In total, we have about 10% of what we need to cover the budget costs, once our working credits are deducted. So there still is a way to go. I have also a number of applications for support being reviewed by the more «common» support channels, as well as a few that normally do not fund film productions. It is all worth a shot. I am also going to invite a few companies to support us beyond the Donation Race as  a role of sponsor.

We are definitely on an inspiring path and I am convinced that we will go in production with the complete budget covered. There is no reason not be optimistic.

 

Here is the one flyer (this is the Facebook version of it):


At The Norwegian Film Festival 2011

I just returned from an inspiring weekend at The Norwegian Film Festival 2011. One highlight was briefly getting to know Hollywood screenwriter and producer James V. Hart (who has worked with directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and written movies like Sahara, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Contact, Dracula, Hook). Another high was finding out that «Shadows of a Midsummer Night» that I co-wrote with director Stian Forgaard is one of five Norwegian short films in the offical program!

I have to admit, I am a bit proud of that last high. Too bad I left too early to see it in the cinema coming this Wednesday. Still. Fun to know that this film is going places!

https://www.filmweb.no/filmfestivalen/incoming/article423477.ece?language=english&secName=Norwegian+Shorts&year=2011

The film is produced by Phantom film.


Producer’s Hat, part 1

 

 

Producer’s Hat: A Room With No View

Some time ago, director Inger Lene Stordrange, whom I had worked with on short film earlier (“Gnist” /”Spark” – see previous blog), approached me with an idea she had for a short. I ended not only agreeing to write the script, I took upon myself to produce it as well. Genesis Film agreed to be the production company.

(I have previously written about “A Room With No View” in a blog earlier, so please scroll backwards to find out more about the story line.)

All films communicate something. Some have a message that is clearer than others, and sometimes this message happens to be one others are also trying to convey.  Or a message that others empathize with.  Others, meaning private individuals and organizations.

When this is the case, the possibilities for funding and distribution widen somewhat.

Financing a film, whether it is a short or a feature, is a heavy task. Yes, we have all the usual film financing channels, but the pressure on them has only increased these past years. And even if you succeed in getting a straw in their pockets, it rarely is enough to cover the entire party. Work credits and pulling in favors (or adding to the I-O-U list of favors to return in future) only goes so far.

Anyone trying to make a movie knows this.

Finding investors can be difficult enough for feature films, which in Norway has proven to be a risky venture, and is almost impossible for short film production. How many short films actually make any money?

Anyone ever hear of this ever happening?

Awards, yes. But an actual income?

Another issue is that short films rarely reach a large audience. I have heard from several filmmakers (only directors, I think) that they don’t care if their films reach an audience and that they only make films for themselves. I do believe there should be room for films that are for a narrow audience, but the clue here is that it is still an audience. Besides, who says that good quality films only appeal to a few? Why shouldn’t good, artistic films also be commercial successes? Or at least able to reach many people?

Personally, I want the films I make to be seen by many. That does not mean I am willing to sell out.

And if I can end up with a plus in my bank account at the end of the day, I don’t see why I should feel guilty about that. I have already used all my savings on earlier film projects and worked countless hours for free on almost everyone of them. At some point this will not be able to continue. Besides, if one film makes money, it would be channeled in to another project to get the next one going.

“A Room With No View” has several key elements that caught my attention to make me want to put on my Producer’s Hat. It has a strong visual potential and a strong story to convey, that I trust director Inger Lene Stordrange to be able to do a wonderful job on.

Two important topics in the film are bullying and mental illness. Both of these topics make it possible to think outside the box for financing and distribution. I have started to see that these can be two sides of the same coin.

Research turned up astounding numbers regarding bullying and mental illness:

-In a recent survey done in Norwegian schools, 30,000 pupils claim to be victims of harassment and bullying.

-About 1 in 5 will some time in their life experience a moderate to serious mental illness, so approximately 1 million of Norway’s population.

-900,000 persons in Norway have a close relative who has a mental illness.

These numbers are huge, considering that Norway only has a population of 5 million! If we compare to other countries around the world, the ratio is about the same. These issues affect a lot of people.

Bullying doesn’t always end up in mental illness and mental illness does not always start because of bullying. In our story, how ever, it does.  Our film touches on both, and depending on what they are interested in, it appeals to a large amount of people.

Often issues on harassment/bullying and mental illness are taboo. People may speak about having cancer and other physical diseases, but rarely about mental illness. Bullying is also something that is misunderstood. Many adults don’t understand how painful it is for the victim and view it as innocent teasing that children always do.

On the surface.

Lately I have spoken to many people who know the truth about how devastating and difficult it is to live with these and on top of it, the additional pain that comes from the stigma and ignorance of people around them. After creating a Facebook page about the film, I have received mails from all over the world from people telling me similar experiences.

“A Room With No View” has the potential to reach many people and this should be a way for us to find ways to fund it.

Right before the summer vacation, I started trying out crowd funding as one strategy. I didn’t put much effort into it, something I will be doing in the near future. I did the same as “everyone” is doing these days – started Facebook pages (English:  www.facebook.com/aroomwithnoview , Norwegian: www.facebook.com/Etromutenutsikt) . I also made homepages for the film (English:  https://www.wix.com/lindamayk/a-room-with-no-view , Norwegian: https://www.wix.com/lindamayk/et-rom-uten-utsikt ). There was also an article about it in Rogalandsavis in July.

Between the two Facebook pages there are currently only about 100 followers.  This is something I plan on trying to increase using various strategies.

For now, the few people (many whom I do not know) who have heard of the film have already donated over kr 8.000. That’s not much, but a whole lot more than when I wrote about funding earlier.

My goal is to get 1000 people to give kr 50 or more and 200 companies to donate kr 500 and more. This would give kr 150.000 as a minimum, if we reach this goal. Very few have donated kr 50. Most give a bit (some a lot) more.

In addition to using social media, I am working on flyers people can circulate, either on paper or by e-mail. Not everyone is on Facebook and we must not forget this. Of course, in order to get this started, I am depending on friends and family to help me, as well as those of everyone else involved. It will be interesting to see how far this gets us.

Everyone who donates by paypal and those who donate by bank and send us their e-mail address, are added to our mailing list. I will be keeping them updated about the project, so they feel involved. I have a few ideas of how to thank them properly, in addition to a personal thank you mail they all get after donating, but I will get back to that.

There are other strategies I have started working on, which tie funding and distribution. I will tell more about that when I put my Producer’s Hat back on next week.

For now, I am off to the Norwegian Film Festival for the weekend.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 


A Room With No View

The short film I am currently working on is entitled «A Room With No View«.

The film’s main female character has a long history as a psychiatric patient since her early teen year. Already as a child she was a victim of bullying and mocking, and this continued into her teens. Her self image became distorted and was expressed through eating disorders and by her cutting herself.

We meet her wandering aimlessly along a road where she is totally lost in her confusion. She is picked up by the police who commit her yet another time to a closed psychiatric ward. She feels she is trapped in a room with no view.

The turning point is in an unexpected meeting of two souls. A woman working as a cleaner in the hospital shows the kindness and compassion she needs at the right moment. This meeting becomes the final piece in her puzzle that moves her to a room with a view towards her healing.

We have a story to tell, but we also aim at depicting a visual impression of what it is like to be mentally ill and how the turning point towards recovery can be.

Currently we are focusing on financing the project and expect to be using pretty much the rest of 2011 to secure sufficient enough funds to go into production early next year. My roles are producer and writer, so I am heavly into working on the financial part these days. I have some thoughts on the script and am discussing it with director Inger Lene Stordrange. The story is inspired by the true life experiences of Silje Marie Strandberg (who will be assisting Inger Lene as director), so some of this summer will also be spent interviewing as research for the screenplay.

The topics addressed in this film are quite serious. I just read that 30.000 school children in Norway alone have reported that they have been bullied. A Swedish study has shown that a seriously bullied person costs the government in the range of millions of kroner. Society pays a high price in treatment, welfare etc. The highest price, of course, being carried by the individual who is a victim.

Late last week I created a few pages on Facebook about the film: (In English: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Room-With-No-View/182242131832270?sk=info and in Norwegian https://www.facebook.com/pages/Et-rom-uten-utsikt/183041585082528?sk=info – please feel free to «like» us on one or both!). At the moment there is less than a crowd of people liking the pages, but it seems that it is important for some of them who already are. I have recieved mails and phone calls from all corners of the planet from people who know this reality to be true and who are very happy that we are focusing on these important issues.

We have also started a campaign trying out crowd funding as one way of reaching our goal of funding this project. I will write more about this in a later blog. In the mean time, check out the homepage to the film A Room With No View (which also explains about the crowd funding, here called Donation Race and has posted an update on how much funding is already in place in form of donations.)

 


Show Me the Money

 

About the amount of funding currently in place for one of my film projects. The other project has no money as of yet, just faith.

(Warning: Cliches ahead!)

A huge part of my time is dedicated to two very different film projects, that, despite their differences, also have several things in common. Both “Had me at hello” (cliche # 1). The one is my idea, so no shock that I have a love affair with what I from time to time have felt to be proof of my creative genius… The other is someone else’s idea, but it has become an adopted child that I love as deeply as I would my own creative one.

I have two hats on in both of these projects: writer and producer. As the writer my only job is to deliver the screenplay, which of course, has to be amazing, divine and all other superlatives of grandeur (see my last blog on Shooting for the Moon).

That’s the easy part.

Switching to hat # 2 (and Cliche # 2), life is all about “Show me the money.”

As a writer, all I need is my laptop with the fancy scriptwriter’s program and/or some paper. Aided by those tools, I can write a movie script.

As a producer, I need a whole bunch more than that. If I don’t raise enough money and/or persuade enough people to work free/dirt cheap and/or have enough equipment/persuade enough equipment owners to lend me theirs – no film. Anyone who has ever given this a go knows how difficult these options are.

Naturally, this is why so many filmmakers never actually make many films. Filmmaking is just so darn time consuming and expensive.

And yet there ARE humungous amounts of movies being made all the time, all over the planet. Some make it to the movie theaters, some go right to dvd, some live a life of festival touring and some are shown on tv. In addition you’ll find all those that previously only mom, dad and the closest friends had exclusive viewing experiences of, which now Facebook friends and others may join their ranks thanks to Vimeo, YouTube etc.

Norway is one of the few countries in the world where it is possible to get funding to produce a film. We have The Norwegian Film Institute, regional film funds, as well as other national, regional and local government and non-government funds supporting film projects to turn to. Some of these in turn open possibilities to co-funding in other countries.  Norwegian filmmakers have one of the most generous systems in the world at their disposal.

Of course, the number of filmmakers crowding in line to get hold of these precious coins, by far outnumbers the amount of coins these funders have to give. As it should be. New as I still am in this business, it still surprises me how many people get discouraged and stuck when they don’t get their hands on this type of funding. Sadly, too many filmmakers seem to take this generous system as their God-given right and take up the role of crybabies when their projects rot while waiting in vain for money from these funders.

I know it is frustrating. Believe me, I have had my share of doors slammed shut in my face from them. So many times so that my nose is numb and doesn’t hurt anymore, so I keep trying. Occasionally the trying works. Several of the projects I have been involved in have gotten funding both in development and production.

In most every other corner of the world, filmmakers are making films without the possibility of accessing the funding Norwegian filmmakers are permitted to apply for. They make as many – and even more – films, than we do.

Without access to grants, filmmakers are forced to be creative.

I am going to continue to pester the film granters for their coins for every one of my projects, but I am not going to wait until they see the light of my genius. Or take their “no”s as rejections and give up. I’ll take their money when they give it to me, listen to the reasons they give for saying no (will often improve my projects) and push on to other fields to sow and hopefully reap.

Fellow producer on one of my two projects, Solveig Arnesen of Genesis Film, wrote in a previous blog about the shift from being an independent filmmaker to being a fan-dependent one. Crowd funding is one strategy some filmmakers have tried which we will be trying out. Some producers have had success from their crowd funding efforts, while others have not. I have met quite a few skeptics here in Norway who wrinkle their noses and shake their heads when we talk about this being one of our planned strategies. Just like the Norwegian grant system, it will probably come through for a few projects and not amount to much for the majority. Just because the odds are slim, I am not going to knock it until I try it. (Ironically, many of the nose-wrinklers are the same who still rely on the slim chance of getting their films funded from the Norwegian Film Institute and the like. As if the chances of funding success has proven greater by that method alone!)

We have other strategies lined up as far as funding goes. We have tried some already, some with a fair result, others none. Experience shows which strategies to hold on to, which that might work if tweaked, and which to drop like a hot potato. One thing I see clearer and clearer is that since no two projects are alike, what works on one, is no magic button that will deliver the same result on the next. Then again, what doesn’t work on one, might still be a good strategy on another project.

I believe that the most important thing filmmakers can do, is make films. Most simply never make enough films to getting the experience they need to make the films they know they are capable of. The mantra is that they just don’t have the means to get to this point.

Musicians don’t seem to have this same attitude. Many practice, practice, practice. They make darn sure they know their craft and sometimes they create magic. Those who are really passionate about their music make it their business to get out of their dark rooms and play for audiences. Not all of them land a record deal, and those who do, do not always “make it”. I am aware of the differences in filmmaking and the music industry, but there are, in fact, quite a lot of similarities. What I am trying to get at here, is that a true musician is one in her soul and never gives up living her music in one form or another. This is not always the case for filmmakers, because it is too easy to get hung up in all the outer reasons (lack of funding!) that prevent us from making our films.

Every day is a huge learning process for me on my journey towards my dream. I choose to hang on to what encourages me, instead of the obvious discouragements. For every rejection or “failure”, there is one less to handle. It’s done. A thing of the past. What lies ahead are options of both success and failure. The small things I have succeeded in so far, encourage me to keep on moving. To keep on trying. Except for any constructive lessons I can learn and turn around to my future benefit, I choose to forget about the negative experiences. Life is just too short.

I have my work cut out for me in these coming months. Two projects are scheduled to go into production during 2012. The one has a mere couple of pennies in place, the other just a lot of faith. My mission is “Show me the money” so these projects which “Had me at hello” will also capture the hearts of film-lovers.


Shooting for the Moon

Novelist and screenplay writer Heidi Linde shares her mantra in Rushprint: ”Shut up and write! Or put more mildly: Use your energy on creating amazing scripts, not on criticizing the absence of them.” (https://rushprint.no/2011/6/kunsten-a-kvotere-en-mann)

She says this as a conclusion in a discussion about the absence of female characters in film, especially in Norwegian films. Although there is much to be said about that specific topic (which I won’t here), it is her mantra that has been replaying in the back of mind all day since reading it. It is one I share and will hang on my refrigerator door as a reminder.

I have been giving a lot of thought lately as to what I think might be my road to creating amazing scripts. Because that is my goal. Pretentious as it may be, my (first) goal is to be one of the most sought after, successful and productive screenplay writers in Norway. At the risk of making a complete fool of myself by even publicly announcing this goal, I will wait to disclose my next goal(s) until after I achieve this first…

(One of my philosophies in life is that it is better to shoot for the moon and make it part of the way there, than to aim at climbing a small hill. Although the second one might be more realistic to reach, I think the first one will take you to higher ground.)

I think it was David Freeman who mentioned in his Beyond Structure seminar in Sandnes last year that some writers do write brilliant scripts on intuition alone. “Jerry McGuire” being his example of one. The problem is that this is much like winning the lottery. It can happen, but rarely does. And when it does, it usually is a One-Hit Wonder that writers cannot duplicate simply because they don’t have the slightest clue to how the magic touch was brought about.

It makes sense. So instead on relying on a lottery-winning situation, it is all about hard work.

My first attempt at writing a screenplay (purely by intuition method) was met with a response that I had some potential. I have gotten this response on my later screenplays as well. Nice as it is to hear, potential in itself doesn’t cut it. The moon is still far off.

The past 4 – 5 years has been a steady journey towards finding the magic keys to leaving potential behind and writing something that actually has that “wow” effect on a qualified reader. I am lucky to be working under the guidance of dramaturge Kirsten Rask (who is one of the best in all of Scandinavia) and having attended solid writing courses and seminars. And then there has been my own personal studies.

Lately I find myself arriving at a new consciousness, an awakening of sorts. I feel I have a new understanding of why the films I enjoy watching have the effect they have on me and I see clearer why my own scripts haven’t as of yet reached their level. I see my own weak spots and feel I know which direction I must go in to improve them. Hopefully rid my screenplays of them totally.

It will definitely be a process of trial and error, but at least it will be a far more conscious one than before. I am hoping that by working on a firmer fundament, the intuition part of the creative process will also be more valuable.

In order to keep me as focused as possible on what I am doing and why, I have decided to blog about it as I go about the process of shooting for the moon.

Since I am working on several projects at the same time, it might seem a bit schizophrenic as I jump between them. Especially since my role on two projects also involves being a producer in addition to writing the screenplays.


From Independent to Fan-dependent

Solveig Arnesen of Genesis Film and I are producing the feature length film «Die Smiling» (see previous blog for synopsis). The production will be a low budget one, but still there are millions yet needed to fund before going into production. Landsforeningen for trafikkskadde (LTN), an organization working for the rights of people who have suffered traffic and other types of injuries has already agreed to buy 10.000 tickets at the cinema. So we started off on a good foot and now are eager to find other sources of funding.

One of the strategies we soon will put into practice is CROWD FUNDING. Solveig has been at seminars in Norway and abroad to learn more about this from the best. She just returned inspired from an EPI workshop featuring Thomas Mai, Stacey Parks, Wendy Bernfeld and other great speakers. I am letting her have the rest of the space on this blog, as she discusses filmmaking from «Independent to Fan-dependent».

About Mothers and Other Fans….

There are many new buzzwords around these days, like social media, crowd funding, digital distribution. Some of them have been around for a while, but some new ones are coming almost every week. What do these words and phenomenon mean to me as a filmmaker? Even more how can they be useful to me?

I am a so-called independent filmmaker. I even have my own company. You would think then I could do whatever I want right? The way I have learnt to see the film industry at least in Norway I am nothing that remotely resembles independent. Not yet.

Let’s say I have got my ingenious film idea that I want to realize. I am willing to do anything to see that great idea only I have thought of on the silver screen. I don’t care what anybody else is saying. I am an independent filmmaker. I am just going to go out and do it! Or maybe it wasn’t so simple. Firstly I depend on public funding. Me, and my fellow film producers in Norway, benefit from one of the strongest support systems for film. Great! You would think that makes us truly independent and able to live off of our work. My theory is that we are tempted to consciously or unconsciously adapt our projects to the support system. The system is created to support films that will have a difficult time on the large, global, hostile marketplace. Instead of really figuring out how we can be successful in the market and try our luck out there, it’s much easier to make something narrow and Norwegian that will be embraced by the support system.  Does it sound like independent to you?

Then when I have successfully financed my film with public funding I depend on a sales agent, which in turn depends on a large number of distributors in charge of the marketing of my film in distant corners of the world. There is of course nothing wrong with any of them.  They are good at a lot of things. Let’s just agree that I at least give up influence over my own work. I don’t have any control of the efforts made to get the target audience for my film up from the comfortable sofa, out in the dark and dangerous night to go see my film the first three nights it is on the program. I will of course end up in situations where I need other people’s skills in some way or another. There are a lot of people that are a lot better than me to a lot of different tasks. But one thing is for certain. Nobody has more energy and love for my own project than me. Nobody wants more than me to see it succeed, except maybe my mother.  Traditionally the filmmaker has done the largest investment of time, resources, blood, sweat and tears, but is the last one to the party, when revenue if any is, supposed to be distributed.

There are many signs that this is about to change. There are a lot of ways we can take advantage of the digitalization, the Internet and the ways we now can communicate through social media.

Now, when I get my ingenious film idea or somebody comes to me with an idea that I like, I can try it out on the audience directly. I can get a lot of answers about if and how the idea appeals to the target audience even before I decide to make the film at all. If it turns out it is only me, and perhaps my mother who likes the idea, maybe I shouldn’t go through all the trouble of making the movie?

When I decide to make the film, I can help fund the film by engaging the audience. Crowdfunding is the buzzword. There are good examples that turning to the audience itself can raise a large amount of money. We live in a time where everything is copied. At the same time, more than ever people want to contribute to something larger than themselves and be a part of a movement. If I succeed in creating a model that invites to participation, I might succeed in creating a hard-core fanbase that will follow the project through thick and thin and both fund the production and eventually buy the movieticket and tell their friends. Useful links to examples are www.ironsky.net and www.iamithefilm.com. To do this I have to share, sample and show what the project is about and how great it is going to be, and let people contribute. After all we are in the dream selling business, the sexy business that many people find magically attractive and want in some way to be a part of. The answer is not any longer to protect your precious idea and tell nobody until 3 weeks before the night of the premiere. If I am really good I’ll have hundreds of thousands of fans that are just impatiently waiting for the movie on the night of the premiere all over the world.

Of course there are always nuances. The project doesn’t have to be either financed totally by the audience or not at all. You can still apply for public funding and look for sponsors or private equity for your film. The model is ever changing and looks different from project to project. There are other advantages of always including one element of engaging of the audience. If you succeed in communicating with them, you know they will be there on the night of the premiere. The different phases of the project development is getting blurred. It is more about creating awareness and marketing of your project in all phases of the development. Traditionally, you would develop your idea, write the script, get funding, shoot the film, maybe create some behind the scene material, release a trailer, market the movie and hopefully sell some tickets at premiere night. Together with the audience, the sequence of tasks is different. The different elements of production are more happening at the same time. You develop your idea, write the script and creating your social media campaign at the same time.

Then comes the time, when my movie is supposed to be launched in theatres. Instead of protecting the film within a strict regime about what to release and not release, I would rather show my fans a lot of clips from the film and show them how great it is going to be. Instead of trying to protect the project from piracy I will rather rely on the truly exclusive moments that can’t be copied. The experience of having a good time, dinner and a movie with your friends, for instance. The experience to watch a movie in theatres where you yourself has contributed a prop in the key scene or 100 $, or the experience of watching the movie while a band is playing the soundtrack live. The possibilities to create a unique event are endless. I also live in a country where all the cinemas are about to be digitalized. The only thing standing between me and having my film on the silver screen is merely a software, affordable and workable for my more techy colleague. When I am in dialogue with my fans as well, this opens up for a way for me to distribute my film myself. It can also easily become available for the fans  on the website they have become familiar with, the website of my film with www.dynamoplayer.com.

We are about to transition into a time were it becomes clear that we most of all depend on our fans. We might choose to collaborate with sales agents and distributors. My project’s success still depends most of all on my ability to communicate with my fans. That will also give me a stronger position towards the intermediaries I choose to work with.

I have discussed this transition with representatives from different funding bodies. Some of them apparently have as an inherent property to be conservative. Transition? Let’s not talk about it. New mechanisms don’t work until they are proven and confirmed. It is a big difference between the attitudes, “there is no good Norwegian example of crowd funding, ergo, crowd funding does not work” and “there is no good Norwegian example of crowd funding, so let’s contribute to make the good example happen”. Some public film institutions choose the latter attitude. I am so lucky to belong to a region that has chosen to stimulate the transition instead of ignoring it. Transition is not done alone.

Thanks to Filmkraft! By supporting our pilot project of producing with the audience you hopefully help create sustainable, fan-dependent filmmakers, depending on our fans, finally independent of our mothers.  They can worry a lot less about us and just enjoy the movie with the rest of our fans….

Thanks to  Solveig Arnesen, Genesis Filmwww.genesisfilm.no