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ShortsLab:NYC A Sundance Institute Workshop

This event offered screenwriters, producers and directors a day filled with information on how to create a short film, collaborate with other professionals, copyright infringement and direct to viewer marketing and sales.

My creative partner Jason McIntosh and I settled into the standing room only Brooklyn Academy of Music Rose Cinema, IPad and laptop at the ready to take copious notes. This is what we came away with:

1) No matter what you do, it’s all about the story. Debra Granik, Sundance award winner for ‘Down to the Bone‘ and ‘Winters Bone’ full features shared how guerrilla it was shooting her short, Snake Feed. “I like to use stories and pictures from real life. Make it raw, fight for it mentally; slick isn’t always best.” Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck also commented that although there was a script for their first short Gowanus, Brooklyn, they let the characters take the story where it needed to go. They are best known for creating the 2006 film Half Nelson and the 2008 film Sugar, among others.

2) Collaboration is key. Panelists include Reed Morano (Director of Photography, Frozen River), Alan Oxman (Editor, Storytelling), and Carter Smith (Filmmaker, Bugcrush). Morano and Oxman noted that its best to go through the story during pre-production to avoid issues that will occur in production. “I can shoot the most beautiful film’ said Morano, “but if the story is bad, no one’s going to see it and I never put my name on something I’m not proud of.” Oxman and Morano were clear on one issue: they are there to support the director, giving advice and making adjustments. However, in the end, they do what the director wants. Smith praised the professionalism of editors and DP’s that he has worked with-“when I could get away from holding the camera and giving it to someone else, it was liberating and allowed me to get right in the mix with the actors”.

3) Crowdsourcing for funding really works. Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter.com noted that most of the projects get 125% funded, successful ones tell their story through video and provide something in return ( a t-shirt, a signed poster, a phone call from the director) personal emails generate the greatest return, followed by Facebook and Twitter. Limiting the funding period to 60 days seems to work much better than longer periods. “It motivates backers’ said Strickler, “the first few days there is a lift in participation, then it drops, then as you approach the deadline, most people jump in board. The passion for your story and the belief that you’ll make it happen is what gets your film funded”

4) Brands and products don’t need to be cleared ( unless you show them in a disparaging way) “I produced a film for a client that was packaged to be sold to HBO” stated Jonathan Gray,Senior Partner, Gray Krauss. “Problems occurred when we couldn’t get clearance for a TV program that was playing in the background that was integral to the story line. The film sale was dead in the water’ Bottom line here is get your due diligence done ahead of time.

5) Now is the time to consider direct to viewer distribution Bob Moczydlowsky (VP Product & Marketing at Topspin Media) and Matt Dentler (Head of Content for Cinetic Rights Management) – Distribution shared some insight on bringing your film to the public. ‘Its a challenge to monetize any short film’ both Dentler and Moczydlowsky agree. By using applications like Topspin and Distrify, there are ways to not only attract viewers, but revenue as well.

Go on. Make films that you’re passionate about. I know we will.


About sexybeastproductions

Entertainment company that creates and produces unscripted TV content and fantasy films.


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