Friday, January 23, 2015

My Favourite Gear of 2014...

2014 was another busy year for me. I shot some very tricky pick-ups for 7 CASES, several music promos and a couple of corporate jobs. I was also often out of the country on tour with various music acts in my day-job as a sound engineer...

But, what filming gear has been in my rig in 2014 and why?

Much like previous years, Atomos featured highly in my kit. I've used both the Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade a lot. I've also been using the Atomos Connect to go from SDI to HDMI.. very useful. I can't recommend the Atomos gear highly enough. It's well built, well spec'ed and just makes life so much easier than messing around with SD cards and other awkwardness like dreadful codecs.

After using the GenusTech GoPro Cage extensively, i tested out their Mini-Jib, PV Matte Box and Bravo Follow Focus. The Mini-Jib is incredibly useful. I've used it on almost every shoot this year. It's light, well built and folds into a tiny little bag you carry on your back. The Matte Box is similarly well built. It's sturdy, the filter trays are very well machined and it's very easy to connect to your various lenses with their selection of lens ring adapters.  (nothing bugs me more than seeing people using a matte box on a shoot, but leaving a huge light-leaking gap between the lens and the matte box... completely pointless!

The Bravo Follow Focus is the best i've used at this price. It's simply stunning. No play at all and the best, most solid and easily adjustable, mounting system. I also really love the adjustable 'end stops' to make racking focus really easy.

It's a real testament to GenusTech that all their gear that i've been using hasn't suffered any breaks at all. I quite often put my gear through some pretty tough times and lesser gear has let me down often in the past.

Finally, i've been massively impressed with the Manfrotto  504HD video head. It's very well built and allows me to achieve some very smooth pans and tilts while keep my rig rock solid when i need it to.

Next time...   i've made the move to 4K for 2015. A complete run down of my Lumix GH4 and Atomos Shogun rig.

Monday, January 12, 2015

10 Things you should know about financing an indie film...

It's that time again. We're putting together the finance for our next feature film project and i'm navigating the choppy waters of raising money for what is basically an artistic project, albeit one that makes a profit. (hopefully!)

I've talked before about how i feel about public funding from the likes of the BFI or other such bodies.  It can be worth a try, but i'd seriously doubt you'll get far unless you tick the multitude of tick boxes they require and know the right people on the inside to even get a serious consideration. I'm not saying it's rigged...  but it's not a level playing field either.

I've always preferred private investment and i'm much happier being entirely upfront with anyone wanting to invest in an independent film.  People wealthy enough to want to invest in independent film, generally aren't only in it for the money. They are buying into the business as a whole... the opportunity to be a part of something that not many people get to do.  We always aim to make a profit, but the harsh reality of this business is that generating a profit can be tough and even when it goes to plan, it can take a long time before the profits trickle through. That being said, the more uncertainties you remove from the project, the better the chances of success. It's undeniable that having a 'name' in the lead role will generate more interest in the film which will probably lead to a much better sales & distribution deal or maybe a high profile festival screening... and the catch 22 is that a 'name' will enable you to find finance more easily.

We're just making in-roads into the financing for HINDSIGHT...  so here's my tips before you go looking for cash for your next project:

  1. Finish the script first! No one is interested in financing a film you haven't finished writing yet.
  2. Put together a package including mood boards, synopsis and casting ideas and put it together with your screenplay in an easy to email PDF.
  3. Have a team assembled. Collate their CVs and make it part of the package for potential investors to see.
  4. Get your lead role actor attached first. This is tough without finance in place, but possible if your script is good enough. A big name will attract other big names as well as finance.
  5. Put a business plan together. Even if it's quite basic, show that you understand how the money works in this business and in relation to your film specifically.
  6. Plan your budget realistically. Can you really feed your cast and crew for a month on a grand? Do your sums, then do them again...don't forget to factor in absolutely everything. Bear in mind that your mates might be happy to live on pizza and basic meals, but any professionals you hire may not. Find out.
  7. Have you budgeted for insurance? If you're working with large sums of other people's money, you will need to insure against issues that might stop or delay you finishing the project.
  8. If you decide to go down the crowd funding route, you are liable to pay tax on the amount you raise. This is counted as taxable income. Too many people forget this. If you do use crowd funding, keep your crowd funders informed. I've contributed to several films which never got made and i never heard a thing about them ever again. Clearly, that puts me off doing it again.
  9. Come up with an equity plan for your investors and stick to it. Be completely upfront about how long it is likely to take to recoup.
  10. If everything goes to plan and you raise your budget, hire an accountant to administer it unless you have one in your team already.

We've got the script, we've got the rest of package and we're approaching the dream team of actors we'd like to cast in the hope that they will sign up to be part of this so we can make it happen.  I'll update soon on how it's all going.

Don't forget to read Digital FilmMaker Magazine every month to read my Q&A pages and check out all the really helpful articles elsewhere in the mag.