The First Feature Dilemna – Which one should it be?
Part of me hopes that this blog post becomes an elaborate reverse jinx. One of the projects I’m going to talk about is being pitched today. If it sells, it not only makes a decision about which film to do first easier, the sale would also make that next film possible. But honestly, that’s highly unlikely.
So here’s the situation – I want to make a feature film. No, scratch want, I need to make one. I’ve realized the only way that is realistically going to happen any time soon will be through the efforts of a microbudget project. That means finding a project that uses as many free or cheap resources I already have access to as possible. It means using a small crew, with minimal locations. There are two potential projects that I could put my energy towards to make that happen. Both have their positives and negatives. Both have similar could, should, would budget levels (“could shoot it at this level”, “should shoot it at this level”, “would, in an ideal situation, shoot it at this level”) but both also have different factors to consider. Ideally, both could be financed and packaged concurrently, but I don’t have the bandwidth to do that. I need to pick one for now. I’ll break down each of them.
Chutes still has a feature story to tell, and more new content leading up to it.
- We’re building an audience for it, existing fan base
- Small cast, primary roles already set
- Potential market
- VFX involved would up the budget
- Lots of locations and set pieces: increase locations budget and shooting days
- Higher equipment and production costs
Thoughts: All of the negatives of going forward with Chutes are monetary. This one would really suffer from cutting corners in production value. We really can’t get away with shooting this one DSLR or shooting it in less than stellar locations. It would fall flat. The positive is that if our efforts to build an audience through our new content this summer are successful, those higher costs would be offset with a crowdfunding campaign. Yes, we’re going to try again, applying what we learned in our first go-round to a stronger effort this time. In the ideal situation, the transmedia content works and we launch a crowdfunding campaign along with an ARG and get this shot early next year. Realistically though, the feature is a much bigger project than I realized and I need to find producing help to really bring it to life the way it deserves to be.
“Coming of age drama” – Those words are a financial death sentence. This is the one being pitched. This is the one that was optioned, had meetings, had people attached, then not attached. At the end though, it came down to the fact that these are hard to fund because they’re hard to make a return on in a crowded market. But that’s because everyone having those meetings was talking in millions, not tens of thousands. I can skip the meetings and just go out and make it.
- Script is production ready
- Small cast, minimum locations
- Dialogue heavy, can minimize shooting days
- Investment memo done, would only need updated numbers
- DSLR style friendly
- Can be shot in pieces
- Takes place in Arizona, increased cost of per diems and housing
- Personal films are still a tough sell at any financial level
Crowdfundable?: Not really
Thoughts: If this one did sell, it would be bittersweet – I wouldn’t be involved in its creation, but I could start pre-production on Chutes the next day. I went back and read it recently and realized how much I want to tell this story. It was my therapy and it would be so great to shoot. It has a style and tone that would suit a cheaper camera package. A good chunk of it is outdoors with only two actors so we wouldn’t need a lot of equipment. It’s a very microbudget friendly script, save for the cost of getting people to Arizona. It can also be broken up and shot over several months – a week in Arizona to start, several weekends in LA over the winter, and another two weeks in AZ next spring. The story takes place over a year and shooting in pieces means we could stretch out our money as we get it.
I think Chutes’ fate will be sealed this summer. We’re trying something that falls under the large umbrella of transmedia with Chutes. Two narrative episodes, new character vlogs, found footage, and an online element will play out from June through September. I’m really excited about it, but it’s all always such a crapshoot to see what builds momentum online and what doesn’t. If we start building success through those, Chutes’ higher costs could be offset by a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Title Redacted has the benefit of being cheaper, but it’s harder to pitch a non-genre personal passion project through crowdfunding. That would have to happen entirely through a private equity route, but that’s something that would still happen quickly because it would be such a low budget. There is a third option, a feature that Violet and I have outlined, based on a short film we did. It has a small cast, minimum locations, and is potentially crowdfundable, but would look better shot on film than on DSLR’s and is still a long way off given we haven’t written the script yet.
In a perfect world, we spend the summer on Chutes, the fall on Title Redacted, and then come back to Chutes in the spring for the feature. But right now it all seems pretty daunting. Another factor is that we can’t crowdfund two different projects back to back. That’s not going to happen. We have to pick one. Raising capital is always an uphill battle. We’re going to fight for every last dollar and invest our own as well. And we’re certainly a long way from raising enough for multiple projects. But to say we only focus on one now doesn’t mean the other is dead. Definitely not. The question remains though, since we have to choose, which one is it going to be? I’m really not sure.