World Book Day Pick: "Make Your Movie" Author Barbara Freedman Doyle Talks Filmmaking
There's no better way to celebrate World Book Day than to find a book that offers guidance and enrichment. For aspiring directors, writers, and producers, a new film bible has just been released that delves into the essentials of getting a film made the right way. "Make Your Movie: What You Need to Know About the Business and Politics of Filmmaking" offers indispensable guidance when it comes to developing your own creative ventures. The information contained perfectly complements what film schools cover.
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Few guide books are as honest as "Make Your Movie". The film industry is one of the hardest to break into and it's important to anticipate the major setbacks that can manifest. The book offers ways to cope with creative and financial difficulties as well as how to adequately put your work out their. Author has spent years in the industry as both a film professional and educator. She currently serves as Chair of the Film Division of Chapman University. The International Business Times had the chance to ask Doyle about her writing and the ever evolving world of cinema.
You've been in the film industry for many years. Describe your fascination with cinema and your journey to becoming a film guide writer.
I've always been fascinated with stories and storytellers. I'm a ridiculously voracious reader, love to hear about people's personal history, and I was one of those kids who watched TV and saw movies and then re-enacted them with my friends, creating additional faux "episodes" so that the stories and characters would have a life beyond what had been produced.
When I worked in production supervision, for me the challenge was always to keep every decision about how to best support the story and the vision of the filmmaker while still managing the resources (time, money, personnel) available. I tell my students now that any time they are in doubt about script changes, production changes-anything-they should go back to the story. Does everything serve the story? A film is only as good as the characters and story. A great film can make you forget who you are, where you are. My fascination with film comes from that feeling of being transported. When you are watching a well-made absorbing film, you can travel in the footsteps of someone you'd never have the chance to meet, inhabit a world or an era you'd never know otherwise. It's the best trip you can take.
The fact that you started as an assistant and worked your way up to becoming an author and Film Division Chair is inspiring. How did you manage to get ahead in one of the hardest businesses out there?
I came to the film business when I was a little older. I wasn't just out of school. I'd had jobs I hadn't really liked, and once I found something I did like, I was determined. I read everything I could in order to understand the way the business worked, I followed up on every possibility and I put in the hours. And I was lucky. I had a couple of really wonderful mentors, so I could ask questions. That was crucial. I tried not to make enemies or burn bridges. I was not very tough, which was a problem. I was brought up to play well with the other children. Some of the people I worked with were great and remain good friends but others seemed to be out of a pot-boiler Hollywood novel. I knew I would never succeed on that playing field so I just did the best I could possibly do, and I took everything, even the most menial responsibilities very seriously. I didn't become the head of a studio or a power player in the industry but I worked. People trusted me to do a good job. You'd be surprised how many people appreciate the fact that you just keep your head down and do your job. Not very glamorous, but people like to hire people they can count on, and they tend to hire you over and over again. In a free-lance world, that's very important.
Do you think that the film industry will start to mirror the publishing industry, where many authors are releasing and selling their own work?
I think that's already begun. Now a talented but unknown first-time filmmaker can make a film, create a trailer, create a marketing campaign, get a film out online, and find an audience. This may or may not result in the filmmaker finding traditional distribution but the film has at least gotten out there. I've also heard of filmmakers who have opted to self-distribute, renting theatres, taking their film on the road, creating audience events. The business is changing and there are these options now. I think the success of these models will vary because the films vary. It's going to depend on how good the film is, how large the potential audience is, how capable the filmmakers are in dealing with the business aspects of marketing their films. And how willing they are. Many filmmakers don't want to be business people. That's not something they're interested in spending their time on.
This has been happening in the music business for several years now. As a result of current technology, recording artists are able to keep the cost of production low, they get their music out on the web and they develop a following. They sell their products through companies that serve as the middlemen but take a cut of the sales and through their own website, and they tour and sell their records when they play. Some musicians are able to make quite a good profit that way. The major artists still get the major record company deals but there is an entire music culture of artists with loyal following who manage without the deals because they develop a niche.
I do think that if the first time filmmaker has a successful release, he or she will probably want to move ahead to make bigger films with bigger stars and higher budgets and right now the bigger films are released through the more established, traditional type of distribution.
Do you think directors, writers, and producers will start to avoid the traditional route and start releasing and marketing their own movies independently?
Some filmmakers are already doing it. Whether a lot of filmmakers will do it-I think it will depend on circumstances. Does the filmmaker have the option to distribute their films in the traditional way? How much will the film have to make in order to see a profit? How likely is the film to find international theatrical distribution? International accounts for more than half of box office now. If you make a film with international potential, you'd probably want a traditional US theatrical release because it helps with international.
A traditional release is still most filmmakers' ultimate goal. There is the dream of seeing your film screened at the local theatre. But there may be a scenario where even a veteran filmmaker with a passion project might look to independent marketing and distribution as a way to control the way the film is rolled out to the public. A filmmaker will go to great lengths to protect his or her baby.
How much of being a good filmmaker is talent and how much of it is knowing how to navigate the industry, being business savvy, and exercising good PR.
I think both matter. You have to be a talented storyteller. You have to tell a story that people can care about. If the movie is not good, bad word of mouth will kill it. On the other hand, you can make a terrific film and blow your opportunity to make an impact because of bad business decisions. And there are films that lose out in part because the marketing campaign is not effective and the right audience-the target audience-isn't aware of the movie or something about the way the film is being marketed doesn't hook them.
A filmmaker wants to make the best, most compelling film possible. Filmmakers make films because they have something to say. But part of the goal is to get the film seen, and that's where the business savvy comes in. You don't want to make a film that nobody sees. You want an audience for your work.
Contributed by International Business Times