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Alfonso Cuarón has mastered the long take.
Like a Russian doll, every cinematic technique contains smaller techniques within it. There is no one technique, for instance, called “the close-up.” There are extreme close-ups, in which you can see every pore on a character’s face. (Think of Tom Cruise’s perspiring visage in Mission: Impossible.) Alternately, there are medium close-ups, in which we are allowed to watch a character thinking, but we don’t feel we’re barging into personal space.
The long take, similarly, must be qualified. There’s the long take a la Orson Welles in A Touch of Evil, in which the camera twists and turns, the viewer’s tension slowly building as we wonder, "where are we being taken?" Or there’s the long take of Goodfellas, for instance, which amounts to a celebration of an entire demimonde, frolicking at the Copacabana Club; by the end of it, you feel as if you’ve met everyone in the room.
There’s also, as this thoughtful and wise video essay by Nathan Shapiro shows, the long take of Alfonso Cuarón.
In this interpretation of Cuarón's technique, this focus is less on the camerawork in the scene than on what we can learn about characters by simply looking at them for a while. The camera follows the action, but Cuarón’s goal is not so much to draw attention to the camera as a tool as to show us something about characters’ interactions and personal history—something about what we might call their chemistry.
In Y tu Mama Tambien, one very long take shows us the growing relationship between Luisa and her two teenaged escorts; in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a long take shows us the developing confidence between Harry Potter and a mentor; in Children of Men, one particularly long take builds tension as the protagonists run through a war zone, bombs falling and shots firing all around them.
And as if that weren’t enough, consider the 17-minute long take that opens Gravity. As we watch an astronaut spinning through space, the hapless victim of flailing machinery, we find ourselves wholly empathetic. Cuarón’s approach demonstrates that the long take can help to develop a story’s underpinnings even as it makes a film more thrilling to watch.
Author: Max Winter
This comprehensive guide to global production incentives asks: why not film in Fiji when you can recoup 50% of your production budget?
Filming a movie internationally has more benefits than merely exotic locale. In an effort to create jobs and stimulate local economies, many countries worldwide essentially pay productions to shoot within their borders. These production incentives vary significantly in structure and scope from country to country, but the end goal is universal: a symbiotic financial relationship between the country and foreign film productions. For a film with limited resources, shooting abroad could be just the ticket.
There are, of course, caveats to consider when comparing incentives. Each country stipulates a unique set of requirements, but the main issues to flag are the minimum amount of qualifying local expenditure (which can be high), local employment regulations, and whether or not the country requires the film to pass a cultural eligibility test.
International production incentives should not be confused with co-productions, which are multi-country productions that operate based on government treaties.
Here are the most common forms of incentives:
- Cash rebates function similarly to grants and are paid to the production company in percentages based on qualifying local expenditures, including labor, production costs, and other services
- Tax incentives are similar to rebates, but the production company must file a tax return to claim the funds. In turn, the company will receive a credit for taxes owed on qualifying local expenditures, including labor, production costs, and other services
- National or regional film funds are limited government-sponsored grants for which a production must specifically apply
- Tax shelters, relief, or waivers allow investors tax breaks on their investments
Below, we've broken down the world's most attractive production incentives by continent. Based on our research, you should start thinking seriously about setting your next film in Colombia (60% cash rebate), Fiji (50% cash rebate), or Canada (30% to 70% tax credits).
Best in Eastern Europe
- Film commission: Estonian Film Institute
- Financial incentive: Up to 30% cash rebate for film productions. There are also hefty sums available for development, pre-production, post-production, and distribution
- Requirements: The amount of aid is calculated as a percentage of the costs done in Estonia (up to 30%) and paid out retroactively after all the expenses are audited. The maximum grant can be applied if the film production uses Estonian-based filmmakers, actors, and other production crew. It can also be applied if the story is set in Estonia
Best in Western Europe
- Film commission: Media Development Authority of Singapore
- Financial incentive: In 2004, the Singapore Tourism Board introduced the "Film in Singapore Scheme," which promotes production in the country by subsidizing up to 50% of qualifying expenses incurred in Singapore, including local talent, production staff, and production services. Additionally, there are various grants available through the MDAS, including a "Production Assistance" grant that supports up to 40% of qualifying expenses.
- Requirements: Films and television shows must portray Singapore in a favorable light.
Best in Oceania
- Film commission: Film Fiji
- Financial incentive: Film Fiji offers a whopping 47% tax rebate on production spend in the country.
- Requirements: The production company most be locally registered in Fiji; in addition, you must demonstrate an ability to release and distribute the film in a major international market.
Best in North America (excluding the US)
- Film commission: Divided among provinces, with the most generous being Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and British Columbia
- Financial incentive: Depending on the province, producers can access combined federal and provincial tax credits ranging from 32% to 70% of eligible labor, as well as tax incentives on local qualifying spend ranging from 20% to 30%.
- Requirements: Varies depending on province
Best in Latin America
#1 : Colombia
- Film commission: Colombia Film Fund
- Financial incentive: Two-tier cash rebate system provides 40% for film services (including services related to post-production, artistic, and technical services), and another 20% for film logistical services (including services provided for transport, accommodation, and food)
- Requirements: Production must be partially or totally filmed in Colombia, with a minimum $600,000 local spend
- Notes: Medellin is the only city in Colombia that offers rebates in addition tothe above incentives; you can receive up to 15% of production spend in the city
Best in the Middle East
#1: United Arab Emirates
- Film commission: National and Film and Video Foundation, Trade and Industry Department of South Africa
- Financial incentive: 20% tax credit (production), 25% tax credit (post-production)
- Requirements: 100% of the filming must be done in South Africa, and there is a $1.5 million minimum spend
- Notes: There are lucrative regional film funds in Gauteng, Cape Town, Durban, and the Eastern Cape
Author: Emily Buder
Working as a gaffer can be a very difficult and stressful job. It can be very easy to make simple mistakes or let the stress get to you.
There are definitely some things you can keep in mind that will make your day easier, more efficient, ease communication, increase the possibility of a call back and ensure a lasting relationship with your favourite Directors of Photography. Don’t forget to get your copy of The Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook on Amazon
5 Mistakes Inexperienced Gaffers Make on Set:
Let’s talk about the common mistakes inexperienced gaffers tend to make on set. These mistakes aren’t of a technical nature, but more about set etiquette, the way you run your crew and work on set.
Making Inappropriate Suggestions
Part of your job as a gaffer is to look for ways to help the DOP improve the look of a scene or make things more efficient for later scenes. This is all based on what you have already done, the established look of the film or things you know the cinematographer likes.
What I see happen quite often is a Gaffer making a suggestion based on having seen that particular technique done on other sets and not because the scene or shot calls for it. Sometimes a gaffer will even make a suggestion because they are hoping to get some sort of credit, not because it is what needs to happen in that moment.
As you gain experience as a Gaffer making appropriate suggestions will become easier and easier. The best advice I can give you is to think twice before making any suggestions at all. Analyze the scene, what you’ve already done then decided if your input is necessary.
Stepping on Toes and Throwing People Under the Bus
On a film set you will have to work with various departments and the last thing you need is to bump heads with someone all day.
There is his common trend with young technicians trying to be heroes and over stepping the bounds of their positions. This will make people hate you!
Yes, you might be working with a less experienced Key Grip or Camera team, but that doesn’t mean you should make enemies with them or cause them to look bad in front of the rest of the crew. It’s unprofessional and will make you look like a terrible person long term.
If you are working with a less experienced key or crew member, rather than calling them out on mistakes or doing their job for them, simply take them aside and give them a friendly suggestion. Whatever you do, do not embarrass them in front of the DOP or their team.
Not Delegating Tasks
This is a big one because it can slow down your whole day. There are even grips that I have avoided working with because I feel they miss manage their team, causing us to waste a lot of time.
They work as a group and attack simple tasks together, rather than splitting up for the smaller tasks then coming together for the big ones. This is a big mistake.
There is no sense in having your best boy and 3rd tech stand around watching you set a flag just so they can toss a sandbag on it when you’re done. What can save you and your team a lot of time is if you split up to work on the small tasks, then come together for the big ones.
As a Gaffer, you can have your 3rd run your power as you start to set up the light. By the time the light is ready to be sparked the power should have arrived already. When setting up multiple small lights you can all split up and set them up individually, then when the DOP is ready they can be sparked and aimed one at a time.
Not Watching Rehearsals and Takes
When I was coming up as a Gaffer, I was trained to always be on the monitor. At first I never really understood why and I actually hated having to watch every take. I wanted to be able to relax during the roll, not focus on a tiny little monitor. As I started to work for different DOPs I started to notice little things during rehearsals.
Sometimes the key light would be a little off or the back light would be too bright or a wall would look flat. I was able to catch and correct these things before the roll and those DOPs were very grateful for my attention to detail
This goes hand in hand with the first mistake listed at the top. If you are watching rehearsals and really paying attention you can make awesome suggestions that can really improve or even save a scene.
Little things like that are what makes people remember you and want to call you back in the future.
Not Spending Enough Time Near the DOP
It sounds weird, but when ever you aren’t doing something or watching a take you should try to spend that time standing by the DOP.
When I say “standing by” I DO NOT mean just standing around waiting for them to ask you for something!
Watch them, pay attention to what they are looking at…are they metering a lot? Looking around at lights trying to figure out what they are doing? Do they have a confused or anxious look on his face? You can tell how they feel about what is happening just by their look or body language. Not all DOPs will be vocal about how they are feeling about the set up. A good gaffer learns to read their body language.
Often times just asking “everything ok?” or “need anything?” can make all the difference. They might end up bouncing an idea off you or want to discuss a later set up they are unsure about. It is very much a give and take relationship and some DOPs might need a little nudge before they are able to open up to you.
Working as a Gaffer is one of the most difficult and stressful jobs below the line. It is very easy to lose track of things and make big mistakes that can really slow down your team.
So, keep these in mind next time you’re on set and feel free to add any mistakes you see inexperienced gaffer make on set in the comments below!
I know why you really got into the business. It wasn’t because you’re a masochist for long hours or a sucker for uncertain income. You think film is sexy. Actually, you know film is sexy. And you’re right.
If you’re attracted to a career in filmmaking, it’s only natural that the people in the industry will turn your crank. But beware – there’s a hierarchy of hotness on set.
Here’s a wildly subjective ranking of roles, and what gives them different degrees of beddability. Actors have been disqualified for obvious reasons (they’re all bat-shit crazy).
The 16 Sexiest Roles on a Film Set
16. Data Wrangler
Look, somebody had to be last. And let’s face it – most Data Wranglers have their heads buried in a laptop all day and rarely register on set. When you do, it’s usually disastrous. Being the bearer of bad news that a file is corrupt or a card won’t read is the ultimate buzz kill – even if it’s not your fault (and it usually isn’t). Sure, you can sometimes score points with actors by giving them a sneak peak at the digital dailies, but even then you’re just being used. It’s sad to say that the one job on set with zero room for error is not exactly a head turner, but at least you made the list (sorry, Craft Services).
15. Production Assistant
You’re not last! It wouldn’t be fair to pick on this job, especially since so many of us have been PA’s at one time or another. Yes, it’s unglamorous and often attracts unskilled go-getters, but stick around because it gets better. People usually have an eye on you (to see if you fuck up), but at least competence will get you noticed. It’s an entry level-job with big-time make-over potential.
14. Dolly Grip
Here’s a job that many people enjoy doing, but few people enjoy watching. Dolly Grip’s win “Most Likely to Flash Plumber Crack”, but are not nearly as likely to get any ass themselves. The process of laying track and guiding the camera is one that requires a lot of focus and steady work, so luckily most Dolly Grips are too busy to care what anyone else thinks. That’s worth something.
13. Props Master
Being a Prop Master is only as sexy as you make it. Depending on the film, you’ll have various chances to show off your good taste and handy skills. The only problem is that once props are loaned out, most of you turn into neurotic headcases trying to keep track of everything; making sure that vintage book pages aren’t torn or that the vase in the background gets back to your grandma safely. Lack of control inevitably loses you points.
12. Continuity / Scrip Supervisor
Good continuity is a total turn on, but more in a reliable relationship way. You got here by proving you have a great attention to detail, and as such, are often seated at the right hand of the director to keep an eye on loose strings. Like many relationships, pointing out inconsistencies or faults might be encouraged early on, but you also have to be okay with being regularly dismissed or overruled. It’s a tricky dynamic to have work in your favour.
11. Best Boy
Like the Best Man at a wedding, the Best Boy is a true misnomer (shouldn’t the “best man” be the one getting married?). Second-in-command of either the Grip or Lighting department, the term dates back to when managers would yell “bring me your best boy!” to come help with lighting or electrical. This official wingman status is often a thankless job, but at the same time, being shown favour on a big set gets you noticed. Plus, some people would probably hook up with a Best Boy just to say they did.
10. Line Producer
Though being the money manager isn’t as sexy as it sounds, there’s some true power here, and that’s the basis for most of the appeal. Many of the department heads are likely to cozy up to a Line Producer just to try and squeeze a little extra money their way. Enjoy it. It’s the best play you have.
9. Unit Production Manager
What’s hotter than hiring and firing people? Well, a lot, but this is still a position that demands respect on set. Points are mainly lost by being so removed from the action when the camera’s rolling, usually holed up in a trailer somewhere crunching numbers and fixing schedules. But with the power to make or break many below-the-line careers, it’s no wonder there’s a little strut in your step.
8. Assistant Director
There have to be some cheats here, so I’m grouping all you A.D.’s together, even if the difference between a First Assistant, Second Assistant and Third Assistant is rather huge. It goes without saying that your appeal is directly related to your ranking – no one’s getting hot and bothered by a Third A.D. bossing extras around (well, bothered maybe), and Seconds are usually tucked away in the office somewhere (which at least provides an air of mystique). An effective First A.D., however, really has presence on set – even if all the yelling has more in common with a drill sergeant than a rock singer. In fact, using the band analogy, First A.D.’s are more like the drummer – making a lot of noise and keeping the rhythm of the production going. And we all know drummers get plenty of action.
7. Make-up Artist/Costume Designer
If there’s a cool kids club on set, Make-up and Costumes are the gatekeepers. You get a lot of face time with the stars and are the hub of production gossip. But the real appeal comes from being so hands on; cozying up with measurements and touch-ups, striking a quick level of intimacy and familiarity the actors. By extension, Make-Up Artists and Costumer Designers are usually approachable and friendly by nature. Both disciplines (combined here for simplicity) are true art forms in and of themselves, where excellence can be rewarded with an Oscar or a spot on SyFy’s FaceOff. That’s hot.
6. Boom Operator
If you don’t have a sense of humour, you can’t be a boom operator. The big rod you brandish makes you the butt end of easy jokes, but owning that absurdity goes a long way. It’s a low level position, but also the most visible one in the sound department – and the most fit. Keeping your mic out of the frame isn’t easy. Arm strength is one thing, but there’s also an agility required to keep up with hand-held moving action. For that reason, you’re hotter than you think. Plus, who doesn’t love somehow who knows how to work a pole?
5. Key Grip/Gaffer
Another big cheat to combine these two professions, but the same principles of attraction apply to setting up lights and laying cables. These are technical jobs that require both brain and brawn. Both land on a respectable rung of the professional ladder, and watching someone who really knows what they’re doing is always appealing. But really, this ranking is all about the belts. A lot of people wear them, but no one on set owns them like a Key Grip Grip or Gaffer.
An ego monster by necessity, a director’s magnetism is a real crapshoot. Everyone on set is judging you, and expecting an answer to their question. If you make mistakes, people talk behind your back. If you act like a big shot without delivering world-class goods, word travels fast that you’re an insecure phony. But no matter what people say, you’re endowed with creative control – and that’s impossible to ignore. If you do all your homework, treat people well, and shepherd a stellar project, your sex appeal is second-to-none. But more often than not, seeing the sausage being made is a pretty heavy turn-off.
3. Production Designer
You could be working anywhere – drafting buildings, designing big brands, creating personal installations – but you’ve chosen to give your talents to film. The wild variety of skill sets most Production Designers and Art Directors possess make you the most interesting people on set. Most of you care as much about Neo-classical architecture as you do contemporary tech interfaces. You might not sweat as much as the Grips and Gaffer, but you don’t need to. Plus, even in jeans and T-shirt, you still seem to dress better than most people on set.
Letter: Dear Bobby Vanonen, Production Design/Art Direction for THE VALLEY BELOW
2. Stunt Coordinator
Not many sets have the luxury of a true Stunt Coodinator (or even stunt performers), but the ones that do – look out. Everyone’s eyes are on your action. It’s a rough and tumble profession, and one that, at its best, risks life and limb for our entertainment (will somebody give you and Oscar category already?). The reason it’s so high isn’t just because of the Ryan Gosling Drive factor, but the stunt makers who have really broken out, from Bruce Lee to Zoë Bell. Even when you’re doubling for a star, you’re the real show on set.
Was there ever any doubt? If the Director is the singer of a rock band, the Cinematographer is the lead guitar. It’s where the real music comes from, and where fans know to focus their attention. As the architect of light and movement, the Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) has enough help to side step most of the drama that plagues other department heads. And even so, you’re often the hardest working person on set. Most Directors are disproportionately indebted to their Cinematographer, so they can’t begrudge the praise you get. But don’t think they aren’t jealous when an A-list movie star lovingly uses your nick-name to announce your Oscar win to the world.
Author: Christopher Redmond
I have a lot of trolls and a lot of imposters. I’m on Facebook, but it’s not me. I’m on Twitter, but it’s not me,” says Werner Herzog in a recent installment of VICE Talks Films (above).
Herzog is doing press rounds to discuss his latest documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, which is now in theaters, on Demand, on iTunes and Amazon Video.
The film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, examines the past, present, and evolving future of the internet in Herzog’s signature voice.
“I wanted to make sheep shearing sexy, because that seemed like an unusual thing to do.”
Yes. You read that correctly. As this director’s unique choice of subject suggests (and as we shall see), you don’t necessarily need the length of a feature film in order to tell a compelling story.
Here are three bite-sized documentary films that pack a lot into less than six minutes, by carefully conducting their elements of style.
Enjoy these sensory snacks!
1. Age of the Farmer | Dir. Spencer MacDonald, 2015
“65 is the average age of farmers, and there are not enough young farmers to replace them. How did we get here?”
Filmmaker Spencer MacDonald traveled the Pacific Northwest to document the thoughts and feelings of young farmers. He lived with the farmers he interviewed, trading room and board for labor. His dedication to and intimacy with his subjects shines through in the film’s poetic cinematography and sound design.
Unlike some nature documentaries, Age of the Farmer does not depict nature as a utopia untouched by man. Instead, MacDonald’s short film reminds us that humans are as connected to the Earth as are the crops, rivers, and trees – but as some of the farmers argue, we as a modern society have forgotten our connection to our planet.
The farmers’ disembodied voiceovers keep the focus on the film’s beautiful imagery, inviting us to share in the farmers’ appreciation of the land and lifestyle it affords. Not every documentary needs to feature “talking heads” in order to tell its story – MacDonald’s work stands as testament to the power of a sensory experience.
2. Sheepo | Dir. Ian Robertson, 2016
“Ian Robertson’s new short offers a glimpse into the sweat-soaked world of competitive sheep shearing.”
Sheepo immerses us in sight and sound. “I wanted to make sheep shearing sexy,” Robertson says, “Because that seemed like an unusual thing to do.” His treatment of the craft dazzles with details and polish usually reserved for commercials. It’s packed with Closeups, flares, and slow motion cinematography, all packaged in a tight and fluid edit.
Of course, the sound design also helps create the film’s strong sense of rhythm. The buzzing of the razor punctuates the shearer’s interview, as he describes his mission to be the best and fastest competitive sheep shearer in the world.
By taking a strong point-of-view – “make the subject sexy” – Robertson has made his work stand out. Every decision is driven by this creative intention. The film knows precisely what it wants to be and successfully realizes that vision.
3. On Killing: Murder | By cut.com, 2016
“In 1976, Ed Hull was convicted of first-degree murder. He was released on June 15, 2015.”
On Killing: Murder, the eighth episode in cut.com’s series, is a portrait of Ed Hull, who was convicted of first degree murder in 1976 and released from prison in 2015. The filmmakers ask him to recall the details of the night of the murder from forty years ago. It’s clear from Hull’s mannerisms and speech that he has lived this night over and over again in his head.
The filmmakers choose to intercut Hull’s interview with images from his hometown and life post-prison, resulting in “a moving photo album” of sorts. This B-Roll reveals more about the man while providing tonally consistent and visually compelling images that sometimes help with transitions. For example, around 01:57, a montage ends with a shot of telephone cables, setting up for Hull’s next sound bite.
On Killing: Murder features a much bleaker visual style than Age of the Farmer and Sheepo. Its muted color palette characterizes the town, and Hull’s interview is painted in murky shades of brown. Both creative decisions communicate the seriousness of the situation without telling us what we should think about it. Do we believe Hull’s account of events? Do we feel sorry for him? The filmmakers simply give us the story and leave us to draw our own conclusions.
When making a documentary, not only must you find a story – you also must decide how to treat it visually, aurally, and editorially. Every frame is an opportunity to further your narrative. Some narratives need a couple of hours to unfold, while others can do their subjects justice in just a few minutes – assuming their elements of style work together!
Author: Courtney Hope Thérond
“Breaking out of the rut will require bold, persistent experimentation, and a willingness to embrace fresh ideas. Of course, that’s only possible with a wider range of films.”
This post is a part of our yearly series about how to distribute your independent film in the current industry landscape.
It is best read after our original introduction to the world of film distribution, covering key concepts such as the Release Windows System, primary Video on Demand (VOD) platforms, and strategies for indie filmmakers ready to distribute their films. For further context, check out our 2015 update, then read on for insights into 2016!
A lot can happen in a year.
In 2015, it became easier for cord cutters to keep up with many of their favorite television shows. HBO launched HBONow in April, unshackling its programming from pay-TV. Movie theatres scrambled to woo customers with new incentives, from reclining seats to alcoholic beverages to new business models. And of course, the VOD juggernauts continued their advance, expanding into feature film territory and growing their subscriber bases.
That advance sweeps into 2016 – and at a much faster rate than many anticipated.
The BFG | Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2016
I. Movie Theatres: Evolve or Go Extinct
“The theater business has weaker prospects going forward than at any time in the last 30 years,” claims media analyst Hal Vogel, citing the proliferation of failed blockbusters in 2016. This summer’s flops could cost their studios tens of millions of dollars, yet Hollywood’s tentpole superhero machine carries on, “essentially wrecking [its] own economics.”
The rising price of ticket sales disguises the fact that “on a per-capita basis, the moviegoing audience is at its lowest levels in nearly a century”, with millennials – traditionally a moviegoing demographic – largely avoiding theatres. MoviePass’ new CEO, a veteran of Netflix, intends to win them back with the company’s ever-evolving subscription model, but its impact has yet to be felt. Meanwhile, Sean Parker’s Screening Room threatens to disrupt the status quo by making new releases available at home, but it’s meeting with resistance from exhibitors and several high-profile directors.
As Hollywood struggles to adapt, audiences (and filmmakers) are turning to a wide variety of entertainment alternatives, including television and online content, where VOD platforms like Netflix and Amazon reign supreme. In January, Netflix launched simultaneously in 130 countries, becoming a truly global network. Amazon boasts an estimated 60-80 million global Prime members – all of whom have access to the service’s streaming video library – and it launched a standalone video membership option in April.
If 2016-to-date is any indication, VOD is just getting started. The model has exploded.
Stranger Things | Netflix, 2016
II. VOD Platforms: The Gold Rush
For one, despite stalled subscriber growth, Netflix remains undaunted, intending “to spend more next year on original and licensed content than the $6 billion it spent in 2016.”
The streaming service snatched up SVOD rights for two of Sundance 2016’s hottest films before the festival even started, forcing dealmakers to rethink their traditional all-rights strategies. Next, it agreed to fund and distribute five original indie filmsand committed an unprecedented $90+ million to Bright, an upcoming tentpole feature from David Ayer. On the documentary front, two of Netflix’s films were nominated in the latest Academy Awards, and four more are premiering at The 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
As Netflix improves its film catalog, it continues to add to its serialized content. Stranger Things is now its most popular show, and Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down – one of the most expensive shows in history – has made a splashy debut. For a sense of the impact Netflix is having on consumers’ viewing habits, consider this study that found that Netflix “caused 50% of US TV viewing” to drop in 2015.
Amazon, too, is wading deeper into traditional television’s territory. Last December, it launched its Streaming Partners Program, creating access to a multitude of premium channels, including Showtime and Starz, à la carte. Like Netflix, Amazon picked up its fair share of films at 2016’s Sundance Film Festival, then went on to acquire five high-profile auteur works at The Cannes Film Festival, cementing its indie-friendly reputation. Trailing behind but closing the distance is Hulu, which recently moved to an all-subscription model in an attempt “to ratchet up its competition with Netflix and Amazon.”
Smaller companies also are expanding audiences’ VOD options. For example, TCM and The Criterion Collection partnered to launch FilmStruck, a catalog of “hard to find gems and cult favorites”. The Tribeca Film Festival launched Tribeca Shortlist, a collection of films “personally curated by industry insiders” – which, incidentally, is an Amazon Streaming Partner. In May, Vimeo acquired VHX, intended “to provide a complete set of SVOD tools for individual creators, niche programmers and media partners.” And of course, YouTube launched YouTube Red last fall, offering ad-free streaming and “YouTube Red Originals”, which has helped bolster opportunities for digital and social media stars. In fact, The Television Awards created a new Emmys category to recognize internet content producers’ achievements in “the short-form space”.
Ultimately, many dealmakers are excited by the burgeoning role that streaming services are playing. “Digital platforms are valuing films not only for their transactional value but also for their prestige value and potential to attract and retain subscribers,” notes CAA’s Micah Green, but traditional distributors feel outgunned, while their brethren in the exhibition and television trenches are taking heavy fire from the on-demand, à la carte revolutionaries as well.
III. Indie Filmmakers: Where You Come In
If you keep up with our blog, then you know we’re excited about the future of indie filmmaking here at Lights Film School. Greater demand for content means more opportunities for content providers.
VOD platforms have risen to meet the demand, while Hollywood, exhibitors, and cable television companies struggle to adapt. “[The industry] faces shifting tastes, increased competition, and a business model that seems to have been built for a different age,” Variety summarizes. “Breaking out of the rut will require bold, persistent experimentation, and a willingness to embrace fresh ideas. Of course, that’s only possible with a wider range of films.”
To accommodate more films, both aggregators and self-distribution platforms are evolving, making it easier for you to get your film out into the world so audiences can find it. For example, aggregators like the Sundance-partnered Quiver and Distribber are moving toward flat fees and small-to-no-profit shares, making it more affordable for you to get your film onto prestigious platforms like iTunes and Netflix. Meanwhile, Amazon launched Video Direct in May, “a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service.” If you’re committed to seeing your film on the big screen, then you can check out options like Tugg, a crowdsourcing platform that helps you build your audience and land that screening.
In short, the horizon seems full of promise for us indie filmmakers, even as financing remains a challenge. It’s fun to remember that Hollywood was founded by a coterie of independents, after all. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back.
What are your thoughts on the state of the industry? What about opportunities for indie filmmakers? We invite you to share your perspective and distribution stories in the comments below!
For more details, explore the rest of our yearly series about how to distribute your indie film in the current industry landscape:
Part I – How to Distribute Your Indie Film in the Digital Age
Part II – 3 Trends You Need to Know for Distributing Your Film in 2015
Part III – 3 Trends You Need to Know for Distributing Your Film in 2016
If you’ve yet to make a movie and are wondering where to start, then check out our online filmmaking course, designed to keep with your vision and schedule from concept through final cut – more guided than a blog, more interactive than a textbook, more flexible than traditional film school.
Has it been your dream to have one of your films being distributed in theaters? This can be a grueling process. You start planning your film, then you produce it and then there’s no assurance that your film will make it to the theaters or not. I asked people in the industry who know better than I do, and they say that 99% of all movies produced will NOT make it to theaters. That’s quite disheartening. But wait… there is hope. And it wouldn’t be EntreFilmmaker if we would just walk away and accept this discomforting truth.
Today I share with you an interview with a feature film director who just closed a deal to get his film distributed here in the U.S. and internationally. It’s also his first film, and therefore it makes it even more interesting for me how he actually did it. His name is Eric Bugbee, and his film is an awesome BMX film called “Heroes of Dirt”.
I think this episode is so crucial because we get an insight into the life of someone who just broke into the big world of movie making. He is not one of those 20-year veterans who have already forgotten how they got where they are today. Not so with Eric. It was an over 7-year journey for him, and in this interview he gets into the nitty gritty of difficult path of becoming a full-fledged filmmaker.
Interestingly enough, he started out producing promos and commercials and then made the leap towards becoming a feature film director. A dream that many of us have, right?
Here are some of the topics we will be talking about:
Why you need to become a business pro in order to get your film sold.
How to sell a movie to distributors.
How to test a film idea before you go out and shoot the film.
How to pitch your movie to investors.
How to shoot a film in a city that doesn’t cost you anything.
Should you produce a PG or an R rated film? Which sells more?
How faith has helped him get through the toughest times of making a feature film.
Which distribution platform yields the most profits?
How to write a business plan for getting big investors.
What are the three most important steps for a starting filmmaker?
What movie genres are the bestselling at the moment and for what types of audiences?
I travel about five times a year to foreign countries for my film projects. And as a filmmaker I always want to bring my own gear that I’m so accustomed to. The problem is, if you travel internationally with your equipment that is worth $25,000, you can be penalized up to $7,500 in customs fees, taxes and penalties by crossing from one country to another.
Even if you would bring all your sales receipts with you in order to prove your purchases, you still have a good chance of paying fees if you don’t show the customs officers what they need to see.
In this episode I show you a trick so that you will be able to take all your equipment for your shoots without ever getting into trouble with customs or paying those horrendous fees.
Looking For An Alternative To The Arri Alexa? These 3 Cinema Cameras Have You Covered At A Lower Cost
I don’t think I’ve met a single filmmaker in recent years who hasn’t marvelled over the Arri Alexa. Even with so much competition in the digital cinema camera market, there is no denying that the Arri Alexa is still without a doubt the camera to beat. In many ways, the Alexa look has even replaced film with regards to the base-line aesthetic that most of today’s filmmakers strive for. I’ve outlined this sentiment in more detail on a previous blog post here.
What makes it so great though? For a long time people chocked it up to dynamic range. When the Alexa was first introduced, very few cameras delivered anywhere near the DR that the Alexa was capable of. But today, there are many cameras that have dynamic range capabilities that are at least within arms reach of the Alexa – yet still none of them look as good.
The reason why is simple: Color science. In my opinion, color matters more than anything else when it comes to the visual perception of a cinematic image. Resolution, dynamic range, grain, motion cadence, and many other factors play an important role too… But color science is at the very top of that list. A camera with less dynamic range but better color science will look more “filmic” than a camera with high dynamic range and poor color science. I believe that many of Sony’s recent offerings prove this point clearly.
Unfortunately for the vast majority of independent filmmakers, the Alexa is simply a far too expensive tool to own. Even Arri’s lowest cost offerings (such as the Alexa Mini and Amira), will cost anywhere from $35K – $45K as base price, and will jump up significantly once the accessories are added. Inevitably, this has led many low budget filmmakers into a desperate search for affordable Alexa alternatives that can deliver similar image quality at a lower cost.
It’s worth stating up front that the only way to get the exact “Alexa-look” that you may be after is to actually shoot on an Arri Alexa (or Arri Amira). That said, a few select cameras in recent years have come reasonably close to emulating the Alexa’s legendary image quality, and should be considered as viable alternatives for filmmakers that don’t want to break the bank.
Below is a short list of three cameras that in my opinion render colors and images that are most similar to the Arri Alexa. Keep in mind, the list below doesn’t necessarily reflect usability, features/specs, ergonomics, reliability, and many other considerations. Rather, these cameras have been chosen based on the characteristics of their image quality – specifically color quality – and how strongly they hold up next to the Alexa.
Here we go. In order of most expensive to least:
PANASONIC VARICAM LT – $16,500
With a price tag of over $16K for the body, or over $27K once fully accessorized, the Varicam LT clearly makes for a pricey investment. Even still, at minimum it will be 2 – 3 x less expensive than a brand Arri Alexa, depending on how each camera is configured. Not to mention, as a rental item, the LT is going to cost far less than the Alexa and will generally be much more accessible to lower budget filmmakers.
Let’s take a look at some of the specs:
- Single Super 35mm MOS Sensor
- Interchangeable Stainless Steel EF Mount
- Dual Native ISO 800/5000
- 14 Stops of Dynamic Range with V-Log
- 4K Up to 60 fps, 2K/HD Up to 240 fps
- Simultaneous Dual Codec Recording
- Selectable Gamma Curves
- Removable IR Cut Filter
- AVC-Intra, ProRes
- 3.5″ LCD Control Panel
Obviously, this camera boasts some incredibly powerful features, namely it’s dual native ISO capabilities which allow users to choose between ISO 800 or ISO 5000 as their base. But most importantly, the subjective image quality of the LT is absolutely incredible, and is arguably one of the best out there today.
The Varicam LT shares the same sensor as it’s bigger brother (the Varicam 35), which has been used to shoot some really gorgeous looking content – including the Netflix original series “Master of None”. Both cameras not only feature beautiful dynamic range capabilities that allow them to create detailed, rich images, but they also render extremely organic colors. This is what ultimately helps them achieve that Alexa look above all else. While footage from the Varicam LT might not be an exact match for Alexa footage straight off of the cards, the files are very flexible in post, and once graded they can easily hold their own.
CANON C300 MK II – $11,999
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Canon for a long time, and presently don’t own any of their cinema cameras. With that in mind, I can’t deny that the Canon C300 MK II excels in the color department, which is really no surprise. Over the years, Canon have fallen by the wayside as other manufacturers have run laps around them with higher frame rates, more resolution, and better overall specs, but Canon has always delivered some of the best colors out there, which is largely why they are still relevant.
Before we go on, here are some specs on the C300 MK II:
- Super 35mm CMOS Sensor
- 4K,1920×1080 60/50i, 23.98/25p True 24p
- Canon XF AVC H.264 Codec
- EF Lens Mount
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology
- Rotating 4″ LCD Monitor
- 2x 3G-SDI Output, 2x XLR Inputs
- 2x CFast Card Slots
- Timecode I/O, Genlock In & Sync Out
- Canon Log 2 Gamma
Canon’s C-series cameras have a long history of under promising and over delivering. Their cameras never look great on paper, but they always seem to deliver really strong images that far exceed what you might expect of them based on their spec sheets alone. Canon have also been accused of overpricing their cameras (I’m sure I’ve called them out on that myself), but with the recent $4000 price drop, the C300 Mark II is now more accessible than ever. And while their colors might not always look Alexa-like right out of the box, Canon has a new trick up their sleeves –
The C300 MK II now comes with a “Production” camera profile that is designed to mimic the color science of the Arri Alexa. When combined with Arri’s Rec. 709 conversion LUT in post, the resulting images between the two cameras are almost too close to call the difference on. For this reason, the C300 MK II is often used as a B-Camera to the Arri Alexa or simply as a cost-effective alternative for the A-camera.
For those of you that don’t think you can achieve great narrative results on the C300 MK II, I’ll remind you that the 2013 Cannes Palm D’or winner (Blue Is The Warmest Color), was shot on the original Canon C300.
BLACKMAGIC CINEMA CAMERA 2.5K – $1995
By far the best bargain on this list, the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera was hailed as the “Alexa Mini” when it was first released, and for good reason. Although the ergonomics, build, and overall design of the BMCC couldn’t be more different than the Alexa, the overall image quality is amongst one of the best matches to the Alexa to this day. The subtle colors, high dynamic range, and natural texture of the BMCC’s images are just a few of the reasons why this camera disrupted the cinema camera industry in such a dramatic way.
Here are the specs:
- 2.5K Image Sensor
- 12-bit RAW, ProRes, and DNxHD Formats
- 13 Stops of Dynamic Range
- 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30p Frame Rates
- Canon EF Lens Mount
- LCD Touchscreen with Metadata Entry
- SDI Video Output and Thunderbolt Port
- Mic/Line Audio Inputs
- Records to Removable SSD Drives
- Includes DaVinci Resolve and UltraScope
The fact that the original BMCC even shot at 2.5K (very close to the older Alexa model’s 2.7K ARRIRAW capabilities), made it even more compatible with the Alexa as a B-cam or C-cam. But as I stated above, the most important consideration here is the color science, and the 2.5K BMCC has some of the strongest color science I have seen on any camera to date. I am a big fan of Blackmagic and currently shoot on their URSA Mini 4.6K (also a fantastic camera), but it has a distinctly different look than the BMCC 2.5K.
With the URSA Mini 4.6K, Blackmagic have started to really define a “look” for themselves, much like RED has with their camera lineup. It goes without saying that the 4.6K generates beautiful images across the board, but they have a personality of their own, whereas the original 2.5K BMCC comes closer to an exact match for the Alexa – at least to my eye.
Arri have managed to strike gold with the Alexa in the color-department, and as stated at the top of this post, the only way to get a perfect Alexa look is to actually shoot with an Arri Alexa or Arri Amira. That said, the cameras on this list can get you really close when treated right on set and in post. Once you know the quirks and limitations of these cameras (or any camera for that matter) you will be able to squeeze the most out of them from a technical standpoint.
Post-production and color processing are also huge. Shooting with a color chart on set, and balancing your shots effectively in post are two of the most crucial steps in ensuring that you achieve the best possible results. In the end though, your skills on set and in the color suite will be the biggest factors in your overall ability to achieve a cinematic look, and that is something that should never be overlooked.
Author: Noam Kroll
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on social media using the links below for more content like this!