Why We all Need to Find Our Inner Expert

By Nance Ackerman – WIFT-AT Communications Chair

haro logo bk 350x318 Why We all Need to Find Our Inner ExpertAs we all know the same voices keep cropping up in the news – online, on radio and television – spreading their knowledge and pushing their organization’s brand out over the airwaves. It’s the not-so-secret weapon in the non-profit’s marketing arsenal, as well as a great personal marketing tool for your own individual brand.

Having been a journalist for the last 30 years, one of the things I learned was that we love it when someone else makes our job easier. So if there is a story about women actors in film complaining that tasteful sex scenes were deleted for sexist reasons, we love it when an ‘expert’ on, say, sexuality in film gives us a call and a great interview. After doing one documentary film on drug addiction in Cape Breton, I was asked to sit on numerous panels and government think tanks regarding the issue. The research associated with filmmaking is more than any daily journalist can possibly do, and often more hands-on and personal story driven than the dry academic interview.

When spreading our stories and our brand, WIFT-AT has to remember that the best communications plan includes encouraging the ‘messenger’ to choose our message first – because it’s the easiest and the most interesting message. Reporters are now, more than ever, working around the clock trying to keep up with the online demands of covering stories. Making their job easier and faster will get our message out there nine times out of ten.

But in order to get our message out, we need to find that expert in ourselves. And nurture that part of our own brand.

According to Dan Forbush, founder of ProfNet, a PR Newswire service that puts journalists in touch with experts and sources for breaking stories, “there are two essential approaches to media placement.

One is to persuade reporters that your organization has news worth reporting – this approach is deliberate and release driven. The other is to persuade reporters that there are individuals within your organization who – because of their industry perspective or some form of expertise – are worth interviewing. This approach is opportunistic and pitch driven.”[1]

So over the next few weeks, shine a better and brighter light on what you already have. Fill in some gaps along the way and you can position yourself and your brand as one of the leaders in your field.

1. Own It

You might say, “but I’m no expert.” Sometimes, this is true. Often, it’s not. Even after spending years in a field and producing consistent results, people are wary of standing up and asserting themselves as true experts. It can be scary; the pressure to deliver certainly increases when you claim expert status. But if you’re ready, if you can help your audience get the results they’re after, it’s time to own your expert standing and shout it to the world.

2. Define Your Expertise

Be bold and clear. Would you rather work with the woman who says, “Well, I guess I help people, um, get more visitors and stuff like that,” or the one who says, “I am an online traffic expert”?

3. Create an Expert Tagline

Useful with videos, articles, interviews, and live talks, an expert intro is a powerful tool for establishing your authority with new audiences as well as ingraining your expert status in the minds of reporters and social media audiences. We all know taglines; let’s write one for ourselves.

4. Share Your Credibility Story

Your expert story is critical. It connects you to your audience, establishes authority, inspires hope, and motivates action. How do you accomplish all that with a single story? Start by sharing your struggle to succeed, allowing people to relate to you. Then describe your sources of deep knowledge to demonstrate why you know more than the average tinkerer (certifications, degrees, years of experience, firsthand trial-and-error, etc.). Finally, share your personal stories of success as well as the stories of your successful clients and customers.

Check out HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. After signing up as an expert, for free, you’ll receive daily emails from reporters looking for particular authorities. When there’s a match, you simply reply by email.[2]

Please email Jenna at info@wift-at.com with your particular expertise. Here are some ideas in our field:

- women’s rights in film
- children’s issues in film and media
- social documentary issues i.e. poverty, women’s rights, food security, environment, prostitution
- academic qualifications – advanced degree in any story that can be told in film i.e. history of women in film, women’s studies and other degrees
- union or labour issues with regards to women in the communications, media, journalism, film and television industries
- or if you had to spend a particularly long time researching a particular topic for a film (i.e. became an expert swordswoman for a role in an historical dramatic film, or interviewed every last person who spoke the Abanaki language in Quebec..etc.)

 [1] Steps for Turning your Organization into a Heavily Quoted Source, Network for Good
[2] Why Positioning Yourself is so Lucrative Plus 11 Steps to get Started

Social Media Bootcamp Offered to WIFT-AT

ElaineSQUAREHeadshotJan2013 zpsff4159f7 1 2 Social Media Bootcamp Offered to WIFT ATBy Elaine Shannon

Networking, connecting, schmoozing, marketing… whatever you call it the game has changed and the playing field has been forever changed with Social Media.

Social Media encourages conversation, engagement, and building relationships with clients and potential customers, rather than traditional one-way messaging from businesses. (Social Media on Wikipedia)

Social Networking Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube focus on facilitating the building of relationships. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks. (Social Networking Service on Wikipedia)

Social Media Users are anyone who wants to interact with others online.

Why use Social Media?

  • Efficient
  • Inexpensive
  • Resources, establishes you as an expert
  • Connects you with clients in your target market
  • Great for people who are not comfortable networking in person

When?

  • Any time, anywhere
  • Start conversations, listen, dialog
  • For research on future products or services
  • Be sure to engage online regularly – better to use fewer tools and do it well than use many and rarely engage with your connections

Where?

  • Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google +

How?

  • By creating a Social Media Presence, your Avatar.
  • Being authentic, using proper etiquette
  • Engage and get the conversations going

All of this being said you need a strategy and a plan for executing your Social Media marketing. I like to use the KISS principle with any plan; I use this philosophy in my own business and would suggest the same for anyone who is just starting out.

This is how I am using Social Media on a current project that I am working on in partnership with Letem Laugh Productions. We have spent the summer filming and creating the buzz for a full length feature film through our tweets, Facebook updates and video teasers on YouTube. This film has a Social Media presence and week after week this film is gaining followers and interest in our movie, which will hopefully make it more attractive to potential distributors.

I also produce and host a TV show for Bell Aliant. The YouTube teasers we create are shared on Bell Aliant’s social media accounts which ultimately drive traffic to the Simply Zen TV Facebook page, YouTube channel and my own personal twitter account. The numbers climb every month…slow and steady. My Twitter account now has over 4800 twitter followers and there are over 500 likes on my Facebook page.

For those of you who are still wondering why and are thinking about the TIME commitment, I thought I would find some evidence about the value of Social Media in your business. I went to Google to see how filmmakers are using Social Media to help them further their projects.

Here are a few articles that you may find interesting

5 Indie Films that Couldn’t Be Made Without Social Media

Social Media For Filmmakers: Start With the Basics

Three Steps For 21st-Century Independent Filmmaking Success

Let’s Connect
Email elaine.shannon2@gmail.com
Twitter @elaineshannon
Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/elainemshannon
Youtube www.youtube.com/user/Elaineshannon
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SimplyZenTVElaineShannon

Elaine Shannon; Executive Producer. Television Presenter. Columnist. Wellness Enthusiast. Professional Organizer. A powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm packed into a four-foot, ten-inch  frame, Elaine is truly the Empress of Inspiration.

A Top Ten “To Do” for Writing a Film Grant – Part 2

GrantWriting 350x261 A Top Ten “To Do” for Writing a Film Grant – Part 2By Tracey Waddleton

One evening in June, WIFT-AT Board Member Irene Duma and I met with St. John’s filmmaker Anita McGee to see if we could put together a guide to approaching the dreaded funding application.

A couple of hours and two bottles of wine later, we had come up with ten tips that we felt would give any new or experienced grant writer an edge on the competition. This list is a conglomerate of our successes and failures as applicants, with invaluable insider tips from Anita, who has sat on juries since Jesus was a cowboy and knows her stuff!

See the first five gems here.

#6 – Only Show Your Strong Suit

Most applications require artists to provide support materials: usually a CV and examples of your work. While your CV should give an overall impression of your experience (work completed, where your work has shown, awards, etc.), Anita says you should be more selective with the examples of the actual work you provide.

“If you have support material and it’s not strong, or you didn’t know what you were doing at the time, for god’s sakes: go out and shoot something!” she says.

Startling statistic: sometimes up to 50% of an applicant’s mark is based on support material.

Dropping the weak material might be in your best interest when you’re faced with stiff competition. Pick work that speaks to your ability to see your project through, or go out and make some that does… and fast!

#7 – Do the Work

Read the application, fill out the application, provide the support materials, tie it in bows.

Be thorough and check your spelling.

Like Anita says, “Grants are part of your job.”

It’s important that you come to terms with that soon, and by whatever means necessary – alcohol binge, prayer group, hot yoga, hot sex – because it’s not going to change for a while. Even if you farm out the writing, the accounting, the editing, the printing and photocopying, this is still your project. You drive.

You do the work.

#8 – Be Yourself and Show Yourself

There are a lot of talented artists in Canada; the job of selecting a few for funding can be daunting. Artists must find a way to separate themselves from the herd.

Any artist who has been on a jury knows how difficult a job it is to choose from all those applications. “What makes you different from the other ninety applicants I’m looking at?” Anita asks. “Where’s your voice, what does it sound like, and why should we listen?”

When you are writing your application, you have a chance to showcase who you are, with all your quirks and talents. Take advantage of this. Show that you are dedicated and excited about your project.

#9 – Let Love In

At some point in our lives we all have to open our hearts and just let somebody read our grant application.

Okay, okay. So maybe what you’re letting in isn’t exactly love – perhaps its more akin to criticism – but it’s important to have a set of eyes (other than yours) hit the application before it hits the mail.

It would be best to ask somebody who knows the project that the application is for. If this is not possible, ask somebody who is familiar with your work in general and who has some understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. This person can help you determine whether the application is a true representation of you and your work.

#10 – Don’t be Crushed

If the “no” comes, don’t assume that your movie is awful just like all the ones before it and that you are never going to have a career, and that if only you’d turned down the role of Billy, the lead’s socially-challenged, bong-wielding sidekick then they would have taken you seriously instead of destroying your dream – and now you’re going to have to go back to school (omg) or work at McDonalds (OMG) and how are you going to tell your mother and WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES WITH THAT?

“It’s a hair that separates those who get the grant from those who don’t,” Anita says. “As a juror, you have your work cut out for you. At the end of the day, you might be able to say yes to just a few.”

Segue to another slightly-startling statistic: only about 10% of applications are successful.

So yeah – don’t be crushed. You’re part of the majority – a whopping 90%! You’re practically normal.

Plus you’re going to need your energy for what’s coming up next here in unexpected entry 10.5!!!

#10.5 – And… repeat!

If your application is not successful, you should rework it. Ask for feedback.

Then you should send it again.

Thousands of people across the country are competing for a small pot of money called “arts funding”. An application can be good and still not make it through.

“If you’re artistic, passionate and willing to work – if you have all that down, by all means apply again!” Anita says.

This Top Ten List was written by Tracey Waddleton. Tracey was the primary grant-writer for and manager of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society for 2010 and 2011. She provides writing, editing and administrative services from the downtown home she shares with her two cats, Emma and Sam, and studies English at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

A Top Ten “To Do” for Writing a Film Grant – Part 1

By Tracey Waddleton

One evening in June, WIFT-AT Board Member Irene Duma and I met with St. John’s filmmaker Anita McGee to see if we could put together a guide to approaching the dreaded funding application.

A couple of hours and two bottles of wine later, we had come up with ten tips that we felt would give any new or experienced grant writer an edge on the competition. This list is a conglomerate of our successes and failures as applicants, with invaluable insider tips from Anita, who has sat on juries since Jesus was a cowboy and knows her stuff!

Here are the first five gems:

#1 – Read the Application

The most valuable advice I’ve ever received on grant writing came from the late Robbie Thomas and it was this: read and follow the application guidelines.

It’s surprising how few people take the time to simply read the application. It tells you pretty much everything you need to know, from who is eligible and what support materials to provide, to how many paragraphs you should write about shooting your first short in Cupids this summer.

Read the guidelines. Do what they say. And if you don’t understand them, call the funder and ask lots of questions.

A thorough reading of the application guidelines is a good way to begin to…

#2 – Get to Know Your Audience

Check out the website of your potential funder. Read their mandate, their mission statement and their staff bios. Are their goals in line with yours? Tell them so.

Pay close attention to the language used. Is it formal or informal? What does it tell you about them and what they want to hear?

A little research will give you a good sense of who you’re speaking with, and allow you to tailor your application accordingly.

# 3 – Know That Your Audience Doesn’t Know You

If you’re in or around the local arts community, you might take for granted that people know who you are and that they’ve seen your work. You shouldn’t.

“Newfoundlanders are bad at understanding that nobody knows us,” says Anita. “We’re not used to having to convey a sense of who we are as artists in our community.”

In a competitive arts environment where Anita says “even Guy Maddin would have to fight in a crowd,” it’s important to produce a professional and complete application each time around. Like a newbie.

Because “you’re from here” isn’t enough.

#4 – Know Your Project

The ability to speak to your project can make or break your application. What is your vision? What is your plan? Why, and why not?

You know why you’re here. You know why you’re writing the application. This is your chance to take an audience on a tour of your concept, and you can be creative while doing it. In fact, it’s kind of expected!

“Be articulate. Be clear and concise, not repetitive,” says Anita. “Paint a picture. Write it as though you’re writing a movie and the words you’re writing are evoking a sense of what you’re doing.”

#5 – Build a network, or a nest… and charge admission! You might be famous someday.

Just kidding about the admission (and probably the fame as well! here’s hoping!), but it’s important to surround yourself with folks who are supportive of your work and to spend time in environments that foster creativity.

As you make alliances with others in your field, opportunities for collaborations and partnerships appear, and this can spill over into proposal writing.

So foster these relationships! Having support not only builds faith in your project, but it helps you keep faith when the going gets tough.

Join us next month for tips #6-10!

This Top Ten List was compiled by Tracey Waddleton. Tracey was the primary grant-writer for and manager of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society for 2010 and 2011. She provides writing, editing and administrative services from the downtown home she shares with her two cats, Emma and Sam, and studies English at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Are You Ready to DIWO – Do It With Others?

Do It Yourself (DIY) filmmaking not your style? Why not try Do It With Others? Or DIWO.

DIWO is the acronym adopted by IndieGogo, an online social marketplace designed to connect filmmakers, artists, or projects with fans and utilize the power of  crowd-sourcing for project funding, recruiting, and promotion.

IndieGogo founder Slava Rubin describes the process this way: for filmmakers it’s “Post, Promote, Produce”, for fans it’s “Discover, Support, Get Perks.” The VIP perks to incentivize donations being things like film credits, premiere parties, film extra, set visits etc.

While it may not be the answer to every independent film’s  financing woes, it may be a worth considering as a viable addition to your financing plan.

Tidings talks with two Atlantic filmmakers who are currently IndieGoGoing.

  • Millefiore Clarkes (PEI) is in the post-production stages of a feature documentary and web series entitled ‘The Telling’. She is raising completion funds through ‘crowd sourcing’ and has currently raised $1,155 of her $2500 goal.
  • Allison White (NL) is the inaugural winner of the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award, a St. John’s International Women’s Film festival event. She has just started to raise money via indieGogo for her short film Decoloured.

Tidings: What made you take the crowd-sourcing plunge?

MilleFiore: Crowd-sourcing is a fantastic new way to micro-finance a project by appealing directly to its future audience online. I first heard about IndieGoGo about a year ago. A former boss of mine, a producer, mentioned it to me. He’s excited, as I am, about new funding structures and light-weight productions.

I was planning to post the pitch for my documentary and web series ‘The Telling’ a while back, I wanted to be the first in PEI to use this new approach. When I saw that a rock band with PEI-roots had started a campaign for their album recording it was the incentive I needed to give it a go myself.

Allison: With Decoloured already having secured the majority of its funding through the Michelle Jackson Award, it’s perfect for me. I just need a little more cash in order to make the film a reality.

Fundraising is a difficult process for any project, no matter the medium. When you’re making a film, you put your heart into it. Your life revolves around it. If you want people to help, you need to reach out to them, and tell them about your project.

The web is a great way to do this, because it exposes what you’re trying to do to such a large audience. If people believe in your project, they’ll help. Whether it’s with some money, some services, some sandwiches.  It all counts.

Tidings: What’s your IndieGoGo strategy?

Allison: My strategy with Indiegogo is pretty simple. I’m just honest about what I’m trying to do with the film – the story, who’s behind it and what it means to me. The film is a labour of love. Expressing that is, I feel, the best approach.

MilleFiore: I’m no expert, but I believe that projects with an identifiable niche audience are best for this sort of fundraising. If you know who your talking to its easier to identify and communicate with them. People donate to causes they believe in, so make sure your project speaks directly to a specific audience.

My only tips would be the obvious ones… use any means necessary (within reason) to get the word out there. Family, friends, co-workers, organizations – appeal to them through all forms of social networking and remind folks that if they can’t donate themselves, simply passing word along of your project is a major help.

It might also be helpful to put a shorter end date on your campaign. I used the maximum number of days to fundraise, and if I had to do it again, I might limit the length of the campaign… to increase the urgency of the call.

Tidings: Kickstarter vs IndieGoGo. Any comments?

MilleFiore: Funny you should ask. A filmmaker friend of mine asked the same thing and the reason that I gave him is that I like Indiegogo’s logo better. How superficial of me! The other difference (a big one) is that with IndieGogo you receive however much money that you have raised (minus a fee) even if you don’t reach your goal (the fee increases if you don’t reach your goal, but you still get most of it). Whereas with Kickstarter you only access the funds you raised if you reach your funding goal.

Tidings: Thanks for your info and Good Luck!

Resources:

The Filmmakers:

MilleFiore Clarkes:
www.indiegogo.com/The-Telling-1

thetelling fourseasons1 Are You Ready to DIWO   Do It With Others?Millefiore’s first documentary Stalking Love screened at festivals across Canada and the US and played on CBC’s documentary! for three years. Her experimental video work has screened at film festivals and galleries across Canada and the US. She has also produced one on-line documentary web series, Faces and Hands.

The Telling, is a feature documentary and web series about the stories of a place and its people. That place is Prince Edward Island. The money raised will go toward the development of a website and the completion of the film.

Allison White
www.indiegogo.com/decoloured

 Are You Ready to DIWO   Do It With Others?Born and raised in Bonavista, NL, Allison White directed her first film, Peephole, in 2004, and has since worked in a variety of roles on and off set. This year marks her television directorial debut with Best Boy Entertainment’s ‘Mickey’, airing on the Pet Network.

Decoloured is a short film about Albert, a man who’s completely colourblind until he meets Amber, and starts seeing in colour. Decoloured will be shot over three days in mid February on 35 mm film.

Read Allison’s blog as she documents her personal accounts of her progress, obstacles, people that help me, experiences on the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award Web Site.



DIY Film Distribution

AKA tears of  the new independent filmmaker.

proceed and be boldsm DIY Film DistributionTrue story. Two years ago, I found myself crying pitifully alone (yes, 28 years old and crying) on a train hurtling through Chicago. I had just come from a Self-distribution for Film Workshop put on by Yvonne Welbon through the Independent Feature Project.

As I looked out at the speeding landscape, I felt desperation and hopelessness. I had just realized that if I were going to continue as an independent filmmaker, I was going to have to sell my documentary and I was going to have to do it all on my own.

I had never thought seriously of trying to sell my first documentary, Proceed and Be Bold! I had only focused on finishing the film and making it to the premiere in one piece to show it to all of my friends and family. Beyond that, I had no game plan – only a whole lot of production debt.

The workshop featured the tremendously successful American independent film Four-Eyed Monsters, which was made for $100,000 in credit card debt. It had screened nationally at theaters across America, due not only to how fiercely the filmmakers marketed their film, but also because they had found the right audience to market to.  The film was about two young artists in New York trying to make a living while navigating the extent of their romantic relationship. The audience was flocking to see themselves – along with all of their fears, hopes, dreams, failures and loves – on screen.

I wasn’t part of the audience, but I learned something from the filmmakers: every independent film has a paying audience and it’s up to the filmmaker to find it.

First – Create the DVD

Lucky for the modern independent filmmaker, it’s now cheaper all around to produce, market and sell a film these days. In order to sell my documentary, I knew I would need some DVDs. This was just before the huge push to get films online, so I pulled together $2,000 (thanks to a mini loan from my father) to get 1,000 DVDs of my documentary made.

Tip: You can easily order 1,000 DVDs for $1000 from Discmakers.

Second  – Create your Store on your website  and set up Paypal

My next step was to have my website designer create a professional and user-friendly online store for my website so I could easily sell the DVD directly to my audience using PayPal.

I started telling everyone I knew that my film was on DVD and being sold at our online store. You can see the Proceed and Be Bold! store here).

Tip: Make sure that it is easy for anyone to purchase your film before you reach out to your audience. You want to make sure that they are able to go through with buying your film as soon as they find out about it, or else you’ll probably have a hard time getting them to come back to your online store. You don’t have to have an incredibly polished website in order to sell a film either. All you have to do is make the site design simple and make it easy for someone to purchase on your site.

Tip: Keep in mind that anyone can sign up for a free PayPal account, but PayPal keeps 3% of what you make using their payment services. Their fees are in line with other credit companies you might go through to process your payments.

Third – Finding  your audience

If I can do this, anyone can. I am not amazing at business, but I am passionate about filmmaking and being able to move onto my next film project. The key is to find the right audience for your film, and to reach out to them to let them know about your film.

My film Proceed and be Bold is about artist  Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., who gave up a comfortable middle class to become a letterpress printer. Today the self-described “humble negro printer” lives in rural Alabama and sells his socially relevant and politically charged letterpress posters for $15 each.

The first 50 DVDs we sold were friends and family, and after that I steadily sold 5-10 a month over the next year. Then Amos suggested I start contacting university libraries, asking them if they would like to purchase an educational license for the documentary.

An educational license allows a university to rent the film from their library to students, staff and faculty. This may also include in-class screenings of the film, using the film as an in-class teaching tool, and Public Performance Rights.

Tip: Most universities will not purchase an educational license without Public Performance Rights which state they have permission to publicly show the film on their campus as many times as they would like, as long as no ticket sales are taken.

I started by contacting the University Libraries where Amos had personal contacts,  asking them if they would like to purchase an educational license. To date, I’ve sold over thirty educational licenses at $300 each. The film has also seen over 40 public screenings at two different rates: $250 for art theaters taking ticket sales and universities that just wanted to screen the film (without the educational license), and $150 for non-profit organizations and special interest design groups like the individual chapters of the American International Graphics Association (AIGA).

I’ve recently been asked by two different graphic design conferences to screen Proceed and Be Bold! For large conventions and conferences with an expected audience of 2,000-3,000 people, I’ve raised the public screening fee to $400-$500. I’ve also sold close to 400 DVDs for home use; at $24.98 each including shipping and handling.

It all adds up. Between home use sales, educational licenses and public screenings, I’ve made back the production debt of $18,000. I’ve chosen to put that money back into my production company.

laurasm DIY Film DistributionAs of the writing of this article, I have sold out of my fist run of 1000 DVDs and am raising funds via Kickstarter to have another 1000 made. I have yet to sell my film for television broadcast, or to put the film online for digital download or rental on Netflix and iTunes, but those avenues are all on my list for next steps in the distribution process.

My initial terror at having to become my own marketing and sales person is understandable, but once I started to sell DVDs of Proceed and Be Bold!, I was better able to reconcile the fact that to be an artist or filmmaker these days, I had to be a salesperson. I may still find myself crying in the future, but at least I’ll know how to better work through the tears.

Laura Zinger is a Chicago, IL USA based documentary filmmaker, College Instructor and freelance writer. She is also the founder of 20K Films which is dedicated to making independently produced, high quality, low budget films.

SJIWFF10 Day 5: Going Home

This is a special guest post by visiting filmmaker and blogger Laura Zinger.* To read more about her trip to the 2010  St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and impressions of Canada and Newfoundland, visit her blog 20kfilms.com for the complete blog posts.

It’s finally time to go home. I can’t believe only a week has passed since I first came to Newfoundland. I almost feel like I live here now! This was the most amazing festival, and I highly recommend every female filmmaker submitting their films. The camaraderie and community of other female filmmakers is too amazing to miss.

I am sorry to go after meeting so many amazing people at the festival. I want to give a huge thank you to all of the awesome people who made the festival amazing and showed me a great time. Thank you, Anita, Shannon, Aimee, Elsa, Victoria, Irene, Barb, and everyone else I met. Thank you Roberta, Christine, Jan and Kendra for your wonderful workshops. (I’m running out of adjectives here.) Thank you to all of the organizations like NIFCO that support the festival and independent filmmakers. Thank you, Marnie, and the rest of the printers in St. John’s for inviting Amos and being so hospitable.

Thank you, Newfoundland, for being such an isolated island full of amazingly resourceful people with interesting accents, and thank you, St. John’s for having the most artists per capita in North America. Thank you, Sprout for your amazing vegetarian food, and thank you, Quidi Vidi Brewery for your wonderful ale. I honestly and truly felt at home here. What a wonderful rock of an island to live on.

I will miss you all dearly, and I hope to return to Newfoundland in the near future.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

One last thing, long may your long jib draw. (Did I get that right, Aimee and Shannon?)

Editor: We hope you enjoyed the guest blog posts by Laura Zinger on her 5 days at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. Too bad Laura left 2 days early, we’d love to hear her accounts of the infamous Pope party, the closing film gala and Ron Hynes show. We miss you Laura, come back!

Read all of Laura Zinger’s blog posts on The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival 2010. They’re so good, it’s almost like being there:

Don’t miss this othe great article on the festival. Joy Loewen of NSI Drama Prize Loves the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival

*Laura Zinger is the Founder of Chicago Production Company 20K Films. She currently teaches introductory courses in video production and editing in the Motion Picture/Television Department at the College of DuPage. In 2008, Laura went all in and independently produced and directed the feature-length documentary Proceed and Be Bold!, which has screened internationally in Italy, Germany, Austria, England and Canada. The documentary also screened as an official selection in six American film festivals, including the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Newfoundland Canada.

SJIWFF10 Day 4: Christine Vachon and Pitch This with Jan Miller

This is a special guest post by visiting filmmaker and blogger Laura Zinger.* To read more about her trip to the 2010  St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and impressions of Canada and Newfoundland, visit her blog 20kfilms.com for the complete blog posts.

This was a long day. I attended the Conversation with Christine and Pitch This! with Jan Miller (our own Chair!) where I was told that I need to breathe and not talk too fast. I don’t think that anyone who knows me personally would be surprised by this.  I also attended the New Distribution: Dissemination in a Digital World, which was more or less a workshop on how to get your films distributed online.

The day started out fantastic, with amazing croissants (Phillip was back!) with Amos and Marnie—the letterpress printer who invited Amos out to Newfoundland in the first place. One of the best things about the trip to Newfoundland was getting to talk to Marnie about the differences between Canada and America, which boiled down to national health care and public funding for the arts. (Ooooo Canada, I will be back, I promise!)

I barely had time between workshops to eat, and subsisted on cookies for most of the day, but since I got to listen to Christine Vachon (Producer of 50+ independent films, interviewed by Noreen Golfman, founder of SJIWFF and Board chair,  I was happy. Noreen was an excellent interviewer too.

The greatest thing about Christine Vachon, and I feel capable of making this statement because I’ve read her book, and have now listened to her talk at the film festival, is that she is honest. I’ll bet brutally honest the more you know her, but I appreciate that kind of no-frills honesty.

For example, when she and Killer Films (her company) try to decide if a director is worth working with, she has a litmus test that they must pass: the director must have had a long-term relationship with another living thing (whether it be a person, plant or animal). Apparently, this litmus test has prevented Christine and Killer Films from working with impossible people.

I also liked some of her other honest, no-frills remarks:

1) Independent film is one that is singular in vision and cannot be made any other way. (Meaning its vision is so unique, that only an independent, someone outside of the studio system, would attempt to make it.)

2) The director must be able to articulate their vision. Indecisive directors are hard to work with. Killer Film’s expression: “My indecision is final.”

3) Filmmaking is a commercial art. It is a very expensive form of self-expression. (Which is why most filmmakers are from the middle and upper classes. Who else can afford to be an unpaid intern for long periods of time?)

4) Film is subsidized in other countries to help keep their culture alive. (This also helps keep filmmakers alive, and I wish that America would subsidize at least some films, so that they can be made for the sake of art, not money.)

5) The market is going towards TV drama, not theatrical. It’s too expensive. (Damn. That’s all I have to say.)

6) DVD Market is evaporating. It’s really hard to pre-sell films without an international director and international stars.

7) The new funding strategy is to get micro-equity investors to put in a couple hundred thousand per movie instead of a couple million.

8 ) It’s hard to make films with female protagonists. (Damn. Damn. Damn. Why?)

9) At every stage of a film’s process, they show the film to an audience. (I understand this, but I asked Christine at her interview if she showed Kids to an audience, and she said yes, but it wasn’t like how they show it to an audience today. Is it really necessary to show a film to an audience? I know it’s important to show it to people before you release it, but to get a random audience to view it and to change it based on what these random people think kind of gets me down. Here again is the battle between money and art.)

10) Christine said that she is of two minds about attending film school. Christine: Film school is a meaningless exercise. It’s easy to make films yourself. Making films in film school is nothing like making film in the real world. The only thing that film school does is expose you to film culture.

11) And finally Christine’s theory on why there are so few female directors: “They want to have kids. It’s just the world we live in.” (This is sad. It’s also very true. Christine used the woman who directed, I Shot Andy Warhol as an example. She made the film, won a bunch of awards, then took 7 years off to have children, and is now having difficulty making another film because she was out of the industry for so long.

Christine also shared what she looks for in a script:

1) Fresh voice

2) Universality of story

3) Can she sell it?

4) Is the story timely?

5) Is the key performance good?

6) Does the director pass the “any living thing” test?

In closing, Christine has two books out that I think anyone who wants to be involved at any level in independent film should read:

A Killer Life

Shooting to Kill

Oh, and one last thing. Apparently Christine was at some event where she saw infamous independent filmmaker, John Waters and asked him what he thought of Social Media Networking, and he told her, “I don’t do that Face Page!”

After Christine’s interview, I headed over to a pub for a quick lunch with some other filmmakers, one of which was 26-year old, Ashley McKenzie, who made the fantastic short, Rhonda’s Party. I was really impressed with her film. She doesn’t have a trailer on her site, but if you email her, I’m sure she’ll sell you a copy for a fair price.

Most things are fried when eating out in St. John’s, although they did have a fair share of salads on every menu. I sadly never tried the fish and chips. I am a dear friend of the vegetable, and stuck mainly to those. One of the best restaurants in St. John’s was Sprout—a vegetarian restaurant where I had the best avocado brie sandwich ever and a banana chocolate chip walnut muffin. Amos tried to convince them to open up shop in Gordo before we left. One of the waiters is still mulling it over.

Ashley told me that she was headed to Pitch This! which was taught by Jan Miller. The entire workshop was on how to properly communicate and pitch project ideas to investors.

I originally wasn’t planning on going to this workshop, but my new filmmaker friend Ashley was going, and I had met Jan the night before—an incredibly interesting person, so I thought, why not? I’m so glad that I went. I really thought that pitching was an easy thing to do, but as clichéd as this sounds, it is an art form, and I wasn’t even familiar with any of the brushes!

I knew that clear communication was key to pitching, and I knew what a logline, cutline and synopsis were, but I did not realize how vital all three were to being able to clearly communicate your pitch. I didn’t realize that there was such a thing as a one-sheet, which is basically a front and back page with the above mentioned items, as well as some slick graphics.

Thankfully, Jan asked two people to pitch their ideas to workshop, and I asked to be one of them, because I am clearly terrible at pitching. I talk too fast, I don’t breathe, and I get off topic too easily and too much. Jan was very kind in her criticism, and did say that she liked my dedication to my idea, which I will take and run with.

Really though, Jan made two major points that sum up the art of pitching:

1)      Pitching is a conversation. You need to connect to and know your audience.

2)      Pitching is part storytelling and part sales pitch.

Jan really stressed that before you pitch, you need to research whomever you are pitching too. This should be common sense, but few people do it.

The workshop after Jan’s was called New Distribution: Dissemination in a Digital World—a workshop on how to get your films distributed online. This was led by Kendra Anderson of Cinetic Rights Management. I walked into this workshop 30 minutes late because Jan’s ran late. By the time I got there, Kendra was halfway through her power point presentation, and from what I could gather, Cinetec runs a site called FilmBuff that helps filmmakers distribute online. I actually just looked at the site and saw a film that was made by friends of someone I interviewed in my documentary. The film is called Make Out With Violence. I’m not sure what their deal is with filmmakers, if they charge a percentage of their total online sales or what, but they help encode the film and get it to online marketplaces like iTunes and other VOD options.

As soon as this workshop was over, I headed over to a party that NIFCO, the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-Operative, was having. Don’t let the words, “independent” or “co-operative” fool you. NIFCO was probably the most amazing thing I saw in St. John’s (Signal Hill was a serious contender.)

NIFCO is a fully functioning post-production facility with Final Cut Pro and Avid Editing suites, a broadcast television center, and a full sound board. The whole point of NIFCO is to serve the independent filmmaking community in Newfoundland. Chicago has Chicago Filmmakers, which is the closest comparison I can make, but still, Chicago Filmmakers struggles with funding and resources, and NIFCO has such incredible funding. Why oh why can’t there be American public funding sources that are more supportive of independent film?

I took a few hours off after the NIFCO party to reflect and relax. I was trying hard to figure out how to fundraise for the next three documentaries I’m producing and directing. You can really only borrow money from your friends and family once. After thinking for awhile, I joined the rest of the festival folks at the Ship Pub where Rita Chiarelli, a Canadian Blues Singer, was playing a set. I unfortunately missed Rita’s documentary that night called Music from the Big House, about Rita going to Lousiana, the birthplace of the blues, and discovering Angola Prison, where she decided to sing her blues for the prisoners. I really wish I had gotten a chance to see this. I got to ride to the airport with Rita the next day (The amazing, festival volunteer, Barb O’Keefe, drove us back to the airport) and she was an incredibly kind and down to earth person.

Tomorrow, I’m going home.

Read all of Laura Zinger’s blog posts on The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival 2010. They’re so good, it’s almost like being there:

Don’t miss this othe great article on the festival. Joy Loewen of NSI Drama Prize Loves the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival

*Laura Zinger is the Founder of Chicago Production Company 20K Films. She currently teaches introductory courses in video production and editing in the Motion Picture/Television Department at the College of DuPage. In 2008, Laura went all in and independently produced and directed the feature-length documentary Proceed and Be Bold!, which has screened internationally in Italy, Germany, Austria, England and Canada. The documentary also screened as an official selection in six American film festivals, including the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Newfoundland Canada.

SJIWFF10 Day 3: My Film Proceed and Be Bold Screens at the Festival!

This is a special guest post by visiting filmmaker and blogger Laura Zinger.* To read more about her trip to the 2010  St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and impressions of Canada and Newfoundland, visit her blog 20kfilms.com
for the complete blog posts.

I took the morning off today to get some work taken care of. Plus, I wanted to relax before Proceed and Be Bold! screened at 3pm. I cut myself off from my work with enough time to spare for lunch at Sprout. Hello amazing Avocado Brie sandwich. Will you marry me?

Then I was off to the PaBB screening where over 50 people were sitting in the audience waiting to watch the documentary. After a quick and quirky introduction by Amos and I, the film started, and Amos and I headed out to Sprout so that he could get a bite to eat. (Did I mention how much I loved this restaurant?)

After the screening, Amos and I held a Q&A. Our discussion went beyond the scope of the documentary into areas such as health care (is anyone surprised at this point in my blog?), public funding for the arts, and the major differences between Canada and America.

We were extremely happy with the crowd that attended the screening: they were mostly printers and they asked such great questions afterward.

Amos had an amazing poster sale after the screening, and I grabbed one of his newer posters for my boyfriend that said, “Don’t be a Credit Card Sharecropper!” Very fitting advice for my generation.

Up for tomorrow: Conversation with Christine Vachon! I’m very excited for this one!

Read all of Laura Zinger’s blog posts on The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival 2010. They’re so good, it’s almost like being there:

Don’t miss this othe great article on the festival. Joy Loewen of NSI Drama Prize Loves the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival

*Laura Zinger is the Founder of Chicago Production Company 20K Films. She currently teaches introductory courses in video production and editing in the Motion Picture/Television Department at the College of DuPage. In 2008, Laura went all in and independently produced and directed the feature-length documentary Proceed and Be Bold!, which has screened internationally in Italy, Germany, Austria, England and Canada. The documentary also screened as an official selection in six American film festivals, including the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Newfoundland Canada.

SJIWFF10 Day 2: Roberta Munroe

This is a special guest post by visiting filmmaker and blogger Laura Zinger.* To read more about her trip to the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and impressions of Canada and Newfoundland, visit her blog 20kfilms.com
for the complete blog posts.

After breakfast, I stopped by the film office—the festival women were hard at work managing the completely amazing festival! Anita, the director, told me that she put together the kind of festival she would like to attend. So far it has been an incredible experience with well done and RELEVANT workshops. The festival crew is amazingly helpful, kind, and they have hospitality coming out of their ears. Thank you, Anita!

Today’s workshop was Roberta Munroe’s, The Best Short Film Workshop Ever. It started out with introductions—the most interesting of which was a woman from the provincial government in Newfoundland who was in charge of the culture fund and who had come to find out how to better fund filmmakers! Oh, I wish I was Canadian! I had this feeling several times during the week as I learned more about how much Canada supports its artists and filmmakers with real funding. (Christine Vachon actually talked about how Canada subsidizes its film industry during her talk the next day.)

It was also interesting how seriously and respectfully the women at the workshop took themselves as filmmakers. Everyone called themselves filmmakers rather than “aspiring” filmmakers. I think in America, women do not consider themselves filmmakers unless they make a film that is hugely successful in a commercial sense. In Canada, it seems like films are made for the sake of making film, not money, which is incredible to me. Every movie I want to make, I think about how I can get it to make money so that I can continue to make films, but in Canada, enough funding exists to not have to worry about this.

Back to the workshop. The fact that Roberta Munroe has a blog, titled “what drives me to drink” where she has a photograph of herself in an afro wig holding a fake gun while smiling at the camera is a perfect example of the kind of person Roberta is: fun, but also no-nonsense in a way that makes you actually listen to her thoughts and opinions on short filmmaking. Roberta also never comes off as condescending, which is great for anyone feeling insecure about their knowledge or experience.

I have never made a short film, but Roberta focused her workshop on issues that relate to all filmmaking—whether feature narrative or documentary. Without giving too much away, here are some tidbits I want to share.

1) Always read beyond the clichéd story!

2) Be economical with your story.

3) Reveal yourself completely at the beginning.

4) Create a look book for your short.

5) EVERYONE needs a Producer. (I really agreed with this point. I currently produce everything I direct, and not only am I losing time that should be spent on my documentaries, but I’m suffering creatively from the stress of managing the productions. I got booed at the workshop for sharing my thoughts on this, and referring to producers as managers, which I do admit came off wrong. I didn’t mean that Producers cannot be creative too, but I usually relegate the creativity for a film to the director, and the Producer, at least to me, is the person who first and foremost makes sure production runs smoothly, while offering some creative input on the side. They are managers in my mind, but still extremely necessary and important. Sorry workshop people who booed me. I did not mean that you were not important! Although shocking, it was a nice boo, because they were, after all, lovely, nice Canadians!)

6) Don’t make period pieces for a short.

7) What do your characters absolutely have to say?

8 ) Foundation of a short film is a good script.

9) Filmmakers have to be entrepreneurs too. (This sucks but is so true. When the hell do we just get to be filmmakers again?)

10) Short Film Festivals to enter: Palm Springs, Toronto International, Tokyo short shorts. Also, check out the following for some film festivals that charge no submission fees: Short Film Central and Short Film Depot.

11) Paul Zadie’s free production forms

Roberta showed two great short films during the workshop—Two Cars, One Night, and Dani and Alice. I would share her thoughts with you, but really you should just get it straight from her by taking her workshop or reading her book.

My final thoughts on short films:

1) For some reason, I think that short films are more purely emotional than longer features. Maybe it’s because they’re so limited in time that the filmmaker has to jump to an emotional level right away in order to make a connection with the audience?

2) The purpose of short films is to really force you to tell a story visually. There’s no mucking around. They start, you have a minute or two to get to the middle of your story and then another few minutes before you end it and somewhere along the way, you have to introduce characters and a plotline and make people care enough about both to stick around for the ending.

I was really impressed with Roberta’s Munroe’s workshop, and I highly recommend it even if you are only interested in features. Visit Roberta’s website to learn more about her and where she’s teaching next, or to order her amazing book. She is an incredible resource for the independent filmmaking community.

Read all of Laura Zinger’s blog posts on The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival 2010. They’re so good, it’s almost like being there:

Don’t miss this othe great article on the festival. Joy Loewen of NSI Drama Prize Loves the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival

*Laura Zinger is the Founder of Chicago Production Company 20K Films. She currently teaches introductory courses in video production and editing in the Motion Picture/Television Department at the College of DuPage. In 2008, Laura went all in and independently produced and directed the feature-length documentary Proceed and Be Bold!, which has screened internationally in Italy, Germany, Austria, England and Canada. The documentary also screened as an official selection in six American film festivals, including the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Newfoundland Canada.