Monthly Archives: October 2011

From Auteur to Author: The Tao of Crowdfunding Goes to Print

It’s official––I’ve just signed and mailed away a contract to pen The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers for Michael Wiese Productions!

Based on my blog series of the same title, this book will be centered around practical tips that DIY filmmakers can use to lead them to the same success I had when I crowdfunded $6,300 on IndieGoGo for the award-winning short film Cerise in 2009.

Shortly after, I wrote “Read Me Up Before You (Indie)GoGo,” in which I offered some advice on what I’d learned during my three month crowdfunding campaign. Then I decided to write a few more posts, and when my first Tao of Crowdfunding blog post “The Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” came out, it was very well received by the indie film community, so much that IndieWIRE printed a short write-up about the post, which emphasizes personalization in one’s pitch, perks, and promotion as the key to crowdfunding success, and sites examples from projects of indie film friends who’ve raised substantial amounts of money either on IndieGoGo or Kickstarter. There’ve been two other blog posts so far, “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette” and “Twitter Tips for Crowdfunders,” the latter of which appeared on indie film icon Ted Hope’s IndieWIRE blog Hope for Film.

Since then, I’ve lent a hand to over a dozen IndieGoGo and Kickstarter campaigns, but I thought it was time to up the ante a bit and put all my insights into an affordable book that’d fit nicely on ever filmmakers shelf, right between other MWP books like Psychology for Screenwriters and Film Directing: Shot By Shot. So I wrote up a proposal and sent it away, and after a few email exchanges, a inspiring phone conversation with MWP Vice President Ken Lee and a revision of my table of contents to reflect that of a 200-page book––well, here we are.

And what’s really awesome is that amongst all the other books about crowdfunding that are currently in circulation, The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers would be the first one dedicated to crowdfunding for something other than start up businesses, and it would be written by a filmmaker for other filmmakers.

My book will follow the same conventions as my blog posts––it will serve up practical advice backed up by screen grabs and Taoist wisdom. It will also feature a “Trignosis” of several successful projects and why they were successful (so many of my closest crowdfunding friends on Twitter and Facebook will be hearing from me soon about that––hint, hint Phil Holbrook, Gary King, and Brendon Fogle, to name a few…)

I’ve given myself six months to research, write, rewrite and deliver my complete manuscript to Michael Wiese Productions, one of the two most well-known filmmaking book publishers out there. It’s definitely a bit of a challenge, especially with my current teaching schedule and Mating Dome editing, but crowdfunding is a hot topic that evolves extremely fast, which means I’ve got to move twice as fast.

So while it looks like I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from my own filmmaking endeavors to write The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, which is scheduled for either a 2012 or 2013 launch, I’ll be applying my writing talent and crowdfunding insights and experiences to my first major publishing credit, one that will be certain to help many indie filmmakers like me successfully finance the road to their dreams, one dollar at a time.

Mating Dome: Growth is Inevitable

The wood, steel and other raw materials for my upcoming short film Mating Dome have been assembled, and now it’s time to piece together this sexy sci-fi romp.

This past weekend I had the honor of sharing the set with an exceptionally gifted cast and a host of crackerjack crew members who brought to life my good friend, actor and Mating Dome writer Joe Whelski’s darkly comedic vision of a future where dating has been reduced to moment-to-moment trysts in an endless labyrinth of lust.

The shoot itself went exceptionally well, and as always, I walked away from the experience with a few bits of insight for directors and auteurs alike:

Trust in Your Crew
Mating Dome
marks the first film I’ve ever shot in which an actual set had to be built. We transformed a large photo studio at Neo Studios in SoHo into a truly fantastical set. One of those sets was a lounge of sorts with a lit up bar, which we eventually used in other scenes in the film. I am by no means a handyman––I’m more like Tim Allen in Home Improvement––so I had to trust in our set designer Lucia Snyder and our crew to create this futuristic bar, as well as in our costume designer Sophie Philips to make the fashion-forward “towels” which our actors would be wearing throughout the film. I had given them both a basic idea of what I wanted and allowed them to run with it. I was not disappointed.

This futuristic, lit-up bar makes an appearance three times in Mating Dome.

The Script Will Always Change
As with every other film I’ve ever shot, Joe’s script for Mating Dome went through a bit of a “reconfiguration” of its own as the words and actions on the page turned into shots and sequences. Even some of the ideas that I’d implemented into the script as director didn’t make it into many of the shots in the film for various reasons. But I’ve learned that this is fine, because other concepts and visionary elements will work their way into each shot and compensate for any “losses,” and as a director, you simply have to roll with it. I did.

Keep (Some) Control Over the Creative Spirit of Collaboration
I’ve always said I’m not one to collaborate on the page, but on set, I rely heavily on collaboration to help generate a more dynamic look to my original vision. It worked with Cerise, my most recent short film. But as I learned on the set of Mating Dome, as director, you still have to maintain a certain level of control over however much creative freedom you allow your main crew members. If something that your set designer suggests doesn’t work as part of the vision in your mind, don’t do it. If you’re not sure whether it’ll work or not, try it. (Ah! The beauty of shooting in HD.) The bottom line is that a director should be open to suggestions, but hold a firm enough grasp on your vision so the compromise (and there’ll always be compromise) is not a drastic one.

Find Solutions, Not Further Problems
Admittedly, I’m not very good at finding solutions quickly. I know when a problem can be resolved, but very often I don’t know how to resolve them. My best friend, long-time collaborator and Mating Dome’s cinematographer Alain Aguilar is much better at it than I, and Mating Dome’s producer Ruben Rodas, I can say with utmost certainty, is a “Master Solutionist” (okay, so “solutionist” is not a word, but it should be!) A few times on set we came upon some stumbling blocks––or rather I came upon them––and as soon as I’d open my mouth about the problem, there was Ruben with a solution. So this is something that, as a director, I will either work on improving or simply rely even more on people like Ruben and Alain to solve them for me (I’ll try the former, but if I fall off that tightrope, I’ve always got the latter net to land on!)

Believe in “Happy Accidents” and All Will Be Well
Joe introduced me to this concept on the first day of shooting when he took me aside and said he had to make an “executive decision” (he is also Mating Dome’s Executive Producer) which scared the heck out of me. It seemed the towel that was made for him wasn’t fitting very well, and he had no other choice but to don an actual bath towel around his waist. I was a bit upset, truth be told, but it made sense, as Joe (the character) is the “average Joe” in a world populated with men and women who’ve radically “reconfigured” their bodies; it would only be right that Joe isn’t given a futuristic “real man’s towel” but rather a “little boy’s towel” because he doesn’t accept his world. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and that reason is always good and right, though sometimes I lose sight of that basic Taoist truth. So thanks for bringing it back home, Whelski!

Joe Whelski in his bath towel across from a Venus of the future.

Overall, the Mating Dome shoot this past weekend was yet another curve on the freeway to filmmaking knowledge, and one thing I’m always thankful for is being able to work with a crew that knows what its doing, moves and breathes as one being and helps me improve what I’m doing and strengthen me as a director, as well as a talented cast––and the cast of Mating Dome is not only talented but smokin’ hot and includes such personalities as Samantha Karlin, who’s starred in TV’s From Mate to Date, and Key of Awesome! superstar Lauren Francesca!

Lauren Francesca, YouTube sensation and one of our Mating Dome Ladies.

To see photos of our entire sultry cast of Venuses and Adonises, head on over to Mating Dome’s Facebook page (and “Like” it while you’re at it, ‘cause if those pics don’t make you wish there was a “Super Like” button, then I don’t know. I just don’t know…)

In the meantime, I’ll be getting my razor tool sharpened and ready for cutting these scenes together into a quick bit of cinema that will make everyone under the Mating Dome proud to have been a part of this quirky, witty, sexy and wholly original short film.

Until then, live long, and prosper. Or something like that.

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