Category Archives: Film Business

“Follow Friday” Article on Crikey

For his regular Follow Friday column on Crikey last week, Matthew Clayfield (@mclayfield) interviewed Wastelander Panda director Victoria Cocks and me about the process of making the project to date, as well as crowdfunding, working in SA and the Australian film industry. The first part of the article is below, or you can read the whole thing here.

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The opening shots are like something out of a Western. A seemingly endless sky. A row of lopsided power lines. Saltbush. On the soundtrack, the wind whistles across the plain, while a sombre, sonorous voiceover intones:

“My father once told us that water didn’t always burn. That you could drink it as it was falling. But that was long before his time, before the earth took its last breath and, with it, began to die.”

A hand enters the frame, holding a glass bottle, which it fills with dirty water from a pond. Well, not a hand, exactly. A paw. A big, black, furry paw. As the voiceover continues —  ”They say the sky collapsed not long after, and that is when the chaos began” — we cut to an extreme wide shot. A huge panda, wearing human clothes and walking upright, makes his way across the landscape, his cooking utensils hanging from his knapsack and clanging slightly in the breeze.

“For 15 years, I have concealed myself from the worst of this world. Soon, it will discover me again.”

This is our introduction to Arcayus, the hero of Wastelander Panda (@wastelandrpanda), a post-apocalyptic adventure series that started life as a joke between friends, grew into a three-minute teaser and a trilogy of short films, and has now been picked up by the ABC as a six-part series to be released exclusively on iView later this year. It’s a project that wouldn’t exist without social media, hinting at new and exciting paths for Australian filmmakers — especially emerging ones — to follow.

Read the rest at Crikey: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/02/21/follow-friday-victoriacocks1-and-kirstysan-digital-adventurers/

SXSW Tips for First Time Attendees

Having attended SXSW in 2013, I was asked for some tips by a couple of people making the trip this year.  Some of the advice is aimed at filmmakers / multi-platform creators whose work is in the program, whereas the rest could apply to anyone attending, but I thought I’d put it out there so anyone can make the most of it.

Planning / Self-Promotion

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This section is primarily aimed at filmmakers, or anyone who wants to get networking / business opportunities out of attending.

- Go to http://schedule.sxsw.com/ and make a tentative calendar of all the stuff you want to go to.  Interactive sessions had huge lines compared to the film ones, so be prepared to get there really early to get a place for the ones you want, and have backup plans. It seems a lot of companies send their marketing people for work trips and get them interactive badges. Film conference sessions were less crowded for the most part, except for the ones with big name speakers.  If there’s something you really want to see, consider skipping the session before, rather than running from one to the next to find out that people have been lining up outside for the past hour.

- Once you sign in to the SXSW website you can fill out a profile and message people to contact them.  You can search by where they are attending from, or for keywords (company names etc).  It’s a good way to plan some of your meetings in advance.

- Go to http://mentor.sxsw.com/ and read all of the mentor bios, then set up mentor sessions with the people you want to meet.  I think you can pre-register for up to 2 sessions per badge, but if you have additional people you want to see, go to the venue in the morning and see if there are any cancellations or gaps.  The volunteers will often let you do more if there are spaces.

- You can look at who is speaking at all of the sessions at this link (http://schedule.sxsw.com/?lsort=speaker&day=ALL) to find out who will be there, especially people who haven’t registered a profile on the website, or aren’t mentoring – if you want to Google for their contact details and set up meetings.

- Hang out in the filmmaker lounge to meet and network with other filmmakers.

- Take small giveaways relating to your film/app that you can hand out to people you meet (and help them remember you).  We took Wastelander Panda badges, but even something like postcards of the film poster with your screening times printed on them are great.

- Take business cards! Last year you could order free cards as a delegate through moo.com.  They were branded with their name and SXSW, but a lot of people had them, and you could customise them with images from your film and your own text (e.g. contact details or screening times) to hand out – which saves paying for printing!  I think you had to log in to the SXSW website and select the offer to get them – then you can either pay for postage or pick them up for free once you get to Austin.

- There are a lot of spaces (glad-wrapped posts) for taping posters, especially around the Convention Center. If you want to get attention, print up some A3 (or larger) posters.  There are a LOT, so if it doesn’t go against the vibe of your film (or even if it does) I’d recommend something that stands out (e.g. black on fluoro). Again, don’t forget your screening/session times. Tip: have enough to potentially do it a second time if people cover yours up with theirs.

Food / Drinks / Entertainment 

- There is a Mexican place (Micheladas) across the street from the Convention Center that does frozen margaritas and you get free corn chips and salsa if you order drinks.  They also do Mexican meals.  They have a courtyard and a rooftop and it’s a nice way to escape the madness for a little bit.

- You NEED to eat the following things:
* Barbecue. We ate at IronWorks near the Convention Center, which has a display of people who have eaten there, including both Obama and Bush, but there are plenty of options and everyone has their favourites. Moose Knuckle pub is also good for a quick introduction to BBQ (in a soft taco) between conference sessions, rather than the longer experience at an actual BBQ restaurant.
* Beef Brisket (fits into the above category)
* Queso (essentially a cheese dip, but sooooo good). Different everywhere you go, but all versions are great.

- If you walk down 6th Street and look through the windows of bars, you’ll find the one with long tables covered in sawdust with puck-like things on the tables.  Go in and play this game – even if you don’t know the rules, it’s a great way to meet people who do. (Networking!)

- Go to the opening night and closing night parties and anything with free food and drink.  Go to the tents giving out free drinks. Walk around the Convention Center or 6th Street and make the most of all the free food being handed out by sponsors.  You can avoid paying for most of your meals if you want/need to.

- Eat at the food trucks.

Practical Tips

- Arrive a day early if you can to catch up on sleep, register, figure out where wall the venues, get a sim card and plan further (now that you know how everything relates).

- Go to Wholefoods.  It’s the first ever Wholefoods store that existed, and is a pretty amazing supermarket experience if you’ve never seen one before.

- If you’re from overseas and want/need a local sim card, the ONLY place we could find to get them (after going to 3 other phone stores) was AT&T, directly across the road from Wholefoods.  Make sure you take an unlocked phone.  This was also the place where we made our first few friends (amongst all of the international attendees who also needed sim cards).

- Popular film screenings (especially with big name actors/directors) have huge lineups – get there early.

- Wear comfortable shoes and don’t carry too much stuff around all day.  If you’re staying outside the main downtown area, don’t expect to go back to your hotel between leaving in the morning and whenever you get home at night.

- Downtown and all of the official venues are really easy to get between, either walking, on the free shuttles or in the Chevrolet taxis (through the Catch a Chevy promotion).

- Cross the river to South Congress for shopping in the more quirky stores (plus an entire store of cowboy boots).

- Get lots of free t-shirts to give to people back home. Everyone gives away random stuff in the street.

- There is free wifi in most of the SXSW venues, Wholefoods and a lot of cafes.

- Have a drink on the balcony at TGI Fridays (in the Radisson) at sunset to see all of the bats fly out from under the bridge.

- And finally, for Australian / NZ / Pacific Attendees, join this Facebook group if you haven’t already. It’s the perfect place to have all your questions answered. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SXSW.2014.Pacific.Attendees/?fref=ts

The Business of Film & the Role of the Producer

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an interest in business and start-up culture, particularly in taking an idea and giving it the maximum chance for success when releasing it into to the world. On reflection, this interest has probably coincided with my transition from camera department to producing, and I find it really interesting to draw parallels between the two worlds [business and film].

I enjoy the creative side of filmmaking, planning for the bigger picture and the day to day organisational logistics far more than accounting and management – areas where I tend to feel like I’ve been thrown in at the deep end the majority of the time. However, I’m learning more the further I go down this path, so I want to share my thoughts from time to time, as I believe that filmmakers – especially in Australia – need to think as much as possible about business models and strategy rather than simply creating individual films.

Last week I was interviewed by Jamie Stenhouse for his blog, which is centred around entrepreneurship and marketing for businesses. Jamie came out on set as one of our extras for the upcoming Wastelander Panda episodes, and asked if he could talk to me about the project. I didn’t know what the focus of the interview would be in advance, so I was a little surprised that his questions were based around managing a team, the long-term development of the project, planning tools and budget implementation – all “business” questions rather than “film” ones. It made me realise how much of the day-to-day filmmaking process revolves around business skills, and that processes we took on everyday as a natural part of our production process – such as arranging for up to 100 people a day to be on set and working towards the same outcome – are actually things to be pretty proud of from a “business” perspective.

Here are a few of Jamie’s questions:

- “When I arrived on set for the first day I was blown away by the professionalism of everything and mainly the size of the team. How were you able to round up such a high quality team of people in such a short time?”

- “I know for a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners working on a 1 year project can be daunting, let alone a 2 year project. How did you keep everybody focused on the same goal and were there any times where you felt like just “calling it quits”?”

- “Being able to delegate and then trust people with a certain task would have been a large part of the project. Did you have any “trust” issues with letting certain areas of the project go?”

As well as giving me a fresh perspective on what we’ve achieved, Jamie’s interview allowed me to focus on my own job as Producer. A realisation I had during the interview is that the way I interpret my role, despite the Producer apparently being “in charge,” is really as one of support. It’s my job to create an environment, a structure and a strategy, that allow each other crew member to do what they do best with as few external issues and concerns as possible. It’s doing the small things that matter from day to day, not only helping out with the project, but being there for the cast and crew. I still have a lot to improve upon in building the perfect creative environment, but it’s something I want to work on a lot more in the future.

For my full interview with Jamie, click here.