Posts tagged documentary campus masterschool

Doc. Campus Masterschool | Potsdam | Day #1: Trailer Update with Sam Anthony & Philip’s Birthday

Today we discussed and scrutinised one another’s trailers with our new tutor, Sam Anthony.

We quickly discovered that the 2 main problems of trailers in general are:

-  they’re too long

-  they’re too unfocussed

When they show these two problems then the “teaser tape” / “trailer” / “sizzle reel” (whatever you want to call it) won’t do what it needs to do - travel without you.

The trailer needs to sell your idea and you as a filmmaker and needs to do it on it’s own.  Imagine a financier taking it to their colleagues - how is the trailer going to sell itself and you when you’re no there to explain it?

In the pitching process of your project, the trailer is second in line, snuggled between that first email you send and the treatment that you write…

1 - Email pitch - which TELLS the reader what you want to show them

2 - Trailer - SHOWING

3 - Treatment - the APPENDIX, explaining the details of your project

In all of stages, you must always be thinking of PROPOSITION vs PURPOSE

-  What are you proposing?

-  Why are you proposing it and why should someone give you the money to make it?


If you can nail all of the above, then you’re in a pretty good position.

The day was finished off with Weissbier, cake and pizza for Philip’s Birthday.  Wunderbar!!! 

Doc. Campus Masterschool | Sheffield | Day #4: Budgeting for International Co-Production

After a fantastic Turkish dinner with everyone from the campus, and some karaoke pub madness from some students from the campus, we woke the next day and launched into the murky world of budgeting for international co-production with Joel Wykeman.

This was an incredibly helpful session.  Joel gave us all a template for a budget and talked us through the whole thing, line by line, and pointed certain bits out that are all too easy to forget.  For instance, many productions do not state that they have a Production Accountant, or enough budgeted for legal fees.  You must have these shown in your budget as it is lines like this that give the commissioner confidence that you know what you’re doing and you have the right support network around you to complete it competently.  They show you, and your production, to be of low risk.

One of Joel’s key tips was to always start your budget with a schedule and break down specific periods of your project, i.e. Development and / or Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production.

The production period should, in theory, be the easiest section to predict and if you have a good knowledge of post-production then this period too should be ok to navigate.  The tricky part is including, realistically and reasonably, the development stage and ensuring that you are able to pay yourself fairly at the end of it.

After lunch, we split up into small groups and talked our projects through with Louise Rosen, who specialises in international pre-sales and co-productions for independent producers of non-fiction films.  She gave us some great feedback on the project and we look forward to seeing her again at Sheffield Doc/Fest to talk about our project further, particularly about how we can get it seen internationally.

Doc. Campus Masterschool | Sheffield | Day #3: Pitching

Last night, we all joined the Germans for their game against Portugal in the Euros so were a little slow at starting the pitching workshops with Sibylle Kurz this morning. Fortunately we were quickly reinvigorated with the task of pitching someone else’s project from within the group. We were paired with Houston, We Have A Problem, from our Slovenian class mates Ziga and Bostjan Virc.

We received some very useful lessons from Sibylle. One lesson which stood out from her instructions was to make sure the investors know at what stage you are in production – this will enable you to avoid awkward questions about where you are at and what you have or haven’t already achieved.

We then had a brilliant meeting with Andre Singer, an anthropologist and filmmaker who has worked in the industry for many years, setting up the original Storyville strand on the BBC, and has produced many of Werner Herzog films. He had some great stories to share! Herzog is an incredible filmmaker in my eyes and I have watched a lot of his films.

Andre had some fantastic advice for us as well as some possible options that would help the project to move forward.

Doc. Campus Masterschool | Sheffield | Day #1: Crowd-Funding

Yesterday, the very lovely and incredibly busy Charlie Phillips, Director of the Meet Market at Sheffield Doc/Fest, gave an inspirational talk on the beauty and importance of Crowd Funding.

Quote of the day:  “Yes, crowd-funding is very un-European but get over it and take pride in your work”. 

Some of the Do’s and Don’ts…

DO crowd fund for specific things, e.g. studio time, travel & accommodation costs.

DON’T try to crowd fund the entire film, it’ll never happen.

DO reach out to people / groups who can spread the word for you.

DON’T directly reach out to people / groups just to ask them for money.

DO keep you funders regularly updated with what’s going on with YOU and your PROJECT.

DON’T bombard them with emails saying “We still need x amount of money”.

Crowd-funding is important, highly respected and very well represented. 

17 films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival were Kickstarter films.

15% of films at this year’s SXSW were Kickstarter films.

If you’re going to do the crowd-funding thing then be prepared to PLAN.

PLAN your team

PLAN your daily out-put

PLAN who you are going to target and how

PLAN your costs and include them into the overall target.

If you want further tips on successful crowd-funding then take note from Jennifer Fox, director of My Reincarnation, a crowd-funding campaign that exceeded its target by over $100,000!!!

You can watch her Top Tips Video by clicking here.

DOCUMENTARY CAMPUS MASTERSCHOOL:  DAY 4

The “Pre-roll”, with Roger Graef

 Last night finished with a screening of a fantastic film called Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go. The film was shot and directed by Kim Longinotto and produced through Roger’s company, Films of Record.  The film, shot over 6 months, followed a class of children at the Mulberry Bush School which has 108 teachers to 40 pupils.  The children have often been expelled from or simply can’t cope with normal schooling, their behaviour often a result of very traumatic experiences at home.  The film sparked great conversation between us all afterwards and Roger talked us through the process of gaining access, building trust and the choice to leave it at 100minutes in length.

Following yesterday’s seminar on the importance of the first two minutes of the film, or the “pre-roll”, we all presented our ideas for our own film’s pre-rolls. 

The first two minutes must set up the film, but Roger referenced the idea of “game theory”, where the rules of the games are defined at the beginning. That may be your stylistic approach, whom the film will follow (if it is character lead) and what you expect to see.

What I loved about Roger’s approach when he discussed our projects was that he encouraged us to use the power of the image to tell the story…Less is more or as Kafka would say, “It is the job of fiction to put the ice pick in the brain” and this must be done with pictures through, not words.

Roger’s words resonated with me as I had actually tried to explain too much in my pre-roll storyboard, and he wasn’t slow in telling me that!  I was encouraged to show the powerful imagery of Paa Joe’s work in the very first moments as this will grab viewers’ attention.  The rest of the group gave me some great feedback too.

There seem to be some clear do’s and don’t of the pre-roll…find the spice of your film and avoid any cliché and never tell people how to feel.

As Bergmann quoted from William Faulkner, when you edit your pre-roll you must be prepared to “kill all your darlings” and take risks.

The day has been wrapped up with the screening of another fantastic and emotionally impactful film from Films of Record called The Truth aboutAdoption.  And I can’t finish this post without spreading the word of Roger’s latest Internet film series, CERN People.  Follow this link to meet the most engaging geeks you could ever hope meet.

ALL of the sessions have been totally insightful and incredibly fruitful and we’re really looking forward to the final day, but not before we partake in the Munchen Olympics under the guidance of our Bovarian contemporaries, Maren and Philip.  So far, all I know is that this entails weissbier and currywurst.  Tomorrow could be interesting…