"When I produced my first comedic short film in August 2007, I was taking on a bigger feat than I could possibly imagine. For one, my focus up until then had been on screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater Film & Television. I found myself falling into the producer role as I had previous corporate experience in project management and pretty savvy organizational skills. What I didn’t have, however, was experience with making a short, nor did I make it a point to invest in any course on actual short filmmaking.
So, when the director asked me to line up resources like a “grip” and a “gaffer” and to get estimates on a “gennie” (film crew lingo for “generator”) in addition to helping line-up casting, get sponsors, and balance the budget, I wondered: a) just what these foreign sounding resources and equipment were and b) how these assignments had anything to do with creative storytelling, which, as a producer, I assumed my role would be since I was also a co-writer on the script.
These things were just the tip of the iceberg. The calamities that befell both me and the production—caused by relying on too many low-budget or no-budget “favors"—were immense. Combined with my sheer inexperience, these aspects made the production itself as laughable as the subject matter should have been.
What I learned from that crash-and-burn experience in attempting to make a short film that, ultimately, never saw the light of a post-production day, let alone the lofty screens of a film festival, was invaluable to me. I later went on to produce professional-grade short narrative films that won awards and helped establish my film career. These were completed with Emmy Award-winning crews, budgets that were larger than the cost of a starter house in the metro Atlanta real estate market, and by obtaining support from major sponsors like the Director’s Guild of America, Panavision, and Kodak. While I have since stopped grieving the loss of that first project, I use those hard lessons from it to help me instruct aspiring filmmakers in those key areas in which I should’ve better prepared myself.
"My quest is to save future first-time filmmakers from the lost energy, time, money and resources that I squandered in my first production. In truth, that first painful production actually was an achievement for me in that it was my first lesson in short filmmaking. I advise my students that learning from others’ experiences before making their own films is of foremost importance. I also recommend starting with low-budget or no-budget films. Use friends and family as volunteer cast members, shoot with a smart phone, and download inexpensive or free editing programs and apps to get the final version produced. The goals of your early short films should be to learn the process and the key roles and responsibilities of all involved. Have several of your own low-budget films underway and volunteer to work on others’ short film sets (which differ significantly from features and television). Only then should you invest your time and money or that of others into producing a short film of substance. It will provide the gateway to your filmmaking career.
If you sincerely strive to make to get noticed as up and coming Hollywood talent with your next short film, I’d love nothing more than to guide you in the best and proven practices used by the industry’s top professionals. Join me for the “PRODUCING YOUR SHORT FILM--Someone's Got to Do it & Why It Should Be You” this Saturday, October 10 from 12:00-3:30."
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