CrewTide First Web Series Released!

You might have noticed that we haven’t been posting for over a week…that’s because we were busy with production and marketing of our first series!

To watch the series, go to http://www.connection-lost.com.

CrewTide exists to match independent filmmakers with brands that want episodic, storytelling content.  Why are we doing this?  Because we’re filmmakers too.  I’ve been interviewing filmmakers for the blog, and I hear the same story over and over.  Each of these successful filmmakers gets paid very well to create commercials, instructional videos, or other non-storytelling video.  Then they go home and spend that money making what they love — narrative.

Meanwhile, brands are realizing that interrupting viewers with ads doesn’t work like it used to.  Ads are getting more and more expensive, and viewers still tune them out.  How can you get customers to actively share your message and engage emotionally?  Create great, storytelling video they want to watch and share!

Our first project, Connection Lost, is a six-episode Valentine’s Day thriller-romance, sponsored by fair-trade organic chocolate company Equal Exchange.  It’s about danger, love, and connecting in the real world.  Oh, and chocolate.

Help us make this first project a success.  The more successful we are with Connection Lost, the easier it will be for us to land deals for independent filmmaker’s creative work.  Help us spread the word!

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Creative Control: Filmmaker or Brand?

I just got off the phone with a wonderful filmmaker and his business partner/producer who asked to have their interview posted in a couple of months.  The conversation was great, and while I’m excited to post an article about them once their big news hits, I also wanted to share their comments with our readers.

This filmmaker is an award-winning producer/director/writer at Cannes Film Festival and American Film Institute, and has also been involved in television.  He has done lots of work for large corporate clients, too, so he’s just overall super-accomplished.

We talked about the CrewTide process of matching independent filmmakers with brands, and he had some great questions.

Filmmaker:
What about the freedom of the filmmaker?  I’ve worked with a lot of these big brands, and they want a lot of control.  They want storyboards, they want to have an account executive looking at every shot for product placement, they want total control of the final script. How will you manage those expectations?

CrewTide:
Yeah, the giant brands do want that kind of control.  Kmart spent $100,000 per 8-minute episode on a low-budget web series, and that is part of what they paid for — dozens of rounds of script changes, someone on set checking off product placement in every shot, etc.  One of the questions we ask brands when we interview them is, “If you could get more options of video content for a lower cost, would you be willing to give up some control over script & storyboard?”  When it’s phrased that way, they are usually pretty happy to have less involvement, even the bigger brands.

So our pitch to brands is that we can provide them with low-cost, high-quality alternative, but they have to leave the creative control with the filmmaker. Some of them are even relieved because it saves them time, and the savvy ones realize it makes the production more authentic.

Filmmaker:
That’s great.  I did music videos for a long time, and I’d do it over a commercial any day because I get to create it, try stuff, do whatever I want.  The idea didn’t come from the record lable or the artist, it was my idea.  We (filmmakers) would create content for a lot less if it’s what we want to do. If you can get brands to give filmmakers freedom, that will be a hit on both sides.  The fact that you’re running a competition and that all entries are being paid for, so there’s no risk, the filmmaker can just stick to budget and have creative control, it’s a win-win situation.

Producer:
I think pretty soon you’ll have a great variance of quality.  This is an idea that will appeal even to very successful filmmakers, so how will you include younger, less-experienced filmmakers?  Even if all your filmmakers are award-winning, I wouldn’t want to compete with my partner here.

CrewTide:
We’re not there yet, but I think you’re right. So far every filmmaker I’ve talked to is super-excited about this concept, even the ones who are already working with brands.

Producer:
You should create a masters group and a regular group.  For the filmmakers who have already worked on successful features or who have had their pilots bought by television networks, or even famous YouTube creators — for the really successful ones, you charge brands more because every piece will be a masterpiece.  Then you have a regular group that includes award-winning filmmakers — for many brands this is what they want. [Editor’s note: this is why he’s the business guy.  🙂 ]

CrewTide:
I love that idea.  BMW went to A-list Hollywood directors, and Kmart went to the producers of Gossip Girl.  Some brands will want to pay more for these names, and this will also make it more fun for our main body of award-winning full-time filmmakers, evening out their chances.  We can’t offer that yet, but once we get more filmmakers and some well-publicized competitions, I’d love to move in that direction.

CrewTide:
What do you think of the process CrewTide will use for matching independent filmmakers with brands?

Filmmaker:
I think it sounds great, and you’re doing it at the perfect time. More and more brands are hiring for online video, you could change the lives of a lot of people.

I don’t doubt that many of these series will be successful – there are some crazy-creative people out there. You get a couple that work, and you’re going to be really big.

CrewTide:
Thanks guys!  Can’t wait to interview you on the record in a couple of months!

Filmmakers: Moema Umann

Moema Umann creates visual poems.  Her metaphorical themes with compelling storylines clearly resonate, and her films have been at the American International Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival, and the short film corner at Cannes.

“I find that films now are either traditional beginning, middle, and end or they are just crazy visual stuff.  I like to blend both, to engage the viewer in the story but explore our senses and emotions in other ways.  I really like to experiment with the aesthetics of my films, and with different ways of shooting.”

Moema works at an educational company in Brazil, where she produces and shoots videos during the day.  “But,” she says, “it’s not exactly being a filmmaker.”  Like all of the other filmmakers we’ve talked to, she uses her job creating videos to fund her creative projects.

Moema’s story will sound familiar.  “I always filmed. I know it sounds cliche, but I always did, I just knew I wanted to work with film.”  But she originally started as an actress.  She started acting in films, but she had a script that she wanted to shoot, and couldn’t find anyone to shoot it.  So she decided to do it herself.  “It was out of nceessity. It’s funny how I wrote my first script — people laugh at me, I wrote it in columns, what people see in one, what they hear in another…but it worked.”

Moema’s advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Instead of filmmaking, I see a lot of people go through a time-consuming pre-production, then shoot their project with tons of people, then give up on it either because they didn’t like what they shot or felt something was missing.  Don’t give up on it!  Go back to it, take another look at what you have, and do something with it.  Filmmaking is very collaborative work.  Even if the response doesn’t matter, you’re honoring the people who worked with you.  I feel so sorry when I see people giving up on projects.  My first film took almost two years, we had problems with sound — we had to reshoot all the sound, but we didn’t give up and it happened, and in the end we got great response.”

We also asked what she would do if she could spend her time doing anything.

“I love doing the research, writing the concept, rehearsing, shooting…. My dream is to have a place where I can just make magic happen.”

Every filmmaker that we’ve talked to so far does something to pay the bills — commercials, music videos, educational videos…then they spend that money making master works of art.  The whole reason CrewTide exists is this same story we hear from every filmmaker.  Let filmmakers do what they do best, and let brands benefit from great content and an engaged viewership.

Filmmakers: Noah Christofer

I came across Noah Christofer when I was looking into web series — he has a fantastic series called “By Chance Boston” that everyone should check out.  I wanted to know more about him and about the series, so here is the skinny.

Noah has always been doing film, in middle school he used his mom’s VHS camera to record his brothers doing stuff they saw on tv.  After college, he went to Europe to shoot a short with a friend, and came back to Boston “to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.”  His cousin suggested they start a production company.

“I wanted to wait till I was older, maybe 28 or 29…I was 22.”  But they went ahead and dived in, and the company took off.  That was in 2009; now Beyond Measure Productions does music videos, commercials and promo videos.  They travel all around New England getting paid to be filmmakers.

As they were first starting out they went to a Dart Boston meeting, where entrepreneurs of all types get together to give and get advice.  Someone there suggested that they start a web series to show off their work.  And thus By Chance Boston was born.

They decided to shoot a dramatic web series, fictional but about regular Bostonians.  They wanted to elaborate on this concept: you nevr know who you are running into, what their story is, where they’ve come from, what else is going on in their lives.

“We’d write and edit during the week and shoot on the weekends.  We did that for 8 weeks straight, then we premiered the series the first week of January.  That was lots of work, but totally worth it.  Now it’s starting to get real attention.”

“There’s some interest in making it into a bigger project for the networks.  We’re focusing on this would have been a spoiler…at the end you’ll figure out why everything connected the way it did.”

Can’t wait to see it!  These guys really know how to write compelling characters & story.

We asked what he thought of CrewTide.

“The concept is really good, it makes 100% sense.  Everything now is going viral, online, and media is taking over.  Companies need to catch up by creating entertainment that is what people want.”

Filmmakers: Jeremiah Kipp

“The production intern of today is the potential DP, producer, or director of tomorrow.”  So says Jeremiah Kipp, and he knows from experience.

Jeremiah’s story is one you might expect to see a movie about.  He grew up in a lower income family nestled in the woods of Rhode Island, making zombie movies in his back yard at the age of twelve.  He knew he wanted to go to film school, so he busted is arse researching grants and scholarships, ending up at his film school of choice: NYU.  Then he graduated — and was deeply in debt (dun-dun duuuunnnn!).  So he got a full-time job at IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) doing membership coordination.

I can totally see this scene in a film: young guy in a cubicle, being asked to make photocopies, enter data, file files…he sneaks a peek at a website advertising the Canon 7D (can you say product placement??) before his boss interrupts asking where his half-caff vanilla cappuccino is (with a stern look).  Our hero is running this errand at the local cafe when he runs into Bjorn, the odd Swedish guy from the conferences department.  Bjorn suggests they rent some equipment and make some movies on Sundays, and they create the “Sunday Club”.  (Okay, I embellished that story a bit…full-time at IFP, a Swedish guy, and the Sunday Club are all true though!)

Jeremiah built his resume in that club, doing sound, AD, camera, editing…you name it.  He realized that he prefers working with the crew to working with equipment, and pursued work as an AD.  “I was always saying yes, if I don’t know how to do it I’ll learn it,” he says.  He was part-time from 1999-2005, then parachuted into freelance, paying his rent by ADing on shorts, commercials, and features.

Nowadays Jeremiah spends about 80% of his time directing and only 20% ADing.  On any given day, he might be building a schedule for the crew, finalizing locations for a commercial, pitching ideas, casting, or on set.  Every day is different and there’s no day off.

Jeremiah has an interesting point of view on festivals and competitions.  He sent a film around to Cannes (where he won awards and cash prizes) and lots of other festivals.  “It was topical, controversial, it had kids in it…in addition to winning awards, it got noticed by Canon and they hired me for commercials, corporate videos, etc.”  More recently his pet projects are on the internet.  He uploads them to Vimeo and uses social networking and other marketing techniques.  He now finds that he gets more work from online networking (getting written up in blog posts, tweeted about — basically getting people to see his movies) is more helpful to his career.

I asked Jeremiah for his advice for young filmmakers.  “Don’t do it!  It’s a very tough lifestyle, you have to have a passion for it, surrender your life to it.”  He said that most people who graduate from film school don’t work in film — that’s how tough it is.  “But if you’re really committed there’s always a way. No two ways are the same..it’s not a strategy, more of an attitude: I’m going to find the door to the next level and if there’s no door I’ll take a hammer and smash my own door.”

What’s Jeremiah working on now?  “I have a short film called ‘The Days God Slept’ that had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, so we’re shooting in February.  I’m also directing a watch commercial for a European company and pulling together my second feature.”

Filmmakers: Juan Reinoso

Juan Reinoso is a writer/producer/director, dedicated to creating projects that deal with the human condition.  He has worked on commercials for brands like Heinekin, Project Runway, and Target, and has a number of short films of his own.  When he’s not filming he’s either in pre-production or researching/writing one of his various scripts.  He also makes time in every day to read the trades and keep up to date.

Like many indie filmmakers Juan started out as a PA.  Including those 2 years he’s been in the business about 15 years.  “The tricky thing is always being able to support yourself.  Having creative freedom to make your own projects isn’t easy — you have to work hard to make a good name for yourself in order to get continual work, even when starting out as a PA.”

While Juan has won awards at some festivals, he has mixed feelings about submitting his films.  “Film festivals can be an important key to further exposure.  The catch, however, is that while you’re always trying not break the bank, the costs of film festivals become somewhat prohibitive.”  Even if you get in or win an award, it doesn’t necessarily translate to more or better work.

I asked Juan about how he “made it” as a full-time filmmaker, and he said, “I hear the phrase ‘made it’ every so often and that sort of makes me laugh.  While I can pay my bills, in part with the help of my work as AD on commercials, it certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve made it.  When the time comes that I am able to make projects without having to sink my own money into them that is when I will truly feel like I’ve made it.”

Juan’s recommendations for new filmmakers: “Always have faith.  Not everyone will believe in you, and that can be the toughest part.  Learn to adapt to what the market needs.  The game is very difficult to play sometimes, but if, as I said, you put your heart and soul into it, eventually the end will be worth it.  And, finally, don’t take people for granted.  I believe in making sure everyone involved loves being a part of what I am doing.”

Filmmakers: Stebs Schinnerer

We’re excited to work with the best filmmakers out there, and we want to introduce you to them.  Our first filmmaker interview is with Stebs Schinnerer, who lives the dream — he’s a full-time filmmaker, working with brands, doing narrative and documentary-style work, and producing/directing/shooting/acting in his own feature film.

Stebs went full-time about two years ago, but says it wasn’t lucrative for at least six months.  “That’s six months of literally waking up at 7am and not going to sleep to stop working till about 3am.”  He says he “worked his a$$ off for about a year and a half,” but now he has a producer who helps organize his shoots and speaks to his higher-end clients.  At the beginning he was “constantly sending emails, constantly on the phone,” but now he can focus more on the filmmaking.

In addition to shooting and editing, he spends a lot of his time organizing shoots, reading scripts, etc.  “Every day is different — it’s like reading the funny pages, when you open them you never know what you’re going to get.”

Nowadays Stebs does a lot of work for brands, doing a lot of commercial work.  He does narrative and documentary styles, mostly short form commercials that he gets paid very well for.  Often he is the only person on set aside from the person he is filming, but sometimes he puts together a small crew including an assistant and a sound person.

Stebs doesn’t do a lot of competitions — the only one he has done was when he was DP with Malarkey Films for the National Film Challenge (Malarkey is the film crew I co-produce — that’s how I know Stebs).  But he does think competitions are an amazing way to learn; they teach you to think and work really fast, which is how you have to be in the professional film industry.

I asked Stebs what he thinks helped him become successful so quickly, and the answer he stressed was working for free.  He says that when he first went full-time, he did almost everything for free. He went to small businesses and said, “hey, I’ve got a camera and I’d like to do some artistic work for your business to fine-tune my abilities.”  This allowed him to do whatever he wanted artistically, and to take the time to do it to his standards.  Some of these initial clients led to nothing more than work for his reel, but others became invaluable connections in his network, passing his name to other people that would later be high-paying clients.  “The word ‘free’ should be in your post so many times in this section because filmmakers shouldn’t be afraid to work for free, especially when they’re starting out,” Stebs says.

Most of the people Stebs works closely with are his best friends.  He feels that having close personal and emotional relationships is extremely important to his ability to work with his crew.  He’s currently in pre-production for a feature film that involves his best friends.  They will be both crew and actors, and the script is a pseudo-documentary about Stebs and his friends on a road trip that turns tragic.  They’ll be traveling to Montreal to shoot, crashing a car, and lots of other fun stuff.  He’s organizing a much larger crew than usual, including a makeup artist, boom operator, and other specialty roles to make this happen.  They’re funding it with IndieGoGo and hoping to find other investors.  Stebs thinks production will probably cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.

What’s the future of filmmaking?  There’s an emergence of filmmakers who are making productions with fewer people and for much lower cost. Video is becoming part of how we communicate with people across the globe.  It’s repurposing people from the film industry who used to work on big crews — with modern day hunger for video content, there’s a larger need for filmmakers on smaller productions.