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Image by Paola Peralta, via Wikimedia Commons.

It was by default that I played the role of social media manager for the weekly PBS program I produced. I was the youngest person in a very small production office, after all. But as someone who loves new apps and technology, I enjoyed posting regular updates and strategizing what might be fun for our web and mobile visitors. 

One comment I’ve heard repeatedly from my fellow film and TV professionals is, “I have a Facebook/Twitter account, but I’m not sure what to do with it.” And for some of us, it can be difficult to figure out how to establish a social media presence when your news feed is filled with friends’ food-porn photos and Grumpy Cat memes. But social media is a free marketing tool, albeit a more engaging and immediately gratifying one, and you need to think of it as such. With over 255 million monthly active Twitter users and over one billion users on Facebook, social media should certainly be a part of your outreach strategy.

But your approach ought to be more than simply creating an account on your platform of choice. So where do you begin? These starter points may not be as entertaining as a Buzzfeed list, but I promise they will be packed with info!

  • Who are you tweeting for? Is it for a TV personality? The television program or film itself? Or are you tweeting as a director/producer? Let who you are inform your tone (ideally, a colloquial and conversational one), what you post, and how much. For example, if you are posting for a TV personality, as I did, you can find out what they are reading in the papers and share that on their Facebook or Twitter feed.

  • Consider your platforms. Not all social media platforms will work for you, and if you’re having trouble generating content on a particular platform, chances are you won’t make meaningful contributions to it. Do you want to share lots of behind-the-scenes photos and stills? Instagram is a great way to get them out. Looking to post updates on your project that are longer than 140 characters? Consider a Tumblr account. Since we produced a financial news program with long-form interviews, I skipped out on a Pinterest account because it didn’t seem natural to have boards of outdated stock charts or photos of past guests.

  • Who is your audience? What they want to see and what they’re likely to share should also inform your approach on each social media platform. For example, the program I produced was distributed on PBS, where audiences are generally 50 and older. It made sense to be on Facebook, where I noticed my older relatives signing up. In trying to connect to financial advisors, a wider-ranging age group, I started a Twitter account for the show as well. If you’re targeting a younger demographic, make sure you’re on Instagram.

  • Who is managing your social media? Will one person or multiple people contribute to your social media efforts? (This also ties into whether you’re tweeting for a person or for a product.) If you have a team working on your social media campaign, delegate tasks to gain a wider variety of content—your PA could take Vine videos on set, for instance—but ensure that everyone maintains a consistent look and voice across platforms. In marketing-speak, it’s called cohesive brand messaging. And for that matter, if you have an actual marketing team that you’ve employed for your project (lucky you!), make sure they are in the loop about your social media efforts.

In the next post of this three-part series, we’ll tackle the types of posts and strategies you can use once you’ve set up your accounts. Happy posting!

TERESA ABBATE 

Teresa is a freelance broadcast and content producer who loves tackling social media management.

Keep up to date with all things NYWIFT by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. And join the conversation by using the hashtag #NYWIFT.

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Here’s a great magic trick. A magician carries a dollhouse onstage and places it on a table. He says it’s a haunted dollhouse. Every time he takes the cloth away after barely an instant, the haunted dollhouse has produced a fire in the fireplace or a bloody doll massacre or a creepy steaming tea set. Then the poltergeist takes over—right in front of you.

Of course there are no levers or cables from the outside. It’s just a plain old dollhouse carried in from the wings, placed on an empty table, with no one underneath or behind it.

It’s a really easy trick, a literal child could do it, but if you know how it works when you see it, it’s no fun at all.

A spec script that makes a point of establishing all its facts before it starts on the drama is no fun either.

  • Be confident. Your showmanship is critical. Your style, your scenework, your presentation. How you set up to reveal. All showmanship.
  • Invent. If you’re going to saw a lady in half, don’t do it the same old way. Keep the reader guessing by proving you don’t already have another lady in the box who’s wearing the same shoes.
  • Withhold. Withholding facts turns mundane things into mysteries. Work hard to cover up the secrets in your script; show how they manifest before you explain them for maximum curiosity.

Front-loading your script with exposition is the same as revealing the very petite contortionist hidden in the dollhouse attic before you do the trick.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

The spectacular Broadway singer and actress Elaine Stritch.

Patricia Arquette really enjoyed her 12 years of Boyhood.

Marvel Comics addresses superhero gender disparity. Thor will be female!

Leighton Meester is not a “tart” in Broadway’s Of Mice & Men

ABC will address diversity with Cristela, and NBC will showcase more women in next season’s lineup. 

Robin Wright portrays her most revealing role yet in The Congress.  

"I’m not ashamed." Ousted New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson continues to inspire.

Being “difficult to work with” was never Katherine Heigl’s intention. 

Deadline reminders: Hamptons International Film Festival (7/24), Fox Mentoring Program (7/28).

— KELLY GLOVER


Oscar winner Jane Campion is one of the most talented contemporary, female directors who sadly hasn’t come out with a new film in awhile. That she decided to make a detective miniseries is fascinating. But don’t expect the typical crime procedural. Top of the Lake is an interesting, moody character study of  life in the outback, anchored by the brilliant Elisabeth Moss. It was a relief to find a piece populated with women of all different shapes and sizes who do not look like they just walked off the runway. More interesting was the relationships between the men and women and the women’s relationships to each other. I’ve only seen the first episode, but I can’t wait to watch the rest. Top of the Lake is available on Netflix.

KIM CUMMINGS

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

There are scripts about people doing things and there are scripts about people talking about things.

One of them has a much better chance of making it past the first round of readers in a competition.

  • Visualize the beat. What is the visual information in the scene? Do your characters talk about how poor they are, or do they steal food from a neighbor, creating conflict that acts as an escalation?
  • Put the bear in the room and lock all the doors. Is your protagonist likely to engage in conversations about this situation, reflect on the past in flashbacks…or start fighting for her life? A bear in the room dispenses with the necessity for lots of explaining.
  • Talk is easy. Actions are hard. They require more thought, more talent, more skill to devise. Action depends on decisive characters, even if the decisions are hasty and ill-advised.

Dialogue crutches weak scenes along, sucking down pacing and conflict like a storm drain. Information is never as dramatic as action.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Seeing: that not much has changed: Women make up only 26% of the Primetime Emmy nominees, the same number as last year.

Glad to hear: that the new version of BBC’s Danger Mouse will be have more female characters.

Really like: Lauren Greenfield’s video, Always #LikeAGirl, for Always brand. It challenges the sexist expression which implies that doing something “like a girl” means to do it weakly or not as well. It has over 35,000,000 views. 

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.


This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Machu Picchu. Wow! Did that trip turn my vibration, my reality, my thoughts on their head.

As time slows down for a bit this summer, I encourage you to inspire your soul. Do something extraordinarily out of the ordinary that will make this summer one to remember.  

Live your life. Be an interesting actor. Give yourself experiences that inspire your creative work as well as something to talk about other than who you know or what your working on. Your soul will thank you for it!

— MARISA VITALI

It. Is. Emmy. Season! The full list of female nominees—plus, snubs and surprises

Amanda de Cadenet announces her new talk show Undone on Lifetime. 

It’s official: Everything at The View is coming up Rosie (O’Donnell) and they’re looking for new producers.

Love or hate ‘em, script notes are invaluable for screenwriting success. 

New Oscar rulings will disqualify some documentaries from nomination.

Producer Marti Noxon is set to bring author Gillian Flynn’s first novel to TV.

Goodbye, Eileen Ford.

— KELLY GLOVER

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Locations are an important part of your prep as a filmmaker. The places you choose can either enhance or potentially harm the production value of your project. The process to find locations can be daunting especially on a full-length feature film, so it’s imperative that you have a plan.

Breakdowns
Breaking down the script is the first step in location prep. The location person’s job is to go through the script and create a spreadsheet of the following information:

  • Name of the scripted location for each scene
  • Location address: To ensure it’s a realistic and workable commute.
  • Interior/exterior: Does the scene happen inside and/or outside on the street, a field, a beach?
  • Day/night: Note this because it could restrict shooting if locations are not available at night.
  • Script notes: Are there stunts? Are there SFX? 
  • Permit: Do we need special permission to shoot (e..g, a park, subway, beach). What are the fees?
  • TCD request: In NYC you can request TCD (NYPD Movie/TV Unit) if you need to close streets, do car chases, etc.
  • Holding requirements: Where will the crew set up Wardrobe, HMU, Catering, and so on?

The breakdown serves as a master plan for the location person (this could be you if it’s a smaller project). Most experienced location professionals have an online database of locations that they can access to show the creative team (Producer, Director, DP) before they schedule a scout, which avoids riding around in a van and wasting time and money.

I would advise that before the creative team looks at the pictures of proposed locations that your location person “clears” the space. Here are the criteria for clearing a space:

  • Available for the dates the project shoots
  • Fits within the project’s budget 
  • Film-friendly aka can tolerate film crews in its location

Scouts
After the creative team decides on locations from the online database, a preliminary scout is scheduled by the Assistant Director (AD). The purpose of the preliminary scout is to see if the locations work for the vision of the project while honoring the budget. Typically the Producer, Director, DP, AD and Line Producer (LP/UPM) will attend.

Once you have locations that will work for the creative team and budget, the AD schedules a tech scout. This scout includes everyone from the preliminary scout in addition to the technical department heads (Gaffer, Key Grip, Sound, Production Designer, etc.). Its purpose is to give everyone a chance to discuss the challenges and expenses for each department that will be incurred at each location, to make sure everyone on the team can deliver the creative vision within the time and budget of the shoot.

Scheduling
After the tech scout, locations can start to be locked. The AD requires the location availability so she or he can coordinate that with the actors’ availability to lock a shooting schedule. There is a delicate balance between the location person, LP, and AD because every step in locking locations has to be in alignment with the budget (LP), schedule (AD) and availability (location person).

Hiring Tip
Choose a location person with experience at your budget level and who knows the area. If you have to hire a less experienced location person with limited knowledge of the permitting area and procedures, make sure your LP/UPM has experience with locations (most indie LPs know how to do this).

Now that we have a place to shoot, check back for a follow-up post about what’s need on set so you can start rolling the camera! 

— CLAUDINE MARROTTE

Looking forward to watching: Oprah’s Master Class: Vanessa Williams, directed by NYWIFT board member Annetta Marion. Premieres this Sunday, July 13, 10 pm on OWN TV.

Glad to see: that Thelma & Louise was included in THR’s top 100 films of all time, one of only a handful of female-centric films on the list. No films directed by women made it.

Encouraged by: new diversity guidelines adopted by the British Film Institute for projects seeking funding from the BFI Film Fund, which will ensure diversity across gender, race, class, sexual orientation and disabilitiy. The guidelines use a “three-ticks” approach to qualify productions. 

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday (usually!) for her picks.

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

A spec script with a real hook jumps right out of the pile.

It’s the difference between an indestructible cyborg from the future relentlessly attempting to murder Sarah Connor and Sarah Connor, for instance, getting a message from the future that she should start taking self-defense classes while she waits for a man named Kyle to find her.

They’re both basically the same story, same people, same world, same themes, but one has the right hook and one is an early draft that starts after the midpoint.

  • The right hook has distance. When pairing your protag with their problem, build in a big chasm. Put as much distance as possible between them and the likelihood that they will succeed.
  • The right hook is sharply in focus. One person, one problem that must be faced head on.
  • The right hook is personal. The stakes have to be relatable to earn investment from the reader. Real pain is necessary for real catharsis.

The right hook turns your spec into a knockout.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Tammy star Melissa McCarthy is laughing all the way to the bank.

#HireTheseWomen seems to be making an impact. Fox announces an initiative to increase the presence of women directors. 

Amazon and Final Draft seek original material; BitchFlicks needs writers. 

Screenwriting query tips to help your material get noticed.   

Want to relax between auditions? Here’s a list of NYC actor hangouts.  

Tilda Swinton did a fun Reddit AMA, but didn’t confirm or deny she’s not David Bowie.

One woman was invited to join the Academy as a director. One. 

— KELLY GLOVER

Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of an aristocratic navy officer. She was also the great-niece of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who paved the way for the abolishment of slavery in Britain and the British Empire when he ruled on two cases.

Even though Belle is told against the backdrop of the abolitionist movement in England and the petty dramas of the aristocratic elites, it succeeds in being a well-told love story. Directed by Amma Asante, the film is rooted by the strong performance of Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Belle. Her committed performance gives plausibility to the historical theories that she influenced her great-uncle’s decisions in the slavery cases he ruled on. 

Belle is now playing in New York and available on digital HD August 12.

— M.A. ST JOHN

(Edited on July 5, 2014, at 5:31 pm to update info on where and when to see the film.)

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Erica Fae and Jane Applegate in front of Moose Peak Light on a recent scouting trip to Jonesport, ME. Photo credit: The Applegate Group.


Believe you can and you’re halfway there. —Theodore Roosevelt

Joining a protest march to the U.S. Capitol on a snowy day in March led me to producing a feature this summer, set on a tiny island off the coast of Jonesport, Maine.

That day, thousands of women were marking the 100th anniversary of suffrage. It was exhilarating—walking shoulder to shoulder with these women, some in period dress. Yet, I remember thinking: As a country we are woefully behind when it comes to equality between men and women. Women earn less money than men, and have a tougher time raising capital. And, we all know women direct fewer films. In fact, in 2013, women directed only 6 percent of the top 250 grossing films, according to industry reports.

A few weeks after the march in D.C., my dear friend Linda, who served on the board of the National Women’s History Museum, suggested I meet with Erica Fae, an accomplished actress, writer and director who teaches at the Yale Drama School and The New School. Fae’s acclaimed play, Take What Is Yours, tells the story of Alice Paul, an early American feminist who went on a hunger strike to protest against women being denied the right to vote. Since I produce both theater and film projects, I was open to a meeting.

Over two cups of hot chocolate, Fae and I discovered that we had one goal in common: to produce a beautiful film with a strong female heroine.

Before parting that afternoon, Fae promised to send me a script she’d written a few years before. I agreed to read it, expecting it would just be a mediocre script sent over by another writer hoping that I would produce their film.

I read The Lighthouse Project script in one sitting. I cried. The film unspooled in my mind. I told my husband, who is a playwright and an editor:

“This is my film. If Erica wants to work with me, I’m going to produce this.”

Then reality hit. I remembered a moment back in 2006, when I was invited to participate in Sundance’s first-time producers workshop. The big-shot panelists reminded us newbies that there were 15,000 to 20,000 independent films produced every year in the U.S. alone, and the chances of anyone seeing your film were slim.

But, it’s not all that bad. In 2013, almost 900 films were released in New York City—a mecca for film—according to The New York Times. In addition, 54 first-time filmmakers screened their work at Sundance this year—up from 44 in 2010. That cheered me up.

Undeterred by the naysayers and stats, Fae and I have devoted thousands of hours to producing this film. You don’t tell two feisty Sagittarians that they can’t do something. It just pisses us off.

Her determination to direct and play the lead was my biggest challenge. Serious potential investors and my veteran entertainment attorney told me flat out: She can direct or play the lead, but absolutely not do both. (I fired my former attorney immediately after he told Fae to her face that she was crazy to try to direct her first feature and play the lead.)

I knew we could make this film as soon as Fae found the other “leading lady”—a perfect lighthouse set on the edge of an island off the coast of Jonesport.

By May, we had everything in place but the money. Although I was frustrated by the lack of financial support, we never gave up hope that we would be shooting in August. And, despite pleas for Fae to step out, she refused. She will direct and appear as “Abbie Moore.”

Then, the universe shifted. Fae was cast in an HBO series (I can’t say which show, but it will be back in the fall). Fans who totally support her artistic vision stepped forward to fund the film—enough to shoot and get us to a rough cut. We still need more money, but I’m meeting with other potential investors who feel more comfortable now that the first check is in.

Investing in independent films is a bad idea. Less than 2 percent of investors ever recoup their money, according to Cultural Weekly. Yet, our friends and families and business associates are stepping up to support us. (We’re hosting a fundraiser on July 17 in NYC.)   

So, what lessons have I learned throughout this crazy experience? When you love your story, never, ever give up your celluloid (or digital video) dreams.

— JANE APPLEGATE

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Many a spec script hits page 20 at a dead run, then pulls a hamstring and limps all the way through the second act while the writer chips away at what the story is actually about. It’s painfully slow to read.

All of that should be resolved in rewrites, with the thinking-out-loud scenes repurposed into drama.

The first step in organizing the second act is to add a prepositional phrase to the protag’s decision. The first draft protag says, “I’m going to win him back!” and the second draft protag says, “I’m going to win him back by getting into Harvard Law!

  • Concrete goal. At the beginning of act two, the reader feels confident in the story if they are following a protag uniquely unsuited to the specific task at hand. Elle Woods is uniquely unsuited to get into Harvard Law because she appears to be a superficial bubblehead.
  • Shifting goal. Somewhere in the middle, the goalposts move further away, and shift from the want to the need. Elle wanted her boyfriend back, but she needs to take her education seriously to get a valuable internship.
  • Into the back of the net. At the end of the drive, the protag has the ball on her foot, and she’s facing the meanest, biggest, most talented goalie in the world. At the beginning, she would never in a million years have even gotten onto this field. And then she shoots.

Stakes and pacing sprout like weeds out of that one little prepositional phrase.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.