Celebrating: the appointment of NYWIFT member Cynthia López to be the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and…

Feeling honored: to be quoted in the press release! I am one of many looking forward to the growth that López will bring to the film, television and digital media production community here in New York. And while we’re talking about politics and media…

Setting my DVR for: May 7, 10 pm EST, on ABC, when FLOTUS Michelle Obama and country star Kellie Pickler will join Connie Britton, a 2013 NYWIFT Muse Awards honoreefor the penultimate episode of hit series Nashville.

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

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Musician Clarice Magalhães and producer-director Irene Walsh in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Walsh’s documentary LAPA: The Heart of Samba chronicles a community of musicians and composers as their music resurrects a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood.


My first feature-length documentary, LAPA: The Heart of Samba, is a project that I have largely funded myself, with a third of the support coming from friends, family and people interested in Brazilian culture. Now in post-production, the costs for finishing the film are looming. So, I’ve decided to explore other areas of fundraising, like fiscal sponsorship.

What Is Fiscal Sponsorship? 
A fiscal sponsor is a nonprofit organization that manages tax-deductible contributions between a funding source and an arts project. Basically, many companies and individuals have money that they want to donate to the arts, but in order to get tax deductions for their donations, they must give those funds to a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

The nonprofit organization receives a small percentage of those funds in exchange for administering the funds and then allocates the rest to the project or artist. Many fiscal sponsors require that you become a member of their organization, and it’s rare you’ll have more than one fiscal sponsor for a project. 

Why Have a Fiscal Sponsor?
There are organizations and companies—like Cinereach and The Fledgling Fund—that offer film grants. Without a fiscal sponsor, a filmmaker can’t access many of these resources. So, although a fiscal sponsor generally does not do the legwork of grant-writing or seeking supporters for you, having a fiscal sponsor opens doors to allow funding to reach you, the artist.

Having a fiscal sponsor has also given my friends, family and other supporters the added incentive of a tax deduction. You can learn more about fiscal sponsorship at the Foundation Center’s Grant Space.

Choosing NYWIFT as My Fiscal Sponsor
I looked for fiscal sponsors that support filmmakers and artists in New York City, and whose membership benefits would best support my artistic journey. After a lot of research, I chose New York Women in Film & Television as the fiscal sponsor for my documentary. The resources at NYWIFT stood out to me as smart, varied, and professional.

NYWIFT also offers workshops that provide the kind of information I need while producing my films, such as grant writing, pitching, negotiating film music rights, career coaching, navigating film festival publicity, and maximizing social media. Plus, NYWIFT’s film screenings are great. I can meet the filmmakers and pose questions to industry professionals. I also get to scope out venues for my future screenings!

Other fiscal sponsors that made my short list include Independent Filmmakers Project, Women Make Movies and Fractured Atlas.

Crowdfunding & Fiscal Sponsorship
Right now, I have an Indiegogo campaign through April 27. Since NYWIFT has a partnership with Indiegogo, all contributions to my film through Indiegogo are tax-deductible—an added incentive for contributors.

When we as individual artists can align ourselves with a bigger brand name, it creates confidence for those who want to support us. And there’s a good reason for that: Having accountability to a fiscal sponsor is a responsibility that includes regular reporting and accurate accounting. 

Would I seek fiscal sponsorship again? Yes, and as early as possible. I have already been approved by NYWIFT for my second documentary, 13 Minutes Apart.

IRENE WALSH (Split Rock Films)

Editors’ Note: Fiscal sponsorship is just one of the many member benefits that NYWIFT offers. Apply for membership during the Spring Membership Drive through May 5, 2014, and receive 50% off the initiation fee.

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Image courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival.


It’s
Tribeca Film Festival time! Here are “5 Female Directors to Watch.”

Pulitzer Prize winners were announced. Donna Tartt received top fiction honor for The Goldfinch, playwright Annie Baker won for The Flick.

DreamWorks’ next movie will have an African-American, female lead. 

The number of women writers in television has increased, but declined in film.  

Suzanne Smith is the only woman directing NFL programming. Wow! 

Hollywood needs more women putting “lights” on the camera’s action

— KELLY GLOVER

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Kelly Glover during the production of The Contradictions of Fair Hope.


You may recognize Kelly Glover's name from her roundup posts right here on our blog, where she manages to find a compelling mix of TV, film and digital news every week. I was lucky enough to catch up with Glover to learn about her work in the industry—including as producer of the documentary The Contradictions of Fair Hope playing on STARZ throughout April—and why she joined New York Women in Film and Television

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work in the industry?
Sure! Well, I’m not related to Danny, Savion, Corey, Donald or Crispin (ha!). I moved to NYC from Chicago (Da Bears) many years ago with wide-eyed dreams of being paid millions to write After School Specials or Letterman Top Ten Lists. Reality (and rent) set in and I got a “real” job in advertising.

I took the plunge after a few years and became the world’s oldest PA. I literally went from having benefits and paid vacation days to working 14-hour days for $200 a week on indies—and I loved it! The bragging rights to friends sustained me more than actual food during those days.

How did you hear about NYWIFT and what made you decide to join?
I was fortunate enough to meet NYWIFT member Anne Johnson. She was the accountant on a Nickelodeon movie that I was a PA for. I think she took a liking to me because at the time I was older than other PAs and had a “real-world” understanding about work/life or I looked like I needed a decent meal (ha!). Either way, she described NYWIFT and I was hooked immediately.

You produced The Contradictions of Fair Hope. What’s the documentary about and how did you get involved in it?
I’d like to use the actual wording from the website here:

The documentary sets the stage in rural Alabama, prior to Emancipation, and traces the development, struggles, contributions and gradual loss of tradition of one of the last remaining African American benevolent societies, known as “The Fair Hope Benevolent Society” in Uniontown, Alabama.

I spent the bulk of my production career as assistant to the executive producer on Law & Order, where I met the uber-talented S. Epatha Merkerson. When she and her business partner created a production company, she asked if I’d join the company based on my previous work ethic, “likeability” and production knowledge. It was a no-brainer for me!

Would you walk us through your experience as a producer on the film?
My main responsibilities were the film’s budget and travel logistics for the crew (the film is shot in Alabama) during the entire four-year process it took to plan, shoot, edit and promote the film. We were a small operation, so I also handled some scheduling, craft service, crowd control, and Ms. Merkerson and I did tackle the bulk of the film’s transcribing.

The great thing about working on small, independent productions is literally getting to do every (nontechnical) job that’s required. If you love production as much as I do, you love the energy and problem-solving that accompanies wearing various hats, depending on the day.

What are some of your future career goals?
For as much as I love the production aspect of the business, recently the creative pull became too strong to ignore. I wasn’t successful at landing a paid TV/film writing job, and I always enjoyed the constant churning of the advertising industry and writing jokes, sketches, etc., in my spare time, so I’m currently back in school full-time for copywriting. Thank God NYWIFT has members of such varied backgrounds so I can still reap the benefits of memberships during and after my career transition. Fingers-crossed that the next phase of my career will be as fulfilling as the past phase has been!

— MICHELE DAGLE

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

An active voice stands out immediately from the rest of the pile. It’s such a huge advantage to write action lines as if you want to tell a story rather than sketch in the background.


INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Tim is sitting at the table, playing solitaire. Molly is needlepointing on the couch.

Okay. That’s bad.

  • It’s written in the present progressive, with gerunds, which is a not very active way to write.
  • Who cares? Other than a general sense of nothing happening, which is the enemy, what does this convey?
  • It is flat and featureless, robotic in tone. Anyone could write this.


INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Tim plays solitaire, Molly needlepoints. The ugly puppy clock ticks loudly. It barks the hour, Tim and Molly jump.

  • Serviceable. There is a sense of something underway, some anxiety. The tense is simple present, which is crisp to read. It’s a little more individual with the details, more personal. It still doesn’t tell us very much.


INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Molly vacantly embroiders a little pink bib. The needle stabs her. A bead of blood swells on her fingertip. Her composure wavers and cracks, she sobs aloud. Tim plays solitaire, his back to her. He turns over a red queen as Molly grieves. Nowhere to play it. He shuffles it to the bottom of the deck and deals again.

  • Better. This is a visual representation of a beat rather than a static description. No dialogue required. It’s economical, its voice matches the tone, it accomplishes story. The words are all useful.

TL;DR. Flat description of nothing special gives your script very low readability.

ANNIE LABARBA 

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

Julie Louis-Dreyfus playing the VP of the United States in Veep

GLOWING: with laughter and admiration at this “high concept” Power Lunch article in last week’s New York Times, in which Julie Louis-Dreyfus of Veep and Nancy Pelosi of the US Senate sit down to talk about female leadership, charcuterie and all sorts of other delights.

FINDING MYSELF: unsurprised with this recent Women’s Media Center study which shows men still outnumber women in news media, especially as television anchors. We at NYWIFT are happy, however, to see that PBS leads the way for women in television news, “with 93% of its stories reported by female anchors.” And on that note, I am…

COMMENDING THE EFFORTS: of our partners over at the Writer’s Guild of America, who released this report to bring attention to the dearth of female and minority writers in film and television.

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

Birds are chirping and spring bulbs are blooming, and that means it is Spring Membership Drive time!

This is your opportunity to join New York Women in Film & Television, the preeminent entertainment industry association for women in New York, now through Monday May 5 and get 50% off our initiation fee.

NYWIFT brings together nearly 2,000 women and men working both above and below the line. NYWIFT is part of a network of 40 Women in Film chapters worldwide, representing more than 10,000 members.

Already a member of NYWIFT? Refer your friends and win fantastic prizes! It is a win/win situation.

Just a few of the amazing reasons to become a NYWIFT member:

  • Exciting panels & workshops led by industry experts
  • Screenings & events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Discounted tickets to red carpet events like Designing Women and the Muse Awards
  • Crowdfunding support and fiscal sponsorship opportunities for your projects
  • Advocacy & job listings

Learn about more benefits on the NYWIFT website.

So what are you waiting for? Join today, and help spread the word about this fantastic opportunity…through the grapevine!

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Jane Pauley, 2012. Photo credit: David Shankbone.

Journalist Jane Pauley leaves NBC to join CBS News

New SNL writer Katie Rich has witty insight on male comedians’ success.

Women’s Media Center updates its Status of Women in the U.S. Media report. 

Pam Dawber, TV’s original “Mindy,” to reunite with Robin Williams.

Persistence pays off for Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz producer Nira Park.

TFF adds Chelsea Clinton’s interfaith docu-short Of Many, directed by Linda Gills, to its lineup.

Only five days left! This quick list of tax deductions may increase your return.

— KELLY GLOVER

The award-winning web series Blue stars Julia Stiles as a single mother moonlighting as a call girl. It’s a case study of a successful drama series on the web.

Blue premiered on WIGS, one of the first premium original content channels funded by YouTube and launched in 2012 by director Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment) and Emmy Award–nominated director/producer Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Less Than Zero).

WIGS focuses on stories about women. A valid critical question on why it took two male producers in Hollywood to create a successful digital channel aimed at women could be asked. Still, the fact remains that Garcia and Avnet proved that a digital channel with a female character central to all of the narratives can be successful.

Below are excerpts of my phone interview with Garcia and Avnet:

Can you talk about why you decided to launch WIGS, an original content channel aimed at women?
GARCIA: Jon [Avnet] and I had lunch a few years ago where we were discussing, why on earth the stuff that was on the Internet had to be—especially back then, we’re talking 5 or 6 years ago, it was such low quality—why can’t it have a certain level of quality storytelling. We wanted to tell stories. Both Jon and I had had success separately and together that had women in the center [of the stories], and we wanted to base our channel on that. Not only did it interest us, we thought the female demographic was a fast growing one on the web, but very underserved with original programming. So we decided to cast our lot about the lives of women and female characters and Blue was one of the first ones we worked with.

And what was the inspiration for Blue?
GARCIA: I am always interested in families where the family members keep secrets from one another. They live and love each other, but also hide things from each other and I thought Blue’s lies were a good starting point for a series.

You have penned scripts with very strong female characters starting with Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her and now Blue. How are you able to write such great stories about women?
GARCIA: I’m interested in women, their choices and how they live their lives … I like how they face their struggles, that they are more emotionally exposed than men. I’m not a woman and have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. I have a strong imagination as to what it could be like and I base the characters on that. But beyond whether they are female, it’s their plights and their problems and their family relationships, their secrets—that’s what interests me. I think it’s just a matter of how can I dramatize these ideas best, and often for me it’s with female characters.

Why do you think you have been able to get such great actresses like Julia Stiles (Blue), America Ferrara (Christine) and Jennifer Beals (Lauren)—actresses used to working in TV and film—to be involved in a web series?
AVNET: Rodrigo and me have done so many movies together where there is a female lead. Or what I would say you follow a story into a female character. We have worked with so many women over so many years … the women would read [our scripts] because we’ve worked with them already or because their agents have, or somebody would take the time to read what we sent over. Our material is character-centric … How many women [actors] get to have those kinds of roles?

There is some great stuff on cable and great actresses doing phenomenal work, but it’s not the majority of the stuff that is out there. We’re still in a relative paucity and so people read our stuff and at first were like—a web series, really? Then after we had done 10, 15, 20 of them, the actors became our agents. Julia said to America, this is really cool. It expanded whom we did and didn’t know and now the actors and agents are aware of it and seeking opportunities or very open to it.

Can you talk about the partnership between the WIGS channel and the Black List script site? Are you looking for more female storytellers?
AVNET: We want material. We want women writers, yes. We want women directors, yes. In our first cycle, half the directors [on the WIGS channel] were women. Would we like to do even more than that? You bet. Anyway we get great material is great for us … we want to open up the door to potentially newer talent, voices that haven’t been established yet.


Listen
 to the full audio interview. Blue's third season is available now on Hulu and Hulu Plus. Writers and producers, you can submit your scripts to the Black List before May 1, 2014, to be considered for the WIGS Channel blind script deal. 

Agility in recognizing the opportunities digital media presents for female writers, directors, producers and executives to increase female representation both in stories and behind the scenes is paramount as digital media grows. 

— M.A ST JOHN

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Theme is the beating heart of the screenplay, the proposition about the human condition that your story explores—the big issues. Love. Faith. Resilience. Trust. Power. Courage. All the goosebumpy things.

The theme, that single, simple thesis that creates clarity and scope and resonance through the arcs of your story, is a gong that should be struck in every scene for maximum impact.

John August calls it genetic. If you cut out any one of your scenes, you should be able to plant it and grow your whole script.

This is accomplished with good scene work.

  • The B story is an echo of the A story. Relate them so that the resolution to both confirms the thematic question. Cuts your work in half, doubles the resonance.

  • Location, location, location. Make sacred spaces in your story to elevate and amplify important beats. Your breakup scene could take place in a Tunnel of Love, at a bus stop, in an elevator—which setting tells more of the story? It makes a big difference.

  • Get out your machete. Little suckers sprout from the main trunk of your story, bits and pieces of genius that pop up spontaneously in the writing process. Kill them. They may be good, but they belong somewhere else if they are not banging your gong.

Consciously choose theme when conceiving all the elements of your scenes. Find a way to make it ring.

ANNIE LABARBA 

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

Photo of Ellen Burstyn courtesy of Getty Images.

ANTICIPATING: the retrospectives of two amazing female figures in film. Though Dorothy Arzner’s career retrospective will take place in Spain at the San Sebastian Film Festival, we’ll be able to catch Ellen Burstyn’s nine film retrospective at BAMcinematek in Brooklyn (with the actress herself slated to appear on May 3). Arzner was a prolific film director and the first female member of the DGA. Burstyn is, as IndieWire points out, ”one short of an EGOT,” having won Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards.

EXCITED ABOUT: the slew of possibilities, as prominent cultural critics and writers respond to the news of David Letterman’s impending retirement with calls for a female host. Here are great opinions from Slate and The Daily Beast, as well as a few suggestions by Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker.

RELISHING: this telling analysis by Walt Hickey of the financial consequences of female exclusion in Hollywood. Read it yourself at statistics expert Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog.

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

(Edited on April 9, 2014, at 12:31 am EST.)

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What is the real purpose of a budget? In my experience, it’s the road map of the production. The amount of money you have will dictate the majority of the decisions that are made in pre-production, principal photography, post-production and beyond (festivals, marketing, social media campaigns, etc).

You may have used a “development” budget, usually created to raise money or interest in the project. To ensure you do not spend more than you have, you’ll need to get tough and really dig into the details.

If you have the money, I suggest hiring a line producer who has a ton of experience breaking down scripts and creating budgets in your price range. A line producer typically charges $500-$3,000 for a micro-budget and/or low budget, depending on the scope of the project.

However, if you want to do it yourself, the first step is to break down the script. Here’s how to start.

Read the script and make a list of the following components:

  1. Locations: The type (street versus Plaza Hotel) and total amount of specific locations. The latter will determine how many company moves need to be made, the transportation of cast and crew, etc.

  2. Cast: How many principal cast and background cast members are scripted. This can help you decide if you should go union or non-union depending on the budget level.

  3. Stunts/SFX: Identify what type of stunts or SFX are required based on the script. That will affect your production budget as well as your post budget.

  4. Production Design: Identify key props and art elements, including picture cars. This can help you define the size of your team and the flow of the day in regards to your schedule.

After you finish your initial breakdown, take time to interview the creatives (writer, director, executive producer) to determine the project’s genre and to get an understanding on their vision, their experience level, and how they intend to shoot the project (e.g., handheld versus long dolly shots, practical shots versus SFX done in post, the type of camera they want to shoot on). From there, you’ll know if the creative force attached to the project can execute the vision on the actual budget. Know who you are working with. Build a team that will honor your budget.

After the first pass you can always suggest changes to the script that will reduce costs while keeping the original vision intact. Remember, this is only the first pass. From here you can develop a detailed budget. Film and TV production is a collaborative art.

As Orson Wells said: “A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army.”

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on budgets and line items.

CLAUDINE MARROTTE

It Felt Like Love, by first-time feature director Eliza Hittman, follows 14-year-old Lila (a perfectly cast Gina Piersanti) as she pursues an older teenage boy.

There are a few passing similarities between It Felt Like Love and Andrea Arnold’s similar themed Fish Tank. Hittman distinguishes herself with intimate closeups and following subjects with tracking shots through parties and wooded areas of outer Brooklyn.

This coming-of-age drama premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and is a recipient of the Nancy Malone Marketing & Promotion Grant. It was fiscally sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television.

It Felt Like Love is playing at the IFC Center in NYC. 

— M.A. ST JOHN

The Peabody Awards gave 43% of prizes to projects that featured a clear female protagonist or were made by a woman creator. 

Jennifer Lee’s 'Frozen' becomes the top-grossing animated film of all time.

AFI’s superb Directing Workshop for Women turns 40. They grow up so fast! 

Variety’s Power of Women luncheon debuts in NYC — meet the honorees.

Amy Schumer tackles the second season of her hit comedy series.

Yahoo will launch other “digital magazines,” but for now, Shine is no more.

Arianna Huffington discusses her journey and “the third women’s revolution.”

— KELLY GLOVER

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

You drove 20 miles home in heavy traffic and don’t remember any of it. That’s the dissociation you use to deal with the sameness of your commute.

It also happens when you read your script. Your brain fills in what’s supposed to be there and you blow right by your mistakes.

Typos, missing words, wrong character names, insubstantial motivations, and scenes we need to see but don’t. They’re there. Lurking. Ready to trip readers up like a rake in the lawn.

You literally can’t trust your own eyes. Three or four other pairs are usually enough to catch them all, but the more the merrier. Pack that car full of people. You won’t miss a thing.

ANNIE LABARBA 

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