POV

June 5, 2008

POV

One of the most exciting experiences I have had as a Filmmaker in Residence was taking a trip to POV in New York City. POV is produced by American Documentary and is PBS’ award-winning showcase for documentary films.

As part of the residency, Aron, and I had an opportunity to meet with the staff at POV and receive editorial feedback on our film as well as additional sessions on fundraising, marketing and distribution. We had sent our work sample for The Way We Get By in advance of our visit and everyone meeting with us watched it. They provided great feedback and advice on how to pursue additional funding. We then had meetings to discuss legal issues around documentary films, media training and a session on marketing your film and reaching your target audience. I have to say I think we were all so impressed with the professionalism of the entire staff. I think meetings, like this one, are so critical to independent filmmakers. I know that for so long we were doing it by ourselves. It was nice to get feedback from them and know that we are on the right track.

Now…back to editing….


India: A New Life Wins 3 Telly Awards

June 2, 2008

India: A New Life Wins 3 Telly Awards

Dear Friends– India: A New Life a documentary that we did for PBS Frontline World has won three Telly awards. This is the 8th Telly award for Aron Gaudet, my film director. This is the first time I’ve won a Telly. Thank you for your all of your support!


Coming out of the hole……

June 2, 2008

Coming out of the hole……


Well, I’ve finally done it. Sorry folks for disappearing on you. I have had one crazy month of deadlines and more deadlines. We’ve had some great trips and meetings for our project and a few heart attacks along the way. But that’s the life of a filmmaker right?! It’s one big rollercoaster ride and you just hope your buckle doesn’t break.

There were a number of large deadlines this month and we pretty much attacked them all. The biggest one was for ITVS LINCS, an opportunity to partner with PBS stations for funding to complete your film. Through this initiative, ITVS will consider providing funds for your film in return for licensing your film. As you know, $$$$ is the key to finishing your film. And so with an opportunity like that, you have to cross your fingers and hope it will move forward.

We were fortunate that for the first time ever, Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) agreed to partner with us. And shortly after, WGBH also agreed to partner with us to apply for LINCS. What that meant was that for the first time ever, two PBS stations would be applying with an independent producer on a LINCS application. We were excited about this possibility knowing that this partnership could help us get The Way We Get By out to the largest possible television audience.

We began working on this application a few months ago. We had worked hard on our work sample (20 minutes of scene selections that we showed to about 50 people). Our confidence grew after each viewing. We felt so great knowing that people were connecting with our characters and seeing the story come together.

But another part of any film application is the synopsis and treatment. And that was something we had to really work hard to figure out. Writing these components are extremely difficult. We started about a month ago on a draft treatment. We thought we were writing it as a story but really it just seemed like a long, overwritten proposal. After spending weeks on it, we decided to show it to some of our contacts at WGBH. That was about when we realized we knew NOTHING about grantwriting for films.

Writing a film treatment is like telling a funder about your story…bringing them in with a captivating soundbite, telling them about the characters, and showing them the story arc of the film…the more a treatment reads like a story, apparently, the stronger it is. For YEARS, I never did this…and thanks to one grantwriter–Paul Taylor–at WGBH, we learned the basic tools to write for a film funder. What I wonder though is without someone like Paul, how do you do this? I would like to think we are reasonably smart. I’ve written successful proposals OUTSIDE of the film world before so….where is the gap?

Paul taught us something that I think is important for filmmakers to follow. Your treatment should be like editing a film. But instead of shot by shot use your wide, medium, tight story elements together. I don’t know if I can ever do what I learned justice by trying to explain it. Perhaps what I can say is find yourself someone who does write grant proposals successfully and see what they think BEFORE you submit. It could mean the difference between getting funding and getting that rejection letter.

After a number of sleepless nights, stressful sessions at the laptop, Aron and I were able to successfully submit to ITVS. For the first time, in a long time, we felt like the synopsis and treatment really matched the story we wanted to tell. And for the first time, we could see our film on paper….and it felt GREAT to know we have come this far. We still have a lot to do in coming months but it is such a wonderful feeling to know that we are moving forward and getting one step closer to accomplishing our goal!

Good luck fellow grantwriters. The process is a ^(&)())__(@%^&&$&$$ and a %^*&)*))(!^&#&%$& but hopefully it will PAY OFF in the end.


The Importance of Screenings

April 30, 2008

The Importance of Screenings

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind experience for us. We have been showing our 20-minute work in progress (select scenes) to funders and filmmakers at different screenings. You never know how people will connect with your characters or story so it is always helpful to show as many people as possible to get a sense of what people think.

Our latest screening was at WGBH during a special event called the Lab Luncheon. We were invited to screen our 20 minute work sample to about 30 people all with diffferent areas of expertise at WGBH.

It took us a long time to get to a strong work sample….roughly 4 years. Yes 4 years. When we began filming, we thought our film would be a simple story—greetings at the airport with troops and troop greeters. But it wasn’t that simple….because life is complicated and our three characters are complicated. We had to continue shooting until we felt like we captured their story and that in itself took 4 years. Along the way, we made some cuts, put some scenes together, but the story didn’t come alive until recently.

It really took shape when we met with our film advisers–Jocelyn Glatzer and Ellie Lee. They gave us the confidence again to believe in our story. And all of a sudden…it hit us. Aron started editing together scenes and the story started to take shape. Bill, Joan, and Jerry’s stories started to come together and the pacing and tempo seemed to be working. But it was only after the first screening did we realize we might be right….this might be the right work in progress….

I like speaking in public. It has never really affected me. But at the WGBH screening, for the first time, I was a little nervous. It hit me, at that moment, that after all of these years, we were going to show a group of people, something so personal to us, something so close to our hearts, and I wanted them to enjoy it. To love our characters as much as we loved watching them and capturing them on film. As the lights dimmed and the the first shot appeared on screen, I sat at the back of the room watching people watch our film. I watched a group of young filmmakers, WGBH staffers, and experienced professionals take it all in.The room was quiet. And when it came to a funny moment in the film, and I heard the group laugh, I knew they were into the story. They were into our characters and that it would be ok.

As filmmakers, we have to have faith in ourselves that we can tell our story….that we have the ability to tell the story that was meant to be told. It took us a while to learn this, to gain that confidence. You can’t let other people figure out your story but you can see how they react to it and determine whether what you have is working. And when it is all over, you will learn so much more about your subject and yourself.

I can’t sign off without giving a special thank you to some very special people at WGBH’s Boston Media Productions. Christopher, Brian, Denise, and Hillary have supported us through this whole process as WGBH Filmmakers in Residence. They organized this screening for us and have confidence in us.

I would also like to personally thank Rachel Hargreaves-Heald, who works at the Lab. She helped organize the screening and has been extremely supportive of our film and us. This is us after the screening….after one too many cups of coffee. As filmmakers, we make our film our life. We don’t sleep, we stress and worry about funding, distribution, and getting it done. But to survive this, you need someone to make you laugh for at least a moment and remind you that it will be ok.
Rachel and Gita after the screening

THANKS EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!


THE BLOGGING MONSTER RETURNS….

April 23, 2008

THE BLOGGING MONSTER RETURNS

Aron thought it would only take me 3 minutes to blog…boy was he off. Two minutes after he posted, I’m free to move forward. FREEDOM!!

First, I’d like to thank our readers out there. We’ve gotten e-mails from people supporting our project and wanting to learn more about what we’re doing. For my fellow readers out there, this post will address your questions…

What is your work space like?
Aron and I work in the office space at Boston Media Productions. We have two desks in the main area and we also share the WGBH Lab room with the other Filmmaker in Residence, Anna Wexler.

We sit across from Jesse Logan, an associate producer for the show Basic Black (you can see Jesse in the photo as well).

WGBH Workspace

What do we do?
Aron and I are putting the film together. We sit and review footage and discuss the story structure and start putting together scenes. In this photo, Aron and I are reviewing a scene that was put together for our work in progress. It is a tedious process that involves a lot of time and attention to detail. Aron is a pro at editing so typically I get to sit back and watch the magic happen.

I won’t spend much more time on this blog since it really is Aron’s turn. The next post I’m told will be on Zack Martin, our music composer, and there will be more pictures of all of us in action.

Stay tuned for Aron’s post. I know I’m looking forward to it!


The Big One

April 14, 2008

The Big One

Do you know what a fundraising trailer is? A work sample? What about a work in progress. Funders will throw out these terms a lot….and it is your job to figure out what it means.

For example, a fundraising trailer isn’t really a trailer at all!! Who KNEW!!

Let me save you some time trying to figure this all out–A work in progress, a work sample, a fundraising trailer are all pretty much the same thing. And you will need this before you apply to a foundation for funding. This work-in-progress, fundraising trailer, work sample—from here on out called “THE BIG ONE”—is one of the most important parts of the fundraising process. The BIG ONE will show funders whether you can tell a story and whether you story has merit. It took us a really long time to figure out how to put the work in progress together for The Way We Get By. We had to spend a lot of time analyzing our story and talking with advisers to get it just right.

Aron and I recently finished what we consider a strong work in progress of our film. We introduce our three characters and provided two additional scenes with each of our characters to show the funders that there is a story with each character and there is a larger story arc as well.

Aron and I have been showing our BIG ONE to our advisers–at WGBH and outside. We showed it to a group of Northeastern college students and to other documentary filmmakers–most recently the Connect the Docs group at Coolidge Corner.

This tends to be a nervewrecking process. You want people to see your vision and connect with the characters–like we connect with them. If you don’t get it just right–these sessions don’t go well.

I have to tell you–we’ve made a number of cuts of what we thought was The BIG ONE….and none of them compare to what we’ve completed in March. We are very proud of it and the response from students, our advisers, and other documentary filmmakers has been great. They CONNECT with the story like we do…they care about the characters like we do…and they get the STORY and the importance of it.

Of course, all of the credit goes to Aron….he’s the mastermind behind putting it all together, finding the voice and developing the story. But I have to admit, it’s a great feeling to sit in a room and watch it on a big screen and know that after all of these years, yes, people do see what we see.

The big test will come in the next few months as we continue to submit this with grant applications. But it has given us tremendous confidence moving forward that we’re on the right track…with our film and with our funders.

And that’s why it’s called THE BIG ONE!


Money Makes Your Film Go Round

April 11, 2008

Money Makes Your Film Go Round

FUNDRAISING- Our Process
Warning: This is only my opinion….I am NOT a fundraising expert….just a grantwriter who has finally figured out a way to get $$ for her film

I will dedicate this blog to fundraising. I don’t want to bore you and I don’t want to scare you. But let’s be honest. This is probably one of the most difficult tasks that any filmmaker will face. I think it comes down to trust. How do you convince a funder to give you money….especially when they are being approached by hundreds of filmmakers asking them for money. Funders will only give to filmmakers who they think will actually make a film at the end of the day–and not drag out the process for years. As a result, we have found out that it is easier to raise funds a) after you’ve done another project and b) after one other funder has given you funds for your project. The problem is how do you get that first funder? This is something we’ve had to figure out over the last four years.

It was only after becoming WGBH Filmmakers in Residence that we finally discovered all of the film funds out there—from ITVS, the Gucci/Tribeca Fund, and the LEF Foundation. We also realized we needed to have a strong work-in-progress to show funders.

Much of my time here at WGBH is figuring out how to raise the money as we approach the various phases–from post to marketing and distribution. I spend a great deal of time networking with funders. I want them to know about my project in advance of me submitting an application. I want them to be just as excited about our film as we are. This is all something I’ve had to learn the hard way. It’s not just about following the grant requirements online but also writing something compelling that will make a funder want to scream “YES–I WILL FUND YOU”. It’s about having a really strong fundraising trailer to submit that the funder can say–yes I see where this story is going and I want to know what will happen next.

We have a few pending grant applications out there now and who knows what will happen. But both Aron and I have spent a great deal of time working on each application because we want to make sure whatever a funder sees, it is something we are very proud of.

There is one foundation that I want to point out –if you are in CA or New England. It’s the LEF Foundation. LEF is supporting us as WGBH Filmmakers in Residence. They are very supportive of filmmakers. Kathryn, the program coordinator there, has spent the past few years working with us on our applications and has seen our film evolve–and us mature as filmmakers. Foundations, like LEF, want filmmakers to submit the strongest material and the only way to do that is to talk with them and see what they are looking for. Now, not all foundations are like this, but I think that is what makes LEF special and also a safe place for filmmakers looking for ways to get a strong proposal out there.

We also learned that we have to work early on the grant application so that our film advisers have time to review them. They have been CRUCIAL in the grantwriting process because they have done this before and have been so successful. Our film advisers have given us tremendous feedback that have made our proposals much stronger. I think it is important to share your proposals with people you trust and get their advice before you submit. It will make the difference between getting funds and getting rejected.

To all my fellow grantwriters out there–GOOD LUCK! Remember, it’s all worth it, once you get that YES!!