Five questions filmmakers ask before making a film

You have an idea for a film – now what? Reflecting on these five questions will help you begin production and put you in a better position to pitch your film to investors.

1. What will it add to the conversation?

Ideally, your film should be meaningful, entertaining, and distinct. It shouldn’t simply echo – it should be able to stand alone. Perhaps it covers a fascinating, noteworthy topic. Maybe it is innovative in terms of form or style.

One of my former film teachers, Clifton Raphael, used to instruct his students: “Tell me something I don’t know and even if I did know it I wouldn’t have been able to guess it.” His advice has stuck with me through time because it encapsulates the importance of constantly questioning conventions and learning to break them.

2. Is it practical?

Consider whether you have the financial means to support yourself throughout the production processes. Films generally take a while to begin generating revenue. Do you have a plan for applying for and obtaining grants? Do you plan to pitch to investors? What kind of support will you need from the cast and crew? How do you plan to compensate these individuals for their work?

For advice on low-budget filmmaking, consider taking Elliot Grove’s Lo-to-no Budget Filmmaking course at Raindance London; if you’re not in the area (or his course isn’t within your budget!) read his articles Compromises Low Budget Filmmakers Make and 10 Expenses Most First Time Film Director Forget.

Also consider time restraints. What are your other commitments and priorities? Create a plan for how you will divide and manage your time so you can devote sufficient energy to each stage of production.

3. Why now?

Consider what is so unique about the current state of affairs that warrants the production of your film. Perhaps your film will cover a topic that is currently the subject of political discourse. Maybe it reintroduces a long-forgotten narrative that you wish to revive.

Also consider the timeline of your production and whether your film will still be relevant once you’ve wrapped production and completed the final cut.

4. Why me?

Ideally, you should be the only one who could tell the story. Reflect on what makes you special as a filmmaker and how your specific skill set will benefit the production of your film. Perhaps you have exclusive access to a story. Maybe you are already extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter.

Ask yourself what makes you indispensable to the production. Reflect on your weaknesses and plan for how you will overcome them.

5. Why film?

Why should film be the medium used to disseminate your story? Would your story be better as a novel? How about a podcast? Or a photography exhibition? Perhaps it would be better suited as a Virtual Reality experience.

You should be able to articulate why film is the ideal platform for your story. Not all stories lend themselves to the screen. Consider why you desire to tell a linear story comprised of sounds and images and whether that medium is the best choice for your specific story.

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Cheers to the first five years of!

An impressive overview of Black List accomplishments.

Full house for a Black List Live! script reading

From Kate Hagen, Director of Community at @theblcklst:

Today, we’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of, which launched on October 15, 2012!

Seven feature films have been produced from scripts discovered on since our launch five years ago: NIGHTINGALE (written by Frederick Mensch); ZINZANA (aka RATTLE THE CAGE, by Lane and Ruckus Skye); SHOVEL BUDDIES (by Jason Hellerman); EDDIE THE EAGLE (by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton); KATIE SAYS GOODBYE (by Wayne Roberts); PSYCHOANALYSIS (by James Raue); and DESOLATION (by Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas.)

Countless writers have found representation, had their scripts sold or optioned, or made further advancements to their professional careers via site interactions — read our series of screenwriter interviews for the stories of these writers in their own words.

Since October 2012, we’ve partnered with organizations including the WGA-W, the WGA-E, The Sloan Foundation, The Sundance Institute, Women in Film, UrbanWorld, Indigenous Media, and more, in addition to collegiate partnerships with schools like New York University, Columbia University, UCLA, and Chapman University.

Screenwriters have been able to submit their scripts for consideration in opportunities with Warner Bros., Disney, the NFL, Google, Women in Film, go90, FOX, Turner/TBS, WIGS, Studiocanal/The Picture Company, Symbolic Exchange, Cassian Elwes, and more. Additionally, annual screenwriters labs have been held by The Black List to provide mentorship and development for writers using since 2013 — the fifth installment of the Black List Lab for Feature Screenwriters featured mentors Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, Phyllis Nagy, Allison Schroeder, and more.

There’s a lot more which you can read by going here. I’m kinda partial to this:

Since September 2011, Scott Myers’ Go Into the Story has been the official screenwriting blog of the Black List — Scott has posted for 3436 consecutive days and counting, with over 23,000 posts total!

One super cool thing: You can go here to see a timeline of everything Black List related since the debut of the annual list in 2005. Some amazing accomplishments.

Congrats, Black List!

Cheers to the first five years of! was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

‘American Made’ and ‘Flatliners’ Target Spots in the Weekend Box Office Top Five

As of the end of the day Wednesday, the month-to-date gross is less than $ 6 million shy of becoming the largest September ever. Much of the month’s $ 620+ million is thanks to the record performance from It, which has grossed over $ 272 million domestically and $ 500 million globally. The month should become the largest September ever by the end of day today and this weekend offers one last chance to add to the total with new releases including Tom Cruise’s American Made and Sony’s Flatliners …
Box Office Mojo – Top Stories

Official Trailer for Netflix’s ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’ Music Documentary

Gaga: Five Foot Two

Are you gaga for Gaga? Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for a documentary called Gaga: Five Foot Two, an inside look at the life of Lady Gaga filmed over eight months. Directed by the filmmaker of Banksy Does New York and Me at the Zoo, the film goes behind the scenes with “pop provocateur” Lady Gaga as she releases a bold new album and prepares for her Super Bowl halftime show. It’s premiering at Toronto Film Festival starting this week, which is why this trailer is hitting now. Even if you thought you knew everything about her and have seen other films about her, this seems to be a very definitive inside look at her kooky, crazy, wild life and all that drives her to be so bold and innovative. I’m especially intrigued to see how she is involved in the creative process beyond just her music, with concerts and more. Might as well check this out. ›››

Continue reading Official Trailer for Netflix’s ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’ Music Documentary

Little Monsters! Watch the Teaser for Gaga: Five Foot Two

Hey little monsters! Watch the teaser for the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two

Hey little monsters! Watch the teaser for the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two

Netflix has released a teaser trailer for the upcoming documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. The documentary gives us a cinema verité look at the making and release of Lady Gaga‘s album Joanne and her life during that time. Lady Gaga debuted the teaser this evening at the Air Canada Centre to an arena full of fans prior to her concert. The film will make its world premiere Friday, September 8 at the Toronto International Film Festival and will launch globally on Netflix September 22. You can watch the teaser in the player below.

In the Netflix original documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga offers a vulnerable look of her life during one of the most pivotal periods in her career yet. Directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Chris Moukarbel (Banksy Does New York, Me at the Zoo), the film is shot in the style of cinema verité, giving viewers unfiltered, behind-the-scenes access as Gaga spends time with close friends and family members, records and releases her 2016 album Joanne and, deals with personal struggles.

Moukarbel’s compelling portrait captures Lady Gaga’s life over a eight-month period. On top of professional triumphs, viewers will see her cope with intense emotional and physical pain. Other moments reflect more ordinary aspects of her life, whether it’s attending a family christening, visiting her grandmother or cooking and playing with her dogs at home. The film may help viewers understand how all of these experiences contribute to Gaga’s art – and how, in just a few years, the 5-foot-2 performer has become such a relatable and beloved figure worldwide.

Are you guys excited to watch Gaga: Five Foot Two on Netflix when it’s released on September 22? We want to hear from you. Leave us your comments below or tweet them to us @ComingSoonnet.

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First Teaser Trailer for ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ Premiering at TIFF

Five Fingers for Marseilles Trailer

“You’ve been sent to judge me.” This looks like it could be a big breakout at the Toronto Film Festival this year. A teaser trailer has debuted for the film Five Fingers for Marseilles, a “neo-western” set in South Africa. The story follows a young boy whose life is changed forever when he kills two corrupt policemen in a South African shanty town. Two decades later, he finally heads home but his return brings out his enemies who go after him and all of his friends. Starring Vuyo Dabula, Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Aubrey Poolo, Lizwi Vilakazi, Warren Masemola, Anthony Oseyemi, Brendon Daniels, and Jerry Mofokeng. The two filmmakers spent 7 years researching and developing this, “including 5,000 miles of cross-country travel, development, and filming amidst the erratic winter weather of the Eastern Cape.” From the looks of it, this film might just be as awesome as it sounds. ›››

Continue reading First Teaser Trailer for ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ Premiering at TIFF

Film Festivals: Five Types

You have finished your film and now you want to get it out there under the noses of acquisition executives, right? But which film festival do you send it to? There’s over five types of film festivals. With over 5,000 film festivals around the world, negotiating a film festival strategy can be overwhelming.

Before you embark on your festival hunt it’s helpful to plan your strategy – and decide what your priorities are.

There are really 4 basic reasons to attend a film festival:

  • to expose your film to acquisition executives and hopefully sell your film
  • to win awards
  • to get reviewed and interviewed to create buzz

The question is, which reason are you attending film festivals? And what of the cost of submitting and attending film festivals? Are there any film festivals where you can submit or free?

Film festivals are divided into categories based on the number of acquisition executives that attend. Major and mini major film festivals charge submission fees. It is here that your film has it’s best chance of being seen by a distibutor.

1. Majors

The major film festivals, in rank, are: Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam and Venice. Cannes is undoubtedly the premiere event. Toronto and Sundance vie for the number two spot, but since Sundance has become a launching pad for Hollywood films, I personally give the number two spot to Toronto – if for no other reason than the important slots it gives to foreign language films. Rotterdam is an amazing festival hosted by an amazing city. Berlin has an excellent festival with Europe’s most energetic and charismatic director. Venice is an important festival as well, but is becoming dangerously corporate.

2. Mini-majors

Mini-major festivals are also excellent festivals to launch your films, and vie with the majors for industry and celebrity turnout. Festivals such as SXSW, Locarno, San Sebastian, Raindance, Tribeca and Karlovy Vary have hundreds of celebrities and paparazzi attending and can be a useful springboard to getting your film noticed.

3. City Festivals

There are many city festivals that attract the attention of filmmakers and filmgoers alike. They do not have a sizeable industry presence, very few acquisitions executives and are designed to appeal to the cineastes within their borders. Edinburgh, Leeds, Cambridge and London are some of the important UK festivals designed for local residents. Palm Springs, Telluride, San Francisco and Montreal are a few of the many in North America.

4. Genre Film Festivals

Certain film festivals cater to specific genres. If you make a horror film you would probably make Sitges your number one choice. London has the London Sci Fi and Fright Fest. While fewer acquisition executives attend genre festivals, those that do are there because they are interested in that genre. in marketing speak, these buyers are pre-qualified.

5. Mom and Pop

At the risk of sounding patronising, mom and pop festivals are small festivals that were created simply for the enjoyment of cinema. They are usually run by one or two people. Sometimes they offer wider themes, such as the Human Rights Festival or the Flare – the LGBTQ festival run by the British Film Institute. These festivals attract local press, but very few if any industry people and virtually no acquisitions executives attend.

Fade Out

Take the time to research film festivals. There is so much you can learn about the top festivals online. Meet other filmmakers at networking events and at local film festivals and get their recommendations. Beware the so-called festival experts who claim to have insider knowledge of the festival circuit based on trips to lowly rated mom and pop type festivals. These so-called consultants are the sort of people who will fail miserably to help you in a meaningful way and often have a series of cons and ploys they like to spring on festival virgins. Trust your instincts, and happy festival travelling.


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Script Analysis for Directors – Five Top Tips

As a film director, we may be very technically adept, have a great visual style or be skilled at soliciting a strong performance from our actors; we should aim to be all three.  However, no matter where our key strengths lie, we need one thing first to be able to shine in those areas. We need to know our story inside and out.

A great screenplay functions on many levels and is far more than just a ‘blueprint’ for the film. The more we work with it and its creator, the more we will be able to know we are not only getting what we want but what an audience needs. Engagement.

In addition, our preparation time is not just about making decisions, its also about exploring possibilities. We will be working with other collaborators who will also have ideas of how to approach the different elements if the screenplay. It is in our best interest to be prepared for change and be able to communicate our ideas based on a through back to front insight into the story of the film.

1. Read For Pleasure – First Impressions

When you either are given a script to read or sit back to read through your own opus, there is one vitally important question to answer. ‘Does this excite me?’. Everything else will hang on your response to that.

In addition, our passion for the story often dictates how much others are prepared to do to help you bring the vision to the screen.

Our first read through should be like we are reading a novel, or short story, poem or comic book. There is a tendency to begin the analysis like we might have when we were asked to analyse a book or poem in high school or university or worse treat it like a manual or instruction book.

The harder it is for you to enjoy reading the script the harder it will be for your cast and crew to help you and ultimately for your audience to enjoy the results.

So have fun, the feeling you have by the end of that first read will often be the feeling you are left with when you watch the movie made from it.

 2. More Detective Less Engineer.

To direct a screenplay well we have to really know the screenplay. Although we can view the script as a ‘blueprint’, my experience has shown me that there are many more layers and hidden treasures beneath the surface. The screenplay is not a precise plan for the film but a map showing the journey of the story and, as such, can offer optional routes to take on that journey.

As we progress through our early reads of the script, it helps to put on a deerstalker hat and look at it the way the great fictional detectives might as a puzzle and loaded with clues for its solution.

Our initial intuitions and images that pop into our head are valuable and should be recorded for later reference but we can dig much deeper. We should be looking first for possibilities of approach to the visual storytelling, performances, production design and use of sound etc.

Having a list of possibilities allows us to test them, then narrow it down to the best options. If we start with one choice only then we have, at best, made an assumption and not really made a decision at all. That to me seems a lot like gambling on a horse because it is a nice colour or you like it’s name.

 3.  Question Everything!

Also like a detective we should come away from each read not just with possible solutions but also with questions.

These questions we will use on our chief suspect. The writer. Often much is left off the page, by necessity or mistake and by questioning the source of the story we gain greater insight into the film it can become.

These questions also bring to light any weaknesses, glossed over motivations and overly repeated ideas that may exist, and allow a more focused development process to take place if needed. And it’s usually always needed.

As a writer/director this list of questions becomes invaluable when preparing to share our baby with others. We will have so much foreknowledge and acceptance of the world of the story and the motivations of out characters that we take it for granted is obvious on the script and to others understanding.

Be prepared to give clarity on any potential confusion by questioning the script as if someone else has written it.

As we progress, using questions with our other collaborators, especially actors, is often the easiest and most dynamic way to bring them around to our understanding of the story of the film.

4. Insight over Knowledge

A vital by product of both the passion to tell this story and the amount of digging deeper we do is that we move from a basic template knowledge of the ‘type’ of genre and style we are dealing with and get to see the unique qualities of the specific story we are telling. We start to experience the story. The world of the story becomes familiar and the characters move from being ‘plot vessels’ into dynamic layered individuals with their own codes of behavior.

By testing the possibilities and asking questions we gain something far more valuable, a deep grounded understanding of how the story should unfold, why the characters behave the way they do and how we might be able to engage our audience.

To ‘entertain’ is to hold our audience inside the world of the story, the more we can apply insight the better chance we have of preventing them from popping out for popcorn or checking their Facebook page and updating it with how bored they are whilst our film is running.

5. Listen to others.

As our other collaborators come on board, they will also have read the screenplay and have both ideas and questions for us as the director. I find it best to wherever possible let them speak first and share those ideas. I actively promote that by asking them to tell me the story, rather than start with how they might go about their roles in the process.

Listening with full attention and an open mind sets you in good stead to be both fully aware of the challenges you might face and also allows others to see that you value the contributions. We will need to do this from the beginning right through to the last moment in post- production in our edit, grade and mix.

Always allow yourself time to evaluate the options that arise. Put them to the test. The best way to handle a strong choice made by a fellow collaborator that seems to fly against your vision is to say “show me”. You then have the ability to see why and it will or will not work and direct accordingly.

These are just some of the key areas we will explore and expand upon in the upcoming Script Analysis For Directors course, the aim of which will be to give a practical and dynamic set of tools for getting the most from the screenplay, your other collaborators and yourself as the director.

It will also be of great benefit to writers and producers too.

Hope to see you there.

Happy filmmaking

The post Script Analysis for Directors – Five Top Tips appeared first on Raindance.


Politician’s missed high five is so awkward it’ll make you shudder


Going for a high five is a risky business at the best of times.

Best case scenario: you end up pulling it off and look moderately cool.

The worst case scenario? Probably this:

That’s UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attempting to high five Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry during Thursday night’s general election results. As you can see, it didn’t quite go as planned.

TFW you risk it all for a high five and fall short

— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) June 9, 2017

Never try to side-hug AND high five! YOU FLEW TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN!

— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) June 9, 2017 Read more…

More about Uk, Awkward, Jeremy Corbyn, High Five, and Emily Thornberry

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