Are you interested in making a movie? Or maybe you just want to be a part of the process...try something new...be an extra. I want to give you some practical guidance, especially if you're in the midwest and want to get started. Step 1 is a good story. As you know Three Socks Media is all about stories, so I want to start here. Whether you're a script writer or a director, the project always starts with a good story. Now we've all seen movies where the storyline was basically nonexistent. In fact, if you're familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (either the 90's version or the recent reboot) you know that the world is full of movies with no story lines. How did that happen? There are a few things that could have been at play here:
So what's a good storyline? Well, from a writing standpoint, I was once told that to create a great story you put your grandpa up a tree and then throw rocks at him. A bit harsh I know, but the point being that you need something to be happening to someone the audience cares enough about to root for during the movie.
My first piece of advice to anyone who wants to write scripts is to create character people will love. If your audience is going to give up an hour and a after to three hours for your story, they need a reason to invest. And after that, they need to see things developing. Whether you choose to have a positive adventure or a negative one for your characters, they need to have an adventure. And finally, the ending should always create a "Oh wow!" moment for your audience. Maybe you give a happy ending or maybe you give a sad one, either way, take your audience's breath away whenever possible.
Now when it comes to endings, I'm a bit old school. I think the writer owes something to the audience, a kind of THANK YOU for watching. That means giving the audience some kind of satisfaction, and yes, that means I didn't like the ending of LaLaLand. There was great talent in that movie, but if I'm giving up my time, the writer needs to give me some satisfaction at the end.
What do you think?
Do you feel stuck right now? Believe it or not the answer may already be right in front of you. A friend of mine who has been trying to produce his first movie for more than a year recently came to me and said he was giving up. Nothing was working and he was sure that he was now doomed to a life of failure. Maybe he just didn't have talent? Maybe the cards were just stacked against him, and life just doesn't work out for the little guy? Those are both easy defaults. They are the royal announcements for an upcoming pity party of magnificent proportions. I've thrown a few of those parties myself.
But do they really help us? Is hitting bottom like this just the world's way of showing us what no-talent, meaningless people we are in this huge unfriendly universe? I don't think so. I am very confident that my friend has talent and that he can succeed. As of this very moment, in fact, he is back on track and moving along just fine.
So what happened? He let go. What? HE LET GO! After completely melting down, he came to the realization that he had been trying to force everything to happen on his timetable in the way he envisioned it. Once he melted down and the smoke cleared, he remembered something. A year ago a trusted friend had given him some advice, advice which was now very relevant and useful. At the time he had received it, however, he didn't give it a second thought. At that point he was polite enough, but the the suggestion was immediately buried under the "I know what I'm doing" myths bouncing around his head.
Financial and motivational guru Harv T. Eker often says that the words "I know that" comprise the most dangerous sentence in the universe. Why? Because once we are convinced that we know something, we are more likely to close our minds to new ideas. After all, if we already know everything on the subject, why explore other possibilities?
My friend's meltdown brought him to a place of being willing to say, "I may NOT know something." He then remembered the advice he had previously been given, and began exploring it. Then he discovered real solutions to his problems. He's still a bit sore about the fact that he had this information a year ago and didn't make use of it, but at least he is now moving.
As you all know I have had some roadblocks to my production and I've been very open about them because I want to help others and writing about them helps me. Not too long ago I sat with my trusted advisor, John Mashni, and after taking a deep breath admitted that I had been saying "I know that" for far too long when I obviously was missing something. I was ready to see things from a new perspective and I sit here today a little better person and certainly a better producer because of it.
Are you sitting there saying, "I'm stuck! Why aren't there any answers or solutions to my situation?" Well, maybe the answers are actually right in front of you, but you need to let go and be open to seeing them. Yes, you can argue with me that you are trying to see them, and they just aren't there. If you can't see them, you aren't ready for them. But take heart. They are there and you WILL find them. I did.
-In previous blog posts I have noted that while the moving making process is amazing, there are many challenges. One of the challenges is that sometimes a person has to make tough decisions. This is true in all of life. Things get rough. People say things. Obstacles arise. Sometimes we find ourselves as the only one to stand up for this dream. It's in those moments that the true hero inside of us can rise up. It's then that we really learn who we are and why we are here.
When making a movie, sometimes that means welcoming new people on board and sometimes it means moving forward after saying goodbye. People come into our lives for a reason and every single person is a blessing in some way, even those who do not feel it at the time. We need to appreciate that. We also need to appreciate that sometimes very wonderful people need to leave our projects. But at the same time, we need to always keep our dream alive. It depends on us. We are the advocate.
So the real point of what I am thinking about here is that while working on your project you may need to make a tough decision involving real people with real feelings and real value. Be compassionate. Be brave. Your inner-hero will come through for you, so go with your gut, keep moving, and see every experience as one that can make you and your project better. Don't fear making these decisions because your project needs you to be the hero of the story.
Remember three things: you are amazing, your project deserves life, and it's a great ride, but it can get a bit bumpy.
So do you know what/where Truanik is? It might surprise you to know that Traunik, the location and name of the film we are currently making, is an actual place located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It is a very small place, in fact, the Marquette Monthly calls it a "dot on the map, a blip on the radar, a blink in the road." So how did it come to be the center of my very first movie?
I grew up in Michigan and despite hating winter, I overall love the state and all of its natural beauty. As a kid I experienced typically one of two vacation spots--my grandmother's home in Arkansas or Mackinaw Island. I loved both, but Mackinaw and the area to the north was always a great place for me to feel relaxed and have fun with my family. To this day, it is my favorite vacation destination.
When the Michigan economy began struggling in 2002 and onward, I too felt the pinch. So when it came vacation time, I went with my default: northern Michigan. One can spend as much or as little money as one would like when traveling in northern Michigan and still have the most amazing vacation. Its beauty if beyond compare and with little more than a tent and some food, a traveler can see spectacular sunsets and serene surroundings.
Traunik was selected for my story because it is about as small of a town as one can find, but with wonderful people and beauty all around. Also, Traunik can be a bit challenging to reach which adds to the humor of my main characters plight. I don't want to spoil the ending of my movie, but let's say that ultimately, I hope the beauty of Michigan is one of the main stars of the movie! (Oh, and a few of my favorite actors as well!)
For the new and independent film maker, this is a constant and nagging question. How is your financing coming along? During the past year as I have been working with the money people to get my project going, I have in effect learned the wisdom of Thomas Edison who once said, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I've said before in my posts that making a movie (especially for someone new to the field) is about not giving up....ever. While I have not kept count, I can appreciate the statement regarding finding 10,000 ways that won't work.
I know that there are many people who read this blog who have never made a movie, but would like to do so. Therefore, I want to share a bit about the "ways that won't work" or rather, how to find the way that will so that you can be successful:
THIS IS THE LAST OF THREE BLOG POSTS BY GUEST BLOGGER, JOHN GERDS. JOHN IS A SEASONED PROFESSIONAL IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
Life on set, any set, can be very challenging. There are a dozen different factors coming together with the people and the workload. When it comes to the people, there is such as a wide range of experience from newbies to those who have been around forever. Also, there are different temperaments and perspectives represented by these people. The workload speaks for itself. The hours are hard, and just all around the work never seems to end. But for some reason, when I do a comedy it all seems to go away the moment I shout “ACTION!” When we start filming and actors start performing it just turns into a ball of laughs. We try and follow the script, but when an actor really gets into the comedy they tend to go off script a lot which usually makes for a better scene. We have a ton of bloopers (out takes) that are usually funnier then the scene we pick. Traunik has a great feel to it and with the right combination of crew and actors like we have the situation is ripe with opportunities to get carried away and have fun. I already expect lots of bloopers that we can share at the end of the movie. This makes the whole experience amazing and it creates a wonderful sense of community because laughter melts the stress and once it’s gone we’re just having fun.
I have been a storyteller since I could first talk. My father was an avid storyteller and I can remember Saturday afternoons where he and I would sit in the yard and he would tell me stories. Being ablet to have the spark of an idea and then develop it into something much greater that can be shared with others is the most amazing experience.
This has been my driving force my entire life: storytelling. For the early part of my career it came through my role as a journalist and then later as an educator. Even while I was working on my dissertation and my fellow students bemoaned not having a moment to spare, I was sneaking off to learn how to write scripts in every moment I could get free. I actually completed my first script the same week I completed my dissertation. I was so proud that week....and it was at that moment as I first look at both completed documents that I knew I was never going to be a fulltime academic again.
I am so excited to share my characters and stories with all of you as we plan out five movies that will be produced by Three Socks Media, LLC.
fOR THE NEXT THREE BLOG POSTS THREE SOCKS MEDIA, LLC WILL HAVE A GUEST BLOGGER. JOHN IS A SEASONED PROFESSIONAL IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.
No experience. No education. Yes, even the most successful film makers today began from that very spot. But what’s the difference between these amazing people and the ones who had good intentions, but now spend their lives sitting on their butts watching other people’s work? The successful group was willing to listen and learn. So if your inexperienced, but wanting a career in the entertainment industry I have two key pieces of advice: keep your mouth closed and your eyes open. In other words shut up and value the people around you. Watch what the experience team members are doing. Learn from them, and while you’re doing this, if we get stumped and you have an idea that could solve it, that’s a good time to open your mouth and say something. In my projects I always want newbies to know their worth and grow into leadership. Just remember, however, that there are rules and expectations that truly demonstrate your level of professionalism. For example, don’t ever approach people on the set of a movie asking for them to read your script. That is my biggest pet peeve! I don’t mind if you have fun but if you go to a talent or cast member and ask them to read your script you will be fired, NO QUESTIONS ASKED! They are there to do a job for me not be accessible to you or distracted by your script. Completely inexcusable! If you keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, you’ll learn rules like this and in time you’ll become the experienced team member that everyone wants to work with….ignore this wisdom and you’ll be just another nobody sitting in your living room watching the work of others.
FOR THE NEXT THREE BLOG POSTS THREE SOCKS MEDIA, LLC WILL HAVE A GUEST BLOGGER. JOHN IS TA SEASONED PROFESSIONAL IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.
Lynne and I have a passion for the Truanik project and we are riding on the adrenaline of being a part of this. Recently, we had a conversation about how we both got started in the movie industry and it reminded me of how much I love what I do and why. I love to create things and make things out of nothing. Whether the project is a reality show, a comedy, a documentary, T.V. series , feature film or whatever, I love to read the idea and form the vision in my head and get it out on camera. It doesn’t matter if the project is low budget or a high budget, I can make anything out of nothing; success is all depends on how much you want it and how you can work with what you have. This industry definitely has its challenges and I can tell you that I have certainly faced many during my career, but it’s never the challenges that matter. It is getting through them. Getting through them often means relying on your team. When the team is right, the project is right. Nothing else matters. So, for example, even right now as Traunik is wrapping up the paperwork with investors, Lynne and I are grateful to have each other to have leaned on while getting through this phase and I know that our cast and crew will work together to create one killer comedy. This is why I am in the movie business.
What opportunities have knocked on your door this week? Did you say yes or did you keep doing the same thing you do every week while complaining that nothing changes? Is it time for you to start saying YES to things in your life?
I am so thrilled at the people who have said YES to this project. Things are coming together well and moving ahead quickly now. A big thank you to our investors, people who believe in us and are ready to join this vision of a quality movie, an adventurous life, and a wonderful financial return! This is such an exciting project and is going to deliver FANTASTIC RETURNS, so I am thrilled that you have opted to be a part of this adventure with us. This project is a great example of saying yes to an opportunity that appears unexpectedly.
Great financial potential and a small window of opportunity--that's what we presented to investors. Some saw it. Some didn't. So my question to you as readers is what opportunities have you let slip by? What is the vision for your life and what will it take for you to be a part of something amazing? First and foremost, it will take saying YES to a vision, either yours or someone else's. Take a chance this week and say yes to helping someone. Yes to being a part of a project like TRAUNIK. Yes to a life changing experience.
These experiences are all around us. We sit at our desks day after day saying, "I wish things would change" but then we say no to everything presented to us and wonder why we're stuck.
ThreeSocks Media is planning an event here in Michigan. We hope you'll say yes to either making the trek out here or being a part of this online. More information will follow....it's time to say YES!
Lynne M. Smelser is an executive producer and scriptwriter. For more than 20 years she has been an active writer who has won many national awards. She also holds a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University.