5 Mistakes I Made in Post with My First Film.

The hardest lesson I learned with my first film, Donovan Quixote, was not to put it out there too soon. I put it out there too soon. Big mistake. This was a result of me approaching my first feature like a series of sprints, instead of a marathon.

Post

I’m not gonna lie, I approached the launch of my film the same way I approached the production. I put some pin’s on the calendar for post deadlines and assumed I’d make those deadlines. I didn’t make those deadlines.

1. The first issue was a series of miscommunications with my editor. Of course I wanted to make the deadline to send a draft to Sundance. I knew I’d probably not get in, but, you’re supposed to, right? So my editor and I broke up. (Not over Sundance, but I need to acknowledge I did participate in the dysfunction.) This break up was not something I had scheduled for. So I started out ‘behind.’

2. My second issue was this foolish notion that anyone wanted to see a draft of anything I had done. A draft should give someone an expectation of what you have to show in your film. Naievely, I thought that meant story, production value and potential. WRONG. That means actors of note, (Not A List, but note worthy actors) high concept elements (Fight scenes, CG effects, scenes shot at the white house or other locations of note) or …. nope, that’s it. You should only be showing drafts during test screenings and to your production staff.

3. My third issue was not realizing there is a go/no go moment before you pull the trigger to release. You can drive your way through production, but before you release your film, there should be a law about a 30 to 60 day cooling off period. Especially for first timers. I was ready for my film to be done about 4 months after we finished shooting. Two years later, I’m still finding problems with it. I hear this is not just common, but typical. You’ve worked so hard to tell this story and you want to get it out to the world as soon as possible. Don’t. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Distribution & Marketing

I had a marketing and a distribution plan. It was all on a tight schedule, just like my production, that came off just fine. Only problem is, I didn’t make those post deadlines. I didn’t make those deadlines AFTER I had submitted to a bunch of film festivals.

I’ve already said, I needed a go/no go moment when post production was done. I didn’t have that. It’s moments like this when adult supervision is a beautiful thing. I thought I was experienced enough from doing short films, that I’d be able to manage the process at a larger scale. In this way, shorts and features are very different.

4. The fourth issue was Marketing & Fundraising. The reason I did all that work ahead of time, is that I knew that I’d have to move directly from “Post” mode, into “Marketing” mode. But since “Post” took me an extra 6 months… that put me way behind on Marketing.

Essentially, I sent an incomplete draft of the film to about 10 film festivals. At approximately $60-$100 per submission, this wasn’t just foolish, it was a pretty costly mistake.

One festival saw a glimmer of hope in my submitted draft, and even gave me a call – something film festivals never do. Essentially, the festival rep said he loved my film. Really dug it. But, he wanted to know if it was complete. I said yes, and immediately uploaded the latest (note, “Latest”) version for him to see. He called me back. Said it looked better, but still had issues. Said another way around this was if I had a marketing plan to get people in the seats. I talked about my marketing plan (which I had hoped to kick off months earlier) and he said he’d checked the films Facebook page and noticed… there was only a few fans and little activity. He concluded that at the end of the day, film festivals are businesses, and if they book a screen for a 90 minute film, they need to ensure tickets get sold. I was let down, but, I understood. I was in too deep, behind too far, and I didn’t have a bunch of money to throw at the problem.

Life

A week before Donovan Quixote was supposed to screen at the premiering film festival, my sister died. That sucked. The next day, the film festival called and said there were technical issues with the Bluray and DVD I submitted. I called everyone, told them there’d be no screening, and buried my sister. Filmmaking is not the most important thing in the world. If you spend all your time doing this stuff, at the expense of family, friends, and happiness, you can find yourself in a bad way. I did.

5. I wasn’t really fluent in the post production workflow. Figuring out the timeline? Let me help you. I went on to work on sound, color correction and some VFX for the next six months. My plan? My schedule? I had planned to have been done, to be touring around with the film. To be doing the social media, emailing the blogs and the podcasts, you know, trying to get the word out there. When the film finally was done, I stepped away from it for four months.

At that point, I didn’t like the project any more. The shots, the story and the final cut were fine. I didn’t like it like someone I was mad at. It didn’t cost much in the greater scheme of things, but it took a lot more than I had to give. This film had messed with me and I felt like it was personal.

Soooo….

Big picture, I’ve reconciled this as part of the process. I’ve got back on the horse, burned DVD’s and put the film out into the world. I’ve started marketing the project, organizing screenings and getting it out into the world, because that too, is part of the filmmaking process. And I’m working on my blog again. There were never thoughts of suicide or murder, but this took me to a dark place. And I’ve lived to tell the tale. And I’m developing the next one. LOL

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