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The Cheerful Subversive's Guide to Independent Filmmaking

Book Description

In The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking, celebrated Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish offers a rich exploration of the process and culture of making low-budget, independent films. Once labelled a "cheerful subversive" by The New York Times, Mirvish shares his unfiltered pragmatic approach to scriptwriting, casting, directing, producing, managing a crew, post-production, navigating the film festival circuit, distributing your film, dealing with piracy and building a career. Readers will learn how to game the Hollywood system to their advantage, get their films accepted by respected festivals without going broke, and utilize a broad range of media and tactics to promote and distribute their work. A companion website features behind-the-scenes interviews and footage from Dan’s films, and much more.

    • Learn everything you need to know to make, promote, and distribute your independent films, with time-tested lessons and practical advice on scriptwriting, casting and directing A-list actors, financing, producing, managing a crew, editing in post, creating visual effects on a budget, and successuflly navigating the film festival circuit
    • Find out what it takes to become a true "cheerful subversive" and adopt new and innovative approaches to producing your films, discover hidden loopholes in the Hollywood system and festival scene, take advantage of a broad range of media formats to promote and distribute your indie films, and generally make bold moves in service of your creative work, all while staying flexible enough to pivot at a moment’s notice
    • An extensive companion website features in-depth interviews with filmmakers, more than an hour of behind-the-scenes footage from Dan Mirvish’s films, festival resources, and much more

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Dedication
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Preface
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. Getting Started
    1. Write a Brilliant Script!
      1. Poem: On Strike
    2. Umm, What to Write?
    3. Adapt or Die
      1. You’re No Genius
      2. You’re in Good Company
      3. Playing Around with George Clooney’s Happy Ending
      4. Books are Just Screenplays with Adjectives
      5. Develop Relationship with Original Author
      6. Use Their Experience to Your Benefit
      7. Connect with the Material
      8. Don’t Call it “Opening Up”
        1. Location, Location, Location
        2. Editing; Macro and Micro
        3. Putting the “Move” in “Movies”
      9. Use Your Source Material’s Pedigree
      10. Don’t Apologize for Your Source Material
    4. Try This On For Size: Improvise!
    5. Buying a Script on the Open Market
    6. Choose a Castable Script
    7. Lawyer Up!
    8. Chain of Title Isn’t Just an R&B Song
    9. Mining for Gold: Discovering the Lost Jules Feiffer Script
      1. Namedropper Sidebar: Robert Altman
    10. There’s No Business Like a Show Business Plan
      1. Project Summary
      2. Project History
      3. Key Production Team
      4. Synopsis
      5. Director’s Statement
      6. Casting
      7. Why Support Independent Film?
      8. Product Integration and Branded Sponsorship
      9. Financing Options
      10. Budget Considerations/Options
      11. Distribution Potential
      12. Distribution Scenarios
      13. Contact Info
      14. Disclaimer
    11. Remember, It’s a Visual Medium
      1. Storyboard
      2. Lookbook
      3. Pitch Cinema
      4. Subtitles
      5. Sidebar: Famous Director Kickstarter Campaigns
    12. Takin’ Care of Business
      1. Rin-TIN-TIN
      2. Putting the Love in LLC!
      3. Wonderful Waterfalls
      4. Making Sure You’re Not a Flimmaker
      5. Registering with the State
      6. The New Pizza King of Omaha
      7. EDGAR, EDGAR, Give Me Your Answer Do
      8. Boiler Rooms and Shriners
      9. Casting Your Banker
    13. Hey Buddy, Can You Paradigm?
      1. Poem: Crowdfund this
    14. Staffing Up
      1. Producing a Producer
      2. Interns and a Clean Garage
      3. Terrorist Filmmaking
      4. The One-Armed Executioner
  10. Shooting the Movie
    1. Casting Your Movie With A-List Actors
      1. Assemble a Team
      2. Aim High
      3. Go to New York
      4. Be Bi-Coastally Curious
      5. Don’t Have a List!
      6. Develop Relationships with Agents Yourself
      7. Play the Agency Game
      8. Bait and Switch
      9. Set a Start Date
      10. Make it Real
      11. Magnetic Balls of Iron
      12. Take Advantage of Others’ Misfortune
    2. Oh, and What if You Don’t Have Famous Actors?
      1. Poem: Call Backs
    3. Directing Famous Actors in a Microbudget Film
      1. Cast Well
      2. Rehearse
      3. Namedropper Sidebar: Harold Ramis
      4. Use Rehearsal Wisely
      5. Overlapping Dialogue
      6. Sidebar: The Sound of Music
      7. What’s My Motivation?
      8. Trust Your Scripty
      9. Encourage “Chemistry” Among Your Cast
      10. Behave Like a Big Budget Production
      11. Block Scenes On Set
      12. Use Multiple Takes as Your Coverage
      13. Have Faith in Editing
      14. Say Something to the Actors
      15. Methods to their Madness
    4. Lights, Camera, Cinematographer!
      1. Good vs. Nice
      2. Namedropper Sidebar: Rian Johnson
      3. They’re Like Actors with Cameras
      4. It’s Who They Know
    5. Putting the “DP” in iDentity Politics
      1. Are They Still Called Films if They’re Digital?
      2. Film’s Zombie Resurgence
      3. Namedropper Sidebar: Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
      4. Deconstructing the Cult of Galileo
      5. Frankenlens and Mir(vishScopes)
      6. Walt Disney’s Secret Optics Bunker
    6. Time to Shoot!
      1. Does it Take a Video Village to Raise a Film?
      2. Bump Up the Credits
      3. Finding a Crew with Donut Group Therapy
      4. Dress the Part
      5. Group Hug, Safety and Prayer to the Film Gods
      6. Your First-Day Disasters
      7. Hello, My Name is Josh
      8. Find the Goat
      9. Ready, Aim, Fire!
      10. Be Prepared
      11. Namedropper Sidebar: Alexander Payne
      12. Two Takes Ahead
      13. Arrive Early, Bring Donuts, Wear Tape
      14. Making Your 12-Hour Day
      15. Feeding the Beast
      16. Making an Epic EPK
      17. Namedropper Sidebar: John Carpenter
      18. Devious Use of the EPKorner
      19. Still the One
      20. Getting Your Kill Shots
      21. Point and Shoot
      22. To Infinity and Behind-the-Scenes
    7. Making Product Placement Work for You
      1. Cash and Carry
      2. Break Down, Go Ahead and Give it To Me
      3. A Clear and Present Necessity
      4. Selling Out, Even if You Don’t Get Paid for It
      5. Killing Two Birds with One Stone
      6. Poem: The Locavore Filmmaker
    8. Livin’ La Vida Locavore
      1. Keep Your Homebase at Home
      2. Cast Locally (sort of)
      3. Find Locations Close to Home
      4. Drag Your Actors Out of Bed
      5. No, Seriously, Keep it Really Close to Home
      6. If You Travel, Hire Locally
      7. Editing, One Pant Leg at a Time
      8. Screw the Environment, Do It for Yourself
      9. Poem: Hack Attack
  11. Finishing with Abandon
    1. Editing Like an ACE
      1. Editors Are Like Bass Players
      2. Finding Fresh Eyes
      3. Cut Yourself
      4. Poem: The Artisanal Filmmaker
      5. Start Strong; Stick Your Landing
      6. Don’t Let Your Post Supervisor Escape to Madagascar
      7. Teasing Out Your Assistants
      8. Namedropper Sidebar: Jon Bokenkamp
      9. Getting a Little Testy
    2. It’s Not Easy Being Green Screened
    3. Sound and Fury
      1. The Breakfast (Nook) Club
      2. Temp Decomposing
      3. Song Sung Blue
  12. Festing in Style
    1. Toronto, Toschmonto: Time for a Festival Plan “B”
      1. It’s Just as Well. Your Film Wasn’t Finished!
      2. It’s All About Sundance Anyway!
      3. To Get Distribution!
      4. Sidebar: Producer’s Reps vs. Foreign Sales Agents
      5. Don’t Buy Into the Premiere Arms Race
    2. Play Them Off Against Each Other
      1. Volume, Volume, Volume
      2. Get Reviews
      3. Meet Your Audience
      4. See the World!
      5. They’re “Romantic”
      6. Meet New Money
      7. Get DVD Extras
      8. Meet Other Filmmakers
    3. How to Avoid Going Broke Applying to Film Festivals
      1. Poem: Putting the Festiv Back into Festival
      2. Be Selective
      3. Make a Personal Connection to the Festival Programmer
      4. Offer Your Premiere Status
      5. Offer Up Talent
      6. Ask for a Waiver
      7. Don’t Ask for a Waiver
      8. Aim Foreign
      9. Mail Smart
      10. Submit Vimeo Links
      11. Hand-Deliver Your DVD
      12. Meet Festival Directors at Other Festivals
      13. Bribes and Blackmail
      14. Sidebar: Top 23 Sundance/Slamdance Rejection Rationalizations
      15. Poem: We are Slamdance
    4. How to Start Your Own Film Festival: The Birth of Slamdance
      1. Sundance or Bust
      2. Anarchy in Utah
      3. Prospecting for Screening Rooms
      4. Time for IndieWood
      5. Namedropper Sidebar: Steven Soderbergh
      6. Our Napoleon Complex
      7. Namedropper Sidebar: Marc Forster
      8. Billions and Billions
      9. Poem: Slamdance at 15
  13. Distributing and Beyond
    1. Top Sexy Things You Get to Do When You Think Your Film is Finished
      1. Deliverables
      2. E&O Insurance
      3. Repair Relationships
      4. Promote Your Friggin’ Movie
      5. DVD Extras
      6. Crowdfunding Perks
      7. Taxes
      8. Accounting
      9. K-1s
      10. Write Checks
      11. Residuals
      12. Archiving
      13. Escaping Your Distributor
      14. Dissolving Your Entity
      15. Rinse, Repeat
      16. Poem: Don’t Get Distribution
    2. Aarghh! How to Beat Film Pirates at their Own Game
      1. The Whack-a-Mole Takedowns!
      2. Make Money From the Pirates
      3. The Fakeout!
      4. Using the Pirates to Screw Your Distributor!
      5. Embracing the Pirates!
      6. Slut-Shaming the Advertisers
      7. Make Piracy an Essential Element of your Release Strategy
      8. Use the Pirates to Pimp Your Merch
      9. Use Piracy to Charge for Product Placement
    3. What Operas and Sharknado Can Teach Indie Films
      1. Poem: Analytic Black Hole
    4. When In Doubt, Create Your Own Oscar
      1. Go Team America!
      2. Big in Germany
      3. A Tree in the Forest
      4. Race to the Academy!
      5. We Wuz Robbed
      6. Poem: Transmedia Verse
    5. How to Make Money From an Oscar Nomination
      1. The Accountant
    6. Top Ways to Become a TV Director and Take a Meeting
      1. Recut Your Reel
      2. Redo Website
      3. Update Your IMDb and Wikipedia Pages
      4. Make a List
      5. With Whom to Meet
      6. How to Get the Meetings
      7. Namedropper Sidebar: Joe and Anthony Russo
      8. Research Their Shows
      9. Research the People
      10. Go Early
      11. The Pre-Meeting Meeting
      12. Check for Breaking News
      13. Do You Take the Water?
      14. Choose Wisely Where to Sit
      15. Wear or Do Something Memorable
      16. Tell Funny Stories About Yourself
      17. Namedropper Sidebar: Lynn Shelton
      18. Ask Them Personal Questions
      19. Get Something Out of Each Meeting
      20. The Parking Garage Meeting After the Meeting
      21. Sidebar: The Eight Stages of Success for an Indie Filmmaker
  14. Epilogue
  15. Index