Why Filmmakers Should Listen To Indie Film Academy

Indie Film Academy Podcast

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jason Buff who’s the founder of the Indie Film Academy. IFA is a podcast that’s dedicated to indie filmmakers and learning about and supporting their filmmaking journeys.

1. What’s the story behind how Indie Film Academy came to be?

Over the years, I have put together a number of independent film productions that have all fallen apart in one way or another. I even had a film that was fully funded and set to start filming in 2013 that fell apart just before we started pre-production. So, I put together the Indie Film Academy as a way of not only educating myself about all the things that were getting in the way of making these features, but also to share the information with other filmmakers. I have always loved teaching, so for me it is a perfect mix.

2. How do you decide on the guests you want to interview, and how do you get them on your show?

We focus on 4 main topics. Screenwriting, Funding, Shooting, and Selling. I try to focus on guests who are, in addition to being film industry professionals, also enjoy teaching. Finding people to interview is relatively easy. Sometime I interview the author of a filmmaking book I have enjoyed. Other times I will see an interview on a filmmaking site or a video on YouTube and try and get in touch. My latest guest, Kevin Shahinian, did a presentation at CineSummit that blew me away. So I just sent him an email and he said no problem. The funny thing is, the people who are very successful are usually pretty laid back and down to earth.

3. Why should filmmakers listen to your show, and how can the content benefit their teams and projects?

Each of our guests has something new and interesting to teach about filmmaking. Most of the interviews are about topics that I find interesting as a filmmaker, so I can only assume other filmmakers will find them interesting as well. For example, one of the key things I didn’t understand during my earlier projects was the business side of filmmaking. In many ways, understanding the film “business” is much more important than being a brilliant filmmaker. We are entering a new era of filmmaking where filmmakers really need to understand marketing and how to promote themselves online. It’s fine to make a movie that only 3 people want to see, but it’s going to be very hard to get investors. And even if you do get investors and make your film…chances are nobody’s going to see it. There are just too many options.

On the other hand, the online film market is flooded with horrible movies with cool looking packaging. Just click through the horror section of Netflix and you’ll see a lot of great artwork for horrible films. So we have these two opposite poles and I try to show how you can make the two meet in the middle. A film that makes people want to see it, but also a good film. Jaws is the perfect example of this. If you see the poster, you want to see it. But, it just so happens, the film is also amazing. These days, you see a lot of posters for movies that look amazing, but once they start your realize that someone has tricked you. So I beg filmmakers to start with an idea that people will want to see in the first place, and then make that an amazing film. Sorry, got off track. I just email people I want to talk with and some say yes, others say no.

4. What have you learned personally since the show made its debut?

I have learned so much it would be hard to just name one thing. I love simple tricks more than anything. Or hacks I guess I should say. One of the key issues I try to address on the site is how filmmakers can reduce their risk when it comes time to selling their films. I’m a big proponent of first-time filmmakers going to Sales Agents before they ever start their project to see what they think about it’s chances to sell. That was my primary concern as a filmmaker. But it’s also been illuminating to see exactly how few films make their money back.

Let me focus on one key thing I have learned from each of our four topics.

Screenwriting: Your first draft will always suck, great screenplays come from lots of rewriting.

Funding: There are a lot of rich people out there who would love to be part of a film.

Shooting: It’s important that your film looks expensive even if it isn’t. Avoid handheld and study the masters use of camera movement. Bad acting will kill a movie.

Selling: Horror always sells, try to get at least one known actor, create amazing artwork, start building your audience before you start filming so they’re waiting when it’s done.

5. What does the future hold for your show, and how do you see it evolving over time?

My hope is that the Indie Film Academy eventually lives up to it’s name and becomes an online school. I would love to create a program that guides filmmakers through the process of making their film. For example, the funding part of the program couldn’t start until the screenwriting part was done. Maybe the screenplay would need to pass through a certain criteria. Then students would gain access to the funding portion. I think it would cut down on a lot of the bad films that are made every year. I just wish filmmakers would slow down and wait until their screenplays were really ready before making their first films. I have seen many films that are halfway through filming before they realize the screenplay just isn’t holding up.

6. Where can we tune into, and subscribe to your show?

You can go to our website IndieFilmAcademy.com, on iTunes at IndieFilmPodcast.com, or on Stitcher at ifastitcher.com

7. Do you have any tips or advice for filmmakers just starting out in the industry?

Ok, I’m going to try and blurt out everything they need to know in one bite…it won’t be easy. Obviously, first things first, subscribe to the podcast and get our newsletter. Ok, here we go. Write and rewrite your screenplay and then rewrite it 5 more times. Get 3 people who will be honest and know screenwriting to give you harsh feedback. Talk to sales agents and other people in distribution to find out how much your film can man. Get at least one known good actor on your cast to: 1. Help get funding 2. Help teach the other actors on set. 3. Help sell your film. Shoot the film in a single location. Hire crew that knows much more than you do. Make sure to do all of the legal things like contracts and releases. Learn how to promote yourself on social media and get a following. Create a free mailing list to contact your fans. Try to get reviews at a few film festivals. Get other filmmakers on your side by offering behind the scenes information….Ok….that’s all I can think of for the moment…I need to breath.

8. Any parting shots?

There is no better teacher than failure. So the more you fail, the better you will be. There are no excuses, get out and start making short films even if they’re only a few minutes long.

We thank Jason for sharing his story, and highly recommend listening and subscribing to Indie Film Academy.

Our 5 Favorite Viral Videos From January 2015

With each passing month, online videos are getting more creative and fun to watch, which bodes well for our Spidvid members on our video production freelancing and collaboration site. Below are 5 remarkable viral videos from January, 2015. There are likely dozens of others just as deserving as these, so if you have a favorite then I invite you to include the link in the comments below for us all to watch and see what we think.

Doritos Bath Tub

1. Dover Police DashCam Confessional (Shake it Off) – Master Corporal Jeff Davis of the Dover Police Department lip syncs Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” while driving around in his cruiser. This video has almost 30 million views since January 26th!

2. “Slap her”: children’s reactions – What happens when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her? Here is how children reacted to the subject of violence against women. This video has been viewed over 25 million times since January 4th!

3. A Cheesy Love Story: The Ad Doritos Don’t Want You to See – You won’t love this product if you knew what it was made from. This is a campaign to get people to tell Doritos to adopt a responsible palm oil policy, and save our rainforests from extinction. This video has been viewed millions of times between YouTube and GreenPeace UK’s Facebook page.

4. Transform your world with holograms – For the first time ever, Microsoft HoloLens seamlessly blends HD holograms with the real world. Holograms will improve the way people do things every day, and enable us all to do things we’ve never done before. This video has almost 13 million views since January 21st!

5. Venus Williams and The Best Ball Boys in the World – With some of the world’s best female tennis players going to New Zealand, the world’s best ball boys (dogs) were integral to this match. This video has over 3 million views since January 6th.

Shameless plug: Create highly entertaining videos like the ones above by connecting with and hiring our talented members to collaborate with. Be sure to get a Spidvid profile and post your project for free or find a project to bid and work on, and if you need any help at all just ask us!

What Format Should You Use For Your Video Project?

This article was written by the team behind One Inch Punch Pro, a Toronto based video production company with experience creating corporate videos, music videos, short films, reality television and more. We are pleased to publish this exclusive article here, and thank them for sharing this useful information for people in video production to learn and benefit from.

film reel

At one time making movies was simple because there weren’t a lot of format choices beyond 8mm and Super 8. No longer are we in the age of one format fits all. There are now many video formats to choose from (.wmv, .asf, .mov, .mpeg). Despite confusion that might arise from so many formats, a major advantage to videographers is that now quality footage is possible even from pocket devices. The following information examines video format, video production, and other factors that affect a video presentation.

Factors for Deciding a Video Format, Video Production

  • intended audience
  • whether or not the video will be seen online
  • internet connection speed
  • type of available video playback
  • online video trends
  • whether or not the video is embedded in an application

Once you know what you would like to do with your video, you’ll need to pick an appropriate format. Here are some of the more common file formats and what they offer.

Containers vs. Codecs

One of the first things you need to be clear about when it comes to digital video formats is the difference between containers and codecs. The container is the file. The codec is what determines how the content of the file is displayed, which may include compression. Codecs also encode the video and turn it into a stream of bytes. A video’s file extension relates to the container. One of the confusing things about containers and codecs is that they go in and out of style in the tech world.

Before deciding on a video format, video production and how it will be delivered should be considerations that point to a certain codec. The MP4 container with an H.264 codec is widely supported by sites that allow the public to upload videos. If your video is meant to be viewed on a mobile device then choose a codec that works with the OS.

Video Compression

The advantage to compressing video is that more video can take up less storage space. Some video data gets lost when a video file is compressed. Video compression software is based on displaying redundancies within a frame. A lot of the compression work can be done with DVD burning software. Usually when saving video in a software program you will be given the option to save the video in a certain quality. The higher quality will always be the most uncompressed. It is necessary to compress files in order to share them, especially online. When deciding on video format, video production and video presentation, remember that compression will have a big affect on appearance.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the dimension of the image, which is commonly 16:9, meaning a width of 16 and a height of 9. This dimension has been the universal standard for video and computer screens since 2009. Super 16 mm film has a similar aspect ratio. Other aspect ratios are used but are not as common as 16:9.

Audio Video Interleave (.avi) Container

AVI files were developed by Microsoft, originally for Windows 3.1 back in the 1990s. In recent years Windows users have switched to Windows Media Video. One of the disadvantages of the AVI format is that it does not allow for specification of the aspect ratio.

Advanced Systems Format (.asf) Container

ASF is a proprietary container developed by Microsoft that usually ends with the extension .wmv. It can be used for integrating Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Advanced Video Coding, High Compression (AVCHD) Container

AVCHD is a popular container used with digital camcorders. It is a joint effort by Sony and Panasonic. The file format is meant for storage as well as playback. The format supports standard definition, high definition and 3D.

Flash Video (.flv, .swf) Container

Flash video is delivered across the Internet through the Adobe Flash Player, which is what displays YouTube videos. Newer Flash videos use the H.264 codec. One major drawback with Flash is that it is not supported by iOS devices. Steve Jobs believed in looking pass the streaming problems of Flash and rely on better HTML 5 development to resolve streaming issues. Flash is otherwise a very popular container for streaming online videos.

QuickTime (.mov, .qt) Container

QuickTime is the proprietary video software playback system developed by Apple. It supports a wide scope of codecs as determined by Apple. It’s a popular video player that comes with Mac OS systems. Higher quality features can be accessed through a license with Apple. The iMac desktop comes loaded with iMovie, which is a basic version of Final Cut Pro, issuing .MOV and .MP4 containers.

Windows Media Video (.wmv) Codec

The WMV format supports high definition 720 and 1080 video. The way the format conserves space is that it only downloads a part of the video at a time. This feature has eliminated the need to wait for a video to completely download to watch it. There is often confusion between Windows and Mac software and what nuances are involved to make the software work properly.

H.264 Codec

This codec is used to compress a lot of video on the web. It can be used at very low and very high bit rates. It is commonly used with camcorders with the AVCHD container. Other common codecs include MPEG 1, 2 and 4, HDTV and DVD.

Format Conversion

Video can be converted from one format to another by using a tool such as a Kigo format converter, which works for both Mac and Windows devices. When converting a video format, video production degradation may occur. It’s a good idea to preserve the originals in a DVD format.

Whatever format and technology you use for your video projects, make sure that they will empower you and your team to achieve the project’s core production goals.

A Discussion About “The Accidental President” Series

The Accidental President - Web Series

I recently had the opportunity to interview the fine folks behind the web series “The Accidental President.” About The Accidental President: Just before she loses her battle with cancer, Senator Pricsilla Adams Logan convinces Tennessee Governor Michael Malloy, to appoint her younger sister to fill her Senate Seat. Reluctantly, Abigail Adams, a single, non-political, ER doctor, flies to Washington to be sworn in. During lunch with the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, the newly appointed Senator is asked to resign as soon as her vote is cast in an upcoming vote and she readily agrees, looking forward to going home and resuming her duties at the hospital. But before she can resign, the President is tragically killed while skiing in Colorado and within minutes, the U.S. Government is thrown into a chaotic whirlwind of unlikely events.

You can watch the amazing trailer below, and read what Team Accidental President had to say in our interesting Q and A.

The Accidental President Trailer from Left Brain TV on Vimeo.

1. What’s the story behind your team wanting to develop “The Accidental President” into a web series?

I read The Accidental President Trilogy about 2 years ago. I was intrigued by the main character and thought with a little tweaking, it would make a really interesting series. It took almost a full year to adapt the source material. Dixie Swasnson, the author, really gave me a free hand to mold the story into a series. We did a lot of laughing and arguing over the course of that year, but the end result is something I think we’re both extremely happy with. The main character, Abby Adams is strong and smart and a definitely not political – she is perfect for the White House!

2. Who is involved with the project?

Like all our projects, Ed Lamberg, Raquel Thomas, Tom Heydweiller, Stacy Lockhart and Mike Psanos led our production departments. Our crew is the same on each of our projects, but we did add a few pieces for The Accidental President. Mike Psanos handled all our audio recording, but for 2 months before we started shooting, he spearheaded our set construction and assembled an exact replica of The Oval Office. It was an incredible set to shoot on – right down to the Resolute Desk, which we got from a Presidential Library.

3. With proven web series successes with “Johnny Dynamo” and “Mr.Frost” were those experiences integral to leverage to start this new series?

Integral and leverage? Big words and I’m no brainiac you understand, but I think working on Johnny Dynamo and Mr. Frost gave us a really good foundation to build on with TAP. We knew all the pitfalls and trouble spots before the cameras rolled and every member of our team stepped up their game. We were fortunate to have Eric Roberts, Terry Kiser and Tiny Lister as part of this project and they came in and worked really well with our crew. It was a total team effort all the way!

4. What are the core goals for the series?

Well, I go into each one of these with tempered expectations. The initial goal is always the same – build an audience. If we can get over that first hurdle, the goal becomes ‘more’ and ‘better’. It is a great feeling when you go to the web and see 5000 or 8000 views in a day and we’ve been blessed with a very loyal audience. They’ve really latched on to each of our shows and the audience continues to grow on a daily basis.

5. What have been the biggest project challenges and struggles to date?

We shoot in Nashville and honestly, one of the biggest challenges has been casting. There are hundreds of really talented actors in Nashville – but, a good number of them have southern accents – makes it just a wee bit difficult to cast an entire Government with only southern accents.

6. What are your thoughts on the politically charged “The Interview” which was pulled from theaters by Sony? And was this just a PR move?

Curveball. I wasn’t expecting this question, but I’ve never been accused at being at a loss for words, so here goes:

I think Sony was forced into a no win situation by theater owners and politics. And I think the effect of what’s happened is going to change the way a lot of movies are marketed moving forward. I haven’t seen the film, but from everything I’ve read, it’s not going to be an Oscar contender. I believe Sony is going to make more on this movie now than they would have if the hacking situation had not reared it’s head. PR stunt? I don’t really think it was. That would mean Sony would have to have planned the whole thing – but I do think they found a way to capitalize on it. I give it 3 months before somebody comes out with a web series about North Korea just to try and make a quick buck by poking the bear.

7. What are some good tips for building an audience before a series is released, and after?

Good tips? I don’t know if they’re good but I can give you 3:

a) You have to know who you’re audience is and where they are. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are just going to ‘find’ you on the web. There are too many good series out there and the competition for eyeballs is getting pretty intense.

b) Social media is important, but it’s not the only thing. Reviews are difficult to get but supremely important to getting people interested.

c) Other people! Other people talking about your series is going to help you build an audience.

8. Where can we watch and subscribe to this series?

The Accidental President can be seen for free at LeftBrainTV.

9. Are more digital shows now in development?

As a matter of fact, yes. We are now in development on a new show, ‘Justiss’. A definite departure for us. A courtroom drama that has quite a unique twist to it. As we get closer to shooting, I’ll fill you’s in on the story line.

10. Any parting shots?

Always! I appreciate you giving us the space to talk about our projects and I did want to reach out and thank everyone who has watched our shows and for all the emails and kind words. It’s great to put something out there and grow an audience, but it’s a whole other thing when fellow creators and production people take notice. We’ve learned a lot from all of you and hopefully, we can help make the path smoother for some of you just starting out. The web series community is a huge, small group and we’re happy and proud to be one of you!

We thank the TAP team for their time and insightful answers for web series creators to learn from! We also wish them and their team all the best with The Accidental President, Mr. Frost, their other amazing series, and their upcoming feature film too going forward.

Enjoy this interview?! Great! Then subscribe to our blog via email as we will be doing more of these fun interviews in the future with other amazingly talented video creators, filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, animators and producers from our members on Spidvid.

And if you are a web series, TV, short film or feature film creator or producer and want your story and content featured here, then reach out to us and lets discuss.

Tweet: A Discussion About “The Accidental President” Series http://ctt.ec/43Zfe+ with LeftBrainTV #WebSeries #Interview

These Classes Will Help You To Master Video Production

CreatorUp 2015 Live Classes in Los Angeles

In order to create remarkable videos you need to know exactly what you’re doing. You have to educate yourself on what is working in today’s digital video world, and what isn’t getting traction. CreatorUp is producing some amazing classes and courses for video creators to learn from, to meet potential partners, and to take their content offering to the next level.

CreatorUp have brought some incredibly talented, experienced, and accomplished teachers on board to instruct five 4-week classes that include: Crowdfunding, Story, Creating Branded Content, Web Series, and Filmmaking 101. Students can take in these courses live in Los Angeles, or live through virtual classes that are offered too. This journey for the teachers and students begins on February 2nd.

Click the banner image above, or click on this link to check out the courses, teachers, and content to see if the potentially life changing experience can add significant value with your efforts in fundraising for your projects, developing your stories, understanding how to profitably integrate brands into your content, how to tackle the fast emerging web series space, and succeeding in the filmmaking world!

Video creators are producing higher and higher quality content as the digital world presses on. If you want to compete against them for production value and viewer attention you have to learn what it really takes to get those results. So certainly check out the classes page RIGHT NOW to see how you and your videos can directly benefit in a short period of time. The cost is minimal and you can pick up new ideas, actions to take, and practical information in no time flat. You can also buy a Season Pass which will cost effectively grant you access to all the new empowering classes!

Bonus: Discounts are very limited to just the first few people who use the promo code SPIDVID at checkout to get $50 off! Get this deal now, go to the CreatorUp classes page and take advantage of this offer before it’s too late!

Tweet: These Classes By @creatorup Will Help You To Master #VideoProduction http://ctt.ec/l7979+

Additional resources:

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How to Crack the Kickstarter Code

Click on the banner image below to subscribe to CreatorUp and watch courses that are guaranteed to make you a much better video creator!