Participate in the making of a sci-fi movie – The Circuit

Want to be in or work on a science fiction film?

Are you a filmmaker, screenwriter, or fan trying to break into the film business, but you don’t have connections or you don’t live in Los Angeles?

Do you think would be almost impossible to get a chance to work on a science fiction film featuring actors from Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager, Stargate: Atlantis, Game of Thrones, The Black List, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Justice League, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape, 5th Passenger, Total Recall, the Hobbit films, Hellboy, Dr. Who, Teen Wolf, and others?

Artwork for The Circuit movie

Manu Intiraymi (Icheb in Star Trek: Voyager,  Billy in One Tree Hill)  is the executive producer, a writer and a director on The Circuit – a ten-part science fiction anthology series.

The anthology will highlight 10 original science fiction stories, with 10 sub-genres and one location. It will bring together several names in film and television joining some of the most noted production, design and visual effects professionals in the entertainment industry.

Olivia D'abo

But what makes this project so special and groundbreaking is this: the producers are encouraging you – the fans, the writers, the actors, the visual FX artists – to participate in the making of it.

And not just participate – some could work side by side with the professionals on the film.

Do you do special effects? Make a video showing what you can do.

Are you a screenwriter? They are looking for screenplays and stories to include in the anthology.

To find out more, you can go to The Circuit website. You can also join The Circuit Fan Group on Facebook.

Another way to participate in The Circuit is to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. The rewards for this project include getting your name in the movie, autographed cast pictures, being an extra in the film, attending the premiere, play a scripted character in the movie, and more!

The Kickstarter campaign continues until May 23, 2017.

You can submit for any job on the crew or submit to come and intern behind some of the top professionals by submitting your material at the website, to manuintiraymi@thecircuitfilm.com or through the Kickstarter page.

Astronaut in The Circuit

As always

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Back to our future

Getting back to our roots

This show is for you, the filmmakers and screenwriters creating science fiction. I have to confess, lately, I’ve gotten away from the science fiction focus of the show.

There are a lot of great podcasts for independent filmmakers. This show is a little different. Science fiction films are special and so are the people who make them.

The science fiction community is a passionate community. For example, here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, there is a special sci-fi event almost every weekend. I know local cosplayers, artists, and exhibitors who seem to spend every weekend at these events.

Batgirls

Why should they get to have all the fun? My promise is to refocus the show back to you – the science fiction filmmakers.

I do this show because I want to help you make better science fiction films and more of them.

Independent filmmaking is exploding. There is a great deal of competition out there and getting noticed is challenging.

When we make a science fiction film, we have an advantage over other filmmakers: lots of science fiction fans looking for new sci-fi movies.

Making science fiction films means we can tell stories you just can’t do in other genres. For us, the sky really is the limit. Or maybe we should say we have no limits at all.

These are exciting times for independent filmmakers and even more exciting for sci-fi filmmakers.

Let’s go out there and tell our stories!

Recommended filmmaking podcasts

There are some other great shows for filmmakers out there. They cover the filmmaking process, funding, filmmaking tools, finding actors, scheduling, distribution, and other topics useful for all filmmakers.

Meanwhile, this show is going to stay focused on topics specific to science fiction filmmakers.

I recommend the following shows because the topics they cover are useful for all of us.

Check out all of these podcasts and subscribe to the ones that you find most useful.

If you come across other filmmaking podcasts you find useful, let me know and I’ll share it with everyone.

Update on our movie

Progress on our movie, Planet Burlesque, has been a little slow lately. Like a lot of you, I’ve been very busy.

I rearranged my schedule so I have more time to work on the movie.

What we’re looking for right now is another producer. We are also looking for a good shooting location.

We’re making this movie on the internet. You can follow along on this show as we make it. With our live videos on Facebook, you’ll be able to watch us shoot it as it happens.

Stay tuned for more!

As always

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Is film distribution dead?

Distribution for independent filmmakers

I really wanted to call this week’s show “Distribution is dead” – because I suspected it had died – at least for independent filmmakers.

Crow

The stories I’ve been hearing about payouts from streaming services were alarming but incomplete.

It is difficult to figure out how much money you can realistically expect to make with your independent film. There are a lot of platforms and the payout structure can be confusing.

What I’m going to do is give you a glimpse of the distribution picture and a strategy for monetizing your film you may not have considered.

The distribution picture: a work in progress

If you self-distribute, you can upload your short or feature to Amazon for their Video Direct program.

If you make your project available for purchase or rental, you receive 50 percent of net revenue.

I see movies you can rent for 99 cents, while others might cost $5.99 to rent in HD for 30 days (Dr. Strange) or buy for $19.99. Most indie projects are on the lower end of the scale. They are also much more difficult to find on Amazon Video.

For filmmakers in the United States, if you decide to make your video free with Amazon Prime, you will receive 15 cents per hour viewed. If your movie is 90 minutes, you receive 22.5 cents per view.

It would take a LOT of views to recoup the cost of a $10,000 micro-budget movie that way. It would have to be viewed 44,444 times. That may not be realistic for most low budget movies.

My advice would be to offer your film on the rental and purchase program to start. If it costs two bucks to rent, you “only” need 5,000 views to get to $10,000. Once the movie stalls on the rental and purchase option, switch to the free-with-Prime option to milk it for some more pennies.

I don’t have good data on how many views you can expect on Amazon Video, but I’d be willing to bet many will struggle to get 1,000 views.

You’ll face a lot of challenges getting noticed on the platform with so many titles competing for attention. I do feel you’ll be better off in the science fiction genre with this program since there is less competition.

There are other options on Amazon Video such as Free with Ads and Subscriptions. I don’t have much information about those options yet.

Be aware there are technical hurdles you face on Amazon Video. They have some picky quality standards that can prove challenging. You also have to provide a closed caption file with your video – it isn’t super simple.

Harley Quinn with gun

5 Lessons Learned from my Profitable Indie Documentary—2017 Update (article on medium.com)

Three years ago, filmmaker Griffin Howard released a 33-minute documentary called Sriracha.

“The goal in producing the film wasn’t to make money, but after spending $12,728 on production three years ago, the film has generated $136,813 in revenue, from 720,848 views.”

  • The project got over 230,000 views (10 cents per view) on Amazon Video from Prime members for a $23,000 profit. The Amazon Video on Demand contributed only $1,600 profit, so my strategy from before may be flawed.
  • Hulu recorded 292,000 views (7.5 cents per view) for over $15,000 profit.
  • Vimeo on Demand got over 43,000 views and over $23,000 profit.
  • This project also made money on YouTube, iTunes, DVD sales, public performance rights, licensing film clips, and other sources. Amazon, Hulu, and Vimeo were the big money makers for this film.

Sriracha is a documentary about a very popular hot sauce with millions of fans. It might be difficult to expect the same kind of profits for an indie feature film by an unknown director.

Other options

Netflix pays a one-time fee for your film and you’ll have to go through a distributor. Netflix doesn’t report how much they pay for movies, so it’s not realistic to provide a useful sample fee.

To get on iTunes, you can pay a fee to go through an aggregator or you can apply directly to iTunes.

There are other platforms for indie filmmakers. We will provide more information about distribution options in future shows and try to compile that information in one place so it’s easy to compare options. I suspect someone may beat us to the punch on that, but we’ll see.

The radical option

Finally, I want to offer another monetization option for indie filmmakers: crowdfund your movie and give it away for free.

This model takes most of the risk out. Just don’t go over-budget.

Batgirl

Let’s talk about a simple example: you plan to make a 90-minute science fiction feature with a small cast at a few locations. You spend a lot of time and effort to create a realistic budget of $25,000. In this budget, everyone gets paid, but not a lot.

You set a crowdfunding goal of $40,000 to cover production costs, the commission on the crowdfunding platform, and the rewards to backers. In the crowdfunding campaign, you let your backers know you’re giving the movie away for free.

If you meet your crowdfunding goal and make the movie for $25,000 or less – congratulations! You just made a profitable movie. Give the movie away for free. That free movie can help you get the word out about you and your next movie.

You could continue to give away your movies this way or you could use crowdfunding to cover your production costs and use distribution for your profits.

Maybe distribution isn’t dead.

Our feature

Some of you may have noticed, I haven’t talked about our feature project, “Planet Burlesque”, much lately. We got stalled and we’re working to get un-stalled. We are growing our team so we can move forward on this. More details soon.

If you want to stay in the loop as we make our short film and our feature, “Planet Burlesque”, you can subscribe to The Sci-Fi Maker Show on iTunes and you can “like” our Facebook page.

Stay tuned! We’re making our movie on the Internet!

Do you have a science fiction film project you’ve completed or that you’re working on? Maybe you know someone who is making a science fiction movie. If so, send me an email – mitch@scifimaker.com – and tell me about it. I love to showcase other filmmakers on the show.

As always

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Is your movie missing that certain something?

What your movie is missing

Cosplay at Comic-Con Fan Days in Dallas
I went to Comic-Con Fan Days in Dallas last weekend and took lots of cosplay pictures, like this one.

Maybe your film has a likable protagonist with a clear goal worth pursuing and a formidable antagonist standing in the way.

And maybe your story structure is sound—with escalating conflict building toward a satisfying resolution in the third act.

You’ve studied screenwriting, read all the books, and practiced your craft. But, still…

Something is missing.

What’s missing is theme

A movie can be entertaining and successful without a theme, but the movies that stay with you long after you watch them are usually those with a strong theme.

The theme is what your movie is really about. It’s often the moral of the story; the lesson the hero of the story learns.

In The Hero’s Journey, the boon is what the hero brings back from the adventure and shares with humanity. The boon often the theme of that story.

The theme is not the same as symbols or metaphors, but the symbols and metaphors in the story often relate to the theme.

More cosplay at Comic-Con Fan Days in Dallas
And this one.

Many beginning filmmakers don’t understand or use theme in their scripts. Most movies without a good theme don’t quite work. It’s like leaving out an important ingredient in a recipe. It doesn’t taste quite right.

Once you’re clear on the theme of your story, you can make better plot and character decisions based on that theme. The theme provides a guidepost for your script.

Some writers go through the writing process to figure out what the theme is and what they’re really trying to say. They might discover the theme in the first draft and then go back and rework the story so it fits the theme better.

Regardless of your writing approach, having something you want to say in your story – the theme – is key if you want to make a great movie.

Keep learning

I always end my show with three pieces of advice: keep writing, keep shooting, and keep learning. If you want to be a better filmmaker, you cannot stop learning.

If you follow me on Twitter (@mediamitch), you might notice I’m always on the lookout for useful articles, videos, and podcasts for filmmakers and screenwriters.

This past week, I just kept hitting gold on Twitter and shared all of it with my followers.

Here are three of those golden nuggets:

Visual writing

5 Tips for Writing Visually

This article contains five great tips for screenwriters.

The writer points out screenplays are not always visual but should be.

“The more you use visual techniques in your script the easier it will be for people to see your script as a movie and for it to eventually to become one.”

Faster writing

11 Ways to Write Faster

Item number six is making a huge difference for me as a screenwriter: Eliminate distractions.

This may be very difficult for many of you.

When you write:

  • Turn your phone off
  • Close your web browser to avoid social media, distracting websites, and email.
  • Remove everything from your workspace unrelated to your project (clutter)
  • Close the door

Writing with theme

Make Readers Fall in Love with Theme

Do you know what the theme of your script is?

It’s what your film is really about. It is the question the script is asking.

“Your script should have a compelling, thought-provoking theme, and ideally one that it illustrates by way of its story, its characters, and the choices they make.”

Some examples:

  • Star Trek: Wrath of Khan – Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?
  • Alien – How should you deal with fear?
  • The Martian – How do you carry on when all is lost?

George Lucas

“I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct […] I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery.”

For filmmakers, the big question is – Do you know the theme of your movie?

As always

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