Tag Archives: indies

Dongmei finishes its festival run!

Director/Producer Cedric Hill and Writer/Producer Bob Messinger were on hand in Las Vegas this month as “Dongmei” finished its festival run at the Hollywood Dreamz International Film Festival. Lead actress Heidi Li was also nominated at the festival as best actress in a short for her performance in the film.

Over the year, “Dongmei” has been screened in festivals such as the Indie Gathering International Film Festival, the AOF Film Festival, the Selenite Film Festival, the Depth of Field Film Festivals and others.

We are currently looking at various means of online distribution. Stay tuned for more info!

Bob Messinger, Jackie Messinger and Cedric Hill

How Plan B turned into Plan A+

My bad! I haven’t posted here in way too long. But I have a really good reason…I’VE BEEN MAKING A MOVIE!

We are actually in the final stages of post production right now, and it’s turning out so much better than I ever could have imagined.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Plan B had its real start when I met Cedric Hill through Mandy.com. Cedric is a 15-year film veteran and an instructor at both the New York Film Academy and Rutgers University Newark. When Cedric first replied to my Mandy posting, I replied to him that I thought his background might be too extensive for my little project, but he asked to see the script anyway. A day later, he got back to me and asked if we could meet. Not next week or in a few months, as so many other respondents had suggested. The next day.

We met on a Saturday over lunch in Montclair, NJ. I explained my no-budget plan to him, and he didn’t seem to flinch. We discussed not only the script and how it came to be, but also film in general. He kind of dug deep into my soul, which was a little unnerving, but somehow I didn’t feel uncomfortable revealing so much about myself (I’ve come to understand that Cedric has a true gift when it comes to getting people to open up and to trust him, which is probably one of the qualities that makes him such a talented director).

As the meeting progressed, he said something to the effect of, “Okay, now let’s talk about what kind of money it will take to make this film.”

I was a bit taken aback, because I’d made it clear that this was to be a no-budget film.

“Well, I have about $800 left from a screenwriting prize,” I replied.

By this time, I was so excited about the progress we’d made over lunch, that my mind started racing, thinking about how to raise more money. Could I even think about asking people to contribute again after two failed crowdfunding attempts (I hadn’t received a cent of what had been raised because I hadn’t reached my lofty goals).

“Well,” I continued, “I was able to raise close to $5000 the last two times. With some work, I could probably convince my supporters to believe in me one more time.”

“That’s a good start,” he said. “And once we have something to show people, we can probably raise some more for post production. When were you planning to shoot?”

“Six weeks,” I said.

“Make it eight,” he responded. “Let’s hold auditions Tuesday. We start rehearsals Thursday.”

I became silent. He knew what I was thinking.

“Place the ad on Mandy. We’ll have plenty of responses.”

“So we’re going to make a movie,” I said as we walked out of the restaurant.

“Yes. We’re going to make a movie.”

(To be continued in future blog entries, and soon…I promise! In the meantime, take a look at this link of Cedric telling a story to The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers. It will give you insight as to who he is, why he works with such intensity and passion, and why it it’s so easy to open up to him and love him).

‘Dongmei’ is trending on indiegogo!

Having raised 31 percent of its funding goal in fewer than three days, ‘Dongmei’ is now trending on the crowdfunding site indiegogo.com.

‘Dongmei’ is a short film written and produced by Bob Messinger, a New York-area screenwriter, and directed and executive produced by Cedric Hill, also a New York filmmaker. The project is a joint production of Messinger’s Where’s the Lake Productions and Hill’s To and Fro Productions.

Dongmei is a Chinese woman who ends up in the psych ward after fending off a couple of thugs and then inexplicably attacking the responding police officers. The story is an intense, psychological thriller written to keep audiences guessing throughout. It’s an extreme battle of wits between an intelligent, somewhat wise-ass, medicated and unwilling patient who’s adept at turning a conversation and a psychiatrist who’s overly confident he has what it takes to connect with her. The doctor’s confidence starts to falter, however, as the session intensifies and his combative patient takes charge, interspersing vividly descriptive and surprising accounts of her past with perfectly timed personal attacks on her new sparring partner. Even after the doctor seemingly regains control of the session, forcing Dongmei to face some hazy and painful images, it’s not unreasonable to expect the tables to be turned again to achieve an unexpected and powerful ending that will leave audiences questioning what was real and what wasn’t.

Auditions are scheduled for Tuesday, June 9, in a midtown New York studio. The casting call resulted in close to 100 responses. Principal photography is scheduled to begin on August 1.

To see how the project is trending, go to www.indiegogo.com, click the “See What’s Trending” link at the top, then click on the “Film” link. Or to go directly to the project’s page, go to http://igg.me/at/dongmei.

The journey continues! Cedric Hill named director and executive producer of ‘Dongmei’.

by BOB MESSINGER

Not only is Plan B falling into place, it coming together at a feverish pace, thanks in large part to our new director and executive director, Cedric Hill. Cedric is a 15-year film veteran and an instructor at the New York Film Academy.

As I’ve noted in this blog, I’ve learned so much from the last two crowdfunding campaigns, but perhaps the biggest lesson gained is that maybe I’d tried to do too much too soon. Perhaps trying to do a feature film the first time around rather than something smaller was a bit ambitious. Before people are going to fork over $75,000, they probably want proof that I can do what I say I can do.

Just to recap a bit, I’ve decided to do just that…write and produce a short film. My Plan B.

My original idea was to do it on absolutely no budget, using my Canon EOS and editing it myself. That may have been scaling things back too much. After meeting Cedric and absorbing his feedback, I’ve decided to do this project on a micro-budget of $5000 this time around…quite a bit less than my original $75,000 goal, wouldn’t you say? Every participant is donating his or her time and talent in exchange for film credit. There will still be costs, however… primarily equipment rentals, minimal travel expenses, a few props, craft services, film festival fees, marketing and a few other miscellaneous expenses.

So yes, here I go again, asking friends, family, acquaintances and complete strangers to be a part of this project, which has already received great reviews from people in the industry. As I point out in my just-launched indiegogo campaign, thanks to all the new avenues of distribution, quality projects that never would have been made before are being enjoyed by millions! This is due in great part by artists whose compelling motivation is to create and get their works out into the world and by supporters who believe creative energy should never be wasted.
I also point out on the campaign page that participation in the project not only helps us make a better film, it also contributes to the overall health of the art community and places supporters among the growing list of new media pioneers.

So the journey continues! If you get a chance, check out our website.

Plan B

Okay, so my second crowdfunding attempt didn’t go as expected.

Admittedly, I did spend a little time feeling bitter. The preliminary numbers indicated that I should have been successful had everyone who had promised their support come through. But they didn’t. Not by a long shot.

But such is life.

I still have a lot of faith in the project. If it weren’t a viable one, it’s unlikely that it would have received the awards it has. But this script is going on the shelf. For now, that is.

From the very beginning, my advisors at Seed & Spark (still the premier crowdfunding platform for independent film, in my opinion) stressed that I would have an uphill battle because, as a first-time filmmaker, I had nothing to show. It didn’t seem to matter that I’d put together an experienced production team, a seasoned lead actress and original music, or even that I have a host of screenwriting awards under my belt. People still need to see what I have done before they open their wallets.

Thus, as promised, I have come up with Plan B.

I have written a short script that I plan to shoot and edit myself. It is tentatively titled “Dongmei.”

Settings are simple. If necessary, I will sell my car to purchase or rent lighting, sound equipment and other gear. Shooting will be done on a first-generation Canon Rebel EOS, and editing will be done on Adobe Premiere Pro.

Principal photography will be in one location. Eight easily obtained locations will be used for super-quick, intercut flashbacks. Shooting will be done in and around Parsippany, NJ.

Running time will be about 20 minutes, and I plan to shoot in early summer. The whole shoot should take about five days (not necessarily consecutive).

The cast consists of two actors with speaking roles and a handful of actors with non-speaking roles for the quick flashbacks.

Volunteers are wanted for this no-budget film.

The female lead should be a Chinese woman, around 45, with no Chinese accent, but the ability to speak a few Chinese words (Cantonese or Mandarin).

The male lead should be around 35 (only his hands and arms will be seen).

Non-speaking cameo roles include:
• Two young thugs being beat up by a woman on a street corner.
• A young woman in her 20s witnessing the skirmish.
• A woman on a cell phone being attacked while sitting in a salon chair (any age).
• A Chinese girl around 7.
• A Chinese girl around 10.
• A Chinese girl around 16.
• A Chinese girl around 13.
• A gruff-looking Chinese nanny, around 45.
• A 35-year-old drunk father (lead male can double if necessary, as his face is never seen in lead role).
• A 35-year-old mother).
• 30-year-old skinny man (an uncle).
• A middle-aged overweight man (a john).
• A 46-year-old Chinese woman (an adult version of the 10 and 16-year-old.
The non-speaking cameos are very small, easily acted parts. All will get film credit.

Other volunteers are needed in virtually any capacity (sound, lighting, editing, sound editing, gofers, etc.). To volunteer, contact me at F1Promo@aol.com.

In the meantime, I have been approached by writer/director Caytha Jentis (“And Then Came Love” with Vanessa Williams and Eartha Kitt, “Bad Parents” with Janeane Garofolo and Cheri Oteri) to work with her as an associate producer on a new episodic comedy-drama pilot called “Now What?” We’re holding a kickoff fundraising event this Thursday evening, March 26, at The Slipper Room on New York’s lower east side. Feel free to join us! Admission is $20, and there will be a cash bar and some raucous entertainment. I will be posting more about the event on Facebook today. The project is an exciting one, and it will help me build professional credits that should benefit me on future projects.

So there you have it! Plan B, as promised. With Plan A only temporarily shelved!

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome!

We’ve launched on Seed&Spark!

by BOB MESSINGER
@bobmessinger01

A few months back, I posted my intentions of switching to the crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark to re-launch my film project. To recap the reasons for my decision:

1. Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform strictly for independent film projects.
2. They provide an in-depth Social Media Handbook and other helpful materials.
3. As a selective platform, Seed&Spark does not allow filmmakers to launch an inferior or minimally prepared project.
4. Unlike Kickstarter’s “all-or-nothing” platform, Seed&Spark works on “80%-or-nothing,” noting that “Every indie filmmaker knows how to make that scene work with a little less money…”
5. Seed&Spark has a streaming video distribution platform as well as a partnership with Amex NOW for selected licensed distribution.
6. Seed&Spark lets filmmakers request non-monetary contributions such as camera, wardrobe and lighting rentals.
7. 70% of films that crowdfund on Seed&Spark get funded, compared to only 40% on Kickstarter.
8. Seed&Spark’s fee is lower than any other crowdfunding site.

Since my initial post, I have spent hours poring over Seed&Spark’s “Awesome Downloads,” which include documents on crowdfunding to build independence, prep and campaign schedule templates, and, of course, their detailed social media handbook.

Well, I did re-launch on Seed&Spark a few days ago, and the experience so far has been even better that I’d anticipated!

After my initial submission, I received an in-depth campaign critique from Seed&Spark Director of Crowdfunding and Community Erica Anderson. I’m not talking about a few lines of suggestions. I’m talking about paragraphs of well-written, to-the-point, knowledgeable and convincing feedback. With Erica’s ongoing help, I performed three edits to my pitch video, taking it from an unruly six minutes to a manageable three minutes (to be honest, she would have preferred that I’d have edited out another minute).

Erica responded to my correspondence within hours, each time providing more and more guidance.

The only recommendation I didn’t take was to postpone my launch until after the holidays. I do agree with prevailing research that there is too much social media competition to sustain a holiday campaign. That’s why I’ve selected a 45-day rather than a 30-day campaign. I’ve decided to use the first 15 days to tie into my regular hard-copy holiday mailings to friends and family, and then focus on social media after the holidays (as a marketer who has worked both tech and pre-tech campaigns, I still find value in breaking through the clutter with old-fashioned, personal mailings).

Seed&Spark is truly a selective platform. It’s become so obvious to me that their prime purpose for being isn’t to cash in on the crowdfunding craze. They are independent filmmakers who are dedicated to their craft and who want to see good films get made and distributed.

I recommend that all filmmakers considering the crowdfunding route check out Seed&Spark.

And while you’re at it, please check out my campaign at www.seedandspark.com/studio/it-aint-no-sin. Your support through a contribution and recommending the project to friends and colleagues would be greatly appreciated!

I’ve decided to use Seed&Spark to re-launch my crowdfunding campaign!

by BOB MESSINGER
@bobmessinger01

Don’t get me wrong…Kickstarter is a phenomenal crowdfunding platform! It’s just that, after careful research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the relatively new platform Seed&Spark is best suited to meet the needs of my particular film project for the following reasons:

1. Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform strictly for film projects. I believe this will work well for me on several levels. It will help me better attract niche supporters who care about independent film. It will help separate my project from the clutter of non-film projects on the other sites. And, because the Seed&Spark staff deals only with film projects, my belief is that their specialized support will assist me in running a truly effective campaign.

2. I’ve never claimed to be a social media guru, and I believe that was a major detriment to my Kickstarter efforts. Seed&Spark stresses social media, as do most of the other crowdfunding platforms. But unlike most other sites, they back up the importance of social media by providing an in-depth Social Media Handbook, which has armed me with greater insight than I had when I launched my last campaign.

3. Seed&Spark is a selective platform. They will not allow me to launch a campaign for an inferior product or to launch a minimally prepared project. If they feel my project is lacking in any respect, they will provide tips on how to make it a viable one. Nobody enjoys rejection, but I’d rather be given the opportunity to make my project the best that it can be before launch. And because Seed&Spark is a selective platform, I believe their users feel more comfortable supporting projects on their site.

4. Whereas Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform, and Indigogo will allow me to keep whatever I raise even if it is nowhere enough to complete my project, Seed&Spark is an “80%-or-nothing” platform. I am quite comfortable with this. If I can raise at least 80%, I know I will be able to get the film made. As the Seed&Spark website points out, “Every indie filmmaker knows how to make that scene work with a little less money…”

5. Unlike other crowdfunding sites, Seed&Spark has a streaming video distribution platform for me to offer my film for public viewing. They also have a partnership with Amex NOW, a channel reaching 67 million homes, for selected licensed distribution. I don’t know at this time that I’ll take advantage of these programs, but it is nice to know that they exist!

6. Seed&Spark lets me request non-monetary contributions such as camera, wardrobe and lighting rentals. This allows me to best use all cash contributions I may receive and may also act as an incentive for supporters who may not be in a position to contribute cash, but may be able to contribute an item needed to complete the film.

7. 70% of films that crowdfund on Seed&Spark get funded, compared to only 40% of projects on Kickstarter. I like those odds.

8. And I’m saving the best reason for last: Seed&Spark’s fee is lower than any other crowdfunding site I’ve researched. They take 5% of all money pledged, but they also offer supporters an opportunity to add 5% to their order to keep the filmmaker from losing that money. And according to Seed&Spark, 90% of supporters choose to add that 5%. Plus, Seed&Spark won’t compel me to set up an outside payment account, which usually requires administration fees beyond the normal credit card fees.

So right now, it seems like a no-brainer to submit to Seed&Spark.

I’d be grateful to hear your opinions on selecting a crowdfunding site.

Independent Film Festival Stresses Writer Empowerment (Re-post)

By BOB MESSINGER

@bobmessinger01

(I am re-posting this article from last September. The Indie Gathering International Film Festival is happening again this coming weekend, and I highly recommend it).

I am a veteran attendee of mammoth Hollywood screenwriting conferences and seminars. I’ve sat opposite hundreds of agency and studio readers in nerve-wracking, five-minute pitch festival sessions. I’ve entered scores of screenwriting competitions and have even won my fair share. And I’ve spent thousands of dollars participating in these events, not to mention the cost of air travel, meals and hotels.

I don’t regret a single penny’s worth of expense for having taken part in these activities. They have made me a much better writer, and each one of my scripts has greatly benefited from these combined experiences.

However, like most other “novice” writers who faithfully attend conferences and sometimes win contests, I’ve yet to have had an agent or a studio ask to see a winning script or to have heard back from an “interested” pitch-fest representative.

Still, I always return from these sessions energized and ready to write.

I had that same energized feeling upon returning home from the recent Indie Gathering International Film Festival in Hudson, OH. But I also experienced an additional, much stronger reaction as a result of attending this amazing gathering right outside of Cleveland. I also returned home with a sense of empowerment.

Indie Gathering participants are filmmakers, writers and actors who have taken their fates into their own hands. They understand the odds against being blessed with the rare, big-studio, fairy-tale success story. They know that their work has value. They know that they are the only ones who, in the long run, will make their stories come alive.

The Indie Gathering attendees are some of the most-passionate, most-unpretentious and most-talented filmmakers I have ever met. And the proof is in their films. This year’s festival featured about 100 independent shorts and features of tremendous caliber, many of which are headed for some form of distribution.

About the Indie Gathering

The Indie Gathering is probably one of the most-informal, yet-highly-organized, film festivals I’ve ever attended. It is expertly run by independent producer Ray Szuch (who has an amazing Muhammed Ali story) and the lovely and energetic Kristina Michelle (who, besides being an actor, is an accomplished dancer, teacher, writer, producer, first degree-black belt, stunt woman and TV host).

They are perhaps the most-approachable organizers I’ve personally experienced. They are always happy to talk, point you in the right direction, introduce you to the festival’s honored guests, and join you in the restaurant after hours for a drink.

In addition to the screenings, the festival includes seminars, lectures and panel discussions on topics including writing, pre- and post-production, acting, editing, scoring, technology, photography, FX, cameras…and unlike similar programs at other festivals, all sessions were from a decidedly independent point of view.

Writers Reinventing Themselves

The screenwriting panel discussion is the one which I found most energizing and empowering. Almost the entire panel was made up of filmmakers who had decided that the only way to get their films made was to produce them themselves. Interestingly, not all panel members were originally writers but found that they had to reinvent themselves to make things happen.

For example, one panel member named Saba, an accomplished New York actor and dancer (who, by the way, was also a winner in the festival’s screenplay competition two years running) had decided that the only way he was going to get meaningful screen jobs was to create roles for himself. As a result, he formed Cloudy Sky Films to produce and direct various shorts and web series. He has just completed filming “Snow,” his first independent feature, which he wrote, directed, produced and in which he stars.

A panel discussion attendee, Mara Lesemann from Jersey City, NJ, seemed to agree that producing your own work is the way to go. Her first-ever writing award was earned at a prior Indie Gathering festival, and her first feature film “Surviving Family” earned last year’s Viewers’ Choice Award at the Indie Gathering. “Surviving Family” is also scheduled for a Redbox release this fall.

No Longer an Impossible Task

The overall impression I was left with after attending multiple sessions and after viewing as many screenings as I could fit in was that being in charge of one’s own creative destiny is no longer an impossible task. Technology has made filming, production and editing less complicated than ever. Technology has made it easy to build a network of skilled people who can help us learn and find the resources we need. Technology has created the ability for us to go online to fund our projects. And technology has created an environment in which we don’t need the big screen to have our work seen by large audiences.

I was also left with the impression that the community of independent filmmakers is indeed a friendly one that genuinely cares about its members and is willing to share.

I have had two screenwriting competition wins at the Indie Gathering…one last year in the feature comedy/drama category, and one this year in the feature drama category. I have snail mailed and emailed more than 200 press releases about each win. Still, my in-box remains void of interest from agents and studios.

Would I turn down a submission request from an agent or studio? Of course not! But I don’t intend to sit by the phone any longer. And I thank the Indie Gathering International Film Festival for fueling my empowerment.

Check out the Indie Gathering at http://www.theindiegathering.com

Out of budgeting hell and ready to start my Kickstarter campaign!

by BOB MESSINGER

It took a little longer than I’d expected, but I followed all of the steps proposed in my last blog entry, and I’ve come up with so much more than the solid budget I was hoping for! I now also have a truly knowledgeable, creative and dedicated team behind me and a carefully planned Kickstarter campaign ready to launch.

Networking does make all the difference, and I was absolutely right in my assumption that members of the independent filmmaking community are quick to share their experiences, wisdom and suggestions. By networking with fellow writers, filmmakers, editors, art directors, musicians and composers, not only have I worked my way out of budgeting hell, but I’ve also gained an even better understanding of the entire filmmaking process.

And like I said, I’ve also put together a team that shares my vision and dedication.

The greatest thing that has resulted from my research and networking has been my introduction to Randy Rossilli. Randy is an Emmy-winning producer and director who also happens to be the owner of a relatively new production studio virtually right down the road from me. Nightstand Studios in Fairfield, NJ, is equipped with just about everything needed to make a feature film…three sound stages, state-of-the-art editing facilities, a scoring stage and recording studio, animation capabilities and so much more.

Randy also runs Nightstand Music Group, which gives him access to a wealth of music and musicians.

Fortunately, Randy and I have formed a mutual appreciation of each other’s talents and visions, and we have teamed up to get this film made. I am confident that my association with his dedicated team will assure that my first feature will have the artistic and production quality of a film costing much more.

I’ve also spent the past few months learning all I can about the intricacies of a Kickstarter campaign (a topic, no doubt, for a future blog entry) and trying to build a network to support what we need to raise.

The campaign is just about ready to be submitted to Kickstarter for their approval, and if all goes well, it will launch in just a few days. I will post the campaign’s link on this blog as soon as we launch it, and I hope you look at it, consider supporting it, and, most importantly, recommend it to as many of your contacts as possible.

Special thanks to everyone who has given me input during this process!

Finally! I’m finding my way out of budgeting hell!

by BOB MESSINGER

@bobmessinger01

Okay, so I’ve decided to make a feature film. My script has been fine tuned. I’ve been on shoots in various capacities, so I have a good understanding of the process. I’ve taken literally hundreds of seminars on film making and distribution. I have a solid marketing background. I am chomping at the bit to get my Kickstarter campaign under way. There’s only one thing that’s been holding me up until now: trying to get a firm handle on how much this will cost!

I must admit that for a while I was concerned that I’d never make it through the budgeting process. But the more I talk to other writers who have launched their own projects, the more I see that budgeting hell is more common than it is atypical for independent film makers, especially new ones like me.

The biggest thing that has made the budgeting process especially puzzling is the huge disparity of budgets among independent films similar to my project. Of the six indies I’ve researched with scripts similar to mine in length, characters, locations, number of scenes and with the anticipated production values of my project, the reported budgets range from $15,000 to $2,500,000.

Not only is there a huge disparity among published budgets, but there is also a wide range of opinions as to how money should be spent. For example, one excellent Internet article posted by Lift-Off International Film Festivals (http://www.lift-off-festival.com/independent-film-budgets/) advises, “Forget about the equipment. If you are going to spend your money to make a picture, you need to spend it on people.” Still, other informative articles by equally successful film makers advocate seeking deferred payment agreements with cast and crew rather than skimp on equipment.

Time to take action!

Rather than pull out what’s left of my already thinning hair trying to figure out how to configure this budget, I have decided to calmly take the following steps:

1) Continue to build my network of fellow independent film makers using social media and networking events.

2) Take the time to prepare comprehensive scene breakdown sheets, including locations, interiors vs. exteriors, cast members, extras, wardrobe, props, vehicles, special effects, animals and music.  Doing this has given me a much better understanding of the costs I have to research.

3) Invest in budgeting software.  At first, it looked as though I was going to have to go through the script page-by-page to compile these breakdowns because, while there are some excellent, professional budgeting programs available, none was in my price range. But, through my expanding network, I discovered Chimpanzee from Jungle Software (Chimpanzee is the little brother of the more-expensive Gorilla budgeting software, and it is designed specifically for students and independent film makers). This relatively inexpensive software ($124, but sometimes on sale for as much as $50 off) has been a lifesaver and has given me a much better handle on the budgeting and scheduling process.

4) And the most constructive step I’ve taken so far…reach out to the independent film makers  in my growing network. For the most part, they have been exceptionally open and willing to share their own budgeting challenges, how they’ve overcome them, and to give me suggestions specific to my own project.

So, I am happy to announce that I am navigating the road out of budgeting hell, and although I expect I still may encounter a few roadblocks along the way, I hope to launch my Kickstarter campaign sometime during the upcoming holiday season!