Category Archives: General

What are “The Trades”?

This is just another word for “the news” except it only pertains to news sources specific to the entertainment industry. You’ll often hear people say, “Did you read about it in the trades?” or “Saw you in the trades the other day. Congrats!”.

When people mention the trades, they are usually referring to one of three major entertainment news sources.

http://www.deadline.com

http://www.variety.com (also available as a weekly newspaper subscription)

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com (also available as a weekly newspaper subscription)

What is a Treatment?

More often than not you’ll hear writers, studio execs and producers throw around the term “treatment”. SEND ME THE TREATMENT! I’LL WRITE YOU A TREAMTENT etc. This is because a treatment is one of the most versatile tools in the business. More on this in a bit…but first off, what is a treatment?

There is no precise definition of what a treatment is. Every treatment is written in a different format or a different style based on what it is used for. Generally speaking, a treatment is a document that summarizes a particular project. It could be for a narrative film, a scripted television show, a reality show, a documentary, YOU NAME IT. The content of a treatment varies along with the length. I’ve seen treatments ranging from 1-20 pages long. At the very least, a treatment should have an overview which describes what the project is about. If it’s a scripted film, explain what the story is. If it’s a reality show, explain the overall premise. If it’s a scripted TV show, explain what the series will look like. You should also include descriptions of the main characters and for TV shows, always include several story ideas. If it’s a reality series, be sure to include the format of the show.

A treatment can be used for many purposes. The most common use is a sales tool. Often times a buyer won’t have time to read an entire script, or is too busy to schedule a pitch meeting. An easy solution is to send a treatment. This will give the buyer a sense of the material in a short period of time. It’s almost like a written pitch. Often times writers will write the treatment first to help them in their writing process and understand what their story structure will be.

Producers will often write their own treatments and use it as a tool to communicate with writers. For example, if a producer comes up with an original idea that he/she needs to hire a writer for, one of the best way to communicate his/her vision is write a treatment and have the writer work off of it.

 

Sundance 2011 Sales

SUNDANCE 2011 SALES BY DISTRIBUTOR
** remake rights
*  splitting TV and theatrical rights

MAGNOLIA
I MELT WITH YOU

MAGNOLIA/MAGNET
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN

MAGNOLIA/PARTICIPANT
PAGE ONE

PARAMOUNT
LIKE CRAZY

LIONSGATE/ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
MARGIN CALL

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
THE FUTURE
*PROJECT NIM

FOX SEARCHLIGHT
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
ANOTHER EARTH
HOMEWORK
**BENGALI DETECTIVE (remake rights)

THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
MY IDIOT BROTHER
THE DETAILS

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
THE GUARD
TAKE SHELTER
THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD

IFC
PERFECT SENSE
THE LEDGE

IFC (w/ SONY PICTURES WORLD ACQUISITIONS)
SALVATION BOULEVARD

SUNDANCE SELECTS
BUCK
THESE AMAZING SHADOWS
MAD BASTARDS
SEPTIEN
UNCLE KENT

ANCHOR BAY
SON OF NO ONE

OSCILLOSCOPE
BELLFLOWER

HBO
*PROJECT NIM
HOT COFFEE

HBO/ROUGH HOUSE
**KNUCKLE

LIDELL ENTERTAINMENT
SILENT HOUSE

LIONSGATE
THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE

OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK
CRIME AFTER CRIME
BECOMING CHAZ

A&E INDIEFILMS
CORMAN’S WORLD

PARTICIPANT MEDIA
CIRCUMSTANCE

FOCUS FEATURES
PARIAH

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FILMS
LIFE IN A DAY

DISTRIBUTOR MOTION FILM GROUP
GUN HILL ROAD

DADA FILMS
THE LAST MOUNTAIN

NEW VIDEO
THE FLAW

So you wanna be an independent film maker? Let Sundance put things into perspective for you.

If you want to avoid the studio system, explore the world of independent film making, here are some statistics/facts from this year’s Sundance Film Festival – one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. I’m by no means discouraging independent films. I absolutely love independent films and feel like the studios are putting out more and more garbage every year. However, independent film making is a difficult and risky industry, and I hope these numbers allow you to have a bit of perspective when it comes to this grueling industry.

– Over 5000 films were submitted into Sundance.  Under 300 we chosen

– 38 out of 300 films were sold to distributors.  28 Features, 10 documentaries.

– 4 films were sold for more than 3 million dollars. 2 of these were sold as remake rights

– 2 out of those 4 films sold for more than their budget.

– All the films that sold for $750K or more had cast that previously played leading roles in studio films.

To summarize, of all the films submitted into Sundance, 0.0076% earned revenue, and 0.0004% made a profit. That isn’t to say that the 0.0076% won’t go on to make money, but the point is that if you want to pursue independent film making, the odds are definitely against you if you rely on festivals to recoup costs and make profit.

Click here to see which films got sold to distributors.

Is it illegal to show trademarked or branded items in a film without getting permission?

NO!!! A lot of film makers endure a lot of unnecessary  anxiety/stress attacks over showing trademarked logos, and branded items in their films. The law permits you to use branded items so long as the item is available to the general public for purchase, and that the item is being used for its intended function. So feel free to have your actors type on Apple computers, and drink from Pepsi soda cans. Beware, however, of WORKS OF ART! Just as you need to get clearance for music in your films, you must get clearance from the original artist before you can show their work of art in your film. Normally, this does not include buildings, however, there a few exceptions like the Eiffel Tower, and the Guggenheim Museum. So make sure you do your legal homework on everything that appears in your film.

What is a “Back-End Payment”?

Also commonly referred to as “participation” or “contingency”, a back-end payment is a type of compensation usually given to an above-the-line talent on a film. This means that the talent will receive a percentage of the revenue generated after the film is completed and is typically given to the talent in addition to his or her fixed upfront fee. This could include box office sales, foreign sales, VOD sales, DVD sales, and sales from other ancillary markets. How the back-end payment is defined varies from project to project, and depends solely  on the negotiating abilities of the talent. The talent may negotiate for “gross-participation” in which the talent receives a percentage of the revenue before certain expenses have been deducted. This is often referred to as “First-Dollar-Gross”, which is every talent’s objective to attain in a back-end negotiation. In other words, as soon as the first-dollar of revenue has been generated, the talent starts receiving a percentage of that revenue. The talent may negotiate for a percentage of “distributor’s adjusted gross” which means that the talent will receive a percentage of the revenue after a defined break-even point has been reached. The talent may also negotiate for a percentage of “net-profit”, however, this is type of deal is rarely done as a film, according to standard accounting principles, rarely reaches net profit.

What is “Production”?

Once your schedule is made, your crew recruited, your actors have been casted, and your locations are secured, it’s time start production and push record. Production, also referred to as principle photography, is where the actual film making process takes place. This is where your director really takes over and does his job. As a producer, your job is to oversee, solve problems, and offer opinions, but at the end of the day, your director is calling the shots creatively during this process. The ultimate objective is to stay on schedule, get all the shots/coverage that you need, get the best performances from your actors, maintain continuity, and stay on budget.