Monday, November 8, 2010

Journey to the Biz

I am a host on Fox Movie Channel's "Life After Film School" program, where current film students interview current filmmakers. I thought I'd share a blog I wrote for the Fox Movie Channel website about my experience talking with Graham Yost.

If interested, check out one of my past episodes here!

And so goes by another episode of “Life After Film School.” This past week, I had the opportunity to interview Graham Yost, along with two other students. As a recent graduate of USC’s Cinema-Television Production program, these interviews are of utmost interest to me. It is scary trying to break into this business and talking to current filmmakers—who really are just normal people—that have effectively broken into entertainment, is incredibly encouraging. Every route is different, but hearing their various journeys to success is enlightening and something I will take with me as I, too, depart on a professional career.

The film business is unique in that there is no direct career path to becoming a director, or a producer, or a writer. It’s not like becoming a doctor—where one gets good grades in college, aces the MCATs, goes to medical school, and wakes up one morning as a full fledged doctor (forgive me for simplying what I actually do know is a grueling process). But the point is, you know exactly how to become a doctor from square one—and that you’ll be promised a healthy living when you emerge on the other end. I’ve never been a risk-taker and the road more travelled has always looked appealing to me. But my enormous love for I cinema is enough to make me gamble at entertainment. During his interview, Graham mentioned that everyone he had met, who really wanted it and kept at it, eventually found success. Words such as these give me immense hope, as I have always been one of the most hard-working and determined people you’ll ever meet.

While we were chatting in between filming, Graham mentioned that he had come from an acting background, the same as me! He said that understanding the actor’s perspective and how lines are prepared and spoken, was incredibly helpful to being a writer. This is something that I have always felt deep down, so it is great hearing an actual writer validate my theory. I will always be thankful that at 5-years-old, I decided to be an actress. My theatre and speech & debate background, I feel, made me a better writer and director when in film school, it also made me far more respectful towards actors—something that I sadly, don’t always see in filmmakers. When you first get to film school, everyone wants to be a director. But as the years pass and the scope of filmmaking broadens, your classmates start to realize that maybe they aren’t as good at directing as they once thought and maybe their true interests lie elsewhere….editing, sound, cinematography, etc. I didn’t come into USC necessarily wanting to be a director, but I, as well as my peers, was surprised to find that I was actually surprisingly good at directing. Something that I attribute whole-heartedly to my acting background.

So all in all, I’d say it that Episode 9 was a successful day, I walked away with new writing tips and hints to aid me on my own journey…. AND an invitation to go check out the writer’s room on “Justified”! I really do feel so lucky to be a part of Life After Film School., not only have a I gained a wealth of knowledge, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing filmmakers, as well as some future great filmmakers among my co-hosts as well! I wish Graham Yost the best in all his endeavors, and hopefully our paths will cross again someday shortly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Breaking In & Moving Up: Writing For Television Panel

So last night I attended an entertainment panel put on by the University of Michigan (seemed a tad random to me, but then again I don't know much about the school). The panel had a lot of interesting things to say so I thought I'd share on here. I tried my best to transcribe with accuracy, and paraphrased a bit where necessary...overall, I think it is pretty authentic. Enjoy!

Scott Rosenbaum - Executive Producer of "V" and "Chuck"
Bill Prady - Executive Producer of "The Big Bang Theory"
Dennis Kim - Senior Literary Agent at Rothman Brecher Agency
Brad Holeman - Director Creative Affairs at Fox21
Alessia Costantini - Staff Writer on "Scrubs"

Do you recommend screenwriting courses?

Scott: Screenwriting courses are a good way to learn the format, but I myself never took many. Maybe like 2 during college. My best recommendation is that you read as many scripts as you can. I had an agent friend who would send me scripts which helped me in the learning process a lot.

Bill: The most important thing is that first and foremost you have a good story to tell and are a good storyteller. If those things aren't in place then classes probably aren't going to be able to help you.

Brad: Read material and watch movies to figure out what does and doesn't work. This is how I learned. I watch television everyday.

Alessia: I actually like classes for structure and it is a great way to meet other writers. Also if you are the kind of person who needs to be under deadlines, classes are definitely helpful.

Bill: In every writer's room the slang will be different. Executive Producers and writers will make up words. For example, a clam is what we will call an over-used/bad joke.

Alessia: Yeah, we use "clam" as well. We actually have a clam stuffed animal that we'll throw at people!

Scott: You need to have an innate talent for storytelling, but you don't have to know how to wield that ability right away. Sometimes you need a mentor or someone to cultivate adn teach you how to use your talent. This is what a class might be good for.

Bill: If the writing is good, then format isn't so much of an issue.

Scott: How we work in our writer's room is to first figure out what the character's arc is going to be and then we work backwards to find just the right story to bring this out.

Bill: The process of telling stories is to be able to draw from our own experiences. So you need to have life experiences to be able to write. Entertainmetn is an artistic endeavor and people often get lost in the process, forgetting to focus on the story.

Scott: I had to read over 400 scripts to staff "V". He's what I look for. I don't expect everyone to be good at everything. But you have to have a voice and that should should in the material you write. And if your particular voice is what I'm needing on the show, I'll hire you. On "The Shield", each writer kind of had a character that they could relate to emotionally and psychologically. So its so important that you have a voice and viewpoint that is different than the other writers in the room. Always ask yourself - why are we writing this episode? And from there the theme will emerge. If the script has a unique voice, it will stand out.

Can you describe the hierarchy in the writer's room?

Dennis: Well you have your Executive Producer on top, from there down it goes Co-Exec Producer --> Supervising Producer --> Producer --> Co-Producer --> Story Editor --> Staff Writer --> Writer's Assistants. Staff writers make WGA scale, about 3500/week. Story Editors make about 5000/week. And above Story Editor you can negotiate feeds. It differs between cable and network TV. With Staff writers, writing a script is included in the weekly fee, but for Story Editors and above you get additional compensation for writing a script.

How has the television business changed over the years?

Brad: Cable. It was a struggle to bring writers over because it wasn't sexy to work in cable. But there is a lot of freedom with cable that you don't get with network television. You can show and do anything you want in cable. Which is great because writers can really have the opportunity to show their voice.

How do you take/get feedback and hone your craft?

Scott: Every showrunner is different, and its rare to find someone who wants to be a teacher. I was lucky to have one. But watching and reading can show you what's getting people jobs. The more you read good writing, the more it bleeds off onto you.

Bill: To succeed in telelvision you need to be able to explain why a scene worked or didn't work. Because at some point someone will ask you to do that. If you can't, you will get replaced. Execs are always terrified of losing money so you gotta know something is gonna work. Always watch television with a critical eye.

Can you describe the types of writing samples that come to you?

Bill: There are two kinds of writing samples: specs of shows already on the air and original material. Somebody wrote a spec of a show as if it got to the 30th season and the concept was really original and interesting to read because it was different. Good writing is effortless to read. If you have writing that people aren't finishing, that's a problem!

Can you describe teh politics of a writer's room?

Alessia: I learned a lot as a writer's assistant. To be successful you have to LISTEN. Don't think about your pitch while someone else is talking, listen to them. It will make you better in the long run.

Bill: There is a hierarchy--especially with who can say "this isn't working." The Executive Producer is one of those people and he has a few people he can trust that are allowed to speak up as well. If you aren't one of those guys, just wait patiently and be prepared to help when someone brings up the problem. If you are a low level staff writer than you better not bring it up unless you have a completely fabulous fix for the issue. Writers rooms are raw and very personal. You require beyond thick skin to work there. People think your job is glamorous, but really, it's not. You are stuck in a room for hours upon hours that smells of Indian take out with people who haven't showered in days. So you gotta love it.

Scott: My rule of thumb is that you should never say you don't like an idea or that something isn't working if you don't have a solution. Television writing is a collaborative effort and so you need to help fix the problem. Say "here's what I want to change to ____, and here's why." It's hard being in a writer's room because there are always going to be people who are smarter than you and you want your joke or line to make it into the episode. Some people aren't good at speaking up in the moment, so go home and write your ideas down so you can be prepared--if that's you. But just make sure you are always bringing new ideas to the table.

Bill: Yeah, you really have to understand why things work or don't work. I recommend watching something that doesn't work and then coming up with a fix. This is actually great practice. How much more compelling would Titanic have been if she wasn't already turned off to her fiance before boarding the Titanic?" Something like that. Just know how to fix problems.

Alessia: I was so scared to speak up my first couple weeks as a staff writer. I started going home and writing down my ideas so I'd know just what to say when I got to work and wouldn't feel choked up!

Any last words of advice?

Scott: There are some good DVD commentaries from EP's and why they made the creative choices that they did, I recommend watching those.

Also, know that you can't control a lot in Hollywood. But you can control how hard you work. Be the hardest working person in the room and it will pay off. Work your ass off.

Bill: Spend less time being jealous of others' success, it will kill you everyday. There is always gonna be someone that you think doesn't deserve the job they have (that you would do the job so much better), but it doesn't do you any good dwelling on it. Also, keep in mind that there are three stages: Writing, Not Writing, and Pretending to Write. We all pretend to advance our careers, by saying things like "I'm not gonna write til I install the latest version of Final Draft" (Pretending to Write). So just recognize the difference between those states of being and if you find yourself pretending to write, just stop. Choose to NOT write and watch TV. This is better for you in the long run.

Brad: Always be a student. The worst writers are those who want to skip everything and aren't hard working at the bottom. Find mentors to watch.

Alessia: TV writing is collaborative--so many different types of people that are better than you and smarter and funnier. If you just like your own material, then you won't be successful in this business. The whole process is exhilarating and its cool when someone pitches a better joke for your episode. This has to be something you enjoy and can live with. Also, just be yourself. There is a reason you were chosen for that writing team. Don't try to be anyone but you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vocabulary Lesson

Since I previously discussed some of the different box office terms, I've decided to take that a step further.

Gross Receipts: This is the theatrical rental from exhibitors, or in the case of TV, the license fees payable to TV licensees (networks, stations).
  • In Film, the theatrical rental is roughly 50% of the box office.
  • For DVD, 20% of box office.

Gross Proceeds: Gross receipts minus "off the tops"
  • Off the Tops are approximately 5% of the gross receipts and go towards checking and collecting costs from exhibitors, MPAA dues, taxes and conversation costs, residuals to guilds, etc.
  • So if Gross Receipts are 1,000,000 then the Gross Proceeds would be 950,000.
  • Gross Proceeds are only relevant when you start dealing with Gross Participants however.
Net Proceeds: Gross receipts minus....(in this order)....
  • Distribution Fees (def. amount distributor gets to deduct for doing the distribution work from the gross)....for domestic theatrical 30%, domestic TV 30%, domestic DVD - NA, foreign theatrical 35%, foreign TV 40%, foreign DVD - NA.
  • Distribution Expenses - includes costs of prints, shipping, marketing costs, etc.
  • Cost of Production - which includes the Direct Cost (budget), Administration Fee/Studio Overhead, Interest, and Gross Participation (Pre-Break)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Financial Break-Down

So explaining stuff like this helps reinforce what I know and someone might find it helpful, so here goes.....

In determining the financial breakdown of money received for a movie, it's essential to understand the basic terms.

Box Office: This is synonymous with ticket sales, or the amount of money a movie earns in movie theatres based on sales of tickets. The movie theatres collect this money and share it with the movie studio. Total Box Office gets divided approximately fifty-fifty by the theatre and the studio.

Film Rentals: The movie studios and theatre owners have agreements which vary from movie to movie and can get quite complex. HOwever, anyone can get a rough estimate of film rentals by dividing the box office in half. This doesn't work for the first week or two of a release, but proves accurate only in considering the long run of the movie in theatres. A movie may open to $70 million and wind up at $200 million after a three month run. The studio probably receives around $100 million in film rentals.

Distribution Fee: For theatrical release of movies in North America, the movie studio deducts a fee of 30-33 1/3% on most movies. They deduct this from the film rentals to cover the studio's expenses distributing the movie. Essentially, the studio charges the movie revenues for its management and overhead (money it takes to run studio). A producer who finances movies in a long-term deal with the studio can negotiate a lower distribution fee, perhaps 15-20% if they are lucky! Or, George Lucas might negotiate a distribution fee of 10% for writing, directing, producing, and financing "Episode One: THe Phantom Menace" and having 20th Fox distribute it (people like that can pretty much get whatever they want because studios know they are still going to get a huge chunk of money!)

Gross: This must always be defined. Generally, gross definitions are based on film rentals and not on box office or ticket sales. While people often say, "Titanic" grossed a billion dollars, they mean ticket sales, or box office, not film rentals, which probably came closer to five hundred million dollars.

Gross From Dollar One: Key players on a film can often negotiate to get a percentage of the first dollar gross, meaning they get a cut of the film's film rental before the studio recoups the production costs.

Marketing Costs: Sometimes called "P&A", for Prints and Ads, this money goes towards advertising for the movie as well as purchasing prints for the theatres which will screen it. The budget for P&A will rise and fall depending on the studio's expectations for the movie's success.

Saving Private Ryan cost 65 million dollars to make and the studio spend 35 million dollars in marketing. Both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks receive 25% of the gross at dollar one. The movie makes 400 million dollars worldwide.

So the film rental on this baby would be 200 million (approx half of box office). Both Spielberg and Hanks receive 50 million (25 percent of $200). That leaves a 100 million. Then the studio deducts a 30% distribution fee. So 70 million remain to cover the negative costs (production & marketing)....but alas! Those add up to 100 million, and they only have 70!

In conclusion, even a blockbuster like Saving Private Ryan can leave a studio in the negative!

A Good Day

So just when I was getting tired of waiting around and boredom was setting in....I found another job. Funny how that works. So starting tomorrow I have another script supervising gig!

One of the things that I love about script supervising is that you can go right into the job as a key. No wasting time as an assistant or PA, where the work is flat out banal. Script Supervising, if you are good at it, let's you jump right in as a department head. Which is SUPER. This is not to say that it is for's certainly not. But note-taking and intense attention to detail have always been my forte, so I enjoy it a lot! My class notes in school were so detailed that people would pay me for copies....who knew that that skill could continue making me money down the line.....!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Screenplay Beat Sheet

So one of my favorite screenwriting books is Save the Cat. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend investing in it. Its easy to read and spells out the screenwriting process in pretty simple terms. Anyways, I thought it might be helpful to include the beat sheet that Blake Snyder uses in here. I am actually using it right now and finding it quite helpful in my own writing process.



1. The Opening Image (pg 1): This is the first impression of what a movie is - it establishes the mood and type of film we are about to watch. The opening image and final image should be opposites, a plus and minus, showing change so dramatic it documents the emotional upheaval that the movie represents.

2. Theme Stated (pg 5): Somewhere in the first five minutes of a well-structured screenplay, someone (usually not the main character) will pose a question or make a statement (usually to the main character) that is the theme of the movie. This statement is the movie's thematic premise.

3. The Set-Up (pg 1-10): The first reel - or the first 10 minutes - sets up the hero, stakes, and the goal of the story...and should do so with vigor! Make a point to introduce or at least hint at introducing every character in the A story. The first 10 page sis also where we start to plant every character tie, exhibit every behavior that needs to be addressed later on and show how and why the hero will need to change in order to win.

4. The Catalyst (pg 12): The catalyst moment that kickstarts the action....these may include telegrams, getting fired, catching a wife in bed with another man, news that you have three days to live, a knock at the door, the messenger, etc. First moment when something happens!

5. Debate (pg 22-25): The debate section is the last chance for the hero to say: This is crazy. Should I go? Dare I go? Sure, it's dangerous out there, but what's my choice? Stay here? The debate section must ask a question of some kind. In Legally Blonde, the catalyst of the fiance dumping Elle Woods quickly segues to her solution: Go to Harvard Law. "But can she get in?" That is the question posed in the debate section of the movie.

6. Break Into Two (pg 25): Act break is the moment where we leave the old world behind and proceed into a world that is upside down version. Something MUST happen on this page.

7. B Story (pg 30): The B story of most screenplays is the "love story." It is also the story that carries the theme of the movie. The B story often introduces a brand new set of characters. Often a friendship story.

8. Fun and Games (pg 30-35): This part of the screenplay is the one that provides the promise of the premise. The fun and games section answers the question: Why did I come to see this movie? What about this premise, this poster, this movie idea, is cool?" This is the place where you include the big set pieces!

9. The Midpoint (pg 55) - the movie's midpoint is either an "up" where the hero seemingly peaks (though it is a false peak) or a "down" when the world collapses all around the hero (thought it is a false collapse) and it can only get better from here on out. The stakes are raised at the midpoint. The rule is: It's never as good as it seems to be at the midpoint and it's never as bad as it seems at the All is Lost point (see beat 11).

10. Bad Guys Close In (pg 55-75): This is the point where the bad guys decide to regroup and send in the heavy artillery. It's the point where internal dissent, doubt, and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero's team.

11. All is Lost (pg 75): All is Lost is the matching beat to the Midpoint...these two beats are always inverses of each other. We know it is the opposite of the midpoint in terms of an "up" or a "down." It's also the point of the script that is most often labeled, "false defeat," even though it looks all black, it's just temporary. All aspects of the hero's life are in shambles.

12. Dark Night of the Soul (pg 75-85): This section depicts how your character experiences and feels at the All is Lost point. We've all been there--hopeless, clueless, drunk, and stupid--sitting on the side of the road with a flat tire and four cents, late for the big appointment that will save our lives.

13. Break Into Three (pg 85): Eureka! The Solution! Both in the external story (the A story) and the internal story (the B story), which now meet and intertwine, the hero has prevailed, passed every test, and dug deep to find the solution. Now all he has to do is apply it. An idea to solve the problem has emerged.

14. Finale (pg 85-110): Where the lessons learned are applied. It's where the character tics are mastered. The chief source of "the problem" - a person or thing - must be dispatched completely for the new world order to exist.

15. Final Image (pg 110): The final image of the movie is the opposite of the opening image. It is proof that change has occurred and that it's real.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Unpaid Intern

I thought this was a good article from the New York Times on unpaid interns.

I, myself, recently found myself in a situation where I was being given a ton of responsibility and not receiving pay. It took me a long time to decide what to do, because on one hand, I really enjoyed working at the company and liked all the other people. But on the other hand, I didn't think it was right to depend on someone to make a film and not pay them.

In the end, an inappropriate request involving jumping on a trampoline topless was the tip of the iceberg. I left the company. Another indication of how difficult it is to be a woman in this industry! You've gotta put up with a lot.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Crazy Life

Long time no write! Life has been beyond crazy.

I did Wardrobe on a movie for SyFy Channel. Then moved into doing Casting with the same company, as well as some production coordination type stuff. Spent two days on that movie and then went to Script Supervise on a film for African distribution. So literally I have had no break. Today is my last day on "Okoto: The Messenger" and its a little sad. Despite all the oddities that have taken place on the Nigerian movie, I have been having a lot of fun and enjoy the company of the cast/crew/random entourage of Nigerians that are always hanging out on set.

Somehow I got pulled into acting in "Okoto"....yes, I am the only white girl in the Nigerian movie. I play a pediatrician to boot too! Haha, even though I kind of look 17. In my first scene, I had to make out with this Nigerian guy....I didn't know he was going to lean in for a makeout sesh after the lines, but he did, so being the professional that I am--I went with it too. He had the biggest lips I'd ever felt.

I also find it interesting that throughout the script there is tons of drinking and when filming, the actors NEVER use fake alcohol--it is always real. So we get a lot of drunks on set. Even in one of my scenes, I got brought a drink--which was then spilled on me by the same actor I had made out with. Yeah, so I smelled like an alci for the rest of the day. Joy.

Maybe I am being closed minded, but I cannot stand the smell of African food. We filmed in an African restaurant and the sight of goat head literally made me gag. Every time I looked at the plate I felt my stomach churn. We also filmed in an African food store and there were DRIED FISH just sitting on the shelves! It was so nasty. I cannot imagine anyone eating that. But I guess its a whole different culture.

I've been learning a lot about culture, and picking up a few words here and there. So that has been really fun; I love learning about different ways of life. I tend to ask a ton of questions, probably to the point of being annoying. But hey, I'm an inquisitive person!

I feel important on the "Okoto" set and that is nice. I always get a good spot within view of the action and the director comes to me a lot with questions such as what we should film next. I'm wearing a lot of hats, but I like that on a small set. I think this was a good experience and will lead to some future gigs. Yay!

Okay well better gear up for my last day on "Okoto"....ciao!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


What does the term "Turnaround" mean?

Turnaround is the term to describe a studio abandoned screenplay that can legally be picked up by another financier or movie studio, granted that the studio pays back the costs incurred by the first studio, plus interest. As only 1/12 of purchased scripts end up getting produced, it is important to get a turnaround clause if you take your screenplay to a studio. Many successful films have been picked up in turnaround after the first producing studio abandoned the project, some examples include Forrest Gump and ET.

What does it mean if a project goes into turnaround with 500,000 dollars against it?

If a project at a major studio goes into turnaround with $500,000 against it, the new purchasing entity must first repay the original studio for the funds spent developing the project, as well as interest. ET was bought by Universal in turnaround from Columbia. The film made so much money that Columbia made more money that year on interest on ET from the turnaround clause than on any of their own films.

Types of Deals To Know

Explain the following types of deals between a studio and a writer, a producer, and other producing entity and how they differ from the others.
  1. Development Deal – this is a non-exclusive agreement between two parties to develop a screenplay from an original idea, or a novel, play, magazine, article, etc. into a screenplay. This arrangement usually exists between a writer and a producer or producing entity, but it may include other elements like a director, or producer.
  2. First Look Deal – A term agreement lasting three or more years between a movie studio and a producing entity on a first look basis. Writer, producers, directors, and stars can act as producers in this arrangement. Basically, any idea, whether original or based on other material, gets pitched to this particular movie studio first. If the studio chooses not to develop the idea, the producer is free to take it to another studio or financier.
  3. Exclusive Deal – A term agreement generally lasting three or more years between a movie studio and a producing entity on an exclusive basis. Writers, producers, directors, and stars can act as producers in this arrangement as well. Any idea whether original or based on other material gets pitched to the movie studio. In this arrangement, if the studio does not wish to develop the idea further, the producer CANNOT take it to another studio or financier.

What is a Producer?

The Writer's Guild and Director's Guild have clear cut guidelines to what a writer and director are, but the Producer title is much more vague. It's is a funny term, because it encompasses a bunch of jobs. But here is an overview of the different types of producers and their functions.

A Producer....
  • Organizes and INITIATES a project.
  • Options rights to a book, finds a writer, goes into a studio, pitches, develops the screenplay, and gets paid a fee.
  • Gets the money for the film, either from studios or outside funding.
  • Gets a project off the ground
  • Walks on stage to get the Academy Award for Best Picture!
Most producers spend much of their time in an office, either buying and pitching, so once a film gets greenlight, they start on their next project and the film gets passed to....

The Line Producer....
  • This is a former production manager who has worked their way up. They know union agreements, when you have to break for lunch, how many tracks the camera crew needs, and know when you have to stop spending. They deal with a lot of numbers.
  • Oversee everything and make sure all the bills get paid.
The Executive Producer...
  • This is a person who brings name recognition to a project;
  • The one brought in to finance a project;
  • Or the person who brought the whole project together.
The Associate Producer...
  • Might be the Line Producer;
  • Or could be someone who has never done anything but brought a script to the film;
  • Or someone who works for the Producer;
  • Or even just the Producer's girlfriend.
  • This is a flexible title and can mean a lot of things.
The Writer can also get a Producer credit...
  • Often times in turnaround or other unique situations the Writer will say they want more.
  • Example: In Shakespeare in Love, Mark Norman got the Writing and Best Picture Academy Award.
A Manager (or an Actor or Writer) can get a Producer credit...
  • This is often done as a little gift or kudos to the manager
  • There are a lot of people who manager Writers and they don't make much money, so this money is how they stay afloat.
  • Agents CANNOT get producer credits though.

Keep in mind that everything is different in TELEVISION. In Film, the most important person is the director; but in TV, the most important person is the Writer...also known as the Executive Producer or Showrunner.
  • Executive Producer/Showrunner is usually the writer of the Pilot...if not, then its probably the person who hired the writers.

So there is a little overview, hope that's helpful!

Entertainment: An Industry Run on Slave Labor

So I got a PA job, unfortunately it isn't paying. I am working on a Sci-Fi movie that is about to go into production. This week we are in pre-production and I'm just stepping in where ever I can help. It hasn't been too hectic yet.

I find it very interesting that so much of the film industry seems to rely on slave labor! What baffles my mind is how these people pay their bills! Not everyone is lucky enough to have mom or dad there to help them. Luckily, my parents are pretty supportive and understanding...but I don't want to leech off of them because of my pride! I am hard-working and incredibly passionate and smart. I feel that the work I do is worthy of pay. I look around at some of the people being paid and they don't seem any more capable than I am. I guess I just don't understand how this is legal and okay!

Not that I am not learning a lot, because I am. I have been having fun too, which is important. I feel like because its such a low budget project, I'm not getting paid, but I also get to do a lot of things that on a bigger production I wouldn't get to do. I was doing budget stuff today and invoices and casting. I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, which is always nice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing Fellowships

This is some advice on how the Writing Fellowship programs work. Take a look! Great information!

Hi, I'm a past Disney Fellow (that program is now defunct,with only the ABC TV Writing and Daytime Writing Fellowships still available and paid).

I helped judge the fellowships for several years,
as well. They look at your sample first and, if it makes a passing
grade by the reader in the first round, the coverages are sent to
executives who narrow down their favorites (and their friends' specs ;-)
for the third round, i.e., the writers they want to bring in for

First, however, their assistants call you for a
"pre-interview" call to feel you out - if you get that call you are
being judged over the phone and if you sound cool and upbeat AND if you
say you have another piece to show them when they ask for it, then you
will most likely be called in as one of the twenty-thirty finalists for
a personal interview with the executives in one of the Disney/ABC
conference rooms.

All they are looking for, especially for TV writing,
are people who can work and play well for others. They once flew a
writer to L.A. for the interview because he had THE BEST TV spec they'd
ever seen, but when he came into the room it was clear he had no
interpersonal skills and wasn't very social.

No one could imagine
sitting in a writer's room with the poor guy for 13 hours a day so he
didn't get it in spite of his great sample. So they look for both -
good, commercial writing with other samples to show, AND a personable,
enjoyable person with whom to work.

All the TV fellows got writing
staff positions by the end of the fellowship year and a couple went on
to develop their own series that aired for a season. I was 31 when I got
in and most of the writing fellows were much younger (early twenties).
There was one "older" writing fellow (38) and she told me she was pulled
aside by one of the producers on lot who was mentoring her and
encouraged to lie about her age or not reveal it (sigh).

The DGA-ABC Directing Fellowship has been completely revamped and does
still include some money but not apparently what it once did. It's more
of a shadowing thing now and, again, they look at your sample short
first and foremost to decide who they want to work with. These are also
"diversity" run programs, but I've seen white males get into both, too.
However, since this is the first year of this revamped directing
program, no one quite knows what to expect from the process yet.

Hope that helps!
Marie Rose (not Rowe ;-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Write, Write, Write: Everyday

This weekend we filmed the pilot episode of the webseries I've been collaborating on. It went really well and had everyone on the crew cracking up during takes. I can't wait to get it all edited together so we can start showing it off! I think it has real potential.

Almost done with first feature length screenplay. Way to go me! I have several others lined up and I'm so excited about those, its really pushing me to finish this one. I have a problem where I can't finish screenplays because I get too excited about the next ones!

When I spoke to an agent at ICM who is married to a famous film director, she told me that her husband wrote every single day. When he was working as a PA, he would come home and write a little bit. Didn't matter if it was 10 words or 10 pages. He always got something down on paper. He sold a screenplay eventually, and it was met with critical acclaim. So on the next feature he sold, he was able to negotiate a deal that set him in the director's seat.

I have been using this knowledge as incentive to get myself to write as much as I can each and every day. It can be tough at times! There always seems to be something else I tell myself I need to do. But I have been getting better. Its one of my 3 month goals: Write everyday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Writer's Assistant Salaries

Since I know this is an important issue, I decided to post some info I found on writer's assistant salaries!

WB showrunner's asst: 800/wk + 300 out of pocket from a generous boss (female)  
CW showrunner's asst: 700/wk + raises per yr (female)  
NBC showrunner's asst: 650/wk (50 hrs/wk) (female)  
Disney showrunner's asst: 650/wk, no health benefits (female)  
USA showrunner's asst: 650/wk + health benefits after 1st season (female)  
ABC showrunner's asst: 600/wk (60 hours) + health benefits (male)  
NBC showrunner's asst: 500/wk after taxes (female)  
CW writers' asst: 800/wk, no health benefits (male)  USA writers' asst: 650-750/wk + health benefits (female)  
ABC writers' asst: 650/wk (male)  
ABC writers' PA: 600/wk (60 hrs/wk) + health benefits (female)

Female Movies Score Two Weeks In a Row

Valentines Day beat out Percy Jackson and The Wolfman this weekend! Yay for movies for girls! Last week Dear John beat out Avatar and took in 30 mil as well! I hope the studios start realizing that girls can be a very loyal audience if you give them what they want! Just look at Twilight's huge success. There is a lot of money in the female audience, so let's stop gearing everything to young males!

Valentines Day (Warner Bros) NEW [3,665 Theaters]
Fri $16.5 million, Sat $18.4M, 3-Day Wkd $52.4M, Est 4-Day Hol $60M

2. Percy Jackson & The Olympians(Fox) NEW [3,356 Theaters]
Fri $10.5M, Sat $11.5M, 3-Day Wkd $31.1M, Est 4-Day Hol $40M

3. The Wolfman (Universal) NEW [3,222 Theaters]
Fri $9.8M, Sat $10.9, 3-Day Wkd $30.6M, Est 4-Day Hol $34.8M

4. Avatar (Fox) Week 9 [2,685 Theaters]
Fri $4.8M, Sat $9.2M, 3-Day Wkd $30.0M, Est 4-Day Hol $23M, Cume $659.6M

5. Dear John (Relativity/Sony) Week 2 [2,975 Theaters]
Fri $4.1M, Sat $5.8M, 3-Day Wkd $15.3M, Est 4-Day Hol $18M, Cume $53.1M

6. Tooth Fairy (Fox) Week 4 [2,748 Theaters]
Fri, Sat $2.3M, 3-Day Wkd $5.6M, 4-Day Hol, Cume $41.5M

7. From Paris With Love (Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,722]
Fri, Sat $2.0M, 3-Day Wkd $5.0M, 4-Day Hol, Cume $35.9M

8. Edge of Darkness (Warner Bros) Week 3 [2,615]
Fri, Sat $1.8M, 3-Day Wkd $4.4M, 4-Day Hol, Cume $35.9M

9. Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight) Week 9 [1,005]
Fri, Sat $1.6M, 3-Day Wkd $4.0M, 4-Day Hol, Cume $16.5M

10. When in Rome (Disney) Week 3 [2,125]
Fri, Sat $1.2M, 3-Day Wkd $3.2M, 4-Day Hol, Cume $25.8M

It's looking like a record-breaking Valentines Day / Presidents Weekend overall of $230M, easily beating 2009's $220M for total same weekend box office.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Writing Fellowships

Thought some might find this useful, its a list of writing fellowships.

Television Writing Fellowships

Nickelodeon: January-February (comedy spec)

CBS: March-May (original work of writing & TV spec, only diversity)

FOX: March-July (original pilot, prefer diversity)

NBC: May-June (drama/comedy spec, prefer diversity)

Austin: June (drama/comedy spec)

ABC: May-July (drama/comedy spec)

WB: July (drama/comedy spec)

Screenwriting Fellowships (feature films)

Film Independent: March (lab)

Sundance: May (lab)

Nicholls: May

Austin: May

American Zoetrope: August-September

WGA: (mainly diversity)

TV Producer Talk

Yesterday I went and spoke with a friend of a friend who produces mainly TV series and TV movies (but also some features). He came from a business background, graduated from UCLA. But then switched over and began PA-ing. He did that for a year and then moved up to being an Associate Producer. He says he was sort of thown into the job and didn't really know what he was doing, but as they say..."fake it til you make it!" He now has an office on the Warner Bros lot.

He explained the process a pilot goes through to reach the air.

First step - find an awesome piece of material...this may come from a book or news article, or may just be cooked up in your head.

Next step, attach a writer. Since he is represented by WME, he goes to them first to try to attach a writer. If WME likes the concept, with the producer, they'll put together a package...this may include writers, actors, etc. Anything that would make the show attractive to a network. Packaging is SUPER important to agencies because when they bring a package to a network, they not only get a percentage from their clients but they also get a percentage of the show's budget and backend in the show. So this can mean big bucks for an agency.

June through August: Networks are open for pitches.

November: Scripts are turned in to the network for the shows they are possibly interested in.

December through January: Pilots are ordered by the network for approved scripts.

April through May: Networks look at the pilots and decide what they want to put on their line-up.

The smaller cable channels (ex. TNT, USA, etc.) don't follow the same schedule as the majors, they just ask for what they need at any particular the time frame will be different. One of the big differences between cable channels and the big networks is that networks tend to diversify more. Cable has niches...most of their shows are all similar in tone and feel. Networks (big and small) though have lost their edge right now for the most part. Most of what is being ordered falls in the category of either comedy or fantasy. This is what is selling at the moment and networks go with what has worked in the past. There is movement away from the TV movie, of which there used to be about 300 a year, now there is closer to 90, because it is the most expensive of TV entertainment to produce. Reality shows are the cheapest to make, then the 1/2 hour Comedy, followed by 1 hour drama, and finally the TV movie (usually 1-4 mil).

So that is a little overview of how the process works. If anyone is interested in seeing the 2010 pilot grid and scripts, I would be happy to share :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

LA or Elsewhere?

I've decided that I'm going to start writing to women in film who have careers I'd like to emulate or who I think I could learn something from.

One script supervisor wrote me a nice note in response to my email about working in Dallas vs. LA (she is based out of Dallas).

Thanks for the compliments.

You've asked a tricky question. This industry tends to be very cyclic: one
place is the hotspot now, but two years later, it's somewhere else. Things
happen like union strikes and film incentive programs that cause work to
migrate to certain areas. Sometimes Texas is a happening place; sometimes
not. Since Texas is so big, you might live in Dallas and miss out on
everything going to Austin or vice versa.

Two places you can ALWAYS count on film work are NY and LA. However, that's
where the competition is most fierce. Plus, they're union towns, and the
cost of living there is very high. I don't know your personal situation,
but you might want to consider marrying and raising a family there vs.
Texas. I've known a lot of people that started off in Texas, moved to LA to
work on the big stuff, then moved back to Texas to raise a family.

Last year, I worked pretty steadily until August, then I didn't work again
until March (when I accepted a job on a TV series as a logger for a PA
rate). I didn't work again until July, when I did 2 movies back to back.
I've had to turn one down in Louisiana and I've got another one that
hopefully will start in mid-October. So now I'm busy again. It's always like
this, and I've been freelancing for almost 20 years. It's always feast or

So consider these factors in making your decision:
One of a handful of scriptys vying for a handful of movies (Texas) or one of
a thousand scriptys vying for one of a thousand movies (LA).
Quality of life
Family and personal connections

You can always work for a while in one place, and then move if things don't
work out or you want to change things up. No decision is forever. If you're
in LA already, you have a place to stay and friends and contacts--what about
trying to start your career there? You can always come back home and stay
with your family to regroup in Austin, but if you come back to Austin you
may find it hard to go back and start over in LA.

Good luck to you!


Navigating the Business: Advice from An Agent

Monday morning, I had the great opportunity to meet with an executive at one of the leading talent agencies (I'm keeping his name secret for privacy's sake!). My dad's best friend golfs with him and so he arranged for us to meet.

He had a lot of great advice, that I thought would be good to share here.

He started out by telling me that in this business, there are two sides...

The business side--which encompasses agents, managers, lawyers, studio execs, producers, etc.

And the purely creative side--actors, writers, and directors.

He says that when you are going to go into entertainment, its good to figure out which side you want to be in. Not that nobody ever switches, but its much more difficult than say, switching from a manager to an agent. He says he does know agents that have turned writer and such though, so it definitely does happen.

He then explained that for the business side, starting out at an agency in the mail room and going through the agent trainee program can be a great way to learn about the business because agencies are kind of at the center of everything. They deal with actors, writers, directors, studios, lawyers, etc. This is actually something I have heard before from others.

Next I asked about graduate school....he didn't seem to think it was going to be necessary at all...unless you seriously want to be an entertainment lawyer. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up pretty much regardless of your education. This is something that I have definitely realized...when I was working on set, I was a PA and on the same level as the kid who didn't go to college at all. I knew what all the equipment was called and yet I wasn't allowed to touch it because I was just a PA. The more time that goes by, the more I have come to realize it doesn't really matter what you major in to get into entertainment...the best part about USC is the networking and contacts you build while at school. Everything else you can learn once you get out there and are working in the real world. I mean school definitely makes you a smarter assistant, but the english major, the economics major, and the film major are all going to start out on the same level.

The next thing I asked was about networking and how you build up a solid base of contacts, which is essential to being a good agent. This was one of the most interesting things I learned during my meeting. He said that the only thing that was important was to build contacts among the people in "your class" (i.e. the people you are in the mail room with, the people you go to school with, the people around your age)...these are going to be the filmmakers of tomorrow. Its not as necessary to build contacts with older people because these probably aren't going to be the people working when you are an agent (or whatever you want to be). So networking really not this ominous difficult task, as it might seem.

Next up, it was...what are the characteristics that you feel make a great agent?
1. Great social skills...this is all about building relationships with people...both clients and others who will can use your clients. You have to be a good communicator and be able to connect with people.
2. Extremely strong work ethic. You will never get off at 5PM--its very intense. You gotta be the one out there always going the extra mile in order to succeed.
3. Lastly, you have to passion about the business through and through. You have to be ready to have less time and less money than all your friends not working in film. But passion is what makes people go far in this business.

Noticing his family pictures on the mantle, I asked about how he managed to balance out family life with work. He said that it is very hard. He didn't get married until later in life. There are always people who are the exception to the rule and make it work. But its difficult to work super long hours and have a spouse/ miss out on a lot and that can lead to resentment, or you aren't going to at work and might miss out on opportunities for advancement.

He gave me a lot of good things to think about. He ended the meeting by saying that when I graduate to let him know and if I'm interested, he can set me up with the woman who manages the trainee hiring. That would be really cool if I could get started there! We'll see what happens though, this is a crazy business! I love it though :)

Producer Talk 2

So this week at CAA, we had another Producer come in and talk. He has worked on a large slate of highly succesful films!

Here are a few of the things we touched on...

So what are the primary responsibilities of a producer working at a studio?
Well your first duty is to go out and find ideas for films, whether it be from books or spec scripts (which is rare), or simply sitting around and discussing movie topics. Once you find the idea, you need to find the right person to write it--its very much like match-making actually. You guess at a person's talent and their ability to write this idea. You are usually wrong, but hopefully you are just right enough for the studio execs to start seeing the movie and to hire another writer (instead of just tossing the project)...often you are throwing out at least 300,000 per writer, so this can be a costly procedure!

If the studio is taking care of physical production, banking, marketing, and much power do you have as Producer?
Right now, there is less money than every available to studios and everyone is fearful. It is your job to convince studios to make the movie you want to make and to convince them that it is relevant in today's market. Every movie is a power struggle. If you are doing a movie with Ridley Scott, and you are a young producer, he is going to be the one with all the power...but if you are doing a movie with a little-known Director, you are going to be the one with the power. If you have just gotten off of a successful film, you are always going to have a leg up with the studios; and likewise, if you have a flop, you are going to have less leverage with studios.

So is the producer basically the one who puts everything together? This title seems so loose, there seem to be all different kinds of producers, can you explain the difference?
Yes, well the Producer is basically the one who has a sense of what the movie should be...he/she is the one who tries to realize the dream of what the movie can be. This person is the one dealing with all the financial stuff, but there is also a ton of creative involved as well. He is the one on the project before the direct, at the time of the writer, and he is the one that is there at the end as well. The Producer is the one who gets to pick up the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The Executive Producer can be a variety of things...often times this is the manager who put it together, or could be a manager who didn't really do anything but just had the right client. Steven Spielberg is sometimes listed as an executive producer because his name helps sell a movie; he might have once upon a time found a good story and said it should be made, and then a studio might throw him a fee and in return, get to use his name. Associate Producer is much the same, usually its just someone who was given a credit as leverage. Line Producer is the one who is on set and making sure everything runs smoothly.

If you are a studio Producer, does that mean you only get to work with one studio?
No, what it means is that the studio you have a first look deal with has the right to all your projects first. If that studio doesn't want it, then you are free to take the project to another studio. When you have a first look deal at a studio, that basically means that the studio is paying the salaries of your executives and assistants and puts up the money to run your company. Often times these production companies are on the studio lots, but not always. We took Gladiator to Sony and they didn't want it, so we then took it to Dreamworks. In return, Dreamworks paid Sony a fee (since they were paying to upkeep our production facilities during the production).

What happens if a studio decides to take a project on and develops it, but then decides to drop it...can you take it to another studio?
Yes, this is called "turnaround." If Sony decides they are no longer going to continue on with a project, they will often give it back to you and allow you to take it to another studio; however, if Paramount picks up the film, they will be required to pay Sony back for whatever funds were spent developing the project. Often times, studios will make a deal to move a project from Sony to Paramount...but they can't pay back the 500,000 spent on development fees, so they will give 10% upfront, and then if the project is ever viable, Sony will get paid in full. This is a kindness among studios. Another thing to mention is that if you add an element, you are legally required to go back to the original studio and let them know before offering the project up to another studio. This basically means that if Sony drops a project, but then you get Brad Pitt to say that he wants to do the must go back to Sony and inform them of the "changed elements" and give them a chance to come back on board before taking the script to Paramount.

How do you get a first look deal with a studio?

It changes all the time. Studios are always trying to figure out how to get movies. There was a stage where they thought younger people knew something...and that's how I got lucky. In my particular case, I was working for a director and they tried to hire me as a studio executive, but I said I only wanted to be a producer, so they took us on. If a producer has a couple hits, the person's agent will usually get a studio to meet with him/her and try to set up a first look deal.

What has been your shortest time frame between pitching a movie and starting filming?
2 or 3 years.

Talent Manager Talk

In week three of The Business of Representation class, we had a manager from a top management company come talk to our class. He has an amazing client list and really had an interesting perspective on things! Here are some of the things we talked about...

How did you get into management?
Well I actually started out in music management. I got a job in the mail room at Capitol Records...and managed a few people on the side. I managed to get a job at a small management only had 4 people, but then it grew. Its a different path than I'd recommend.

How do managers differ than agents?

Agents can't produce, managers can. Managers are also technically not supposed to find employment, but that is a rule that I break nearly every day. You would be crazy in this day and age not to have both a manager and agent, the more people you have out there pitching for you, the better. Its a tough business and you want to have lots of people in your corner. With Agents, everyone has a speciality, some work in concerts, corporate shows, commercials, literary, TV, movies, etc. Agents specialize. While Managers, on the other hand, they have to know about a lot of different areas. Most of his/her clients do different things...if you can't get David Spade on TV , you try to get him on the road, etc. It takes longer to be a manager and its a harder road because you ahve to learn a lot. The talent will really look to you to explain everything to them and you are often doing multiple things at once.

Who do the studios call first, the Manager or Agent?
It really depends on who they have the best relationship with...but as soon as they call me, I'll immediately call the Agent...and vice versa.

What do you do if the client doesn't agree with you?

My rule of thumb is to always tell the client the truth, first and foremost. Its worth losing a client, to tell the truth. There is a movie coming out soon that I begged my client not to do, but she was friends with the Producer and they convinced her to do it.

How do you find clients?

Well if you want to be a good manager, you really have to be resourceful and go to the places that no every manager is going to. You have to find the really bizarre places. Sometimes kids in the office will wonder why they aren't getting promoted and I'll tell them--its because you need to be out there every single night at the alternative comedy places and clubs, seeking out prospective clients, you need to read the trades, and constantly be searching for the next big gotta read and go above and beyond the call of duty.

What do you do when you produce a show as a manager?
Well first of all, I will never take a credit on a show just because my client is on the show...I only take a cred if I am actually going to be a hands on producer...this is not the case with all Managers though. When you are working on a show, you really have to pick and choose your battles though, and its tough at times. On one of my client's shows, I constantly had to back my client and sometimes I would back him to his face and then do what was right for the show. My obligation was to his career, first and foremost, and sometimes what is best for the show is a better idea than backing what he wants. Actors often make decisions based on emotions and its your job to see through that and look out for their career.

What advice do you have for someone hoping to go into the representation business?

Well I think the best and smartest way to get into representation, is to get a job at an agency, go into the trainee program. This will teach you what everyone's job is and what people do. You really learn the business and how networks work. If you are smart and resourceful, you build really is all about relationships in this business. My value to clients is that Bruckenheimer and Katzenberg will take my calls--this is so important. Or that you have someone in the office who has a relatinoship with that person to call. Its a great idea to intern at UTA, CAA, or Endeavor.

The Assistant Director's Bible

My friend Craig wrote this document on tips for Assistant Directors...its very well-thought out and true, so I thought I'd include it here...just in case there are any aspiring ADs out there!

Close the Set: the Assistant Director’s Bible
by Craig Ormiston

You are in charge. Sure, the director might have the vision and the producer might be paying the bills, but you run the show. Your responsibility, your skill. You keep the clock. You stay under budget. And not to alarm, but you (in part with the key grip) are legally liable for anything that goes wrong. Keep the set safe, happy, and alive.

Ten Verbs of Wisdom for a Healthy Production

1. Inspire. Arouse in your crew an eager want. Remind them that they’re not at a desk. They have the best job in the world. Make them happy about doing what you suggest.
2. Anticipate. Production is like doing a jigsaw puzzle on a waterbed – plan for the worst. Identify at least five things that could go wrong during each scene and plan for them. No shoot is impregnable.
3. Name. A person’s name is the sweetest sound to them in the world. Know everyone’s name. Say it to them often and always embed it in every request.
4. Smile. From the bottom of your heart. It’s contagious. A happy set is an efficient set.
5. Listen. Let each person do the talking. Collect as much information as possible. Know everything.
6. Forgive. Never criticize, condemn or complain. If someone made a mistake, they already know and should not have to hear it again. If they don’t know or make the mistake a second time, call attention to it indirectly.
7. Assure. Encourage crew by making every fault or mishap seem easy to correct. Be confident. If you are not confident, be confident about not being confident. Get people to feel confident about you.
8. Request. Ask questions instead of directly giving orders. Let the other person feel like the idea is his or hers. Nobody likes being told what to do. And nobody likes being yelled at. Do you?
9. Pacify. Avoid arguments. Never tell someone they are wrong. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. If you cannot avoid an argument (or cannot resolve other people’s arguments), do not let the crew see it – move ugly out of the way.
10. Praise. Make each person feel important and necessary. Reward good work with honest and sincere appreciation. Acknowledge what each person is doing right. Commend every improvement.

The Production Meeting
1. Debrief the previous shoot. Always begin with a compliment.
2. Throw down a challenge. Give the crew a reputation to live up to. Your crew will take you more seriously with clean, pretty paperwork. Assume they don’t want to read it, so make it worth looking at.
3. Distribute sides for the upcoming shoot. Read every line of action aloud to the crew. Highlight every little prop, stunt, set dress, costume, vehicle, effect, movement, etc. and stop as you read to ask each department if they’ve got it taken care of.
4. You are in charge of all people and equipment. Make sure both will be there in time for the shoot. Make phone calls. Double check. Call sheets should be detailed and to the point (but never rely on them!). Remind the crew that being on time is late in this business - call time is work time, not coffee chitchat time. If you move call times earlier or later than planned, call each person.
5. You cannot cure a disease by suppressing symptoms. Address problems directly and invite everyone to be honest about their issues. Do not leave the meeting until solutions are reached and hands shake. Discontent grows like a tumor if not treated quickly.

Collaborating With the Director

1. Spontaneity is laziness. Don’t let any director or crew member convince you otherwise. Creativity lies in the battle plan, not the attack. “Wingin’ it” is not an option.
2. Wrangle the director and cinematographer on location or set to walk through the coverage, commit to shots, and schedule them efficiently. Do this as early as possible, but AT LEAST do it the morning before the shoot. Order shots for the day to accommodate lighting and inspire the director to be okay with that. Know every shot better than the director does.
3. Train the director to tell you whether or not he or she likes the take immediately after taking it. If they are not happy and you have time to get it again, announce“we’re going again” without delay. If the director is happy, check with everyone else first. Never announce that you are “moving on” until director, camera, and sound all confirm that they accept the take.

On Set
1. Start the day off with circle time. Get everyone’s attention, wish them a good morning, and inspire them. Take control. Remind everyone about safety and identify specific concerns (no matter how small). Make sure no one has any questions. Get the director to talk the crew through the day’s coverage. Simple and quick. Then orchestrate the first setup.
2. Learn to speak efficiently before you can act efficiently. Tell the truth. Honesty is a virtue. Stick to the facts. Say what you know, not what you think. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Misinforming is more harmful that saying nothing at all. Teach everyone to do the same.
3. Only three things should ever be happening on a film shoot: rehearsing, lighting, or shooting – and nothing else. Know what we’re waiting for.
4. Remember that everyone read the script.
5. It’s your job to coordinate background. Give extras a role. A name. Specific blocking. Make them feel like actors and not extras. Keep them engaged and away from the craft table.
6. Yelling “quiet on set” is ironic. The crew knows this, too. Set an example. Ask everyone to quiet down quietly if you can. And remember: people like hearing their name; if you target the source of the yap by name, that person will listen.
7. Keep producers and the director up to date on time. Never surprise anyone with the clock. Constantly stay in touch with crew heads. Ask for time estimates AND make your own based on what needs to be done. Set time deadlines and update everyone on the countdown. Five-minute warnings are important.
8. Make sure boom and camera are talking to each other. They should be best friends. If the boom slips into frame, it’s everyone’s fault. Unite the departments.
9. People need to do their job – and nobody else’s. If anyone has a problem or concern about another department or crew member, make sure they tell you first.
10. Keep everyone out of the actor’s eye line. Have your back to them if necessary. Don’t move during a take. Do not let any member of the crew concern themselves with anything outside their department during a take – especially performance. There’s nothing they can do about it anyway.
11. Take good notes. Times, problems, delays, names, injuries, everything. Have your 2nd A.D. help you take notes and monitor attendance.

1. Keep rehearsal simple. Get the crew to stand where the camera will be. Make sure everyone is paying attention while the director runs through blocking. Then walk through the coverage.
2. Show, don’t tell. Make sure the crew hears AND sees what you and the director imply. Keep everyone on the same page. Invite questions.
3. There are three types of rehearsal: blocking, marking, and tech rehearsal. Blocking demonstrates for the crew where the actors will be so the scene can be lit; marking refines blocking to collect focus and cue marks; and tech runs the scene as it will be shot.
4. When the actors are rehearsing, the crew should be quiet. When the crew is lighting, the actors should be quiet. Keep actors away from set as much as possible and always know where they are. Have the actors present as soon as you are ready for them.

1. Safety means liability, and liability is omnipresent. The producers dread lawsuits. If you don’t care about safety as an A.D., you are a wallet with a huge hole in it. The fewest accidents happen when you are shooting stunts; accidents usually happen when the shoot is easy.
2. Record every accident on the production report, no matter how small. Always be honest on the report – it is a legal document and will be reviewed. This piece of paper might keep you out of jail.
3. Know where the fire extinguisher and first aid kit is. Keep multiple paths clear as fire exits. Always have an out and let the crew know where it is.

Be yourself and don’t be afraid. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. This job is not for the squeamish, but I know you can do it. Making a movie isn’t hard – people are hard. Lead well and you will win. If the day goes well, you get the credit. Don’t stress. Be flexible. Making a film is an organic process. It is an art. Have fun and love your job; if you do, people will love you.