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!