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Film Contracts: What are Points?

Don’t Just Make Your Points, Define Them!

by Jeremy Juuso

Points? Points? What on earth are those things people keep promising me when I work on a film?

A friend of mine said recently she ran into a name actor at Crate & Barrel. She’s a bit new to producing and had actually been pursuing this actor through mutual friends (forget about the agent and manager – too blind to real opportunity). Well, lo and behold, she approached the actor, brought up her project, and the actor said he had heard about it. They talked some more and actually hit it off quite well. In fact, they hit it off so well that during the conversation she promised him “10 points,” if he ended up doing the movie.

Now, we have yet to see whether this actor will commit to the project. But apart from that, an even bigger issue looms, and it’s not the one about trying to do a deal at Crate & Barrel. I ask her what she means by “10 points.”

“Oh, you know, 10 points off the backend.”

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“You know. When the film makes money.”

“Is that before or after the investors take their cut?”

A genuine thinking effort crinkles her forehead, “Hmmm, well…”

“What about the distributors? He’s not expecting any of their money before they take their fees and expenses. Is he?”

“No, no, no. He’d never expect that.” She doesn’t say this with much conviction, however.

This scenario plays out all the time with filmmakers who venture out into the land of indie film. They make promises about points without being crystal clear on exactly what they are offering. Mostly, this is because the issue of points and what they mean can be a very confusing one.

Let’s pretend that my friend, Jen, for this example’s sake, gets a firm commitment from the actor, shoots her feature, and then finds a domestic distributor for North America who releases it in theaters, on DVD, on pay TV, etc. – the whole shebang. In fact, let’s assume she used a producer’s rep to find the distributor, and while they were at it, the producer’s rep also found her a kickass foreign sales agent. The foreign sales agent takes the film to markets like AFM and Cannes and sells the film to foreign distributors attending these markets.

Next, in our fairy tale land, money flows back to the producer’s rep from the domestic distributor and the foreign sales agent.

The producer’s rep, John Wayne, tells her that from all of its releases into different formats (e.g., theaters, DVD, etc.), the domestic distributor collected $5 million, but is only returning $1.75 million, after deducting its fees and expenses. And he tells her that the foreign sales agent collected $900K from sales to foreign distributors, but is only returning $580K after deducting fees and expenses. As Jen starts to grouse about the high deductions, Mr. Wayne reminds her of how many films lose money and that she is actually sitting quite pretty, especially since her film only cost her $1 million to make, plus any backend commitments. “Oh snap! Backend commitments,” she thinks. Mr. Wayne advises her that he’ll be deducting his fees and expenses, totaling $330K, and sending the remaining $2 million her way.

Before we start handling Jen’s backend commitments, let’s review these numbers I just blabbed at you:

DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION
$5 million from all formats (theaters, DVDs, etc.)
minus $3.25 million in fees and expenses
yields the producer’s rep $1.75 million

FOREIGN DISTRIBUTION
$900K from sales to foreign distributors
minus $320K in fees and expenses
yields the producer’s rep $580K

PRODUCER’S REP
$2.330 million total (that is, $1.75 million domestic plus $580K foreign)
minus $330K in fees and expenses
YIELDS $2 million to Jen

So, Jen made $2m (m = million) that she now has to distribute to investors, backend commitments, and herself. She starts to think about those 10 points she promised to the name actor from Crate & Barrel. (Let’s call him Pacino Dinero – his real name was so abominable he opted for the best stage name available.) These points are her only backend commitment.

Even before she can think much further, she goes back to the agreement she signed with the investors to see how money would be split between the investors and her, the producer, had she not made any backend commitments. According to the agreement, it says that the investors get paid back all of the film’s budget, plus another 20%, and then anything left over is split 50/50 with the investors.

What!? She breaks it down so she can understand:

1. She must pay back $1m, which was the budget of the film.
2. She must pay back another 20% of the budget, or $200K in this case.
3. Then, anything left over ($800K in this case – or $2m minus $1m minus $200K) is split 50/50 between her and the investors. So, she would get $400K and the investors would get another $400K.

Aha, without Pacino Dinero in on the deal, the $2m she just received from the investors would yield $1.6m to her investors and $400K to her. But then she starts to figure out where Mr. Pacino Dinero actually figures in all of this, and her head starts to swim. “What did I mean? 10 points? Well, obviously that means 10%. But 10% of what?” After several hours spent meditating in her 1990 Toyota pickup, three scenarios emerge:

NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Pacino Dinero calls up and says he was promised 10% of the distributor’s gross, which means 10% of $5.9m, in this case (i.e., 10% of $5m domestic plus $900K foreign). This translates into $590K! Jen calls up the distributor and the foreign sales agent, asking if they could rework their expenses to include this 10% off the top. Her calls go unreturned. Then she talks to the producer’s rep.

“No way, that’s between you, him, and your investors,” he warns.

“My investors!” Jen runs to each of them. Their response is the same, “I’ve taken a bath on all eight films I’ve invested in, and I need to cover at least some of those losses. Sorry.” Jen’s heart sinks as she realizes that not even her own $400K share will cover the 10 points (or $590K) she owes Pacino Dinero.

PAIN-IN-THE-!@#$ SCENARIO: A slightly more reasonable Pacino Dinero calls Jen and says, “Great! 10 points. That means 10% of the $2m the filmmaking entity got, or in other words, $200K.” Jen goes to her investors and asks if they can please just take this money off the top of the $2m, before she and they start splitting anything. The investors almost relent, but then their financial advisors intervene, saying, “A deal is a deal.” Now, Jen must pay half of the $400K she made to this clown – he wasn’t even that good! It was the script that made the film!

WONDERLAND SCENARIO: Pacino Dinero calls up. Jen answers, and before she can speak, the master actor soliloquizes about how he would like his $40,000. Jen smiles and gladly cuts him a check for 10% of $400K, or 10% of her share of the monies, because this is what producers most often mean when they assign points. (Points are typically taken out of the producer’s share of profits.)

Luckily for Jen, all this fretting is for naught. Pacino Dinero ends up getting sued by both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro for egregious abuse of their names. Utterly distracted by the whole affair, the thespian never questions the $40,000 she hands him in backend compensation.

Let’s step back into reality here. Many writers, directors, and actors have to assume the role of a producer and make their own work. The goal in doing so is to establish the kind of respect and demand for you as an artist that can fund a career. When making your own work means making an independent film – or any project, for that matter – the definition of who gets what profits is essential, whether there is money gushing in from a hit (rare) or whether there is money trickling in from a miss (most common).

In all instances, you want to promise participation from your piece of the pie, not from a piece of the pie you do not control. In the Nightmare Scenario above, Jen has no control over how much money the distributor chooses to deduct in expenses. Had the expenses been even higher, or worse, had they completely erased the return of any monies from the distributor, Jen would have been in even steeper trouble. She would have found herself having made a commitment (inadvertently, in this case) to the actor for a piece of the distributor’s pie, before the distributor started deciding how much of that pie to keep for itself. The same can be said with the monies from the foreign sales agent, and even from the producer’s rep. The fees for each party have been set, but the expenses are variable, as are the amounts of money coming in to cover those expenses.

On a separate, but related, note: In the land of moviedom, fees are almost always calculated as a percentage of total revenues, *before* taking into account expenses. For example, if a distributor collects $100K and has a fee of 35% coupled with $20K in expenses, the fee will total $35K, or 35% of $100K. One might think a more reasonable way to do things would be to calculate a fee based on a total where expenses have already been subtracted out. In our mini-example here, that would mean 35% of $80K, for a resulting fee of $28K. The $80K comes from subtracting out the expenses of $20K from the $100K in collected revenue. But alas, this is not so.

In the Pain-in-the-!@#$ Scenario, Jen would have been modifying her agreement with the investors after the fact. One could promise a talent, such as the actor above, a portion of the first monies to come in. That is, the actor would receive a certain percentage of any lump sum of money that came to the producer and investors before that lump was then subsequently split between the producer and investors. But such an arrangement would have to be okayed by investors beforehand, not after the talent’s deal was already set. This type of profit participation arrangement, by the way, is usually reserved only for the most exceptional of talent (read: a big name star doing you a big favor by taking part in your small project).

So where does this leave us? With the Wonderland Scenario: Jen-the-producer gets a certain amount of money and has full control over what she does with it and who participates in it. This is the kind of scenario you want to be in. In other words, from the start of your project, clearly define what you mean by “points,” so that there is no misunderstanding later on. Clarify, in some manner or other, that any profit participation on the backend will come out of the producer’s share of the investor/producer split. And if someone tries to be unclear with you by using terms like “gross,” “adjusted gross,” or “net,” have them define exactly what they mean. The movie business is unclear enough as it is, no need to obfuscate it further. Don’t just make your points, define them!

Jeremy Juuso is the author of GETTING THE MONEY: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR WRITING BUSINESS PLANS FOR FILM. He is also the founder of Jeremy Juuso Consulting, a firm specializing in the writing of film business proposals, publication of film data, and education of investors on the basics of the movie business.

Source with permission: The Writers Store

Horror Filmmaking: Understanding Your Own Fear for Fun and Profit

by Devin Watson

Horror is transgressive art. It seeks to show the darker side of human nature in all its ugliness. Using the medium of film, we explore themes that are considered off-limits to other genres. Our explorations of the dark underbelly of life can give the audience a cathartic experience as well as us, the writers.

People pay money to get scared. From the haunted house tour to the horror movie, the experience of being scared is what we’re in the business of selling. We can write some of the most gruesome, terrifying scenes and audience-goers will plop down their hard-earned money to see it in living color on the big screen. That’s one of the many things I love about horror.

Horror movies provide a safe outlet for people to experience being frightened. Much like the thrill seekers who climb mountains or ride fast roller coasters, the horror movie audience wants to be scared. As screenwriters, we can’t let them down.

What exactly is fear then? If you’re reading this, then you’ve experienced it at least once in your life. From a physiological standpoint, fear is the body’s reaction to threats, whether real or imagined, most typically as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism we all have. Adrenaline is dumped into the bloodstream, the heart beats faster, pupils dilate, and the senses are heightened.

Fear is a natural reaction to something that scares us; it’s an emotion that drives us to stay alive in horrific situations. But that’s only what happens physically. The real center of fear is in the mind, which is where we as horror screenwriters will concentrate our efforts.

Fear has a significant attachment to emotion. This attachment can make an ordinary, sedate person perform irrational and often mentally unsound actions. Let’s look at some of the more common causes of fear here to better understand how we can apply them in our scripts.

The Unknown

All fears can trace their lineage to a common source: the great unknown. Not having a clear understanding of something can be a great fear inducer. In Event Horizon (1997), throughout the movie the only concrete answer the expert Dr. Weir could give to explain the phenomenon of the ship seeming alive is “I don’t know.” Those three magic words can send chills down a moviegoer’s spine; they’re right there with the characters, seeing everything and knowing just as much (or little) as they do. It wasn’t until the last moments of the film that the whole truth was revealed about where the ship’s crew went and what was really going on.

Now let’s look at a real-life example: the AIDS epidemic.

During the early 1980s, the level of scientific knowledge of HIV was not what it is today. Because of this, rumors circulated in public that you could catch HIV through a simple handshake or any other casual contact with an infected individual. As our understanding of the virus grew, the government pushed for more public education about how one can and cannot catch HIV in order to dispel the misinformation.

Unfortunately, many of those rumors ended up causing irrational, fear-induced violence against those infected, or even suspected, of having, HIV. The lack of understanding, coupled with public anxiety and unrest over this deadly killer, led many to overreact in their everyday lives.

This fear of the unknown had a great influence on director David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly (1986). The general public at the time was still worried about the AIDS epidemic, and Cronenberg reshaped the story into one of a man transforming under the influence of an unknown disease. Seth Brundle at one point says, “I seem to be afflicted by a disease with a purpose, wouldn’t you say?”

Although Cronenberg denied that the film was an allegory about AIDS, the concept of the disease at the time and the film’s being linked to HIV/AIDS was foremost in many moviegoers’ minds and helped drive ticket sales.

This was in contrast to the original film’s focus on science gone awry. The result was a timely film that not only played on public fear, but also took audiences on a “safe” journey through Seth Brundle’s long and painful transformation into a hideous monster from this disease.

The Shadow Self

Whether or not we’d like to admit it, there is a darker side to our psyches. The pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung referred to this darker side as our “Shadow Self.” This was thought to be where our more malevolent thoughts came from, bubbled up to the surface, and became manifest in our actions.

The idea of man as his own worst enemy and a monster under the surface comes from this idea of the Shadow Self. Psycho’s Norman Bates is a classic example from film, while many real-life serial killers embody this notion of evil and malice lurking just beneath the thin veneer of a charismatic smile. Indeed, I’ve see many examples of the Shadow Self as a thematic element in my scripts after writing them.

Don’t be afraid about something dark and ugly slithering to the surface of your consciousness and making itself known: That’s often where some good ideas come from for a horror story. Jung said that it isn’t a bad thing for someone to have a Shadow Self, but not acknowledging its existence can hurt you. Rather, embrace it and realize it is just another part of you.

Getting a Handle on Fear

To get a better handle on horror you should know your own fears and why you have them. Chances are good that if you have them and can expound upon them in a story, you will also find many others who share those fears.

Try writing down what scares you. It may not be something you use in a story, but it will help you understand what it is about you, the writer and the person, that gives you a unique psychology. Let me tell you a little story about one of my own fears.

The movie Alien scared the living hell out of me when I was a kid. And given its box office take, not just me but countless others. There was something very unsettling, disgusting, and frightening about it at all stages. This thing that resembled a hand gripping around your face and a tail coiled around your neck that puts you in a coma, then slides a tube down your throat, a violation reminiscent of rape, lets you breathe but also to deposit an egg inside of your chest.

You wake up and feel okay, but a bit out of it with a sore throat. A few hours later, you start convulsing and thrashing about as your chest explodes outward, leaving you for dead as the newly-born creature slides out. It used you as nothing more than an incubator while it grew, then hatched out by tearing through your chest. And don’t get me started on the full-grown adult with its razor-sharp tongue breaking through your skull to incapacitate you so it can grow more of its brood.

Later on in my life, after doing some research for my own horror story, I discovered that there were real-life counterparts in nature to this creature that were the inspiration for it: the braconid wasp and the human botfly.

Out of the two, it was the botfly that most sent my skin crawling. The botfly’s eggs are carried by a host mosquito in the tropical regions of the world and detach when they come in contact with warm human skin. Body heat also causes the tiny botfly larva to hatch and begin burrowing into the skin, leaving only a small puncture hole at the surface for breathing. As they feed off the host body, they grow to about the size of an adult human thumb, with spikes lining their segments to prevent them from being pulled out. I read dozens of medical journal reports of botfly larvae being found in unsuspecting victims’ backs, arms, breasts, even their scalps all the way down to their brains, wriggling around. And this was real!

Based on my own reaction, I had a hunch other people would have a similar one and just had to incorporate the little beasties into a story. I also took a small leap and imagined a whole nest of them infesting a person rather than just one larva. And you know what? People read it, and were entertained and horrified in equal parts. After explaining to them that botflies were, in fact, a real insect, their terror went even deeper. This was not just something I had cooked up my brain; this was something they could encounter for themselves if they weren’t careful.

Can you see what I’m getting at? By knowing what scared me, I was able to connect with my audience at more visceral level and relay my own horror and fear of something, while at the same time entertaining people.

Applying Fear

So how do we take what we know now about fear and introduce it into our story? Through tension and suspense. As horror screenwriters we have it a little tougher than those who write drama or action; we have to establish the tension as early as possible and carry the suspense as far as possible in the story. It requires a little more work, but it’s worth it.

Where do we get our ideas? This is one of those things that nobody can really help you with as a writer. Ideas can come from anywhere at any time. I generally get my ideas from observing the world. Keeping your eyes and ears open will give you plenty of information to start putting a good story idea together.

Sometimes a story comes to us fully formed. Those are extremely rare occasions, so don’t hope to just sit back and let them come to you. You’ll have to find your story idea and put it through its paces to see if it’s workable or not. Sorry to dash your hopes, but for most of us it simply doesn’t happen that way.


Devin Watson was born in Brunswick, Georgia in 1978. Growing up watching countless horror films due to many childhood maladies, he harbored a love of writing with an active imagination. Even through high school and college, graduating with a degree in Computer Science, he pursued his study of screenwriting, culminating in the production of The Cursed in 2007. He is co-founder of Screenwriter’s Utopia, one of the largest online communities of professional and amateur screenwriters.

Source with permission: The Writers Store

Proven Advertising Techniques Can Make Your Queries & Loglines Stand Out From The Pack

Selling Secrets of the Selling Trade

by American Writers & Artists Institute

You’ve slaved over every syllable to make it memorable. Your manuscript spills over with high ideas, scathing wit and a dash of drama that would send even the coldest executive producer groping for a box of Kleenex.

Yet, for the life of you, you can’t get anyone in the business to read it, let alone give you a call. What gives?

Let’s face it.

You’re not just competing with the other good scripts and first novels. You’re competing with piles and piles… and piles… of bad ones.

Aside from step one — producing the most imaginative, tightest manuscript you can muster — is there any other way to rise head and shoulders above the rest? Absolutely. And the secret is closer at hand than you might think.

You can find it in your bathroom medicine cabinet… your icebox… on the inside cover of the magazine that’s lying on the floor next to your bed…

On every billboard in America. In every issue of the Sunday paper. On tubes of toothpaste. And, most especially, in every piece of junk mail that stuffs your mailbox.

I’m talking, of course, about advertising copy.

Most copywriters will tell you — writing advertising copy isn’t art. It’s a simple craft. A trade. And like any trade, there are proven, specific techniques that make it work.

By virtue of words alone, copywriters have convinced hundreds of millions of people to pick Coke over Pepsi, McDonald’s over Burger King and the Wall Street Journal over Forbes. Ad copy builds billion- dollar businesses… adds thousands of jobs to the economy… puts hundreds of politicians in office… raises millions of dollars for good causes…

Name the selling challenge, strong ad copy drives the boat. And that’s the good news.

Because the same formulas that sell a product can also help you sell your screenplay or your novel. Just as an example, let’s take a look at the writing of screenplay loglines.

A typical screenplay logline is about 25 words. So is a typical print ad headline.

In both, you get about 3 seconds to grab — and hold — attention.

Three seconds to coax a studio to sink millions of dollars into your movie project… to get a publishing company to invest in publicity campaigns and book runs… or to talk an agent into gambling a paycheck and his reputation on your career.

That’s a tall order.

Copywriters face similar kinds of pressure when they write ad headlines. But they have an advantage over you. They’re already starting with time-tested, proven formulas for headlines that pack a punch.

Here’s one popular formula — borrowed from copywriter Michael Masterson — that works just as well for loglines as it does for selling products. It’s called ‘The Four U’s’ — from the four aspects that make ad headlines work.

In no particular order, the Four U’s are: ‘Unique,’ ‘Useful,’ ‘Urgent’ and ‘Ultra-Specific.’

It’s these four aspects that almost all winning ads have in their headlines. Try the same formula applied to a logline. For instance, here’s one used by writer Michael Thomas to sell his script of ‘The Rum Diary’:

‘SET IN THE LATE ’50′S IN SAN JUAN, A JOURNALIST FEARS THAT HIS DREAMS OF WRITING ARE EVAPORATING AS FAST AS THE RUM DRINKS HE GUZZLES.’

Does that sound Unique to you? Definitely. There’s no mistaking this script for, say, another knock off of ‘Pretty Woman.’

Is it Useful? Any producer who’s ever written (and many of them have) can see this is a story a certain audience can identify with.

Urgent? In sales, that’s means where’s the ‘buy now’ impulse going to come from. Here, you might translate it to mean ‘dramatic tension.’ And Thomas gets it. We’re watching a writer’s dreams evaporate.

How about Ultra-Specific? Does the logline pull it off? Absolutely. This story happens ‘In the late ’50s…’ Where? ‘San Juan’ To whom? ‘A journalist who drinks…’ Why? ‘His dreams are fading…’ And How? We don’t know yet, but we might look deeper into those glasses of rum…

Whatever Thomas did, he managed not only to sell the script, but to get Johnny Depp, Nick Nolte, and Benicio Dell Torro to star. Let’s try another one.

Here’s the logline from Hossein Amini’s new script, ‘The Great Raid’…

‘SET IN THE PHILIPPINES IN 1945 DURING WW II, AN ARMY LIEUTENANT LEADS A RAID BEHIND ENEMY LINES IN ORDER TO RESCUE 500 AMERICAN POWS’

Unique? Well, other war movies have rescue plots. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ comes to mind. So on that score, this logline probably wouldn’t have gotten prospective agents and producers to start hitting speed dial on their cell phones.

But notice what happens when Amini added just a few key details…

’500 P.O.W.s.’… In ‘the Philippines in 1945′… ‘behind enemy lines’… The possible directions for this story come into sharp focus. We can see now that it’s NOT necessarily going to be like every other war movie…

How about Useful? In this sense, I mean does the script sound like one that will sell movie tickets? Right now, it does. With the war on Afghanistan well on American minds, Amini’s timing is good. But that’s surely no accident. Simply knowing what the market is looking for goes a long way toward telling you how to position your pitch. It’s no wonder Miramax picked this up for an undisclosed sum in February 2002.

Let’s continue…

Urgency — in exactly 25 words, Amini gives us just enough key plot points to charge his short description with high drama. These 500 soldiers are trapped behind enemy lines. Will they be rescued?

Is Amini successfully Ultra-specific? Again, it’s the details: ‘Philippines in 1945,’ ‘Army Lieutenant,’ ‘A raid behind enemy lines,’ ’500 P.O.W.s’

In advertising, there’s a saying — ‘The more you tell the more you sell.’ But there’s another expression, ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid.’

It’s a fine line about what to leave in and leave out. Notice how Amini’s logline picks only the key storyline points. Just the facts you need to conjure up visuals of the main plot conflict. This is ‘precision persuasion’ at its best.

The ‘Four U’s,’ of course, is just one selling tool in a whole arsenal used by copywriters.

Here’s another technique you can ‘borrow’ — the hidden ‘architecture’ of working sales letters. Think about it. A query letter isn’t anything if it’s not a sales letter.

Only, instead of trying to sell a magazine or raise funds for a charity, you’re trying to sell your script idea. And yourself as a writer.

Meanwhile, copywriters have used almost exactly the same device — the simple letter — to sell $10,000 vacations, luxury cars, even plots of property overseas. How? In a nutshell, here’s what makes a good sales letter work:

First it hooks your attention…

Then it holds your interest while hammering on promises and benefits….

It underscores the credibility of your every claim….

And last, it calls for an active response. Compare that to the query…

On her website, talent agent Marcie Wright says, ‘We get 50-100 queries letters every week and we are not on the list that the WGA mails to writers. The letter should be smart, short and hook the reader without using gimmicks or being too cute. Also, don’t say ‘it’s the best screenplay…’ – everyone feels that way.’

So what CAN you say that will persuade?

This is where the sales letter architecture can help you.

In direct-mail advertising, all great letters (the ones that have sold millions of dollars worth of products) have four parts. In order — ‘Picture’… ‘Promise’… ‘Proof’… and ‘Push.’

Watch what happens when you apply the same structure to a query letter….

First you might open with an emotionally charged ‘Picture’…

‘Dear Mr. Agentinski, I would love to have the opportunity to send you a copy of my new script, ‘The Great Raid.’ The story opens in 1945. Deep in the Philippine jungle, there’s a small cell with a dirt floor. A prisoner is collapsed in the corner, beaten by Japanese interrogators. He’s just one of 500 American soldiers, captured during a night drop that went horribly wrong. ‘The Great Raid’ is based on the true story of a daring rescue mission during World War II…’

That’s not polished, but you get the idea. Focus only on key details. Keep it tight and full of tension. But not so tight that you fail to stir a visual, emotionally charged response.

Next in the sales-letter model – the big ‘Promise.’

In advertising copy, benefit is king. The more clear and specific those benefits are to the reader, the better. As Marcie Wright suggested, agents don’t want hype. But designing your letter with implied promise is not a bad idea. Pack it with teaser plot points and you’re promising a fun ride. Make smart comparisons to similar blockbuster movies and you’re implying rich rewards.

So far, you’re talking no more than two paragraphs of copy. But streamlined to sell.

Next you want ‘Proof.’ Prove to the query letter reader that you can do what you’re promising – show past script sales, contests you’ve won, places you’ve published. List work or life experiences that give you extra insight into your characters or the plot.

You’re almost done. Last but not least, a ‘Push.’

Every good sales letter closes the sale by making an offer. Don’t think ‘Boiler Room’ or ‘Tin Men.’ Agents and producers, remember, get pitched all day. All you need is a polite, one-line request for action: ‘If you’re interested, I’ve enclosed a self-addressed postcard for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you.’

Remember, this is a hidden architecture.

You don’t want the query letter reader to actually see the outline and how it works. No more than you’d want someone to spot the three- act structure that governs your script. The power of the hidden sales letter architecture is in the sum of the parts, not each part taken by itself. You need all the pieces to make it work.

By the way, you can use these same two techniques for more than just selling your masterpiece. The same goes for dozens more copywriting secrets. In fact, that’s how more than a few great writers cut their teeth….

Joseph Heller was a copywriter with Time Magazine and McCall’s. Kurt Vonnegut wrote press releases. George Orwell, Mark Twain, poet Fay Weldon – all wrote advertising at some point in their early careers.

It’s no accident.

Copywriting teaches you how to open with a hook… appeal to emotions… and write under pressure. You have to learn quickly how to figure out what your target audience wants, how to write with relaxed dialogue, and tell a ‘story’ that moves the reader from problem to solution. The best ads have rhythm. Every word is crafted to create a memorable melody.

Sound familiar?

Source with permission: The Writers Store

FilmFellas: Cast Three

Zacuto USA brings us a series of table side chats with filmmakers: Steve Weiss, Mike Michaud, Anish Savjani, Edward Seaton.

“10. Social Experiment”

Webisode 10 brings you a brand new cast of FilmFellas. Each fella has a different approach to online media, but they do agree on one thing, media is changing and it’s changing fast. Steve opens with the classic and sometimes risky exercise of “say what you think of first”. Each cast member is hit with a variety of terms from web video to social networking and the responses may shock you. Conversation quickly turns to the idea of how physical media is shifting to online media.

Edward Seaton explains, “It depends on how quickly technology can catch up with the idea of online distribution and watching things in a different format.”

Taking that a step further, the cast discusses how advances in home entertainment have also affected the idea of physical media. Technology, again, needs to find a flawless way however, to connect this online content with the home theater equipment. The immediacy of online content creates a roadblock that other lines of media have yet to overcome. Check out the conversation and see what it sparks for you.

“11. The Wild West”

In Webisode 11 the fellas continue to flesh out their collective ideas for monetizing video content on the web. Each fella has a different view of where this content is appropriate and how it should be used.

“You have to get people to finally accept online video as a true medium for people to take is seriously,” argues Mike Michaud.

The idea that the web is still considered “The Wild West”, where anyone can essentially upload any content, forces some of the fellas to believe that major brand websites will seek Hollywood credentials. Most of the fellas agree, however, that creating content that can compete with television is the next big step in web video. Discussion gravitates back to the monetization factor and the debate continues.

12 “The Gold Standard”

Is the traditional Hollywood film structure starting to lose its hold on standard distribution because of the rapid growth of online films? The fellas argue that the experience of going to a movie theater is still the “Gold Standard” for the entire industry; however, there are other types of entertainment and ways you can distribution it on the web that can bring you a much bigger audience and are more profitable.

Old school mentalities that films must be seen on the big screen are changing and in turn the “Gold Standard” is being challenged. The fellas debate what is a film and whether on-screen or on-web is the right way to go for indies.

“What filmmakers need to realize that it is no sin in making something that not the gold standard, we are entertainment makers and we want make content that moves people and something we can make a living doing” explains Steve Weiss, Director.

Community building is a hot topic in all industries and the same goes for independent film. These new channels of distribution can both help and hinder filmmakers that jump on the band wagon. Find out what paths the fellas think can work best.

13 “Survival of the Cleverest”

Monetization is the ubiquitous buzz word for online video content. The fellas bring this age old debate to the foreground while discussing what works for online advertising and the overall structure of very different business plans. Everyone agrees that current advertising agencies need to start taking full advantage of the online space whether that is through sponsorship or creating social environments.

“In order to survive when the TV giants decide to go “all out” online, you are going to have to have a set of partnerships, alliances and new content that constantly come into play,” says Mike Michuad.

There are sites available that split advertising sales and host videos for free for content developers. But these sites may not allow you to have control over what ads are involved with the site. The network models or the strategy of going directly to B2B companies both have their own advantages, but the fellas disagree on who is doing it right.

“Social networking and community building are the future of advertising for local business,” explains Steve Weiss. The fellas do seem to agree on at least this one instance.

FilmFellas webisode 13 from Steve Weiss, Zacuto USA on Vimeo.


14 “Face Your Brand”

“You want to grow an audience,” says Steve Weiss “You want to say, ‘Joe (Swanberg) is shooting film XYZ in Iowa, here’s a behind the scenes picture, some text and a video.’ Now you’re building an enthusiast crowd for Joe’s films.”

Personal-branding is essential for filmmakers today. By building a large group of fans, the filmmaker can communicate and directly engage with the viewers . Using the social media outlets such as facebook, twitter and myspace to disperse information about your film is the best way for you to connect directly with your audience and get to know who they are.

“But, if you’re constantly sending news blasts, at some point it’s going to be too much and I’m just going to turn you off,” retorts Edward Seaton.

So, what is the filmmaker to do, use existing social media sites to disperse information or should you build your own site and draw your own traffic?

FilmFellas webisode 14 from Steve Weiss, Zacuto USA on Vimeo.

Battle of the High Resolution Vixens: Megan Fox v. Kate Beckinsale

Back in May, to the delight of drooling fan boys, Esquire magazine presented Megan Fox as shot by Greg Williams in 3k on a RED ONE camera. It was the first time Esquire’s cover was shot using a video camera.

But not to be outdone, Greg Williams is back in October with Kate Beckinsale – this time shooting with the RED EPIC in awesome 5k!

But enough of these cheeky videos – lets’ get down to why you really clicked over here: to read about how the RED EPIC performed on set - Click here to Read the ESQUIRE article by Greg Williams

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