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The Seed&Spark Blog

Moving Forward With Mentors

January 26, 2016

• Jen West

Mentors are the name of the game for us right now. We are lucky to have a handful of trusted folks we can turn to at any time that run the gamut as experts in producing, directing, writing, and general strategy. All of these people have worked on similar-sized films in the past and have made their own mistakes while coming out on the other side with success. I wish I could share their names, but their privacy is important. Once we go through this process ourselves, we hope to pay it forward to the next filmmakers learning the ropes.

We learn big things on a daily basis it seems. One significant thing that's developed recently is the consideration of changing our overall budget due to some key information. We learned that we can use the Modified Low Budget Agreement ($700,000) level, but with our diversity in casting we can still fall in that category and can bump up to $1,050,000. That's a pretty big perk that we're weighing the options of over the next few days.

One of my preconceived notions of going to a lower overall budget was that it seemed to be harder to reach a certain level of success on the distribution/recognition side. This doesn’t seem to be necessarily true, but it does make things harder. One thing I have noticed is that key crew and talent seem to immediately categorize your likelihood of success based on numbers. While a million or 1.8 might seem outlandish to those of us used to working in much, much smaller spaces... it's small potatoes to others. I think this is a unique opportunity to possibly redefine the stereotype through the creative efforts by everyone on our team.

There are many productions that do well with little money. But I think those teams are exceptional at what they do and most have to wear many hats. It’s a little bit like striking gold. However, the rules are changing every day and it’s exciting to put your pioneer pants on.

We are learning all sorts of things too about negotiations, backend points, best business practices, and what's important to plan now as opposed to later. This might seem oblivious, but I didn’t know until this week that you can attach a talent to your project without any signed contracts involved. It's a verbal agreement that you enter that only implies a level of intention of moving forward once funding is secured. At that point you enter conversations about numbers, points, etc, and the talent can completely leave the project if they have a schedule conflict or if it just doesn't align. That was fascinating to learn. You'd think it would make it easier to find talent, but for someone to do this for you is a tremendous statement of belief in your film. I know we have one or two out there... it remains a priority for us to find them.

Our crowdfunding campaign is still going great. This week (through 1/28) we have very generous $5k match happening, which will hopefully push us past the halfway point just in time for the second half. This is due to a contribution from Trey Jordan of Banjo Media. Any contributions, project likes, or shares are greatly appreciated! This week we were also connected to a few investment parties that I hope will want to talk to us more about the larger amount we are seeking.

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Jen West

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Jen West is a writer and director living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is known for writing and directing Piece of Cake (2006), Crush (2011), Bubble (2013), Call Me (music video for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, 2014), and Little Cabbage (2015). She is currently in preproduction on her first feature called Electric Bleau. She studied design at Jacksonville State University and film at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

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