August 1, 2022
-So, how to produce your own film? In this video, we'll tell you all about that.
-Okay, how to produce your own film? Never been a better time to do that. Okay. Just a little background. When I got out of theater school, there were three networks. There were scripted shows on television we're speaking television. There were scripted shows between 36 and 40 a year. When I began producing in 1992, there were 100 to 105 hundred and three scripted shows and a given week meaning
non-game show non-reality show. Last year over 500 scripted shows streaming everywhere. So, create your own content. Be that skilled actor. Maybe you'll direct it to. Maybe you'll write it. It always starts with the page. If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage. Now, if we look at the history of Hollywood, which I encourage all of you to do. If you do not have the criterion channel, get it immediately. Art house cinema on your phone, on your laptop anywhere you are, you can watch classic cinema and some really arcane stuff you would not see anywhere else ever. But when you study the history of this as a business talking film, and even before talking film began with classic stories. How many
Dickens films, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield because it's a proven book, right?
So it works. It has structure. To date, my favorite play that I've ever seen of close to 4,000 that I have seen. You gotta count 'em up. I might have hit that number by now. Nicholas Nickelby eight hours long. Yes. Eight hours long on stage riveting every single minute. But I remember when the Royal Shakespeare company announced it, I had never heard of Nicholas Nickleby. A lesser known Dickens. So it all starts with the source,e material, create a script, but you can get a script from many number of places. It can be a newspaper article. You can attempt to option it if they don't wanna sell that story, you can change a few facets of it and you can do it.
-How do you option? What do you mean option?
-Well, that's a good question that you ask. I mean, how do you option something? How do you option? When I began, you can option material for a dollar. You gotta have a, you know, a retainer that says that you have an option
agreement. You know, a whole lot of people, the fact that you're interested in their
story or their article, they're excited.
-So they'll give you essentially a free option, but it can't be free. It's gotta be a dollar. And I did that a number of times when I was starting out. And then in a year you can renew it. You know, it's, it's arranged in such a way that if the film gets made, they're going to get X amount. If it's at this budget or, but you'd get an entertainment lawyer to help you with that. But we're, we're jumping ahead a little bit. A script can ultimately come from anywhere, another great place for source material. The best short stories of start with the 1920s. Start with the 1930s, the best short story of. 19 41 42, 43, 44. The structure is there. I like short stories because books can be challenging to adapt because when you think an audible teaches us this. Your average novel can take 11 hours to listen to.
-Which is shorter than I thought some of them are 23 hours a movie better, not be longer than three. And for me, it better not be longer than two. Unless it's really warranted. So a short story, you have room to expand it a little bit, but a book. How many times have you heard somebody say, oh, I like the book better. Yeah. But with streaming. You could do the whole book. Yep. Because now you can do multiple seasons, multiple episodes. You can film that whole book that did not exist before.
-A varying lengths. Right.
-And that's really exciting. Very good. And you'll see, you'll watch certain episodes on HBO, one week is 48 minutes. The next episode is 52. The next one is 39 minutes. I love the flexibility of that rather than we have to deliver this to the network. It has to be here. It has to have seven act breaks. You know, you don't have to do that anymore. Mm-hmm so that's tremendous. Storytelling is structure and that you need to have your elevator pitch that you could tell in a couple of minutes. You need to have a one-page synopsis. I would have a 3 to 10 page treatment
or outline. The closer you get to a finished script. The closer you are to production. So, if you are enjoying what we are talking about here, please subscribe below. How to get that movie produced? Make sure you have a great part for a strong actor. Now you don't have to, you could make it down and with no actors that we've ever heard of but that's gonna be a little more challenging. If it has a great part for an actor and you as the actor-producer, you may very well play the third lead. Maybe you're the second lead, better. Have your chops together. Maybe you're the fourth lead you're part of the production, cuz other than the, the main person or two people after that they're much less stringent because the financing tends to follow those actors. Now when I began producing guys write down dream, plan, reality. Okay. It starts with a dream. Hmm. That could be anything. Most people don't get past the dreaming stage. You gotta get to the plan. Now, if you stick with the plan, stay committed to the plan. The most direct route to self-love and success is to make commitments and keep them no matter what. If you stay with the commitment, reality is inevitable. So, when I started after the encouragement of a number of actors that I worked with and other filmmakers who said, I ought to produce, I printed up a business card and it had my name on it and it said producer, but I hadn't produced anything.
So I would give this card to people and they would say, you're a producer, what have you produced? And I would say, I have numerous projects in various stages of development, which was completely true. They were all at the dream stage, which is one of the stages of development. Before I knew it, my first producing credit was Warner brothers film directed by Ron Shelton, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Wuhl and Lolita Davidovich called Cobb. There was my name all by itself, front of the movie, but no prior experience, but I knew story. I was a theater history major as an undergrad I study these plays all the time. I watch classic film all the time. I read screenplay. So I understood the structure. But if you have a finished script that then you can present to an actor, which then would attract a director, presuming it's not you. Well, now when you go to seek financing from a studio or a network, you have. and you so and so said yes to direct. Now we call that almost a movie. So versus you could pitch an idea, but you don't have a finished script. You don't even have a treatment. You don't have an actor. So they're looking at that, that they have to do a lot of work.
-So if you walk in the door with almost a movie, yeah. It's difficult to say no to
-Mm-hmm and you say how it's much better to get it to the script stage, cuz you could submit a treatment, but. If it's in the script stage, if it has a director or it has that, that lead actor.
-Well, it also could be taken away from you. There are numerous nightmare stories of that, that I won't go into here. They're too dark and depressing. But you know, once you write that script, register it with the writer's Guild of America.
-You know, so it's like, you know, before you send it somewhere, mm-hmm, because there's so many, like 10 years later, they're going, I pitched this story to them and, but you can't prove it.
-You know, and then the onus is on you. The burden of proof is on the, the accuser, right?
-Mm-hmm , it's just like you are working Shakespeare, what you did with working Shakespeare? How did that come together? So that was the project you did with Sicily, Barry, with the world, Shakespeare company, head, head of voice at the real Shakespeare company.
-Yep. Yeah. Who I admired. And years ago I wrote a letter to, after seeing something she had worked on and did all the text work and the voice work, and she wrote me back and that began a friendship and we decided we wanna do a project together. So, we were gonna do something on how to place Shakespeare. So it was going to be British drama students. I was gonna direct it and produce it. We'll do it in the UK. And then I said, you know, I love the evolution of how projects come together. Yeah. Different casts people in people out. It's always fascinating how it comes together. The year I moved to New York in 1978, Exxon produced the Shakespeare series. They did the entire canon of Shakespeare all of the place, but they didn't hire one American. And actor's equity.
The actors guilded had some real issues with that. Because, you know, not even James Earl Jones as Othello, they used the great Anthony Hopkins, but there was no Americans in it. And I said, you know, Sis, it would be really great because Americans feel that somehow they're the, you know, stepchild of Shakespeare. It would be really great to use British drama students and American drama students. She loved the idea. So, I went over there and rehearsed it with British students as a rehearsal. And then I said, Sis, you know, you know, virtually everybody in the world, Shakespeare company. I mean, could you get Lindsay Duncan or Jeremy Irons? And cuz I know a lot of American actors who would really want to work with you and she would've done. I think it's a wonderful. And then within a day, she was like, oh, Janet said, you'd be thrilled. I was going, oh, it's because I asked folks, ask and fight for what you want and say no to what you don't want.
Right. So then I asked some American people, everybody said yes, and people were asking me. We had Sam Jackson. We had Cherry Jones, great theater actor here. You know, we had Blythe Danner, some of you know, her as Gwyneth Paltrow's mother, Kate Burton. The person I really wanted, I wanted someone young. I wanted Claire Danes. And so we wrote to her agent, my casting dictore, Olivia Harris. Hello, Olivia. Yeah. Olivia contacted her agency CAA. Now this was not for pay, but you're going to get this experience being coached by Ms. Barry, who sadly is no longer with us as of three years ago. Yeah. And we had the same birthday. We went to Stratford for her Memorial. So, Claire Danes, no answer months go by. Then, someone I had asked one of the most powerful female classical actors, Diane Venora mm-hmm some of you know her from Pacino's wife and heat bunch of stuff. Played Hamlet himself played Ophelia to Kevin Klein's Hamlet. She's a very fine actor. I had written her, but I hadn't heard from her. I think I left her phone message early email, early nineties,. Out of the blue Tommy I'm back. I was making a movie that, you know, I would love to do this.
This was based on a, you know, voicemail and as I'm about to say goodbye to her, she said, you know, who would be great in this? Claire Dane. And I went, Claire Danes, come on. We've been reaching out to her for the longest time. Right. And she said, Tom, the movie I was doing was Romeo and Juliet. And I played her mother, lady Caplan. Let me talk to her. Yeah, I'll get back to you. So remember folks guidepost one is relationship. Five minutes later, I get a phone call. I'm going that can't be Diane. It's way too quick. It wasn't Diane. It was Claire Danes and Claire said, hi, is Tom there? I said, this is he, she said, Tom, I don't really know a lot about your project, but it sounds really great and I would love to do it. You could have knocked me over with a feather. So there all these folks were, but the evolution of it was, you know, this person. And then out of the blue two days a week before Helen Hunt called me and said, are you Tom, listen, you're doing this thing about Shakespeare. Right. Sounds really cool. Could I be in it? Sure. Twister was in movie theater. She was on mad about you. She had just done recently done as good as it gets. And there, they all were there. They all were in New York. It's time for a pause, cuz that was a lot of chat. So, there is more to say on producing films, marketing, your film, distribution of film, film festivals, been a part of all that. Happy to share that in future videos. So a great companion video to this one is how to become a better director? Check it out. We'll see you there.