Tag Archives: filmmaking

Adventures of a 1st Time Feature Filmmaker

[su_heading size=”20″]Why I’m not God [/su_heading]

As I have been writing and sharing my thoughts, epiphanies, triumphs and setbacks it occurred to me that an update is due! So what have we been up to since the last post you might ask? For starters, I’ve been brushing up on my carpentry skills.

Crystal building the rain machine
Crystal building the rain machine

My associate producer, my DP and I built two different frames to create rain for the trailer shoot of The Law of Moises. The scene we most wanted to share with you is a scene that takes place, dramatically, in the rain. It would have been hard to share the scene if there’s no rain.

God said, “Let there be rain!” But I’m not God…

What did we learn about creating rain frames or DIY rain machines? It ain’t easy to create a believable rain machine.

Creating the frame is relatively easy. We found a few different options that were graciously provided on YouTube and followed the instructions. One was a wooden square with a garden hose attached and small holes drilled sporadically throughout the entire length of the hose.

Rain Machine
Rain Machine

[su_column]This turned out to be a really heavy option and the rain fell in streams rather than the fast drip you would expect when viewing rain. There was also too much water released from the contraption that soaked the actor more quickly that we wanted for the scene.[/su_column]

See a test below.

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[su_frame]The second frame was created using pvc tubing and sprinkler heads. This option was light, provided a downpour with the individual “drops” of rain we needed for filming and was the more workable solution to meet our needs.[/su_frame]

Why not just point a garden hose to the sky and start filming you might ask? One, we needed a high water capacity hose like firefighters use and we didn’t have that. The cost of the hose was greater than we wanted to spend for the single use. We considered purchasing a used fire hose, renting a pump trunk and a few other options, but producing the trailer on a small budget didn’t allow for those options.

At the end of the day (and the end of the shoot) we got the shots we needed and both of the rain frames provided the needed moisture.

Here are a few shots of the rain machines at work

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Adventures of a First Time Feature Filmmaker

[su_heading size=”20″]Sagging Pants & Attracting an Audience[/su_heading] ManySaggyPants2 While I’m not a fan of the style of sagging pants I have to admit that after talking with two young men as to why it is such a “thing” they do, I was reminded of the most fundamental concept of economics and marketing. In other words, why some businesses are successful at reaching their audience and others are not? So………..I had just witnessed some kid who without exaggeration had his pants down so low that I questioned if he should be wearing any pants at all. Then I saw a young man from my neighborhood and I asked about the trend; the conversation went a bit like this:

Me: Why do guys wear their pants so low?

Him: I do it because (blah blah blah).

Then his friend chimes in:

Friend: Some do it because it’s the style.

Me: So, that’s why? No other reason?

Friend: Well, if I walk by a group of girls and if I can get a number, then…

Me: So girls like it?

Friend: Not all, but enough.

Me: I guess that makes sense, because if you didn’t get attention you wouldn’t do it.

Friend: Right.

Me: (Feeling like “oh no, this style could go on for years!”) …Okay…

Friend: (As the car is pulling away) But, if a guy wants a girl who’s kinda more upper class like, if she don’t like it, he’ll come back with a suit on.


Which brings me to the question stated earlier – Why are some businesses successful at reaching their audience and others are not? (All things being equal: time, money, talent, etc.).

Drum roll: [su_animate type=”flash” duration=”7″]BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEIR AUDIENCE & HOW TO REACH THEM[/su_animate]


[su_pullquote]BECAUSE FILMMAKING IS AS MUCH OF A BUSINESS AS IT IS AN ART.[/su_pullquote] Because filmmaking is as much of a business as it is an art. Consequently, filmmakers must begin thinking more like entrepreneurs rather than just artists. And it reinforces the necessity of knowing who your audience is, what drives them, what interests them and what they care about.

There are 3 things I took away from this experience and I’d like to share:


  • [su_spoiler title=”Read Here…” style=”simple” icon=”plus-circle”]This keeps coming up and I am definitely growing in my conviction that this is so important that to miss it is to PUT YOUR FILM AT RISK FOR FAILURE. Because most independent filmmakers can rarely afford to make a film intended for the general public, it’s important to know whom the film is intended for. If you are creating a film without knowing your audience you could be unintentionally creating a film for the wrong audience. For example, if your film is for young women who like men in suits but all your characters are wearing sagging pants YOU WILL FAIL TO REACH YOUR AUDIENCE. There is an audience for all kinds of people and if the filmmaker knows her audience and you give them what they want, you can TAP INTO A FAN BASE that you can engage and grow.[/su_spoiler]

TIP [su_label type=”info”] Write down things from your script that targets a specific group. [/su_label]


  • [su_spoiler title=”Read Here…” style=”simple” icon=”plus-circle”]If by the time your film hits the theaters or streaming (hopefully) and you’ve done nothing to make your audience aware of it. YOU’VE MADE A FILM THAT NO ONE WILL SEE. If your target audience is young women who like guys who wear sagging pants, then you’ve GOT TO RESEARCH on where they live, how they view their entertainment, and most of all, how to reach them and their friends.[/su_spoiler]

TIP  [su_label type=”info”] Start talking about your film before you begin to shoot.[/su_label]


[su_spoiler title=”Read Here…” style=”simple” icon=”plus-circle”]The cold hard facts are that even if you have a distribution deal, (and most will not) you still have to do some marketing. Whether its social media, traditional advertising, or word of mouth, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THAT WILL GET THE PEOPLE IN THE SEATS. (Unless of course Brad Pitt is in your movie, but even then there is no guarantee).[/su_spoiler]

TIP [su_label type=”info”]Build awareness and a fan base (before the film is even made). [/su_label]


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Crystal Barnes

Golf is a lot like Filmmaking

So…I’m learning to play golf. I’ve taken a few lessons and I’ve learned two things – 1) While I’m usually pretty athletic, I’m no natural with the golf clubs and 2) Whoever came up with this game sure found a difficult way to hit a ball with a stick!

My last lesson out, I realized that learning to play golf is a lot like filmmaking with one major exception. Golf is usually a sport played one person against another; filmmaking is rarely a one-person sport. It is very collaborative. Yet, the skills are transferable.

For example, many people think that the most effective way to develop a consistent golf swing is to stand on the range whacking balls until you get it right. But the best way to develop a consistent golf swing is to break the swing down into pieces that make up the swing and ensure each part is being performed correctly: the grip, stance, posture, alignment, backswing, downswing, impact and follow thru.

Similarly, producing a film is not just one thing but many different pieces working in tandem to create a finished product. Production of the film encompasses finding the right screenplay, breaking down the script, writing up a business plan, crewing, casting and a whole lot more. As with a golf swing, all these things go together in the making of a film. I don’t believe one part is any less or more important.  The challenge is that there are many things to think about simultaneously. With both, it is easy to either over think things or forget something altogether.

One item most filmmakers forget is AUDIENCE; but they are an essential part of this business. You should always ask yourself- Who is your audience?  How do you to reach them?  Without an audience the best film in the world never makes a dime.


Here are 3 tips to grow audience 

1. Know your audience. Is there already an audience who likes that sort of stuff? In other words, are there any publications out there that  cater to your niche subject matter?

2. Go to Netflix or iTunes, and look up a movie with a similar genre to yours. When you do, you’ll notice that the site will generate similar movies to the one you’ve searched for.  Next, browse the Internet for the titles of the suggested movies. Change to the image view to see pictures of those titles. Finally, drag the images to the Google bar and a list of sites will come up. Some of the sites will be blogs and various publications that cater to your niche audience.

3. Build a website, get an email marketing account and add people to your email list (with their permission of course!).

BONUS: Check out my golf swing below…


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Thoughts, questions, and/or comments are welcome.


I landed in LAX on Thursday evening, November 7, 2013 – excited, anxious and tired. I lucked out and was given a Toyota Prius at Enterprise. Found my way to my friend’s home and played catch up for about 2 hours. I thought she was kidding when she said I would have to leave at about 6:30am to get to Santa Monica by 8:30am…(15 mile away)…She wasn’t.

One of the best things I did was download and GPS app on my IPhone called Scout – it saved my life, as I’m horrible with directions.


Parking was already at its capacity, so AFM offered alternate parking at the beach lot right off the ocean! Here is a view!IMG_0249

I attended the Finance Conference and like most people in the room after a 4-hour session of numbers talk – my head was spinning. Basically what I came away with was to do a co-production with Canada (I can’t tell you how many times that was suggested). No, really. There were a few things I already understood through research and trial and error, but some tidbits that were helpful: As more people are using mobile devices for entertainment, people elect NOT to watch commercials, so companies are increasingly interested in presenting their products in the movies (product placement) for a captive audience in exchange for $.

The rest of the day was basically meet as many people as I could and get cards and CONNECT. As the saying goes; “Its not what you know, its who you know.”

AFM Poster


The Pitch Conference! This is what I’ve been preparing for. I was ready. 2 minute pitch, ditch deck (Power point presentation about the film), and post cards.

In short, I didn’t get to pitch but the preparations were beneficial as you’ll find out in day 3.



I made some very good connections. I was able to meet with some distributors, 2 of which were interested in The Law of Moises, Gil at Koan, Inc. and Eddie at Curb Entertainment, both of which suggested with the right budget and cast, the film would have no problem making profit even if on a limited theatrical release and VOD (Video on Demand). I also talked with Rick Eldridge from Reel Works Studios, Ygor Siqueira of Graca Filmes (Brazil) and Adam from Go Films about possible co-productions.

What are the 2 most important elements in Filmmaking?

Since its invention the film industry, like other industries, has undergone a number of changes from how films are made to how the films are viewed.  But throughout, what has not changed is a great story that connects with the viewers.

Some people would argue great dialogue makes a great film, but there are a large number of silent films that are timeless. Others would argue that special effects makes a great film, but one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen (Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock) had very little, if any, special effects. Another argument could be made that actors make or break a film, but the here again a case can be made for bad movies that have great acting and great movies with bad acting. The arguments could on and on.

In my opinion, the essence of a great film is a great story and the connection it has with its audience.

So why is it that most filmmakers focus on the peripherals of filmmaking like music, or the look of the film, or location rather what has stood the test of time? I don’t know the answer, and I have been guilty of getting too focused on the details and losing sight of the story, as well.

To this end, we should (or maybe just I should) conclude that the 2 elements filmmakers should spend their time and effort on are the story and the audience.  That being said, the script is my number one priority. Targeting the right audience for the script and making sure I get that story to them will be my primary concerns. Because without a great story, no one will care to see the film I created. And without an audience, a great story may never be seen.

GOAL 1: Create and craft a great story!

GOAL 2: Find out who is the target audience for your story. Research how that target audience consumes media. Connect with that Audience.

What I’m learning and doing…

Give people I trust the opportunity to read and comment on the script. This requires me to listen openly to their input and comments. I can feel really protective of the script, so listening with an open mind isn’t as easy as it sounds. Finally, I cannot be afraid to accept or reject any comment, regardless of how strongly the point was felt by the person giving me input. The strength of the argument doesn’t make the story better.

DO re-writes

DO a public reading

DO identify the target audience

Regarding the target audience – connect with the audience in the script stage, research blogs and media outlets where they go and build relationships.

What do you think is the most important part of a movie film? Let me know what you think and feel free to share any positive or constructive ideas you may have. I’m interested in your thoughts!

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