Friday, February 24, 2012

And if you can't get Stars... you still need Star Power

Let's assume for a moment that after reading my last post, you're thinking to yourself "bullcrap". It's not that easy to get a bankable actor into your film. Even if you cast early, and even if you are willing to move through a lot of names and settle for the one that finally says "yes".

Fair enough. It's famously difficult to snare one of those oh-so-elusive Hollywood names to sign on and be in your film when you've got a low budget. The task is made even more difficult when you realize that before persuading the actors, you often have to persuade the talent agent and/or manager, and let's be clear, they're mostly interested in their hard cash commission...

But Star Power isn't just about getting the names of actors to stamp across the top of your key art. Try bringing a multi-$million independent starring-Steve-Zahn drama to the sales floor, and I'll bring my microbudgeted sub-500k dragon movie, and I bet 9 times out of 10, my film outsells yours. That's right, a public-domain, free-to-use, computer generated dragon has just as much (and more) Star Power than a mid-size semi-bankable name (you might notice that our Orcs! film hit #50 on imdb's starmeter, whereas Calvin Marshall topped out at 249th.... that's right, orcs also have more Star Power than many bankable stars).

But Steve Zahn will probably cost you a hefty sum just to have the right to use him, let alone the costs of hiring stars (fringes, first-class tickets, Screen Actors Guild signatory, per diem rates, trailer rental, top-notch makeup person, top-notch stunt double, etc. etc.). The dragon costs you whatever you need to hire a couple of guys and their computers who know how to make a 3D dragon and bring it to life in your film. That might be $100k or more, but it's a sure thing, and you don't have to ask permission.

So, consider setting your film around Star Power you don't have to pay for. How about using a title that has Star Power, something in the public domain, like doing a remake of Pride and Prejudice? Did it. How about using a dragon as your star. Did it. Several times...  How about using something that is actually an old mythical creature that was made hugely popular by Lord of the Rings, Dungeon and Dragons, and even World of Warcraft? Did that too.

Or, you might even try using a public figure or a current event that has been big in the news recently and has a lot of interest for the media and the public in general. We did that as well.

So there's a secret for you. Stop whining about how you don't have enough money to get stars, and start booking stars that you don't need to convince that you're worth it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Get Stars in Your Film

Everyone knows that Star Power drives the film industry. And, if you've ever tried to sell or distribute a film, you'll be familiar with the oft-asked question of "who's in it?" If your answer includes explaining who your lead actors are, and the small parts they played in big films ten+ years ago, then chances are you've been rejected because your film lacks Star Power.

When working on a low budget, it can be difficult to overcome the star hurdle. But let me suggest my own method that has worked well in the past. The secret is to start casting early.

Many actors work for a paycheck. Others are more professional, and are more interested in the role they are taking and the direction it will push their acting career. But all actors want to be cast in roles. Take a look on IMDB. Actors do maybe two, maybe three, and rarely four films a year. And most of those are not lead roles. Consider an average work time of one month on a film (two months for a leading role, 1-2 weeks on a minor role). That means an actor works maybe three months of the year. They would like to be cast in more films. Making offers to name actors, even very low-budget offers, will, eventually, yield results.

Make one offer a week (making an offer means sending the actor's agent an offer letter which includes the dates of the shoot, the role being offered, the amount you'll pay them...). Tell them they only have a week to decide. When they pass on it, immediately make the next offer. Start with the biggest names on your list, and move down. Eventually, someone will probably engage in a discussion and take the role. You do have to offer money, but different actors with the same Star Power will take very different pay levels, depending on how much they want to act in more films (it's hard to get roles, and many actors just want to be in more films) and how much they take personally to the role being offered.

At some point down your list, an actor will fit the combination of traits that you've been waiting for. They don't care about the money, they just want a role that will get them started in the kind of roles they're hoping to land on a bigger film (Mila Kunis took a role in our film Moving McAllister because she wanted to get into romantic comedy leading roles as That 70's Show was winding down). They like the script, for some reason. They have an open schedule and nothing to do for the next few months, and they are ready to act in a leading role, even in a small indie production... when this combination happens, an actor will take a role for surprisingly little money up front.

You can't responsibly offer to more than one actor at a time. Agents hate that (and it's a small world, word gets around about your project), and you need to give them a "first position" offer each on the role, i.e., if the agent takes the effort to have the actor read the script and make a decision, there had better be no one else ahead of them in line. That's why you do one a week, it allows you to give each a first position, one at a time.

Low-budget producers often wait to cast a film until the month or two before the film goes into production. Recognize that this inevitably results in a decreased chance of getting anyone worthwhile.  Start casting early, and one day you'll be pleasantly surprised by an actor saying 'yes'.

Later this week, I'll suggest another option if you're dead set against Stars in your film, or if your budget is so low you can't even offer the $20K or so that you need to even get the agent to read the offer!

There are other forms of Star Power... follow this blog and check my post later this week.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coverage List for Osombie



#1 Cable News Show
3 Million Viewers


“I wish I could have afforded to advertise this spot during the Superbowl”

“These are a few of my fav-or-ite thiiiiings….”

“the video totally delivers”
“plenty of explosions, copious amounts of violence, gratuitous male shirtlessness”

“Greatest Trailer Ever: OSOMBIE”

“mayhem filled”

“bone-biting, machine gun-firing, washboard-ab-flashing, sex in the desert”
“makes us want to reach for the bong and order a pizza already”

“joyously delirious plot”
“If there is any justice in the world, this classic will soon be in the can and on the screen.”

“I was laughing my ass off”
“production values are surprisingly high”

“includes swordfighting, romance, a head being shot off, and lots and lots of hunky guys taking their shirts off to expose some really nice chests.”

“plenty of roundhouse kicks and one-on-one combat”

“Because your day hasn’t kicked enough ass, here’s an Osama bin Laden zombie movie”

“You’ve got to see this, I can’t believe it’s even real!”

“Is that? Yes. It’s Osama bin Laden. As a zombie.”




THE BLAZE (Glenn Beck)


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Osombie goes viral

Hard to say what happened the last few days...

A film I produced released an unpolished short teaser trailer three days ago. See my post below about the importance of trailers... and then read on for a good example of why it's a valid notion.

As far as I can tell, it was posted originally by, picked up from there by, and then an article was written by Harry Knowles himself on ... and from there, it went a bit nuts. It's been written about on,,, and a bunch of other huge sites...

It may have peaked tonight when it was discussed on the O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Network. Here's the video...

What I can't figure out is how it all happened. The concept we funded was of Bin Laden returning as a zombie, which, we knew, would have some buzz value. But was it inevitable that it went viral? How did it happen? Was it because Harry Knowles wrote it up, or would someone else have inevitably broken the story? We noticed that our Kickstarter backer numbers double every day now for 4 days... when does that pattern end? Have we peaked? How can we keep it going?

Or, more importantly, how can we repeat it with future projects?

If it was inevitable, as another producer insists is the case, then was it predictable?

A marketable trailer can deliver a powerful message, and will be talked about just as much if not more than an entire movie based on the same message. And can we sell the film based solely on the trailer?


The film is well made, packed with zombie body count and tons of action. But the trailer tells a message that already tells channel buyers and distributors that the film can and will be sold and consumed by mass audiences. The trailer is the main sales tool of every film, and a trailer that drives audience consumption answers most of the questions concerning a film's viability. Sales deals are being made at EFM in Berlin already, solely on the basis of the trailer and the trailer's success.

If it wasn't clear enough or believable enough in my last post about the importance of trailers, I'll restate it here: the trailer is everything most buyers need to know about a film to decide whether they'll purchase rights. It answers every major question: Who's in it? What's it about? What's the genre? Will people want to see it?

Work hard to make a trailer. Don't cut corners on the most important aspect of the film.