Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What I Would Say To Adam Goodman, Production Chief of Paramount

There's been a flurry of activity surrounding the indie and micro-cinema world over the last few days and it all started with Paramount announcing that they're going to get into developing and producing micro-budget films. I recently read a post from Mark Stolaroff, the guy behind "No Budget Film School" and a writer for Film Radar, that lit Paramount up. Here's a link to the post. He's 100% right, for sure... however, as an optimist, I'd like to hear what Paramount's game plan is before I lambaste them. As someone who's been involved in indie and micro-budget filmmaking, when I hear that Paramount wants to get involved, I certainly hope that they do it right and doing it right would definitely involve reaching out to the existing micro-cinema community. In fact, I read through every article I could find, trying to find some sort of lead on who I could contact, and the only name mentioned is Adam Goodman, who happens to be Paramount's production chief. So, I guessed at his email address and sent him an email. Will I get a response? Doubt it. But if he did and he asked for help... after asking for some sort of paid position in guiding this micro-cinema initiative, coupled with some sort of signing bonus, this is what I would tell him...

Micro-cinema is a different animal than indie film. Really, there's less of a jump from indie film to studio film than there is from indie film to micro-cinema. When I talk about "indie film", I'm talking about stuff like "The Wrestler" or "Little Miss Sunshine". When I'm talking about micro-cinema, I'm talking about "Paranormal Activity" or "Blair Witch". I'm not going to touch on studio films here, they're put together by armies of lawyers, marketers, writers and producers. For studio films, the story and how the films are shot pales in comparison to what the overall concept is and how marketable the film will be. For example, "Transformers 2" was one of the biggest grossing films of the year... I'm not sure 'story' was high on their list of concerns. In any case, when dealing with indie films, story becomes extremely important. In fact, the film is ALL story. You'll need an impeccable screenplay and you're going to need great actors to bring characters to life, adding to what's on the page and giving them three dimensions. You'll probably want the director to work closely with the writer, if they're not one in the same, and you'll want an editor who's fully on board with the directors vision. In the end, it's all about story. With micro-cinema, you require an equally impeccable story, but micro-cinema filmmakers have to deal with another element that no other filmmaker has to deal with... and that's the medium itself. Micro-cinema, by its own nature, has a distinct look and feel. It's handheld, it's choppy, it's shot on DV, the lighting sucks, the sets are cramped, locations are never ideal... it's called micro-cinema for a reason. Fix all of those things and you're really not a micro-cinema film anymore. So, you have to justify the medium. "Paranormal Activity" and "Blair Witch" were both shot as documentaries. The handheld HD on "Open Water" gave it that 'real' look, like something you'd see on the National Geographic channel. A recent film that I saw, "The Butcher", was shot as a first person snuff film. The list goes on, but the point is that you need to embrace the look and feel and justify it... try to be something you're not and you're going to fail.

So, I agree with Mark when he says, "Good Luck, Paramount", but I'm cautiously optimistic. There's a lot of good micro-cinema filmmakers out there... and they're not all offspring of current Paramount employees, toiling around in L.A.. They're everywhere. Hopefully Paramount realizes this and reaches out. There would be something very cool about a studio reaching down into the micro-cinema community and asking for assistance in lifting this little sub-genre, that we all love so much, out of obscurity. If Paramount wanted to do it right, that's just what they would do. They would reach into the micro-cinema community, find some filmmakers, give them some budget... but also give them the keys to the kingdom. Keep the budgets under $100K, BUT let the filmmakers use the resources that they take for granted... Treat it like a training ground, work with them. Have your team of lawyers, marketers and developers sit in with them every once in a while and everyone can learn from each other. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, we'll see what happens... at least I know what I'm going to say to Adam Goodman if he gets back to me.


Jason said...

I love the way you think, that would be a wonderful world indeed.

But I bet we both know how it will play out. A few connected people getting all the shots at the money.

But that doesn't really depress me as it should. I know there will be a handful of people that will toil away on the micro scene, generating quality digital content. I love not having to answer to anyone about commercial viability of my projects.

I love these articles. Please keep them coming.

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