Panel beating

Miles couldn’t make it (he’s preparing for his premiere next Thursday), but I did. Here are my unedited notes:

Thursday, June 7, 2007 – 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Movie Magic: Filmmaking Techniques to Develop your Game

Leba Haber Rubinoff (Interactive Film Director) (Moderator)
Sabrina Gordon (Editor, Beyond Beats and Rhymes)
Melissa Ulto (Writer, Actress, Editor, DJ, VJ)
Edwin Decena (Director, Transformations)
Trevor Baldwin (
Choke No Joke (Director/Producer, I Am Choke No Joke)
Matt Smith (Producer, BET’s Rap City)

What do filmmakers need to know to succeed?
Sabrina Gordon
Know how to tell a story. Learning software is easy. Story is hard. Learn from film. Of all kinds. Don’t bring a bag of tapes to your editor. Be open to your footage leading you into a new direction. Find an editor who is like-minded, knows your demographic.
Melissa Ulto
Editing is very important. Directing is more than collecting assets.
Edwin Decena
The art of orchestrating your resources: audio, video, crew.
Trevor Baldwin
Find the purpose of the film. Tell your story from different points of view. Execution is problem solving.
Choke No Joke
Watch your footage, find your story. Then take your script to your editor. To tell the editor what you want, you have to know what you want. Study what you want to know. If you have no money – work for free.
Matt Smith
Persistence and creativity. Don’t give up.

How to learn
Sabrina Gordon
I worked for free at documentary production companies. Still don’t know names of bits of equipment. Once you are on the job, the film school difference isn’t that great. If you didn’t go, you know you know nothing. A filmmaker might set up a company to make a film. Deal with the fact they might not be great at interpersonal relationships and politics. You can make it seem naive, but don’t be naive! Prepare, then you can explore the subject.
Melissa Ulto
A lot of heartbreak. Your heart will break to some extent with every project. Get ready: it’s a bumpy ride. You have to fight your fight. We bring the truth for those people who can’t. It’s like giving birth! Use the internet to monetize your work. Think bigger. Not just a DVD. The same footage in many different formats. Look to where the future is going.
Edwin Decena
To learn how to make films, make film. Learn about all aspects. Pitching, writing, shooting, post-production. Music videos a good launch pad. Had to focus on simple stories in a specific period of time. Effects and performance can hide mistakes while you learn. Once you have your own style…
Trevor Baldwin
Develop a thick skin. Keep knocking on doors. Too many people need to sign off on saying yes. Make spec commercials. Base them on standard taglines. Got job making real ads. Some ideas ripped off.
Choke No Joke
Modeled and appeared in music videos. Took camera to shoots. Did his own versions of Hype videos. Copied Hi8 onto VHS. Edited tape to tape. Shot at The Tunnel. Dre and Snoop at the tunnel. Produced DVDs. Learned by watching others. NEVER go to the head of your company over your boss!
Matt Smith
Went to film school. Worked at a bank. Started as runner in Hollywood. Being reliable. If you do well with something small, you are trusted with something big. Learn how to work with people. Ask if you don’t know. Be humble.

How do you visualise a film based on someone else’s script. Do you make a shot list? Do you create storyboards?
Edwin Decena
Read, read and re-read your source. You might find a different way to tell it. Base your plans on what you can afford to do. Get the spirit of your story. What is the premise? Absorb the story. Retell it the best way.
Trevor Baldwin
Make sure your producer is being cost-effective. Once place you know might act as six locations in your script. Producers are doing their best, but add your own insights. Have a deep understanding of the premise.
Choke No Joke
Your producer will get your team. He’ll find the people to help you visualise your film. Be clear how you imagine your scenes.

How do you protect your ideas?
Melissa Ulto
The internet counts as ‘first publication’
Trevor Baldwin
Have another idea. Chalk up losses to experience.
Choke No Joke
Make sure they sign your confidentiality agreement

The technology has exceeded our abilities. Movies are behind music in terms of expression. Does technology add to expression?
Melissa Ulto
We’re developing a few .tv domains. New forms of distribution. Video is going to be everywhere. Content is king. Less money than traditional money. You’ll be able to make a modest living. It is democratic. Lots of dollars leaving broadcast
Trevor Baldwin is for upcoming filmmakers and upcoming artists to get together. People vote for the best monthly.
Choke No Joke
Online can be very lucrative. $1500 to license 60 seconds of old footage. If you shoot good stuff.

Social justice is what I want to make films about. How do I not sell out?
Sabrina Gordon
There’s no money in those films, so difficult to sell out. I’ve turned down jobs that don’t fit my ideals. Can you afford to live your life based on these choices? I did graphic design while working for an investment bank while working as a part time documentary maker. In the US, socially conscious subjects are not supported. Find other sources of income
Edwin Decena
“Concerning matters of style, flow like a river, in matters of principle, stand like an ox”

How can I raise money on a non-mainstream idea?
Melissa Ulto
It’s a business. I need to pay the rent. If you can’t deal with business, get a partner who can. The people who last have built a foundation. Then you can last for years and years
Choke No Joke
Make the choice. Either you maintain your integrity or you don’t. If you don’t want the politics, get the money yourself.

How can we pay a little less for our music?
Melissa Ulto – many sites can be a lot cheaper. Look for licensable music on the web. Commission your own music from up and coming artists
Choke No Joke
Find producers who don’t sample.

Footnote for old-old-school hip-hop fans. Roxanne Shanté was sitting behind me. I gave her and her friends some flyers for the bit of the JVC Jazz festival that’s happening at the Langston Hughes House.

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