We've Got Hollywood Covered

Feeding the Hunger for Filmmaking Advice

An offer of help brings in an amazing screenplay that really must get made

Exactly a month ago, in this blog’s very first post, I made the offer to all comers that I’d help them ease out of the dependent/co-dependent quicksand they’d almost certainly become mired in. Here, in part, is what I wrote:

“Haven’t been to film school? No problem. Can’t afford to shoot film? Good, film is dead. (Sorry Jeff.) Don’t own a pro camera? OK, how about a Sony handicam? Can’t edit in HD yet? That’s alright, your shooting with a Sony handicam. Can’t afford to attend one of the above-mentioned panels? Don’t bother. Just pick up that camera, call in a few friends and family if you want, and make your film. Then distribute it on the internet. I’ll help you do it. Gratis if I can.”

Since that day I’ve received quite a few personal messages from the community with requests/offers to evaluate clips, trailers, shorts and features in various states of completion.

Sometimes folks are simply looking for advice and/or encouragement. Which is exactly what I’d hoped for when I launched this thing. Not that I have unlimited free time, but it’s telling me that there’s a hunger out there for the kind of back-to-nature path I’m attempting to clear.

It’s also a validation of my premise that there are untold numbers of storytellers out in the world who have been largely ignored, rattled and/or flattened under the mighty and relentless dependent/co-dependent steamroller.

A couple of weeks ago, a request came in the form of a comment from writer-producer-director Michael R. Barnard. Actually, it was a challenge:

“Mark, I’m going to hold your feet to the fire on your offer ‘I’ll help you do it. Gratis to the extent that I can.’ That will be offline and you’ll have the opportunity to tell me to f— off. =}”

Nobody loves a challenge more then I do, so I dove right in. Offline, as he’d indicated, Michael laid out a complex tale of woe that began with an aborted production start in 2007, a missing camera, a wannabe executive producer who ran away to join a rock band and ended with a town that wants to give him the keys to the city if only he’d deposit a big chunk of change in the local bank. Oy.

I felt so sorry for Michael that I responded with the following words; words that anyone who’s been in the business longer than three days will recognize as the most regrettable sentence one can utter in our industry:

“Let me read the script…"

To his credit, Michael leaped forcefully through that open door and instantly shot me a link to his screenplay.

My leap was slightly less energetic.

It took a guilt-edged email several days later from Michael to motivate me to promise a certain timeframe, one whose edges I proceeded to push as far as I possibly could without breaking through to the dark nether regions of shame and regret. Then, at the very last possible second (boy, does this remind me of high school!), I hit the link, pulled on my Bose headphones against the 9th Avenue tunnel traffic and began to read.

It was awesome.

Michael’s script is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time. It’s got a terrific story (one that could have gone so wrong at least a dozen times but didn’t), it’s got loads of heart (in a good way), it’s got humor (I laughed out loud at least a couple of times), it’s got genuinely interesting and appealing characters (the lead is especially well drawn and a great role). Best of all, it’s actually full of good writing.

It’s a film that really needs to be made.

I don’t want to build it up too much, but I do want to help Michael get it done. My advice, of course, is do it by any means possible. Michael’s got it budgeted at around $1 million and his first (perhaps only) priority is to raise that cash and make it happen exactly as he’s seen it in his mind’s eye over the past several years. Personally, I don’t care how he makes it happen or what the budget is.

One caveat: The script has a ton going for it, but, like many beautiful works or art, it’s also very fragile. Casting is always the second most crucial element next to writing, but in this case it’s make or break. So, Michael, count to 10 before you commit to anyone. And please, promise yourself not to fixate on a name. Cast until the freakin’ cows come home and then cast some more.

If I’ve whetted your appetite and you or someone you know has the juice and the desire to help Michael get this film produced, hit the link above or reach out here and I (or Michael himself) will make the connection.

One thing, though: Please try and keep it independent. That means no expectation of recoupment. If all goes well, I’d be shocked if this film doesn’t realize a reasonable ROI. But please don’t impose such brutal anxiety on such an elegant and delicate thing.

This fire will burn brightly and with purpose. Light it.

Mark Lipsky's Insight Cinema offers domestic and international distributors, producers and filmmakers advice on digital strategies and audience development among other issues. He blogs at InciteCinema, a plug-and-play solution for American independents and filmmakers around the globe who wish to either bypass or enhance traditional bricks-and-mortar release strategies.