Be All You Can Be

Last night I attended the 29 Days Later Film Festival, held at The Patterson Theater in Baltimore.  It’s similar to the 48 hour film projects around the country, but the extra time makes production less frantic.  As is normally the case in these projects, some shorts were good and others were really bad.  The short that won was really good.  I don’t mind the bad ones, one because heckling can be fun (I know I know, bad form.  Sorry!), and two, as long as the filmmaker is really trying to do the best they can.  However……

I wanted to write about something I overheard that aggravated me.    One of the filmmakers said they’d “actually have to get a crew next time” when entering for the competition.  I took that to mean they could’ve done better and purposely chose not to.  To that I say- why did you even bother?!? You’re entering a COMPETITION!  How can you not do your best when your work and name are on display to everyone else in town?  By entering in a competition, I thought it meant you really wanted to take this seriously and possibly have your short lead to something better!

I’m not saying to sign on with a union crew and get 3 RED cameras for your short, but come on, get lights and someone to help with your sound!  I’m also not saying to not play around and make a film just to make it.  By all means go ahead because that’ll help you develop your skill.  Just don’t enter it in a competition, which should be all about pushing the envelope and forcing everyone else to get better.

Hopefully they’ll get their act together and not sandbag it next time.


The Dov Simens Of Modern Indie Filmmaking








For those not familiar with the name in the title of the blog, Dov Simens is a successful film instructor who gained his expertise from making his own films, not from a textbook at film school.  His 2 Day Film School is great for impressing the mindset necessary to complete a movie project, as well as providing resources that will help you along the way.  He also goes over film festival strategy, including how to deal with distribution reps who want to buy your movie.

While all this is great instruction, worth more than the price you pay in my opinion, the course doesn’t offer a Plan B.  What happens when no distribution reps want to buy your movie, or the deals they offer suck?  Worse yet, what if you don’t get into a festival?  You may be inclined to stop the good fight to get your movie out there, lower your flags, and head home.  Don’t give up hope though, because there are other options.  Enter independent film producer Jason Brubaker and his website-

If your movie production is just a group of friends, a camera, and a dream, read everything you can on that site and listen to the podcasts.  Jason walks you through how to get your movie into online retailers via video on demand and DVD, as well as how to market the film with your website and social media.  While it could be seen as more work for the indie filmmaker, it’s also empowering to realize that in this day and age you have more control over when and where your film goes into the marketplace.  You don’t have your filmmaking fate resting on the whims of some outsider, who may only be looking at your film as another way to earn some “marketing overhead” profit.

So take some time to read over that site, and get back to work tomorrow!







Hollywood Has Their Numbers. With A Little Work And Creativity, We Will Too

And no, I’m not talking about bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in box office sales, then lounging at the country club, wondering what the poor are doing that day. That sure would be nice though…

Fetch my servant, I need my dinner jacket pressed

Say what you will about Hollywood and their marketing, but they do know how to reach their target audiences.  You don’t see photos from a Hollywood “indie” (which is anything but, but that’s another story) slapped on a Slurpee cup and you don’t see a Transformers trailer before a romantic comedy.  The big studios focus on demographics that will be interested in certain movies and then focus their marketing on those people.

Now, as real independent productions we simply don’t have the money to market on the scale Hollywood does, but the rise of social media has given us some powerful tools to help grow our movies’ audiences. For example, with The Photon Effect we’re on Facebook, twitter (@Thephotoneffect), imdb, this blog, and video clips on vimeo, youtube, and a tumblr account.  We know comic book, sci fi, and superhero flick fans may like our movie so we tag all our postings with those keywords so people will Stumbleupon our stuff.  Tomorrow’s brief blog will be a link to a great filmmaking resource I recently discovered, so be sure to check back!

I’m sure more than sure some filmmakers out there might think “wait a minute, when I get my movie into Sundance/Tribeca/Toronto/Cannes a distributor rep will give me a fat check and take care of all that marketing stuff!”  I’m sure of this because I thought the same thing. Pump your brakes there bud.  One, with the sheer number of indie films being made the odds of getting in are lower and lower each year. Secondly, the only marketing those distributor reps are going to do will involve posting a thumbnail image of your one sheet on their webpage and MAYBE sending out screeners to sales reps.  THAT’S IT.  How do I know?  The distributor rep we were talking to told us that.  That was a real punch in the junk.  Reading stories from other filmmakers confirmed that this wasn’t in isolated incident.

So don’t wait until the movie is almost ready for distribution like we are. Get out there and get your audience now!

Write What You Know

*Inspiration for today’s blog comes from Daniel Fraizer of Comic Hero News*

After taking a screenwriting class with the world famous screenplay instructor Robert McKee (, Robert signed The Photon Effect writer Dan Poole’s textbook with “Write the truth”.  Once reading that, it may seem impossible to to conjure up a fictitious superhero using only your past experiences.  I mean, it’s not like a real life superhero with extraordinary powers hangs out in your neighborhood!  However, lessons can still be learned from that quote.

Is there any field of expertise in which you are knowledgeable of that could be harvested to create an original superhero/superhuman community?  What rules must be adhered to while working in that field?  What happens when those rules are broken?   Use those facts and consequences as a basis for your story instead of just some idea that sounds cool in your head.

For example, TPE director/writer Dan drew on his experience of climbing communications towers to develop the powers his protagonist would have. Couple that with dealings with shady business owners and real family struggle and you have a solid foundation to begin your creative process.

To sum it up, create characters and a plot based on what you know, and then have fun with all the little details.  If you don’t know of a field in which superpowers could be developed from, start researching!  Get to the library or call on the power of Google to discover something new!