Ready on set: The 2016 Savannah Film Festival is here!


It’s finally here! The 2016 Savannah Film Festival starts tonight at Trustees Theater with a Gala Screening of “Jackie,” an intimate portrait of first lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. From the joyful and whimsical “Trolls” to the deeply compassionate “Moonlight,” this year’s selection of silver screenings promises to be one of the best yet.

Every year, the Festival’s guests and honorees bring industry insight to the Savannah community. This year, Mahershala Ali will receive the Discovery Award; Sam Claflin and Molly Shannon will receive Spotlight Awards; and Miles Teller will receive the Vanguard award. Additional guests include Demián Bichir, Damien Chazelle, Avan Jogia, Rodrigo Santoro, and Shane West.

In addition to the honorees, Vinny Pazienza — famous boxer and subject of “Bleed for This” — will be in attendance as a special guest.

This year’s Gala Screenings:

Also debuting this year is the first virtual reality (VR) musical. The short film, “Say it With Music,” was created entirely by SCAD students and is the first musical treatment produced for a virtual reality experience. “Say it With Music” will be part of a VR Showcase happening at Pei Ling Chan Gallery form Oct. 25-27. A total of eight VR films will be shown on a loop for visitors to get the full VR experience.

For the complete schedule of screenings and events, visit Additional details, tickets and passes are available online, by telephone at 912.525.5050 or in person at the Trustees Theater, located at 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah, Georgia.

See you on the red carpet!

Rewind: The 2015 Savannah Film Festival


The 2015 Savannah Film Festival might be over, but it’s hard to forget its final days — the talented stars, engaging screenings, packed theaters, incredible awards and constant applause.

Meg Ryan received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award and made her directorial debut with the screening of ‘Ithaca.’ After the showing, the entire attending cast took the stage to answer questions from the audience. The panel ended with a standing ovation from the room.

This year, the star-studded Gala Screenings weren’t the only must-see films. More than 20 documentaries screened and included panel discussions with the brainpower behind the films. Some of the top stories shown included producer Kristin Davis’s and composer Jack Douglas’s “Gardeners of Eden”; SCAD’s very own “Ovation for Oscar”; and, on the last day, the awe-inspiring "He Named Me Malala" screened, spreading chills and hope throughout the audience.

Different chills occurred Friday night with this year’s continuation of the After Dark Series. The line of people eager to enjoy the thrilling stories trailed outside and wrapped around the block. The series showcased the heart-racing “Room,” “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” (which SCAD sound design professor David Stone worked on), and the darkly twisted “Goodnight Mommy.”

Elizabeth Olsen walked the red carpet on closing night before the highly anticipated screening of ‘I Saw the Light.’ After the applause died down, Olsen and writer, director, producer Marc Abraham discussed their work with the audience.

The festival continued its legacy of celebrating the spirit of the film industry, sharing beautiful stories worth telling. Although this year’s event has come and gone, we all look forward to what the next holds. 

Alfie Allen's Top 5 Pieces of Advice for Actors


The Savannah Film Festival brings incredible screenings, spanning from documentary to animation to shorts to featured films. Actors, producers, directors, casting agents, fans, movie-lovers and so many more attend the festival for the celebration of the creative spirit within the industry. But for SCAD film and performing arts students, the festival includes master classes: intimate, hour-long discussions with visiting established industry professionals. This year, HBO "Game of Thrones" star Alfie Allen was among those sharing his experiences and advice.

When Allen took his seat in the wing-backed chair situated on the stage of the Mondanaro Theater at Crites Hall, silence fell upon the audience. Then nearly every hand shot up to ask a question for their own career. These are the top five pieces of advice he gave:

  1. “The best acting advice I received was from my dad. It sounds cliché, but acting is really through the eyes. If you can show the emotion in your eyes then the rest of it will show, as well.”
  2. “I like to bond with people. The actor who plays Ramsey — I wanted to be friends so it’s a real relationship on screen. That way we are actually connecting on-screen.”
  3. “People can smell desperation and that’s not an attractive trait. So make sure you are acting for yourself and not for those you are auditioning in front of.”
  4. “Bring yourself into the character. Step into the character as much as you can. Make it naturalistic as possible. It’s tough, but can be done.”
  5. “A lot of people in this industry forget it’s about having fun. Too many people take themselves seriously. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This industry is incredible — enjoy it.”

Click here to request more information or apply to SCAD.

Flashback Friday: Winners of the 2014 Savannah Film Festival


With the 18th annual Savannah Film Festival coming to a close, we wanted to take a look back at the winners of last year's festival. Fifty-five films competed for more than $80,000 in cash and prizes. Below are the winners of the three student awards.

Student Awards

  • HBO Films Student Competition Award 2014 — "Sweet Corn," a 20-minute dramatic comedy about a stubborn old farmer who takes extraordinary measures to save his corn field and ends up with some surprising results.
  • Best SCAD Student Competition Award — "Southsouthwest," a 14-minute drama about a photo enthusiast tormented by local bullies who faces a test of courage his ailing grandfather's camera is stolen and placed at the top of a fire tower.
  • Silver Screen Society Award — "Southsouthwest"

2015 Savannah Film Festival Kicks Off With Stars and Screenings


The 18th annual Savannah Film Festival hosted by SCAD is underway, celebrating creativity in film with exclusive screenings and discussions with industry professionals. The red carpet and opening night reception welcomed actress Olivia Wilde and director Reed Morano ("Meadowland"), Vasant and Champa Patel ("Meet the Patels"), director Hank Bedford ("Dixieland") and many others.

After a screening of the striking and emotional film "Suffragette," director Sarah Gavron and producer Alison Owen participated in a Q&A session with the audience as part of the Savannah Film Festival Conversation Series. Prior to a screening of her film "Meadowland," Wilde received the Spotlight Award at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts.

On the second night of the festival, actress Saoirse Ronan was welcomed to the red carpet prior to a screening of her new film "Brooklyn." After the show, The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg moderated "An Evening with Saoirse Ronan" and a Q&A session with the audience.

The opening weekend events are just a prelude to the exciting experience the rest of Film Fest has to offer. The schedule for upcoming events can be found on the Film Festival website.

18 Things About the Savannah Film Festival


The 18th annual Savannah Film Festival is finally here! From Oct. 24-31, industry professionals from all fields of the film, television and digital media businesses will participate in panel and Q&A discussions alongside film screenings. Here are 18 fun facts about the festival.

  1. The first Savannah Film Festival launched in 1998.
  2. The festival is hosted by SCAD every year.
  3. More than 1,000 films have screened at the festival since it began.
  4. All films screen out of two historic theaters: The Trustees Theater and Lucas Theatre for the Arts. In addition, some features screen at the SCAD Museum of Art.
  5. The Trustees Theater originally opened in 1946. The theater operates year-round as a large venue for the performing arts department, in addition to hosting lectures, live performances, concerts and films.
  6. The Lucas Theatre was built in 1921 by Arthur Lucas and architect C.K. Howell. Lucas owned more than 20 theaters across the South, but the Lucas Theatre in Savannah is the only to bear his name.
  7. The festival has honored more than 70 award-winning film industry professionals, including Ellen Barkin, Aaron Eckhart, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas, Woody Harrelson and Emmy Rossum.
  8. More than 50 films screened during the festival have gone on to receive Oscar nominations.
  9. Last year, The "Docs to Watch" series launched, focusing on must-see documentaries. The series continues this year with nine titles.
  10. The festival has welcomed over 500,000 patrons and guests to SCAD and Savannah.
  11. More than 50,000 attended last year's festival.
  12. There are 118 films screening this year.
  13. As part of the annual competition screening event, 85 films will compete to win more than $80,000 in cash and prizes.
  14. There are more films produced and directed by women than men being shown at this year's festival.
  15. This year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Meg Ryan, makes her directing debut with the film "Ithaca."
  16. Olivia Wilde, this year's Spotlight Award recipient, will make her next on-screen appearance in the drama "Meadowland," scheduled for release this month.
  17. Alfie Allen is this year's Rising Star Award recipient. Last year's recipients were Asa Butterfield and Analeigh Tipton.
  18. Volunteer students staff the festival, providing excellent opportunities for networking within the film industry.

Savannah Film Fest lineup and honorees announced


The wait for the announcement of this year's Film Fest honorees is finally over! Meg Ryan will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Olivia Wilde will receive the Spotlight Award; and Alfie Allen will receive a rising Star Award. There will also be a special "An Evening with Saoirse Ronan" following a screening of her film "Brooklyn."

As part of the Conversation Series, director Marc Abraham and actress Elizabeth Olsen ("I Saw the Light"), director Catherine Hardwicke ("Miss You Already"), director Sarah Gavron and producer Alison Owen ("Suffragette"), and composer David Lang ("Youth") will participate in moderated discussions.

The following gala screenings have been added to the lineup:

  • Dixieland
  • Ithaca
  • Legend
  • Meadowland
  • Spotlight

The Signature Series films — a curated selection of premiere films that will conclude with an in-depth discussion with representatives of the film — have also been announced to include:

  • Coming Through the Rye
  • Dead of Winter: The Donner Party
  • Ek Harzarchi Note (1000 Rupee Note)
  • He Named Me Malala
  • Jasmine
  • Krisha
  • Mia Madre
  • One Day in Auschwitz
  • Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 2
  • Song of Saul
  • Tab Hunter Confidential
  • The Prophet
  • Touched with Fire

More details, tickets and passes are available for purchase online, by telephone at 912.525.5050 or in person at the Trustees Theater, located at 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah, Georgia.

The 2015 Savannah Film Festival is almost here


The annual SCAD-hosted Savannah Film Festival is coming to town, opening on Saturday, Oct. 24 with a screening of “Suffragette,” the drama inspired by the early 20th century campaign of the suffragettes’ fight for women’s right to vote. The 18th annual festival — held in downtown Savannah — will take place from Oct. 24-31. The first wave of films confirmed to show at the festival include the following:

  • Brooklyn
  • I Saw the Light
  • Krisha
  • Mia Madre
  • Miss You Already
  • Room
  • Son of Saul
  • Touched With Fire
  • Truth
  • Youth

The additional lineup — including the Docs to Watch, After Dark Series and Competition Screenings — will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 1 where additional tickets and passes will be available for purchase online, by telephone at 912.525.5050 or in person at the Trustees Theater, located at 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah, Georgia.

Big Hero 6 animators on making Baymax and careers in animation


Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 raked in one of the biggest opening weekend box offices ever for a Disney film, $56.2 million. When audiences screened the blockbuster at Savannah Film Festival several weeks before the official release, they also heard from a couple of the heroes behind the film. Savannah College of Art and Design alumni Zach Parrish (B.F.A., animation, 2007), head of animation at Disney, and animation supervisor Nathan Engelhardt (B.F.A., animation, 2007) let festival-goers in on how they made the magic happen. Afterward, they sat down with SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace to discuss their role in the movie and getting their start in the industry. Here’s an excerpt of her conversation with them, followed by a portion of the extended interview.

President Wallace: How did you know that animation would be your career?

Zach Parrish: I went and saw Monsters, Inc. with some friends. I think I was in high school and I realized that I felt something emotional for Mike Wazowski, who’s the little green one-eyed character. When I realized that I had an emotional response to something that I absolutely knew definitively was not real and that someone made me feel that way, that was kind of a magic where I was like, “I want to be the guy who makes that happen.” So that’s when I started looking at schools and eventually chose SCAD.

Nathan Engelhardt: I actually stumbled upon this game called “The Neverhood,” and it was a stop motion animated game. It was like a point and click action adventure and I remember wanting to play the game until I got to the cut scenes. So they would put in little cut scenes, like animated shorts almost, and every time I was like, “Oh yes, here comes the cut scene.” I started realizing that – I like this and maybe I can start making some of my own. I think I fell in love with animation on a very primitive basic level when I saw this character waving back at me. I think I felt the same thing you felt where it’s like I created this thing that’s waving to me and I was just in a trance and I never looked back.

PW: You met when you were here as students at SCAD.  Was there any certain professor or a class that made a particular impact on you?

ZP: We actually helped create a class, an independent studies class, just for Nathan’s project. I saw this poster for people who wanted to help out on a project called Cereal Killers and I was immediately in. I gave Nathan a call. We met up. 

NE: It was an incredible experience because Zach was so enthusiastic. I was just like, “Man, this guy. He knows what he’s doing.” He took some of the characters, very rough early character rigs that we had been building, and he just started creating the first tests. I was like, “Wow, they’re moving. This could actually work.”

We didn’t really know it at the time, but we were really learning how to collaborate as a team. We were kind of experimenting with the pipeline that we would become so familiar with down the road. We did everything from design and writing, pen and paper, all the way to the final renders, even the sounds. I mean we had a full spectrum.

ZP: We had no idea what we were doing when we started.

NE: But it really did help groom us, I feel, in a way to understand the pipeline and collaboration with other artists and being able to give direction and even…

ZP: Receive direction.

NE: And be able to just do that and learn and then regurgitate that later when we became supervisors. You know, that was a really cool experience.

PW: How do you feel that your education at SCAD helped prepare you to work at such an iconic and innovative studio as Disney?

ZP: Oh man. I think what’s amazing about the education at SCAD is the breadth. Just like that class where we got to touch the entire production pipeline and see where we wanted to fit in and to understand how to utilize it, that has been huge for us. I brought Nathan in for Wreck-it Ralph when I was an animation supervisor, and we could just kind of jump in and do a lot of pieces of the pipeline that some people who are trained just in animation can’t do.

Because of the breadth of our education, as far as history, design and the whole spectrum that goes into it, not just animation, I think we’re allowed to be a bigger part of the pipeline that helps the supervisors as well since a lot of our job is working interdepartmentally and giving notes on models and rigs and whatever the case may be. We have enough of the general understanding to be able to participate in that, as well as our specialized focus in animation.

NE: I feel SCAD really creates artists. There are a lot of trade schools out there that will create specialized tasks and abilities, whereas, to Zach’s point, you get this well-rounded artistic education. It all really helped create the kind of artist that we are today and it’s all thanks to that program.

PW: Do you know what makes me so happy is to see you guys supporting each other, all SCAD graduates out there helping each other and giving opportunities to each other and also, as you said, critiquing each other and just making each other better, but being a great support in the whole profession.

ZP: That was also one of the things we talked about when we came and talked to SCAD freshmen. A huge component to becoming a professional artist are those interpersonal skills, because you can be the most talented person in the world, but if you can’t support other people, if you can’t take feedback, if you can’t communicate, no one’s going to work with you, and so that’s definitely something that I’m still learning and that we all go through every day.

PW: That makes me very proud. What’s been the most challenging character or scene that you’ve created so far?

NE: Animating Baymax was quite a challenge, not just to be able to give feedback, but also for the animators because animators are so used – I mean you get some of the top level talent in that studio that’s so used to all the principles of animation and overlap and squash and stretch and then we’re like, “Take it all out.” 

ZP: Yeah, don’t do anything.

NE: Don’t do any of it, you know, and we coined the term “unimating” for Baymax or that’s really just stripping out all the things that animators are used to putting in, and that was really great because that allowed the audience to project their own emotions onto this blank canvas of sorts. We found that even just a little blink and head tilt was ten times cuter than any extraneous body movement, like unnecessary stuff that really just didn’t plus the scene in any way and really was an exercise in restraint the whole time.

ZP: We’re so used to going all out on the animation and to say like, “I haven’t actually moved him yet.”  We’re like, “You did it. You did it. You nailed it.” For me personally, I had a couple of scenes in Tangled that were a super challenge. I mean Glen Keane was on that show. He’s one of my idols in animation, and John Kahrs was my animation supervisor, and those guys are rock stars. So the bar was set so high on that film and I was new to the studio and I was terrified and I was fortunate enough to get a run of shots where Flynn has a frying pan and he’s knocking out the guards and he’s fighting a horse and…

PW: The horse, the horse was great.

ZP: The challenge was I’d never really animated a quadruped. Let alone a quadruped with a sword in his mouth fighting a guy with a frying pan who’s falling down…

PW: What? You haven’t done that?

ZP: Surprisingly enough, that was my first time, and so that was one where I was really scratching my head going, “I don’t know if I can pull this off.” I was so intimidated, but again that support structure. You know, Disney was super-helpful and I think the scenes turned out okay.

PW: So give us an insider’s perspective on working at the legendary Disney Studios.  What’s it like?

ZP: It’s great.

NE: I mean of course, coming up to the gates on your first day and it’s got the Mickey wrought iron gates and you see the big hat and it’s a very emotional kind of experience, but I feel like it didn’t really hit home until I went to Disneyland of all places…

ZP: Yes.

NE: I was walking around and you see these characters and you see that these films lived on much longer past when they initially came out, and you see this like echo of artistry and talent that was done on this film like years back. Here’s the Beast walking around in the park and it’s like, “This is going to be forever.” I mean you have this in the back of your head where it’s just like, “Wow.” What we’re doing at the Walt Disney Animation Studios is very special and I think…

ZP: I had the exact same experience last winter. We didn’t unfortunately get to work on Frozen because we started on Big Hero 6 so early. But the whole animation department…

PW: A lot of SCAD graduates did.

ZP: There were a lot of SCAD graduates on Frozen for sure.

But the whole animation department, we went to Disneyland and there’s a little girl on a guy’s shoulders and when she was watching “Let It Go,” that’s the Elsa song, she was imitating every move that Elsa did, even her little walk and everything. She’s on her dad’s shoulders and it’s crazy because that was like a firsthand experience of what we do. You know, it’s fun for us, but when you start seeing kids have that emotional response, it’s like, “Oh crap, that was me. I did that.” You know, I had that emotional response and now we’re creating that emotional response and so…

NE: Even crazier when it was your shot. 

ZP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

NE: Being the animator she’s imitating, too.

ZP: Yeah, exactly.

NE: It makes me feel like I’m back at that desk experimenting with stop motion animation for the first time. Do you know what I mean? I feel like we are always trying to get back to where it’s that initial excitement for what we do. And I feel like the great thing about Disney is that it’s constantly there and you’re constantly re-feeling that because of how – it’s all the inspirational artwork on the walls, you know, they’re constantly doing things to try to keep the energy, the creative energy high.

ZP: And that’s the other thing about just the actual workplace itself is the collaboration; inspiring one another, people are constantly giving talks on things that they’re just interested in. We do sort of like TED Talks. It could be a photography thing, a sculpture thing, anything that is just inspiring as far as an art form is concerned, and we talk about ourselves. Once a month, the animators get together and we talk about how we came to be at Disney and what inspired us as children. It’s a really fun, super-collaborative environment. So it’s the best I’ve ever had for sure.

PW: Yes, and like SCAD, you’re part of something bigger.

ZP: Exactly.

PW: I visited Hong Kong Disney and I saw all these children, just into characters and imitating…

NE: Yes, it goes around the world.

ZP: It’s just amazing.  It’s amazing. Yes, Big Hero 6 opened in Russia already and…

PW: Wow!

ZP: Yes, and it had one of its biggest weekends ever in Russia because it came out two weeks before it came out in the United States, and so it’s just crazy. I start hearing reviews from people who love it all over the world already. It’s a weird experience because it feels like a small community when we’re working on it. It feels like a small team, and then when the world starts seeing - there’s marketing that’s on buses and stuff, it feels like they took the movie and now it’s just running away, but it’s really cool.

NE: Zach and I, on multiple occasions were like, “Does this feel like when we’re working back on Cereal Killers?” Where it felt like we’re in SCAD and for a long time, we’re actually like really in the same office and, you know, we’re passing flash drives back and forth to each other, making sizzle pieces, you know, the proof of concept kind of stuff, very gorilla style animation, and it’s so many times we could look back fondly on those late nights in Montgomery Hall trying to learn animation.

Getting down to business at Savannah Film Festival


Don’t let the 90 screenings at Savannah Film Festival fool you. Savannah College of Art and Design’s week-long celebration of film is about more than art. It’s about the transactions and preparation that make it possible for us to experience the art. It’s about business: the elephant in most festival venues this week. Or if you’re film student Yang Xiao (M.F.A., film and television student), it’s the spaceship.

Yang participated in one of the many intimate meetings between students and industry that transpire during Savannah Film Festival. He shared pictures of the spaceship set he built for his thesis movie, TROY, with the co-founder and director of the SXSW Festival Louis Black and Austin media mogul Robert Walker.

Yang’s bold gesture wasn’t uninvited. It was an opportune illustration of what Robert and Louis, who helped established SXSW as of one of the world’s most successful platforms for music and film, were there to discuss: entrepreneurship. Robert, Louis and other heavyweights in the business came to SCAD to tell these emerging filmmakers not how to get a job, but how to make their own. To them, the spaceship represents the kind of hustle, savvy and radical ambition it takes to make it big in the film business today.

SXSW co-founder Louis Black with SCAD film students Tristan Aronovich and Amanda Maya.

A huddle with a founder of SXSW

The striking thing about what Louis did by turning SXSW - a small music festival started by a few friends - into a multi-media juggernaut generating $300 million in revenue for Austin, Texas, is that there were more barriers to success back when it was getting started. There was no crowdfunding, no Facebook, no smart phones. They solved their problems of having zero money and zero patrons with innovative solutions that are instructive for film students. Even though it’s easier for this generation to make their own empires, and maybe even inevitable given how technology has revolutionized filmmaking, aspiring directors, writers and producers can still learn from the old fashioned practices that turned Austin into the little film empire that could.

Lesson: Ingenuity first, money second
Chief among the lessons from the case study of Austin’s rise in the film industry is that, as Louis and Robert tell it, money makes it easier, but having no money makes you hustle. In their experience, low cash flow ultimately stimulates a more successful outcome because you have to maximize your resources.

When you’re starting out and you don’t have money and you want to make things happen, you learn lessons that stick with you your whole life.
-Louis Black

Robert agreed, “I’m not knocking cash, it’s good. But it’s easy to cover up mistakes or to just be lazy and pay someone to do what you should be doing yourself. It kind of zaps your creative abilities sometimes if you’re not careful,” he said.

Because the pair has had plenty of experience improvising, Robert and Louis still let their ideas, not the financing, direct how they approach a project. For example, when they were in need of a larger workspace recently instead of plunking down a bunch of cash they set their sights on a 50-thousand square foot building that the Texas National Guard was preparing to abandon. By working their relationships, they snagged the gem of the property for a whopping ten dollars in monthly rent.

Louis summed up his stories about building SXSW by telling students, “My one skillset is that I know how to visualize.”

Clearly vision doesn’t obviate the need for money, but as these lessons from Austin demonstrate, money is not to be pursued at the expense of it. 

Vinca and Steven at the panel "How Films Recoup."

Show Me the Money

The title of entertainment lawyer Vinca Jarrett’s book and web series, Show Me the F$#!KING Money, would seem to fly in the face of this lesson of vision before money. But actually, according to Vinca, vision and planning are essential to making the money part possible.

Vinca and her business partner, manager-producer Steven Adams, have made it their mission to teach how movies get financed. They produce the web series because the film business has the highest attrition rate of investors, and their goal is to turn that around by creating Warren Buffetts of the film industry: educated investors who understand where they’re putting their money and how movies get made.

In addition to investors, they target rising filmmakers who are looking to break into the business, like the SCAD students who shot five episodes of their educational series at the university’s studio during Savannah Film Festival.

Vinca and Steven had seen enough of their young clients commit career-ending mistakes while making movies, like bankrupting their parents, which could have been avoided if sound business practices had been in place from the start. Here are two of their best practices.

Lesson: Document your partnership
One of the biggest mistakes when starting out, says Vinca, is to rely solely on spoken agreements. You may share a creative vision with your team, but these individuals are still business partners, and you need to formally define that relationship, roles and responsibilities in writing. An absolutely essential first step is to put a deal memo in place, no matter how simple.

“Go away and write the ten things you want to accomplish with each other,” Vinca instructs, and then write the things you’re each going to do to accomplish those things.” An attorney can put your intentions into a deal memo so the partnership has rules to abide by. Then, of course, you must actually play by these rules.

It may seem obvious, but even before this step, Steven and Vinca are quick to point out that filmmakers – just like any other smart person in business- must know or investigate who they’re entering into a business relationship with. The wrong team member can sour a potential movie deal because of a bad reputation or track record. So do your homework.

Lesson: Know your rights
In addition to formalizing your partnership, Vinca and Steven say it’s absolutely critical for filmmakers to secure the rights to the movie they’re making. A lawyer can help you understand the rights you need to secure. You can navigate some of this process on your own - like obtaining a copyright – and then hire a lawyer to do the rest.

Recently her former intern brought her a TV concept and Vinca gave her this advice: Make sure the rights are in the public domain. If they’re not, do a deal with the executive who’s interested in your concept so they can’t steal the idea. Then document the full extent of your idea so that you can copyright it. Even if you do this part by yourself, it’s wise to know when to bring in an attorney to make sure you have a sound foundation of ownership before moving forward with your project.
From left to right, producers David Paterson, Susan Cartsonis, Jane Goldenring and, far right, Alison Owen.

Producing: Tricks of the Trade

The next lessons come from some of the very people who consult Vinca and Steven’s series: movie producers. 

The festival’s annual coffee talk series kicked off with an installment that answered a very common question: What do producers do? The answer - provided by a panel of award-winning producers of films like What Women Want, Bridge to Terabithea, The Giver and Hocus Pocus – was that producers are really the ultimate entrepreneurs.

From inception to distribution a producer’s single focus is working all the factors behind the screen to get the movie made, which requires a ton of improvisation, ingenuity and grit, as any start-up would.

So what can we learn from them? A couple recurring themes emerged that clearly are factors in their success and trademarks of smart entrepreneurship.

Lesson: Be tough and take authority
The perception that the producer is responsible for everything behind the scenes and the director responsible for everything on the screen is generally accurate, shared The Giver’s executive producer Alison Owen. But on a movie, as in business, things don’t always remain this tidy. The panelists agreed that in the cases where the lines of authority blur, it behooves the producer to be tough and to preserve those boundaries in order to maintain their responsibility to investors and to the overall quality of the film. This principle for success is in the vein of ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’ And it’s certain these producers would say, so too will your film fail if you don’t create the parameters within which the film can be made and stick to them.

It’s good for film students in particular to practice toughness and authority while they’re still in film school, even if the context in which they make their films doesn’t mirror a real world set. Case in point, Headlong Entertainment producer Susan Cartsonis noted that in most film schools the director maintains the purse strings and the producer’s authority is often eclipsed by that power imbalance. So practice sticking to your guns while you're still in film school, especially if you're an aspiring producer.

Lesson: Wear many hats
Precisely because filmmakers must have a keen sense of authority over their project in order to guide its success, it serves them to borrow another tenant that good entrepreneurs and good producers follow, which is to do everything. Or, at the very least, know a little bit about all of the areas you’ll be managing on your project, even the technical ones.

Bridge to Terabithia producer David Paterson uses the example of how he learned to build sets when he was starting out as an actor, which not only gave him invaluable insights for his movies but, in the case of smaller films, he didn’t have to depend on someone else in this area in order to get the film made.

In other words, a lack of knowledge can make or break your project. So don’t allow a lack of interest on your part to isolate you from learning certain technical aspects of filmmaking. Bringing it back to finances, especially when it comes to the money, all the producers agreed that the line producer should not be the only one who knows their way around a budget.

Finally, in addition to knowing how to do multiple things on a set, a page out of a successful producer’s playbook is to have multiple projects going at one time in order to beat the odds against a project getting made.

The democratization of film, whereby first-time filmmakers are able to leverage social networks and advances in technology to fund and shoot films that can rival those by big studios, means that more films will get made. But it also means there will be more competition. Hopefully these lessons from some of the sharpest business minds at Savannah Film Festival will help your project come out on top.