Anyone that knows me, knows poorly written, and information deficient crew and cast posts are in my top five pet peeves. A call that doesn't include pay, the specific positions and parts to be filled, a description or name of the project, or contact info beyond a website, don't speak to the professionalism of the production. When I see a post this lacking on Craigslist, it really disturbs me.
First, not a fan of Craiglist for advertising for crew or actors. Sorry filmmakers. I consider that no different than walking down dark alleys at night, asking if anyone would like to work on your set. Second strike is the link title.
Get involved and support our local independent zombie film in Atlanta
No name of the production. There's not a production company. Zombie films are cranked out week in and week out. What is going to make this different from the others? That differentiation is critical if you're asking be people to "get involved," because 99 percent of the time, that means no pay. This title couldn't be anymore generic.
What shuts everything down is the post itself.
We do finally learn the name of the film. It's in the website below the image. It's obvious that's the title and tagline we're seeing in picture. And we're done. What you see above is the entire post.
Unfortunately, the website's home page doesn't explain how you can get involved. You have to click on a link that takes you to their Facebook group. Which when you get there, still does not tell you how you can get involved or support the film. Searches beyond this website don't help this production at all. It's difficult to find info on key people. Related activities and pages online, like a failed crowdfunding campaign for a very ambitious goal, doesn't create confidence.
The passion and dedication of all involved is legitimate. I don't have to guess that. They've got two dozen plus cast and crew at least. You can't get that if you really don't care about your project. Passion follows passion.
Every one of the cast and crew are the nicest people you'll ever meet. That I have no doubt of because--well this is Georgia, and we're like that--but, because regardless of perception, 95% of people working in the film industry are nice people. Now that may not reflect on set, or in the office, but don't be shocked if the "monster" on set, will treat you like a king at his home. Okay, they won't go that far. Still, they are almost never the monster people think they are. There are friends and family that can attest to that.
IT'S ABOUT THE WORK
I'm not critiquing the people. I'm not even critiquing the film. I haven't seen one second of footage.
That doesn't matter. The post, website and Facebook group collectively do not signal that this is going to be a quality, or professional production. That's what many will see.
Visitors aren't going to care how hard people worked. A producer isn't going to consider that this is an actor's first part ever. Like me, they haven't seen the film. Like me, they don't see anyone they instantly recognize. That Craiglist post stands by itself. It represents the film by itself. That's truth. A truth that will not change even if I do know someone.
I'll make this super clear.
I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS A SCAM. I'M NOT SAYING THAT IS AN UNPROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION.
What I am saying is that if filmmakers are willing to share this lack of effort in a simple post, with the general public and film community itself, it makes you question how much is going into the corresponding film. It takes only a few extra minutes to add some basic information. Rough, punch to the gut, assessment I'd admit.
Many professionals and others, once they've seen this, they will not give the film a pass. They may not even watch the film at all. Decision made, they've moved on. Which is a shame if the movie does indeed turn out to be great. The assessment is rough, the consequences can be rougher. If one is willing to live with that, fine. If one is looking to build their career, tossing anything up on the web isn't smart strategy.
There are talented filmmakers who are awful at marketing and promotion. Creating websites is not a requirement or a reflection of ability or talent behind the camera. I personally know of two Sundance shorts that had poorly constructed websites, and more than a handful of features who didn't not deserve the terrible sites representing them. In total, that's maybe 20 films in the 10 years I've been writing for CinemATL and working for the Atlanta Film Festival. Between the time I started at the festival in 2007 and my time with organization came to a close earlier this year, the festival received 18,000 submissions. Statistically, weak marketing and strong filmmaking don't go hand in hand. When it does, it's rare.
WE EXPECT THE BEST
For contrast, flashback to 2008 and that year's Slamdance Film Festival. That's the fest that premiered Paranormal Activity. Made for $15,000, it was bought by Paramount Pictures to be remade with a larger budget film. That didn't happen, the film was released with a new ending, grossing $193 million world wide in it's original release.
What did the marketing look like before? Many studios and distributors are masters at wiping clean whatever material filmmakers originally created. They want to use their own marketing.
Festivals tend to keep their archives up, Slamdance being the fest that helped launch Christopher Nolan's career, is one of them. A film's original site may not exist any longer the images are still out there. Here is the film's title and still you can find on Slamdance's 2008 festival site:
Slashfilm reported the sale only days after the film had played the fest. This is the image from the film used:
For those who didn't attend Slamdance, which is going to be a crap load if you've seen how small Slamdance's theaters are, these images would be their first introduction to the film.
If you're thinking it's unfair to judge stills from a completed film and a Craiglist post for one not yet finished, you're right. And you're arguing my point. It's not fair. It will not matter if they're pro-indie or not. The majority of filmmakers who know what it's like to take $500 and turn that into a film, are still expecting images like the ones used for Paranormal in 2008. Which is to be expected, because that's what they're aiming for in their own films.
Filmmakers want to make films that don't look like their budgets. That's true of folks working on budgets in the millions, or in the thousands. That's true because all filmmakers want to make a film that transcends budget. You'll never find a filmmaker happy when someone in the audience can guess the budget. In fact, filmmakers HATE the budget question. Not only because they want to get the best deal they can. If you're asking about the budget, and not about the shot that took weeks to plan, and more hours available in a day to shoot, you didn't "see" their film.
RED FLAGS AND GROWING THE COMMUNITY
Many an actor and crew member has been burned working a poorly planned shoot. Week in and out, there are dozens, if not hundreds, who walk into a production office excited about a film. Within a few minutes, they realize something is wrong. It could be the cheap decor. It might be when the director leads his pitch with a list of high profile festivals they're going to submit to. At that moment warning bells go off. And at that moment, folks are pissed.
I'm VERY harsh on these types of posts because they don't place the Georgia film community in the best light. Newbies get sucked in, wasting valuable hours. Extremely green newbies will add these to their resumes. Frustrated, they won't understand those awful shoots are good labs for learning. They will not gain the experience and knowledge of etiquette they can apply to future sets. They will learn how a set shouldn't run.
What concerns me is that, there are posts that look professional, which have ensnared cast and crew into working projects they look back on with regret.
Everything looked above board on that cast or crew call. The only thing missing was the pay. Or, there was only an email listed as a contact (which is standard even on big budget productions). It seems strange that the email is for a production company not listed anywhere, and not attached to film. It could be a company created just for the film. It could be a company that was hired for their crew and equipment to help produce, guns for hire. There's nothing really "wrong".
If you can be burned by a post that looks professional, or is only missing one or two pieces of information, what does it say about posts that look like the one above?
Harsh? Yes. It's vital to understand that being "kind" doesn't change how any piece of content will be received once it's made public. That's even more so as Hollywood's presence grows and becomes more permanent.
Little more than three years ago, an influx of actors who had moved from Georgia to L.A. started returning. The work was here. In the last year, the number of working actors from L.A.--and New York--has jumped. If you've attended any industry event in Atlanta in the last few months, you've likely had at least one local introduce you to an actor who is moving to Atlanta for the first time.
These actors don't know who the local filmmakers are. They don't know the community. It's doubtful they've seen more than a handful of films made by Georgia filmmakers, if they've seen anything all.
They do know, that if they want to work more consistently than they are back in California. a state like Georgia is the place to be. The exodus of production has been so stark, a rash of articles and op-ed pieces about that production drain appeared every day for over a week during the first week of March. Multiply the four below by at about 15.
My goal is not pick on one particular film. I've had my own work torn a part by others and it sucks.
Every day, hundreds of alerts come to me via Google, Twitter and the myriad of services and newsletters I'm signed up for.
Almost everyday, without fail, I see a vague crew call. Or, a notice that tells actors they'll have to email the production to find out the name of the film, let alone get the plot synopsis. If you can't trust me with the name of your film, or with the plot, why should I trust you? The irony of telling people to email for more information if interested, appears lost on some folks.
If you're an actor monitoring your own alerts, what will you think when you see this types of posts come in everyday? If you're moving to Atlanta excited to work on the projects coming out of L.A., are you just as excited to become part of the local indie film community as well?
Local actors with established careers, have purposefully reduced, or stopped taking all together, parts in indie films. Some say they're too busy. Which is true. If they were handed a role that was a once in a lifetime chance to play, they'll make time. Others say its not worth it. Which, when you've long moved past trying to get enough for your first reel, is also true. When filmmakers aren't creating the types of parts that will get you noticed on a national scale, which will get you noticed by industry professionals around the country, it's even more true.
I'm not picking on this film because I've got anything against it. No matter how often you describe what a bad post looks like, it's not the same as seeing a bad post.
If this article stings, not only for those working on the film, for those who love the community, and don't like seeing open critiques like this, you must remember this. None of the professionals coming from L.A. or New York are going to care. There are others in the community who won't care either. When they're looking through a stack, they're not trying to weed out the bad. Not really. Their goal is to find the good. Their goal is to find what the director is looking for.
If we can't honestly discuss amongst ourselves how we can improve, it only hurts ourselves. If we aren't brave enough to tell our friends, our colleagues, our peers that the work they're doing is hindering them from achieving their goals, are we helping? Or are we hurting them?