Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Periodic Table of the "Elements"

No, this isn't a science related post -- unless you consider attaching elements to your screenplay a science.  In a way, that might be true, but for me, it's just a pun to introduce one of my favorite "new" resources.

If you've never heard of IMDBpro, then you're either not in show business, or if you are in show business, then you've time traveled from the 1990s, back in the days of black & white headshots, VHS demo reels, and messenger envelopes.

As a filmmaker, IMDBpro lets you have access to information about name actors, directors, producers, and who their agents and representatives are.  It lets you see what production companies and distributors are behind your favorite films.  When you're looking to raise money for your project, a lot of times a financing company wants to see the package -- who's starring and who's directing?

Casting Directors use this book called the UImer's Scale.  It's about $200, so it ain't cheap.   It's really only good for finding out which stars are "bankable".  And since it's a printed book, you have to wait for it to be updated, so your information might not be current.   It used to be very useful, but in this day and age of light speed changes in the industry, it's like relying on the yellow pages instead of Google.

With a little practice, you can get good at reading IMDBpro.  The important thing to remember is that nowadays, for you to achieve financing, you need to have actors and directors attached who have INTERNATIONAL appeal.  Most of the sources of independent film financing come from foreign sources.  So just because "so-and-so" is a big Hollywood star, that might not mean squat when it comes to foreign financing.   You'd be surprised how many A-listers can't secure financing.  As a producer, if you're going to spend big money to have a name actor attached to your film, if their name can't secure the funds for the budget, you're just throwing it all away.

The trick is finding the real bankable actors/directors/etc. who will give your project the funding so that you can shoot it.  Actors are looking for great material, and they're willing to work for less salary if the role is kick-ass (especially if it could be award-worthy).  The old studio paradigm of the 1980s best reflected in the movie "The Player" is quickly becoming extinct.

It's an exciting time -- the Internet has not only turned our world into a global social network, but the economy is truly experiencing globalization beyond what my old Economics college professors predicted.  Yes, things are slow and the economy is stagnant.  But politically speaking, we need to start thinking in terms of a global market.   Isolationism and xenophobia will kill the emerging opportunities.  By embracing the changes and opportunities in this industry, we will be able to come out ahead in the long run and still retain America's lead in the entertainment business.