Last month in the Industry Newbie series I gave some guidance on how to choose the format and the budget that are right for your first project. Once you have made those choices, the next steps are to decide your lane(s), get your script, and find your key crew.
Decide Your Lane(s)… For This First Project
If you are like many Hollywood creatives, you are a multi-hyphenate, an actor-writer, an actor-producer, a writer-director-producer, etc. Celebrate this – it is absolutely amazing! But just for your first project, I highly recommend using only one, and at most two, of your skills. This is not about what you might do on your third project or in three years. At that point, you will have more experience and it will be easier for you to juggle 1532 things at once. But on your first project, when everything is new and you are still figuring out how to apply each of your skills in the context of a full-fledged series or film, you need to give yourself permission to focus on doing one – or at most two – things very well.
To help you decide which skill set to choose, clarify your primary goal for the project. Even if you have multiple secondary goals, you must know what your primary goal is. Throughout the project, you will face an array of choices all of which could be valid options, and your only guide in choosing will be knowing your primary goal. For example, if your primary goal is to show your DP skills, then you should spend money and time to create nuanced, emotional lighting. But if your primary goal is to share a link to your acting work with directors and casting directors, you can focus less on advanced lighting and more on rehearsal time. Knowing your main goal at the start will help you tremendously throughout the project. Do not think of goal setting and choosing lanes as undermining any of your skills. In fact you are doing the opposite – you are giving yourself the freedom to shine in each skill set by dedicating separate projects to each one.
Get Your Script
There are three ways to get a script:
- Write Your Own – If you are a writer, you are comfortable writing in your chosen format, and writing is one of the lanes you want to stay in for this project, then by all means write your own script. It is by far the easiest way to get a script.
- Option or Purchase an Existing Script – If you are not going to write your own script, the next best choice is to option or purchase an existing script. This gives you the freedom to start production right away which saves you a lot of time. Plus, you know you are working with a script you like because you have had the opportunity to read it. In very general terms, optioning a script means purchasing the rights to use it for your project but only for a specified period of time; if you do not make the project within that period of time, the rights revert back to the owner. Purchasing a script means buying the script and its attached rights forever. Optioning is typically a lot cheaper than purchasing, but depending on your relationship to the writer, you could potentially do both economically in exchange for certain rights and promises, e.g. prominent credits and footage.
- Bring on a Writer to Write a New Script – If you are not going to write your own script and you cannot find an existing script that you like, the third option is to hire or collaborate with a writer who will write a script for you. The budget here will vary significantly depending on whether you are collaborating with a colleague, perhaps in exchange for credits and footage, or whether you are hiring someone. This option will not necessarily break the bank, but keep in mind that if you have to wait for a script to be written and go through rounds of feedback and revisions, it will add to your production timeline.
Find Your Key Crew
Once you know your lanes and have your script, you can find your other key crew (whichever roles you are not going to be) – Producer, Director, and DP. Depending on your budget and your project goals, you can bring on these partners by:
- Collaborating with friends who also want to work and learn on a new project.
- Requesting referrals from friends and colleagues.
- Posting on social media – always describe the genre and format of your project and be clear about whether the project pays and if so how much.
- Women in Media Crew List
A few tips for meeting with potential project partners:
- Find out their goals and interests to make sure theirs align with yours.
- Request to see a sample of their prior work. If they are also learning and do not have prior samples, ask for their ideas on the project within the role you are discussing. You want to make sure that their vision and overall approach matches yours.
- Ask about their general availability to make sure they will be available not only when you know you need them, e.g. on set, but also reasonably responsive as things come up.
- Have fun! You want to collaborate with someone who is fun to work with.
Once you know your lane(s), have your script, and have your key crew you are well on your way to getting your project off the ground! Stay tuned for the next Industry Newbie installment for pre-production and casting guidelines.