Michael Forsey, President and CTO of Rolling Pictures, and Jim Teevan, Director, Business Development, Eastern Canada of Sim share some advice to help new filmmakers bring their ideas to the big screen. Both companies have generously funded Toronto Food Film Fest's inaugural Short Film Competition grand prix totaling $7000 worth of rentals and services.
“Identify what you want to be in 5 years and then focus everything you do towards that goal,” advises Teevan. “If you want to be a Producer, produce. If you want to be a Cinematographer, shoot. If you want to be a Director, direct projects." Focus and being proactive is key as too many budding filmmakers take entry-level roles that have nothing to do with their end goal. If you are serious, start making your reel with whatever you can. And do not fear mistakes. “Mistakes big and small will happen,” he adds. “The biggest mistake is when people do not learn from their mistakes. It’s a journey.”
Forsey recommends asking for help, being flexible and learning from mistakes. These three things can help any emerging filmmaker to get ahead. "‘Just do it’ really is the advice here," he says. "But relying on a strict DIY approach with an iPhone and YouTube isn’t always ideal - it creates a void in learning. Mentoring will cut down on mistakes." Even if film school is out of reach, surround yourself with everyone who knows more than you. Start with online tutorials, master classes and apply for (paid or volunteer) opportunities to obtain real-life experience and training. This is vital.
Success doesn’t come to those waiting in the wings. Speak up, don’t be shy and ask questions! Seasoned producers always ask for help, be it from post houses, equipment agencies, funding bodies, industry guilds and development agencies - essentially anybody who has experience in the business or expertise in the field. You can also meet professionals in person at colleges or film festivals - these are excellent opportunities to exchange information that can sometimes lead to mentoring or leads. Just be professional and keep it simple by asking only one or two initial questions.
While hustle and drive are two main ingredients that turn every idea into reality, a small budget is often necessary. Not every actor, crew member or aspect will be free. But as the landscape changes to a more digital platform, and the ability to get things done on the cheap is increasing, how much money does a film cost to make?
“We have all seen big budget projects turn out to be unwatchable and low budget projects be remarkable," says Teevan. "The truth is, I’ve never met a producer who can afford to make the movie they want to make. The moral here is DON’T let a lack of budget stop you.”
Many filmmakers turn to Kickstarter campaigns along with various grants such as Telefilm to help out. Forsey also points out that Northern Ontario has a lot of funding potential for film right now. Further, seeking out fund-raising opportunities can lead to uncovering new resources, as can studying films with similar budgets, offering deferred payments to cast and crew, and setting realistic expectations to avoid any disappointments. It is also wise to set aside a slush fund for unexpected costs.
When asked about minimum budgets or key gear for any job, both Forsey and Teevan agree that there really isn’t any one thing or magic number that every filmmaker needs.
“First: determine your vision. Gear is just tools that help turn your vision into reality.” says Teevan. The same can be said for budgets. Start researching and reach out to rental companies, post-production houses, location permit departments and online forums to better understand the price range for your film’s specific needs.
Forsey adds that utilizing up-and-coming talent in post not only helps save the budget but also creates new working relationships. “Every project is unique. Depending on the end goal, different needs will be required in post," he explains. "For example, we may have a great junior colourist who would present excellent value to a new filmmaker with a very limited budget. Opportunities like this can turn into lasting relationships and often lead to collaboration down the road on bigger budget projects."
"At Sim Camera we believe in nurturing fresh talent. It’s so important for everyone to support the next generation of filmmakers to ensure a vibrant film industry,” Teevan adds. “Giving new talent the tools to help develop into industry leaders is key.”
Are you a Canadian filmmaker / Producer with a short film idea surrounding food that is 15 minutes or less and intended for digital and theatrical audiences? If so, Toronto Food Film Fest, in partnership with Rolling Pictures and Sim, are inviting filmmakers from across Canada to showcase their unique perspectives on food. New filmmakers, especially from underrepresented groups, are encouraged to apply. Deadline for submissions: December 3, 2021. Winner announced by January 14, 2022. Grand prix: $3000 CAD in post services at Rolling Pictures and $4000 CAD in camera rentals from Sim.
Application portal: https://www.torontofoodfilmfest.com/pitchcompetition