Earlier this month, Alumni Paulina Lagudi ‘14 and Cooper Ulrich ‘14 returned to Chapman University to talk about their experience making an indie film, Mail Order Monster, and the mistakes you can avoid in the process.

Top Ten Takeaways

  1. Get started on marketing early: You have to build your marketing plan into your business plan. Create your business plan and budget as usual, but do not forget to include your marketing plan and budget. Whether you are leading marketing efforts or you’re having someone else do it, you need to tie in marketing as you produce your film.
  2. Know what your end goal is as a filmmaker: Set a clear end goal as a filmmaker, and reverse engineer that. Think about what it takes to get where you want to be and set those goals. Professor Andrew Lane suggested watching a Keynote Address by Mark Duplass given at SXSW 2015. It elaborates on the trajectory that Duplass and his brother took, and illustrates the persistence and constant aggressiveness required in filmmaking.
  3. Get Errors and Omissions Insurance: Also known as E&O Insurance. This is a must for every filmmaker wanting distribution. Errors and Omissions Insurance is malpractice insurance for filmmakers. These policies protect against claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, infringement of the right of publicity, idea and story theft, copyright infringement, plagiarism, piracy, and the unauthorized use of names and trademarks. Some policies cover unfair competition and failure to provide screen credit. Even cautious filmmakers may find themselves facing a lawsuit through no fault of their own. Liability can arise even if they did not knowingly violate another’s rights and were diligent in securing all the rights they believed were needed. Note: Producing a film is like running a company, with so many things going on, it’s best to hire a lawyer.
  4. Factor in a post-production budget: Make sure you budget for post-production when you are initially putting together a budget for your project. You want to roll right into it, rather than risk stalling post-production because you realize to late that you need more funds in post-production. Don’t lose momentum, plan ahead.
  5. Have a film festival strategy: It can be expensive to participate in film festivals, so it’s best to have a strategy on which festivals to submit to. Research festivals that will help elevate your movie and you as a filmmaker. Note: Dodge College has a Film Festival Office that will watch your films and determine individual festival strategies and/ or give you a list of top recommendations. Reach out: festivalsubmissions@chapman.edu.
  6. Be careful who you hire: Don’t always hire the person with the biggest resume, or the big-name projects under their belt. “On indies, you’re in the trenches,” says Paualina Lagudi. You need someone who will be reliable in tough situations and work hard alongside you. Remember, if there is friction between you and a colleague on set, your film will suffer.
  7. Take full advantage of school: Get experience with everything, use the resources and learn as much as you can, even if it’s not your primary interest.
  8. Utilize social media: As filmmakers, your social media platforms are your websites. Upload your creative content on your social media, update it regularly and keep your page/ profile professional. Lagudi shared that she has made numerous connections on social media, and has even received job offers and opportunities via social media.
  9. If you’re shy, get over it: You have to go out there and sell yourself and your film.
  10. Don’t forget persistence, passion and commitment: These may be more important than talent. Talent is required, however, the film industry is tough, and talent alone will not carry you through your career. Many pursue filmmaking, but few stick with it. Stay persistent, passionate, and committed, and it will pay off.

Special thanks to Professor Roy Finch for opening up his class to students who were interested in attending this presentation and to Professor Andrew Lane for moderating this event. Huge thanks to our special guests Paulina Lagudi ‘14 and Cooper Ulrich ‘14 for sharing their experience and encouragement with their alma mater!

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