Film Courage: You wrote a blog post (I think) a few years back maybe that mentioned Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic on ED WOOD…excellent film by the way.
Scott Kirkpatrick: One of my favorites.
Film Courage: Yeah…would you say this film is really important because it shows still current examples of how films get made today. Any thoughts…[films getting made] on a lower level?
Scott Kirkpatrick: You know, in truth those budgets back then were massive today, like the kind of films that were getting made or the Roger Corman-era of making films.
One of the opening scenes of that movie (ED WOOD), The Christine Jorgensen Story (that’s what is was), it was basically a transgendered individual back in the 50’s and some schlock producer was making a film about it. So Ed Wood sees the opportunity, walked into the door, set up a meeting with Mr. Weiss and pitched himself as the guy who had to make the movie. And because he was so enthusiastic because in truth he was a transvestite but was very secretive about it and he just understood the compelling elements of the story that had to be created, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And then, the producer’s response was more or less “I don’t care. I need a producer. I need a guy who can make a film in three days and make me a profit. That’s all I care about.” And the reason was, he’d already pre-sold theaters and all of these states and needed the movie to cater to that. He needed a movie that was so many reels long (using old film terminology), that was a certain budget level, that could be shot in a certain amount of time and didn’t care about the quality. He just needed the product to fill-in the gaps of where it was pre-sold.
It still happens today. It’s no different. It’s the same concept in the indie space today of the movies that get kind of pre-sold, pre-created, pre-developed and then they need writers, producers, very creative-minded people to put that that together in a short period of time and make it happen.
That’s the real job of a creator is creating, making things happen. Getting from Point A to Point B quickly and effectively, that’s why at the studio level, major talents get tons of money and they receive ridiculous sums of money for screenplays at the studio level because frankly it takes a lot of work and it’s a very, very rare talent to be able to produce on that level. So that’s kind of why it works that way. But if you haven’t seen it…for anyone in the audience who hasn’t seen it [ED WOOD] it’s a great movie, very fun and in the whole process throughout you actually learn a lot of great lessons about the filmmaking process. And even though it’s from the 90’s and talking about an era in the 50’s, the principles are exactly the same. It still works the same way and always will (I think).
Film Courage: What about the Bela Lugosi character?
Scott Kirkpatrick: Same concept. It’s an aging star, who frankly, was kind of washed up at the time. But it’s the same idea of…I think even in the opening scene that I’m talking about that was one of the things that he later went back into the office to secure the job because he’d written a script in two days and he had Bela Lugosi who was a star. So he basically said “If you need a schmuck who can get you a movie in three days with a star. Make me crap…” I forget how he described it…”Crap with a star!” That’s how he described it. And that’s basically Bela Lugosi was the star who was at least a decent enough name that people recognized that elevated the product just enough so it became a Bela Lugosi movie that was being distributed at that point.
Film Courage: And last but not least, his efforts to secure financing. So meeting the right person and having to go to certain lengths to secure financing?
Scott Kirkpatrick: So I think there’s a massive misconception. When it comes to financing (as I kind of said) movies are incredibly expensive to produce and people on the writing end, the directing and producing end who want to get their work made seem to be very, very good at writing and keeping a budget in mind and they’re really good at creating budgets and all the great software that exists now but getting to that point of how is it going to be funded, that’s sort of the complicated thing.
In ED WOOD and I think the hopeful thing that a lot of younger filmmakers hope is that they can go to a rich uncle or dentist and all of this other stuff and just pool money together. Wherever money comes from and you can still get movies off of the ground using that approach, at a higher level, if you’re creating content that’s going to work for platforms out there, there are a lot of entities that will actually invest the money and get that, so it’s kind of…I don’t know…I feel like I’m getting a little lost in it…it’s not as cut and dry. It’s always a mystery as to where and how funding comes together at the indie level because there is no one way to do it. But the truth is, if you are creating content that actually has placement, that actually already has a spot to fill, it actually already has room on a shelf to be placed, there are a lot of entities who are willing to invest the money into it.
I think the real answer is if you are going out there to produce something that you want to produce because you’re passionate about it and you’ve not done any real market research or talked to companies about what the market wants, you’re going to have a really tough time getting financing. If you take a step back you focus on what the market needs, what it’s asking for, what companies are searching for and then you cater to those needs, financing actually gets a lot easier because all of the sudden there’s a lot of companies with deep pockets and they are looking to invest the money. They are just looking to invest it with stuff that is going to help their goals.
Question for the Viewers: What do you think is the most important factor in getting a movie made?
About Scott Kirkpatrick:
Scott is the author of the book Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices and is the Senior Vice President of North & South American business development, sales and global digital strategy for the London-based distributor DRG. Previously, Kirkpatrick served as Executive Director of Distribution for MarVista Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production and distribution company that produces original TV movies and has managed international TV deals on major franchises including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Before shifting to the distribution side of the industry, Kirkpatrick worked behind the scenes on major studio productions, including Talladega Nights: The Balled of Ricky Bobby. Kirkpatrick has also produced and directed TV series and feature films including Eye for an Eye, Muslims in America and Roadside Massacre.