David Mimran: So, You Want to Be a Film Producer. Do These 5 Things, Then.

Featured

By David Mimran

Fancy yourself a jack or jill of all trades? You’d probably make a good film producer.

“Anyone in the industry will tell you [that] a producer’s role is arguably the perfect job for the all-rounder with an interest in the big screen,” writes Chris Green, of The Independent (U.K.).

“In other words, if you’re not willing to settle into a narrow lane, producing is a good fit for your skills and personality type.” — David Mimran

It’s not easy to break into producing, though. As in any other career, it takes some luck to land your big break. The rough-and-tumble world of moviemaking isn’t always fair. Sometimes, it’s downright cruel.

All that said, you can certainly take proactive steps to bend the odds in your favor. If you’re serious about making a name for yourself as a film producer, get these five tasks on your to-do list (if you haven’t gotten them done already) and begin addressing them, one by one.

1. Complete a Two- or Four-Year Degree

Statistically, there’s a decent chance you’ve done this already. It also bears noting that aspiring producers without college degrees can still make their own ways in Hollywood. Experience is key: if you’re willing to work your way up, you’ll find an open path. It’ll be tougher and more circuitous, though — and entirely guarantee-free to boot.

2. Find a Mentor

Early on, you’ll need to mitigate your experience deficit by hooking up with a reliable mentor willing to take you under their wing and impart what they know about filmmaking. This is harder than it sounds; matchmaking services don’t really accommodate mentors and mentees. Chances are, you’ll need to make friends (read: get noticed by your boss) in an early gig, then latch on for dear life.

3. Get in on the Ground Floor

One word: “apprenticeship.” Or “internship” — take your pick. Either way, you need to get in on the ground floor and learn by osmosis. As noted, getting (and keeping) an internship is a great way to pick up a mentor willing to take you under their wing and open professional doors for you down the line.

4. Consider an MBA

The benefits of an executive MBA are too numerous to name here, and the certification’s usefulness transcends the film industry. Even if you decide the moviemaking business isn’t for you, you’ll carry your MBA wherever you go, and likely make a fair bit more money for it. If you do stick to film, you’ll find your MBA useful as you rise through the ranks and weigh bigger and better opportunities.

5. Network Like Your Career Depends on It

Your network is your net worth.

In few industries is this truer than film production. When a single bomb is enough to ruin a career, can you really blame insiders for working with known quantities? Without a sturdy network stocked with well-connected benefactors willing to stick their necks out for you, you’re simply not going to get many opportunities to prove your worth.

Put another way: there’s no such thing as a self-made producer. Everyone owes some measure of success to someone else.

Are you an aspiring producer? What have you learned along the way?

David Mimran is co-founder and co-chairman of Mimran Schur Pictures

Aspiring Screenwriters: Follow These 6 Tips from the Pros

By David Mimran

If you’re tired of straying a little too close for comfort to the “starving writer” trope, you might want to consider a new line of work.

Don’t worry, you can still write for a living — just in a stabler, more lucrative capacity.

According to salary tracking firm Payscale, the average annual take-home for a full-time screenwriter based in the U.S. is about $70,000. That’s a solid middle-class income, especially if you’re young and unencumbered by dependents.

Screenwriters lucky enough to pick up work with a major studio or string together big-budget gigs on a consistent basis can earn even more — north of $100,000 annually.

 

“There’s a catch, and it’s a big one: most screenwriters are paid on a per-project basis, not as full-time salaried employees.” — David Mimran

 

And, for every successful screenwriter comfortably ensconced in a big studio’s writers’ room, countless aspiring writers scrap by on the hope that they’ll one day be able to sell the scripts they’re working on.

Want to be more like those comfortable screenwriters? Try these six tips

1. Read Screenplays — Lots of Them

Feel free to make your screenplay’s narrative and structure as creative and unorthodox as you can bear, but know that you’re not singlehandedly going to break the screenplay mold. You’re writing for an audience that knows the medium inside and out — meaning you need to know the medium inside and out, too. Devote a few hours each week to reading and marking up your favorite screenplays until you’re an old saw.

2. Thicken Your Skin Before Getting Feedback (And Then Get Feedback!)

Truly great screenwriters thrive on honest feedback, even if they don’t particularly enjoy hearing it. If you’re sensitive to perceived criticism, steel your nerves before you begin shopping your work-in-progress to friends, colleagues, and mentors. Understand that, no matter how broad your worldview, you simply can’t muster the omniscient perspective you’d need to effectively self-criticize your work.

3. Stick to a Comfortable Genre (But Don’t Be Afraid to Stretch)

You probably have a favorite genre. Embrace it! The best writers write about what they love, after all. As time goes on and you grow more confident in your screenwriting skills, you’ll have plenty of time to stretch to genres with which you’re not as familiar or enthralled.

4. Understand How the Narrative Works

An incomplete screenplay does nobody any good. If you draw nothing from your ongoing screenplay consumption other than a thorough accounting of the elements of a complete narrative, your efforts will have been a success. Just remember to incorporate each into your screenplay.

5. Set Aside Time to Write Every Day (And Set a Deadline for Your First Draft)

If there’s one thing on which writers universally agree, it’s that writing ability is a muscle: it grows stronger with use. Remember this as you schedule your scriptwriting sessions. The ideal, if your schedule permits, is a daily, uninterrupted, hourlong (or longer) writing session. Establish a sense of urgency by setting a timely but realistic deadline for your first draft.

6. Plan Your Story Ahead of Time and Be Merciless With Your Edits

If you’re not fond of self-editing, you’ll need to outline your narrative in great detail before you write a single line of your first draft. If you don’t mind editing, get ready to do so as your draft proceeds.

Are you working on your first script?

 

David Mimran is co-founder and co-chairman of Mimran Schur Pictures

Finding the Right Talent Agent – 3 Things to Look for & 3 Possible Warning Signs

By David Mimran

Some industry experts argue, quite persuasively, that not all aspiring performers need talent agents to land roles. Hardworking, disciplined, organized creatives may well find it easier (and more lucrative) to make their own way.

This debate is beyond the scope of this post, however. If we begin with the premise that you — the aspiring performer — are indeed in the market for a talent agent, we must ask the next questions: what should you look for in a potential agent, and what red flags should you avoid?

Note that we’re not making judgments about what constitutes a “good” or “bad” talent agent. We’re merely examining the suitability question: what do you need to get out of your agent?

What to Look for in a Talent Agent

Look for agents with all three of these key attributes

1. Someone Who Understands (and Appreciates) Your “Type”

For better or worse, most performers have a particular “type.”

 

“Some versatile performers play well across a range of types, it’s true, but it’s still crucial to know thyself, as the saying goes.” — David Mimran

 

Look for an agent who’s comfortable seeking the sorts of roles you’re looking to fill, and versatile enough to change as your wheelhouse evolves.

2. Capacity to Take on New Clients

You don’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t have the time of day for you. Sure, everyone’s busy, but talent agents have a particular tendency to overschedule. That’s bad news for aspiring performers whose calls can’t wait.

3. Known Quantity in the Business

Every agent starts somewhere. There’s nothing inherently wrong in working with someone whose reputation doesn’t precede them, but — at minimum — you want the “known quantity” of a reputable agency, even if your main rep is pretty junior.

What to Avoid in a Talent Agent

Think twice about working with agents that send up any of these red flags.

1. Irrelevant or Missing Credentials

Look for agents with association bona fides. The National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) are both common and legit. Be wary of associations that aren’t widely known in the industry. And consider working with a union-affiliated agent, for your own sake.

2. Poor Performance With Past or Current Clients

Results speak louder than credentials. Do thorough due diligence on prospective agents and rule out anyone who seems to have a pattern of poor performance. Interview as many past and present clients as you can — they’ll talk if you promise not to share what they’ve said.

3. Poor Fit for Your Niche or Media

A great talent agent can nevertheless be a poor fit for your needs as a performer. While it’s easy to overstate the great TV-film divide in what’s indisputably a new golden age of television, it remains the case that some talent agencies are better suited for TV, and others for film.

Don’t be shy about writing off agencies (and individual agents) whose portfolios clearly omit your preferred media. You’re better off setting the bar high right out of the gate than struggling through unfulfilling relationships well past the sell-by date.

Are you happy with your talent agent?

 

David Mimran is co-founder and co-chairman of Mimran Schur Pictures

These 6 Films Cost Very Little to Make. They Earned a Fortune at the Box Office

By David Mimran

TV Tropes defines “sleeper hit” as “a work that becomes an unexpected success upon its release, usually through word of mouth.” You’ve surely seen a few in your time; perhaps you’re fond of quoting lines from your favorite.

Many sleeper hits aren’t just unexpectedly successful. They’re also wildly profitable, grossing many multiples of their original budgets. Countless sleeper hits have launched behind- and before-camera careers, including those of some of the most recognizable names in Hollywood today.

Let’s take a look at six low-budget films that earned a (relative) fortune at the box office — and left indelible marks on the film industry.

1. Night of the Living Dead

$110,000 to launch an entire horror subgenre? Talk about a good investment.

George Romero’s 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, did just that. Believe it or not, zombie flicks weren’t really a thing before Night of the Living Dead hit theaters (and spawned countless imitations). The film ended up grossing $12 million at the domestic box office alone, an unheard-of sum in those days for a picture with zero star power and questionable production values.

2. Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity wasn’t quite as revolutionary as Night of the Living Dead. At least, it didn’t spawn a subgenre all its own. But it was astoundingly cheap to make: $15,000 in 2007 dollars.

Its final domestic gross? More than $108 million. Worldwide, Paranormal Activity approached the $200 million mark. Unsurprisingly, the film spawned a successful franchise, though none of the sequels or spinoffs achieved the same cultural visibility.

3. The Blair Witch Project

There’s something about horror films, apparently.

 

“The Blair Witch Project was the indie film community’s first real viral marketing success — all that more impressive for occurring in 1999, before anything resembling the social media networks crucial to buzz-building today.” — David Mimran

 

The Blair Witch Project cost about $60,000 to make, all-in, and grossed $250 million worldwide. Yikes. Plus, it’s widely regarded as the first true example of found footage filmmaking, a technique that’s now common in the horror genre.

4. Clerks

Clerks isn’t scary, unless you have a phobia of awkward social situations. With a combination of snappy dialogue and in-jokes, this low-stakes comedy launched filmmaker Kevin Smith’s career and spawned a self-contained film universe populated by witty, underachieving New Jerseyans. On a sub-$30,000 budget, Clerks grossed over $3 million in its first domestic run.

5. Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is a polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it picture. But even its detractors can’t deny its success: the film grossed more than $46 million worldwide on a minuscule budget. Rumor has it that Jon Heder, who played the title character, was paid just $1,000 for his work — though he later negotiated a cut of the profits.

6. Rocky

Wait, really?

Oh, yes. Even after adjusting its $1 million-ish budget for inflation, this 1976 classic is one of the most successful low-budget films of all time, with a $225 million box-office haul (and counting, thanks to periodic re-releases). Add in the receipts from subsequent Rocky franchise films and you’ve got one serious return on investment.

Oh, and Rocky happened to jumpstart Sylvester Stallone’s career. Stallone would go on to rank among the late 20th century’s top action stars.

Not bad for a down-on-his-luck fighter from Philly.

What’s your favorite sleeper hit of all time?

 

 

David Mimran is co-founder and co-chairman of Mimran Schur Pictures