Robert Rodriguez Stole My Idea (But I Stole His First)

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Readers of NoFilmSchool may have seen a post from a few weeks ago: Robert Rodriguez Will Give You $7,000 to Shoot a Feature in 14 Days. When I saw that headline, my reaction could only properly be described as: well, shit. Here at 7k Films we also give people $7,000 to shoot a feature, but unfortunately, our offer doesn’t come with Robert Rodriguez attached. NoFilmSchool’s headline was startlingly similar to the one they wrote last year when they covered our program, complete with the Desperado screen capture featuring Antonio Banderas (the badass). (more…)

On Writing Into the Abyss, and Emerging With #humbled

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I write these words into an abyss.

We may click publish, or we may email our editor. We may send off a manuscript, or we print out a PDF. But it is an abyss out there, of content. And who is to say my content is your better than your content, or more deserving of your attention? A thousand screenplays sit stacked in the corner of a studio development assistant’s office, and… well, you know the rest.

My first feature-length screenplay was written into a true abyss. It was a grand historical epic. Three years later, only a handful of people in the world have read it. My girlfriend, my stop-mom, a fellow traveller who happened to take an interest. Perhaps a producer or two. I researched and researched, I typed and typed, and when it was all done the only thing I could really say was that I had done it. It was there, all 120 pages of a screenplay. Maybe you’ll get to watch it on the screen one day. But, not likely. It’s in the abyss. (more…)

What It’s Like Being On The Other Side

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If you’ve ever met someone who reviews film festival or screenplay contest submissions, then you know: they’re regular people, just like us. They love movies, and in all likelihood, they are volunteers, or are otherwise getting paid in peanuts, or in festival passes.

I’ve met a few reviewers in my days as a filmmaker, but I won’t belabor you with the standard “how to get your film/screenplay noticed” advice. There are plenty of posts about that floating around the interwebs. I am, though, interested in telling you what it was like from my perspective to switch from being a filmmaker submitting my films to festivals, to the founder of a feature film contest, where I reviewed submissions.

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Here’s Everything About Last Year’s Submissions for the 7k Feature Film Screenwriting Competition

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When I launched the first 7k Films screenwriting contest last year I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I have any experience running what was essentially a screenwriting competition with a $7,000 prize. I was curious how all of it would turn out of course, but most of all, I wanted to know how many submissions would come in.

My hope, or “reach goal,” you might say, was that we would get enough submissions to cover the cost of the prize itself. I made a spreadsheet that worked backwards from $7,000, taking some fairly random guesses about how many submissions I thought might come in during the early-bird window vs. the regular, late, and extended deadline windows.

Here’s what that spreadsheet looked like:

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The Person Who Says It Cannot Be Done…

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Last year, I launched something awesome. Inspired by indie filmmakers who took a certain Chinese proverb to heart, and having seen up close while writing, directing, and producing my own films just how many hurdles and challenges there are for filmmakers, I decided to try something a little radical. I started a film studio that would make feature films for just $7,000.

Then, I made one myself. (Read about #Humbled’s production here). Then, as we were wrapping post-production, the submissions for our first ever feature film contest closed. We received 68 submissions from seven countries. We picked 10 semi-finalists, then me and the 7k Films Advisory Board Skype interviewed four finalists, eventually choosing Brooklyn filmmaker Graeme MacMillan as the first winner (last year’s announcement is here). (more…)

Trump’s America Could Cripple Independent Film Distribution

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Ajit Pai at the FCC

Last week Donald Trump picked Ajit Pai as the new head of the FCC. Pai is a former Verizon lawyer who is against Net Neutrality. Why does this matter for filmmakers? Because Net Neutrality is what has made it possible for independent filmmakers to compete in an increasingly fractured and disaggregated marketplace. It’s why self-distribution is even an option.

Tools like VHX, a mainstay of the indie film distribution scene, depend on it. Net neutrality is why anyone can get in to the original content game and compete on an even playing field with the big incumbents. If you want to start a streaming video service to compete against Netflix, good luck with that. But at least you can be assured that if you’re not streaming as fast as them, it’s your own damn fault. (more…)

RELEASE: 7K Films Announces Winner Of Its Inaugural Contest!

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Upstart talent incubator taps phenom Graeme MacMillan to produce feature length techno-dystopic drama, US & THE END

7k Films, LLC today announced it has chosen Graeme MacMillan as the winner of its inaugural 7k Films 2016 Feature Film Competition. The 21 year old, NYC-based filmmaker will use the award to write and direct his submission, US & The End, his third feature film. (more…)

Announcing the Four 7k Films 2016 Finalists

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A screenshot from filmmaker Matt MacDonald’s treatment for @tiffy229

That’s right: the submissions were so strong that instead of choosing three finalists, as we had originally planned, we are expanding it to four. They were just that goodthat we decided we wanted to speak with four of the filmmakers to understand more about their project, their vision, and their plans for production. Each of these submissions is unique and compelling in its own way; we have an incredibly tough decision ahead of us.

Announcing, the 2016 7k Films Feature Film Contest Finalists:

  • Us & The End (U.S.) – Graeme MacMillan
  • Dawn (Kazakhstan) – Olga Khlasheva
  • Thorp (U.S.) – Walker Hare
  • @tiffy229 (U.S.) – Matt MacDonald

Again, I want to extend my congratulations to the four finalists, but more importantly my sincere thanks to everyone who submitted. My goal in launching 7k Films wasn’t simply to host a contest. Rather, it was to foster a group of dedicated, ambitious, and staunchly independent DIY filmmakers who are eager to learn from each other.

As we narrow in on choosing the winner in our inaugural year, I know that we are on to something. I look forward to supporting one of these fantastic filmmakers as they make a feature film next year, but I also look forward to sharing with everyone an in-depth look at how it’s done, an uber case study in micro-budget filmmaking. I hope as many of you who are interested in making indie films, supporting indie films, and evangelizing the “just get it done” ethos will follow along!

 

Announcing the 2016 7k Films Semi-Finalists!

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7k Films received 68 submissions from seven countries in our first year of hosting the 7k Films Feature Film Contest. My deepest thanks to everyone who submitted, even if you didn’t make the cut. I’ve personally been on the receiving end of plenty of rejections for my own projects, and for the first time I can say I truly understand that when a festival says their decision was very difficult, they genuinely mean it.

Honestly, we wish we could produce a bunch of these films. Some of them quite literally could be masterworks in the early stages. Of course, it’s always difficult (if not impossible) to tell at this stage which projects are destined for greatness and which are not. That’s part of why the big studios always bet on big properties with built in audiences: films they view as a sure bet. That’s not what we’re doing here, and I’m glad for it.

The nature of the judging process is inherently subjective – it always will be when it comes to film. But the list below represents what we here at 7k feel are the best indie projects we received that can be produced on a $7,000 budget. I want to extend a huge congratulations to all our semi-finalists, and another thank you to everyone who submitted. My goal in launching 7k Films wasn’t simply to host a contest or even produce feature films. Rather, I want to help nurture a community of dedicated, ambitious, and talented filmmakers who believe what I believe: that the best thing to do is just get out there and go make your movie.

And with that, here are the 2016 7k Films Feature Film Contest Semi-Finalists:

  • Us & The End (U.S.) – Graeme MacMillan
  • Bedevilled (U.K.) – Iain Cash
  • Dawn (Kazakhstan) – Olga Khlasheva
  • Call Me, Brother (U.S.) – Shannon Cloud
  • Open. Close. Door. (U.S.) – Andrew Saunders
  • Thorp (U.S.) – Walker Hare
  • The Reception (U.S.) – Raymond Creamer
  • @tiffy229 (U.S.) – Matt MacDonald
  • Crooked Lake (U.S.) – John Yost
  • Aphasia (U.S.) – Devon Armstrong

 

 

Update: 7k Films Grant Submissions

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I’m pleased to announce that in the inaugural year of the 7k Films grant, we received 68 submissions! This is huge for year one, and even better is the quality of submissions we’re getting.

Here is the process for selecting a winner:

  1. On or around Dec. 1st we’ll be announcing 10 semi-finalists. As stated on our site and on FilmFreeway, there are three criteria for judging:
    – Quality of the story & treatment/script (MUST be producible on a $7k budget) – 50%
    – Demonstrated low-budget storytelling chops (work samples, sizzle reel, short film proof of concept, etc.) – 40%
    – Our own assessment of the marketability of the project – 10%
  2. At that time, we’ll let everyone who is a semi-finalist know if there is information missing from their application or if we’d like to see more. And, our Advisory Board will look at the 10 semi-finalist submissions for another round of judging.
  3. From the 10 semi-finalists, we’ll pick 3 finalists, and seek to interview each of the three (including their producing team, if relevant) over Skype to learn more about the project. This is the “mini-project greenlight” portion of the process.
  4. We are planning to announce the winner on or around Dec. 15th – in time to celebrate before the holidays.

No matter who wins this year, our ambition is really far greater than just making one movie. We believe in the ethos of micro-budget filmmaking, just “getting it done,” finding ways around the gatekeepers, and plowing forward with a no-excuses mindset (we just made it happen with our first feature film, #humbled). Many of those who have submitted share that ethos, which is fantastic.

Our ambition is to help build and support the community of indie filmmakers out there who think like we do, and do everything in our power to advance the best of their work, help it find an audience, and ultimately make the money they need to in order to keep making movies.