Monday Prescription – 6 Checklist Points for Your Film

Hi Film Folk,

In this week’s (belated) Monday Prescription The Film Doctor Team are offering up an essential checklist to look out for in the films YOU love and how you can apply them to YOUR OWN film when producing, screenwriting or directing! Read on!

 
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NB/ The items below stand for whether you want to distribute independently, through a small distributor or a large, international distributor/market.  A sales agent/distributor/marketing agency/journalist can not create interesting, exciting and sellable angles on your film if they are not embedded within the film itself.



 

Here is our essential checklist:

1. A hook. Can you tell your premise in one line and does it hook? Not a tagline. Not ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream’. The premise.

For example – ‘After Ron Woodruff is diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 and given six months to live, he spends the next six years of his life smuggling medicine into the U.S. to help himself and others’.

Or – ‘Four semi-retired baby boomers from Coney Island head to Las Vegas when the last bachelor among them, a successful lawyer in his 60s, decides to tie the knot.’

The hook must do exactly that – hook – and inspire the question ‘what happens?’






 

2. Does the film have talent attached? Perhaps, if you have a VFX-heavy movie on your hand (preferably something horror/thriller based – see Monsters or Paranormal Activity) then your film can be marketed or sold without ‘names’. Otherwise, known talent in the acting department (or perhaps directing) can forge a solid pathway to decent distribution.

 

3. Reasonable Budget. Does the film you like have a budget that you and your team can reasonably raise? One of the number 1 mistakes first time filmmakers or screenwriters make is creating a project that may mirror the kind of film they’d like to make but does not reflect what they actually have the resources to make at this point in time.

I.e. If you’ve never produced/directed a film before then keeping the budget in the £200, 000-£2m range would be ideal. If you’ve directed a £5m film before (and it’s made its money back) then perhaps £7-10m isn’t such an insane leap.

Keep realistic!

 

4. Length. Now this one often slips through the radar. In this case, your comparative film is not always an accurate indicator. If the film is 180 minutes long then check to see the director, the distributor, the screenwriter, the cast. It is very, very, very rare for a film of this length to be made/picked up/released for a first time filmmaker.

Ideally you want your project to be no shorter than 80 minutes (much under and there could be issues with distributors) and no longer than 120. The 90 minute mark is favourable for a first time project).

 

5. Genre – What genre is the film you enjoy? What genre is your film? Is it easily identifiable? If it’s a drama is it sneakily pegged onto another genre through style (i.e. Black Swan – thriller). One of the best ways in appealing to a market is to present something that has a keen audience and that you fulfil to the needs of that audience.

Drama might not be the best first movie genre for you (unless you intend to exclusively work in that genre) – click here to see why.

 

6. How well did it do? This should really be foremost in your mind. How do the films you enjoy do commercially? Presumably they are not all first time features that failed commercially directed by people who never directed again?! Surely there is something to learn. Find out how they did and work out why they failed/succeeded using the 5 points above. Knowledge is power!

 

‘Monday Prescription’ No.95 – Survey the key aspects of every film that you class as a comparable. Contextualise those points. It’s no good comparing your project to American Hustle if you do not have access to the finance or talent of that scale, even if your project’s theme/story/premise strikes you as similar. Take note of the differences as well as the similarities.

 

A great companion piece for this article is ‘Are You Using the best Filmmaking Model for You?

 
 
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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
 
Have a great week!
 
The Film Doctor Team
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