Featured Artist: Rind-Raja Picture Company

by Dominica Malcolm

The next Bay Area Film Mixer will be featuring a music video and demo reel screening from Rind-Raja Picture Company, run by local filmmakers Roth Rind and Jay K. Raja. They kindly and jointly answered some questions about the music video and other projects they’ve worked on.

To check out the screening, head to PianoFight on Tuesday August 30th, 7-10pm. REGISTER your attendance online now for free!

Rind-Raja Picture Company
DM: Tell us a little about the inspiration behind the music video that will be featured at the upcoming Bay Area Film Mixer on August 30th.
RRPC: ‘Open Eyes’ was an evolutionary process; it started from a simple concept of doing silhouette play with dancers and grew into a much bigger visual piece as well as a very personal project for us. We wanted to do something that would show our struggle between appealing to commercial interest and expressing ourselves artistically. The visuals of the video were shaped around this idea, and we were very enamored with the pairing of the personal themes with Adara’s distinct vocals and music.

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DM: You’ve worked on many different types of productions, including music videos, as mentioned above, as well as narrative film, commercials, and so on. How do you manage switching gears between productions, especially when the projects are very different?
RRPC: Every project is the same in the sense that we’re always trying to tell a story. It helps being committed to the ideal of strong storytelling because it’s such a strong guiding force in putting together a video. Even the most corporate of videos benefits from a well-told, cohesive narrative – it helps connect a video with the viewer’s emotions, whether it’s for selling cell phones or taking us on an interstellar journey.

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DM: Watching Rind-Raja’s demo reel, it looks like you’ve worked on some pretty incredible locations. Tell us about one or two of the more challenging locations you’ve worked with.
RRPC: We completed a film earlier this year called Spec 9 that was just as much about car racing as it was about family. The main location was a old barn that housed a vintage race car that Jennifer, the main character, finds and ends up restoring and racing. The challenge was finding a barn that would serve all our needs, which ended up being two separate locations for interior and exterior. To top it, we required pick-ups from the interior location which was no longer available to us, so we ended up reconstructing a set on stage to match the original interior location perfectly. All in all, three separate locations shot on three separate days are cut between each other seamlessly in one scene.

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DM: Film production is such a collaborative process. How have you gone about finding talented cast and crew to work with, and what have been some of the advantages of working with Bay Area based cast and crew?
RRPC: It comes down to finding flow with other people. That feeling when you can anticipate each others’ creative needs as well as get along on a personal level, which is of course important when you’re spending 12 hours a day with someone for weeks on end. And this is only achieved with consistent work and open communication – it took us a year or so from when we started to really assemble a crew where everyone respected and liked each other, as well as worked hard and well together. Now, we have an always growing A-team that we can call upon when we have a show, and it feels like a family reunion every time. That’s something I think is really only possible in the Bay Area, where the community is smaller and so genuinely in love with filmmaking.

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Rind-Raja Picture Company Bio:
What do you see? It’s a question with seemingly infinite possibilities that we ask all of our clients and artists. What we’re looking for is the seed of inspiration that sprouts an artistic venture. Whether it’s an image, or a character, or sound, a vision starts with something that strikes a chord in our creative selves. Started in 2013 by Bay Area natives Roth Rind and Jay K. Raja, the partnership formed from a mutual pursuit of strong storytelling in motion picture. Along with a sense of humor and a mutual love for Jurassic Park, Rind-Raja has grown its network of talented collaborators and is proud to enable the visions of its clients and fellow artists.

Come watch the ‘Open Eyes’ music video, Rind-Raja’s new demo reel, and meet Roth Rind and Jay K. Raja of the Rind-Raja Picture Company in person at the Bay Area Film Mixer at PianoFight on Tuesday August 30th, 7-10pm. Let us know you’re coming by registering your attendance online now for free!


Improvising with Marcus Sams

by Dominica Malcolm

Over the past year, I’ve heard a lot about how important it is for actors to have improv skills, both in auditions and on film sets, especially in the Bay Area these days. That’s why it’s great that the next Bay Area Film Mixer workshop will be taught by actor and improvisor, Marcus Sams. It’s happening on Saturday July 23, 12pm-3pm at Ninth St Independent Film Center, and tickets are available now on Eventbrite.

Since April 2015, I’ve been training with Marcus Sams on an ongoing basis in his Two Play class, so I can vouch for how great a teacher he is. Marcus has kindly answered some questions for me, so you can find out more about the workshop, and some of the benefits of improv training.

DM: Tell us about some of the benefits actors can get out of improv training? 

MS: Honestly, anyone that gets good at improv is giving themselves a human software upgrade. Ha! But seriously. The skills that it takes to be good at improv are the same ones it take to be a good human and artist. You need to be able to listen, have empathy, be present, trust, teamwork, and the list goes on.

Let’s do a quick deep dive into the first item in that list. Listening. Listening is one of our senses and yet many of us have never been taught how to do it. We have taken all sorts of classes but not that one. Why? Because we take it for granted. And not just listening to the words someone says, but to all the information being given. The way someone says something, the words they choose to use, the location of the inflection. In improv all of these things matter. I like to say that “Anything is Everything” in improv. As adults, we are worse than teenagers. We have it all figured out. Because of our wealth of life experience we often assume we know what’s up and are oftentimes compelled to jump to the end of whatever “it” is so that we can get onto the next thing. Perpetually looking for the shortcuts, and bypassing the details.

Now to tie this into the question… Art is in the details. As an actor you MUST dive into the details of EVERY moment. How many times have we heard of actors playing the end of the scene? Every moment is important to an actor because without them, we would never see the end of the scene, play, or film. By examining this one thing, listening, and then honestly reacting to what we hear, see, feel, and experience, leads you to the truth of the moment. At its core improv teaches you to be present and in the moment. It teaches you the immediacy of NOW.

One more very important thing that improv teaches you about is yourself. This couldn’t be more important for an actor or a human. If you think about it, we cannot nor should not ever divorce the character that we are playing from ourselves. No matter what character an actor is playing, we need to see their humanity. If you are just playing a character to play a character then it will most likely come across as a caricature and you are faking it. The audience, no matter what the medium is, needs to be able to connect with the character on a human level. Think about this for a moment. If you do a lot of improv and you play 20 different scenes in a months’ time, you have played 20 different characters in different situations.  Let’s define a character as an individual in a situation that has a particular point of view on a situation and that is in pursuit of a goal. By that definition every single one of us in real life could be considered a character. If you are playing your characters from a place of honest emotional truth and you are staying connected to the character on that level, then you yourself have been in 20 different scenarios in which there was a part of you that was reacting to the given circumstances. Getting good at knowing who you are and how you would react to situations improves your level of confidence when trusting your own acting instincts.

Above I only dove into two things I think improv is good for and how it relates to an actor. There are so many other reasons of why improv is good that I could write a book. Maybe that is why I am… But for now, I will give a short list of some of the other the benefits.

  • Allows you to find character quickly
  • Improves confidence
  • Increases your level of imagination
  • Visualize and create the room or place you are in so you have more to work with onset or in auditions.
  • Makes you more flexible when directors ask for something different
  • Increases the level of connection that you have with other actors
  • Helps you have more fun and be less stressed
  • Minimizes the fear of the unknown
  • & many many more…


DM: How might other types of film professions benefit from improv, even though they don’t have to act? Directors, writers, etc?

MS: As mentioned above improv helps with so many aspects. I also teach corporate improv workshops. On my website I say that improv can help in the following areas:

  • Teamwork & collaboration
  • Listening & observation skills
  • Idea generation without judgment
  • Improves public speaking
  • Increase creative & innovative thinking
  • Create a positive work environment
  • Consideration and support of ideas
  • Adapting and adopting to change quickly
  • Presence & mindfulness to reduce stress

And with a list like that, you can see why improv might be good for anyone. But in answering your question about why it is good for writers, it helps you visualize the situation better and helps you learn to speak from your characters voice. Improvisers that are good are the writer, director, actor, and editor all in real-time. If you can learn to do this, the words just flow.


DM: How have your improv skills personally helped you in your professional acting career?

MS: In my personal career, it has made me a fearless actor. I don’t get nervous on set, in front of the camera. It’s easy for me to talk to everyone from the director all the way to an extra. Improv has given me the ability to commit 183% to any choice that I make as an actor. Another thing that it has done for me is made auditioning a whole lot easier. Back when I started acting, my dyslexia would really kick in when I had a script in my hands. The words would become harder to read and then my hand would start to shake. After that, the audition was pretty much over. Improv taught me the importance of dealing with the world of the script and it gave me little bits that I could do. By putting my focus in the other person or the imaginary world I had created in my mind’s eye, it took a heap of pressure off. I was even able to then find interesting ways to mask the word soup on the page by taking action in the scene. Now I am so confident with improv that you can throw just about anything at me and I will be fine. Because of that, now the dyslexia affects me far less often.


DM: What types of common mistakes do you see people making that you seek to address with your Effortless Improv workshop?

MS: I have a Love/Hate relationship with Whose Line is it Anyway? Whose Line is short from improv and it is all about big characters and laughs. Don’t get me wrong, I love funny improv, produce funny improv, and perform funny improv. But I am never directly going for the joke. I am going for connection, realism, and honesty. There is nothing more funnier than honest humor. The reason is because the audience can relate to it. The biggest mistake that I see is that people come to improv because they have seen funny improv or Whose Line, and they want to be funny. As a result, they waste quite a bit of time trying to be funny. They will play big characters that don’t have any truth to them, which then turns into a caricature. A caricature will only take you so far. You need to go deeper with the character. Learn who they are, what they want, and what is at stake. You know, all the acting stuff they teach you in acting school. If you can learn to do this and keep your characters grounded, then you can play that character for a long time and the audience will be able to relate to them. It is even better if the audience cares about them.

Another common mistake that I see is people just trying too hard. The fact is, all you need is what is right in front of you. If you are connected to your scene partner and you look them in the eyes, you can tell if they are Happy, Mad, Sad, or Glad in an instant. This is valuable information. Pair this with what has already happened and you will have an opinion about the situation. You then just need to react how you would naturally react. That is improv at its base. Yes, we can attach bigger than life characters and add voices, and play with comedic bits, but those are layers placed on top of the foundation. You know, that is actually a great metaphor for what I see people doing. Many people want to throw a comedic house party when a foundation has not even been built.

In my Effortless Improv workshop, we play a bunch of games and do exercises that helps you shed the need to try so hard. We work on being present and getting out of the way of the improv. If we are present, and in touch with our emotions the improv will just flow. The heart is our strongest muscle in this art form. If we listen, the heart knows what it wants. It is our brain that will mess us up every time.


DM: You have a pretty full schedule teaching improv in the Bay Area. Tell us about some of the other classes people could take with you, if they’re unable to attend the Bay Area Film Mixer workshop.

O0h, this is where I plug? =) I am very excited to say that I just recently built my new website. From there you can see all the offerings that I have. I have a really great duo class that has been in existence for two years. Many of my students in that class have become national/internationally performing improv duos. In the class I not only teach the craft of improv but I also teach the business side of the craft and help set you up for success. Being that I have performed in over 47 national improv festival shows, I might know a thing or two about that. =)  I also have 4 hour improv intensives that are deep dives into different areas in improv that I teach every 3rd Sunday of the month and that is called Improv Sunday School. I also do private coaching for groups. One thing I am very excited about is what is in store this winter. I am planning on launching an improv for actors training program that has 54 hours of curriculum that I have custom written.

If anyone is curious to know what this style of improv looks like, check out two of my nationally touring duos, Liss n’ Sams and Shades of Grey. Also be sure to check out www.improvwithmarcus.com.

Does Marcus sound like a teacher you’d like to learn from? Sign up for his Effortless Improv workshop hosted by the Bay Area Film Mixer on Eventbrite. Happening Saturday July 23, 12pm-3pm at Ninth St Independent Film Center.

Marcus SamsMarcus Sams is a full-time improv teacher and professionally working actor in San Francisco. He has taught for CSU Chico, Pictoclik Film Festival, Endgames, and currently teaches for Leela, and at improv festivals and schools across the country. He has a degree in Theatre Arts, is a professionally working actor, and his improv has been forged by the teachings of David Razowsky, Susan Messing, Joe Bill and Mark Sutton, as well as many nationally known teachers. His teaching style combines theatrical craft, systematic approaches, empathy training, and leading with the heart. This combination yields truthful, grounded scene work that is fraught with honest hilarity and, from a theatrical standpoint, technically polished performances.

Sams has performed in over 45 shows in national improv festivals and in 2016 had the honor of opening for Joe Bill and Mark Sutton’s BassProv at the Chicago Improv Festival’s Secret Show. He has taught for Gainesville Improv Festival 2011, California Improv Festival in 2014 & 2016, Improvaganza: Hawaii Festival of Improv 2015San Diego Improv Festival 2016OC Improv Festival 2016, and San Jose Improv Festival 2016.

Featured Filmmaker: Evan Weidenkeller

by Dominica Malcolm

Evan Weidenkeller’s short film Dreams We Share will be featured at the next Bay Area Film Mixer on June 13 at PianoFight (RSVP for free on Eventbrite). I got to have a sneak preview of the film, which looks incredible. It’s beautifully shot, and the actors have a great connection with each other. Evan kindly answered some questions for me ahead of the Film Mixer, and will be available to answer some more after the screening at PianoFight.

DM: What was the inspiration behind the story in Dreams We Share?

EW: At first it started out when Angel Onchanthorn and myself were talking on the couch one day about how nice it would be to make a simple film about two people discussing their dreams and memories with each other. And a couple months go by and nothing came from it. Until, one day while sitting in a park I saw two people across from me talking amongst themselves. Enjoying their time in the sun and I realized I knew nothing about these people nor the world they lived in. I knew nothing of their past, nothing of their future, and all I could ever know about them was what I could see at that moment in the present. And I realized then and there, that was how I wanted to treat this story. I wanted to tell a simple story about two people and by the end of the film we learn something beautiful about them. Something we could only learn by watching them in the present. So I ran home and sat in my pitifully dark room for two weeks and the film you see today was the end result.

DM: I really loved the cinematography, sound design, and editing in Dreams We Share. How did you go about assembling your team to work with?

EW: After I had written the script, I sat down for days on end, drawing out every single shot and composition. I knew right off the bat that this was going to be a visually dominant film. The look and direction I was aiming for, to say the least, was a little unnatural at times so I was definitely going to need someone who could trust my judgement and trust that what I’m asking for will make sense in the final outcome of the film. Angel Onchanthorn was the perfect fit for this project. He basically knows what I want before I can even speak. We have this connection, this mental bond when it comes to making films. We understand each other and he can trust in my direction without question. It’s because of those qualities that we can work so well together.

DM: Are there any writers or directors that inspire your work as a writer and director? 

EW: My love for other writers and directors never seems to end. I’m constantly admiring the works from Alex Garland, Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo Del Toro, Danny Boyle, Alejandro Inarritu, and the list goes on and on while at the same time constantly changing and growing. In this particular moment in my life I’m finding myself to be deeply inspired by the works of Tom Hooper whose visual style and direction is exceedingly beautiful far beyond any words can describe.

DM: What types of stories are you drawn to in film?

EW: I truly believe that the strongest films out there are the films whose visual style perfectly coincides with the tone and story of the film. Films that are basically talking heads, jumping from scene to scene, always lack an emotional connection with the audience. A connection that can only be understood through visual storytelling. It’s like the old saying goes, don’t tell me that the characters are happy, show me that the characters are happy. And it’s those films that I find myself constantly drawn to, like the works from Sicario, or The Danish Girl. Those films are perfect examples of how to use visuals to enhance a story.

DM: Where are you at with your next film project, and are you looking for anyone new to collaborate with?

As of now, I’m currently in pre-production with my next project, another short film. But it is going to be the biggest film I’ve ever made in my career so far and I think it’s going to be the stepping stone I need to help jump start myself into shooting my first feature film. However, at this time, I can’t openly discuss what that project is but what I can say is that I will be looking for a Cinematographer who has a keen eye or familiarity with early Impressionist paintings. That’s all I’ll say.

Dreams We Share poster; directed by Evan Weidenkeller

Evan Weidenkeller studied filmmaking while he was growing up in Long Beach, CA, and moved up here to finish his studies and to continue making narrative films. His goal now is to create one more short film before moving on to filming his first feature film up here in the Bay Area.

Dreams We Share follows two girls, caught in a war, discussing dreams and memories with each other while the war draws in closer towards them.

Remember, you can watch Evan Weidenkeller’s short film Dreams We Share at the next Bay Area Film Mixer on June 13 at PianoFight. He’ll be there to answer any additional questions you may have after the screening. RSVP for free on Eventbrite!

Screenwriting Principles with Dave Moutray

by Dominica Malcolm

Dave Moutray is an accomplished screenwriter and director, with two feature films and various shorts to his name. I took a screenwriting workshop with him last year, and came away from it with so many ideas about what I wanted to write. I felt inspired. Dave will be teaching the Bay Area Film Mixer’s next workshop on writing for the screen. It’s coming up Saturday June 25, 12pm-3pm at Ninth St Independent Film Center. Tickets are available from Eventbrite.

Dominica: What are some of the key topics you’ll be covering in your workshop?

Dave: How to write a screenplay with only your toes. That’s right, I’ll be teaching keyboard yoga, from the lotus position (okay, none of that is true, plus I don’t really know what the lotus position is. Isn’t lotus a flower anyway?).

In all seriousness, I’ll be covering a number of the obvious topics that need to be discussed to tell any story that has a chance of being good (effective dialogue, structure, pre-writing techniques, etc), but beyond that, I’m excited to cover something I don’t think is covered enough at the script development level: writing for a budget. It’s one thing to write your story, it’s another to write it as something that can actually be produced.

Dominica: Who have been your biggest screenwriting influences?

Dave: Terrence Malick for his sense of character composition through V.O., Aaron Sorkin for his insane ability to write crisp and poignant dialogue, Joss Whedon for story-weaving with strong, vibrant characters, and Richard Linklater for the pathos he layers into his characters/stories. At a personal level, Matthew Jacobs (Emperor’s New Groove, Dr. Who, Paperhouse) has mentored me through my early writing career and is a large influence even still today. My first feature, Losing Her, was inspired by Matt’s first attempt at an indie feature (Your Good Friend) — it made me believe that I could do more than write features, but I could produce them as well. We are now on our second feature, and it all started from watching Matt tell a wonderful tale of a rabbi and a pornographer wanting to create a kosher porn website on an indie budget in San Francisco.

Dominica: What would you say are the biggest differences between writing shorts and features?

Dave: Besides one being longer than the other? There really isn’t that much difference in terms of storytelling — you still want a solid three act structure. Personally, I prefer writing features because you can dig deeper into characters and the world you build for them, but on occasion, a story I’ll discover is best told as a short film, so I’ll write it that way. That’s another facet of screenwriting — knowing the right format for your story to be developed in. I know some writers who will try to cram an idea into a short that really should be a feature, and others who will try to stretch an idea best suited for a short into a feature. Know the limits/potential of your story before you commit to a format.

Dominica: What kind of feedback is good to solicit from other people on a screenplay? Is it a good idea to talk to people before, during, and/or after the first draft is finished?

Dave: Noooo!!!! Only talk to yourself in a mirror. And scream at your monitor. Okay, that’s obviously not something I really believe. I caution moderation with sharing your story — pick a few that you know will be honest with you. The problem with talking to friends/family about your ideas is they tend to lose objectivity and will just tell you how great you are. Through the development process, talking to friends is fine, but rely more on those in the business. As you write it, join a screenwriting group and submit pages for feedback. When you have your first draft, submit it for coverage through respected services (Blue Cat, Scriptapoolza, etc). And develop a thick skin, because the feedback that will help you the most is usually the most painful to hear.

Dominica: Are there any books you recommend for screenwriters?

Dave: One thing that aspiring screenwriters often don’t consider reading is other scripts. You should read as many as you can. Connect with the format, the structure, give yourself a chance to get to know the style (how beats work with each other), and find your style of writing within the successful scripts you read (you can find a number of scripts here, legally: http://www.script-o-rama.com/).

As far as books go, I can’t recommend Save the Cat by Blake Snyder enough. The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier is a must-have as well — one of the pitfalls of a screenwriter is not adhering to industry standards — there is no easier way to get a producer to stop reading your script, no matter how good it is, if your script looks like it was written by an amateur.

If you’re interested in learning more about screenwriting from Dave Moutray, sign up for the next Bay Area Film Mixer next workshop on writing for the screen. It’s coming up Saturday June 25, 12pm-3pm at Ninth St Independent Film Center. Tickets are available from Eventbrite.

Dave MoutrayDave Moutray, an award-winning Director and Screenwriter, has a M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Screenwriting, and is co-founder of Crux Jinx Productions, LLC in San Francisco, CA. After winning awards for his short films, he tackled his first feature film, Losing Her, which won Best Feature at the Noor Film Festival in Los Angeles and the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, and is now in post-production on his second feature called Lost in the Sun.

Dave has been trained by Matthew Jacobs (Emperor’s New Groove, Dr. Who, Paperhouse) and Robert Keats (head of Screenwriting department at Academy of Art University), and wholeheartedly believes as Alfred Hitchcock did, that “[to] make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.”

Film Financing and Production with Ben Yennie

by Dominica Malcolm

The production-focused Ben Yennie will be teaching the second Bay Area Film Mixer Workshop, “The Lean Filmmaker,” at 12noon on April 30th, at Ninth St Independent Film Center. Tickets are available at Eventbrite. You can also pick up his book, The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and check out his blog.

Ben kindly answered a few production related questions for me, explaining why it’s valuable to learn about these topics no matter what your role in the film industry is.

DM: What are some of the topics you’ll be covering for your Lean Filmmaker workshop?

BY: If you want a direct answer, take a look at the Eventbrite for the workshop, many of the direct benefits are outlined there. I am very much about practical application. But really, there’s a lot more to this workshop than immediate practical application.

We all know world of content creation and particularly of content distribution has been completely revolutionized over the past 10 to 15 years. This is especially true for filmmaking and video production, but the same can be said all across the entertainment industry. Tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple have revolutionized how artists distribute and how consumers imbibe creative content.

What most do not realize is the underlying process for marketing content, selling content, and building a business in any industry that is primarily driven by content has remained largely unchanged during that time. Sure, there’s a new face on it. Platforms come and go, styles and genres come in and out of fashion, and the best suited distribution medium changes every few years. However the tried and true methods of developing a community that leads to building a larger audience hasn’t changed that much since the days of David Bowie, The Police, and Dirty Harry.

So this workshop is less about how to use Adwords, Facebook boosts, and mailing lists, but rather developing your personal brand, reputation, and creative voice can inform and enhance those decisions. Effectively using social media is more about building your brand and building a relationship with your fan base than it is knowing the current hot platform. The how is the platform you’ll use, the why is the methodology and brand you’ve built.

DM: Aside from producers, who can benefit from learning about film finance, marketing, and distribution?

BY: Everyone can benefit from learning about the business side of film. Like it or not, if you’re in the film industry, unless you’re working within the confines of the studio system (and sometimes even then) you’re building a business.

An actor needs to know how best to brand themselves in order to find work. They need to develop a network of people doing other jobs in order to be able to find work, and they need to develop their social media presence to be more attractive to producers. Along the way, they can learn to sell other merchandise once they have a big enough following. Why do you think the Olson Twins are in fashion now?

A DP or any below the line crew needs to know where their next gig is coming from. That generally requires a strong professional network. Sure, you may be part of a small production company, but somebody’s job had better be finding work and maintaining client relationships.

Regarding finance, every member of the team should have some idea as to what drives investors, and how films get funded. Understanding the process will give you a much deeper respect of it, and a much greater value on set. If you have a basic understanding of film financing and how it works, you can better negotiate with producers, or at least understand the ties that often bind their hands when working within the confines of a very limited budget.

For more information, I recommend this blog I wrote for Producer Foundry called Understanding money.

DM: What is one tip filmmakers can use to reduce costs on projects here?

BY: Well, this is going to seem self serving, but ProductionNext is one of the best ways I know. It makes everything easier to track, keeps all your projects in one place, and takes a lot of the pain out of production coordination. The closed beta is also free.

Apart from that, brand integration is incredibly useful here. It’s quite easy to get brands to give you things you need in order to keep your budget low. In fact, I wrote a blog on it so filmmakers can find out the basics of looking for product placement. Read it here!

DM: Where do you see film financing coming from in the future, particularly in the SF Bay Area?

BY: I see the best path forward for filmmakers as focusing more on generating revenue from projects than seeking financing for them.

While there is space for an interesting albeit existential discussion as to what the role of institutional (Venture Capital) financing would have on film finance, it’s a difficult market to attract VCs due to the low returns when compared to tech companies. In the interest of brevity, I suggest you read the blog I wrote called Why Film Needs Venture Capital. If you’d like to know more about this potential avenue for financing film.

Angels are difficult to court here in the Bay Area. There are a lot of very strong and likely more lucrative investments to be had here. So you’ll need to sell them on more than your potential revenue. You’ll need to be able to paint a picture of the film in their head, and make them feel like they just have to be involved. Passion is a prerequisite for this, but it’s far from the only thing you need. If you’d like an idea as to what it takes, it might not be a bad idea to check this out: The 12 Slides You Need in Your Indie Film Investment Deck.

No matter what sort of financing you’re seeking, you’re going to prove that you have the ability to go to market. This means having community and audience engagement. The Lean Filmmaker workshop will help you learn how to develop that base and build an engaged audience. I know every filmmaker hates to hear it, but getting some money in via crowdfunding proves your worth to investors. It proves people are willing to pay for your content.

Although, once you get a following, brand integration can be a good financing strategy, but you need a large following, and the money isn’t as good as you would think it is.

DM: Are there some mistakes you see first time filmmakers making that can and should be easily avoided?

BY: I could write a book on common filmmaking mistakes, but I’m pretty sure that’s been covered. I’ll try to stay away from the obvious standards like plan adequately, etc.

First, you’ve GOT to pay attention to all your rights, and keep them in one place you can turn over to a distributor. License a song for that “up and coming” band you know by buying them a case of Pabst and a handle of Jack Daniels? Guess what, you need a paper trail on that (put $45.99 in consumables on the compensation part of the form). You’ve got to keep track of every release, and make sure you don’t use anything you don’t have the rights to. It’s a bit tedious, but there are software solutions to help *COUGH* *High five for shameless plugs!*

Also, whenever possible only shoot your film in one language. It makes international dubbing and subbing much easier. English is still the best. I’ve had sales agents ask for an English dub just because it sells better to China than Spanish does. Additionally, when you enter post, MAKE SURE you follow proper procedures. Editing your dialogue, music, and effects on separate tracks that are easy to turn off and on make a world of difference. That, and separate video tracks for subtitles and any text that shows up on screen (with the possible exception of the opening credits) make international sales much easier. In fact, it may not be possible without it.

If Ben Yennie sounds like the kind of person you want to learn more from, get your tickets to his Lean Filmmaker workshop on Eventbrite.

Ben Yennie headshot

Ben founded, in 2014, an independent film producer’s representation company. The company was officially launched with the book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Success on No Budget, which has been used as a textbook in ten film schools. Utilizing existing connections and a powerful knack for networking, he’s worked with sales agents to sell, in 2015, nine feature-length films to Starz and other national and international media outlets, scoring a 100% offer rate for his clients and 5 films selling at Cannes 2016. He’s also worked as a tech executive focusing on Sales and Business Development in two separate companies, one of which he cofounded. <ProductionNext>

Additionally, Ben is the founder of Producer Foundry, a business school for independent film, has hosted more than 75 events on Film Finance, Marketing, and distribution. Formerly, Ben founded Global Film Ventures, served as an advisor to the Film Angels, and ran the San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, and Los Angeles chapters of the institute for international film finance.

Keep up with Ben
Buy his book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Follow him on Twitter, like Ben and Producer Foundry on Facebook, and connect on LinkedIn.

Training with Veteran Actor Jeffrey Weissman

by Dominica Malcolm

Jeffrey Weissman is one of the Bay Area’s top working actors, who gives back to the community with genuine support while mentoring other actors in the Bay Area. I’ve been training with him since January 2016, and found that my confidence for memorizing lines and attending auditions, both with and without cold readings, increased immensely. I’ve learned how important it is to focus more on putting in the time to build that confidence and being myself than it is to land the role in any given audition. Because whilst you may not be right for that role, if you come across as someone the casting people like, they will remember you and likely consider you for other roles in the future.

The Bay Area Film Mixer is offering a number of workshops with Jeffrey Weissman over the coming months, on very specific topics. The first workshop is “Working On Set” at 12noon on Saturday 16th April at Ninth St Independent Film Center, and tickets are available on Eventbrite.

You can also audit or sign up to one of his weekly classes, held in Sausalito on Tuesdays, 11am-2pm and 7pm-10pm (after audit session, 8 week minimum commitment required). If you’re interested in this class, please email Jeffrey at jeffrey@jeffreyweissman.com.

Let me share with you some words of wisdom from Jeffrey, so you can discover for yourself if he has the background you would be interested in learning from.

DM: What are the primary skills actors develop while working with you?

JW: I teach a varied set of skills for the Bay Area Film Mixer group, with the main focus on the actor’s big three: cold reading, scene study, and working on set. Ingredients such as audition monologues, using intuition, theater games, scene beats, and developing characters using text and action are included. I’ll also do a bit of mentoring about the business, since I’ve been in show biz for most of my life. I love working with the serious actors that want to do great work, instead of just passable or mediocre work. I use my 40+ years acting experience on stage and film combined with my studies with many master teachers.

DM: Tell me a bit about your background, with who and what has influenced your acting and what you teach.

JW: I was raised in in Los Angeles, and growing up there, I had friends who’s parents were in the industry, and even friends who acted on TV and film. My parents had many industry friends, and some were celebrities. I’d meet them and sometimes get advice, because I knew pretty early on I wanted to be an actor. I met Omar Sharif, Lorne Green, Don Adams and other stars at my Dad’s club, and I when I’d see them on the big screen or TV, it made it seem like a reachable goal to work in those mediums to me. I’d visit shoots when they were on location in my neighborhood, and speak with the actors about their work, and I’d get advice.

After High School, I worked doing some waiver background in some major films (The Rose, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, FM, Fastbreak, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, etc), and even though it is very exciting to be on a major studio lot and sets, ultimately it is unfulfilling for an actor that wants to tell stories, and I was told by a top casting director that no one is going to take me (or anyone) seriously, unless you get great training. So I set my sights on training at the American Conservatory Theater, and I headed to San Francisco. I was accepted to the Summer Training Intensive in ’81, and while I was continuing my intermediate studies at SFSU for my MFA, I fell into an opportunity to audition for a big Hollywood feature. The director and casting director both liked my talent, and they decided to screen test me for the lead in a film called ‘The Genius’, (later re-named ‘War Games’). An agent from William Morris’s New York office had heard about me from the director, and she offered to represent me. I had to move back to LA right away, and I began working in co-star roles a few months later.

I had studied hard at ACT & SFSU, and before I left LA I had been studying elements of ‘the Method’ from Jackie Benton. When I returned to LA, I re-united with Jackie, and in the four years I had been gone, she had been studying with Charles Conrad, and had thrown all of the sensory & emotional recall, private moment, etc out the window in favor of the Meisner based work that I carry on teaching. Still keeping the relaxation techniques from Strasberg.

I also studied Comedy at the Harvey Lembeck Studios with Bill Hudnut, and another scene study class with Peter Flood. Both of those classes had me working along side many stars and up and coming talents that are now stars. I also worked with several comedy troupes, with members that trained extensively with Groundlings during the Phil Hartman years, and then Keith Johnstone trained performers. My ‘Flying Penguins’ troupe, became the core of the newly formed Los Angeles Theater Sports, which boasted many great talents that went on to amazing writing careers and on screen. LATS continues now as ‘Impro’ and is consistently in the top picks by LA critics for their completely improvised theme shows based in several different genres, i.e. Sondheim, Shakespeare, Williams, Twilight Zone, Jane Austen, etc.

I have taught at San Francisco School of Digital Film Making, Dominican University, Ruth Azawa San Francisco School of the Arts, Education Unlimited at UC Berkeley, and I’ve coached privately, with several of my students performing in shows touring internationally. I currently teach film technique in Sausalito and Improvisation at Sonoma State University.

DM: Are there any books you recommend for actors?

JW: My library has 50+ books on acting, and/or relate to storytelling.

Some of the top acting books are:
An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski
Sanford Meisner on Acting by Meisner & Doug Longwell
Respect for Acting by Uta Hagan
Stella Adler – The Art of Acting by Howard Kissel
Acting In Film by Michael Caine
Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff
On the Technique of Acting by Michael Chekhov
The Way of Acting: The Theatre Writings of Tadashi Suzuki
A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previtio, Scott Zigler
Towards a Poor Theatre by Jerzy Grotowski
An Acrobat of the Heart: A Physical Approach to Acting Inspired by the Work of Jerzy Grotowski by Stephen Wangh
The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition by Anne Bogart & Tina Landau
The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre by Jacques Lecoq
A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art in Theatre by Anne Bogart
The Sanford Meisner Approach: An Actor’s Workbook (1, 2 & 3) by Larry Silverberg and Horton Foote
Impro & Impro for Storytellers both by Keith Johnstone
Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation by Del Close
Art by Committee: A Guide to Advanced Improvisation by Charna Halpern
Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual by Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser
A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology by Euginio Barba & Nicola Savarese
Playing to the Camera: Film Actors Discuss Their Craft edited by Bert Cardullo, Harry Geduld, Ronald Gottesman, Leigh Woods
Master Shots: 100 Advanced Camera Techniques to Get an Expensive Look on Your Low-Budget Movie (1 & 2) by Christopher Kenworthy

DM: What’s one piece of advice you would like to impart on actors who are wanting to dive into the film industry?

JW: Study. Preferably with me.

One piece of advice is impossible to chose. If you choose to pursue this crazy industry, you have to go in to it with your eyes open, and not blinded by a dream of stardom and financial reward (Those are by products of hard work, perseverance, teamwork, connections, opportunity and good timing). The hard work, that never really stops. You must constantly update your materials, and hone your craft. You need to frame your thinking into seeing yourself as an instrument and a product. You learn to play your instrument like a musician does, by practicing and getting the notes, rhythms and melodies. You manage marketing your talent, since you are the product, and it is imperative that you understand that it is very personal working with your ego and emotions in a very impersonal business. Rejection is a fact of the biz, and you cannot take it personally.

The first of the three elements of the craft is auditioning; go in, be brilliant and get out. Go on to the next audition and don’t look back. Hone your work, do your homework, be prepared so when you get into the audition room you do your work focused and well. Be friendly, relaxed and not ‘needy’, showing that you are easy to get along with and you can take direction. Then, when you get into rehearsal, know how to collaborate, and generate authenticity in each beat. Make the best possible action choices for each moment. Make connections on every level, from inferred text, environmental, character relationships, history, blocking with the camera and active listening.

What are a couple of the highlights from your acting career?

I have so many it’s difficult to choose a couple. I’m thrilled at being a team member on great films. Working with legendary directors: George Miller, Clint Eastwood, Louis Malle, Robert Zemeckis, Catherine Hardwicke, Amy Hekerling, Oz Scott, among others. I loved watching cinematographers and cameramen, Alan Daveau, Bruce Surtees, Garrett Brown, Dean Cundey, et al, find their shots and collaborate with their directors, using cutting edge technologies and effects. Becoming collaborators and often friends with stars and celebrities is extremely exciting. Traveling the world to shoot, and to appear in support of films, and then to meet fans at conventions make me very happy.

I have dozens of fun stories from location shoots, studio shoots, fancons, film, Television, Commercial, Industrial stage, even party work… but that should be another blog, perhaps a sequel?

Does Jeffrey sound like the kind of teacher you want to work with? Then sign up for his first Bay Area Film Mixer workshop “Working On Set” at Eventbrite. We’ll see you ready to start class at 12noon on Saturday 16th April at Ninth St Independent Film Center!

Jeffrey Weissman headshot
Jeffrey Weissman is an acting vet with over 100 stage roles and over 50 film and television roles under his belt, including a role in two of the biggest grossing sequels of all time, playing George McFly, co-staring with Michael J Fox & Lea Thompson in Back to the Future II & III. He also co-stars with Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. His first film co-star role is with John Lithgow in Twilight Zone the Movie.

More recently his roles in indie films, include playing Benny, a depressed, epileptic widower, turned avenging angel in Savior of None, and he plays an OCD winemaker in the hilarious mockumentary Corked!. Other recent films include Nobody’s Laughing and Slapdash, both shot in San Francisco. And he plays a time traveling menace in the award winning sci-fi pilot, The Traveler (Gold at 2016 International Independent Film Awards).

On television, he guest starred on The Man Show, Saved By The Bell, Diagnosis Murder, Scarecrow & Mrs King, Max Headroom and on a host of other shows and commercials.

Jeffrey writes, directs, consults, and produces live entertainment, stage shows, TV and films. Jeffrey studied at the American Conservatory Theater and San Francisco State University, and he currently teaches privately, and publicly he’s teaching film acting in Sausalito and Improvisation at Sonoma State University.

For full credits, check out Jeffrey on imdb.