Spotlight Articles & indieBlog

10 TIPS FOR DIRECTING A MICRO BUDGET MOVIE from FILMMAKER PAUL OSBORNE

Will Prescott — Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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If you haven’t already heard of, or run into, filmmaker PAUL OSBORNE somewhere along the way, don’t sweat it because the odds are you will. A champion of indie film and a staple along the festival circuit, Paul has been making a successful go of it in the industry for a while now.

In addition to contributing articles for Moviemaker Magazine, Film Threat, and Ted Hope’s blog Hope for Film, he’s the driving force behind indie gems TEN ‘TIL NOON, OFFICIAL REJECTION, and most recently the critically-acclaimed thriller FAVOR (killer trailer below), which will be hitting iTunes and Cable VOD on April 22nd from Gravitas Ventures.

No stranger to making things happen on a shoestring budget, we asked Paul for some advice on directing micro budget productions that don’t suffer from a lack of quality. Lucky for us (and you), he was kind enough to share some of his secrets.

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1. Shoot Quickly and Efficiently. Shooting a movie is the most expensive part of any production, and if you’re making a micro-budget flick (defined as anything with a cost of $50,000 or below), it’s critical to get the most out of the time the cameras are rolling as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to shoot as fast as you can without significantly impacting quality. When we made my movie FAVOR, our mantra was “write it like art, prep it like art, cast it like art, rehearse it like art, cut it like art… but shoot it like exploitation.”

The trick is to be prepared, know what you want, have your priorities in order… and follow the rest of this list.

2. Rehearse Your Actors During Pre-Production. When you make a small film, it’s vital to get good performances – after all, there are no giant CGI robots or superheroes to distract the audience if the actors suck. But sussing out the nature of a scene or the layers of a character takes time, and when you’re shooting you don’t have a lot to play with. So, I suggest doing extensive rehearsals (with the actors who are willing to participate) in the weeks leading up to your start date. Not only will your performers be fully primed when they finally step in front of the camera, you’ll have likely already developed an all-important shorthand with them as well.

3. Schedule Each Day Yourself. You may have an assistant director, production manager or producer willing to do it for you, but I suggest taking on this task personally. Having rehearsed your actors, only you know which ones are slow to warm to a scene, which are good to go right when they arrive and which burn out quickly. Only you can decide which pages should be given more attention than others, and if they’re calling lunch in ten minutes, whether it’s worth squeezing in one more take or breaking early. Additionally, if things have to be shifted around, you’ll be so familiar with the plan you won’t have to call a meeting to figure it out – you’ll simply know what to do.

4. Be the Hardest Working Person on Set. Directing a movie, even a micro-budget one, is a privilege. Yes, it means you have all the responsibility on your shoulders, but in a director-driven medium it also means you have the most to gain. It’s a given you should treat every member of your cast and crew with kindness, dignity and respect, but it’s also important to demonstrate this by working harder than any of them. You should be the first one there, the last one getting food, the first one back from lunch and the last one to leave after wrap. The crew will not only feel appreciated, they’ll also work harder just to try and keep up with you.

5. Make Decisions Fast. Your cast and crew are looking to you to steer the ship, and the confidence they have in you is directly proportional to the mood on set. Making decisions quickly will give the illusion you know what the hell you’re doing, even if you don’t. As strange as this is to say, it’s often better to make a quick decision rather than the best decision as long as it keeps the shoot moving forward.

6. Feed Your Crew Well. It doesn’t matter what your budget range is or how much you pay the crew – if you don’t feed people well, they will revolt. This doesn’t mean the food has to be expensive – on FAVOR, our producer often cooked for everyone, and craft service consisted of whatever was on sale at Costco. On a day-to-day basis, quality meals are more important than good wages. I’ve seen volunteer crews toil endlessly on full bellies and well-paid ones walk because they were served leftover curry for the sixth straight day.

7. No Task is Beneath You. Yes, a director is generally the highest authority on set, but you’re not above the crew – you’re a member of it. If you’re sitting on your ass and everyone else is working, you’re doing it wrong. Get up, move a light, clean up the paper plates from lunch, steam the shirts in wardrobe…You owe it to your movie, and it sends a positive message to everyone else.

8. Protect Your Actors When They Fail. Sometimes actors come to set not knowing all their lines, or aren’t in the right headspace, or are just tired. Even the most professional performers can have an off-day, and calling them out on it is only going to make it worse. If a performer just isn’t hitting it, your best bet is to invent some “technical adjustment” so they can step aside and collect themselves without any attention placed on the fact that they need to. Remember that actors have to expose a part of themselves in order to do their job, so it’s your job to make them feel safe enough to do it.

9. Limit the Toys. Lighting a scene can often take a long time. Want it to go faster? Have fewer lights. Would you like to streamline the time it takes for your cinematographer to set up a shot? Limit the number of lenses available. If there are a lot of toys on set, your technical people will want to play with them, so if you’re shooting on a tight schedule and an even tighter budget, it’s wise to limit the gear to the essentials. Just make sure the gear you do have can do the job.

10. Enjoy Your Difficulties. After a particularly grueling day during the production of my first feature, TEN ‘TIL NOON, I vented to my wife about some of the issues we were having on set – our first A.D. was wildly disorganized, our cinematographer was lazy and sneaking off to watch Pay-Per-View movies between set-ups, one of our actors kept trying to rewrite his dialogue. When I finished my rant, she smiled and said, “You’re lucky you get to have these problems. Enjoy them.”

BONUS PARTING THOUGHT. We don’t get to do this everyday. Movies aren’t made, they’re forced into existence, so when you finally get one going and are facing the difficulties that invariably present themselves, take a moment to savor the fact that you have them. It doesn’t make these problems go away, of course, but at least for me, it makes tackling them a whole lot easier.

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You can pre-order Paul Osborne’s film FAVOR on iTunes now and keep tabs on his projects by following him on twitter at @PaulMakesMovies. If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or filmmaking related business we should interview, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Nudity Clauses, But Were Too Shy To Ask

SAGIndie — Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Our friends over at Film Independent asked us about nudity in film and we had much to tell them. Check out a few of the tips:

Can the nudity section (section 43) of the SAG-AFTRA Basic Agreement serve as a sufficient contract agreement if both the producer and actor agree?

Section 43 does not serve as a sufficient contract between the performer and producer. Prior written consent of the performer is required in the form of a letter or rider that outlines the actions of the nudity or sex scene that will take place.

Can a producer draft the nudity rider or does the producer need to hire an entertainment lawyer to properly draft this additional contract agreement?
It’s always advisable to have a lawyer at least look over a rider or any other contract. When hiring a lawyer isn’t possible, the producer can draft it on his or her own. Ultimately the performer and the performer’s representation will need sign off on it.

Are there boilerplate contract forms or a standard way of drafting this additional contract clause? If so, is it available through SAG-AFTRA?
There’s a standard nudity clause provided by SAG-AFTRA that outlines everything. That said there really isn’t a sample nudity rider that exists on SAG-AFTRA’s end. The best idea is to draft up exactly what’s going to take place and present it to your SAG-AFTRA Business Representative for review.

Are the descriptions of nudity and sex in a script sufficient detail to be transcribed into a rider or should the producer work out more specific details?
The producer should always, always explain more detail. All of the action that’s going to occur, how it’s going to be shot, who’s going to be present—these details aren’t in a script. It’s also worth mentioning that when a nudity or sex scene is being shot, it must be done so on a closed set.  And always have a designated robe person for in-between takes.

Continuing reading the rest of the article HERE.

SAG FOUNDATION NY SHORTS SHOWCASE – JUNE 2014 – New 20 Minute Limit

SAGIndie — Friday, February 21st, 2014

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation is now accepting submissions from all states east of the Mississippi for its June 2014 NY Shorts Showcase – now in year five!

All shorts MUST be produced under a SAG-AFTRA union contract, and not run more than 20 minutes, including credits – no exceptions. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 24th. All entries received after that date will be placed in contention for our October 2014 event.

Webseries produced under a union contract are also eligible for consideration. There is no entry fee, nor is there a cost to attend the screening, which is held in New York City, three times a year.

The showcase is open to all types of cinematic expression, and is designed to encourage union members, and others, to create their own projects. In addition to the screening, the evening includes a Q&A with the directors and producers, and an opportunity to network with those in attendance.

Filmmakers may submit a regular DVD copy of their film – no Blu-Ray, please — which should be clearly labeled with a title, the director’s name, an email contact address and the project’s SAG-AFTRA production number to:

SAG FOUNDATION SHORTS SHOWCASE
SAG-AFTRA
1900 Broadway – 5th Flr.
New York NY 10023

You will only be notified if your film has been selected for the screening.  DVDs will not be returned.

Contact: shortsny@sagfoundation.org
Check out the new 2014 SAG Foundation Promo featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Kerry Washington, John Goodman & more!

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation provides vital assistance and educational programming to the professionals of SAG-AFTRA while serving the public at large through its signature children’s literacy programs. Support the SAG Foundation at sagfoundation.org.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: SAG-AFTRA NEW YORK OFFICES ARE MOVING

SAGIndie — Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

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If you haven’t heard the news, the SAG-AFTRA New York offices (260 and 360 Madison locations) will be closing at 5:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 20 and will be completely closed until they re-open in their new office space on Monday, Jan. 6. New York Staff will be unavailable, either in person, by phone, or by email. For on-set emergencies, the hotline number will still be available: (212) 517-0909.

You may also call the SAG-AFTRA national office in Los Angeles during this time.

  • General questions: (323) 954-1600
  • Agency: (323) 549-6745
  • Broadcast: (323) 634-8129
  • Commercials Contracts: (323) 549-6858
  • Sound Recordings: (866) 912-3872
  • Television Contracts: (323) 549-6835
  • Theatrical Contracts: (323) 549-6828

The brand new space will be located on the 5th floor at 1900 Broadway, across from Lincoln Center between 63rd and 64th streets.

The LOW BUDGET CONTRACT WORKSHOP on Thursday, December 12th will be the final one held at 360 Madison. Starting January 9th, the workshops will be held at the new SAG-AFTRA location on the 5th floor at 1900 Broadway. RSVP online HERE or call (212) 827-1481.

Construction at the new office space is underway, and as you can imagine, the construction zone is both busy and physically hazardous.  For safety reasons, the site must remain off-limits to all members until construction is complete and we have received our official Certificate of Occupancy.  This applies to all members, including Officers, Board members, Committee members and others.  We are all eager to see the new space and look forward to welcoming everyone when it opens!

If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact Roe Badamo at (212) 863-4213. 

SAG FOUNDATION NY SHORTS SHOWCASE – FEBRUARY 2014 – New 20 Minute Limit

SAGIndie — Thursday, November 14th, 2013

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The Screen Actors Guild Foundation is now accepting submissions from all states east of the Mississippi for its February 2014 NY Shorts Showcase – now in year five!

The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Thursday, December 19th. All entries received after that date will be placed in contention for our June 2014 event.

Webseries produced under a union contract are also eligible for consideration.

There is no entry fee, nor is there a cost to attend the screening, which is held in New York City, three times a year.

All shorts MUST be produced under a SAG-AFTRA union contract, and not run more than 20 minutes, including credits – no exceptions.

The showcase is open to all types of cinematic expression, and is designed to encourage union members, and others, to create their own projects. In addition to the screening, the evening includes a Q+A with the directors and producers, and an opportunity to network with those in attendance.

Filmmakers may submit a regular DVD copy of their film – no Blu-Ray, please — which should be clearly labeled with a title, the director’s name, an email contact address and the project’s SAG-AFTRA production number to:

SAG FOUNDATION SHORTS SHOWCASE
SAG-AFTRA
360 Madison Ave. – 12th Flr.
New York NY 10017

Contact: shortsny@sagfoundation.org

See the Sundance hit CONCUSSION when it screens in NYC and LA!

SAGIndie — Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Starring Robin Weigert and written/directed by Stacie Passon, CONCUSSION screens on September 30th in New York City and October 1st in Los Angeles. There will be a VIP reception and a discussion with cast and crew. See the fliers below for details and RSVP instructions (click to enlarge).

Concussion_NY_Final[1]Concussion_LA_Final[1]

 

Film Review: AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS

Ellen Tremiti — Thursday, August 15th, 2013

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS premiered in January at Sundance 2013. The following Theatrical Premiere took place on Tuesday (August 13th) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The film stars Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network) as Ruth Guthrie. These childhood sweethearts and partners-in-crime are on the lam, and just as the film begins, Ruth reveals that she is pregnant. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints does not follow a couple’s joyride; it begins as their crime spree comes to a screeching halt.

To protect his love and unborn child, Bob manages to take most of the heat for their crimes and ends up sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. Years pass and the couple’s daughter Sylvie, now almost four, anticipates her upcoming birthday while Ruth lives a very quiet life in their small town. All of that may change when Ruth hears from soft-spoken sheriff Patrick (Ben Foster, Six Feet Under, 3:10 to Yuma) that Bob has escaped from prison.

Beautiful cinematography and a 1970s setting lends Ain’t Them Bodies Saints a nostalgic, honey-drenched look. The story moves slowly; this isn’t a shoot-em-up style movie, but each scene is dense in character and subtext. There is something wonderfully refreshing about a movie that chooses to move in measured paces and give its audience a lot of character to take in every step of the way.  A subtle love triangle unfolds as Patrick tries to spend more time with Ruth and Sylvie, and Ruth is constantly in a state of remembering.  Her thoughts seem lost between her loyalty to Bob and her motherly duties to protect Sylvie. Tension mounts as Bob risks his life to get closer to Ruth; he is hunted by those he’s entangled with in his past.

Writer and director David Lowery borrows from filmmakers, such as Terrence Malik, crafting scenes that feel both new and old. It works for this film as the entire story feels like a throwback to another era.  The performances are solid with Ben Foster standing out as a simple sheriff with a lot of turmoil brooding under the surface, and Affleck and Mara sell their roles well. This is the kind of film where what’s not said is just as important, perhaps more important, than what is said. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints became one of my top two movies from Sundance 2013. Check it out, if you can!

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints hits theaters this Friday, August 16!

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In addition to her duties at SAGindie, Ellen Tremiti is also a Contributor for Fanboy Comics, an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Ellen and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing subscribe@fanboycomics.net.

12 TIPS FOR INDIE PRODUCERS from M. ELIZABETH HUGHES

Will Prescott — Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Since earning her M.F.A. in 2008, M. ELIZABETH HUGHES has quickly made a name for herself as a no-nonsense producer who can stretch a budget. Her first feature– and first project out of film school– HERPES BOY (starring Beth Grant, Ahna O’Reilly, and Octavia Spencer) was made on a shoestring budget but garnered several festival awards and received distribution.

M. Elizabeth’s career would progress nicely with Sundance hits WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (as production manager), SAVE THE DATE (as line producer) and Joss Whedon’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (as line producer). Most recently she Co-produced the 2013 SXSW Grand Jury Prize Winner SHORT TERM 12 (in theaters August 23) and produced the hit web series HUSBANDS from Brad Bell and Jane Espenson (season three premieres August 15).

She credits her love of movies and passion for logistics as the main reasons for forging on in such an arguably unstable industry. While it hasn’t always been glamorous, her unwavering passion and persistence has kept her consistently employed since starting out only a handful of years ago. During this time, she has learned a thing or two about making a production work on tight parameters. She’s agreed to share with us her twelve most important tips for independent filmmaking.

Aspiring producers, take note!

1.  Make sure your script is in the right place before you start shooting. It’s costly to shoot scenes you knew were never going to make it in to the movie in the first place.

2.  Do whatever you can do before you start shooting to make your shoot as smooth as possible. Rehearsals, pre-lighting, set dressing ahead of time – this may cost you a little extra in terms of rentals and location fees, but it will save you so much time during your shoot and everyone can focus on making the movie instead of prepping for it.

3.  Start your guild (SAG-AFTRA, WGA, DGA) paperwork as soon as possible. Research all the different types of agreements and the ramifications for your project. Turn in your paperwork as quickly as possible in order to stay right with the guilds.

4.  Always have a contingency – you will need it. I try my best to set aside 10% of the budget for this. Something will always come up, I promise. If you are a miracle worker and manage to keep all of it, devote that money to post production.

5.  Cut corners wisely. You want to put as much money as possible on the screen, but you will need to spend money on things that don’t directly correlate to production value.  Craft Services and catering are two of these areas that should not be skimped. Good food makes people happy and keeps them working.

6.  Always try to hire people that you have worked with previously or are recommendations of people you know and trust. They will be less likely to screw you over since they are making their friend look bad too.

7.  When the budget is small and everyone is working for the passion of the project, create a rate structure based on tiers. All department heads make X amount, all 2nds make Y amount, etc. Everyone is more likely to be happy about their rates knowing that everyone is making the same amount. If you agree to this, stick to it. People will talk.

8. On a low budget production, the logistical circumstances of your locations can end up being one of the largest determining factors in the success of the production. Your friend may let you film in their apartment for free, but is the location right for the project? Will you need to spend more money to dress it to fit the story?  Consider every variable… cost and convenience of parking for both crew and production vehicles, distance and relative hostility of neighbors and neighboring businesses, available area for staging equipment.

9.  When you’re picking a camera format, consider all the secondary cost ramifications such as data storage, data processing, online costs, etc. Also make sure your DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) knows what he or she is doing – lost footage is very costly to replace.

10.  Free help is almost always not worth it. It’s better to pay a talented sound person their day rate than to have a friend do it for free and not record the sound.

11.  Make sure you save and keep track of all your paperwork. I like to scan everything and have a digital backup on Dropbox in addition to all of the hard copies.

12. Just remember that you’re making movies, not curing cancer. It’s important, but it’s not worth stressing out to the point of not sleeping, eating, etc. It’s a movie, have fun!

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You can keep tabs on M. Elizabeth Hughes and her projects by following her on twitter at @OMGMElizabeth. If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or filmmaking related business we should interview, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

Film & Script Submissions Now Being Accepted for HBFF!

SAGIndie — Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Film & Script Submissions Now Being Accepted for 13th Edition of the Hollywood Black Film Festival; New FILM DIASPORA Sidebar Added

The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) ­­ recognized as one of the leading black film festivals in the world ­­ is now accepting submissions for the 2013 festival, to be held October 2­6, 2013 in Hollywood, CA. Regular feature, short, student and documentary film submissions, Project Stargazer submissions, and scripts for the Storyteller Competition will be accepted through June 16. The late deadline is July 8.

HBFF welcomes narrative features, shorts, student and documentary films for its competitive program. Animation films and music videos submitted are accepted for the non­competitive program only. All films submitted must have been completed after September 1, 2012.

HBFF will introduce a new competitive sidebar this year, FILM DIASPORA, to showcase independent films and filmmakers from the African Diaspora. Feature, short and documentary films submitted to compete in FILM DIASPORA must have been produced by filmmakers residing outside the U.S. ­­ in Africa, the Caribbean, Central or Latin America.

HBFF has a history of screening films from throughout the Diaspora. In addition to opening the 2011 festival with “A Million Colours,” a South African film, HBFF has screened films from Nigeria, Ghana, Central African Republic, Burundi, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Niger, Haiti, Bahamas, Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago. Submissions for the FILM DIASPORA category must have been completed after September 1, 2011.

HBFF accepts film submissions from all filmmakers, however to be eligible for the festival’s competitive program, one of the film’s creative principals, i.e. the writer, director or producer must be Black or of African heritage. All other films will be considered for our invitational program. Please notify the festival in your application if your submission does not meet the requirements for the competitive program and you wish to be considered for the invitational program.

Films that have screened at HBFF include director John Singleton’s box office blockbuster, “2 Fast 2 Furious,” the critically­acclaimed “The Hurricane” (starring Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington), director Kasi Lemmons’ “The Caveman’s Valentine” (starring Samuel L. Jackson), and director Reggie Rock Bythewood’s “Dancing in September.”

Submissions for the 2013 HBFF Storyteller Competition are sought from black screenwriters who are serious about a career as a screenwriter. Submissions of screenplays of 90­120 pages, on any topic and genre, will be accepted.

Project Stargazer, a new partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is accepting story ideas that clearly feature one or more NASA technologies as a plot element in the story. Submissions must include a logline, synopsis, treatment and an artistic statement describing your creative vision for the project.

All films, scripts and story ideas must be submitted through Withoutabox (WAB) at https://www.withoutabox.com/login/1175. Submission fees for all categories are detailed on WAB. $15 discount available for student submissions.

Festival Dates: October 2 ­- 6, 2013
Call for Entries: April 1 – July 1, 2013
Earlybird Deadline: May 5, 2013
Regular Deadline: June 16, 2013
Late Deadline: July 1, 2013
WAB Extended Deadline: July 8, 2013

Add HBFF to your watch list on withoutabox.com to receive e­mails about call for entries and deadlines.

For more information:

FILM COMPETITIONhttp://www.hbff.org/submit­to­the­hbff­2013­film­competition/
(FILM COMPETITION FAQ’s – ­ http://www.hbff.org/filmmaker­faqs­2013/ )

STORYTELLER COMPETITION ­- http://www.hbff.org/submit­to­the­huff­2013­storyteller­competition/
(STORYTELLER FAQ’S -­ http://www.hbff.org/filmmaker­faqs­2013/ )

PROJECT STARGAZER ­ – http://www.hbff.org/submit­to­hbff­2013­project­stargazer/
(PROJECT STARGAZER FAQ’S – ­ http://www.hbff.org/hbff­2013­project­stargazer­faqs/ )

Like HBFF on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodblackfilmfestival.
Follow HBFF on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HBFF.

For more info: http://www.hbff.org, email info@hbff.org.

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About the Hollywood Black Film Festival
Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established Black filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels. Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film­going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public. For more information on the Hollywood Black Film Festival, visit: http://www.hbff.org, email info@hbff.org

SAGindie is a proud sponsor of the Hollywood Black Film Festival.

Adjust Your Expectations: Ted Hope’s 17 Things to Know about the Broken Film Industry

Will Prescott — Monday, May 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting things in this article by the great TED HOPE.

“Yesterday, we launched our A2E (Artist To Entrepreneur) program at the San Francisco Film Society with OnRamp (The Direct Distribution Lab).  This is a pilot lab of a pilot program designed to give filmmakers the necessary entrepreneurial skills to achieve a sustainable creative life amidst this changing paradigm.  We will be working out some bugs but hope to launch the second iteration as soon as possible.”

Read the whole thing now over at INDIEWIRE.