Q. What is Filmstigator?
Filmstigator is a grassroots filmmaking project that unites artists from various disciplines (like creative writing, theatre and film) to create original films in the southeast. We have applied for non-profit status as an arts and educational entity in Georgia.
Q. Can anyone get involved?
Pretty much. Filmmaking is a highly collaborative art form. We are seeking talented people from a variety of fields to help us craft quality independent film productions in our area.
The beauty of this project is in its scope. We’re not only seeking people with film experience. We need screenwriters, costume designers, actors, art directors, music composers, and others. If you’ve got a great attitude, talent in a particular area, and the desire to help, we’d like to work with you. Of course, for skilled film crew positions experience will be required. But there will be opportunities for anyone willing to commit to a project!
Q. I don’t have any film experience. Can I still be involved?
Of course. While Filmstigator is not a training or apprentice program, there may be a time and place for novice assistants to get involved and help in certain areas—especially during the production phase of our films. We are primarily an arts agency committed to bringing together a network of artists from various fields to create amazing independent film content. More experienced “hands” will be more likely to find opportunities, however, as not all productions will have the time and resources available to provide on-the-job training for fledgling filmmakers.
Q. Why do we need something like Filmstigator? Aren’t all films “collaborative” in nature?
Yes and no. Hollywood films have the budgets necessary to hire an army of creative people to enhance every aspect of the movie. In independent productions, that is not usually the case. Often, indie films are written, directed, and even shot by the same person. The results are often less than stellar. Why? Because a brilliant cinematographer may not be quite so brilliant at writing dialogue or creating memorable characters. Similarly, a screenwriter may feel unqualified to work with actors or to shoot a movie herself.
Our approach allows artists to be great at what they do best while being part of a team of other skilled artisans. Differences are celebrated and respected, and opportunities for inter-disciplinary growth and cross-pollination abound.
From a practical standpoint—since the artists involved are often volunteers—it also ensures each person’s time commitment can be limited to working only in their specialty (unless they elect to get involved in additional areas). More high-level films can be produced without burning out the team.
We trust that films created this way will have substantially better production value and impact. Why? All aspects of the production will have been crafted by artists with mastery in their specific area.
Another side benefit is that artists who do not typically get to work with such a diverse set of fellow craftsmen will now have the chance to do so.
Q. This sounds really cool. How do I get involved?
Contact us through this web site. Tell us about your skills and experience, when you’re available, and how–specifically–you’re interested in helping.
Q. Does it cost anything to be a part of the Collaborative?
There is no cost (other than time) for being involved. Eventually, we may institute a dues system or similar model to help offset the substantial cost of our film productions. But at the present time being part of Filmstigator is absolutely free.
Q. I love this idea. How can I contribute financially to help it succeed?
Contact us through this web site. Contributions are always appreciated, and because we have filed as a non-profit arts agency, your financial gifts may be tax deductible (check with your accountant first, of course) by the end of 2014 (pending our official 501(c) status). There may be opportunities for contributors to serve as executive producers on one or a number of film projects. Some productions we may initiate campaigns through various online fundraising portals.
Q. How many films will Filmstigator make?
Lots. Our short-term plan is to make as many as 4 short films by the end of 2014. By 2015 we plan to turn our attention and resources toward indigenous feature film production. That will depend to a large degree on access to funding. While working to attract funding for larger productions, we may continue to produce selected short film projects even after 2015.
If you’re an actor, writer, or filmmaker of any kind, there will be many opportunities to work on original productions at a very high-level.
As the program expands we hope to launch multiple productions simultaneously with different creative teams. This will depend greatly on the interest and passion of the folks involved (as well as funding, of course).
Q. There’s a lot of talk here about funding. Is Filmstigator a non-profit?
We should be very soon. We have filed as an official 501(c) non-profit. Unlike projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, donations made to Filmstigator are tax deductible. Since we have an all volunteer staff, your contributions go 100% into the collaborative films we make. Our ultimate goal is to help create arts jobs in the state and use these contributions to pay the writers, actors, craftspeople, and filmmakers who work on our films a living wage as they pursue their dreams.
Q. Where does your funding currently come from?
Filmstigator is funded solely by our founder at the moment. For that reason, we estimate projects will have limited production budgets throughout 2013. We hope to attract additional public and private funding sources as our films gain attention at festivals and greater visibility throughout the southeast. If you’re interested in helping to support the arts in Georgia, please make a contribution to our project.
Q. I’m a writer. Tell me how scripts are selected for production.
Screenplays are evaluated on quality of writing and story as well as practical considerations like page count, setting, number of locations needed, size of cast, etc. Screenplays are reviewed by a team of working writers as well as senior members of our filmmaking team.
Q. Why are “practical considerations” a part of your selection criteria?
Because films cost a lot of money to produce. With no current source of outside funding, we have to be pragmatic about the kinds of projects we can accomplish.
A script may be brilliantly written and still not be chosen if we are unable to raise the necessary funds to produce it. For instance, we may find a great period piece that we would love to make, but the costs of locations, costuming, props, etc., would be cost-prohibitive. However, as funding sources become available, we may revisit quality scripts and mount those productions at a later date if the writer is still interested in collaborating on the script.
Q. What sort of scripts are you looking for?
First and foremost we are looking for great stories. For 2013 we are primarily interested in short fictional dramas or dark comedies, but almost any quality story will be of interest to us. (No horror scripts, please.)
As the collaborative project grows, there will be opportunities for additional genres to be addressed. Web-based “series” projects and documentary films may also be produced at that time.
Q. What else can you tell me about script criteria?
All scripts must comply with standard screenplay formatting or they will not be read.
Submitted scripts should not exceed 10-15 pages in total length. (We will not review scripts longer than 15 pages at this time, so please don’t send them.)
Preference will be given to small-cast scripts (4 principal roles or fewer) with modern-day, general locations. Three- to four-minute scripts are also welcome.
Screenplays without exotic locations, futuristic and/or period settings, or the need for extensive visual effects stand a much greater chance of being produced. Our proximity and access to rural and historic locations in the southeast may help make screenplays featuring those elements attractive. However, great stories will be strongly considered regardless of where they take place.
Q. How do I submit a script for consideration?
Please send all scripts electronically, in PDF format. Physical scripts may also be sent via standard mail if you prefer.
We will only be mounting one production at a time, but once a film is completed, we will immediately begin script selection for the next project. Therefore, screenplays may be submitted to us at any time.
Because there will be multiple opportunities each year for your script to be selected/produced, please don’t despair if it takes a while to hear from us about the status of your script’s submission. In most cases, we will give you the courtesy of letting you know in a timely manner if we’re interested in producing your script or not.
Q. I’m a playwright with a great one-act play. Can’t I just submit that to be made into a movie?
While we enjoy collaborating with playwrights, there are great stylistic and structural differences between stage plays and screenplays. Given the largely volunteer nature of the collaborative, we can only forward finished “production-ready” screenplays to our script selection team.
There are a host of books and online resources that teach screenwriting structure and techniques, and we encourage playwrights to adapt their great plays for the screen before submitting them to us.
Q. If my film script is selected for production, what do I get in return?
There is currently no budget to “purchase” scripts, though certainly writers (along with all other participants) will receive screenwriting film credits for their work. For our current film, a small one-time stipend was paid to the writer for the original draft, and rewrites were done in-house. But there are other benefits to writing for Filmstigator besides or in addition to money.
What we may lack initially in terms of financial resources, we hope to make up for in production value and in the quality of the creative experience for artists who work with us. And we trust that seeing your screenplay realized as a high-quality production worthy of film festival screenings will also be interesting and rewarding. Our current film, “GIFT,” has been shot in 5K on RED Epic cameras, for instance.
One thing that may be somewhat novel for experienced screenwriters is that we actually want to work directly with our screenwriters and make them part of the process. Screenwriters are invited on set during production (whenever feasible) and will be consulted on any changes we may need to make for budget reasons, etc. This level of involvement and consultation is almost unheard of in many filmmaking circles, but it’s the way we choose to work. We value the writing process and want to collaborate with our writers to make as good a film as possible.
Q. I’m an actor. How do I audition for your productions?
We will post a schedule of upcoming auditions periodically on this web site and elsewhere as we enter the pre-production phase for each film. Typically we will hold auditions in Atlanta for each film we produce. Actors from other places are strongly encouraged to take part. Script sides and available roles will be posted along with audition times and locations. On projects where we have a casting director collaborating with us, the casting director will put out the call for auditions through actor agent channels. This audition call may be in addition to or instead of a generalized call from the Filmstigator site directly.
We do not currently accept online auditions or actor reels, because we want the full experience of meeting and interacting with actors we’re considering. Interested actors will need to make travel arrangements to be present at an audition in order to read with other actors under consideration.
Whenever possible we hope to cast Georgia-based performers. However, we will seek actors from outside our area if necessary for critical roles. Quality performance and production will be our highest priority, so we don’t rule out ranging farther afield for actors, cinematographers, screenwriters, etc.
The production phase will not commence until we’re completely satisfied with the quality of the screenplay and the caliber/abilities of the cast.
Q. I belong to SAG/AFTRA, etc. Does that rule me out for performing in Filmstigator projects?
We encourage interested union performers to audition for roles in our films, and we will take care of the necessary arrangements if you are cast in a role. We are not currently SAG signatories, but have been in the past. We are open to signing an OPO for an independent film for the right actor.
Q. What happens with the finished films? Will they be sold? Who profits?
Truthfully, there is very little market for short films, so our immediate goals are more artistic than financial. We strive to produce short films for competition in high-profile festivals throughout 2013 & 2014. After that, our plan is to focus on feature-length projects. While we like to make money as much as anyone else and certainly need to sustain the project, our primary goals are not capitalistic. Our goals are centered on job creation for creatives in Georgia and on quality film production. Monies gained from potential distribution deals will pay expenses for that film and “profits” would be invested into future productions. Our goal is to eventually pay all team members on each film their full day rate or other industry living wage.
Q. Will I be paid for working on a Film Collaborative project?
It’s possible. Many of our crew people volunteer to work for free because they love a particular script, and we still try to find ways to pay them at least a small stipend. This is not always possible, and lower skilled positions are often all-volunteer. But we make every effort to find funding to at least pay a small stipend. Our goal is to create beautiful, engaging, thought-provoking films primarily for festival screenings. On our current project, the producer/director worked for free in order to be able to pay crew members and cast.
We understand that some working professionals may elect not to participate in our productions without full-rate financial compensation. Our hope is provide compensation in other important ways—like valuing artistic contributions and providing uniquely rewarding collaborative opportunities—that go beyond simply getting a paycheck. It should be noted that our producers and directors, as mentioned above—even our founder—will be providing their time, skills, and assets without financial compensation in return.