Tag Archives: interviews

Megan Sweeney explores Tech Startups and Music

4 Dec

Megan SweeneyGiven my background as a tech entrepreneur and my day gig working at a TechStars company, Megan Sweeney was at the top of my list of interview subjects. Video has become a must-have tool for practically all companies with a significant web presence, and it’s great to see people like Megan bringing an artful sensibility to an area that has historically been, well, just plain dull. (I mean come on, what does the phrase “industrial film” bring to mind for you?) Fortunately Megan is out there rethinking what’s possible and bringing the passion of a devoted filmmaker to an equally passionate group of entrepreneurs and musicians.

Briefly tell us your background

I’m originally from outside Philadelphia, PA but headed west as soon as I graduated high school.  I studied Cinema/TV with an emphasis in Production at the University of Southern California and loved it.  Since then I moved to Colorado where I continue to shoot & edit all sorts of videos.  I’m very appreciative that I can do what I love.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role? 

I work for TechStars, a startup accelerator program with mentorship from hundreds of the best entrepreneurs in the world, and am finishing up a project I shot all summer and am currently editing, a documentary web series called The Founders.  It follows the adventures of startups as they go through TechStars and pursue their dreams.  I’m also working with Christy Kruzick on a music web series called The Window Seat, which is basically our love letter to music.  The Window Seat is a variety of videos all around music

How much time would you estimate you’ve devoted to this project?

For The Founders web series, shooting started in early May 2012 and there was a little time before to prepare.  The program I was documenting ended August 10th 2012 but I’ve continued to film some interviews and the last episode will be posted December 13th.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

I ended up with about 700 GB/1,900 minutes/31 hours of footage which wasn’t too much considering I was working on another big project while filming.  It was challenging but fun & rewarding to organize the footage into 11 (5-6) minute episodes.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

For The Founders, I absolutely love meeting and filming the people.  TechStars attracts some extremely smart, funny, hard working & interesting people.  I learn so much from them and it’s an honor to film a glimpse of their life.
For The Window Seat, I love working with Christy and she introduces me to so much new music.  There are no rules so it’s just having fun with music.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

The Founders web series has been very time consuming and tiring at moments.  I’m filming people that are working on their own projects and taking major risks, working extremely long hours while keeping a positive outlook.  Attitude is important.  Even if something isn’t going well or is simply hard, have a sense of humor and a good attitude.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

If you don’t try you won’t succeed.  Like the Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine says “A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.”  Easier said than done, I know.

What’s next for you?

I’m continuing to create content with Christy for The Window Seat and there will be new & exciting videos for TechStars TV.

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Anthony Ferreri teaches you to fish at DIYFilmSchool.net

4 Dec

DIY Film School

Briefly tell us your background

10 years in the entertainment industry; primary roles – Producer, Director, “clutch player”, consultant. Started in radio producing live broadcasts and commercials, moved into television production, working on several shows for WE TV, opted for freelance for less-constricting work; moved into managing a small production company –marketing, social media, newletters, production, scheduling, delivery, customer service, etc.; in 2010, began producing and primarily working on feature films.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role? 

I just wrapped a two-day shoot for Jaguar/Land Rover as a producer of content for national and international news outlets and internal media. In the majority of the other time I have, I’m cultivating and creating content for DIYFilmSchool.net. I’m also wrapping up a feature that’s set to be released in 2013. I’m like Caine in “Kung Fu”, just wandering the country helping people.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

Pray. At first all I had was a book that God had given me to write, So You Want to Be a Production Assistant. I just wanted to put it on Amazon and be done with it, to get to the second and third books. The second one is going to be hugely valuable to people who want to make movies but have no theoretical or practical understanding of the process. Naturally, that one is called “GO MAKE MOVIES”, but it won’t be out for a little while.

Filmmaking is a malleable business, with technology constantly improving. I tend to specialize in fundamentals, but even with that, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so my biggest challenge so far has been determining how in-depth to go for my readers.

I’ve had to learn a slew of things I thought I’d have little use for — social media, marketing, SEO, PPC, etc. I have a voracious desire to learn and know the truth, but it’s been a strange transition picking up and learning how to traverse the various media outlets available to businesses. Each has their own rules, guidelines and principles.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

Probably getting over the hump that I have information to share and people actually would want to hear what I have to say. As the months have passed, I have visible results, not only with the growth of the site and the brand’s web presence, but also in terms of my clients and their work.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?
Helping people. I really don’t care too much about what happens to me in the Industry because I feel as though I may have done enough at this point – radio, TV, film, commercials, all sorts of things. Plus, I’ve never put much stock in a “title.” I get a bigger charge out of helping people succeed and teaching others than I do pretending I care about Hollywood, so this kind of a thing seems to have been a natural progression for me.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?
I’ve had to learn a slew of skills that I wouldn’t have cared to learn otherwise – social media, marketing, creating an infrastructure. There’s a lot of things to do in the background before I can actually do anything. A lot of people see a video and may think that it’s no big deal to put it out, but they totally miss everything that had to happen beforehand – topic creation, media collection, if it’s an interview, scheduling – plus editing takes time. I have spent several days assembling, rendering (there’s a time-suck!) and export, but people only take into consideration the product. But, that tends to be the same with people who cast off a bad film. Okay, you think it sucks, but could you pull something off that’s better than that?

I’ve also learned of some rigid, societal conformism regarding education and filmmaking, like it’s a big friggin’ myth or some set way that you have to do things. Get out there and do it; quit waiting for some “guru” to show you your path. People still think they need a degree to accomplish something. What you need is perseverance, determination and fundamentals. [DS – sounds like you need to be an entrepreneur to me!]

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?
If you’re going to work in the Industry you need to define for yourself why it is you want to be in it. It’s not glamorous. There are some cool perks sometimes, but it’s a job just like working in an office is a job or being a video game store clerk is a job. What sets apart the cream from the crop is the reason why a person is in it. Can you find a real reason why you’re in the Industry? Your driving force, Can you honestly say you could do something other than being a filmmaker (or whatever it is you want to do)?

Once you find that thing, that raison d’etre, just keep saying yes. Do a great job, be punctual, be kind, ask questions and ALWAYS be learning!

There are more details to this and more traits to have that I cover in So You Want to Be a Production Assistant, and I feel like this is a topic better suited for a discussion, teleconference or webinar. I do have one planned for the near future; maybe I can find a place for it there. Or make a video; one of the two.

Will we get a chance to see this project on screen? How and where?
You can see DIYFilmSchool online all day, every day on YouTube, Quora, Twitter and of course at DIYFilmSchool.net. You can still catch some of the TV shows I’ve worked on on WE TV, Biography, TLC, Speed Network and a few of the movies I’ve worked on or helped produce are on Netflix. The only thing I can tell you about the film that’s in post right now is that it’s going to be released in 2013. A theatrical release would be awesome; I think it’s going to play the festivals – Sundance, LA Film Fest, etc. It’s really up to the director and executive producer.

What’s next for you after this project?
Sleep. 
Just kidding…

While I haven’t confirmed it as of this writing, I’m slated to speak at the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival next year, I have an interview (probably a series of discussions) slated soon with one of my clients who went from zero-to-expert in about three months, plus I’m putting together the 2012 Holiday Gear Guide with my friend Daniel Jacobs, which will be awesome. Aside from that, I’m constantly thinking up things to talk about, getting info out to the world and figuring out ways to help people. As we expand, we’re going to have a series of books and/or audio programs that cover various aspects and roles in the Industry; real-world advice and info that you can’t get in film school from people who are excellent at what they do for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for tuition.

If you have questions about how to make a film or how to break in to the Industry, you’re welcome to contact us at info@diyfilmschool.net, and on Quora. Twitter and YouTube, to me, don’t really afford the luxury of discussions. I’m planning on rolling out a consulting program in the near future, probably by the beginning of the New Year, so people can take advantage of unparalleled access to me as they get their projects off the ground. Basically, I’ll spill my guts in a way that you can’t necessarily get in a book or video (though those are quality) for a reasonable fee. Details will emerge when it’s ready. Sign up for the DIY Newsletter at www.DIYFilmSchool.net to be kept in the loop.

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Jay Shaffer gives us the scoop on “An Evenly Matched Game”

20 Nov

The mission of this site is educate people about the process of producing a film by interviewing experienced veterans about specific projects they’ve worked on. I’m pleased to present Jay Schaffer, who recently completed An Evenly Matched Game, produced by bestselling author and all around good guy Gary Rosenzweig.

And now, heeeeeeere’s Jay!

Briefly tell us your name and background

I am a video, audio and multimedia producer. I specialize in digital cinematography, editing, sound design, and Web and mobile delivery of multimedia content. I am also an instructor in the multimedia graphic design department at Front Range Community College in Westminster Colorado and the author of “Making Music with Garage Band” from Que Publishing. I have been involved the multimedia content creation for over 25 years and over the last two years, I’ve been making short narrative films.

What current or recent project are you working on, and what is your role?

I  just completed a short sic-fi action film titled “An Evenly Matched Game” that producer, Gary Rosenzweig, and I are showing around the festival circuit. Gary wrote and produced the film and I directed, shot and edited it.

What are some of the things you had to do to personally prepare for this role, especially as it relates to getting the project off the ground?

I’ve set myself a goal two years ago of doing a short film every summer, so that means that I should have a script and start pre-production by February. Fortunately, on this project, I was able to work with Gary on the script and start thinking about casting and location scouting early on. Financing pretty much comes out of our own pockets, so our budget is simply put, as cheap as we can possibly make it. So the more preparation I can do, the less money it’s going to cost us down the line.

How much time would you estimate you have devoted to this project?

Oh boy. I think about 120 hours over three months for pre-production. Then 20 hours of shooting over three days in three locations, and probably 160 hours editing and post-production for a ten minute film.

What was the most difficult challenge you had in bringing this project to fruition?

The budget is always a challenge for short films, you basically can’t pay people to work on your film, so you have  seduce them with creative ownership in the project, I got some quality actors on this project, but they could only commit to a short (3 day) window of time. So the most difficult challenge was trying to shoot 13 scenes in one 12 hour day at our remote mountain location. We did it, but there where some artistic compromises as a result. For example, with such a tight schedule we could afford to hold up shooting waiting for a cloud to pass to get consistent lighting. Which turned out to add a lot of effort in postproduction in order to match the shots.

I also really wish that we could have afforded bringing in a professional colorist to do the color correction for the film.

What was the best part of the project for you personally?

Directing the action sequences and the fight scene was really cool. I’ve always wanted to do that and I am very pleased with the way they turned out.

Also having my friends at Aerial Imaging Productions do the  aerial shots  that added so much production value to the film.

What’s the biggest thing or things you learned from doing this project?

I can’t count all the things I learned from this process. But some of the big ones are, get out of the way and let actors act. My job as a director is to literally direct that energy not impede it’s flow.

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a project like this and/or a career like yours?

Prepare, prepare, prepare! If you anticipate challenges, then you won’t be throwing money at problems and making compromises down the line.

Oh, and feed your cast and crew really well.

Will we get a chance to see this project on screen? How and where?

There are a couple of upcoming festivals we are hoping to show at. Specifically, the Boulder International Film Festival and The Festivus in Denver. After the festival circuit, we will have it online and will be showing it at some of the open stage film events in the area.

What’s next for you after this project?

I am looking for a short western script or something I could shoot in the desert in Utah, something with only couple of actors and highly emotionally charged story.

Related links for “An Evenly Matched Game”