Part 1 – Film
As you may or may not know my passing for a career lies in filmmaking. There are a few different ways to break into film, most of them being extremely difficult. When I lived in Southern California for 4 years I really didn’t do anything with film. SoCal is a tough market for an independent filmmaker. Especially one who wants to shoot their own low-budget films. Some comparisons:
In SoCal, most crew members have their own reels and experience. If you want a DP for your film they likely come with all the equipment you could want (and none you probably need) and a large price tag as well. A "bargain" DP in SoCal is not a bargain for most indie filmmakers. The majority of people looking to work on films in SoCal are NOT doing it for experience or for the sake of the art but for their ticket out of their studio apartment they share with 2 other people in an effort to make ends meet. I have already discovered that Portland has a much different feel. One that is more alike Minneapolis in that people are dying to get film work. They will do it for the art. For little or no money. Or for deferred pay if the film is a success. The later being the preferred option for many indie filmmakers.
Can we say SAG? It’s hard to find an actor in SoCal that is not a member of SAG or is only looking for films that will make them SAG eligible. This doesn’t always mean better actors. What it does mean is having to deal with the union, contracts, minimum wages, food guidelines, etc. SAG has made some steps to make the process more friendly to indie filmmakers but in reality the union makes it more difficult to do indie film in the area without having a studio budget and or attorney – or both. Portland? SAG? Hardly. You are more likely to find AFTRA actors here (stage) than SAG. This means you can work with the same deferred pay model as the crew instead of paying $100-$500 per day of SAG shooting per actor.
I searched long and hard to find good equipment rental places in SoCal. Most of them are in LA not Orange County for starters. And their rates are HORRIBLE. Big surprise. The few that rent lighting & grip gear often try to rent you an entire grip truck which is way more than most indie filmmakers will need in terms of equipment and prices. Some places only offer grip trucks or the like and not individual stuff like light kits, etc. In Portland I have already found many places with reasonable rental rates including the NWFilmCenter which also offers classes and VERY cheap rental rates.
Finding locations in SoCal poses a few problems. Most of them are not very cheap. Some you will have to compete with other films for, and some will just tell you no because they’ve already been there and done that and maybe had some horrible crew come through and rip up their place. In Portland it’s a similar situation to the crew who are dying to get on a film in that many people who love to see a film use their location and often will offer it for free or at least a more reasonable rate. When you are an indie filmmaker, "free" is always the best word to hear next to "reasonable". After all, we are indie because we aren’t a big studio with big studio money to throw around.
Shooting in the Los Angeles area means dealing with the Studio Zone – A 30 miles radius around Los Angeles that puts in additional guidelines and regulations for those working within it. For working LA union crews and SAG actors that can be great because work outside of the zone will mean extra pay, etc for them and they are afforded extra "protections" within it. For indie filmmakers it is just another series of hoops to jump through. A little trivia for you – the entertainment show and website "TMZ" stands for "Thirty Mile Zone". This 30-mile zone is where almost all major Hollywood productions take place.
I DO plan to shot another indie film here in Portland. Aside from the time involved in taking on a feature length production, there is the money aspect. I’ve created a budget of about $10,000 for my next endevour. It will certainly require finding some small investers at the $250, $500 and $1000 levels. It’s amazing what you can do with $10,000. Of course you have to add about 50K to that number if the film gets a print (transferred to film), but that cost would not be picked up by the filmmaker. Then there is advertising, more prints, soundtrack, etc. All those costs can quickly drawf the cost of production in an indie film!