When Soccer Moms Attack!

Shooting a film during the summer can be rough if the heat doesn't cooperate but what happens when bystanders start to ruin your production? 

I was hired to production manage/ 1st AD a one day short film shoot in Austin, Texas and we were facing a 14-hour shoot day for nearly 7 pages and the high was going to be 104 with 40% humidity. The location was a beautiful outdoor park and it was pretty empty & quiet on both days we scouted.  What a perfect location! On the shoot day, this all changed.  

The director had picked out a scenic grassy area under trees and by the riverside. This was an amazing picturesque location for a scene about an elderly man saying goodbye to his deceased wife.   We were half way into the shoot day, staying hydrated and positive, when the some loud leaf blowers started buzzing and planes were now going over us.  We must have been near a private landing strip with low flying Cessna's.  Murphy's law usually brings out the lawn guys and plane noises while your filming, so we just paced ourselves with the flights and got lots of room tone of the leaf blowers, just in case.   Luckily our Production Assistant got the lawn guys to stop and our world was back to creative bliss. 

And then the soccer moms arrived. On the other side of the river, a huge group of teenage girls hopped in the water and started jumping off the rocks. Loud rap music started blaring blended with spurts of screaming girls.   Our poor elderly lead actor, brushed the sweat off of his brow and tried to continue, but this time our sound guy looked hopeless and there was no room tone that would fix this problem.   

oming off  the leaf blower incident, our now confident and fearless P.A. ran over to the other side of the river to work on solving the soccer team problem. Whatever she said, seemed to work.  The music went off and all was good. 

However, about a half hour later, the screaming started again and the music was back up.   Our P.A. went flying back over to nicely explain that we were still filming.  She was met with hesitation this time so she showed them a copy of filming permit.  The soccer moms stepped in and felt their girls had been quiet long enough and were not going to be told what to do by some "rude" film people. As the production assistant walked away, the music got even louder and the screams intensified.  

Thinking she could appeal to the screaming girls on our side of the river, the director walked over to the rocks and asked if everyone wouldn't mind keeping it down, but the soccer moms turned the music up even louder and the screams kept coming.  OK, wow!  We had a serious problem on our hands as we had at least 2 hours of dialogue left to film, the light was changing and could not get good sound now.  

At this point I thought, we do not have anything left to lose. I started shuffling through my mind of 15 years of problem solving and raced over to face the soccer moms. There's an old trick that we used to play in production. If the assistant is still meeting resistance, send in the big guns.   I walked over to the river and said "I'm sorry we've been bothering your day at the river.  We know you're just trying to have fun and I'm sorry if we've ruined any of that" About 25 people in the river were now staring at me and I was met by mean glares from the moms. "I'm Jennifer, the production manager with the film crew over there.  We are in the middle of a 14 hour day and many people are working for peas since its a one day shoot for a short film. We have an elderly man who's about to get heat stroke in the middle of a lot of dialogue we're trying to shoot. We are completely stopped down because all we can hear is rap music and screaming over his dialogue. I brought $50 dollars to donate to your day in the hopes you may consider keeping it down and for the inconvenience".

One mom in a black bathing suit got out of the river and slowing walked up to me.  Her expression had changed and her tone turned nice. She explained that the girls had worked really hard all week and this was their one day to blow off some steam together. She asked if it would help if they just turned off the music. I thought to myself, we can work around the screams, this will be a big help!  I agreed and went to hand her the money but she refused.  She smiled at me and got back in the water. We both now understood each others worlds from a respectful place. 

I walked back to our production team feeling like a batter in a park who had just hit another problem out of the field and into the grandstands. The park was quiet, now even a scream to be heard. The cicadas started humming and we continued on our marry way with the sounds of nature and the reminder that we could be in a cubicle, pouring another cup of coffee, but we choose to be in a park making art.

Author: Producer Jennifer Hutchins

Less Talk, More Action!

Stop saying you're going to do, and start DOING! The below quote is great advice to anyone who wants to accomplish anything! As a producer I spend 12-14 hours a day, when I'm in between jobs, networking, learning something new and moving the next production forward. I also incorporate time for family & exercise, which by the way when you stop thinking about work for an hour or so sporadically, the answers and solutions come naturally. But you have to be regimented, goal oriented and ask questions to those smarter than you with anything you want to accomplish and not be afraid to fail, that's how we learn.

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”- Alan Watts

Investing in Film is Less Risky than Before

If you thought investing in film was risky, think again. 

Turns out the 2018 tax bill helps the entertainment business! Section 181 provides 100% tax deduction for motion picture production.  Simply put, investment in film or television is 100% tax deductible in the same year invested and can be applied to active or passive income.   Investors can be individuals or businesses and can invest up to $20,000,000 in productions which have at least seventy-five percent of its production completed within the United States.   There is no minimum film production budget cost. TV pilots, TV episodes (up to 44), music videos, feature films, short films all qualify for Section 181. There is no expectation for film distribution or completion.  Section 181 is retroactive. The motion picture's corporation (LLC) issues Schedule K-1's to the investors so they can take advantage of Section 181. 

Investing in film is way less risky than before using the tax rebates and incentives within a state for money spent on film combined with the benefits of Section 181.  For example, if a tax payer is in the is in the thirty-five percent (35%) tax bracket and a qualifying film is shot in Texas, which has a tax credit up to twenty-percent (22.5%) for in-state spend more than $3.5M, an investor will be eligible to recapture conceptually fifty-five percent (57.5%) of their investment in a qualifying production. The investor could have this money before the film is released and/or makes back any money. This type of investment assurance is hard to come by in today's economy. 

Author: Producer Jennifer Hutchins

Date Your Business Partner Before Getting Married

Finding the right partners in the entertainment business should be handled like dating. You want to see if you like being around this person for 14+ hours a day before you get married into a project. 

When I wanted to start producing films, it was challenging to find someone who was willing to take a risk on hiring a TV producer as a film producer. I thought to myself, if only someone could see the skills I can offer.  In non-fiction television the producer job often includes doing the casting, locations, legal, 1st AD and much much more.   

I took matters into my own hands and I found a distinguished indie film producer named Suzanne Lyons and reached out to her saying that I was a fan of her work and I personally had produced hundreds of television shows but wanted to merge into film.  Would she entertain the idea of me coming in for a few hours a week to help around the office, for free? In return, I would hope to absorb some of her film producing expertise. She was shocked.  No one above an intern level had ever offered her free help, especially someone with industry skills and connections.  She gladly agreed. I came in a few hours a week and took every small job seriously and she quickly found out I was someone who could be trusted and would be a valuable asset on her next film production.

Suzanne ended up bringing me on to coordinate a film called "Most Likely to Die" distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment.  Even though coordinator was not my dream position, I took the job seriously and still wearing my producer hat brought in some celebrity talent.  Half way through the project, the producers gave me a production manager title and some points on the back end as gratitude. Shortly thereafter, the Suzanne brought me onto her next film "Time Toys" as a Co-Producer/ Production Manager.  "Time Toys" stars Ed Begley Jr., Greg Germann and Parvesh Cheena.   

Suzanne  and I are still good friends and will continue working together in the future.  And it all started from just a couple hours a week of giving. 

"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." Pele

Author: Producer Jennifer Hutchins