Monday 9 July 2007

Footskating Fever

by Ronnie Apteker

A few years ago our friend Brendan Jack presented at our annual IS Internetix conference about our film project "Crazy Monkey's Straight Outta Benoni". In the time that has passed we made another movie "Footskating 101". Many hard lessons were learned on the Benoni journey. The new film is a big step up from the previous one and it was made on a fraction of the budget. The Benoni film had a crew of over 100 people, 25 shooting days and a budget of just over 8 million Rands. It was shot on Kodak film and it turned out to be a big affair. The new film was made for just under one million Rands, with a shooting schedule of 39 days and a crew of 5. I was one of the crew. Every keeps asking about the favours we pulled in to get this done. But there none. This was a combination of lessons learned, careful planning, a solid vision, and most importantly, this was a function of good people. They say ideas move mountains, but the truth is, people move mountains. You don't need a lot of money to write a book, compose a song, shoot a film or develop software. You need inspiration and many late nights. Footskating fever is coming and it is a going to make for a fascinating case study.

Every story needs a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning here was the "Straight Outta Benoni" movie. The middle is "Footskating 101". As for the end, well, we are still in the middle. Straight Outta Benoni was released during September of 2005 on 45 screens and 35mm prints were the order of the day. The marketing campaign was intense. No one can forget the monkey. The monkey was everywhere, and the cost of this blitz was around R10 million.

The new Footskating movie will be released in September of this year. Yes, two years later a new crazy comedy, West Rand style (the last film was an East Rand story) will be out there on 61 screens utilizing digital projectors (no costly 35mm prints). Oh, and the marketing blitz that is coming is significantly greater than last time.

The Footskating adventure was all about the spirit of the start-up. It is guerrilla style film making like never before. Here is the rulebook we stuck too:

No catering
No chairs
No toilets
No drivers
No trailers
No parking
No cellphone allowance
No assistants
No attitudes
No nonsense

And here is our methodology:

Plan, plan plan
Triple check all details
One week off, one week on
Triple check everything again
Find closet McDonalds (toilets)
Find closet garage (coffee)
Find grass patch (chairs)
Back-up all footage
Pray for good weather
Have fun, take chances

Making a movie takes time. They film shoot though is the quickest part. First you got to have a vision. Then a script needs be developed. In this case, almost a year and a half of Footskating writing. Then you got to plan the production. The longer you plan, the better. In fact, if you never shoot the movie you will be ahead. Ok ok, that sounds crazy, but consider that there is a 1 in 20 chance an independent film will work. So, if you want to win this game the best bet is not to play. But we did. So, what happens next. Planning, planning and more planning. And then it starts: lights, camera, action! All through this, with a handful of crew.

After the shoot ends the long, tough stuff, begins, Yes, the edit. This is where the dream is made or broken. This is where opinions clash, chirps fly in every direction, and tempers flair. We got through it, with minimal psychological damage. In fact, we laughed, a lot! If you survive this part the next thing to do are screen tests. You got to have nerves of steel to listen to other people criticize your work, but that is the name of the game. You make this product, that no one has asked for, that no one really needs, and then you see if they are prepared to recommend it to their friends. This is a tough gig indeed!

After all this starts the real work. There is a big difference between making a film (production) and selling a film (the film business); just like there is a big difference between writing software and selling software. Yes, now starts the real work, distribution and marketing. The "fun" stuff is over, now starts the fever!