Future Movie Moguls by James Jaeger
What is the The Movie Mogul Manual
Let me start by defining The Movie Mogul Manual. The Movie Mogul Manual (abreviated the "MMM"), is a major, step-by-step reference guide to establishing a full motion picture entertainment company or movie production company. The unabridged, "unfolded" version of the MMM, can only be obtained when you become a signatory to an agreement called "Movie Company Licensing Agreement." This unabridged, unfolded version of the MMM comprises 98 volumes. The License grants you, as a licensee, the right to expand or unfold the MMM into volumes to distribute to executives, staff and crew that are employed by your company.
When I refer to "The Movie Mogul Manual" hereinbelow, I am referring the 98-volume set which includes trade secrets, proprietary computer software as well as the administrative and technical support provided to licensees under the Movie Company Licensing Agreement, a copy of which will be made available for your review at the appropriate time.
Before I explain details connected with the MMM and what you can do with it, I would like to tell you more about my mentor and friend, Lee Garmes, one of the great Filmmakers, upon whose input these materials are based and with whom we co-founded a company.
"American Cinematographer" magazine of November 1978, (page 1094) reports: "The Film World Mourns Lee Garmes, ASC. When Lee Garmes, ASC, passed away on August 31, following a brief illness, his many friends were not only shocked and saddened, but some were also surprised to discover that he was 80 years old."
"Recently in these pages, Mr. Garmes' colorful 60-year career as a cinematographer, producer and director was reviewed in some detail (see American Cinematographer, September 1978), but certain facts bear repeating. He began his film career in 1916 with the New York Motion Picture Co. and joined Thomas H. Ince on the West Coast afterward.... Rising to the top of this profession as a cinematographer, he photographed such outstanding films as: SCARFACE, DISRAELI, THE JUNGLE BOOK, LILIES OF THE FIELD, MOROCCO, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, LOVE LETTERS, SPECTER OF THE ROSE, THE SCOUNDREL, THE BIG FISHERMAN, DUEL IN THE SUN and THE SHANGHAI EXPRESS, for which he won an Academy Award. Although officially uncredited, he also photographed a considerable portion of GONE WITH THE WIND."
Lee Garmes' complete feature credits are as follows:
1934 CRIME WITHOUT PASSION, Co-Producer/Director
1935 THE SCOUNDREL, Co-Producer/Director
1936 ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, Co-Producer/Director
1937 DREAMING LIPS, Co-Producer
1940 LILAC DOMINO, Producer
1940 ANGELS OVER BROADWAY, Co-Director
1940 BEYOND TOMORROW, Producer
1941 LYDIA, Producer
1942 THE JUNGLE BOOK, Associate Producer Academy Award Nom.
1943 THE SKY'S THE LIMIT, Director
1946 THE SPECTOR OF THE ROSE, Co-Producer/Director
1952 ACTORS AND SIN, Co-Director
1953 HANNAH LEE, Producer/Director
1978 SHAME, SHAME ON THE BIXBY BOYS, Co-Producer
Director of Photography Credits:
1924 FIND YOUR MAN
1925 KEEP SMILING
1925 THE GOAT GETTER
1926 THE GRAND DUCHESS AND THE WAITER
1926 A SOCIAL CELEBRITY
1926 THE PALM BEACH GIRL
1926 THE SHOW OFF
1926 THE POPULAR SIN
1927 THE GARDEN OF ALLAH
1927 ROSE OF THE GOLDEN WEST
1927 THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HELEN OF TROY
1927 THE LOVE MART
1928 THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME
1928 THE YELLOW LILY
1928 THE BARKER
1929 HIS CAPTIVE WOMAN
1929 LOVE AND THE DEVIL
1929 SAY IT WITH SONGS
1929 THE GREAT DIVIDE
1930 LILIES OF THE FIELD
1930 SONG OF THE WEST
1930 THE OTHER TOMORROW
1930 MOROCCO (Academy Award Nomination)
1930 BRIGHT LIGHTS
1931 FIGHTING CARAVANS
1931 CITY STREETS
1931 KISS ME AGAIN
1931 AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY
1931 CONFESSIONS OF A CO-ED
1932 SHANGHAI EXPRESS (Academy Award)
1932 STRANGE INTERLUDE
1932 SMILIN' THROUGH
1932 CALL HER SAVAGE
1933 FACE IN THE SKY
1933 ZOO IN BUDAPEST
1933 MY LIPS BETRAY
1933 I AM SUZANNE
1934 GEORGE WHITE'S SCANDALS
1934 CRIME WITHOUT PASSION
1935 ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
1935 THE SCOUNDREL
1937 DREAMING LIPS
1939 GONE WITH THE WIND (Academy Award)
1940 ANGELS OVER BROADWAY
1942 THE JUNGLE BOOK (Academy Award Nomination)
1942 FOOTLIGHT SERENADE
1942 CHINA GIRL
1943 FOREVER AND A DAY
1943 FLIGHT FOR FREEDOM
1944 SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (Academy Award Nomination)
1944 GUEST IN THE HOUSE
1944 NONE SHALL ESCAPE
1945 LOVE LETTERS
1945 PARIS UNDERGROUND
1946 THE SEARCHING WIND
1946 SPECTOR OF THE ROSE
1946 YOUNG WIDOW
1946 DUEL IN THE SUN
1947 THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
1947 NIGHTMARE ALLEY
1947 THE PARADINE CASE
1949 MY FOOLISH HEART
1949 THE FIGHTING KENTUCKIAN
1949 ROSEANNA McCOY
1950 MY FRIEND IRMA GOES WEST
1950 OUR VERY OWN
1951 SATURDAY'S HERO
1951 THAT'S MY BOY
1951 DETECTIVE STORY
1951 THUNDER IN THE EAST
1952 THE CAPTIVE CITY
1952 ACTORS AND SIN
1952 THE LUSTY MEN
1954 ABDULLA THE GREAT
1955 LAND OF THE PHARAOHS
1955 THE DESPERATE HOURS
1955 MAN WITH THE GUN
1955 THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE
1956 D-DAY THE SIXTH OF JUNE
1956 THE SHARKFIGHTERS
1956 THE BIG BOODLE
1958 NEVER LOVE A STRANGER
1959 THE BIG FISHERMAN (Academy Award Nomination)
1959 HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
1962 HEMINGWAY'S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN
1964 LADY IN A CAGE
1966 A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY
1969 HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE
"Although officially uncredited, he also photographed a considerable portion of GONE WITH THE WIND." - American Cinematographer Magazine
Few will be able to follow that act. But hopefully The Movie Mogul Manual will pass on to you information and inspiration that Lee passed to me.
The Movie Mogul Manual was derived from in-the-field-experience as well as Lee's ideas on production and financing. An integrated production system (that may or may not align with systems of production being currently used in the Industry), The Movie Mogul Manual endeavors to weave together the administrative and technical aspects of film production that have been observed to create maximum efficiency and the best entertainment for the dollar.
Whether you want to produce in video, Super 8, 16mm, 35mm or Showscan, at budgets of a thousand dollars or millions of dollars, the principals are the same and The Movie Mogul Manual will get you started and help keep you from crashing and burning. Lee used to say "The impossible only takes a little longer" and "Light is light no matter what size production you are on."
This Manual will not guarantee that you will not crash several times; your first two films may very well, but at least you won't burn.
By your third feature, you may very well net millions of dollars with it over the long term (or even short term) - if you have the guts to persist and can tell those around you who say "give up" where to go.
Establishing Your Company
This volume makes an exhaustive effort to be exact and specific in the process of developing, financing and producing motion pictures, and has an initial goal of getting you started on a production that is the right size for your experience level. If you are like me, I hesitated for a long time, because I could not determine what it takes, nor could I really separate theory from the practical information necessary to end up with actual products - on budget and on time.
The Movie Mogul Manual will give you valuable policies you can use to establish and operate your own production company from the ground up as Producer, or with trusted, respected partners.
If you are already a studio executive, or a producer who has been involved with massive projects but felt you were just a cog in a large machine with a title, this approach to filmmaking might interest you because it will give you a blueprint, a follow-the-dotted-lines method of producing with a hands-on approach until your productions grow large enough to where you must unbundle your hats, thus putting you once again quickly back at the level of executive from whence you came. The difference will be the fact that you had the opportunity to create it yourself instead of "going indi" with your former employer's connections stuffed into your pockets and not really knowing the business from the ground up.
The Movie Mogul Manual has taken over 15 years to write because the physical universe has taken billions years to become confusing.
Each page was written on a day-by-day basis from in-the-field experiences as they happened. You are more than welcome to review my resume to see some of the specific experiences I have had.
Of course, before release of the initial volume, the manual was word processed, tightened up and brought up to date, as things change rapidly and there are always new, better ways of doing things. Usually, I have left the original creation dates so you get an idea when each situation naturally arose in the course of a learning curve and so I can track the development of information more easily.
Possibly these creation dates will correspond with your own learning curve - being the information you desire to know in synchronization with what I naturally went through.
You Could Crash
I don't recommend anyone jumping into a feature film as producer-in-charge. If you do, you will probably spend in the next five to ten years in excess of $250,000. This money will be absorbed by the expense of holding open a personal or full office and phone, by hiring professionals who are really only interested in their own survival - not yours - by numerous lunches that you will pay for to pick their brains, by travel expenses to meet with frauds and dreamers or both, by doing things in the incorrect sequence and having to re-do them once, twice, three, four times or more, by the time spent getting over your own uncertainty and by being out-negotiated by seasoned sharks who will prey on your ignorance of deals and norms that actually do exist in the legitimate industry. The flakes and frauds will tell you that there are no norms so they can confuse you to the point of relying on them until you go bust. The countless errors and omissions you will make in your learning curve will only be a part of it - you will suffer the economic loss of the money you could be making in some other more familiar business, such as real estate, retail or medicine.
The reason I know this is because to date I have spent the equivalent of $770,000 on these things. The only redeeming factor is that I kept careful memos of what I did wrong and what I did right and these comprise The Movie Mogul Manual today. No, I have not made a blockbuster feature - so many will say, "well why should I listen to him." My answer to those is don't listen. But if for no other reason, by my experiences in finding out what doesn't work, you can avoid the expense of repeating unworkable things -this volume could greatly increase your chances of success.
On the other hand, to those who see that if you apply principals that work on small productions and at the same time systematically eliminate the inefficiencies and things that don't seem to work, eventually, by trial and error, one can develop a program, a methodology or system that does build a better mouse trap. It's the planet Earth way.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in my losses. I personally know one person who has lost $275,000 another $500,000 another $800,000 and a limited partnership that lost $1.9 million trying to get started producing features.
You Could Win
On the other hand, a partner and associate of mine made over $700,000 on one medium-budget picture. A good friend of mine, and one of the really great guys in the movie industry, produced a relatively low budget feature, GRIZZLY, that made over $30,000,000. My mentor shot part of GONE WITH THE WIND and that film was and still is among the top five highest grossing pictures of all time. My former teacher at the CINEMA INSTITUTE, Shorty Yeaworth, produced and directed the original low budget feature THE BLOB, and that was very successful.
Thousands of books have been written on film: How to Hold a Camera, How to Aim a Camera, How to Snap a Camera, How to Wind a Camera, What is a Camera, What a Camera is Not, How to Write Screenplays, How to Write Screenplays Not, How to Direct a Movie, How to Edit a Movie, How to Save a Movie, Legal Aspects of Film, Accounting Aspects of Film, Filmic Aspects of Accounting, How to Put Together a Film Investment, How to Remember to put together a Memorandum, How to Sell A Movie, How to Deal a Movie, Movie Politics, Political Movies, etc., but most of them boil down to how to let light fall on silver halide crystals (film). In other words most of them boil down to the cinema technique.
All this technical info is useless to the filmmaker who wants to produce features, unless that filmmaker can manage, and have managed, the thousands of moving parts that go into the making of any professional feature. And these things go beyond letting light fall on crystals.
I don't think there is a human being on the planet Earth that doesn't have a good idea of how movies are made - but still there is 80% unemployment in this field when the national average is usually less than 8%.
Hopefully, you are not one of those filmmakers who, being an "Arteeest," cannot allow yourself to get your hands dirty with the "business side" of filmmaking. Hopefully you are not one who just waves their hands and hopes some genius producer or agent will come along and beg to produce or represent you. You will most likely wait for a long time if this is your modus operandi.
Even sexy, good looking women can't get into the industry the way they did in the golden years of Hollywood, because no producer is going to risk it (as mentioned in Mark Litwak's book, Reel Power).
There have been many valuable books on producing a low budget feature, but most of these are from the point of view of production management and equity financing with limited partnerships.
There has not been a fully comprehensive book on how to set up and manage a motion picture company on an ongoing basis and how the structure can be built to keep it going and growing. If you look at the books out there, they tell you how to get ONE film project going, usually a low budget feature financed with a limited partnership for $300,000 to $1.5 million. When this film is done - an all or nothing deal - that's it. You may drop dead at the box office and none of your friends will give you any more hundreds of thousands of dollars for your next film (which will be a masterpiece, in your opinion).
So The Movie Mogul Manual simply assumes that you are going to fail and anything else is gravy.
Your investors may have a hard time stomaching that, but if any of them are into Zen, they'll love it because it means you are targeting for the best, but are prepared for the worst.
If you gear up to produce many films, using the energy generated by each at the time of production, a fusion process will occur. In other words, you will go to hell several times, but if you can keep the momentum, you will come back with a hit movie before one of an infinite number of monkeys accidentally types the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
I have commuted to hell and back several times so I'll attempt to point out the molten lava pits and help you with some of the details that are "completely unimportant" - details that are unimportant until they inevitably crush your chest in if ignored too long.
Unemployment in the Movie Business
Have you ever wondered why there are (artistically or physically) dead filmmakers all over the Planet Earth's surface and 80% unemployment in most of the industry trades, with either WGA, SAG, DGA and/or other unions and guilds striking almost every year? Why are there hundreds of thousands of unemployed and unutilized people "trying to break into the Biz?"
Did it ever occur to you that one reason there are so many unutilized talents is because there are so relatively few people that know how to establish and run a stable on-going independent movie company?
Why do you think the same people keep getting employed in the executive suits and as leading talent? Could it have anything to do with the fact that so few actually know the day-to-day sequence of events that must occur before any of the education you gave yourself on allowing light to fall on crystals, or general political information about the industry, can be put into practical use??
The Film Industry is VERY geared up to build films the minute the money is ready and the gun from the First AD is fired. Probably no industry on the face of the Earth is as well geared up for the ACT of production as the film industry. Unfortunatelymost of the ACTORS are usually sitting around because it's in hiatus most of the time.
I believe that building a feature film is as complicated or more complicated than building a 36 story skyscraper. Filmmakers can accomplish similar feats in time frames numbering weeks. Filmmakers are among, if not, the most able people in the world and they are absolutely amazing when in production. There really is no group of production-oriented people, except the people who run Presidential Campaigns, who have as much creativity, spontaneity, energy and ingenuity as filmmakers.
However, almost all filmmakers, or would-be-filmmakers, want to get on the production bandwagon once it is rolling. Thousands of new filmmakers enter Los Angeles every year to ride the wagon down the hill but relatively few want (or even know how) to push the wagon up the hill until a project is financed.
People with money do not easily allocate large dollars to chaotic organizations with artistic dreamers and wild managers or give DECISION-MAKING POWER to executives that play musical chairs, off to the next competing company next quarter, on and on. But this is the way the movie business is today, and Wall Street, who was underwriting production for a while (in 1979) with IPOs is no different. Can anyone blame investors for not wanting to invest under such circumstances? Even though Mr. Buffett does not invest in movies (because he does not understand the industry probably), read a book called The Warren Buffet Way? to get an understanding of what I am saying here about management and chaotic organizations.
Read The Hollywood Reporter and you will see that most of the column inches are about executives moving around or companies eating up each others' management teams, spitting out the imagined bad seeds, and then starting all over to do the same things themselves. This whole endless saga is called "POLITICS" - another word for bad management.
Again this industry is totally geared up to expose movie film, roll cameras and eat up artists and executives who do not know why it is all happening except some vague idea that "it's just politics" or "things happen." The whole ad hoc set-up of the movie industry is designed to get rid of people easily. Some executives pride themselves on the fact that they will cease to read a resume if they find even one typo in it: a moron's excuse to "get rid of people easily" -- part of the "throw-away-society mentality" and physiognomy of the family unit at disintegration point.
This is why the "studio system" does not exist today but the "temp system" is big binny. That's why most of the people work as independent contractors or free lance workers. That way you are unemployed until proven employed. The justification for this fast flow firing system is because "audiences are crazy or wishy washy." Could this possibly be true of too many investors, boards of directors, executives or producers in the current film industry? I think not out of the question.
The Movie Mogul Manual will show you how to build a company that emphasizes a grossly neglected end of the business - acquiring and development of screenplays and talent packages for multiple-simultaneous projects of widely varying genre and cost.
Where Money Flows
Financing naturally flows towards companies that are properly organized and managed. Money does not flow into a system of pipes that are twisted together and leaking here and there. Do you think money people are stupid? They got their money by 1) having a creative idea and 2) managing the steps necessary to creating the final product that people bought. Of course, some did something illegal, (or made what they did "illegal" after they did it so others couldn't compete).
The Movie Mogul Manual has the intention of helping you do part 2 of the above. Part 1 comes from your particular uniqueness. If you aren't creative, go out and look at a tree in a meadow until you realize you are. If you feel you have to be illegal to get ahead, stare at the stars in the night sky and realize that Mankind has survived on this wilderness planet in no small part because of his systematic advancement of law and reason. If it is not evident that there is plenty of room for you out there - go see a lawyer about your problem.
The movie business has been known to be "risky" - as audiences do not know what they like to see until after they see it. This is a Godsend because it means that you have equal chance, with everyone else, to make that "Best Picture." The race is on and the winner will be the Movie Mogul who has the most efficient machine, who can torque out the greatest number of quality movies while staying on the track. I emphasize, however, that quality is better than quantity in the movie business. This may not be true in other businesses. In the movie business, all films compete with each other on the same block, on the same screen and at basically the same price. This highlights the inexpensively made pictures and makes it hard for them to compete against the expensive pictures which have so much behind them in slick, mainstream advertising. The ticket buyer, shopping for a movie, figures he will spend the same amount for each movie he sees, so he only spends it on the film he perceives as his next best bet. The "best" is usually the one that has received the most slick advertising, which usually has nothing to do with the quality of the picture.
Many films that are flagged as "bombs," pulled from the theaters early or that were made for the direct-to-video market are actually the most original and entertaining pictures in release - for the sophisticated moviegoer.
Whenever you go into a video store, look over those boxes that sit alone on the shelf and don't be herded over to the lastest and greatest blockbuster that has 10 or 20 or 30 boxes lined up across the shelves. Sure, see all the latest and greatest, but realize you have only seen half of it. The smaller independent films, which don't get the ad budget or the shelf-space because the video store is directly or indirectly owned by one of the big publically held corporations, are the films that real life is made of. Usually they are totally original, non-formula, new-face-driven and produced with ingenuity rather than bucks.
Usually, you cannot get the kind of help available from The Movie Mogul Manual out of a normal book that is neatly printed on semi-glossy paper and bound. You will most likely get up-to-the-day information out of a book that has bullet holes in it, is slammed out on a word processor, xeroxed, three hole punched and slopped together with three brass rivets, or better yet - sent to you on a floppy disc or over a modem. Why?
It takes six months to six years to get a book published because publishers can't make up their minds what to publish any more easily than people in the movie business can make up their mind what script to finance. The director of PLATOON, Oliver Stone, was made to wait ten years and George Lucas was made to wait over four years for STAR WARS even after putting out AMERICAN GRAFFITI as a success. In all this time, the race is on and the environment could have changed ten times by the time you know what is happening. If you are mostly interested in letting light fall on silver halide crystals, it changes more slowly. (But even that is changing rapidly and this change effects budgets because, with more sensitive film, obviously you spend less money on lights so you have more bucks to spend somewhere else. The "somewhere else" is a management decision, a decisionthat can stop the forward motion of a project, if the managers are morons who do not have a Movie Mogulish way of deciding.)
This is why some of The Movie Mogul Manual may be typed and xeroxed - there just ain't no time to keep up to date AND be slick - this business doesn't stand still for a second. In fact, people who are attempting to produce movies who are not computer literate should not be in the business at all.
I do not plan on selling many Movie Mogul Manuals, because I have found that most "serious filmmakers" are not really serious enough to stay with it long enough. They, in fact, are destined to go into some other business within five years as most people simply do not want to work so hard. Movies are hard work. Much harder than any other profession on the planet. The people that can endure this are the genetically tough. The competition and confusion is far greater than expected - count on it. As the statistics stand, this is sad but true. Ticket lines are peopled with dreamers who wish they were making films instead of being relegated to watching them. So, what can be done to help?
The Movie Mogul Manual does not just hit you and run like other books and seminar sophists. You do not have chrome all over your face from the sudden impact of the book that takes your nickel and then slops an endless pedantic bibliography all over your mind to further hit you up with more books leading you into the quicksand of endless non-sequitur, un-unified, non-interlocking opinions about how to make a movie. I'll continue to make available integrated Movie Memo updates every time we take a bullet: "Watch out for this . . . do it in this sequence . . . if your budget was that, then it should be this now . . . don't spend money on this . . . we are going for this new technology . . . here is a way we found it to work." If you grow, we all grow. In fact this very release includes significant portions of what I learned working with my brother-in-law and several entrepreneurial friends starting a new company where we raised $6.4 million and went public in less than a year and nine months.
As a licenseee of The Movie Mogul Manual, I do not care if you do what I suggest or ignore it - you can do whatever you want, there are many paths to success and you may find a better one - but I love making movies and I am crazy about polishing this process and pushing that to you - looking to make it all easier and smoother so ultimately more attention can be put on the creative process - which is where the emphasis should be, after the basics are in place.
If I can make your stock go up by putting you into a position whereby your company produces a blockbuster - we love it. It's a long-term thing, a long-term symbiotic relationship.
I use the same Movie Mogul Manual policies on projects I'm doing so you'll know if any are canceled because we found a better way. You can use them or burn them. Would we knowingly use bad policies - cut our own throats? This is your assurance that we are looking out for your interests through looking after ours.
We drill our way into the bedrock of better and better management methods, production techniques and R&D results for you, which are the integrated updates you get to add to your Movie Mogul Manual.
Lectures and tapes are fine, but let's get real. If you are really expanding as fast as you can, you are flat out in the field, on the firing line; setting up; developing; packaging; reading screenplays; handling people, places and things; working with 10 writers at once; getting your next project financed; prepping for production; shooting; moving to better offices; fulfilling delivery requirements; doing it; whether for your next VHS film or your first SHOWSCAN Epic. You are not reading outdated, neatly printed/published books and tales told by Was-then-are-not-now-film-People.
Go to lectures. Listen to tapes. But when you get home, you have to weed it all out; you have to make sense of every sentence the Lecturers and the Tapers said, what every lofty experienced film expert said. You still have to put it together into an integrated understanding, an integrated systematic machine to get production. In other words you have to do what I did with The Movie Mogul Manual, create a production system, a machine, a Ferrari Movie Company.
You still have to find out which scraps of opinions may betrue and which scraps of opinions may be false. As all these experts have not written a Movie Mogul Manual, they most likely will lecture "red" today and "blue" tomorrow and justify it by saying "Well, nobody knows" or "Times change" or "You can't codify a prototype."
Like hell you can't! This is the new century, not the industrial revolution. The advanced version of this manual will be on computer entirely.
If the guys that talk, write books and give lectures were making movies more, they would be much too crazy to write and lecture. That's why The Movie Mogul Manual is a little crazy at times - sometimes I don't get it 100% right - because I'm out there getting shot at. But I get a scream of warning or hope out, while falling backwards over the cliff - and then the update sets it 100% right before you know it.
How often do you see the Maestro, Steven Spielberg, out writing books and talking movie rather than making movie? Never. That's why The Movie Mogul Manual was written the way it is written, one page each month or week, or several on a day and then none for a half year or a month. What did you expect? Sitting around the typewriter dreaming up a bunch of good-looking print with no spelling mistakes or typos? Or a real manual, with bullet holes and typos all through it because all hands are putting their time into making movies and writing about how they are being made in the seconds between the explosions - all for your relaxed benefit.
When the next page will come along, nobody knows. My Modus Operandi is not to get up early on Monday morning and sit down at the word processor to vomit out my writing quota for the day so I can prove to the world that I am a writer. Hell, I am the worst writer that ever lived because when I write I just say it to the page and it listens in print; I practically have to be forced by circumstances to write the next Movie Memo because frankly, writing all this is a pain in the neck. I would much rather be producing and directing movies all the time. But I know when I do have the next Movie Mogul Manual page coming, I have my attention on communicating a useful, integrated unit of experience, consistent with the rest of The Movie Mogul Manual (or correction thereof) - quickly. And I know that if I can make it easier for you to make movies, then I will have better movies to watch in my spare time - your movies.
If you look at each page of your Movie Mogul Manual you will notice when it was written. You will notice that each policy is a personal letter to you or those concerned. It's based on the hat(s) being worn (or those you will have to deal with until you get going) and each was written to summarize some hassle or experience into a unit of movie mogulish knowledge. These pages are not supposed to be an endless vomit of memos commenting on the artistic merits of this and that. Of course I have those too, on our own productions, but you don't really want to sit through all my opinions on art - you have enough of your own good opinions to work with, I'm sure. This manual is basically here to tell you which piston in the airplane's engine is smoking or when a more aerodynamically designed wing is available.
When it is happening, that's the time I write Movie Memos. I grab a tape recorder and yell it into the microphone and clean it up to some semblance of sanity between 2 A.M. and 4 A.M. (it's now exactly 2:16 A.M. as I write this) when all the movie craziness is asleep and the universe of thought is harmoniously still and stable.
When it is happening, that's the time it is freshest in the mind - the exact do's and the don'ts, the policy that helps, the policy that hurts - not several months or years later. It's all the refined little things that add up to a strong system of management and hence the efficient machine that aids the creative process. If you have a billion dull little flawed pebbles all added together: You have a giant dull flawed bolder of a movie sinking to the bottom of a red sea of ink. If you have The Movie Mogul Manual to help put together all the little things that seem unimportant (compared to producing A...MOVIE!) - little things without which a movie can't be made, by the way - you have billions of shiny little smoothly rolling ball bearings that add up to a giant, well-designed fighter plane blasting over the horizon of your last BLOCKBUSTER into the wild blue Sea of Yonder.
If your next production is more ambitious than your last - I do not care whether you are confronting two 50 foot rolls of Super 8 (rather than one) or the making of STAR TREK XX, the challenge is the relative same. The Movie Mogul Manual does not care because water is water, light is light, movie productions are movie productions and all are different, but all have similar elements and basics - the larger productions just have more, louder-yelling, disorganized people and money to waste correcting the mess-ups due to lack of Movie Mogulish methods.
Remember: tiny, weeny little integrated chips running on micro-millivolts of electricity (money) do much more than the first tube-type computer covering the whole bottom floor of the Wistar Institute. The difference: efficiency. Inefficient movie management = burnt and wasted dollars (electricity).
Who Needs the Manual ?
The Movie Mogul Manual is for you if you ever felt like you are spinning towards the Earth at a million miles an hour with no parachute or are over your head in production, for real. It's for you if you are over your head in fantasy, falling forward from the sky of insecurity or dreams without know-how or deadlines.
Films are like fly paper - more sticky (to make) than they look. This is one of the stupid reasons movies get a bad name with financiers and are deemed "HIGH RISK INVESTMENTS." Thus many directors and producers never get the bucks. Much of the reason for this is no Movie-Mogul-Manual-type efficiency, hence filmmakers have to spend all their time staring at blank walls trying to figure out how to manage their company instead of being out spending some time exploring life so their next movie will not be a third generation re-hash of all the movies made the past year by other producers.
NASA (as much as I admire them) goes on to get billions to go to Mars but some producers can't even get a lousy million to make a piece of art that will entertain the 200,000 human beings born every day on this planet and the next.
When I was making super-8 movies, frankly I could not even conceive of the secretly guarded steps required to make a movie for a "lousy million" dollars - the understanding was a quantum leap. The Movie Mogul Manual can help you make that leap.
If you read it in chronological order, The Movie Mogul Manual forms a record of my cognitions as each set of problems and solutions appeared to me for larger and larger productions. I am not saying that you would follow this order, but you could. I would advise going through it in this order because, although it will not get you into production on your first multi-million dollar production tomorrow, it WILL get you there before the monkeys get there.
Many of the freaks that are credited as producers on million dollar movies overnight, are just tinfoil filmmakers who have never even made even a home movie of Christmas. (Insulting, but sometimes the truth is.) They crap up the business with intellectual flotsam and jetsam and the end is just more politics, more money juggling, kick backs, expense and risk for everybody - especially you - when this sort of thing causes dollars to be sucked up and away from your projects to go to some "filmmaker" who can buy a producer position because he's rich or has an uncle in the business, or just wants to run around in the glamour saying she's a producer to make it with the acting personnel.
The movie industry "system" lets many of these freaks "rise" to become film executives (some with or just because they have MBAs) so they can really victimize dedicated artists and true filmmakers with their demented, sick ideas of the filmmaking process, management and the world. Since they know not now to make movies efficiently, or at all - because they have not actually made one in their back yard, or any other yard - their only solution to putting out production fires caused by "letting in their friends" is to splash stockholder dollars at them usually in the form of more bookkeepers, lawyers, middle managers, friends or aunts. We now have whole new breeds of filmmaker hyphenates in the business: director-accountants, producer-agents, producer-stock brokers, actor-producers, loan officer-directors, actress-bookkeepers, director-real estate developers, mutual fund manager-executive producers, production manager-ice cream shop suppliers, etc.
YOU can someday make a $50,000,000 movie that is so efficiently run it delivers $400,000,000 worth of production and entertainment value! If you cannot dream this dream - then you are not crazy enough to need and kill for a Movie Mogul Manual. If you are basically the practical guy or gal and not "nuts" enough to realize that in a universe with a billion trillion stars, with huge computers coming up left and right, with 24,528,000,000 people expected to pass through this plane of existence between 01 January 1992 and 01 January 2006 (who have never even seen John Wayne in TRUE GRIT), that nothing is impossible -then you, too, do not need The Movie Mogul Manual.
Cookbook movie moguls need The Movie Mogul Manual muchly every month. Micro movie moguls need The Movie Mogul Manual mostly every minute. And macro movie moguls and would-be movie moguls need The Movie Mogul Manual just as much every moment.
The Movie Mogul Manual Expanded
A Step-by-Step Process
Steven Spielberg, the Master, said it is a stepladder process when he accepted his Irving Thalberg Award during the 1987 Academy Awards Ceremony. He said you are only as good as your last step. The steps illustrated above may not be carved in stone, but you can see that there is a ladder there and it can be a fun ladder. The Movie Mogul Manual is there to help you find each rung in the dark. It does not guarantee that the movies you make will be any good, but with all the people that will be around by January 1, 2001, someone will like your movies - even if it just the historians.
The Movie Mogul Manual can help you watch out for stepping on missing rungs too.
If your interest has been piqued, if you want one, just say "I want one" and you will be slapped with a long, boring questionnaire so I can determine if I will license you one. Yes, sick but true -I will under no circumstances license this to everyone who asks for it, because I'm looking for the ones who are so dedicated, they convince me that they would have lost at lease $250,000 in the movie business getting started as a sheep. I'm not looking for the dilettantes who like to read on couches and punch remote controls to criticize the work of others.
As I said at the beginning of this manual, in the next five to ten years, if you are serious about producing and directing motion pictures, you are more than likely going to spend at least $250,000 on mistakes, getting started, economic loss (because of some other business you lucratively could have gone into) and slipping off the slightly slanted wall of financing.
$250,000, the amount of money you are going to spend holding a position with your filmmaking dreams and making them real. I know - I have already spent this six times over because I learn slowly. But I usually don't fail to codify a lesson - hopefully one you will benefit by.
If you buy this reasoning, The Movie Mogul Manual is worth a Cookbookmum of $125,000 (not even including the contracts) as it is a codification of the existing movie business practiced on the professional level - the how, the why, the sequence, the pitfalls, the costs, the whose, the whats, the when, the swirl, the excitement, the cornerstone of your movie mogulish future.
SUMMARY OF WHAT THE MOVIE MOGUL MANUAL COVERS
In a brick of words, here is what you get in The Movie Mogul Manual: How to establish a production company...what your capitalization should be...what you must rent vs purchase...who you need to hire to start...what you can defer...how to hire competent legal and accounting help... who you can legally raise money from...what is an accredited investor...how to create pro forma financials...how to budget motion pictures...how to direct capital in your organization to increase stockholder value...feature film screenplay format...what you must do first, second... 250ith to produce a feature...how to set up your company for productivity...things you better know about post production and certain aspects of production...what computerization you must have and what is only ideal to have...how to set up and configure your computer system or local access network...how to set up a Web Site and interact with the Internet and other services...how to route paper before you translate it all to your computer systems...how to set priorities...how to handle many things simultaneously yet drop few balls...how to build a better budget...sample budgets for $400,000 low budgeters...$5,000,000 medium budgeters and $30,000,000 for high budgeters...sample P&Ls for worldwide distribution...what are P&Ls...sample contracts for optioning literary properties, hiring writers...raising development money...hiring staff, crew and executives...setting up joint ventures...setting up co-productions...doing a Reg D private placement...going public...trading on the OTC bulletin board..."needle drop" music vs scores...arranging a negative pickup....pre-selling worldwide rights...arranging distribution...pitching to movie studios and talent...meeting and working with stars...maintaining an ethical approach to business...complete checklist on producing a feature film...the sequence of hiring crew for a production...how to find a good production manager and first AD...how to setup an efficient office to handle heavy phone and paper traffic...the deferment question...granting participation in projects and/or equity in your corporation...recouping...producer unit pay and participation...if and when you need agents...checklist to get an agent...pre-take patter on the set...hats to keep development going while you are busy making movies...how to increase your communication skills with financial people...negotiating tips...how to cut the catch 22 in financing a picture...preferred methods of accounting...what are the markets...how much can you pre-sell rights for...film festivals vs film markets...how to put together a package for the private capital markets...negative pickups vs studio acquisition financing...how to produce a feature for $200,000 that can generate $1.5 million in the direct-to-home-video and cable markets... what do moviegoers in China and India mean to you...why is the U.S. played out...video cassette purchases...selling video cassette directly to consumers...how the home-video distribution system works, and does not work...realistic above-the-line allocations...how to make a $5,000,000 picture that can generate a 900% return on equity...what is Rule 144... what does exemption 4(2) and section 506 mean to the producer...blue sky laws, what are they...how to build a $1 stock in 3 years...raising movie money with common stock, convertible preferred stock or warrants...when do you issue warrants rather than preferred stock...when do you sell limited partnership units rather than units consisting of common stock and preferred stock...what are the public markets...what is a broker-dealer...do you need your series seven license...how much capital do you need to get started...completion bonds, when they are necessary...bank financing...how to package in the direction of closing a production deal...how to handle frauds, jerks, strappers, assistants to the assistant's Assistant and people who are "in a meeting"...busy executives... being responsible as a producer...keeping your creative edge...how to set up an original think tank...company organizing charts...statistics to monitor the health of your company before the financials tell you're already dead...how to work with studio executives...what studios do not want...what are operating expenses...selling a movie package...exact job descriptions from the production level through studio executive levels...how to establish connections and make contacts...how to negotiate fairly and effectively...reception policies...casting a movie...saving money in post production...video tape transfers to DVDs...hard disc...and hard cards...bandwidth problems...MPEG-2 technology...the coming Web TV and ADSL tech...how to make sure people in your company don't make you crazy under pressure...what you need to do to make your first narrative dramatic movie...how to assemble and work with a crew of 32... a crew of 125...shooting a feature on-budget or on-peanuts...how to be an assistant editor to become an editor to become a writer to become a director to become employed...how to direct a feature...feature production schedule...setting targets...forms with which to interview talent, professionals and personnel...how to "reject" people that don't meet with project's needs but show them the respect they deserve...how to make people keep secrets...corporate level hats...how to understand big corporations so you can relate to them and they can relate to you...producer unit job descriptions...how to train and then utilize people who want to work with your company...rates and fees...how to set up a screenplay development division...what makes a project go...how to diversify, yet stay focused...
I have codified the process of developing, packaging, financing, producing, directing, editing, marketing and distributing movies in The Movie Mogul Manual because I love making movies and seeing them made with a Cookbookmum of hellishness and a maximum of quality. I like seeing movies too and see almost all of them. I like seeing your efficiently made, excellent, high quality movies - movies that can best be made when most of your attention goes into creating dreams on screens - not mud wrestling with the physical universe and management.
Let's turn the picture business into a business which gets people thinking about spending less time, money and energy on pizza and more time, money and energy on things like cultural advancement, peace, love and even space exploration. Let us promote more friendly relations between art and business to help move our planet's people out of the Cultural Dark Ages we currently find ourselves in and the Technological Wasteland in which we might find ourselves enslaved unless we are clear on how to proceed.
If you have read to this point and you're not too numb, you won't mind reading another 15 pages of legal contract so now is the appropriate time to review the Movie Company Licensing Agreement for The Movie Mogul Manual.
If by reading this you have discovered that the movie business is not for you, you are welcome, I have saved you a lot of hassel and loss.
But if you really want to produce features, this is a realistic program that has a hope of getting you there. Don't waste time - confront it now!
© 1988, 1999, 2005 by James R. Jaeger All Rights Reserved