Posts tagged #California

DIY Filmmaking with Future Legend Ed Dougherty

Courtesy of @eddied4me

Courtesy of @eddied4me

In the film industry, as in any industry, it’s important to know who’s who and to take your cues from those who have gone before you, and have subsequently become successful. Ed Dougherty of Grinning Man Media Films in Los Angeles is one of those people; he’s a successful entrepreneur and filmmaker who has been around the block enough to know what works and what doesn’t in the entertainment industry, whether he’s shooting a commercial, feature film, music video, or corporate video.

Read on to get his invaluable insight on how to make in the entertainment industry, whether you’re talent or crew in LA, New York, Atlanta, Chicago - or any other city in the world!

Studio 27: Hi Ed Dougherty from Grinning Man Films (also known as Grinning Man Media Group, or GMMG)! Tell us about yourself and what GMMG does.

Ed Dougherty: Hi. I’m a writer/producer/director/editor who has [created] all kinds of content, from producing microbudget features to writing studio screenplays to directing music videos. At GMMG, we primarily produce microbudget features, make music videos, and [make] corporate/commercial content.

S27: What is the difference between narrative film and commercial?

ED: I’m not really sure I know how to answer this question. On the one hand, the differences are vast. On the other hand, things are all the same, from a producing and basic filmmaking perspective. When I first heard about how much you got paid for commercial work, I figured there was some insane trick to it that I didn’t know about. While it is hard to get your point across in 30 seconds or 15 seconds, it’s still basically the same process as making anything is. I’d say the barriers for entry to commercial work are harder than narrative.

S27: What do you look for when you cast talent for feature films?

ED: Talent, an interesting face, some kind of hard-to-define screen presence that you only know when you see it. Not a maniac. These are all obvious things. But mainly I think to myself-- will this person make my writing seem better than it is? If so, then I like them.

S27: Do you prefer to cast named talent - why or why not?

ED: Yes, of course, on a certain level. But it has to fit. It’s not the hardest thing in the world to get a named person into your film, if it is decent and you are not a maniac. But I also find it awkward when a name person shows up in a handful of scenes, all on the same set, and you know that they only had that person for a day. Also in some genres like horror, the name value of the cast pales in comparison to the concept and the feel of the film. In horror, you don’t need names, unless it’s higher budget - then you definitely do.

S27: Who has been your favorite celebrity to work with, and why?

ED: Aidan Gillen by far. Just because I feel we share some DNA. He’s an amazing storyteller and the most Irish character you can be around. Just a legendary person who is always very alive and interesting, and will bring all of himself to whatever role, even if it’s just some weird little thing you’ve come up with.

S27: What advice would you give an emerging filmmaker with little-to-no resources?

ED: Here’s something I have really come to believe in -- be prepared to rewrite your script as the situation develops. Sometimes even on a microbudget movie, you’ll have a filmmaker say “Well, in the script it’s a Learjet, so that’s what we need.” And you think, but you wrote the script. It wasn’t brought down the mountain on stone tablets by Moses. You shouldn’t think of the script as some unchangeable thing ever, but especially not with little-to-no resources. You can write yourself out of trouble cheaper than you can ever shoot or edit or FX yourself out of trouble. My other piece of advice would be that you need to face the harsh reality that not everyone is going to care on the level that you do, if there’s no money involved. Specifically when it comes to hiring editors, post people, etc. I have never had good luck paying an editor on a low budget project. You’ll often get back crap, and it will still be expensive. Learn to edit. You’ll do a better job anyway.

S27: Finally, any advice for Atlanta actors? Should we all just up and move to LA?

ED: I don’t know enough about Atlanta to really give a good answer to this, but I do tell my filmmaker friends in NYC that they need to move to LA. There’s just so much opportunity here. And you meet people who introduce you to opportunities. I’m not the most social person in the world yet I’ve randomly met tons of people who were very valuable to my career. I think the more people like that around the better.

LA vs. Atlanta: Which Film Hub is Right For You?

The Los Angeles skyline.

The Los Angeles skyline.

There's a lot of talk now about how Atlanta is the "Hollywood of the South"; in fact, we now have our own nickname: ATLwood. So many big budget movies and film studios are out here now, namely: Pinewood Atlanta Studios (located right down the road from Studio 27), where films like Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were filmed; Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta (where Devious Maids was filmed for Lifetime), and EUE Screen Gems Studios, where Black PantherFlight, Insurgent, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay were all filmed. It makes sense that films are flocking to the A to not only get those tax credits, but so are talent and crew. But whether you're from Georgia or not, does it make sense to dive into the largest film market in America, i.e. Los Angeles, or should you start out small[er] in Atlanta?

Let's Go Ahead and Answer, Shall We?

The answer is simple, really, and it all comes down to personality type. LA is cutthroat - there is no way around it. At the same time, it's full of some of the nicest people I've ever met. Atlanta is still growing and finding its voice. LA is full of opportunity, whether it's big budget features, independent films, short films, television, or reality shows; Atlanta may have Marvel, but the fact is, casting directors still (generally) cast out of LA for speaking parts, i.e., guest star roles, co-star credits, even just under-5's. It is difficult, at times, to even get work as an extra in Atlanta - not so in LA. There are PLENTY of roles to go around out West, even if you're just looking to start out small, like working with a student film (which, many of those DO pay!). Atlanta has some student films that pay, too, namely at SCAD; Georgia State MAY have some paying films, though I haven't seen many. Atlanta can be a great place to build credits, especially if you're looking to break into the commercial market. There are PLENTY of commercials that film in ATL (LA, too, of course!). And, though prices are steadily rising with the film industry growth in Atlanta, it is still cheaper to live here than in LA - more or less.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

This is, to be honest, a difficult blog post to write - namely because, sure, you can live in LA, spend less money than living in Atlanta, and get more roles or jobs as a crew member. The same can also be true for Atlanta, which is why I started out by saying that it truly does come down to a personality type. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner, then sticking with what you know may work out best for you. If you're adventurous and a risk-taker, than by all means, move to LA! You never know what'll happen.

[More] Advice!

My biggest piece of advice, however, if you DO move to California, is to know that it's going to be really hard, at least for the first year - you can't give up, especially if you're a big fish moving from Atlanta to LA. Guess what? LA doesn't care how big you are. LA cares about LA. Be prepared to have your ego checked - immediately. One of the best lessons you can learn is how to act while on a set - which is why it's sometimes good to take on background work as an actor. That way, you have the experience of being on a REAL set and knowing that having a "diva-like" attitude can get you fired. You are, unfortunately, replaceable - but that doesn't mean that you don't have something special! Tackle your roles and auditions with humility and passion, and you'll be sure to nail them - everytime.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Lastly, wherever you move, save up money! Both cities are ridiculously expensive now, and you'll need to have a plan in place. Are you living with your parents? With roommates, if you're over 18? Do you have a "side hustle" to pay the bills while getting your acting career off of the ground? You're going to have to make sacrifices, no matter how you decide to live in two of the more expensive U.S. cities.

 

Have you made the leap and moved to Atlanta or LA? What about New York City or Chicago? Let us know - we love hearing from you!