In February 2018 I was selected as one of the 6 up-and-coming directors who will participate in the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP), a fellowship for emerging filmmakers created by the Directors Guild Of America (DGA) and the Association Of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP). Part of the program includes shooting a spec commercial that will screen at a showcase event attended by DGA, AICP, Advertising Agencies, and Executive Producers from all the major production companies. The ultimate goal of CDDP is to bring some much needed diversity into the talent pool available in the commercial directing world.
The program gave us the opportunity to write our own campaign and then shoot a spec for it. Given the current political climate of the country as well as my own experiences as an immigrant I chose the story of a young undocumented immigrant and her experiences as in this country. The project ambitiously covers a twenty three year time span starting the moment Laura and her mother decide to come to the United States while leaving her father and brother behind. The time jumps mean we have challenging casting decisions as we get to see these characters grow up on screen. The time jumps also require the production design/set dressing of the spaces and the props we will use to match each individual era.
WHAT IS A SPEC?
A "spec commercial" or "spec spot" is a commercial for a product or company that wasn't expressly commissioned by said company/product.
Specs are quite common in the film, television, and commercial world. Screenwriters looking to get into television write spec scripts for shows they love, commercial directors shoot ads for brands they admire, and narrative directors shoot trailers or teasers for the films they want to make. Specs are generally designed to be another piece used to enhance the creator's body of work and/or reel.
WHY I NEED THE MONEY?
In order to produce our specs the program awarded a $5,000 grant to each of the six participants. I've already assembled a fabulous team of people either donating their time or working for the bare minimum fees but even still, the grant is not enough to cover the costs of production which is why I'm seeking the additional funds.
WHERE IS YOUR DONATION GOING?
Producing audiovisual media costs money. A lot of it. That's the unavoidable bottom line. Independent filmmakers have become experts at stretching a dollar as far as they eye can see, but in the context of a program where we're expected to play by (most of) the rules a production with millions of dollars would that really limits how "indie" we can operate. Below a breakdown of just some of the few costs that prove why it is absolutely necessary for me to seek extra money.
-CREW: On a production like this, it would be completely normal to ask your friends to come work for a weekend as a favor and for virtually no money outside of gas stipends, if that. We are not allowed to do that for this project. Because we are required to have Workman's Comp insurance for the production that means we have to go through a payroll company and pay every crew member at least minimum wage for them to be covered by the required insurance. Minimum wage in California is $11.00/hour plus time and a half for overtime which would be anything over 8 hours. Set days are typically 12 hour days and we are working with a limited crew of 20 people. The first 8 hours would cost us $88 and the four hours of overtime would cost $16.5 and total $66 a day per crew member. That means that our crew salaries for each shooting day come out to $3,080. We are shooting for 2, possibly 3 days. Two days of shooting would put us at $6,160. If we need the third day that would bring us to $9,240. Paying crew salaries alone is putting us over the $5,000 allotted grant and we haven't even gotten in ANY other expense.
-CAMERA: Because of our connections, vendors like Panavision have already agreed to give the project a significantly discounted rate for things like an Arri Alexa Mini package with Cooke Anamorphic lenses, media cards, batteries, monitors, and everything else that comes with a camera package but that is still a $2,500 flat fee rental for the duration of production. In filmmaking anything over a three day rental is considered a weekly rental. Even if we shoot for only two days cameras have to be checked out of the rental house the day before the production and returned the day after. That would make it a four day camera rental, which immediately becomes a weekly rate. As you can see on this link (x) the typical weekly rental rate for an Arri Alexa is between $3,000-$3,500. The kit of six prime Cooke Anamorphic lenses goes for $2,750 a day or $8,250 a week. (x). This means that for just the camera body + lenses a regular production would be paying about $11,000 total. We are getting that same deal plus a few other small things for $2,500 which is a fantastic deal...but it's still 50% of our grant budget, a budget that already has been exhausted with the crew salaries.
-LOCATIONS: The script has six locations and two of which cover 75% of the action. Through some smart locations scouting we managed to find a single location we can shoot as both of those and which will save us an additional rental fee. This location costs $115/hour to rent and we need it for 12 hours. That puts a single location rental at $1,380. We still need another four locations
So...as you can tell camera + 2 days of crew salaries + 1/5 locations required brings our budget to $10,040.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED?
We still haven't even began to cover other things every production needs like actors, lighting rentals, production design, hair/make-up, costume design, post production, craft services + water + hot meals for the cast/crew, props, etc etc etc. Beyond those basic needs there are other things the program requires us to have such as:
-PERMITS: The program negotiated with Film LA for us to be able to get the student rate when procuring permits. Student rates for permits are a $95 application fee + $58 notification fee. We have five locations and we need a permit for each location. Permits would come out to $765 total.
-SET MEDIC: The program is requiring we have set medics on set at all times. This would not be something an indie production would normally have given their restrictive costs when it comes to small budgets but since there is no way around it, we have to do it. Set Medics usually make about $20/hour with an 8 hour minimum + time and a half for overtime. If we shot two eight hour days that would bring the cost of the set medic to $320 dollars. Standard set days are 12 hours which means our cost would be even higher given overtime.
-FIRST AID KIT + 2 EXTINGUISHERS: The program is also requiring we have this on set at all times. The cost of this would be about $100.
-STUDIO TEACHER: Because I am working with child actors, California Labor Laws require I have a Licensed Studio Teacher on set at all times a child actor is on set. We have some connections to people who would be willing to do us a favor and come in for under the going rate. That rate would be $300/day. We would have children on set every day. The total for two days of shooting would be $600.
These additional requirements total: $1,785. On top of the three basic expenses I listed before that is already putting us at $11,825 and we still haven't even listed ANY of the costs of other locations or any of the standard things I already listed above.
$3,000 was what I thought was a feasible goal but as you can tell, even that amount is still not enough to make this project a reality. Ultimately the more funds I can raise the closer I will be to actually have something to present at my showcase.
We are shooting the weekend of April 27th meaning I have 16 days to fundraise as much extra money as possible. However much you can give will go a long way on our end. Guaranteed!
Below an excerpt from the full treatment which will offer further insight into the details of the project:
For samples of my past work, below you can find my director reel + sizzle reel:As a queer woman of color in the entertainment industry, opportunities of this magnitude don't come often so it is my hope to maximize what I can do with this platform and present the best possible project at our industry showcase. There are not nearly enough Afro-Latina and/or QWOC directors helming creative projects in film, television, or commercials. I need your help to bring some much needed representation and diversity to the director's chair. Any and all donations help so thank you in advance!
(CDDP Class of 2018)
(The six CDDP participants with the president of the AICP, DGA reps, and the CDDP committee at our first program event)
For more information about the program you can visit: www.cddprogram.org
For a press release that confirms my involvement you can visit this link: https://lbbonline.com/news/commercial-directors-diversity-program-announces-selected-participants/
In March 2018 I was also named as one of the two directors recognized with Superlounge's Diversity Award for Directors curated by acclaimed director Jordan Brady. You can find a link to that here: https://www.shootonline.com/node/75697
For my bio + resume: http://kryzzg.com/bio
To understand the scope of the project, you can download the full treatment here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aN3zFO9hzurVuW0JloNtE5acImk09lED
- Olivier Loranger Gagnon
- Toni Farran
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