By Hammad Zaidi | May 17, 2011

Welcome to Going Bionic’s first birthday party! That’s right, this column turns one year old this week (Wednesday, May 18th to be exact  – which is my nephew Sean Zaidi’s 20th birthday. Happy Birthday Sean, even though you have never and probably will never read this column, in which case you’ll never see this birthday message….

Now back to our regularly scheduled article:

What started out as something I thought I’d do two, maybe three times max, has turned into 53 consecutive weekly articles and counting. So, I’ve got to say, I thank all of you out there for “lending me your eyes” over the past year. I deeply appreciate being read.

Today I thought we’d go over some of the key articles covered in this column since its inception in May 2010. I’ll pick one article per month, comment on its key points, and discuss any significant changes in the information originally reported.

  • May 18, 2010 – Film Markets
    This was the very first Going Bionic article. I wrote it on my flight home from the Cannes Film Festival last year. The article discusses what film markets are, how they’re run, and how they dictate the international values of independent feature films. It also discusses who the hell I am, and where my point of view is coming from.

    Key message from article:
    Film markets are essentially “swap meets” for movies; a place where international distribution companies (also commonly referred to as sales agents), trek from every corner of the globe to meet film buyers in order to negotiate, deliberate and orchestrate film and TV sales to several countries.

  • June 8, 2010 – Film Festival Strategies
    As one of my favorite articles to write, this article delivers 11 must-read strategies for filmmakers who are applying to film festivals. Since I have judged, sponsored and/or been a palest at nearly 50 film festivals worldwide, and my films have played nearly 50 film festivals as a filmmaker and or producer, the tactics in this article are from my direct experiences.

    This article also highlights a picture of me in my friend’s cave in the Canadian Yukon.  Yes, “Caveman Bill” (also pictured) actually lives in a cave.

    Key message from article:
    Filmmakers should refrain from applying with a rough cut or an otherwise incomplete film because your first impression is just that, your first impression. Trying to get noticed off a rough cut, would be like me back in my dating days, showing up on a blind date with my 5’4”, rail thin and somewhat disabled body, telling my date “Hi, I wanted to meet you right away, but don’t judge me for what you see. Give me a few months to make myself look better and I’ll come back a foot taller, far more buff and able bodied.”

  • July 20, 2010 – Indie Film Financing, (Part 1)
    This article focuses on how to deal with investors and how to put together a business plan for potential feature film investors. As someone who has directly invested in several motion picture and television projects, as well as has wrangled outside investors as a producer, this article shares what investors will look for, and how to best approach them.

    Key message from article:
    Classic film investors won’t be affected if you lose their money. Of course they usually want to make money (sometimes they don’t because of tax liability reasons) but their real reason for investing in an indie film is so they can tell their friends they’re an ‘executive producer.’ These investors are usually too busy to keep tabs on your film, or visit your set more than once. But, they’re also very shrewd and they need to make sure you know what you’re doing before they cut you a check. Thus, they will rake you over the coals on your budget and demand your production is filled with seasoned veterans.

  • August 10, 2010 – How Not To Get Screwed On Your Distribution Contract
    Simply put, this is one of the most important articles I have written, and is one that every filmmaker seeking distribution should take a look at. Furthermore, this article has caused me quite a bit of headache from other distributors, because they were (and still are) incredibly angry that I openly shared what tactics distributors use in order to screw filmmakers out of thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

    Key message from article:
    The bottom line with distribution contracts is that they’re only as valid as the intentions of the distributor giving them to you.  The key is to go into every contract negotiation with your eyes open, your ears perked, and your hand armed with a pen ready to sign – if and only if you get yourself a fair contract.

  • September 14, 2010 – Production Strategies
    This article goes over key production strategies while making an independent film. Topics include Never Start Until You Can Afford To Finish, Don’t Treat Post-Production Funding as A Separate Matter, and Talking Small Will Help You Become A Big Success. Like most independent filmmakers, I’ve made numerous mistakes during the production process. Thus, these suggestions are designed to help filmmakers escape costly and painful mistakes during production. Thus, my pain is your gain!

    Key message from article:
    Most indie filmmakers would much rather start shooting with the money they have and hope they can raise finishing funds later by showing potential investors their footage. The problem is 99.8% of potential investors won’t be impressed by footage enough to write a check. This is why 99.8% of the independent filmmakers I know have films they can’t finish.

  • October 19, 2010 – The Seoul Of 3D!
    Written while I was at 37,000 feet on my home from Seoul, Korea, this article focuses on the billions of dollars that the country of South Korea is spending to enhance 3D technology and 3D motion picture production. The good news is that Koreans are very interested in collaborating with American filmmakers abroad. Thus, filmmakers with 3D projects should give this article a quick look-see, in order to learn how to tap into a multi-billion dollar 3D fund.

    As of today, Korea is still going ahead with its investment in 3D.  However, filmmakers outside of Korea are going to need an approved Korea based production company as a partner.

    Key message from article:
    The Korean government is spending the equivalent of a few billion US Dollars to support 3D projects. That’s a bleep-load of cash. The best part is the money from the fund is given – not loaned.

  • November 16, 2010 – A Case For Never Giving Up
    As my most inspirational Going Bionic entry, this article is clearly my favorite. Read this article if you’re near the end of your creative rope, or if visions of working as a Wal-Mart greeter seem more enjoyable than working on your film (apologies to those of you who are greets at Wal-Mart).

    Key message from article:
    One of the first truths that budding filmmakers should be aware of is that there are more UFO sightings worldwide then there are actual overnight successes in Hollywood. While there are occasional exceptions (with actors usually), an “overnight success” doesn’t account for the ten, fifteen or twenty years of struggle the filmmaker endured before they were discovered.

  • December 14, 2010 – Playing The Calendar Game
    This article details the upside and downside of releasing independent films during the best months to do so. It also discusses the worst times of year to release independent films as well as the best time to release independent DVD’s.

    Key message from article:
    January, February, March, September and October are the very best times of year to release independent films, because there is very little studio-based competition the box office. Studios spend less on advertising on the films they do release during these months, which opens the door for independent films to get noticed.

  • January 4, 2011 – Wake Up Call! Welcome To Your 2011 To-Do List
    Every New Year needs a shot in the arm to get us all going after the holidays, and this article provides it. In fact, a Going Bionic reader told me that after reading this article, he called a film festival that had rejected his film and he told them he refused to be rejected. Shortly thereafter, the film festival reversed their initial decision and accepted his film.

    While I can’t guarantee the same will happen to others, or to me for that matter, a shot of inspiration as a shot we should all down. While we’re at it, we should make that shot a double!

    Key message from article:
    When I was a graduate student at the UCLA Film School’s Producers Program, one of my professors, Peter Guber, always said that whenever he heard the word “no,” he turned it around into the word “on,” as in it’s time to “move on” and charge forward with the project.

  • February 1, 2011 – The Sundance 24!
    This article focuses on the 24 films that landed distribution at Sundance 2011. While not all of these films will enjoy theatrical distribution, they will get distribution nonetheless. International factors that may help the world of independent distribution get back on track in 2011 are also discussed.

    Key message from article:
    While it’s certainly not time to pop open some champagne, buy a Porsche Turbo and book a 31-day trip to the Seychelles, the “early returns” from Sundance show that 2011 could be a good year for the financial value of independent cinema…

  • March 15, 2011 – Panic In Detroit!
    This article focuses on Michigan’s Film Tax Credits being thrown into jeopardy by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. This change deeply affects all independent filmmakers, since Michigan was America’s most lucrative film tax credit….

    Key message from article:
    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t completely killed the Michigan Film Tax credit program, (yet), but starting in 2012, he’s putting a $25,000,000 cap on the total film tax credits offered per year. That’s a hell of a lot less than the $60,000,000 awarded last year.

  • April 26, 2011 – The Art Of Pitching
    This article delivers pitching strategies for filmmakers who are about to test just how valuable their idea is in the marketplace. Since pitching is like going on a first date, when both parties either feel a connection or not, these tactics will help your pitch get a “second date” and hopefully even a relationship with the person and or entity you’re pitching to.

    Key message from article:
    A good pitch can put you on the Hollywood map and a great pitch can change the fate of your career overnight.

  • May 10, 2011 – Distributing Documentaries
    Since I have produced and executive produced a few documentary feature films, and my company, Lonely Seal Releasing, (www.Lonelyseal.com) has distributed several documentaries internationally, this article offers vital information for documentarians who have either finished their documentary and or looking for distribution, or are just starting their journey to get their story heard and seen.  With the amount of passion, sweat; maxed out credit cards and tears that it takes to make an independent documentary, this article will help filmmakers take the right steps in order to give their documentary the best chance to flourish in the current marketplace.

    Key message from article:
    Make sure your documentary isn’t two hours of  “experts and witnesses” sitting in a chair and talking. Remember, your viewing audience is already sitting in a chair, so the last thing they want to see is other people sitting in chairs.

Okay people, it’s that time again. Thanks for peeking into our first birthday party, and I look forward to serving up more “bionic” strategies into year two and beyond. Hopefully the future will bring a Going Bionic book, and maybe even a TV show… Wait, somebody pinch me. I’m daydreaming again!

Thanks again for lending me your eyes, and I’d be honored to borrow them again next week. Have a great week, everybody.

Leave a Reply to Bwakathaboom Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hammad Zaidi says:

    Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments, and most importantly, thank you for lending me your eyes!

  2. Bwakathaboom says:

    One Going Bionic article that should be required reading is “Delivering Deliverables”. I’ve heard a few horror stories about filmmakers suddenly discovering that they can’t just hand a DVD of their movie to a distributor and done with it.

  3. Congratulations Hammad! That and everything else you’ve kept us informed of, including a great summary this week. Catch up soon,


  4. Don R. Lewis says:

    Way to go Hammad! You’re providing an invaluable column to all filmmakers!

  5. Mark Bell says:

    Congrats to Hammad and Going Bionic! One year of columns, without missing a week! Looking forward to many more years!

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon