NSI Features First – Matt’s Phase 1 Summary

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Just wrapped up phase one of the NSI Features First program and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Let’s start where we started, the scripts. Melissa Kajpust walked each team through an extensive notes session, reading through the script attached to each of the four teams over the course of two days. Normally, when a script is read out loud you’ll assign parts to the folks in the room to help bring the roles and dialogue to life. But when you’re submitting your script to prospective actors, producers or production companies, they’re not going to bring it to a room full of people and read it out loud. They’re going to read it directly and silently, hearing the words you’ve written in their head. This is how each script was delivered to us and it makes perfect sense to read this way because it’s exactly the first impression your script will make.

The notes process for our script, Synapse, was incredibly helpful and got Scott and I thinking about the script in ways that we hadn’t thought of before and seeing the process for the other scripts was very interesting as well. We learned a lot just from being a listener during the process for the other teams.

The week continued with visits from producers, filmmakers, agents, distributors and broadcasters. I’d liken the experience to a roller coaster. In many ways, the information these industry experts and insiders provided was immensely positive. In other ways, it could often be very daunting. The reality became clear; you can absolutely get a great, marketable script turned into a feature film in Canada. But it’s like, really hard.

But that’s why we were there. To receive help in illuminating some of the less common pieces of information in our business. Scott and I have a healthy amount of experience working on film sets and making short films. The crafts of writing, directing and editing are familiar to us, but how to get a distributor on our finished film, how to go about really finishing our film with a post house, how to get that film into theatres or on iTunes or on Blu Ray in Germany. These are the nuts and bolts that you just don’t learn in film school. And that’s because every film is different.

Every completed feature film in Canada seems to take a different journey through financing and finally getting to its audience. Shooting a video and editing, that’s a process that is teachable and can be repeated many times over. A feature film is a moving target. Markets change, audiences change, executives change, financiers change, governments change, distribution platforms change and a feature filmmaker has to adapt with those changes.

I’m supremely thankful to the National Screen Institute for allowing Scott and myself to participate in the project. We certainly left Toronto feeling incredibly pumped up and with marketability, producibility and, chiefly, audience on our minds.

Looking very forward to what phase two brings us.

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About the Author:

Matt Watterworth a is a 28-year-old filmmaker in Alberta, Canada. He graduated from the SAIT Polytechnic Film & Video Production Program in 2008 and followed that up with 4 years learning from the brilliant minds at one of Canada's top ten production companies. He claps better than anyone you know and, tragically, still wishes to be Batman.
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