Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with the Fantastic Barbara Freedman Doyle

I am pleased to have a friend and colleague here to answer questions about her new book, Make Your Movie: What You Need to Know About the Business and Politics of Filmmaking. There are so many run-of-the-mill, how-to books on how to break into the film business that it is rarely on my radar to bore you with any of them. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE. I know Barbara and I know her depth of experience and down-to-earth common sense about "the industry." This is a must-have book for anyone with stars in their eyes ... or at least spot lights. Buy This Book! :)

Barbara Doyle is the author of Make Your Movie: What You Need to Know About the Business and Politics of Filmmaking, an insider's look at how to break into the film business. The book is a behind the scenes guide for aspiring filmmakers who are passionate about movies, but who don’t yet have the contacts and experience to get a foot in the door of one of the world’s most competitive industries. Make Your Movie is a view from the “other side of the desk,” featuring interviews with veteran film executives and the lucky newcomers who’ve had their first breaks in the business of film.

Barbara worked her way up from an assistant at Tri-Star Pictures to Production Supervisor and Line Producer on national commercial spots, network TV movies and feature films. She is the former Associate Dean of Production at the American Film Institute and currently serves as Chair of the Film Division at Chapman University. 


I know this book was as long time coming. How did it begin? What stopped you from finishing a long time ago? And what prompted you to get it done this last time around? 

Life and work got in the way. I started the book, then stopped for about a year, then finally decided that if I was going to write it, I just had to make it happen. As I’m sure your readers know, it’s really difficult to come home after working and sit down to write. It’s like a second full-time job. And personally it’s hard for me to just write little bits at a time. Normally my writing mode is to write in long spurts, because it takes me a while to get back into it each time I stop.  

Would you have done this book if you were not in academia? Was this always a book targeted to film students? Or is this an incorrect labeling of the target audience? 

It was always targeted to film students or aspiring filmmakers. Back when I was working on films and television movies, any time I met someone on a plane or at a non-Industry party (and I was not a big Industry-partygoer), we would ask each other what we did and when I told them what I did, there was always a follow up of “my son/my daughter/my nephew wants to work in film-would you have a cup of coffee with him (or her).”
And the questions were always about how to get that first job or how to get a first movie made. Thanks to digital technology, any aspiring filmmaker can learn how a camera works, how editing works, they can watch ‘behind the scenes’ extras on DVDs and learn a lot-although much of that material is very slanted towards what is entertaining or good publicity. But it’s very hard-unless they read lots of books and magazine articles and meet some people in the business-to get practical information about how the business actually works. 

When your publisher engaged you on this book, what did they ask you about author platform requirements, etc.? Was this even an issue for them (it is for most first-time writers). Or, was your role at the university enough to sell them on the idea that you had a built-in audience already? Is the publisher helping you with, or doing any marketing, book tour, etc.? 

The publisher asked for a proposal about who I thought the audience was for the book. Focal Press is an academic publisher. They publish this type of book so it was a very good fit. Their marketing people are taking care of the publicity and I think they are doing a very good job of getting the word out to the target audience. 

The nonfiction, entertainment-how-to genre is a solid prospect for a self-publishing platform. Would you have considered self-publishing this book, considering the sea change that has taken place in publishing? If not, why? If you would have considered, then why didn’t you? 

Focal is the first company I sent the proposal to, and I was lucky that they were interested. There are only a few options for this type of book, so I imagine I would have tried the other companies had Focal not been interested. I don’t know enough about self-publishing to know if it would have been a good match but it seems as if that’s the way a lot of writers are going these days. 

How-to, or technical nonfiction has its own challenges and problems. What was the hardest part of the writing process for you? How did you overcome it? 

For me, the most difficult part was deciding how much detail to go into. I cover a lot of ground in the book, and it’s really meant to be a broad look at breaking into the film business, and I had to leave out a lot of information. I’m figuring that readers who have a specific area of interest will use the book as a jumping off point, and then research the area on their own. In the book I keep saying, “research,” “do your homework” so I’m assuming that serious readers will do that. 

What did you leave out that you wish you could have left in; i.e., a topic that is important but too hot to handle, even in a next edition? 

I didn’t cover post production very much because technology is changing so fast, and it’s the fastest changing area of filmmaking. I didn’t want to be out of date before the book even came out! I do bring up Video on Demand and Day and Date film releases-those are kind of the hot buzz points now. By a next edition, I think there will be lots more information regarding the impact of both of these on box office, and more examples of filmmakers who have chosen to release their films in an innovative, enterprising way. I’d like to interview a few of those people—maybe one filmmaker who has done very well with it, going through it with them, and maybe one filmmaker who has not done well and who has an idea what he or she can do differently next time. The thing with film is, there is no formula for success. There is just looking at what worked, what didn’t, and coming up with your own strategy.

One thing that took a long time was coming up with the title of the book. That changed several times. For a book like mine that will be sold mostly online, I wanted a title that would come up in an online search so I had to think of key words. So the title is long, but it’s definitely clear what the book is about! 

The timeline from manuscript delivery to published book can be exasperating for many authors. What did you hate most about the publication process with this book? What did you appreciate most? 

The publication process was fine for me. If there was one thing I regret, it is that I was always rushed. I have a job, I like to spend time with my husband, my dogs, my friends and to juggle all that with the book was hard for me. I have no idea how writers with children handle it! Writing for me, takes a lot of concentration, and the pressure was on. On the other hand, without the deadline, I could have let things drag on for a couple of years and I don’t know that the book would have been any better.  

I started with the table of contents and that served as a kind of outline, which helped a great deal. Also, for a few days I left town. I went to a little beach town that I love because there is not much to do there and the cell reception is bad. No escape. All I had to do was sit with my computer, look out the window and take walks. After a good start I wrote little bits every weekend, and then several months later I went back up to the beach town to write more. I’m not very disciplined and the fact that I was paying to be somewhere helped me focus.

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