Kristy Andersen2018-05-04T11:11:27+00:00

Your First Film…

Friends and Family

Filmmaking is a collaborative event. The credits at the end of a film are a roster of every person or entity that has contributed to the making of that film.

And yet sometimes filmmaking seems more like a solitary adventure. There are plenty of opportunities for you to reach out so be sure to take advantage of them.

Go to film festivals, go to the movies, watch TV. While it’s true that there are few original ideas out there, it helps to know what your competition is so you’re not just replicating something that already exists. There’s a reason why you will not see two BlackKlansman movies released by two different directors. The market will not bear it up and distributors will just be competing against each other.

Do not think that someone will “steal your idea.” Ideas are not copyrightable. It is hard enough to have an idea and pursue your dream, no one is going to want to take on your idea. They have their own. But on the other hand, if you’re working with copyrighted materials, be sure to move to get the rights before someone else gets them.

Collaborate. Find some mentors. Is there someone you know and admire who might be willing to help you, to join your team? Find a way to meet them, pitch your project and ask if you can attach them to it, if even as a consultant. You can send a query to someone’s agent. If you have IMDB pro, that information is often available. If you’re a screenwriter, enter your screenplay in competitions. Industry experts will give you their critiques and you will benefit from professional advice.

Attend filmmaking how-to events such as the Independent Feature Film Market in NY. You will hear success stories, you will hear stories of woe, and you will begin to think of your film as a real entity competing in the world of films.

If you can move ahead and start filming, go for it. Don’t think of the film as your big chance – think of it as your first step in a long career.

Good luck in the world of filmmaking!


Jack Kerouac: Snowbird

My Work-In-Progress

I hesitate to talk about my current work because sometimes these projects take a long time. It can jinx them to even talk about them!

But here goes…

Jack Kerouac moved to Florida from New York, first to various neighborhoods in Orlando in December of 1956, and then finally to St. Petersburg, where he died in 1969. During those thirteen years, he was in and out of the country, going to France, Tangiers, Canada, and Mexico. He also owned houses in Northport, Long Island, and Cape Cod, and he lived in a house in Lowell, MA.

He moved to Florida because his ailing mother wanted to live somewhere warm. He had promised his father, upon his deathbed, that he would take care of his mother. This became a life-long task for Jack Kerouac, since he did not live long, dying at 47 years of age.

I have been able to find and interview people in St. Petersburg who knew Jack while he lived here. One of them was very close to him, and spent many nights drinking and talking. Another group of people hung out at a bar here that they described as “the West End Cafe” of Florida, where Kerouac would be among those who would recite poetry.

I will attempt to place Kerouac within the context of the on-going themes of that generation. The Beat generation had a strong focus on the numbness and displacement felt after the bombings during World War II. As the years passed, the hippies became the prevalent counter-culture. Kerouac despised the hippies for their cult-like adherence to long hair, bell bottoms, and other “uniforms,” and their anti-war and anti-American sentiment.

I will look closely at the differences in Greenwich Village and New York, compared to Florida which itself was undergoing a strong shift in political power that affected the social order of life here.

And that’s about all I feel comfortable telling you. I hope to be able to get back to work on that film soon.


Jump At The Sun

“You Might Not Land on the Sun…

…but at least you’ll get off the ground,” Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her 1941 autobiography, Dust Tracks On A Road.

No one knew more about jumping at the sun than Zora. Her life had been a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Barnard College. She was a known folklorist by the time she wrote the book.

She helped Alan Lomax do fieldwork among black folks in the South. She was given crews to document religious culture in Beaufort, South Carolina,  through financing by Margaret Mead. She had won literary and race awards for her writing.

But it was never easy and even up until a very short time before her death, she struggled even after having a stroke to get her final novel published. Sadly, it never happened as it was not the caliber of her previous strong work.

My film Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun took me eighteen years to produce.  By the end of that time, I had raised more than $1 million in grant and co-producing funds from NEA, NEH, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), WNET-NY/PBS, Ford Foundation, National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs (FDCA), and Humanities Councils in AL, SC, NC, TN, NY, MD, LA, and Washington, DC.

I was in the hole about $80,000, an amount that was compensated to me within two years through DVD sales and fees for appearances. Today, I continue to sell the film through online and DVD sales, earning $4000/year if I’m fortunate.

I started fundraising through a state grant from the FDCA. Then I went to humanities councils in every state Zora lived. So few knew she had even been there. Next I got an NEH Development Grant. I recall the next grants were from NEA, CPB, and NBPC. Finishing funds came from NEA, NEH, WNET and Ford Foundation. Ford Foundation would not release funds until there was a fine cut.

I must have applied to NEH at least four times before it funded me, and that happened only after I had the local state grants. I know I applied to NEA at least twice.

Once those funds were in line then the rest came quickly – except for WNET-NY. If you have to wait to be included in a PBS station’s yearly schedule, you can be cast aside repeatedly – over multiple years.

My advice:

  • Have more than one project on-going – a big one and a few lesser ones;
  • Find creative work – filming, editing, writing, grant-writing, etc – to keep your skills sharpened;
  • Spend your down time doing the things that you can’t do when you’re so busy;
  • Never lose sight of the benefits that come spiritually from your friends and family, and take comfort in them.

And my last piece of advice – of course – Jump at the Sun.



Filmmaker Magazine

It’s not for the weak at heart, this filmmaking career. And you have to learn to be resourceful. Don’t limit yourself to films. Go to the local television stations and see if they need creative help on their news and production sets. Work as an editor, or a shooter. Filmmaking is as much a craft as it is an art. Go to an ad agency. Screenwriters can write copy of all sorts while they wait it out for their scripts to be optioned. Odds are good that you are not going to start by making a blockbuster film. And even if you do, odds are slim there will be another one immediately to follow the first.

For inspiration, pick up Filmmaker Magazine. Find out what’s going on in the industry. Look at the latest tricks of the trade. What’s 4K? You can find out in Filmmaker Magazine.


Clearing a Film for Distribution

The Release

When you work on a film you are not under an obligation to make it legal until you plan to distribute or sell it. In fact, most of the time you can work with materials that are “screeners” or place keepers. These are usually low-end materials that enable you to work with your visuals on your Fine Cut, until you are ready to pay for rights to the materials so you can distribute or sell your film. Film footage is available with a per-second control track embedded in the footage, making the footage identifiable to the archival house.

When you film an interview, you should get a release. I jokingly tell people that a release gives me all the rights and they get none – and this is the truth. Remember that eventually you will want to distribute your work, either on your own or by selling it to someone else. You have to be able to offer your distributor a film that is free and clear. If not then the distributor will not be willing to take a chance on the distribution.

No matter how thoroughly you clear rights, you will still need to buy Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O). That is insurance that will cover you and the distributor in case someone sues because you did not get a release or get other rights you needed, or because those who gave you the rights did not actually own the rights. An E&O insurance policy usually lasts only for  3-4 years from initial broadcast because generally, if someone is going to sue you, they will do so within that amount of time. The cost of your insurance policy will reflect how thoroughly you have cleared your film – whether you have a release for every person in your film, cleared rights for every photo, every piece of film footage, every piece of music. A general rule of thumb is that you need a release for every person who is on-screen – even in crowd shots. If you are dealing with “life rights” or rights to someone’s life story, you will need to clear those rights with the copyright owners, as well. Keep in mind that if someone has already obtained life rights, you might be out of luck, unless they have expired. You might also be asked for Work Agreements from photographers or editors that pass on their artistic rights to you, the producer. So be sure to get those as you move the project along.

I bought an E&O insurance policy for a film and it cost me $4500. And that was after I’d cleared everything! It would have cost more if I had not cleared materials or obtained releases. You will need to include the cost of E&O insurance when you determine how much you need to ask when you sell your film, so you can pay for rights.

There are other samples of releases available on the internet, and sometimes a distributor will want you to use their particular form.


Links for your daily consumption.

Can’t Live Without Them…

If you’re stumped on what to do, how much to pay, where to get insurance, and more – here are a few links to places that you can call for information. The process of taking a film to network or cable distribution can be complicated. You will have to upgrade your film so that you have cleared all rights. Your company might need to become a signatory to one or more of the Guilds because your distributor is already a signatory. It is not complicated, it is not expensive, but if you don’t know what you’re doing then it might end up costing you more than it should. So don’t be afraid to make phone calls and query someone for help. And if you need some help from another producer – give me a call!

Film Independent

Filmmakers Collaborative

Sundance Institute

International Documentary Association (IDA)

The Writers Guild

Directors Guild




The Cutting Room Floor

The Rough Assemblage

Over the years, I’ve run across many projects that were just a pile of footage. If you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s what you might end up with.

And sometimes, I’ve been asked whether I could take the footage and create a film for the befuddled filmmakers. I explain that is harder to do that than if I were to start from the beginning.

40 hours of film footage translates to 40 hours of my time – a weeks worth of work.

Documentaries are usually character-driven. The words of the people in the film create the narrative, the script – the words come either from interviews or they are taken from verité b-roll.

If you film interviews, it’s important to make transcripts and put them into notebooks. Also, log the field tapes by pulling the bites and transcribing those. Transcripts are invaluable because you might need to edit bites. Sometimes you will need a word that the interviewee has said, in order to help your editing. Any MS Word document can be searched for a single word – then you find it in your footage.

For each paragraph or subject on a transcript of an interview, make a notation off to the side as to what that bite is about. This segment is about HISTORY. This segment is about CHILDHOOD. This segment is about FOOD and on and on. You will find that most of the interview can be separated into subjects or segments.

Once you’re ready to edit, you create what is called a Rough Assemblage. You can either arrange the segments chronologically (if it’s a period piece, or a biography, for instance) or you can group them by subject. Or you group them by how they go together to tell your story.

Then you make what’s called a Paper Cut. You just edit to the paper script. Once you play it back, it really starts to take on a life of its own and feed your imagination.


So many grants…

So many grants …So little time.

While there are many grants that could be a potential match for your film project, you should always start small – or local. You need to build up interest in your project where you work.

Try for a research grant in the city where you live. Every state has their states’ equivalent of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In Florida, we have the Florida Humanities Council.

What about a local community foundation? In Tampa/St. Petersburg, we have the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

If you locate a private foundation that you think might be a good match for your project, go to their web page and see if their year-end report is on line. Look to see if they include a listing of recently-funded grants. If they have already funded projects like yours, it could be a good match.

Once you have local support for your work, look toward a state-wide funder. In Florida, the National Endowment for the Arts is the funding partner for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

National arts and humanities grants are highly competitive. But the NEA is always looking for fresh approaches – remember they have mandates to fund all fifty states. While the National Endowment for the Humanities is a gargantuan grant application (80-130 pages), the NEA application is not as mammoth a task.

Get in touch with a grants manager at the NEA or the NEH. Ask them to give you a successful application so you will know what is expected of yours.

One way to elevate a project is to attach others to the project who have the skills you lack. Attach people who are more accomplished, more known. Your project then becomes a collaboration. Enlist them as consultants and get letters of support to back up your project.

Budgets are complicated. Every organization has their own particular way to do a budget, particular line items they require. Be realistic that you can do the project with the funds you are requesting.


1994 / archival footage from “Somebody’s Doing Something About People With AIDS.”

Do you remember Art For Life? It was a fundraiser auction for the Tampa AIDS Network. Artists would donate their artwork for the auction.

The auction is featured in this snippet from a short educational film I produced in 1994. It was used by the Tampa AIDS Network to outreach into the community.

The message was that AIDS was impacting many communities and was not just affecting the gay white male population. Many people died from AIDS, after becoming infected by the HIV virus.

Today, anti-rhetroviral drugs are being used to combat HIV and keep people alive. The population impacted by HIV is not just white but increasingly black and Latino gay men.

Someone’s Doing Something About People With AIDS, © bay bottom news, 2018.


Third Floor, Ladies Lingeré.

The Elevator Pitch

A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds to 3 minutes, hence the name.  

You should practice your elevator pitch, regardless of whether you will be able to pitch to someone at your favorite movie studio or art gallery. It will help you to encapsulate your ideas and to bring brevity to your vision. It will boost your confidence! It will help you resolve questions of continuity. It will get you past that awkward stumble when someone asks you what you are working on.

Do you remember the elevator movie scene in Pulp Fiction? John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson discuss a foot massage gratuitously given to the wife of a drug dealer. The drug dealer was so incensed that he murdered the massager. The low-angle two-shot pulls you into their conversation. While their conservative suits and ties belay their mission – to intimidate a client to pay for his drugs – their conversation is more deliberate and guttural. You get the pitch. You feel the tension that will lead to the next scene, in which Jackson shoots up the apartment.

The elevator scenes in Mad Men were often devoid of conversation. While you had to be in on the narrative to know what was occurring, the silent elevator scene is as memorable as the one in Pulp Fiction.

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