NSI Features First producers talk about their second training boot camp

NSI Features First is presented by the National Screen Institute in association with Telefilm Canada

Jeremy Lutter, Jennifer Liao, Arnold Lim and Mark Wolff

Above from left: Jeremy Lutter, Jennifer Liao, Arnold Lim and Mark Wolff

Our NSI Features First producers recently completed their second training boot camp in Toronto. As part of all our training courses, we ask students to write about their boot camp experience.

NSI Features First is a renowned development training launch pad for writer/producer teams working on their first or second feature film. Teams meet with top-level experts throughout the program and receive $7,500 towards the final development and packaging of their feature film project.

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Jeremy Lutter | Producer, We Came From the Sea

Jeremy Lutter

I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since I was 15 years old. I remember being in the career and personal planning course in high school which was a new requirement at the time. They made you fill out a questionnaire to help you decide which career you were best suited for and then they were supposed to offer you guidance once you had picked one.

On the first day of that class I told the guidance counsellor I wanted to be a filmmaker – that wasn’t a choice on the form. The counsellor gave me a confused look and told me to go wait in the library while they sorted this out. They didn’t really have any guidance to give me.

This is the second part of the NSI Features First program and I feel like I am finally in the right place and getting the guidance I need.

We met with a series of professionals and, most importantly, mentor producers. The advice and insight was invaluable.

I had the misconception back when I was 15 that it would get easier to make films as time went on but, in fact, it didn’t get easier. As my skills grew so did the size and scope of my projects.

The best part of the course was meeting the other filmmaking teams and having the sense that we’re in this together.

Shelly Quade (program manager) and Melissa Kajpust (program advisor) organized a mixer with previous students from the course on the first night and that was my favourite event. It’s very helpful to expand your circle of filmmaker [colleagues] because it seems less scary to know that you’re not alone.

Jennifer Liao | Producer, Smash Smash Revolution

Jennifer Liao

Producing a film is a marriage of the highly creative and highly practical and, after our story and script-focused week in January, the producers returned to the NSI fold this past week for a producer’s boot camp largely concerned with the latter. (I feel compelled to note that I’m also the director on my project. Two of the other three teams also have director/producers and the other has a writer/director.)

We got off to a very strong start by spending a day with producer Paula Devonshire (NSI Features First, NSI Totally Televison) who went through every page of our proposed budgets, making note of things we might not have allocated funds for, and where our numbers were outside a comfortable range.

It’s rare to have the opportunity to get your budget reviewed in such great detail by someone with Paula’s level of expertise and I found it incredibly helpful.

We had many more visits from knowledgeable industry guests during the four-day boot camp. We explored topics such as business affairs, insurance, script clearances, casting and interim financing.

Michael Paszt of Raven Banner Entertainment did a deep dive into international sales for us, and John Galway (Harold Greenberg Fund) and Dan Lyon (Telefilm Canada) discussed details of their funding organizations in depth.

Avi Federgreen, the distributor of my previous feature films, talked about his experiences navigating Canadian film production and distribution. We also had a tour of William F. White’s production equipment facilities with Greg Jeffs, an NSI Features First grad himself.

I took away a lot to think about from the week, and it was a real pleasure to reunite with Arnold, Jeremy, Mark and, of course, our advisors Shelly and Melissa whose wealth of knowledge and support has been so beneficial.

Stephanie [Law, writer on Smash Smash Revolution] and I have another draft of our script ahead and we’re looking forward to continuing the push to get our film made.

Arnold Lim | Producer, All-In Madonna

Arnold Lim

I’ve always been a pragmatic filmmaker and I never really expect too much going into anything. So, while I came into NSI Features First expecting to learn, what I didn’t expect was for the industry professionals – distributors, producers, casting directors, agents, banks and more – to go out of their way to offer their time and knowledge so openly.

The opportunity to meet people I might otherwise have a challenging time getting a meeting with has been amazing and I can’t believe it’s already over.

With the producer’s boot camp behind me, the opportunity to be one of the four producers selected for the program is one I am more excited about today than I was when I first got accepted.

I’m a pragmatist. But only hours after the end of my second week in Toronto with NSI, I’m more hopeful than I’ve ever been, and excited to work harder in the hopes our film All-In Madonna will roll camera one day.

Mark Wolff | Producer, Hunting Season

Mark Wolff

Everything you wanted to know about producing but had no-one to ask

The NSI Feature First producers boot camp was a great experience yet again. This time the producers didn’t have their writers to lean on. I think this solitary trip allowed us to get to know each other better and build an NSI bond.

The sessions provided insider access to information that’s simply not available anywhere else. Where else are you going to spend three days learning the real scoop on being a producer? None of us ran away screaming so I guess we’re in it for the long haul.

I cannot stress how appreciative the producers were to have the presenters all to ourselves in those session. The presenters didn’t have to be part of NSI Features First – they do it because they want to help others achieve their goals.

Here are some of my session thoughts that I did not share with the class:

  • Budgeting with Paula Devonshire – Wow, I was way off.
  • Harold Greenberg Fund with John Galway – So that’s what ‘package and polish’ means.
  • Casting with Marissa Richmond – So what you’re saying is I can’t get Ryan Reynolds?
  • Production/distribution with Avi Federgreen – Excellent. He gave up all of his secrets.
  • Insurance with Diane Konecny – That actually happened? Crazy stuff goes down in this industry.
  • William F. White with Greg Jeffs – Sweet. Now I can hit this guy up for a deal.
  • Interim financing with Catherine Kunz – Perfect. Now we can cash flow this thing.
  • Telefilm 101 with Dan Lyon – Telefilm is now my best friend.
  • Distribution with Michael Paszt – Even more industry secrets. Excellent.
  • Business affairs with Chandra Schatz – I better double check my numbers before I send them in.
  • Script clearances with Anne Marie Murphy – Holy crap, I never thought of that.
  • Pitching with John Gill – Man, did I ever screw that up.

But seriously, the knowledge I walked away with is invaluable and I thank the presenters for all they’ve done to help our teams.

I can’t forget to mention Shelly and Melissa – these ladies are the best. From their high school stories of growing up in Winnipeg to their daily mother henning, they made the NSI experience.

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NSI Features First 2017 is funded by Presenting Sponsor Telefilm Canada; Supporting Sponsors Entertainment One, Super Channel, Corus Entertainment and Breakthrough Entertainment; NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.

One comment

  1. David Ohnona

    Well done, all. And for sharing your experiences.

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