Thursday, June 12, 2014

KnitVengeance Productions OFFICIAL TRAILER for my short film Origins

I know it has been a long time since I posted on this blog, I have been working a couple of jobs lately and time just gets away from you but I hope to be back regularly soon. I am happy to announce though that the official trailer for Origins, the short film I have written about in this very blog has been launched. I am very pleased with how it turned out thanks entirely to Co-Producer/Editor Cortney Taborn and Composer John Delvento.

Depending on what your preferred viewing method is, we have the trailer both on Vimeo and Youtube. Check it out.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future

Today is the first day of the last week of my Entertainment Business Graduate program at Full Sail University and I can't help but feel very reflecty. Yes, "reflecty" is a word that I just made up for the purposes of this blog post. How else do I describe my mental and emotional state after one of the hardest years of my adult life.

In May 2012, I was laid off of the best non-film job I ever had. I had two of the best bosses I have ever had. Before being laid off, I was really happy even though I wasn't doing film work. Since I have worked everyday of my life since I was 17 years old, I didn't know how to be unemployed. I ended up taken the first part time office job that came my way. On the surface it was a good job at a nice place, but I never felt so degraded as an employee before. I had to find a way to get myself back into film. No more working for working sake. But I was 34 years old and graduated film school 9 years before. How do I break back in? How about following one of my other dreams, getting my masters.

I was the first person in my family to go to college and graduate with a B.A. But I always wanted to get my Masters degree. I didn't think after years of being an adult, having a husband, and a mortgage that I could go back to school, so I didn't. But after the lay off, and working at this part time job I felt unappreciated at, I said "that's it, I'm going back to school." I chose Full Sail because it was well known for entertainment, had a convenient online program, and it was accelerated. I could get through it in a year. There were times it was hard to balance but I stuck with it, kept my grades high, and even while my personal life was being neglected and nearly fell apart, I stuck through it. I can't say how happy I am that I did. I started my first class on September 24th, today is September 23rd a year later and I am days away from having a Masters degree. How awesome is that?

As I wrap up my final assignments for school my head is turning towards Director mode. On Saturday, I go into production on my short film Origins, which I have talked about a few times on this blog. This has been a project 5 months in the making and I cannot wait to get started. My producing partner Chris Tobiaz, and I have marketed this short film like it was a feature. We have gained a lot of attention in New England, and we hope, after it is finishes to gain a lot of attention on the festival circuit as well. Since our film is gotten some attention, we have been contacted by several people to jump on their films. Which is pretty exciting because after I finish Origins, I may have some real film opportunities.

The goal is to not return to an office job, unless it is at a production company. I will spend the next year freelancing to see if I can make a living at it. If it becomes too difficult, I will find a flexible day job such as substitute teaching that will allow me to take the time I need to work on my films. Either way, I have learned that it is important to follow your dreams, even if it makes life uncomfortable for a period of time. Taking the risk to return to school after a decade and learn more about the film industry was important. I can already seeing benefits from going back. Now it is time to build a career starting with my own short film.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Running a Successful Kickstarter Campaign for your Short Film

Financing a film, short or feature-length, is difficult. When you set out to make a film, there is no guarantee the film will be successful. Even anticipated blockbuster studio films, may not do well at times. So, finding investors is a challenge. Luckily, there are websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where people can go to donate money to help people make their films, publish their books, and even support a charitable organization. That is how I choose to fund my film and as of 10:24 AM EST on Friday, September 13th, 2013; mine was 1 of the 48,537 successfully funded projects on Kickstarter.

How did I do it?

 My producer Chris Tobiaz and I keep getting emails from random people impressed with our success and asking what we did. In fact, here is an actual message we received on our FB page, the author of the message is withheld of course,

 "Hey, Tell me what you guys did to be successful on Kickstarter, thanks."

 No introduction, no congratulations, just a "hey you did something I want to do, tell me how so I don't have to figure it out on my own" kind of situation. Honestly, we have been flooded with these kinds of comments. It is my natural reaction to say that we worked hard, busted our asses, and it paid off. I am not really inclined to give random strangers that avoid even the basic niceties in an email any tips. But what I actually respond with is this "Good luck on your project, Kickstarter has great resources to help you get started." I don't wish to be rude but I also don't think these one line emails are the most polite way of asking for my secret either. The fact of the matter is, there is no secret. Running a successful Kickstarter campaign is hard work. It is a full time job, literally. I am currently an online graduate student, I have no other job just school and pre-production of this film (that I won't get paid for cause it is mine). As such, I spent large portions of the day trying to find donors for my project and doing homework at night. My producer Chris, does work full time but he would spend his nights doing the same thing I did all day. It was non-stop work and both of us had to be thinking about it on a constant basis. But it wasn't just the 30 days of the campaign either, this has been going on for months. Chris and I have been talking with people about the film, posting on the film's Facebook and Twitter, and reaching out to friends and family warning them that we would be begging for money soon. We were preparing people for the inevitable barrage of "give us money" related contacts we were going to have once the Kickstarter began. Within 9 days, we hit our minimum goal of $4,000. THIS my friends is not common for many projects .

This $4,000 was not all we needed to make the film, it was just the minimum it would take to get us through production. Kickstarter recommends that you don't over reach for your goals. Make them reasonable then promote stretch goals after you hit the main goal. So far the success rate for Kickstarter projects is only around 43%, so not everyone with a dream will meet their goal. (Kickstarter, 2013). You must be confident that you can to even launch the project and then you have to work-work-work to hit that goal. It is very rare for a short film without a trailer to do as well as we did in our first Kickstarter, to a certain degree we were very lucky. But it wasn't luck that people found us and donated, it was just lucky to be amongst the successful campaigns. Chris and I were so active in our promotion of the campaign, we never let one day go by that we were trying to connect with someone even if only for $1 donation.

Now I mentioned that we hit our goal in 9 days and then I went off on a tangent so let's get back on track. What do you do for the next 21 days of the campaign once you hit your goal? Do you pop the champagne and say "our work here is done!"? Do you just hang back and wait for the money to come in? NO! You have to keep reminding people what you are doing so they don't pull their donations. You have to post interesting content to show people you are committed to the project and their money won't go to waste. You have to keep looking for new people to contribute so that you can hit your ultimate funding goal. And once you hit your minimum goal, it is a lot harder to convince people you still need money. For us, it took 9 days to make $4,000 but it took 21 days to make the additional $1,152. Holding on to the $5,152 was work. Admittedly, we lost a couple donations on the last day totaling around $24. They either felt we had enough or they couldn't afford the donations they promised but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I have seen projects drop thousands of dollars near the end. You have to keep working, keeping pushing, and let people see how passionate you are so they know that their investment was not in vain.

Hopefully, from this post you can see that there is no magic secret to hitting your goal on Kickstarter. No guaranteed method. It is just a lot of hard work. Even Spike Lee, who is rich and has rich friends, didn't hit his $2 million Kickstarter goal until just days before his campaign ended. I will leave you with the video that made me start to plan my Kickstarter months before I actually launched it. This is Griffin Hammond from Youtube's Indy Mogul channel, a great resource for indie filmmakers and film geeks alike. Here Griffin talks about his project that actually hit his goal in 8 hours (again this is not typical but their YT channel is famous) and breaks down the difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, enjoy.


Indy Mogul. Youtube. How to Launch a Successful Kickstarter. Retrieved from

Kickstarter Stats. (2013) Retrieved from

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What is the Plan for my Short Film, Origins?

In my most recent post, I highlighted the importance of having a business plan for independent filmmakers. Though it is not related to the main topic of this blog, as a filmmaker myself, I believe it is important to be knowledgeable about all aspects of the industry (not just the creative). I am currently in pre-production on a short film called ‘Origins.’ This is a short film based on three feature length films I am currently writing. My goal with this short is to highlight my skills as a writer/director and present the film both through the film festival circuit and to independent investors, in the hopes that I can raise the necessary funds to make the subsequent feature length films. This is an extremely ambitious project on my part and the only chance of being successful is to show investors that I know what I am doing both on the filmmaking and the business sides.

The two business plan experts I reviewed in my last post Kevin Geiger and Nicole Williams, made points that any person attempting a business venture would find useful. Luckily for me, I discovered them right as I was beginning the process of creating business plans for my film. Kevin Geiger talked about the importance of creating a plan that will govern all aspects of the film from creative to business. Meaning, don’t just make a plan to fund the film but make a plan to fund the film and set up a film company to govern production at the same time. I think every filmmaker hopes to have the Kevin Smith experience. In 1994, he showed his first independent film at Sundance and the film was picked up by Miramax. He has since had a filmmaking career that has spanned nearly 20 years. But that is not a likely scenario for every independent film. While I would LOVE to have that chance, I also want an active hand in making my films and hope that by building a business plan that establishes a film company as well, I will be able to continue making movies beyond the initial one.

For the short, my producer Chris Tobiaz and I went the Kickstarter fundraising route. On August 14th, 2013, we launched our Kickstarter with a $4,000 goal. We were lucky enough to have achieved our goal in 9 days! We are now pushing to raise $6,000, as there are a lot of special effects in our vampire/witch film and the additional funds will go a long way in helping us achieve a realistic look to our magic scenes. This has been an exciting and also educational experience.  We have learned a number of different ways to market a film that has not been made in order to entice people to contribute. While a business plan has not been used in this portion of the filmmaking process, it does lay the ground work for our future films.

Nicole Williams suggested in the video I posted last week, that you offer multiple levels of expectation for your investors to consider. For my trilogy, this would be very helpful because I could provide the independent film level (under $100,000) as well as the independent studio level (under $3 Million), such as Lions Gate or Dimension Films. This would show that I am willing to make the film at either level and I am not afraid to aim high for the studio level.  She says that the investors will pay more attention to the bottom line than the creative areas of your business. I agree with this. It is good to show a sample of your work to prove your abilities, in my case the completed short will accompany the business plan. There are some investors out there that just want to invest in film, though may not have any knowledge about the creative aspect. But ultimately, the investors will want to know how they will get their money back and with how much profit. Showing a realistic investment and return structure will help investors in the decision to support your film.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Film Business Plans: What The Experts Say

     Today, I am going to step outside of my normal "Mixed-Race in media" post to focus on an aspect of filmmaking that many of us creative types fail to think about when our big dreams of making a moving picture creep up, the business plan. Many people get into the film business with creative aspirations and are not always prepared for the amount of organization, research, planning, and financial knowledge we will need to successfully make our films or break into the business.
     I recently watched a Youtube video lecture from Kevin Geiger, an expert not just on the film business but how to write a business plan for a film related business. In this lecture, he explained how filmmakers should approach their film as a business venture and create an organization that will govern all aspects of the film from creative to business. Geiger's main participation in the film industry was as a visual effects artist for such films as Reign of Fire and Chicken Little. He branched off towards teaching the business side of film and I would like to discuss some of his very helpful tips. Geiger explains that the creative and the business must go hand in hand. You may have the best creative idea in the universe but if you do not have a strong business plan to accompany it, no one will invest. Financiers need to know up front how they will get their money back. You can find his 4 part lecture from the AnimationsOptions channel on Youtube, but you can see part 1 below.

     I also discovered this video "Ask an Expert - All about Business Plans," produced by LinkedIn with business expert, Nicole Williams. Williams is a bestselling author of career related books including Earn What You're Worth: A Widely Sophisticated Approach to Investing In Your Career-and Yourself.  She founded WORKS by Nicole Williams, a resource company for career minded women. She is also LinkedIn's current career expert. In her video, she breaks down in a very concise manner the necessary components of a business plan. Though her focus is on building women careers, her tips are helpful to anyone that is interested in starting a company of furthering your career in your chosen field. She emphasizes how important a clear Executive Summary, Competitive Research, and the Financial Model. A business plan is not a fixed document, you must be willing to mold your business plan based off feedback you get from potential investors to make the business plan the strongest it can be. Think  about your business in terms of providing something that people need or want, and are willing to pay for. Provide details for low, moderate, and blue sky (or unlimited) expectations. Ultimately the bottom line is what investors care about. Williams says that you must have clearly defined goals for your business, regardless of what the business is but if you cannot back it up with strong financials investors will pass you by. You can see videos from Nicole on the YouTube channel for LinkedIn, please check out the "Ask an Expert" video below.


Geiger, K. (N.D.) Kevin Geiger IMDB Profile Page.  Retrieved from

Williams, N. (N.D.) Nicole Williams Bio. Retrieved from

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Biracial Cheerios Ad Sparks Old Timey Racism Online

Today, I offer you, dear audience, a Mixed girl rant. I apologize in advance but occasionally a Mixed person can be a little shocked by the lack of Mixed-race representation in the media, and since I created this blog to promoted Mixed-race people in the media I feel like the occasional rant will be an issue from time to time. 

About a month ago, Cheerios released a commercial which showed a little girl, concerned about her father's health, asking her mother if it was true that Cheerios was good for the heart.  The commercial ended with the father waking up from a nap to discover a pile full of Cheerios over his heart. When I first saw this commercial I teared up. For those of you that do not know me, I give off a hard, slightly less then emotional persona, but nothing will drive me to tears quicker than a sweet father-daughter relationship. Partly because I did not have a good relationship with my own father, but partly because I think dad's get a bad wrap in the media generally and not all deserve it. So, yes, when I saw the commercial, I teared up at the sweetness of the little girl's gesture to save her father. There was nothing controversial or ugly about it, it was just a thoughtful family oriented TV spot about cereal... or so I thought. This sweet little commercial ended up sparking a shocking controversy that showed how far we may not have come in this country. Before I go on, check out this sweet yet "controversial" commercial.

After watching that commercial you might be asking yourself what the controversy was about. If you have that reaction, then like me you saw a sweet family commercial. Unfortunately, this commercial sparked some good ol' fashioned racism because the family portrayed was interracial. Several extremely racist comments were posted on General Mills Youtube page in response to the commercial. As a result, General Mills (GM) disabled the comments section on their page. Camille Gibson Vice President for Marketing for General Mills stated that many of the comments were not family-friendly and this made it an easy decision to remove comments. General Mills has seen more positive reaction to the spot then negative but the fact that there was such a strong reaction to seeing an interracial family in a cereal commercial in 2013 baffles me. Even as a person on Mixed-Race that has clamoured for more representation of Mixed-Race people in the media my whole life, the fact that this family was Mixed was lost on me. I, Sharmane Franklin Johnson, the girl with the Mixed-Race in media blog some how MISSED that she got to see a commercial with a Mixed-Race family in it. All I saw was a sweet family commercial about cereal. Isn't that where we should be in America in 2013? 50 years after the civil rights movement, shouldn't we all "miss" that the family in this commercial was interracial? For me the only answer is "yes." We shouldn't have to disable racist comments to a harmless commercial. We shouldn't even have to applaud a company for putting an interracial family in a commercial. We should just have people of all races, ethnicity's, sexual orientations, and genders in commercials and be perfectly comfortable with what ever combination of people are in them. The more interracial families and kids seen on TV and in movies, the sooner our culture will catch up to the normalcy of interracial families. Everywhere I turn, I see interracial families, it should not be shocking that people marry or have babies outside of their race.

It took me awhile to post my thoughts about this commercial because it took some time for me to digest the fact that it had such a crazy response. I thought we had come a lot farther in terms of race in this country. I thought my generations big fight was for equal rights for homosexuals, not whether or not it was okay to have a Black daddy and a White mommy portrayed in a cereal commercial. Didn't my grandparents generation take care of that fight for us in the 60's? It was a painful wake up call, one that shows me it is even more important for people of Mixed-Race to put themselves in the Entertainment industry, to tell stories of Mixed heritage so that it does become our normal. Even though I don't believe we should HAVE to applaud a company for exhibiting interracial families in commercials, I do applaud General Mills for not taking down the spot and to push the idea of tolerance and pride in Mixed families. It was a fearless and humanist move to make, and I am grateful they made it. Keep up the good work GM!

Cheney, A., (June 3, 2013). General Mills Blocks Racist Comments on Youtube Ad. Retrieved from

Sultan, A., (June 23, 2013). Cheerios commercial with interracial family stirred faux controversy. Retrieved from

General Mills. (2013). Cheerios "Just Checking" Ad. Retrieved from

Friday, June 21, 2013

Self Distribution Options for Filmmakers

In pre-production, filmmakers really should be considering what is going to happen to their film beyond production. First thought for independent filmmakers is of course film festivals, but what about after the festival circuit ends? If your film is not picked up for distribution where does your film continue it's life? The Internet gives us a variety of options to avoid the film graveyard. We can upload to sites like Youtube, distribute using a Print on Demand service, and sell on various websites. It is a great time for self-distribution.

There are also services that allow you to provide you film as a digital download or a video on demand rental. Sites such as (an Amazon company) and (a MoPix company) allow filmmakers to upload their videos to be sold or rented online. Each service has it pluses and minuses of course but there are options available to filmmakers to continue the life of the film.

While planning for my short film Origins, which I will be shooting this summer, I am considering what will happen to my film after, and if, it gets into film festivals. Origins, is a short film based on a feature length script I am writing. It is basically the prequel to the events that take place in the feature. I hope to use Origins to find funding to produce the feature and create a fan-base for the world I am creating. I don't want Origins to die after the festival circuit. I recently discovered that the video hosting website Vimeo, has offered a new professional hosting package called Vimeo on Demand that allows filmmakers and business to post videos for commercial use. For a membership fee of $199/year, Vimeo provides 50GB of storage and up to 250,000 views of your videos. The cost for the service is 10% of every rental or purchase. Right now, there is no other service that offers a 90/10 split for distribution of film. After Origins finishes the festival circuit and hopefully after it helps raise funding for the feature film, I will plan on hosting it on Vimeo on Demand so that fans (and probably all my relatives) can rent or buy the short film.