Camera, Light, Projector and Sound Rental in Milwaukee & Chicago

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Tag Archive: Production

  1. Wisconsin, Film, and Film Tax Incentives


    We’re considering opening a MKE Production Rental office in Thailand.  Kyle is not pleased.

    This is a call to all the Wisconsin lawmakers out there who want to take credit for creating jobs.  You’re doing it wrong.  At the end of the day Friday, the Wisconsin legislature put the nails in the coffin of the film tax incentives, and shut the door on dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurs who took a chance on Wisconsin becoming a state that is friendly toward film.

    Over the last seven years, businesses like RDI Stages and  Tilt Media rode the wave of enthusiasm and made huge capital investments to build studio space.  Smaller companies like us could count on a few extra customers from out-of-state, who would rather rent equipment locally than pay an airline all the extra baggage fees. The idea was so simple, it was approved quickly, with bi-partisan support.

    The slide into ambivalence has been a slow process.  The film office closed in 2005.  The tax incentives began in 2008.  They were capped (or perhaps we should say “crippled”) in 2009, with an annual state limit of $500,000.  Then they added a $500 fee just to apply for the incentives.  Film Wisconsin added a per-project cap of just $100,000.  Medium-sized projects (under $500,000 or so total budget) had the hurdle set too high.  And large-scale multimillion dollar productions saw too little return after the cap.  Film Wisconsin drifted from its original aim of being an advocate for local production, to being a sales funnel for the few projects that still wandered in the front door.  Now, we’re left with an industry full of employees, offices filled with equipment, and  we’re forcing the exodus of talented film and video makers to other states.

    Film tax incentives made sense, and they still do.  The kerfuffle over accounting in 2009 muddied the waters, and shows that Wisconsinites want a clear picture of what they’re buying for their money.  I think that’s only fair, but it’s something that’s only going to happen when lawmakers do what they obviously should have done in the first place:  build a plan that makes sense, with simple administration, transparent accounting, and feedback from people in the film and video industry inside and outside Wisconsin.

    Bringing back the film office sounds like a radical idea in this political climate, but can anyone argue that the experiment in public-private partnership that is Film Wisconsin has worked?  Stamping one organization “Wisconsin-approved” isn’t the same as having an office that can answer questions, connect you with resources, and advocate for local workers, all without being motivated by private interests.  Film Wisconsin was a well-intentioned idea run by some of the most-vocal advocates for Wisconsin’s film industry, but it wasn’t the solution we needed.   We need to admit it, fix it, and move on.

    Wisconsin doesn’t need to be a copycat, we need to think Forward.  Creating a system that rewards local hiring, local buying, and local renting isn’t complicated.  Writing it in a way that doesn’t leave taxpayers on the hook to pay Hollywood salaries only makes sense.  And yes, a decade from now, if Wisconsin’s film and video industries are booming, let’s talk about scaling the program down or phasing it out.  But don’t invite all the filmmakers to a party just to take the rug out from under us.  We’re entrepreneurs who are fighting to create a new industry in Wisconsin, just like the technology-driven and green industry sectors.  Our new businesses will fail 50% of the time even under the best circumstances.  We don’t need any help to make things harder.

    As a filmmaker who learned almost everything I know while in the state of Wisconsin, I’m left stunned.  Of course, I fully expect to be in Wisconsin next year, and MKE Production Rental will be there to help our customers and fellow filmmakers.  We hope that Wisconsin’s recovery eventually catches up with the rest of the country.  But in a fragile economy, in a bruised industry, with the tax laws tilting our customers into neighboring states, it’s time for lawmakers to stop talking about jobs and start making it easier for the skilled people that are already here to get back to work.

    Posted by Jon Kline


  2. Keys to a Great Demo Reel

    In the days before internet video, the reel was an essential piece of self-marketing, the capstone on top of a polished resume and project list.  These days, a killer reel can give you a leg up on the competition, especially if you’re trying to make new contacts, or stand out in a field of dozens of candidates.  In the world of social media, each of us is our own brand, and it’s up to us to make a sizzle reel that gets potential clients excited.  Here’s my top ten list for how to make a reel jump through the screen and get gigs on your calendar.

    1. Start at the top.  In almost every other video, you want to build to a climax.  With a reel, you’re starting at the end of the third act.  Open with something awesome, and set the bar high.

    2. Keep it short.  There is no reason a reel should be more than 90 seconds, ever.  Closer to 60 makes even more sense.  If the audience needs more, make them click “replay.”  A good reel should be short enough to make them ask questions, and they should still remember the beginning when they get to the end.

    3. Stay specific.  Don’t show me one project you edited, another you wrote, and a third you were assistant camera on.  I’ll just assume you have no idea what you want to do with your career.  If you really want to showcase your work in multiple positions, try making a different reel for each category of work.

    film4. Don’t cheat!  I’ve gotten reels where I KNOW who actually worked on the project, and it wasn’t the person who was taking credit.  I assure you, your resume will end up at the bottom of the pile for a very long time if you take credit where you haven’t earned it.

    5.  Over-text is so 2009.   In montage (sometimes called “collage”)  reels, pacing is more important than context.  You can give the viewer context in the video title, in the video description, and in the email you send with the video link.  We don’t need something to read while we’re supposed to be watching what you’ve done.  A long list of brands or campaigns will take us out of the visuals and turn your reel into a video resume.  If you’re making a scene reel (where you’re only showing 3-4 excerpts each about twenty seconds long) a very short description may be appropriate.  Personally, I think scene reels are too short to be useful, and just long enough to risk being boring.  If I’m hiring a director or editor,  I will ask to see some other work samples, and this is where I learn about their ability to cut together scenes and tell stories.

    6. Don’t just cut to the beat!  I’ve seen other people suggest just exactly that, and it’s terrible advice.  The term for this is “Mickey Mouse Editing” and it will seem amateurish and predictable.  Use the motion within the shots to connect with the music. Finding the internal rhythm of the clips will seem more professional, and leave the audience wanting more.  If you’re not a pro editor, consider hiring someone to edit it for you.   A professional editor will also be a big help if you’re trying to mix multiple formats, frame rates, and aspect ratios in a single reel.

    7. End your reel with a simple way for your audience to get in touch with you.  This is where it’s okay to use text and logos.

    8. Put it online.  Of course, you should probably have a hard copy of it with you if you’re in an interview, but these days we expect everything to be online. Sites like Vimeo and YouTube make it very easy.

    9. Ask for feedback.  Your audience will see things that you don’t, and be confused more easily than you might expect.  Show your friends, show your mom, and definitely show other people in the industry.  Try to listen without being defensive.  Remember, you won’t be there to defend your reel when a potential gig is on the line.

    10. Keep it fresh.  I suggest updating your reel at least once a year.  If you’re continuously improving, then your most recent work should always be your best, so show it off!

    So go cut a killer reel, get it online, and share it!  Post it in the comments and we’ll even give feedback!

    Jon Kline is a Cinematographer/DP living in Chicago.  You can see his reel here.