How to Make a Movie

Dan Portnoy wanted to make a movie. So, instead of spending his days dreaming about what it would be like to be a big-time Hollywood director, or studying the minutia of filmmaking and watching movies in his basement, he made one. And it’s good. Plus, as you’ll read in my interview, it has an inexpensive and innovative distribution system. I think that his story should be an inspiration to everyone here, even if you’d rather invent something or sell a service because it shows what happens when you just get out there and just do it!

What is The Great American Road Trip?

A 5 part mini-series documentary/reality show that tells the story of 4 guys on a quest for adventure using the Blue Ridge Mountains and the highways of North Carolina as the back drop. This is a smaller trip than what I had originally planned. Initially I thought about taking the quintessential road trip and traveling Route 66 (Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA) but to do the trip any justice would’ve been an arm and a leg financially.

Does it make money? What are the economics of making and distributing small, well edited, videos like this on the web?

In a word, no, at least, not yet. The financial dimensions to Independent film, as any producer would tell you, is that securing funding is crucial. But just like any small start up business, a smaller budget allows for the ability to be more creative and out think your competition. This first project is pretty unique and was viewed as an investment or as a pilot. In the grand scheme of quality popular media this was a drop in the bucket (Under $10,000).

This project is designed to push the medium of podcasting and on demand video. I’ve been a long time podcaster and I’d like to be involved in keeping the technology and accessibility of projects like this moving forward. The larger networks have been theorizing and talking of test marketing multiple shows to see how they rate with audiences, The Great American Road Trip really isn’t that different. We set out to make a quality project and I have faith in the online community to let us know what they think. After the feature is made, the online distribution is virtually free, through technology like YouTube and in our case, and just a click away.

How’d it get made? What kind of company is Abandon Films and how’d they participate?

I can’t say enough nice things about the guys at Abandon Films. They spent countless hours editing a project with no scripting or storyboarding. Getting involved with Abandon Films was a strategic partnership they have a huge amount of knowledge and film savvy and when I talked with them about joining me on this project I couldn’t believe how fast the jumped on board. We had several meetings, usually disguised as casual dinners, trying to walk through all that we would encounter but even after the prep work we learned a ton about “best practices” and the best approach for a project like this one. It was actually through their urging that we tried something smaller to see if there was enough drama to make into a larger project. In retrospect, I probably owe them my life because there’s a chance we would’ve broke down in the desert of Arizona somewhere and died in the heat if we took the Route 66 trip first.

What kind of response have you received from the first episode?

The first installment’s only been out for less than 48 hours. I’ve been getting a lot of email about the project from media outlets to the average viewer and they’ve been very supportive of the project. For actual numbers, there’s been over 200 viewings in the first 24 hours and first installment will be showing in my towns’ version of “Movies in the Park” this weekend as a precursor to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Regardless of what happens from here on out I’m really pleased with the project, although a phone call from the Travel Channel would be nice.

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