Film Friday: 555 is Dead / Clearing Phone Numbers for Movies

555In the past, the 555 prefix was widely used for fictitious telephone numbers in film and television. No carriers assigned 555 numbers and therefore most of them were legally permissible to show on screen. Unfortunately for producers and writers, that is not the case anymore. Almost all 555 numbers are being assigned to directory assistance services and phone carriers throughout North America. Only numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199, 800-555-0199 and 888-555-0199 are still available for entertainment clearance. While I cannot assume that most people outside Hollywood really notice or care, these numbers will become quite redundant in movies. Producers and studios should get more creative.

Fortunately, there is a way you can set up and control a unique phone number for free. Google Voice allows you to create one new phone number per Google account, absolutely free of charge. You can pick the number yourself with an area code from whatever city you choose (you can pick a number to match the residence of your characters!). You are free to use this number in your film because you own it. If you already have a Voice number or do not want the number linked to your personal email, simply create a new Google account.

Google Voice also provides tools to have a little fun and promote the film, too. You can set the number to forward straight to voicemail and record your own message. It is the perfect opportunity to orchestrate a real-world tie-in to your film by having a cast member leave a voicemail message in character. Hardcore fans can call the number and leave messages that can be picked up by the producer or studio at leisure in forwarded emailed transcriptions or mp3 files. A small but classy way to help build a small community for your show!

Film Friday: What Goes Around Comes Around

Lauren Gabel

With Peter Thiel’s ugly forecast for the fate of higher education and the exponential rise of student loan debt, there’s more cynicism now than ever before towards four-year universities. It is definitely difficult to rationalize the financials, especially in the face of six-figure private school tuition. People have asked me whether I felt my degree was “worth it.” My response? Absolutely.

Today’s guest post is by friend and fellow USC classmate Lauren Gabel. Lauren currently coordinates talent for Alloy Digital and authors a great blog, Destination Hollywood, about navigating your early years in Hollywood. She beautifully paints the primary reason I have been able to actually embrace my degree:

Enter Lauren Gabel:

When you are young and in school, you hear over and over again how important networking is in the entertainment business. But I don’t think that ever really sunk in until I graduated and entered the real world. Personally, I loved USC film school. I learned so much about filmmaking—the process, the business, production, etc. But I think the best thing about going to a school like USC is the contacts you graduate with. Sure, I’ve found the occasional job on Craigslist or Mandy or the USC Job Board, but all the really great positions I’ve landed have been thru a personal connection. I met so many wonderful people while at school and I guess I made a good impression on them as well because I am continually called up and offered various gigs and positions. I am currently gainfully employed with a job that I love, which is due in part to a very good friend and the owner of this blog (you’re the best, Craig!).

I have been very fortunate, and in return, I always make sure to pass along as many opportunities as I can. When I hear about a job thru a connection, I’ll pass it along to my USC friends and people I have worked with before and can vouch for. I have gotten so many kind responses from people thanking me profusely just for sending along a job posting that only took like 5 seconds out of my day. I love seeing my friends land great jobs and helping to further the Trojan network. Maybe someday that girl that I recommended for an assistant gig at Disney will be running the studio and offer me a great job! It’s a definite possibility. We might be the assistants of today…but we will be the filmmakers and studio execs of tomorrow. After all, what goes around comes around. Right?

Film Friday: The Mercenary Model

Like recruiting a band of freedom fighters, a company can commission a handful of different filmmakers to generate original content for a single narrative or non-narrative campaign unified by theme, message, dialogue or genre. By recruiting several auteurs to produce independent work, the company reduces brand risk by investing in multiple creative visions to satisfy one campaign. Odds are much higher that at least one of the dissimilar campaign videos will be successful online.  As an added bonus, mercenary campaigns serve as strong breeding pools for discovering fresh directorial talent.

When pitting filmmakers against each other, it is much easier to negotiate competitive production budgets. Depending on the complexity of the campaign and nature of material, a brand could easily generate five pieces of content for the going price of one 30-second industry commercial. If your filmmakers are chosen through film school or a public competition online, you can offer as little as $1,000 budgets to each. Run productions concurrently and you can collect all of that content very quickly.

Coca-Cola has been doing this for 13 years through their Refreshing Filmmaker Awards. As another legitimate example, Philips commissioned RSA (Ridley Scott Associates filmmaker group) to shoot five short films using the same dialogue to promote their Ambilight Cinema Television. Five different directors produced radically different content and drove strong traffic to the brand.  Carl Erik Rinsch’s film, “The Gift,” even sparked a studio bidding war.

As with crowdsourcing, trusting outsiders to produce video content could potentially compromise your company image. Thankfully, you are in control of your own brand – do not release the videos if they fail to satisfy your needs. Either way, it’s worth the experiment. Young, ambitious filmmakers like 5 Second Films could bring a lot to your campaign if you award them the freedom to do so.

A Case For Sharing Salary Numbers With Peers

How much are you worth? How much money do you deserve to make? The only official frame of reference for that question is minimum wage. And I’m pretty sure you’re worth more than that.

But how much more? The average person is not comfortable discussing income with others. And some companies require employees to keep salaries confidential, for fear they might expect more, do less or leave for better. But why not hold our bosses accountable? We should share our numbers – at the very least with peers of the same age and industry – to frame how well we are being compensated for our work.

Getting paid more than peers? Great, appreciate your job more. Getting paid less? If you think you deserve the difference, knowing your friends make more should boost your confidence to ask for a raise or better negotiate future offers.

Aside from union stipulations, Hollywood is all over the map with compensation. Talented harder-working people can make as little as $100 per day while entitled fools make $5,000 per day filling the same position. And you wonder why Hollywood is wrought with ego?

Know where you fit. Earn what you deserve.