Corporate Governance

Most of both houses of Congress, and possibly a majority of high-level politicians these days (especially G.W. Bush and Co.), all seem to operate American affairs the way executives operate global businesses. Which isn't surprising, since so many politicians come from business and law backgrounds, scores having worked as CEOs or for corporate lobbyists and the like. The problem, though, is that modern business has become extremely top-heavy, eagerly rewarding everyone of the executive class regardless of how much work they're doing on a daily basis or how much they're truly contributing to the company overall. And thus that same attitude has crept into government thinking.

Yes, good management can do great things for a company, as can a CEO with vision and passion. But real day-to-day operations are successful based on good middle -management and the quality of the staff beneath them. While executive-level management spends 90% of their time taking meetings where ideas are discussed but nothing is accomplished, and then they all give themselves raises.

Sound familiar? Think it’s just an urban myth? Well, that's the U.S. government for you. And it's Halliburton, GM, and every other corporate business and big-city bureaucracy in the country.

Case in point:

When Delphi Corp. started considering bankruptcy as part of it's efforts to slash auto-worker pay in half and remove benefits from retired employees, they immediately commenced a flurry of meetings, in which the executives decided that, well, all of the executives in the company weren't getting paid enough. Also, if any executives were fired, it was reasonable to assume that they should be healthily compensated with at least six months of pay and a partial bonus. So for the sake of staying competitive in the market place, maintaining quality, and retaining the best workforce possible, the day-to-day laborers and bottom-level management types would have their salaries drastically reduced, while the executives would have theirs raised. What kind of logic is that?

Of course, many people cried foul and Delphi Corp. had to backpedal some. But the fact remains that even after all of the corporate greed and corruption uncovered in the aftermath of the entire 1980s and then, more recently, Enron and its spiritual brethren, companies such as Delphi Corp. will still happily, publicly, boldly, blatantly try to pull off schemes such this where the money of the masses is transferred to the pockets of few.

’Tis not surprising then, that Congress continues to give itself raises and increased health and retirement benefits while also turning down opportunities to bring better health, retirement, and education benefits to the general public. Will a senator or representative a give themselves a raise? Sure. And more power too ’em. But will they raise the minium wage by a buck? Nahhhhhhh....

***

Word of the day: Manichaeism, a philosophy that centers around the concept of dualism (good vs. evil, light vs. dark, yin vs. yang). The ancient religious form of Manichaeism combines Zoroastrian, Christian, and Gnostic beliefs and elements with Babylonian folklore and Buddhist ethics. Also see: Manichaean. Wild stuff.

Comic creator of the hour: Chester Brown, writer-artist of "The Playboy," "I Never Liked You," "Ed the Happy Clown," "Underwater," "Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography," etc.

Site of the minute: Dogsbody, TCJ reviews of art/indie comics, including archived reviews by good ol' NYC-Florida writer Daniel Holloway.

Ms. Hollywood Science, I'd Like You to Meet Mr. Government Bureaucracy...

I just read a blurb in Premiere magazine noting that the U.S. government is offering grants to scientists, in the hopes of sexing up the science industry and recruiting today’s youth into such disciplines as nuclear physics, genetic modification, and other serious realms of scientific study that videogame playing, reality-TV watching, celeb-mag reading Americans are running away from in droves.

But after searching the Grants.gov and U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science grant databases, I was unable to unearth greater details or a grant application. However, a Google search did yield “Pentagon's New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts,” a related New York Times article by David M. Halbfinger:

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 3, 2005 - Tucked away in the Hollywood hills, an elite group of scientists from across the country and from a grab bag of disciplines - rocket science, nanotechnology, genetics, even veterinary medicine - has gathered this week to plot a solution to what officials call one of the nation's most vexing long-term national security problems.

Their work is being financed by the Air Force and the Army, but the Manhattan Project it ain't: the 15 scientists are being taught how to write and sell screenplays ... Exactly how the national defense could be bolstered by setting a few more people loose in Los Angeles with screenplays to peddle may be a bit of a brainteaser. But officials at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research spell out a straightforward syllogism:

Fewer and fewer students are pursuing science and engineering. While immigrants are taking up the slack in many areas, defense laboratories and industries generally require American citizenship or permanent residency. So a crisis is looming, unless careers in science and engineering suddenly become hugely popular, said Robert J. Barker, an Air Force program manager who approved the grant. And what better way to get a lot of young people interested in science than by producing movies and television shows that depict scientists in flattering ways?

... Teaching screenwriting to scientists was the brainstorm of Martin Gundersen, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and sometime Hollywood technical adviser, whose biggest brush with stardom was bringing a little verisimilitude to Val Kilmer's lasers in the 1985 comedy "Real Genius."

More recently, he was asked to review screenplays by the Sloan Foundation, which awards prizes for scientific accuracy, and found most to be "pretty dismal," as he put it. "My thought was, since scientists have to write so much, for technical journals and papers, why not consider them as a creative source?" Dr. Gundersen said.... The Air Force is providing $100,000 annually for three years; the Army Research Office has added $50,000 this year....

Dr. Gundersen, meanwhile, offered Valerie Weiss, a participant in the 2004 workshop, as a potential success story. A film buff at Harvard while she was getting her Ph.D. in biophysics, Ms. Weiss switched careers to film four years ago and is now trying to sell a comedy built around a Bridget Jones-like biochemist who applies the scientific method to her hunt for a mate.

She said she hoped her background would give her film the kind of personal touch that Nia Vardalos brought to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" as a Greek-American. "To write a film that is going to have impact like that, it needs to be from somebody that has direct experience," she said.

Ms. Weiss said Dr. Gundersen's notion that scientists could make good screenwriters stood the test of reason.

"They're inherently creative, and willing to take more risks than other people," she said. "They're searching for the unknown, they're compensated very minimally, they're going on blind faith that what they're searching for is going to pay off. And filmmaking is exactly the same way."

I’d like to argue that a good screenwriter—or a good writer of any sort—can write a great story without having the “direct experience” that Valerie Weiss claims is required. Also, Nia Vardalos’ "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," although highly profitable and occasionally funny and touching, is not a masterwork example of impact-laden cinema. It’s a goofy little comedy.

Writers need to do their homework: reading, research, interviews, and endless imagining. But you don’t have to be a female Harvard science PhD to write a dating comedy about a female science PhD. The education, skills, and experiences of a writer will likely culminate in a better story than a “direct experience” person throwing ideas down on paper. “Direct experience” does pay off with memoir writing, but for romantic comedies and action thrillers? Not so much.

Novelists such as John Le Carré (aka David Cornwell) are the rare exception. Le Carré, a former spy that writes spy thrillers (“The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” etc.), is probably a better fiction scribe than actual espionage mastermind. And there are others in this vein. Scientists, soldiers, construction workers—great writers come from a variety of backgrounds and day jobs. But the work of a great writer is not limited by his or her past.

The U.S. government should try offering to all writers—not just scientists—encouraging them to write exciting, scientifically accurate science-themed screenplays. And more importantly, programs such as this should help writers find scientists that they can rely on for fact checking and research. Maybe even co-writing.

Imagine that: The federal government hooking up writers and scientists to work together on new projects. Scientists helping writers flesh out their screenplays while writers help recruit today’s kids into the world of hard science. Scientists correcting writers when they lose track of facts, and writers smoothing out the story arcs and dialogue of the microscope gazers and number crunchers.

That would be a worthy program. But ignoring writers while funding scientists to take a break from science so they can learn how to write? That’s nothing more than a study in entropy and thanatology. We might as well start paying screenwriters to design cloning technology in their spare time...

***

Speaking of Scientists: "Life is an anti-climax for some but for most of us it adds up to 16 hours of orgasmic pleasure. Researchers in Germany have calculated that is the number of hours that the average person spends enjoying orgasms during his or her lifetime.... and people spend six weeks doing nothing but playing during childhood, will watch television for a staggering five-and-a-half years ... spend seven years doing nothing but working ... [and] 24 years and four months in the land of nod." -- Allan Hall, "You've got it coming: all 16 hours of it," The Age (Victoria, Australia).

Talkin' 'bout Filmmakers: writer-producer-director Judd Apatow gets focused in an all-out interview conducted by Mike Russell. (Apatow's one of the the new comedy masterminds behind “The Ben Stiller Show,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “Undeclared,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Cable Guy,” “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Fun with Dick and Jane.”) Read on...

What's PR Got to Do With It?

"PR" can mean a number things.

Typically, a PR (press release) is any news item that’s distributed by a company, concerned party, or publicist and is not actually written by, originated by, or researched by a real reporter and editor. Some companies keep their PR (public relations) division in house, but for bigger events they usually hire a big PR firm. The publicists and marketing geniuses (spawns of Satan) then try to get the word out about the company/event to the public. The PR (public relations) people do this by sending out PR (press releases) to everyone and their mother, with special emphasis on hounding the media.

In the normal media world, three things happen when a magazine/newspaper/TV reporter or news editor receives a piece of PR: (1) If they are wise, they throw it in the trash; (2) If they are not too lazy, they try to figure out whether or not there is actually anything newsworthy buried inside the flack-written fluff that is the basis of every PR; (3) If they are a regular, good ol' jurno hack, they try to figure out if they will be able to get any cool interviews or free electronics or movie/concert tickets or stock options or sex out of the publicist if they cover the “news” found in the PR; (4) The reporter/editor will research and verify (or contest) the info in the PR and then begin writing a story based upon the PR, bringing in outside research and doing interviews with people and trying to find the truth, unless they're FOX News or very drunk, in which case they'll just report the PR as fact or plagiarize it verbatim.

However, in the world of stocks, PRs are released directly onto newswires and are then avidly devoured by the public without ever being touched by reporters or editors, so anyone following the stock PR wires needs to do their own extensive DD (due diligence) to figure out what is really relevant and what is bullshit. With many PR wires, the company that wants to issue a news release just has to pay the wire service a fee, and then, bingo-presto, it’s posted online.

At the same time, the company in question and their publicity team may not actually be behind the PRs you see -- it could be the MMs (market makers) that have hired a PR team to release publicity items to help make the stock go up or down. Typically, stock-related PR found on the legitimate news wires will not be lies, per se, since people could get in trouble for distributing completely false information, but the info will likely be manipulated to the furthest extent the law allows, to help whatever party is releasing or paying for the PR.

But since the general media doesn't pay much attention to all the penny stocks out there, penny traders have to rely on PR to a great degree. And the PR, in turn, affects what the stock media reports on, what the stock bulletin boards talk about, and what the stock gurus recommend. And many of the stock-news services that release info on the wires and distribute info through newsletters and websites and spam are glorified PR firms in their own right – they’re paid (with money and/or stock) to recommend the stock they’re flaunting. Nonetheless, even when PR is mostly BS, it can still affect the PPS (price per share) or P/S (market cap divided by revenues, or stock price divided by sales price per share) and is rarely bad new (which is kept strictly on the QT). But you can use PR to your advantage if you’re on top of the news.

Penny Stocks Part 2: Bollinger is Not a Rock Band

Question: Swing trades, day trades, long-term investments. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). NASDAQ, NYSE, AMEX, Pink sheets, and Over the Counter Bulletin Board (OTC BB) trades. Is it business or gambling? Can the small guy ever really win, or is the system rigged against the masses?

As part of my continuing attempt to find unique and insightful trading advice -- especially in the volatile world of penny stocks and -- I now present to you another post from the mighty Ric at the discussion thread “So how do I make money then?” at the Allstocks.com’s Bulletin Board.


Things you need to know

By Ric.

Best two pieces of advice for pennies:

1) Don't let people convince you that a penny is a long hold. You will get burnt. Buy low, sell high, and never look back.

2) Due Diligence.

Two things that you must learn about charts immediately are RSI (the relative strength index) and Bollinger Bands. They are so important. Now there is so much you can learn in charts that will help you make choices but I consider the above the most important things to learn for any investors. RSI will let you know if there is buying pressure or selling pressure. It will also confirm a run. Bollinger Bands also show price pressures and are used to support other indicators. There are links below under TA for education on understanding charts.

Relative Strength Index

Definition:

Relative Strength Index (RSI), an oscillator introduced by J. Welles Wilder, Jr., could be more appropriately called the internal strength index, for it compares the price of a security relative to itself. The RSI is based upon the difference between the average of the closing price on up days vs. the average closing price on the down days over a given period, and is plotted on a vertical scale of 0 to 100. An oscillator refers to a momentum or rate-of-change indicator that is usually valued from -1 to +1 or 0% to %100.

Wilder advocated a 14-day RSI, although shorter and longer periods have gained popularity when the market exhibits certain characteristics. Generally, RSI is measured in a period between 5 and 25.

Interpretation:

There are several possible interpretations for the Relative Strength Index, any of which can be very powerful depending on the market conditions and trading/investment approach: One interpretation is that buy signals are triggered when RSI is in oversold (20-30) area, potentially meaning that the stock is about to reach its low for this trend, and sell signals are triggered when RSI is in overbought (70-80) area, potentially signaling a market top.

A second mode of interpretation is to look for support and resistance lines or common chart formations such as head and shoulders in the RSI itself, indicating potential reversals that the stock chart may not.

A third mode of interpretation is to recognize divergences in the RSI, such as when the price is moving up when the RSI is moving down or vice versa. This can mean that the price is going to "correct" and move in the direction of the RSI.

A fourth mode of interpretation for the RSI is to view it as a bullish or bearish signal when it crosses 50. When the RSI crosses above 50 it can be considered bullish, and when it crosses below 50 it can be considered bearish.


Bollinger Bands


Definition:

Investors use trading bands, lines drawn above and below the moving average, to isolate a range of prices for a given security, based on the concept that a stock generally trades within a predictable range on either side of the moving average. When a stock is near the upper or lower limits of the trading bands is when an investor should pay closest attention, according to conventional wisdom.

Bollinger Bands are considered some of the most useful bands in technical analysis, for they vary in distance from the moving average of a security's price based on the security's volatility. During periods of increased fluctuation, the bands widen to take this into account, and when the fluctuation decreases, the bands are tapered for a narrower focus to the price range. The upper band is the standard deviation multiplied by a given factor above the simple moving average, and the lower band is the standard deviation multiplied by the same given factor below the simple moving average.

Interpretation:

The standard interpretation is that Bollinger Bands do not give absolute buy and sell signals, but instead indicate whether the price is relatively high or low, allowing for more informed confirmation with other technical indicators.

Bollinger Bands are typically drawn two standard deviations from a twenty day simple moving average for intermediate-term analysis, ten day for short term with 1.5 standard deviations, and fifty for long-term studies with 2.5 standard deviations. According to John Bollinger, for the most accurate average "choose one that provides support to the correction of the first move up off a bottom. If the average is penetrated by the correction, then the average is too short. If, in turn, the correction falls short of the average, then the average is too long. An average that is correctly chosen will provide support far more often than it is broken."

Mr. Bollinger also contends that:

Sharp moves tend to occur after the bands tighten to the average, when a stock is less volatile. The greater the period of less volatility, the higher the propensity for a price breakout.

When the price hits the upper or lower bands, it is suggested to confirm with other indicators whether that price movement shows strength or weakness, respectively, which could indicate a continuation. If indicators do not confirm this movement, it can suggest a reversal.

Tops or bottoms made outside the bands, followed by the same inside the bands, indicate a trend reversal.

A move originating at one band tends to go to the other band.


Resources for IQCharts & DD for otcbb and pinksheets


Try these two DD tools to be quick and good with your facts. At pinksheets in a matter of seconds under Company Info I can give you o/s, any r/s, company name changes, or planned changes and more. Quotetracker is a program you install on your computer. I wouldn't survive without it in a quick paced market. Tons of TA and FA with dd. Shoot pinksheets is my homepage on Firefox browser for quick reference. This is the first two places I go for fast due diligence.

www.pinksheets.com {Company Info tab is loaded with information} {SEC Filing Tab - wow} {News Tab - Pr's at your finger tips}

www.quotetracker.com - after you set it up add a symbol quickly then charts, news, research, and raw data at your finger tips. Great charts.

DD is mainly knowing where to go.


FA – Fundamental Analysis


www.pinksheets.com - first place to look!!!! Go to Company info for o/s. r/s, name changes, and many other facts. Go to SEC tab to look for filings. News tabs for latest news that may not show up through normal wire service.

www2.barchart.com - after you enter stock symbol select opinion to see trend spotter

www.otcbbtrader.com – otcbb loser/winner by volume, price, shares, transaction, and more

www.otcbbtrader.com/portal/n_letter/ gen/Microcap_Recap_Report.html - otcbb market recap on otcbb and pinksheet market for the day

tinyurl.com/9s2wr - DD site that is great.

www.otcbb.com – otcbb news

www.boardcentral.com/ index.php?view=Main – most popular stock search

www.smallcapcenter.com – otcbb resources

smallcapcenter.com/ tools_QuickSearch.asp?page=QUICKSEARCH.ASP - free filter

www.stockfetcher.com - stock filter

knobias.10kwizard.com - SEC Edgar filings


TA – Technical Analysis

www.stockcharts.com – charting web site

bigcharts.marketwatch.com – charting web site

www.iqcharts.com/education - TA, candlesticks, chart patterns education

www.stockcharts.com/education/ChartAnalysis - teaches chart analysis

www.transitionstrading.com/Chart_Studies.htm - teaching about charts


General DD (Due Diligence/Research/Fact-Checking)

www.allstocks.com/edu/index.html - Research links

www.quotemedia.com/results.php - Free level II (not pink)/Delayed

www.nasdaqtrader.com/aspx/regsho.aspx - “Sho” list

www.nasdaq.com – Tons of information (insider trading/IPO’s/Most active/much more)

www.tradetrek.com/online.asp - General but with 5 day and 6 month forecasts

www.secform4.com – Free real time insider trader monitor

www.otcbbtrader.com/portal/goto.dll - Market Data

www.stockmarketyellowpages.com – search tool

www.rookiedaytrader.com – Some good advise here

www.epubsinc.com/ index.php?pageName=formtypes – Edgar form types and descriptions

www.shellstockreview.com/ssrShellsBySym.htm - Shell companies

www.daytradingcoach.com/index2.htm - trading tips, education, quotes and charts

www.investopedia.com/ - dictionary of stock terms, tutorials

www.stockcharts.com/education/ MarketAnalysis/dowtheory1.html - theory of market movement

www.stockcharts.com/education/ TradingStrategies - well known trading strategies

our-street.com/home.htm - list of scam companies

www.sec.gov – latest filings, litigations, proceedings, or suspensions


————————————————————

Secretary of States (Protect Yourself!)

Alabama - arc-sos.state.al.us/CGI/ SOSCRP02.MBR/INPUT
Alaska - www.gov.state.ak.us/ltgov
Arizona -www.azsos.gov
Arkansas - www.sosweb.state.ar.us
California - kepler.ss.ca.gov/list.html
Colorado - www.sos.state.co.us
Connecticut - www.sots.state.ct.us
Deleware - www.state.de.us/sos/default.shtml
Florida - www.dos.state.fl.us
Georgia - www.sos.state.ga.us/default800.asp
Hawaii - www.ehawaii.gov/dcca/ bizsearch/exe/bizsearch.cgi
Idaho - www.idsos.state.id.us
Illinois - www.sos.state.il.us
Indiana - www.in.gov/sos
Iowa - www.sos.state.ia.us
Kansas - www.kssos.org/main.htm
Kentucky - sos.ky.gov
Louisana - www.sec.state.la.us
Maine - www.state.me.us/sos
Maryland - www.sos.state.md.us
Massachusetts - www.sec.state.ma.us
Michigan - www.michigan.gov/sos
Minnesota - www.state.mn.us/ebranch/sos
Mississippi - www.sos.state.ms.us
Missouri - www.sos.mo.gov
Montana - sos.state.mt.us/css/index.asp
Nebraska - www.sos.state.ne.us
Nevada - esos.state.nv.us/SOSServices/ AnonymousAccess/CorpSearch/CorpSearch.aspx
New Hampshire -www.sos.nh.gov/index.html
New Jersey - www.state.nj.us/state
New Mexico - www.sos.state.nm.us
New York - www.dos.state.ny.us
North Carolina - www.secretary.state.nc.us/ corporations
North Dakota - www.knowx.com/northdakota/ northdakota-corporate-records.jsp
Ohio - www.sos.state.oh.us
Oklahoma - www.sos.state.ok.us
Oregon - www.sos.state.or.us
Pennsylvania - www.dos.state.pa.us/dos/site/default.asp
Rhode Island - www.state.ri.us
South Carolina - www.scsos.com
South Dakota - www.sdsos.gov/index.htm
Tennessee - www.state.tn.us/sos
Texas - www.sos.state.tx.us
Utah - www.utah.gov/ltgovernor
Vermont - www.sec.state.vt.us
Virginia - www.soc.state.va.us
Washington - www.secstate.wa.gov/corps
West Virginia - www.wvsos.com
Wisconsin - www.sos.state.wi.us
Wyoming - soswy.state.wy.us/corporat/ corporat.htm


Phone Numbers provided by HitMe101


Knight Equity Markets, L.P.
NASDAQ TRADING
800-222-4910

NASDAQ TRADING
888-515-0031

BULLETIN BOARD
800-232-3684

DELISTING/BANKRUPTCY
212-336-8656

DELISTING/BANKRUPTCY
212-336-8791

DELISTING/BANKRUPTCY
212-336-8792

INTERNATIONAL
800-762-0271

BROKER/DEALER DESK
888-302-9197

INSTITUTIONAL DESK
800-222-4895

FOREIGN BULLETIN BD
212-336-8841

HELP DESK
888-931-HELP

NITE UBS Capital Markets L.P.
JERSEY CITY, NJ
N/A

DOMESTIC TRADING
212-514-5140

FOREIGN/ADR TRADING
212-804-3354

OTC BB/PINK TRADING
800-631-3094

DEALER/SALES TRADING
800-213-2923

TD Waterhouse Capital Markets, Inc.
OTC TRADING
201-369-8830

BULLETIN BOARD
201-369-8889

BULLETIN BOARD
800-500-3905

DEALER/INST SALES
201-369-1000

DEALER/INST SALES
800-369-5775

JEFFERIES & COMPANY, INC.
BULLETIN BOARD TRDG
212-336-7007

BROKER DEALER
877-350-2855

NASDAQ TRADING
972-701-3100

DALLAS TX
800-527-6816

AGENCY TRADING
972-701-3250

DALLAS TX
877-273-9728

LOS ANGELES
310-914-1163

STAMFORD CT.
203-708-5910

866-682-2398

INTL TRADING
203-708-5890

800-525-8620

877-350-BULL

LISTED TRADING
973-912-2790

CONVERTIBLES
203-708-5868

BROKER/DEALER DESK
212-336-7007

JEFF Tradition Asiel Securities Inc.
NASDAQ
212-791-4770

OTCBB
212-791-5335

VANDHAM SECURITIES CORP.
NEW YORK NY
212-223-7510

CloseVNDM 07:30
0.015 50 Oppenheimer & Co., Inc.
NEW YORK, NY
212-422-7813

CONVERTIBLE BONDS
212-668-5764

800-682-5381

NASDAQ/OTCBB TRADING
212-422-7813

LISTED DESK
212-668-8033

INSTITUTIONAL DEPT
212-943-9055
Hudson Securities, Inc.
JERSEY CITY, NJ
201-216-9100

JERSEY CITY, NJ
800-624-0050

JERSEY CITY, NJ
212-227-7733

INSTITUTIONAL SALES
800-419-9187

201-216-0375

COLORADO
888-576-1828

BOCA RATON, FL
800-898-2777

INTERNATIONAL
888-306-1998

561-361-0951

CANADIAN ARB
201-216-1475

WM. V. FRANKEL & CO., INCORPORATED
JERSEY CITY, NJ
201-434-5005

NEW YORK, NY
212-943-6633

NEW YORK, NY
800-631-3091

SEABOARD SECURITIES, INC.
NASDAQ/OTCBB
973-514-1699

FLORHAM PK, NJ
973-514-1500

AGENCY DESK
973-514-1678

JUNO BEACH FL.
561-630-6170

Hill Thompson Magid and Co., Inc.
JERSEY CITY, NJ
201-434-8100

JERSEY CITY, NJ
212-233-2200

NASDAQ TRADING
800-631-3083

ADR TRADING
800-879-9842

CANADIAN EQUITIES
866-235-7016

BANK STOCKS
866-291-6316

CHICAGO, IL
800-999-8073

CHICAGO, IL
312-372-3828

Maxim Group LLC
NEW YORK, NY
212-895-3680

800-261-0498

OTCBB
212-895-3874

FOREIGN TRADING
212-895-3897

INTL Trading, Inc.
ORLANDO FL
407-741-5399

800-541-1977

OTCBB DESK
800-327-5703

OTCBB DESK
407-741-5394

NEW YORK, NY
212-485-3545

Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.
NEW YORK NY
212-272-4810

OTCBB/PINK SHEETS
212-272-4975

NASDAQ TRADING
800-247-7882

EMERGING MARKETS
212-272-9297

INTERNATIONAL
212-272-4580

ARBITRAGE
212-272-4506

PREFERRED
212-272-5104

PREFERRED
800-231-8892

CONVERTIBLES
212-272-4484

HIGH YIELD DEPT
212-272-5100

OTCBB/PINK SHEETS
212-272-4975

VFINANCE INVESTMENTS, INC
OTCBB/PINK SHEETS
800-487-0577

OTCBB/PINK SHEETS
561-981-1314

NEW JERSEY
908-782-4469

NEW YORK
908-782-4469

PHILADELPHIA
856-234-2900

PERSHING TRADING COMPANY, L.P.
JERSEY CITY NJ
201-413-3531

NASDAQ TRADING
800-305-0161

BULLETIN BOARD
201-413-2700

DEALER DESK
201-413-2465

866-880-9410

Fulcrum Global Partners LLC
OTCBB DESK
212-803-7046

OTCBB BROKER/DEALER
212-803-7070

CANADIAN/FOREIGN DSK
212-803-9026

Sterne Agee Capital Markets, Inc.
BOCA RATON, FL
561-368-8373

BOCA RATON, FL
800-930-3536

DEALER SALES, FRANK
800-979-4568

DOMESTIC SECURITIES, INC.
EDISON, NJ - OTC
732-661-0300

MONTVALE, NJ OTC
201-782-0009

MONTVALE, NJ HQ
201-782-0888

BILTMORE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION
TRADING DESK
732-791-4000

ALTERNATE
732-287-6535

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Recovering a Loss

Loss vs. Gain-Needed-to-Recover-the-Loss

10% - 11.1%
20% - 25.0%
30% - 42.9%
40% - 66.7%
50% - 100.0%
60% - 150.0%
75% - 300.0%
90% - 1000.0%

Timing your entry and exit from the market is critical to making money and controlling losses.


MM Signals

100 > I need shares
200 > I need shares badly but don’t take it down to get them.
300 > Take the price down to get shares......
400 > Trade it sideways based on Supply and Demand
500 > Gap one-way or the other, usually to the direction of the 500 trade. Sometimes -if in the middle -keep the price right where it is.

Invest with your brain not with your heart. — Ric

****

Check out the Spam Stock Tracker project. -- L.B.

Penny Stocks Part 1: Psychological Trappings

Despite the dire risk of boring many readers, I've decided to blog up some investment advice.

The following is taken from a post by the mighty Ric at "So how do I make money then?," a recent discussion thread at Allstocks.com’s Bulletin Board.


PRICE IS CONTROLLED BY THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAPPINGS OF THE MARKET.

By realityinc21/Diana

Stage 1 - Accumulation. Stock is quiet, trading sideways and without a lot of volatility. Most everyone ignores the stock because it has no sizzle. Insiders hold large blocks of stock and quietly gear up for the distribution.

Stage 2 - Breakout. Volume jumps up, psychological barriers are broken. Insiders begin to tell their friends of upcoming significant fundamental change. Pros take notice and buy the stock on the coat tails of the well informed. The public ignores it because they have not read about the company in the paper yet. It must be a scam.

Stage 3 - Uptrend. As a larger audience learns of the company and its promise, more buying comes in to the stock and it begins to climb. Pros begin to sell, but slowly. Average investor begins to buy.

Stage 4 - Pullback. The stock has gone up too fast, and some profit taking arrives. The jumpy investor who got the entry timing right but lacks confidence in his or her decision sells the stock with a small profit, and smiles in the mirror. The Pro holds on, Average Investor looks through the newspaper to find justification for ownership of the shares.

Stage 5 - Resumption of the Uptrend. The pull back is short lived, and the stock bounces and continues higher. The wannabe regrets the sell, but provides self counsel on the merit of making a profit, albeit a small one. The Pro might sell a little bit more, but still holds the majority of the original position. The Average Investor is getting excited now, and thinks about what could have been if only he had bought when he first noticed the stock.

Stage 6 - Exhaustion of the Uptrend. The media takes notice, and communicates the company's merits to the masses. The masses buy the stock, and it goes up sharply with strong volume. The Pros sell with enthusiasm. The Average Investor owns it now, and is telling everyone who will listen. The wannabe Pro jumps back on, after all, he was smart enough to buy it when the trend started, so he knows the stock well. Will hope make it go higher?

Stage 7 - Gravity Works. Pro selling begins to weigh on the uptrend, and the stock fails to go higher despite high volumes. The stock starts to go down instead of up, and the Pro is almost sold out. The Average Investor continues to cheer lead, hoping to rally support. The wannabe ignores what the market is telling him, taking a loss is too painful to consider. The company is featured on the cover of a magazine.

Stage 8 - The Second Guess. The stock bounces and starts to go back up. The wannabe Pro averages down while the Average Investor gets back to advising friends of his stock picking acumen. Pros sell their remaining holdings and begin to look for another deal to play, or perhaps start short selling the stock.

Stage 9 - Out of Gas. The bounce is a fake out, and the stock moves lower again. The public owns this stock, and they have no more power to buy. The Pro are making money on the short sales now, but are despised by the masses. The Average Investor makes calls for short selling to be made illegal—after all, the short sellers are the demons causing the sell off.

Stage 10 - Dead Cat Bounce. The Average Investor and the wannabe Pro have no pain tolerance left, and finally sell for a big loss. The short selling Pros are the only buyers to take the share off their hands, and provide the needed liquidity. The stock bounces, and some short-term traders make a quick profit. The Average Investor either swears to never buy a stock again, or tells lively stories over drinks about the one that could have been.

Stage 11 - Post Mortem. Pros have forgot about the stock and are considering carpet samples for their new home in Florida. Average Investor continues to follow the company and buys loads of cheap stock to try and overcome the regrettable loss.

The stock market is mean. You can be a good analyst, but if you can't overcome the psychological traps of trading, you will do what the crowd does. To be successful, you have be one step ahead of the crowd, and trade with unemotional discipline. There are strategies to take advantage of each stage of the market cycle that can be applied just by looking at a stock chart. They just require a bit of knowledge.

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Everyday for the next 30 days, read this 10 times a day.

Ask yourself 10 times a day "what kind of trader am I going to be??" Am I going to be a crying whining little bitch or am I going to shake it off?? Am I going to buy to high because I do not know how to read a chart or am I going to f**cking learn how to read a chart?? Am I going to be the entertainment for this board or am I going to go the library and check out all the books that I can read on day trading and investing and stock charting. Am I going to learn how to do my own due diligence or am I going to buy on the recommendation of people from this board?? (It is pretty obvious that is what happened) they were great recommendations but you were about 5 steps behind. It looks like by the time you were buying everyone else was selling. Am I going to take this laying down or am I going to get my Goddamn money back. No one can make those choices for you!!

May seem like I am being a cold hearted bitch but this the real world baby. The question you have to address right this minute is… am I going learn on the fly or am I going to back it up and learn about what the f**ck I am doing?? You dove in headfirst now you have to learn how to swim. If you are not willing to learn how to swim—bail and take your loss. Day trading is time consuming. I would venture to say that most of the people on this board spend 5 to 10 hours a day researching-charting-reading sec filings-going over financials—reading news releases—communicating with other traders on strategies—then finally buying—then the same process begins for the exit. It may not seem like it right now but I am trying to help you. As will others. Sugarcoating the facts will not help you. You need a good dose of reality and I just gave it to you!! I.e. reality incorporated....

The only consolation that I can give you is: I have been in your shoes. After over 20 years of dealing with the market I still was not prepared for the depth of day trading. I learn new things everyday and make mistakes everyday. After 4 years of making at least 5 trades a day I am a newbie just like you. It is a process. Welcome to day trading and good luck with your choices. Reality incorporated Establish a set of trading rules that work for you. These are my rules. You have a adapt your own. Maybe this will give you some guidelines to go by.

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MY PENNY STOCK RULES:

1. I never buy on impulse or get emotionally attached to a —think LOGIC—I buy it, I sell it, I make money and I rarely look back.

2. I never buy a stock JUST because I like it or worse someone else likes it.

3. I rarely buy a micro penny stock trading under a volume of 50,000 mil—80 to 100 mil is better (always remember there has to be buyer for every stock you buy)...

4. I rarely hold a micro penny stock over night.... My definition of micro penny is under .10 cents ...Rarely over a weekend...NOTICE I SAID RARELY. THERE ARE SOME STOCKS THAT HAVE A BUILD UP AND IF THE VOLUME IS GOOD AND I FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT MY DD I WILL HOLD IT FOR THE RUN. At $7.00 to $10.00 a trade I can buy and sell it every day on news or hype or earning whatever. .(THAT'S WHY IT'S CALLED DAY TRADING)

5. I never buy a penny stock on the way up. IE CHASING I watch the pre market trading and set a buy price and a sell price and stick to it (missed out on NEOM by sticking to my rules—I noticed it at .11 and refused to buy to high) UPSIDE IS I DO NOT HOLD 500,000 SHARES OF NEOM AT.43 CENTS—-DOWNSIDE I DID NOT MAKE 50,000 DOLLARS. I DID MAKE A COUPLE OF GRAND BY PLAYING THE GAP AFTER THE RUN. IF YOU MISS THE RUN PLAY THE GAP. LIKE THE MAN SAID—THERE IS ANOTHER STOCK JUST WAITING TO BE BOUGHT.

6. I never think about GETTING RICH OR RETIRING on penny stocks...My goal is to make $200.00 a day and not lose my original investment. Most often I exceed my goal. (When I lose money it is usually because I have not followed my own rules)

7. I never ride a stock down—I will sell it and re-buy it. EXAMPLE: BOUGHT CTKH AT .002 AND .0022. SOLD HALF AT .0046. SOLD HALF OF THAT HALF AT .0069. IT STARTED GOING DOWN AND I BAILED OUT AT .006. BOUGHT AGAIN TODAY AT .0032. LOGIC-DO YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE MUTUAL FUND MANAGERS WOULD HAVE HELD ONTO IBM IF IT DROPPED 50%?????—(WELL SOME WOULD) LOL I THINK NOT...RIDING A STOCK DOWN IS LIKE THROWING 50% OF YOUR MONEY OUT OF A CAR WINDOW AT 75 MILES AN HOUR AND HOPING IT FLIES BACK TO YOU. OR BETTER YET "IF YOU LOVE IT LET IT GO—IF IT LOVES YOU IT WILL COME BACK TO YOU". THAT’S BULL****—IF IT LOVED YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE IT NEVER WOULD HAVE LEFT... I have actually bought and sold the same stock 3 times in one day. ATNG WAS A RECENT 3 TIME BUY AND SELL. BOUGHT AND SOLD IBZT 3 TIMES ONE DAY. (not usually but it does happen).

8. I never insult or bash another fellow trader...I respect other people's trading methods. I LEARN FROM THEM. What the hell—It's not my money.... ( It's not like they are setting on third base at a black jack table and take a hit on 15 and the dealer has a 6 showing and I have $500.00 dollars riding on that hand). I DO LISTEN AND LEARN AND BENEFIT FROM THEM.

9. I never trade with MONEY that I am not willing to lose.

10. I follow the market and market trends (not just the stocks)

11. I never buy a stock without reviewing, analyzing and understanding the charts. I learned how to read charts and believe in them....They do not lie...I MAY NOT KNOW WHAT THEY MAKE OR PRODUCE OR SELL WHEN I BUY IT BUT I DO REVIEW THE CHARTS ON THE FLY AND PUT IN A BUY ORDER FOR SMALL AMOUNT TO GET IN THE DOOR. MOST TRADERS KNOW WHEN A RUN IS COMING AND HAVE ALREADY DONE THE DUE.

12. I never get gambling and investing confused. I INVEST IN REAL ESTATE.... MY BUSINESS....SMALL, MEDIUM AND LARGE CAP STOCKS WITH A HISTORY-MANAGEMENT TEAM-FINANCIALS—ASSETS—CASH—ETC...30 YEARS+ GROWTH AND INCOME MUTUAL FUNDS WITH 12% OVERALL GAIN IN GOOD AND BAD TIMES (THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS AND THAT IS THEIR JOB). I GAMBLE WITH PENNIES... MY DEFINITION OF PENNIES IS ANYTHING UNDER $5.00.

13. I always take 50% of earning from each week and e-transfer into INTEREST BEARING TAX account. THEN I LEARNED HOW TO INVEST THAT MONEY IN REAL ESTATE TO MINIMIZE TAXES. INCORPORATE, PROTECT AND SHELTER.

14. I ALWAYS TAKE MY ORIGINAL INVESTMENT OUT OF THE EQUATION WHEN IT IS FEASIBLE TO MAKE ENOUGH MONEY ON THE TRADE TO MAKE IT WORTHWHILE .IE...WHEN THE STOCK IS ON A RUN UP SELL PORTIONS AT TIME TO RECOUP ORIGINAL INVESTMENT. IF IT IS A STOCK I PLAN TO KEEP LIKE TFSM—I BOUGHT AT 1.06. AT 2.12 I WILL SELL HALF AND RECOUP INVESTMENT AND KEEP 5000 SHARES FOR FREE. HOPEFULLY THAT WILL BE THIS WEEK.

15. I ALWAYS HAVE FUN.........ACTUALLY I HAVE A BLAST....

16. I LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY....

17. I CAN'T SPELL, TYPE WELL OR USE PROPER GRAMMAR—AND I SWEAR LIKE A SAILOR...BUT IF YOU PUT A DOLLAR SIGN IN FRONT OF IT—-I WILL FIGURE IT OUT..........THAT CERTAINLY DOES NOT MAKE ME STUPID...IT MAKES ME SMART BY RECOGNIZING MY LIMITATIONS. LEARN YOURS.

18. I ALWAYS MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS AND TAKE ALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY ACTIONS.

19. I LAUGH EVERYDAY...MOSTLY AT MYSELF AND SOMETIMES AT OTHERS....

20. LAST AND MOST IMPORTANT—THE MARKET HAS A RHYTHM—EACH STOCK HAS A RHYTHM—LIKE GREAT SEX—A RHYTHM...FIGURE OUT YOUR OWN RHYTHM WITH THE MARKET AND DUE YOUR OWN DD... LEARN THE RHYTHM OF THE CHARTS. IT IS CALLED "HARD WORK". THE REST WILL FOLLOW. TAKE THE TIME TO PASS ON YOUR GOOD FORTUNE TO OTHERS. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND AND YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

-- realityinc21/Diana


***

Some other reliable gurus I've run across at Allstocks.com’s Bulletin Board are FatherOfTwo and QuestSolver, but there are a lot of talented folks on this forum and on other sites online. No matter how highly or lowly rated anyone is, however, your best bet is to track their advice for a while -- and look at their old recommendations -- to see how often they're right and wrong.

Once you've found someone who can find the winners, also think about whether or not their advice and trading style fit your needs and your own style and attitude. This vetting process will help you figure out whose picks you should follow in the future, which in turn will speed up your own ability to make money on the fly. -- L.B.

Creating Indie Cinema: A Guide to Making Low-Budget Films

By LTC

(Originally published in BackStage; but re-posted here for educational purposes)

The rationales for making films are manifold: an undying passion to tell a particular story, a chance at making millions of dollars, or the hope of creating a “calling card” flick that will result in more work. An actor unhappy with the roles he’s been getting (or not getting) might decide to take his career into his own hands by producing a vehicle for himself. A writer unable to sell her screenplays (or tired of seeing her work destroyed by others) may finally direct her own project.

Still, making a film can seem daunting—the camera, lights, crew, cast, editing systems, and other peripherals often scaring potential filmmakers off before they’ve even started. But take a long and careful look into the abyss and the realities come into focus: The technology, distribution options, and costs have all reached a point where making a film and reaching an audience is easier (and cheaper) than ever before.

Of course, before investing copious time and money, aspiring filmmakers need to objectively examine why they’re making the film, what they’re really capable of doing, and what their intentions for the final product are. Here’s an overview of the whole process, from the concept to distribution.

All Story, All the Time

The most important aspect of any film is the story. Some filmmakers already have a special tale in mind—a saga they’re passionate about and will do anything to tell—but others are more interested in creating a project that will gain them attention and lead to paying gigs. Either way, if the story isn’t compelling, the film just won’t work.

There are plenty of books available describing plot structure, dramatic arcs, and screenplay formatting rules, but, again, filmmakers must first find a narrative they find compelling. That doesn’t mean directors or actor-producers have to write the project themselves, of course. Placing a “writer wanted” ad in any entertainment trade magazine or online message board will elicit dozens of responses from authors eager to show off their work or hungry to write something new. And websites like Kevin Spacey’s TriggerStreet.com allow members to browse through hundreds of new screenplays, nicely categorized by genre, and contact the writers via email.

“People just need to practice. I’ve been making films for over 20 years and I feel like I’m still just a beginner just learning how to do it.”—filmmaker Caveh Zahedi


Other possibilities include adapting classic plays or novels that are currently in the public domain (anyone can steal from Shakespeare). And some living playwrights, novelists, and short-story writers will allow filmmakers to adapt their work for the screen in exchange for nonexclusive rights, screen credit, and/or the possibility of profit sharing.

If a director does decide to also double as a scribe, or an actor feels capable of writing a zinger of a role for himself, then there are a number of screenplay software applications that can help speed up the process—everything from free word-processing templates to semi-expensive (but enormously useful) programs like Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter.

Once written, the real work begins: rewriting, fine-tuning, and preparing for production. “I would urge a filmmaker to workshop his screenplay…in order to get more feedback before shooting,” says Tamara Straus, editor in chief of Francis Ford Coppola’s literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story, and a screenplay development executive at Coppola’s production company, American Zoetrope. Screenwriting classes, workshops, and staged readings—as well as comments from friends—can help iron out problems in a script before shooting begins. Two online resources, Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio (located at Zoetrope.com) and the aforementioned TriggerStreet.com, provide free online writing workshops where writers can post screenplays and receive valuable feedback from other writers (in exchange for critiquing a set number of automatically assigned scripts).

“Film is expensive,” Straus notes in an email to Back Stage, “and smart, honest critiques are hard to find. One of the advantages of the Virtual Studio’s review process is that it’s impersonal; thus, a screenwriter stands to get less-biased and watered-down feedback than in a workshop or from a friend or colleague.”

TriggerStreet specializes in showcasing unproduced feature-length screenplays and finished short films, with members posting short reviews that affect the work’s overall ranking in the system. Zoetrope, on the other hand, focuses on a wider variety of writing—everything from poetry to short screenplays to features—and encourages its users to post long, thoughtful dissections instead of simplistic reviews. Both websites boast the tantalizing fact that the production companies financing the sites might buy outstanding screenplays for development.

Already, says Straus, “two screenplays have been optioned through the site and are in development with American Zoetrope. For now, no Virtual Studio scripts have become films; perhaps within the next two years. It is very likely scripts workshopped through the site have been optioned by other studios, though we have not kept track of these stories.” And many screenwriters have gone on to win awards after using the Virtual Studio to polish their scripts.

The Zoetrope Virtual Studio also provides tools and forums for directors, artists, musicians, and others. “The site was conceived by Francis Ford Coppola to bring these kinds of professions together,” she says, “to essentially bypass middlemen, so that filmmakers, screenwriters, actors, and even producers and set designers could meet and trade information and insights online and decide whether or how to collaborate.”

The Long and Short of It

Beginning filmmakers should try their hands at making short films before they progress to feature-length narratives, allowing the director, cast, and crew to learn the ropes.

There are also a bevy of websites and film festivals where short films can be showcased and reviewed, and shorts can provide material for reels or act as a calling card that can be sent to producers and agents. Shorts are also more likely to be passed along through the industry, since they don’t consume much of the viewer’s time. A pitfall, however, is that shorts typically work best only as comedies—they don’t provide enough time for audiences to connect to dramatic material. Another rule of thumb: The shorter a short film is, the better. And the story should be simple: Trying to pack a feature’s worth of material into 10 minutes sinks most shorts.

Once the new auteur becomes comfortable with the process of filmmaking by experimenting with shorts, it’s time to make a feature. The odds of the film becoming successful aren’t grand, but there are countless tales of directors launching thriving careers after completing their first (or second or third) indie feature. And actors, too, have found great success in spearheading their own projects.

An example: Action star Vin Diesel, the Sylvester Stallone of the new millennium (for better or worse), took a page from Stallone’s playbook by writing a vehicle for himself, a short entitled “Multi-Facial.” After directing the short in 1994 and entering it into various festivals, Diesel spent a couple of years saving up for his first feature, “Strays.” Meanwhile, his short made its way to the Cannes Film Festival, was seen by Steven Spielberg, and soon enough a muscle-bound movie star was born. (Historical note: Stallone opted not to direct his first big break, “Rocky,” but he landed Academy Award nominations for both acting and writing.)

“It’s the beast of necessity—if you have a story you have to tell, and you can only get $10,000 for it, then you should find a way to tell that story, and just do it.”—producer Jake Abraham


And the list goes on: Jon Favreau wrote and co-produced the indie sensation “Swingers” to kick-start a new phase not only in his career, but in the careers of his friends (most notably, co-stars Vince Vaughn and Ron Livingston). Edward Burns—after making a couple of short films—wrote, directed, and starred in “The Brothers McMullen,” a 16mm feature film that reportedly cost only $25,000 and took just 22 days to shoot (the shooting days were spread out over eight months). Burns’ movie was a hit and he’s since starred in a dozen more pictures, directed five more, and, despite receiving mixed reviews for most of his post-”McMullen” work, still has no trouble raising funds for his own projects. Stage actresses Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt co-wrote and co-produced “Kissing Jessica Stein.” Although their film careers have not advanced, Westfeldt was recently cast in the Broadway production of “Wonderful Town,” was subsequently nominated for a Tony Award, and is now prepping for a new network television show.

“I think actors, especially, would be well-advised to make their own movies,” says award-winning filmmaker Caveh Zahedi. “There’s nothing more painful than waiting around, dependent on someone else to cast you.”

The Digital Revolution

George Lucas and James Cameron have famously jumped on the digital video (DV) bandwagon, and more and more Hollywood directors are following suit. However, the budgets for Hollywood films have not dropped, and films still take months to shoot. The reason is that for big-budget filmmakers, the type of camera being used is really just one cog in a giant machine: For a film to have the Hollywood sheen that audiences expect, enormous amounts of time and money have to be poured into complex lighting and sound setups, grand locations, killer special effects, wind machines, rain generators, and on and on.

Shooting on 35mm will at least give an independent film an immediate professional gloss, but it’s costly. The same goes for using the DV cameras preferred by the likes of Lucas and Cameron—high-end, expensive high-definition digital video (HDDV) camcorders, usually utilizing digital 24-frame progressive scan technology (“24p,” for short), ultraluxurious film-style lenses, and enhanced variable-frame-rate capabilities.

For filmmakers working with a budget that precludes any of the above, “prosumer” DV cameras are a good alternative, so long as the film’s intended aesthetic fits within the strengths of the format—DV tends to work best with smaller, intimate stories. (“Prosumer” refers to equipment that is of higher quality than that used by the typical consumer: A low-end DV camera may only offer quality comparable to old-school VHS or Hi-8 home camcorders, while prosumer cameras provide professional levels of quality at a relatively modest price.)

Lars von Trier’s vérité-influenced Dogme 95 film collective helped show the world just how powerful and captivating DV films could be. Working with low budgets, small handheld cameras, natural lighting, and no special effects, the Dogme filmmakers made it clear that the versatility of DV, when used effectively, was a force to be reckoned with.

In turn, the Dogme movement inspired the formation of Independent Digital Entertainment (InDigEnt), a New York City-based production company founded in 1999. In an attempt to foster the nascent craft of digital filmmaking, InDigEnt teamed with the Independent Film Channel (IFC). Its original goal was to create 10 films a year at $100,000 per film, but “the truth is, they cost more than that,” notes producer Jake Abraham, InDigEnt’s head of production and operations. “Established filmmakers are accustomed to a certain type of crew with a certain level of experience…and a certain level of postproduction,” so in order to attract established talent, the budgets had to be raised. InDigEnt (www.indigent.net) is now trying to make at least three films a year for around $300,000 per film, with each film’s entire cast and crew sharing in the revenue generated.

“But I wouldn’t say anyone going out there needs to spend this much money,” says Abraham. “It’s the beast of necessity—if you can get a million dollars to make your film, then you should do it. But if you have a story you have to tell, and you can only get $10,000 for it, then you should find a way to tell that story, and just do it.”

InDigEnt is dedicated to Mini-DV and “prosumer cameras that can be palm-held,” says Abraham. “As soon as you go to the shoulder style—Beta or DigiBeta or high-definition—you’re kinda headed back toward that film world. But with Mini-DV, it can be an amazing experience for the actors because they can do a lot of creative work in front of the camera because they’re not waiting for the film to be reloaded or the lighting to be reset or any of the number of things that are often done in a film-style production.

“These palm-held cameras are very sensitive to light and easy to use and completely unobtrusive. And the tape stock is really cheap, so you can run a 10-minute take without the director pulling his hair out.” (A 35mm film mag usually runs out every 12 minutes, with every foot of film raising production and processing costs, but a single DV tape typically lasts for an hour or more.)

InDigEnt’s creative atmosphere, profit sharing, and quick shooting schedules have attracted big-name talent, with all actors working for scale on a SAG Modified Low-Budget contract. More impressively, despite being shot on digital video and having relatively small budgets, InDigEnt’s movies have consistently found theatrical distribution and critical accolades—not an easy feat in a market awash with independent films that can’t find distributors. Past projects include Richard Linklater’s “Tape” (starring Ethan Hawke), Gary Winick’s “Tadpole” (starring Sigourney Weaver), and Peter Hedges’ “Pieces of April” (starring Katie Holmes), as well as movies by lesser-known filmmakers and theatre veterans.

And thanks to InDigEnt’s partnership with IFC, all of their films are guaranteed at least some distribution. “In return for financing the films, IFC takes third-tier basic cable,” says Abraham. “So all of the films at some point air on IFC,” after theatrical, video, and first-tier television distribution.

An Argument for Film

Although DV is the most cost-effective option for low-budget filmmakers, there are still plenty of benefits to shooting film. The golden ring for most indie stalwarts is 35mm and 70mm, which provide color depth and picture resolution beyond the capabilities of (arguably) any digital medium. And many music-video directors still prefer 16mm, while shooting on Super 16 (a high-quality, wide-screen version of normal 16mm) is a price-conscious way of approximating 35mm, although it possesses a rugged aesthetic beauty all its own.

Director Mike Figgis, for instance, shot “Leaving Las Vegas” on Super 16mm because he preferred the gritty/soft look of 16mm and cherished how new high-speed film stocks were able to shoot in extremely low-light situations. (DV doesn’t have the same flexibility in postproduction when it comes to pushing and pulling an image—adjusting the exposure and contrast—that film stock provides.) Also, film is a better medium for shooting fast and slow motion.

And with new, high-tech 16mm cameras like the Aaton A-Minima Super 16, filmmakers can have the lightweight, handheld advantages of a DV camera while still shooting on film. Another consideration: Compared to standard DV, film and HDDV look much better blown up on the big screen.

Raising Cash, Raising Cain

It’s a brisk, sunny September day as a crowd of aspiring filmmakers line up outside the Puck Building in Soho, casually networking between events at the Independent Feature Project (IFP) Market.

The throng is made up mostly of young unknowns, including Tennessee-based actor-musician Jeremy Luno and Philadelphia-based director Matthew Manahan, who have arrived in New York in the hopes of finding funding for their feature film, “The Book of Caleb.” Like many of the out-of-town filmmakers attending this event, they’re staying in a cramped hotel room (their troop includes two producers and a cinematographer), they’re short on cash, they have a limited amount of time to pitch their film, and their optimism is unbounded.

“Our budget right now is at $1.5 million, which is actually our fat budget,” says Manahan. “If we get a name actor or use SAG, we’ll need that. Otherwise, we can get it in the can for $800,000. We’ve raised about $200,000 so far, between cash and in-kind donations.”

Luno notes that IFP officials have warned attendees not to expect a quick fix: Although important movie industry folks scour the market, it’s rare for deals to be made on the spot. Instead, the event is intended to help create links between filmmakers and the industry that will eventually lead to financing, distribution, or even just some good advice. So Manahan’s hope of raising another $1.3 million might seem far-fetched, but he’s going about it in the right way: setting up a business plan, launching a sleek website for casting and promotional purposes (www.thebookofcaleb.com), getting his project accepted into the IFP Market as part of its popular work-in-progress showcase, competing for a spot in the prestigious Sundance Film Lab, looking into public and private grants and partnerships, and networking tirelessly.

“We’ve set up an escrow account to protect the investors, so we can’t legally touch any of the money until we reach at least $800,000. That’s part of the business plan,” says Manahan. “If the time comes to shoot and we don’t have the money, we’ll talk to the investors. Right now, our locations are all going to be free, and our production design is really simple, so our biggest cost will be the camera, the film, and the lights. But our costs will be much higher if we use SAG talent, so we’re still considering that.”

Manahan hasn’t started full negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild yet, but filmmakers shouldn’t be scared about working with the actors’ union. In recent years, SAG has become far friendlier to independent productions, introducing new guidelines and levels to its contracts that allow filmmakers to use SAG performers without paying full scale wages up front. The SAG Experimental Film Agreement and various SAG Modified Low-Budget contracts are available to directors for the express purpose of making it easier to keep costs down. And SAG has even set up a website, SagIndie.org, to help directors navigate through the complicated seas of making a SAG-signatory film.

“I mean, if you’ve only got a VHS camcorder or an old 8mm film camera, go for it. You’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.”—filmmaker Matthew Langdon Weiss


The Directors Guild of America (www.dga.org) and the Writers Guild of America (www.wga.org) also have low-budget agreements available. But filmmakers should look over all union contracts carefully, because in some cases distribution beyond the film festival circuit can be held up if union participants want to stop the film’s release for some reason. Any contract details that can be negotiated before shooting begins should be worked out in as much detail as possible.

Says Manahan: “I don’t think you can be taken seriously with a first-time feature unless you’re shooting 35mm. I’d rather just take the time—even if it takes two or three years to secure the financing—to do it right. It comes down to what kind of story it is. If it’s a story that clicks [stylistically] with DV, then you can shoot DV, but our story is a 35mm type of story” because it has epic qualities that won’t work as well on DV.

Manahan’s feelings are echoed by David Gordon Green, the director of the critically acclaimed films “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls.” In an indieWIRE.com interview, he says, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any money… You can make a film that takes advantage of natural light and natural landscapes. You can get equipment donated and make friends in the right places…which aren’t necessarily the heads of studios—they can be the guy who adjusts the lenses at the camera house.”

Bucking the DV trend, Green shot his first low-budget feature on 35mm anamorphic CinemaScope, a process usually reserved for expensive Hollywood epics—a gamble that paid off, since the film’s exquisite cinematography immediately set it apart from its competitors, garnering ravishing reviews from the likes of The New York Times.

Bargain-Basement Cinema 101

“I’d love to shoot on 16mm, 35mm, HD 24p, or even DigiBeta—if I had the time and budget. But I’m all about working within your means and not being beholden to the equipment,” says Matthew Langdon Weiss, who’s had experience as an editor, cameraman, and assistant director on a number of indie projects and is an associate producer of the upcoming indie feature “Wang Dang,” directed by Tom Noonan (co-star of Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and writer-director-star of the award-winning “What Happened Was...”). “I mean, if you’ve only got a VHS camcorder or an old 8mm film camera, go for it. You’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.”

After taking acting and improv classes as a way of honing his ability to direct actors, Weiss stumbled into professional acting and can currently be seen as a recurring character in Trio’s new comedy miniseries “Pilot Season,” directed by Sam Seder and co-starring, among others, Sarah Silverman (“School of Rock”) and David Cross (“Arrested Development”). To pay his bills between gigs, Weiss founded Langdon-Boom Productions, a “script-to-screen” Mini-DV filmmaking facility that he runs out of his New York apartment. Weiss’ goal is to help other indie filmmakers complete their projects on a low budget.

“I shoot on a Mini-DV three-chip Canon GL1 and a tiny one-chip camera, and I edit on a Mac G4 with a dual processor and Final Cut Pro,” he says. “For sound design, Final Cut has enough rough-and-ready audio stuff so long as you’re not mixing a Dolby Digital movie with symphonic fidelity and a ton of sound effects.”

Sound is an often overlooked element by first-time filmmakers—and bad sound can instantly make an indie film seem amateurish. To save on postproduction expenses, it’s important to capture good audio on set. Weiss and most other professionals prefer using boom-mounted Sennheiser microphones when possible, and wireless lavalier radio mikes when necessary.

If the budget is available, then on-set mixing and noise-reduction equipment can improve sound quality enormously. And during postproduction, picture-editing software such as Avid, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere provide basic sound-design tools, but power users will want a pricey stand-alone program like Pro Tools to fine-tune the audio. (An older version of Pro Tools is available for free, for Mac OS 9 and Windows 98/ME operating systems only, at www.digidesign.com/ptfree.)

When a filmmaker comes to Langdon-Boom Productions, says Weiss, “I’ll look at the script and break it down and tell them what they’ll need and how much it’ll cost, and then I’ll bring in extra crew members or rent equipment as necessary.” If the filmmaker can get equipment donated and recruit volunteer actors and crew members—and if the locations are simple—then the costs of the film will plummet.

At this point, a director should be able to shoot a film for next to nothing, by Weiss’ estimation. Or, for $1,000-$3,000, a small company like Langdon-Boom could provide a cameraman, sound person, and Mini-DV camera for a few days—and edit the film in less than a week at no additional charge. When longer shooting and editing times and larger equipment packages are needed, costs go up accordingly.

Hired Guns

With a borrowed DV camera and a couple of volunteers, a film can be shot for nothing more than $10 in tape stock. If an aspiring filmmaker can then track down a friend with editing software, she’s all set.

For more ambitious indie filmmakers, though, more cash will be required. Small outfits like Weiss’ Langdon-Boom can bring a film in on a modest budget, but what if a bigger crew and higher-quality equipment are required?

For crew members, ads can be posted in the trade papers and jobs can be listed on free message boards online. Usually, it’s not too difficult to round up a semi-experienced team of recent film-school graduates and fellow aspiring filmmakers who are willing to work for free or in exchange for helping them on their own projects. Here’s the catch: The more money a filmmaker is putting into a project—and the greater the quality of the equipment being used—the easier it will be to find an enthusiastic volunteer crew, because a well-organized and well-financed production will be a better experience for everyone involved and will give the impression of being bound for success.

For a film student’s final school project—a thesis film—budgets typically range from $2,000 to $30,000, depending on the medium being used and the length and scale of the production. The final film is usually somewhere between seven and 27 minutes long. These are decent ballpark figures that a filmmaker can use to base a budget around if he’s planning on seriously competing against other short films.

So what can a filmmaker get for, say, $10,000? If shooting a feature is the goal, then a Mini-DV camera and a tiny volunteer cast and crew would be the best way to go (remember, some of the budget needs to be reserved for postproduction, and the crew has to be fed).

However, for 15 grand, a filmmaker could try shooting on 35mm. A professional cinematographer and soundman could even be hired—complete with minimal camera and sound packages—for around $2,000 or $3,000 per day (film stock and processing not included).

Another option would be to use a professional television crew. Not local news guys, but DV crews that have worked for top-shelf national news and entertainment shows. A filmmaker won’t get a traditional film look from a TV crew, but they’ll be able to use DV specialists accustomed to working quickly and on their feet, obtaining quality images with minimal lighting packages.

Atlantic Television (www.atlantictv.com), a national production services company, for instance, hires out cameramen who have shot for “60 Minutes,” the Olympics, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the BBC, and numerous PBS documentaries. Catherine Counihan, Atlantic TV’s production manager, says that, on average, “a complete package—an experienced cameraman, soundman, a pro-level camera, a boom mike, two wireless mikes, a mixer, and a very basic lighting kit—would cost between $1,250 to $2,250 per day, with crew members working no more than a 10-hour day without overtime. The price is dependent on the type of camera used. A crew with a PAL DigiBeta or NTSC DigiBeta goes for about $1,650. A BetaSP crew’s standard rate is $1,450. A two-person crew with a three-chip Mini-DV—usually a Sony PD150, or a similar camera, like a Canon XL1—would be $1,250. And the standard rate for a high-definition crew is about $2,250 per day.”

A Continuing Education

“I don’t think people need training. I went to film school, but I don’t think I learned that much there,” cautions San Francisco-based underground filmmaker Caveh Zahedi (“A Little Stiff”). “People just need to practice. I’ve been making films for over 20 years and I feel like I’m still just a beginner just learning how to do it. It’s a difficult and long road, but I think once you start—it’s like if you want to play guitar, you pick up a guitar and start trying things. You’re not going to start playing great music right away, but you just need to start doing it.”

Most people in the mainstream haven’t heard of Zahedi, but for those in the know, he’s considered one of the most interesting and dynamic creative forces working today. His films, filled with raw, naturalistic performances, bring to mind the work of indie film pioneer John Cassavetes and innovator Jean-Luc Godard. There’s also a touch of classic Woody Allen in the witty, neurotic humor that runs through his work. And yet every Zahedi film—whether he be directing, acting, or editing—is infused with staggering originality and attention to detail and form.

“I had this LSD experience where I had an insight that beauty is all around us,” he says. “And there’s no need to look elsewhere for anything. Everything is right in front of us. I decided at that moment that I would make a film about my own life. And I’ve been doing that ever since. But it’s not the only thing that I’m interested in. I have a bunch of things I’d like to do, but it really depends on financial considerations, and what I need to do to make a living.”

Zahedi has notoriously had problems finding funding for his projects, but he’s learned from his experiences: “I spent five years of my life trying to raise a million dollars for a movie, and I did nothing for those five years except knock on doors, and at the end of it I hadn’t even made a single movie. I think people should just make movies at the budget they can afford, and if the films are good, then they’ll eventually get the attention that they’ll need to organically make films at higher budgets.”

However, he says, “I don’t believe in the calling-card idea. It takes so much energy to make a film, you might as well make something that you believe in and care about, that stands on its own.”

While working on the completion of his feature films, Zahedi has kept busy making documentaries, video diaries, and experimental shorts—including a newly completed 30-minute project entitled “Tripping With Caveh,” featuring iconoclastic singer Will Oldham. He’s also dabbled in acting—starring in his own projects and making appearances in indie classics like Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth,” Greg Watkins’ “A Sign From God,” and Richard Linklater’s animated “Waking Life”—but he doesn’t have an acting agent and he’s even turned down roles.

When acting in his own films, he says, “I try to monitor the other actors’ performances while I’m performing, which is hard and tends to make my performances less in the moment. I also find myself mouthing all the other characters’ lines.” To help alleviate this problem, Zahedi often uses a co-director, such as his frequent filmmaking partner (and cinematographer) Greg Watkins. Still, he admits, “I’d love to be able to just direct, and not have to do both. So right now my fantasy is to not have to act.”

That should be an easy enough fantasy to fulfill, were it not hard to imagine a Zahedi film not starring the very inimitable Zahedi. And suitable actors, he says, are hard to come by: “There are really great actors in the world, and then there’s a lot of mediocre actors, and then there are nonactors. For someone like me, I generally find that the nonactors are better actors than the mediocre actors. They’re just more real. A lot of acting-school people come across as very theatrical and phony. I’ve had bad experiences with so-called actors, and I’m sure that’s because I haven’t had many good ones. But I occasionally have, and I’ve been very impressed.”

When the performances in a Zahedi narrative are working in synchronicity, the effect can be breathtaking realism. Conversely, his documentaries and video diaries (such as “In the Bathtub of the World”) are rife with situations where everyone on screen is noticeably aware of the camera. With Zahedi staring into the camera’s lens or a girlfriend shunning the spotlight, it’s as if his narrative works have been turned inside out, exposing the artifice of reality and the truth of fiction.

“Some people make a distinction between performing and not performing,” Zahedi muses. “But I think that distinction is a little false. People are always performing in some way, and they’re always not performing in some way. I’m just being myself, but what is ‘myself’? It’s a construct on some level. I’m not trying to fake anything, but I’m definitely engaged in a relation with someone else whose gaze I’m aware of, and I’m acting accordingly.”

Having shot on both DV and 16mm, Zahedi is also eager to shoot on 35mm and HD 24p. Given the opportunity, he promises the projects would be very different from what he’s done before. But in the meantime, he’s happy to make films that work aesthetically with his current artillery—a small Sony one-chip camera, a three-chip Sony PD150, a few lights, mikes, and a Mac G5 with Final Cut Pro. It’s all a person needs to make a film, he says, although he wouldn’t turn down a chance to work with a bigger budget.

With his current feature, “I Am a Sex Addict,” almost complete, Zahedi is already thinking about the future. “I hope the film makes its money back and I can get the money to make another one. But mostly,” he says, “I just hope that people are moved by it.”

Exhibiting and Distributing

The film is completed. Done. In the can. So what does a filmmaker do next? Well, spend more money, of course.

The motion picture has to be submitted to festivals. Promotional materials and DVD copies of the film must be sent out to distributors, agents, and studios. Rejection must be faced, stared in the eyes, and overcome.

“First-time filmmakers shouldn’t be discouraged if they can’t get into Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin,” or any of the other major festivals, says Paola Freccero, the senior vice president of film programming at the Sundance Channel. Lots of indie filmmakers and at least a few small-time distributors, cable networks, and scouts from other film festivals can be found attending the medium-sized festivals. And the people behind even minor festivals often have industry contacts that can benefit filmmakers in one way or another.

“If a filmmaker can get into a local festival,” notes Freccero, they should take advantage of the opportunity and “develop a relationship with the people who are there and ask the people who have championed their work to champion it more.” She also stresses that networking, even at film-fest cocktail parties, is vastly important.

“It’s very, very, very hard for a typical film to break even,” she says. “It may break even after years—once you’re done with theatrical distribution and all the TV plays and video sales. It is possible that in the end it might work out okay, but certainly not until after quite some time. If you’re a filmmaker that has made a film for less than $500,000, and you’re really lucky and the film is really accomplished, and some distributor thinks that it has the possibility of breaking out of its low-budget home, then there is a good chance that you can find yourself made whole, at least on the production costs. But what most filmmakers don’t factor in is ‘How do I live when I’m promoting the movie?’ and the insurance costs and the travel to film festivals and stuff like that. But if you’re in the $500,000 to $5 million range, that’s a really tough range to be in unless you have a hit on your hands. Unfortunately,” warns Freccero, “it is kind of a losing proposition.

“If you’re doing it to come out whole [not lose any money], I’d say turn back now. If you’re doing it because this is what you want your career to be and you really want your work to be seen, then great—but don’t have unrealistic expectations about rolling in money.” Ten years ago, it was easy for quality independent films to virtually disappear after a run around the festival circuit. Today, thankfully, indie films have new distribution outlets, mostly due to the Internet: boutique video stores offering wares online, megasites like Amazon.com allowing indie sales, DVD rentals from subscription services like NetFlix.com and the über-indie GreenCine.com, and even filmmakers selling their own movies from their personal websites. What’s really changed the indie scene, though, is cable TV: The Independent Film Channel and the Sundance Channel are broadcasting indie films into households all across America, all day, every day.

“The number of films that get theatrical distribution of any kind—be it tiny or a big deal—is still very small,” Freccero says. “That miracle success story of being in a film festival and then being bought by Miramax is really, really rare. But what has changed over the last few years is that television has become a place where filmmakers can, first of all, actually get some money for their film, and they can make sure that the film gets a very sizable audience. We have 21 million subscribers. So even on a slow day at the Sundance Channel, that’s still more people that are going to see a filmmaker’s film than they would if it had had a small art-house release. We’ve become a very valid alternative to a more traditional distribution opportunity.”

The popularity of the indie cable stations has allowed IFC and Sundance to expand into the home video market, placing indie DVD titles in major rental outlets. So the potential audience for indie cinema keeps widening every day, and opportunities for creative film artists widen along with it. It’s just a matter of having the drive and tenacity to actually stand up, shake off the dust, and make a film.

“I think the most important thing if you’re an aspiring filmmaker is to get rid of the ‘aspiring.’ How do you do that? You make a film,” Academy Award-winning director James Cameron told The Guardian. “I don’t care if it’s two minutes long and shot on Super 8 or DV or whatever. You shoot it, you put your name on it, you’re a filmmaker. Everything after that, you’re just negotiating your budget.”


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