Ten reasons why YOU should make a film
As a TCW reader, there’s a good chance you have a true love for cinema. If you’re anything like me, you love DVD special features because they afford an inside look at the process of making any given film. Perhaps you occasionally watch a movie and think, “I would have done that differently,” or wonder, “Who gave these people money to make this steaming pile?”
But before this turns into a Jeff Flixworthy “You might be a filmmaker if…” list, let’s consider a few important reasons why now is the time to get up from in front of the TV, and get behind a camera.
10. You’ve got a story to tell. If you know nothing about screenwriting format, I’d suggest picking up a book by screenwriting guru Syd Field. Once you’ve learned the basics, download Celtx. It’s free, and far better than trying to format a screenplay manually in your typical word-processing program. Celtx’s capabilities go far beyond the screenwriting stage, too. You can use it for scheduling, budgeting, shot lists, breakdowns and more. Did I mention it’s free?
9. You’ve always wanted to. You know you have. No one is telling you to quit your day job. Just make the time for it. Life is short. Commit to making your dream come true. You’re unique, so you have access to a unique set of locations and other resources. Use them.
8. The internet. Nobody begging to distribute your film to every Redbox, video store and Wal-Mart across the country? No problem. You have a worldwide audience at your fingertips. If you’ve got something really great, folks will begin to take notice. Sell your DVDs on your website if you want to distribute. The net is also where you’ll find the answer to any question you may have about filmmaking. And of course, the limits of social networking to promote your work are nearly boundless. Just don’t overdo it, or the folks down at the internet will ask you to never go online again (Corner Gas reference).
7. You have an eye for shots. Years of dissecting your favorite films have ingrained in you a sense of how to tell a story visually. I would encourage learning the basics of shot composition, if you haven’t already. No matter how original your film may be, there are still some general rules to be followed if your movie is to be taken seriously.
6. You can tell a story in an interesting way. Formula can be good to an extent. Just don’t follow any formula down the road of predictability. Engage your viewers. Challenge them. Surprise them. And if you decide to play around with the timeline in your story, just be sure it makes clear sense once you’ve put it together in editing. Your viewers are smart, so don’t expect them to forgive an overly-ambitious, poorly-executed twist. And give your characters enough depth so that people will care about them. Even the simplest of stories can be told in the most interesting way.
5. Film school is for suckers. As someone who studied film in college, I feel qualified to say this. That’s not to say it didn’t have value—just not as much value as it cost. Generally speaking, film schools are breeding grounds for folks who go work on someone else’s movie sets, not their own. If you have absolutely no clue about cameras, editing or filmmaking basics, take a class at your local community college. Now, remember those special features we talked about a moment ago? Learn from them. Get your film education from the directors you love. Beyond that, the best way to learn is by getting out there and doing it. Your first effort may be a disaster, but you’ll learn a lot. Never stop learning.
4. Hollywood sucks. Sure, Hollywood productions have all the money one could ever dream of. They piss it away on explosions, glossy effects, overrated names, and bad ideas. In the indie world, however, we’re forced to compensate for a lack of money with an abundance of originality, talent and resourcefulness. Let the unimaginative productions stay in Los Angeles, where they belong. With the economy being what it is, Hollywood isn’t taking any chances. That’s where we come in.
3. Hungry actors. There is a distinction to be made between starving actors and hungry ones. Starving actors, in my opinion, tend to take themselves too seriously. Too often, they’re more in love with the “actor” title than with the craft itself. They believe they’re above any project that can’t afford to pay them. Instead of taking a no-budget gig, they’d rather sit and wait for the big call from Hollywood, and end up starving while they wonder why no one recognizes the talent they know they have. Hungry actors, however, work regular day jobs, but have such passion for acting that they’ll bend over backwards for the opportunity to be in your film. They give it their all, and they don’t bring an ego. When I cast my film, Hand of Glory, it was advertised as a non-paying gig, because that’s the sort of dedication I was looking for. Of course, I did pay my lead actors and crew a small stipend to show my appreciation for their hard work, but they weren’t expecting it.
2. Crowd-funding. Crowd-funding web communities, like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, give filmmakers a platform to pitch their project to the world. With a well-planned campaign, one can raise a lot of money, not only from family and friends, but from complete strangers who like your idea. It doesn’t all have to come out of your own pocket.
1. Affordability. Pro-quality images on a shoestring budget are now possible, largely attributable to a DSLR revolution few, if any, camera manufacturers had anticipated. For years, DSLRs had been popular among still photographers, who grudgingly replaced their 35mm, or larger format, cameras to get into the digital age. What no one expected was that folks would start using the “movie” setting on these cameras in any sort of serious way. What those pioneers discovered is that you can capture film-quality moving images on a basic camera rig costing less than $1,000. Sure, you’ll probably want to invest in some accessories, but DSLR is the best game in town when you haven’t got tens-of-thousands of dollars to work with.