doing this? That simple
question that I felt I had to answer time and time again after
all my resources, time, energy and money to a project I didn't feel was
'commercial', and had absolutely no name talent attached was one that
popping up repeatedly. The answer was very simple; I had to do
I had a great script, great actors, I happened to have maybe enough
and I thought maybe, if I'm lucky, this has the potential to be a great
film. The idea that it would make money never affected my decision to
with the film, and once committed finishing was not a question of "if",
just "when". I thought it would be a great film. That question still
in front of every one of my projects; 'Why am I doing this?', and, more
these days, 'If this was my money that I'm spending, would I still do
film?' If the answer is no, the answer is no.
are considering taking your first plunge into no-budget,
self-financed filmmaking and believe you have a great script that you have
to shoot, do yourself an enormous favor and honestly answer that
before you start. If you are sick of waiting for someone else's money
arrive on your doorstep before you shoot your first film and are
it from whatever means available to you, it's a question that could
everything to the bankruptcy judge at your hearing. Filmmaking this way
can literally ruin your life if you walk into it believing that you're
great filmmaker and you can make all your money back on 'the other end.'
the other hand, there are dilettante's bumping into each other all over
LA bitching and moaning about a measly "million for my first feature"
that will never make a film, and are motivated by money no matter how
well they play the
part of the auteur. They should be doing music video's, or move back
or become bitter studio executives that churn out the kind of stuff
well, studio executives churn out. What should concern you is
amount of filmmakers walking around town with sixty seven 5 year old
of film in their closet for the film they can't complete because
If you believe your script is commercial, has the potential to be a big
commercial hit, do not spend your own money to do it unless
you can afford to lose it. You might be right about it being a hit, but
odds are against you. I suggest asking yourself the same question
if the answer is money, your motivation is a common one, and best of
I suggest an action film, or porn, or violence. That 'product' always
sells. (see article
on the 1998 AFM
rest of us working in
film, your medium of choice is a very expensive one, and I
one of the most powerful mediums available to artist's. But you know
Or at least you should know that.
If you've never made a film before, never been on a set before,
never worked with actors or a crew before, never run an inch of film
a film camera before and have never thought of the visual elements of
one of your shots before, or ever made a schedule, budget or broken
a script before, or even if you have, Guerrilla Filmmaking 101 should
able to help you get started in a direction that will allow you to
you've made the decision, your answer satisfies you that if no one ever
the film you still know it will be a great film, and you believe your
is ready to shoot, you're probably wrong.
you are the only person that believes your script is great, you've got
a problem. Your next step is to get somebody else on your side,
that can help you with production, but getting actors involved is a
good thing. Pass your script out to a few people you trust that will
you honest feedback. Not what you want to hear, but
a biased/unbiased opinion. That's usually honest feedback. If you're
making a narrative film, write down your idea for the film in a way
someone else can understand, and get a feel for what you intend the
to be. Listen to what people say, and that's a very hard thing to do.
they don't 'get it,' that's your problem, not theirs. Communication for
filmmaker is everything. Whether it's to the crew, actors or your uncle
the money, a director without communication skills is in a lot of
And at the script level, the start of your film, it's the key to your
being what you want. Have a read-through of your script, get the key
in whatever scenes you think you would like to hear or you think might
a problem, find some actors or friends or relatives that are
get them together in one room and have them read the scenes for you out
It's always better to find willing participants that can invest your
with whatever direction you can give them.
scene work? Do any of the lines you've written sound plausible coming
of the mouth's of real people? Are the parts so
idiosyncratic/difficult/impossible that you need Brando/Branagh/Olivier
for the part? Those are the easy questions, the one's a first time
writer needs to know about what he's done from the perspective of
voices outside his own subconscious. The hard questions still come back
to haunt you, and still ring back to the first question. What
do these characters mean to you? Is there any truth in what they say or
do? How do you know? What is this film about and do I have anything to
contribute to the lexicon? Why am I doing this?
Is This Film About?
the most important question for a filmmaker is the one that sounds the
mundane: What is this film about? I have a friend that will probably
the money for his first film and when I asked him what the film was
he started telling me the story. That's not what your film is about,
the story. What is it you have to say? What is the film about from the
perspective, not the writers? The story may be about a used car
who murders some customers, but the film is about father figures, last
extended families and redemption. This is not a slight distinction, if
just filming the action of the script, then you really have nothing to
and should question your reason for doing it. Tough love bubba, the
for impotent filmmakers doing what hollywood does every day is
growing smaller very quickly.
Okay. That's lesson one. Cheap, difficult, but absolutely necessary.
Finish the script, answer the question, get feedback from people you
trust, then do a read-through. If you're satisfied with your responses,
the next step should be easy.