Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What is an Independent Film? and Five Things to Know When Working On an Independant Film

"Independent Film" is a term you hear a lot these days. With cameras getting better and cheaper, it's no wonder. A six year old with a camera phone might consider himself an Indy Filmmaker, so before getting into the meat and potatoes of this post, I want to establish what I find to be a working definition of "Independent film"

An Independent Film is a a production shot on a shoe string budget, with a bare bones crew, and unconventional methods. Obviously there is more to it then that, however, many of the films you see in blockbuster, or on TV, are shot in this way. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true. Furthermore, you don't need big Hollywood backing to make a decent movie; which brings me to the next part of this blog.

Five Things to Know When Working on an Independent Film
  1. Make sure your script is good. There are several books on screen writing, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder being one of the best. He gives you a simply, and easy to follow format to work with, and if you follow his methods, no matter how silly your story idea, it will be entertaining. Check out the link, and you'll see what I mean.
  2. SHOW Respect/ Appreciation for Your Actors and Crew. I emphasize show because many times people say, while they continue to abuse thier crew. On an independent film shoot, many people are working for low or no pay, simply because they like making films. Knowing this, the least you can do is feed your crew well, thank them for thier hard work, and not make them feel like slave labourers. This applies to Directors, Producers, Writers, and even fellow actors and crew in some cases. I worked with a Director who paid nobody, but he had the right attitude, and fed us well, and every person continues to come back and work for him.
  3. Make and Stick to a Production Schedule. Without a schedule, it's very difficult to get everyone in the right place at the right time. It also makes it more difficult to keep track of what you've done, and still need to do. When making your schedule, considered that many of your actors and crew are working other jobs to pay thier bills, and that 10 days of shooting, is very tiring. Work in a few days of down time between shoot days, you'll be happy you did.
  4. Lighting and Audio are the Unseen Heros of Production. Whether your working with clamp lights and a memo recorder, or $10,000 worth of lighting/sound equipment, make sure you use it properly. Studies have shown that people will watch a movie with bad images if the sound is good. The better the recording is during the shoot, the easier it will be to work with in post production. Light your scenes. Even if it's adding three little lights in your apartment, adding lighting to your film increases production value, which makes your film look better. This brings me to my last point:
  5. Have Value for Your Production. Do the most with what tools you have at hand. I worked on a film where production value actually went down over the course of a shoot. It's disheartening for the crew and actors, and no one wants to watch a film that falls apart as it proceeds forward. As the saying goes, "people will give you the same value you give yourself"... or something like that, but you get my point.

Obviously there is a lot more to making a movie, but in my experience these five factors can play a huge roll in the final product. However, I'm always learning new things. The more productions I work on, the more I learn, and the more this list develops. That being said, I'd like to open this conversation up to all you lovely folks on the interweb.

Add to the list, or subtract from the list. Agree/disagree with me in a comment down below. I'm curious what you all think.

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