Top 7 Tips and Tricks for Independent Filmmakers
Making an independent film is like setting up your own startup. You know from the start how hectic it is going to be and how much work you will have to do every day. Making an independent film is a challenging and complex process. Making a great one is even more difficult.
Keeping a tight check on the budget helps in ensuring that the entire project meets its target without anything really going overboard or missing out on some crucial aspects.
As an independent filmmaker, you need to find clever ways to film on the go, on the cheap. For instance, you might want to use a GoPro or your smartphone to film some shots instead of hiring someone else.
Most times, an iPhone camera is the best camera for independent filmmakers! You could also go with a "guerrilla" style of filmmaking and not use any equipment at all. You can always just borrow the equipment from someone else.
If you are going in this direction, do your research and understand what is involved. There are a lot of good books, articles, and filmmaking blogs on the subject that you can use before you even begin the process.
What Is An Independent Film?
An independent film can be a full-length feature film or a short film. It is made without the backing of a big production company or a major studio. An independent film usually has a lower budget compared to other movies. Independent filmmakers can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million dollars on the movie.
For example, Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle had a budget of $15 million. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s Blair Witch Project had a budget of $60,000. Jason Reitman’s Juno had a budget of $6.5 million. All of these movies are considered independent films.
Things Independent Filmmakers Need To Consider
When it comes to independent productions, there are certain things that need to be kept in mind while executing them. Independent movies do not always have to be expensive, and you have to ensure the script is outstanding as well. Here are some of the things you should consider when making a movie as an independent filmmaker.
Whether you are an independent filmmaker or a major studio, you have to focus on the script. It is a common practice for independent filmmakers to give creatives more control over the content. Still, you cannot remove yourself completely from the creative process, especially when it comes to the story and script.
Going through the script is essential. If the movie requires filming in various locations or high-quality special effects, it can be out of your budget.
The Budget Of Production
Before you start the process of making an independent film, you need to be sure about the entire production budget. It is crucial that you are aware of how much money the film will need to get made and how much you have to contribute to it as an independent filmmaker.
If you can’t find an independent studio or financial producer to fund your movie, you will have to think of ways to secure funds.
The Cast Of Your Movie
When making an independent film, you often don’t have the funds to cast popular actors. Big studios often make such casting choices to ensure their movie will be a box office success. But independent filmmakers showcase their movies at various festivals across the world and don’t need to focus too much on how many people they will be able to bring to the cinemas.
It is crucial that you search for talent that has the acting skills you need for your movie and gives them an opportunity to shine through your project.
Finding Your Crew
As an independent filmmaker, you need to figure out the most vital roles you need to fill when starting the filming. If you are the one directing the movie as well, you need to find assistants and cinematographers that will help you bring your vision to life.
People often don’t realize how crucial the crew is for a movie. Having talented technicians on board can help you deliver the best for the audience. You need people who understand your thinking and vision working alongside you.
The Shoot-Day Prep
When you are working on a project as an independent filmmaker, you need to have a document or a file that contains all the information about the filming schedule, scene layouts, character notes, shot lists, and all the other necessary details.
You need to plan out each filming day beforehand. For example, if you need to film a rain scene, you can check which days it will rain in the location and plan your schedule accordingly. It can also help you save money on creating fake weather conditions for your film.
The post-production treatment a film receives is what sets an excellent movie apart from the good ones. Once the filming is complete, the editing process is vital. The way an editor puts the scenes together can make a significant impact.
If you are not experienced with editing movies, you need to set a budget aside for a professional editor. The same goes for a sound designer. You need professional sound mixing to deliver a polished final product.
Submitting To Festivals
After your film has gone through all the post-production processes and your film is ready, you need to start submitting it to festivals. However, before you start submitting it to festivals, you should show it to your peers and get some honest feedback.
Festivals like SXSW or Sundance are some of the biggest festivals where independent filmmakers showcase their work. If the travel expenses are too much for these festivals, you can start with any independent film festivals that are closer to your location and slowly make your way to the more prominent ones.
7 Tips For Independent Filmmakers
Going Viral Helps
Each day we see something new that has gone viral on all online platforms. It could be a song, a video, a tweet, news, or anything else that has the potential of gaining the interest of millions of people.
Word of mouth has been the most significant marketing tactic since forever. In this day and age, going viral is the new word of mouth. If you want your independent film to take the world by storm, it needs to go viral on the internet.
Either you or someone you hire for marketing needs to run a vigorous social media campaign. You can post content regularly and interact with the audience to get everyone excited about the movie.
More Isn’t Always Better
Many filmmakers fail to realize that most of the time, more doesn’t mean better. Sometimes, holding things back can get the audience more intrigued and is better for the plot. Going over the top isn’t always the key to success.
One of the most prominent examples of this was the portrayal of Pennywise, the clown from the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.” The movie never shows Pennywise killing a character on screen or setting people on fire.
The air of mystery that surrounds the character of Pennywise is intense. The audience is always anticipating what he will do in a scene. The creepy music and his look are enough to put fear in everyone’s mind.
Writing Is Everything
The plot is the most crucial part of any movie. Even if you have the best actors in your movie’s cast and how great the movie looks, if the screenplay and plot are weak, people will not enjoy it, and it can ruin your entire project.
We have all seen how the Star Wars prequels were criticized by the audience. Even though they had some of the best CGI, an excellent cast, an incredibly devoted fandom, the lack of impressive writing was the downfall of the series.
The script of your independent film is probably the least expensive part of your movie. You need to get the best writers and do the story justice. The writing of your film should get people to care about the characters and the plot.
Start Planning The Sequel
If you have a great idea in mind and it can be divided into two parts, you should start planning the sequel while you are working on the first part. It is always better to divide the movie into parts rather than trying to fit everything into one part and creating a mess.
Once you are sure people will love the first part, you should start planning on getting funds for the next one. It can be challenging to get people to invest in your project when they haven’t even watched the first part, but you need to try your best to impress them.
However, some people tend to ride the sequel train for far too long. You should not get greedy just because the movie is doing well. You need to have a solid storyline for the sequel and shouldn’t make it just because of the franchise name.
Keep Up With Film Schools
As an independent filmmaker, you need to keep an eye on the emerging talents from the film schools in your area. Film school graduates are young and looking for work opportunities, and you can provide them with employment options. It is an excellent way to save money.
You don’t have to pay them as much as they don’t have the experience to ask for higher salaries, yet they still have the skills and talent. However, you have to keep in mind that most of these recent film school graduates are not aware of how the industry works, and you might have to spend time teaching them a few things.
If you feel like you have the time, you can train the people you hire. You need to be sure that the talent and skills they have are exactly what you need. If you put in the effort to train them, you can get everything you need for your film.
You Have To Deal With Piracy
If your film becomes popular with the audience, there will be a significant number of people who might download and watch it illegally online. Piracy is one of the most significant problems the film industry has to face.
You need to accept that there will always be people who provide pirated links for the movie on the internet. Even if you take them down, more are bound to pop. You have to look at the silver lining; people are talking about your film, and it is getting recognized.
Most of the time, the movies that are difficult to reach and view legally are most pirated. You should try your best to make your independent film accessible for people all over the globe. If they can find it on legal streaming platforms or cinemas, they are less likely to watch a pirated copy.
Plan For The Behind-The-Scenes Content
Just because it is an independent film doesn’t mean you need to forget about memorializing every step of the process. You can always take pictures and record short videos. From the first script reading to the wrap party, you should cover it all.
Releasing the BTS footage near the release of your movie or after the release can help you show the audience the entire filming process. It makes the audience relate to the actors more, and they can enjoy the journey with you.
Being an independent filmmaker comes with a lot of pressure. You need to secure funds and get the perfect cast and crew for your project. You should always focus on the script and have characters that the audience can relate to.
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