To The New Filmmakers

Should you even consider making a movie if you don’t have things under control?

For instance, I want to make a movie (this is hypothetical, as I’ve made quite a few). I am new to the business of filmmaking and have not really made more than backyard skits or shooting my sister’s wedding. But I feel compelled to create this story that really needs to be told. It’s an undeniable fact that the world needs to see (visually) this story idea that I have, or even that a friend has somewhat written up.

So, I create a few things (virtual banners, postcard thingies, some cool (to me) graphics) and I go about posting them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I promote to all of my family and friends. I even create, to the best of my ability, a (what I believe is) great trailer for the movie I want to make.

But alas, I don’t have the experience. I don’t have the “complete drive” to make or finish this movie. And more importantly, I don’t have the money to finance it correctly.

Believing in myself, I begin to ask people for money; mostly family and friends. That nets me about $100. Then I find out (because of reading somewhere; probably IndieTalk) that I can raise money with something call “crowdfunding”. So, I create a campaign on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo or GoFundMe or some other site that will help me raise money in a set amount of time… Money I will never need to repay to anyone, ever. And I’m betting that I’ll raise a bunch of money to make this movie. But, because I know nothing about crowdfunding promotion, I have raced into this campaign on IndieGoGo (because I can get only some of the money if I don’t make my goal money, which Kickstarter doesn’t allow) only to discover that no one is aware of my movie, or even worse, has no DESIRE to see my movie made.

So my crowdfunding sits there and makes nada. I try to tell all of my friends and relatives about it, but alas, no one takes me seriously. And in the end, I bring in a measly $300 of my intended $10,000 goal.

But I am still compelled to make this movie, no matter what. I have no money, but who needs it in this economy, especially when people are willing to work for free, only requiring nothing more than food, credits, and an “eventual” copy of the DVD, whenever that might be. And knowing this makes me push onward to realize my “dream”.

But this is no dream… This scenario is a nightmare. You haven’t a clue about what you’re doing and neither does your crew. Your cast is comprised of “who you can get” for free, and you’re spending gobs of time on making the “perfect” movie you’ve always wanted to make. But everything is not fine and now your equipment is broken, or the scenes are not coming out the way you want them to, or that special effect you wanted to do will cost you more money/time/energy than you have. Everything gets desperate, and you haven’t even left page 4 of a 109 page script. And then you wonder…

Why did I do this?

Almost every filmmaker faces these circumstances at some point, unless they were born with a silver reel ingrained in their backside. The pain is real. The trials and tribulations are real. And then, when you sit down and really consider how over-saturated this market really has become, it just becomes overwhelming. There are officially over 100,000 TV shows and web series made or being made at any given point. Indie movies have begun to skyrocket, and each tale just fulfills some desire in the person that created them. And people who have dreams are always searching for that one “big break” to make it officially into the business. It’s darn near criminal how people don’t realize this when they start out. And since a large majority finally come to the realization that this isn’t for them, they fall from their perch, usually taking huge losses in the equipment/time/energy that they have now had to sell off at pennies on the dollar.

So, what is this post really about? It’s about getting anyone who is new to the craft to comes to a few realizations:

• If you don’t have the money to make your movie right, you really need to consider taking the time to get the appropriate amount of money (through a BUDGET) in order to make it right… Which leads to this point:
• Is your story really THAT strong, or engaging, or original, or peculiar that it needs to be told in movie format? Why not ask some people (like here on IndieTalk) as to whether or not your concept is good enough to become a movie/TV Show/web series. And do NOT fall for a biased opinion! Your mom will always tell you it’s great. Your best friend will tell you the same. Anyone who has a vested interest in your movie will feel compelled to blow smoke up your ass, so ask someone who doesn’t care two ways if your movie is made or not! And LISTEN to THOSE people when you ask them. Determine if it’s truly worth making.
• Try not to lead people on by making them think that your movie is going to be the next Hollywood blockbuster when you’re filming it on $150, a cooler of soda and water, and a bunch of promises. You’re just fooling yourself in the process and hurting those relationships that could be something special in the future.

The indie scene has been over-saturated for some time now (since the technology has been available, really) and it’s time to make sure that the people who really want to do these things (be filmmakers) are really doing them right. If you’re absolutely compelled to show us why this character sitting in a chair explaining life to us in slow motion is going to be the “next big thing”, make sure that you’re doing it absolutely right (LEARN ABOUT FILMMAKING THE CORRECT WAY), get money for your movie (LEARN ABOUT FUNDRAISING AND INVESTORS), and try not to burn your bridges along the way.

But, most importantly, TAKE YOUR TIME! Stop rushing into these things. If your story is THAT compelling, you’ll have plenty of time to tell it, I promise you.

I don’t want to discourage your dreams, but think long and hard before you just hop into this field. It’s not for the weak-willed or weak of mind/heart. This is serious shit.