THE RULES OF MAKING A FILM
In the rules of film, there is an order of operations that’s meant to be followed. You need a script in order to have a project. You need financing in order to have a chance at making that project a reality. You need money to get people to sign on to your project. You need people to make a film and finally you need to shoot before you can edit. Simply put, write a script, get funding, get people, shoot a movie, put it together.
Seems simple enough in concept but it’s fucking difficult to execute. Making a film requires a level of dedication and grit that most people are willing to go through. Most have this level in them, they just choose not to apply themselves.
If you have the passion, the tenacity, the grit and the gull to make your own film, you need to know the order of operations, the rules to follow and when it’s allowable to break those rules. Again, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.
WRITE THE SCRIPT
It’s the blueprint, the map leading you to the treasure at the end. Without a good script, you can’t have a good movie. It’s literally impossible. Nobody ever sets out to make a movie and says, “Fuck a script! We’ll just wing it.” What would you shoot? How would you connect the scenes? How would you know the arc and tone?
This is literally the most important part of the process, so take your time. It’s the foundation of everything. Without a strong foundation, you can’t have a strong, well built home. If you’re shitty in the beginning, you’re going to be shitty throughout.
The script is what brings people together. It brings in the money. It’s the whole reason a movie is made. Passion for the words on the page. People read the script, fall in love with the story and set out to bring this world to life. The decision to make a dream, a reality, has always and will always start with nothing more than words on a page.
This one here is a bit tricky to navigate. It’s a bit of a catch 22. Nobody wants to finance a movie if you don’t have named talent attached to the project. On the flip side of the coin, named talent is difficult to get if you don’t have financing. So what is one to do? How the hell do you secure the funds needed in order to make your film?
At the end of the day you need to remember that you’re a filmmaker. With that said, no matter what, make the film. You don’t NEED money to make a movie. Sure, you won't be able to make an Ironman reboot without millions of dollars, but do you really need to? Nobody said you have to make films with a big budget, huge named talent and tons of special effects. Challenge yourself, write a simple story with emotion and impact. Tell your story no matter what.
Now, I’m not saying don’t pay people for their time and effort on a film. You absolutely should. I’m saying you don’t need a hundred million dollars. Get a small group together, figure out what it’s going to cost to make this dream a reality and go raise the funds. Save money over the year and finance it yourself. Ask friends and family for money. Get a loan. Use credit cards. Apply for film grants and state financing. There’s plenty of options.
Full disclosure, I don’t recommend financing a picture with loans or credit cards. 99% of films made, lose money. You don’t make a film to make money. You do it to make memories and tell a story. Don’t put yourself in hole by financing in this way. Take a year, save some cash and film at a later date if you’re going to self finance.
The financing rule is meant to be broken. No matter what, make the movie. It doesn’t take millions of dollars.
GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE
With the decision to move forward, we need to find the right people to make the film. Who are the right people? Remember this one thing, choose passion over talent and experience. Again, if you have millions of dollars, then you can afford talented and passionate people full of experience. However, if you broke the rule of financing, you’re likely to break this one too.
It’s a long path to make a film, which is why I recommend choosing passion. Passion will drive you, carry the team forward and assist you on your journey towards the finish line. Experience and talent will not.
So as you go on Facebook, scouring local film groups for the right people to help make your film, keep passion in mind. Interview the interested parties and gauge their passion. If they seem a bit uninterested but have a ton of talent and experience, you may want to move on and find someone else. If they have a ton of passion and a willingness to learn, I’d sign that person up every time.
Again, a rule that’s meant to be broken. You WANT passionate people. Find them and make the film no matter what.
SHOOT THE MOVIE
What’s the best camera and lens to use for your film? It’s the one you have access to. Congratulations! In today’s world, you have a camera in your pocket. You no longer have an excuse not to make a film. It used to cost millions of dollars in equipment to get you going. Now it costs time and a few thousand dollars.
With your script, your financing and your team assembled, filming is the easy part. Take whatever camera you can get your paws on and start shooting. Remember, it’s a long path to the finish line. Take your time and be patient. It’s one day at a time, one page at a time, one line at a time.
You can’t skip this part, for obvious reasons, but don’t get hung up on equipment. There’s tons of choices out there. Make a smart decision, choose what’s right for you and make your movie.
EDIT THE FOOTAGE
Finally! With the footage in the can, we can finally assemble this masterpiece. Or, if you’re like me, you edited as you shot and you have something to watch. Again, this step is unavoidable but there is something you should know.
Editing is a timely and tedious process. Take your time, be patient and just know that you WILL hate your film by the end of this. Watching the movie and scenes play out millions of times, you will get to know every inch of this thing. Every shadow, every soft spot, every blemish. You will hate the film.
Use this hate. Let it fire you up and fuel you to be better.
At this point you’re going to realize that what worked on the page, in the original script, isn’t quite translating to the screen. Something about the story just isn’t working when you watch it. It’s time to rinse and repeat this process.
THE INFINITE LOOP
Watching the film and seeing that it doesn’t work can be demoralizing. Don’t let it get you down, it happens to the best of them. It’s not that your film sucks, it just needs to be fixed. So let’s fix it!
It’s time to go back to the beginning. After identifying the issues in your film, it’s time to go back to the script and write out a way to fix it. Remember, this is your blueprint. Modify it based on your edit and reassemble the story. Piece the puzzle back together by adding new scenes, necessary to add strength to your picture and then set off to shoot.
It’s nothing more than a loop. Write, finance, gather, shoot, edit. Rinse and repeat until you have the film you want, or the one you’ll take. There is a difference.
This article was written this morning out of frustration and passion. I’m at the point in ‘What About Molly?’ where I hate the film in the edit. I’ve accepted this fact and no longer see it in the same light as I once did. It’s perfectly fine. I’ve identified the issues, made my rewrites and now it’s time to get the new shots.
It’s a process with many bumps in the road. An infinite loop that seemingly won't end. Never be discouraged. If you want to make a film, set off and make it. Don’t let anything get in your way. With failure looming at every turn, passion will carry you. Just remember, it’s one month, one week, one day, one page, one word at a time. Make your movie.
- The Failed Filmmaker