OK, I get this all the time: “How do you make a movie?”
which really means “How do I make a movie?”
The first rule is: There are no rules.
The second rule is: Do what you want, see what happens, try it again and do better the second time. Repeat this process a third, fourth and several times until you get to be good. Really good. At which point you can look up your old buddy Mike Messier and throw me a bone (a job).
I could use the money.
You see, the life of a “low/no budget filmmaker”/ “struggling artist” / “rising talent” / “whatever that guy does” is not exactly full of abundance, in terms of financial gain and/or societal acceptance.
Prepare yourself for long hours of frustration in the coffee house, typing, typing, typing away at your laptop. If you have any sense, ANY sense, you will at least arm yourself with Final Draft Screenwriting software instead of its “free” rival Celtx or some other hack program.
Oh, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We haven’t even gotten started yet.
I haven’t motivated you to make your movie yet.
You see, I like movies and I like to see good movies being made. My job is to inspire you to get that good movie out of your head and get it onto a screen, whatever screen, so I can see it and enjoy it.
Who knows? Maybe I won’t even like your movie… but at least you’ll have made it.
Instead you are sitting there, thinking these thoughts about these scenes that you’d like to shoot… about this story you’d like to tell…. if Only you had the money, if Only you had the time, if Only you knew the people, if only, if only, if only… Fuck it.
You know, you could actually make that movie? You could actually do it, you know that?
Meanwhile, that guy is already making his movie. You know that guy with his movie. You don’t know that guy? You wouldn’t like him. You don’t know his movie? It sucks.
Trust me, I’ve seen that guy’s movie. It’s a zombie movie. Or a horror movie. Or a movie with half of his friends mumbling their way into “love scenes” with whatever local models they could afford or manipulate for free onto the set.
You see, it’s easy to create bad movies. There’s an audience for bad movies. A lot of other reasonably intelligent people love bad movies.
I’m not talking about movies that try to be good and end up bad. That can happen. That is forgivable and often such a good movie gone bad can have some elements that make the movie salvageable and watchable.
I’m taking about bad movies that are conceived bad, born bad, and are raised to fruition bad. Joe Dirt is an example of a well known bad movie.
But for our purposes, what you and I are really going up against, is this: That guy that lives ten miles from you, who works in IT, who has saved $8,000 for equipment, and will shoot/ “direct” and edit his “own movie” on the weekends with whatever “dudes” and “hot chicks” he can find.
The dudes will probably engage in fight scenes and the hot chicks will probably lose their tops. Everybody will bathe in fake blood, likely a homemade mix of Karo syrup, baking soda, and red food dye. There will be some type of script, probably involving a zombie, a vampire or some other type of scary element.
That guy will be sure to have everyone sign over a waiver releasing the “film maker” from any financial obligations to his cast and crew. That guy will tell his cast and crew he’s “not likely to make a profit anyway, this is only for fun.” Yeah, right.
That guy is smart. He will crank out his movie in three to five months and then get some type of distribution deal with a company that specializes in low budget bad movie fare. Or maybe that guy will self distribute and get his money back and turn a profit that way.
After that guy has done all this a few times and made a “name” for himself, don’t be surprised or jealous when all the local actors in your community are all hungry to be in that guy’s movie. Sad, naive, maybe even desperate for attention, these talented folks will be surprisingly eager to leave their pride at the door and metaphorically, or even literally, drop their pants for that guy in the ego orgy that is his “film company.”
If these actors are lucky, they will be rewarded with free pizza and maybe even booze for the honor of appearing on screen in that guy’s movie. They will love to see their own faces bouncing around on that projected screen or High Def TV. They will be happy that they weren’t inconvenienced by any rehearsals and that they just had to “show up” on the day of shooting. And they got free pizza.
Does it matter that the “material” is below their abilities? No. “It was fun” they will say.
Does it matter that the movie is a flimsy piece of drivel? Not really. “It was fun” they will say.
Does it matter – OK, wait, let’s stop talking about that guy and his fucking piece of shit movie.
He gets enough attention as it is and every time you hear that guy’s name you think “I can do better”.
Yet. You. Don’t.
You see, while you think yourself into a corner, that guy is making his movie. You aren’t making yours.
That guy wins.
You are up against that guy. I have my own that guy and so I’d really like to see you do better against your that guy than I’ve done against my that guy.
The status quo sucks. For “Hollywood movies”, the status quo sucks.
For you and I, the no budget movie maker, the status quo really sucks.
It takes longer to cook a steak than to make a burger and it’s a hamburger factory of shitty movies we are up against. I offer this skillet to you with the hopes you can do something better.
Make something of yourself.
Make your movie.
I’m making a movie. Yea! Bring on the stress. Stress and how you deal with it is a major schtick for a movie maker, at least for me. Let’s not call it an “issue” or “a concern” or even a “topic”. It’s a schtick. All of this Movie Making is a schtick.
Somalia is an issue. AIDS is a major concern. Movie Making is a schtick.
I’m broke and I’m going to make a movie. Another one. For the foreseeable future, I don’t have another car accident settlement coming my way to fund my next movie. I’ll have to do it on my own. With the help of my friends.
Movie Making is a collaborative effort. It’s easy to forget that and “auteur theory” (ego) is easy to buy into. That means doing it all yourself. Or more-so to the point, thinking you are doing it all yourself.
You’ll need people, lots of people sacrificing their time, to help you make our movie. That’s the way it should be and that’s the way it is.
[Try using the term “our movie” instead of “my movie”. It tricks your unpaid associates to think it’s their movie too. ]
Honor your collaborators. They are not your employees unless you are paying them and even then you aren’t Mr. Slate and they’re not Fred Flintstone. (Wilma!) These good people are your friends and your collaborators. Treat them as such. With respect. With honor. Yes, your Actors are working too even if they appear to be having fun. Maybe they’re Acting like they’re having fun, just to make you feel better.
Make this movie. No excuses. I want to see it. Do it.
I think it’s important, vital, and empowering when an Actor or anyone takes their life into their own hands. Do not depend on others for justifaction, reassurance, a slap on the back or a shake of the hand. Your family and/or friends may not understand you or apparently give a shit about what you are doing. You may – or may not – feel that you are fighting a losing battle all by yourself. Stay strong – or get strong – if you are not strong. Success, or close to it, is usually the best way to shut people up – the critics – and/or to get those same doubting cynics behind you. Ultimately you have to rely on yourself.
As a schoolchild, me and my classmates were instructed to NOT write in our books. The reason was so we could turn in our books at the end of the year and that the books would be in good shape for the next year’s students. Fair enough.
Yet this trained system built a resistance of books to me. The books weren’t to be engaged with, they were to be feared. They weren’t my friends. They were part of the machine of school. I couldn’t “play” with them, they weren’t mine, they were only with me for a short time. I didn’t own them, they were borrowed.
How did this affect me?
Out of school, I didn’t read much on my own (besides Pro Wrestling magazines. In those, I had the freedom, at least, to cut out some pictures to make collages of the guys beating each other up. These magazines were MINE.)
Meanwhile, real books, fiction, non-fiction, paperback, hardback… these books were a foreign object. I couldn’t, or chose not to, get over my fear, my distance of books.
I didn’t write in them. No pencil marks, God forbid a pen mark, and certainly not highlighters. It was ingrained that the books were to remain “clean” in case “someone else” would eventually read them.
I didn’t write in a book until last year when Napolean Hill’s book THINK AND GROW RICH gave me permission to do so. In fact, it was an order. I couldn’t believe it! It was a challenge… and then I did it. And imagine that, I didn’t get “in trouble”.
Write in your books. They are YOURS.
Yesterday, I read passages of these book:
Zen and the Art of Making a Living – Laurence G. Boldt
The Psychology of Screenwriting
30 Second Philosophies
I recommend these books. More to the point, read something.
Even a Pro Wrestling magazine.