Tips Before You Even Start

by Michael Neel & Greg Ansin

It is not as hard as you think, but you must ask yourself a few questions: Why do I want to make a film? Do I have any experience? Who might be interested in my film?

FilmReel16mm film – Set design for the Drive-In Horrorshow.

You don’t have to know any of the answers but the more you think about these things the more it will help you as go along.

Note – These suggestions are manly for a narrative film – documentaries follow a different production path but these questions still apply.

Why do I want to make a film (this film)?

An easy answer is: people will be interested in watching this film. A good film is always a good film and people will want to watch it. Now, that is somewhat oversimplified but a good film is based on having a good story. The story doesn’t have to be complex at all, just solid. Once you have your story, then build your characters in this world. Characters, and later actors, will bring the story to life. The K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach works more often than you’d think. Try it.

The clapper marks the scene and syncs the film and audio.

Do I have any experience in making a film?

I would not be too concerned about this. Depending on your lifestyle and what you are comfortable with it is easy to get into the “game”. The only qualification is that you have watched a lot of movies and TV.

For an indie filmmaker your biggest resource/expense/whatever you want to call it is your TIME. So, if you know very little about filmmaking a good start is to buy a few books on film or go to a filmmaker blog, and watch DVD commentaries. If you have some cash take a class or two, if there are films being made in your area try to get work on them even if you don’t get paid. After you work on set or behind the scenes you may realize what you want to do: maybe you just want to write screenplays or maybe you love the chaos of a set. If your experiences don’t deter you, you’ll be well on your way to producing your film, so I’d say “good luck and send me a screener when the film is done or invite me to the premiere…..”

Lights! Camera! Action!

Who might be interested in my film?

Marketing, research and end market. Some filmmakers don’t think too much about these and get lucky but most don’t. Unless you have a lot of connections in the business get ready to work at it. As much fun as you can have making your film, it can be frustrating after the film is finished and you’re not able to get your film out there. This is not as doom and gloom as it seems – even if your budget is long since gone you can still get your film out there. Just don’t be in a rush – there are social networking sites, streaming video services and downloads. Again, this only costs your time – if you are willing to write about your film and spread the word the grassroot following will come if your film is good…

So let’s get ready to start writing.

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