I’ve had the privilege to speak to hundreds of independent filmmakers over the last few months. The majority of them are either just getting started in the business or are just getting started with their own productions, but some of the people I’ve been honored to speak with are veterans of the industry and have provided me with pearls of wisdom that I felt I would share with you.
Keep in mind, these are collected opinions from multiple sources and are not necessarily directed at any person or production. As opinions, they should be taken with a grain of salt because your mileage may vary with the information listed below.
So, here are the Top 5 ways independent filmmakers sabotage themselves:
- My script is perfect.
You need to understand that if you are writing a script for a film, T.V series or Web Series that you will probably be so tired of seeing it by the time that it’s done that you wont notice any mistakes. That is why professional copywriters, or proofreaders, are a godsend to writers. Most importantly, when someone fresh to the industry writes a script and starts shopping it around, there is a tendency to believe that the script is flawless and does not need anyone offering suggestions to improve it. This is a mistake. When someone goes through your script and gives you the feedback, you should not simply dismiss it but you should examine that feedback to see if it’s warranted. Have multiple people look over it and if you get similar feedback, consider making the changes. You may be seeing your script with rose colored glasses. (IE: bias)
- Writing too big.
Look, we all want to be like James Cameron with a billion dollar budget and be able to invent new technology to fit our films needs. That would be awesome. But that ain’t reality. Most independent filmmakers start their first draft with the idea that they’ll get a massive budget and will be able to shoot what they want to shoot. The truth is far more depressing than that fantasy. Unless you have a solid gold script, have connections in the industry and/or a massive investment of your own money, you aren’t going to be able to film a epic scale independent movie. You need to work with what you have. This does not mean you should give up, it just means you should adjust your script to tell the story.
- Taking people for granted.
In this business, you will find a lot of people willing to donate a significant portion of their lives to your production because they either believe in you or your story. It is very easy to let that person get caught up in everything that you do and begin to take for granted all the things that they have done for you. When it comes down to placing blame for setbacks of failed schedules, those people are usually the first to get the blame. Don’t forget that these people are doing YOU a favor and they are helping YOU get your production off the ground. Mistakes happen, forgiveness is divine and, in this business, the more people you allow to help you, the more you will find yourself taking advantage of those people because it is convenient or because you simply don’t have time to do it yourself.
- A “Fire Sale” mentality.
Unfortunately, some people get so caught up in their work and the hopes and dreams they have for their production that when something goes wrong, they have a tendency to panic, throw the emotions into overdrive and burn down whatever it is they have built so far. Understand that you will find people in this business who you will work with for a while, who will move in and out of your lives and your production, you will work with businesses and individuals, you will get told “No” way more than you get told yes and you will face unbelievable setbacks in the odyssey of your career. Let yourself be depressed, let the doubt and fear wash over you and have a good complaint session with a relative or a close friend. Do that and then let it go. Don’t post things on social media, don’t lash out publicly, and don’t let your emotions destroy what you’ve worked so hard to build. Shit happens, as they say, so don’t get caught up in the negative. Focus on the positives and remember that no matter how often you try and fail, the only real failure is when you stop trying.
- Getting caught up on gear.
Ah, my second love: gear. I have an amazing appreciation for all of the awesome stuff that filmmakers have at their disposal and I have to say that I want them all in my repertoire every step of the way. The only problem with that is that I often have very small budgets, working on extremely tight deadlines and have a minimalist crew to manage all of that stuff. Most people get so caught up on the camera they are going to use, the lenses they think will make their production perfect and that awesome 50ft crane to get those huge sweeping shots, that they forget that most of the independent films they see are done with minimal equipment, borrowed, rented or loaned from a variety of sources and a whole lot of favors are done in order to get things accomplished. The only thing you should be focused on, gear wise, is SOUND. Sound is the most important thing an independent filmmaker should focus on from a perspective of spending the most money, effort or time on to get.Yeah, sure, a RED EPIC is awesome and amazing but do you have any idea the workflow that goes into editing that type of footage? The computational power, the render times and the lead times? Why put yourself through all that hassle when you can rent a Canon C500 and an amazing set of lenses, lighting kits and a few other pieces to get your job done and put it to the editing suite without having to take out a mortgage on your home for a new computer.Better yet, why not try shooting something with an iPhone. Believe it or not, you can get some AMAZING footage from an iPhone and a few key lights. The point here is that you need to only spend a small amount of time worrying about the equipment and more time focusing on honing your script, making sure you have enough people to pull it off and ensuring that you have a safe and fun shooting schedule that everyone will enjoy working on.
So that’s my rant for today. I wanted to share with you all some of of the things I’ve learned on this incredible journey so far with the hopes that you avoid the common pitfalls that plague independent filmmakers.
Until next time,