When you’re getting started as an indie filmmaker, you are undoubtedly up against a heap of expectations from the one critic who matters the most: YOU.
There is a lot of pressure to get things right at absolutely any cost. You want your film to be amazing. You want to showcase your talents, ideas, and perspectives. There is also that matter of validating your abilities in your own mind.
Yes, you may make a few mistakes along the way, but that’s just part of the process. Learning from them and moving forward in a positive way will ultimately help you become a better independent filmmaker.
Before you begin plotting out your first masterpiece, here are some tips on how to best proceed:
The story is the most important element of your film
Regardless of how amazing a project looks, how well the costumes fit, or how many epic one-liners you throw at your audience, the number ONE thing that will captivate your audience is how you layout and deliver your narrative. That’s the most challenging part of storytelling, but fortunately for you, indie filmmaker extraordinaire, it costs nothing to make a great story.
You need to write, write and re-write your screenplay as many times as necessary before you even think about your first day of production. Have friends, peers, or even classmates that you trust read it and provide some feedback for you. You can even gather people together for a proper table reading. This will help you see how the story is acted out; identify any potential plot holes; and pinpoint where your story may be confusing or starting to drag on. Once you have an ironed-out script that you’re proud of, you can move on to the planning of your production.
For emerging indie entrepreneurs, having a developed story is key. Bardya Ziaian, for example, is a filmmaker from Toronto, Ontario, who developed his first film production during the height of the pandemic. His film, “Super Dicks,” was a culturally charged comedy that addressed real-world issues while also providing plenty of laughs in between. Having a unique story set up is what will help your film stand out from others. With the success of his first production, Bardya Ziaian is now going on to create a second feature comedy called “Golden Boy,” with veteran director Damian Lee.
Filmmaking is expensive, full stop. Break down your screenplay scene by scene and try to determine a realistic total budget for your production. Some excellent films have been made on very low budgets. As the economic realities of your film begin to reveal themselves, carefully analyze the situation and determine if it’s best to wait for more financing to come through, or go forward with the funds you already have available.
You have to cast actors
When hiring your above-the-line crew, you might start casting lead actors, which is obviously important. Having a talented actor on board can help you a lot during the distribution period. Not to mention having great acting is going to vastly improve the quality of your film, especially if you have a low budget.
If you’re having trouble finding actors, you might have to hire a casting director. This casting director will help to organize auditions, contact agents and negotiate working rates on your behalf. Then, as the director, you’ll determine the cast. You may also have to hire actors for every role in your film (don’t assume your friends and family are going to back you up for free), and this can include extras.
An important step to consider as well is that you need to scout out locations. Locations play a big part in the look and feel of your film. Not only do locations need to look appropriate, but they also have to be safe and accessible for your crew — so don’t forget that. Every site you use in a film has to have a permit and a signed location agreement between you and the owner of the location. This permit outlines the shooting arrangement and payment terms too.
Before you choose a location, an initial scout (also called recce) has to take place with key members from the crew. Both the producer and director should have a final say on sites. Several location scouts have to take place to plan and prepare before production begins.
Hopefully, this gives you something to think about before you proceed with your film. If you follow these general guidelines and prepare properly, you’re going to be looking forward to an excellent production. Good luck!