A blog that will entirely contradict my previous blog! (READ LAST ONE HERE)
In filmmaking, as in life, there is no right way, no best way, only the way that works for you, the way that chimes in with who you are.
And in storytelling and filmmaking, I believe there are no rules, only guides and principles.
Last weekend I presented an argument that outlined the principle that you would be better off working hard at training yourself, then presenting your best work at key moments to people who could accelerate your career – film execs, other producers, named actors, investors etc. READ HERE
There is also great truth and power in the flip side of this argument – ‘Screw it, let’s do it! What’s the worst that can wrong?’ Essentially, taking action no matter the circumstances.
When I train filmmakers I often show clips and trailers from stunningly bad horror movies. These are movies that are made for £5k, complete with terrible acting, shocking cinematography, awful sound and plots that are utterly ludicrous.
We all have a good laugh at these terrible movies. But the truth is, ever one of these films was being sold in Cannes.
These films were made by filmmakers actually doing it, with a crew, camera, actors and a mountain of chutzpah. Meanwhile, I am sitting down here and talking about doing it. Talking about it is NOT DOING IT.
You can take a peek at these movies HERE, they are sold by a company called Brain Damage.
And don’t be put off by this example of extreme horror shlock – horror is very forgiving of budget, but low key drama, so long as the acting is great (and sound) can also be extremely effective and satisfying, allowing subjects to be tackled that would struggle with industry scale investment. A good example of a British film that did this would be Black Pond. It’s stunning.
So what are the benefits of taking massive action without too much experience or budget and RIGHT NOW?
- Immediate results that are tangible and real.
- Learn on the job. There is simply no better way to do it.
- Make money from your learning. Making a micro budget horror could make you a bit of money from online sales, iTunes and direct DVD sales. It probably won’t, but just trying will get you to learn about sales and distribution. That’s REALLY useful.
- Feel the pain. In post production you will need to deal with all the poorer choices you made in the script and on set, the stuff beyond your apparent control, and the impact of the lack of cash you endured. This will give you a VERY healthy respect for script development, acting, planning, production design, sound recording and coverage. It will train you to better exploit minimal resources next time. You won’t learn this drinking cappuccino. You won’t learn this by repeatedly making the film in your head with a fantasy cast and budget.
- Control of your own destiny – taking action means you will live and die by your own choices. As Julian Richards phrased in a comment to my last blog, ‘create your own industry, employ yourself, and do whatever you want to do.’
- Persistence and passion can win over almost anyone. It’s true that talent and ability can often be trumped by super enthusiasm, especially (and perhaps crucially) when backed up by regular massive action AND a track record of learning and improvement. The key here is not to get stuck on a single project but to keep moving forward.
- Brand development. If you know who you are what you want to do, you can begin to show consistency in your work. This will make you more investable with each project (assuming you get better and more savvy).
- Have a destination in mind. Why are you making your films and where do you want them to lead? This is an essential question to answer. It’s completely fine to say ‘I am making it ‘cos I want to make it and it will be fun’ – but you must know that this answer will generate one set of results, where other answers will generate other results. It’s about being honest with yourself about your goals and then moving toward them through your work.
- You will learn all the other stuff too – making DVD’s, BluRay, working with iTunes, making a poster, running marketing campaigns, doing accounts, running a business… All this stuff is as important as making the film.
- You will get into some festivals and have a good time if you attend. Do not hold out for Cannes, Berlin, Toronto etc. as you almost certainly won’t get in. But you might get into very small festivals run by passionate film fans. Think of this more as a recreational exercise than a career step and you will get much more out of it.
- You will make powerful new allies – making a film will show you who your friends and allies really are, you will also see talent start to float and begin to align yourself with it for future projects.
- While I suggest you do focus on a specific brand, I also suggest you diversify into other genres too, especially by making a drama IF you want to work exclusively in a specific genre later. Right now you have a chance to make a disposable drama feature length film that would teach you tons about why most horror films are a bit rubbish (performance and motivations are inauthentic leading to audience disengagement), and you can do this for next to nothing.
- Feed the soul and face the fear – the bottom line is that we love making films and holding back somehow blackens the heart. Other people take holidays over summer, or buy an old Porsche off eBay and spend ten years fixing it up… where we could grab a camera, go into the woods with six actors and make a horror movie. I know which I would want to do
So again, I invoke the Clint Eastwood clause, ‘Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one’, including me.
Find what chimes in with you and do that with passion. But keep your eyes open and learn the hard lessons and grow, spot opportunities and exploit them… And finally, try and see yourself and your work the way the world sees it, and not just your hyper engaged family and friends.
Onwards and upwards!