Making a low-budget independent film is hard - there are budgetary limitations, crunched schedules, and the inevitable last-minute change of plans. It's no surprise then that some traits might make you better at handling these conditions and constraints. Are you the kind of director who will halt production if the right extra isn't on set? Or someone unwilling to be a jack-of-all-trades over the course of a film's production cycle? Can you offer creative alternatives at the drop of a hat? Independent film producer Mynette Louie outlines what she believes to be the 12 key traits that make for "indie-friendly" directors, in what ends up being a revealing and challenging list for all filmmakers:
The following trait stood out to me because it's something I've personally found to be very true in my own process, and it's something I've heard some of my directing heroes mention in interviews:
3. Editing Experience
It is so valuable for a director to have editing experience because she or he will know on set what’s important and what’s not, what can be sacrificed and what can’t. Indie films are scheduled so tightly that it’s often very tough to make the day. All of my feature productions have been between 19 and 24 days, shooting between 4-7 pages and 15-35 setups per day. Sometimes, shots and even scenes have to be cut on the day of shooting. A director who also edits will have a much better sense of which shots are expendable, and how to make up for losing them.
Even if you aren't doing the frame by frame editing, sitting down and learning how to edit your own work is incredibly beneficial -- especially when you're starting out and learning your craft. You realize what you're missing in terms of coverage, but more importantly, you realize the power of the cut in molding and transforming your story in often unexpected ways. You learn to problem-solve the visual story, how to make do with what you have, and just how little you might actually need to get the idea of a scene across. When shooting, it's easy to get caught up in the performance, production design, framing, etc., but if you can also make snap editing judgements when running out of time then you're two steps ahead of the game. Remember, editing is where you draw up the story's final draft. Not only does editing experience make you a better low-budget filmmaker, it makes you a better storyteller period.
For the full list, go here. Even if some of these traits aren't your strengths, you can always be improving on them, and making yourself a more resourceful filmmaker -- and that's what indie filmmaking comes down to. With low-budgets, you have to make up for material resources by being twice as creative and resourceful with the materials you do have. Developing and honing these traits will help you get the most out of what you have on hand.
Do any other traits come to mind for you?
[Director's chair photo by Flickr user TheLivingRoominKenmore (CC)]