Filmmaking Tips from SXSW: Some of Indie Film's Biggest Movers & Shakers Sound Off
SXSW saw tons of great minds -- filmmakers, executives, and creatives -- come through and participate in panel discussions (some of which we had the pleasure of attending). Indiewire has compiled some great filmmaking advice shared at several of these panels by some incredibly talented and influential industry professionals, including producer (now Fandor CEO) Ted Hope and filmmaker Lena Dunham. Continue on to check out what they said.
Indiewire collected insight from panels attended by VHX co-founder Jamie Wilkinson, the "Before" Trilogy producer John Sloss, micro-budget pioneer/producer Jason Blum, House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti, Tiny Furniture and Girls director Lena Dunham, and Fandor CEO Ted Hope, all of whom are changing the way we create, share, and view cinema. So, if you're a filmmaker looking for a few words of wisdom -- a new way to look at the craft -- then check out a selection of their helpful tips below.
We are greater than the sum of our parts
One of independent cinema's greatest allies is producer and Fandor CEO Ted Hope, who has been working to further the industry by speaking out about changes that could help make indie films and their makers flourish in a marketplace that has, and continues to dramatically evolve. One of these changes includes shifting the power from the "gatekeepers" to the "stakeholders" -- the artists and fans -- something that can't be done without the indie community working together to serve the whole. ("Independent" means "independent of major studios", not "independent of each other".) Hope says:
The problem in the film industry is that people think they can do it themselves. They think that they matter more than the collective whole and I don't agree with that, frankly.The most powerful thing that we can do is think outside of ourselves and work together to advance the things that matter most to us.
Listen to your audience
If you're a filmmaker and you don't use Facebook or Twitter, you're going to have a hard time connecting with your potential audience, because these days, that's where they are -- and it's no secret how powerful and influential people with social media can truly be. Making a real, genuine connection with your fans is not only a great thing to do as a human being, but it can really help create some buzz around your project. From Dana Brunetti:
Listen to what the fans are saying and what they're doing from a content creation side and what they want and what they expect so you can create and make for them. They can make or break a film. Between Twitter and Facebook, early word of mouth for a film can destroy it immediately or take something you've never heard of and make it a huge hit.
The bit about making films for your fans may not sit well with some of you. (Granted, we don't really know the full context in which it was said.) But let me just say this: there are no rules to filmmaking. If you want to make films for your fans, yourself, or your mom, then do it. If you want to cater your films to your audiences suggestions, do it. If you want to keep your own vision, keep it. But, do listen to your audience either way. (By the way -- the thing they might "want and expect" from you could be another film made by you!)
Don't wait! Just make a film already!
Jason Blum and Lena Dunham echo each other's sentiments on this one, which is great, because they both understand what making films without money or resources is all about. Blum's production company Blumhouse Productions produced the Paranormal Activity and Insidious films, as well as The Purge. Though they had to work with low-budgets, they managed to maintain high production values, as well as wide releases for each film. Blum explains:
The advice I give for filmmakers starting out is don't wait for me. Don't wait for the industry -- It's a mistake to wait for Hollywood to tell you you have a good idea. If you have a good idea, try to make it on your own as cheaply as possible -- on your phone.
Lena Dunham won the Narrative Feature prize at SXSW in 2010 for her film Tiny Furniture, which had a budget of $65,000. Accessibility was the name of the game for Dunham. Since she didn't have much to work with in terms of funds, she cast her real life mom and sister as her mom and sister in the film, shot on a Canon 7D, and filmed in the apartment building she lived in with her parents in downtown Manhattan. Dunham says:
The best advice I can muster after exactly four years in this business [is] -- don't wait around for someone else to tell your story. Do it yourself by whatever means necessary.
Be sure to check out Indiewire's post to find out what else these industry pros said.
What do you think about the tips shared by these SXSW panelists? Let us know in the comments below.