October 29, 2014 at 7:44AM

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The 5 (or maybe 1) things you MUST know before making your first GOOD indie film

In an era where the destiny of film distribution is in such flux and the market is more populated with filmmakers than ever,it can be easy to get frustrated with a lot of the films that make it across our screens. So much so, that sometimes I myself feel like I need to just get off the internet for fear of losing all faith in the creative process.

As an actor I have years of experience, but as a director, writer and filmmaker I am fairly new to the scene. However, I do happen to be a somewhat obsessive individual. Which in my case has translated to the behavior of latching on to something so intensely that I don't let go until I feel like I have learned and experienced all I can.

If you are thinking about making your own film you have SO MANY CHOICES.- the choice of forging ahead no matter how it affects the end product or the choice of something, well.. different - the list goes on my friends. Having had the recent experience of writing, casting and getting an independent short film, “Cleave”, produced, I had many choices to make - most importantly, who do I get to help me out? Because of this experience, I now have a deep desire to steer my creative efforts toward writing and directing primarily - and that is because of the team we pulled together. Working with a nice mix of people that know what they are doing, along with giving others a “bump” up and a chance to prove themselves in a higher position, is why our project was so successful during the shoot. So, first and foremost:

1.Build the right team

I don’t know about the community in other areas, but here in mine (Boston/New England) there appears to be a section of “Filmmakers” that for lack of a better description just want to “make a movie”. All too often I see this resulting in cutting corners when it comes to a production team or cast. We MUST set a standard for our work in whatever we do in life, and if we settle for something less it will cause a domino effect. In the end you will be left with a product that is something less than you intended. This brings us to our next point.

2. Know your weaknesses

Let’s be realistic here. We all have them, and having the ability to identify your own is one of the biggest strengths you can possess in your life and career. When creating Cleave, I must admit my plan was to direct and play one of the lead actors. (Damn you Cate Carson for not agreeing to cast me) But seriously, once we started collaborating and Cate had expressed interest in directing, other ideas were brought to the table. Once I gave into that “letting go” and made the conscious decision to do what was “best for the story” it was one more notch in the belt of positivity for this project. And I have to say, having that freedom on set and being able to be available to the entire process was a tremendous learning experience for me- in retrospect I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Don't be a putz; surround yourself with knowledgeable people you respect and trust and learn from them.

3. Having a background in other aspects of the craft will help you tremendously!

Having studied and worked as an actor for many years when I decided to start writing HELPED, tremendously. I had read so many scripts and stories from good to crap that it made it easier for me to understand what an actor would latch on to. . Having the education and experience to know how to explore the emotional truths of what’s being said was a huge asset in making the story interesting and relatable. That being said, acting was my background but I have no doubt experience in many other creative realms would be helpful as well. The bottom line is the more you can bring to the table, the better, so go get your hands dirty on a set, in a class, behind a camera or at the pen. (or laptop)

4. Subscribe to the notion of “Radical openness”

Now you may be saying to yourself, What the hell is Richard talking about, is this some new age BS...what have I gotten myself into? ok ok I get it, but bare with me. I don’t know about you but I seek out inspiration in virtually every moment of every day of my life. Without it I feel the dark forces of the world sucking me into the empty void of walmart shoppers, automated phone systems, IT support reps, and fans of Vin Deisel (please don’t beat me up Vin)...But seriously, I happen to be a huge fan of a gentleman futurist and philosopher by the name of Jason Silva (if you don’t know of him then you MUST follow him now on twitter @JasonSilva and youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/ShotsOfAwe) This is where I learned about radical openness. In short what it means is that ideas are like viruses and the more openly we share them the more they will spread and grow.So when my writing partner Kim Wilson and I got this short script to a point where we liked it, the first thing we did was fill a room with people we respected in our community. Actors, Writers, Directors, Music producers, photographers and entrepreneurs. When we introduced the script to them we simply opened ourselves up to any and all ideas, feedback, creative direction etc...In doing so the story took a direction which we had not and may not have ever anticipated The result? It became far more interesting and relatable than it was previously. The takeaway?.... RADICAL OPENNESS MAN!... ITS RAD!!!

5. DO NOT EVER GIVE UP

Even when schmucks like me relate our vast “wisdom”, don’t let that stop you from doin’ your thang baby! (I don’t really talk like that I promise) I can tell you I am as stubborn as the will of kings. Nothing would have stopped me from getting Cleave made. I was just lucky enough to have stumbled upon the first rule of success in any venture but most especially in film and that is…

Find people who know more than you, get them on board, and LISTEN!

If you would like to see more about our film “Cleave”, you can visit our campaign on Seed & Spark here: http://bit.ly/cleavefilm (Oh yeah that might be the 6th note- find different ways to spread the word about your film!)

7 Comments

Thanks for your tips :D

October 30, 2014 at 8:26AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7569

Shout to Boston/New England!

Great tips, especially this "Radical Openness". In a similar vein- As a director I've taken this Anne Bogart philosophy of 'Hold on tightly, Let go loosely' to heart!

April 12, 2015 at 10:47PM

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Jumai Yusuf
Director, Producer
89

"Bare" with me? Yes I would say that was radical openness!

May 13, 2015 at 1:04PM

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1. just do it, make a bunch of short cheap films for experience.
2. Do it all the time get even more experience.
3. Read the manual, turn the camera on, learn how to use it and then use it.
4. write something, film it, learn something you don't know, use it gain more experience.
5. Take my comments 1-4 apply it to this point being number 5, learn and use everything you can with your camera, ignore web b.s. get any and all experience and with knowledge and experience will enable, skill, talent, inspiration and confidence.

May 15, 2015 at 10:27PM

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Nice article overall, but I completely disagree with number one. Cut corners if it means going out and making the movie, as opposed to waiting for the day Spielberg flies out to see to hold your hand and guide you through the process of making a film. There's been some really great articles recently on NFS about embracing the suck and just going out and shooting the f*cker. And several of the top filmmakers, past and present, agree with that. Make your best effort, absolutely, but go out and MAKE A MOVIE. And if you can walk away from that experience having learned one thing you can do better next time, you're victorious.

p.s. The Gap video on Vimeo that was shared on NFS was in direct correlation to my statement -- phenomenal, inspiring video.

https://vimeo.com/85040589

November 24, 2015 at 11:16AM, Edited November 24, 11:16AM

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Brad Bingham
Actor/Writer/Filmmaker
102

I totally agree with Number 1. I too have met far too many people who just wanna make a movie -- with no regard to quality or any other criteria. Even worse, they just wanna shoot shoot shoot, so they never work up a good script. As I've often said: Creative work is 50 percent setting it up, 10 percent doing it, and 40 percent cleaning up afterwards. Amateurs want to do only the middle 10 percent, and that's why their work is only 10 percent as good as professionals'.

December 22, 2015 at 6:58PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
472

Excellent Tips!
I will put all of these to practice especially 4 and 5.
Thanks everyone.

July 3, 2016 at 11:04AM

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Abraham Marquez
Independent Filmmaker
170

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