October 14, 2014 at 12:55PM

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amateur filmmaker seeks down to the bones advice

I have written a screenplay that I am very excited about...and thinking that instead of pitching it...I would like to make an independent film of it...trouble is...I have NO clue where to start!!! I would like to know where I should start? I was thinking I could raise money for this endeavour ...but what about equipment ? I have never even picked up a camera before...but I am passionate and determined and can't afford film school ( also...too old for film school ...39years young) thanks for any feedback : )

25 Comments

You are definitely NOT too old for film school, though I think you need to figure what aspect of film-making you want to be involved with. Is this for fun, or do you want to make a living in film production ?

I have a friend about your age that got a full-time producing job for a documentary company, and she did this by producing a half dozen no-budget independent films. She had no background in film-making, but she was willing to work crazy hours to complete each project and 2 years later she ended up with a nice producer show reel. She's been working full-time at the documentary company for 3 years now. ( she's in her early 40's now )

What you might try is finding an independent film-maker that you can work with, and maybe you might end up shooting one or two scenes from your screenplay if you can afford it.

Most Indie film-makers have regular jobs, and do the Indie projects for fun. Some have talent and get extremely lucky to the point where they can quit their regular job, but most just do it for fun.

October 15, 2014 at 3:29PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30918

Thanks so much for your insight Guy!! I definitely want this to be something fun that satisfies my creative side...while my day job pays my bills : ) I just need to get some gear and get creative !!! Thanks again

Michelle Stuart

October 16, 2014 at 6:35AM

To pick up a bit of training and experience, you might consider volunteering at your local community-television channel if your city has one. They're often chronically in need of help, they will train you to use their equipment, and you can get experience in all production roles -- from planning, to lighting and camera operating, to sound recording, to editing and titling, to airing. You can even appear on-camera if that's your bag. And they are used to working around volunteers' day-job schedules.

October 16, 2014 at 1:37PM, Edited October 16, 1:37PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
607

That's a great idea!!!! I always assumed that that wasn't an option...thanks for the advice : )

Michelle Stuart

October 16, 2014 at 3:06PM, Edited October 16, 3:06PM

>>>I just need to get some gear and get creative !!!

I would try and connect with some local Indie film-makers, as most people are always in need of any extra help they can find, and this will be a good introduction as to what type of gear you might want to buy for yourself. ( i.e. see what works or doesn't work on somebody else's shoot, so you can decide what gear you want )

Here's a thread where I posted a list of basic gear for a $2,000 budget that is enough to get you started.

http://nofilmschool.com/boards/questions/where-go-canon-5d-mark-ii

October 16, 2014 at 9:30PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30918

Start hitting up folks on twitter, facebook, and here of course. As the ol' saying goes with business, pull out all of your contacts, call them up (or e-mail) and say "Hey, I've got a screenplay." Leave no stone unturned. You never know what connection might surface.

October 16, 2014 at 11:56PM

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I have few contacts in small town canada...so I guess I can try to reach out to contacts I find here ...and just put the word out. Totally terrified and excited ..... Oh and terrified. My sister in law lives in Toronto which is probably a food place to start . Thanks J Cameron

Michelle Stuart

October 17, 2014 at 5:46AM, Edited October 17, 5:46AM

You must know people like you and do this project togheter.

October 17, 2014 at 8:25AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7626

Hi Michelle, try starting with micro-movies (about 1 min long). We have been trying to fund our low budget feature too, but it is really hard to get started, so we set up www.Cardora.co and the Cardora Film Festival which offers filmmakers the opportunity to make money and gain a fan base from their micro-movies (about 1 min long). https://www.cardora.co/festivals. Here is a 50% discount code for you: NoFilmSchool50 It is good til the end of the year!

October 17, 2014 at 9:34AM

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Celine Rich
Producer
208

I'd recommend reading some books, such as Moviemaker's Master Class and From Reel to Deal, and doing it yourself... Or finding a production company that wants to help out.

October 18, 2014 at 6:57PM

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Mark Chaney
Writer/Director/Composer
187

I was 42 when I started my first feature last year (that was my film school), cost £2000 shot it on a 5d Mk II (which someone above mentioned), did pretty much everything myself (including catering) took a year from beginning to end, in between other work. I've now produced a second feature for another director with a small crew and prepping my second as director. Best advice is to just do it, hook up with other local film makers, keep it simple and learn from your mistakes (or make them an aesthetic) and it's better to make something shit than not make anything at all.

October 18, 2014 at 7:07PM

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Studio LAX
Editor/Producer/Director
413

I've got a question for everyone, would it be possible for a newbie like me to shoot a movie that takes place in two separate states? I'm writing a screenplay about a woman on a road trip with her young daughter trying to find her lover.

October 18, 2014 at 7:24PM

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Eric Naud
Student at Champlain College
88

Why wouldn't it be possible? You don't even need to go into a different state if you don't want to, just use some creativity, i.e.: showing a car drive past a state welcome sign, using text on screen to point out location. Most films never shoot at their "actual" locations - you can shoot anywhere and say it's where ever you want, it's all pretend anyways!

John Morse

October 20, 2014 at 7:24PM

I was where you are 5-6 years ago. I started with a filmmaking class at my community college. Then through the class I found some filmmakers and worked as a PA on several independent films. Carrying equipment, setting up lights, and helping the Director. You can learn a lot from working on film sets, good and bad, but experience is key. I'd also recommend FilmRiot.com for practical moviemaking advice and LearningDSLRVideo.com with Dave Dugdale. He offers a wealth of info on shooting with DSLRs. This summer I was asked to be Director of Photography on two independent films. Next year I plan to shoot my own. I'll start off with a couple of shorts and work up to something bigger and hopefully get funding.

October 18, 2014 at 7:46PM

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Madara
writer/director
269

hi Michelle, I'd need to know more specifically about your project to give you better advice, but generally: find filmmakers in your community. Either through something like meetup.com or local small film festivals. Those are the best. You can meet other filmmakers and talk to them afterwards. Offer yourself as a PA. Everyone in the industry has PA'd at least once... but the biggest thing is get on set! Any way you can! Get in there and work and help others. You have to build a network of skilled people. Because as good as any of the top directors are, they aren't lighting, shooting, dressing, making up, and running their own sound.

Its all about surrounding yourself with talented people you can count on.

Best of luck. The number one thing... never give up

October 18, 2014 at 8:16PM

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Mike Holt
VTR / DIT/ Media Management
208

Hey Michelle, three years ago I was in the exact same position as you. I'd written a screenplay and had no idea what to do next. I'd never been to film school and I'd never even owned a camera that wasn't disposable. Now I have a feature film in the can and after a few more months of editing I will hopefully have a movie I can be proud to show the world.

The first thing I did was find a director. Luckily I had a friend fresh out of film school with a similar passion for movies. I pitched the idea to him and after he read the script he decided it was the right project for him. I don't know if you'd like to direct the movie yourself but I wouldn't recommend it. The director needs to have a basic understanding of every aspect of film. Also in my experience first time writers tend to be too close to their screenplays to judge them harshly enough. Every mother thinks her babies beautiful even if it's ghastly.

The next obstacle was funding. Feature films cost money and lots of it. So I found another friend with no background in film and pitched the idea to him. He loved it and we had our budget. My advice at this stage would be to think of anyone you know that has a little money to spare and a love of film. You'd be surprised by the universal appeal of the silver screen. I have friends that have gone the crowd funding route, but only for shorts and only for small amounts.

If you do manage to find funding and if you do manage to find a director the next few months should be spent rewriting the script. While I haven't read your script and I know absolutely nothing about it I do know writing is rewriting. Rewrite for content and rewrite for budget. See if you can cut down scenes, locations and even characters. Trimming the fat while keeping the heart of the story will save you money for other things.

The next point in my screenplay's journey was acquiring an experienced line producer. They know everyone and they know everything provided they're good at their job. Their job is to make a budget and a schedule, find a crew and help you with permits and paperwork. I know my film could've never become what it is without the help of our line producer. After him everything fell into place.

Now making a film is hard, no matter what the budget. I've been working on mine for three years and the end is barely in sight. The thing is as a writer whose seen his work brought to the screen, there is no better feeling than when actors bring your characters to life. The sleepless nights, of which there will be many, the constant stress, mine dwells in my right shoulder, and the crippling doubt will all be worth it when you hear action.

I don't envy you the journey ahead and I must warn you that it will be ten times harder than you think but just know that the end product will be well worth it. Hope this helps and don't stop believing.

P.S. Eric, changing locations is one of the most expensive part of production, but yes you can film in different states.

October 18, 2014 at 9:27PM

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Greg Thirkill II
Writer/Producer 282 Studios
44

If you live near Toronto, take a look at the RainDance folks, which offer lots of free and low cost courses on all aspects of film-making...

http://www.raindance.org/toronto/

October 18, 2014 at 9:33PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30918

Try to find a local college or University, if they have a film maker's club (as mine does) you may be able to borrow equipment and crew from them.

Javontae Jones

October 19, 2014 at 3:55AM, Edited October 19, 3:55AM

There has never been a better time to make an independent film. I would start by listening to the Film Method Podcast. You also want to make sure your screenplay is amazing before you start any sort of production. You may want to start with a short film first, of filming one of your scenes that can stand alone. That will be a sink or swim test to learn from. You can learn the basics of shooting from a place like Film Riot or Indie Mogul on youtube.

Your screenplay really needs to be amazing before starting any film produciton. I recommend listening to Robert McKee's Story in your car. I find Story is better to read after you've written your first few drafts rather than before. There are also some great books out there that all cover different aspects of writing. The Writer's Journey is great. Save the Cat also has some good ways to think about structure, although his book shold be taken with a grain of salt.

One thing I like to do is watch movies, and write down what happens and at what minute. Its a great way to see if your movie is working. Since every page is about a minute, it gives you a great idea of where the screenplay is. One big problem with a lot of screenplays is that they take too long to get to their second act. Also, make sure the second half of your second act is strong and has some twists...that's where most films get lost and people start to fall asleep. Best of luck!

October 18, 2014 at 10:00PM

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Jason Buff
Teacher at IFA.
146

As a 39 year old *Currently in film school at UCLA*, I have to protest: you are not too old for film school :).

October 19, 2014 at 3:17AM

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Hi Michelle,

10 months ago, I was exactly where you are now. No experience, no knowledge and no idea where to start to become a filmmaker. All I had was, in my mind, great idea and a script. Even with all the odds against me, I decided to quit my job and to some how 'figure it out'. First step I took, was to join the Lights Online Film School program. It's a much more affordable and practical option than going to an actual physical film school. I personally think it offers you all the basic knowledge and know how you need to get you started. I will be done with the program soon and I feel much more prepared to actually being able to get a film made. I'm planning and hoping to be done with my first short film by next spring (fingers crossed). So no, it's not too late for film school. With online courses it's definitely a viable option you might want to look into. I also recommend you follow as many film related websites like nofilmschool, or filmmakingstuff, to gain as much knowledge and insight on filmmaking as possible along the way. I've gained some invaluable and absolutely necessary information just through websites like these. Also one last crucial advice I have is to, 'PLAN YOUR DISTRIBUTION' before you start making your film! Something we, so often as filmmakers, tend to overlook or simply not take the time to think about although I find to be very important. Hope this is in some way helpful to you and wish you all best with your project. Good luck!

October 19, 2014 at 3:59AM

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Amine Benembarek
Student
86

You can check out your local college or university and see if they have a filmmaking community. If so, you can borrow equipment from there and maybe get some crew members.

October 19, 2014 at 4:39PM

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If I were in your shoes, I would start with finding help. You cannot do this alone, so get on the hunt for a crew and help with production. There is a lot of stuff you can learn to do on your own, but if you can find people to do stuff with you, then all the better.

Someone above mentioned making micro shorts or short films first and I agree. Do something small and easy to get your feet wet and THAT can be your film school. You will be surprised how much you can learn by just picking up a camera. Sure, you can start by doing your feature, but if you do a bunch of micro shorts, or a couple of short films first, you'll find that you'll be better equipped to take on your feature.

I promise you that.

But, yeah....get help...shot a short film or two...then you'll find that you'll just be ready to do your feature.

Also, everyone who has commented so far is right in their own way just consider everything everyone has said and see what works best for you. (Also, you're never too old to do anything, so age is no excuse to NOT go to film school if that's what you want to do!)

Best of luck and happy filming!

October 20, 2014 at 12:50AM

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Quincy G. Ledbetter
Writer/Director/Musician
172

Thankyou for all the advice! I feel grateful for all of your input and am feeling ready to take this giant task on!!!!

October 23, 2014 at 5:03PM, Edited October 23, 5:03PM

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Michelle Stuart
Screenwriter
56

The very best way to learn about filmmaking is to jump right in and start making films. As many people have already mentioned, there is no better time for people that want to make films. There are tons of free resources out there--blogs, podcasts, and books are a great place to start. I always recommend starting with "Rebel Without A Crew" by Robert Rodriguez. It's not so much a how-to production book as a guide to the spirit of low-budget independent filmmaking. If nothing else, it will inspire you through the tougher times in the beginning when you're just learning how things work and are getting your feet wet.

Regardless of whether you want to shoot and/or produce this yourself, I'd recommend working on a film first, though I would actually recommend NOT working on your own film. You should really have the experience of seeing what it's like on set and how directors, cast, and crew all work together to bring a film to life. After this, you may find that you want to change things about your screenplay based on your experiences. If nothing else you will have a better understanding of the process of bringing your story to life.

There are many ways to get involved in a project without spending a lot of time. I always recommend the 48 Hour Film Project (www.48hourfilm.com) if there's a competition close to you--it's only a weekend, and you'll end up with a finished short film that will screen theatrically. Plus it's a lot of fun, and one of the best hands-on learning experiences (as a disclaimer-I work for them). If you don't want to go this route, do a quick search of film groups in your area, or get in touch with your local film commission--many groups have different networking events and meetings where you can meet other local filmmakers with projects you can get involved with. Or if you'd really like to get the best hands-on experience, make a short film yourself--you can do amazing things with an iPhone, and there are tons of free or inexpensive apps out there for editing and post-production. It's a great way to get your feet wet.

Regardless of how you start, the most important thing is that you actually DO start. Get involved in the film world and you'll find many great people and resources that can help you out. Best of luck to you!

February 19, 2016 at 2:21PM, Edited February 19, 2:21PM

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Brian Bowers
Producer, Owner-Gorilla Film School
13

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