Written by Nathaniel Beaver.

Independent filmmaking has often been compared to a perilous voyage into the unknown. Every film, or ship, is built a little differently and will face numerous dangers along the way. We all must decide what strengths and weaknesses we choose our vessels to have, and what specific crew will join us on our journey. There are never enough resources, and space on our ships is always limited. But I’m here to remind you to never forget to get behind the scenes!

Often overlooked, or grafted on at the last minute, the behind-the-scenes (BTS) material of independent films typically ends up with a lackluster account of their creation.

Why include BTS?

With our limited budgets, it is easy to push it to the bottom of the priority list, but the truth is, BTS should be as necessary as any other department in filmmaking. After the film is completed, you are always going to wish that you had taken the time to capture the struggles, the successes, and the hard work that you all endured. Perhaps even more importantly, we owe it to our fellow indie filmmakers to provide a window into the trials we faced, so they may learn from our efforts. The more perilous the journey, the more important it is that we chronicle it for those who dare to venture after us in their own ships.

Like me, aspiring filmmakers seek out special features to learn the “making of” a film. I still recall how inspiring it was to watch the special features of The Lord of the Rings.It was amazing to see Peter Jackson’s fellowship share an in-depth look at their experiences while creating, in my opinion, some of the greatest movies ever made! Their extensive coverage encouraged and motivated me to want to do the same thing in the way I approach storytelling.

In 2009, I started my production company Parry-Riposte Films to tell such stories. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of documenting many creative works, but by far the most challenging, and most rewarding, experience I’ve had has been producing the BTS of the recently released horror anthology feature The Mortuary Collection.    

The Mortuary Collection was an extremely complex and difficult film to make, primarily because it was an ultra-low-budget independent feature. The process from inception to completion took over six years! As the producer of its BTS content, I made it my mission to document as much of the journey as possible.

BTS of indie horror

My goal with BTS has always been to highlight the adventure of a film’s creation by bonding the audience with the film’s creative team, and with Mortuary it worked extremely well. I wanted to represent as many departments as possible and interview everyone, not just the cast and director. There is passion in every department, and things to be learned from everyone involved.

The team of Mortuary turned out to be informative, compelling, and often hilarious. Being “in the trenches” with them, one couldn’t help but want them to succeed, and following them on their quest to create the town of Raven’s End, its now iconic mortuary, and the characters that intersect within, turned out to be incredibly entertaining.

A big lesson I learned while working on Mortuary is that enthusiasm and a positive attitude are vital to an ambitious collaboration. The team had to mentally be on the same page in order to achieve the film’s overall goals. The crew always had to wear multiple hats, and had to want to help each other in order to succeed. There’s never room in indie film production to do just the bare minimum, or to say, “That’s not my job.” It is that struggle and shared passion within the team that made filming thisBTS truly special, and it's a lesson that I hope all indie filmmakers can take away from watching my work.

We have two hours of special feature vignettes of Mortuary for the Blu-ray/DVD/iTunes release, which is unheard of for an indie feature. I was able to create in-depth windows into the film’s cinematography, SFX makeup, art department, stunts, locations, creature FX, etc. Our initial edit of the vignettes was actually over eight hours in length! It was brutal cutting it down, but there are still many stories and insights from this film that I hope will see the light someday. (#ReleaseTheBeaverCut!)

In much the same way I was inspired watching special features on The Lord of the Rings, I hope that the BTS of The Mortuary Collection can serve to inspire and educate the next generation of up-and-coming filmmakers. And when they someday build their own ships to set off on their own adventures, perhaps those dangers they face will be a little less unexpected.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll remember to include behind the scenes on their journey as well.