Sam Raimi and 'The Evil Dead' Provide a Blueprint for Indie Filmmakers

Credit: Matthew Patches
The story of Sam Raimi's gory masterpiece should inspire all filmmakers.

I love horror. My office is a veritable shrine to Hitchcock, Cronenberg, and Carpenter. So when I stumbled across a video about the origins of another horror master, Sam Raimi, I immediately pushed play.

If there's any do-it-yourself indie filmmaker who should inspire you and your work, it's Raimi. Regardless of how you feel about his work, this is a writer/director who started small and proved that fun concepts and original ideas could launch a career.

This video, put together by The Royal Ocean Film Society, tracks the history of Raimi's early years and how he got this first iconic project off the ground. Let's dig in.

Raimi got his start just like you

I love hearing about Raimi's early work, because it sounds just like what so many of us are doing as indie filmmakers. We're hanging out with our friends, finding people with cameras, costumes, and locations, and just going out and having a good time making original content.

Fortunately, Bruce Campbell happened to be one of Raimi's close buds.

But all they were doing was what you should be doing. Making stuff. Showing it on your college campuses or other platforms. Anything to get your work out there!

So many get caught up in planning and dreaming, and they forget to actually make content. So get out there, and do it!

Proof of concept

Another interesting thing that this team did was to make a proof of concept.

They knew they didn't have any pedigree as filmmakers—yet. So they got together at a friend's cabin and put together a quick, down-and-dirty version of their ultimate vision called Within the Woods. Then they showed this to anyone they could get to watch it. (Sometimes by being a little pushy and a little dishonest, which we don't advocate.) But they managed to raise about $85,000.

So even if you have lofty, expensive ideas, don't be discouraged. Maybe start slightly smaller. Instead of a feature film, make a short that introduces your world, how you want it to look, and who might populate it.

David F. Sandberg did that! He made a short horror film that Warner Bros. then made into the feature-length Lights Out.

'The Evil Dead'Credit: New Line Cinema

Use setbacks to your advantage

The crew on Evil Dead had one location, a grimy cabin in the middle of the woods with no electricity. Raimi talks about the miserable shoot and the fact that the set was covered in manure when they got there.

But the crew didn't let this stop them, and as the video points out, the grungy environment adds to the charm of the movie. The lighting is a little harsh, the cabin looks like it's falling apart, everyone looks exhausted.

They didn't have a Steadicam, obviously. Instead, they mounted the camera to a board and ran with it that way for the perspective shots. It's now one of the film's most famous and unique elements.

The makeup and visual effects are practical, but they were convincing enough to garner the film an NC-17 rating. Break out your fake blood!

'The Evil Dead'Credit: New Line Cinema

Don't take yourself too seriously

Another of Evil Dead's charms is that the story isn't trying to be serious.

It's still scary, it's still gory, but it's also just fun. The video points out the relationship between comedy and horror—both involve set-up, tension, and pay-off. One just uses a punchline, and the other just uses a scare.

We can apply this advice to not only the story, but also the making of the film. This was a miserable production, and a lot of crew and talent dropped out when the shoot fell way behind schedule. But Raimi wasn't deterred. If they had lost a performer, he had producers, other crew members, or himself to stand in for that actor. His hands appear in the movie, and it's fairly seamless.

In order to achieve your vision, you might also have to pitch in for nontraditional on-set roles.

We hope this serves as a good boost of motivation for all filmmakers. Raimi was only 21 when he made one of the most popular horror movies in history. Don't let anyone tell you you're too young or too old! Just start hustling.

What's your favorite part of Raimi's story? Leave it in the comments.     

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