The War and Peace of Indie Film Production

I've learned through making movies the war and peace of indie film production can be either creative hell or creative heaven. It is cliché, but it is really all in a person's outlook on indie film production which it will be. Being unrealistic about what type of indie film you can make with a limited movie budget sets an aspiring filmmaker up for creative hell.

I casually know one high strung filmmaker I run into once in a blue moon at a certain bar. The story never changes. They are producing this indie film that is going to be a sweeping epic with a small army of a production crew and short list of rising talented actors for the lead role. I believe in going after your filmmaking dreams, but you also to be realistic.

The reality of their situation is they have a $50,000 budget, a 120 page script, the story is set in the 1940s during WWII and there is lots of on camera gun play. I ran into them a couple of weeks ago and they were in a shitty depressed mood.

They felt like a movie making failure because they couldn't make their indie film production happen. I tried my best to give them some positive words and tried to lift their spirits one indie filmmaker to another, but they were really in the dumps. What I was saying must have sounded like, "blah blah blah."

It wasn't my place to tell them trying to produce a 1940s period set in Italy during WWII on a $50,000 budget had indie film production let down written all over it. They were in creative hell torturing themselves for not being able to make their movie.

There was no point adding more negative gasoline to burning fire by telling them they way over shot their film budget creatively and the film really had no chance of being made.

Having too lofty goals for a film production you're movie budget can't handle is a bad spot for any filmmaker to be in. Misery loves company. In a last ditch effort to show compassion to a fellow filmmaker I told them about my worst indie film production mistakes and let downs.

The terrible time in my own filmmaking life when I totally let stress and worry dominate me during post-production of my first feature film. I had created a creative hell for myself.

Knowing that other people have fallen short of their creative mark did make them feel a little bit better. After talking they told me they were going to make a smaller film with a tighter script shot in the present day. I hope it works out for them.

I personally believe that many of us indie filmmakers sometimes create our own creative hells without knowing it. Making movies is stressful, personality conflicts on sets happen and technical problems are always lurking.

We don't need to let the negative things consume us so much that we fly off the handle over small film production problems, become rude jerks to other people on set or become paralyzed with self-doubt and fear. When you're in creative hell during indie film production the movie will suffer at all levels.

When stress, anger, egos and unrealistic expectations of things being perfect are left to run unchecked many filmmakers lose control of their creative sharpness. Being stressed out, being an unreasonable pile or being unable to adapt to solve production problems have never helped a movie get done.

Sometimes during rough spots during indie film production it's better to take a few minutes to pause and collect yourself before reacting to the situation. There's a lot to be said for the benefits of taking deep breaths and not letting anger or fear dictate your filmmaking decisions.

Being a miserable rude bastard on set playing ruler of the set can work in the Hollywood studio system because people are being lots more than anyone on an indie film production is to take shit, there are people that even work for free on indie films.

People look the other way when A-List actors, directors and producers piss on their below-the-line people because the jobs pay good money and studios make billions from blockbuster hits. Egos and celebrity attitudes are not a good fit for smaller budget indie films.

The wonderful world of indie film production is still truly driven by a feeling of community amongst cast and crew. There is no celebrity politics to play like who has the biggest Hollywood honeywagon and most personal assistants on set.

Mentally beating yourself up during an indie film production does no good and puts you in creative hell where you're not enjoying making a movie. Don't get me wrong.

Making movies is tough business where problems happen and you have to fight through them to finish your film, being able to keep control of your own personal attitude will greatly help you overcome indie film production problems that are a constant when making a movie.

Being a pissed off movie maker throwing a temper tantrum never fixes a problem, it sometimes only makes it worse. No filmmaker is a Buddha that can be calm through everything. We all get pissed off sometimes on set, but the faster you let that anger pass you can get to figuring a workable solution. Calmer heads always prevail.

Relax and deeply breathe as much as you can when you feel anger, fear or stress that is clouding your creative judgment. Even 5 minutes of relaxing guided meditation can help you see the big picture and help you make indie film production calls that save the shooting day or fix a post-production problem. Pissed off never helps any situation get smoothed out.

Creative hell is when you're not enjoying making your movie and you feel like your failing, losing control of the project or are in an angry nasty surly mood all the time. Avoid being that filmmaker. Negativity is bile that will build up inside you doing damage to those around and to yourself.

Creative heaven is when you're able to go with the flow during every stage of production. It doesn't mean you're a push over that doesn't call shots, keep cast and crew on task and move the project forward.

When you're in charge during indie film production try your best to be open minded and flexible when script rewrites have to be done, filming of shots changed and technical problems happen.

There is no such thing as a perfect indie film production. There will always be problems to deal with on and off set. When you're in a good state of mind not clouded by anger, fear or reckless ego you'll be amazed how much easier it is to find solutions to production problems that sometimes even make the movie better at the end.

The wonderful world of indie film production is a creative rush that is exciting because the freedom you have to share your story with movie viewers without studio producers hanging over your shoulder second-guessing every call you make.

Sure, most indie filmmakers, me included, would hope to break into the Hollywood studio system and make big budget movies. That's the filmmaking dream, but for now indie cinema is a creative playground where you can take risks and push the envelope by making movies that show hard-hitting uncensored content studios aren't known for showing.

Embrace the wonderful world of indie film production with a positive and realistic view of what you can accomplish as indie filmmaker working with a limited budget to get your movie done. Filmmaking heaven is when you're enjoying what you're doing and even when problems arise you don't lose control of yourself and let anger, fear and stress dominate you.

Canon Digital Feature Film Making

Thanks to The Canon Company and the digital camcorders and DSLRs there is an underground digital film revolution happening. This revolution began a few years ago when Canon decided to add the 24 frames per second option into most of its mid range consumer camcorders. Later it would at this as a video option in its DSLR and the revolution has caught fire world wide.

There are so many sites and blogs dedicated to DSLR cameras such has the Canon D7, Mark II and the T2I that I thought that I would go old school and focus on the cameras that started the revolution and with a few add-ons can offer nearly the picture quality at a low price point. I will focus largely on the Canon HV series and the feature films that have been made with these little monsters and when the moment demands it I will get into some of the great work being done with the DSLRs.

Let's begin with why should a low budget film maker consider these cameras. I would say in response that a low budget film maker should not and by low budget I mean if you have fifty thousand dollars or more to spend then you should consider using the Canon Mark II or the Red or a number of the Panasonic pro-sumer camcorders if you want to make a feature film. If you have fifty thousand or more why not go 16mm film. The film cameras are cheap and if you know what you are doing with them then go right ahead. The truth is that I am not here for the low budget film maker. I am here for those who are called ultra low budget or no budget film makers. You fall into this category if you have less than ten thousand dollars to spend on your first feature.

Allow me to describe you. You or a close friend have written the screenplay for your movie. You will be doing this project with the help of friends and family who will work behind the scenes for no pay. You will be shooting on nights and weekends and at locations that you can get for free or get in and out of without being caught filming there. Your actors will be paid little to nothing up front. You will be looking to get the best production value out of the least amount of money spent possible.

In other words you are a lot like me.

You are only willing to pay for what is absolutely unavoidable. The three area where you are going to have to spend money are:

Sound, if your audience can not hear the movie then you are doomed. Viewers will give up on your project the third or fourth time they have to mutter what did he just say? Huh, What was that?

Editing, you may be able to use a free program, but you will need a computer strong enough and quick enough to edit and hopefully do some sound mixing on. If you have such a computer cool, you just saved money.

Camera, you need something that shoots in HD digital and shoots at 24p. Why 24p? That is the industry standard. This is the frame rate that gives you that motion picture look. You are going to have to spend some money on your camera. Money on the lenses and in most cases on a depth of field adapter.

The cameras are why we are here and let us talk about what to do and not to do. Get the best camera at the lowest possible price that will get the job done. Do not blow half of your production budget on your awesome new camera. It will feel wonderful to have that expensive camera and muse about all the things that it is able to do until it is day 12 of shooting and you have no money to feed your cast and crew. You have no money left for transportation, (gas money) and you have just realized that you should have set aside at least a third of your budget for post production cost. Treat your camera like the tool that it is.