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By Julien Favre
With the world economy on the brink, the current environment has rarely been so tough for independent filmmakers. To get our films made and, even more so, to see them sold and/or distributed, is getting incredibly challenging. Foreign sales estimates for low budget independent films are a tenth of what they used to be pre-2008, and let’s not be fooled by the numbers. We will be happy if we sell at all, even for symbolic numbers. From a filmmaker’s perspective, we have entered a dichotomous world: a shrinking pool of independent films do well; most don’t make any significant business. It is now as if there is only room for one indie hit per year. If you are not that film that everybody wants, you barely exist and your business footprint will be close to zero.
Now, you can look at this situation in two different ways. One way is to [...]
I watch a lot of films. I think I watch about 250 a year. I also watch a lot of films that never come out, that most audiences never get access to.
I learn a great deal from the “noble failures”, the films that have ambition but just miss the mark fully in execution. I honestly like these films and find pleasure in watching them, but I also know that most people like their entertainment and culture to be in a more perfectly realized state — even if most of us don’t have the resources to bring our work to that state. I think most people’s taste is shaped by their training; we learn to like what we get — unfortunately.
Yet I also think there are some things that [...]
Guest post by “Douchebag” writer/director Drake Doremus.
We actually shot “Douchebag” in two separate sessions over the course of a year and a half. The first time we went out we had a very specific outline from which the actors improvised from and the second time we had a loose script with lines actually written.
The first scene in the film for instance where Sam is laying in bed with Steph was mostly written and shot during the second session when we knew exactly how to set up the film. A lot of the rambling lecture scenes — like the scene on the beach about kites, the credit card fiscal responsibility scene, and the scene about our hands not being designed to tear flesh — were all shot the first time out when we had more character than story.
It wasn’t until after editing the first session’s material that I knew the exact pieces we needed to finish the story. The filmmaking process was very exciting and challenging for me but also very creatively freeing because I could keep writing and coming up with ideas after I’d shot, the film kept evolving that way and there was always a way to make things better. It’s really the only way I would work now I think. I learned so much. [...]
Today’s guest post is from writer/director J. Blakeson. J’s THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED opens TODAY!!! If you haven’t read yesterday’s part one, please read that first.
As I was writing I was always looking for tricks to make the film even cheaper to shoot. But I had a strict rule that they also had to make absolute sense to the story. I smuggled quite a lot of tricks in. Here are a few of them…
- After the opening sequence, each character only has one costume. And they are very easily manageable costumes (ie. track suit and boiler suits), so if we had to shoot this thing at evenings and weekends over a few months, then the costumes would be easy to manage and very replaceable from high street stores. [...]
Today’s guest post is from writer/director J. Blakeson. J’s THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED opens tomorrow, and is the latest in a glorious wave of incredibly strong genre films from all over the world that have graced our shores of late, including MOON, THE SQUARE, BRONSON, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and THE PROPHET. This is part one of a two parter that will finish up here tomorrow. Part Two is here.
No-one was going to give me money to make my film. That was a near certainty. I started with that fact in mind, then I began writing the script. People are always telling budding film-makers to” write something that can be achieved on a low budget”. That sounds like pretty good advice, but it’s also dangerous advice. Because it assumes you’ll actually somehow manage to get yourself some kind of a budget at all– albeit a low one. It presumes someone will actually put their money into your movie. And that tempts you into trying to squeeze a bigger budget movie into a smaller can. This is a mistake. Because the end result will most likely be a scrappily made, cheap-looking movie that needed more money behind it. What these advice-givers should tell you instead is this: write for no budget at all. Write as if you were going to make it yourself with your own money. Write as if every frame of film was coming out of your own pocket. Only then will you realise just how expensive even little things are. Like feeding an extra actor for 4 weeks. Or blowing shit up. Explosions sounds like they should be cheap and easy, but actually they’re expensive and complicated. So don’t blow shit up. Concentrate on what you already have and what comes for free. Story and character are free. Dialogue is free (except recording and filming it isn’t… so avoid being too self-indulgent on the speechifying, because you’re only wasting your own money). But always remember that writing within your own limitations doesn’t mean you have to be less ambitious with your movie. It actually means you have to be more ambitious, just smart about it. Look at films like “Primer” or “Brick”. They’re both ambitious as hell, look and feel cinematic, but cost next to nothing to make.
When I wrote the script for “The Disappearance of Alice Creed”, I assumed that if I wanted to direct it myself, I would probably have to pay for it myself. So I knew I had to keep it small and contained. Even before I had a story, I had a set of rules…
- Use 1 location for 90% of the film.
- Only have 3 characters
- Don’t write anything that I couldn’t achieve myself on my own money.
- If you use a prop, keep using it over and over (because why source and pay for something that will be only screen for just under 2 seconds?)
- Keep it simple. But make that “simple” as complex and difficult as possible.
But why these rules? Purely practical reasons: There are only three actors (and not, say, 4 actors) in my film because I happened to know 3 actors who might agree to be in the film. The reason I wrote most of the film’s action in an apartment is because I live in an apartment. So I had a free location. No expense. You get the idea…
And with these rules in mind, I started thinking about a story that would be as dramatic and cinematic as possible. With limited locations and actors, there is a risk it will feel like a stage play rather than a film. So I wanted a story that would lend itself to cinematic sequences and set-pieces rather than extended talky scenes. Very quickly I thought about a kidnap story. Not only was it immediately understandable (no “Inception” style exposition scenes needed to describe the hard-to-understand jobs of the protagonists… everyone knows what a kidnapper does. Everyone understands the stakes from page 1), a kidnap story also has drama and tension inherent in it from the get-go.
So I started writing. And as I was writing the script, I enjoyed having the limitations I set myself. It was like a game. It gave me boundaries to push against. Gave me a strict focused framework within which I was free to do anything I wanted.
But all the time, in the back of my mind, was the fact that I had to make it for no money. So I set all the exterior action in manageable locations – places that required no extras and where I could probably shoot with a skeleton crew without permits (if need be). So instead of setting it in crowded streets or train stations, I set it in wasteland, empty car-parks and abandoned warehouses. Of course all these locations make narrative sense in the movie, but this is only because I chose a story that works for these kinds of locations. This is one reason why early on in the script process, I decided to not show all the usual moments you see in a kidnap film – police, phone-taps, a money-drop in a crowded place – because I simply knew I couldn’t afford to shoot them with my own money. But then I embraced this idea and made it the defining characteristic of the film. Instead of trying to hide the confined nature of the film, I played to it. I’d always loved the fact that “Reservoir Dogs” was a heist movie in which you never saw the heist. So I decided my film would be a kidnap movie where you don’t see any of the kidnap (or rather, you don’t see the stuff you expect from a kidnap movie). And when I decided to go that way, the idea came alive for me.
End of Part One. Part Two concludes tomorrow with “Tricks To Make It Even Cheaper!”.
“The Disappearance of Alice Creed” is out in selected theatres Friday August 6th.