I’m gonna take a moment here to say something to all you would be filmmakers out there (fyi I count myself among that crowd).
Don’t. Give. Up.
If storytelling is in your blood, if its the thing that captures your attention from the moment you wake til the second your head hits that pillow, if its what inspires awe, laughter, even sadness, or simple reflection, then embrace it! Embrace that undying need to create, to inspire in others what moves you most!
I am fully aware of all the things that stop somebody from going out there and shooting a movie. Making a movie is a huge ambiguous, gelatinous, shapeless thing, it is different every time someone puts pen to paper, or powers on a camera, or buckles that last belt on their costume. It cannot be done alone, nor should it be. There are many, many, many, many, many, many variables to consider, and problems to overcome. Chief among them being the simple task of having enough money to even be able to start. That’s where I’m at. I get it. I have no gear, a handful of friends spread across several states that have interests in film, but reality steps in and takes precedence.
My point is, do what you can, when you can. Have an idea? Write it down! I am no stranger to starting a billion ideas before finishing one. Clarity and focus is key. Knowledge is also important! Read up on it all! Do your homework. Get acquainted with the lingo, at least the basics. A particularly influential Art teacher I had in High School taught me that you have to learn the rules first, so you know what to break later. Here’s my current film related reading list, some I have completed, others I have yet to start, but they cover almost every aspect an indie filmmaker might want to know:
1 “The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide for the digital age” by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus. My Thoughts: Its a bit of a behemoth, but packed with facts, details, and techniques. It solidly explains everything from how a camera works on its most primitive level, all the way to the heat of production and post. This might be the most info you get for your money out of all the books on this list.
2 “Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet. My Thoughts: I hadn’t heard of director Sidney Lumet before this (I know, shame on me), but I immediately respected him for his process of filmmaking. He was very detail oriented and planned things out way ahead of time, his style of controlling the creation of his films was a unique and fascinating one. If you haven’t seen any of his movies, check out “Serpico”, “Network”, and “Dog Day Afternoon”. Personally I loved all three and they made me realize Al Pacino was capable of more than a well placed “Ooo Aaahh”.
3 “Filmmaking: The Hard Way” by Josh Folan. My Thoughts: This book is a case study of indie director Josh Folan’s first feature length flick. If you’re wondering how other people in your shoes did it, check this out! He details the entire process from pre-production all the way to distribution. Plus the guy’s a very active and responsive social media personality, nice guy, and he’s totally willing to help with any questions that you might have (at least it seemed so from my short exchange with him).
4 “On Film-making: An Introduction to the craft of the Director” by Alexander Mackendrick. My Thoughts: Just because the framework of the story is “old school” in its time and references doesn’t mean the core ideas are “Out of Touch”. Plus if “The Third Man” comes up and you still haven’t seen that, you really need to stop what you’re doing and go watch that, a classic, and great, noir film starring Orson Welles (of “War of the Worlds” [not that one you mook] and “Citizen Kane” fame).
5 “Tough Shit” by Kevin Smith. My Thoughts: Even if you don’t necessarily care for Smith, this book still has valuable information in it. It details how he took his film “Red State” across continental America and self distributed it proving some twenty years after “Clerks” that he still is the indie kid that could, and did.
6 “Writing the Character Centered Screenplay” by Andrew Horton. My Thoughts: I’ve personally always had a bit of trouble adhering to the script format, and this helped break down the essentials for me, and helped me to appreciate a different, more character oriented take on the form. Very Useful.
7 “Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from concept to screen” by Steven D. Katz. My Thoughts: As an extremely visual person this one is VERY helpful to me as sometimes I just need to see it to better understand it, helpful for story-boarding and the multitude of different shots out there.
8 “Rebels on The Backlot: Six Maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system” by Sharon Waxman. My Thoughts: Reads like a bit of an expose on the six most famous indie directors of the nineties at times, but I found it mesmerizing to learn how all of them worked so differently from each other, and how each arrived at success in wildly different ways. Directors include: Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, and Spike Jonze.
9 “True and False: Heresy and Common sense for the actor” by David Mamet. My Thoughts: Haven’t even opened this one yet, but from my time working at a theatre during college, I know David Mamet knows his stuff when it comes to acting, or so I’m told. Most likely worthwhile.
10 “Making a Good Script Great” A guide for writing and rewriting by Hollywood script consultant Linda Seger. My Thoughts: This one is just a great layer of extra fluff knowledge backing up your primary writing knowledge, it does focus on a good rewrite, which is an immensely important aspect.
If you’re not much of a bookworm then I have one last suggestion for you.“The Story of Film: An Odyssey” is a 15 episode series, one hour each, that features an in depth look into the entire history of filmmaking. I’ve found it to be an inherently fascinating watch. The series is chock full of knowledge on essentially every aspect of how filmmaking has evolved over time and I strongly suggest anyone that has a loose or even decent grasp on the history of filmmaking to check it out, it’s on Netflix, and surely available elsewhere as well.
Well there you go folks! I hope you find something useful in all that, I sure did! Remember, just be as productive as possible in your current situation! Never give up, and keep dreaming!