Friday, November 21, 2008

The reality of Indie film success.

I've met scores of wannabe film directors in the past 10 years each of which have had their very own unique ideas (or non-ideas) about filmmaking. All were accomplished in non film related fields but all were film noobs that were convinced THEY had a great idea for a film - their first film.

First time filmmakers are an interesting breed. They may have had a brush with something related to film in the past, they may just be fans of cinema, or may just have a story they are convinced needs to be told in film format. They are almost always well meaning BUT in every case they had shortcomings that defeated their film.

I don't know what it is, but when noobs decide they want to make a film, they just lose (if they ever had it) the objectivity required to not screw it up. Objectivity: like when you have the sense not to apply for the CEO position of a fortune 500 company or when you carefully consider the odds of successfully flying a rocket to the moon from your backyard. 

Objectivity - it's a lifesaver.

Some might call it common sense, but I like to visualize the very basic components of 1) A person, and 2) A task, and 3) A thought process.

Maybe it looks easy or sounds easy - making a film. Maybe that's it.

Of the 11 first time filmmakers I've worked with in the past 6 years only 5 ever managed to complete a first film while none of the 5 has ever seen a dime from any kind of distribution deal. So far only one has completed photography of a 2nd film.

There have been a lot of years and dollars flushed down the toilet because of bad execution and/or bad scripts. 

I once met a guy who was convinced that since he moved his house from one site to another, HE could make a movie. He even told me that directing a film isn't as hard as moving a house and he never even directed a film before.

I once met a guy who self published a book that he wanted to turn into his first film. Not only was he to direct, but he planned to play the lead in the film. He was barely a writer and definitely not an actor and yet somehow, he was sure he could do this. 

I once met a PhD who seemed to think HE could just bang out a screenplay and apply his well thought out schedule to every phase of prep and production of his first film.

I once met a guy who sold half his business to finance his first film which he shot on 35mm film and which got into zero film festivals and is not available to buy or rent. His followup film, a no budget piece, ended up getting a DVD distribution deal which I'm guessing yielded zero dollars for him and is currently in the Bottom 100 on IMDb.

ALL these people failed and I could mention many more that I know personally. Some, I tried to help early on in the process, but what they all had in common was that they either didn't understand what I was trying to tell them, OR they just didn't heed my advice.

There are experts in the industry who will read your script or watch your finished film and give you their expert opinions for a fee, but let me save you some time:

Nobody cares how smart you are and that you can make a film for cheap (nobody who matters anyway.) If you think programmers at the Sundance Film Festival will be blown away by your $20,000. film that looks like a $200,000. film, you are mistaken. THEY won't care and distributors won't care.

Nobody cares that you're an outsider and that you somehow managed to accurately re-create the middle ages in your backyard.

Nobody cares that you shot your film over 6 months time on weekends only.

Nobody cares that you have 2 or 3 Oscar award winning actors in your film.

Nobody cares that YOU think you have a great film on your hands.

Here's the thing - If you don't make a GREAT film. Yes, a great film, not merely a good film, no-body-will-care about anything to do with you or your film. You may be able to reach a limited audience if your film involves an unexplored topic that is of special interest to a select group of people, but is that what you really want?

You don't make a film for yourself. Films are meant to reach wide audiences. You HAVE TO ask yourself ONE crucial question BEFORE writing or having a script written and ask this BEFORE shooting even one scene of a film:

Who am I making this film for?

copyright (2008) Chris Santucci

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