Independent Filmmaking 101
SO YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT FILMMAKING?
Whether you're an actor looking to create your own work, a filmmaker looking to learn more about independently making films or someone who wants to have a better understanding of filmmaking before committing to a career change, you've come to the right place.
Indie filmmaking encompasses a lot of different things, and it's important to learn the basics of what it truly means to be an independent filmmaker.
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PASSION PURPOSE PERSISTENCE
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
Passion, purpose, and most of all, persistence are the three keys to indie filmmaking. Or, really anything. Filmmaking is no easy feat, let's get that straight. There is so much that goes into making a film, series or project. It's great that you have a cool idea for a film, but you need more than an idea to make it come to life. When things don't magically come together, which they usually don't, you're going to need something more than a vision to keep you from throwing in the towel and walking away. There's a reason you're trying to create this project, what's the reason? That's your purpose. It's important to dig deep into your purpose when things aren't going as planned or get difficult and remember why you're doing this. Your purpose is very important, but without passion and persistence, nothing would ever get done. Your passion is what's going to get the project going and persistence is where the magic happens and what's going to get you to the finish line...aka post-production. Are you ready to commit?
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WHAT'S SO INDEPENDENT ABOUT IT?
Simply put, if you're a filmmaker that doesn't have millions and millions of dollars or a bunch of uberrr rich uncles, then you're an independent filmmaker. Independent filmmakers work outside major film studios and create films, series and proofs. Generally, these film budgets can run anywhere between $0 and around $2 million.
A lot of independent filmmakers work in the industry to see that projects they're passionate about get created. They also get into indie film as a stepping stone to get their own projects picked up, build a portfolio for jobs they want with major film studios, or to work independently, usually freelancing or starting boutique film production companies. The good news is, there's no linear path, so make your own way.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES FILMMAKING ENTAIL?
To put it bluntly: a lot of sh*t. The term "filmmaker" often gets misinterpreted as Director of Photography and Editor. Go on Youtube and type in "filmmaker" and a bunch of videos of dudes (and one woman) will pop up, talking about how to set up a shot. Filmmaking is so much more than that.
Filmmaking goes way beyond the scope of setting up a dope shot (I mean, knowing how to do that is definitely important, but there's so many steps before that). It's about methodically fitting pieces together to visually tell a cohesive and impactful story. And each piece is its own department. And when you want to start creating your own work or transition into film, it's important to know the gist of how to do that.
PASSION PURPOSE PERSISTENCE
WHAT DOES "FILMMAKER" ACTUALLY MEAN?
According to the dictionary (who actually reads the dictionary anymore?), it's a person who directs or produces movies (or motion pictures) for the theater or television. Basically, someone who assists in the production of making movies, series, commercials and any type of visual storytelling.
A "filmmaker" is a broad term for an array of positions held by people who help create a film or project. These positions include: producers, directors, gaffers, assistant camera operators, first and second assistant directors, writers - the list can go on.
Creating your own films means you need to learn the basics of filmmaking, such as budgets, hiring crew, style, tone, and much more.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I LIVE IN *INSERT RANDOM CITY* DO I NEED TO MOVE IN ORDER TO START MAKING FILMS?
Nope. Nope. And another nope. It really doesn't matter where you live, where there are people there is storytelling. You can start wherever, whenever. Sure, if you want to move to New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta, go for it, but there is no need until there is a need.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONTENT CREATION AND FILMMAKING?
If you're creating TikToks of yourself, you're a content creator. If you're creating short films, feature films, pilots, web series, etc. you're a filmmaker. Basically, the rule of thumb is if you're creating a film, series or episode, you're a filmmaker. Length of time doesn't apply here - films and episodes range from 30 seconds to hours long.
I DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY, HOW CAN I START CREATING?
A lot of people don't have funding to invest when they start. You can check out the resources page and find some groups that will allow you to post so you can collaborate with others. Or, you can find actor and filmmakers nearby via word of mouth or ask friends to work with you. Getting started isn't a big monstrous task, it just means jumping in wherever you're at. You can even rent books for free at the library and watch YouTube videos to get your feet wet or work on mock projects. You'll learn how to "swim" once you're in the water.
THERE AREN'T ANY FILMMAKING COURSES NEAR ME, HOW CAN I LEARN?
If you want to be on set and learn, the easiest thing to do is shadow someone. A lot of people think volunteering as a PA (production assistant) is the way to go, and it's helpful to a point, but shadowing is really great. Why? Because you're establishing early on that this person is sharing their process with you for the sole purpose of you learning real-life experience. If you're volunteering as a PA you might have to run around set all day and never get a real chance to learn the process of the director, gaffer, or whatever role you'd like to learn about.
Most people who shadow will be a helping hand to the specific person they're shadowing so it's a win-win. And, on the flip side, it gives the person you're shadowing a better look at their own process from the outside and also, it feels pretty dope to be asked by someone.