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Six Indie Film Mistakes...I Realized During Quarantine

I’ve had some time to contemplate the good, bad and downright weird scenarios I’ve had as a filmmaker. While some of my filmmaking experiences, to some, may seem like a tragic comedy, for me they’ve come as hard lessons. Lessons I hope others don’t have to go through. But if you do, hit me up and we can laugh/cry together. Whether you’ve been there or are headed there, the filmmaking process is no easy feat. From writing, producing, filming, directing, gaffing - the list goes on - there are many chances for something to go wrong and for things to go to hell in a hand basket, aka pull a 2020 real quick. I hope my stories help filmmakers that may be just starting out.

Don’t Hire Your DP off Craigslist…


But if you do, be sure they’re who they say they are. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can assure you, some people have fallen for it (not me!). I once worked on a project where the producer/director decided to find a DP on Craigslist. I’m honestly not sure why he was searching on Craigslist for a DP, but search and you shall find. Not only was the DP extremely arrogant and boasted about his 97 credits on IMDB (which he lied about), he was also straight-up deranged. He wasted more time belittling the cast and crew, bragging about being physically abusive towards his girlfriend, and making comments about my boobs, then he actually did filming. He also threw a tantrum in the middle of set and was purposely set up the wrong shots after arguing with the director and telling her to shut the f@#k up. Three years since that fated Craigslist shoot, and it’s still etched in my brain.

Don’t Let too Many Cooks in the Kitchen


Surprisingly, running a team of five producers on one indie project was not an issue when it came to major decisions. However, I stupidly joined a project with three co-writers/producers (myself being one), and boy did I pay the price. Honestly, I knew it was a bad idea, but curiosity got the best of me. Not only did I watch while the other two writers fought over script changes, I ended up having to play the middle-woman and listen to both sides chew each other out after our writing sessions. Definitely not fun and not something I’d ever do. I’ve had writing partners before (myself and one other person) and it was always fun, but when too many strong-minded people get involved, and start to place more value in being right than the work itself, you know it’s not going to end well.

Don’t Hire Mariah Careys


I’m an actor who transitioned into writing and filmmaking to create more roles for myself. And also, because I loved turning a seed of thought into an actual finished project. What I’m saying here is, on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve worked with friends who were also actors and were extremely difficult. I’ve also worked with crew that was extremely difficult. Mariah Careys don’t discriminate by position. I had an actor who waited to confirm birthday plans for two whole weeks before giving availability and thought it was appropriate the cast/crew wait on them to do so. They also refused to take any calls from the production – only emails - and would take days to respond by email. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well. I also worked with a director who told me I should “shut my mouth and do what I’m told on set” because, as an actor, I refused to eat wet noodles that fell on the dirty floor of his apartment after being flung around in a food fight (ewww). I used to call these people friends, but now I’ve made it my mission to stay clear of people like this. And I will forever refer to them as the Mariah Careys of the world.

Vet Your People


This piggybacks off of my first point. Don’t be shy about getting more clips if a reel isn’t doing it or supplemental material before making a decision on hiring. Ask for recommendations to keep your people in a smaller net. I’ve met a lot of people who pitch themselves as multiple things, only to find that they have no material to provide that they’ve done the job. I’ve taken way too many people’s word only to be disappointed when they couldn’t deliver. That’s like asking for a high-level position in a company, without having a resume or references. It makes no sense. And I made the mistake when I was starting out, but will never make it again.

Plan Ahead…And Then Plan Some More


There was this one time on set (not band camp), when the actors were self-reporting by train and the train stopped running due to track work. And then one of the PA’s had an emergency and cancelled, and the DP didn’t bring the appropriate lens to set and couldn’t get the shots I planned. I mean, I could go on with other things that fell apart on that project, but I won’t. If you’re starting out as a filmmaker, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you have all your I’s dotted. Have a back-up plan for when things go wrong, because they will at some point, and you’ll lose time, money, sanity and your vision, if you don’t have a plan. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

Don’t Be So Desperate to Film


This is the golden rule. When I started my filmmaking journey, I was very naive and desperate to create content that I pretty much was up to work with anyone. While it’s always great to be open-minded, and meet new people, it doesn’t always pan out. I ended up working with filmmakers who insisted they knew how to do xyz. And low and behold, they had no idea how to do it once they got to set. Granted, the

se were small, super low budget projects, but still it’s frustrating when people embellish and lie about their skills. Create to create and know not everything is going to be a great experience or turn out amazing, but also know your time is valuable and that not every opportunity should be taken. If you’re not feeling it, don’t do it. Being desperate (in any situation) makes you lower your value and worth and turn a blind eye to red flags. It also makes you rush, and do things that you normally wouldn’t do. Your time and energy should be cherished, and not just doled out to anything and anyone with an idea or opportunity.


XoXo,

Jenn




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