Yesterday I spent a couple hours with a fellow filmmaker. She’d seen the posts about Better Half starting principle photography and, as someone who has been trying to get a project off the ground for a while, she reached out for coffee date. She wanted to pick my brain about how I was “doing it.”
And pick my brain she did! We talked about everything. Locations, casting, SAG, money (that was a short topic), crew, worker’s comp, you name it. It was the third time that I found myself in this crazy position of sort of being the person imparting the knowledge rather than the one seeking it. She had run into all sorts of roadblocks and I explain how I decided to get about them. And I say decide because that is what it was, a decision.
There are all sorts of industry entities that have a rigid, finite method of how movies are supposed to be made – agents, above the line talent, producers. Playing by those rules assumes that the field is level and all things are equal for all who venture down that path. But things are not. Most things are no where near equal, leaving many of us film artists to simply find a way with our individual resources.
I know how that sounds; it sounds like there is a chance that the integrity of the project could be called into question. Again, for the most rigid, short-sighted players in the entertainment industry, I see how it could be. You can’t equate having all those Hollywood boxes checked to a project’s potential or quality; not when you are talking about making art. But I think I came out of our talk with three golden rules to indie filmmaking. These are rules that I really don’t hear much, but they were key for me:
1. Use the gray area. If someone is doing what you want to do, but the Hollywood powers that be won’t give you permission, stop asking for permission. Do it the way that someone is doing it. As long as you don’t blatantly break any laws, and are prepared to answer the consequences of the ones you bend, go for it. You have a lot more power and options with a film in the can than with one that is stuck on pre-production.
2. Cheerleaders are key. Find people that will have your back no matter what. They will help you anyway they can because they believe in you and they believe in your project. I have never personally met many of the fiercest advocates I have in making Better Half happen. They are invaluable to me and the project; and though it is not always clear how, long distance cheerleaders can often help you find a way. It’s one of the themes of our film: Reach out! Someone will pull you up.
3. Transparency. Better Half is largely possible because the cast and crew have signed on for the long haul. They know this production is unorthodox. They know fundraising will be an ongoing challenge for us. They know that I am doing five jobs and some folks have taken on gripping, continuity, wardrobe, a whole score of second jobs without me asking, because they are on board. If you are upfront with your cast & crew about everything, they will either sign on, or they wont. But those that ultimately do won’t have licence to feel misled, misused or betrayed. They will sign on and stay on for their own reasons; hopefully because they too believe in your project. And most importantly, as long as everyone is on the same page, you can feel free to get your movie made – by any means necessary.
This post reminds me that I never got to the triangle of expectation. Maybe next week…