The Job Description
When most people buy a movie ticket, they don’t really think about the process of getting that movie made. They don’t know what goes into the creation and distribution of a feature film and, to be frank, most people don’t care, nor should they. They paid good money to be entertained, and if you’ve done your job well, they'll salute you; if you failed, they’ll curse you; and if you did okay, they’ll forget all about you. Their job is to watch your final product; your job is to make it, make it good, and make it on time and under budget, which is, of course, easier said than done.
In an interview for the Los Angeles Times, Alejandro Gonza- lez Iñárritu (The Revenant, Birdman, Babel) was quoted as saying,
“To make a film is easy, to make a good film is war. To make a very good film is a miracle.”
If you have had the pleasure of making a feature film from start to finish, you know exactly what Iñárritu was talking about. The process of writing, rewriting, budgeting, rewriting, casting, scheduling, planning, rehearsing, rewriting, shooting, solving problems, doing posts, and handling the release of an independent feature film is a daunting one, and it can get especially rough for first-timers. I honestly think that the process is designed to test one’s spirit and resolve, and it is in the difficult moments that we find out just how important film is to us. And if you love film, if you truly enjoy the process, then filmmaking becomes extraordinarily rewarding. The hard work pays off, and you find yourself addicted to the hustle.
When you are producing a low-budget indie film, you are expected to produce a piece of art in a financially responsible way and make decisions that reflect your business acumen, reflect your talent, and match your ambition at the same time – that to me, is an oxymoron, but it’s also the job description. Check out my post on being a DIY Filmmaker for some tips. Your job is to express your artistic spirit while putting harsh limitations on yourself at the same time and finding creative ways around these limitations. It’s to tell a story in an effective way without going over budget; it’s to make an entertaining piece of art that people would want to pay money for and watch again and again and again. As an indie filmmaker, you can feel as if you’re being torn apart between “business” and “art.” The financial element limits you, and your creativity frees you. You have a million-dollar dream, but only $50,000 to work with. It’s a delicate balance– mixing art and business, but it gets better with practice. The more movies you make, the more you learn how to handle yourself, the more confident you grow. And, if you keep your mental attitude in check and refuse to get discouraged when you fail, you can only grow. Soon enough, you’ll find new ways of merging your business acumen with your artistic vision and use the two together in synergy to produce better pictures on schedule and under budget. Check out these blockbuster indie movies for some inspiration for your next low-budget feature.