Ten Realistic Zero-Budget Filmmaking Tips

Recently saw a list of ten zero-budget filmmaking tips on the Raindance Film Festival website.  And while I thought most of the tips were solid, I felt they needed tweaking, and a few were off base.  Here is my reworking of the list taking into account that zero budget filmmaking is what do.

1. The Story is Everything — If your script sucks your film will most likely suck.  If you don’t have some idea of the story you’re trying to tell as you begin shooting your documentary, your film will suck. And most importantly, if you don’t know how to tell a story in the editing room, if you don’t understand basic filmmaking principals like the three act structure, you film will ABSOLUTELY suck.

2. Location Location Location — you can find amazing locations for free or for very little money.  It’s why I so often shoot at the Hotel Duncan in New Haven.  Even the bare walls have character.  But a plain white wall in your dorm room is not a location for a film, any film.  Not even a film about a person stuck in a dorm room.  It will only make yours look like the product of a high school hobby.

3. Capture as Much Footage as Possible — video is free.  You can shoot for hours.  Get the extra take, then the one after that.  Get coverage.  Give your editor something to work with.  You’ve already put in so much time into this film, and you’ve only just started.  Shoot more, then shoot more after that.  (And as an addendum to that, learn how to use your lights.  You can light a scene beautifully with one light.  I’ve done it hundreds of times.  Play with shadows.  What’s unlit is just as beautiful as what you can see clearly.  Study old photographs.  Watch old films.  Do your fucking homework.

4. Sound is King — it’s more important than your image.  And no, you won’t be able to fix it in post.  ADR is really expensive.  Most unprofessional actors suck at it.  And if you’re doing a doc, well then you’re completely fucked without good sound.  Try to never shoot outside.  If the mic has to be in the frame in a doc, no one cares.  We care about what the subject is saying.

5. Great Music Can Save a Scene — there are so many cool bands out there in the same situation as you are.  Find the music that’s appropriate for your film from a great unknown, approach them nicely, and ask for permission to use it.  You might be surprised at the answer.  And you will definitely be shocked at how the right music can make a good scene great.

Matthew Ryan wrote this haunting theme song for my film BROKEN SIDE OF TIME in exchange for me creating a music video for a song from his next album.  A win-win situation no matter how you look at it.

6. Get Organized — I’ve argued that making a feature film is the single most difficult thing to do in the world.  And I do believe that.  There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and if you aren’t organized.  If you aren’t ready, well, then you’re pretty much up the proverbial creek.  You have seconds to make a decision.  And this decision making happens a hundred times per day when filming.  If you don’t have everything else under control, if you are not organized, then give it up now.  Go back to talking about making a film at the coffee shop, because that’s all you’ll ever do.  Know every shot, visualize the edit in your head, know when the street outside will be noisiest, when the sun is setting, etc. and so on.  Be an all-knowing God, because after 30 minutes on set, you’ll realize you’re not.  But you’ll at least be glad you tried.

7. Your Friends Can Not Act — Neither can your mom, your girlfriend, or your high-school play director.  Hire real actors.  Do a proper casting.  And I’m not talking union here, but people who’ve done it before.  There are tens of thousands of them out there.  Otherwise you’ll have one bad line delivery after another, and we’re back to high school project.

8. Build a Following — social media is free.  Work it.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Find like-minded people.  Tell them about what you’re doing.  Compliment what they’re doing.  Share their links.  It works both ways and takes a long time, but if you show respect, you’ll earn respect, and a retweet from someone with 100K followers can help a lot.  (And please, if you’re using KickStarter, absolutely back a bunch of projects before your ask for funds.)

9. You are a Filmmaker, a C.E.O., an Accountant, a Publicist, a Salesman — Unless you can afford to pay people to take these positions, it’s up to you.  And trust me, you can’t afford to pay anyone.  You are the only one who can guarantee the job gets done correctly.  Filmmaking doesn’t stop at the wrap party.  A film will become a two, three, maybe even four year commitment during which you wear all those hats and more.  Like I said before, the hardest job in the world.

10. There’s No Such Thing as Luck — It’s work.  A lot of hard work.  But if you truly feel there’s nothing else you were put on this earth for, and you’re willing to put in 10 to 12 hours a day, every day, for years on end (not an exaggeration, kids), then it’s also the most rewarding job in the world.  Just don’t expect to finish your film, get into Sundance, and be entertaining four-picture deal offers from the majors.  You’re more likely to win the lottery.

You’ll find more related thoughts and observations HERE and HERE.

Filmmaking: framing & lighting

I watch a lot of independent cinema.  When my friends are talking about seeing SUPERMAN at the multiplex, I’m scouring Fandango to see where FRANCES HA might be playing.  But one issue I have with so so many indie films is the way they are shot.  Lighting flat, always too bright, and framing that makes me want to scream.

For exampled: saw a great little indie recently.  Well written, nicely acted.  But the way it was shot drove me up a wall.  For example there was one scene of a couple in their bedroom. They were each on their respective electronic devices.  And a night table lamp was turned on.  Yet despite all this wonderful ambient light, there was another lighting source (a ceiling light, perhaps), which served no purpose other than to illuminate just how little set design money they had.  And think about it, who lies in bed looking at their iPad with all these lights.  The ceiling light should have been eliminated.  And honestly if they wanted to make the scene really interesting the lamp should have also been shut off.  With today’s amazing DSLRs the light from the two electronic devices would have been more than enough, and made the scene look so wonderfully cool.   (I lit two scenes in BROKEN SIDE OF TIME with a Zippo lighter.  Just a Zippo lighter.  And in its first film fest, the film won a cinematography award.)

Indie filmmakers seem to be afraid to allow their characters to fall into darkness.  It’s as if they need to the audience to see every damn pixel of their frame.  Or that perhaps if there’s not enough light the audience will know the filmmakers had no money.  Whatever the case, it’s ridiculous.  It’s not real life.  In real life there are dark corners to every room.  Often times you only see half of someone’s face.  It’s a hell of a lot more interesting.  As with sensuality, what we can’t see is often more intriguing.  In a room at night most times we have on a lamp and a TV.  Light your scene that way.  Break the goddamn ceiling light.  No sane person watches TV with the ceiling light on.  Even in an office.  Go for a close up with just the desk lamp on.  Or just the light from a computer screen.  Kill the damn overheads.  Hitchcock said movies are life with the boring parts cut out.  I’m pretty sure he’d likewise agree, movies are life with the ceiling lights turned off.

I’ve posted a few random images here where lighting is used beautifully to that effect.  Captivate your viewers.  Make them wish they could hang a frame of your film on their wall as a still photo.  Try working with one existing light.  Or one lighting source.  You’ll be surprised what you can do with it.  Force yourself to be creative.  Isn’t that what indie filmmaking is all about.

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As for framing.  CENTER IS BORING.  When I see something framed dead center I literally want to reach into the film, past the actors and slap the cinematographer upside the head.  Really that’s all you can come up with.  Flush your characters right, flush them left.  Put just their head popping up at just the bottom of the frame.  Cut off their face.  Let us watch them out of the corner of your eye.  Don’t be afraid to let them get lost in a gorgeous wide shot.  Or an extreme close up.  Show us just their hands as they’re talking.  Or their feet as they’re sitting next to each other on a sofa.  Show them in silhouette.   It’s ok to go out of focus.  BREAK THE FUCKING RULES.  Otherwise you’re shooting a bad soap opera from the 70s.  If you want your film to look like that you have no business making films.

And if you ever have a cinematographer mention to you the “Rule of Thirds” fire them on the fucking spot.  I would. They have no right to be behind a camera.  Because despite the notion that the rule of thirds is supposed to stop people from center framing it also stops you from thinking, from feeling, from being an artist.  There should be no rules to framing other than what feels right to the scene.  What takes your breath away.  Ceiling lights, and everything perfectly even and in focus takes no ones breath away.

Look at great still photography (Pinterest is an amazing source) that could somehow lend itself to the film you are about to make.  Steal from these masters.  Otherwise, even if you have the sweetest little film in the world, people will still be saying, too bad it looks like shit.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 11

11. Editing-part 3

As I said in an earlier post: get the best sound you can when filming, because you won’t have the money for ADR, and even if you do, your actors probably won’t be very good at it.

When editing, make sure to checker-board your sound tracks. It’ll make your life a lot easier when it comes time to mix. Don’t go nuts trying to clean up background sounds and such, because your mixer will most likely start over from scratch. Keep effects to the bare essentials, play with volume, fade in and out. That’s in. Unless you’re a ProTools genius. In that case you probably won’t need a mix. But since I’ve never met a filmmaker who really understood sound, I doubt that’s a possibility.

As for music. First off, if you don’t have the rights to a song, DO NOT USE IT. It makes you a douche. Plain and simple, it’s stealing. And no, on your micro budget film you are never getting the rights to that Rolling Stones classic. No, someone in their camp is not going to read your script and realize they have to give you their song. That is not going to happen. That song is going to cost you $25,000, or more. And on any low budget film, it’s not worth it. (Really, you should be making music videos instead.)

And if you think you can get away with the version recorded by your brother’s band. Wrong. You still need publishing rights. That’s right, you need both publishing rights (basically, from the person who wrote the song) and master sync rights (from the person who owns the actual recording, usually the record label) for every song in your film.

Now, let’s say someone from the Rolling Stones camp actually returns your call. They are probably going to offer you something called “Festival Rights.” Do not EVER buy festival rights for a song. It’s one of the biggest rip-off in the film business.

First off, you don’t need them. No festivals check on whether or not you have clearances for the songs in your film. No one is coming after you, as you made no money from the festival screening. However, personally, as a filmmaker who always gets the rights to everything in his films, it pisses me off when a filmmaker submits a film that can never be released because he’ll never get the rights. It’s lazy, bullshit, filmmaking. It’s makes you a piece of shit in my eyes. You’re a thief. And I’ll have no problem confronting you at a festival. Or calling you out on it on a panel. (Seriously, that would be like someone just copying your film and submitting it as theirs. Might piss you off right?)

Secondly, if you were stupid enough to buy festival rights, and then lucky enough to sell your film, pretty much whatever you sell your film for is going to be the asking price for those songs you never bothered acquiring all rights to. That’s right, all the money you just made is going to music rights.

Feel like an idiot? You should.

And you now why. There are so many truly amazing indie bands out there, in the same boat as we are. Independent artists just wanting to be heard. And one of them will have a song that’s perfect for your film. Many of them will. And they will be more than happy to sell you non-exclusive rights to it for something you can afford. A hundred bucks, and maybe a ¼ of one percent of backend. Be creative. It can work. And you’ll be helping a fellow indie artist.

Look at the soundtracks to either YOU ARE ALONE or FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and you’ll hear over 30 gorgeous tracks from a variety of amazing bands from Crooked Fingers to Matthew Ryan, the Wrens, Sarge, Phosphorescent. Every one of them indie. In every case I negotiated with the artist. In every case it was something I could afford.

It’s something you can afford. Film within your means. Wanting a Rolling Stones song (and obviously I’m just using them as an example, but any major artist would charge similar fees, from Beyonce to the Shins, all the same) is the same as wanting to film a car crash on your $25K budget. It just make you look as if you haven’t a clue. Because, well, you don’t. (Correct, the Shins are not indie. I’m talking someone who releases their own music, on their own, or a very small label.)

You’re indie. Support indie. Don’t be a douche filmmaker.

Next up: the mix

My filmography.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 10

10. Editing-part 2

Another example from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS):

After putting together the assembly of the film, which is basically every scene we filmed in order, as in the script, I realized the while the script was surely focused on the love story between Chloe and Owen, the film itself had lost focus. Chloe and Owen’s story became lost in the friendships and sexual games played by their four friends: Brad, Shirley, Jeff, and Alison. They were funnier, kinkier, they stole the show. The movie was more AMERICAN PIE-like in this incarnation.

So I needed to reel it back in. Or go with this new take. I stuck with the former. The story I wanted to tell was Chloe’s and Owen’s. Everything that truly moved me about the film played into that. From their beautiful prom scene dance to the improvised kiss atop East Rock Park, to Owen’s naked seranade. Their love story was my story.

So I started chipping away at scenes involving just their other four friends, removing a lot of dialog that didn’t somehow relate to Chloe and Owen. Sure, I kept in the funny bits. Laughs are hard to come by, and there was no way I’d ever cut some of the gems delivered by the characters of Brad, Shirley, Alison, and Jeff. But a lot of extra dialog, and a few smaller subplots, fell by the wayside.

I was brutal. I always am when cutting. I once cut over a hundred, fifty pages from a novel. And if you know how long it takes to write a hundred, fifty manuscript pages, you’ll understand what it’s like to cut. I used the film’s therapy sessions to cut into longer scenes, allowing me to chop out their middles, much as I did with Brad’s List.

Then I discovered that split screens would work beautifully for the pace of this film. While we were watching Brad and Shirley on one side, why not also watch Jeff and Alison on the other. It worked perfectly. And became the visual style of the film, a breakneck pace of jokes and romance, kinky sex and breakups.

The rule I have for cutting is simple, if it doesn’t move the story forward, cut it. I don’t care how long it took to get the shot, I don’t care how proud you are of the scene, I don’t care if the actress finally cried on cue. Does it work in the context of the film? Does it get your point across, or is it pointless? It’s all cancer if it doesn’t work. Cut if out.

A local filmmaker a few years back asked me to watch his film and give notes. He really wasn’t looking for notes, but instead wanted confirmation that he was brilliant. The film was far from that. One actor in particular was so hideously bad that she took you right out of the drama. I’m talking porn star bad. Laughable. I suggested he cu her out completely. And I gave the filmmaker a way to make the film work without any of her scenes. He insisted that his friends and family thought the actress was really funny and there was no way he could cut her out. Well, needless to say, the film was really never seen outside of his circle of family and friends. And I don’t mean to imply I’m right about everything, but instead of listening to someone whom he turned to because of my many decade background of telling stories, he listened to his friends and family. I was trying to help his film, but stroke his ego. Unfortunately he couldn’t tell the difference, or didn’t care to.

I do the same thing to myself in the editing room. Every time. Does this work? Is it integral to the story I’m telling? (And yes, my COLOR ME OBSESSED pause was integral!) Put your story ahead of your ego, or the feelings of anyone else.

Next up, in the final section on editing, I’ll talk sound, music, and the mix.

My filmography.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 6

6. Your Audience

When people ask me who I make my films for, my answer is “me.” I make my films for myself. I know people who find this answer obnoxious, or flat out rude, or who don’t believe me. But you CANNOT create a work of art to make someone else happy. You will fail. Which is why so many Hollywood films suck.

You are your own audience of one. Does your film make you laugh, or cry? Does it move you in the way you intended it to? Are you completely proud of it? Is it what you forever want to be known for? Are you happy to sign your name to it? Would you defend it to the death as you would your child? If you can answer yes to most, if not all, of these questions, then you don’t have to worry about making your film for an audience, because the audience will find you.

Great and passionate art always rises to the top of the heap. Will everyone like your film? Absolutely not. You don’t want everyone to like your film. Because if everyone does, it’s most likely commercial crap. In fact you want some people to love it unconditionally, and some to detest it more than any film they’ve ever seen. Then you know you’ve got something special. What you certainly don’t want is people saying, “it was okay.” You want an audience to be as passionate about your film (either love or hate) as you were about making it.

In my first documentary, COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS, there’s an interviewee named Robert Voedisch who really polarizes many of the men in the audience. Not the women. The women seem to adore him. But he makes some men angry. Especially the more macho types. And I finally realized why. He so painfully reminds them of the geeky kid they were at fourteen, their ego now puts up a wall. He makes them uncomfortable. He makes them squirm. In Voedisch, who so blissfully lays himself emotionally naked in the film, they see who they once were, and they never want to return there. Voedisch unleashes their deep hidden secret that their macho self was once a geeky kid who hid in his room and played rock and roll records because he was too scared to talk to girls.

Another moment that I truly love in COLOR ME OBSESSED is Bil Mac’s pause. I ask the simple question: “What’s your favorite Replacements song?” He answers “Go,” and then says nothing else. I hold on his look of absolute conviction for six seconds in the film. This pause so bothered everyone who worked on the film: my closest friends, the people whose opinions I trusted and valued most. The pause had to go. Well, so I wouldn’t have to hear about it endlessly as we all discussed the various cuts of the film — what worked, what was repetitive, what was out-of-sync — I cut away at the pause until it barely existed. By the last time we all watched the film in preparation for the sound mix, looking for typos, weird cuts, anything wrong, it was down to about 24 frames. One second. But that was because I knew, the day before the sound mix, when even my assistant editor Sarah Hajtol was finally given a day off, I’d be putting the pause back in all its six second glory. In my gut it worked. It belonged. After the rapid fire pace of the first twenty minutes of the film, it was a breather. And it stands as one of my favorite moments of the film. The pause bring an air of importance to Bil’s response. It’s as if I were asking the Pope if he believed in God. That’s what the pause does. How can we not believe in The Replacements after that pause?

What I’m saying is: Find the Voedisch in your film. Find the big pause, and all the little ones. Find the elements that drives your film forward. And don’t worry if they pisses the hell out of some people. If you know in your gut they’re right, that they fit, then follow your gut. YOU, as director, are signing your name to this film. NO ONE ELSE.

Some audience members will fall in love, other will squirm uncomfortably, and you will have done your job as an artist.

Next up: Be Organized!

My filmography.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 4

4. Pay backend only.

Really. Pay no one up front. Work out backend deals, and treat filmmaking like a business. If your film is any good you will make some money back. And if you have only 10 people sharing backend, with no investors (get to that shortly) to pay back, everyone will see a check or two, or more.

But also remember, you as director/writer/producer should keep the biggest piece of the pie. You could be working on this project for a years (I shot my first COLOR ME OBSESSED interview in November 2009, it’s now May 2012 and I’m still traveling with the film), while the person doing sound was in and out in two weeks. So, you are the biggest investor: of TIME. Figure out everyone’s role, how much time everyone is spending on the film, what they’re bringing to the table so to speak, and work out percentages from there. If the DP is bringing along the entire camera and lighting package, you need to factor that in. If you are shooting in one location for a few weeks, and that location is as important as any cast member, the owner of the location needs to be compensated appropriately. And no, one percent or less is not an insult, if the person really has only spent a small amount of time on the film. But really think this through. Make a list of every single person who will have something to do with the film, from indie bands who contribute a song to the soundtrack, the person designing your poster/website, leave no one out, then work on the numbers.

This CAN work. But backend gets a dirty name because most people don’t follow through, or they have no solid plan on how to distribute their film once it’s done. There are so many ancillary markets at this point in time, so many places to get your film seen, and so many books and sites that point you in the right direction. Do some homework, research, Google exists for a reason. You are not going to make a film, sit back, get into Sundance, be signed by CAA, and get a 4-picture deal with one of the studios. That really is not going to happen. Ever. You need to be proactive, you need to make everything in your career happen. It’s ALL on your shoulders.

But remember, when you get in that check from Netflix, or iTunes, or even YouTube, when you get in every check, even it it’s only $500, pay out backend. Because even getting a royalty check of $20 will make someone’s day. And you will get a reputation as a filmmaker people will want to work for, i.e. he/she finishes his/her films, actually gets them distributed, and pays out royalties. That almost seems like a pie-in-the-sky fantasy in the indie world, but ask my crew/cast members, they’ll tell you it can happen.

Next up: Funding Your Film

My filmography.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 2

2. Keep your crew small.

No micro-budget film needs a crew of more than 5 or 6 people, and that includes the director. If you hire a line producer/production manager who wants to hire a first AD, second AD, UPM, and script supervisor. Either explain to him that he is wearing all of those hats, or fire him and find someone who actually wants to work. There’s no reason for a crew of 20 people on an indie film. There’s no reason for a crew of ten. None. Most of them stand around with their arms folded looking bored, then complain come meal time that you don’t have yogurt for breakfast. You might not be paying them, but you still have to feed them. (And crew members seriously, if there’s something you absolutely need to eat on set, buy it for yourself, and bring it to set. As I said in one of my director’s commentaries, “Get your own fucking yogurt!”) And if you’re daily food budget is say $200. Ten people (say 6 crew members and 4 cast members) can eat a lot better on $200 than thirty can. A well-fed crew is a happy crew. Last summer when six of us headed down to Chapel Hill to shoot my Archers of Loaf concert film, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?, I treated us all to a five-star meal. Honestly the most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for on a set. (That includes a set of thirty when doing FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, and people ate well on that set.) But it set a perfect mood. Everyone was happy. And still to this day talk about that meal at Lantern.

The same rules apply for all the departments. On a micro budget film your DP should light and do all camera work. If he knows what he/she is doing, it’ll still look like a million dollars. If he/she doesn’t, all the extra crew members in the world won’t make your film look any better. (I’m working on a film called BROKEN SIDE OF TIME where as the only…the ONLY…crew member on a certain scene I lit it with a Zippo lighter. It looks freaking awesome! Mind-blowingly awesome!). Design team = one person. Makeup and hair should and could be done by the actors. They can probably do it better on themselves than anyone you can afford, unless of course we’re talking horror, then you’ll need someone good with the gore and blood. Sound = one person. Throw in you, the director, and perhaps one good PA (who has some knowledge of lights, but also doesn’t mind going on a lunch run, wrangling cables, sitting in a van watching equipment, grunt work . . . and let me set something straight right now, on my sets I will wrangle cables, haul equipment, set up gear, do whatever it takes . . . there’s no room for divas in micro budget), and there’s your crew. Anyone else is wasted money and space. (Note: if you’re doing a documentary, you probably want two cameras going at all times, in which case, the design person is replaced by a second DP.)

This is the new model for making indie films. The smart model. And if people tell you it can’t be done this way, they’re either lazy and don’t really want to work, or they have no clue as to what they’re doing and don’t belong on a film set. (About 75% of the people you’ll meet making and/or working on films will fall into one of those two categories. If you’re in Connecticut make that 90%. They’ll hopefully find other career paths in short time.)

NOTE: do not hire your friends to be crew, unless your friends were crew members first, i.e. you became friends after working together on a project. Otherwise, they will either no longer be your friends, your film will suffer, or most likely both.

ALSO: just because someone went to film school, doesn’t mean they know what to do on a film set. I usually find just the opposite to be the case. Look for people who’ve worked on sets, a lot of sets. Experiences trumps school a million times over. Look for people who love movies and want to learn how a film is made. Look for a DP who wants to be a DP. A production manager who loves to manage. Stay away from people who say ultimately they want to direct, because ultimately they will want to direct YOUR film.

And note to crew members. NEVER EVER give an opinion out loud as to how an actor should deliver a line. That is SO NOT your place. (Besides undermining the director, you are now shaking the confidence of the actor.) If you have an idea about that or anything (shot, sound, lighting), and if there is time, pull the director aside and tell him/her. Also if the director gives you certain rules about behavior on his set, follow them. Make believe you’re in the army, and the director is your general. No, really. (See, this is why you don’t hire friends.) If you don’t follow the rules you’ll be court marshalled, or at least thrown through a plate glass window.

A lot more on that when we get to organization, but honestly if you have five great crew members, all there to work, none of that will be an issue.

Next up: Casting

My filmography.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 1

First off, when I say indie, I don’t mean Hollywood indie. I don’t mean a $10 million budget. There ain’t nothing indie about $10 million, unless it’s coming out of your pocket. I’m talking micro-budget here. $10K to $25K to make a feature film. It can be done. It can be done well. And if you know what you’re doing, if you have some talent and a little business sense, you can turn it into a career, where you can make the films you want and never never never have to listen to development notes from someone who hasn’t a creative bone in their body. (Despite the fact that they personally believe their ideas are genius.)

I call these the “black & white rules” because to me they are pretty much written in stone. You can veer a little off route here and there, but ultimately you will need to end up here.

1. Start with the script. A well-written script that follows some sort of three act structure. I’ve said it before, every good film, every good story, follows some sort of three act structure. It might be fucked up and inverted, but it’s there. If it’s not, the story just doesn’t work. There are no examples to prove otherwise. Don’t email me with them, I’ll just have to write you back and show you the three act structure that’s right there in front of your face but you’re too dumb to see.

No indie script needs to be more than 90 pages. If it is, cut it down. Locations should be kept to a minimum. Stay away from exteriors, your sound will suck and you won’t have the money to fix it. No car chases, no explosions, no helicopter shots. No mansions, unless your rich uncle owns one. Use your head. What and where can you get for free? Alfred Hitchcock once said you could make a great film in a closet if you know what your doing. Limit the number of characters, especially background extras. You don’t have the money for crowd scenes. Even if you’re not paying them, you probably have to feed them.

Write believable characters, who speak believable dialog (no Diablo Cody-speak please, no one on the planet talks like that). Write about people we care about. (Not mumblecore losers who have no life, and no job.) TELL A FUCKING STORY. Keep it compelling, compact and real. And as great as your script it. Be prepared to see it morph before your eyes during rehearsals, then again during shooting, and yet again during the editing process. But that’s okay. Never be locked to the words on the page, be locked to the story you’re telling. Even though the script is complete you might not yet even be sure what that is. If you have talent, the story will emerge, and hopefully hold a few surprises even for you.

Next up: The Crew

My filmography