How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur

Having watched over 500 feature films a year as the Head of Programming of the Raindance Film Festival, Suzanne Ballantyne writes her observations and advice on how to Fake Being An Indie Auteur

***Read Part 2 of How To Fake Being An Indie Filmmaking Auteur Here***

This is not about how to make Hollywood films, made-for-tv films or even low budget films. This is not about making films whose purpose is to entertain. This is about a different species altogether - the indie auteur film, short or long - the darling of the latest 'it' festival - with city names likes Gotenburg, Hamburg, Kerala and Rotterdam in their title. The kind of film that press people, pretentious programmers, art house proprietors and film academians piss themselves for. The kind of film that might just launch your career.

So here goes - ten tips to indie auteurdom

  1. The Plot

When thinking of your indie auteur script think sexual triangles.
Two women fighting over a man - two men over a woman. It's a well trodden path to indie genius.

2. The Script

Come up with a script which pays 'homage' that is, closely follows the plot points of a previous indie gem by a bona fide indie genius- i.e Francois Truffaut's JULES ET JIM. Most of the audience won't have seen the film you're paying homage to anyway and even if they have they won't quite get in what way you have been paying 'homage' to it.


Dialogue should be minimal. You do not want to overstate the case. Keep the audience guessing as to what exactly your film is about. Pauses are more important. Have lots of them and keep them long. The camera can then focus on the motionless faces of the actors as the audience desperately try to interpret their thoughts while struggling to figure out exactly what is going on.

Raindance Film Festival 4. Casting

Cast your friends and family. They should be weird looking but photogenic. Don't shy away from the fat, the frail and the ugly. It's your job to go where no director has gone before. If they can't act shoot them without sound and add voice over or shoot them from the back. You can always edit out any hints of amateurishness.


Cast actors who can really act - In fact cast the best actors you can as they will save your ass and add weight to your project that should stifle all and any niggling questions about your ability. Great actors want to preserve their own reputation and they may carry you along with them.

5. Direction

Take a scene with a few people then go back and shoot it again - each time from a different characters point of view. This will be interpreted as the director making a point and will add weight to your wafer thin plot. In fact just taking a very basic plot line and retelling it from each characters point of view is enough of a script for the indie auteur.

6. Lighting

Go for flat lighting in general but make sure there are at least two scenes which contain shadows - shadows are good. A shadow of the lead character as he makes his way down an alleyway for instance will be interpreted as either internal conflict or possible schizophrenia. It will make you look like you know what you're doing. Bored film critics look at shadows and try to interpret them so give them something to do - just try to make sure the shadow in question isn't the boom arm.

If shooting on film have fun playing with the processing - sepia tones, bleach outs, whatever - it's all part of your look.

Raindance Courses Work7. The "Look"

Shoot on film or dv made to look like film (using filters, programs anything you can) - preferably on black and white or even better, black and white with nano second shards of bright colour interspersed for an almost subliminal amount of time to convey murky plot points, back story etc. into the mix. Despite digital advances proclaim your love for the "look" and smell of film.

Mix up your formats. Shoot parts of your film on a mobile phone, use found footage, photographs, alongside that indie darling, super 8mm. Shoot on recans and ends, preferably donated to you by a famous director. Scratch and draw on the surface of the celluloid. Be bold. The less understood the finished product, the better.

8. Sound

Sound is all important. The picture can be static but sound should tell the story - that is the story the audience are trying to piece together from the little you're giving away. Make sure the foley is first rate, sound is crystal clear or horrifically muddy. Play with sound to your hearts content and think contrasts. For instance, when the character looks out of the window and sees rain mix in some tracks of stampeding elephants. Sound reigns supreme in the world of the indie auteur and superb sound is ideally mixed with the grainiest most inscrutable of images for true indie supremacy. This is because critics and audiences are looking for genius so hard they're prepared to make it up if necessary.

9. Music

Repetition is very important here, both to show plot development even where there is none and to imply a deeper meaning where again there may be absolutely none. Here is an example. At the opening of a film a boy plays the piano very badly. He works with a teacher and later in the film we hear that his playing has improved.The viewer thinks - this must mean something, right? Later on, we hear the music again - it's improved, but only slightly. The audience will wonder what does this mean? - or it could be played with a violent edge to imply anarchy or chaos or it may be played with fluid virtuosity to imply magnificence, a story well told and a film that is finally over.

10. You.

Submit to the Raindance film Festival

How will you look when your publicity still is printed in the catalogue alongside the obscure title of your film? -which ideally should be one monosyllabic word, and again, very much open to interpretation.

In this instance grunge rules supreme. Blur your sexuality, wear a few items of apparel from the sex opposite to your own. Either never cut your hair or shave it all off and wear clothing that proclaims your poverty and intolerance of consumerism. Like Jesus, the indie auteur shall be dressed in rags


***Read Part 2 of How To Fake Being An Indie Filmmaking Auteur Here***


About Raindance

Since 1992 Raindance has been offering advice and support for independent fimmakers. We started the Raindance Film Festival in 1993, and the British Independent Film Awards in 1998.

Most of our year is spent training thousands of new and established filmmakers in all aspects of film. Among high profile alumni are Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins), David Yates (Harry Potter), Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn – who actually met at a Raindance course. Raindance training is one of the world’s largest catering for over 3000 students per year.

In 2011 we launched an innovative Postgraduate Film Degree with Staffordshire University and the Independent Film Trust.

In 2013 we relaunched our production arm, Raw Talent with the feature Love.Honour.Obey.

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20 Responses to How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur

  1. Fabian Sanchez January 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Abraham Hernandez I think you would enjoy this.

  2. Mjoren Strilla January 8, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Charlie Kaufman would love this!

  3. Laura McCormick April 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Loving this site for advice and support!

  4. Single Hand Films April 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Brilliant article! Extremely funny read but also very true!

  5. Jason Coleman May 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    not good…

  6. Alonzo Furino May 22, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    hahah. I instantly thought of Mystery Train when I read #5. I liked that movie though.

  7. Mathyou Carta December 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    It's articles like this that remind us why raindance (with all the help its got feeding off Sundance's success) isn't respected the way real film festivals are.

  8. Elliot Grove December 26, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Erm? Are you for real?
    Maybe if you manage to get your film into a 'real film festival' you will know what this means.

  9. Manj Gill December 26, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Surely any self respecting film lover/ critic realises the unbelievable floors in this article? Doesn't represent this festival in a good light.

  10. Surinder Singh December 26, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    I kept getting these Raindance emails after I got back from Canes and they're so annoying

  11. Mathyou Carta December 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    With all due respect Elliot … if you are willing to allow a reductively obnoxious article represent your festival, then it seems a tad temperamental to throw your toys out of your pram when you get obnoxious responses.

  12. Richard Davies March 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    I think it's funny. And pretty accurate too.

  13. Joe Giambrone March 4, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    Does the writer despise films? There's a simmering contempt in this attempt to reduce movies to trivialities. Example, "add weight to your wafer thin plot."

    How about don't shoot a film with a wafer thin plot? The world is drowning in bad movies; don't be part of the sewage.

  14. Thomas Carty June 26, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    Oscar reserved for Carty in 2020!

  15. Alain Kramer December 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Which are worse? Indie Cliches or Hollywood cliches? Big bold emotional telegraphs or mysterious ambiguity? Whatever works for type of film you are doing. Any exposure is better than no exposure.

  16. Kevin Alexander Boon December 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    That's the writer's point, isn't it? That none of these will make up for a lack of story?

  17. Joe Giambrone December 14, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    Kevin Alexander Boon I don't think the formulaic dictum "add weight" will turn crap into gold. If you start from a place of wafer thinness, then the problem is you.


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