Of all the painful steps in the movie business, probably the most painful is the last one. Playing your film for the very first time to an empty room. Unless of course, it’s screening to a roomful of people who laugh in the wrong places. Or shaking hands with well-wishers who avoid direct eye-contact as they mumble ‘great’ and try to sidestep you.

I know all about that – and I’ve had every single one of them. I can even go one further: What could be more painful than explaining to a roomful of investors how they’ve just lost every single penny?


5 Painful Steps To Making Your First Movie

1.Making sure you have marketing assets

How I wish I followed my own advice. Marketing assets are probably the single most important thing you need to do. It’s usually the last thing on the list, but the first you need to use. Do I need to list these marketing assets?

First and foremost are production stills – as many as you can get. MAke sure you have wide shots, medium shots and lots of closeups. If you don’t get them you’ll have to hire the actors to come back for a special still shoot day.

Second is a good campaign image. Or poster if you prefer. This becomes part of your one-sheet.

If you are looking for a top designer to get you some terrific one sheet designed look no further than Robyn Larkin’s Whatisbobo.com

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: The film industry is all about marketing. Creating your hook and logline are probably the two most important things you need to do to ensure your film gets out there.

2.Making sure you have social media organised

You haven’t even had time to don your cool filmmaker outerwear and shoot a single frame and yet I’m telling you to launch your social media?

Painful I know! It’s much more entertaining to be shooting your film. With no social media, however, no one is going to know you’ve done it!

Here’s a tip to learn from my own painful and embarrassingly naive past:

Check out your proposed movie title on IMDB and Google BEFORE you start planning and starting your social media. And if you find a similar name, change your title! And once you have a clear title register it everywhere you can think of.

3.Learning that your friends can’t act

I know, I know. You’ve been telling all your friends for ages that you really want to make a film. And now you’re actually doing it. And your best friend from high school or uni is now a banker and has bags of cash. and you’re broke. But your mate wants to act. after all s/he had a lead in the end-of-year musical and was pretty good. so the trade off is – much need cash for a role in your film.

Don’t. Your friends can’t act. and they won’t listen to you and your film will be hijacked.

4. Learning how to say ‘No’

Being direct is something creatives seem to shy away from. I mean a ‘No; is a ‘No’ right? I mean correct me if I am wrong when I tell you their’s no more money. Or that your work is substandard. Or if you find my creative decisions lousy.

During production everyone gets over-tired. Couple fatigue with passion and you have a potentially explosive situation. Especially when honesty breaks out.

I’ve learned the hard way in times like this. I try to stay calm and listen. If there is a decision that needs to be made and if I’m not feeling it, I try and calmly say ‘Thank you for sharing with me.’ And I walk away. People normally calm down.

5. Learning what the industry calls talent

The film industry is a business. It’s why we call it the movie business. And it’s all about money.
It’s this simple: MAke a low budget film that makes money, and perhaps you’ll get big money to make another film.

Take Garreth Edward’s first film Monsters. When he pitched it to London based Vertigo, he was told to look at the Raindance classic In Search Of A Midnight Kiss. With that low budget film and a few dollars, Gareth shot Monsters in three hectic weeks in six countries with a seven-man crew including actor Scoot McNairy.

Following the films successful release in America Gareth then directed a series of high profile films like Godzilla and Star Wars. Why? Because it was deemed he had talent.

Fade Out

What was your idea for a movie again? Can you think of something you can make low budget, something that tells a story? And remember the secret to a great new movie: All you need to do is create something impossibly bold, fresh and dynamic – something that everyone wants and something that no one else has. Do that and they will send the limos.

And if you’re really brave, why not take this health check?

Or take the Lo-To-No Budget weekend masterclass presented in London and Toronto.


Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over hundreds of short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

He has produced over 700 shorts and 6 features including the new action film AMBER.

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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