I wrote this way back in 2003. Going through my files during the isolation quarantine I thought you might find it fun.
Raindance is unique. There is quite simply nothing that matches Raindance for it’s passion and beliefs.This is thanks to the terrific team that works their socks off at Raindance. And to the amazing filmmakers who have touched Raindance with their movies. Raindance has been at the forefront of the independent filmmaking scene since 1992.
Elliot Grove, London 21.03.20
This is a tongue in cheeky guide. Here’s the The A-Z Of Independent Filmmaking.
A is for Actor
… the most exploited component of an independent film. Usually actors work free in a feature film hoping that they will be discovered and be able to launch their careers. Often, independent filmmakers will hire a name actor for a day or two on the set in a cameo role hoping that the ‘name’ will help to pull in investors and enhance sales. In America, the actors on low budget independent features are called ‘the movable props’ in deference to their abundant supply.
In the USA, actors are represented by SAG, and in the UK by Equity.
B is for Blonde
… the nickname for a 2k portable light that can be plugged into household current. A 500 or 750 watt light is called a redhead. These lights are considered the staple of independent filmmakers. Thus the phrase: I’m shooting with a blonde and two redheads. This equipment can be packed in a small case and easily transported with a camera in the back of a taxi.
At Raindance we have a great evening course called the Power of Lighting in which simple three point lighting is explained.
B is for BIFA…
… acronym for the British Independent Film Awards, the only awards specifically for independently produced film in Europe. We started BIFA in 1998 to celebrate and applaud independent film and film talent here in the UK.
Not to be confused with Biffa – the London-based waste-disposal company.
B is for Budget …
… usually the first thing you get asked when you are trying to drum up interest in your film.
C is for Culture Jamming
… a publicity technique employed by many independent filmmakers as a way to enhance scanty marketing budgets by associating themselves (uninvited) with successful brands, or by courting controversy.
C is for Camera
… is used for image capture. Independent filmmakers chose the right camera for the story and the budget. Rentals can vary from £50 per day for a near broadcast quality DV camera to £10,000 per day for a large 35mm kit with track, dolly and lenses.
Film cameras are defined by the width (gauge) of the film stock: 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm. Specialty gauges are super 8mm, super 16mm, and super 35mm. Imax cameras take 70mm film sideways to allow for a 135mm x 70mm frame.
Tape formats are VHS, Super VHS, Beta, Digibeta, Mini DV, DVCAM, DVPro and HDTV.
Raindance Film Festival screens work originated on all formats.
See the Raindance Film Festival submission rules and regulations.
D is for Distribution
… the most difficult barrier for an independent filmmaker to surmount. Filmmakers can resort to alternative distribution techniques (see four walling). In Europe, over 95% of the cinema screens are owned by American studios, making access to distribution even trickier.
Digital technology has revolutionised the filmmaking industry by lowering the financial threshold for entry to the film industry, making filmmaking very democratic.
E is for EDL
… Edit Decision List
– the cutting points of all the edits during the movie. Creating the EDL is the job of the editor, one of the key creatives on any filmmaking team, and perhaps the least respected. The editor is responsible for reordering the visual and audio material collected during the shoot to enhance the story. Inexpensive desk top editing systems like Apple’s Final Cut Pro have made it easier and cheaper for filmmakers to edit their material.
Editors are generally poorly treated by film directors. See the 6 Ways Film Directors Screw Editors
F is for Film festival
… traditionally the launch pad for independent films. At a festival, filmmakers hope to “be discovered”. Filmmakers attend hoping to achieve one of two goals: either notoriety or celebrity status. They also hope to sell their film to a distributor.
… the self-distribution technique employed by filmmakers with no distribution deal or who want to control the release of the film. They purchase all the seats in a cinema at a discount and then program their own film and resell the tickets. An excellent example of this strategy is the campaign engineered by Raindance student Ed Blum for his film Scenes Of A Sexual Nature which screened at Raindance in 2006.
G is for Grips, Gaffers and Gophers
… the nicknames for crew people who move anything on set.
A grip moves or rigs anything that camera equipment attaches (or grips). In charge of dollies, cranes and special camera mounts. First assistant is called the Key Grip.
A gaffer is the chief electrician who moves and rigs lights (ie: gaffer tape). Gaffers are named after a hook for hanging overhead lights. First assistant is called the Best Boy.
A gopher is a runner who will ‘go for…’ anything required by the production.
Guerrilla filmmaking is the term describing any tactics that skirt the fringes of the law. For example: shooting in the street technically requires a permit, but guerrilla filmmakers shoot without a permit.
H is for heli-cam
In order to emulate big budget films, indie filmmakers needing a helicopter shot often use inexpensive model helicopters fitted with cameras and remote control devices.
I is for Investor
… and is the key to any film. Learning to approach an investor successfully is one of the most important ‘filmmaking’ skills to acquire. We teach how to Create A Business Plan: an evening course at Raindance.
Indiewood: a nickname for films made on large budgets which attempt to emulate the topics and look of indie films. Often financed by studios. ie Memento, Pulp Fiction, Gosford Park, Donnie Darko, The Good Girl.
J is for Job
What a lot of filmmakers do to keep the wolves from the door while they are making their movie. When you are filming, you often survive on eating bugs. According to Trey Parker, who attended Raindance Film Festival in 1994, the best way to attract bugs is to spill some sugar on the table and add a few tablespoons of beer.
K is for KISS
… Keep It Simple Stupid
– the basic parameter of an independent film: no children, no animals, no special effects, minimal locations = simple to shoot, simple to edit, simple to finance.
L is for Location
… the cheaper alternative to shooting on a set.
– the challenge for independent filmmakers is to find a series of locations that are close enough to enable them to shoot their films, and easy to travel between. Often, scripts are written with a series of locations in mind: el Mariachi. The ultimate low-budget films are shot in one location, in order to minimise costs: ie Reservoir Dogs, Blair Witch Project, Night Of The Living Dead, Shallow Grave.
M is for Mother
… even independent filmmakers get down sometimes and need a cuddle.
– M also stands for money, something parents often provide. Hence the definition of independent film is “no single source financing, your mother’s excepted”.
Mobilewood: movies created for mobile telephones, a trend started by Raindance in ’03 with the Nokia 15 second Shorts.
N is for Negative
… the most frequently used word in the film industry. But the actual word No is rarely used for fear that one could be accused of saying No to a future success story. Everyone in the British film industry said no to Guy Ritchie. Typical ways of saying no are: Yes; or, Don’t call me, I’ll call you; or, Thank you for sharing that with me. Here is how they like Saying No In The Film Industry
O is for Oscar
… the Hollywood equivalent of knighthood. The top indie awards are the Spirit Awards (USA) and the British Independent Film Awards (UK).
O is also for Online – the new way cinema is going!
P is for Passion,
… the one thing that distinguishes independent film. Passionate stories made by passionate people. You have to have a lot of passion to get your movie made.
Q is for Queer Cinema
.. often on the cutting edge of cinema. Filmmakers like Greg Araki (Totally F**ked Up) and Percy Adlan (Bagdad Cafe, My Own Private Idaho) helped expand the narrative storytelling horizon.
R is for Rejection
Successful filmmakers must learn how to handle heaps of rejection. It usually starts with friends and family saying: Why don’t you get a real job.
S is for Script
The most important element of any movie.
Famous script quotes:
“If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”
“You can make a bad movie from a great script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.” – John 3:12 The Bible
Raindance has the most advanced script training programme in Europe.
T is for Talent
You’ve got it or you wouldn’t be reading this. Now shut up and PROVE it – grab a camera, any camera, find some film or tape stock, learn how to load your camera and expose the tape/film stock to actors. That’s what filmmaking is.
If you are a Doubting Thomas then read: Debunking The Talent Myth.
U is for Underground Cinema
… traditionally the name given to the cutting edge of cinema where filmmakers push the technical boundaries of filmmaking, and test the borders of cultural tolerance with the topics and storytelling techniques used. Many of the so-called ‘hip’ filmmaking techniques employed by Hollywood are derived from underground cinema. At the Raindance Film Festival, we have featured the works of legendary experimental and alternative filmmakers like Jonas Mikas, Kenneth Anger, Don Letts and Captain Zip.
V is for video and DVD duplication
…the golden goose for independent filmmakers. Now cheap and easy to reproduce, filmmakers self-distribute their own movies direct to the consumer and bypass wholesalers and retailers.
W is for “web 2.0”
Web 2.0 is a new generation of file sharing communities. This is a potential goldmine for the independent filmmaker, enabling you to host your films online, offering worldwide distribution for single download fees.
X is for x-rated
… and censorship. Britain maintains the most arcane of censorship systems in Europe. It costs £28 per minute for film censorship. The certificate awarded will greatly affect the sales potential of a film. In the UK, censorship is much more geared towards sex. Any form of violence with sex is frowned on, and films will usually have to cut these scenes. Language is considered more dangerous than violence, with five ‘fucks’ earning a film a 15 certificate.
Y is for youth
The youth market (under 25) still accounts for over 70 percent of cinema attendees.
Z is for Zombie
The classic film that launches every writer/director/filmmakers career in America: take twelve actors to a house and chop them up. ie: Reservoir Dogs, Return of the Secacus Seven, Night of the Living Dead. Raindance alumnus Edgar Wright’s Shawn of the Dead is a terrific British example.
The End Title Credits
We all love to procrastinate – especially when it comes to following your dreams.
In the film industry, procrastinators are never tolerated, although they are humoured. If you are serious about filmmaking – either as a filmmaker, a cinema fan or a newcomer wondering about filmmaking as a career – get doing it. If you need some specialist advice, there is a filmmaking course for you at Raindance.
Believe in yourself. Then we will too.
If you have any doubts, please call me on 0207 930 3412. If I can’t answer your questions, I probably know someone who can.
I hope to see you soon.