If you’ve taken any scriptwriting classes or read any book about cinema creation, you will soon come across the idea that the script is the most important part of the process. They’re right!!! It’s what attracts actors to the roles, crew to the project, investors to pony up some money and is the reason you started this whole fucking thing anyway. It’s not about the gear or the amount of money you have (or don’t have). The story dictates everything.
If you can write, great – go ahead and get to it. If you can’t, find someone who can write and work with them. It’s not rocket science, it’s filmmaking. Find a collaborator and get started.
In both cases, find outside reviewers to read your finished work that aren’t a loved one, family member or a self-proclaimed film ‘professional’ with no actual credits (these fuckers are truly pointless). Find someone who lives and breathes the same shit you do – and ask them to read the script and comment on the characters and if anything seems missing or confusing. Know your core film audience and then align yourself with others who are also followers and fans of the same type of material. Why try to ‘fix’ your story for a mass audience that isn’t there? Why are you trying to fucking copy someone else? Who is it you are trying to speak to? What are you trying to say? Why are you saying it?
Don’t micro-manage your script and NEVER EVER compare it to the Hollywood formula or the time honored three-act structure if you have a new take on how your narrative unfolds.. Think about what you want to say and figure out who is going to film it – and how. It’s your picture. It’s your money (probably). Go for broke and do something fucking original that you care about. #nevercopysomeoneelse
For your cinema to really work, it should be more than just about what’s apparent onscreen and should dig for deeper meaning. The drama should have conflict obviously; the perils and concerns should be a continuing escalating adventure – but it should also have something MORE under the hood called ‘Subtext’. You know, the hidden message or personal meaning or core concepts you desperately want or have to talk about. The theme or idea you wish to bring to light and illuminate for the world. The reason why you’re telling the damn story, okay?
“The Cropsey Tapes” (my most recent nano-budget feature) is a found footage horror film complete with homicidal maniacs, dismembered bodies and all the trappings of the genre – but it’s also about ‘at what price fame?’ and the ‘Kardasian Kulture’ that assaults us online and in the media. You want a REAL monster? I give you the self-absorbed Generation YouTube that doesn’t care who they hurt as long as they get more click-throughs and likes online. That’s the real horror show.
So how do you get started making your own ‘Ring of Fire’?
When you write your own nano-cinema, write for what you already have at hand or have available as a location or place to film right now. I will never understand microfilm folk who write projects that require extensive and expensive locations or specialty environments for their story. If you have access to a local bar after-hours, write your film around it or the folks that work at one. If you work at a garage and you’re closed at night, make a drama set there. What is the point of coming up with a story that you can’t film?
I like to outline my no-budget film scripts and then visit actual locations and introduce myself and find out about people. I am happy to talk about my process and engage folks in helping me craft the material. It’s actually better to NOT be in Los Angeles or New York so stay off the main track and be an authentic person talking to another genuine person – and who knows what can happen? Just fucking do it though – don’t stand around crying that nobody will give you a break – because you’re the only one holding yourself back.
Who do you know? Where can you shoot? When? How? Just go and do it. And then rewrite it to the actual spaces you have. Reverse-engineer everything!
How much money do you want to spend? Are you still learning your craft? All of this directly impacts your story and these limitations are all bonuses. Every feature film I make I ask myself how many days do I have to film and how much money do I have? This impacts my work regardless of whether I am making a no-budget micro-movie or a larger budget Indy or a television-style, distributor or investor-funded movie. I spend my own money to make my own cinema and then release it to the world the best way possible if that’s all I have. If you’re just getting started make a bunch of no-budget short films you flex some muscle.
Locations, time, talent and $$$ equals your original content. #reverseenginnereverything
Audiences enjoy films with greater depth because they are fucking starved by the movies offered up to them as cinema by the studios. Marketing and Focus Groups create the pulp that passes as mainstream story. So go deeper and darker and dare to have an invested personal point of view. Most mainstream filmmakers are homogenized to the point of cinematic baked beans anyway. Why not spice it up a bit? Make your own five alarm chili cinema. #burnsomeasses #diyordie #redringoffire #cinematicenema