From the pages of iN Magazine:
The only thing more daunting than getting started in studio films is getting started in independent films. Why? Because you’re on your own… right? That’s where most independent Filmmakers can easily make their first mistake.
Filmmaking is an art, like painting or sculpting, or even writing. In fact it’s all those arts combined and more. But unlike those art forms, filmmaking is inherently a collaborative art. You NEED other people to make a good film.
I say a good film because, well, let’s face it, you could technically do it all yourself: write the script, direct it, shoot it, light it, act in it, do the sound recording, edit the rough cut, do the sound design, colour correct it, write the music, perform the music, do the fine cut, go to the international sales markets, write the long-form acquisition contracts, account your own books, get the insurance and copyright for the film, sell it and keep all the money yourself.
But if you’re starting out, one, a few or all of those tasks may seem pretty daunting. I’ve done most of them, and writing that list out even scared me.
So your first step is assembling a team of hungry artists and BUSINESS PEOPLE around your project. There is a misconception that a director’s primary job is “getting the shot,” but that’s not really the case.
A director’s first job is to pick all the right people to put on his team to get the shot for him and make that shot go somewhere. A good cinematographer will shoot a scene lit by a good lighting designer that sounds good because of the skilled location audio recorder that’s recording good dialogue written by a good screenwriter in a story written by a good storyteller… And so on.
If the Director has the right team, his job is the easiest one on the set, because he spent the time building that team before they got there and once his job is done, the right people pick up the finished film and take it to market. After all, it is show BUSINESS not show PLAY, and the danger of involving so many people is that their time is valuable and people should be paid for their skill.
If you’re serious about filmmaking as a profession, your project has to cost less than you will sell it for, so you can compensate your team and make a proper business model out of the most fun job on earth.
So before you crack open Final Draft, or buy your Genesis camera and Avid suite, think long and hard about who will be working that equipment on the day and who will see the project through to completion. The movie isn’t done when you watch it on your own Magnavox. It’s done when you see it on a complete stranger’s Magnavox because he rented it at Blockbuster.
And from beginning to end, that process takes not weeks, not months, but years. So make sure your team is in it for the long haul, and you’ll see some amazing results.
You may be an independent filmmaker. But your most valuable resource will be the people you can depend on.
Matt Campagna is an independent filmmaker, whose credits include the feature western SIX REASONS WHY and feature doc ROOTS OF A MAN, which he made with his brother Jeff. He’s also produced and directed webTV shows like BSGcast.com, YourGeekNews.com, WHIRtv.com and NakedWineShow.com since 2005 with his partner Anastasia.