Indie Film, Yea or Nay?
Should you even make an indie film?
So you want to make films. Where to start? Armed with a can-do attitude, you think you’d move to LA, then go big or go home. Whoa, let me stop you right there, my little chum chum. I assume you are young or new to the industry and before you become another drop of water disappearing into the sea of Hollywood, do you have a minute or two to spare?
Some background information to consider. Yes, like most industries, there is a glass ceiling, your social status, your location, your financial stability all matter. Most prolific feature films are made in Hollywood studios by directors who work for big corporations. The lead roles are mostly given to people with an established reputation and connections. And yes, there are plenty of bold opportunists who tried to go big or go home but ended up alone and exploited in a cold and brutal metropolis. So where do we start and how to get it right?
There are many creative pursuits such as art, literature, music, theatre and so on. Before jumping into any specific field, I would encourage you to explore and find out which one fits your personality best. Personally, I would advise a young person to find out where their interests and talents lie and then work with them. If you are imaginative and introverted then maybe writing is more suitable; if you are expressive and extroverted then try acting; if you like working behind the scenes and technological oriented then perhaps production is more suitable.
So you chose the film industry. I am glad you are one of the creative kind and you love films, however, actually making one is not easy. There are many elements involved, sometimes it starts with a genre, an idea, a book, a script, then the script gets rewritten until shooting version, then the preproduction, shooting, post-production, sales, promotion, PR, legal… Nowadays, the roles in the industry are very specific and each professional normally focus on one task only so it may not be as romanticised as you imagined.
Further education is a great choice to learn the craft and make connections. When I was in art college I chose to major in BA Culture and Arts Management, and film is just one of the myriad of disciplines that I needed to grasp. There are certain tried and tested formulas and standards that professionals work with and relations that they trust. Unfortunately, if you haven’t been through the whole nine yards and became a veteran with a familiar face, then life is going to be very difficult for you. But there’s hope, not everyone successful is book smart and nailed it the first time around.
So you don’t have a rich daddy nor advanced education. First, I salute you for your passion alone. And I genuinely believe there’s a chance you will make it because Shakespeare did it. But Shakespeare was a rare case, some say he was a genius, some say he was a mere puppet. But when it comes to the lowly earthly beings like us, it is better to start small and keep at it to build good momentum.
We are living in an exciting time, with the help of the internet, we can learn so much on our own. No matter you are conventionally educated or not, whether you are young and just starting out or you are thinking about changing your career midway, why not, learn everything you can, work with whatever and whoever you’ve got. Make sure you have an engaging story, pull out your phone cameras, download some movie editing software, upload it to YouTube, monetize it.
Then gradually upscale and start making low budget indie films and put all you’ve learned about film making to practice. The cost of making an indie film outside Hollywood is considerably less and it helps to boost the local economy wherever you are shooting, from studio rental to casting and even catering. After you’ve made them, you can pitch them to big studios for feature film considerations, showcase them at film festivals and you may get picked up by Netflix and other VoD platforms. Then you may be commissioned to make more original series.
Have faith, check out the Saw case, pay attention to the numbers. Besides, there are plenty of big franchises crash and burn these days, check out these recent cases. So, it’s a Yay from me. Ok, boys and girls, the possibilities are endless. Experient, evolve and have fun! Best of luck!