Film Production

The Art & Business of shooting Guerrilla Style

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Why Guerrilla Style?

Wikipedia describes “Guerrilla Filmmaking” as “characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props using whatever is available.” It also talks about shooting fast and loose without the use of permits for locations.

Translation: Indie Cinema.

The main reason that we all shoot this way is money or rather lack thereof. We can’t afford to pay crews and cast what they deserve. We can’t afford to pay location fees and have prop trucks on set. It’s an unfortunate fact of independent cinema.

Lo/No Everything.

This fact may never change when shooting indie cinema, so why are we still shooting movies and web series this way? Several reasons come to mind: For the love of the story, for that next chance to get a paying gig, to showcase your abilities, because you have nothing else to do. These are all valid reasons. (Maybe not the last one)

My six year-old daughter told me a few months ago that she wanted to be famous and I quickly corrected her that if you look to achieve fame than you will never attain it. She laughed. I repeated it. She laughed again. Then I explained to her that if you really like something and you want to do it, then you must work hard at it and make sure you put all your effort into it. That hard work gives you a better chance of success. She ran off to go play, so the lesson was probably lost in the world of Shopkins and Minecraft, but the message holds true for indie filmmakers.

Tell the story. Tell the story any way you can, but focus on the script. Make sure you’re working from a well-written story that conveys the message you intend it to convey to an audience. Then go about getting that made. Every story has a different way of being told.

More often then not, indie filmmakers are left with guerrilla style filmmaking for lack of funds, but that doesn’t have to be at the detriment to your story. But careful attention needs to be paid to the script, the actors, the edit, the shot choices, the audio because those need to excel in order to allow your choice of shooting guerrilla style to be just that – a style and not a liability.

For more on Guerrilla Filmmaking:

If you want to see a real world example of a film shot “Guerrilla Style” by high profile filmmakers Michael and Mark Polish, check out their black & white indie film, For Lovers Only

The film stars Stana Katic of “Castle” fame [follow her on Twitter @Stana_Katic] and was shot in and around Paris, France on practically no budget and with almost no crew.

From the For Lovers Only Wikipedia page:
The film, which was shot over a period of 12 days from a script that was more than a decade old, was promoted without an advertising budget via Twitter and Facebook.[6] The film was shot using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which is a digital still photography camera, with video capability.[6] Because of its traditional still photography appearance, they were able to film without attracting attention in public places.[6] They did not use any artificial lighting in any scenes, except for a nightclub scene, where Michael’s iPhone provided the lighting.[6] The film was scored by friend Kubilay Uner.[6] The film was classified as an experimental film by the Screen Actors Guild, which meant the Polish brothers did not have to pay Katic, who used her own wardrobe.[6]

for lovers only… from mark polish on Vimeo.


If you’d like to know more about how the film was made, check out “How We Made Love” A documentary about the making of the 2011 film For Lovers Only, and Winner of Best Documentary at the IV Film Festival

How We Made Love from Bryan A. Shaw on Vimeo.

You can also check out the full interview with Michael Polish that Alex Ferrari of Indie Hustle did on his podcast; IFH 069: Michael Polish – How to Make Money Selling a No Budget DSLR Indie Film


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— Michael Field is a filmmaker from Connecticut. Check out his website and current projects at

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