Film Production

The most important skill an Indie Filmmaker needs

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In November of 2014, I had completed my first major short film. It was something that I was really proud of because it was something that I wrote, produced and directed. It’s called “in the dark” and it’s gotten some decent response, but the story behind the making of it might be a good lesson for emerging filmmakers…

If you’re an independent filmmaker one of the biggest skills you’ll need to cultivate is perseverance.

Filmmaking is an art form that almost always relies on the collaboration with others, and when you are dealing with other people, unexpected things always come up. No one plans to get ill, have their car break down, or a multitude of other concerns, which to them is more important than your film.

In 2014, I had a short film I wrote that I wanted to produce and direct and use as my calling card. I spent a lot of time figuring out the budget, breaking down the script, going over shot lists and doing all the pre-production work to figure out what I needed to shoot this film and how much that would all cost.

Then I fired up an IndieGoGo campaign and waited for my $8000 budget to roll in.

The first thing I will say is that, although I am very passionate and I have real world film production experience, I was not as prepared as I should have been to launch a crowdfunding campaign. I underestimated the amount of time and energy a crowdfunding campaign takes, and I overestimated the number of people who would back my film.

To make a long story short, I only raised about 10% of the money I had budgeted.

After a couple days of thinking that I might as well fold it all up and do something else, a funny thing happened. The campaign ended, and because it’s IndieGoGo, I realized that even though I wouldn’t get all the money, I would get what I raised. I felt like I had a responsibility to get this done for those people who HAD helped me.

With that I posted this update on IndieGoGo;

To be honest, the campaign has not been getting as much attention as I had hoped. My plan was to raise $8,000 in order to get a full film crew, a location, a camera, lights and all the things that come with putting together a full crew for a one day film shoot. With a week left, and well short of my goal, I don’t think that’s possible anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the project.

Having to pull in more favors and shoot this with a more limited budget, things will take longer to get done, but I will still be able to get a great film at the end of it all. The 3 most difficult things to get as favors are a full lighting package, a location and hard drives to store the footage and work from. Any contributions that I can get at this point will be put to good use and will truly help me make this film a reality.

So, I sat down and cut down everything to bare essentials. I went over my shot lists and storyboards to see where I could minimize equipment and reduce the number of set ups, because that would cut time, and time is money.

I still had my Director of Photography, who had his own camera package, so that was a big cost I didn’t have to worry about, but the biggest thing I needed to find was a location.

After talking with friends and family, a friend’s girlfriend had a house with the perfect room for my film and things were back on track again.

Then, just as I thought I was in the clear, the bottom dropped out a second time;

In the span of ten days, I got an email from the DP who had to back out because of some health concerns… which meant I lost his experience as well as the camera package.
Then my friend shot me an email informing me that he and his girlfriend had split and my perfect location was now lost.

Again. This would have been a great place to just fold up the tent and go home.

Instead, I hit the bricks and talked with everyone I had ever done any work with to find some people who were hungry to make a film and wanted some on-set experience.

I pushed the shoot back, saved up a bit more money and decided to use my apartment as the location for the film.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to use my apartment in the first place was that the room in the film needed to be such that it was self contained with the only way out being through the door. My room had a pretty big window in it, so initially, I thought that it would be an impossible location.
After the setbacks, I pulled out my still camera and using my storyboards, did a photo story board of the room to see if I could shoot the entire story while framing out the window. [similar to this post]

So, with everything in place, I set up a rehearsal with the actor, rented the gear I needed and cleared my schedule to do the shoot.

After the actual shoot day, I happily made this new post on the IndieGoGo campaign page;

After many ups and downs with budget, location and crew, everything fell in place on July 19th to shoot the film.

The final crew consisted of myself, Ulysses Adams (DP) and AJ Ryan (grip/gaffer/mover of furniture).  Jayson Simba played the title role, and Ileana Torres played the role of the mom.

The shoot went very smoothly and we had plenty of time to fully realize every scene and shot that we had hoped to get for the final film.  We shot for about 7 hours with 2 hours of prep and 1 hour of breakdown.

At this point, I have a good rough cut together and I have spoken with Luis Inestroza about the sound design for the film.  I’ve also spoken with Tim Franklin about adding in some special effects for the film.

Most likely this will be a 4-6 week process, so the film should be ready for exhibition by the middle of September 2014.

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone for being a part of this endeavor, and I think everyone will be pleased with the quality of the final film.

One person who wasn’t mentioned in the post was a person I made friends with at work who did some of the much needed special effects, Tim Franklin.

In filmmaking, especially when you’re working on a micro budget, there will always be unexpected circumstances that will threaten your ability to finish your film. It’s up to you, to evaluate every hurdle and determine how you can overcome it.

If you would like to view the finished film, here it is:

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

I am John Fallon and I'm the host of the IndieFilmNYC Podcast. I have lived in many places in the United States, including; New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Connecticut, and of course New York. - I launched IFNYC because of a growing need for filmmakers to explore methods to make a sustainable living producing independent film and television projects. Like many of you, I am a filmmaker who continues to struggle with the reality of transforming my art form into a sustainable career. -- If you would like to read the story of how I partnered with a producer to independently create a 13-episode tv series called "Wow, I Never Knew That!" please visit indiefilmnyc.com/the-incredible-story-of-an-independent-tv-show

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