Indie Inspiration

Indie Inspiration: Getting Personal

John Cassevetes once said that his favorite filmmaker was Frank Capra, yes the director of It’s A Wonderful Life, and that he wanted to make movies like Capra’s, but they ended up coming out very differently.

Cassavetes was an artist, and his work was always true to the way he perceived the world, and so was distinctly his own without him ever having to worry about being original.

Hollywood continues to behave like a starving dog, consuming its own waste and regurgitating it over and over again. That’s not art, that’s – well, that’s disgusting.
Simply copying the work of someone else is hack.  And yet Hollywood continues to refine it’s duplication process, constantly holding a mirror up to itself and its previous financial successes. But one of the ‘secrets’ of making good art is to personalize it. Starting with the writing.

As obvious as all this is, I’ve been driven to write this piece because of how often I see movies on the indie circuit that are nothing but strings of clichés. At least in Hollywood you get well paid for that kind of worthless parroting, but what is the point when you’re a starving DIY filmmaker?

I don’t really know what the creative process is like for anyone else, but I’ve always had trouble getting to the good stuff.  It always takes me time; I can’t just roll up my sleeves and quickly pound out honest, worthwhile work. I’ve got layers and layers of awkward self-consciousness and anxieties to get past first. I write a paragraph and immediately think of how many times I’ve seen what I’ve just written done better by others.

Usually I direct original material written by Ardent partner Samantha Swan and her work is always personal, whether she’s writing the protagonist as male or female; dramatic or comedic; contemporary or period piece. She always writes the truth, and the more specific and honest it is, the more we have audience come up to us after ward to tell us how they relate to the story or that it was just like something from their own lives.

So please, get personal. Tell the story you want to tell as only you can, not the story you think is ‘commercial’ or in the way you think you’re supposed to tell it. If I want to see Spider Man, I’ll see Spider Man. That’s not why I’m at your screening at an independent film festival.

As I pull at this thread and think about all that I want to say about this, it occurs to me that I could go on to the point that this post would be far too long, so even though I hadn’t planned to, maybe I do need to continue this in a second part in a week or two.

I’ll bring it back to John Cassavetes. He thought he was making Capra films, but what came out was uniquely Cassavetes.

If you’re a film student or an indie filmmaker, your film does not have to please a cadre of executives or make millions in order to pay for itself; in theory you just have a story you want to tell, so what’s coming out of you?

Want to read Getting Personal, Part II?

Leave a Comment

Let us know your thoughts on this post but remember to play nicely folks!