Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: One Crazy A__hole

Ardent Partners Christopher Comrie talks with Samantha Swan, who also chips in her two cents on the Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: One Crazy A__hole.

The biggest secret of true indie filmmaking, the master secret, the sine qua non, is this:

No one cares about your movie. No one. No. One.

Except you.

I call this the One Crazy A__hole principle.

If you’re making a movie with a big enough budget to pay everybody upfront, then people show up for the paycheque. If you’re not paying them, crew and cast show up for reasons it may be better not to know.

For any low to no budget independent film to be completed, there is inevitably at least one person who keeps pushing the boulder uphill. A person who doesn’t care if the rest of the world doesn’t care, will keep on working on the movie no matter how many kicks in the crotch he or she receives. If this crazy a__hole does not exist, neither does your movie. Or it will live a horrible non-life in your sock drawer as an unborn movie, worse than a zombie or stone baby.

Did your editor pull out at the last minute without warning? Tough. Actor holding you hostage for perks or more money after you made it clear you were paying out of your own pocket on a shoestring? Goodbye. Did Sundance/TIFF/Telluride/Slamdance/SXSW reject your rough cut? They will be sorry one day.

OK, maybe I sound over-the-top and a bit funny with these examples because they’re not you: you’re methodical; you have a budget that’s a bit bigger than this; you go to the AFM and dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” according to ‘Film Specific’. But I assure you, your total commitment is required. Movies die on the vine all the time, in prep, in production and in post, and at all budget levels.

My professional life, my “day job” if you will, is working in the film industry full time on big budget Hollywood features. I got my first summer job in movies in the art department at the age of 15 and never looked back. So I know how the big money is spent. My passion though has been in my partnership with Samantha Swan making small, personal productions. Storytelling with humanity intact that’s not totally dependent of visual FX. This work is unfunded and unfinanced – in other words, Swan and I hold together little projects with sweat and chewing gum.

Samantha Swan says:

But all films, big budget, low budget or no budget, are put together by money and scheduling, and therefore, are at risk of falling apart at any second if any single element changes or is lost.

So, back to the film you’re writing or prepping or shooting or editing right now. The one you’ve been dreaming about making under ideal circumstances. Know what? The circumstances will never be ideal, you just have to make your movie.

Even with last minute replacement of cast or crew, even with the loss of that location. If you’re the writer-producer or writer-director or director-producer, guess what? You’re the parent of the project so when the shit hits the fan you are that one crazy a__hole that’s going to have to rally the troops and make the big speech that makes everybody laugh and enthusiastic again about doing the movie.

Be that crazy a__hole, and cut through the army of indifference like a gatling gun through butter.

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