Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking:
Prep: Shoot the Movie in Your Head First

I love spontaneity, discovering things in the moment. One of odd paradoxes of filmmaking is that planning creates more opportunities for spontaneous discoveries “on the day”.

One of the odd paradoxes of filmmaking is that planning creates more opportunities for spontaneous discoveries “on the day”.

Making a film is equal parts creativity and pragmatism. Under the pressure of a shooting schedule, the practical aspects can become overwhelming.
“How do we get the lights up the stairs…? Where is that noise coming from…?”
This makes it vitally important to think through every aspect of every scene in as much detail as possible in prep. I’ve had the experience of just showing up on the set with virtually no prep, with a scene handed to me that was written moments before, and just having to wing it; put it on its feet and seeing what happens — and some good things can happen. But almost without exception things turn out much better when I’ve had time to think through the scene beat by beat, visualizing the shots, writing them down, breaking down the meaning and purpose of the scene, and the strongest ideas I can come up with to make the scene work.

Making a film is equal parts creativity and pragmatism.

This process grounds you. It gets the obvious under control, and allows you to hit the set with confidence and a workable plan. Having that in place, having thought the scene through in detail gives you a better vantage point to see more creative opportunities.

An approach that has been extremely useful to me is one I got from the audio commentary Martin Scorsese recorded for his film ‘The Last Temptation of Christ‘. Due to budget constraints on that movie, Scorsese said he had to very carefully prioritize his shots. For each scene he would make his first priority the shots which he felt were absolutely necessary in order to tell the story, then next in line were the shots that would enrich the cinematic flow, and then he might have a shot or two that he would love to try and get if possible.

This approach encourages creative, elegant, economical solutions to filmmaking problems and really helps you make your days.

READ Other Recent Secrets of Indie Filmmaking Posts by Ardent Pictures:
Story versus Slick
Micro-Budget Cinema: Is Enough Enough?
Final Cut Pro X

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