So you want to be a filmmaker. You were born with a camera in your hand yelling "action" when you wanted your parents to feed you (which may explain why they never supported your dream) You have the talent and the will, but where do you start? What stuff do you need in your utility belt before you can put together your film?
I was once where you are. I had next to no experience in film and little to no connection to the industry. I had to make do with what I had and fumble along until I came to a reasonable place. I haven't made it yet. (I have still have not won my first Oscar. Yet, if Leo can, there's hope.) But I've come a long way and I want to share with you the benefits of my experience.
Ready to go on the journey with me?
For those going on the journey to the Mordor that is the independent film industry, here is the checklist of indispensable things you need to bring on your way. They won't make the journey easy. But without them, it won't even be possible.
1. A CAMERA
If there is one thing that you need by definition to make a film, it is a video camera. A movie without moving images is simply not a movie. It's a photograph or a radio show or the sound of one hand clapping. Now, this doesn't have to be an expensive one. If you let an old-timey filmmaker or film nut talk long enough they will talk about how "everyone can make movies on their phone now"--which to me is basically endorsing the use of phones to make your first movies. Now, the better your camera, the better your movie will look. But if you're just starting out and all you have is an iPhone 6, don't let that keep the world from experiencing your life-changing work. (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, here.)
The beautiful thing is, if you've got a camera, and you go out and shoot footage, you are a filmmaker. You have found a way of looking at the world that no one else has and found a way to show it to others.
Well done. Now keep reading.
2. EDITING SOFTWARE
Unless the movie you are making is one long take with no cuts, you need some way to edit your different shots together. Again, the better the software the better your work will be. But until you can afford to buy Adobe Premiere (or unless you want to go old school and cut and paste actual film), feel free to start small. If you're doing simple, short videos for quick upload to the internet, "KnowMe" is a great video editing App. If you have no other options, I will allow you to use iMovie or Windows Media Player. Just don't let anyone know you used them.
Lie, if you have to.
It's not worth it.
Real talk: you will not be making money on your movies right away. Probably never. But I don't want to take away all your hope. Because then you might stop reading my blog. And, anyway, if I'm deluding myself that I can make it it's not fair for me to not delude you too.
Regardless, at first you will not be making money off of it. So you will need some other source of money. Whether it is your parents while you're in school (Thanks, Mom! :) ) or a day job when you graduate, your your parents after you get fired, you will need food and shelter until somebody discovers your brilliant work at Sundace. So be sure you find a good job or good parents until that happens.
4. THE INTERNET
The internet is where you find how to properly format your script. It's where you can do research for you story. It's where you can get educated in filmmaking techniques without going to school. It's where you can share your movies on youtube or submit it to festivals. It's where you download software. Basically, unless you know people who can teach you, give you stuff, and show your film to others, you need the internet.
You can't pay people yet. So who's going to be in your films? Yup, your buddies who like you enough to stand around for hours in a silly looking outfit while you frame the right shot. These are the people who will--if, God willing, they get into the film industry later--will give you the opportunities you need to get in yourself. They will be doing it because they like you. Does nobody like you? Find people to like you. And it will only work if they like you before you need something from them. Every great opportunity I had was because of someone who liked me and wanted to help me out. Because I needed a lot of it.
But that's another blog post.
But the most important thing you need is love. You need to love making films; you need to be unable to imagine not making them. If you love it that much you'll find a way to get the other things.
Making movies is a hard business. You have to be willing to work long and hard. You have to be willing to embarrass yourself and call in favors and let other people laugh at you. When you've organized everything and then everything falls apart and everyone blames you and thinks badly of you, you have to think it was worth it. When you are spending your weekends on getting that last shot because it will make the movie that much better instead of sleeping in and hanging with your friends, you have to think it was worth it.
Here are two things every filmmaker knows: making movies sucks. And it's totally worth it.
If you guys are still here, congrats. You might just be filmmakers. Follow me. Mordor isn't going to conquer itself.