THINGS I LEARNED FROM MAKING A MICRO-BUDGET INDIE FILM WITH MY BEST FRIEND 🎥
I have typed "micro-budget, feature-length, independent film" more times than my own name. Anyway, I highly recommend this process. I wish there were more of a conversation going about these kinds of projects! (Disclaimer: due to funding timelines, the movie process is not 100% done, so I'm not fully removed from this whole thing quite yet.) 🚌
- •Make sure you actually work well with your creative partner. Also, it helps if you love them.Like a startup, you need a cofounder. Fast-forward to the wrap party: this is me and my cowriter/director/editor/executive producer/creative husband @13bishopa. We've been working on stuff together since high school and are all up in each other's heads creatively (and emotionally). After wanting to rip each other's heads off after an exhausting day, we can easily reorient ourselves in our relationship because when it comes down to it, we have a really solid friendship at our foundation.
- •FOOD IS KEY TO HEARTS/MINDS.If you end up throwing in a few more bucks out of pocket, don't feel bad if it's for food. Everyone performs so well when they're properly fed. It's producing 101, but it's worth repeating. Better yet, write in a big dinner scene!
- •Always. Take. Photos.This is also a life thing. I'm an obsessive documenter and will be a happy nostalgic old lady because I have hundreds of photo albums. We were lucky to have an age range of 16-27 on our set each day, so at the end of each shoot day, I would lay back, relax, and screenshot everyone's Snapchat stories. I had a couple photos from what I specifically wanted to remember, but nothing beat flipping through the perspectives of actors, PAs, producers, and whoever wandered on set each day. Encourage it!!
- •Actively limit your what-ifs.You have very little money. Embrace it. Things will get lost, Murphy will enact his law, and you will have big-budget dreams on the daily. Every single piece of your big cinematic puzzle is all the more valuable for it.
- •Have the small-business mindset.This is Becky (@rewilson), one of our producers (essentially our UPM). Here, she is gearing up to be a sound op for the day (oh so enthusiastically!) because someone didn't show up (casualties of free work). Mind you, this was after she helped lug equipment on a hike into the middle of Malibu Creek State Park. We weren't dealing with any unions, so teamwork made the dream work (AKA everyone needed to be ready to do anything in a moment's notice for the good of the whole project).
- •Communicate, but do so smartly.Keep the right people in the loop consistently. Most of the time, everyone doesn't need to know everything, but talk often to those who listen. Chances are they'll see solutions you don't and will keep morale high because they'll question less/understand more of day-to-day operations/management.
- •Every crisis is an opportunity & nothing less.Here's Becky again, coming to the rescue in a production design emergency (our production designer fell seriously ill halfway through the shoot so we were scrambling for a while). It is so easy to throw around blame and get frustrated, but that dismisses any positive change that can arise from a solid team under pressure (& we KILLED under pressure, I am happy to say).
- •Invest in tangible, consistent morale-boosters.You only can yell "I appreciate you!" at a disgruntled crew member so many times in a day. Keep a case of Red Vines in the trunk, have a joke of the day (pictured: Becky couldn't there, so she wrote her joke for us to open after an utterly exhausting night shoot), talk about the plans for the wrap party/prescreening/premiere, or go support everyone's other creative endeavors. Show that they can count on you to be a positive presence, and they'll return the favor. Supportive teams for the win!
- •Give everyone an opportunity to utilize their skills.They might not take it, or they might totally show up. On the far right is Jacqueline (@Jacqueline_Luke). She hesitantly signed on as our publicist (I was insistent she was part of them team). Time and time again, she blew us away with her knowledge, strategy, and flexibility, and by the end of production, she had become an associate producer. Good delegation gives everyone a chance to maximize their contribution.
- •Reflect!This goes along with taking time to look at photos—appreciate all that you've accomplished, even if you're facing a rough patch. Affirm and thank everyone who helps you get there.
- •Let yourself have fun.This is obvious and cliched, but let people blow off steam as you go. It's more fun and efficient that way. (Also Becky is sound op always??)
- •Focus!!We had a party scene and so many things were going on and I was so distracted and worried nothing was going to work out. It was a crash course in learning to focus on exactly what was needed from me in crazy circumstances. It's no help to anyone if you try to be everything all at once (which is super hard to remember when your title has, like, four slashes).
- •No one gives anything to the meek, shameful, lukewarm creator.People want something to believe in. People help the ones who are so on fire with passion for their vision because they want to be a part of that as well. Most importantly, people won't know who to help if you don't ask for it. Crowdfunding will make you feel like a greedy beast. Keep your goals defined.
- •Give yourself a venue to do what you love and others an opportunity to do what they love as well.If you've tapped into the passions of many people for one big thing, you're gonna like what happens.