“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you're not a traveler. You're a f@@king tourist.”
― Guillermo del Toro
Making a film shouldn’t always be a race to the finish, even though there are plenty of competitions out there desperately trying to recruit filmmakers into doing just that…24 hour film festival, 48 hour film festival, etcetera etcetera..
I’ve certainly been under the gun making films, and not just during the marathon 52 Films/ 52 Weeks project. When you operate at the 0 budget end of the filmmaking world then the obvious choice is to do things quickly because quick generally means cheap.
But…it’s your film, so shouldn’t you take your time?
And quick and cheap often just ends up looking…well…cheap.
So you have a choice, shoot everything in one weekend and hope for the best, or spread it out, plan it out, wait for the right actors, wait for the right location, shoot piece by piece, bit by bit, not worrying about chasing the light, only concerned with getting it right.
You really can make films this way. You could even make a feature this way. Think about it, if you are really, really organized you can shoot all your establishing shots, exteriors, even some of the meat of the film, then stop, regroup, raise a little cash, find the location you couldn’t find before or wait for the actor you really want to become available.
The reality is though that whether you have a big budget or none, something can and always will go wrong. When you have some money to throw around those disasters can be fixed quickly, but with no money it’s not as easy. I’m not saying you should expect things to fall apart, but it’s not a bad idea to not act surprised when they do!
Here’s something else to think about though. Maybe if you accepted that your film will take a long time to shoot you could allow yourself the opportunity to make something exactly how you want it, rather than compromising right off the bat.
Masterpieces cant be created over night you know, and all these shoot it and slap it together and have a crazy breathless time doing it film competitions are all very well, and you may even learn something, but isn’t it all about what you really want to make? So it makes sense to focus on making it brilliant and wonderful, not on how quick or cheap or how crazy the shoot was.
So much emphases is placed on production being efficient, cost effective, organized, that the food is good and that you don’t expect too much of everyone. And that is all true and I have been there many many times. But what about really investing yourself in every single frame. What about taking painstaking care over every detail and the time and effort that entails.
Guillermo Del Toro took eight years to make Cronos, his first feature film. It took that long because Del Toro wanted everything to be exactly as he wanted it, and it was an elaborate vampire film and he ran out of money many times eventually taking out ridiculously high interest loans to finish it and having Ron Pearlman basically doing it for nothing. But he did finish it and it is a masterpiece.
Sam Rami took a year to make The Evil Dead, now one of the best horror films of all time. Apocalypse Now took two years and nearly killed Martin Sheen. David Lynch began Eraserhead as a student film and it took five years to complete and it’s amazing, weird and everything he wanted it to be.
I know these are films with budgets, some of them huge, but that’s not the point. It should never be the point, especially when there is essentially no money. If we are freed by the lack of financial resources so we can make whatever it is that we want to make then we are also just as free to make it however we want to make it. And if that means to take our time and follow the journey that our art may take us on, then so be it.
I am writing my epic scifi movie at the moment, with an eye on a shoot date of sometime in 2017…if I still live that is. And this does not scare me, which maybe it would have a few years and a few projects ago. But this space to really form the film gives me great hope that it will happen, so I’m happy!
Embrace the slow and careful flow that your film could be. Cherish the awesomeness of the gentle journey and the chance to inhabit every second of your art. Be courageous and don’t rush it.