Independent film…no money…no problem

You don’t have to be a film ‘auteur’ to make movies.

Even with no money, you can make films that are beautiful, edgy, funny, meaningful and terrifying.

There are now so many ways for you to do it.  With SLRs, digital film cameras, film or your iPhone or even with your grannie’s super 8mm.  The point in the end, especially with no money, is to make something…

This time of year, after the busy summer of hopeful shooting, I generally begin to take stock, to sort through projects I have yet to get to.  Stories not written, scripts unfinished and ideas that are still rattling around in my brain.  The fall is the time for reflection too, although I try not to ask myself the ‘why’ one too often, lest it throws me off my game. It’s also the time I like to read, even an actual book and to also get out of the house and my head and take advantage of the town we live in.

I look around for inspiration and that can come in many different forms.

So here are a few things that might inspire you.  Books and films and exhibits and places that are new, or familiar or well worn…all that fill up my imagination and feed my creative soul.

A book

David Mamet is a genius.  Loved for both his on-stage work (for which he has won Pulitzer and Tony prizes) and also his films, having ratcheted up a couple of Oscar nominations.  Mamet has more than a few nuggets of wisdom to share throughout the pages of On Directing Film, making it a mandatory read for directors… or really, anyone working in film.  If you are going to look for inspiration in another’s work, then look for people with artistic integrity.  David Mamet has that in boatloads – he’s a poet, a filmmaker and a playwright…and he swears a lot…which I love.

An Exhibit

Happy Birthday Mr Hockney

David Hockney is absolutely my favorite artist.  I have many, many of his prints and even a signed litho…a treasure inherited from my darling mum.  He is one of those artists who touches upon so many different art forms.  Painting, photography, music, dance, opera –  he has created in posters for just about every kind of performance and designed theatre sets and opera and he has even created an entire exhibition of his work on iPads.  It’s his 80th year on this planet and he lives in LA. We are so lucky!  So this autumn, The Getty has put on an exhibit of his self portraits just to say “thank you, Mr Hockney,” which is wonderful.  So take the monorail up the hill, always a thrill to be on the Star Trek set anyway, and spend some valuable time with one of the greatest artists of our time in a place that is built to honor and to study art in all its many forms.  Also, the cafe is killer and when you walk down the path to the gardens, as you pass by the tall limestone wall, tap on the blocks with your knuckles…they make different notes…it’s a bit magical and very cinematic.

Some music

Chicano Batman

I’ve been listening to this amazing LA band for the last couple of years on KCRW and love them.  My daughter got us tickets to see them at The Fonda last week and they were totally brilliant.  Their music is this wonderful  mix of psychedelic soul, funk, indie, tropicalia, rock and oldies and they dance like they’re in a Tarantino movie.   If you are anything like me, you have your own soundtrack running pretty much constantly and are always pulling together music for your films.  LA is a town overflowing with live music and it’s criminal not to take advantage of that.  It’s also a wonderful way to really observe people at their comfortable, happy and most open moments, when the music is all they need and everything else falls away.  As a writer and a director I can really connect with stories and character and what is most important to real human beings.  It’s a great place for inspiration, from the music and the venue and the people who surround you.  Chicano Batman are, as my daughter puts it, “the bomb…”


Some film

Seeing a movie in LA is probably just like seeing a movie anywhere else, at least if you go to the regular multiplex. However, we do have a few special places that are well worth the trouble to find parking and the New Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd in Hollywood is definitely one of them.

Once an ‘adult’ movie theatre, in 1978 it was reopened as the New Beverly Cinema by the Torgan family who ran it for nearly 30 years.  When Sherman Torgan passed away in 2007, his son Michael took over, but needed a benefactor to keep the business going. Quentin Tarantino had been a regular for years and had already been helping out, so he bought it, partnered with Michael and shows only 35mm prints, mostly from his own incredible collection, which is eclectic to say the least.  I love this theatre.  It’s super cheap, $8 for a double feature and popcorn is excellent. They have Saturday morning cartoons for the kids and the kid-like as well as late-night shows of Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill and all kinds of obscure and crazy pop culture films that you can’t even find online or in rentals anymore.  It feels like you are in a movie about seeing a movie when you are there, and the reels stick and the audience are unpretentious film lovers and it fills you with a kind of LA reverence and joy for the films that they show and the way they love each of them, even the awkward and the strange. It’s just very ‘real’ LA.  If you love film then you have to go. See a film, or two, then find a late night place to eat and talk about them…and what film of yours you are making next.

We are artists all…we need each other to create and we need to look beyond ourselves and our immediate to find our inspiration and our stories and our frame.

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.