Getting well out of your comfort zone, way out, to the point of actually being very uncomfortable, can be where the energy to be highly creative lies.
On the edge of chaos is where innovation and originality live…and these are highly valuable and sought after resources in filmmaking and should never be taken for granted.
Which is why it’s time to be bold. Make a film abroad.
Seems strange since I live in L.A. which is, or so I’m told, the center of the film industry. Although I think France might disagree with that statement a little. But going somewhere else to tell your story, somewhere alien to you, somewhere that puts you in a creative and emotional spin so to speak can make your story fight for survival, prove itself worthy and give you an edge you could never find playing it safe in your own backyard.
We are planning such an excursion right now – to take a short film idea and shoot it in another country. So far we have settled on Australia, where we have excellent friends and a good place to start, and Germany, where we also have old friends and their network. It does help to have a base, especially when you are working with virtually no budget. But no money makes everyone hungry and the work quick and energetic and the results exciting and unpredictable. Which is a good thing!!
Don’t be safe.
Making films is always a challenge and never dull, but the results of your continuous and heartfelt labor can seem a bit ‘samey’ after a while. Giving yourself the gift of new light, amazing architecture, people who look nothing like Americans, an entirely fresh atmosphere and a window of time forced by your own budget limitations births inspiring and poetic work.
Being brave, not idiotic, is the key. Plan well, have your story in your hand…not just your head. Take only the necessities with you. Put your camera in your carry on, not your luggage – that’s a big one. Travel with one or two crew only. Keep your story simple, explore the area on Google maps to familiarize yourself if you can. Go on Youtube. There will be someone in the area who has made something and put it up. Contact them if you need help, there are so many ways to reach out before you get there. But if it’s just you and a couple of friends and a week to do everything then that will work too! If you take only your iPhone and a few lenses and a gimble that’s probably perfect, although please don’t forget about the bloody sound!!
Absorb your surroundings, let it speak to you. Film like a lover and a poet and a magician all rolled into one.
Find a musician in a bar and ask them to write you some music. You will probably be filming in a place not used to people wandering around with cameras, so take advantage of that, ask if you can shoot scenes in bars, or clubs, or stores. Ask locals if they will be in it, ask a policeman!!! You would be amazed what help you can get if you just smile sweetly and ask nicely. I’ve had theatres at my disposal, and fish and chip shops and enormous coaches and horses and trains and actual firetrucks who have hoisted me high on their cherry pickers so I could get an aerial shot…they were on a lunch break and I just asked.
If you want to make a film, why not go the extra mile. It’s also a way to make yourself commit to doing it. Once you’ve booked the flights there’s no going back. It’s so easy to keep delaying a shoot to the point of not getting to it at all. But making something abroad literally forces you to face the project head on and get it done. Can you imagine how cool it would be to shoot in Mexico on a beach, or in the jungle or on the streets of Mexico City? Or how about South America, or the Caribbean or Iceland, or anywhere in Europe? Flights are really cheap if you don’t go in the summer and there are far fewer pesky tourists.