Very Independent Filmmakers Have to Make Opportunities for Themselves.
The end of the year is nigh and it’s usually around this time that we all start reflecting on what we have and have not accomplished this past year.
Creatives, if you are anything like me, you are always kicking yourselves about not “doing.”
We plan, we talk, we think and think and sometimes this takes up so much time that before we know it the year has flown by and we have nothing to show for it. But maybe we do!
Everything you do feeds into everything you will create.
The most important thing you will ever do is create your own work, your own opportunities and these can take time to gestate, so don’t be too hard on yourselves (I’m talking to myself here) and understand that brilliant and worthwhile work doesn’t happen overnight.
But, if you can imagine something, you can write it, cast it and turn it into a film. Many, many projects begin humbly. If you have an idea for a film and neither the time nor the money to make it, try making a short version of it first.
Some amazing projects, series, and films have started life as short films. A recent hit ‘SMILF’ on Showtime actually began as a short film written and directed by Frankie Shaw (Mr Robot). It won the 2015 Short Film Jury Award at Sundance, which got Showtime’s attention, leading to the show. And it all came from Shaw taking matters into her own hands and making her own opportunities.
“I think make opportunity for yourself, if that’s something you’re inclined to do, for sure,” Shaw said to Variety. “I discovered that my biggest passion was for directing, so in making opportunity for myself, I found what I like doing the best.”
This is just one example of how to create your own path into the industry, or even sidestep it all together. Using small to no budget and making a simple, single-story piece gives you an opportunity to develop a world that you imagine, and is the absolute perfect way to begin a bigger project. A short film, in essence, is a distillation of a bigger idea. It can enthuse you, encourage you and impress others enough to help you take the next step.
Some other examples of big projects that started small are:
“Whiplash” – This proof of concept short film version also won the Short Film Jury Award at Sundance and help Damien Chazelle get the money to make the feature and then came LA LA Land of course.
“Saw”’ was a short film and its creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell used the short to pitch the groundbreaking feature with its now iconic intense and terrifying themes. Whatever you may think of the franchise, these guys did exactly what they wanted to do and made an art out of it.
“Alive in Joberg” was the science fiction short directed by Neill Blomkamp to showcase his idea for District 9. It was so well received that Peter Jackson took over as Producer and collaborated with the Blomkamp for the feature version which stared Blomkamp himself.
“Mama” began life as a Spanish language short by Andres Muschietti and was so loved by Guillermo Del Toro that he produced the feature version of this supernatural horror about two young girls, adopted by a couple and haunted by a creature. Sometimes the right ‘fan’ is all you need.
“The Dirk Diggler Story” was a mockumentary made by a 17-year-old Paul Thomas Anderson in 1987. It took Anderson another 10 years, but as his second feature “Boogie Nights” launched his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
“Within The Woods” was the super 8mm 30 minute short film version of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead.” This still terrifying film created an entirely new horror genre.
“Peluca” was shot for $500 on 16mm over a weekend and after being shown at Slamdance morphed into “Napoleon Dynamite.”
I could go on and on and on…
If you have a vision, even with no money…or perhaps because of it…you can create something unique, something totally you. And it’s your voice that everyone wants to hear.
Your vision, your world that will spark something in someone and that’s what will get you to the next level.
If it’s brilliant, original and authentic, whether it’s horror, drama, comedy or whatever, people will love it and, in the right hands, it could lead to a world of opportunity.
So get out there…and get on with it…