If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted in a couple weeks – It’s been a very busy start to the year! Earlier this month I produced some content for a major network (hopefully I can share more here in the future…) and within days of wrapping I began production on a feature film. We now have the first week’s worth of footage in the can, and still have two more weeks left to go. I will certainly be posting many more articles about our process after we wrap, but while I have a couple of days off, I wanted to give you guys a bit of background on the project –
As many of you know, my goal for quite a while now has been to get a feature film off the ground. Over the last couple of years, I shot a number of shorts, mood films, and other small projects as a means to toy around with ideas and experiment with new techniques that might later benefit the production of a full scale feature. And while I’ve been eager to direct a feature for some time now, deciding on which project to pursue, and on what scale to approach it was the hard part. I had a lot of ideas, treatments, and scripts floating around, but I came to the realization that even the most feasible of them would require at least another year in fundraising and development before any production could take place.
A couple months back, a casual conversation over lunch with my wife Jen evolved into somewhat of a development meeting, as we began exploring the idea of shooting a narrative feature that could be fully executed within our own resources. In other words, the goal was to create a project that could be written, shot, and edited on an extremely low budget (so that it could be fully self funded), while at the same time still delivering an exceptionally powerful and important story.
Before writing out any basic concept or premise, we committed to a number of rules that would ultimately help to guide the creative and logistical process of producing this film. The number one rule was to only write in scenes, set pieces, or characters that we knew for a fact we could deliver on without having to spend a lot of money. In other words, no explosions or car chases. We also knew we had to focus the story primarily on two characters, and write in locations that would be visually beautiful, while also allowing us to capture them with minimal crew and gear.
It’s amazing how much these kinds of limitations can enhance the creative process. Knowing what we couldn’t write, made what we could write to become so much more clear. In a single day we had a full story outline, and two weeks later the first draft of the script was complete. That was not even two months ago, and to think we are already knee deep into production is almost unbelievable!
It’s not unusual to spend months if not years developing a screenplay… In fact most of the time that’s what’s required to really iron out the best possible script. That said, this particular project relies heavily on spontaneity in every way – especially with regards to performances and music, and for that reason it has actually served the story best to write the screenplay in a similarly impromptu fashion.
That said, writing the script quickly is only one reason why we we’ve been able to move into production so quickly…
Ultimately it was our initial decision to keep things small that made this a reality. Every facet of the story, characters, locations, and other key creative decisions were made with the goal of making this as painless as possible to execute. Even our crew is tiny… All of this added up to less time spent on logistics, and more time spent on creative.
I often advise filmmakers to create projects for themselves that are written around the resources that they have. If you have access to a car, a property, an actor, whatever it may be – I always suggest writing a story around those elements. Unless you have a massive budget and the freedom to spend it however you want to, writing a script that is based around your resources automatically sets you up for success.
If you are simply writing a script on spec that you hope to have produced/financed in a more traditional fashion down the road, that is one thing. But if you want to get out there and actually direct something now, you need to work within your means. For me personally, while I would certainly love to raise financing for a larger scale project in the near future, right now the most important thing for me is to direct some fresh, exciting content that can be put out into the world this year.
If I’ve learned anything about success in the film industry, it’s that you need to create as much quality work for yourself as possible. Not every project is going to be a success, and when you put too much pressure on one project (often by dragging it out over a very long period of time), you can set yourself up for failure. On the true independent level, some of the best films are born out of spontaneity, and taking too long to produce any project can eventually make it lose momentum completely. For me personally, coming to these realizations is a big part of the reason this feature even exists…
As we wrap production and my time is freed up again, I will be sure to follow up with detailed posts on our the whole process. I’ll touch on writing/development, casting, crewing, gear (hint: URSA Mini & Sigma Cine Lenses), and much more. I have a lot of great content coming your way, so be sure to check back soon as I start rolling it out!
Looking forward to sharing more with you soon, and I’ll leave you with a few screen grabs from the project so far: