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8 Issues That Can Kill An Indie Film

There are a thousand reasons why a film might fail, which is why they say “any completed film is a miracle.”

But some issues are more prevalent than others. And it’s always important to avoid falling into these common traps –

1. Big egos 

Nothing can hurt a film project more than a giant ego. Whether it’s your own, or a team member you brought on – it only takes one to poison the creative process.

When someone brings an ego to set, it inevitably destroys morale and makes for an unpleasant experience. 

Ultimately, your film is only as good as your crew. And if your crew is being spoken down to, dismissed, or otherwise subjected to poor treatment, they’ll never give their all. Nor should they.

On the flip-side, if you inspire a positive and collaborative environment, everyone’s work can shine. And that always shows on the screen.

2. Rushing the script

The best thing about micro-budget filmmaking is that you don’t have to wait for permission to start. You can decide to make your movie tomorrow and give yourself the green light.

But this dynamic can also lead to rushed ideas and underdeveloped scripts. Just because you can shoot something right now doesn’t always mean you should.

It’s up to you to be honest with yourself about when the script is ready. To push yourself to write that last draft and make it 10% better, even when no one else is asking for it.

If you don’t ensure it’s as good as it can be, who will?

3. Dragging out development

The flip side of rushing through the script is dragging out development unnecessarily. So many indie features stall (or completely fall flat) in this phase.

More often than not, it’s either because:

A) The filmmaker didn’t write a shootable script, and won’t compromise or re-write to work within their resources

B) The filmmaker is getting cold feet about the project, and begins to procrastinate out of fear

In either case, the only option is to keep moving. Whether it means breaking through your own anxieties, or pivoting creatively to make production more realistic. 

Your project is most likely to die in this phase, so be relentless about forging ahead.

4. Overspending on equipment

So many productions overspend on gear to the detriment of the film. Often, equipment gets accounted for on the budget before actors!

As much as I love cameras, gear is now the last thing I think about when producing a film. If you have a killer script, amazing locations, and the best actors you can get – the gear truly doesn’t matter.

But you’re unlikely to secure those great elements if you allocate what little budget you may have entirely to camera and lighting…

That doesn’t mean don’t shoot on the best camera you can – By all means, go for the Alexa if you can. Just make sure it doesn’t hurt the greater vision.

5. Neglecting actors for camera

To me, directing IS working with actors. That is the #1 job of a director, and everything else (including camera) is there to support them.

These days though, so many directors hide behind the monitor with their DP. Always worrying about the lighting and almost never interacting with the actors.

This does a major disservice to the film, and can be hugely detrimental to the final product.

By prioritizing your actors on set, they are motivated to give 110%. And it keeps you grounded in the material too. It’s always a win-win.

6. Making sound an afterthought

We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but it’s true. Sound is more than 50% of the audience experience.

Yet (ironically) no one ever seems to hear the message.

If you’ve ever judged for a film festival, you know that the vast majority of films submitted have poorly recorded audio. And that almost always disqualifies them from the get-go.

This is bizarre to me as there is no excuse to have bad sound in this day an age. A well placed, inexpensive microphone running into an iPhone can deliver sound that will hold up in a theater.

It’s just a matter of making it a priority.

7. Not taking feedback from the team 

Making a film is never about you or any other one person. It’s about the movie, and what choices are best for it.

The biggest directors on the planet lean on their producers, cinematographers, actors, and the rest of their team for ideas.

Inexperienced filmmakers think every idea needs to come from them, and as a result their films suffer.

Seasoned directors know their job is to have (and maintain) a vision. But to achieve that by listening to others, not shutting them out. 

If you refuse to listen to the very people you chose to bring on board with your project, it will only come back to bite you.

8. Not caring about the small details

Great filmmaking requires an equal focus on the big picture and the small details.

Many filmmakers, especially on low budget productions, are entirely focused on the broad strokes. And not enough on the finer details.

To them, it feels frivolous to give the actor an extra take to try something new, or to swap out a blue prop for a red one.

But these small details are what make up the movie. Enough of these little choices can take it from just okay to amazing.

The audience will always feel it on some level, so never cut corners – no matter what your budget.


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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

2 Comments

  • Jean Parcks
    at

    This is a really important aspect of filmmaking that is often overlooked. Big egos can easily undermine the atmosphere on set, which, in turn, affects the quality of the final product.
    By the way, I work with saas design agency https://fivecube.agency/services/saas-website-design-agency .
    The key to a successful film is teamwork and interaction between all team members. If everyone feels valued, supported and motivated, this can only have a positive effect on the process and the outcome. Breaking down barriers, collectivity and openness contribute to better creative performance of tasks and, ultimately, to achieving high quality of the film.

    Reply
  • Carol Fritz
    at

    Noam,

    Hope you can be of help. I’m looking for comparables to put in a proposal for an indie film. Specifically, we’re looking for:

    -Thrillers
    -Released since 2019
    -With a budget under $5 million
    -That have earned back their budget

    Thanks for your help. My heart is in indie film.

    Gratefully,
    Carol
    Carol Fritz

    Reply

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