What I Learned From 200+ Interviews With Independent & Studio Filmmakers

Over the past 7 years, I have interviewed over 200 filmmakers for my podcast.

Guests have ranged from first time DIY filmmakers to studio directors who made multi-million dollar productions.

While every guest has their own philosophy and approach to filmmaking, they all had one thing in common –

Each one saw immense value in the micro-budget feature filmmaking model.

I’ve brought this up many times in conversations with aspiring filmmakers. Particularly when they push back on the micro-budget paradigm, saying they don’t believe it can benefit their career.

I’ll usually respond with this: From my point of view, there is only upside when you make a DIY feature.

Whether it works commercially or critically is of course never guaranteed. But what is guaranteed is your growth as a filmmaker.

That was one of the most common threads from all of my podcast interviews.

Not a single filmmaker I interviewed who scraped together a micro-budget feature regretted doing so. Even the ones who had “failed” on some level. Virtually every single one saw some benefit.

In some cases, the project was a success by all objective measures. Landing distribution, reaching the masses, and turning a profit.

Other films were less profitable or didn’t have the same reach, but still benefitted the filmmakers immensely. By seeing the process through they developed a new visual style, discovered innovative production models, or met an investor for their next (usually much bigger) project.

Another huge benefit that repeatedly came up – Once these DIY filmmakers broke the ice with a first feature, it took them a fraction of the time to pull together their next movie. Things started to get easier, and more systematized.

And often it was their second or third film where things started to really take off for them.

On the studio-side, most bigger budget directors I’ve interviewed fell into two camps:

  1. They had broken into the industry by making no-budget / DIY films and championed that path
  2. They had broken in some other way, but now wanted to make a DIY film of their own

These interviews are what surprised me the most. Earlier on, I would have assumed that filmmakers working with tens of millions of dollars couldn’t imagine giving that up. But it was quite the opposite.

Making films with so many complexities, moving parts, and cooks in the kitchen made the micro-budget model all that more appealing.

While aspiring filmmakers dream about working on a Hollywood set, many studio filmmakers dream of getting back to their roots. Making projects they really care about without being restricted by anyone. 

So when I hear a first time filmmaker resist the idea of a DIY approach, I let them know:

The only filmmakers I’ve met who don’t see the value in micro-budget filmmaking are those who have never made a film.

Not everyone who makes a micro-budget feature wants to make a second one. And not every studio director decides to actually take a DIY approach.

But anyone who makes art and has gone through the process understands the value that it brings.

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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!

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