May 24, 2013

{How to} make an indie movie

We're back with filmmaker Adam Reid (see part one of my interview here). Having written, directed and produced his debut feature Hello Lonesome, Adam knows a thing or two about making a movie on a shoestring budget. Here, he talks about his experience and shares a few pointers.
Write a script for a film you can actually make
"Whatever the budget was going to be, I knew I wanted to make Hello Lonesome myself. That suddenly changed my thinking on the type, the scale and the scope of story I was going to tell. It was great because this provided a framework. I was like, 'Well, this is going to be in the real world. It's going to be in the present. It should probably be set in a lot of natural light and be in as few locations as possible.'"

The outline is key
"In all my writing projects so far, I've created an outline. Even if it is just 20-30 sentences, all caps, in a word document that states what happens. Do yourself a favor because you have to know where it's going, or you're not going to get there."

Find a budget that works for you
"Initially, I was trying to get $3 million for the film, and I left this finance meeting feeling monumentally depressed, thinking, 'What am I doing? Why am I doing it this way?' In the end, we went with a $50,000 budget, and my wife and I paid for the film. I borrowed money from friends. [Going this route], we had to let go of the A-List people we were going after. I decided I would just shoot it myself without a cinematographer to save time and money. And everything changed in a minute because then I knew how I was going to make it. Suddenly, it was doable, and it couldn't fail."

The secret to financing
"I think 'reverse engineering' is the secret to film financing. It means using what you have around you and making the most of it. What do you have? If your uncle owns a diner, then you shoot your film at the diner. It's not just locations. [Reverse engineering] goes to every single aspect of production. You do it with actors. You do it with the music. Our soundtrack was 90% composed by my composer at work and Jones Street Station, this band I'm friends with who were excited about the project."

Find a team who believes in what you are doing
"[During shooting], you are having the time of your life. Like, you're living your dream. We shot for 15 days. We had a crew of five: That's a sound designer; a sound mixer guy; my gaffer was also my tech; and my camera assistant. [When it came to finding talent], I wanted to find the best person I could find. I had no money, but I am giving a genuine opportunity. My editor was excited to get into long-form, and my gaffer was excited to try light design, so in a sense they got "paid" by having the experience.

The hardest part
"I have learned that it is harder to get your film seen than it is to make a movie. Much harder. Half the work. Most people forget that."

"Doing" banishes fear
"Something I didn't know before I started [Hello Lonesome] is that finishing something was possible. Making [While the Widow is Away], I thought, 'Wow, I made a short film.' Then you suddenly laugh at that and say, 'Well, of course I can make a short film. It wasn't even that hard.' Okay good. But then you get to the next stage [to make a feature-length], and it seems so insurmountable. You get to this point where you don't know if you can finish the script, and you finish it. And then you think, 'I don't know if I can actually shoot it myself.' And now we're done with that. So it's like, now, none of that fear is there. The fear is missing out on the next opportunity."

Thanks, Adam! You can check out Hello Lonesome on Netflix.

(Movie posters by William Henry Graphic Design)

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