Me, Independent Filmmaker?
Secretly, I’ve considered myself an independent filmmaker for a very long time. Now, when I say a long time I mean ever since I was about nine years old and I picked up my dad’s Minolta VHS camcorder, which I now call ‘Megladon’! Why? Well, for no other reason other than it was a huge piece of machinery. Despite the massive size and having no preconceptions of what the future had in store for us in terms of technology, the VHS camcorder was one of the cooler things one had the pleasure of saying they owned in the summer of 1989. Of course, it was already four years old being that my dad purchased it in 1985 but still cool nonetheless.
It was because of ‘Megladon’ where an epiphany was realized in my fragile little mind. I can make movies, I thought. I mean, how hard can it be; naivety at its best. My idea of making a movie was simply point, shoot, action, record, oh and, of course, cut! Being nine years old, the world was my playing field and I had no choice but to make due with the tools that were accessible to me.
Friends and family? (ie, actors)…Check!
Done! That was all I needed as far as production was concerned. Post production? No problem as it did not exist! All editing was done in camera. If someone looked at the camera or laughed all I did was hit stop, rewind and record over the blundered scene. Just like that, Presto! Instant editing. What about music? Nothing a tape recorder couldn’t fix while we filmed. Before I knew it, I was directing my first short film. Using a very cheap, hairless Rubies Michael Myers mask (long gone in latex heaven), I filmed the 10 minute, pre-teen version of Halloween! Was it any good? In nine-year old world, yes it was!
Of course, it wasn’t until I got older that I came to realize that I wasn’t an independent filmmaker but, rather, an amateur with a really cool hobby. I was bummed! Being a fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween, I was utterly surprised that it was an independent horror movie with a budget of about $320,000. In terms of movies these days, that money is what most would deem as chump change. Still, being a young buck without a clue, I was under the impression that Independent Film was made, literally, for pennies and that friends and family all chipped in to lend a hand at making someone’s dreams come true. Oh, how wrong I was!
According to Wikipedia, the definition of an Independent Film is as follows:
An independent film, or indie film, is a film that is produced mostly outside of a major film studio. The term also refers to art films which differ markedly from most mass marketed films. In addition to being produced by independent production companies, independent films are often produced and/or distributed by subsidiaries of major studios. In order to be considered independent, less than half of a film’s financing should come from a major studio. Independent films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers’ personal artistic vision is realized. Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films. Generally, the marketing of independent films is characterized by limited release designed to build word-of-mouth or to reach small specialty audiences.
Hmmm, OK. So I was way off! Or was I? I never knew there were so many rules to being “independent”! Let’s dissect some of the more important things about this definition.
“a film that is produced mostly outside of a major film studio”
OK, check! I am not remotely close to the Hollywood system, therefore, I am independent of said system.
“In order to be considered independent, less than half of a film’s financing should come from a major studio.”
Again, I have no affiliations with any major studios so I am not only receiving less than a movies finance from a major studio but I am, in fact, receiving nothing, nada, zip, zilch! Check! Independent all the way!
“Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.”
In my case, this is always! I never have the budget to make a “big budget” film and have held on to that old belief of “work with what you got!” Check!
Net-picking a couple of lines here and there would point towards my being an independent filmmaker! Another aspect of my “independence” lays within the marketing realm. I don’t have commercials that air on national television, trailers screened prior to the next block/lack luster film or movie posters that can adorn your wall (my wall 9 times out of 10). All I have is my NOT-SO TRUSTY PC to help spread the word, oh and Facebook and Twitter, of course.
Once upon a time, I viewed the process of filmmaking from a whole different perspective; mainly because the Hollywood blockbuster ruled my world. I’ve seen picture like Halloween before when I was a young tyke (is that even a word) but never did I comprehend the term ‘budget’. It was a film that looked as if it could’ve been made for a meesly couple of hundred dollars. What? Come again? We have to pay a crew? I thought they were just friends and family! Again, I was young and naive and didn’t know any better.
Still, now as a grown adult (some may beg to differ) I have learned to appreciate what being a filmmaker is. Get out there and tell a story and that old philosophy I grew up with, “work with what you’ve got” has stuck with me. Although I am not one to probably be ever recognized for my work, I do one of the things I enjoy the most and that’s making films (albeit, short).
So, now that I’m older I have the same bag of goodies as when I had a kid:
Camera – Check!
Friends and Family – Check!
Tripod – Check!
Plus a plethora of other goodies that make it easier to make said film (i.e. a PC with editing software). But, do I still think the same way I did when I was in grade school with dreams of Hollywood and fame? Not at all, making film is simply a passion but no longer a priority. Of course I still love the art but I also like to make money!