On Thursday I will be keynote speaker at the BVE conference in London (Excel Centre).
It’s billed as ‘Top Tips for getting your first feature off the ground’.
Actually that’s a simple 60 second conversation – get a camera, a script, some actors, a small crew, a bit of cash, shoot it, edit it, make a final version, screen it, enter some festivals, upload online somewhere and it’s done.
The real question is this. How can this film get me traction in such as way as to get me my next film going right away and ideally with greater scope and budget?
When I began making films, there was a very high barrier to entry which meant only certain people could actually make it in. Now that has changed. There is no barrier to entry. Now the challenge is twofold – survival during the lengthy process of learning the art, craft and commerce of filmmaking, and second, making films that stands out from the tsunami of stuff out there.
There are very specific strategies that can allow you survive, even thrive on your journey. I will be sharing these at BVE on stage.
But how do we stand out? Both as creative individuals/brands, as well as having our work be distinct from everything else out there?
For me this is the stumbling block I see so many filmmakers fall at repeatedly.
There will be all manner of ‘kit porn’ on display at BVE and we will all drool over it, but in reality, none of that stuff will make our work stand out. Sure it can enhance our work, but it should not define it.
There must be an idea at the heart of our projects that is so blisteringly compelling, innovative or a story that is so simply yet brilliantly executed, that it makes people sit up and say… ‘I have GOT to see that film’.
If you want gorgeous images that are sumptuously realised, just surf Vimeo, watch the commercials on TV or flick on a few minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Yawn.
Yes, a decade ago, that would have gained traction for a filmmaker. Today it’s just another film that looks amazing. And pretty much everything looks amazing now.
So what else have you got?
The key here is innovation and working with the smallest budget possible. The more you spend, the more you will get sucked into the black hole that is sales and distribution.
One notable and current success for me would include the talk of Sundance, ‘Tangerine’, a trans movie shot on iPhones (still at the top of this post).
It has innovation in both tech AND story (the tech actually enhancing the story), and a limited budget that won’t keep the filmmaking team stuck in distribution forever.
This way they get to utilise the traction the film gets them. They can focus on their career and NOT on sales.
Another great example is the short film ‘Romance in NYC’, a kind of first person love affair shot (again) on iPhone. Watch the BTS here…
They key to these films is micro budgets, micro crew, innovation in all areas and stories that feel fresh (even if they are not fresh, they feel it because of the innovation).
This is Guerilla Filmmaking today. And it’s damn exciting and liberating.
To quote the filmmakers from ‘Romance in NYC’… ‘What we found when shooting this film was that the process of making the film was almost as exciting as the film itself’.
This is what keeps us all going when projects fail in succession. Not the dangling carrot of success, but the joy of creation that is no longer limited by budgets.
Plan, innovate, create, share, exploit… and do it again. If someone likes it enough to pay you to do it next time, great. If not, just do it again anyway.
There is no failure, only failure to take action.
See you at BVE.
Onwards and upwards!