Two things in life are guaranteed: death and taxes.
Whoa there! No need to get all dark about this. Taxes aren’t that scary. Neither is setting up an LLC. Don’t get too intimidated by all this!
Here are the three steps you'll need to take to legitimately get your movie off the ground:
Many great filmmakers never went to film school. In part because there was much less competition.
The reason there is so much more competition these days is because resources are so widely available. This is EXACTLY why you don't need to go to film school.
Some concentrations lend themselves better to formal schooling (like cinematography, sound, editing), but even those might be better off mentoring under a professional.
Here are five steps you can take to educate yourself and start a filmmaking career without spending tens of thousands of dollars:
1. Choose a Concentration
Do you want to be primarily a Producer? Director? Cinematographer? Editor?
Many newcomers have trouble deciding. Director is the most popular, but also the most crowded. Each come with a specific skill-set that will need developed in order to compete.
Try checking out descriptions of different positions on GetInMedia. That site has a wealth of knowledge that will help make the decision easier.
Still stuck? Reach out on Twitter or by Email letting me know what your strengths, experience, and interests are. I'll see if I can help point you in the right direction.
The biggest antagonist to writing quickly will be self-doubt.
Follow our first two steps of advice on choosing the right genre and testing ideas to KNOW that you’re writing something people want to see.
There’s all kind of advice out there on writing quickly and most of it boils down to this: GET THE FIRST DRAFT DONE FAST.
The step before that is outlining. Go through and use whatever method works best for you-- I use notecards with roughly the amount of scenes I need to plan out all the ups and down the characters will face.
Having a writing partner in this stage can drastically speed things up. Take an afternoon you both have free and commit to finishing that outline in one sitting.
Two brains will be better than one and you’ll keep each other accountable for finishing.
It's not enough to have your own blog anymore. Professional marketers will go back and forth over how important guest posting (and backlinking) is to your search engine optimization.
I'm here to tell you that it IS IMPORTANT, regardless of the effect on SEO.
In 2016, we released our first feature film and tried everything to get the word out. Local press was the best draw for the independent theater screenings. Our social media was working, but it was nearly impossible to stand out in the crowd of other films coming out.
Then we started submitting guest posts to other websites and going on podcasts to be interviewed. This strategy started to spark interest in the film community about our project.
One caveat that we learned from Blood on the Leaves is that the filmmaking crowd is great to earn respect among your peers and grow your network of potential collaborators. It is not great at driving sales of your film.
Look. Most filmmakers aren't rolling in cash and already love movies. Getting them to spend money on your film is tough. How many films (honestly) do you buy just because you read a behind the scenes article or follow the filmmakers on Twitter? If you do this a lot, then pat yourself on the back, you're awesome.
The average filmmaker doesn't do this. THE POINT here is: You should try to get in front of movie lovers more than movie makers. Reviews, Film Festivals, Local Screenings, Podcasts, etc. can be a great option for that.
Below are the main guest content we produced for Blood on the Leaves and the outcome of each:
So you know what genre you want to make your film for. You’ve studied the market and have balanced passion with realism. Good.
Time to start writing, right?
Slow down there. The horror stories are countless— and I’m not talking high ROI horror films— I’m talking about how many filmmakers run with an idea without testing it.
To be honest. We did it a few times before we learned our lesson. Learn from our mistakes. That’s what we’re here for.
What do I mean by testing?
Genres with a high potential return on investment are appealing to investors and therefore important to identify as a producer.
Aside from genre, this study also identified two other key factors in potentially high ROI. They weren't that surprising, but they're important to stress. These two factors are Source Material and Name Talent Attached.
As mentioned in the main article on The Genre Factor, the four genres that do best without name talent or well-known source material are: Horror, Comedy, Thriller, and Faith-Based.
All of these are still dependent on execution, but less likely to fail compared to genres like romance, science fiction, action, and drama.
Established audiences exist for name talent (stars), well-known source material, and some genres. Certain genres will stand out if we take the "starpower" element out of the equation.
One of the first key decisions a producer has to make is the genre of the film. This will guide most decisions through production. Each genre is different and there are some other factors to consider.
There are plenty of articles about the best genres for Return on Investment (the difference between the budget and the box office returns); however, I wanted to find out what other factors can push high Return on Investment (ROI).
Six factors with established audience appeal have been identified through my research of 2016’s theatrical releases. These categories cross over in many ways, but they distinctly have the ability to draw an audience.
1. Source Material Based
A script with well-known source material has a built in audience. These films generally do very well regardless of execution. That is because there are thousands (if not millions) of fans ready to line up and pay for a ticket the moment the movie is announced.
This source material ranges from comic books and novels to video games and board games. The latter of those two generally don’t make “good” movies, but they do make money.
2. Name Talent (Stars) Attached
Another clear draw for audiences are familiar stars. Either actors or directors that are well known will almost certainly lift ticket sales. This isn’t a guaranteed, so it had better be a good movie… or at least decent.
Attaching big stars comes with the obvious drawback of inflating the budget and is likely an unattainable goal for most relatively new producers.
Getting familiar faces on screen is something to think about though when trying to convince an audience your film is worth paying for.
3. Thoroughly Scare-Filled Horrors
These next four factors are genres that are derived from the study I referenced earlier in the post. They all seem to stand on their own without source material or attached stars.
A mentor of mine once said, “the best way to learn something in-depth is to teach it.”
We here at Sideline Pictures made our first feature film in 2016. We self-released to independent theaters and online.
The experience of producing our first feature film has taught us a massive amount about the process. Now it’s time to move onto movie number two. This time we’re going bigger and better; to do that I made this guide.
Originally the guide was for my own personal use to make sure I never missed a step learned during the first movie. A lot of these steps were things we didn’t do for our first movie, but maybe we should have.
Our mission is to find a balance between making movies on our own terms and making movies that can support a living as a creator.
Sideline Movie Maker will put a spotlight on every step we go through. Over time, the series will grow into a full guide that can help you make your own movies.
We love independent film and independent movies. If you use any of the advice on this blog, podcast, or videos please let us know! We’d love to hear from you and learn about what you’re working on.
Here is a complete guide to the topics the Sideline Movie Maker Guide will cover:
Hi. I’m Craig and I have a film degree.
It feels a little dirty to say. With so many resources online and the ability to get your hands on a video recording device for the price of a videogame, the value of paying for film school has diminished drastically.
I do still think there is value in film school. Networking, focusing solely your craft for two to six years, and being forced to work on deadlines are just a few of the benefits you’d have trouble finding without it. (Here's a guide on how to do all that on your own)
Even though I think film SCHOOL has value, I’m not convinced that a film DEGREE does. I would argue that getting a degree in creative writing, psychology, financing, business management, or marketing would be a MUCH better use of your time and money. Those degrees would all help you achieve the same filmmaking goals-- maybe even moreso.
Here is a list of successful filmmakers who never got a film degree: