Independent Filmmaking is not the Path to the Rich and Famous

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Cover for independent horror film by author
Cover for independent horror film by author | Source

I’m an independent filmmaker, a project that began several years ago when, as a script writer, I got roped into producing as well and took on the challenge of making a feature length comedy on a shoestring budget. That was the longest two months of my life.

I learned a great deal about making films in the process, enough to realize that it’s all about juggling vast numbers of people and various duties to make it all happen. I also learned to expect the unexpected as inevitably films bring out the worst aspects of all situations. That, and be prepared to invest a lot of time, money, and stress all for the sake of a few film credits. It’s really not about the money, despite what so many others may imagine. Most independent filmmakers are broke at best and do this from their garage.

I’ve made two films to date, a feature length comedy and a short film. I also own my own production company. Yes, it all looks good on paper, but my profit margin is non-existent. As a matter of fact, I will spend the rest of my life attempting to see any profit at all. Films are a hobby, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Unless you are Spielberg or Cameron you will most likely end up doing this for fun and nothing more, so you better love it a lot to put endless sweat and time into such an enormous undertaking.

Nothing about making a movie is easy. It takes a team of dedicated individuals working together to create a completed project. I began my career about thirty-five years ago as a novelist. I’m a writer at heart and enjoy my independence, so when I made my first film in 2010 I learned an aspect of teamwork that put a whole new spin on my previously independent creativity. Stress became a factor I had never experienced until I went behind a camera. Films are an entirely different ballgame, and not always the most pleasurable of experiences, especially if law suits, dishonesty, and corruption enter the picture.

Despite the many negative variables that a filmmaker engages, it’s the love of making a film, taking a script and giving it life that truly encourages me to return to the chaos like a moth to the lure of a bright light. Once the finalized project is in place and available to the public eye there is a sense of completion and gratification in knowing that a group of people successfully gathered together and created a movie. There is also the undeniable feeling of pride that accompanies this accomplishment and knowing that by remaining determined through all the trials and error victory was claimed and everyone attained their glorious credits through IMDb. That, in itself, is a notable achievement.

On that note, I won’t discourage others from pursuing this creative avenue. It does have its small rewards and personal ego boosts. On the other hand, be ready to work hard, do lots of research, and open your wallet because nobody will work for free, even for the love of making a film. Fill your tables with lots of finger foods, have plenty of ice chests loaded with drinks, and pour on the complements so your cast and crew will return to finish the project you started.

Most of all, don’t expect Hollywood or the big paychecks to come flowing into your life. Do it for the love of making a movie and you will be very satisfied. Otherwise, consider a different creative avenue, as obviously films are not your forte.

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