Spotlight Articles & indieBlog

In Cased You Missed Them: This Week’s Good Reads

Colin McCormack — Friday, August 15th, 2014

During the week we often get bogged down with so much “work” and “socializing” that we sometimes miss out on good content spewing from the internet. If you’re looking for some interesting news, articles, interviews or essays about the world of film, fear not! You can catch up on some of the week’s best reads here:

 

Good Reads for the week of August 11, 2014

David Lowery Talks Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (via David Lowery for The Talkhouse)
The director of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints writes about why it’s okay for kids to like dumb movies.

The Essential Black Independents (via Brandon Harris for Fandor)
A list of 25 standouts in the history black cinema.

How to Make a Sundance Indie Film (via Briana Rodriguez for Backstage)
Director Charlie McDowell, actor Mark Duplass, writer Justin Lader, and producer Mel Eslyn on the making of The One I Love.

Attention, Filmmakers: Here’s 6 Traits You Need to Look for in a Sales Agent (via Bill Straus for Indiewire)
Bill Straus of BGP Film on how to get the best sales rep for your film.

How They Did It: Jesse Zwick Dives Straight Into About Alex (via Jesse Zwick for MovieMaker)
The first-time director gives a play-by-play on how he got his ensemble dramedy made.

Alamo Drafthouse is Coming to LA! (via Casey Warnick at Drafthouse)
Rejoice, Angeleno cinephiles!

Steadicam Inventor Reveals the ‘Impossible Shots’ That Changed Filmmaking Forever (via Ariston Anderson for The Hollywood Reporter)
How the man behind the iconic camerawork of Rocky and The Shining started his endeavor.

New Mexico’s Artisans Take Advantage of Incentives and Experienced Crews (via Iain Blair for Variety)
Why indie filmmakers and big studios alike are flocking to New Mexico to make their projects.

 
How ’bout you? Read anything good this week?

 
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If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or film-related topic we should write about, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

Robin Williams: An Indie Film Appreciation

Colin McCormack — Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

teenage mutant ninja turtles

You could never put Robin Williams‘ career into one box. He was a hyperactive standup; a wacky comedic leading man; a stable presence in family fare; and a moving character actor. He could play everything from Peter Pan to a PTSD-addled homeless man (in the same year, no less!). Though he’s still generally thought of as a comedian, the man had range.

In 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his portrayal as a tough-love psychologist in Good Will Hunting. He brought gravitas to a small indie film written by two unknown actors (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) and helmed by Gus Van Sant, then largely considered an “art-house filmmaker.”

But following that film’s astounding success (over $200 million in worldwide grosses) and with an Oscar under his belt, Robin Williams didn’t turn his back on smaller, independent films. Williams proved he was the type of actor willing to take a risk on an unknown filmmaker or an outside-the-box premise; and the odds of these indies getting attention, funding, or distribution were no doubt increased thanks to support from an actor like Robin Williams.

While Good Will Hunting may continue to be (deservedly) one of Robin Williams’ most famous roles, a number of the actor’s lesser-known indie projects are also worth exploring. In light of his untimely passing, we take a look at some of these films.

 

One Hour Photo (2002)

One of Williams’ darkest roles, he portrays a photo technician who becomes dangerously obsessed with a customer’s family. For anyone who still wrote Williams off as a goofball, this performance definitely proved them wrong.

 

The Big White (2005)

In this Canadian black comedy, Williams plays a small-town travel agent who finds a dead body in a dumpster and decides to use the corpse to his financial advantage. A more indie-minded Weekend at Bernie’s, with a great ensemble cast including Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, and Woody Harrelson.

 

The Night Listener (2006)

Before Catfish-ing was a thing, Williams delved into that territory in this psychological thriller based on a true story. He plays a radio host who starts investigating the existence of a teenage memoirist, but soon learns he might be digging a bit too deep.

 

World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

This terrific satire from Bobcat Goldthwait may be uncomfortably close to the recent events surrounding Williams’ death, but it’s one of his best performances of the last few years. Delving too much into the plot (about Williams’ relationship with his asshole teenage son) might give away some of the surprises, but World’s Greatest Dad is definitely worth seeking out.

 

Still To Come…

 

Boulevard

This independent drama premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and features Williams as a married man whose encounter with a street hustler makes him confront his secret life. An official release date has yet to be announced.

Merry Friggin’ Christmas

A dysfunctional family holiday movie starring Williams as the family patriarch with a brood consisting of Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, and Candice Bergen. No word on the release date yet, but judging from the title it will likely arrive later in the year (Update: Merry Friggin’ Christmas hits theaters and VOD on November 7, 2014. BuzzFeed has a clip).
 
What are some of your favorite Robin Williams performances?

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If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or film-related topic we should write about, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

Movies You Probably Forgot Were Indies

Colin McCormack — Thursday, August 7th, 2014

teenage mutant ninja turtles

The phrase “independent film” usually conjures up certain touchstone images: Early pioneers like Corman or Cassavetes; no-budget phenoms like Clerks and The Blair Witch Project; quirky film fest hits like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. Often when an independent film becomes a breakout financial success, it’s treated almost like an anomaly. But there are plenty of hits from various genres that are so ingrained in our culture, it’s easy to forget that they too wear the “indie film” badge.

Without the aid of a big studio bankroll, these movies reached great heights (and are still delivering in various forms of reboots, sequels, and spinoffs), and offer a stark contrast to most peoples’ stereotype of an “indie film.”

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

turtles

With a successful comic book series, toy line, video game, and animated TV show, surely a major studio would swoop in to make a movie about these crime-fighting reptiles, no? Nope. Long before they started associating with Michael Bay, the heroes in a half-shell were working outside the studio system for their big-screen debut back in 1990. With a little help from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and a lot of help from kids loaded up on Jolt Cola and allowance money, the film made over $200 million worldwide, and for nearly a decade held the title of the highest-grossing independent film of all time. In the wise words of Vanilla Ice, “Go ninja, go ninja, go!”

 

House Party (1990)

house party

Though House Party may not seem like your quintessential Sundance film, this starring vehicle for high-top fades rappers Kid ‘N Play (co-starring a then-unknown comic named Martin Lawrence) showed that Sundance movies could be fun. Based on a student film from writer/director Reginald Hudlin’s Harvard days, House Party was a critical and financial success, helping to bring hip-hop to the masses and spawning three sequels (as well as its own signature dance move).

 

Dirty Dancing (1987)

dirty dancing

Speaking of dancing, yes, the movie that serenaded a million slumber parties started as an indie film with little to no expectations for success. Given a theatrical release by a straight-to-video company, Dirty Dancing became a phenomenon during that time in the ’80s when a movie’s soundtrack was just as important as its script. A long-rumored remake has yet to come to fruition, possibly because the original is likely airing on TBS as we speak.

 

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

brave little toaster

Most children of the ’90s remember this animated flick about household appliances that come to life. The film was originally being developed by Disney, but was soon abandoned by the studio. A group of ex-Disney employees branched out on their own to make the film independently, getting Disney to pick up the theatrical rights (which Disney also later bailed on). The Brave Little Toaster was the first animated film shown at Sundance, but it didn’t reach classic status until it became a popular fixture years later on (you guessed it) The Disney Channel.

 

Teen Wolf (1985)

teen wolf

Turtles weren’t the only adolescent animals getting in on the indie game in the ’80s. But not even the director of Teen Wolf thought the film would be a hit, let alone still be in the cultural lexicon nearly 30 years later (in the form of a hit MTV drama series). With a $1.4 million budget, the original Michael J. Fox film became the highest-grossing independent film of 1985. The highest-grossing studio film that year? Michael J. Fox’s other movie, Back to the Future. ’85 was most definitely the Year of the Fox (see what I did there?).

 

The Terminator (1984)

terminator

James Cameron certainly has a big checkbook to work with these days, having helmed the two highest-grossing movies of all time. But for his breakthrough film, Cameron proved he didn’t need studio support to put together a hit sci-fi thriller, selling his script to producer Gale Anne Hurd for only $1. The movie launched a billion dollar franchise that is still chugging along, and it solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger as the biggest superstar of the decade (Cameron didn’t do too bad for himself, either).

 

Halloween (1978)

halloween

For a movie that spawned a hundred or so sequels, Halloween had meager beginnings. Director John Carpenter – working with a budget of only $325,000 – ushered in the dawn of the slasher pic by bringing together an unknown Jamie Lee Curtis, a William Shatner mask painted white, and a creepy-as-hell piano ditty to terrify legions of moviegoers for decades to come. To this day, it seems like low-budget horror films are often a filmmaker’s best bet at profitability.

 

As you can see, indie films come in all shapes, sizes, genres, and budgets. And today there are even more avenues where you can find them. When lightning strikes, risky cinematic endeavors (like a time-traveling robot assassin) can blossom into full-blown blockbusters or cultural touchstones that would make any studio head jealous.

 
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If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or filmmaking-related business we should interview, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

And Now a Word from the Newbies

Colin McCormack — Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

A word of welcome from SAGindie’s two newest employees, Amanda LaFranco and Colin McCormack


FROM AMANDA:

The shoes I’ve gotta fill…

Ellen left a pretty big legacy here at SAGindie, and I’m only just realizing how much of a challenge living up to her reputation is going to be; to put in comparison, it’s like when Russell took over for Auerbach. However, I love what SAGindie offers to filmmakers and I am effused to be able to help connect producers with actors, and to get those on-screen gems we call “indie films” made. Whether your style is Fruitvale Station, Napoleon Dynamite, or even Eraserhead, I’m here to help! Though I may be stuck in an office all day, I’m metaphorically on the front lines with you – so I will be slogging through those thick contracts to find the answers you need.

I’m a Jersey girl born and raised (yes I love Bruce Springsteen), who has finally settled in Los Angeles after a series of grand adventures in Boston. I’m obsessed with the films and themes explored in 1970s cinema from Jaws to Two-Lane Blacktop. However, any time a theater is showing the venerable classics Star Wars, The Princess Bride, or When Harry Met Sally… trust me, I’m there. After seeing my own film come to life on screen I realized I never want to stop creating, so I make a conscious effort to capture my wildest imagination on a page every day.

Personal bragging rights include: running with the bulls in San Fermin (thankfully still in one piece), racing Astons with the Queen from Geneva to Brussels (she was on holiday), and sipping whiskey at the base of Kilimanjaro with Hemingway (that’s a story for another time).

But enough about me, let’s talk about your project and how SAG-AFTRA’s low-budget contracts can help it become a reality.

 

FROM COLIN:

Hey there, how’s it going? You alright? My name is Colin and I’m the new guy – or “the new Will” – taking over the proverbial internet reigns for SAGindie. Don’t worry, I’ll grow on you like fine wine (is that a saying?). I’m here to help get the word out about SAG-AFTRA’s low-budget agreements on the interweb and via (when absolutely necessary) personal interaction.

But don’t fret if you happen to be a pale, hunchbacked writerly type like me. You can keep up to date on SAGindie news, events, interviews, and other fun stuff through our blog, newsletter, Twitter, or Facebook – all from the comfort of that corner in your living room you call your “home office.” I urge you to stay tuned for some exciting developments, as we will be giving the website a facelift in the coming months (though this being Hollywood, we’ll likely attribute the new look to “resting” and “drinking lots of water”).

Originally hailing from the Detroit area, I moved to LA just before Michigan started its filmmaker tax incentives. Since those tax credits did not alleviate five months worth of snow, I decided to stay on the West Coast. I’m fascinated by the creative development process, and get excited/jealous when I read about great “why didn’t I think of that?” movie ideas. I’ve written a few movies, which are all still toiling in good ol’ development. If forced to pick some favorite films, I’d have to include a double-feature of The Graduate and Harold and Maude, though I also have a particular affinity for 1980s comedies (Tootsie, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, and Heathers among the obvious greats).

I’m thrilled to be a part of SAGindie and look forward to lending my support to those courageous souls known as independent filmmakers.

 

NYC: You’re Invited to the Minority Independent Producers Summit! Sponsored by HBO

SAGIndie — Friday, June 20th, 2014

Join us June 25th – 27th for our inaugural Minority Independent Producers Summit (MIPS) where you’ll have a chance to network with industry professionals and experts in the areas of financing, production, and distribution.

Featured speakers and panelists have worked with organizations including the Tribeca Film Institute, Producers Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, Independent Filmmaker Project, SAG-AFTRA, and New York Women in Film and Television.

Our mission is to increase the diversity of minority independent producers and content creators in the worlds of film, television and digital online industries today.

We aim to be an advocate for increased participation by independent producers from underrepresented communities such as those of color, LGBT, women and those with disabilities.

This year’s panelists include:

Lisa Cortes: Executive Producer – Precious (2009), In the Summer Pavilion (2014)

Rachel Watanabe-Batton: Vice Chair – Producers Guild of America, East

Terence Nance: Writer/Director – An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2013)

Amy Dotson: Head of Programming – IFP

View more at mipsummit.com

Click below to register:

mipsummit.com/registration

Use the discount code to access our promotional discount: mipsnyo_disc14

Limited availability remaining.

SAG FOUNDATION LA SHORT FILM SHOWCASE AUGUST 2014 – SEEKING SUBMISSIONS

SAGIndie — Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

POSTMARK DEADLINE EXTENSION 06/09

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation is now accepting submissions from filmmakers residing in all states west of the Mississippi for its August 2014 Short Film Showcase.

POSTMARK DEADLINE EXTENSION: Monday, June 9th. All entries postmarked after that date will be placed in contention for our April 2015 event.  If you submitted to the SAG Foundation NY showcase, you are ineligible to submit to the LA showcase.

Webseries produced under a union contract are also eligible for consideration.

There is no entry fee, nor is there a cost to attend the screening, which is held in Los Angeles, twice a year.

All shorts MUST be produced under a SAG Short Film, SAG Student Agreement or SAG-AFTRA New Media contract, not run more than 20 minutes, including credits – no exceptions, and be completed films. Previous submitted films are eligible for re-submission.

The showcase is open to all types of cinematic expression, and is designed to encourage union members, and others, to create their own projects. In addition to the screening, the evening includes a Q+A with the directors and producers, and an opportunity to network with those in attendance.

Filmmakers may submit a regular DVD copy of their film – no Blu-Ray, please — which should be clearly labeled with a title, email contact address and the project’s SAG production number to:

SAG FOUNDATION SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
5757 Wilshire Blvd. #124
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Questions regarding your production number please call the SAG-AFTRA office at 323-954-1600. For any other questions please email liferaft@sagfoundation.org

MORE INFO HERE: http://sagfoundation.org/losangelesshortfilmshowcase

We are accepting shorts from filmmakers currently residing from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

DOs and DON’Ts on AUDITIONING from DIRECTOR JARED DRAKE

Will Prescott — Friday, April 25th, 2014

jared drake and ryan mccann

Director JARED DRAKE is no stranger to bringing unique characters to life, and he will be the first to tell you casting the right actor is the key to pulling it off. One look at his indie hit VISIONEERS, and it’s easy to see how casting was vital to making it all work. The dream ensemble included Zach Galifianakis (long before HANGOVER fame), Judy Greer, Missi Pyle, James LeGros, and D.W. Moffett who each had their own spin on characters that were, arguably, a major contribution to the critical-acclaim of the project.

That said, it does take a talented team (typically the director, casting director, and producers) to be confident enough to pull the trigger on what they hope will be a homerun performance.

Jared is hard at work on his next feature, MACK LUSTER (a VISIONEERS spinoff of sorts with RYAN McCANN reprising his iconic role of Mack), which has recently launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign (see the pitch video below). With the casting process currently underway, he was more than willing to share some advice for actors looking to nail that audition.

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I love auditions. An endless stream of actors, all shapes and sizes, filing in and out, bringing to life characters I’ve spent years with in my head with fresh ideas, angles, and perspectives that I never could’ve dreamed of. And most actors are polite, longing for a chance to invest their heart and soul into a project. This makes every audition a huge honor from the second the door opens.

But then the door closes.

And from that moment on there is no telling what direction the audition will take. To help define what makes one audition more rewarding than others, I’ve compiled a list of helpful Dos and Don’ts for actors when they audition.

DO: Own it.
When an actor walks into the room with an attitude that says “I have an idea for this character I can’t wait to show you,” I get the chills. I want an actor that makes choices, and comes with all they have. That knows who they are and will take what is written, apply it, and bring it. To show me “this is what I can and will do for this role and if it’s not a fit, it wasn’t meant to be.” And chances are, if you make a strong enough choice, I’ll remember you for future projects. I have cast actors based on choices they made in auditions for past projects. Make a strong, clear decision about what YOU can bring to the role. It leaves an impression. And impressions are good.

DON’T: Tell us the character needs more lines.
Then come with suggestions. Seriously, this happens a lot. And I’m always shocked when it does. If you’re already angling to get more lines, it tells me your interests are not to service the movie, but to service yourself.

DO: Get off book.
I know it is impossible to do with multiple auditions a day, but for those important roles, come in off book. It doesn’t look needy. It looks prepared. I absolutely love this and give huge bonus points for anyone taking the time to get organized. It tells me you’ll be ready to shoot when it comes time to roll camera.

DON’T: Tell us that you can do anything, it just depends on what we want.
This isn’t a one size fits all sort of business. And, maybe, we don’t know what we want for this one liner bit part and are hoping to be inspired through casting. I know this sounds sucky, but sometimes it is the truth. Show us what you got and what you can bring to the role, and we’ll decide if it’s something we can shape the character into.

DO: Say you love the material.
I know it’s dorky, but kissing up does leave a mark no matter how badly we want to admit it doesn’t. Think about it, at this stage in process, we’re probably caught up in rewrites with a million people telling us what they think should change in the script, struggling to digest the vague comments and wrangle them into something coherent…so it’s nice to hear from someone, anyone, that the material is great! Then, before you leave, thank us and tell us it was the one of the coolest auditions you’ve been on all week.

DON’T: Be a broken record.
We give you a massive adjustment that completely changes the direction of the audition, and you do the exact same thing you did before. This happens more times than not. When a director gives you an adjustment, they’re either testing you to see how well you take direction or they genuinely want to see it played a different way. In either case, failing to try something new is goodbye because it tells us you’re blocked and won’t be able to react to the environment once the camera is rolling. So do something… anything… except for what you just did. Flip that switch, and flip it HARD.

DO: Calm our nerves.
Yup, we get nervous just like you do! If the director is in the room, comfort them by thanking them for an adjustment they give you or telling them their approach to the character is solid. Again, dorky. But the more comfortable we are with you in the casting room, the more comfortable we think we will all be on set together and better your chances of being hired when it is down to you and some self-centered jerk.

DON’T: Don’t tell us you’re nervous.
We know you are. Everyone is. Those who don’t make an issue out of it now likely won’t make an issue out of it when they’re in front of the crew and on camera. Keep your nerves to yourself. We’re all freaked out! Oh…and don’t tell us you would be more prepared if things weren’t so screwy at home or you didn’t have to run ten errands that morning. If we’re casting, the rest of my day is probably composed of putting out small fires with producers, financiers, clients, or department heads over logistics. The last thing I need is to hear about your baggage.

DO: Start yourself over in the middle of an off reading.
I love this. I know some argue against it. But all the best actors I’ve ever worked with have some sort of governor on their acting engine that tells them when they’re off and how to fix it. It tells me there is a tangible set of tools there to work with, and you won’t need hand-holding through every line. Just don’t let it happen more than once…and when you do start over, it better rock!

DON’T: Don’t be a talker.
Engage with us, but if you’re droning on after your audition and we start checking emails, it’s probably time to leave. There is a fine line between communicating who you are and making us fear that you’re going to be a nuisance on set. There is nothing that bugs me more than a crew or cast member that can’t see when I have a million things running through my head and, for whatever reason, think it’s a great time to tell me a ten minute story about their cat.

DO: Believe in yourself.
The last thing I want to reiterate to every actor out there is that we are all rooting for you. Every single time an actor walks through the door, there is promise. And I always catch myself holding my breath hoping they’re going to blow it out of the water. We are your friend. All we want is for you to succeed.

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If you found this article helpful, make sure you check out Jared Drake’s latest project MACK LUSTER or learn more about Jared at jaredDdrake.com. If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or filmmaking related business we should interview, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.

FILMMAKER UPDATE: FIGHT CHURCH Producers EBEN KOSTBAR & JOSEPH MCKELHEER

Will Prescott — Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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A few years ago we interviewed indie Producers EBEN KOSTBAR & JOSEPH MCKELHEER about their critically-acclaimed film THE HAMMER– the true story of deaf UFC Fighter Matt Hamill. The film has enjoyed an amazing journey while inspiring many along the way and now, Eben and Joe have stepped back into the world of mixed martial arts with their latest project, FIGHT CHURCH (trailer below).

FIGHT CHURCH is a feature-length documentary about the confluence of Christianity and mixed martial arts, including ministries which train fighters. The film follows several pastors and popular fighters in their quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that many consider violent and barbaric. Faith is tried and questions are raised. Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then punch him in the face?

The film is directed by BRYAN STORKEL and Academy Award Winner, DANIEL JUNGE. This is Daniel’s follow-up film to SAVING FACE, which won an Oscar in 2012.

FIGHT CHURCH premieres tonight in Boston at the Independent Film Festival of Boston (a festival SAGindie is very proud to be a sponsor of). The doc is also scheduled to screen at the Nashville and Maryland Film Festivals.

For tickets to the premiere screening tonight at IFFB, go HERE.

For more info visit FIGHTCHURCHFILM.COM.

FREE PANEL: MAKE it (INDIE) in MASS at IFFB

SAGIndie — Thursday, April 24th, 2014

iffb_2014

If you’re in Massachusetts and/or attending Independent Film Festival Boston this year, make sure you check out the panel “Make it (Indie) in Mass” featuring SAGindie’s Eliza Hajek on Saturday, April 26th at 12:00PM.

Moderator:

  • Mike Bowes, Producer of RUBBERNECK (IFFBoston 2012)

Panelists:

  • Lisa Strout (Mass Film Office)
  • Lyda Kuth (LEF Foundation)
  • Eliza Hajek (SagIndie)

Description:

Who says only Hollywood blockbusters get made here? Filming in Massachusetts is a great deal at any budget. Find out all you need to know about applying for the tax incentive, working with unions, and the differences between shooting docs vs. narratives.

MORE DETAILS HERE.

10 TIPS FOR DIRECTING A MICRO BUDGET MOVIE from FILMMAKER PAUL OSBORNE

Will Prescott — Thursday, April 17th, 2014

paul_osborne_favor

If you haven’t already heard of, or run into, filmmaker PAUL OSBORNE somewhere along the way, don’t sweat it because the odds are you will. A champion of indie film and a staple along the festival circuit, Paul has been making a successful go of it in the industry for a while now.

In addition to contributing articles for Moviemaker Magazine, Film Threat, and Ted Hope’s blog Hope for Film, he’s the driving force behind indie gems TEN ‘TIL NOON, OFFICIAL REJECTION, and most recently the critically-acclaimed thriller FAVOR (killer trailer below), which will be hitting iTunes and Cable VOD on April 22nd from Gravitas Ventures.

No stranger to making things happen on a shoestring budget, we asked Paul for some advice on directing micro budget productions that don’t suffer from a lack of quality. Lucky for us (and you), he was kind enough to share some of his secrets.

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1. Shoot Quickly and Efficiently. Shooting a movie is the most expensive part of any production, and if you’re making a micro-budget flick (defined as anything with a cost of $50,000 or below), it’s critical to get the most out of the time the cameras are rolling as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to shoot as fast as you can without significantly impacting quality. When we made my movie FAVOR, our mantra was “write it like art, prep it like art, cast it like art, rehearse it like art, cut it like art… but shoot it like exploitation.”

The trick is to be prepared, know what you want, have your priorities in order… and follow the rest of this list.

2. Rehearse Your Actors During Pre-Production. When you make a small film, it’s vital to get good performances – after all, there are no giant CGI robots or superheroes to distract the audience if the actors suck. But sussing out the nature of a scene or the layers of a character takes time, and when you’re shooting you don’t have a lot to play with. So, I suggest doing extensive rehearsals (with the actors who are willing to participate) in the weeks leading up to your start date. Not only will your performers be fully primed when they finally step in front of the camera, you’ll have likely already developed an all-important shorthand with them as well.

3. Schedule Each Day Yourself. You may have an assistant director, production manager or producer willing to do it for you, but I suggest taking on this task personally. Having rehearsed your actors, only you know which ones are slow to warm to a scene, which are good to go right when they arrive and which burn out quickly. Only you can decide which pages should be given more attention than others, and if they’re calling lunch in ten minutes, whether it’s worth squeezing in one more take or breaking early. Additionally, if things have to be shifted around, you’ll be so familiar with the plan you won’t have to call a meeting to figure it out – you’ll simply know what to do.

4. Be the Hardest Working Person on Set. Directing a movie, even a micro-budget one, is a privilege. Yes, it means you have all the responsibility on your shoulders, but in a director-driven medium it also means you have the most to gain. It’s a given you should treat every member of your cast and crew with kindness, dignity and respect, but it’s also important to demonstrate this by working harder than any of them. You should be the first one there, the last one getting food, the first one back from lunch and the last one to leave after wrap. The crew will not only feel appreciated, they’ll also work harder just to try and keep up with you.

5. Make Decisions Fast. Your cast and crew are looking to you to steer the ship, and the confidence they have in you is directly proportional to the mood on set. Making decisions quickly will give the illusion you know what the hell you’re doing, even if you don’t. As strange as this is to say, it’s often better to make a quick decision rather than the best decision as long as it keeps the shoot moving forward.

6. Feed Your Crew Well. It doesn’t matter what your budget range is or how much you pay the crew – if you don’t feed people well, they will revolt. This doesn’t mean the food has to be expensive – on FAVOR, our producer often cooked for everyone, and craft service consisted of whatever was on sale at Costco. On a day-to-day basis, quality meals are more important than good wages. I’ve seen volunteer crews toil endlessly on full bellies and well-paid ones walk because they were served leftover curry for the sixth straight day.

7. No Task is Beneath You. Yes, a director is generally the highest authority on set, but you’re not above the crew – you’re a member of it. If you’re sitting on your ass and everyone else is working, you’re doing it wrong. Get up, move a light, clean up the paper plates from lunch, steam the shirts in wardrobe…You owe it to your movie, and it sends a positive message to everyone else.

8. Protect Your Actors When They Fail. Sometimes actors come to set not knowing all their lines, or aren’t in the right headspace, or are just tired. Even the most professional performers can have an off-day, and calling them out on it is only going to make it worse. If a performer just isn’t hitting it, your best bet is to invent some “technical adjustment” so they can step aside and collect themselves without any attention placed on the fact that they need to. Remember that actors have to expose a part of themselves in order to do their job, so it’s your job to make them feel safe enough to do it.

9. Limit the Toys. Lighting a scene can often take a long time. Want it to go faster? Have fewer lights. Would you like to streamline the time it takes for your cinematographer to set up a shot? Limit the number of lenses available. If there are a lot of toys on set, your technical people will want to play with them, so if you’re shooting on a tight schedule and an even tighter budget, it’s wise to limit the gear to the essentials. Just make sure the gear you do have can do the job.

10. Enjoy Your Difficulties. After a particularly grueling day during the production of my first feature, TEN ‘TIL NOON, I vented to my wife about some of the issues we were having on set – our first A.D. was wildly disorganized, our cinematographer was lazy and sneaking off to watch Pay-Per-View movies between set-ups, one of our actors kept trying to rewrite his dialogue. When I finished my rant, she smiled and said, “You’re lucky you get to have these problems. Enjoy them.”

BONUS PARTING THOUGHT. We don’t get to do this everyday. Movies aren’t made, they’re forced into existence, so when you finally get one going and are facing the difficulties that invariably present themselves, take a moment to savor the fact that you have them. It doesn’t make these problems go away, of course, but at least for me, it makes tackling them a whole lot easier.

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You can pre-order Paul Osborne’s film FAVOR on iTunes now and keep tabs on his projects by following him on twitter at @PaulMakesMovies. If you’re an independent filmmaker or know of an independent filmmaker or filmmaking related business we should interview, email blogadmin@sagindie.org for consideration.