Before "Action" you have to have lights and camera...
So you've got your screenplay written and registered, and you want to independently produce it. I applaud you, because it's both one of the scariest and most interesting things you can do. But, this is sadly where we really get into “there is no universal handbook” territory. I wish there was. The fact of the matter is you've really got to be smart, play it by ear, and be open to every possibility. But I'll detail what we've done, if it helps.
First, start with a goal. What do you want to do with this movie? Aim as high as you can, is my advice. Don't do anything crazy that puts you in dire legal or financial straights, but aim high and do everything you can to get there. For me, I wanted to make a beautiful movie about subjects I loved. The more I thought about Lost Creek, the more my vision started to take shape. I knew what the world I wanted to make was. I knew what it looked like.
A while ago, I was working in a book shop in New York City to pay the bills. There, I stumbled across the work of artist and photographer Gregory Crewdson, and immediately became enthralled with his pictures. He presented dilapidated suburban nowhere in a Hopper-esque way that was at once mundane, almost tawdry, and yet also hauntingly beautiful and somewhat disturbing. While we were not going quite as darkly sad as Crewdson, that was what I wanted Lost Creek to look like.
You also need practical goals. For me, it was to take Lost Creek as far as I could possibly go. Maybe distribution deal. Maybe at least get into a room with someone who might be interested in other work I have. I want to write and direct movies, and Lost Creek is intended to be the calling card. Definitely, I want it at least to go to the festivals. So those are my goals. Create a beautiful movie so I can tell a story that's important to me, and take it as far as it will go.
NEVER BURN A BRIDGE. As you'll see, you never know when you'll make that crucial connection that makes your movie possible. For me, I initially had a problem. When I had the idea for Lost Creek and decided I was serious about producing it, I had been a working playwright, director, and producer for a year and a half. I knew plays, and how to make them. I did not, however, know exactly how to make a movie happen. Moreover, I was trained as an actor, stage manager, and theatre person. While I had worked as an actor and crewmember on films in the past and knew the basics of how one was supposed to run, I knew next to nothing about operating a camera, or what camera was good to buy. I needed a crew. But I didn't know anybody.
That's the crux. To make a movie is expensive. VERY expensive. And I don't have that kind of money. Which means that I need a team.
My philosophy has always been: in order to make a living in the arts, you cannot work alone. You must find a group of talented, creative people who you care about and trust, and together you will face all of the terrible difficulties that the professional arts world presents. Together, you make it happen.
I happened to be working as an actor on a show in Baltimore. While there, I met a girl named Elizabeth, and we became friends. In the process, I learned her boyfriend Kevin was a young, eager cinematographer with his own amazing camera. That was the beginning. I pitched my idea to Elizabeth, and she pitched it to Kevin. Kevin sent me examples of his work which I LOVED. His sensibility perfectly fit the world I imagined for Lost Creek. Also, Kevin turned out to be an awesome guy, and I liked him immediately. So I started to put together my team, I would direct and executive produce. Later, from the same play I met an amazing Baltimore artist named Katie, who agreed to come on board as art director, and also to create beautiful original promotional material for us. I added an FX/Makeup artist I met through a project I helped out on, Emily would be my writing adviser, co-producer, and costume person, Elizabeth agreed to help work on the soundtrack, Kevin was DP, my friend Sky came on as AD, my friend Brad agreed to be script supervisor, my friend Dan agreed to help me produce, etc. I had no idea when I started working on that play that I'd find half the crew there. Indeed, that play made the film possible. So always keep open.
That's how I do it. Find everyone you know whose work you love, and are people you love, and bring them together. It means that the work will be amazing, and you'll have a BLAST making it with them.
So you've got your vision, your script, and you're putting together your team. What next?
MONEY. We all knew it was coming, but we'll tackle it in the next entry. See you next time!