As independent filmmakers, we’re required to wear many hats and find creative ways to get our stories to the screen, while working with a limited crew and strict budget constraints. So, what does the filmmaking process look like? And how can you use opportunities like film festival competitions to generate buzz and find success once you’ve wrapped?
We’re turning to past panelists and esteemed filmmakers for some advice on small-budget storytelling, taking your film from page to production to post, and the right steps to take to get your story out there.
Here are five tips for mastering the filmmaking process from these major Hollywood players who got their start in the world of independent film:
1. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER
You don’t have to wait for someone else to empower you as creators. You can work together with people that you already know who have skills that augment your own. You can make your own projects. You don’t have to wait for someone like me or someone else in Hollywood or New York to annoy you. You can do it yourself, and with the proliferation of film festivals and companies that are buying online for streaming, you can absolutely be a filmmaker yourself by putting the right team together.
-Gale Anne Hurd (executive producer The Walking Dead, Armageddon, Aliens; producer/co-writer The Terminator) at AFF 2017
2. ASSEMBLE A CREW YOU CAN RELY ON
Making movies is a really unique experience. It’s like summer camp on steroids almost, because you get so close to the people that you’re making this movie with…they’re going to see the best of you, and they’re going to see the worst of you, and it’s really important to feel comfortable with the people you’re working with…you need to know that the people, this family that you’re putting together, that they’re going to take care of you and you’re going to take care of them.
-Jeff Nichols (writer/director Loving, Midnight Special, Mud, Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories) at AFF 2016
3. KEEP MOVING FORWARD
At the end of the day, I think it still comes down to making quality work, whether it looks fancy or polished or not, and the work itself is going to show through that. The problem is…there’s so much of it. That’s difficult and that is going to be something that feels insurmountable, but I think just sticking to it…if you’re one of the filmmakers who’s like, “Okay, I got rejected, but I’m going to make another one,” that’s the way to continue—and to make it.
-David Lowery (writer/director A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pioneer; writer Pit Stop) at AFF 2013
4. EMBRACE YOUR MEDIUM
You need to embrace the aesthetic of whatever medium you choose or you’re stuck with. You can shoot a movie on film, or you can shoot one on your iPhone. Just embrace the aesthetic, know what it’s good at, know what it’s not good at, and make that work for you.
-Sarah Green (producer The Tree of Life, Loving, Midnight Special, Fahrenheit 451) at AFF 2016
5. GET YOUR FILM OUT THERE
Really, it’s getting the movies out to the festivals, and then, also, to the critics. We really do need critics to help us, and I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing. We love that process, going to the festivals, getting the critics on your side, because it’s saying, “Hey, here’s an event for film. We can still do this without big people and big stars. This really can still happen.” Is it rare? Yeah, it’s rare, but it can happen with the right support.
-Kim Jose (producer Precious, The Harvest, All the Real Girls, The Phenom) at AFF 2004
Visit onstory.tv for a closer look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and filmmakers.
Interested in submitting your film for consideration? The late deadline for our Film Competition is this Friday June 28. Submit your film by 11:59pm PST before the price increases. Accepted films will screen at the 26th Annual Austin Film Festival with opportunities for the winning films to receive distribution deals and industry exposure. For more information or to submit your film, click here.