Prior to getting my own features off the ground, I worked for an indie producer in New York City. I took the gig because I wanted to uncover “feature filmmaking secrets.” I worked in development, which meant I read screenplays and wrote reports about the material, called coverage.
During my tenure, I received countless query letters from unknown filmmakers and screenwriters asking for meetings. Many had a great idea for a film or a screenplay. But they needed help with funding and producing. This scenario often represented too much of a risk for our small company, so we passed.
I also observed something interesting. The filmmakers who got meetings didn’t actually need our permission to make a film. These were people set on feature filmmaking with or without us.
5 Feature Filmmaking Secrets Every Filmmaker Should Know
For years, you have dreamed about becoming a feature filmmaker and seeing your work on the big screen. You know you’re good. So why ask for permission? The day you stop sending query letters and instead, you start producing your own work will feel awesome.
Here 5 feature filmmaking secrets to help get you going.
1. Have a well defined log-line for your project. Seriously. Most first time indie producers settle for a simple character driven story. But the story is always confusing. So here is the test, if you can not explain your story with the use of a simple log line, something is off. Fix the log line now. You’ll need it for your marketing later.
2. Everything in your screenplay costs money. So if your passion project is too expensive, write something based on locations in your neighborhood. Your true genius will come from your ability to tell a compelling story, not your budget.
3. Ice, Snow, Rain, Sun, dogs, lighting bolts and children have always been a challenge to predict. If you include any of these elements in your story, I guarantee that setups that should take minutes will take days. Avoid these elements if possible.
4. As soon as you decide to produce and possibly direct your movie, hire a seasoned Production Manager to work with you. They will read your script. They will tell you that your movie will cost way more than you think, and they will help you alter the story to meet your budget constraints. Managing the budget is their job. Respect it. Then ask your PM if they know a great 1st AD. (They will!)
5. Hire a GREAT First Assistant Director. Not some film school kid either. Pay the money. Build a relationship. The First AD will be the commanding general of your production. They will build off the production manager’s budget and schedule the movie. The 1st AD keeps the production on time.
These steps will provide you with a good starting point. Once you have your script, PM and your 1st AD, you will find that your project will start to gain momentum. Finish your feature and people will start sending you query letters. Download my filmmaker checklist.