In Britain all the film talk is about a low-budget film that’s been breaking UK box-office records. I think it offers some lessons on how to make a successful indie film.
It’s “The Inbetweeners,” featuring characters from the three-season TV show of the same name. That’s three of the UK version of seasons: a total of 18 episodes. The show was successful, but at the end of the 18 the creators and cast felt they couldn’t go on without repeating themselves. (Yes, they do things differently over here…). There’s a US version in production for MTV.
The show and the film feature four young guys: one nerd, one likeable but not very bright guy, one bullshitter who claims great familiarity with the female of the species but is a virgin, and one relatively normal guy with a major crush on a girl who is a social level or two above him.
Lesson One: It helps if you have a variety of characters so your audience can identify with at least one—or see their friends reflected in them. Of course it works best if your group is realistic, not thrown together for audience appeal. Adolescent boys do hang out in little cliques, although maybe typically they’re not quite as mixed as this one.
The stories are all based on highly-embarrassing adolescent moments, many of them gross (vomiting, nudity, farting, etc.). The film takes the boys off to a cheap holiday in the sunshine to get very drunk and try to score with girls there.
Lesson Two: As with the characters, plots in which the audience can find their own experience reflected are appealing. The Inbetweeners reminds us of our own horrible teen, with the advantage that probably ours were never as embarrassing as the ones we see here
The movie has even more gross moments than the series, and that has made it a huge hit with the teen audience.
Lesson Three: Comic or dramatic set-pieces are great because they feed word of mouth. The more that people are likely to say, “You have to see the scene in which–”,the better.
Naturally the film benefitted hugely from already having a loyal audience via the TV series. Shortly before the film was released, there also was a TV special of a road trip the actors took for charity, in which they had to visit as many places with rude names as possible in a limited amount of time. They travelled in the rust-bucket Fiat Cinquecento featured in the series and although they used their real names they behaved pretty much in tune with their characters (fart jokes, etc.).
Lesson Four: The more you can pre-build an audience, the better. Of course having a successful TV series is a huge task in itself, but it’s also possible to create a web series, maybe some events that tie in to a charity, and so forth, to build up awareness.
If you’re not easily offended, have a look at the series and/or the film. You can buy the series DVD or watch it on YouTube. In my opinion, they both demonstrate lesson five:
Lesson Five: It really helps if the product is good.
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Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of TV, several TV movies, the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz” starring Kelsey Grammer, and has been a script doctor on films starring Eddie Murphy, Kim Catrall, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau and others. His plays have been produced in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles. He is the author of 9 books including “Your Writing Coach” and “Creativity Now.” If you would like to find out more about “The Seven Things That Are Stopping You From Writing And How To Overcome Them,” check out Jurgen’s screenwriting website: www.ScreenWritingSuccess.com