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Break the rules. Truth and lies in filmmaking.



You know, I sat down earlier and spewed out a long, rambling blog about something, and I realised that the point of it all was lost in the weeds of my own frustration. So instead, I've stripped it all back, and decided to make this a little simpler.

The thing is, I followed a couple of links on Twitter to 'How To Make Films' type posts by people who, essentially, make money from teaching Filmmaking 101. Personally, I don't have a problem with that. I think it's really, really important, and that plenty of the advice out there is really helpful. 

But there's a heap of disingenuous crap being peddled, and much of it is hindering filmmakers (rather than helping them). Basically, without saying that they're completely out and out wrong, I just didn't think it was all quite honest advice. And like I said, this was coming from more than one outlet.

Maybe it's just me (and secretly, I hope it is), but the 'steps to making your film' advice was just all a little, well, vanilla.

I suppose it's because to somebody coming in, looking to these respected voices, if you follow step A, B and C, and pay for this course and that book, you'll be the next James Cameron... Of course, nothing is impossible (this is why we're in film), but the truth, I suspect, is much closer to my reality.

This is what I mean (and again, this is just one filmmaker's take on it all):

The route as described (heinously simplified):
  • Write a script. 
  • Get a development deal.
  • Raise the money.
  • Shoot the film. Make it fucken awesome.
  • Go to the big film festivals.
  • Sell your film. 
  • It'll be a blockbuster.
  • Get rich and famous and do blow off the thighs of hookers. 
My experience (again, heinously simplified):
  • Write a script.
  • Try to make it.
  • Fail for a million reasons (mostly your own inexperience).
  • Write another script.
  • Shoot it on the rent money.
  • Enter tons of film festivals (big and small).
  • Make one.
  • Approach a TON of distributors.
  • Go to LA.
  • Get thrown out of a studio HQ. 
  • Hustle. 
  • Find a distributor.
  • Sell the film.
  • Get screwed.
  • Write another screenplay. This one will be the best so far.
  • Hustle.
  • Get a development deal.
  • Lose the development deal.
  • Hustle.
  • Get to know actors who want to be in it.
  • Hustle.
  • Get a new development deal.
  • Lose actors.
  • Get starved on the development deal.
  • Refuse to trade in your integrity.
  • Get screwed again. Only harder this time.
  • Slowly starve.
  • Hustle.
  • Shoot a film on even less money than before in New York on a Flip.
  • Hustle.
  • Enter one film festival.
  • Hustle.
  • Sell the film.
  • Win an award.
  • Hustle.
  • Set up your own screenings.
  • Hustle.
  • Push for the release. Expect to get screwed.
  • Hustle.
  • Go back to the one you were working on before.
  • Hustle.
  • Near exhaust yourself trying to raise the money through private investment and crowd funding.
  • Get humbled by generosity.
  • Work hard to set up the shoot.
  • Watch it fall apart.
  • Pick yourself up.
  • Hustle.
  • Take control of your OWN distribution.
  • Release it yourself.
  • Hustle.
Again, this isn't to say you shouldn't listen to the research and follow the advice, but please, don't believe the bullshit. Your route will be different to everybody elses. And there is nothing wrong with that.

This is not an easy game, and you're going to get your knees grazed, your heart bruised and your sanity questioned. But you didn't get into this to get rich and famous. You did it because you want to tell stories and live a life less ordinary. 

So don't listen when people tell you that to do one thing as opposed to another is a bad idea. It's not. It's your idea. As long as that's what your gut is telling you, then it's the right thing to do. You'll meet a hundred people who all act like they know more than you, but are actually doing less. The best advice I ever got was that it's okay to fuck up. Just fuck up, dust yourself off and be better the next time out. And that's really all filmmakers can do. Because this is a crazy business. Falls and failure are normal and healthy. But you've gotta come back and win. That's the only rule worth following.

And you've gotta earn your stripes, do jobs you hate, and you'll be making all your mistakes publicly.

But then, if you knew this stuff going in, would you really want to be a filmmaker? Welcome to the hustle.