Robert Rodriguez is back in the spotlight with Alita: Battle Angel, and this reminded me of something I saw years ago. His “10 Minute Film School”, it changed my life then and has stuck with me ever since.
A lot of us dream of becoming successful filmmakers. When we first start out we try to learn as much as we can online, some of us are lucky to find ourselves on a set, and even less of us find ourselves getting paid to be on set. We might buy some entry level gear, a camera, a sound recording kit, some lights or some other on set profession. We try to catch on working for free and learning what we can. We find other filmmakers online on platforms like Instagram or Twitter and follow those people who inspire us and have been successful. Just like all other professions, there are school educated filmmakers and school of hard knocks filmmakers. Funny thing about this business is most of us all start in the same place. At the bottom. You may want to be a director, a DP, a sound mixer or Producer. But you will find yourself with no on set experience and looking for any project that you can find to work on. Most of us start as a Production Assistant. The lowest person on the totem pole. Some rise higher than others, faster than others but the ones that climb to the top are the ones that persevere. I started on set as a sound assistant, then a boom op, then a sound mixer, then a producer, then as a director. I found that I love producing. I also love sound mixing. So I continue to do both. It has taken nearly 10 years to find a solid footing in the film making world. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. But like most professions, you work for other people. You get tired with always taking orders. You see ways that things can be approved upon. That’s when I decided I wanted to branch out on my own and make my own film.
We are all different and unique, we are all in a different place financially, educationally and professionally, and that’s the beauty of it. Some of us are writers, directors, and some producers. Some of us find ourselves wearing multiple hats when figuring out how you’ll start your first project. How to get the funding together? Who you are going to collaborate with? Where are you going to shoot? What camera to shoot with? I would ask you to stop for a moment and think about your story. Ask yourself what kind of story is best suited for you to tell. Who is your target audience? The story that you are so passionate about is also as unique as the person you are. Remember, we are all unique. You could have 5 different film makers make the same script and we would have 5 completely different versions of the same story. You are no different. And no matter what anyone tells you, there is no right or wrong way to make a movie as long as you do it legally and put peoples safety in the forefront. Techniques are like opinions. Everyone has one and likes what they like. You can’t please all the people all the time.
In todays world you don’t need $500,000 to shoot your film, you need a desire and drive to make the best possible product you can with what you have at your disposal. When Nathan and I set out to make our first movie, all we had was creativity, vision, passion and a drive to make a film that we could be proud to share with the world. We (I mean Nathan) read dozens of scripts but we couldn’t find one that met our standards or fit our ideal of what we could honestly produce with our budget. So, we kind of hit what we saw as a roadblock. But what we saw as a roadblock, D’Lytha Myers (Nathans Wife) saw as an opportunity. Unbeknownst to myself or Nathan, D’Lytha had decided to write the script for us. I got a call from Nathan one day. He told me he had a script. Sent it over and I was blown away. Not that I was surprised. D’Lytha only has a Masters degree in Theatre and about 20 years of experience in front of the camera and on stage. But that’s how Aria Appleton was born, out of necessity and desire. It was not a decision we made quickly or lightly. We took years to get to the point of rolling camera. Nate and D sold their house and one of their cars. My wife and I made budget concessions in our lives to make it happen. Together we called in every favor we had with all the people we knew. We begged and bartered. We looked under every rock for locations, props, equipment and crew. We asked friends and family for help. We called local restaurants for discounted meals to feed our cast and crew with. We had faith, we moved our feet, we knocked on doors and we made a movie. You can find a glimpse of it here: www.ariaappleton.com
With all that being said, we are still in the process of finding distribution. We have some very good leads at the moment and are very eager to see where they take us. The hard part is making the film, and making it well and getting a finished product that you are happy with and you think will find an audience. I think we have done this. But we have never settled and will not start now. We are as determined today as we were when we started this journey. The race is still being ran and we will finish. I firmly believe that the hardest thing to do is start something and see it to the end. I see many projects get started, some get finished but most of them never see the light of day because they are rushed and hurried. You have to take your time, do it to the best of your ability and learn from your mistakes. You are the only person stopping yourself from being what you want to be. Wake up and make the conscience choice to be that.
Do everything in love and with kindness. Treat others with respect. Always tell the truth and remember the God loves you.
I hope you enjoy this first blog post.
Finally, You are what you say you are. In the words of Robert Rodriguez, “You want to be a filmmaker? Wrong!! You are a filmmaker!”