I have been writing scripts just shy of a year now and loving it. No one told me what I was getting into when I decided to sit in the producer’s seat for my own short. Taking the leap from writer to producer taught me a great deal about the elements of writing while I simultaneously took a crash course in filmmaking. The beauty of this lesson in writing is that I didn’t have to type a word, other than the script of course. Think you want to improve your writing skills while trying your hand at film producing? Here are a few things I learned that you might consider:
Stage one: Acquiring a script. So, unless you are a scriptwriter you are going to want to acquire a script and seek out permissions from the writer to produce said project. This can seem like an easy task but while sitting in the producers seat I had the opportunity to lend my ear to other producers in the biz who have confessed it’s not enough for you to have a bunch of words on a piece of paper and call it a script, by George, so to speak.
There had better be something more to Mary shooting Damian than the simple fact that she was pissed off. She had better have a motive for said action, and that motive better draw the viewer in. That is to say, you’ve got to have a compelling plot or no one, not even and not especially the producer, is going to think twice about putting your script on the big screen.
Rule Number two: There are no hard and fast rules about producing your first short other than: thou shalt fake it ‘til you maketh it. That’s right, get your director’s and indie filmmakers books, big boots and blogs out now and keep them handy. You will learn hard and fast that you are not just the producer of your film, you are sometimes also the catering service, the electrician on the set, the improv audio person, grip, DOP and so forth until your services for yourself are no longer required.
If you are lucky you either have a big budget and great insurance or a great group of people on your cast and crew. Releases will cover a lot of potential problems so make sure you print them up and get them signed by all involved. And before getting craft services check if anyone has any special diet requirements.
Rule no. 3: It’s a wrap does not mean the hard work is done. Well, it does for the cast and the most of the crew but understand you still have a film to edit now and that means you will either want to have your own software and be proficient at your own video editing or know someone else who does this and does this well that you can count on. And write up those special credits and thanks starting now so in case you forget anyone in the first round you will hopefully notice be the time edits are almost done.
Rule no.4. You may not have your cake and eat it too, so to speak (I like Black Forest) you must keep writing, or whatever it is you do for a living while your film goes through the final production stages. And when that is done, there’s the marketing for your short. You’ll need stills from your footage to design movie posters and if you don’t have a huge budget them social media can be your best friend. Pump word out to those you know of your upcoming production and count on them to share the word with others of your project. Say It Once More With Feeling, Sparta 2016 #Ahem, friends.
Rule #5. If you don’t like producing you can keep your day job. What I like about writing, is that it’s not producing. It’s the creative process over the technical, the artistic over the directorial. It is engaging the heart and mind with a medium other than the screen. It results in something that can be shared with audiences who will no doubt give honest, critical feedback. It can help you learn about their experience of watching your work and the work of countless hard working talented individuals who helped your script come alive #SayItOnceMoreWithFeeling #Thanksguys! At the same time, it will show you where the plot holes may or may not be in your script, viewing the edits shows you where the acting was so good it made you cry and you’ll remember to bring a bunch of tissue to hand out for the after party no doubt. Audience reactions are something great to anticipate. They come from somewhere personal, where a connection was or wasn’t made with the viewer. Learning how and why people react the way they do to receiving or rejecting a film is much more personal experience than reading a review of one’s work on the internet. I’m looking forward to audience feedback this March 6th at Rainbow Cinemas.
Rule #6 if you do like producing you can always consider making more movies in the future.
I’m overdue to see The Fault in our Stars, so I may just bake a chocolate cake now and have it too. Because, I can. Writing my next script can wait for morning.