Filming a scene with Hazel Johnson and Carol Miranda for "Year."

Making A New Movie – What’s The Point?

Published On February 5, 2014 | By Mike Carroll | Rant

So many starting-out, wannabe indie filmmakers want to make a movie quickly. In two weeks. Or one week. Or even over the span of a single weekend. Inspired by Roger Corman who cranked out B-Movie drive-in flicks on five-day and ten-day shoots. He even famously made Little Shop of Horrors in two days as an experiment. A film hat has indie movie that has gone down in legend and now holds cult classic status. Although, to be honest, it looks less to me like a movie and closer to an old Dobie Gillis rerun. It should also be noted that Corman almost immediately regretted the project and has gone on record saying that it would have been a much better film if he’d spent at least five-days on it instead.

The big question I pose to filmmakers making any movie is: WHY?

What is the purpose of your film?

There are so many, many movies out there. An average of 4 to 5 new movies are hitting the Cineplexes every Friday. Too many new titles for even most movie critics to keep up with! Certainly too many for the ticket-buying audience, which is dwindling.

The irony here is that there are more movies out there for ticket buyers—and fewer ticket buyers going to the movies.

For independent filmmakers it’s now even tougher because there have never before been so many independent movies. Film festivals are deluged with new movies from new, aspiring and unknown filmmakers. There’s the Sundance Channel and the Independent Film Channel, and who knows what else is out there that I’m not aware of. Not to mention Youtube and Vimeo.

The plain fact is that the vast, vast majority of filmmakers will never become known outside of their own ZIP Codes.

So with seemingly insurmountable odds like that stacked against you from the outset, the question demands to be posed is not: What is the movie you’re making? The real question is:

Why – WHY – are you making a movie?

Are you making it because you want to make a movie and you just know that people are going to want to come and see it – because YOU made the movie?

Do you have something new to say?

Do you REALLY have something NEW to SAY????

There are so many movies made by great filmmakers who I admire that even I still haven’t seen yet. I haven’t seen most of Steven Spielberg’s films from the past fifteen years, or many of Robert Zemeckis’s films. Several of Mel Brooks movies I still have not seen. These are big-name filmmakers who almost anybody reading this would recognize. And, frankly, the movies of theirs that I haven’t seen yet—I DON’T CARE about seeing!!!!!

So if I’m saying this—a big time, lifelong, dedicated movie lover—doesn’t care about seeing films made by truly terrific world-reknown filmmakers, then why should people give a hoot about needing to see a precious movie made by somebody who nobody’s ever heard of?????

– There are too many films in the marketplace.

– Not enough money for investment.

– Certainly not much enough films are showing a return—much less a profit—on their investments.

– The Internet and downloads are doing to movies what Napster did to the record industry.

– Everything is in flux.

This is not to say that a movie made quickly cannot be great. Just look at Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002), shot over the course of a single afternoon, albeit with a great deal of planning, in one single 90-minute take. But that is an example of not simply making a good film. That is an example of making A GREAT FILM.

Read more about Russian Ark here.

Whatever film you are going to make—if you’re going to make a film—if you REALLY HAVE to make a film—

You have to make something special!!!!!

If you’re making a film quickly to prove to yourself that you can do it—as an exercise—that’s one thing. That’s good. A test. To get experience. Explore your strengths and weaknesses. My hat’s off to you in that case.

BUT—

On the other hand—

If you’re making a feature-length film on the quick—and automatically expect it to be good and that will have people clambering to see it—

That is not making film.

That is living in delusion.

But if you are making a super-quick film, then have the audacity to proclaim your work to the world on Kickstarter or Indigogo to raise completion money to finish your film “for distribution”—then you are poisoning the waters for serious filmmakers.

And make no mistake—I do not put myself above this rant.

Admittedly, I realize that I am professionally in a unique opportunity. I have not made many films but I’m using a camera all the time. I shoot TV news for a living, so I’m shooting and editing and having my work seen every day. I get my fix. And I get paid for it. But that is also not exactly the same as making my own original feature films. I get the bug. I have the desire. I’m thinking about the next movie to make all the time.

I made my first feature-length film Year from Fall 2002-Fall 2004 and Nightbeats from Spring 2006-Summer 2009. I’ve been writing books since then, but have wanted to make another film and pecked away at a number of scripts, accumulating anywhere from 30-100 pages on each idea. But nothing had the wow factor for me to want to commit to making them. I think most of them are good ideas and have good development on paper. But with each one I have to ask myself:

Who is going to CARE about this?

WHO is going to see it?

How will I get it out there to an AUDIENCE?

Is this anything NEW?

Does this say ANYTHING we haven’t heard before?

HOW MUCH DO I CARE ABOUT THIS?

Would YOU Watch this if Somebody Else made it????

And what kind of a film can you make in a weekend anyway? A horror film? A gross-out comedy? A buddy road movie?

Does the World REALLY NEED another

Horror film or Gross-Out Comedy

or Buddy Road Movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Over the past couple of years a couple of projects like these have been submitted to me in the effort of getting me to publicize them on this website, spread the word of their films and help them to raise money for their films. I have helped out a few Kickstarter projects that were created by legitimate filmmakers with a track record and who were making films that I had an interest in seeing. I’ve even kicked in a few bucks out of my own wallet to show them support.

I do not give promotional/publicity for things like the ones I’m writing about here. To be truthful, I don’t even want to justify them by calling them “films.” They’d be efforts that would be better suited to 48-hour or 10×10 (10-minute films shot in 10 days) filmmaking contests.

This type of thing is an Experiment. And Exercise. It should be posted directly to Youtube & Vimeo—then—promoted on filmmaking websites to gain attention to your Experiment.

But to expand this effort out into feature film length, which they no doubt regard as 90-minutes or longer—and are dead wrong about—is compounding the delusion.

So you make a film in a weekend to put yourself in the company of Roger Corman. Then you want $20,000 or $30,000 or $50,000 for the post to get your film “ready for distribution.” Who is going to do this work? Who is going to be paid all these THOUSANDS of DOLLARS?????

And Who Do You Think Will Want To Distribute it?????

And WHERE?????

Theatrical for Indies is Dead.

No business will invest their time and resources into distributing a “film” where the “filmmakers” haven’t invested the time and resources into making a good movie?

Tens of thousands of dollars for professionals to clean up your “movie” in post is not going to make it any better.

Learn your craft.

Learn how to record clean audio.

Learn how to properly expose your images.

Learn how to edit them together well.

If you’re using Roger Corman as your inspiration, Corman had to get all his sound and lighting right at the time of the filming of Little Shop of Horrors because he couldn’t afford expensive post-production time.

Do yourself and your films a favor—take the time to shoot your films right in the first place.

Phony hype & hoopla won’t make a good film.

If you want to be regarded as professionals—treat the work you’re doing like professionals.

Showcase the talents of those involved in a film

not the lack of talent.

(Note to Readers: Some of this blog post covers material explored in my book Naked Filmmaking: How To Make A Feature-Length Film – Without A Crew – For $10,000-$6,000 Or Less Revised & Expanded For DSLR Filmmakers, as well as an earlier post on the site. I’m writing a new one here for the benefit of those who have not read the book or are new to the site. This is a rant that is stoked/inspired by recent “filmmaker” postings that have been directed to me.)

 

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

2 Responses to Making A New Movie – What’s The Point?

  1. Phil Guzzo says:

    Wow those are the exact thoughts I’ve been mulling of late and it’s definitely put a pause on my filmmaking. What is the purpose of my films? With soooooo many, many films by unknowns being made, 99% terrible. Why would some yahoo from bumbletank nowhere want to see it? It’s a good question, one I don’t have an answer for myself yet. I do like Quentin Tarrantino’s answer from a comic con panel when asked how to get noticed as a filmmaker in today’s world. His answer was simply. Making it f***ing good! And it’s true. If someone made a film as good as Resevoir Dogs today it would get noticed. I do think putting your passion on the screen is paramount. I saw Syd Field talk and that was kind of his answer it was about screenwriting, which is an apt parallel to today’s filmmaking world, the only way you will ever be successful is to write what you are passionate about. You can’t figure out the market or what’s going to sell. You have to write what comes from you. I’m paraphrasing, but that really resonated, and I think it applies to actually making the film, since those tools are now as accessible as screenwriting tools are and there’s nearly as many people making films as screenwriters writing them. Good post!

  2. Mike Carroll says:

    Phil — Many thanks. And thanks for finding the site. I often wonder if I’m writing this for myself, as first drafts for the next book, or just to get out of my system. (As what I think most columnists do.)
    Glad that this resonated with you.
    And I don’t exclude myself. I’ve recently hauled out a script idea that I’ve been working on and off on for a few years. Working on it for as far as I can take it. Will then look at it, show it to my wife Bonnie & a few others, like actor-writer-filmmaker Anthony D’Juan who was in Nightbeats, and see if it is something that matters to them.
    If it does then I’m in real trouble — because it means a new camera & actually making the movie!
    But YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT — you shouldn’t try to make something that you think is going to please/appease others. You have to make a film that YOU HAVE TO MAKE! Something that grips you in the gut. That says to you, “I don’t care if anybody else sees this. I HAVE TO SEE IT!” A film that you have to make because it’s on the same plain as oxygen is to you — that if you don’t have it you’re going to suffocate and die.
    And to get the other people around you feeling exactly the same as committed. Your actors, crew, assistants — however you make your films.
    Thanks for the response, amigo.
    Will keep you posted.
    And please keep me posted on your projects — MIKE

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