Low Budget Filmmakers Must Do Everything Required

By , posted 3 July 2006

So you say you have a burning desire to make a movie and you will do what ever it takes to get the job done? You fancy yourself an “independent” type and you want to reflect that in your art? Well, you better know what it takes before you decide to launch yourself into the world of independent filmmaking. If you do not know, your project may never see the light of day, or more importantly the light of a movie screen.

Making a low budget or "independent" film is a double edged sword. On the one side you have the freedom to express your art without corporate considerations, but on the other side you have the daunting task of doing almost every job yourself. From writing, producing, directing, and acting to providing travel arrangements, applying make-up, and fixing broken equipment, you cover the broad spectrum of chores and responsibilities. And that does not even cover the other responsibilities such as providing meals for everyone, rehearsals, etc… All you have to do is look at the long list of credits at the end of any movie in the theaters and you can see how much work it takes to make a motion picture.

While in the midst of making my last film Mike And The Magic Lamp I almost started to doubt whether I would ever finish it. I had been working on this movie for about two years straight doing every aspect of the film myself when I suddenly started to run out of energy. The continuous filming that I was doing combined with a heavy work schedule at my real job (Stage Manager of TV shows in Hollywood) was starting to get to me. I would have to prepare everything before a film shoot, and then do just about everything during the film shoots. Once in a while I would have a loyal friend help me with the awesome responsibilities of carrying equipment, setting it up, and then tearing everything down and putting it away each day, but you can only ask them to do so much if you are not paying them.

At one point during the filming of M&TML I passed out, fell off my director’s chair and hit my head on the corner of the set. I was mentally and physically exhausted while only halfway through the filmmaking process. The problem was that I was not yet creatively exhausted. The burning desire to make a movie and enter it in all the major film festivals was still alive, but the vessel (my body) that allows me to create was in need of a little R&R. I would take a day off here and there but it was always hard to rest when you have that little creative voice in your head bugging you to get your film finished so the world can enjoy your art. I was very lucky that I only suffered a minor head injury from that accident.

I finally finished the film Mike And The Magic Lamp after four long years of endless work that nearly put me in the hospital from exhaustion. The film went on to win the Silver Award at the Houston Worldfest in 1998 along with several other awards that year at major film festivals like the Santa Clarita International Film Festival. That film gave me recognition as an Independent Filmmaker and inspired me to pursue the path of making films on my own terms.

I pushed myself to the limits mentally and physically to get my movies made in the beginning of my career and it was just the springboard that I needed to get launched into the world of independent filmmaking. I may have doubted my body’s ability to keep up with my creative drive, but I some how managed to strike an agreement between the two and get my films finished. Before you take on the daunting task of making a movie almost completely by yourself, you have to ask yourself one thing; AM I REALLY COMMITTED to this idea? If you are not, then I suggest you find another outlet for your creativity. If you are committed, then pursue it with everything you have inside, but make sure you realize that your creative drive cares nothing about your health.

Michael P. Connelly is an Author, Artist and award-winning Filmmaker who writes on a variety of topics that concern independent filmmakers, writers and artists.

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