So You Want to Make a Movie?
By Mehka King | 10-May-2011
"So you want to make a movie?" That was the message that flowed through my mind when I first came up with the idea for my documentary "In the Mix: DJs Doing Work". I wanted to do something about the culture that I love, hip-hop, and I knew that anything about hip-hop had to begin with the DJ. What I hadn't planned was how I was going to film it. Anybody who's ever tried to execute a project or start-up knows the time and preparation that goes into even the smallest detail and budget can be a stressful matter.
Realistically, Money moves this world and the more control you want, the bigger the issues that arise. As any filmmaker can attest, a budget or lack thereof can be a major stressor in development stages as well as execution. Utilizing my production company, Invisible Man Media; I was able to save funds and resources as well as keep creative control amongst myself and team. Initially, I decided to try to partner up with a few individuals who were involved in the entertainment and film industry but I realized quickly that most people will be more concerned with what they're getting out of the project as opposed to being excited about the project. It was becoming evident I'd have to come out of pocket to cover costs of production, publicity and promotion.
It was the story of Spike Lee and how he maxed out his credit cards to produce his first film "She's Gotta Have It" that motivated me to take a leap of faith and believe in myself. While I didn't want to go into debt as he so willingly did, I think what he did was revolutionary as it relates to the film industry and black male entrepreneurs as myself. Rather than wait for the powers that be to notice your work and hand you a check, you bet on yourself.
I had a good idea but when it came to capital, I honestly didn't have it on hand to independently film and produce a documentary. I had to think on my feet. That's when I came up with the "Recording Room" tour.
The documentary process can take some time to finish and rather than spend the next two years going from one subject to another which would be extremely costly, I came up with the idea to turn the film process into an event. Focused primarily on hip-hop, I decided to utilize dates and events that best localize artists and DJs as well as closely connected Industry professionals and sponsors. BET Awards, BET Hip-Hop Awards, SXSW, Super bowl Weekend, to name a few were all events we knew we needed to be at. I contacted various clothing stores, recording and photography studios, anywhere that would be open to us filming on their property (and wouldn't charge us by the hour to film).
The Recording Room tour itself would kill three birds with one stone. It would help keep production costs down by not having to pay for locations, we would be able to promote the project through word of mouth and real grassroots efforts and we built up a great portfolio or video and still shots that we could use when it came to the publicity aspect.
In the beginning of October 2010 my production team and I set out to film this movie. After locking in a location, our next move was to find a media outlet to partner up with to help generate interest among artists and DJs. We approached outlets with the idea of a co-partnership proposal where we would allow them to place logos on all our promotional materials in exchange for them co-signing and supporting what we were doing.
The venue would be free of charge and so would the promotion that would come from the various media outlets we partnered up with. Now we had to figure out travel. Usually I would travel by myself, cutting out costs for a large film crew. I would place an ad on Craigslist or I would inquire at a Film or Art school if they had any students who would be open to an internship. Normally you can find about three eager students who have access to all the highest quality of equipment for free. With the venue costing nothing, the promotion costing nothing, the crew costing nothing, the only out of pocket cost comes from my own travel to the event.
Since filming started in September 2010 and in total, we've spent approximately $1500. I've gotten a ton of good footage and have been able to get a bulk of my film complete without having to go too far in debt. We still have some time to go. The official end date is slated for February 2012. With plans to end the tour in October 2011, I will then spend the rest of the time interviewing major subjects of the documentary, getting more in-depth information about them.
Since I've began filming and the tour, I've had an invaluable experience learning about the filming of a movie, how to properly produce a film and how to manage the publicity aspect all at once. We've been featured in many prominent music related blogs and magazines and the buzz for the film has picked up with every tour stop. And while the tour may not work for every type of documentary, I feel like it is that out of the box thinking that will transform many people who just had ideas, into people with ideas and a means to do it.
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