The Master Plan and Pre-production
I showed this to a good friend and long time collaborator. He works as a cameraman and immediately raised his eyebrows when he saw the size of the script. It was a logistical nightmare waiting to happen. I said I would provide the cast and locations if he could get the crew and equipment. Then came the question of who would be directing? He wanted me to direct however at this stage I was only interested in making a film and acting. I suggested he direct but he rightly said he didn’t want the responsibility since it was my story. So off we went to form our little gang of filmmakers.
Let’s Start A Production Company
The more time on set you have to shoot the better. More time = Better Production Value
The cast was easy to find, most were members or former members of the acting class I attended, with the female lead going to the same friend I had planned to do the play with. The locations on the other hand were somewhat more difficult to obtain. I went through the script and listed every location mentioned, also noting whether this was a day or night shoot (oh yes we had a few night shoots too!). The time frame for the shoot was dictated mostly by budget, then by location availability, and finally cast and crew availability. That amounted to 4 days back-to-back filming from Thursday to Sunday.
Eager and excited I hit Foyles bookshop for backup. I foraged the filmmakers section for all kinds of books, screenwriting, how to set up your shots, funding, you name it. The one that really stood out for me and one I would highly recommend for all filmmakers is The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook
. This book was and is literally my bible for all my projects. I’m forever going back to it to refresh my knowledge on certain topics. It details the entire filmmaking process from the initial concept of a film right through to the sales. Reading this made me want to change the way I approach my films.
Armed with this new knowledge I decided for this project I wanted to do everything the “right” way. No more hiding boom operators in the trees to avoid attention. This was going to be a legit project and that meant requesting the necessary permissions. It became apparent very early on I would need to form a production company. All invoices, equipment, insurance, filming permissions would be forwarded to this company. In fact I don’t think you can hire certain equipment without having a company. A West End law firm recommended an online agency who help you start a company. Within a day I had set up a company registered with companies house.
Film Funding, Acting Coaches, and Invoices
Beg, borrow, and charm for funds! Rehearsals are always useful.
The funding for the film consisted mostly from my savings. Some of the costs for instance equipment insurance was paid for by my cameraman collaborator. I got a quote from a leading media insurance company for Public Liability insurance (A must have if you’re filming anything in a public area). We actually managed to get a lot for free. Calling in favours we got most of the equipment for free including camera, a couple lights, dolly, tracks, and a van to carry it all in. We paid for sound recordists, but by far the biggest cost was on locations. This varied from private companies, and local councils, to Universities and local shops. I definitely paid for my stubborn usage of varied locations. I even had to hire two metropolitan police officers to be on location for a scene. When using fake firearms in public you need to inform the local police just in case some locals happen to think there’s a real lunatic on the lose and alert the authorities!
I hired an acting coach to help us on a couple tricky scenes. Since my friend and I were to play the two leads I knew there would be a lot of pressure on us carrying the film. We both feature in almost every scene. The acting coach just gave us a little bit of confidence, knowing that someone would be watching to make sure we were doing our best. We rehearsed together on and off for a week before the shoot to the point where we felt comfortable working with each other. The only trouble was we didn’t have time get through the entire script.
The Unlikely Producer
Try to delegate production duties so that you’re not doing everything. If that’s not possible then scale down the production to accommodate your duties.
Personally I found the most challenging aspect of filmmaking just the boring organisation side of things. Getting everyone you need to be available for the specific times you require can leave you with more grey hairs than Gandalf! It takes time and you need to have the patience of a saint. Everyone has his or her own lives to live and often very good reasons for there unavailability. Note that when you start paying people this changes since your hiring them for a specific time and purpose, however if they’re doing it as a favour it’s very difficult to push them to commit to a time convenient for YOU.
The trouble was I was getting involved as a producer without really knowing, or wanting to know anything about it. Often the problem with zero budget productions, you end up performing several production roles out of necessity. By some miracle we had it planned and committed to some dates. Once I secured the location dates, then everything followed, the insurance could be paid, the public liability, the cast and crew dates. We seemed ready to go, I kept an ever watchful eye on my phone should I receive a last minute cancellation.