Alexander Film Works

Writing For No-Budget Film (Part 2)

In Film and Related on July 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

To continue the discussion from the previous post, let’s talk about a few general issues when it comes to writing film.

General Issue #1:  Don’t try to out-Hollywood Hollywood.

Hollywood movies, with their Michael Bay-level budgets, can do a LOT of things you can’t.  To make your own mark, you have to follow the advice of “Wee Willie” Keeler, baseball player from the 1920’s – “hit ’em where they ain’t”.  They do big, sprawling, explosion-laden, non-character-driven extravaganzas; you do intimate, character-focused, emotion-driven stories.

General Issue #2:  Play to your strengths.

If what you write best is claustrophobic, paranoiac horror, then go for it.  If you spin out disjunctive comedy that makes Monty Python or Red Dwarf  look calm and sane, then do it.  Your strengths are just that:  yours.

General Issue #3:  Any amount of money is no substitute for drive and ingenuity.

Did you know that you can make a greenscreen to hang up on an available wall out of things you can buy at a hardware store?  Or that you can make a “car rig” (to mount a camera on the outside of a car) for under $35.00?  Or a camera stabilizer rig (roughly equivalent to a low-level Steadicam[TM] unit) for about the same price?  Let’s face it; if there’s a rig that the big boys use, somebody else has found a way to make it for cheap.  There’s no shortage of ingenuity out there; you can find it on the Web, and adapt it to what you need.  So you can’t let the lack of a flying rig, or a car mount, or some such thing, stop you.

General Issue #4:  Don’t forget the primary ingredient… STORY.

“If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”  That’s the quote, attributed to Shirley Booth, Oscar[TM] winning actress, that you need to remember.  A director can make a bad film out of a great script, but no one can make a great film out of a bad script.  And most of the problems you encounter when you try to film a script can be fixed much more easily (and cheaply) in the word processor than on the stage.  Does your story make sense?  Do the character motivations follow from the events in the script?  Are the questions you pose in the script answered by the end?  More things you need to keep in mind.

General Issue #5:  Illegitimi non carborundum – Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

There are ever so many people who try to bad-mouth anything anyone does, saying “it can’t be done”, or “nobody would pay to see that”, or “nobody cares about that”…  As numerous as these people might be, their combined mass can’t sway the force of one person with a vision – and the drive to see it through.  You can be that one person… so why not do it?  After all, you have as much right to share your vision with the world as Steven Spielberg, or Gus Van Sant, or J. J. Abrams.

So write it down, polish it until it shines, and then get it down on film (or video, or whatever).

You’ll be glad you did, when it’s done.

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