No Budget Necessary
Independent Filmmaking. Hollywood Entertainment.
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No Budget Necessary

Indie Filmmaking. No Money.


Weekly blog posts from the members of Outlaw Studios. Anecdotes from our latest productions, filmmaking philosophies and more.

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The Need for Preparation

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)

At this point, we've made enough short films as a group to know how to plan a shoot, run a set and get the shots we need. We've done it successfully so many times that failing at it almost seemed impossible. But, as if written by a hollwood screenwriter, the plot thickens when the prideful filmmaker takes his talents for granted.

Our first shoot went great. Hectic, but great. The 6 months of writing, followed by the subsequent 9 months of pre-production leading up to it all paid off. 

The problem was we had only ever done two days of shooting in our short films before moving into post-production. So when we got through two great days on our first feature, planning for the next shoot felt like learning how to walk all over again. We had gotten so amped up for the first shoot that we nearly forgot about the second. 

We have to travel AGAIN?

We have to feed the cast and crew AGAIN?

We need to make shot sheets and production kits AGAIN?

It seems fundamental to plan for an entire shoot, but that's when we realized just what we had gotten ourselves into. By the time the second shoot rolled around a month later, we were ill prepared, and the shoot suffered as a result.

We were able to get through it and get the shots we wanted (for the most part), and I walked away angry. Angry with how the shoot went, angry with the crew for arguing with me, angry at the birds that wouldn't shut up when we were rolling sound. Most of all, however, I was angry with myself. All we could do then was try to learn from it and move on.

As a director, if you're not prepared, your crew can't be prepared either. I found myself getting angry with my cinematographer for not being in the right position to get the shot I wanted before realizing I never really told him the shot I wanted in the first place. It was in my head, but I never bothered to get it down on paper. So the majority of my energy on set was put into blocking the scene, moving equipment and micro-managing the cinematography. The least amount of energy was spent working with the actors, which is where I would prefer to be at all times.

It's a pitfall of independent filmmaking since you usually have to be all things to all people at all times. I'm my own project coordinator, producer and assistant director, so I have to work hard to compartmentalize those tasks so I can stay focused on the parts that matter to me most.

Needless to say, we've increased our preparation for the next two shoots exponentially.

My advice for filmmakers out there is to never leave anything to be figured out on set. Spend as much time as you can with your cast and crew and make sure they know what you want. They can't give it to you unless they know what it is first.

To be a good director, you first have to be a good communicator. 



The Need for Self Promotion

Posted on January 30, 2013 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Filmmakers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Some are in it to make money and be famous, others are in it to win awards and some people treat it as a true art form. Whatever their motivation, the successful filmmakers share at least two traits in common:

Passion and Promotion.

The goal of any film is to get it in front of as many sets of eyes as possible. A worldwide theatrical release is the best way to do this but few of us have the multi-million dollar pockets to make that happen, so we have to resort to other methods.

If you're like me, you are a modest filmmaker. I don't like to "toot my own horn" so to speak. I like talking about my movies and movies in general because that's what I'm passionate about. But when you boil down to it, I'd much rather focus on the creative side of filmmaking as opposed to pounding pavement in search of money. 

I chose the route of using what I have and doing the best that I can, and I'm fortunate to have a lot of friends who believe in me. Some of you may not be that lucky. At some point in your career, you're going to have to promote yourself, be it at festivals, seminars, classes, job fairs, you name it. If you want to build your "brand" - which is a fancy modern term for YOU - you have to find ways to get your name out there.

The more people who know who you are, what you look like and what you've done, the better your opportunities.

If you've already taken the initiative of making a film (short, documentary, music video, whatever) then you already have a great way in promoting yourself.  I prefer to submit to festivals because it gives me a chance to meet people in the business, but there are several other mediums of exposure.

Technology and the internet allow for faster and cheaper promotion than ever before. Build a website and tell everyone you know about it. Create a facebook page for your film and build a quantifyable fan base. Publish to YouTube, Vimeo and other video streaming websites and take your video viral.

The possibilities are endless, and you are only limited by your determination. Americans spend a great amount of time on the internet, make sure they're spending it watching your movie.

A Writer's Bane

Posted on November 18, 2012 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

On November 6th, I sat down and started writing an article about the importance of a good antagonist in a story. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and then, I hit a wall.


I had simply run out of ideas, and even worse, I had also lost the drive. This is a problem every writer faces at some point, and it can negatively impact one's development as a writer if not tackled head on. My writer's block was caused by an ever-mounting series of problems in my work life, but writer's block can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. Being that I had recently suffered this problem, I decided to write something new: three ways in which I tackle writer's block.


1). Rediscover your muse.


Something that can easily kill motivation is when you lose sight of what you were doing. It's easy to jump into a script with a head full of ideas. Unfortunately, it's just as easy to lose said motivation because you lost sight of what had inspired you to write in the first place. What you need to do in a case like this is find whatever it was that made you want to write, and re-trigger your passion for said muse. If it's a theme or a story, go back to the begining and re-examine what you liked about it. Look at it from different angles and figure out if there's a new side to it that you hadn't considered before. Your research may lead you to find a whole new universe of ideas to draw from and get back to writing with.


2.) Use another medium to inspire yourself.


Sometimes you're just going to have to take a breather and fill your attention span in another way, and that's not a bad thing. Take a while to listen to some music, read a book, or watch a movie. A smart move would be to look for works in genres or featuring themes that relate to what you're working on. Writing a comedy? Throw a Mel Brooks movie in your DVD player. Writing a science fiction piece? Pick up some of the writing of Ray Bradbury. The point is: turning to another source for relaxation could re-spark your desire towork.


3.) Get out and enjoy life.


Sometimes, nothing helps. Sometimes, you just need to step back and get out into the world. Go for a walk, hang out with friends. Go get a drink, grab a bite to eat, or just sit on a bench in a park. Going out into the world and living life gives you a chance to observe and research in ways you probably never considered. Explore parts of town you've never seen before to think up new locations for your story. People-watch to get new ideas for how your characters should act. Lightning can strike at any moment; make sure you give yourself a chance to get struck.







Cheap, Fast, Right

Posted on November 8, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Some of the best advice I ever received as a young filmmaker is pretty simple.

"CHEAP. FAST. RIGHT. You only get two out of the three."

"If you want to do something RIGHT and FAST, it won't be CHEAP."

"If you want to do something CHEAP and RIGHT, it won't be FAST."

"If you want to do something FAST and CHEAP, it won't be RIGHT."

For most of us, doing something RIGHT is not negotiable. If it's not going to be done right, it shouldn't be done at all. SO the question comes down to "will it be done FAST or will it be done CHEAP?"

The choice is ultimately yours. But you have to realize that there really is no middle ground here. Doing something at no budget with little resources will take time. Any effort to rush into a low budget project can easily sacrifice it being right.

Take our latest project in development - "Disposable" -  for example. Over the last two projects we have been lucky enough to find a dedicated crew to help us and do some great FREE work. In the spring we made "The Long Goodbye" over a two day shooting schedule with about 7 crew members. In the summer we shot "The Crimson Ranger" in the same amount of time with a crew of about 9.

This time, we are facing more issues with scheduling. Some of our cast and crew are still in college so their classes conflict with our December shooting schedule. Other members of our cast and crew work retail day jobs that have longer hours during the holiday. All of these variable have an effect on how we do what we do.

Difficult decisions have to be made in times like this. Our limited resources do not afford us certain luxuries, so we have to work around the obstacles.

For any young filmmaker, I give you the same advice I was once given. "Cheap, Fast, Right. You only get two of those three." Choose wisely.

Sound is King

Posted on November 1, 2012 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Having the right gear when making a low budget film is very very important.  

--Let me say that again, knowing how to use, and using the correct gear is essential to making a good low budget film.  When critics and audiences watch your film, most of them will know within the first 5 minutes whether you have any filmmaking experience or not.  Technique, aesthetics, camera movement, and sound are all important to show how advanced you are in the craft.

OVER ALL ELSE-- Sound is King.

No other piece of equipment is more valuable, besides maybe the Camera, to you than your sound equipment or microphone.

Good audio is the difference between a great independent film and a shit B movie. Pretty harsh, but its the truth.  The sooner you figure this out, the better off you'll be.

Back in 2008, when Scott and I made our first venture into making a short film we were using HD handycams. Advanced technology at the time, what is now just your run of the mill HD camcorder you can pick up at your local Best Buy for $299.99.  The on board microphone was a simple omni-directional cardioid mic that picked up voices pretty well... and everything else. And therein lines the problem.  When shooting short films esspecially those with dialogue, specific sound is everything.

The day we decided to film our first short, "The LaPaule Murders", it was a nice sunny day in the middle of February.  It was -1 degrees outside and there was a brisk wind. 

We finished filming for the day, and went back into our rooms to watch the dailies.  What we heard brought utter terror to our faces.  It was the whipping of the wind across our microphones with the faint noise of voices.  All the video we had shot was now useless.  Upset and defeated we tried to think of all plausable solutions. We eventually came to the conclusion that we should record ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) or Dubbing instead of reshooting.  The film, after countless tiring hours, turned out great but it could have been 100 times easier if we had the right equipment the first time around. 

A good audio kit can be bought and assembled for under $200 bucks and although it sounds like a lot now, it will be well worth it in the end.

What you'll need:

-- A quality shotgun microphone with either XLR hook- up or stereo mini jack audio output.

       *Read mic reviews and DON'T buy cheap

       *A stereo mini jack output will work on most DSLR cameras and some low-end camcorders

       *An XLR cable input connects to most high end audio recorders and high end video cameras

-- A sturdy boom pole

       *You can make your own out of PVC pipe

       *Or buy cheap ones, like Rode's Micro Boom Pole (I own this, and it works great!)

-- A black windscreen for your mic (for outdoor protection see below)

       *By all means, we've come this far, protect your mic from simple indoor background noise

       *It will also make your mic look aesethically pleasing


Simple fixes for problems with the elements (i.e.- WIND):

--Buy a dead cat windscreen for your mic

       *This is one of those really fuzzy things that you see on professional mics

       *Most sound recordists keep their dead cat on all the time, to produce the best sound

A good microphone is not the solution for all problems, but it will alleviate most of your sound woes. Nothing is more valuable in post production than your sound track, so find a good sound editor, and keep them!  Everything your microphone can't do, your sound editor will be able to; or even better yet, learn to do it yourself.  After all, we are on a budget here!  And remember... Sound is King.

LEVEL 1 Filmmaking: The Means

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

If I told you I wanted to be a famous filmmaker all of my life, I'd be lying to you.  I have wanted to be a filmmaker since I was in 11th grade and I haven't looked back.  Essentially all you need to make a good film is, Dedication, an Idea , and the Means by which to make it happen.  I was a LEVEL 1 filmmaker once, no really I was...

Flashback to 2005, me in High School sitting in my first Digital Video Class.  I was a bright- eyed- bushy- tailed Junior who had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.  Well over the course of that class something happened, that changed the path of the next 7 years (so far) of my life.  My digital video teacher showed me the passion for filmmaking.  He also showed me how to come to a great idea and the importance of having a story worth telling.  And Finally, he gave me the means by which to make it.

1) The Fire:

"The Fire", as I like to call it is what is inside of every young filmmaker that keeps him/her going even after one has failed countless times.  This is a filmmakers dedication and passion for the project.  If you have enough fire for a project it will get made, because you will have people around you who will start to believe as much as you believe in yourself.  Honestly, I've always had an interest in using a camera ever since I was little; making short movies with my friends and family.  The hit show Jackass was an inspiration to my early filmmaking days.  It doesn't matter how you start, it just matters that you do! 

2) The Idea:

We'll this one is kind of self explanatory.  Ideas come from everywhere.  Like I've said in past posts, a filmmaker should never be finished looking for inspiration, much like the constant learning of life, inspiration is constant.  Also keep in mind that no idea is really a new idea. Everything has been thought of and every new idea has been written.  Its how you come up with innovative and new ways to tell your story.  Think about it; a boy meets a girl, they fall in love, they have a few fights, they eventually get married, they have three kids, and live long happy lives.  Believe me, it has been done hundreds of thousands of times, but its great films and filmmakers who keep us on the edge of our seats caring about each character until the final name has rolled on the credits.  That's why I love movies; the ability to move an audience with a seemingly endless combination of great stories. 

3) The Means:

What rings true in life, rings true in filmmaking as well; live within your means.  I was lucky, my digital video teacher junior year gave the means by which to make my film come to life.  He put a camera in my hands showed, me how to use it, and basically said, "get to it."  School is a great way to gain these skills because most schools have digital departments now, but my advice to any aspiring filmmaker is to start early.  Grab a camera, from the school, or from a friend and just go out and start making short movies.  Go to the school or local commonplace that has macs and play around with 'iMovie' (software that comes standard with every Mac). The only true way to really learn is by trial and error.  Befriend some people, lots of people who have the same interests as you and learn from them.  Each filmmaker will have their specialty. Mine is editing; for Scott, its writing.  With today's technology it is easier than ever to be able to plan, shoot, edit, and produce a movie on a tight budget. Immerse yourself in the craft and find out what your best at.


Fast forward to 2007, when I met my current 'partner in crime' and fellow filmmaker, Scott Lentz. Now this is where my passion for making and telling great stories started to blossom.  I'd say he's the sole reason I'm still making quality movies today.  Everyone needs that support system around them, esspecially in this industry. Your lifeline is the amount of great people you surround yourself with. Even now, we always remember to stick to a project once we start it, tell great stories, and make quality movies on a low budget, because hey, thats what we live for (for now).  




The PB and J's of Screenwriting

Posted on October 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Vodka and orange juice, Joel and Ethan Cohen, lamb and tuna fish; these items are common sense combinations, things that couldn’t exist without their better halves. They complement each other and work together to ensure a more complete final product. Screenwriting contains essential combinations as well, combinations that many people, both pros and amateurs, overlook when sitting down and crafting a script.

But what are these combos? And how should you know when to use them? Well, get yourself a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and I’ll tell you.


So you’ve decide to start a script. What is your genre? Is it comedy? Horror?  Drama? That’s up to you to decide, but what you need to remember is that whatever genre you DO pick, make sure you stick to conventions that don’t deviate from said genre. In other words, make sure your movie FEELS like it belongs to the genre you’re writing.

Tone is an incredibly important aspect of writing that can be easily overlooked. There’s nothing more cringe inducing than seeing a “laugh out loud” moment in the middle of a Holocaust drama, or a tragic out-of-nowhere death in a rip-roaring teen comedy. Yes, there are ways to mix genres properly (black comedy is an example), but such instances need to be established from the beginning. It’s when a genre is interrupted without good reason that tone is destroyed, and a promising story goes up in flames as well.


This one is so basic it’s like saying humans need air. But you’d be surprised how many productions let their stories slip by without any actual conflict.

For the uninitiated, conflict is a plot device that a character needs to overcome in a story in order to incite the events of a narrative and move things along towards a resolution and an ending. A conflict can be anything, an event (the impending apocalypse in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), a bad guy (the Joker in “The Dark Knight”), or just a problem with the main character themselves (Jake LeMotta’s personal demons and self destructive tendencies in “Raging Bull”) The point is: a story needs conflict to get the ball rolling, just as a character needs it to work towards their arc. Speaking of which:


Thomas Anderson is a lost, directionless loner. Until he discovers he is at the heart of a conflict that threatens the future of humanity: machines have been enslaving mankind for hundreds of years. Thomas Anderson enters a scary and confusing new world, and is given a slew of responsibilities he doesn’t think he is ready for. But, through dedication,education, and the proper motivation, he learns to embrace his destiny, and is able to step up and defeat his enemies. Thomas Anderson has overcome his conflict. Thomas Anderson is now Neo.

What I have just described is the evolution of Keanu Reeves’character in “The Matrix”, and further more, a great example of a character arc. A character needs an arc so that as the story progresses, they too progress in a meaningful way that keeps the audience interested in them. Characters that don’t go through any interesting or valuable change aren’t worth an audience’s time. Arcs can come in many forms, including a de-evolution of a character(like Walter White’s descent from a nice-guy into an evil prick in “Breaking Bad”), but the point is that characters NEED arcs.

So, what you should be able to deduce by this point is A) A script needs a certain feel to it that is inherent from beginning to end. B) A script’s story needs conflict in order to move any of its events forward, and C) The story and its conflict need to be handled in a way that give the character(s) a meaningful path of evolution.

Sticking to these guidelines can help you write a story that doesn’t insult your audience or waste their time. That’s a key point that will end up being at the heart of a lot of my posts: considering your audience at all times. A script is like a baby, a baby you should be intending to show off to people. Would you want to raise your baby in a way that would make people think you’re an awful parent? I hope not. Treat your script with care and respect, and it will grow up into a film you’ll be proud to show off as yours.


In keeping with this week’s GENRE NEEDS TONE theme:

A MOVIE YOU SHOULD WATCH BECAUSE IT’S GOOD – In Bruges (a perfect mix of character defining drama and witty comedy throughout).

A MOVIE YOU SHOULD WATCH BECAUSE IT’S BAD – Hancock (one second it’s a pretty decent movie about a down on his luck super hero who needs to learn to be a better person…then the writers all went crazy and took things in a far too “over-the-top” direction).


Think Big, Start Small

Posted on October 23, 2012 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The biggest problem I see young filmmakers face is trying to direct beyond their means. I have often heard - and been a believer in - the notion that all it takes to make a film come to life is persistence. But persistence becomes more and more difficult if you set the bar too high. When I first started out, I knew that feature filmmaking is what I wanted to do. So I put all of my time, money and effort into making a low budget feature. The problem was I looked up and a lot of time had gone by, my movie wasn't made and I really wasn't very close. I missed out on a lot of opportunities to work on my craft without realizing it. Once I decided to focus on short and experimental films, my world opened up.


It took a while for me to get over my stubborn nature when it came to shorts, and it took a conversation with my friends Mark Castaldo and Christine Redlin - both producers in Los Angeles - to give it reasonable consideration. I never watched shorts, never admired shorts, never talked about shorts with my friends. Naturally, we all want to emulate what we admire, and what I admired was feature films. So I had to find a way to learn to appreciate short films. Looking back it was well worth it for three reasons.


First, it allows you to gain experience you wouldn't otherwise find, and that's what Mark and Christine stressed the most. I could spend 3 years trying to gather the resources and support to make a feature and probably wind up disappointed - OR - I could spend 4 months making a short film, use fewer resources and, even in disappointment, learn some valuable lessons. By Nature, you are going to take the lessons you learn with each project and apply them to new projects. So why not give yourself the most learning opportunities possible while you are first starting out?


Second - and this I learned on my own - it allows you to meet more people. I make films with the intention of showcasing them at film festivals. Festivals, both big and small, are great ways to meet new people who can help you in the future. I have met some very good friends at festivals who have both helped me with my work and inspired me to do better. If not for my focus on shorts, I probably would not have met them.


Lastly, it allows you to experiment with ideas without risking too much. Considering how much time and support I need to make a feature, I would be under considerable pressure to make a profit, so I may not be as inclined to take a risk even if I think it will make a better movie. (Hence the abundance of "Twilight" and "Action/Thriller" movies in Hollywood - but that's a separate conversation). If all I have to lose is a few hundred bucks and a weekend of my time, I feel much more comfortable trying a story concept that might be considered a little more "out there." If it doesn't work out, the amount I learned in the process is well worth the risk.


If anyone ever asks me if I have advice for a young filmmaker, my first response is always to start small. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be successful right away, because all you'll do is get frustrated and probably quit. Frustration is not conductive to good work. Trust me. I have a lot of talented friends who have tried to make it in film but quit because they set outlandish expectations right out of the gate and it became too frustrating. Do yourself a favor and start small. Fail. Learn something. It will make you better in the end.



So, You Want to Write a Screenplay?

Posted on October 22, 2012 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (1)

With the exception of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” every production needs one thing at its core: a script. It’s the back bone of any film, the tangible proof of an artist’s vision. Scripts are fairly easy to write,all you need is an idea, ambition, and a pen (or computer…you get the idea).


I’ve been writing since I was 13. From short stories to feature length screenplays,I’m a writing machine; and my efforts have paid off. Many of my ideas have come to life on screen, most recently when a script I co-wrote was made into a feature length film. I know that screenwriting is both a challenging and rewarding craft, but, I also know that it takes a certain kind of skill set to keep yourself from ending up like a Tommy Wiseau or an Edward D Wood Jr.


So, what I hope to do is illustrate some do’s and do not's of screenwriting. I’ll be starting with the basics and moving up into some more insightful topics. I’llcover tips, techniques, and noteworthy scripts that can help you sharpen your skills and prepare scripts you’ll be proud to pitch.


Now, let’s assume that you’ve never written a script. You’re a fresh-faced young artist with an idea. Where do you start? Well, here are some starter tips:


Sounds so easy, you probably think I’m stupid for suggesting it right? Well be warned, if you jump in without a fully fleshed-out idea, the results will be disastrous. Take some time to think out every little detail of your story before you jump into writing it: the plot, the characters, the conflict; if you don’t get things like this right, you’ll end up tripping right out of the gate.



Would you construct a building without a blueprint? I hope not, because that’s a structure I wouldn’t want to go near. Reinforcing step 1, creating an outline is the most surefire way to make sure you have a solid idea to start your script from. Try and organize your story points into a three act structure. If you have ideas for big story moments, decide which order they should occur in. Outlining can help you establish the beats of your script from the get-go,helping to avoid pacing issues when you sit down and begin to write.



There are many screenwriting programs available. Some are free, like Celtx; while others are expensive and fancy, like Final Draft. Most modern screenwriting programs can help you with things like formatting, incorporating notes, and allowing you to save your script in many forms, such as on Cloud based servers. All you need to decide is which one works for you! I’m a Celtx fan (mostly because I like things that are free), and I feel it’s a very easy-to-use program for writers of any skill-set.


4.)   GET AT IT…Slowly.

Again, assuming you’re a first time writer, there’s no need to book it through a screenplay. Hasty writing leads to plot holes, half finished ideas, and unresolved story points, even in the hands of the best writers. Take your time as you work through each scene, making sure that every detail you incorporate is beneficial to the overall piece.

These items may seem like common sense, and they are, but when one doesn’t take the time to consider every side of a process (even the “obvious” ones), things can get nasty. Over the course of my next updates, I’ll be getting more and more elaborate so as to help you avoid “nastiness” as you trudge towards screenwriting greatness.


Also, every week, I’m going to try and end this with a little side piece: each week, I’m going to recommend a movie that exemplifies great screenwriting, and one that exemplifies bad screenwriting. Personal opinions on any other aspect of the movie aside, these movies are being chosen on the merits of their WRITING ALONE. That said:




5 Basic Needs to Begin a Film Project

Posted on October 20, 2012 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

In keeping with our themes of beginnings, I figure it would be best to begin my weekly tips blog with my general approach on where to begin when you are thinking of making a film.

DISCLAIMER: One of the great things about the filmmaking industry is that there are several different ways to go about doing it. The downfall is it can make it hard to learn since there is no real blueprint. Part of developing as an artist and as a professional filmmaker is finding your own style through your experiences, and these are just my philosophies based on my experiences. For the most part I always encourage anyone young and inexperienced to take risks and make your own mistakes, it's the only way you learn. I can give you my own ideas, but they're just one perspective. I strongly encourage everyone to find their own way of doing things.

That said, I found that when I first decided to make my own films, I had trouble figuring out where to begin. Several people will give you different opinions. Some will say develop a script first, others will say find out who you will be working with and figure out the script together. Honestly, you can do it either way, or any other if you feel more comfortable. Once you get a few projects under your belt you'll have a better sense of what helps you arrive at the best overall outcome. I remember back when we were in film club we attempted to write a short movie collectively - about 7 people - and it was a nightmare. I figured out quickly that I did not collaborate well with others during the writing process. Writing is where I am most creative, and having to argue my ideas right away before I've even had a chance to develop them is infinitely frustrating. Ever since then I have always written my films solo and had story meetings after the first (or, you know, fifth) draft is completed. However, some of you may be more open to collaborating on ideas and writing collectively. Whatever sparks your creativity is what you should do. Being creative is what this business is all about.

For the purpose of this entry, I'll point out the basic needs of a process typically known as "development" of a film project. This is the process prior to shooting that contains all of the pre-production duties (writing, casting, locations scouting, etc.). Once I really learned what I needed before principal photography began, it made this process a lot smoother. So I'll share what I learned.

The Script

The script is the most obvious thing you need, so I won't spend too much time with the details. The only thing I will stress is that locking yourself into a script that is written in stone is a bad idea. Leave yourself open for changes, because they can come from anywhere. I've had cases where I though my script was perfect and I ended up re-writing whole scenes because I liked the way my lead actor spoke better than the voice I had in my head. Leaving yourself open to change can only help you and never hurt you.


Before you can really go anywhere with a project, you need to know who will be there to help you along the way. I currently work with a crew of about 15 but when I first started I had maybe 3 or 4 of my friends who knew nothing but wanted to lend a hand. I'm here to tell you that making your film is possible with any amount of help, you just need to know what kind of help you will have, how much to expect from yourself and the appropriate expectations to set. If you want to make a feature narrative, you'll need more than a couple of your buddies, so don't set yourself up for failure. Once you know who you have with you and what they are capable of, don't be afraid to delegate. If you have help, let them help and try not to micromanage. If you are directing, getting too caught up in the producing parts can hurt your ability to be creative.


Where you will be shooting your film is as important as anything you will do because it will then dictate the rest of your pre-production needs. I often think about location heavily during the writing process because it's the biggest obstacle. You don't want to write a movie that takes place on an alien space ship if you won't be able to shoot on an appropriate location. Find a place you can look at prior to shooting and get to know it well. Get to know every angle and every light source you have. (TIP: Light is the most important asset a filmmaker has, learn to use it).


Second only to location, your actors are your most utilized asset. They are the people who will be bringing your story to life, so make sure they have a thorough knowledge of the character they will be playing. I spend a lot of time with my actors telling them everything I know about the character; their history, demeanor, likes, dislikes, motivations, etc. You know the old actor's phrase "what's my motivation in this scene." In my opinion, if he/she is asking you that on set, you've already lost. Make sure they are prepared before they set foot on set. And also don't be afraid to let them offer some ideas and put some of themselves into the character. Let the character learn them as much as they learn the character.


In reality, all you need to make a movie is a camera, at least 2 light sources and a microphone. I've made films with professional grade equipment and I've also made films with my mom's old VHS style camera and a desk lamp. There is a lot of equipment out there that can allow you to do a lot of different things with a camera from jib arms to dollies, platforms, tripod, mounts, you name it. A good resource for equipment is B&H Photo Video ( You can find anything you'd ever imagine there, but if your resources are limited, all you need are those three things and you're good to go. Camrea, Lights, Microphone. That's it.

Your equipment is a lot like your crew but they can't talk back to you. Regardless, you need to be aware and realistic about what you have or you're just setting yourself up for failure. If you only have your mom's camcorder like I did, don't plan on doing too many flyovers and motion shots. Rely on what you have and remember that being realistic is not the opposite of being creative. You can still find different ways of getting shots with limited equipment. UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES.

If you have these 5 basic needs worked out, you have what you need to make a movie. If you're confident, passionate and creative and you've surrounded yourself with the right people and resources, you can figure out a way to makeit work. I'll provide a lot more on pre-production at a later time and I'll be sure to check in for productioin updates on Outlaw Studio's upcoming project "Disposable" which is set to begin production next month.

Until then, I hope this was helpful! Stay creative and stay resourceful.