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Indie Filmmaking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

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Do-it-yourself indie film-making (from script to distribution) is a marathon, not a sprint. At least for me on a micro-budget.

I wrote the first draft script for Bad Batch, my first feature, about 3 years ago. I joined a writer's group in which the challenge was to write a full screenplay in 2 weeks. This got my ass in gear to write something I knew I eventually would want to direct on a tight budget. They don't call first drafts "vomit drafts" for nothing, so I had to rewrite. I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to critical feedback, and I like to improve in areas where it's decided things are lacking.

It takes time to for people to read your script, and it's a lot to ask from anyone. People who read your scripts and give you solid, thoughtful feedback are great. Be kind to them. Cherish them. Anyway, I'm a firm believer that writing is rewriting, and rewriting takes me time. My best ideas usually don't come when I'm staring at the screen, about to pull my hair out; more often, it's when I'm relaxed, working out, or doing anything else.

William Goldman, who wrote The Princess Bride and a bunch of other classic films, once wrote: "I don't understand the creative process. Actually, I make a concerted effort not to understand it. I don't know what it is or how it works but I am terrified that one green morning it will decide not to work anymore, so I have always given it as wide a bypass as possible." That wide bypass for me is rewriting and tightening up as many loose bolts as possible. It's easy to rush into production with a script that's lacking, esp. as production costs are dropping and the world is moving at an increasingly faster pace. Getting your script to the best possible place may take longer in pre-production, but it will save time in post-production. I'd rather be the tortoise as a writer, even if time and budget constraints force me to be the hare in other areas of production.

The only film school I attended was Dov Simens' 2-Day crash course, so I knew I'd be learning a lot every step of the way. I like to think back to Neil LaBute giving a speech at a screenwriting conference I attended a few years ago. He advised writers who want to become directors to not be afraid of saying "I don't know" while moving from script to screen. I'm convinced no one goes into filmmaking knowing everything, and I've never been the type of person who can excel in ALL areas. I've always felt comfortable writing and crafting marketing ideas; and, most of the time I'm comfortable communicating with lots of people. (I was my own production manager, casting director, and art department on Bad Batch.) Technical aspects often take longer for me to grasp, like codecs, frame rates and such. (I did a lot better on my SAT verbal than math.) Everyone has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and I need to force myself to be patient as I learn. Often.

Okay, so then the movie actually has to be shot. That can take 8 days, or it can take a year+ depending on people's schedules, re-shoots, access to locations, etc. Never underestimate how flaky people can be, either. Good people are often total flakes.

Then there's post production, which I actually love. Editing is like going through a pillow case of Halloween candy at first, but it can become tedious watching the same film over and over and over. Sound editing, color correction, scoring all take time to get it just right, too.

I would love to be able to just write and direct a feature film. The reality with Bad Batch is that I've had to learn to produce in all areas of production. It's taken some time, and I'm still learning. I'm playing to my strengths as far as what to learn. Social media? Getting better. Editing? Ask me in a couple of years. Now I'm entering distribution, which I'm finding more interesting to attempt to wrap my head around than Final Cut.

My goal with Bad Batch all along has been one thing, and that's to be able to make another feature. Knowing what I know now, which took time to learn, I cannot wait.

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it." - Andrew Glasgow