10 Things I Learned by Making a Movie

I’m sitting in the airport lounge at LAX looking out over a rain soaked tarmac – in a mellow mood. One of those rare days when nothing really needs attention. I ran into a friend on the flight out from EWR to LAX , who had noticed that I hadn’t been writing as much of late. That’s true enough, for a couple of reasons but the simple answer is I just didn’t feel the urge.

I started writing when I needed to sort things out in my head or I happened to be thinking or experiencing something that seemed worth sharing. At times, I suppose I get very personal – that’s what I have been told. That’s comes with sorting things out in my head.

Today, I’m thinking about what brought me to LA and that is the fact that I made a film – a 76 minute documentary. I‘ve never had any formal training in the way of film school, although I have often fantasized about going to NYU and getting my Masters in film. But in the interest of time, at this point in my life – I did what I’ve done a lot in my life and that is , I just decided to “do it” – in this case, make a film.

So what did I learn?

1. The story is everything – it’s everything.
2. It IS possible to make a good film without a big crew and a Hollywood budget and lots of gear.
3. You have to have desire – when you have a small crew and a tiny budget, you do a lot more of the work yourself – so you have to be passionate about what you are working on.
4. Festivals are competitive – at least the “big” ones. Are they important? They are as far as building awareness, especially for a narrative film. For me, a festival provides an opportunity to interact with an audience and get feedback. I didn’t make this film to keep it a secret.
5. The film will take a lot more time than you can imagine, especially if you don’t have a big budget.
6. There is a cinematic language and necessary ingredients to any successful film – one being – a film needs contrasts and opposites or opposition.
7. PR and marketing is essential and most filmmakers do not dedicate enough money toward this end.
8. There are so many paths to distribution these days – DVD’s are dying out and VOD and downloads are taking their place.
9. It’s almost unheard of for a filmmaker to “own” their content – most have partners and/or investors – active and otherwise. I can’t tell you how many times, eyebrows have gone up when someone asks me who owns the film and I tell them, “I do”.
10. A film is never finished – but there comes a time when you are ready to let go.

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