You can also make your feature a reality without a producer.
I grew up in Texas with no real Hollywood network and little money. Once I knew I wanted to get into filmmaking, one of the first questions I asked myself, and probably many of you, was, “How am I ever going to get a feature done?” If you had asked me as an adult how it was going to happen, I never would have thought that my first movie would come out the way it did.
My film was self-funded for thousands of dollars, and I ended up doing much of the work myself with a small crew. Here’s what I learned from this experience and how I got a distribution contract for my feature: Wolves come at night.
Development and writing
The film is actually made up of three short films that I then pieced together into a seamless narrative about an abused housewife who abandons her husband and joins a cult obsessed with transcendence only to realize that the husband they are leaving is the same man who used to be the leader of the cult. This act gave me the arc to summarize my unrelated short films into one narrative feature.
I contacted the actors from my three short films and wrote new arcs for those interested in repeating their roles within about 10 weeks until I had a plot that felt like a full, elevated horror film.
In 2018, I took small steps to ensure that I was producing the film in an economical way without compromising my vision. This involved figuring out my budget, getting movie permits, tracking down locations, building props, renting props, making recording lists, and everything else.
I had saved about $ 15,000 and in addition I took out a small bank loan and also had a credit card that I wanted to use to the maximum. At that point, pretty much everything was shut down and production was up and running.
The biggest difficulty was that the film didn’t have a producer. For those people who are going to venture out on their own no-budget films in the future, I warn against doing so without some form of production partner. Production went smoothly, but it certainly could have been less stressful.
If you’re struggling to find an experienced producer, try a learning-hungry film student or someone you can trust to take production notes or fix ideas. Anyone to help you focus on the creative side.
The film was edited in the evenings and on weekends. After I got a decent rough cut I made some contacts and got about a dozen companies interested in talking about sales, but nothing came off. The film just wasn’t finished. Then hit COVID.
Ironically, COVID gave me the bandwidth the movie really needed. It still took sound design, original music, color grading, etc. With the help of some very talented people, I was able to fully package the post production.
If you don’t know someone to hire, turn to film schools – they all have talented students who are hungry for experience. Don’t be afraid to find people on Craigslist either. Take the time to review them, but all I have to say is good things about people I ended up working with.
How I got to the distribution
In September 2020, I started sending screeners to the same distributors that had shown interest the year before. It took me some time, but I got a video-on-demand distribution contract from Gravitas Ventures. It might sound simple, but it takes the job of making the movie, emailing screeners to various distributors, and then being patient until someone shows interest.
I remember my first day in film school. The dean made a comment that I will never forget: “It’s one thing to have ideas. It’s another thing to do about it. ”
If I could wrap it all up in one digestible lesson that aspiring directors, writers, and producers could ponder, then if you really want to make films, then if you really want to make movies you will find a way.