How to make a movie

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  1. Have a story you want to tell
  2. Figure out your budget
  3. Pre-produce it
  4. Shoot your indie film
  5. Post-produce it
  6. Distribute your film
  7. Make sure to celebrate

What is an indie film, and how do I make one?

What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘indie film‘? Maybe it’s a certain style of filmmaking, a certain color palette, or one of the many indie film projects that have made it big over the years, from The Blair Witch Project to Juno. The truth is, indie film can be defined very simply; it’s a film that was made without the support of a big studio. What that means is that you can make a movie yourself, even without a Sundance premiere or Elliot Page signed on. But how do you make a movie? Let’s walk through it together, step by step.

Have a story you want to tell

We’ve said it before; in indie filmmaking, storytelling is king. You need to have something to say; a character you want to explore, a theme you just can’t get out of your head, a message you want to get across. At New 32, we like to brainstorm ideas with our writer’s table and refine them until they’re ready to be put into script form. Maybe you also have trusted collaborators who can help you refine your idea. Then, sit down and write your script. This is easier said than done. Screenwriting is a skill that takes time to hone. We’ve said it before, but we believe that most of the skills you need to make a good movie can be gained through free internet resources. A quick youtube search will help you understand screenwriting conventions. After that, all you have to do is put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keys) and write down your amazing idea.

Figure out your budget

After you have your script, figure out how much this thing is going to cost you. Indie filmmaking is often low-budget, which can range from a micro-budget of a few thousand dollars to a few million, with lots and lots of films falling somewhere in between. Determine how much money you have to spend, and where this money is coming from. Are you paying for this out of pocket? Do you need to run a crowdfunding campaign or have a fundraiser to get the cash for your project? Figure this out now, at the early stages, and making your movie will become so much easier.

Pre-produce the hell out of it

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Pre-production is an absolutely vital part of how to make a movie. It’s not the most glamorous stage of the film production process, but it’s key to making your movie a success. Pre-production tasks include

  • Hiring your crew. Even if you’re working with a skeleton crew, you need to make sure you have good people on your team. Everyone from producers to the director of photography to the production assistants can come on board at this stage. If you’re working with a micro-budget, you may be looking for people who can work for cheap or for free. Be upfront about this, and make sure you’re creating a production people actually want to be a part of. 
  • Casting your movie. Talented, hard-working actors are a vital part of any indie film. 
  • Prep your on-set days. This means creating your production bible, planning out the shooting schedule, scouting locations, creating a script breakdown, finding props and costumes… we could go on, but we won’t. Trust us when we say pre-production is a lot of work, but it’s so worth it.

Shoot your indie film

When you think of how to make a movie, this is probably what you’re picturing in your mind; the days on set. Shooting a film is grueling work, and if you do it right, it’s also a ton of fun. This is where all the work you did in pre-production comes into play. Hopefully, you’ve hired an amazing crew, cast great actors, and set yourself up for success with all the legwork you did preparing for production. Now it’s time to work hard and have fun with the team you’ve put together. A warm, welcoming set environment is only going to make your final product better; just ask everyone who was part of filming Biters and Bleeders.

Post-production

After the high of being on set has worn off, it’s time to get right back to work. This is where a good film becomes a great film: in the editing room. You can hire someone to edit your film, or you can work to learn everything you can about editing and do it yourself. It may seem daunting, but we totally believe in you; after all, we’ve done it ourselves. Take a look at Youtube and see what you can learn. It’s a treasure trove of knowledge.

Distribute your film

You have a lot of options once you’ve made your indie film. You can try to work with film distribution companies. You can self-distribute your film. Update: the process of self-distribution is pretty mystifying, so we have an entire e-book about self distribution, and it’s currently on sale! You can submit to film festivals. The list goes on! Just make sure you get your amazing movie in front of viewers. 

Make sure to celebrate

Making a movie is a huge accomplishment–more goes into it than I could ever hope to cover in a blog post–and you did it, from start to finish! Make sure to take the time to celebrate with your community, and give yourself a pat on the back. We’re sure that if you’re anything like us, you’ll be back at step one–brainstorming new ideas–any day now, so don’t forget to take a moment to look back at all the work you’ve done!

This is how we at New 32 make a movie, but we’d love to hear from you. What’s your process? What parts do you enjoy and what parts feel like a slog? Please get in touch and let us know!

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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