Thinking About Filming a Movie? Watch This First

For the last few years I've dreamed of writing and filming a feature-length movie but after watching this video, I'm starting to reconsider. 

I've been filming videos professionally for about six years now. I've never had to create anything extremely polished before, but I've worked on many gigantic projects that have taken close to a year to produce. A few of our photography tutorials are over 20 hours in length which makes editing something that is only an hour and a half seem like a breeze. I'm certainly not an expert at any one aspect of filmmaking but it seems like I know enough about each individual facet, i.e., location scouting, finding talent, lighting, filming, directing, and editing, that I could pull it off if.

Well, there's nothing that can bring you back down to reality faster than hearing first hand from someone who had your exact same dream, about how their entire project fell apart. Austin McConnell's video about the creation of his 2013 feature film “Sprouting Orchids” is one of the best videos I've seen on YouTube in a long time. His brutal honesty and detailed account of the creation of this movie is eye-opening, depressing, and inspiring at the same time.

Every single one of my fears about creating a feature film came true with McConnell's project. His budget didn't allow him to pay everyone, locations canceled last minute, actors' schedules conflicted with shooting times, the crew became increasingly disinterested, nobody showed up for the premiere, and critics gave the movie overwhelmingly negative reviews. It's so rare to get such a detailed and honest look at the creation of a project that wasn't a huge success and that's what makes this video so special.

I'm so glad I stumbled upon McConnell's YouTube channel and this video. It hasn't convinced me to give up my dream of producing a feature film but it has certainly brought my expectations back to reality. I finally understand why so much preplanning is needed for a project like this. A feature film requires a team of people and the last thing you want to do is let them down. 

If you have any interest in making a movie or simply collaborating with a team on a large project, watch this video. At the very least it will inspire you to consider details you may have naturally overlooked.

[via Austin McConnell]

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13 Comments

Indy movies are an absolute waste of time and resources. Nobody care for them, even less do people care to PAY for them. Even in Hollywood, an astounding percentage of movies with production budgets from $5M to $150M are a total failure and aren't even released, as marketing costs would add another $30M-$100M to the failure. Focus rather in high-end corporate and Advertising.

Here's the thing. One of my favorite movies ever is Office Space. When I watch that movie all I can think is "I could do this." And if I could, why wouldn't people want to watch it? I understand why Avengers has to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, but why Office Space? The hardest part seems to be getting the cast on board.

Lance Bachelder's picture

Office Space had a $10 million budget. It's very easy to get your cast on board - you have to pay them! I think every aspiring filmmaker should watch the video to understand one thing - respect. Assuming you can shoot a 2 month schedule for a couple of grand and create something viable show's a complete lack of respect for the process. Casting people who do not resemble stars (including yourself) and can't act shows a complete lack of respect. Hopefully the filmmaker has learned that lesson - it's a lot harder than it looks and you have to have an aptitude for it not just the desire.

I tend to believe that a lot of people can act but have never actually attempted it. And there are many more people who are trying to break into the industry but don't know how. If you could find these people, and they were willing to work for a small amount of money for a month or two, it seems like you should be able to pull this off without spending millions of dollars... But of course, I still could be naive.

Nic Hilton's picture

Living in Los Angeles, I can tell you that high schools, colleges, community theaters etc are absolutely full of acting talent who will work for little to no money. And these are talented people. No their names won't sell, but they'll bring your vision to life. Just think of napoleon dynamite. Jon Heder was only paid 1000 dollars and that movie became huge!

Exactly

Lance Bachelder's picture

Having worked on a couple of dozen Indies including writing 2 shooting scripts and Co-Directing one one of them (both have distribution and turned a nice profit) I can tell you it's not as easy as it sounds. When you're going through the casting process it's a little sad how many folks come to LA thinking they're gonna be a star but have very little talent once the camera is on. On our sub 100K feature we probably auditioned over 200 actors for a handful of roles. It takes a special person to make your script come to life and even greater talent to take your words and make them better than you imagined. Yes there are many here in LA that have that ability and have yet to get a break and you can get them to work on the cheap and make a good film but thinking you can go to your local college or theater and find a cast is a bad idea. Being the high school drama star vs being able to create a realistic portrayal once someone says action are radically different things. Also you will NOT get distribution in today's market without a name or two in your show. Look at the cast of Office Space - all are great talents and all are still working or major stars.

Lee, I come from the AD industry (based in EU). There's money to be made there. There are way more Ads than drama shot every year. And EVERYONE gets paid on Ads and very well indeed. It requires LOTS of creativity to introduce and sell a product in 25-30", the sky is the limit. They're Fun to do and don't require years to make. Of course a professionally produced Ad is very cumbersome (like a small Hollywood movie) and involves a Client, Agency, creatives, Prod company, Post...etc, etc, with average production costs at €250k (and up). But you can start LOW on a local project and DIY, getting EVERYBODY paid and grow from there. That's what "inspiring filmmakers" don't get, they only think about "making a movie" and get noticed and "reach Hollywood". Well, that route has less chances than winning the Lottery! And in that route the Filmmaker is never aware he's using (abusing) his/her friends free time on "his vision", for hours/days/weeks. Would the Filmmaker help those friends for hours/days/weeks on their vision of "building a house", or "fixing something"? Of course not. I've seen this so many times, inspiring Filmmakers abusing everybody's time for no return at all, other than fulfill the Filmmaker's ego. I say, start rather with projects with a BUDGET (corporate short or local ad) and PAY everyone involved. And grow from there.

Eric Cat's picture

Strong vibe, strong lesson. Amazing.

Indeed, I think this review/looking back video might be telling a real story he'd wanted to tell in his movie... I stayed watching untill the end, so good job I think :)

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

Did I just watched a movie telling me why not do a movie because nobody will watch it?

I've directed 3 no budget feature films. They were all gruelling in a way that nothing else I've ever done was. I could write a book on the subject but I'd just say that yeah it is definitely something to go into with your eyes wide open and remembering it's going to take a very long time, it's going to cost more than you think and you're going to have to maintain good relationships for a long period of time with a bunch of flakey creative types who will become progressively less excited in your project as you go. Not that I regret doing it mind (well maybe the last one was a mistake) but it is no easy undertaking when you don't have buckets of cash to fall back on.

Craig Mitchell's picture

Great post, enjoyed the clip and the comments. Lots of good insights