Here’s an updated funding guide for 2018 for you, because it’s the holidays… and I’m lovely.
You’ll get an updated USA / UK funding guide when you join indiefilmTO too… and if you’re looking for a faster way to get funding, here’s my crowdfunding lesson on how to go viral in case you missed it.
BTW, I just watched The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, and that is an indie film done right!
It was obscene, absurd, and abstract in all the right ways.
What I’ve noticed is that films submitted to our festival tend to TRY to do those things but fail (miserably) by trying to do those things in the same way.
And what happens when you sound / look the same as everyone else?
You do NOT stand out.
Most of these trends you’ll observe will be defended by the filmmaker as “artistic choices” when really it’s just amateur filmmaking mascerating as art.
21 Signs of an Amateur Indie Film
- The title is in one of the default Adobe fonts, with a drop shadow.
- The title is in a skinny San-Serif font, in all caps, equally spaced, with drone music in the background.
- Comedy with one gimmick the whole thing is based around (time travel, weird dating-esque app, etc.) but keeps relying on that same joke through the whole 9+ minutes.
- Dramas where in the first 2 minutes the main character gets a notification on the phone. (for some reason, 80% of our shorts started this way)
- The main character has bad things happening to them and are just innocent victims to circumstance. Extra points if your main character gets told they have cancer or some sort of terminal illness early on!
- Horrible acting where the characters often chuckle at things other characters say because it’s trying to be diagetically authentic.
- Close ups of the main characters ALL the time, with extreme shallow depth of field, done handheld.
- Way too many cuts back and forth. For example, when a character enters a room there’s 5 back and forths between them and the friend that’s already in the room… I guess to show that they know about “continuity editing” and “matching on action” but it’s so unnecessary and amateur.
- Conversely, extra long shots with some movement on a gimbal as if it’s the opening of Boogie Night — except for the fact that the long unbroken shot doesn’t add anything to the engagement of the scene, and the filmmaker is simply copying what they THINK makes something “art” (eg. long takes) without realizing why the director chose to include a long unbroken shot to begin with. (that is, it’s just advertising the fact that the filmmaker can be good at coordinating people’s blocking rather than make an enthralling scene.)
- Guy tries to get girl (or girl tries to get guy) because that will solve all their problems of loneliness and social awkwardness. Oh and the main character’s friends yell at them to not pursue her/him throughout the whole film.
- Every shot has flat profile cinematography to hammer over the head that it was shot on a RED / Alexa.
- Every character is around the same age as the director / writer.
- Non-diegetic music playing 90% of the time, because the films needs it to make it seem engaging and let the audience know the emotion to feel.
- Over use of a deep bass drone ambient music to show that the main character is going through some inner turmoil. Jump cuts when the main character’s inner turmoil is being displayed, along with harsh sound effects. Extra points if you build up dissonant sounds of screeching and then cut once they’ve gotten outside their head by some external trigger like a friend saying “[insert character’s name]…? [insert character’s name]??! Hey!”
- No distinctive directorial style. It’s just medium shots of characters arguing with each other.
- Horror / comedy where it’s implied that the main characters killed someone, either for dinner because they’re cannibals, or for some other quirky reason. And there are random blood stains that imply or some off-screen muffled screaming in the background.
- Overuse of color grading, and the use of color grading is phenomenal but tends to be inversely proportional to how good the story is. Generally, the better the film is colored, the worse the story. This is unintuitive and I was trying to figure out why but I think it’s because focusing on production values is a SCIENCE (which means you can get good quickly and show proficiency by methodically following step-by-step tactics), versus creating an engaging story, which is an art (non-linear, no set step-by-step progression). Great production values show a mastery of the technical aspects of filmmaking, but not of the difficult emotional / engaging / narrative aspect.
- Sound clearly recorded with lav mics (too bassy) rather than a boom. I personally will forgive this but keep in mind that audiences will subconsciously pick up that this is a “low budget” film.
- Self referential movie about a director / writer trying to write a movie. Sounds meta and different, until you realize 80% of your peers are doing the same thing.
- Party scenes / bar scenes / restaurant scenes that are shot as mediums and we see about 8 people visible, but the audio track tries to give the impression of 100 people in that space, and the audio ambience is not mixed properly enough, so ends up sounding like some ambient stock audio that was found online and just dragged and dropped into the scene.
- This one is psychological but when the filmmaker is told they didn’t get accepted, they immediately question the programmer’s taste and think the prorgrammers just don’t recognize their film for the art it is. And then they either begin to list all the awards its won (as if it that will sway the judges) or send a snarky reply email like “Thanks, may I know why it didn’t get chosen? Do you screen any other films like mine?”
It sucks to get rejected after you’ve worked so hard. I’ve been there, so I get it. Point #21 is why we offer feedback to anyone who submits to our festival (this will happen in Feb 2018).
The best thing you can do is take rejection with a SMILE, because you’re not broken — you have the potential to do outstanding things, in film or whatever art you choose. Here’s a filmmaker that wanted feedback but took his rejection with f’ing empowerment!
NOTE: Not all of the above points are inherently negative since it depends on the execution. In fact, #5 is the impedance of Breaking Bad (the best drama ever).
But when 80% of all films submitted share these in common, you’re not standing out.
And worse, you’re not thinking creatively enough.
YOUR ACTION STEP
The reason for people thinking the same as everyone is is that we take inspiration from the same TV shows / movies. So be an entrepreneur and TAKE CHARGE of your creativity.
Do three things that scare you in the next two weeks. Here are some ideas:
- Attending one intro course to a style of dancing you think is weird.
- Apologizing / intelligently blame to your estranged family member because you blamed them for everything that’s wrong in your life, without realizing they contributed to challenging you, growing you, and making you a fucking ROCK out of it.
- Take a 2 hour trip somewhere you’ve never been.
- Watch a movie whose genre you hate
- If you’re a dog person, pet a cat for a long time and try to actually form a bond with it. Put effort into it.
- Ask yourself what’s something in your life you haven’t attended to, that you SHOULD attend to, that you WOULD attend to — and do that.
“But Curt how will this make me a better filmmaker?”
After attending a $15,000+ conference on business growth, I took away one key technique I call The Opposite Field (which I’ll talk about more next week) but here it is in a nutshell…
Think about a time you felt really creative — a time you stood out — a time that you can be proud of if you let yourself be.
Did it come from following your heart? Did it come from applying something so tangential to what you normally know, to what you do know?
My guess it’s a bit of both.
So let’s engineer that! Do something scary.
Hit reply and let me know what new thing you’re going to do and how it’s going to make you grow.
Love you, and have a great holiday!
PS: The image accompanying this article was provided by Smart.
Director / Writer / Producer
You know how Eminem is the Rap God? Well up North there in Canada, Curt's referred to as Toronto's "Film God." Studying mathematics and physics, his switch to filmmaking has given him a unique eye where he sees how things are traditionally done in the industry and goes "Um.. WTF." With a focus on results, and not just "festivals", Curt has taken cues from the startup world as well as deep psychology to help other independent filmmakers get connected, get funded, and make money with their films.