Creativity is king in the world of independent film production

A creative mind is the most valuable tool of a low-budget filmmaker. It all starts with an original thought; From there, it’s about nurturing that thought until it becomes a brilliant idea. After that, it’s all about turning that idea into a movie using every ounce of energy and resources you can muster.

Most of the hit movies shown at film festivals these days are movies that were made at a fraction of the cost it takes to make a major Hollywood studio movie. Technological advances have meant that almost anyone can make a movie. Movie cameras, video cameras, sound recording equipment, and just about any other type of equipment one needs to make a movie can be purchased at very affordable prices these days. The equipment that is available these days can provide a very low budget movie with a production value that looks like James Cameron had something to do with the project. This professional look along with a unique story can increase the chances of any film being accepted at film festivals like Houston Worldfest, Cannes, Toronto Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, etc.

As hard as they try, the major Hollywood movie studios will never have a monopoly on creativity. They spend millions of dollars on market research in an effort to find out exactly what movie audiences around the world are looking for when they go to the movies. Despite all this effort, they still haven’t found a formula. The tastes of people who go to the movies are as difficult to predict as an earthquake is, because the pattern changes all the time. Due to this fact, the door is left wide open for the creative types of the world to get into the game. All they need to do is come up with a unique idea that they can transform into a film, present their film at festivals like Sundance, and then let the judges decide. While the big studios have tried to take over the film festival circuit in recent years, it’s still the little ones with small but creative films that are kings in that realm.

It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to make a movie that can be entered into competitions like the Sundance Film Festival. Sony is about to release a line of high-definition camcorders that are perfect for anyone looking to make movies on a shoestring budget. While movies made with these cameras won’t be shot on “film” (as movies have been since the beginning), they will (almost) look like they are. These new cameras will be able to give a high quality image comparable to the image provided by film. The two camcorders are the PDW-F330 and PDW-F350, and they offer all sorts of movie production features that even the most true-to-film professional filmmaker should respect. Both cameras offer true 24P recording in both SD and HD, time-lapse recording and slow shutter recording to name a few. The F350 model also offers true variable frame rate recording capabilities which are also known as “slow motion/fast motion” functions. Features like these are invaluable to anyone making a low-budget movie, as it allows them to include motion effects in their movies without the use of an expensive film camera or high-priced film lab. Both cameras will be on the market in March 2006. The F350 will cost about $25,000, while the F330 model will only cost about $16,000. A PDW-F30 rig will be available in June for about $9,000. These are small prices to pay to be a self-sufficient independent filmmaker.

A budget filmmaker can invest in an inexpensive HD camcorder and rig and have everything they need to make as many movies as their mind and body can produce. All they’ll need after that is a creative mind, a few thousand dollars, some ambitious friends for their actors and crew, some screenwriting software like Final Draft, and an iron determination to make a movie. They don’t have to worry about high movie costs, movie processing, or movie to DVD transfers. All you’ll need is your camera and a $30 (23.3 GB) disk and you’ll be ready to shoot a full movie. Buying discs for a camera is much cheaper than buying film and all the financial baggage that comes with it.

Once they shoot their movie with one of these cameras, a low-budget filmmaker can go straight to their computer with the disc and start editing it using one of the many affordable editing programs available these days, like Final Cut Pro. They can do all of the post-production work on their movie on their home computer, as long as they’re willing to take on a lot of job responsibilities.

Technology has allowed independent filmmakers to bypass many costly steps in the movie-making process. Instead of paying a bunch of people hundreds of dollars an hour for movie services that are only available in cities like Hollywood and New York, they can now perform all of these steps in the comfort of their own home on their own computer.

For anyone who has ever dreamed of making their own movie, there is no better time than now to make it a reality. The playing field has been leveled in terms of technology, but it still takes a creative story to make it anywhere on the film festival circuit. Affordable gear can get you on the field, but you have to bring a good game to win. A creative mind is your best player in this game, so if you take care of that part, you’re halfway to bringing your cinematic vision to life. Feed your creative idea until it becomes a unique script and then dedicate your life to turning this script into a movie. If your idea is as good as you think it is, it will do pretty well on the film festival circuit. If this happens, it could lead to a decent distribution deal for your movie. If you stick with it and continue making movies, you might even find that you’ve made a career for yourself as a professional artist making independent films, and that dreams really can come true.

Copyright 2006. Michael P. Connelly

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