Monday, August 22, 2011
The Guerilla Code
Simple, Small-scale Stories
Remember, you are not making a blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean your stories have to be simple in plot, subtext, metaphors, or symbolism. Just pick a story that can be told with minimum effort.
Find a story that can be told in three or less locations. And remember that 80% of your shoot should be centered around one single location. Each time you move from one location to another, you’re burning time and money.
Handful of Characters
A Plot with Twists and Turns
Most low-budget films are designed to keep you guessing Without multiple locations, special effects, car chases, and a host characters to keep things interesting, you have to rely on your story to drive your project. Without a great script, the independent filmmaker is dead on arrival. Your screenplay needs to feature plenty of twists and turns. Get the viewer to think the story is going one way and then take the story in a completely different direction. Then surprise them with an unexpected complication. You get the picture. It’s the double-cross, the triple-cross, etc. Remember the only thing you have going for you is your story.
A Strong Story
Interesting and Quirky Characters
Characters in big-budget films often look generic and uninteresting. Hollywood actors don’t necessarily reflect what real people look like – too handsome, too attractive or too young. Most low-budget films are character pieces and character-driven. Your characters are your friends. Make them interesting. Who wants to be normal? There is nothing in life that can be described as average or normal. Make your characters unusual and quirky, just like real life. Never commit the crime that Hollywood is often guilty of—stereotyping people into neat categories. There is nothing more interesting than depicting so-called ordinary people in your film.
Keep Night Shots to a Minimum
Guerilla filmmaking works best with simple-shot setups. When you decide to shoot at night or use atmospherics such as wind, rain or fog, you are violating the guerilla code. You don’t have the time or money for the complexity these shots require. If it’s in your script, you may want to consider a rewrite. If you cannot find a way around it, keep it to only one occurrence in your project.
Use Natural Lighting
Find a Niche
Build your story around a topic that is fresh and original. Maybe your character has an interest in building and flying model planes. Perhaps, there is an annual competition. This could make an interesting story. Find a niche—something that has never been on the screen before. Maybe your story is about a comic book writer who views the world as a comic book. So create a world in which his comic books becomes reality. As an independent filmmaker, you have to think differently and see the world in a different light than the big-budget filmmakers. Look for the unusual.
What if we stop making Christian films and decide to make redemptive films. What would they look like? Would they speak to a broader audience? By applying low-budget principles, we can use the same strategy that the independent film industry has been using for years. We now have the keys. All we have to do is present Biblical truth and tell stories that will engage our audience. Isn’t it time that filmmakers who have a passion for Christ make their entryway into Sundance or the Toronto Film Festival. The independent model could provide a better way to reach our audience than the big-budget studio system of Hollywood.