Five questions filmmakers ask before making a film
You have an idea for a film – now what? Reflecting on these five questions will help you begin production and put you in a better position to pitch your film to investors.
1. What will it add to the conversation?
Ideally, your film should be meaningful, entertaining, and distinct. It shouldn’t simply echo – it should be able to stand alone. Perhaps it covers a fascinating, noteworthy topic. Maybe it is innovative in terms of form or style.
One of my former film teachers, Clifton Raphael, used to instruct his students: “Tell me something I don’t know and even if I did know it I wouldn’t have been able to guess it.” His advice has stuck with me through time because it encapsulates the importance of constantly questioning conventions and learning to break them.
2. Is it practical?
Consider whether you have the financial means to support yourself throughout the production processes. Films generally take a while to begin generating revenue. Do you have a plan for applying for and obtaining grants? Do you plan to pitch to investors? What kind of support will you need from the cast and crew? How do you plan to compensate these individuals for their work?
For advice on low-budget filmmaking, consider taking Elliot Grove’s Lo-to-no Budget Filmmaking course at Raindance London; if you’re not in the area (or his course isn’t within your budget!) read his articles Compromises Low Budget Filmmakers Make and 10 Expenses Most First Time Film Director Forget.
Also consider time restraints. What are your other commitments and priorities? Create a plan for how you will divide and manage your time so you can devote sufficient energy to each stage of production.
3. Why now?
Consider what is so unique about the current state of affairs that warrants the production of your film. Perhaps your film will cover a topic that is currently the subject of political discourse. Maybe it reintroduces a long-forgotten narrative that you wish to revive.
Also consider the timeline of your production and whether your film will still be relevant once you’ve wrapped production and completed the final cut.
4. Why me?
Ideally, you should be the only one who could tell the story. Reflect on what makes you special as a filmmaker and how your specific skill set will benefit the production of your film. Perhaps you have exclusive access to a story. Maybe you are already extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter.
Ask yourself what makes you indispensable to the production. Reflect on your weaknesses and plan for how you will overcome them.
5. Why film?
Why should film be the medium used to disseminate your story? Would your story be better as a novel? How about a podcast? Or a photography exhibition? Perhaps it would be better suited as a Virtual Reality experience.
You should be able to articulate why film is the ideal platform for your story. Not all stories lend themselves to the screen. Consider why you desire to tell a linear story comprised of sounds and images and whether that medium is the best choice for your specific story.
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