[posted 03.19.2001]


IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I anted-up and shot some original footage, but if I were going out this week to shoot some footage on the streets and in the homes of Chicago for a wee feature of my own, this is the kind of checklist I’d go through beforehand. It is an incomplete list, but it hits some important points. [These are in addition to commonsense rules such as “Don’t get hammered the night before a 6 a.m. call.”]

1. Before you embark on this project, call everyone you know. If folks don’t know anything about making a little feature, bet a dollar that they know someone who’d be interested in helping. And believe me, you need all the help you can get.

2. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Make sure you absolutely NEED to shoot your project outside during winter.

3. Always have handy a person who can fix equipment. Expect that the equipment will break at any time.

4. If you use film, rehearse at least 500 times before yelling “Action!” The smallest roll of 16mm color film you can get comes in a spool of 100 feet. Give or take a few feet here or there for slow-motion or fast-motion shots, you’ll get about two minutes of editable footage out of this — assuming, of course, that your star has his fly zipped up. This roll will run you about $100. No shit. For us Joe Schmoes looking to make a little feature on our own, the film is a big, big expense.

5. If you use your friends, ALWAYS use video first. [See point number 4.] Unless your friend is Marlon Brando, your friends will more often than not get a case of the giggles until they get used to being on camera. A videotape costs $2 for two hours of footage. You can replay it over and over and over, and eventually your friends will realize that constantly laughing and looking directly into the camera will not win them a Golden Globe. But hey, you may discover that your best friend’s roommate is the next [INSERT NAME OF INDIE FILM STAR HERE].

Side note: This shit ain’t easy. Making a small feature is NOT a hobby. It’s an excruciating and exhausting passion — and the odds are very few people will see it. So, you better love the concept of color temperature and shutter angles, or you’re fucked. Friends who aren’t down with this will go home early, believe me. That’s all right, though — I never stuck it out in sports for very long. It’s the same mindset. Sports or film. Long hours, painful exhaustion, and the knowledge that you may lose in the first round of the tournament despite all your efforts.

6. Apply for as many credit cards as possible. It gets expensive.

7. Wear comfortable clothes. Otherwise, you will die.

8. Have coffee readily available at all times. I do not need to say more.

9. Buy a computer on which to edit your movie. This is not a post-post-postmodern plug for a specific computer company. Whatever platform you like, there’s a software package for you to use. The alternative is paying hundreds of dollars (per hour) of money you definitely don’t have so that a posthouse can do it. Remeber, this is “supposed to be fun.” Going into debt [see point number 6] for a while is doable; bankruptcy is NOT. Remember: fun.

10. Make sure you save up vacation time at work. Your apartment will become ground zero for all the film-related chaos. It you don’t film over a long segment of vacation time, you may have to quit your job or risk being fired. Editing at home at night and on weekends can be accomplished after your principle photography. It’s possible to maintain a modicum of professionalism even though you will be totally drained at this point.

11. If your project goes somewhere, follow it. Wouldn’t you like to be at Sundance or Cannes screening your film?

Remember, folks: Independent and guerilla filmmakers are not a dime a dozen. Get out there and roll tape. We all have something to contribute to the cinematic process. This isn’t just about the wanker with “a vision.” If you have in any way fixed the wiring in your apartment, you are a capable gaffer (lights). Own a van or pick-up? You are probably the most important person to know.

I want to see ten minutes of new footage from everyone by the end of spring.


- - - - -


mark e. greene is working on his ph.d. in materials science and engineering at northwestern university. he lives in chicago and mindlessly babbles on to no logical conclusion about the impact of materials on mankind to his friends. he hopes to hold many patents for new materials of his own design and creation so that he may have an impact on mankind. woo! haha haha….