What do you think is The Critical First Step to Being a Filmmaker? Is it having a distribution deal in place? Is it having the funding secured? Is it having acquired name talent, or a great director, or a sought-after composer? None of these are most important first step to become a filmmaker. The most critical, oft-overlooked first step to being a successful indie filmmaker is having a great script. Alfred Hitchcock said there are three things you need for a great movie: 1. A great script. 2. A great script. 3. A great script.
By J.P. Johnston, Zanesville, Ohio
How A Great Script Helped Us Make Our Movie
Mollee Gray, a Disney star who we hired to play the lead in my movie The Reliant said, "You don't realize how good your script is!" She didn't go on about the action, the drama, the tear-jerking scenes, the dangerous stunts, or how much she was payed compared to her other flicks - it was the story that impacted her. The same will be true for your audience, or the lack thereof.
Think about it. How many bad movies have you seen which had broad distribution, had great name talent, or were well-funded (or even over-funded)? Most broadly distributed movies stink and lose money. In pursuing resumes for my movie The Reliant, I couldn't believe how many great actors took jobs memorizing lines in bad scripts! We look at the highly ranked movies of scripts to determine their quality, but watch the losing movies in your favorite actors and you will soon discover the biggest reason most movies stink - bad scripts!
Check out the bloated budgets of B movies some time. It's crazy! I knew an indie filmmaker who created an $28 million movie five years ago and it was so bad when it was screened it still hasn't been released. Most movie budgets are teeming with wasteful spending!
Studios can afford to lose money on bad movies, but unless the indie filmmaker is independently wealthy and determined to squander his wealth on a movie few will watch, indie filmmakers must be good stewards of their opportunities. If your first and/or second movie has a bad scripts, game over.
Critical qualities of a winning indie script:
1. Have an unpredictable plot.
2. Commit to realism in every aspect of your story.
3. Have believable heroes and villains, with mixed motives.
4. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.
5. Don't bring on a creative team to help you improve your story until you've got it the best you think it can posssbly be. They will make it better.
6. Avoid profanity and nudity, and promote virtue and redemption. The trend going back 25 years proves the more vulgarity, sexuality, and nudity a movie vie has, the less money it makes.
7. Be relevant.
Entertainment, lest it be a marshmallow snack in a malnourished culture, must strive to excellence and tap into the potential in our audiences. The impact we can have for good or devil is tremendous. You can educate and inspire, or you can confuse and ruin lives. Don't settle for mediocrity. Spurn the nay-sayers and tell a story that is meaningful and powerful.
A great script - that's the first hurdle, and the highest, if you aspire to be a successful indie filmmaker.
Watch our teaser for The Reliant, starring Kevin Sorbo, Brian Bosworth, and Eric Roberts.
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