Once I have an idea for a movie, I will relentlessly chase it until whatever conclusion I have set for it in my mind. In the case of short films, it's making the short film. In the case of features, it can either be finishing the screenplay or producing the movie. I have two feature films in more active stages of development right now. And there is this gnawing low-budget, quick shoot, DIY feature that will not stop eating at me! It's that suspense marriage movie I keep talking about.
It might be fun to document how I make a film. So I'll write about the making of this marriage movie. It will also be interesting to refer to (at least for me) in the future to see what I learned, how my process evolves, naval-gazing stuff like that.
Okay, so anyway. Here I go. The moment you have an idea for a movie, you have a problem. What's the story, who are the characters, how are you going to write it? That's like the basic, step one situation. And from there, problems mount. Basically, movie-making is a giant problem that doesn't stop when it's filmed. You still have to edit it, market it, distribute it, and nourish whatever big or little life it goes on to lead in the world. I guess what I'm saying is that if you like stories, you're creative, and you like problem solving, then movie-making might just be for you.
I really love solving problems. Big past time over here.
So. Where I am with this particular movie -- I'm calling it the marriage suspense movie for now because I haven't landed on a title I like enough yet -- I've written a draft. A bad, lousy draft, none of which I will use. It wasn't even a suspense movie the first go. I sent it to a friend (a very generous friend!) who read it and gave me notes. I also sent it to a third-party person I don't know, paying them blindly over the internet, to get their notes.
It helps to get notes from friends. They know you, like you, trust you. They know what you're made of, to a degree, and so can be informative to your story in that way. The particular friend I sent it to is a therapist. I wanted to get the perspective of someone who has seen a lot of people go through a lot of marriage trouble to understand if I were portraying a failing marriage realistically.
It also helps to get notes from complete strangers because they won't sugar coat a thing. As for the third party, I used Indie Film Hustle's coverage service. I had used them in the past, and I find their coverage to be thoughtful and helpful. I also wanted to have a screenwriter's brain picking apart the story.
At that point, I took their notes, read them, and let everything marinate. I had hoped to revise the script a few times and submit it to some of the screenwriting contests this spring sheerly to force myself to write toward a deadline. But after considering my own thoughts about the draft and the notes I received, I decided it was too much of a heavy lift for those deadlines.
Then life happened. My son's residential setting closed, he came back home, my role as mother ramped up. I had to table the story until he finished the school year. I resurrected it a few weeks ago. I have set a personal goal for myself that I'm going to write and film at least one feature a year. This year, we released Cecily and Lydia at the Waypoint, the first feature that I've written and produced. This means, I must have something released next year.
As mentioned at the top, I have two films currently in active development. That means that we (meaning the director, writer, and myself) are working on getting those stories to the point that they have been turned into compelling and entertaining scripts. Our goal is to film one of them this fall. At the same time, that's not a guarantee. Producing the film to shoot this fall requires a script and funding. To get funding, we're going to need an attachment (which means a recognized person) so people inspired to fund the film feel like the movie has a fighting change to "make it" in a crowded market. People are probably way more interested to watch "that Angelina Jolie movie" versus "that Christina Shaver movie." Who is Christina Shaver?
Anyway, it feels like a big leap to go from no viable script yet in mid-June to an attachment, funding, and a shoot by late this year. It is possible, and I'm doing my best to make that happen. But with every day that passes, it's a bigger and bigger stretch.
So I'm hedging my bets. If we are able to film that feature this year, great! If not, I'm shooting my DIY, low-budget marriage suspense movie in August regardless. I have a bit of a script problem with this film at the moment as well, in that a script doesn't exist! But it will by the end of the month. I can use it to start casting.
I'm not precious with this film at all. It's very seat-of-the-pants DIY. If it works, great. If it's terrible, also great. I did a thing. I learned something from it. The other projects I have in development have a lot of weight and pressure on them for various reasons, including the fact they are bigger budgets and outside investors. More riding on them. This little marriage movie has much less pressure since I plan on using the limited resources (read: my credit card) I have to get it done.
I will shoot it on the two iPhones I have at an apartment I have access to. I plan on finding cast through the film community in Chicago and also by putting out notices online. I hope to crew the shoot also through the Chicago film community -- people who are emerging in their careers or want to do something more creative than their work in commercials or corporate videos and have time those first two weeks of August.
The biggest problem I have at the moment is figuring out the directing and cinematography. I have ideas, but none of them have yet moved to the front position. I can't really go out and look for a director or cinematographer until I have a script. And even at that point, will the director or cinematographer want to work on this project for so little up-front payment? Those are the producing problems I'm facing at the moment.
But, first thing's first. I need to write this script. I still have a major roadblock on page 15 (another problem!), and until I get through that question, it's hard to move forward. Something will occur to me. It always does. Dear Universe, please let that something occur to me sooner versus later.