I have had a few folks marvel at how much I've accomplished with no budget on Mark of the Veil. I believe it's a combination of greatly talented people, fortunate circumstances in spite of failed fundraising, and the following mindset that I attribute to experience working with volunteers (both at my church and in film).
It's a little harsh, because I know I as an indie filmmaker must battle my unjustifiably enormous ego, and I suspect I'm not the only one.
Ready? Here goes.
The indie filmmaker who has no funds to pay his or her cast and crew must remember that they do not work for him or her - the filmmaker works for his or her cast and crew.
Your job as the indie filmmaker is to:
- Make the best film possible, first and foremost, for the cast's demo reels. (GET THEM A COPY - NOW!)
- Prioritize their scheduling needs over yours. (YOU WORK FOR THEM, REMEMBER?)
- Communicate everything ahead of time. (YOU WORK FOR THEM, REMEMBER?)
- Make their experience on set the best you possibly can. (FOOD AT ALL COSTS!)
- You work for them, remember?
And finally, the indie filmmaker with no budget must always remember - THERE IS A REASON YOU HAVE NO BUDGET. You are not God's gift to independent cinema. Folks should not have to feel privileged to work with you, for any reason. You have earned nothing simply by writing a script and planning out a production which has no ability to compensate talented people for their time.
People are taking a GAMBLE on your abilities. More than likely their experiences working with indie filmmakers are predominantly NEGATIVE. You are not special. You are not owed anything.
And I don't care who you are, that never changes.
I try to do what Jesus did (everything comes back to Jesus for me, sorry). I try to strip off my self-supposed creator status and trade it in for a towel to wrap around my waist. I do my best to gently take off the shoes of those who walk with me, and I try to wash their feet as they rest from a hard life of moving from audition to audition, from gig to gig.
I want to make my set a place of refreshment, of energizing rest. A place where, when the shoot wraps, people are bummed it's over and are already pumped for the next adventure with me.
That method will cost you. It will cost you control, ego, power, and all those things you think you should have. You will spend less of your time being an artistic genius and more time asking your cast and crew what you can do for them.
It will be less about the "vision" and more about the people you work
And, at the end of the day, you'll look back and see a beautiful sight similar to mine - over forty people that, regardless of how much or little they could participate, are bonded to you, and are ready to do that awesomeness again. (Next time with a budget!)
Or... you can not do those things and then watch as your film likely doesn't even complete production.
That's the choice before each of us - how are we going to treat those who are taking a RISK on us?
And one final note... I don't think that goes away when there's money involved. Not if you're smart. Not if you want relationships that go beyond this one film project.
Because this one film project? It's probably not that great anyway.