Not everyone wants to make a movie. For those that do, there are several categories that divide them based on their level of interest and commitment. There is the casual movie-maker, the person with the iPhone or iPad who likes to film things around them for a few seconds to a few minutes. On the other end is the professional movie-maker, the person who has at their disposal equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars in their budget, and hundreds of professional crew at their disposal. Then there is everyone in between.
The thing is, no matter where you fall into this spectrum, there is absolutely no excuse for you to not be making movies. A simple iPhone gives you a great camera, and with iMovie and GarageBand you have a complete editing and publishing studio. It’s that simple. People don’t realize that fifty years ago none of this existed. Only film students, with access to equipment that they would never be able to afford, could film and edit and produce the product of their imaginations. Today that is not the case.
Kevin Smith once said making movies these days is so easy that there is no excuse not to be doing it, if that’s your thing. I completely agree with him. I just listed all that you need to make a movie. Not just home movies, but an actual film. It may not compare in quality to the multi-million dollar studio projects, but you can get pretty close. Add to that the availability of software like Apple’s Final Cut Pro (my favorite) or Adobe’s Premier Pro and you have, literally, the same gear that the leading studios have. Imagine that. For a few hundred bucks you can work on the same software that created Oscar-winning films. Take that up a notch, add Apple’s Logic software, Motion, and Compressor, or Adobe’s After Effects and Audition and you have even more of what the studios use. It’s a bit costly, but like with anything you spend the equivalent in money that matches your interest.
You want to make five-minute shorts? Whip out the iPhone or iPad. Five-minute shorts with a little more photographic flexibility? Pick up an HD video camera for under $1000.00. Use iMovie to piece it together. Create your own tracks in GarageBand. Bam! You just shot and edited, effectively produced your own film. Sure, you may have to embrace the learning curve that comes with using software but I can tell you with certainty that anyone, and I mean anyone, can figure it out and do some really great things. A movie is a movie, regardless of the quality or the length. You just have to do it.
While we wrote a short film and hired (well, they did it for free, so ‘hired’ may not be the right word) some brilliantly talented actors we essentially made a home-movie. Pulling strings we were able to land some real camera equipment, sound gear, and a boat-load of extras in the form of family and friends. Still, we had $0.00 for a budget. We pulled in a few hundred dollars in donations, of which we spent mostly on catering for the actors and crew and the equipment. That’s it. The rest; filming, editing, VFX, sound design, etc… was done by us. We learned the software as we went. We had to. Why? Because we wanted to be a film group and we wanted to make a movie. Our commitment level was simply this: come hell or high water we were going to make a film.
And we did. And so can you. If you are at all struggling with the desire to turn your idea into a film just do it. Hat-tip to Nike for that. Grab anything that records and get going. If you need to write it first, then get writing. I’ve covered that previously. Don’t know how to direct? Learn. Watch a few movies similar to your idea. Pay attention to the camera angles, the lighting, try to imitate them with by filming small clips to imitate the shot you would like to do. Doesn’t look the same, or nearly as good? Tough. Run with it. Don’t let it be an excuse to put the camera down and your ambition on the shelf.
Software intimidate you? It’s 2017 folks, there isn’t a single task on this planet that does not have a YouTube how-to video covering it. iMovie and Final Cut Pro are no exception. Don’t play an instrument to score your own music? Fire up GarageBand and use the many sound loops that come with the software to create your own score. Sure, it may not win an Oscar for Best Motion Picture Score, but it’s a score nonetheless. Just make the movie.
Life is far too short to let the imaginary limitations brewing in your brain keep you from fulfilling your dream. Yes, it is true that your finished product might be a giant turd, but even then you will be in the best of company. Dani and I spend a fair amount of “movie time” picking out what we know will be just the worst horror films ever made. Terrible production quality, bad acting, horrible writing, and more often than not nearly non-existent sound. Thing is, we love most of those films. For one, we respect that someone made the film. They made it, regardless of their doubts or obstacles. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, by Kiah Roache-Turner, is a prime example.
This film had very good quality all around. What makes it especially wonderful for us is that Kiah filmed this movie only on weekends. For three years. Yes, that’s right. For what had to be three long, arduous years, he could only afford to shoot on weekends. And he did. And the end result is spectacular. The consistency, flow, continuity are all fantastic. We would have never guessed the production was so broken up over such an extended period of time. Yet it was. Our appreciation for this movie comes not just from the fact that it’s a pretty good horror film, but that it was made with such passion and commitment. I can only imagine the things that were said to Kiah during filming. I would bet good money people told him to give up, that it will never be completed, and that he fought monetary issues until the very last minute of post-production.
To put it all in perspective I offer this; my seven year-old daughter has made five movies, ranging from three minutes to seven minutes. Most of them she shot on her iPad, a few I helped hold it for her. She transferred the files to her MacBook Pro (13″ mid-2012) and used iMovie and GarageBand to cut them herself and score them. One film she did completely on the iPad, using iMovie and GarageBand in iOS to finish the project. Sure, being homeschooled she has the benefit of us teaching her about this stuff, but she’s seven. If you are reading this odds are that you are a bit older than seven, so you should be able to wrangle your way around software easily enough.
Make your movie. Make a short of it. Make a trailer for an idea that you have. Make a small documentary. Shoot your kids/spouse/sibling/parent and doctor up the video to elevate it from “quick shot with the phone” to an actual movie. Thirty seconds or three hours, the length doesn’t matter. What does matter is you. You doing the thing you dream of doing and want to do. Make your movie. Maybe it won’t reach the level of “How To Shoot Zombies” created by a seven year-old, or maybe it will be the darling of Sundance. You won’t know until you do it.
And once you do make that film… Make another.