(The author of this piece has written, directed and produced three feature films – That Four Letter Word, Good Night Good Morning & X: Past is Present – all shot in under two weeks with a crew size of less than ten. If the first one largely used cars as location for most conversation, the second was an all night phone conversation and the third a collaborative serialised narrative film that required each filmmaker to shoot not more than four days.)
So you have always wanted to make movies but have been getting frustrated waiting for producers? Stop waiting.
Yes, you will need professional help to release/distribute your film but you can worry about that after making your movie. If you were wondering how do you even get started with no/very little money, here’s how one day and three movies can change your entire life.
Yes, back-to-back viewings of these three films – a movie marathon – could help you take that big step from procrastination to action.
You know where (#YKW) to find them. So here’s what you need in your playlist.
Director: Jafar Panahi
Running time: 82 minutes
Auteur Jafar Panahi, banned from making movies in Iran, has never let that get in the way of making films. So what did he do this time? He decided that all you need to make a movie was a car and a camera.
He drove a taxi, put the camera on the dashboard (and possibly two more video cameras rigged inside the car) and turned it around to capture people getting in, saying their lines and getting out.
While Taxi is a self-referencing meta-movie about a banned filmmaker filming his “passengers” who happen to reflect the socio-political reality of Iran (and distribution of film content) the means justify the ends and the medium is the message here.
You don’t necessarily need to make the same kind of self-referencing film but if you want to learn how to use the camera as a fly on a wall where all the action takes place, Taxi is a great start.
Figure out a story that requires to be set in a car and you could shoot a movie outdoors, right there in the streets, in less than a week.
Five ideas/plots to get you started: A car jack. An accident. A road trip. Car sex. Underage/drunk driver PoV.
Director: Sean S Baker
Running time: 88 minutes
Indie director Sean S Baker used three 5S iPhones to shoot this comedy about minorities and social outcasts by just following the characters out on the streets.
The film spans a day in the life of a transgender prostitute who discovers that her boyfriend (also her pimp) was cheating on her. She sets out to confront him after hunting down the other girl while her best friend and a taxi-driver struggle with bad days at work.
Like Panahi, Baker too employs a camera-rigged car to go out and shoot on Sunset Boulevard, the heart of Los Angeles.
There are plenty of rigs and also apps (like FilmicPro) to use to convert your iPhone into a movie camera. The iPhone 6S out in the market today can be used to shoot 4K, twice the resolution Tangerine was shot in.
Also if the camera fits into your palm think of all the mediums available to get some really cool fluid takes – from skateboards, wheelchairs, bikes or motorcycles. All you need is a good sound recording team if you are shooting sync sound to plan your shoot around the logistics of getting clean sound.
Five ideas/plots to get you started: The making of a sex tape/MMS clip. A suicide note. A found footage film. An audition. A Skype/FaceTime romance.
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Running time: 138 minutes
If the first two films haven’t convinced you to go out there and make your movie, this German film shot in one night from start to finish as a single long shot will.
The team took three takes (in three nights with each take being shot between 4.30 a.m. to 7.30 a.m.) and got it right the third time around after elaborate planning and rehearsals.
Victoria is not just an artistic triumph but also a physical one given the amount of concentration and energy required to just hold the camera, let alone follow the characters and the action from indoors to outdoors to rooftops to basement parking lots covering walking, running, cycling and driving involving all kinds of action including stunts.
Yet, none of it feels like a gimmick. The end product is so immersive it makes you feel like you lived that surreal night that started off as a dream and spiralled into a nightmare as one among the gang of friends. You experience it as its heroine – Victoria. Easily among the best films you will see all your life. And absolutely inspiring for guerilla filmmakers.
Five ideas/plots to get you started: CCTV/News feed of a live robbery. A wedding videographer following the runaway bride. A detective gathering evidence on stakeout assignment. An assassin who has to find the target in a crowded mall/market/mela within 90 minutes. A ghost-hunter/medium rigged to a camera all alone in a haunted cemetery.
(The author has written, directed and produced three feature films – That Four Letter Word, Good Night Good Morning & X: Past is Present – all shot in under two weeks with a crew size of less than ten. If the first one largely used cars as location for most conversation, the second was an all night phone conversation and the third a collaborative serialised narrative film that required each filmmaker to shoot not more than four days.)