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Independent film is really just the antithesis to the corporate pattern in which studio films have dominated the film industry. In general, independent film arose from the desire to have artistic and challenging films that the studio system was not providing. Today, independent film can mean a lot of things from a studio backed film that is made with little intervention in the production process all the way to a hand held guerilla documentary made for a budget that is less than a grocery bill. Here is a look at the basics for how to make an independent film if you are thinking about entering into the process.
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The principal place to start when you want to make independent film projects is to develop the property as much as possible. It goes without saying that you need a screenplay or an outline, but what you will have to do in the case of an independent film you will have to do a lot more elements of pre-production than you normally would. This means doing your own script breakdown, developing storyboard and shot lists, starting out casting, and pretty much all the elements that a variety of Producers and other positions would do in a studio film. This is going to be important when presenting the film to investors, other crew members, possible distributors, and other people in the production. This will also be important when you are putting together your deliverables package to give away when a distribution deal is created.
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The production itself is going to be much more streamlined, so you have to prepare for that. Your shooting schedule will be much shorter and more compact because shooting days tend to have a standard pricing range. If you decide to shoot with a union crew and Screen Actors Guild actors then your price is going to go up dramatically, but this is still the negotiation of most independent films.
When you are working on set you will have less limitations creatively even though your finances will be tighter. This allows for a lot more experimentation, and if you are not using this as a platform to create an original product than you are not utilizing the independent film form to its potential.
The production process will also lead directly into the post-production process, especially since the most important part of trying to make independent film projects is that you will be shooting on digital exclusively. This will allow you to bring the footage directly into your post-production facilities from the set, and you may even be able to begin the editing while filming has continued.
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Independent Film Funding
Independent film funding is the most important part of the entire indie process since the studio system is usually the built in financier. What makes a film truly independent is the finding of the independent film funding, making a film, selling the film for a profit, and then returning the investment plus a negotiated percentage of the profits to the investors after the sale. To find independent film funding you are going to have to look to a number of locations, but on a larger scale this means sending a Producer to negotiate with people and businesses that want to make financial investments that are intended to reap profits. You present your available materials to them, show them your financial business plan, and they will then see if it will fit into their risk analysis they have created for their investments. On a smaller scale you will want to solicit donations for your independent film funding, especially with websites like MySpace Film and KickStart. You can also try to allow your company to become a non-profit, applying for official non-profit status. This way you can apply for grants easily and donations to your project will be tax right offs, making them more enticing.
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Source: Author's own experience.