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Beginner's Guide to Independent Filmmaking

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/28/2011

Here are a few tips for those just getting into the world of independent filmmaking.

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    Independent filmmaking is both a buzz word for today's modern film world, both hip and seemingly rebellious when compared to the commercial excess and pandering of the studio system. What independent film does is creates the infrastructure for almost anyone to become an independent filmmaker, finding their own funding and developing their own project independent of Hollywood. For those new to independent film, they still need to figure out how to make their way through this new world that has its own growing market and business practices. Here is a basic beginner's guide for independent filmmaking and tips for how to start out.

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    Independent Film Business

    The primary situation for those new to independent filmmaking is learning how to run a business in a brief, project-based format. There is a lot of risk for investing in independent film, and it is up to you as the producer to give investors a reasonable assurance that their money is at least in a reasonably safe investment. This means taking your screenplay or story idea and turning it into a commercial property, complete with production plans, distribution ideas, and general business plan. This can be difficult for a lot of independent filmmakers because they are not used to transferring their creative energies into professional ones, and that tends to be what the studios will do for directors. In this new world of independent film, it requires the artists to keep a bicameral approach to creating a movie, so it means that a beginner's guide to independent filmmaking must start out with a filmmaker becoming a dual artist/businessman instead of a purely creative entity.

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    Film Festivals

    SXS Film Festival Logo Independent filmmaking and the film festival world are almost one in the same, and your shift from independent Toronto International Film Festival Logo filmmaker to independent businessman must also include a clear understanding of film festivals and distribution models. Independent film usually makes its first public viewings at high level film festivals, which it must apply to. This requires having a clear understanding of what film festivals will be good for your film, what you can get in to, and what will give you the right kind of buzz in the professional film industry. You will also want to be focusing on film festivals that may get your independent films a distribution deal, which is the primary way to get your film onto the market. This distribution deal will be dictated, to a great deal, by the business plan that you set up around your film.

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    Post-Production

    Independent filmmaking is really about doing almost everything yourself, or at least keeping everything in-house. The studio system will usually send the film over to different locations for post-production. They will hire primary editors for the film, a special effects company for that, a design company for the titles, a company to design the DVD for DVD authoring, and so on. Much of this you are going to need to figure out how to do yourself, especially since you will want to be selling your film yourself to distributors and film festivals. This is going to require branding, promotional materials, a full DVD, as well as a finished film that is ready to be shown before professional audiences.

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    References

    Source: Author's own experience.