Austin Film Festival: Day 3 (Morning Panel)

I'm just going to take a minute to write about the panel I attended this morning, which was "Independent Production: Getting Started." I have a little bit of curiosity about the subject because, since St. Peter in Chains is really not feature material, I'm wondering if I'm going to have to make the movie myself (despite the fab feedback it got from the reader—and I'm pleased to note the script has a shot at being table read at Sundance next year, though I won't know for sure until January). But it's a short, so it's really festival fare, assuming I can ever get anyone interested in making it.

The panel was made up of Jeff Nichols, Amy Talkington, Jason Wehling, and Noah Buschel. From what I could gather, most of the decisions you make about doing an independent film have to do with how much creative control you want or need. And budget. They're related, in that if you start taking a bunch of money from someone (a producer, an investor), they're going to expect to have some say. So you have to be honest and upfront about what you plan to do—and about the fact that no one is going to make any money from the project. Indie films are largely a labor of love.

Noah Buschel was keen on the idea of going out and buying or renting a camera and just making the damn movie. Others said it might be better to get a producer on board, or at least formulate a plan. It was likened to building a house: you have an idea, and you get a blueprint, and then you realize it will cost too much to build it exactly the way you want it, so you start figuring out where you can cut back.

I recall the TV-movie producer I spoke to a while back saying if you can attach talent to the work, someone will be more likely to make it. But, he noted, it can be just as difficult, if not more so, to reach that talent. Still, at this panel it was mentioned that talking to casting directors—or their assistants—can be a way to do that.

As for money, Jeff Nichols went through all the ways he finagled cash from family members, and then all the ways he told his friends/crew he couldn't pay them. Kickstarter was mentioned, and grants, but the key is to have a plan, something to show people that makes the project seem real and serious, at least if you want money from "official" channels.

The panel didn't go deep into the legalities, but contracts, entertainment attorneys, and forming LLCs for each project were touched on.

Okay, time to get ready for this luncheon. See you there, AFFers.

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