Today I was searching for some files on my computer and stumbled upon this article. Before you go on, keep in mind this is the very first article I ever wrote...like...ever. It didn't get published anywhere, but I kept it on file. It was fun to write. Part of me would throw this away, but part of me wants to keep it, for the sake of keeping. Enjoy.
We all have experienced it, that little mysterious box which has kept our eyes on the prowl even after midnight. Forrest Gump called it the ‘box of chocolates,’ but for us it was simply ‘Television’, and by the 1920s video had really ‘killed the radio star’.
Fast forward to 2012, and this little mysterious box is still the same. Even after a complete metamorphosis from Saturday night movie drive-ins to Netflix extravaganza, not to mention Hulu, Amazon, Kindle-Fire and iPads.
What’s up with that ‘square’ that keeps our attention, eyes glued to the screen hours on end? It certainly isn’t just the box, and no longer can we say the actors on the screen get to eat all the chocolates; making words as they go, writing on the wind funny punch lines.
How about the filmmaker? Yes, the person actually behind the camera, the master-mind behind the movie-magic. With today’s technology, long gone are the days when the only films that made it to the big screens were the ones financed by major Hollywood studios. With the advent of independent cinema through Sundance and IFC channels, the art of micro-budgeting your own film has changed.
Film professor at the University of Central Florida, Barry Sandler, can better attest for us. As a producer and screenwriter of major Hollywood films such as “Making Love (1982),” “Crimes of Passion (1984),” and others, he knows filmmaking is an everyday struggle for the MFA Film students at UCF:
“The concept of writing a screenplay for an independent film isn’t much different than writing a screenplay for a major Hollywood production, because you still have to focus on story and character. Of course, you don’t have the luxury of making it an action spectacle, so the key is getting the script developed to the point where you can get a good cast and shoot it” says Sandler.
It is a constant struggle, the filmmaker does not rest and shooting schedules are often erratic (despite the months of planning and pre-production). You can’t ever predict what is going to happen on set; actors get sick, locations get cancelled, foul weather.
“Making a feature film is like running a marathon, or starting a business. We take business classes with MBA students and we write a business plan for the film,” says Erika Rydell, graduate film student who is going to be shooting her featureThe Lies We Tell next December.
“You really have to train for it. It’s about being disciplined and keeping a consistent vision…getting mentally prepared, physically prepared, knowing what you want. So keeping your film smaller really forces you to know and figure out what you want to say, ‘cause you got less to work with, but it also limits you and makes it more of a smaller personal film” says Rydell.
In addition to that there is producing to be done, getting together casting calls, partnering with organizations and potential backers, planning fundraisers, finding potential crew, and yes, writing the script. This is pre-production only, there’s still the shooting, the editing and marketing. After all, to a certain extent the budget does drive the aesthetics, and there’s so much you can do with a $50,000 budget, the limit for UCF MFA Film students.
“Sometimes success is just getting the film made or getting the script written” says Sandler. And this is, after all, the magical thing about independent cinema. It helps us re-evaluate our definition of success and in the end appreciate art not for its financial promise, but its artistic potential, and this is what UCF Film is all about.