How to Make an Independent Film: Step-by-Step Guide

As a filmmaker, you’ve probably dreamed about making your own big-budget movie with a famous production company. Of course, it’s easier than ever to film a movie, especially with advances in technology. However, getting your project produced in Hollywood is no easy feat. This is why so many first-time filmmakers create independent films. Not only can you showcase your skills and talents to big producers, with an indie film. But, you get more creative control and freedom to tell the stories you want to tell.

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I’ll talk more about independent films and how you can make them here. This way you can get your filmmaking career off the ground!

What is an Indie Film?

First, though, let’s define what an independent film is. An independent film, also known as an indie film, is a movie that is made without the financing of a major company or production studio. In other words, the filmmaker finances the movie on their own and has complete control over the production of the film. Usually, indie films are lower budget. In addition, they can be full feature films or short films.

1. Write or Obtain a Movie Script

To begin making your independent film, you want to either write a movie script or find a script for your film. You can’t make a movie if you don’t know what the story will be or who the characters are. Movie scripts are vital to the process of filmmaking. So, make sure you have one before you do anything else. This way you can plan for every aspect of your film. For instance, you want to create a fictional environment for your characters with set pieces and backgrounds before you film. If you don’t have a script, though, you won’t know what kind of world your movie takes place in. And, you won’t be able to budget or make your set pieces.

2. Figure Out How You Will Finance Your Film

Once you have your script, start planning out your finances. You want to set a budget and figure out how much money it will cost to make your film. And, since you don’t have a production company to handle this, everything is up to you. Remember, you have to pay your actors, crew, writers, and pay for permits. These are only a few of the expenses for filmmaking. In addition, you don’t want to go over budget and not have enough money to finish your film. So, planning is extremely important for a smooth film making process. Keep track of every expense and stick to your budget plan!

3. Hire a Film Crew

Next, you are going to need a film crew. Film crews help create movie magic and make your film look more professional. From makeup artists to lighting directors, every person you hire should play a crucial role in the filmmaking process! Even if you are directing your movie yourself, you will need people to help you bring your vision to life. So, hire people that you trust and that you know are skilled!

4. Hire Actors for Your Film

Actors are another important part of your movie. They make the script come to life and breathe emotion into your movie. You want to pick the right people to do this job. In addition, you want to make sure you have allocated enough of your budget for your cast. It can be expensive hiring actors to play your characters! 

5. Prepare to Shoot Your Film

Finally, you can begin preparing to shoot your film. Start by creating a schedule for filming. And also pick out locations for your shoot. You want to plan out shots ahead of time with the cast and your cinematographer, as well. This could include creating character notes with actors or making a shot list and discussing it with crew members. All of this can seem like a lot of work, but you want everyone to know what they are expected to do, and what the shooting process will entail. In addition, always have a backup plan. If you are shooting outdoors, the weather could turn bad. So, you want to have alternative options this way your movie doesn’t get behind schedule. After all your plans are laid out, you can begin to shoot your independent movie! 

6. Go Through Post-Production

The movie-making process does not end once filming stops. You will also need to hire an editor to make your film more cohesive and coherent. Of course, you can edit the movie yourself. But, I recommend getting a professional editor to work on your independent film. Really post-production should never be skipped. You want your movie to look and sound as good as it possibly can. Sound designers should be hired at this stage of production too. This way your movie is polished and mixed correctly. Bad sound mixing can make your movie seem amateurish and distract your viewers.

7. Market Your Movie or Submit it to a Film Festival

Finally, once you have completed post-production you can start distributing or screening your movie. Independent films can be difficult to show to a large audience. You don’t have a studio that can widely distribute and screen your indie film. So, your options can be limited. First, you can try submitting your movie to an indie film festival. Sundance and SXSW are two of the more popular choices. Really, this is one of the easiest ways to get eyes on your movie. And, you can even get distributors to pick up your movie at a big enough film festival!

In addition, I would suggest using social media to your advantage. Put up short clips and trailers on popular social media platforms. You can even upload a trailer to YouTube. There is no guarantee that you will create buzz through this method. But, you never know who might see your movie trailer. So, give this method a try, as well!

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