How Do You Make Movies?

OK, I get this all the time: “how do you make a movie?” Which really means, “How do I make a movie?”

The first rule: There are no rules.

The second rule: Do what you want, see what happens, try it again and do better the second time. Repeat this process a third, fourth, and several more times until you get to be good. Like, really good. At which point you can look up your old buddy Mike Messier and throw me a bone (a job)!

You see, the life of a “low/no budget filmmaker”and the “struggling artist” or “rising talent” (you know, the typical “whatever that guy does” lifestyle), is not exactly full of abundance, in terms of financial gain and societal acceptance. Prepare yourself for long hours of frustration, typing, typing away at your laptop. If you have any sense of drive, you’ll arm yourself with Final Draft Screenwriting software instead of the “free” screenwriting software Celtx, or some other hack program. There’s a reason it’s free, after all…

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We haven’t even gotten started yet. I haven’t motivated you or anything.

You see, I like movies, and I like to see good movies being made. My job is to inspire you to get that good movie out of your head and onto a screen, whatever screen, so the world can see and enjoy it.

Instead you are sitting there, thinking these thoughts about these scenes that you’d like to shoot, about the story you’d like to tell ‘if Only you had the money, if Only you had the time, if Only you knew the people, if only, if only, if only…’ well, fuck it. Instead of thinking, you should be doing and making. You could actually do it – did you know that?

Meanwhile, that guy is already making his movie.

You know that guy with his movie. You don’t know that guy? You wouldn’t like him. You don’t know his movie? Yeah, it sucks. Trust me, I’ve seen that guy’s movie. It’s a zombie movie. Or a horror movie. Or a movie with half of  his friends mumbling their way into “love scenes” with whatever local models they could afford or manipulate for free onto the set. So, you know, it’s crap.

You see, it’s easy to create bad movies. There’s an audience for bad movies. A lot of other reasonably intelligent people love bad movies. I’m not talking about movies that try to be good and just happen to end up bad. That can happen, and that’s forgivable; often a good-movie-gone-bad can have some elements that make the movie salvageable and watchable. Here, I’m taking about bad movies that are conceived bad, born bad, and are raised to fruition – bad. Joe Dirt (2001) is a great example of a bad movie. But for our purposes, what we’re really going up against, is that guy who lives ten miles from you. He works in IT, has saved $8,000 for equipment, and will shoot, “direct,” and edit “his own movie” on the weekends with whatever “dudes” and “hot chicks” he can find.

The dudes will probably engage in fight scenes, and the hot chicks will probably lose their tops. Everybody will bathe in fake blood, likely a homemade mix of Karo syrup, baking soda, and red food dye. There will be some type of script, probably involving a zombie, a vampire, or some other type of scary element, with no real plot but simply divisive crap thrown about to fill in the gaps. The gaps are, of course, the entire film, if we can call it that.

That guy will be sure to have everyone sign a waiver releasing the “filmmaker” from any financial obligations to his cast and crew. That guy will tell his cast and crew he’s “not likely to make a profit anyway, this is only for fun.” Yeah, right. That guy is smart enough. He’ll crank out his movie in three to five months, and then get some type of distribution deal with a company that specializes in low budget, bad movie fare. Or, maybe that guy will self-distribute and get his money back, and turn a profit that way. After that guy has done all this a few times and made a “name” for himself, don’t be surprised or jealous when all the local actors in your community are all hungry to be in that guy’s movie. Sad, naive, maybe even desperate for attention, these talented folks will be surprisingly eager to leave their pride at the door and metaphorically, or even literally, drop their pants for that guy in the ego-orgy, that is, his “film company.”

If these actors are lucky, they’ll be rewarded with free pizza and maybe even booze for the honor of appearing on-screen in that guy’s movie. They will love to see their own faces bouncing around on that projected screen or high-def TV.  They’ll be happy that they weren’t inconvenienced by any rehearsals, and that they just had to “show up” the day of shooting – and they got free pizza.

Does it matter that the “material” is below their abilities?  No. “It was fun” they will say. Does it matter that the movie is a flimsy piece of drivel? Not really. “It was fun” they will say. Does it matter – OK, wait, let’s stop talking about that guy and his fucking piece of shit movie. He gets enough attention as it is, and every time you hear that guy’s name you think “I can do better”.

And, yet, you don’t even try! You see, while you think yourself into a corner, that guy is making his movie. And there you are, not making yours. Who wins there, really? You’re up against that guy. I have my own that guy – could you tell? – so I’d really like to see you do better against yours. Better than I’ve done against that guy, myself.

The status quo sucks. For “Hollywood movies”, the status quo sucks. For you and I, the no budget movie maker, the status quo really sucks. It takes longer to cook a steak than to make a burger, and it’s a hamburger factory of shitty movies we’re up against. I offer this skillet to you with the hopes you can do something better. Maybe you can start with a better metaphor? Haha…

Make something of yourself. Make your movie.

Reblogged from Mike’s original post on

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