Directing for a first time

It’s well-established that the majority of directors and writers in the film industry are men. In fact, for the 700 top-grossing films in 2014, only 13% of directors were women. 

It then may come as a surprise then that Chloë Sevigny,an actress and former model, is making her directorial debut with the short Kitty a film based on a short story by Paul Bowles.

Speaking to Refinery 29, Sevigny explains why she, at first, wanted to keep from being in the spotlight of directing:

“Of course I was always heard, having been in the public eye. People always want you to say more, but it was almost like I wanted to hide more as a result. People wanted me to speak as a voice of a generation, and I had no interest in doing that. I didn’t want that responsibility.” — Chloë Sevigny

In an interview with Paste Magazine, Sevigny talked about creating another short film, and explained that she has a preferred way for directing a film:

“I just made a second short film in Portland. It was all improvised and loosey-goosey, and I think I prefer the mannerisms of Kitty, having it more plotted out. I feel more comfortable in that space.”

Kitty, a story about a young girl transforming into a cat, released late November.

 

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The intersection of film and politics

Last week was eventful, to say the least. Now that The Donald is President-elect, protests have cropped up all along the country. Not even a small city like San Luis is safe from the drama.

It would seem that the indie film scene would be a safe haven from political drama and unrest, but that would be very wrong.

In response to Trump winning the election, indie filmmakers have also rallied against him. In an article by Graham Winfrey on Indiewire, filmmakers voiced their concerns, for lack of a better word, about the President-elect:

“It’s obviously dark times, but that’s where and when artists have a responsibility to keep us entertained and to tell really good stories that inspire us and keep the hope alive.” — Joana Vicente

It might seem melodramatic to some, but this sense of despair throughout the indie filmmaking community is pervasive, but some, like Joe Pichirallo in the article, believe this to be an opportunity:

“Fortunately, in our country we do have the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we want, so I don’t think it’s going to hinder people from doing a movie like ‘Moonlight’ or something that’s really bold, daring, interesting and exciting…” — Joe Pichirallo

This is certainly an uncertain time in American history. However, American film has responded to political uncertainty before in humorous ways.

And American film has also responded in poignant ways, with the much more serious threat of a World War.

 

Shooting on location for a film

Certain Women is one of the most atmospheric indie films I’ve seen this year. Taking place in rural Montana, there are many shots of the wide open landscape that seem to come from a larger budget.

Even so, director Kelly Reichardt had problems shooting on location for these beautiful shots. According to an article by Kristen Page-Kirby,  Reichardt had a challenge of choosing where to shoot:

“To be honest, I shot so much outdoor film because when I started I just couldn’t afford lights…”

“I set it up as a challenge for myself: I had to have some interiors in this film,” she says. “I had to conquer that.”

If someone that has years of experience directing films has trouble with trying to find locations to shoot, then an indie filmmaker who only has a small youtube channel  and a much smaller audience than a distributed indie film will have even more trouble.

And it’s true. “It can be pretty hard trying to find a place to shoot, especially in public,” said indie filmmaker Kate Bishop.

set
Sometimes a backyard will have to do for a film set.

In addition to trying to accommodate the schedules of actors, Bishop’s work doesn’t get any easier for filming, trying to film in public places, like bus stops, backyards and inside buildings.

“Sometimes, the takes don’t turn out the way they should’ve, and it sucks having to try again in a place that’s busy,” she said.

While filmmaking can seem like a hopeless waste of time at points, it can be the best feeling in the world when, “something goes right for once on a take,” she said.

 

The struggles of indie filmmaking

Of course, there are going to be all sorts of problems when producing films with no budget, relative to the budgets for films that are handed out from big-time studios.

Lack of experience from crew members, cheap equipment, cheap editing software and no sense of enthusiasm for the project can all be devastating in creating an indie film.

Ted Hope wrote on what is, perhaps obviously, the biggest obstacle that any indie filmmaker must face:

I think the biggest problem for indie filmmakers is primarily a marketing problem; filmmakers must move from creating a series of “one offs” where they reinvent the wheel each time.

This means that because of little marketing and money, indie filmmakers often must produce content that is constantly changing; even if they have some sort of following that likes the current content, filmmakers will shy away from that.

Kate Bishop, a filmmaker who makes short films, agreed with this. “I feel like I sometimes have to change things,” she said. “Since I don’t really have much money to deal with, I like to be inventive.”

Matt Porter, a successful indie filmmaker, wrote on how low budget marketing affects indie films, and how attempting to worry about it may be futile:

…making a [n indie] feature film, even at a relatively low budget level, is a lot more like starting a small business than making a handful of shorts…

…independent film is a bit of a wild west, and so even the best advice can sometimes be useless if it’s been made obsolete by changes in the marketplace.

It’s a daunting task to be an indie filmmaker. Even so, Porter has been able to have success and produce well-received shorts.