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This Is How You Do It: 10 Filmmaking Tips from Mark and Jay Duplass

This Is How You Do It: 10 Filmmaking Tips from Mark and Jay Duplass

Mark and Jay Duplass are a ubiquitous presence at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. They were involved with three Sundance films, “The Bronze,” “The Overnight,” and “Tangerine” and an animated TV pilot (“Animals”). In addition to dominating Sundance, Netflix used the festival as occasion to announce that the brothers signed a four-movie deal, while HBO announced that the network will renew their show, “Togetherness.” In other words, it’s been a good week for the brothers.

READ MORE: Jay & Mark Duplass on Selling TV at Sundance

At the Producers Brunch at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25th (where their producing partner on “The Bronze,” Stephanie Langhof, received the Sundance Institute Red Crown Producers Award), the meta-multihyphenates provided the keynote in handy list format: 10 tips for independent filmmakers.

1. “The phrase you can never go home is not true when it comes to Sundance,” said Jay, adding that he and his brother have been able to alternate between Hollywood and independent films.
2. “Embrace the microbudget sphere,” said Mark. “It’s painful to be waiting around six years for a $20 million film. Instead, why not make a $150,000 movie where three quarters of the points are shared with the crew. Just find a rich person to fund it!”

3. “Do not shit where you sleep,” said Jay. Meaning: Filmmakers are better off taking commercials or day jobs than working on crappy projects that they don’t care about. “Try and stay clear and focused in the movies you are trying to make,” he said.
4. “Beware the $1 million movie,” said Mark. “All fees are going to the union; above-the-line directors and producers are making $4,000 – $8,000.” Instead, you’re better off rewriting the $1 million project to turn it into a $250,000 projects and retaining greater ownership.
5. Build loyalty by giving crew points in the film. “There’s an old independent film joke… What is back end? That’s what you are if you ever think you are going to see any,” said Jay. “Create a scenario where you have a wildly successful film and you’ve given away too many points… Those people will all want to work with you next time.”

6. “Give a first-time director a chance. Experienced directors can be rough and fussy,” said Mark. Instead, consider hiring a talented screenwriter or a documentary filmmaker and attaching an experienced DP. 
7. “Make movies, not meetings,” said Jay. So many Los Angeles film executives “have long-winded careers of lots of development meetings, but they don’t make movies.” Sure, filmmaking can be “terrifying and traumatic,” but “always jump off the cliff.” 
8. Study up and use your “left brain, right brain,” said Mark. “Read the trades. Gain a knowledge of the industry. Knowledge is power.” He said he and Jay are constantly studying the trades to find potential partners. 
9. “Employ a strict ‘No Assholes’ policy,” said Jay. Don’t hire any assholes because “that guy will ruin your movie.” 
10. Go to therapy. “If you have never been to therapy, go to 10 sessions immediately,” said Mark. “There are annoying things you do now that are keeping you out of meetings and keeping people from working with you.” As an extra benefit, in addition to helping you with your filmmaking, therapy “can improve your marriage as well.”

READ MORE: HBO Renews Mark & Jay Duplass’ “Togetherness”

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Michael Morlan

An excellent "rules of the road." Thanks for taking the time. Best wishes on your ongoing careers.

Just a second podunk film dude

I’d also like to know what they think about SAG Ultra-Low. Some of us out here want to make a film for $25,000. Determining SAG or no SAG, and figuring out a fair back end for crew (sweat equity) is a bitch.

Just Another Podunk Film Dude

Item 4 is so obtuse–Are they saying to stay completely non-union? Even stay away from the SAG Ultra-Low Budget agreement? Inquiring minds want to know!


Can you explain tHe don’t s— where you sleep further?


Can anyone tell me what Crew Points are?

marc baron

Great list, especially number 6. Call me!��
One thing I don’t agree is expecting everyone to work for free. Who do we build talent if they don’t get paid? Raise more money and pay them….somehow.


Truer words have never been spoken. We had an "asshole" on my last shoot. God. He was the first one to be paid, every day he had friends come visit him on the set. He micromanaged everything–except for making sure the movie was the best tit could possibly be. But we all knew he was an a-hole and it tainted the environment for all involved — and he didn’t even secure the $$$$$!


Hah! Don’t shit where you sleep. My late stepfather used the term "Don’t crap in your own nest."


Love the no assholes policy. Have to wonder if that came after they worked with Jonah Hill……


basically just go out there and make your shit and put it out there and keep making until you get better and one day people take notice. Stop sitting around wasting time reading how to make movies or what gets you to successful deals, just make that damn movie you’ve wanted to make, find a crew, actors, a partner, a writer or whatever, just get whatever you can together and make, if for nothing else, then for the experience and practise and a taste of what it’s like to get your work ripped to shreds and then go back out there and make again and again until you get to a point where people actually like your shit. Pure and simple.

Indie Film MInute

Fun list. Especially agree with the no assholes policy. My rule is never go forward with a project when it is hard to get along, frankly when you do not love who you are dealing with, in the planning stages. Filmmaking is fraught with tension and minor differences in the planning stages lead to misery in production.

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