Based in Montreal, Canada and running from July 14-August 5, the Fantasia International Film Festival, now in its 19th year, is North America’s longest-running (and at three weeks, longest) genre festival. This year’s festival features 136 feature films and nearly 300 short films from 36 countries including 22 world premieres.
Indiewire reached out to the feature filmmakers with movies screening at this year’s Fantastia Fest and asked, “What do you wish someone had told you about indie filmmaking before you got started?” Below are their responses (in some cases, edited for length):
“Don’t be afraid of the paperwork, and don’t let anyone ‘protect’ you from anything happening behind the scenes! Learn as much as you possibly can about the financing, budget and any other contractual obligations connected to your film. There could be serious repercussions that last long after you’ve finished shooting, editing, or even releasing the film hidden in the fine print.” – Jon Watts (“Cop Car”)
“We’ve just finished our first feature film. Having previously made short films and worked in television, this was the first time we actively sought advice. It’s easy to forget that so many people have been through the experience before you and, even if they’ve made a complete mess of it, they’re worth listening to. Hopefully, you will, at the very least, avoid making that exact same mess. We got advice on everything we could… how to prioritize, how to listen to actors, how to color code script changes, how to dry out a car interior that’s become completely waterlogged… and some of it was very useful (leave a dehumidifier in the car with the windows open for 24 hours). Humans quickly forget and ignore good advice, so holding on to a few useful gems is all you can hope for. Write them down when you hear them. We wish someone had told us that.” – Peter Murphy and Rachael Moriarty (“Traders”)
“I wish someone had told me that indie filmmaking is more about patience and perseverance than passion and skill. But I suppose that’s what builds your temperament as you rigorously practice your craft on a daily basis, without the assurance of a clear benefit. Passion is simply a springboard. The rest is practice.” – Q (“Ludo”)
“One thing we could say to all new indie filmmakers is that hard work and perseverance pay off, so if this is your passion: never give up, practice and improve, get confident, build a team and following – and never forget that the number one reason you’re doing this is because you love it.” – Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard and Joann-Karl Whissel (“Turbo Kid”)
“Having worked in indie film for over a dozen years – and seeing the way it has changed in that time – it’s hard to look back on what advice anyone could have given me before the digital revolution that would be as relevant now. But if I were to offer up words of advice to filmmakers starting today, I’d tell them to step away from their computers from time-to-time and physically network. Attending conventions, film festivals, or even just grabbing a quick drink with someone can be the foot in the door you’ve been seeking over email for years. Indie films happen because of real-life connections, not because of your Twitter following.” – Ted Geoghegan (“We Are Still Here”)
“The film industry is highly competitive. Few films get made, fewer films find distribution and fewer directors still will see the recognition they deserve. Yet the best advice I can give is to not regard other filmmakers as competition. Instead, surround yourself with friends who share the same passion and the same dream. I’m lucky enough to have met dozens of writers, directors, producers, actors and crew members who all are as obsessed with horror as I am, and to call them my friends….Find people whose work you respect and whose energy inspires you. Work with them as often as you can. And avoid bullshitters and people who bring you down.” – Axelle Carolyn (“Tales of Halloween,” “Grim Grinning Ghost”)
Yoav Paz and Doron Paz (“Jeruzalem”)
“Get out there and meet people. It’s amazing how many seasoned people in the industry will agree to meet up and chat with an aspiring filmmaker. Find the ones you get along and work well with creatively. A happy set is a productive set and working with great passionate people, whether it be a producer or a PA, truly makes the difference on an indie set. Getting in bed with the wrong people can be very draining to everyone in the cast and crew and often difficult to get away from. Do your diligence and spend time finding like-minded people. You won’t regret it in the long run!” – Chad Archibald (“Bite”)
“I would have loved to know beforehand that the only thing that really matters when making a movie is the core concept behind it. Not your visual references, not the cool camera movements or the gear you’re going to have, but what the movie’s really about. It took me five years to complete my first film because I thought that the way to achieve what I wanted was through complicated camera movements or very specific visual ideas. Now I know that if you have a very clear idea of what your film is about, you’ll find easier and more effective ways to solve it while taking advantage of your limited resources.” – Adrián Garcia Bogliano (“Scherzo Diabolico”)
“Don’t be afraid of your audience. Films may start in your head, but the whole point of the process is to put them into other people’s. You can never get better without watching it happen. You have to sit with the audience as they watch your film, and share that experience as often as you can. Of course it’s truly terrifying, but it gives you unbeatable insight. You’ll endlessly be told what the audience can and can’t accept, and what they want or don’t want. You can only navigate those conversations if you really get to know your audience first.” – Ben Blaine (“Nina Forever”)
For previous “Filmmaker Surveys,” check out this one we did on the issue of censorship, this story on whether theatrical distribution is essential and this one we did on whether film school is necessary. Indiewire is striving to spur discussion in the indie film community about a variety of timely issues. If you’ve got a topic you’d like us to feature, please let us know in the comments section below.
READ MORE: How Do You Make a Living as an Independent Filmmaker? It’s Not Easy.