How to bypass the Gatekeepers by Making Your Own Content
1) Don’t Wait for The Gatekeepers, Make Your Own Set of Keys!
The film industry is not for the weary. Everyone wants in and there are lots of people guarding the entranceway. However, there are lots of smaller passageways that are maybe not as grand as the main entrance but will still eventually get you to the same table.
I took a step back (or forward), and made a short film, which was a great learning tool but still not quite the credibility I needed. I had to figure out a way to produce and direct a feature-length film with a very low budget that I could afford, or that I could probably raise… I ballparked it at $50K, and I moved into production with only $15K on a feature-length documentary/narrative hybrid called Madonna and the Breakfast Club. The true story of Madonna’s struggling days in NYC with her first band “Breakfast Club”.
2) Passion Sells
What is subject matter that you are extremely passionate about? What is a concept in which you will be able to sustain that passion for at least two years in order to do the work it will take to make it happen? What is an idea that you naturally gravitate toward and have loved for as long as you can remember? THAT’S the project you need to make… not only because you will be excited to work on it every day, but also because your excitement for it will resonate with everyone else that you will need to bring onto the project to make it happen. They will be excited and not even know why! In the case of my film, the “before” stories of entertainment icons has always fascinated me, and being a huge fan of Madonna’s as a teen, her story was of particular interest to me.
I MYSELF wanted to see this movie! I was willing to put my OWN money into it because I believed it would sell. If you aren’t willing to invest your money into the project, why would you think someone else should? I’m not saying you have to have money to invest, I am saying that if you did, you would… because you are that confident about it.
3) Believe it Will Happen
No eye-rolling! You MUST believe that you can pull this off, you must believe that you can do it, even if the odds say different and even if other people doubt it. Okay, so I know we have limits as humans, we all know that we can’t fly and we should not jump off a building because we believe we can. I am saying that as long as it is humanly possible, it CAN be achieved. I promise you, if you have the passion for the story/ concept/subject matter and you are willing to seriously bust your ass at it, it will happen. But it won’t happen by thinking about it, you must take action.
4) Prepare Yourself
Before you undertake any huge task you need to be equipped with whatever tools that the job needs. Read/study the screenwriting books, read the trades, understand the industry, watch movies in your genre, learn all that you can about the subject matter so that when you are speaking to others about it, you are the expert, you are a professional (even if you’ve never made a dime in the industry) and you have done your homework.
5) Get the Ball Rolling
This is probably the most important point – because we can all procrastinate and find many less stressful things to do, like “hey maybe I should reorganize my pantry today instead!”
I know there is some physical theory or law about forward movement, gravity or balls rolling, and although it escapes me, my lay man’s version is this: “Once the balls begins rolling, it builds momentum” You already have the passion for the project (point 2) so just start and let that momentum build. For Madonna and the Breakfast Club, the first ball I knew that I needed to get rolling was getting these former band members to be the subjects of my film. Once I had one of them on board, it was easier to get the next and the next (there’s that rolling ball)!
6) “If you Build it They Will Come”
A quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” that I have learned to be very true. Once I had a committed first subject to interview, I needed a DP as my first mandatory crew member. This was super low budget, so I needed to find someone who had talent but perhaps didn’t have a feature film credit to their name and wanted one. With a project deck (a 5-10 page document outlining the project and your intentions) in hand and a subject ready to be interviewed, as well as the PASSION (there’s that word again!) I was able to convince a great DP to come on board within the budget I had because I was sure (Belief) this would come together and they would benefit from having this project under their belt as well!
7) The Conspiring of the “Universe”.
At the risk of sounding hokey, I need to say this. When you mix all of the ingredients above, somehow the Universe, God, the Source, or whatever you want to call it conspires to help you to achieve what you thought might be impossible… the high school drop out that got accepted to NYU? The micro-budget filmmaker making a movie about one of the most famous people in the world? That film getting worldwide distribution and a deal with Hulu? Say what?!
There were many obstacles in all of this, but as long as I kept moving forward with passion, belief, and relentless determination, things came together like magic.
Incidentally, these were the same things that took Madonna from being a broke dancer from Michigan with no formal musical training to becoming the best selling female recording artist in world history!
Onward and Upward.
So here I am, I did it… and I basked in the achievement as we all should when we accomplish a goal! But now I am back to “Lovin’ Brooklyn” that teen romance/dance movie-musical (that’s one wordy genre)!
I made the decision that the film will be in production in 2020… and with the new year upon us, my feet have hit the ground running!