MAKING MOVIES ON YOUR OWN:
PRACTICAL TALK FROM INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS
These first two chapters are excerpted from the book, MAKING MOVIES ON YOUR
OWN (McFarland & Company Publishers, ISBN 0-7864-0517-1, sewn-softcover,
$29.95, copyright 1998 Kevin J. Lindenmuth).
Foreward by Ted V. Mikels
If there was anything to read or study prior to making a film
or video it would be Kevin Lindenmuth's book, a compilation of the
works of a number of filmmakers in addition to the down-to-earth
and matter-of-fact approach expounded by Kevin himself. Nowhere in
my nearly fifty years of independent filmmaking have I seen or read
anything so correctly spelled out in agonizing detail of what is
experienced by those creative and dedicated souls who make the
attempt to put their genius onto film or videotape.
I am asked constantly, when lecturing at colleges or film
schools, how does one get started in making a film? There is no one
answer that covers all, but in the reading of Kevin's book, you
will experience an eye-opening adventure into the process. There is
required, above all, a determination that knows no bounds, and you
will be taxed beyond what you could imagine. Finding a way to put
your story or script into a cohesive film or video is merely the
first step in a long walk to completion and a measure of success.
The words of those who contributed to Kevin's book are so rare
that you may have never heard them before. That is due to the fact,
that unless you make a film or video yourself, you cannot possibly
imagine what you may be called upon to do. You may be the Director,
or the Producer, possibly also the writer, but be prepared to
perform every single thing you cannot afford to pay someone else to
Independent filmmakers NEVER have enough money to do all the
things they want to in their film. Some talented people who commit
to you to stay with you throughout the production may suddenly face
conditions beyond their control, and have to leave the show. That
is to say "Leave you holding the bag". You must learn all you can
about every phase of the filmmaking process, as you may in fact be
called upon to perform the necessary service at any time. It may be
in lighting, sound recording, make-up, cinematography, special
effects, cooking (yes, cooking to feed your crew), truck driving,
or any other of 300 jobs utilized in the filmmaking process.
In Kevin's book, I read almost every word that has ever come
out of my own mouth, relating to the difficulties encountered in
making a film. I have always stated, "THERE ARE THREE THINGS THAT
ARE IMPORTANT IN THE MAKING OF A FILM", and I will relate them here
in the order of their difficulty.
The first and most difficult is raising the money. The second
most difficult thing is getting the money back. The third thing,
and the easiest, is the actual making of the film (The first two
prerequisites are so difficult, it makes the making of the film
In actual fact, you may have to make do without raising the
money, making the film on a total shoe-string or without money, as
I have had to do many times. Then you encounter the criticisms when
your film is then compared with those costing millions of dollars.
Unfair, but who says anything in the world is fair? Then, you may
never experience getting back any dollars at all from your
production, even though many othe entities and businesses may make
a lot of money from selling and marketing it. However, take hope.
You can always entertain yourselves and close friends by showing
your film in your own home late at night. "PUT SALT AND PEPPER ON
IT AND EAT IT", they used to say in Hollywood, where I spent nearly
thirty years. The celluloid (film) tastes better that way.
I will say that if you are determined to the point where
nothing can deter you in your obsession to make fiml, "LET NO POWER
ON EARTH STOP YOU".
Do yourself a big favor, and read then re-read Kevin's book.
There is a wealth of factual and valuable information in it. I
would suggest that it is an absolute "MUST READ" for anyone
attempting to make a film or video production. Those who have
already done so will identify with every word and savor the
Ted V. Mikels, Director, Producer, Writer,
Cinematographer, Editor, Distributor,
Otherwise known as a "Filmmaker".
Ted V. Mikels is the director of such films as ASTRO ZOMBIES (1969), THE
CORPSE GRINDERS (1971) and DOLL SQUAD and is currently in production on
DIMENSION IN FEAR and THE CORPSE GRINDERS II.
As a kid I always knew what I wanted to do when I "grew up":
make movies. I think this was primarily because I was subjected to
so many films, particularly horror movies, when I was very young.
In fact, the first movies I remember seeing were a double feature
of THE CORPSE GRINDERS and THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS. Then there
was the PLANET OF THE APES and DR. PHIBES movies at the drive-in
with my father and all the horror tv hosts on Saturday nights. For
years I thought that Captain Kangaroo was really the Phantom of the
Opera-like DR. PHIBES (they do look alike!) and it always puzzled
me why he didn't talk through that hole in his throat to Mr. Green
Jeans. That was simply television, I thought.... And if it wasn't
for my grandmother, a big horror fan herself, I probably wouldn't
have been able to get into the theatres to see the early FRIDAY THE
I began making short "epics" with my family's Super 8mm camera
in elementary school and continued shooting films in High School
and as a Film/Video Studies major at the University of Michigan in
Ann Arbor. I also worked at a Public Access Television Station
during college, where the public was at the mercy of the films I
would make for classes and subsequently air on the channel. I think
my films received the most viewer complaints that year because
they'd air them after religious shows and catch all those
particular viewers off guard. After I graduated from college I
moved to New York City as I couldn't afford to move to California
at the time. I landed jobs as production assistant on a few
independent films I can't even remember the names of, then started
in the video production industry because work was readily
available, though I always wanted to shoot narrative films. Then,
one day I decided I had to make that first feature, VAMPIRES &
OTHER STEREOTYPES. This was to be followed by the anthology TWISTED
TALES, another feature, ADDICTED TO MURDER, and THE ALIEN AGENDA
In talking to the dozen or so other filmmakers whose ideas,
attitudes, and experiences you will also read about in the
following pages, I discovered that they make films for the very
simple reason I do: they have to. It is the one medium that enables
them to express themselves in a way no other medium quite
satisfies. Through film and video they can literally create
something from their imagination and then show it to people,
whether it be to enlighten, entertain, or disturb Although some may
maintain that they're simply making films they want to see and that
no one else is creating--and that it's incidental if other people
view them--these filmmakers DO want audiences to see their work,
not only because it will give them incentive to move on to the next
project but because they want to share whatever is was that drove
them to make the movie in the first place --I know, I'm one of
those filmmakers--I want to disturb and entertain you all.
And incidently, finishing your first film, second film, third
film, may pave the way for your filmmaking career.
In the following chapters I'll give you my two cents on movie-
making, mostly by comparing and contrasting my projects. In
addition, two dozen other independent filmmakers will give their
invaluable advice on making a feature length movie, whether it be
a horror film, comedy, or drama, sharing their successes and
Also, I want to thank these filmmakers who've contributed their
insights to this book and the overwhelming response they had in its
creation. They are:
Jeffrey Arsenault (NIGHT OWL, DOMESTIC STRANGERS)
Steve Ballot (THE BRIDE OF FRANK)
Howard Berger (ORIGINAL SINS)
Ron Bonk (CITY OF THE VAMPIRES, THE VICIOUS SWEET, STRAWBERRY ESTATES)
J.R. Bookwalter (DEAD NEXT DOOR, SANDMAN, POLYMORPH)
Gabriel Campisi (THE LAW, SHADOWDANCE)
Ronnie Cramer (BACK STREET JANE, EVEN HITLER HAD A GIRLFRIEND)
Ron Ford (ALIEN FORCE, THE ALIEN AGENDA: ENDANGERED SPECIES)
Hugh Gallagher (GORGASM, GOROTICA, GORE WHORE)
Mike Gingold ( )
Matt Howe (ORIGINAL SINS)
Evan Jacobs (WALKING BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS, THE TOLL COLLECTOR)
Michael Legge (WORKING STIFFS, LOONS, POTENTIAL SINS)
Mick McCleery (THE KILLING OF BOBBY GREENE, DON'T WATCH THIS SHOW)
Scooter McCrae (SHATTER DEAD)
Blair Murphy (JUGULAR WINE)
Mark & John Polonia (SPLATTER FARM, SAURIANS, FEEDERS, TERROR HOUSE)
Tim Ritter (TRUTH OR DARE, WICKED GAMES, CREEP, SCREAMING FOR SANITY)
Eric Stanze (THE SCARE GAME, SAVAGE HARVEST, ICE FROM THE SUN)
Nathan Thompson (CONTACT BLOW)
Tim Thomson (NO RESISTANCE)
Doug Ulrich (DARKEST SOUL)
Tom Vollmann (DEAD MEAT, THE ALIEN AGENDA: UNDER THE SKIN)
Gary Whitson & WAVE PRODUCTIONS
It's unanimous that this book is a long overdue resource.
Brimstone Media Productions, LLC
"Practical advice for the low-budget filmmaker…the author, a working
filmmakers, has gathered two dozen colleagues to answer basic questions about
budgets, scripts, publicity, and distribution."
"for anyone with the guts…to make films on a shoestring budget, this book
should be of considerable help. The Resource Directory, in particular, is of interest"
"the indie directors featured provide a virtual how-to"
"An interesting read, especially if you are a video buff."
Public Library Quarterly
"NYC filmmaker Lindenmuth asked 25 other low budget indy regional directors a
series of questions and assembled the candid responses"
"If you ever wanted to make your own movie but didn't know where to start,
start here. This is an amazing jump-startish, self-help book."
Fright X Magazine
"Expect lots of great advice and the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and experiences of working filmmakers. Maybe the best book of its kind, this one should not be missed."
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