How to start your new Indie Film

How to start your new Indie Film


Genre and Scripts

First things first: what kind of movie are you making? Do you want make a comedy or a drama? Do you want to focus on a story, or try your hand at a documentary. When starting your script, think about movies you’ve seen in the past to hone your vision. What kind of movie will speak for you? What kind of movie will you have fun making?

Start small. Think of a simple story idea and fill in the blanks once you have a tried and true outline. Looking at scripts online is a good place to get started, and there are a number of sites available where you can get starting ideas and critiques on your work. Consider your plot, your characters, your time period, the inciting incident (the incident that the characters revolve around) and your main character’s story arc. Read other scripts, and read up on character development, and be open to critique from more experienced writers.

The final thing to do before you start into the nitty gritty of looking for equipment and actors is to storyboard your script. Draw out the scenes as they play in your head and make notes. Consider if you want a wide shot, over the shoulder, a close up (or extreme closeup), a tracking shot, or any other type of frame available to you. Take time with this, but not too much. There is always time to make changes before casting begins.

Equipment and people

To film your movie, you’ll need some equipment. Capturing your scenes is the whole point of this exercise, so you’ll need, at the very least, a camera capable of filming at a consistent frame-per-second. Keep in mind that, on a tight budget, using a camera phone can be adequate.

Most cameras on the market today include a microphone built in, which is great for the cost-conscious filmmaker, but these tend to yield low quality or unusable sound. Finding a more comprehensive microphone doesn't have to cost too much, but keep in mind the age old adage “you get what you pay for.” If you’re planning to use this once, then a cheap mic may be the way to go, but you may always be limited by the sound quality it is capable of caturing. Be mindful of this, and read reviews before purchases.

A camera and a microphone is more or less the bare minimum you can have before starting your film, but other equipment to consider is lighting, backdrops, dollys (for smooth tracking shots) and a second camera for different angles.

Determining your equipment should be in line with your judgement: if a scene doesn't require a tracking shot, for example, you don’t need a dolly. If you’re only shooting outdoors or in a situations where good light already exists, lighting may be extraneous. Before you start heading out for equipment, you need to determine where the scenes will take place, and what kind of shot will be needed in each. Scout out locations, and think critically. Just because you can buy all the equipment you could possibly need, doesn't mean you actually need it.

 Crew, cast, and extras

Finally, no matter how ambitious you are, chances are you will need more than one person to film your movie. For actors, a good place to start is with some of your friends who might be interested. Additionally, look into family members, classmates, and don’t be afraid of hold auditions.

 With actors, the most important choices when choosing who to cast is how well they match up with the characters you wrote. If your actor is capable of breaking outside their personality and traits, less writing will have to be done. If your actor is not able to break outside their personality, but looks the part, then simply alter the character a little to match up more with the actor you chose. This is also where ad libbing or improvisation can come in useful. 

As far as your crew, you will need five different professions.

          1.  Camera - You need to have someone who knows their way around a camera, how to funtion it, and how to best capture the scene you have in mind. If this is your first time, chances are you will be the lead cameraman, also known as the director of photography. This is the person who makes decisions based on the image desired, and is important when coordinating your different cameramen.

          2.  Sound - If you decide to use recording on the same device that is recording an image, this may be covered in the camera section, but considering the relatively low cost of a standalone mic, you will probably need a sound man. This person is responsible for reading sound levels and recording the dialogue and sound effects that will later be added to your film. Consider investing in a boom (a long pole with a microphone attachment on the end) so that your camera man can stand out of shot but still accurately record dialogue.

          3.  Costume and makeup - This is more important if the genre of your movie is set in a  fictional or historical setting. Having one person to organize the makeup and costumes will help with consistency across actors, though you may want to have some additional staff to help this department work quickly and efficiently. You do not want your actors waiting in a queue for an open makeup seat. Also, considering makup plays such a large role in the visuals, you should have them coordinate with your…

           4. Lighting - These are the guys who give you the lite of face of the lead actress during a closeup, or the sharp line of light across the eyes during a noir shot. Light is what we use to see, and it arguably the most important thing to consider when shooting. This crew will control how the scene looks by using reflectors, spot lights, and shields. They coordinate with the director of photography to make sure the shot is looking right before shooting commences. These guys are important; don’t skimp.

           5. Craft - This profession is arguably optional, but filming a movie is hard, long, strenuous work, and the last thing you and your crew will want to do after a shooting session is look for or make food. Having food ready prepared is a good start, but having someone willing to cook for an army is even better. Hungry actors and crew make mistakes, and in the film business, mistakes mean more time spent getting the shot, which turns into even hungrier actors and crew. Craft is replaceable, but not easily. Consider it.


For a beginning, that’s pretty much it! The first big step is settling on your story, but using this guide, you will be on the right track to having something you can be proud of. When you finish your first film, or if you're interested in making a teaser, don’t worry about making extra work for yourself. There are a large number of websites out there for easily and quickly making teasers, for either free or easily affordable.

Bring your vision to the masses, and happy shooting.